Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Political Re-alignment is Happening Before our Eyes

Our political parties are coalitions of people and policies.   They are changing out from under us.

Let's look at "before" and "after".  Before is 2012.  After is now.


The GOP in 2012 was the party of Romney and Ryan, the heirs of the party of Reagan.   If a reader was happy with Reagan then the reader was probably comfortable with Romney.  The GOP stood on 3 pillars:  strong national defense and willingness to intervene abroad; traditional values Christians including opposition to abortion and homosexuality; economic libertarianism in the form of open borders, free trade, less regulation, lower taxes, and trust that lower taxes on wealthy "job creators" meant wealth trickled down to workers via economic growth.  It was pro-gun and it projected, subtly, white resentment.

The Democrats in 2012 were the party of the political left, who wanted more government services in health care and education, was the party of secular people who considered the "values" traditionalists as busybodies restricting privacy, was the party of women, blacks, Hispanics, gays because the party noted and promised to redress the barriers each group faced, and the party that liked the policies of the Green Party, but was more practical and moderate and remembered the Ralph Nader effect in 2000.

The Green Party in 2012 was the unabashed liberal, environmental, progressive party.

The Libertarian Party in 2012 was the party of small government, agreeing with Romney/Reagan on the economy and regulation and trickle down but disagreeing on abortion and "traditional values."  Libertarians spoke of government as tyrannical and invasive, busily doing searches and seizures, threatening gun ownership, controlling the internet, and taxing people.  Libertarians opposed intrusion on matters of sex and drugs because they emphasized freedom, not conformity.   Libertarians could be confused with "extreme Republicans" on economic matters but they were also "extreme Democrats" on matters of sex, drugs, and invasion of privacy. 


Trump has re-made the GOP.  Voters who are loyal to the GOP brand rather than to its policies can overlook this point, but political professionals are acutely aware of it.   Trump has reversed what voters liked about the party of Reagan and Romney.   Trump says our strong national defense has been intervening where it doesn't belong; Trump has been all over the place on traditional values, with little real credibility that he cares one bit about "Two Corinthians" (as Trump put it, revealing how unchurched is his supposed faith); Trump openly criticizes economic libertarianism with its open borders and free trade and trickle down replacing it with big government America First economic nationalism.   Trump re-affirmed the pro-gun policy and speaks to white resentment openly.   The party's center moved from Main Street Chamber of Commerce successful businessmen to working class Blood and Soil populist nationalists.  It is no longer the party of small government.  It is the party of government big enough to take on Wall Street, special interests, foreign trading partners and foreign enemies n defense of America First.

Sanders has re-made the Democrats.  Even by losing Sanders changed the Democrats.  The party has moved left because Sanders made Green Party policies mainstream.  Hillary Clinton had to adopt Sanders-lite policies.   She cannot remake history and her close ties to Wall Street and the donor class but she needed to incorporate Sanders' policies while simultaneously re-affirming her women-black-Hispanic identity allies.  She is naturally a moderate and to the right of Obama and Sanders but is attempting to show her openness to the new balance in the party.

The Greens are unchanged.  Sanders kept the Green party voters mostly inside the Democratic party, and the fear of Trump keeps most Democrats from straying.

Small Government, not Anti-Government
Libertarians are now a centrist party, not an extreme anti-government party.   The Johnson/Weld Libertarian party gets about as much support from Democratic Hillary-haters as from Republican never-Trumpers.    The Johnson-Weld libertarian party is mild and reasonable in manner rather than angry and anti-government.  It is the smaller-government party, and indeed it alone holds that niche, which theoretically gives it a giant opportunity for growth and electoral legitimacy.  

 Click here to see Libertarians on the Issues

***The Libertarian party in tone is adult and reasonable, not an angry firebrand.  They are solution oriented, not America-is-in crisis.  As the one remaining party that speaks to "small government" the Libertarian party gains some displaced Republicans, and this takes from Trump.  And Republicans who want someone calm, responsible, and "adult" have an alternative to Trump. (Survivalist and post-apocalyptic advertisers favor pro-Trump talk radio shows, not the mild-mannered Gary Johnson.)

***The Libertarian party is for reproductive freedom for women, i.e. OK with abortion. (This takes from Hillary.)

***The Libertarian party is moderate on immigration, calling for integration and assimilation of immigrants, not exclusion of them. (Again, poaching on Hillary.)

***The Libertarian party wants to legalize marijuana, saying the war on drugs has failed.  This gives ex hippy boomers and young people an alternative to the greened up Democrats.  Johnson says he will stop smoking pot while in office, if elected.

***The Libertarian party avoids white identity politics signaling done by Trump.  People offended by Trump's language on ethnicity have an alternative.

***The Libertarian party is still the party of the 2nd Amendment, giving gun owners an alternative to Trump.

Net-net the Libertarian party is not the big boon to Democrats that the old 2012 Libertarians would have been.   Moderate, centrist voters unhappy with both Trump and HRC have a place to cast a vote.  Currently Libertarians poll at some 10%--not enough to be eligible for the debates, an essential element to them being considered a viable electoral alternative to Trump and Clinton.  But that 10% is far greater than the current polling advantage Hillary holds.   The peel-off of votes to the Johnson-Weld ticket is material.

Does the Re-Alignment of the Parties Change anything??

Apparently less than one might think.  The allocation of red states, blue states, and contested states are almost identical to 2012.   This implies that there is an enormous amount of party brand loyalty at work.  It also implies that that primary process helped each party find is actual, hidden center.   

Republican elites who thought they needed to soft pedal white resentment were proven wrong; voters wanted to hear it.  Republic elites who thought voters were okay with "job creators" trickling down money were proven wrong.  The voters were less happy with Reagan/Romney policies than the elites understood.

 And the Democratic party voters--at least the ones who show up at primary elections--are more liberal now than Democratic elites had understood.  Sanders proved that.  The result is that apparently Democrats recalibrated and found their true center, somewhat to the left of where it had been.  Hillary had to appear to change to win.

Libertarians had been an angry party, angry at government tyranny.   Now they are the serious party, letting the angry voters be led by the voices of outrage on talk radio and Fox away from themselves toward the party of Trump.

Probably not, it turns out.  Democrats turned greener.

Greens are at 2% because they lost the electoral battle to be special and different and won the electoral war: their policies--though not their candidate--have gone a long way toward becoming mainstream in the Democratic party.  They won by being co-opted.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Their Characters have Formed

By age 68 and 70 the characters of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have formed.  What we see is what we will get.

There is an odd bit of wishful thinking that I have overheard among supporters of both HRC and Trump.   The supporters are anticipating that their candidate has learned a life lesson and will change.   I doubt it.   

Long campaigns are exhausting but the voters learn something they would not learn in a quick 45 day sprint campaign.   We get to see the candidate's actual character revealed.  What they have revealed over a lifetime is being revealed in this 18 month long campaign.  They are who they are.

Fox News wants "Crooked" to be part of Hillary's name
Hillary Clinton is: professional, knowledgable, experienced, policy oriented, practical, and careful.   She also is guarded, defensive, lawyerly, secretive.  She is comfortable among very wealthy people and has compromised her reputation and electability in seeking personal wealth.  She works within the "grey area" of conflicts of interest, real and apparent.   She has arranged to have done very well while doing good progressive politics.  Her policy prescriptions come out of a well established tradition of liberal/progressive/feminist politics. of those traits are good in a candidate, some not good, but Hillary Clinton packages them all and she has revealed them consistently over a lifetime, and under close scrutiny in this campaign.    
Washington Post Story 

Donald Trump is: a showman, extemporaneous, confident, self-aggrandizing, intuitive, empathetic with audiences, amusing, entertaining.   He also bulles others, is insulting, careless, thoughtless, unplanned, and outrageous in his exaggerations, accusations, and fabrications.  He trusts his first gut instincts.  He doesn't take advice well, he pays little attention to policy or practical methods of implementing what he promises.  He says things that are insulting and demeaning about minority races, religions, and ethnicities. His policy prescriptions ignore or contradict the traditions of his political party.  Donald Trump packages all those traits and he has displayed them over a lifetime.   

If elected president there is no evidence that Hillary Clinton will change.  She will not be transparent, she will be guarded.  Information will be extracted from her through court orders and Freedom of Information Act requests rather than being offered openly.   She will answer questions defensively.  She will try to hide things.   Her answers to questions will be incomplete and evasive.  She will likely avoid legal perjury but will answer questions in a way that deflect and mislead.  She will operate within the gray area of legal but not necessarily admirable.  Democrats dread  that her presidency will be filled with lawsuits, investigations, allegations--Benghazi 24/7.  

If elected president there is no evidence that Donald Trump will change.   Against all advice and in the face being urged to be "more presidential" Donald Trump remains intuitive and spontaneous and careless and outrageous.  He is disrespectful of others and says things which alienate significant numbers of people.  He will consider his gut reaction to situations more trustworthy a guide than the careful analysis of experienced experts, which will mean he will say and do things whose implications he does not understand.   The dread among Republicans is that maybe it would be true that Trump's spontaneous and thoughtless words would create chaos in a dangerous world--a bull in a china shop. 
Hillary Clinton hopes that "Crazy Trump" is just too risky for people to accept as president.  Donald Trump hopes that Crooked Hillary is just too untrustworthy for people to accept as president.  

The Washington Post helps tell Hillary's story.  Fox News tells Trump's.  Both news outlets have lost all pretense of objectivity.  

Monday, August 29, 2016

Willful Blindness

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump require their supporters to avert their eyes and minds.

Donald Trump asserts he isn't a racist.

Trump says he isn't a white nationalist nor prejudiced, and in fact he is not racist when compared with the 1950s "Segregation Now, Segregation Forever!" views of  southern governors who attempted to block blacks from attending colleges.  Some would think a real racist would have drinking fountains marked "white" and "colored" in his casinos, and Trump isn't like that at all.   Indeed, New Yorker Trump is certainly more cosmopolitan and exposed to diversity than most Americans.   Trump asserts that his racial attitudes are simply realistic and typical of Americans and they are perfectly OK because they are realistic and typical. Trump says that when Hillary accuses him of being racist she is accusing tens of millions of Americans as racist, because his thinking is pretty much like that of everyone else. 

But Trump says things that attract the open praise of the KKK and other white nationalists.  He implied most Mexicans are criminals in his inaugural campaign speech,  he said it is only reasonable to be nervous around Muslims and to want to keep all of the them from entering the country and to surveil the ones who are here, he said he would order soldiers to torture prisoners, he said it is only reasonable to think that a federal judge of Mexican extraction would be prejudiced against him.  

Lots of Republicans think Trump is just being blunt.  The group is big but not a majority of voters, which is that problem for Trump.  A great many Republicans--ones Trump is attempting to appeal to now--are uncomfortable with this talk, agreeing with Speaker Paul Ryan that this is "textbook racism."   

What do those uncomfortable people do, if they otherwise generally are OK with Trump and they oppose Hillary Clinton?    They do what Paul Ryan does.   They avert their eyes to the stuff they don't like, then vote for Trump.

Hillary Clinton asserts she isn't crooked.  

I observed in yesterday's blog post that trading access and face time with politicians in exchange for donations of money or service is universal.  Politicians stop by their campaign HQ to thank volunteers and they have gatherings graduated in size and intimacy based on the size of monetary donations,   And I observed yesterday that former cabinet officials and presidents of both parties do celebrity appearances.  They are famous.   They don't sing or play the guitar; they speak.  They draw a crowd.  They are headliners.  

Here is an article on speaker's fees, including those former cabinet officials like Hillary Clinton.   Her fees were right up there with Tim Geithner ($200,000) and Al Gore ($175,000) and a little more than Larry Summers ($135,000) and fellow former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ( $150,000). Her speeches were less than former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke ($200,000 to $400,000) and less than Donald Trump, who reportedly earned $1.500,000 per speech for his "real estate wealth expo" talks back in the late 1990s.

Washington Speaker's Bureau: Colin Powell
Bill and Hillary Clinton cashed in on their celebrity--just like others--but they went a step farther, which causes the media and her supporters to pause.  Hillary Clinton was a former Secretary of State and she was also widely understood to be eying a candidacy for president in 2016.  She did things in the aftermath of her Cabinet office that are inexplicable.

 Her speeches to Goldman Sachs and others could easily have been foreseen to be politically compromising.   Nobody as politically astute as the Clintons could have failed to know that these would look--and be--evidence of her being "in the pocket" of people she will need to regulate.  A Republican can take money from coal producers and be consistent in saying we need to reduce restrictions on coal, but Democrats cannot take significant Wall Street money and then have credibility saying that they want to regulate Wall Street or break up the very banks that had cratered the US economy.   

She had to have known, yet been unable to resist the easy money.

And then there is the Clinton Foundation.  The Clinton Foundation serves as a private philanthropic do-good organization that serves double duty as a slush fund and job bank for political allies.  At one level it is quite clever and adept.  It serves the same purpose as the American Enterprise Institute or SuperPACs--a place for political allies to have a job creating policy, writing op-ed pieces, flying to conferences to promote the Clintons and do high level networking with powerful American and foreign individuals, interest groups, and governments.   

But as highly experienced politicians Bill and Hillary Clinton knew full well that the revolving door of office holder to lobbyist to special interest to donor is an area that the public thinks is corrupting.  And the players in the system think is corrupting, which is why presidents and senators and congressmen have rules regarding the revolving door and time restrictions on people going from Senator to lobbyist, and from the White House to a business.

Unforced Error.  Utterly Foreseeable.  
The Clintons did not create some conspicuous walls to demonstrate careful disinterest.  They openly continued the arguably very good work of the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Secretary of State, an area of obvious collusion if not conflict, an area where questions would be inevitable about the connection (undoubtably apparent, even if not real) between a donation to the Clinton Foundation and access to Hillary.  

Anyone could have seen this coming, but they did it anyway.  

If the work of the Clinton Foundation were clearly and obviously domestic (inner city American pre-school, for example) then the Clintons would have an arguable position that there was no relationship between the Foundation and its fundraising and American foreign policy. I could imagine Hillary at the microphone asserting pugnaciously:  "What could be wrong with the Saudi government, which has earned so much from American oil exports, in giving back to help 5-year-olds in Dayton and Akron learn to read?  I am proud to have raised that money to help kids in Ohio and I apologize to no one!")

Hillary Complicaitons

Instead, the work of the Clinton Foundation is foreign, and sufficiently obscure that I cannot describe in any real detail a single Clinton Foundation project or program.  I am sure they do good work, but if it is invisible to me it is invisible to most people.  What is apparent, though, is a fundraising juggernaut, a think tank and job bank but not a public good with a clear articulable charitable purposes.

It just looks sleazy.  It looks too close to the line   It looks like a conflict of interest.   It is probably legal, and it is certainly arguably legal, a statement I make because the Clintons are lawyers who have historically skated right up to legal lines, using fine points and loopholes and gray areas to their full advantage, but at the cost of endless legal hassles.  But what is undeniable is that it looks sleazy and it could have been easily understood to appear sleazy and they did it anyway, even in anticipation of a presidential campaign.  

To ask the same question of Hillary supporters that I asked of Trump's supporters, people who were uncomfortable with Trump's "dictionary definition of racism" if they are uncomfortable with what they see but don't want to vote for the other candidate.  What do they do???  They avert their eyes to the stuff they don't like, and then they vote for Hillary anyway.

Hillary could have attempted a lean-in positive argument for her behavior.  It would be a stretch but Donald Trump doesn't apologize for who he is, and possibly she should make a positive case for who she is, an adept practitioner of a system of elections, power, and favors.    

She could have said:

"You're darned right Bill talked with some unsavory people--and some very good people--and Bill tries to get them involved with the Foundation with moral support, legal support, and donations of money.  Some of those unsavory people, with ugly hateful ideas about women and brutal behaviors toward criminals with public beheadings, are also essential allies in our war on terror.   We are trying to pull them into the community of nations the only way that works, by working with them and finding areas of common concern.  The more connections they have with the USA formally, and with my husband and me personally, the more we can work together to advance American interests.   Diplomacy is not just formal and arms length.  It is personal.   Personal relationships matter.  Foreign governments getting recognized for doing good things matter.   It pulls them in.

 If Donald Trump actually knew any history he would know that the personal relationship between Churchill and FDR was an essential part of the war effort.  At great risk within a war zone they met personally, face to face, repeatedly, during the war.   Bill's work with the Clinton Foundation wasn't to make us rich.  Thank God people bought our books and listened to a few of our speeches, so the money wasn't for us.  We were doing something my husband, as a former president, was uniquely able to do: build bridges between people and governments on behalf of widely acceptable common causes, AIDS in Africa, food security in south Asia, and more.   Mr. Trump doesn't seem to understand you don't make allies and partners by giving speeches saying you hate their guts. You give people something good to work with you on.  That is how diplomacy works when you are pulling people in.  You build networks, you ask people to help and you thank them publicly.  Thanking people when they do good things isn't weakness, it is strength.  We need allies and friends in the fight against ISIS and terror and famine and disease, not more enemies.  Mr. Trump wants to make enemies of the world. "Bomb the s--- out of them", he says.   That's what you say when you are an uninformed bull in a china shop.  The Clinton Foundation is working for a stronger America and a safer world through joint projects and friend building, and that is how it is done in the real world of international diplomacy, if not on reality TV."

Hillary could have tried out that speech, and it might have worked.   She did not. 

Actual bumper sticker: Louisiana, 1991
Better, Hillary might have avoided or minimized the need for the speech by putting up conspicuous barriers to apparent conflicts of interest.   She did not.

Instead, she minimized and mumbled and she forces supporters to sigh and attempt to avert their eyes from the very apparent conflicts of interest and instead focus on Donald Trump.    As they said in Louisiana back in 1991, when the contest for governor was between a corrupt Edwards or a KKK member David Duke:  "Vote for the crook.  It's important."    Better a crook than a racist.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Hillary met with donors. Of course.

Elected officials need to raise money to fund their campaigns

There is an accusation in the air.  Hillary Clinton met with donors.  Republicans are shocked! Shocked!

I watched Chris Christie talk about political donations two or three times.  He said that to be a politician requires one to be "a professional ingrate."   You take their money, thank them, then give them nothing.

I wrote a couple of days ago about doing the "ask" at political fundraisers.  I tell people that, amidst all the talk of corrupting money the money they give is the antidote: nice, clean donations on behalf of good government.

Hillary Clinton handles criticism or a question with a presumption imbedded very differently than does Trump.  When criticized Hillary tends to become defensive and she minimizes.  Trump leans in.  When asked if Judge Curiel would be prejudiced against him, he answered of course.  And would Muslims, he was asked?  Sure.

Hillary Clinton could have leaned in, when challenged on her having met with donors to the Clinton Foundation, and said that of course she met with them and lots of other people, some rich, some poor, some with good ideas, some she considered and rejected.  She could have attempted to say this with an eager and guiltless face.  This isn't the Hillary way. The Hillary way is lawyerly.  Make the other side prove things.  Don't embrace and de-fang the question; minimize it.

Q:  "Did you meet with donors?"

A:  "Of course.   I meet with people all the time.  Everyone in Washington meets with donors, supporters, opponents, academics, staff, media, plus people with problems that need our attention.  We meet with interest groups, we meet with individuals.  We get our photos taken with girl scouts and with donors, both. That's what we do.  All of us.  My critics included.  Of course we meet with donors, and some of those people may or may not have donated to the Clinton Foundation.  They should quit pretending they are surprised and stop the silly hypocrisy.

Here is the simple reality:   every elected accuser of her trades money for access of one sort or another.   News articles report on the fact that new Congressmen are told by more senior congressmen that, if they want to be considered serious about the office and therefore eligible for money from the party and to be considered for committee assignments they need to raise money.    Raise two million dollars your first term in congress:  $18,000 a day.

I hold fundraising events.   For statewide offices the current expectation on giving is in the range of $2,500-$5,000 to be a host, $1,000 to be invited to a smaller reception of 20 or fewer people, and $50-100 to attend the event in the larger group.   The more one gives, the smaller and more intimate the meeting.  
Senator Merkley meets with donors.  No secret, no surprise.

There is no ugly dealmaking going on.  Mostly, it is just a smaller group, it being noted probably in a blur by the candidate but recognized by the campaign people who gave $2,500, who gave $1,000, and who gave $50.   The activist volunteers who actually walk door to door and who give $50 aren't ignored; they are valued and thanked and listened to.  The larger donors mostly simply get wine, cheese, and a small group.

My wife and I get about 15 or 20 calls a week on our land line, nearly all of them being requests for donations from Democratic groups, from Emily's list, from the DNC.  About twice or three times a year we get calls from Senators Wyden or Merkley, from a cell phone number with a 202 area code.  They say they are thinking of us and wonder how we are doing.  I understand exactly what it up.  They are off the Capital grounds (you cannot raise money on federal property) and they are asking for money.   I feel sorry for them, having to do this so I immediately attempt to get the ugly part over with and I immediately ask, "You need money, I know, it's ok.  What do you need?"   They then explain they need to raise money for themselves or more often for some other Democratic senator who they need to help.   I immediately say yes and volunteer a number that I can live with, so they don't have to ask.  I tell them to have a staff person email me with the mailing instructions,   Then, with that out of the way, we talk for five or so minutes.

My goal is to be an easy call.  I don't mind giving to them.   I don't ask them for anything except to do whatever it is they do.   Better to get money from me than from someone with an agenda, but I recognize they get money from them, too.   It is how the system currently operates.

How did I get a photo with Hillary?  I donated.  No secret, no surprise
Fundraising events generally involve face time with the candidate or office holder.  This is not a Hillary Clinton deal, it is a universal deal.  Everyone does it.  Everyone.

Of course she met with donors to the Clinton Foundation.   Her husband is an ex president and there is prestige and cache to being involved with the charitable work of an ex president as well as with Hillary when she was the former Secretary of State.    

She did what other former Secretaries of State, and what other former presidents have done: monetize their prestige.   President Reagan made paid speeches to the Japanese and then came home to the more humdrum work of making appearances for Prudential Insurance.

George W. Bush is enjoying his own payday.

George W. Bush does it.

Former Cabinet officers do it.   Here is an Washington Post article on Colin Powell and Robert Gates.

Click here

The  link above brings you to the whole article, an illuminating glimpse of the life of cabinet officials and former presidents after leaving office.   The behavior of former president Bill Clinton, and of Hillary Clinton after leaving the office of Secretary of State is the bipartisan pattern for people holding those offices.   They are in demand as speakers.   They have a story to tell and organizations want to hear them tell it.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Trump at the top: Case study of a down-ballot Republican

The Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton frame shapes down ballot races.

Something is playing out in Southern Oregon in my immediate view that may be playing out nationwide.  What it means to be a Democrat hasn't changed much from the Obama years,   It is still the party of Obama.

But the nomination of Trump has shaped and changed what it means to be a Republican--unless a local candidate openly condemns Trump.   The national Republican brand now incorporates resistance to demographic change, distaste for immigration, suspicion of Muslims and economic elites and a retrenchment back to a more traditional good-old-days when white males set the standards for normalcy.  One does not need to be a Trump-style Republican to be a Republican but it is undeniable that Trump took on and defeated a multitude of non-Trump options.   Voters in Oregon had the choice in May between Trump and Kasich and they overwhelmingly chose Trump.   For better or worse, for Oregon Republicans this is Trump country.

There is an interesting election taking place close to my home.   An incumbent moderate-liberal physician has held an Oregon state senate district for some ten years.  The district is one of the few senate districts that have near-parity of Democrats and Republicans.   It pairs a house district that is dominated by a liberal college town, Ashland, which elects a reliably liberal-progressive-pro-choice-environmentalist-pro-gay-rights supporting member with a moderately Republican-leaning house district which elects establishment-oriented Republicans. 

The popular Democrat--Al Bates--held the senate seat that represented both districts in large part because of his unusual energy and personal appeal.  To the dismay of many, he died suddenly, at age 71.

Democrat Tonia Moro
Democrats quickly chose a local attorney from a slate of ten potential candidates to fill the seat.  Tonia Moro presents as a good-government, pro-Transit District, Sanders-oriented but OK- with-Hillary Democrat, at least as I view her.   She consolidated Democratic activist opinion and proved herself to be an acceptable, electable Democrat.

Since the Republican replacement was chosen by the party, not via a hard-fought primary election, there was no showdown between Tea Party or Trump supporters or Chamber of Commerce oriented candidates.   There was no time for a establishment moderate candidate to be "primaried" out by an angry Tea Party Republican, the kind who, currently, has an excellent chance of winning a Republican primary.  What happened was a moderate Republican from the civic-minded businessman Chamber of Commerce part of the party, bringing with him a reputation for significant personal wealth stepped forward in the tight three week window for choosing a nominee.  He was the only candidate.

Republican Alan DeBoer
This Republican could have had a tough time in a contested Republican primary.  His presents as a businessman (a car dealer) not an ideologue.  He was a non-partisan mayor of that liberal city, Ashland and had a successful tenure.  Surely he did things in Ashland that were reasonable for Ashland but anathema to Republicans generally.   He supported a dollar a gallon gasoline tax, which sounds reasonable to me but which I suspect would cause him problems in a Republican primary.   

What makes sense in Ashland are exactly the things that the national Republican party thinks are breaking down the traditional pillars of American strength and decency: taxes to support civic improvements, racial diversity, multicultural tolerance, rights for the LGBTQ community, strong land use laws protecting solar access and forbidding big-box stores.  He was a city mayor, a member of that group of that "civic-minded, make-government-work, Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club" type Republicans who used to dominate the Republican party but who now are beaten in primaries by the Talk Radio/Fox News ideological faction of the party which has accepted as true the Reagan notion that government does not solve problems, government is the problem.

So now we have an odd showdown: a regular Democrat in a district with a modest Democratic advantage against a man who presents as a moderate Republican business leader, on a Republican ticket headed by Trump, in a constituency that chose Trump over Kasich.

One final fact to add to the mix:   The state senate is closely divided on whether the Democrats control the budget process, so the state parties are enormously interested in the race.  The Democratic Senate Caucus and the Republican Senate Caucus will each spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the race, money which goes a long way in this small media market.  The race will become highly partisan in tone, I expect, because of the involvement of upstate political interests who are keenly interested in which party has control of the senate budget process.

What is the campaign strategy likely to be pushed by the state parties?   Some sharply negative attacks on something each candidate has no doubt said or done in the past ten years would be the likely approach.  The state party campaigns like to do it that way.   DeBoer's proposal of a gas tax of a dollar a gallon would be a good example of a political vulnerability (again, notwithstanding my own feeling that such a tax would be an excellent idea.  Good for roads, good for steering people toward more fuel efficient cars, good for the environment, and the revenue that could be rebated back, thus reducing reliance on the income tax.)  But Democrats can make him sound like a road crazy proponent of a regressive tax and we may see ads on this.  

[Later addition/correction:  Mr. DeBoer has communicated with me that the dollar a gallon suggestion was said tongue in cheek.] 
From local party Facebook page
The Democrat supports the transit district and is a Sanders-oriented progressive.  Surely, she has said some things that can be made to sound anti-car, or socialist, or likely to flood the community with homeless immigrants needing social services.  I don't know what they are, but she has been around and is a progressive Democrat so there likely will be something out there on video or in print that can be made to look foolish or anti-American.   The track record of the election is for the state parties to run negative campaigns against a cartoonish exaggerated and ugly version of the other candidate.

My own guess is that the Republican will stress his independence from his party and present himself as a good government independent voice in the legislature. He likely cannot openly condemn his own party, in part because his caucus will spend big bucks trying to elect him.  Yet his party will be his biggest point of vulnerability: the party of Trump.    Trump-style xenophobia and playing to white resentment and distaste for "others" are anathema in the Ashland part of the district, and it will be a mixed bag in the more conservative part.

One cannot stand for election in this district and stand behind the kinds of things Ted Cruz says about triumphant Christianity or Trump says about non-whites or the GOP platform says about LGBTQ issues.  The most important cultural organizations in Ashland, the college and the Oregon Shakespeare organization, actively promote diversity and tolerance.  Republican identity politics go too far for a majority of the voters, yet Cruz style conservatism and Trump style ethnic politics are the two powerful ideological strains in the Republican electorate this year.

I expect Democrats will attempt to confound any effort the Republican candidate makes to look independent.  He will--he must--vote within his caucus on leadership issues or else he really is not a Republican.  So he would be voting to put into power people whose GOP Platform oriented policies and values are easy for Democrats to expose and condemn.  It won't necessarily be DeBoer himself who is the target; it will be his allies at the state level all the way up to Trump himself.   No need to make a cartoon adversary out of DeBoer when the GOP caucus in Oregon and Donald Trump as President are such available targets.  

It is the problem that Senator Arlin Spector had in Pennsylvania and Bob Packwood had in Oregon.   Being a Republican caused them to support Southern racists like Jesse Helms for positions of party leadership.  They had to defend their caucus votes.    A down-ballot Republican either condemns his party or is forced to explain why he doesn't.   

Can a candidate for a partisan office be a Republican but not be tagged with enabling Republican policies and values?    Can you wear a Republican uniform but not support the team captain?   Maybe he has no choice but to accept and make the best of his party affiliation and its policies.   The Republican brand has heavy baggage this year.

This question will be played out over the next two months in Southern Oregon.   I will report on what I see.   

Friday, August 26, 2016

Democrats are getting confident

There is some good news for Hillary Clinton

Trump is attempting to moderate his image, attempting to show he isn't crazy or a racist.   He is doing a classic swift boat attack strategy on Hillary Clinton: attacking her for being guilty of those exact presumed weak spots of his own.  He is saying she is the crazy one: "unhinged."   She is the racist one: "You're a bigot."

Meanwhile, Trump created muddle on the immigration issue and so far the Trump reset is not working well for him.   Trump is attempting to appeal to two groups.   Trump had identified and nurtured the anti-immigration sentiment among Republicans.   His argument was not simply economic.  It was also racial/ethnic/cultural, and he slammed the other Republican candidates for attempting to be less than resolute in excising this economic and cultural enemy of white native born Americans.  Trump was their champion.  But in attempting to win back traditionally Republican voters who do not want to be identified as racist he is suggesting compromise and "working with" these longstanding residents in good behavior.

"Betrayal."  That is how some of Trump's best supporters define the reset.  Early GOP candidate victims of Trump's no-compromise position are pointing this out as the very policies they advanced in the beginning.   Trump taught Republican voters that they could demand mass deportation because it was both practical and morally correct.  They chose Trump over Jeb or Rubio or Graham because of that policy.  Trump created a political monster: an intransigent minority voting bloc.

Worse, in attempting to appeal to both intransigents and moderates he created confusion and muddle, which is coinciding in time with campaign errors that may keep Trump off the Minnesota ballot.  It send a message of managerial incompetence which directly undermines the Trump brand of can-do business efficiency.

Things are looking good for Hillary.   Democratic voters have been going to Real Clear Politics and Five Thirty Eight to give themselves a jolt of comfort and joy.   Hillary is ahead in the polls nationally and in plenty of swing states.  She has a firewall.  Hillary will win this.

(Of course, Republicans have their refuge.  Republicans who like Trump--or at least who hate Hillary--have talk radio and Fox News to assure them that Hillary's campaign is imploding, that she will probably be imprisoned shortly, and that Trump's multitudes of supporters won't talk to pollsters because they dare not voice aloud that they really agree with Trump.  Trump is actually ahead.  Trump will win this.)

I append below a letter I received from an Oregon elected official who prefers to stay anonymous.   I consider his reflections a primary source: observations and opinions from a person who lives in a happy bubble of progressive politics in a liberal college town, where "diversity" is considered a good thing, where Sanders is considered a centrist and Hillary a corporate conservative sellout.  

Democrats are counting their chickens.   

Guest Post observations from a progressive, surveying the happy results of a solid Hillary Clinton victory:

Although Peter Sage is still saying “Trump could win this election,” many news outlets apparently believe that it is in the bag for Hillary.  The New York Times is heavy on political forecasting.  On Wednesday, “the Upshot” predicted that the Democrats have a 60% chance of retaking the Senate.  New York Times article

In the same piece, "The Gray Lady" puts the The Donald’s chance of winning the Presidency at only 11%.  With those odds, all the speculation by political prognosticators should shift to “down ballot” races. 

Senate Dems are defending only 10 races this season, while Republicans have to defend 24, so on those numbers alone, without any polling, Dems would be expected to do well.  The bottom line is links back to 2010, when seven GOP Senators were elected to liberal leaning states, including Wisconsin, Illinois, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Ohio.  The Times calls 2010 a “wave” election.

What are the chances the Dems would retake the House?  Slim.  Dems would have to win 30 seats.  The Times says 36 Republican House seats are tossups or leaning Republican.  Even with a Clinton Electoral College landslide, the Republican seats are on enough of high ground to withstand any breaking “wave.”  

Who will head the Democratic controlled Senate?  Harry Reid is retiring.  Some say Patty Murray of Washington or Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Others say Charles Schumer of New York, who has been endorsed by Reid, has the inside track.  Schumer currently holds the No. 3 position in Senate Democrat leadership.  That Murray and Warren are being considered points out that gender will play a big role in 2016 (huuge?).  Many women are eager for the first chance in history to vote for a woman president.  Hillary polls less well with older, white male, Trump’s core strength.

In my community a woman is running for State Senate, which would be her first elected office.  Although her opponent will be a Republican male with elected experience as a Mayor of a small liberal town, my money is on the woman.  My bet is that the Person of the Year for 2016 will be a woman, and that this will translate to down ballot local races.

What about the third branch of government, the Supreme Court?  With the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court is currently equally split 4-4 on conservative/liberal ideological lines.  Some speculate that if Hillary wins, expect that Merrick Garland, Obama’s middle of the road nomination, will be approved by the lame duck Congress, which might fear a more liberal nominee will be put forward by Clinton.  As Trump’s fortunes sink, Garland’s tide rises.
Many also consider the ability of candidates to appoint future Justices when considering their vote for President.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg (“the Notorious RBG,” in some circles) is 83.  
Kennedy (80) and Breyer (78), also on the liberal wing, are older than, or at, the average age at which Justices retire, 78. 

There is a good possibility that President Clinton II will be able to influence the direction of the Court for years to come by appointing three Justices, perhaps in her first term.  Clinton’s potential picks include several women and people of color. 

With a 5-4 majority of liberal Justices on the Supreme Court, and Senator Bernie Sanders attempting to maintain his progressive movement with “Our Revolution,” it is likely that the future holds more liberal policy choices than the past.  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Trump Flip Flop: It helps him

Trump is re-describing his immigration policy

Trump's people are not calling it a flip-flop.  They are describing it as affirming American borders and the rule of law.   Donald Trump will enforce the law and deport illegal people.

Some critics say this is essentially the policy of Obama, the reporter-in-chief, but it misses two important things.   Trump's tone is one of exclusion and protection and while Obama is looking for excuses to let people stay.  People see and get the difference: Trump is the anti-immigrant one, the one who wants to protect the customary normal Americans from those outsiders.   And Trump's people have once again raised the issue of changing the 14th Amendment, or at least the interpretation of it, to end birthright citizenship.   Birthright citizenship is a leaky hole in the boat of American exclusion and Trump wants to plug it.

Reminder:  The Amendment begins: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." 

The Dred Scott decision had said that black people were not citizens and could never be citizens.  They might have been here for 6 generations but they weren't citizens because of their racial/ethnic identity.  This Amendment was intended to address that issue and resolve it: if you are born here you are a citizen (unless you were the child of a foreign diplomat or a child of an invading army or otherwise were not subject to American laws.)  Citizenship depends upon birth place, not race.   Race as the basis for who is inside the American tent is an old, deep, issue in America, a basis for continuing slavery, a justification for the removal of Indians, the basis for excluding Chinese and other Asians, the social justification for Black Codes, for Jim Crow policies, and legal segregation of the races.    The 14th Amendment was a line in the sand that attempted, in 1868, that way of American thinking.  It codified something in the law, but it did not fundamentally change American thinking.
This actually helps Trump

The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s supposedly resolved it, putting meaning and enforcement into the 14th Amendment, but it, too, was incomplete.  Many American welcome the use of ethnicity, not place, as the basis for inclusion and exclusion.  Trump addresses that desire; Hillary Clinton condemns it.

Trump's people bringing up the notion of re-interpreting the 14th Amendment will seem like a trivial little legal point to many, but the implications of it are profound.  He will have a difficult legal case, but the fact that it is at issue demonstrates that this ancient unresolved problem in America persists.   The Amendment has been interpreted as saying exactly what it means by the Supreme Court, which looked at a case where a person of Chinese ethnicity faced exclusion.  They resolved it cleanly:  if you are born here you are an American citizen, even if you are of Chinese ethnicity.  

The ancient American issue: exclusion by race and ethnicity 
There is room to debate what is meant by "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" but Trump's political case conflicts with his legal one.  Trump is asserting that people here illegally are most certainly subject to American laws which is why they can be arrested and deported.  This complicates the notion that children of those people are not subject to the jurisdiction thereof, because the political case argues the direct opposite.   But lawyers are clever and can find ways, which Trump says they should, and it is conceivable that a different Supreme Court could reverse itself.

Trump is not hiding from the notion that his position is evolving.  Trump's brand identity includes the notion of spontaneity and flexibility and lack of any real commitment to policy, so the evolution in Trump's thinking does not destroy his brand.  (Hillary cares about policy, so her change on the TPP was read as politically motivated and hypocritical.)

The media is assisting Trump in his re-brand into the kinder, gentler "presidential" Trump because they are covering him extensively and describing the change, even as he maintains the position of being anti-immigrant.  Voters hesitant to vote for Trump because he is a racist or a cruel bully or because he has impossibly impractical views on issues including immigration have a reason to rethink their hesitation.  They can think:  possibly Trump's opposition to immigration is really about law enforcement, not racism.  Possibly the 14th Amendment business just closes a loophole and stops abusive "anchor babies" and isn't really racism.

This re-thinking helps Trump.
This is the essential Hillary Clinton argument

Hillary's campaign has now centered on the notion that Trump is impossible to elect, that he is too extreme, too un-presidential, he is wild and crazy.   The notion of Trump flip flopping had hurt John Kerry and it hurts Hillary, but it actually helps Trump.  People who sort of like the Trump message of America First and shaking up the system want Trump to change.  

Hillary's case is that Trump is hard-wired unsuitable to be president.  Trump flip flopping, evolving, changing, and pushing re-set refutes that argument.