Sunday, July 31, 2016

Trump Reaffirms His Brand

Trump takes on Kkhizr Khan.  It is risky but it isn't crazy.  Trump understands his brand.

It's not the economy, stupid.   Its white fear and resentment, stupid.

Mr. Khan went in front of the Democratic Convention and reported on his son, Humayun's heroism.  His son, a Muslim, told his unit to stay back and hunker down while he stepped forward to challenge an incoming vehicle.  The vehicle exploded.   Captain Khan was killed. He was awarded a bronze star and purple heart, posthumously.

The parents said that Muslim patriots like their son would be banned from America by Trump, that the entire family were patriotic Americans, and they have sacrificed for America.  Then the appeal for religious tolerance:  go to Arlington cemetery, Khan said, and see that there are patriots and heroes there from every race, religion, and ethnicity.

This is a strong case for tolerance, which is why the Clinton campaign put him on stage shortly before her.

Trump takes on this??  Yes.
Supposedly the smart move would be for Trump gracefully to honor Mr. Khan and to accept and embrace the patriotism of Khan, thus parrying the debate blow.  It would be disastrous to take on the father of a self-sacrificing soldier and hit back.  Right???  You don't criticize, you embrace.   Right???

Not for Trump.   Trump's response was to speculate that Mrs. Khan was present but silent because she--as a Muslim wife--was forbidden to talk.   Then he criticized Khan for attacking him, saying Khan hadn't met him.   Then he posited that he had done the equivalent of sacrifice by having contributed by making jobs and creating great structures.

Disastrous, right?   Not for Trump.   

Trump raised questions about the Muslim faith without actually asserting it.   "You tell me," he said, having questioned if this isn't an example of the oppression and stifling of women.   This, too, is Trump brand.  He makes charges based on "well I've read in places" and "lots of people have told me" and in this case, simply wondering out loud.  It is the equivalent of floating like a butterfly before stinging like a bee since the accusation is posited but its refutation doesn't entirely hurt Trump.  He was just wondering.

Trump reframed the criticism by Mr. Khan, making this about Khan's otherness rather than their patriotism: Muslims--maybe, you tell me--have weird customs.   And Muslims do dangerous, unfair, unprovoked attacks, right?   Like right now.  See how he criticized me without actually even knowing me personally, an attack out of nowhere, right?

Trump has an issue and a brand:  Immigrants are different and have weird, bad customs.  We aren't comfortable with them and don't want them.  America was great without them.   Sure, there might be some good ones in there, but even the good ones have weird, bad customs, the woman dressed in a scarf, saying nothing.  Weird, right?

The core brand is not illegal versus legal.  The Khans were here legally.   The core brand is not patriotic versus unpatriotic.    The Khans are unquestionably patriotic. Trump may have acted spontaneously and carelessly but Trump understands in his gut his core brand.  Trump's brand is to reject otherness.   

This weekend Trump dominates the news again.   Wasn't Trump outrageous?   Wasn't this self-destructive?   Yes, and it was therefore newsworthy.    But there was one other question that is place out there, one that Trump is satisfied to linger:  Wasn't this an example of dislike and distrust of Muslims, even good ones??

Yes.   That's the point.  That's the brand.   

In 1992 it was:  It's the economy, stupid.    In 2016 it is: It's white fear and resentment, stupid. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Peter Sage Introduction of a Guest Post

Notice to Readers:

The following Guest Post contains graphic material relating to upcoming Trump victory.  It may be upsetting to some readers. Parental Discretion is advised.

I suspect that guest post author Thad Guyer is enjoying the thought that readers will bristle at his presumption of a Trump victory.    

Trump wins?  Just like that?

His guest posts have posited that voters are uncomfortable with immigration--legal and illegal--and that many of them want a president who voices a policy of utter destruction of ISIS and jihad rather than the current elite consensus in Europe and North America that the best realistic outcome is cold-war endurance of random and scattered violence.   The underlying premise is that Americans are fed up with dark skinned foreigners coming here to complicate our demographics, to take our jobs, or to do acts of terror.

Trump voices an authoritarian response and it resonates.  It is clear, decisive, confident.   Hillary--and developed country elites generally--propose democratic and inclusive responses, and the public is frustrated and angry with their incidents of failure.  Thus Brexit and Trump.

Trump has big lead with White Males
This blog has warned that the underlying assumption of Hillary's message of smashing barriers is that there is widespread and pervasive racism, xenophobia, intolerance, and misogyny in America.  I agree.  I have seen it, especially in Town Halls of Republican candidates.  White resentment is real.  Since Hillary's diagnosis is correct, her political reward is very possibly electoral defeat.  Hillary is for inclusion and Trump expresses the widespread white resentment and xenophobia.   

Hillary gets to be virtuous.  Trump gets to be president.

Trump is being widely described as having an incoherent foreign policy, expressed with contradictory goals. This is not entirely accurate.  One new policy direction has taken shape, noted in item 3 below.  Trump is acknowledging that Russia has an interest in its own border security and the efforts of Europe and the West to make Ukraine a western-tilting hostile power to Russia is an existential threat to Russia.  Moreover, it is beyond the actual ability and willingness of the West to achieve, unless there is strong, consistent internal desire for this in Ukraine, and there is not.  The West has provoked and scared Russia, as we would be provoked if China were to attempt to make the Provence of Ontario, Canada a hostile state.  
Putin and Trump.   Lovebirds.

Western provocations and pressure to bring Ukraine into NATO or the EU give Putin an issue that is wildly popular within Russia and it has disrupted the internal politics of Ukraine. Trump would back off this position.  Ukraine is Russia's neighborhood.  Crimea is Russia's.   

Putin agrees.  Hillary voices the traditional cold war containment and expansion of freedom idea, which makes Russia an enemy and keeps Putin powerful.  No wonder Putin prefers Trump.  Guyer posits Russian-American cooperation or formal alliance that could squash ISIS.  

Russia is far more comfortable with brute force anti-democratic squelching of political and religious grass roots uprisings than are Americans.    Americans confuse and complicate empire by respect for democratic ideals of religious freedom, free speech, and the competition of ideas.  It is our ideology that democracy is good and the free flow of ideas and religious beliefs are an expression of natural rights, and are good per se.

Controversial Execution
Russia has no patience for this and would willingly do our dirty work of repressing free speech.   Many Americans protest Obama's killing in Yemen by drone of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American cleric who preached anti-American terror.  How dare we do an extra-judicial execution? It is wrong, unconstitutional, he did not get due process.  Putin would have no such qualms.  Nor would Trump.

A Russian-American alliance would demonstrate to the Middle East that there is no escape or alternative third way.  They would be stuck with a new tyranny: Pax Russia-America.   The era of playing those big powers off against one another is over.  If they hold back on oil to pressure Europe the Americans might put up with it.  Russia would not.  There would be a new sheriff in town.

Democracy and relative freedom does not unleash a hidden and repressed Switzerland hiding inside the Middle East.  It unleashes ISIS and Hamas and the Taliban.  Tyranny and repression may be the only road to peace and the tyrant will either be Putin, with open American support, or it will be Islamic nationalism.  Americans are not yet entirely comfortable with authoritarian government in the USA but it will sound pretty good to impose it on the Middle East, if the alternative is sponsored terror.

Thad Guyer Guest Post:

Who Will Succeed Trump’s in 2025: Ivanka or Donald, Jr? 

You’re right, who can predict now if either of them will succeed their father? Just as Hillary could not win a third Democratic term following Obama, the likelihood of either Trump winning a third Republican term is small. Their greatest commonality (beyond viral media stardom) will be that neither ever held public office. My prediction is that there will be great fanfare for Ivanka to make history as our first female president, but she’ll take her father’s advice to wait. 
Trump’s re-election in 2020 will be attributed to history "rigging the system”. Defeat of an incumbent president who was not his party’s “third term” nominee is almost not existent. One termer Ford followed Nixon’s resignation, and one termer Carter followed one-termer Ford. One termer Bush Sr. lost because he was a third-termer following Reagan’s 8 years. Trump followed a two term Democrat, so history says he is almost guaranteed a second term. But the following will also be factors:

(1) Social Media Takeover of “the Press”: Trump’s second term will be blamed partly on the trending takeover of major left media outlets like the Washington Post and LA Times by tech giants Facebook, Google, and Amazon (the latter will be sold to his own company by a frustrated Jeff Bezos). The NY Times will be saved from bankruptcy by its new owner, Twitter. My son’s generation will regard the takeover of “the press” by social media corporations as the natural evolution of computerized “advertising algorithms” that “feed” media to “users” based on browser history. The concept of “subscription readers” will start sounding as antiquated as “email”. Why “subscribe” when Facebook meets your news preferences for free? 

(2) The Popularity of Trump’s “Finish the Wall” Campaign: Trump will have overcome Congressional obstruction of wall building appropriations (via “deals”) by the time of the New Hampshire primary in early 2020, by which time only a fraction of it will have been completed. Mexico’s initial pledge of $3.5 billion (coerced by trade sanctions destabilizing its political order) would fund many more miles. Massive Trump rallies will chant “Finish the Wall”, energizing his new campaign slogan, “Get them all out”. Immigration raids and fear-fueled “self-deportations” will have already removed 5 million “illegal aliens” (the term freshly revived), leaving 6 million to go. Frightening anti-deportation riots in LA, NYC and Dallas, quashed by Trump-loving militarized police, will have his approval rating above 55%.
(3) The War on ISIS: A Putin-Trump alliance will decimate ISIS (along with 35,000 Syrian and Libyan civilians) in his first two years. A quadrupling of drone and robotic war technology will enjoy strong popular and defense contractor support, as Halliburton reinvents itself. Islamic terrorism in the US will seem low compared with weekly attrocities by the flood of displaced terrorists pouring into Europe.

(4) Supreme Court Deference to “National Security”: Trump’s Supreme Court justices will be untested on abortion because the Court will deliberately take no abortion cases until “the evangelicals” give him a second term. The first term Court, however, will hold that executive power to protect “national security” trumps the Endangered Species Act for the wall on the Mexican border, and “suspension” of Muslim immigration.

Photoshopped.  But some progressives will vote for Trump
(5) Continued Fracturing of the Democratic Party: Hillary’s failure to win enough Bernieites this year will exacerbate ideological wars between “true progressives” and “establishment sellouts”. Following yet another defeat in 2020, Democrats will nominate a “centrist”, “pragmatic”, “law and order” candidate in 2024 in the mold of Bill Clinton.
My guess is that 2024 will be a choice between 49 year old Donald Trump Jr., and a to-be-announced white male centrist Democrat. Who will win? Oh come on, it’s way too early to predict that. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Trump Tweets: Two Pronged Attack

One: Attack Hillary's Character.  Brand her "Crooked Hillary".  

Two:   Argue populist themes of borders, white identity, trade protection, fear of outside threats.

Trump has been busy on twitter.

Growth of Twitter followers over 6 months.  Now 10 million.

My readers who do not tweet do not understand that twitter is actually real and important.   About 10,437,000 people follow Donald Trump and get his tweets.   For comparison, the New York Times has a circulation of 1,400,000.  The winner in the 2016 election will get about 60 million votes.   

So what Donald Trump tweets is not just a silly sideshow; it is a significant element of his public communication.  People who don't tweet--or follow Trump--are blind to it but it is out there.

So Trump's tweets give some insight into what Trump considers the big themes of the campaign.   And one element of it is the constant repeat of the notion of Hillary as corrupt, expressed as Hillary's brand identity: "Crooked Hillary."  A long time reader, Bob Warren of Medford, Oregon, called it that "death of a thousand cuts" that steady drumbeat of repetition making the accusation stick.  Advertisers do it because it works and Trump's business expertise is in branding.   Trump puts his name in gold on trophy properties; he calls Hillary Crooked.

Tweet in written form
Trump tweeted 19 times in the past 24 hours.  He immediately tweeted after Hillary's speech:  "Hillary's refusal to mention Radical Islam, as she pushes a 550% increase in refugees, is more proof that she is unfit to lead the country."  

And then immediately a second tweet: "Our way of life is under threat by Radical Islam and Hillary Clinton cannot even bring herself to say the words."

And then immediately three more tweets in a burst:  "Hillary will never reform Wall Street. She is owned by Wall Street!" Then: Hillary's vision is a borderless world where working people have no power, no jobs, no safety."  Then: "Hillary's wars in the Middle East have unleashed destruction, terrorism and ISIS across the world.

Then, still in the same burst, Trump moved to Hillary's character: "No one has worse judgement than Hillary Clinton - corruption and devastation follows her wherever she goes."

Then a pause. Nine hours later the tweets began reinforcing the Hillary brand:  "Crooked Hillary Clinton made up facts about me, and "forgot" to mention the many problems of our country, in her very average scream!"

Moments after, "Crooked Hillary Clinton mentioned me 22 times in her very long and very boring speech. Many of her statements were lies and fabrications!"

And more: "Two policemen just shot in San Diego, one dead. It is only getting worse. People want LAW AND ORDER!"

Working around the mainstream media

Trump uses social media like no one else in politics. He tweets, he is on Instagram, and on Facebook. Tweets are well suited for doing the brand reinforcement. Tweets bang away repeating the Trump themes--branding Hillary as crooked, and the policy themes of fear of radical islam, borders, law and order. It is guerrilla politics: free, disruptive, powerful.

But it is a mixed blessing for Trump. He is shockingly undisciplined. Nine hours after Hillary's speech he moves off message, taking on the Marine General who said that Trump was undisciplined, careless and unfit to be president, and then billionaire and former NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg:

"If Michael Bloomberg ran again for Mayor of New York, he wouldn't get 10% of the vote--they would run him out of town! #NeverHillary

"'Little' Michael Bloomberg, who never had the guts to run for president, knows nothing about me. His last term as Mayor was a disaster!

"General John Allen, who I never met but spoke against me last night, failed badly in his fight against ISIS. His record = BAD #NeverHillary

These comments reinforce the anti-Trump brand, the message that the DNC presented this week saying that Trump was irrevocably unsuitable to be president: thin skinned, undisciplined, mercurial, unreliable, quick to pick fights, emotionally unstable. One of the themes of this blog is that a candidate's strength is simultaneously the candidate's weakness. Trump communicates in an unfiltered and spontaneous way, and his communication is helping him and hurting him.

The Hillary Theme: Trust her ability to govern

Hillary is Trustworthy where it counts

Donald Trump calls her "Crooked Hillary."   I watch enough Fox News, in bits and pieces while I empty the dishwasher or slice a melon, to see that they are a 100% nonstop infomercial on Hillary's untrustworthiness.   Democratic Convention speakers did not try to repair her reputation on email sloppiness or Goldman Sachs speeches or whether she murdered Vince Foster.

Click here: Link to the NY Times article
The NY Times noted this, and Guest Post writer Thad Guyer expressed disappointment. 

Guyer: "The Ds went with "competence" which has not really been in contention in my view.  The convention ends without anyone saying she's trustworthy and as this NYT piece says, weve conceded the issue. I think that was a big political mistake, that Michelle and Barrack should have proclaimed her integrity, but perhaps this NYT analysis is right that the trust mantle is simply "beyond her reach". 

Competence has its virtues as a basis for electing Hillary Clinton

Humans compartmentalize.   The chocolate is fattening, but it tastes good.  Steph Curry cannot defend big power forwards, but he hits threes.  Ulysses Grant drank but his armies won, George Patton was bold and got a lot of men killed but his armies advanced, Tricky Dick Nixon seemed corrupt somehow but would bring law and order.  Hero Achilles was sulky and petulant but was the Greek army's greatest warrior.  The Bible's beloved King David conspired and killed to get another man's wife.   Sometimes the people necessary for the time and place have flaws.   They are still your heroes.

If Donald Trump wins a majority a great many people will think: he is an undisciplined showoff, but he will shake things up in the direction I want.  People will compartmentalize away his being un-presidential.

People open to voting for Hillary will acknowledge she screwed up on the emails and she  got rich as a political celebrity but will recognize she is competent where it matters, in how to govern.  The convention made governing competence the standard.

But does she say what people want said?   Will she competently lead the country in the direction voters want it to go?

The battle lines got drawn and the trench lines dug.   Trump is anti-immigrant in tone and anti-illegal-and-suspicious immigrant in policy.   Hillary is the candidate of inclusion.  Trump caught a huge wave of anti-immigrant anti-Muslim feeling, combined with a suspicion of financial elites, a populist revolt from both right and left.   Guyer suspects she is on the unpopular side of this argument:   "I admire Hillary for her bold if not "in your face opponents!" open borders advocacy and amnesty for anyone who can make it here. She has elevated that not just to policy but to moral principle. Only criminals will be sent back. So open borders will now be submitted to the jury of the electorate."  

But this blog isn't about admiration.  It intends to study political craftsmanship.    What campaigns are attempting and what works, not what should work or what we like and admire.    

There is a tidal wave of insecurity in the public and Hillary may be tone deaf to it, which helps explain why Trump and Sanders both did so well.  People distrust political and media and financial elites, even more than usual.  Eric Canter lost his primary.  Senators Lugar and Bennet lost theirs.  Sanders nearly beat Hillary.   Voters are ornery.   

But she is not entirely tone deaf.   She understands that she is not the best spokesman for inclusion and diversity.

The speakers last night included dark skinned policemen in uniform speaking about their desire to serve and protect their community.  It included Kareem Abdul Jabbar, a familiar, trustworthy, Muslim convert of quiet demeanor who engenders enormous trust and respect.   Trump's broad brush attacks on Muslims end up including Jabbar--an outcome few Americans want.  Another speaker was the deeply dignified father of a Muslim soldier, killed in Afghanistan when he stepped forward and exploded a bomb, saving his unit: a war hero.   Hillary Clinton put a very sympathetic face on victims of Trump's campaign themes.

Hillary Clinton is accused of being a hawk by the dove-left, and correctly so.   Hillary is dug into the trench of inclusion but she is not defending or excusing jihad.  Her heroes are the American soldiers of Muslim faith who fight and die out of pride and patriotism for America.  This is the spear-tip of her attack, voiced by Khizr Khan:

"Go look at the graves of brave Americans who died defending Unites States of America.  You will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities.   You have sacrificed nothing."

We do not need to trust Hillary on emails when we can see that broad brush xenophobia of the kind that Trump expresses when he is most careless and provocative goes too far.   She is competent where it counts, and she may be more trustworthy on the issue of immigration and inclusion.  Trump goes too far.

Voters who do not trust Hillary or Trump have to decide whether they trust Jabbar and Khan, and she chose well.   If they are the face of immigration and inclusion and diversity, Hillary wins.

But events may work for Trump.  Somewhere, it is certain, some person is planning some new act of murder somewhere in the world.   And some black American will be videotaped throwing rocks at policemen, or something worse.   Events of everyday life, people working, students going to school, lives lived--these are not newsworthy.  An explosion would be.  Events will help Trump more than hurt him.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Woman in the Arena

Obama Defends Hillary's Judgement

She has made the mistakes you make and carries the scars you carry when you spend 40 years under a microscope held by opponents.

Frequent Guest Post writer Thad Guyer was critical of the Democratic speeches at the Convention so far.   While they were "inspiring to my Democrat blood", Guyer wrote, the speeches were "universally unresponsive to the central issues framed by Republicans-- Hillary's judgment, integrity and open borders. While Trump tries to persuade undecideds of Hillary's "incompetence", that has gone nowhere. "

Guyer said Hillary needs a defense and an advocate, something she has has not received. "The FBI director's assault on her has gone unanswered at the convention so far. To Sanders and independent voters who say they they are having a hard time swallowing fear of Trump as the reason to vote for a corrupt establishment politician, no speech has thus far been responsive."

Obama did not directly put his reputation on the line in a point by point defense, but he praised Hillary and they appeared, hands together, at the end.  Obama could not make a point by point defense of Hillary.   He is the nation's chief law enforcement officer.  But he put it into the context of a long career and asked voters to put it onto a scale and balance achievement versus mistake.  She was in the arena and should be judge in the totality.  

People make mistakes, and they are the inevitable result of 40 years in "the arena", citing Theodore Roosevelt:  "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again."

Hillary is not crooked.  She is embattled.  Her scars and admitted mistakes are not the result of bad character but of good character--er effort to do good in the world.   Sports fans understand this.  Even the greatest teams sometimes lose games.  Obama's framing of this seems realistic, at least to people who are not already firmly anti-Hillary.   People look at Hillary Clinton, think of things they like and don't like, and figure all-in-all she is OK, or at least good enough.  

Obama gave a civics lesson.  Democracy is hard, slow work.  Obama also put into context the slow hard work of politics, criticizing Trump-ism harshly and Sanders supporters gently and indirectly.  Obama referred directly to Trump's assertion that he and he alone could fix America--the authoritarian promise. "Our power doesn't come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order as long as we do things his way. We don't look to be ruled." 

Hard to Please

But he also chided the left for its failure to do the hard work of progressive change by showing up in off year elections and for down-ballot voting.   The 2008 electorate did not show up in 2010 losing the Democratic House, re-establishing a filibuster bloc in the Senate, and turning statehouses across the country so Republican that they were able to control redistricting for a decade.  It ended hope and change and initiated gridlock.  

In a message for Sanders voters who hope and expect  political revolution Obama cited the "hard and slow and sometimes frustrating, but ultimately enduring work of self-government.  And that's what Hillary Clinton understands.   She knows that this is a big, diverse country, she has seen it, she's traveled, she's talked to folks and she understands that most issues are rarely black and white.  She understands that even when you're 100 percent right, getting things done requires compromise."

Obama is leaving for Hillary Clinton to make the argument about American borders and how to address the widespread--possibly majority--unease about immigration from Latin America and the Middle East.   Obama spoke of the value of diversity and tolerance.  Hillary Clinton will need to shape and defend her own policy.  It is a centerpiece of the Trump campaign, combining economic and physical security.  A Democrat needs to project a different tone from Trump.  Less harsh, more inclusive, supporting lawfulness but allowing mercy, attempting to be realistic, addressing polarized public support for different points of view.   Hillary needs to do this herself because it will reflect her own effort to create a nuanced politically viable approach.

Obama's speech was inspiring.   He is enormously gifted, and persuasive to people open to persuasion.   It's contrast to Trump is dramatic.   Obama is elegant, Trump blunt.   Obama as long sentences, Trump has short.  Obama speaks of unity and progress, Trump of danger and its defeat.   Obama speaks of slow democratic process, Trump of authority and results.

Obama's speech had a goal: to rehabilitate Hillary.   She is a warrior, not a crook.  She made mistakes.  No big deal.  And then to endorse her.  And then to bring the Sanders idealists aboard.  My own sense is that he did as good a job at that as can be done.   But like the democracy he described, getting it done is a long, slow process and it takes more than a great speech.   It takes time and effort and the will to do it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hillary's Log Cabin

Bill Clinton tells the Hillary Origin Story

Lovestruck, supportive Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton filled in the story for Hillary.   Young people see Hillary only after she became a very powerful woman--activist First Lady, US Senator, Secretary of State, world-class celebrity.   Anyone under 40 came into the Hillary movie in the middle, missing the backstory opening scenes.   Those scenes are important to show because it gives viewers/voters a narrative for understanding their current motivation.

Opponents try to show the politician has bad motives.  Republicans say Hillary and Bill are shakedown artists, using political celebrity to raise money for themselves with charities just being a sham.   This story works best if it starts with Hillary in the White House, a powerful woman attempting to exercise political power even though she was not elected.  Democrats show "Made in China" tags, talk about Trump "University",  and talk about Trump as a playboy inheritor of a fortune to show that Trump is a spoiled brat bully con man hypocrite, pretending to care about America when in fact he is completely self serving and doing the over-hyped sales jobs he has done all his life, this time on the voters not the hapless victims of Trump University.

If politicians do not create their own origin stories then the opposition will create ugly ones for them.    Nearly every candidate did it as part of their opening remarks in New Hampshire Town Hall meetings:

Carly presents herself as a lowly secretary in a realty office, who through dint of hard work and diversion misstep of a single year in law school, which she hated, she went to business school , found her real talent, and became a great CEO.

Cruz was the son of a broken home, reunited thanks to his father's conversion to Christianity, made great by the grace of God.

Christie was the son of Sicilian mom whose family was forceful and direct, which made him the blunt US Attorney able to prosecute terrorists.

Trump was mentored by his father, educated at the world's greatest business school, and handed the company in his early 20s in order to build it into the great empire that it is now.

Hillary, in New Hampshire, did not mention her middle class to Wellesley origins but instead borrowed her mother's history as young teenager on her own, saying that poverty and work ethic was Hillary's touchstone.
Hillary then.  I was a Yale when they were.  We never met.

Something very special.  Bill Clinton told the story of young Hillary.    He positioned Hillary as the awe-inspiring object of his affection, the woman too good for him, someone who rejected his marriage proposals twice.  Rachel Maddow criticized this portion of the speech, but I think incorrectly.   She said it was too long and that no one cared about their courtship, a courtship that necessarily had Bill describing Bill, not Hillary, and therefore once again inserting himself awkwardly into her political narrative.   I disagree. He was putting Hillary on a pedestal, the distant object of quest.  A question in the minds of voters for a second dose of Clinton is whether this is the step down or the step up.   He was positioning Hillary not as a watered-down version of Bill-the-President, but as the improvement, the one harder to get.  Bill was the warmup act.  Hillary is the headliner.

Lifelong liberal activist.  He then listed her long involvement in Legal Services, in Children's Defense, in de-segregation, in the variety of liberal causes that consumed her during her 20s and 30s when she was the struggling political outsider.   Bill menitioned her first house: the 1,100 square foot little brick house.   This, too, was useful.   Newcomers to Hillary know her only as a person making $200,000 speeches and living in big houses in tony NY neighborhoods.  She used to be poor and struggling.   They had a mortgage: $175 a month.   Bill Clinton positioned Hillary into the same role as the disaffected young Sanders activists: liberal, struggling, outside the establishment looking in, and poor.

Hillary for Change.   And Bill said she was effective in making changes.   Hillary has been generally locked into the role of "establishment" and more of the same-old thing.   Bill Clinton attempted to change that.   She has been making change.  Hillary is a reformer.  Hillary means new and improved.

Republicans for 35 years have been critical of Hillary-the-liberal-activist.   It is part of why hating-Hillary is the one unifying theme for Republicans.   The problem for Hillary is that Republicans believe she is a liberal but liberal progressives do not.   They think she is a moderate and maybe even a neo-hawk conservative, not better than a Republican.   

Bill Clinton attempted to remind Democrats of what Republicans know:  Hillary is a lifelong liberal agent of change.  It is why Republicans fear her and why Sanders voters should feel OK about supporting her.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

That Spark of Connection

Michelle Obama spoke for fifteen minutes at the Democratic Convention.   It was great, now.

Michelle Obama said "don't let anyone every tell you this country isn't great, that somehow we need to make it great again, because this right now is the greatest country on earth."

Her theme was the example set for her daughters which allowed her, without ever mentioning Trump's name, to make the case that Trump was unsuitable and unpresidential.

Hint at Trump the bully:   "We explain that when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don't stoop to their level.  No, our motto is: 'When they go low, we go high.'"

Hint at Trump the untrustworthy:  "Because when you have the nuclear codes at your fingertips and the military in your command, you can't make snap decisions.  You can't have a thin skin or tendency to lash out.  You need to be steady and measured and well informed."

The speech said the right things, and said them very well,  but that was not what made it great.   What made it great was that Michelle Obama connected emotionally.  She appeared to speak from her heart.  I believed her.  I did not doubt that her thoughts and words reflected her very self.  She makes me wish I could vote for her.  I would trust her judgement.

I do not know how or what a person does in order to connect emotionally with people, but Michelle Obama has it. What it eye contact?   Was it something in her voice?  Whatever it is, she did it.  It is a gift, the ability to connect.   See it yourself here:  Click here to watch her speech

"Not a natural politician"
I have seen and heard Hillary Clinton up close five times.   Hillary can connect emotionally, but does not do so in her speeches, not at the world class level necessary in a presidential campaign.   But she seemed very genuine in a handshake meet and greet in Portland Oregon and again accommodating my selfie in New Hampshire.  Speaking spontaneously she was at her most winsome when she said a simple truth at the Univision sponsored debate.  She lowered he eyes and showed a bit of helpless frustration:  "I'm not a natural politician, in case you haven't noticed, like my husband or President Obama."   You'll see:   Click here for 45 seconds of Hillary   

And Hillary is right.   She is not a natural politician.   But she perseveres, she says, knowing she just has to work harder to attempt to do the work she tries to do.   Her speeches do not connect in the way that Michelle Obama's did.   Except sometimes Hillary does connect, when unscripted, for example right there in that 45 minute comment, where she admits her disappointment and flaw. 

Hillary Clinton enters this race with substantial assets.  She is experienced.  She is understood to be an understandable center-left politician.  Her general election opponent has offended over half the electorate.  But seeing Michelle Obama's speech reveals a flaw that may be decisive in this election.   

There is the simple truth from my observation: Hillary Clinton does make the emotional connection as well in speeches as do some of her political peers in this very Big League arena.   Some of them are her allies and supporters.  

But one of them is Trump, who connects even when he says things a great many people find shockingly objectionable, and connection may be more important than content.

Field Report: Conversation with a Trump supporter

About half the people in America plan to vote for Trump, if the election were held today.   What are they thinking?

Peter Sage Introduction of the Guest Post

Democrats and others who support Hillary Clinton have a problem.   They need to rationalize lawbreaking, and it weakens their argument and willingness to advance it.  Americans of good conscience accept being law-abiding as a moral value.  It is wrong to steal, to defraud, to murder, to run red lights.   There is a reason we pass laws and they have moral authority.  Yet people who would not litter or tolerate it need to close their eyes to lawbreaking.

1.  They need to ignore the crime of illegal immigration by treating people here illegally as having rights, even though their illegal entry meant they stepped in line in front of people who were playing by the rules awaiting legal entry.
2.  They need to ignore local nullification of immigration laws in sanctuary cities.  (They would not tolerate local nullification of civil rights laws in Southern cities if carried out in Selma, Alabama or Jackson, Mississippi, but tolerate immigration nullification in San Francisco.)

3.  They need to excuse violence and lawbreaking in street protests by Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, and others who are protesting injustices.

4.  And as regards Hillary Clinton, they need to ignore her cavalier and illegal handling of her emails, then her on-the-record falsehoods as she minimized her behavior.

There is a body of voters who notice this hypocrisy and who are pushed away by it.   Their orientation is less accommodating to immigrants, rock throwers, and Hillary, but more central is that it falls back to the moral value of respect for the law.   

Although Donald Trump is a flawed representative for respect for the law (flouting law and norms regarding the Geneva Convention, treaties, torture, assassination, vigilantism) he attracts voters with an authoritarian sensibility.  He is the law and order candidate and insofar as he is openly willing to ignore laws or excuse extra-legal violence it is for the purpose of creating order.  

Thad Guyer reports on a conversation with an "educated independent" who will be supporting Trump.    

Guest Post by Thad Guyer:

Thad Guyer

I finally Met a Member of “We the People”

Today’s UpClose post peels back the media vs. Trump war to its core in observing: “But in a democracy the centerpiece of political legitimacy is the popular will. Even the Constitution gets its validity because of its support by ‘We the People’." 

On a sunny afternoon in Seattle yesterday, I finally met one of those people at a backyard picnic, an educated independent. He had previously said publicly only that he was leaning Trump but Bernie would be great too. But now that Bernie was out, he was irrevocably decided he’ll vote Trump. This is person the four of us love, and we did not attack him. We all respectfully asked him questions, and he agreed to answer them all honestly. Here is a paraphrased recap, most of which shocked us to varying degrees.

1. Why Trump? Answer: “Same reason as Bernie—Global trade and globalism are rotting the American economy from the inside. I want someone to stop it, and maybe even reverse it. Most of all, I want an outsider to try to knock down the established political order and political classes. That’s what Brexit was all about—finally doing what the majority wants rather than the globalism paid-off politicians want.”

2. Do you think Trump will build an effective wall, and Congress will fund it? Answer: “Absolutely Trump will try to get it built, the EU and Israel have already proven walls dramatically reduce the flows of illegals, and Israel has developed the anti-tunneling technology. Whether Congress gives him the money or not, I will be satisfied with a hard fight for the wall. America needs to have that fight.”

3. Would you support Trump deporting 10 million people, and can that be done? Answer: “I support our laws being enforced, if current law prescribes a million illegals be deported, I support a million deportations. If the law says 10 million, fine with me. If Obama could half-heartedly deport about 500,000 illegals a year, Trump would easily get that to a million in his first year, 2 million in second year, etc, so that it’s a total of 10 million in his first term. Change the immigration law if you don’t like it, but enforce the law until you do. Period.”

4. Do you agree with Trump that crime is out of control and he can stop it? Answer: “Of course crime is out of control and getting worse as police are undermined. Do what Bill Clinton did, put 100,000 new cops on the streets. (See, “I worked hard to put more than 100,000 police on the street and the crime rate went way down.” –Quote from former President Bill Clinton, Washington Post, Sept 16, 2014,

5. Is Black Lives Matter (BLM) a terrorist group? Answer: “No, it is just another anti-law and order group using racial politics to mask the fact that blacks and Hispanics commit most of the crime. BLM is just like white supremacists-- blame someone else based on race.”

6. Do you support Trump’s ban on Muslim immigration? Answer: “Yes, Islam spawns terrorists worldwide, and the fewer Muslims we let in, the fewer terrorists we will have from the immigrants or their children.”

We were quiet and disquieted, but he relieved the tension: “I know you all disagree with me, but you asked, and I told. With Sanders out, that’s what I’m doing. Whose up for another Seattle microbrew?”