David Atkins made a good point yesterday at The Washington Monthly after former Clinton staffer Nick Merrill shot back at Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg for suggesting that economic anxiety indeed played a role in Donald Trump’s 2016 win:
So, in the argument between Merrill and Buttigieg, who is right? They both are. And the fact that Merrill doesn’t understand that point is part of the problem; and it’s a sign of what the 2020 Democratic nominee must fix.
One cannot even begin to talk about this issue without acknowledging that the white working class is quite literally dying. Mortality rates for middle-aged white Americans have been ticking upwards for nearly 20 years, led primarily by a sharp rise in “deaths of despair”—suicide, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse—among those without college degrees. According to research, these deaths are primarily driven by a lack of good jobs and the dysfunction that economic anxiety creates in the social fabric.
Buttigieg is right that Trump pretended to offer solutions for these voters specifically, and that certain aspects of Clinton’s messaging did not convey the urgency that people in these communities feel about their circumstances. It’s no accident that “learn to code” has become a scornful joke on both the right and the progressive left.
Merrill is also right that the solutions Trump offered were racist, vitriolic, and full of false promises. Trump blamed economic and social problems on immigrants, promised to use his supposed skill as a negotiator to fix trade deals and bring jobs back, and promised to use his bully pulpit to strongarm companies into keeping existing factories open and getting new ones built.
We’re learning a lot about Republicans and Conservatism watching them push through the Kavanaugh confirmation. The Federalist Society could give them the names of a hundred other judges with the necessary background to join the US Supreme Courtand vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, protect corporations from regulation, and permit expansive voter suppression laws. Most of these could at least maintain the appearance of impartiality and show more judicial temperament than Kavanaugh showed.
Yet they not only press forward, they feel a need do so in the most mean-spirited way possible. We’ve come to expect that from Donald Trump, and he hasn’t disappointed the last few days. But until now we could at least try to tell ourselves that senior GOP leaders like Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham would not sink to such a base level. Continue reading
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.
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
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
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
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
I don’t think Bernie has his best talking points with respect to the Democratic Party super delegates. I would respond to questions with this:
It’s important to understand what a super delegate is. Democratic Party activists who have put in the time and effort to elect Democrats, and the men and women who have won elective office as Democrats, should have plenary votes at their national convention along with delegates selected by voters in primaries and caucuses. It makes all the sense in the world for party officials, whether selected at the county level or by winning elections, should have a voice in nominating the Party’s candidate for President. But I see a disconnect when I win a primary in West Virginia by 60% but the Democratic Party officials who serve the state support my opponent, and I wonder why they don’t support the choice their own constituents prefer. It seems to me that they open themselves to challenges from inside the Party. I’m not threatening to support primary challengers, but challenges would not surprise me if voters want to move in a new direction.
I am active in the Democratic Party at the county level in Virginia, and I work to elect candidates from within my Party. Bernie Sanders has caucused with Democrats but is not an activist Party member, and this makes me wonder why I should support nominating him for President on our ticket. The answer of course has to do with policy. I agree with his rejection of neoliberal economic policy – free trade, lower taxes on the wealthy, personhood for corporations, among other things. I also agree with his rejection of foreign policy as usual, where many Democrats look all too much like GOP neocons. This resolves my concerns, and I would personally prefer to see Sanders win the Democratic Party nomination. If he does not, I want to see his candidacy move my Party toward support for his policy proposals.
In the end, however, it’s no surprise that core legacy Democrats – long time activists and elected officials – want to stick with someone who has supported Democrats her entire life. If Bernie wants to influence the Party he needs to join it officially, and direct his supporters to likewise join its activist ranks. They can then compete in Party politics, including local level primaries and elections for grassroots Party positions like the one I hold: district chair.
I voted to send a Bernie Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention last weekend. I welcome his supporters to the Party and their efforts to remake it according to their policy preferences. If they do well, the super delegates will follow.