Mea Culpa

I’ve never been very prolific with respect to posting on this blog, and certainly not consistent.  Even an election campaign featuring one of the most obviously unfit candidates for President in American history didn’t change this pattern much.  Still, I wrote two posts arguing that Donald Trump could not possibly win the election.

Well, I damn sure got that one wrong. I simply could not bring myself to believe that American voters would elect a incompetent buffoon* President simply because he promised things no one actually believed he would or could do and said the quiet racist and xenophobic parts out loud.

Like many liberals I checked out of politics for a while after the election.  I simply could not stomach watching Trump’s Keystone Cops transition.  And of course I went into yet another blogging hiatus.

Until, a week or so ago I took a look at Foggy Bottom Line to make sure everything still worked and noticed a rare comment – this one from a Trump supporter:

HaHa! Don’t you feel stupid.

He won and you haven’t had much to say since.

Liberalism is cancer. Hell, you guys can’t even determine how many genders there are. Yet, you’re so scientific and stuff.

It’s time we move on. Nationalism today. Nationalism tomorrow. Nationalism forever.

You’re losing progressives. Your powers are receding. Your spell casts upon humanity is vanishing. Your grip on Western Civilization is weakening and the forces of the Right are prying it from your pale bony hands. Your protest and lamentations are convulsions, the last final death throes of a rotten and corrosive ideology soon to be erased, replaced, and forgotten.

We president now.

Not much here but name-calling and unfounded assertions about where American voters are politically.  Yes, Donald Trump is President now, thanks to an anti-democratic election system designed to protect the political power of slave states.  But it’s important to remember that no liberal Presidential candidate has lost the popular vote since 1988.  And if winning the Presidency demonstrates primacy of a particular ideology, I would have been right about Trump – Barack Obama, after all, won the Presidency – twice – in the name of liberalism (albeit not the most progressive kind).  So it’s not clear how this very close election – won more or less on a technicality – demonstrates an ideological wave moving right.  And it begs the question: how long before Trump’s “spell casts (sic) on humanity” vanishes?  How long before (white?) “Nationalism” loses its new “grip on Western Civilization?”

Nevertheless, I do indeed feel stupid.  Stupid because I seriously never saw President Donald Trump coming.  Stupid because I never dreamed that “nationalism,” (white nationalism?) had gripped so many Americans as a governing philosophy.  But mostly stupid because I didn’t raise my voice loudly or often enough to help prevent it.

If progressive liberal ideology is in fact “soon to be erased, replaced, and forgotten,” I don’t intend to remain silent as it does.  No, I have not had much to say since Donald Trump won the Electoral College.  I aim to fix that.

*I mean…the man lost a billion dollars running a casino.  You have to work hard at stupid to make that happen.  The only case in known gambling history of the house losing – and bigly.

Social Media

The GOP “Script”

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell wants Donald Trump to “get on script.”  By this, he of course means The Donald should quit saying the quiet parts out loud and get back to using the dog whistle.

McConnell and other conservatives don’t mind racism.  They happily appeal to racism and bigotry when they can use it to distract voters from the real source of their economic woes.  They just don’t want to change the official Republican Party brand from “family values for some families” to racism and bigotry.

Wait.  Maybe they already have that brand.

Social Media

#TrumpWillNeverBePresident II

A couple of takeaways from “Trump Orders Surrogates to Intensify Criticism of Judge and Journalists” at Bloomberg Politics:

@realDonaldTrump is a terrible leader and manager of staff.  He had no idea which staff member had sent the memo telling surrogates not to discuss the Trump University lawsuit.  Then he threw her under the bus, telling people on the call to “throw it out,” and asking if there were “any other stupid letters.”  “…you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t all that smart,” he told supporters (including Jan Brewer and Scott Brown) on the call.  He seems to forget that he’s the incompetent executive who hired “people who aren’t all that smart” in the first place.

@realDonaldTrump hasn’t the foggiest idea what it takes to run a Presidential campaign or to assemble a winning political coalition.  He has no idea how to build and run the organizations and teams necessary to win the Oval Office.  If someone constructed it for him he would jerk it out of their hands like a toy he covets and start throwing it at the ground just to watch pieces fly off.  He doesn’t understand who does what (communications, organizers, fundraisers) or how these people achieve success (data analysis, volunteer recruiting, media plans).  He apparently doesn’t realize that political campaigns are highly specialized endeavors with a handful of professional experts who know how it’s done.  He has no use for either a sound strategic plan or expert guidance for the detailed tactical work needed to identify and motivate supporters.

@realDonaldTrump doesn’t understand that bullying your way through the storm after saying something offensive won’t help him expand his universe of potential supporters.  He can’t seem to help categorizing and referring to people as members of groups (Muslim, “the blacks,” “the Hispanics,” Mexican).  People hear this as a claim that tribal membership is the most important quality people have – it drives their behavior.  This is, of course, the very definition of racism – and I believe his willingness to say some of these things out loud has driven his popularity among many Republican primary voters.  At this point, however, it’s begun to offend his now wider audience.  Rather than back off this rhetoric, he’s asking surrogates to emphasize it.  This, by the way, puts people like Jan Brewer and Scott Brown in a tough position – they want to elect a Republican President, but probably don’t want to earn reputations as racists in the process.

#TrumpWillNeverBePresident.  He’s a terrible leader and can’t manage subordinates except through fear.  He calls junior staff “stupid” in front of other senior people.  He hasn’t the smallest clue what it takes to put together the national political coalition needed to win the US Presidency and apparently believes he can win simply by saying silly things on television so people pay attention to him.  And when he says silly things on television and the people around him advise reticence, he lacks the temperament to realize he’s in over his head.

This is all very good news for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. #TrumpWillNeverBePresident.

Social Media

No, Voting for Trump Won’t Accelerate Progressive Change

Yves Smith (aka Susan Webber), a management consultant and principal at Aurora Advisors, writes at Politico that the “highly educated, high-income, finance-literate readers of my website, Naked Capitalism, don’t just overwhelmingly favor Bernie Sanders. They also say “Hell no!” to Hillary Clinton to the degree that many say they would even vote for Donald Trump over her.”

They (9 out of 10 Smith friends polled) developed their “conclusions” from “careful study of her record and her policy proposals,” and believe the Clintons represent a policy status quo of “crushing inequality, and an economy that is literally killing off the less fortunate.” And they think “the most powerful move they can take to foster change is to withhold their support.” Continue reading

Social Media

No, Sanders/Stein Does Not Stop Trump

This argument by Kevin Zeese and Patrick Walker at Salon goes in the category of wishful thinking if you ask me.  The core point they make is that by running for President on the Green Party ticket (Jill Stein has apparently agreed to this) Bernie Sanders would keep Donald Trump from expanding his coalition of voters at Hillary Clinton’s expense.  This is because voters see both Trump and Sanders as outsiders, with Sanders the “real” one.  They also worry that Trump could move to Clinton’s left on Wall Street and trade, “corporate trade agreements,” and militarism.  Finally, Zeese and Walker argue that independents will be the key to this race, and that third party campaign risks to Democratic candidates are overblown.  Well, let’s see. Continue reading

Social Media

#TrumpWillNeverBePresident

Writing at Salon, Anis Shivani predicted last week that Donald Trump’s campaign “will surely be victorious in the end,” because he appeals “to an elemental fear in the country, torn apart by the abstraction of the market, to which Clinton has not the faintest hope of responding.”  Trump, you see, “’builds’ things, literal buildings.”  People can actually visualize these buildings and the cities they were built in.  This contrasts with Clinton, according to Shivani, since her work with the Clinton Foundation and the State Department “represents…disembodiedness.”  “In this election,” claims Shivani, “abstraction will clearly lose and corporeality…will undoubtedly win.”

Another Salon writer, Musa al-Gharbi, doesn’t actually predict a Trump win, but he does seem to think the Donald has a path to victory.  He lays out three key reasons to think this: because Trump has more “opportunity to radically change public perception for the better” since voters don’t yet know Trump “as a politician,” because this election will turn on what voters think about both Obama and Bill Clinton, and because of something he calls “negative intersectionality.”  Al-Gharbi doesn’t define this very clearly, but he seems to be saying something about political correctness: that Trump’s bigotry and misogyny, “heard in the context of a fundamentally anti-white, anti-Christian culture war,” could actually make some voters see him more sympathetically.

These aren’t the only two writers working to outline a Trump path to the Oval Office.  These arguments mostly focus on three claims: both candidates have poor favorability ratings, Hillary Clinton is a bad candidate, and minority voters could shift to Trump. I challenge them below the fold. Continue reading

Social Media

Right Direction or Wrong Track?

Alex Castellanos couldn’t say it enough this morning on Meet the Press: 70% of Americans think the US is going in the wrong direction and want change.  To him this means Donald Trump has a chance to win the Presidency, since Hillary Clinton represents more of the same.

Americans have many reasons for answering “wrong track” on these kinds of surveys.  Castellanos conflates these reasons into a general annoyance with American government and its political leadership.  Let me suggest that much of the “wrong track” sentiment comes from disapproval of conservative social and economic policies and their obstructionist efforts to stop progressive changes people want.  This is true of both conservatives and liberals, but only on the conservative side does this translate to support for Trump.

Conservatives think the country is on the “wrong track” because they disapprove of tolerance for less traditional social, religious, and sexual norms, and wonder what the world is coming to when fewer people attend church, the coach cannot pray with the high school football team, homosexuals can marry and young women can have recreational sex without consequences.  They blame immigrants and minorities for their apparent loss of economic prosperity and political power and believe government does too much to help them.  They don’t like changes they see in their cities and neighborhoods as immigrants and people of color move in or cities encroach upon rural areas.  In fact, many people who say the US is going in the wrong direction actually want less change, and seek leaders that will finally put a stop to the madness.  These people reject the establishment GOP because they believe conservatives fecklessly promised to do so while knowing they would not or could not.

The only change they really do want is a shift from the “free markets can make everything work” that lead to wealth inequality and corporations moving their jobs overseas.  So they also reject the conservative governing establishment for failing to deliver the economic prosperity promised by Reagan and Americans for Tax Reform, and want US workers protected even if it means government action.   The core of Trump’s support comes from disaffected conservatives annoyed with change in American society, and seek restoration of traditional values and and a capitalism based on a balance between profits for shareholders and the needs of the nation and its workers. Continue reading

Social Media

Trump, Sanders, Populism, and the 2016 Election

I’m glad I ran across this Salon article challenging the notion that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders appeal to similar populist constituencies.  Don’t both Trump and Sanders “confront ‘establishment’ hegemony and voice small-fry ‘populism,’ plus condemn bad trade agreements, job losses, and Washington insiders?”  No, Becker says:

Sanders is not like Trump or vice versa: despite surface parallels, they are at heart more like polar opposites. In the end this measure emerges: the unassuming Sanders presents people-oriented messages that widen debate and insight. Trump’s proto-fascist, wealth-driven demagoguery kills debate with deceptive, irresponsible war cries that deter thinking and enlightenment.

I guess I agree as far as it goes: the contrast between Sanders’ intellectual and Trump’s demagogic arguments are…wait for it…yuuuuge.  But I see a much more important difference: Donald Trump sells himself as the best player of the Capitalism game.  Bernie Sanders makes a case that the game itself is rigged, and the rules need to change. Continue reading

Social Media

Sunday Morning Coffee

A few articles I’m reading over coffee this morning (Trump Will Never be President Edition):

Now that Clinton and Trump have more or less locked up their respective party’s nominations, the horse-race coverage will turn to the general election contest.  Since the media has an incentive to make it look like a close one, get ready for the “Donald Trump can win” and “Trump’s path to the Presidency” articles.  We’ll hear more about what an awful candidate Clinton is and all the baggage she’ll bring to the campaign.  Trump can pivot back to the center, they’ll say, and look more “Presidential” (whatever that means).  Much will be made of his record number of GOP primary votes. Continue reading

Social Media