Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Trump isn't lying. He is negotiating.

The Trump Brand is:  strong provocateur, a master negotiator.

First, a moment of anthropology: Small City Power Structure:
There is a kind of Republican that I am familiar and comfortable around.  I characterize them as Chamber of Commerce, Rotarian, civic-minded, country club Republicans.   They are professional and business people in the solid upper middle class.  They are financially comfortable and politically moderate.  They are small-city "establishment", community leader people.   They are on nonprofit and government boards: city councils, school boards, the boards of arts organizations.   They drive nice cars, but don't own jets.  They do not consider themselves "good ol' boys" but they do know and socialize with each other, raise money from each other for good causes, and appoint each other to local policy-making boards.  

Those people tend to be Republican but there are Democrats among them.  Partisan consciousness exists but it is usually muted, since the issues facing schools and symphonies don't break along partisan lines, and there in general agreement that these government and non-government institutions are necessary and good.

Local readers will recognize themselves.   

My conversations with the Republicans in this group showed them to be uncomfortable with Donald Trump.   Donald Trump has failed their propriety test.  His insults, name calling, and contempt for people they respect bothers them more than it does the average Republican voter because they are accustomed to public civility in language and manner.   People have to get along and play nicely on these various local institutions.   But Republican leaders are coming around to support for Trump because:

   ***Currently Trump is the one Republican option on the menu.
  *** It is Trump or Hillary, and they have a 25 year history of disliking Clintons.
   ***Trump has the capacity to shake things up, in a direction they think change is needed.

Voters voted for gridlock and Republicans have heard for 35 years that government is the problem and limited government is best.   They wanted Republican congresses to stop Obama's initiatives.  They thought they wanted hamstrung government.  Trump has awakened them to a new idea: we need strong--not weak--government to advance American interests, and Trump is strong and can shake things up.   

Effective government is not a foreign idea to local Republican leaders.   They aren't anarchists or libertarians.   They lead local government and non-government organizations and want them to work effectively.  A few of them home-school, but they drive on city streets, drink city water, call 911 in emergencies, and want zoning to work well enough to protect the value of their home from a neighbor's wish to put in a home business machine shop.

NY Times interview:  "Everything is negotiable."
What directions will Trump move the country?   Everyone gets to imagine something nice.  Trump himself is vague and inconsistent, and, remember, he is a showman and a negotiator, which allows troubled and skeptical Republicans to think that Trump doesn't actually mean what he says--that Trump is just taking a negotiating position.   In fact, on the job, they reason, he will move things in the way that makes sense.

Will he really build a wall and deport 11 million people?   Nah.  He will do something, but nothing too disruptive.  He can't.  And Trump is practical.

Will he really apply a 35% tariff and start a trade war with Mexico and China?  Nah.  He will do something, but nothing too disruptive.  He wouldn't want to destroy things.

Does he really hate abortion and will he get anti-abortion legislation passed?  Or ban 14th Amendment birth citizenship?  Or allow significant coal pollution?  Or register Muslims?  Or abridge the Kyoto treaty on climate or the Geneva Convention on torture?   Nah, that is just stuff he is saying to get elected.

Trump's brand as showman, negotiator,  and provocateur has insulated him from the charge of being openly dishonest.  Instead, his comments are interpreted as craft--something good.   The good-government small city Republicans, remain offended by Trump's insulting style, but have accommodated themselves to his policies.  They  have concluded that Trump's policies are "not that bad" because he doesn't mean what he says.  He would really do something more benign and reasonable because, after all, he is a businessman who owns real estate and therefore he is rooted in American success just like they are.

Trump's real estate wealth assures that Trump is--at bottom--safe.   Politicians and  Wall Streeters can escape the consequences of their actions.  Politicians can change positions and money can leave town.   But Trump is stuck.  He cannot do anything too crazy or he hurts himself.  Trump can be trusted.

The Republicans in my cohort of the small city power structure are rooted here.  They want government to work because this is their home and government does important things.  Trump, too has roots, on the ground in the form of real estate.

They can trust Trump.   He will shake things up but he is not a bull in a china shop because he, like them, owns part of the store.  They figure he is a builder and a protector, not a destroyer.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Finally! A Candidate for Voters who liked Reagan

Republican Voters have an alternative to Trump.   Voters who liked Romney and GW Bush and Reagan have their man.    

The Libertarian Candidate Gary Johnson.   (Who???)

Gary Johnson, Keeping the Faith of Limited Government

There are three parties with candidates on the ballot of all 50 states.   The Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and the Libertarian Party.

The Democrats will nominate Hillary or Bernie, probably Hillary, with the familiar suite of center left identity politics with a lightweight social welfare state.   

Republicans rejected candidates in the Reagan-Bush-Romney tradition of free trade, low taxes, greater individual freedom and sell reliance, reflecting the southwestern Texas/California version of Republicanism, focusing on self reliance and small government.   Instead, they nominated Donald Trump, who is taking the party in a new direction, toward New York  style strong-government -Republicanism, with government management of trade and business for the public good, control of immigration, empowerment of the will of popular majorities in favor of protecting social welfare programs for the average American.  

Trump rejected Reaganism, who said government is the problem and should be smaller.  No, Trump said.  Government should be strong and smart and effective and should strong- arm business and foreigners to get things done for the average American.

Former Massachusetts Governor, the VP Candidate
What about voters who voted for Reagan and Romney because they liked their policies?  What about the limited-government voter?  What can they do?

They have a candidate:  Gary Johnson, former Republican, now on the ballot as a Libertarian in all fifty states.   He has preserved the small government Reagan faith.

Johnson likes free trade, just like Reagan-Bush-Dole-Bush-Romney.

Johnson talks small government, just like Reagan-Bush-Dole-Bush-Romney.

Johnson says we need more self-reliance and self control and personal freedom and personal responsibility, just like Reagan-Bush-Dole-Bush-Romney.  Examples:  
***Pro-2nd Amendment gun freedom
***Opposes Obamacare
***Stop domestic spying
***Term limits
***No cap-and-trade
***Stop foreign aid
***Empower states, not feds, on water issues
***Reform public education with school vouchers
***States, not feds, should make drug policy

Or here, for his website:   Click Here: Gary Johnson Website

These policies are the polices that loyal Republicans have supported.  This suite of policy planks are not surprising or weird or kooky.   They are pretty much what Ronald Reagan had said and I presume would say were he in politics today.  These are the policy directions that loyal Republicans voted for from 1980 through the 2014 mid-term elections.  They are generally the policies that Republican governors ran on and won with in the past few election.  These are the policies that 54 Republican Senators and a big majority of US Congressmen--the Republicans--ran on.  

Trump is the diversion from true-blue Republican values.   Gary Johnson is the candidate who kept the faith, carrying the torch of small government Republicanism.   Trump may be what Republicans want now, but if so they changed their minds.

If this election were an election of policies Gary Johnson might well have a chance.  But Gary Johnson is virtually unknown and the media will almost certainly ignore him so he will stay unknown and therefore not a viable choice for Republicans and Independents.   This election campaign is a media event, not a clash of policies.   Johnson is a serious candidate but he is not a celebrity and he almost certainly lacks the means to become one. 
Caption not needed

Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson
Kim Kardashian is a celebrity.  Oprah is such a celebrity she only needs one name.  As does Cher.  Hillary, Bernie, and Trump are  such celebrities you can buy Halloween masks of  them.   Gary Johnson is not a celebrity. 

So, he won't be covered, so he won't be a "serious candidate", so he will poll poorly, so conscientious Republican and Independent voters will consider him a "spoiler" rather than a contender, so he won't get the traction he needs to be viable.

Five hundred million dollars of some billionaire's fortune would do it for him, however.   He only needs a schtick that gets attention, or one billionaire.

Readers should not think I am promoting a candidate here.   I am attempting to be descriptive, not persuasive.  But if a voter felt comfortable with Reagan, Bush, Dole, Bush, and Romney and generally considered oneself to be "a Republican" then Gary Johnson is generally a continuation of those policies and Trump is a sharp diversion from them.

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Trump: The Judicial System is "Rigged"

Two Things:  Trump de-legitimizes the Federal Court system.   GOP leadership joins in support of Trump candidacy.

The important news today is not that Donald Trump's campaign broke new ground in his open contempt for the integrity of the court system.   This isn't really a surprise.

Congressman Issa greets Trump in San Diego
What is interesting and important to me is that leaders in the GOP are silent, thereby normalizing the de-legitimization of the third branch.   

GOP leaders keep endorsing the Trump candidacy, joining Reince Priebus, Mitch McConnell, Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Chris Christy, Scott Walker, Rudy Giuliani, Bobby Jindal, and dozens of others.   

Most recently, the badly abused and belittled Senator Marco Rubio, humbled himself in front of Trump, saying he "would most certainly be honored to be considered" for the privilege of speaking on Trump's behalf.  (Rubio would be honored to be considered.  I hang my head on his behalf--the abused child seeking the approval of the abuser.)

"Honored" to help Trump
Meanwhile, Trump's speech in San Diego presented the federal judiciary as a corrupt, rigged, illegitimate system.   Here is the 11 minute speech: Click here, to see for yourself on Youtube    

His comments are apparently no longer shocking to citizens, including senior GOP lawmakers.  The local crowd cheered his comments and if it raised concerns over the rule of law among Republican leaders they have not spoken up.

Here is a close look at what he said:

He began by calling the federal judiciary "a rigged system"

At 0:54 He said the judicial system was "a disgrace."

At 1:01  "I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump.  A hater, He's a hater.  His name is Gonzalo Curial.  (Crowd boos)   He's not doing the right thing.  I'm being railroaded.

At 2:24  "I'm getting railroaded by a legal system that frankly they should be ashamed."

At 3:05  "We're in front of a very hostile judge.  The judge was appointed by Barrack Obama (boos), a federal judge  Frankly, he should recuse himself because he's given us ruling after ruling after ruling, negative, negative, negative."

At 4:30 "The judge, who happens to be , we believe, Mexican.   Which is great, I think that's fine.  You know what I think?  The Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump."

At 9:58  "I think Judge Curiel should be ashamed of himself.  I think it is a disgrace that he's doing this.  And I look forward to going before a jury, not this judge.  A jury.   And we will win at trial.  We will win that trial.  Check it out.  Check it out, folks."

At 10:10  "Bernie Sanders says it's a rigged system. It is rigged.  I'm talking about I had a rigged system, except we won by so much.  I will tell you, this court system.  The judges in this court system, federal court, they ought to look into Judge Curiel because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace, OK?"

The Trump technique has been working brilliantly against political opponents.  He does not argue the merits of a policy.  He de-legitimizes.  (Little Marco, Lyin' Cruz, Crooked Hillary, Low Energy Bush, clueless and incompetent Obama, a terrible Iran deal, ugly Carly, bad trade deals, false climate science.)   

Trump: "Mexican" Judge Curiel
The San Diego speech enters a new arena openly de-legitimizing the judiciary, which unsettles the civic consensus that allows court cases to be obeyed.  He called a federal judge "Mexican", to imply bias or illegitimate status.  (Judge Curiel was born in Indiana and went to the University of Indiana for college and law school.)   Trump argued his side of the Trump University case, but he went beyond that.  He said the system was unjust.

Chris Wallace of Fox News was incredulous at Trump's comments and he offered Trump an opportunity to back away.   Trump declined.    

He affirmed the connection between the judge's ethnicity and the court's rulings.    "I think it has to do perhaps with the fact that I'm very, very strong on the border, and he has been extremely hostile to me.  We have a very hostile judge.  Now, he is Hispanic, I believe, and he is very is a very hostile judge to me."

That was back in December.   Things have changed.
The race has changed. Now GOP leaders are accepting Trump as spokesman.  If Trump says Hispanics cannot be trusted as judges and the judicial system is rigged, they do not object.  

Before Trump won the nomination Republican leaders protested the open unconstitutionality and prejudice when Trump said he would ban Muslims from entering America.   Ryan, McConnell and others immediately went on TV to say that Trump did not represent the Republican view.    Not now.

Some private GOP bloggers have protested and even Fox News was incredulous.  Click here for a description of the Fox News Sunday exchange   

 But GOP leaders are silent.  Trump has re-made the Republican Party.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Curious incident of the Dog that Did Not Bark in the Night

The hardest thing to notice is the thing that is missing.   The election is about personality, tribe, and tone.  What is missing?   Policy.   

It did not start out that way for the GOP.  At first, the very first, there was talk about policy on immigration.   

Gresham's Law: entertainment trumps policy
The Republican primary campaign began with a fierce battle over fine points of immigration.   Cruz--and the Republican audiences I witnessed--criticized Rubio for having been involved in the Gang of Eight.  (To remind readers: the Gang of Eight was 4 Senators from each party who hammered out a bipartisan compromise on immigration that outlined a long path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were on good behavior.)    It was a big deal in September through the New Hampshire primary.   Republican audiences paid attention to the question over whether there should be amnesty, whether the 14th Amendment birthright citizenship was negotiable, and whether "securing the border" needed to happen prior to or coincident with legislation to legalize undocumented people.  Rubio was in trouble because he had compromised too much, was too bi-partisan, and GOP crowds considered that a fatal bit of RINO-ism.

In an early debate Chris Christy halted their back-and-forth and said that this was just the sort of Senatorial debate we did not need.   He got thunderous applause from the live audience.    That was then.   

I witnessed multiple Republican speeches from all the major candidates, usually given in a "Town Hall" format, where Q&A was a major component.  I expected articulation of policy in such a format.  There was talk that sounded like a discussion of issues, but in fact was not.  There was essentially no discussion of actual policy.  This seems so implausible a statement that I will repeat it:   There was essentially no discussion of policy.

How does one give talk politics for an hour, and sound like you are discussing policy,  without actually discussing policy, legislation, or specifics of any kind?  Easy:  one talks about problems and intentions.  Not solutions.  

Rubio: the purest example of policy free speech

Example, foreign policy: The candidate says America is weak and not respected.  The candidate says our enemies laugh at us, that Obama gets pushed around and Putin is a way better leader--strong and resolute. The candidate says our military is a shambles.  The candidate says Israel is beleaguered and looks to America for help and we shamelessly turn our back on our great ally.   America should be embarrassed to have betrayed its destiny.  

You can go on and on with this, then segue to something like this:

"But there is a solution:  Elect me and I will assure that America's navy is second to none, that our air force has the weapons it needs, that our army will be deployed where it makes sense.  America has a great role to play in the world and the world counts on us, to be strong and prudent, to use our tremendous force for good when and where it will do good.  Not foolishly, but wisely and with strength.  Our allies will be proud and secure knowing we have their back.  Putin will have met his match.  Our enemies will hesitate to make trouble, Middle East oil will flow our way, the economic wheels of the world will turn, the American military will be respected and feared, and Sharia Law will never be the law of the land in the United States of America."

Read the above paragraph aloud and raise your voice with resolute determination at the final clause.  A crowd will rise to its feet in applause.  I have watched it happen.  It isn't rocket science.  It is just a version of what any 16 year old high school Cheerleader can do at any Friday afternoon pre-game pep rally.  Rah, home team, smash the rival!  Win!

Old School: policy list
But there is no actual policy whatever in either the complaint nor the solution.  There is just a general accusation that things are not good enough now,and that foreign entities do not immediately do our bidding, but that things could be way better.   No articulation of what hardware we do not have but need, nor how to pay for it, nor exactly what intervention we would make or policy we would change.  No tax hikes.  No American blood.  No sacrifice.  Easy.

Meanwhile, over on the Democratic side, Hillary was articulating policy and her reward are smallish crowds unexcited by her incrementalism, preferring instead the bold revolution in politics voiced by Bernie Sanders.   Voters considered her sensible and prudent, but uninspiring, at least in comparison with Sanders.   I witnessed this myself, repeatedly, and wrote here that I was looking for a little more inspiration and a little less by way of policy planks.  Or, ideally, that the policy instruments are woven into a framework of reform, of hope and change.
Passé: Getting advice on policy on opioid perscriptions

Trump's GOP victory firms this up as a campaign about personality.  Story after story discusses Trump's mood, language, prejudices, allies.   Story after story looks at Hillary's likability.

This morning's Politico:   A story about dog poop on Trump's Hollywood star.   

A story about Trump blasting the federal court judge handling a Trump University lawsuit saying his should recuse himself: "Everybody says it, but I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel.” Click here to read the story    

There is a story about Trump backing out of a Sanders debate.  

There is a story about Trump wooing the heartland.   

There is a story about a long ago complaint by Trump against NY food truck vendors who were veterans. 

There is a story saying that Rubio--by tweet--explains he will support Trump.  

A story says Sarah Palin assures it is "not stupid" to support Trump.  

There is a story on an anti-Trump demonstration and Trump's response.  

There is a story on a billionaire campaign bundler deciding to support Trump.

This is just a sample; there are more stories like these and only like these.  Feel free to check my work: Click here to go to Politico.com

What is missing?   Anything about anything relating to actual policy decisions relating to the office of the US president.    If the campaign were between two old school politicians, say Hillary vs. Cruz or Hillary vs. Ryan then I am guessing they would consider this an election to be decided over the future course of America's government.  They would discuss tax rates and trade policy and minimum wages and payments to Planned Parenthood for contraception services.  Important boring stuff.
Trump Crowd: Reno, Nevada

But Trump changed the game by giving people something else to watch, and the voters are drawn to it.  We live in a democracy and the people are choosing, first by what they care about enough to watch and then by what they vote for.  

The public is sending a clear message about what they want by who they turn out to see in rallies (Trump and Sanders), what they buzz about on social media (Trump and Sanders), what they watch on TV (Trump 24/7), and what they vote for, (more Trump and Sanders than any politician predicted.) 

Voters are more interested in personality than policy, and they are fascinated by Trump.  He is the top of every TV news show.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Women in Power

The Unsinkable Idea:   Anyone But Hillary 

The report by the Inspector General outlining mistakes by Hillary Clinton in her use of emails  help keep alive the hope that the FBI--or at least some people who resign in protest from the FBI--announce publicly that Hillary Clinton is--or should be--indicted.   The thought is that Hillary under criminal indictment would have to drop out, leaving room for someone.

The New York Times and the Washington Post have editorials and articles that express disapproval of Hillary.   This is not a good week for her.   Today's NY Times editorial is titled "Drowning in Email".  Click here for the editorial

Some Democrats are hoping--anyone but Hillary, although not necessarily Bernie Sanders.   Perhaps Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden.   Either of those two candidates would "press reset" on the Democratic Party's policies, but essentially affirm a reformed Democratic Party coalition and policy.  

Both Warren and Biden have better emotional rapport with the Democratic working class than does Hillary.   Hillary represents a coalition of people who are held back by identity of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual preference.   By claiming that group she simultaneously pushes away the people who she positions as the oppressors of those groups: "regular" people, i.e. white men.   And Hillary represents a Democratic Party of office workers and people with college degrees; Sanders and Trump speak more directly to the blue collar voter, the people left out of the information economy.

A non threatening woman
And neither Warren nor Biden produce Hillary Fatigue Syndrome, the weary feeling that trouble sticks to Hillary, trouble that she brings onto herself, and that we are tired of it and are ready for something new. 

She has endured much. She has reason to be guarded and defensive.   She presents as a powerful woman who is hounded by relentless hateful attackers, for the totally reasonable and predictable reason that she is, indeed, a powerful woman who is hounded by relentless hateful attackers.   She presents as defensive, controlled, artificial, lawyered-up, because she is and she needs to be.  The email mess is an artifact of this.   Had she used only the State Department email system she could have certain that every personal and quasi-personal email she received or sent would be savaged and she would have been blasted for using government property to get emails regarding her daughter's wedding, etc. and she would be called a common thief, too dishonest and trustworthy to be elected president.

Makes people uncomfortable somehow
It all makes her "unlikable".  What is it about her?   I cite the guarded manner, as a reaction to hostility to women of power.   Ellen Smith, a woman working in technology shares her own experience of gendered hostility.   "This latent dislike, this 'rubbing the wrong way' needs to be acknowledged for what it is: a systemic, often unconscious, bias against women in power.' Click here for the excellent article on gender bias.

A reader in Virginia,  Peter Coster, has been steadfast in recommending replacing Hillary with Joe Biden--good old friendly and open-hearted Joe.   Joe he could trust, Hillary he could not.  He says that he experiences Hillary Fatigue as distrust, and contrasts Hillary with Dwight Eisenhower, citing Stephen Ambrose's book Supreme Commander.  

Washington Post photo choice: furtive Hillary
The book, Coster writes, "describes the General as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe during WWII.  An excerpt from the book follows: "From Churchill to the lowest Tommy, from Roosevelt to the buck private at a replacement depot, from De Gaulle to the Resistance fighter in southern France, people trusted Eisenhower.  They did so for the most obvious reason - he was trustworthy.  His grin, his mannerisms, his approach to life all exuded sincerity.  He wore his heart on his sleeve.  There was nothing devious about him...Darlan and De Gaulle and Badoglio felt they could trust Eisenhower because they knew where he stood and that he said exactly what he meant. (Montgomery adds) 'He has the power of drawing the hearts of men towards him as a magnet attract the bits of metal.  He merely has to smile at you, and you trust him at once.  He is the very incarnation of sincerity'."

Will Hillary be the Democratic nominee?   I expect yes.   Bernie cannot take it away from her.   Only the FBI could.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Beauty Contest: Swimsuit vs. Talent

The Beauty Contest is More than just the Swimsuit Competition.   There is the Talent round, too.

I am sticking to my premise that the 2016 election seems crazy because it is no longer a clash of politicians.   In this media environment of news-as-ratings-specticle Trump changed the rules into a reality elimination contest, like a beauty pageant or The Apprentice.

Imagine a normal election, for example where the opponents were Cruz, Rubio, Kasich, and Paul Ryan.   There would be haggling over policies and past votes and one of them would win the primary.   Now that winner would be taking on Hillary, and the news would be about tax plans, marginal tax rates, gun regulation, health care policy changes, pre-existing medical conditions, student loan modifications, etc.  The Republican would be saying that his tax plan was better than Hillary's and that the lower taxes on the job creators would trickle down to a stronger middle class.  Hillary would say it was a giveaway to the rich.  The discussion would be about policy.   Someone would win.

An elimination contest
This election is nothing like that.  This is a reality show elimination contest.   Participants get bumped off because they lack star quality.   Trump has star quality.  He wins support by saying things that keep him in the center of attention.  (This blog gets more page views when Trump is in the headline.)

Even an elimination contest is not totally about who is the most interesting showman,  Even the Miss Universe contest has a talent division and an on-camera interview.  Trump overwhelmingly wins the audience-attention part of the competition, but Hillary has some talents.   She knows some useful skills--the survivor equivalent of knowing how to start a fire with dry sticks and no matches.   Hillary gets support from people who weight that aspect.

A reader in Portland, JF, said the contest is about the talent, not the swimsuit.

"We find ourselves in the "reality show" driven culture adrift on a sea of meaningless trivia and cat videos.  Where is the long view?  Can I find it in slogans:  "Make America Great Again!"; or "Better Together"?  The book and movie "Moneyball" looked at the short game (Hillary's promise), getting on base.  Sure the baseball owners and managers all wanted the flashy star hitter like "A rod" but the real wins came from the simple act of just getting on base, the short gain.  With Donald we are hoping for a home run every time he steps up (his history shows us where that leads - to multiple bankruptcies). No, the short grind-out game of technical perfection is boring and leaves no high drama for the spectator (media).  What reporter wants to be assigned to cover city council meetings?
Miss Universe has to be able to handle interviews, too

I know for a fact that boring competent performance is exactly what I look for in financial performance and local governance.  Boringly predictable, like a well-performing bond, or an uneventful commercial plane ride.  From my prospective, I'm voting for competence.  So it is no longer hold my nose and vote for the lesser of two horrible choices; rather it is now a simple choice proven qualities (Hillary) over some Hail Mary thrill-seeking vision (Donald)."

That is the strong case for Hillary:  voters by election day will want a predictable, reliable, essentially uneventful airplane ride.   Drawing from my 30 years as a Financial Advisor I would say that this is indeed what most people want, but not totally, and not immediately.   In a go-go environment like the late 1990s a great many people wanted in on the technology excitement.  In 2004-2007 they wanted in on the real estate excitement.   It can last for a while--certainly long enough to elect a candidate for president.   Investors go back and forth on this but most of the time Hillary represents the winning strategy: safe, not sorry.

Hillary-5% dividend
Settling for Hillary.  The best case for Hillary would be for voters to experience some sort of visible "fail" for Trump.  When everything is going great people want to get aboard.    People are thrilled on the way up, frightened on the way down.   Loss hurts about 5 times as much as gain pleases.   Thoughts turn to "safety first."   So far Trump has been able to double down on "mistakes" turning them into victories.   But mistakes are a vulnerability for him.   When Apple dropped 20% in a week I got panicky phone calls.

Safe reliable Hillary is an a frame that may work for her.   Hillary can embrace the idea that she is the less interesting candidate who loses the equivalent of the swimsuit portion of the event but wins the talent part.  Hillary is the one who can answer the interview questions and can do hard practical things.  Trump is the exciting one you cannot take your eyes off.   

In investment terms Hillary is PG&E or AT&T, utility stocks with a good dividend but companies where everyone hears some grumbles and complaints about service.  Trump is Amazon or Apple: high fliers--but volatile and risky.   A lot of people are very happy owning PG&E and ATT.

Trump--focusing on the way up and up
Hillary would be a stronger candidate if she added a little bit more "hope and change" to her message.  Even when voters are remorseful and chastened by losses most still want a tiny bit of sparkle.  They want 90% safe, but still want to dream a little.   Hillary could adjust her message to add some talk of reform and change.  She has flexibility here.

Trump, though, is stuck: he is the exciting risk candidate, period.  Trump is for thrill seekers.  He says we will win, win, win, win, win.   He talks about safety at home but he does it in the context of policies (ban Muslims, torture, deport, armed teachers, trade wars) which are described by the pundits as extreme even though they may seem reasonable to many voters.  Trump doesn't want to make America good.  He wants to make us great.

We are narrowing down to the final two contestants:  the one with talent and the one with pizazz.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

It's a Beauty Contest, Stupid

Donald Trump is a pro at Elimination Reality TV.  

The hardest things to notice are the things right in front of you.  The consequences of a steam engine in the late 18th century or reliable contraception in the 1960s were gigantic, but weren't apparent until people could look back.   

Only one will survive
I thought I was looking up close at an election, a contest of policy and ideas between coalitions of people with differing values and economic interests.   The ground has changed out from under us.  We are watching reality television, a special form of The Apprentice or a Miss Universe Beauty pageant or a professional wrestling event.  Or The Hunger Games: Election 2016.

Hillary has a lifetime of experience doing the work (playing the game) of policy and politics that is no longer played in a presidential campaign.   Donald Trump has the lifetime of experience in reality elimination contests.  He owns one.  He produces and stars in another one.   Donald Trump is the pro here.

My Virginia reader put it bluntly:  

"I think you're missing the point.  This is a beauty contest, not who's the best qualified.  It's not who do you like?  It's who do you like the least.  Hilliary is liked the least.  That's why she will lose.  It's anybody but her.  Nobody likes her.  So, how does she win?
I think I told you once before.  A friend of mine was working in the Arkansas state house when Bill was governor.  He said everybody liked Bill.  Hilliary was around all the time.  They thought she was a bitch.  That's the way she comes across and it will never leave her."

Jake Tapper called it "false"
The evolution of journalism from 'responsible fair-minded referee" into an entertainment division of a publicly traded corporation means that interventions like this one from CNN's Jake Tapper are rare, and in any case have a small audience and diminished credibility with the audience they do have.  Tapper reports that Trump is raising a thoroughly disproved allegation of murder, and doing so while saying he is not doing so.  Tapper said, "Journalists are in the unhappy predicament of trying to decide whether and how to cover false allegations raised by a candidate for president."   

He answers this by covering it and reporting that the allegations are, simply, factually false.   Click Here: Short Tapper Video

This is the exception that deceives.  Instances like that sustain the illusion that we are still playing by the old rules of politics and that a campaign is about issues and policies, when in fact the Trump campaign with its vague and changing policies have demonstrated that it is not about policy at all.   The GOP has made a dramatic turn in apparent policy on taxes, regulation, small government, foreign policy, trade, and immigration and some 90% of GOP voters, incumbent politicians, and donors have gone along.   The philosophy and values of Reagan, Bush1, Dole, Bush2, McCain, Romney:  never mind!   

The election is about surviving in a hostile environment.  Donald Trump is a hitter, an attacker.  He is wild and crazy and interesting.   

Surviver Naked and Afraid.    Hard for CSPAN to compete
Hillary is playing by the old rules, and news pundits and observers like me who are stuck in the past are part of the problem.   We have not understood that the game has changed.   

The rules of government may be intact.   There will still be a House and Senate and filibuster rules and a Supreme Court and the structure of government and the gridlock of checks and balances will likely be the same.   The 2016 campaign is a TV game show, covered this way by the media and experienced this way by the public.  Hillary thinks it is still a CSPAN show.

Trump did not defeat his opponents in the GOP primary with better and different ideas and policies.  His GOP opponents adopted policies generally similar to his.  He defeated them with the techniques of an elimination reality TV: by being interesting, by being outrageous, with showmanship, with insults.   

Now, as he turns to Hillary, he is drowning out her efforts to stay on message and to discuss policies.   Policies are boring.  Tax policy is less interesting that accusations of rape.   It is hard to pay attention to student loan rate caps when Hillary is being accused of murder.   Trump says that Vince Foster's suicide was "fishy" and maybe Hillary murdered him.  Trump says Bill Clinton is a sex abuser and Hillary an enabler. 

My Virginia reader suggested that Joe Biden would be a better choice for Democrats than would be Hillary.  Biden is more natural and warm, doesn't have the burden of Clinton fatigue, and he has better rapport with working class Democrats.   But the evolution of politics as entertainment--a dystopian version of the Hunger Games, only now and for real, not in the future--makes Biden a look backward instead of a look forward.   One surviving hero, 20 vanquished dead.  It describes the 2016 election, in progress.
Hunger Games

Under the new rules of elections Democrats in Philadelphia should nominate their own media superstar billionaire, Oprah Winfrey.   The matchup addresses the personality symbolism of the two parties.   

The Republicans put up a white male nativist businessman-showman who specializes in a kind of brute force domination and persuasion through exposing weak points.   Trump is interesting but not very likable.    Democrats put up a black female businesswoman-showman whose power consists of empathy, generosity, and persuasion through engagement.  Oprah is interesting and likable.