Thursday, July 19, 2018

Employees rally to support Rita Sullivan

"My experience is so polar opposite what I read in the press or see on the news that I wanted to say something. It blows my mind that these allegations even get brought up."

                                                  Former employee of OnTrack and Rita Sullivan

Some unhappy people are suing OnTrack and Rita Sullivan. They talk to the media and tell their story. Rita Sullivan cannot respond. 

Her former employees are speaking up on her behalf.
Dr. Rita Sullivan

For 39 years Dr. Rita Sullivan was Executive Director of a nonprofit alcohol and drug rehabilitation program, OnTrack. It won awards. Dr. Sullivan won awards. It was a state and national leader in best practices. Then things went all to hell.

An employee of OnTrack threatened a lawsuit naming OnTrack and Rita Sullivan. OnTrack put Sullivan on paid administrative leave while they sorted through the complaint. The complaint got big media coverage. OnTrack said nothing and told Sullivan not to respond. The result was a snowball of unanswered charges in the media. 

The news stories created a false picture of both OnTrack and Dr. Sullivan, according to multiple former employees, people now in different jobs and free to speak freely.

Some common themes were present in every employee's comments. Dr. Sullivan was a great boss. She was professional. She was highly competent. She was passionate about service to clients. She was available to assist counselors and others when they needed clinical advice. They were dismayed that Dr. Sullivan was described in such a one sided way and that, instead, her decades of work should be celebrated.

A partial sampling of the employees, ones willing to have their names used, include these.

Rob Roy, a Drug and Alcohol Counselor. He said, "In my observation in six years working with Rita I spent hundreds of hours in group and individual setting with her. My experience is that she was professional and respectful--always."

Charlie McNew said "I think she's getting a raw deal in the media because her side of this isn't getting out. She was a great boss."  McNew said worked with her for thirty years. "I've seen her work closely with staff people. She was helpful and professional."

Travis Cavalli, a drug and alcohol counselor and for three years the head of the Dads Program. "Rita was supportive, encouraging, helpful, and utterly passionate about OnTrack and the clients we serve."  What about the claims that Sullivan frightened someone by yelling? "I've seen Rita raise her voice when people were messing up and doing things out of line. It was just a normal response by a supervisor who cared about the work." He said he thought her story wasn't getting out. "She's getting slammed in the media, but she isn't able to defend herself. I thought she was a great boss and leader."

Dan Horton is an architect who has worked with OnTrack and Dr. Sullivan for some 25 years.  "She's a thorough professional," he said. Horton said she had a reputation for employing some hard to employ people and giving them second chances.  "She was trying to help them out. In my opinion, the lawsuits are all about people trying to take advantage of the damage the un-balanced media coverage created."

Why did OnTrack and Dr. Sullivan stay mum? 

I have no insight into the internal decision-making process at OnTrack beyond my own experience with lawyers. I am guessing their legal counsel gave the stern admonition that no one should say anything to the media while a lawsuit was working through the system--which may take years. I suspect Dr. Sullivan got the same advice. Don't talk to the media. Make your case in the courtroom, where the facts and law are on your side. They warn media reports might complicate things and give complainants something new to complain about.

What might well be sound practice for a party to a lawsuit is a disaster in public and media relations. 

The media covered the OnTrack litigants because that side was easily available to communicate with them in the form of their lawsuit, thereby giving the media lots of material. It is a cynical but effective strategy for a complainant, if they have media that cooperates, because the unanswered bad publicity for OnTrack and Dr. Sullivan is an incentive for someone to settle with some money. Even with OnTrack and Dr. Sullivan gagged, could the media have heard from and published other voices, people in a position to give "the rest of the story?"  

They could have--but did not.

I made a couple of phone calls, then received an avalanche of names from people happy to talk in praise of Rita Sullivan. Easy. It wasn't "investigative" anything. I just picked up a phone and asked.

The unbalanced coverage of Dr. Sullivan finally got to be too much for some OnTrack employees, so they spoke up.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Presenting Jamie McLeod-Skinner

McLeod-Skinner:  "I identify as a rural Democrat."

Being a rural Democrat isn't about policies. It is about tribes--the rural tribe.

She is working to show she fits the District. Her challenge is to show Greg Walden no longer does, because he fell chest deep into the swamp.

Fundraiser. I watched closely Jamie McLeod-Skinner in two settings. On Sunday she spoke to a group of individual donors at a fundraising party.  This was a friendly crowd, but with high stakes. She needs her friends to believe she can win, and should win, and should write checks to support that win. 

Stress test. On Tuesday morning she was the guest on a local AM talk radio show with a Trumpian/Fox News white male non-college tone. The host interrupted, talked over her,  demanded answers, and pushed her to account for presumed weak spots in her candidacy. This was an unfriendly venue, but it was an opportunity to see if she could find common ground with likely Trump voters.

Yes, she could. The bridge between the tribes isn't so much policy as it is tribal symbols. In both settings Jamie Mcleod-Skinner had an apparent purpose--to demonstrate that Democrats--or at least she--was a natural, comfortable part of a the tribe of rural Americans.  

It turns out you can be a progressive and speak the language of rural localism. She didn't sound like a Nancy Pelosi Democrat. Nor an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Democrat. Nor Bernie nor Elizabeth Warren. She sounded rural, and it works for her here, even among urban progressives.

There are common denominators between the tribes of red and blue America which somewhat coincide with rural and urban America. Progressive Democrats are not put off by talk of agriculture, forestry, water, rural access to health care. She did not "nationalize" her campaign, with talk about Trump. Quite the opposite. She spoke of water tables in Burns. Irrigation water and dam removal in Klamath County.  She spoke of problems of people who farm, ranch. She mentions her mother in central Oregon, her wife's ranching family, her having gone to Ashland High School. She mentioned her Jeep and country music. She wears pants. She cites outdoor work. She cites her war-zone civilian experience.  

The talk show was the stress test. Could a progressive Democrat be plausible to a Trump voter. The radio host went right at her. She surely is a carpetbagger, recently up from California. She must be a socialist--or fascist. She must want socialism in medicine. She must be a liberal kook who favors "road diets" instead of extra lanes. She must tolerate illegal immigration. Co-workers must not like her.

McLeod-Skinner had good answers, spoken with confidence. 

Her travel vehicle
As City Councilperson in Santa Clara she said she protected taxpayers from giving a big subsidy to the NFL 49ers. She said she was fired from the city manager job because she blew the whistle on financial improprieties. She said the USA is a sovereign nation and should protect its borders. She said that expanding health care access is affordable if we control costs.

But the most important part of her presentation was the return to local, rural symbols. The aggressive host worked to focus on wedge issues of policy, while she kept using symbols of libertarian rural Oregon. Local control. Lumber manufacturing and selective thinning in forests. Yes on guns, but with background checks. State control on immigration enforcement. Local issues, local roots, bonds with local people.

They talked at cross purposes. He wanted to expose her as a California liberal. She wanted to present herself as a local, common sense Democrat, someone who Trump voters could talk with.

Jamie McLeod-Skinner is defining herself--half the job of the candidate..

Meanwhile, there is the second half, defining Greg Walden as the one who is out of touch, the politician who became a creature of the big money lobbyist swamp. 

Objectively, this should be possible. Trump voters resent big city, big government, big special interest power, and he is an archetype member of the DC swamp. He raises money in vast quantities from the industries his committee oversees. Its the DC swamp.

On the radio show McLeod-Skinner said "as he moved up the political ladder he lost his way" and that "he has forgotten where he came from." She cites that Walden supported repeal of the ACA that provided health care access to some 80,000 of his constituents and that protected the financial viability of local hospitals. He abandoned his promise to protect people with pre-existing conditions. It is a vulnerability for Walden. 

But Walden makes this hard for her. He stopped doing Town Halls or other public appearances, and instead presents himself through advertising that he can control. 

More since last report. Extraordinary industry PAC support
The advertisements project a general impression opposite of what he did, but there are a lot of ads, and they are well produced. He is a slippery, well financed opponent, with a reputation that perpetuates his former, pre-leadership role. In the District he appears as "aw shucks, Greg," informal and earnest. It works for him and it  inoculates him somewhat from being revealed as the swamp creature that McLeod-Skinner describes.

McLeod-Skinner is succeeding at half the battle--looking plausible as a progressive, rural Democratic representative. Her challenge will be showing Greg Walden isn't what he appears to be, not any more.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Trump failed so badly, he even lost Fox.

Occam's razor.  

Press conference disaster

What is the simplest, most obvious reason for Trump to have behaved so weirdly in Helsinki?

He fears Russia stole the election for him.

First, some fixed points of reference.

   1.  Trump had an opportunity to acknowledge Russia misbehaved by meddling in the 2016 election, but did not. Trump actually defended Russia.

   2. Trump openly said he believed the assertion of Vladimir Putin over the unified reports of his own intelligence agencies. "I have President Putin; he just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be."  Trump picked sides, Russia's.

  3. Trump's behavior was so apparently gullible and weak that he "broke his brand." Sitting next to Putin he looked like the sucker, and when he had a chance in the press conference to partially fix the optics, he made it worse.

Even Fox News. Turning Point   
  4. Trump acted in a way to receive nearly universal criticism from Republican officeholders, and, worse for Trump, bad coverage from Fox News and Breitbart--the final Trump firewall. When Trump loses Fox he risks losing everything.

Theories are swirling: 

Is Trump a "useful idiot," a person so enamored of an authoritarian strongman that he lost his judgement? The bromance infatuation theory.

Is Trump "compromised?  Maybe there really is a pee-tape, or some other devastating blackmail information. If not sex, then money. Maybe Trump laundered money for the Russians to fund projects and the Russians have incriminating information. Nancy Pelosi suggests this, the treason theory.

Is Trump doing a policy change, courageously, but with mishandled messaging, re-visiting the reflexive neoconservative anti-Russian remnant of cold war thinking, and seeing Russia as a potential ally in the near east? Rand Paul is suggesting this one. The peacemaker-Trump theory.

Is it even-richer-billionaire envy?  Is it fear of a narcissistic erratic person, like his father? 

What is going on? 

Consider Occam's razor--the theory of parsimony.  The simplest explanation is usually right. 

Maybe simply Trump is defensive about his election legitimacy. He cannot get it out of his mind. It is simple, it explains a lot of data, it makes sense to Trump's history and path to the presidency, and it describes the press conference. Trump was a newcomer and outsider in New York real estate, pushing his way into the big leagues with splashy, over the top branding, marking his territory boldly, like a male dog marking fire hydrants. He feels like a male parvenue, an interloper. He over-responds. I am here. I really belong. See my tower!

Trump risks his brand and his firewall
Then he won the electoral college vote and the presidency, but cannot seem to believe it himself. He keeps selling it. He openly exaggerates the number of people at his inauguration, he mis-states voting history to assert that only he won Wisconsin, he posits millions of illegal votes to explain the popular vote, and he keeps bringing up Hillary Clinton. I won. I really won. She didn't. I did!

And then, in Helsinki, at the press conference, when he might have been defending America's interest in our elections and restoring the optics of Trump-the-strong-leader, he excused Russia to return to the theme that he had won the election. "It was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily. And frankly, we beat her. . .  . we won that race. . . . The Democrats lost an election that, frankly, they should have been able to win. . . . It was a well-fought battle. We did a great job. . . . We ran a brilliant campaign."  And then he diverted off to make suggestions that people investigate Hillary and her email servers.

This was an astonishing sidetrack.

His popular vote loss and Russian meddling in the election coincide with a special area of insecurity for Trump--legitimacy. Maybe the stage was set in advance because Trump was in fact open to new policy on Russia and maybe indeed he had complicated--illegal even--financial dealings to fund his projects, but he could have recovered from those pre-conditions, by standing up for the US and criticizing Russian meddling. They don't explain the press conference.

What does explain it is that Trump cannot admit is that his election was questionable  So he will sacrifice his brand and look like a weak, played, disloyal leader rather than risk the thing which must not be questioned.

That's the motivation. Insecurity over his election win. He needs Russia to be guiltless and will sacrifice his intelligence services and his country's elections in order to defend them.

 I won. I really won. I really belong.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Field Report: Fundraiser for Jamie McLeod-Skinner

People turned out in the heat. 

Jamie McLeod-Skinner
They visited. They listened. They wrote checks. They think Jamie McLeod-Skinner can win because she is a strong candidate and Walden has changed for the worse. 

Schedule: Fundraisers for candidates begin with a date and time. The candidate would be in Medford on the evening of Sunday, July 15. She had other events meeting people in the morning and afternoon, but would be free from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Can you do an event?


Dessert: Given the event time of day, we decided to call it a Dessert Reception. No heavy food. The campaign created the adjacent invitation and circulated it to their rapidly growing list of supporters and volunteers. Donations above $100 are reported to the Federal Election Commission and are public record. The campaign told me they had 140 such people locally. Surely those people would be invited, plus others.  

Fundraiser. The invitation made no secret of the purpose to raise funds, not just visit with the candidate. The invitation asked people to bring "a friend or two who wants to meet Jamie and will match your support with a minimum gift of $100." It did not set a price, but it stated an intention. This is always a delicate matter for campaigns and this invitation did it well. Look closely at the wording and typeface. They need people with the capacity to donate to do so, which generally means asking them, especially in the presence of others. An event creates a group feeling of solidarity and a desire to do ones part.

The invitation, prepared by the campaign.
 Yet no campaign--especially not for a Democratic candidate--wants to appear to exclude someone from an event or to be improperly "exclusive." The campaign handled this well, placing the intention of inviting people who might donate $100 small script print, italicized, as a footnote to an asterisk for the word "success."

It was a soft way of saying "please" and that this event was for potential donors, but anyone was welcome. Well handled.

Who attends. This event has a special purpose: asking for money. Invitations were widely circulated and passed on to others, but in practice the fundraising attendees are primarily boomers, adults in their 60s, 70s, and 80s.  Same here. About sixty people attended.

Heat. There is potential for a party of 100-plus people, accommodated outside, on a patio deck. A problem emerged. Temperatures were scheduled to be 100 degrees at 6:30. We moved the event indoors.

Timetable: Campaign staff arrived at 6:00. Guests arrived from 6:20 to 6:40. McLeod-Skinner arrived early, at 6:20, People mingled and nibbled until 7:00. Beer, wine, soft drinks, and Pellegrino water were available, plus desserts. We serve Valley View Vineyards wines, in several varieties. The red wine was almost untouched. People drank white wine, a Vougnier, but mostly people drank Pellegrino water. It was hot out.

7:00.  Using a microphone and professional loudspeaker  I introduced McLeod-Skinner by saying I saw a pathway to victory. Greg Walden had changed. He has become, in his success, a representative of the GOP House leadership, which pushed policies in direct contradiction to the interests of his District and Walden's own speeches on the issue of health care. I said he had stopped doing Town Halls. He now fit the pattern of exactly those powerful incumbents who supposedly could not lose--but did--Eric Canter two years ago and Joe Crowley, the out of touch Democratic leader unseated by Alexandria Osekia Cortez. His big donations are less a sign of success than they are evidence for his having sunk into the swamp. He was vulnerable.

Photos with the candidate 
7:05. Jamie spoke for twenty minutes. She was more positive. She said she was meeting people and they liked her. She said the divide between red and blue was in large part an illusion. The big issue in Burns, she said, was the dropping water table, hardly a a Democratic or Republican matter. She said she related to rural people and that the Democratic Party, in its messaging and policies, had work to do. She said that her having a wife created less concern in eastern Oregon than did her saying she liked country music had in liberal Ashland. The line gets laugh. The quip has a serious undertone. Urban and college-town language sometimes gets communicated as condescending to rural people. She gets criticism for being a "carpetbagger" but she has married an old Oregon ranching family and, more importantly, she went to high school in Ashland, has lived and worked in Oregon, her mother lives in central Oregon, and her very manner and style comes across as thoroughly authentically rural Oregon, down to the high mileage Jeep she drives. 

The overall message of her talk was that she had politics that fit the District, that she fit the District, and Greg Walden no longer does.

7:45. Five minute "ask." McLeod-Skinner handed the microphone to her campaign finance volunteer, who referenced a story McLeod-Skinner had just told of a woman who cut, stacked, and sold a cord of wood to get the money to donate to her campaign. The chairman asked this audience to give as generously, with the same relative sacrifice as that woman. "Please give your cord of wood."

7:50. Back to mixing, mingling, and talking. The candidate worked her way around the crowded rooms, visiting. Everyone had a chance to visit, shake hands, get photos taken.

8:20  Event over. 

Summary: This is how "good, clean" campaign money is raised. There is no quid pro quo, and no expectation of any favor or benefit other than good government in the eyes of the donors--electing Jamie McLeod-Skinner. 

There is nothing special here. No secret formula. It is simply executing on the campaign finance portion of a local grassroots campaign, asking local people to give money to support a local campaign. It isn't easy, but it is simple and straightforward: Invitation. Meet and greet. Introduction of candidate. Candidate speaks. Someone asks people to donate. People write checks. More meet and greet. People leave.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Are you willing to die to protect Estonia?

Just because Trump says it doesn't mean it is always wrong.  

Trump may have a winning issue with NATO. You want to be safe from Russia? Pay for your own tanks.  

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an artifact of the Cold War. It was designed to preserve the peace and protect countries aligned with "the West" against Russian military aggression.
NATO on the march

The alliance means an attack against any country would be considered an attack against all of them, so we all come to the defense of that country. The Soviet Union might have been tempted to pick off a country--Greece, for example--but it didn't want total war, so it doesn't. NATO legitimized stationing American soldiers in West Germany, which seemed like a good place to have soldiers, since after all, they had gone to war with us twice in the past 30 years. The thinking was that Americans were bound to be drawn into any European war anyway, so stop fights early.

There was a bipartisan consensus that included presidents, Congress, diplomats, foreign policy experts, academics: NATO and multilateral treaties with the US military as the centerpiece served American interests. 

Trump is challenging that consensus. 

Many of my readers start with a premise that Trump is so vile, narcissistic, impetuous, racist, and dishonest, that everything he does is tainted with a Trump-stink.  That is a dangerous way to think. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. 

NATO may endangert the peace, rather than preserve it. In the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union countries on the border of the former Soviet Union asked to join NATO. We eagerly said yes--striking while the iron is hot. The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland entered in 1999. It expanded further in 2004 to include Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Then Albania and Croatia in 2009, and this past year, Montenegro.  

Ukraine began flirting with membership in NATO beginning in 1994. It formally requested membership in 2008.

Looked at from the point of view of Cold War politics, or a football offensive drive, the west is a big winner. We moved the ball down the field, deep into the opponent's territory. But looked at from the point of view of a post-Cold War world, it was a disaster. NATO is a threat to Russia. It isn't defensive; it is offensive. 

Look at the map: 

Click for the interactive map. NATO in grey.

Parts of Russia are surrounded, and there is a foreign army at its doorstep. 

European Russia is a broad, flat plain. Every high schooler has learned the lesson of the peril of invading Russia, the graveyard for Napoleon and the Third Reich. There are no natural defenses across this plain, and what has protected Russia for centuries is distance.  The combination of long supply lines, a policy of scorched earth leaving no local support for an invader, plus unlimited Russian casualties are the price of safety. NATO's expansion to the east took away the natural defense of Russia.

Of course Putin is popular in Russia. He stopped the invasion. He is the protector of the Russian people.

Trump's criticism of NATO fits into a bigger pattern of a "Trump policy" insofar as he has a comprehensive world view. It recognizes Russia's legitimate interest in its own security. It is skeptical of European unifying institutions (common market, common currency, free movement of labor, NATO.) It takes a fresh look at whether a European alliance protects America from entry into new conflicts. And it takes a hard look at whether the US taxpayer is being treated fairly.

American taxpayers, like taxpayers everywhere, are skeptical that they are paying too much. Americans have no interest whatsoever in actually living up to the obligations of NATO.

Can any readers recall with confidence which Baltic country is which?  

NATO promises that we will defend these countries with the full force of America's military including if necessary a nuclear exchange against the invader.  Are there any readers actually willing to die to preserve the territorial integrity of Latvia?  Of course not. 

NATO is a hollow bluff. Putin knows it. Europeans know it. Trump knows it. The NATO emperor has no clothes. Trump is shaking things up, creating an opportunity to re-evaluate an American policy in Europe that had gone stale.

Final note and disclaimer:  I have not "gone soft" on Trump. Trump is a vulgar, dangerous, authoritarian narcissist. He is flagrantly dishonest and he appeals to the worst elements in America's history of misogyny and xenophobia.

But he is a master at political messaging. He manipulates America's media and is the center of all national politics. He communicates powerful messages that appeal to many American voters. His ignorance and impetuousness in foreign policy create opportunities for change. He shakes things up, and sometimes that is good.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Bull in a china shop

In the short run, Trump is winning.

"What could go wrong?"

This could turn out very badly for our children.

Shake things up
Democrats, foreign policy experts, military leaders, academics, the media, and nearly everyone whose careers have been built around foreign policy are appalled by Trump's seat of the pants diplomacy. 

A big segment of the American public likes what Trump is doing. 

Trump is young Alexander, re-thinking the rules, cutting through the Gordian Knot. Trump is standing up for America. Pay up! Do more! It dovetails with his position on trade. Stop cheating! And it dovetails with a populist anti-intellectual sentiment. It's simple common sense. Just do it!

He said he will know whether he can trust Kim Jong-Un in five seconds. Trump seems confident of his own gut instincts.

Nations make policy choices that seem unimportant at the time, but with huge consequences twenty years later.

Tax the colonies. Seemed like a sensible idea. 
Example: Britain decides to tax its colonies after pushing out the French from1754-1763. Britain notes it was costly to keep an army in North America and figures that its colonies should start paying for their own defense. Let's impose some sensible taxes, so they can pay their own way. It was a popular idea in Parliament. Simultaneously, with the French gone and the Indians having been pushed west the British colonies felt less dependent on the British. Result: twenty years of discord, leading to declaration of independence by the colonies in 1776. 

Thirteen years.

Example: Germany contests Britain's naval superiority, 1890. Germany, under the leadership of an impetuous Kaiser Wilhelm and bold Admiral Tirpitz, began a navy build up to rival that of Britain, a friendly country they admired. It was a source of pride in Germany and popular with the public. Britain responded by tilting away from Germany toward stronger alliances with France and Russia to counter what they considered a mortal threat. By 1914 the set of alliances drew Britain, France and Russia into war with Germany following a minor incident in the Balkans.

Twenty four years.

 Impetuous. Make Germany proud
Example: Britain ends the alliance with Japan in 1923. The alliance had assured the mutual interests of Britain and Japan in the western Pacific, keeping Russia in check and protecting Japanese sea routes to oil in SE Asia. Britain chose US interests in the Pacific over Japan's. Japan realized it was now at mortal risk to US threats. They began a rapid navy arms race with the US, culminating in Pearl Harbor attack in 1941.

Nineteen years.

Example: The US analogizes the lesson of Chamberlain and Munich in 1938 to create a postwar policy of "containment" of communism. The containment policy decision blinded the US to the idea that faltering government of South Vietnam was a remnant of French colonialism, and it was losing a war of national liberation, not communist expansion. By 1961 the US military recommended 200,000 troops be sent there to fight an unwinnable war that was contrary to US interests and was condemned by the entire world including our closest allies.

Twenty three years.

There is a reason why Departments of State, military leaders, and foreign policy experts tread carefully. There are long range consequences to decisions.

Trump is making them boldly and quickly. 

What could go wrong? 
The US exited the Trans Pacific Partnership in trade. China replaces the US as the key player setting the rules for multilateral trade in the Pacific.

The US exited the Paris Climate Accords, signaling that the US considers environmental leadership unnecessary to our foreign policy and counter to our interests.

The US introduces tariffs on all of our trading partners. Each responds with tariffs of their own. Trump: "Trade wars are easy to win".

The US exited from the UN Human Rights Council, signaling the US does not consider "human rights" to be a key driver of American relations to other countries.

One thing causes another, then another
The US ties itself closer to Israel, moving our embassy to Jerusalem, accepting the Israeli policy on settlements and the future of Palestine.

The US criticizes NATO, praises the UK withdrawal from the European Union. and praises national identity over European multilateralism. 

The US praises authoritarian leadership in Russia, Turkey, China, and the Philippines while criticizing as weak democratic parliamentary leaders in Canada, the UK, France, and Germany.

Some of these changes might work out well. Or not. We may not know for twenty years. 

History has recorded the consequences in the aftermath of impetuous national leadership, authoritarian leadership, and short-sighted policy making to meet the political needs of the present.  It is not good.

Friday, July 13, 2018

White men feel dissed.

Democrats have a problem. Trump has a winning issue, but Democrats can fix it.

This is no dog whistle. It is a provocation. Trump says white people are under attack.

Trump: "Allowing the immigration to take place to Europe is a shame."

Joe Biden, Democrat
Trump is in Europe and has told them that immigration from the Near East and Africa is destroying them. “I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way.. . . I think you are losing your culture. Look around."

Democrats read this and are provoked into self-destructive messaging. They would be better off not taking the bait.

Democrats and well educated people read Trump's comments and perceive it as racist talk. It targets dark skinned people, many of whom are Muslim. Republicans and less well educated perceive it as simple racial self-preservation, and not racist. It is tradition. It is familiar. It is protecting a status quo from demographic and cultural erosion. Nothing wrong with that.

Democrats feel entitled to call it out: racist talk. Republican Trump supporters think they know racism when they encounter it--David Duke and the KKK for example--but this isn't racism. It is just liking things being "normal," and an affirmation of their own identity.

Democrats would do well to learn something and perhaps tattoo it onto the back of their hands to help remember it: People who do not think they are racist hate being called racist. 

It backfires badly. It defines the Democratic Party as the party that "hates whites" and the current culture of Western Civilization, and who call white people deplorable. White people took it seriously and personally. The effect was powerful enough that white women voted for Trump, not Hillary Clinton, notwithstanding Trump's record with women.

Click: NY Times
Thomas Edsall of the NY Times wrote about two polls that asked about whether opposition to immigration constituted "racism" or simple identity self-interest. The difference between Trump supporters and Hillary supporters was profound. Democrats might learn and integrate the data into their political messaging. People who want to slow immigration do not consider themselves racists.

Understanding that, Democrats might consult the tattoo on their hand: don't call immigration opponents racist.

Trump is confident he has a winning issue on immigration because the issue provokes Democrats. They are so insistent on being anti-Trump they have moved to the "left" on immigration, and Democratic spokespeople are reluctant to speak in favor of border security or immigration rules, lest they appear Trump-like. The result is that Democratic messaging conflates border security with racism, and concerns about poorly regulated immigration with racism.

Working class whites hear the message. They are deplorable racists, and they don't like it. The political result is that Democrats lose blue states and swing congressional districts. 

Trump is intentionally trolling Democrats, waving a red flag of provocation. Immigration is bad!  Immigrants are knife-wielding murderers and rapists!  What do you Democrats have to say about it? Go ahead, call me racist!

What can Democrats do?

If they understand their peril, they can, as a group, stop apologizing for border and immigration control. A majority of voters support controlled and enforced immigration. Native born Americans have a legitimate interest in how well people assimilate and what the country will look like in their children's lifetimes. 

The second thing they can do is push forward a nominees who clearly represents, in his or her biography and tone and message, the interests of white working men, who currently feel dissed by Democrats. It need not dis people of color nor oppose immigration, and indeed must not. But the message and messenger must communicate that her or she is not hostile to the white working class. Joe Biden comes to mind.

GOP Websites cherish this video.
An Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris could represent a "we don't need you" message to men and whites. Either could be the nominee, but they can avoid implying that white men are deplorable only if they took a stronger anti-immigrant message than could Biden, which they are unlikely to do. Joe Biden can be more pro-immigrant than other candidates because he would represent assurance that Democrats respect old school white Catholic men and traditions.

If Democrats want to win elections they need white votes. There is no shame in affirming white people be part of the American tapestry. it is not anti-black to say that white people are ok, too. Democrats can communicate inclusion of all, not affirmative action payback. If they want the message to be "payback" and "someone else's turn" they are free to do so, but the result will be more disappointing election nights like the one they experienced in 2016.

Trump and Republican love watching Rachel cry on TV.