#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

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

Bernie Sanders and the Superdelegates

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.

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

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

Guns, the Second Amendment, and Politics in Virginia

It appears that guns and gun control could become a hot issue in next year’s state level elections here in Virginia.  Attorney General Mark Herring started the hue and cry when he ended concealed carry permit reciprocity with 25 states on the grounds that they don’t meet Virginia standards.  Gun rights activists objected one the grounds that it would hurt tourism and that no one can point out a case where someone from a state with lower standards had committed a crime in Virginia.  One blogger called it “slavery.”  They complained that Herring just wanted to go around the General Assembly to achieve a liberal result using an executive action.

This of course ignores the plain fact that Herring did nothing unilaterally. Virginia code – in a section passed by a Republican-controlled General Assembly – requires periodic State Police audits of concealed carry laws in other states. It then mandates an end to reciprocity with those states whose laws don’t include prohibitions Virginia’s law bans, or don’t have a system for rapid verification that an applicant should not be kept from carrying a concealed weapon.  Whether or not he liked the result, Herring had to take this action once the State Police reported that the laws in those 25 states don’t pass muster. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Coffee

A few things I read over coffee this morning…while watching the talking heads discuss Iowa:

Morton Guyton, writing at Patheos blog Mercy Not Sacrifice, discusses an ideological perspective he calls ” White Evangelical Nihilism:”

There’s a genuine ideological foundation for the ethos that makes Trump and Cruz so popular. I call it white evangelical nihilism.

When you’re told by your pastor that all the people outside of your ideological tribe are utterly wicked and deserving of eternal torture, that’s how it becomes a sin to compromise with your opponents politically and work together for the common good.

Everything about secular liberalism must be utterly antithetical to the Christian gospel and profoundly offensive to God. It has to be, or else secular liberals wouldn’t be worthy of damnation. So everything about liberalism is put into binary opposition with “God’s truth.” To believe in climate change is to believe that God is not in control of the environment. To believe that the government should provide for the poor is an emulation of atheist communism and a usurpation of God’s sovereignty. To promote “political correctness” is to silence the courageous proclamation of “Biblical truth.”

This tracks with a point I make when discussing today’s polarized American political climate.  Conservatives run on a set of existential issues on which there can be no compromise: abortion, homosexuality, taxes, and guns.  Two of these have their basis in religion and two in racism, but all four depend on the fundamental premise that only wicked, lazy or authoritarian people disagree with the right wing on these issues.  This is the fundamental American political problem we need to resolve.

Guyton goes on to reframe salvation.  Rather than a search for God’s help in saving individual sinners from themselves, he argues we should seek His help in saving other people from our sin:

Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.” Imagine if Christians, and especially Christian politicians, were known as the people who regard everyone else as “better than [them]selves.”

Read the whole thing.  Excellent essay. Continue reading