Monday, October 31, 2016

Trump Populism and Diversity


A Painful 2016:  We are experiencing the birth pain of new political party, or the pain of transplant surgery on the old GOP.


The election of 2016 is a milestone and turning point in the alignment of the great political parties.  It is not a nightmare of vitriol.  Other elections have been this ugly.  The important thing happening is the remaking of the party coalitions.  We are not experiencing disfunction.   We are experiencing the pain of change.

There is a fight going on in America and within the GOP.   Is ethnic and religious diversity OK, or is it a threat to the "real" America?   Are people named Gomez or Wong part of America or are they imperfect and incomplete Americans not yet married into and absorbed by Smiths and Wilsons in the American melting pot?   Are immigrants doing important work or taking important work?  Are women regular people or auxiliary people?

23rd annual, but now controversial
Attitudes toward diversity explain a lot of the differences revealed in polls between between college-educated voters and non-college-educated, and between urban and rural, and between white and non-white, and between men and women.

A local radio talk show host read from material handed out at Oregon State University at Freshman Orientation.  Some OSU dean spoke to the incoming students about the likelihood of their encountering people with different backgrounds.  The talk show host read the dean's statement with a sneer, "You will meet people with diverse religious beliefs, and the university considers this part of your educational experience.  Some students may have foreign accents."   The host read with a contrived voice and disdain.  He told listeners, "This is all indoctrination, more pc liberal horse pucky.  Your tax dollars are paying to undermine America and teach multi-cultural liberal garbage."   He urged OSU alums to withhold donations to OSU until they stopped trying to push the liberal diversity-is-kumbiya agenda.

Diversity is now in the center of political debate.

Caught in the middle of the GOP re-alignment struggle
Donald Trump is redefining the GOP.   It had been a "conservative" party and Trump is remaking it into a populist, nativist party.  The GOP of Reagan-Bush-Bush-Romney-Ryan hinted at white resentment but, especially under George W. Bush 43, included outreach to Hispanics.   Trump reversed that, and he has the support of a majority of voters in doing so.  

Trump voiced white racial resentment and solidarity in an uncoded way--or at least in a less-coded way.   Reagan-Romney-Ryan Republicans spoke in subtle code, heard and appreciated in the American south especially, but heard everywhere it was welcomed, but dismissed or unheard completely by voters who didn't want it, voters with a gay son or Mexican daughter in law or a  landscaper with employees of unknown ethnicity, or people who liked the GOP for reasons of habit or on tax policy but who are fully urbane and comfortable with diversity.   

Headline from pro-Trump Washington Examiner

Obama was a racial unifier until  he spoke out about the confrontation between a white policeman in Cambridge, Massachusetts and black professor at Harvard Louis Gates six months into his term of office.   Obama said the police "acted stupidly" when he assumed a black man entering a house in a nice neighborhood was a break-in.  Say, what?!!!   The public realized something: Obama was black and was on "their" side.  The beer summit did not succeed in putting Obama back into the middle, a race healer.   Obama was black.   Obama's personal support fell, on racial lines.   Some 63% of whites thought Obama was wrong to criticize the white policeman; 28% of blacks thought this.  Click for more results

Many white Republicans see immigration as both a watering down of real traditional America and a Democratic Party election ploy to pack the electorate.  Immigration became a defining issue in the GOP primary.

The Republican party is re-making itself and there is an internal struggle for control. The voters are in partial disagreement with their party leadership.  Change is painful. Many Republican congressmen and senators live in districts with significant minority populations and have received a share of their votes.   A nativist GOP causes them problems while it simultaneously motivates their key voters, especially key primary voters.   

Liberals and Democrats are generally comfortable with diversity, and increasingly it is the glue that holds Democrats together.  People on the ideological right are less comfortable with it.   For them this election is not just about taxes and jobs.   It is also about who this country is and who represent the true patriotic American.  
In this election GOP voters are "coming home" to support for Trump.  This is a huge development for the future of the GOP.    This implies that this is not the birth of a new Trump-populist style party but rather that the GOP voters are accepting a values and policy transplant, so the GOP will endure, but as a populist and nativist party.    It will be a Trump party, not a Reagan-Romney-Ryan party.   The Bush family has already essentially left the party.  As Trump put it, Jeb--with a Mexican wife--is a loser, and in the struggle to define the GOP he is indeed.

People running as Republicans will either adjust to the new Trump-style policy and tone or face the risk of removal in primary elections as the GOP voters express their will.   If Trump wins, this will almost certainly play out as a transplant.   If Trump loses then it will be a longer struggle because the traditional GOP leadership will blame Trump.  But the voters might not.  They might blame the old leadership.
                                               #     #    #

Podcast:  Something scary for Halloween:

Peter Sage and Thad Guyer go back and forth on whether the polls are merely a worrisome trend for Hillary, or a real disaster. Peter says that Trump's Hotel ribbon cutting was a triumph: early and below budget. Thad talks about the models that predicted this was likely to be a good year for the party out of power. And preview of coming attractions: what the losing party needs to do to remake its party.






Sunday, October 30, 2016

Where there is Smoke. . . .

Where there is smoke there is smoke, and enough smoke is enough.

The Sunday serious news shows will go around and around about the meaning of the FBI investigation.   The very topic is toxic for Hillary Clinton.   Not the results of whatever is found on the laptop but the topic itself.   

Should FBI Director James Comey have said anything about the discovery of emails on Andrew Weiner's laptop computer due to a separate investigation?   It is entirely likely they are irrelevant to Hillary Clinton but the words "re-open an FBI investigation" is shouting "FIRE!" in a crowded theater.

The Sunday shows will be careful and use precise language asserting that nothing whatever is known and some pundits will be sharply critical of Director Comey, but it will not matter.   The show will link the words "FBI" and "investigation" and "Hillary Clinton" and that is enough.

Smoke.   Doubt.  Questions.

The headline and caption link the words "FBI", "Criminal", "Hillary Clinton",  "Illicit email server" and "Illicit email practices".  And to make it even more juicy and newsworthy they get to add "Anthony Weiner" and "sexting underage girl across state lines."

Corruption, sleaze, sex, FBI: doesn't get better than that for Trump, or worse for Hillary.

Trump knows how to exploit media attention.  He is accusing Hillary Clinton of "criminal action"and he has friendly media.  It accepts as assumed fact the worst assertions.  In politics this works.


Begging the question" doesn't mean urging that a question be asked.   It means assuming the facts or conclusion that are under debate.   The above Breitbart article is a perfect case in point.    The headline and caption link the words "FBI", "Criminal", "Hillary Clinton",  "Illicit email server" and "Illicit email practices".

Click here for a short video of Trump

Trump says the Clintons are running a criminal enterprise and everyone is in on it.   The Justice Department is corrupt.   Trump wonders, speculates, and accuses based on his speculation.   The audience responses are audible in the video.   Listen.  They love it.

"The Justice Department is trying their hardest to protect the criminal activity of Hillary Clinton. . . . Perhaps that was what Bill Clinton was arranging when he met with Attorney General Lynch."

This fits the greater Trump message:  the system is rigged, nearly everyone is in on it including the government and the media, and politicians of both parties, but especially Hillary Clinton, and we need to drain the swamp.   Trump: the reform candidate of change.

In fact this is someone else's laptop, someone else's emails and their "illicitness" are presumed and asserted even though whether there is anything wrong is completely unknown.

This is damaging for Hillary.   Nate Silver of the Fivethirtyeight.com website notes that this election is unusual because the number of undecided voters is very high this close to the election.   More than enough votes to swing the election are "in play."  For something to be bad for Hillary Clinton it need not actually be bad.  It just needs to be convoluted and messy and confusing.   That makes it bad.  Smoke.   

The polling trend is back away from Clinton and current polls--prior to this blast of news-- show her up 2% nationally, but falling.   This won't help her.


Late Update:  at 9:40 PDT Sunday the first poll was released.   One third of likely voter say the news makes them less likely to vote for Clinton.  Some 7% of leaning-Hillary voters decided to take a "wait and see" position, costing Hillary about 1% in total support in this early report.

                                                 #     #    #

Podcast:  Something scary for Halloween:

Peter Sage and Thad Guyer go back and forth on whether the polls are merely a worrisome trend for Hillary, or a real disaster. Peter says that Trump's Hotel ribbon cutting was a triumph: early and below budget. Thad talks about the models that predicted this was likely to be a good year for the party out of power. And preview of coming attractions: what the losing party needs to do to remake its party.



Saturday, October 29, 2016

I told you so: Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner!


My blog post of October 17 began:  

"Can a new scandal sink Hillary???   Could Anthony Weiner hold in his hands the future of the American Republic?   Keep reading"

The post concluded with the statement:

"Imagine this: A statement by Andrew Weiner one way or the other determines the election."

I may have been right, but on the wrong subject:

 The speculation came about because Drudge teed up a supposed explosive announcement in a kind of "Watch this Space" way.

It is this article on the right: 

The Breitbart/Drudge/talk radio news people have kept alive the idea that Hillary Clinton must be evil in some perverted way.  Possibly she is has  lesbian relationships.   There is no evidence for it but it is possible, or has not been proven impossible, and since people have questioned it therefore her sexual behavior is "questionable" by definition.  Questionable makes her already guilty of something: questionable behavior!

A million things can cause a close election to swing.  What if, I wondered, Anthony Weiner claimed Huma Amidin had a lesbian relationship with Hillary.   That  would probably move the polls.  Why might he do this?  It might create leverage in their divorce.  Without some leverage he might face a getting little parenting time or supervised-only parenting.  His silence is a huge bargaining chip.   So, I speculated: Anthony Weiner has the ability to move the election if he were to threaten to say something, whether true or not, that could affect the election.

Now there may be another angle on this:  I may have been right that Anthony Weiner holds in his hands the future of the American Republic and this election, but it may be because of something he already emailed or texted.  The FBI has announced that the new evidence of something--or nothing--comes from one of Weiner's devices.  Who knows what he wrote, or did not write.   I can easily imagine sentences which, if written, regardless of the context, could cause a major swing in the election.   For example:

"Oh, the things I know that I am not supposed to talk about.''  Or,

"Hillary gets a pretty good buzz and blabs about things when she drinks her merlot in the evenings."  Or,

"I knew about the Osama Bin Laden killing a day early." Or, a sexual report of the kind I had earlier considered, thanks to the Breitbart tease,

"Hillary and Huma have their little thing, which is why I text so much."


It is not hard to picture Weiner, presuming himself to be anonymous, bragging and putting himself closer into the middle of power and prestige, in his mental cocoon hoping to impress someone.  What he may have written in that context might be true but it need not be.  It only needs to have been written.   

Indeed, as of this moment, it only needs to have been speculated that it might have been written.   The damage is being done.

The problem for Weiner is that he has no credibility whatever in denying wrongdoing.   He has credibility only in reporting wrongdoing.   If he were to deny the potential classified material meaning of "the things I know that I am not supposed to talk about", saying it related to Huma's troubled childhood or Huma's wearing a padded bra no one would believe him.   

This is lose, lose for Hillary.    

I will say it again:   it is a strange thing to think that the course of this election might rest on the discretion and taste of Anthony Weiner while he sits behind a keyboard and camera.
                                                   #     #    #

Peter Sage and Thad Guyer go back and forth on whether the polls are merely a worrisome trend for Hillary, or a real disaster. Peter says that Trump's Hotel ribbon cutting was a triumph: early and below budget. Thad talks about the models that predicted this was likely to be a good year for the party out of power. And preview of coming attractions: what the losing party needs to do to remake its party.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Oregon Jury Acquits Occupiers

What does the jury decision on the Harney County occupiers have to do with the 2016 Presidential election?    A lot.


For many people the decision of the Oregon jury to find the Harney County occupiers not guilty is incomprehensible.   

After all, they occupied the property amid TV cameras and the evidence is right there.   They made repeated statements to the press.  The were armed.  They barricaded themselves.   They shot off some 16,000 practice rounds.  They were together for weeks.  They travelled to the place from far away to do exactly what they did: occupy a federal facility and keep federal employees away from it.
Not Guilty

Open and shut guilty.  Right?

The jury apparently made a distinction between meeting and agreeing to take possession from the federal wildlife people versus  "conspiring" to do it.  They found a way to let them off.  They were charged with conspiring to do what they did.


The jury found something they liked here.
My take-away from the Oregon jury decision is to be very skeptical of the polls which show Hillary ahead in this race.   There is something big and surprising and largely invisible going on in America, and it is invisible to people who live in a bubble of respectable educated professional prosperity who access the long established respectable media.   A significant body of people are doing very well these past two decades, and especially under Obama.  Markets have rebounded in stocks and housing and the economy has come out of the disaster Obama found after the 2008 crisis.   The Democratic Party is a coalition of those educated professional people doing OK plus those people who feel subject to discrimination and barriers from being in that professional middle class: blacks, Hispanics, immigrants, gays, women.   It may be a majority coalition, barely.

But it leaves some people out.  Truck drivers, construction workers, men working in the produce departments of grocery stores, police officers, car salesmen, industrial workers, people who work outdoors, blue collar workers.  We see these people in larger numbers in red states, the rural areas of blue states, and generally in states like Ohio and Iowa where manufacturing and agriculture are especially big.


  It is secret, so we don't know if it's real yet
White working people feel picked on, condescended to, and ignored by the government, which they think is run by rich people with fancy college degrees for the benefit of themselves and other rich people, with voting help from those minority groups who get unfair advantages and giveaways..  You hear it on talk radio, you see it in Trump rallies, and you can measure it in the polls.  The Democratic party, especially the party under Hillary Clinton, speaks of the value of education and the problem of discrimination against minorities so it is in effect defining itself against non-college educated white men, those gun-carrying, Bible clinging, xenophobic, coal mining, oil-drilling, tree-cutting anti-Muslim racists in fly-over country.

Those men realize it and they resent being abandoned so they do the logical thing: vote for the other party in overwhelming numbers.
  
Trump located that block of voters and gave them voice and a sense of solidarity and therefore political power.  The leadership of both parties were taken by surprise.   Trump took over the Republican Party and has forced the Democratic Party to face the political costs of having ignored those people.   Al Gore did not just lose Tennessee in year 2000.  He also lost West Virginia, a bastion for Democrats, consisting of highly unionized white working class voters.  It cost him the 2000 election.

Hillary Clinton will get blown out in West Virginia.   

She can afford to lose that state but the kinds of people she loses in West Virginia also live in Ohio and Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin and she cannot afford to lose more than one of those states.

Readers who primarily get their news from the NY Times and Washington Post and NPR need to read the tea leaves found in the vote by the jury in blue state Oregon.  Those jurors found something to like in those rural, blue collar, bearded, rough, gun-carrying men who challenged the federal government.   They gave them the benefit of whatever doubt exists in the difference between "agree" and "conspire."

Trump is a flawed messenger for the constituency he represents, but he has caught a big wave of white working class resentment against the powers that be.   In this case it is the federal government and its prosecutors.   The real and it  can appear to come out of nowhere.   This time it was a vote in a jury box that found a way to acquit these occupiers.  On November 8 there will be another vote.

Don't trust the polls.
                                                  #   #   #


Here is this week's podcast on the Presidential Election.   Thad Guyer and I discuss the poll data and whether or not Trump is self destructing. (I think he is, but maybe not enough.)  I assert that he is stepping all over his message.  Thad has strong views on the USC/LA Times poll, which show Trump ahead.   Yes, ahead.   I get angry about Trump's Gettysburg Address. Thad makes the observation that there are some good things to come out of this long, long campaign. And at the 40 minute mark he discusses the duty to question the legitimacy of rigged elections.     Click Here for the Podcast


Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Duty to Stonewall

An idea is getting greater currency:  Bipartisan Cooperation is for Saps.   


In recent posts I have distinguished between the norms in local government where citizens of various political persuasions work together to pass budgets and vote to make community services work.   Roads get built.  Police departments and jails do their work.  Schools are open.  Toilets flush.  Not so at the federal level.   There, gridlock is common.

Lugar.  Primary loss.
Don't Cooperate, or else.  Stonewall, or else.    There is a new normal at the federal level, which is now affecting directly the presidential race, a duty to obstruct.  Bi-partisan cooperators and compromisers are called sell-outs.  They face primary opposition.  It is not an idle threat.   Number two House Republican Eric Canter was "primaried" and lost to an unknown challenger.    Veteran Senators Richard Lugar of Indiana lost a primary election and Senator Bob Bennett of Utah lost a primary caucus.  Both had cooperated with Democrats to pass legislation.

The idea is that the other party and its candidates are so very intolerable, so impossibly beyond acceptance, that there is a duty to obstruct rather than a duty to find common ground.  De-legitimization of the opposition has been a tactic of the Gingrich revolution of 1994, where he coached a body of candidates to a very successful election.  His plan worked.  They won big.   He advised to change the language of politics.  One's opponent is not "misguided", he is "corrupt"; not "incorrect", but "disgusting"; not "wrong" but "treasonous."   The new language fit the rise of talk radio and it caught a public mood and then amplified it.


Click here to see the original document

The current election sees the full flowering of the tactic.   Trump calls out "losers" and "liars" and "utterly corrupt" Hillary.   Hillary says Trump is completely "unfit" and "unhinged."

Having defined the opposition as beyond acceptability there is less opportunity for the compromises necessary to find governing majorities.    Republican House members now refuse to pass budgets to allow the government to operate if they do not get their way.   Republicans have a 247 to 188 majority over the Democrats,  but the "Freedom Caucus" of about 50 Tea Party members serve as a veto block within the Republican majority, keeping them from the 218 needed for a majority.  It caused headaches and early retirement for Speaker John Boehner, and now headaches for Paul Ryan.  He is a Speaker without a governing majority.   

When the death of Justice Scalia created a vacancy on the Supreme Court Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that no nominee of Obama would be considered in these last ten months of his term, since the new president should have the right to appoint.  The election would give voters a choice.   

This week Senator McCain voiced a new standard: "We will be united against any nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up.  I promise you."    He later walked back the statement, saying he would at least consider nominees.

Senator Ted Cruz doubled down saying he and the GOP Senate should allow no nominees from a President Clinton to be approved, not in 4 years, not in 8 years.  This is the extreme form of the policy that is in place now, and there is no apparent political price to pay for it.   Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa is the GOP Chair of the Judiciary Committee and he has stonewalled the nomination of Merrick Garland and he is coasting to re-election.


Click Here: Obstruct. Don't Compromise.
Simultaneously with Cruz's suggestion a thought piece emerged in The Federalist, reprinted by the Cato Institute, providing an ethical basis for switching from saying that the new president should nominate into saying that the new president can never nominate.    Ilya Shapiro notes that the advice and consent power of the Senate is absolute and they are fully entitled to allow the Third Branch of government to die out by refusing to fill vacancies, and they should do exactly that if they believe any nominee of a Democratic president would harm the Republic.  They have a duty to obstruct.

The political calculus for compromise has changed.  It is more dangerous politically to be perceived as a political deal maker than it is a political obstructionist.  Sanders and Trump say that political dealmaking is corrupt and the language of the presidential race from both sides is that the opposition is an existential threat to the nation. Compromise is worse than weak; it is aiding and abetting the enemy.    

My podcast co-host, Thad Guyer, made a related point in the current podcast.   I interpret what he said to be that vigorous non-violent opposition to the legitimacy of an election result is a right and a perfectly reasonable course of action and an election loser need not quietly consent.  His work with the Voting Rights Law and the ACLU made him skeptical of the integrity of elections, he said in the podcast.   An election may have been rigged, the constituency gerrymandered, the voting rolls tampered with, the media biased, and the results therefore are not necessarily legitimate.   "Nobody should be pledging loyalty in advance to the outcome of an election. . . . Unconditional loyalty to election integrity would undermine the resiliency of our body politic."  He said ones duty is to "undermine to the maximum extent" the governing mandate of a opponent.   Knuckling under to an apparent election defeat is for saps.   History has not been kind to Al Gore, he noted.  (Don't trust my interpretation.   Listen for yourself in the podcast, starting at 40:20:    https://soundcloud.com/stream

The current state of the 2016 election is not simply an artifact of Trump's personality and the media environment.  Each party is re-organizing itself and the coalitions are changing.  Intra-party heresy is more dangerous politically than is opposition from the other party, and each party is trying to purify itself, so the language to stamp out wrong-thinking is harsh.  The GOP is divided between its establishment wing and its Trump wing.  The Sanders people are already warning Hillary Clinton who she had better not appoint to be Treasury Secretary.  Being attacked from within can be fatal.   Being attacked by the hated opposition party is politically safer   Indeed, opposition from the other party proves ones own bone-fides.  But the language is harsh

One result is an ugly campaign arguing over whether voters will allow the opponent to completely destroy the nation if elected.  Another is "take no prisoners" policies, which are becoming normalized.   Obstruction is integrity.  Cooperation is disloyalty.

Expect gridlock if Hillary is elected.  The people who put us into gridlock will not feel cynical or hypocritical.  They will do it certain they are saving the Republic.


                                                  #   #   #


Here is this week's podcast on the Presidential Election.   Thad Guyer and I discuss the poll data and whether or not Trump is self destructing. (I think he is, but maybe not enough.)  I assert that he is stepping all over his message.  Thad has strong views on the USC/LA Times poll, which show Trump ahead.   Yes, ahead.   I get angry about Trump's Gettysburg Address. Thad makes the observation that there are some good things to come out of this long, long campaign. And at the 40 minute mark he discusses the duty to question the legitimacy of rigged elections.     Click Here for the Podcast




Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Dead Heat. Really.

The election is a cliffhanger.  Top GOP officeholders who are abandoning Trump does not mean GOP voters are.


Yes, despite everything Trump has done to disqualify himself, as judged by the media and by the respectable establishment of both parties and by a majority of women and by incumbent politicians in the GOP who need to disassociate themselves from Trump, Trump is doing very well with the people who really count: voters.

Politico Headline:   Reassuring to Hillary supporters
The progressive press is comfort food for the Hate-Trump voter.   You see headlines like "Death Spiral" and "GOP Abandons Trump" and "Polls Collapse."   Hillary supporters start thinking about the transition team and her first 100 days and whether it would be OK to send a message and support Jill Stein.

News saying "Hillary is Ahead!" puts Hillary supporters into a fool's paradise.  The race is very close right now.


Note that I am not saying something bad could happen to Hillary and it becomes close.   I am saying it is close right now, even with all the self destructive things that have hurt Trump which make a news cycle high water mark for Hillary.  If Trump does something really good or Hillary something sort of bad, then Trump will win bigger, not just narrowly.

Here is a more accurate headline, from this morning:
Despite everything, Trump is ahead in Florida

Despite everything stupid and self destructive he has done, he is approximately tied or ahead in enough states to become president.   He is firmly ahead in Ohio and Iowa, as he has been for a long time.


The outlier poll is the ABC recent poll showing Hillary Clinton well ahead.   The USC/LA Times national poll shows Trump ahead by one percent.   The IBD/TIPP poll shows Clinton ahead by one percent.   The USC/LA Times poll, whose re-sampling of the same 3000 people methodology, was superior in 2012 to the repeated random sampling system used by most other polls.   The IBD poll uses random sampling.   Call it a toss up, nationally.

Here is the poll results where it really counts, the battleground states:  


Battleground States: Trump is close in enough
There is an anomaly about this Trump/Clinton election:  unusually large numbers of undecided voters late in the calendar.  Voters aren't just now learning about the candidates; Hillary and Trump are the most familiar people in American history.   Voters know them.  They just cannot decide which one they like better: supposedly crooked Hillary or supposedly crazy Trump.  

This strange undecided factor shows up in states critical to the electoral vote:  always-close Florida, traditional manufacturing states (i.e. rustbelt) Ohio and New Hampshire, near-lily-white Iowa, and Nevada where Trump casinos are a household word.   Trump isn't 5 to 6 percent behind in polls in those critical states.   He is nearly even.

Trump could win, and might win even with the public mood almost exactly where tit is now.   If there are a couple of days confusion and dismay over Obama-care insurance costs and a few people decide to take the mystery-box-Trump rather than same-ol' Hillary then the national polls could move one or two percent which would give Trump enough battleground electoral votes to win and win big.

The discomfort prominent Republicans have with Trump leads one to a faulty conclusion, that there is great dissension among Republican voters.  Elected Republicans are forced to stand in public and accept or reject Trump mocking the disabled or saying he grabs pussies.  This is indefensible--in public.  So they bail on Trump.   Voters don't have to stand up in public and defend Trump.  They just quietly vote.  Trump is more acceptable to voters than he is with respectable Republican elected officials.   

Hillary supporters should not be fooled by headlines of "GOP Chaos".   There is in fact chaos at the top, but it doesn't matter at the ballot box.

Note:   Yes, this is TWO posts for today.  One on the presidential polls and just before this, one on the Alan DeBoer/Tonia Moro state senate race.

More on the Tonia Moro/Alan DeBoer race

I have posted a corrected link to the TV Advertisement that I referenced yesterday.   


For some reason the old link stopped working:   Here is a correct link:  Click Here Now   The ad attempts to portray DeBoer as a danger to Southern Oregon livability based on apparent close association with "developers" who want to destroy it. 

From the Moro ad.   
  
The ad has continued to cause problems for Tonia, including today a op-ed column from Senator Alan Bates' own widow condemning the ad and praising Moro's Republican opponent.  This is causing another round of discussion and dismay among Democrats.

How could Moro do something so self-destructive?  She is intelligent, politically experienced, an attorney who presumably knows well the give and take of argument and how not to make one that would backfire.   DeBoer objected to the ad but the real damage to Moro has come from the press, from Bates' widow, and from the dismay of fellow Democrats.

Partisan traditions pull candidates into traps.

Democrats in southern Oregon have traditionally been the "environment" party.  Republicans locally have generally taken the opposite view, mirroring the national parties.   Nationally Republicans mock CO2 and climate change as a problem, they praise "clean coal", audiences rise in support when Trump and other Republican candidates say they will abolish the EPA.  Nationally they dismiss efforts for auto fuel standards, concerns about fracking and water, concerns about oil pipelines and its externalities, requirements for transit systems and bicycle lanes.   Generally, at the national level, Republicans position the environment as an expensive amenity versus the realistic and immediate value of jobs and business.

Locally,  Republicans had objected to clean air standards because it would be expensive for lumber mills to install scrubbers, objected to auto maintenance standards because they would cost consumers to repair their cars, objected to zoning restrictions because it would restrict the subdivision of rural lands, objected to designation of federal lands for uses other than timber harvest, because it would cost logging jobs.  I know this vividly from personal experience.  I was an elected County Commissioner here in Southern Oregon in the 1980s.  Republicans candidates did not say they wanted dirty air or dirty water or over-harvest of federal timber.   They simply said that every mechanism for dealing with the issues (scrubbers on mill waste, bans on burning fields or slash, limits on timber harvest) were job- killing left-wing extremism, therefore opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and Republican candidates. 

Generally local Republicans have grown more mellow on these issues.  The biggest engine for jobs and growth are prosperous retirees and technology based companies who would not come to a place with polluted air or a degraded environment.   Southern Oregon livability is our main selling point for jobs.    Therefore, a generic Democrat describing a generic Republican for being "anti-environment" has a familiar and traditional feel, particularly in the shadow of the presidential race. It fits a comfortable partisan narrative.  But it is no longer particularly relevant and it appears misplaced in the current instance of DeBoer. 

It is possible that Moro could have found some basis for shoehorning DeBoer into that model, but the instances in the ad were poorly chosen and therefore require the ad to rely on vague implication of association, not actual wrongdoing,.  But she went ahead with the ad positioning herself as the safeguard of livability and her Republican opponent as its despoiler, motivated by greed.   

The ad blew up on Moro almost immediately. 

DeBoer response
Partisan narratives are important to assure ones supporters that one knows and respects the symbols of ones party.   DeBoer mumbled something on abortion.  Whatever it was didn't get him in trouble with Republicans.   He was apparently anti-abortion enough.   Moro got the Planned Parenthood endorsement which is probably all DeBoer needed to protect himself on his abortion flank.

 He condemned "out-of-control spending", as if there is anyone who actually supports "out-of-control spending", but it sends a signal to Republicans that he cares about spending and therefore taxes.   He responded to Moro's ad with a plea, not a sledgehammer: From His Campaign Website.

I can imagine candidates who might match up well against DeBoer.   A young Democratic attorney--either gender but better if female-- who positioned herself as an energetic example of a better future versus a 65 year old rich white male Republican.   Such a matchup might be summarized as  the future versus the old guy who had his turn and should get out of the way.   The attorney might position herself as the person who buys cars from a dealership versus the person who owns dealerships (and aren't people suspicious of car dealers generally?) saying that she understands what it is to make payments and that she is a far more appropriate representative because she is just like fellow voters: struggling.     It might work as campaign framing.

Or, alternatively, a Democratic candidate of any age who attempted to nationalize the election.   Become more partisan.  Say this is a struggle between Democrats and Trump.   Highlight the least defensible of Trump's statements and say that DeBoer is a Republican, therefore tied to Trump.  Attempt to force DeBoer either to defend Trump or overtly and clearly condemn him.  This puts Republican candidates in a tricky spot because a great many Republican voters thoroughly like Trump and DeBoer might lose credibility as a real Republican if he condemned him.  Hope to confuse and split up Republicans.   Would this work?   It might.   

What does not seem to work is attempting to show DeBoer to be a needy politician who is a puppet of land developers despoiling southern Oregon.

Note:   Coming soon, a blog post on the presidential polls.   Warning to Hillary supporters.  The race is very, very close.  Hillary is behind in Florida and Iowa and Ohio.   Even with all the self destructive things Trump has done.   More later.

                                                  #   #   #


Wait!   There is more:  a podcast on the Presidential Election.   Thad Guyer and I discuss the poll data and whether or not Trump is self destructing. (I think he is, but maybe not enough.)  I assert that he is stepping all over his message.  Thad has strong views on the USC/LA Times poll, which show Trump ahead.   Yes, ahead.   I get angry about Trump's Gettysburg Address. Thad makes the observation that there are some good things to come out of this long, long campaign.      Click Here for the Podcast










Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Learning from a Local Issue : Alan DeBoer versus Tonia Moro

A closer look at a State Senate campaign in southern Oregon.  Upstate money to burn.   A lesson on fouling your own reputation.


Local governments work in part because citizens, both Democrats and Republicans who fit a profile of civic minded concerned citizens willing to get things done, participate for little or no pay out of a sense of civic pride and a personal desire to provide leadership.  

There is an disconnect that shows up in Republican politics.  I observed publicly active Republicans who would cheer a presidential candidate who says that regulations are bad and that government is the problem with America.   But the next evening he or she sit might sit in a long boring City Council meeting and review and pass a city budget and after hearings agree to a city regulation to ban use of leaf blowers or lawn mowers after ten p.m. 

The Republican ideology of government as ham-handed tyrant applies to the federal government.  Many Republicans lead the government at the local level and work well with Democrats to do so.


From one of her TV ads: hard worker 
The Southern Oregon campaign for State Senator.   The sudden death of State Senator Alan Bates, a Democrat, caused a vacancy and a sudden need for an election to fill it.   The active Democratic Party participants picked Tonia Moro, an attorney, as their candidate.  She has been active in Party work and was a natural pick.  She has a political profile that the Sanders-oriented activists liked.  She has been generous with her time and energy on civic improvements of the sort Democrats like: a bus system and libraries.

Her opponent, chosen without observable opposition, was Republican Alan DeBoer, a long time civic minded car dealer, active in helping the local historical society, the YMCA, and a leader in the liberal college town of Ashland as a member of the School Board and on the City Council, then Mayor.  


DeBoer at a nonprofit fundraising event
He fits the profile perfectly for the civic minded Republican I referenced as the kind of person who makes local government work.  So, too, does Tonia Moro the civic minded Democrat.

Their contest is confounded by the fact that Alan DeBoer has the resume of a Democrat--pro-public-service in the region's most liberal city.  The two candidates generally support the same kinds of things: good schools, transit systems, libraries.  They disagree on ballot measure, measure 97, a 2.5% tax on sales by publicly owned corporations.  

In a September post I explain the tax in detail:
 Click Here for the blog post on Measure 97

The contest is also confounded by the fact that the two state parties care deeply about the partisan affiliation of the seat.  Each party is sending money to try to win the open seat.  So there are hundreds of thousands of dollars available for advertising--far beyond the amounts that could be raised locally, especially for the Democrat.   DeBoer's campaign had raised over $400,000 as of a week ago and Moro's nearly as much.

So many resources, so many opportunities to go for the kill.

Tonia Moro launched a negative ad on TV.  I have personally seen it about 6 times in the past week on TV news shows, so I assume it is a big ad buy.   Here it is: 
 Corrected Link to see the ad

How the ad begins: Table Rock and to the right, my farm.

By the low standards of presidential ads this ad is not all that ugly. But the ad takes place in a context.   Alan DeBoer does not present like a Tea Party talk radio nihilist; quite the opposite.   He presents like the bi-partisan cooperator similar was the tone the late Senator Bates projected.  (As does Moro.)   It characterized DeBoer in a way that does not particularly fit his public reputation as a civic do-gooder and philanthropist.  It shows him to be a self-interested abuser of the public trust, under the influence of his campaign contributors.   DeBoer has independent wealth.  The charge seems misplaced.  The direction of the ad seems more to address a typecast stock villain rather than DeBoer's actual political vulnerabilities.  It would be easier to characterize him as yet another rich white male Republican seeking office, a man whose situation makes him hopelessly out of touch with the problems of struggling workers.  After all, a man who can give away thousands of dollars to charities is unlike most people.  How can he represent us if he isn't really one of us?   That argument might or might not work, but it would have the solid grounding of being based on the reality of his background and current situation.  Instead, the ad attempts to show him to be self-interested--an implausible case to make given his public life.

The ad has drawn attention because a negative ad of this kind was avoided by Senator Bates in his own previous campaigns and Moro presents herself as his successor.   Bates' opponents in 3 previous campaign had run very negative campaigns against him, campaigns that in each case backfired on Bates' opponent because they appeared so personal and excessive.  Bates' Republican opponents claimed in the aftermath that the ads were on their behalf, yes, but were actually prepared by the upstate Republican caucus, not them, and they tried to disassociate themselves from them.   The local newspaper said that one of his opponents' campaign carried "sleaze" and it "sullied the reputation" of both the target and the supposed beneficiary, concluding the campaign was "beneath contempt".   Click here for perhaps the strongest local editorial I have ever encountered:   A tough editorial

Moro's ad stepped into this context and is getting instant criticism, partly because it is negative but more because the ad attempts to conflate two actions DeBoer took as mayor with destruction of southern Oregon livability, the ad starting with an iconic view of the locality, the Rogue River coming upon the Table Rocks.  Moro's ad does not actually criticize either mayoral decision on its merits--a downtown multiuse building with affordable housing and a plan to use warm phosphate rich wastewater for irrigation rather than build a $30 million treatment facility.  The ad associates those actions, however, with getting campaign contributions from "developers", with an implication of there being a sleazy connection and an implication that developments under consideration had some relationship to the natural beauty of the Rogue River and Table Rock, 25 miles away from Ashland.   

The ad is generating negative comments from Democrats, including ones who attended a fundraiser at my home on behalf of Tonia.  The ad disclaimer does not reference an upstate Democratic caucus source.   The ad is directly from the Moro campaign.  

(Full disclosure:   I attempt for this blog to be objective rather than partisan, but it is true that I usually vote for Democrats, as well as in favor of tax levies for schools, libraries, and transit districts.  I held a fundraising event for Tonia Moro at my home in September.  I also donated $2,500 to her campaign.  Therefore, some fraction of the money that pays for this ad comes from me.)

The history of campaigns in this state senate district is for candidates to have access to so much money that it gets them in trouble.  The temptation is to make something out of nothing, and to run as an advertisement something they would not personally stand on the courthouse steps and say in their own voices.  TV ads appear to have distance and anonymity, so they allow candidates make put things side by side in an tv ad--creating a mood and message--that they would not choose to defend as a point by point argument they take full ownership of and stand behind.   Such ads can backfire.   

In 2006, 2010, and 2014 the repetitional damage was done to the Republican attacker.   This time the damage is to Moro.   The local newspaper endorsed her opponent and voiced something being said by many others to me, that her ad is misleading and her decision to go negative with such an ad is "dismaying."  From the Mail Tribune newspaper:  DeBoer Endorsement Editorial

The story is not over yet, nor is the election.  Alan DeBoer has money to spend and he has allies with money.

                                                   #     #     #




Wait!   There is more:  a podcast on the Presidential Election.   Thad Guyer and I discuss the poll data  and whether or not Trump is self destructing. (I think he is.)  I assert that he is stepping all over his message.  Thad has strong views on the USC/LA Times poll, which show Trump ahead.   Yes, ahead.   I get angry about Trump's Gettysburg Address. Thad makes the observation that there are some good things to come out of this long, long campaign.      Click Here for the Podcast