Monday, February 29, 2016

Reshaping the GOP Coalition

Trump is re-aligning the Republican Party, turning it from a conservative globalist coalition with traditionalist voters into a populist nativist party.  

Presidential candidates and parties are coalitions of interest groups and sentiments.   Because presidential elections are won in the electoral college, not the popular vote, one can map the ebbs and flows of coalitions over history.  Lets look backward for some perspective on this, then look at what Trump is doing to upset the Republican coalition.

1924 Election:  This shows the "base" for the early and mid 20th Century Democratic Party.  The Democrats lost badly to Coolidge.   FDR would expand on this by adding strong support in the industrial NE and upper midwest.  But this shows the Solid South, devoted to maintaining racial segregation. Progressives won Wisconsin and lots of votes spread out across the country.

1968 Election:  This election between Nixon, Humphrey, and Wallace was nearly a popular vote tie for the major parties.  The Solid South went for Wallace, the NE and Upper Midwest switched to Democratic.  Nixon pitched the Silent Majority against black crime and white youth rebellion.

2000 Election:  This is the dead-heat election, with Florida's votes counted as Republican.   This is essentially the current electoral map.  Solid South racial and religious conservatives are Republican, with NE, Upper Midwest, and Pacific are Democratic.   This is the how Republicans win, barely--the swing states of NH, CO, VA, FL stay red.  

2012 Election:  Here is the presumed Democratic base when they win.  Same as 2000 with the culturally traditional South solidly red, but VA, FL, CO, NM, NV, and NH now blue.   Note that white working class Appalachia is now solidly red and multiracial FL, NM, and CO, plus urbanized VA have slid blue.

I recommend the website  where I got these maps.

Here is how this relates to the modern GOP and its coalition.   The GOP coalition pulls together the Solid South of white voters reflecting deep traditions on race and identity plus Christian "values voters" who were energized by the Moral Majority and its successors plus foreign policy hawks, libertarians, small business people concerned about regulations and labor rules, and corporate and financial elites who favor globalist trade, immigration policies.

It is an uneasy coalition with contradictions inside it which must be papered over.  The Solid South traditionalists and Christian values voters coalesce around identity.  They salute the flag, pray to God, support the military in foreign wars, speak English only, and are suspicious or hostile to outsiders, be they immigrants, racial minorities, or freethinking dissenter types that hang out at universities.   Nixon exploited that emotion when he condemned "urban" crime and long haired hippies and political dissenters in 1968 (Anti Acid, Amnesty, Abortion).  George HW Bush nurtured that impulse with the Willie Horton ad, linking crime and race.  These issues of identity still motivate those voters.

Those voters respond to anti-tax and anti safety net messages because politicians can point to the undeserving "other" who get those benefits.   They assert that the problem isn't the social benefit itself (Social Security, Medicare, public education, Disability Insurance, etc.) the problem is "waste, fraud, and abuse" by the undeserving: blacks, Hispanics, immigrants, lazy people, college students, criminals.  But political messages don't threaten the programs themselves because GOP voters count on these programs.

The solution: support the programs, complain about waste, and ignore the fact that the programs are adding to the deficit.  Anti-tax and anti-deficit messages work, but only if deficits are complained about but then continued, which has been the actual practice for Republicans (to pay for wars) and Democrats (to stimulate the economy.)

Globalism hurts these voters.   It puts them into competition with foreign workers who can manufacture things and put them onto ships.  

The policy and financial elites who fund and shape the campaigns for the GOP have different policy goals.   They understand free trade and open borders to be good business.  They are comfortable with ethnic and religious diversity since their business partners and clients are global.  They are against progressive taxation, they want lower business regulation, and they resist worker protection and benefit laws, like minimum wage and maternity leave.  They are comfortable with international bodies doing rule-making because their international trade, patent protections, etc. require international governance.

You see the problem: what the voters want and what the policy and financial elites want re very different, even directly opposite.    But good political skill can paper it over.   

The post-2012 election strategy was mapped out by GOP elites:  keep the 2012 coalition intact.  Pursue global trade and economic policy for the good of the economic elites but keep the voters in line with values issues that cannot actually be changed thanks to the constitution.  Meanwhile question the identity of Kenyan Muslim Obama and condemn the moral and political errors of Democrats for which Bill and Hillary create rich opportunity.   It requires willful blindness and hypocrisy (Goldman Sachs partners paying for ads attacking Hillary for buddying up to Goldman Sachs; Fox airing Newt Gingrich condemning Bill Clinton for sexual immorality) but this is commonplace among skilled political communicators.

The one "fix" perceived as necessary was to "widen the base" by lowering the rhetoric regarding Hispanics and immigrants generally, which would bring the states of FL, NM, CO, and VA back to Republican red.

Then came Trump.  Trump is destroying the coalition by creating an new definition of Republican.   A Trump Republican is defined by his resentment and frustration over hypocrisy in the old Republican coalition.   Financial and corporate elites who pushed through stronger rules on credit card collections, and who blocked re-financing of high interest rates on student debt, and who oppose minimum wage hikes, and who want to privatize Social Security and limit Medicare reflect the values of the political orthodoxy and financial elite, but not voters.   Wall Street elites, with the help of Democrats, protected the big banks from collapse and its leaders from prosecution; GOP voters don't like that.  Wall Street and policy elites talk about "small government", with tax pledges and a goal of making it small enough to drown in the bathtub; Trump voters like government benefits.   Most important, political and financial elites wanted "comprehensive immigration reform" which would have meant foreigners here illegally could stay.  Voters shouted no!

Trump addressed the interest and values of the voters with plain talk, which cut through the hypocrisy and contradiction.   He didn't paper over the division of interest between the elites and the voters.  He exposed it.   The bad rich guys are taking advantage of you, he said.  He said he played the game the way it is played as a businessman, giving to everyone so deals could be made, and the game is rigged!   He knew!  

Trump says he agrees with the voters on guns, Christianity, Merry Christmas, abortion, and so on but his low credibility on these issues do not matter.  He has high credibility on the issue of being a fearless leader on behalf of the common man voter, and that is the new base for the Republican coalition.   It starts with "average Americans", i.e. native born white and adds people who are here legally but resent illegal newcomers and crime.   It consists of people resentful of the restraints of political correctness.  It consists of people who want a strong leader whose confident dismissal of normal conventions suggest that he will in fact break the Iran deal, initiate new trade deals, ignore the Geneva conventions, joyfully torture POWS, and do what needs to be done.  He will break through political logjams.    This assumes the new Trumpian GOP will lose black and Hispanic votes but will pick up working class "common man" votes in the industrial NE and Midwest, the so-called Reagan Democrats.

Those voters exist in large quantities.   I saw them myself during the Boston busing crisis of 1974-75.  They are native born voters with strong American identity and ethnic European roots who treasure their church, their neighborhood, their way of life.  In Irish neighborhoods they considered Italians, Greeks, and Poles to be "outsiders" and blacks to be enemies. Italians disliked the Irish a little and blacks a lot.   And so on.   They were patriotic and religious and their politics were based upon identity, not liberal-conservative policy issues.   They liked government, so long as it worked for them.  They liked political patronage and good government jobs and public works and the taxes that paid for them, as long as it was mostly rich people paying the taxes.

The Trump voter is not the Paul Ryan "balance the budget, cut Social Security cut taxes so we can have trickle down" voter.   Trump voters do not want people lacking health care to be dying in the streets.  Trump voters want strong government, not less government.   They may be libertarian when it comes to guns, but generally they want government to work well, because they want a government strong enough to keep illegal Mexican out, stop Muslims from coming in, and generally one that will keep them safe from outside enemies and domestic crime.    

The Trump coalition attempts to grow the GOP tent with working class traditional voters rather than by making nice with minorities.  This might put Ohio, Pennsylvania and the upper Midwest industrial states back into the GOP electoral coalition.  The Trump coalition leaves genuinely small government libertarians no place to go, since they surely would not move to a Hillary Democratic Party.   The risk is that they organize enough to vote for a third party.  It is a possibility.

Trump denies the influence of the policy and financial elite at the presidential level.   Trump can afford to do without the money because his voters and ratings give him free media, and he could presumably self-fund.  The establishment wants to be a necessary part of the coalition because that is how they get their influence, and they will certainly continue it at the congressional and state level.  So they stay part of the coalition.  Trump loses the free-trade open borders pro-immigration elites, which may move them to the sidelines.  They won't be comfortable with Trump, but they won't like Democratic tax policies so they likely will not join the opposition.  

The important group Trump risks losing are the Republican voters who simply require the nice talk of hypocrisy rather than plain talk. They don't like Trump's style.   They are embarrassed by him.   Political hypocrisy is a necessary part of the finesse needed to stay in office voicing small government conservative policies if voters actually want large effective populist government programs.   Trump is impolite and impolitic.  He doesn't give lip service to "the vast majority of good Muslims who we welcome to America", or to the "overwhelming majority of Mexicans here with their families who work hard every day.".  He says Muslims are a chancy situation and Mexicans are taking our jobs.  Simple.   He will also lose the support of incumbents who represent mixed districts where there aren't enough Reagan Democrats to replace the lost minority votes.   It is these voters and these establishment Republicans who are most uncomfortable.   They liked Romney: clean, decent, professional--the opposite of unruly Trump.   They are talking about a Convention challenge.

The glue that may allow Trump to with this election and then eventually be replaced by a younger Republican with a better gift for hypocrisy is Hillary-hatred.   Rubio was attempting to keep the coalition together with non-stop denunciation of all things Democratic, saying he was intentionally attempting to destroy the America. ("Let's dispel once and for all the fiction that Obama does not know what he is doing. . . . " )   Hating Hillary is glue, and it includes a lot of Democrats who currently support Bernie Sanders.   Hillary-haters and Reagan Democrats are a voting block.  A Trump coalition will do even worse with minorities than did Romney, but the Hillary-haters and Reagan Democrats may be a larger voting block. 

Trump could save the Republican party by destroying it.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Fox Primary

Rupert Murdoch, Chairman of News Corp, the owner of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal makes no pretense of objectivity.   But look closely at who he calls to "close ranks" behind.   Notice the missing name?

Ted Cruz.  Not Trump, who criticized Megyn Kelly and boycotted a Fox-sponsored debate.

Ted Cruz is on the Sunday shows today making direct reference to the Republican establishment.  They don't like me, Cruz says.  So it is no surprise that Chris Christie just endorsed Trump, Cruz said.    As Cruz defines the GOP contest, it is between a true conservative (himself) and the Republican establishment consisting of people who are weak compromisers, on immigration, on Israel, on judges.

And this morning he squabbled with Mike Wallace on Fox.   Fox represents the Republican establishment.   Cruz is the odd-person out, at least now.

Bad News for Rubio

Marco Rubio is catching bad news at a bad time.   Today's news report that Rubio and NY Senator Chuck Schumer went to New York and sat down together in the Executive Dining room for News Corp and met with Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes of Fox News and talk radio opinion leader Rush Limbaugh.

Here is the NY Times article:

Breitbart delighted to re-publish the story
Everything about the trip to New York has a feel of deceit:  going there with a liberal Democrat Schumer, traveling to New York instead of a meeting at the Capitol, an Executive Dining Room instead of an office, to meet top opinion makers.  It is the image of salesman, hat in hand, to see the big client.

 But it gets worse: they met, so the story goes, to ask that Fox and Limbaugh go easy on them for the immigration bill proposed by the Gang of Eight.   They were asking Fox and Rush to feed the audience a certain spin.  Rubio recognized that the Fox/Rush audience was anti-immigrant and inclined to be distrustful of the proposed immigration reform, so they wanted the media leaders to help sell the bill to their audiences with favorable stories.  There wanted management to send the word out to the news and opinion people to go easy.

The story puts the spotlight on the ugly problem for the GOP.   GOP elites on Wall Street, K Street, its donors, and its media voice at Fox all support a pro-immigration position while GOP voters do not.   Trump represents the will of its voters; Rubio represents the will of its elites.   And Rubio has been exposed, representing elites, not the gut instincts of the voters and the Fox audience.  And since Murdoch is pro-immigrant, he agreed.

The story is the worst possible for Rubio and the best for Trump.   It shows Rubio as a deceitful conniver in a conspiracy, corrupting both himself and Republican media.  It validates Trump's argument that Fox cannot be trusted.    

Marco Rubio had had a good 24 hours in the news cycle leading up to the SEC primary.   He looked very comfortable mocking Trump's mis-spellings in his tweets, saying Trump could not spell "choke".  Rubio laughingly described Trump backstage at the debate nervously dabbing on makeup in a desperate attempt to cover a "sweat mustache".  He is keeping it up, criticizing Trump University, Trump's spray on tan, Trump's use of foreign workers, where Trump's ties are made, on and on, all in a tone of mockery.  (Trump responded with a photo of Rubio also putting on makeup.)  Of course everyone on TV in a debate format wears makeup because otherwise one's face shines and all the viewers see is glare, not skin.  But since Trump's brand is alpha-male dominance, the image of Trump nervously doing anything, especially putting on makeup, was in conflict with the Trump brand, so Rubio is using in in his ridicule.  Typically it would be Trump dismissively swatting away criticism, but in this scene Rubio reversed the roles.  Trump was the sweater, not the swatter.    Rubio raises the question: is Trump a fraud?  Are we being conned by phony bluster and stage makeup?

It was too good to last for Rubio.  

Because the story fits the Cruz narrative of Rubio's insincerity and Trump's narrative that the media cannot be trusted they are out there telling the story and every network other than Fox will gleefully give it time on the air.  Watch for it:  'Here is our panel to discuss corruption at Fox!"   "Collusion at Fox!"  "Fox orders spin to sell its viewers!"     Conservative news outlet Breitbart already considers it a "Bombshell Scoop".

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Guest Post: Dirt

Peter Sage's introduction:   Thad Guyer is an attorney who litigates on behalf of employee whistleblowers, so he pays close attention to the kinds of messages that are persuasive to judges and juries.   In this guest post Guyer observes that the Republican establishment is in panic mode and Rubio and Cruz are throwing up dirt too late to change the campaign.

The New York Times article that he links to in his first paragraph is worth your attention.   It will take five full minutes to read it.   It reports on the scramble of the Republican establishment to preserve itself.  Trump attracts Republican voters by criticizing Republican orthodoxy.  It reveals a grave problem for the GOP: that the orthodoxy of Republican establishment and donors is in conflict with what actual live Republican voters want.   The establishment is globalist, ideologically conservative, pro-immigration, and funded by Wall Street and the interest groups of K Street.  The voters are populist, nativist, and are angry about Wall Street power and influence 

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Thad Guyer's observation:
Dirt too late in a dirty political year? I agree with Anonymous that Rubio and the entire slate of Republicans waited far too late to try to stop Trump with scandal allegations before he smashed up their party. Today’s NYT piece gives the history of how all efforts to rally the party elite against Trump could not get traction. “Inside the Republican Party’s Desperate Mission to Stop Donald Trump” 

In law, personal relationships and politics, dirt that is raised late in a critical discussion raises as many questions about the sincerity, motive or integrity of the person raising it. If Rubio and others had integrity, wouldn’t they have sounded the alarm from the start about such a “con man”? Instead, now it sounds more akin to no honor among thieves, leaving the choice between a successful billionaire crook or a petty crook who never shows up for work except to collect his Senate paycheck. 

For 15 years straight, America has enjoyed presidents whose personal characters were not under a dirty cloud of personal financial scandal, sex in the White House, perjury or criminality. But if it comes down to a Trump versus Clinton race, we must accept we will be back to a presidency tainted by low character and scandal. Voters who want to offload Trump or Clinton can’t really do it in the name of getting honesty or decency from the alternative in the other party. In 2016, the immunity to dirt we built up during the Clinton years will almost surely give Trump a pass on any kind of dirt Rubio or the Democrats can throw at him-- especially when it is thrown so late. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Last Night's Debate: What I saw

Presidential politics is a continuation of high school.   Trump has been the high school varsity quarterback, the big guy.   Last night a couple of sophomores challenged him.  

They didn't unseat him, but they made him fight back and they bruised him a little.  His ties are made in China.  There are some unhappy students at Trump University.  He hired foreign workers when Americans might have been available.  He may not be as anti-immigrant as Cruz.  

But people get bruised in fights, no big deal.  The big thing that happened is that Cruz and Rubio didn't cower and "make nice" with him; they challenged the big guy. 

Trump got hit but he didn't back down or fall down, and that is the biggest thing.

I do not believe that Trump is acting out of deep strategic calculation.   He is simply being who he instinctively is, and that it is entirely likely that he is what the times and circumstances favor in this election.   Better to be lucky than smart.   Trump has good timing.   And if there is another terrorist event somewhere in the world that dominates the news cycle for a week, even better for Trump.   Trump is the strong guy, the one who protects Americans when they are fearful.   Trump is already shaping himself for the general election.

He alluded to having taken on Hillary with the mention of Bill being a sexual predator and noted that she cowered.   Plus, Trump has become the moderate Republican still in the race.   He didn't need the Etch-a-Sketch mentioned by Romney's campaign last year; he just needed the comparison with Rubio and Cruz.

Trump began as the classic hard liner on immigration, the border, Mexicans, Muslims, etc.  He made the issue the 24/7 news story.   Last night Rubio and Cruz positioned themselves to be more anti-immigrant than Trump.   Trump wants to let some immigrants back in after they are deported, if they are "one of the good ones."   Rubio and Cruz called this heresy.  They are pure anti-immigrants, no entry, no citizenship.

Trump said that in America we would not have people 'dying on the streets" in front of hospitals having been denied health care.   This week Trump has been using that phrase "dying in the streets" and he used it again at the debate.   Surely Americans don't want people dying in the streets, surely that is too extreme, Trump said.   Rubio and Cruz called this heresy.    They are pure in saying health care is not a right. If you can't pay you don't get.

Cruz moving forward
Trump said he had been given awards by Israel as a friend of Israel and he would work with them to help them make peace with their neighbors.   Peace in the Middle East would be a high achievement for his presidency, Trump said.  Rubio and Cruz called this heresy.   They are unequivocal supporters of Israel, period.  Peace suggests compromise and Israel need not compromise because American will back them up whatever they do.

Trump said he opposes and would de-fund Planned Parenthood, but admitted that 97% of what it does is good. Rubio and Cruz called this heresy.  Planned Parenthood does abortions and the organization must be investigated, prosecuted, defunded, and destroyed.

Trump is positioned as the moderate, nuanced candidate now when considered against the backdrop of Cruz and Rubio.  The position Trump has staked out has been the one that has been the one that unified the Republican party.   The name is "compassionate conservative".  The word compassionate was intended to soften the hard edge of conservatism that would condemn ones immigrant nanny, have children die "on the streets" in front of hospitals, prefer religious conflict to peace, etc.    Rubio and Cruz are taking the position that Republicans want the hard discipline of orthodoxy.  Trump is positioned as the nice guy.   Strong, but in support of people, not ideology.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Don't Over-think this

People like me are out of touch with the people who are out of touch.

(Please take ten seconds to "Follow" me.  You do it by putting your email address in the box there on the upper right.   That way you "subscribe" and you get the daily additions sent automatically to your email once a day in the middle of the night.  You can unsubscribe any time.)

A simple idea that bears repeating is that the  hardest things in the world to see are things that are dead obvious.   Oh, you see them, but you don't notice them.  (You might have read The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allen Poe back in high school.  The precious object was "hidden" by being placed carelessly right in plain sight.)  This blog attempts to make sense of the 2016 election aided in part by things I noticed by having attended events live.

This morning I was reminded of something obvious by a sentence I read in an article about a guy bemoaning Trump's success compared to Rubio's:  "People vote with their heart, not their head.   In the case of Mr. Trump, he's hit a chord obviously."

The dead-obvious observation I have is that most people aren't paying close attention to politics, and when they do they follow their heart.   Frequently they end up answering polls and voting, but they don't really pay attention.  An example from my life: I have typically participated in an office game of filling out brackets for NCAA March Madness.  I spend maybe $20 a year.   That bet makes me a "participant", but I don't know or care very much.   I recall something about Kansas and Kentucky.   I have heard of Duke being good.  I like the Ducks.   I fill out a bracket looking at bookmaker odds,  add in some vague recollections and preferences,  and am done.

I am a "low information" participant.  A lot of people do politics like I do basketball.

Trump audience: feeling it
People willing to stand in line for 3 1/2 hours along with me to see Trump in Nevada are not uninvolved.  That takes commitment.  But it doesn't mean that they are detailed observers of political positions, any more than it would be if I were to spend 3 1/2 hour total to watch a basketball game.  I would enjoy the experience probably, then I would go home, still essentially ignorant of the intricacies of match-ups, offensive and defensive strategies, assist percentages, turnovers, etc.  My son watches basketball and sees those details and has a podcast about it.  Not me.  I just see a blur of activity. 

Here is what close observers of Blazer basketball sound like:  Check it out:    

My son does with basketball what I hope to do with politics: make sense of a complex subject.  

For people who follow politics the way I follow basketball it is about heart, not head.    The two candidates who have big, well established national brands are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Trump.   Many voters feel frustrated and impatient over the slow recovery from the financial crisis and the gridlock in Washington.  Obama's mild tone, and the fact that he has been repeatedly stymied by Republicans, give an impression of "weakness".    What people feel in their heart about Donald Trump: he is strong and fearless and not beholden to donors.  The normal criticisms that would attach to him relating to his marriages, his NY values, his intemperate remarks, the un-lovely things he might have done to get rich, his bankruptcies, simply do not matter much.  We assume strong, successful people with big businesses did some ugly things to get where they are. There is one big important thing about Donald Trump and everything else is a dull blur:  he is strong, fearless, and he will fight for the American common man against threats, foreign and domestic.

He is a "strong man" but normal electoral process can put him there (as they did for Andrew Jackson.)   If Americans want a strong, fearless leader to cut through the frustration and shake up the status quo, Trump is the guy.   

Hillary.   Hillary is same-old, same-old.   She is a long-running TV show, on the air in 1992 then on every day, seven days a week, 24 years so far.  We saw her as candidate Bill Clinton's feminist wife, as controversial First Lady with her health care proposal, as the humiliated wife, as Senator, as Secretary of State, as author, as testifier in Congress, and now as presidential candidate.  We are envisioning 4 or even 8 more years of the show.   Some people like the show, some hated it in the past and still do.  No surprise, no thrill, but no big danger either.  It is like getting a birthday gift of a identical copy of something you already have but have worn out, a replacement used car for example, same make and model. Nice, or rather "nice enough.".   It won't be a disaster and might even be pretty good.   But there is no sparkle or jolt of joy, nothing to gift wrap.

Insofar as people are looking for Hope and Change, Hillary will disappoint.  But she would be reliable, and she is familiar.

There it is:  the strong guy versus the familiar woman.   There will be people who can describe each of their tax proposals and can describe their policies on health care and student loan revisions, etc.,  but elections take place on the margins of lightly informed people who decide with their heart not their head.

Does America want a bold, strong, fearless guy, who seems pretty erratic and maybe a bull in a china shop?   Trump.  Or do they want to settle for tuning the TV back to more of the familiar and sort of frustrating program they have been watching for years, an OK show, watchable, but nothing all that exciting.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Criticism helps Trump because his brand is "Streetfighter"

Bill and Monica
Today's guest post by observer Thad Guyer posits a Trump-Hillary general election that should frighten Democrats:

***Trump will be bashing Bill Clinton for offensive behavior and Hillery's being an anti-feminist enabler of Bill Clinton.   Bill and Hillary had hoped the memory of the Clinton presidency was eight years of tremendous economic growth.   Trump has other plans.  He will attempt to make it about Hillary demeaning the women Bill preyed upon with Hillary's help.

***Trump will be bashing Hillary on Huma Abedin, her loyal assistant.  Human has the twin problem of being an observant Muslim and the wife of Anthony Weiner who is now know primarily for sex text--ripe ground for questions and accusations and sneers.   Trump has already asserted that "of course" Huma tells her creepy disgusting husband Weiner every state secret she knows.

***Trump will bring up questions about Benghazi.  It has been investigated and investigated but there can always be questions and accusations.  Then more questions.  Then accusations that more information should be forthcoming.  

Hillary polls poorly on "trustworthiness".  Representative Kevin McCarthy lost his chance to be Speaker of the House not because he told a lie, but because he told the truth: the purpose of the Benghazi hearings were to raise questions and doubts about Hillary Clinton and it worked well.  He wasn't supposed to say this aloud.  But, still, it worked.  People doubt Hillary.  

This is a grim future for the general election: Hillary needing to explain and distance herself from creepy sex and deny her guilt from Americans dying abroad.   Hillary wants the issues to be about her plans for a better America.  Trump will keep the focus on "distractions".  Questions can always be raised.

Is Huma Abedin the lesbian lover of Hillary?

Hillary's lover?????
Did Hillary intentionally want the four Americans to die because she was on the phone planning a wedding?   

Was the ambassador Hillary's secret lover and did she need to have him killed, like she did Webb Hubble and Vince Foster?

What did she know and when did she know it about Bill and Monica?   Or Paula Jones? 

Does Bill have a distinctive shape to his penis, something Monica could identify?  Was't there some story about that back in 1998 and isn't there a new generation of  people interested in an excuse to discuss the private parts of public officials?

What, really, does Hillary think of Anthony Weiner's photos, and can a real feminist endorse Huma standing by her man?

All these questions are way more interesting than tax policy or arrangements for re-financiang student debt.  Hillary will want to talk about policy.  Trump will not.   Currently Trump is focusing on Republican opponents, but he promised he will return to Hillary later. 

Trump has bashed his way through a dozen Republican opponents:  Perry is stupid;  Carly failed miserably at Lucent and Hewlett Packard; Graham is a zero; Jeb is weak; Christie blocked a bridge; Carson invented his life story;  Rubio is a sweaty little boy; Cruz is a liar.  And all of them are beholden to special interests, except him.

Trump has been attacked by Republicans in several directions, but none of the charges have hurt so far.  Indeed, they have tended to strengthen Trump's brand.

***Bush and Graham (and the polite media from the NY Times to National Review to every TV pundit) called him inappropriate and un-presidential.   This charge has some traction among my well-educated Republican Rotary-type friends, but what critics call unpresidential Trump defines as political correctness.  Trump said the weaklings didn't appreciate plain talk and were defending lies, lack of common sense, and the failed status quo.

***Christie called him a coward for skipping a Fox debate.  Trump said he didn't need Fox, but guys like Christie do, the losers.

***Rubio and Cruz are hitting him from the right, for a history of supporting women's choice on abortion, for smiling at Hillary, for not supporting the Confederate flag, for not being a committed conservative, for not being sufficiently anti-immigrant.  Trump says he is the original spokesman who ignited the whole movement to shake up the liberal status quo, and that they are the latecomers to the party Trump created.

Trump has won the battles and has thrived.   Why?  Trump's brand is to be a street fighter who presumably would do the same against Congress, against liberals, against Mexico and China and Russia.    Fighting helps Trump.

Trump loses in polls that ask whether Trump's values match with yours, but shared values is not Trump's appeal.   Trump's appeal is that he appears to be able to slash through intrenched opposition and do so on behalf of "regular Americans" like themselves.  And toward what end?    

The primary and then general election are a showdown between polite people constrained by rules and forced respect for others and political correctness (establishment Republicans and especially Hillary Clinton) versus people who openly and genuinely want to advocate for virile and unapologetic American interests.  That is why I describe Trump as both a nationalist and a nativist.  Trump opposes open borders and global free trade because those are in the interests of a global community but not necessarily the interests of regular, native born Americans, Trump's team.   Trump positioned himself as a successful bully, unafraid to take on anyone who attempts to constrain America, not the NY Times, not the Pope, not the UN.   Fights are just free advertising for Trump, the more the better.

Alpha president vs Putin

Is it safe for Trump to make sex the centerpiece of his attacks on Hillary.   Yes, unless somebody comes forward with an accusation of something Trump will have trouble denying.  Trump has been rich, single, and gotten around.   There may be something out there.  An accusation of something homosexual would shake things up in the Republican primary because it would threaten his brand.  The Trump brand is that he is an alpha male womanizer.   I don't expect this to happen, because it probably would have by now if it were out there.  But he has lived the high life and the tabloids would love to have a story.

Wife a a real leader
Trump is immune from counterattack when he shames Hillary, Bill, Huma, and Anthony Weiner, and indeed he is helped by the counterattack.    Trump's brand is that he is strong, and virility is another manifestation of that strength.   He has a very young and beautiful ex-model wife, and young child.  Alpha men are highly sexed and they don't apologize for it.  They brag about it.

If Democrats hit back with "What about your womanizing?  What about your young and then younger and then even-younger-yet wives?" Trump's response can be "Darned right!"   


Guest Post: Like it or not, Trump Would Govern

Republicans and Democrats Crave Governance 

Every candidate is making promises “to govern”. 

(Stop a moment, please!   Before you read this Guest Post, please consider putting your email address in the little box up there on the right.  That way you "Follow" me.   What it means is that every day or so in the middle of the night you get an email containing the full text, with photos, of whatever got posted that day.   It is easy and convenient.  And don't worry, you can always unsubscribe instantly.)

Peter Sage's introduction:   Thad Guyer is an attorney who represents whistleblower employees, which means he looks closely at what messages are persuasive to judges and juries.   He is currently living in Vietnam, which gives him some insights regarding the issues facing the American electorate: immigration, xenophobia, Islam, strong-man governance. 

Over the past three months Thad has observed that American punditry has badly misunderstood and underestimated Trump's appeal with voters.  Thad has been proven right so far, most recently last night in Nevada.  Thad asserts here that Trump most certainly wants to govern, expects to govern, and that he would use his independence and popularity with voters to shake up a political/money system that has lost its ability to work on behalf of most Americans.

Guest Post:  Thad Guyer

Thad Guyer's comment:

Each wants to govern, that is what politicians do with power. And voters on the left and right want governance on exactly the same issues: (1) Immigration-- either deport or legalize; (2) Wall Street and income disparity—stop the rip offs by either more regulation or by pushing back the lobbyist donor class; and (3) Economy and jobs—either use federal monetary policy and income redistribution, or stop the manufacturing exodus and trade ripoffs. Voters on both sides agree the government is coopted by special interests and political money, and want it stopped—through governance. 

Democrats have little faith that Hillary can effectively govern on the three issues. She disavows Obama deportations and enforcing even existing immigration laws. She is already clearly corrupted by Wall Street money. And she’s an absolute globalist with a family foundation largely funded by foreigners. 

Bernie is what we on the left used to call Republican ideologs—“the lunatic fringe”. His efforts at governance would be talking to himself in the mirror, shunned by Democrats on Capitol Hill who won’t risk re-election by pushing socialist fantasy legislation of free college and single payor health care that will never even get out of committee. He’s such a “wingnut” on immigration that he advocates bringing back those already deported by Obama. Bernie’s brief “viable” candidacy was mostly due to incurable Clinton fatigue.

Republicans know that Trump is one of two candidates who could govern on chaotic immigration, Wall Street ripping off the little guy, and globalism eating their jobs. Cruz is another wingnut lunatic fringe candidate like Bernie, so he’s out. 

That leaves Rubio. He would softly enforce deportation laws, claim that with less regulations Wall Street will be governed by free markets, and assert that better trade deals and fewer work visas will tame globalism.  In other word, Rubio is Hillary, both missing the point of the 2016 political revolution is to tear down the status quo. Rubio and Hillary are boring, untrustworthy “change the system from within” candidates. 

Trump, therefore, is the only viable candidate in either party who could govern consistent with prime imperative—tear down the current political structure by disempowering the donor lobbyist class. He will build a wall with billions Congress will appropriate, lest Trump campaign against their reelections, making fearsome examples of the first few. He will begin deporting millions, since that already is the law, and immigration reform is a legislative myth. He will terrorize the Congress into modifying trade and tariff treaties, and will deregulate Wall Street and offer them legitimacy if they stop corporate inversions and bring the offshore money home. 

As Trump says at most rallies, “I haven’t even started on Hillary yet”. Picture what he did to Jeb!, but threefold. There will be relentless attacks on: (1) her sex-pervert husband whom she enabled; (2) her own version of Nixon’s chief of staff Bob Halderman with a flattop redneck hairut, except now it Hillary’s Huma Abedin, a Muslim who will soon be deposed in federal court over the email server; and (3) Bengazi as told in the movie “13 Hours”. Once everyone watches that movie, Hillary cannot recover her credibility. All this assumes she will not be hauled before a federal grand jury over classified information violations in the next 9 months.

That is governance, whether you like the goals or not.
Huma Abed

Street fighting is a particular art of war. 
Trump is a champion. It is street fighting instinct that enabled him to trash George Bush as a 9-11 liar and loser who should have been impeached. Trump smacked the audience in the face and walked out with arms raised in victory to a sea of cameras. Hilary Clinton will collapse in the ring if she gets that far. America wants governance—Trump style.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

GOP: Governance Or Protest

At the city and country level candidates and officeholders generally attempt to govern.   Office holders want to provide police and fire protection, schools, clean restaurants, the important stuff of day to day life.

Locally a Republican County Commissioner has attempted to get himself elected to regional associations with a policy advocacy agenda on behalf of federal land and timber issues.    He is getting widespread criticism for it, with a focus on his travel costs and questions on whether this is worth it to the county.  He now has a Republican primary opponent.   It is being seen as personal aggrandizement and mission drift for a local official.

He has a job to do right here, and he should do it, rather than trotting around the region trying to influence broad policy, according to the political buzz that is getting him into hot water.

At the local and state level the GOP still generally functions as a party of governance, but there is tension here with Republican and rural voters, which has been highlighted by the decision of voters in neighboring counties to vote down tax levies to provide even minimal police service to rural areas of their counties.

This reflects two big themes in American politics.  The first is the voluntary sorting of people, with citizens moving to neighborhoods and cities that "feel right" to them.  People who want less government move out from population centers and people who want bicycle lanes and mass transit and city services move to the places that have them.  College towns get people who want college towns.  People who want their own well and septic tank move to rural settings.   

Simple.  But it is a point lost on some of my progressive liberal friends:  some people want less government.  Or, perhaps more accurately, they want lower taxes and they certainly want less in government benefits for people other than themselves.

This has a strong partisan result, showing up in maps color coded for the counties that voted for Romney vs. the counties that voted for Obama.  Big rural counties with lots of land and few people vote Republican.   Population density is a proxy for party.
Red for Romney, Blue for Obama.

The other big theme is the GOP at the national level becoming a protest party rather than a party of governance.   It is showing up in the disappearance of governors from the Republican slate of some 16 candidates.   Gone are Jindal, Walker, Perry, Christie, Bush.  Kasich is floundering.  They are governors.

 Lindsey Graham, a Senator, left early as well.  His message was one of governance.  I heard him say that wars were important for American safety and that wars cost money and that Americans would need to sacrifice to pay for that security.   His reward for telling this simple fact of governance?   No one wanted to hear it.   He said it in a room with me and 13 others.  He could not draw an audience, much less a crowd.
The crowd a Senator draws advocating for taxes to pay for our wars.

The fight within the three realistic finalists, Trump, Cruz, and Rubio are over who has the purest expression of the orthodox Republican position.   Trump asserts his Mexican wall will be tighter than Cruz's, a johnny come lately to advocacy for the Wall.   Cruz says that Rubio flirted with potential citizenship for immigrants while Rubio counters that Cruz did as well.  TV ads go back and forth with accusations and condemnations over who is guilty of political heresy.  You supported amnesty once!  You once compromised on deportation!  You aren't as good a Christian! You used to be more moderate!

The candidates are not the only problem.  I have sat in the audiences of Republican events and I have seen the local election results on tax levies to provide police services.  Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and it is Republican primary voters who are saying no.   Kasich had nearly a hundred Town Halls in New Hampshire and now-gone candidates Walker had 32, Jindal 22, Bush had 94, Christie had 156.   They made their case to the voters and the voters heard their message.  Most voters said no, thanks.

Trump is universally described as following his own compass.   This misses a point.  Trump is a showman with extraordinary rapport with his audiences.  He feeds off them, and they feed off of him.   He loves applause.  He says things that get cheers and laughs and the adoration of his audience.  Trump says what he wants to say, and what he wants to say is what his audience wants to hear.  It isn't just Trump.   It is Trump's audience.  And Trump.  They are in this together. That is Trump's strength.

Cruz and Rubio have massaged their messages to be generally Trump-like.  They can differ with who Trump used to be five and ten and twenty years ago, and they can assert they are way better churchgoers and more learned Christians--a very low bar--but their policy advocacy is now essentially Trumpian.  

Trump found the audience, nurtured the audience and has created the political environment in which the Big Three of Trump, Cruz, and Rubio still survive.

There is a curious thing happening in Nevada politics which illuminates the governance/protest cleft in the Republican Party, at the presidential level.

Nevada has a popular Republican governor.  He has movie star good looks.  
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval

He is Hispanic.  He does not yet have much of a national reputation but he is popular in Nevada.   Republican presidential candidates don't want his endorsement.  Why?  Because when he transitioned from candidate to governor he had actually to govern.   Nevada schools were rated #50 out of 50 states in quality.   He pushed through a tax increase to improve the schools.  He accepted the Medicare waiver money for uninsured Nevada citizens (same as the Kasich apostasy).  He supports immigration reform and the DREAM Act.  This makes him a popular governor statewide in Nevada.  UNLV political science professor David Damore says "he's the most popular political figure in the state."   He governed and Nevada is doing better.

Therefore, he created a grave political problem--with Republican voters.   A leading Cruz supporter calls it Sandovol's "dramatic betrayal."   A Politico news article quotes an anonymous Tea Party member referring to him as "toxic waste."   A governor who addresses Nevada's problems with a tax increase, or even one who accepts federal money to provide access to health care for Nevadans, is guilty of political heresy.

Revolution, not reform
The 2016 presidential primary election is an election among factions of the Tea Party.  The original Tea Party of 1773 was not a call for incremental reform.  It was a violent protest of destruction.  The candidates who have survived this primary election are ones rejecting the status quo.  Governors campaigning on incremental improvement were rejected.   

It is hard to notice things that do not happen.   What is not happening in Nevada is the public endorsement of one of the Big Three candidates for president by a popular incumbent Republican home state governor.  He has made no endorsement.   It might have hurt more than helped. 

He has been a governor, and in this election cycle governing is toxic.