Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Diversion! Trump executes on a system.

Same old, same old.  The Trump formula.   Amidst the chaos he creates, Trump's certitude is an anchor point for a confused public.

Bomber sends out diversionary flares.

Trump is throwing up a flurry of diversions.  He does it because it works.  

There is a lesson here for people willing to learn from experience.  Donald Trump has a formula, and he is executing on it.    

The formula:

   1. Deny critic with indignation, and assert correctness.
   2. Identify some reason to doubt the critic.
   3. Accuse the media as an unreliable source of information about him.
   4. Pivot to strong accusations of someone else, which becomes the new subject.
   5. Say it is a matter of opinion and people are right to take his side.
   6. Re-assert original position that he is correct.

The "meltdown" is strategy and craft.
Trump is doing this aggressively and effectively.  Diversionary flares are shooting up everywhere.  The net result is a confusing mess of accusations and a public that essentially doubts everyone and everything.  Who can understand all the charges and countercharges?  The FBI is put into the same category of credibility as White House talking points. 

White House spokespeople have a strategy and they stick to it.  Whatever the question, the answer is Hillary, Benghazi, the DNC, the private email server.   News hosts attempt to make careful distinctions and get Trump spokespeople to answer questions, but questions get lost among the accusations and diversions.  What about the Clinton Foundation?  What about George Soros?  What about Benghazi?

It is a confusing mess, and readers and viewers look for someone who seems to have a clear, simple answer to what it all means.

There is one: Trump stands unapologetic.  

This result is not an accident.  It is a plan, executed perfectly, the Trump formula at work, doubt created, credible sources questioned.

At this moment conservative talk radio, Fox News, Breitbart, the White House, and Trump personally via tweet and interviews are all sending out messages of distraction.  A quick list includes: 

   1. Dossier is actually from Clinton.
   2. Democrats spent $12 million creating the dossier.
White hot flares.
   3. Uranium to Russia.
   4. Former FBI Director Comey is corrupt ally of Clinton.
   5. 33,000 Clinton emails.
   6. Corrupt "fake news" media refuses to look at Clinton.
   7. Democrats are perpetrating a hoax, a "witch hunt."
   8. Conspiracy underway by Democrats and media to ignore the tax cut proposal.
   9. What about Benghazi?
   10. Susan Rice said the Benghazi riots were due to a video.
   11. Tony Podesta, brother of John Pedesta, is involved in some way with Mueller probe.
   12. Mueller is corrupted by Democrats.
20 Flares
   13. People on Mueller's team have donated money to Democratic campaigns.
   14. The House of Representatives will open hearings on Democrats.
   15. The Clinton Foundation got money from Russians.
   16. Papadopoulos is a nobody, and he is a liar.
   17. There were leaks of the pending indictments.  Investigate the leaks.
   18. George Soros is behind all this.
   19. Fox News got a legal threat from Tony Podesta complaining about Fox News.
   20. Democrats attempting to steal election from Trump.

People want answers and direction.  I watched this--and participated in it-- for thirty years as a Financial Advisor.  Amidst a flurry of conflicting and uncertain information investors want some direction, and a clear basis and foundation for the direction.  Amid confusing markets and tax laws and personal lives, people want a credible answer.

Trump provides that clarity and direction in the world of politics.  It would be a mistake to think that Trump's goal is confusion and uncertainty.  It is the opposite.  The confusing messes he creates are the preparation stage, so people are open and eager for some clarity, some anchor points of reality.   Trump has delegitimized the news media and academics and veteran hands as the sources of clear, digestible reality.  Trump says they are fake while he is real.

Look again at the Trump formula and note that it resolves itself in certitude.  Trump has the answer.  He creates doubt and chaos.  He delegitimizes alternative answers.  Amidst the chaos, we want answers.  Trump is there to provide them.  Clear, simple, and very certain of himself.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Sexual Harassment Epidemic.

When the rules change, history crawls back to bite you.  The question is, who is getting bitten? 

Democrats and the progressive left have been having a good run, pointing out sexual harassment abuses.  

It feels right, but it may be backfiring.

America has rediscovered sexual harassment with the revelations of Harvey Weinstein's behavior.  "Casting couch seduction" is a familiar cliche, basis of jokes, and even a genre of pornography.  Apparently Weinstein made the cliche a practice.

Women have risen up.  Sexual harassment in the workplace is both wrong and pervasive.  There is a round of accusations in newsrooms, in offices everywhere, in government.  Prominent men are accused, shamed, and fired.

A State Senator in Oregon was stripped of his committee assignments last week.  Today an Oregon House member got publicly shamed.

It appears to be a victory for new rules.  

Click Here for the story
A news story in the Oregonian newspape describes Oregon House member David Gomberg being accused of "inappropriate" behavior, the response to it by the House leadership, and Gomberg's own response: immediate submission.

The circumstances were that two people brought complaints to House Speaker Tina Kotek saying involving some unrevealed incidents of several years prior of "inappropriate humor or inappropriate touching" and "invasion of personal space."   Kotek said the actual incidents needed to be kept confidential at the request of the complainants and that "legal advisors did not believe the behavior rose to the level of formal workplace harassment, we nonetheless took these incidents very seriously."

The article said Gomberg met with Kotek and took "serious and immediate steps to adjust my behavior," and would get counseling.   "I want to say to anyone in the Capitol community that I may have offended or made the least bit uncomfortable that I am fully and sincerely sorry."

The House speaker considered the matter completed for now:  The article reported "Kotek said her goal has always been to resolve problems 'to the satisfaction of the person who's brought the complaint' and said she believes her office has done that.

Apologies.  Shame.  Ask forgiveness.
Meanwhile, a prominent local Democratic activist did an online confession on Facebook, which engendered an outpouring of positive responses.

The Facebook confession and apology makes sense in this wave of heightened awareness and consciousness.  He has been re-educated and is remorseful.  It is clearly heartfelt.

This Facebook post may be the front edge of a larger wave of good, serious discussion of an uncomfortable past.  Our consciousnesses have been raised, and for the better.  Right?

The Democratic and progressive left is using shaming as a tool.  Public identification of moral error--shaming--is a powerful weapon.  The left feels confident. Justice is justice.  Right is right.

I hear alarm bells.  

Donald Trump was caught red handed abusing women in a predatory and vulgar manner, yet won a majority of the vote of white women. White women had a candidate who expressed and embodied the interests and values of modern feminists on reproductive issues, on job equity issues, on child care and health care equity, but they voted for Donald Trump.   

It seems strange.  Something unintuitive must be going on.  Maybe the shaming isn't working.

An on-going theme of his campaigns and rallies was "political correctness." He did not walk on eggshells, carefully avoiding making offense and discomfort.  He took the opposite tack from that contrite Oregon House member. He represented rejection of contrition.  He represented freedom from eggshell walking.  Mexicans?  A bunch of criminals.  Muslims?  A bunch of terrorists.  Women accusers?  A bunch of liars.  

Still for sale at full price.
Trump counterpunches.  He does not apologize or submit to the shaming.  He does not express remorse for making others "the least bit uncomfortable."  He denies.  He accuses his accusers of bad motives and hypocrisy.  

His electoral reward was victory.  

Trump understood something about the electorate that Democrats may be underestimating:  most people do not like being shamedA great many voters felt shamed by the progressive left for having feelings that have become forbidden, including feelings of racial resentment, feelings of discomfort and fear of Muslims, feelings of confusion over the changing landscape of acceptable conduct.  They were deplorable.

The fact that there may in actual fact be racism and prejudice doesn't make things better.  It makes things worse.  Feelings of guilt makes the accusation sting all the worse.  The human response is to deny, minimize, or divert to accusations of the accuser.  Hillary Clinton represented the mean schoolmarm, the scold, the accuser. The accused were delighted to think she was crooked, because it diverts the guilt.  People under suspicion included nearly everyone:  white people, males, heterosexuals, even Democrats of high consciousness.

In this context Trump was not defined as a grievous sinner and offender. Trump was their rescuer.

Most people don't like having their inner thoughts, behaviors judged harshly. They were told they were bad and they didn't like it.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Germs! Aliens!

Donald Trump is open about it.  He is a germaphobe.

Donald Trump laid down his position on immigrants on the first day of his campaign.  Immigrants are dangerous.  The opposition to immigrants by many Americans goes deeper than a transient political idea. 

It rests on a moral belief in the value of keeping America pure.

"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

Donald Trump doesn't like to shake hands.  A decade ago I saw him on television being interviewed as he flirted with a newsperson about running for president.  He admitted that one impediment for him was that he hated to shake hands with people.  Donald Trump cited it when he said that the dossier of his supposed kinky sex in Moscow was ludicrous.  Let prostitutes pee on him?  No way.  I am a germaphobe, he said.

This blog has described the insights of psychologist Jonathan Haidt who notes that liberals and conservatives fail to understand each other because conservatives operate with five bedrock moral principles and liberals operate with only two of the five. Liberals and conservatives all share the moral value of Fairness and Not Harming.  We all recognize and dislike cheating and cruelty when we see it.  

Conservatives have the additional values of Group Integrity, Respect for Authority, and Sacredness-Purity--values that are less relevant to liberals.  The two political parties line up to reflect this:  More secular Democrats, churchgoing Republicans; police sceptic Democrats, Republicans supporting the police and military; multicultural inclusion Democrats, anti-immigrant Republicans.  

Donald Trump and Fox News make a point about the value of saying "Merry Christmas" as opposed to a more inclusive greeting, like "Happy Holidays."  I hear liberals say this is silly talk over nothing.  It may be nothing to them, but Trump and Fox make a point of it because it is meaningful to their audiences. It is symbolic of group unity and singularity of Christianity.  "WE are the normal people. OUR religion is primary. We don't share the season.  It is OUR season. We don't want to include Jews, Muslims, non-believers."   Fox called it a "War on Christmas", their characterization of inclusion of more people into their group identity than desired.  

That notion of immigrants as dangerous invader germs, underhandedly bringing infection, is a longstanding part of America's opposition to immigrants.  Earlier in this century it was fear of Catholics, as shown in this cartoon by Thomas Nash.  Stalwart white people ashore confronting reptilian invaders wearing papal hats.

Foreign invaders, papal menace.

This blog received a letter from a self-identified evangelical Christian, which reflected the same psychology.  He cited an article from a professor at liberal Reed College in Portland who complained that the open tolerance of the college enabled intolerant and closed-minded protests.  The book-burners were the politically correct liberals.   He wrote:

"Those supporting free speech are timidly surrendering their free speech to those silencing contrary views, thereby tolerantly losing their own free speech.  This parallels welcoming alien cultures who have no intention of assimilation, but rather exploitation until domination, then eradication of the tolerant host culture.  Other than Trump, which leasers forcefully decry intolerance vanquishing tolerance--Antifa or devout Islam or other anti-intellectual thuggery?"
There is a lesson here for progressive and culturally liberal readers.

The notion of inclusion and welcome confronts a deep seated resistance. that is both psychological and moral.  Outsiders challenge the integrity of the group.  Assimilation matters.  ("And some, I assume, are good people," Trump said about Mexicans.)  But the initial premise is that they are dangerous at best. They are outsiders and bring infections.  The reptiles in the cartoon were vile and corrupting.  The letter from the Christian called them dangerous, perhaps fatally so.  The "alien cultures" in the letter intend "exploitation", "domination", and "eradication."  At stake is the integrity and health of American body politic.

We do not intentionally eat germs.  We exclude them.  We wash them off.  We douse our hands with Purell.   

It is more than "just politics."  It is deep psychology and morality.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

America is in trouble. We lack a shared truth.

We are experiencing what the Constitution authors most feared: Democracy.

The Democracy comes in the form of everyone getting his or her own news.  

Click Here
This blog received an interesting e-mail from one of its readers, curious about the post regarding Facebook shaming of a candidate for Portland City Council.  (The post had reported that Facebook commenters piled on, one after another, in objection to him, noting as their sole objection that he was a white male.  The blog wrote that race-based delegitimization was a form of openly acknowledged "reverse-discrimination" and that it engendered white backlash, and was dangerous policy and politics.)

The email said he could not find, via Google, any mention of the controversy.   "Is this just a social media phenomenon?"

Social media is media.
That sentence would have made perfect sense in the recent past, but no longer.
Social media phenomena are not "just" anything.   Social media is media.  Social media is news.  Social media is the truth and reality for a great many people.  It shapes how one thinks of the broader media.  The dustup finally did make its way to the "real" media, a story in Willamette Week, but in reality the reach of Facebook can dwarf the reach of a print newspaper.  Willamette Week's story did not make it legitimate news.  The story was covered by Willamette Week because the Facebook dustup was newsworthy.

Social media is how an increasing number of people get their news. Donald Trump claims 110 million followers on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms. The number is closer to 93 million.  But still, 93 million.  He is vivid, interesting, outrageous, newsworthy, persuasive to many, and he shapes the news day after day.

Facebook is the single most important source of news for young voters.  People get their own news feeds, which they create on their own.   

Russian hackers and trolls did not need to buy ads on television to shape American thinking.  They created stories which Americans read and spread voluntarily among their family, friends, and groups of like minded people.  Americans need not fear Russians.  They are no worse or different from ones neighbors or Facebook Friends.  News you can use.  News that seems oddly tailored to your thinking, because it is in fact tailored to your thinking.

News has been democratized.  Democracy is not mediated by curation or expertise or experience other than ones own.  As this blog has learned from experience by posting links to this blog in Facebook groups, the groups seek affirmation and confirmation of their thinking. 

The power of social media may have been an unexpected accident of new technologies.  It took place in a unique media and business environment, Fox News and talk radio learning that there is a big business opportunity in serving the large niche of openly conservative, populist thinking.  Added to that is Trump's own experience and skill in the tabloid news culture of New York.  Americans are drawn to smackdown news.  They say they don't like it or believe it, but they watch it and they are, in fact, influenced by it.  And they circulate it to their Friends and Followers.

Donald Trump has very successfully defined the established and curated news media as partisan liars, purveyors of fake news, news that is less credible than the news one gets from the trusted sources of family, friends, and Fox News.  This fits the business model of Fox very nicely, providing them a big niche in a fractured market: Fox versus everyone else.  It suits Trump.  Who do you believe, Trump or the NY Times?  Trump gets his share of believers.

Trump is addressing some of the biggest possible issues in America:  who are Americans?  Will we be at war or peace?  How do we handle taxes, immigration, health care, wealth distribution, addictions, policing?  There is no shared institution in America that retains widespread credibility--except that historically most dangerous one, the military.  The established credible sources have been discredited and are ignored, so Facebook and Twitter and Instagram are as real, or more real, than they.

Trump is winning this war
America has democratized its media.  We create our own Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.  The tendency of self-created media is toward confirmation bias.  Unmediated group thinking leads toward intemperance.  In a crisis, democracies have sought a strong unifying leader, presenting himself as the person exemplifying and expressing the general will of the people.

The Constitution expected the solution to democracy's fragility was a republican form of government.  We choose leaders and the ambition of those leaders blocks and moderates the ambition of others.  There was an assumption built into this, that multiple leaders have credibility in the form of a shared reality, and Enlightenment idea that the truth was discoverable.

Democratized media means that Enlightenment idea is forgotten.  We are in an age of Faith, and everyone gets to create his or her own.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Criminalizing Politics

Politics has become criminalized.  Politicians are doing it to one another. 

It is a dangerous development.

It has created two risks, prison and bankruptcy.   Politicians don't just lose and go home.  They stand risk of being subject to investigations and criminal trial.  

There is a trial going on for Senator Menendez of New Jersey.  He had a rich and generous campaign donor and friend, one who comped Menendez to flights in his private jet and to three nights in a hotel room.  The allegation is that Menendez then lobbied on his behalf, illegal quid pro quo.  The case is similar to the one that snared Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, who got gifts from a donor and then, as Governor, promoted the donor's business.   McDonnell argued that promoting Virginia businesses is what governors do; prosecutors said it was tit-for-tat bribery.  There is a kind of happy ending for McDonnell.  The Supreme Court vacated the conviction   He is free again, although the process cost him his office, his wife, his money, and for a while his freedom.  A high price.

Crowds cheer this
The criminalization of politics is popular.  Trump dishes it out.  Democrats like dishing it back.  It motivates voters. 

Trump leads crowds into chanting "Lock Her Up", referring to Hillary Clinton.  To be precise, Trump does not himself start or participate in the chant.  He tells the crowd that corrupt Crooked-Hillary would, were she elected president, ignore the 2nd Amendment and confiscate all their guns.  That is the cue. The crowd, not Trump, starts the chant.   Trump beams as the chant goes on a while, then says to take it up with his Attorney General.   "Lock her up" tee shirts were available for purchase at Trump's campaign rallies.

Meanwhile, Democrats love the investigation of Trump and potential collusion between his campaign and Russian hackers.  Apparently all the White House aides, assistants, special deputies, indeed everyone who has talked with anyone about anything has needed to secure a lawyer.  It was just like this back in 1998 curing the Starr investigation of Bill Clinton.  What did you hear from anybody about Bill Clinton's sex life?   

That is me on the right.  Age 29

A personal perspective on all this.

Forty years ago, in the late 1970s, I was in my first steps in a political career.  I was aware that it was a tough environment.  The nation had gone through Watergate.   A Jackson County Commissioner was recalled by the voters, under fire for the political crime of doing exactly what state law required of her.  I was an aspirant for her vacancy, and eventually won the position.

I knew politics was tough, but I did not consider it criminal.  I experienced the risks of being caught up in lawsuits.  I had been an aide to a congressman back when that photo was taken.  I got a telephone call at my home, I answered, then the caller hung up.  Ten minutes later my doorbell rang.  A man handed me an envelope and said, "Peter, you are served."   The three page document inside the envelope was suing me for $200 million dollars.  What?!  At the time I was earning about $1,500 a month.

I was one of several hundred people named in the lawsuit.  The paperwork claimed President Carter, Vice President Mondale, the entire cabinet, some dozen Interior Department officials,  a few dozen congressmen and senators by name, John Does number 1 through 100, and me, a local aide to a congressman, had all apparently been involved for a decade in a giant conspiracy to deny him the ability to mine gold on the Illinois River.  I knew nothing about anything.  I had a short time to respond, or else default, the paperwork said.  I was the only person who was actually served the lawsuit, so I was the only one who needed to locate an attorney and deal with the mess.  It eventually got dismissed.  It cost me two week's income.  I got reimbursed eventually! 

My sense from back then was that any part of government that I saw for myself was squeaky clean.  At no point during my term as County Commissioner, did anyone take me to lunch, much less offer me a gift, and this was during the time we rezoned the entire country, with zoning decisions that had multimillion dollar implications to landowners when we drew lines for industrial zone (valuable) vs. woodland resource (nearly worthless), or inside an Urban Growth Boundary (valuable) vs. outside it (less valuable).  No one lobbied me.

Normalizing perpetual investigations
I left office thinking that the consequence of losing an election was that a person went off and did something else, not that ones opponents, or unfriendly prosecutors, looked for ways to construe your behavior as criminal, or that the consequence of being in politics was potential bankruptcy if someone was motivated to start investigations.  

That was then.  

We have now normalized endless investigations.  Jason Chaffetz warned before the 2016 election that if Hillary won he would run investigations for at least two years and likely more.  It was a credible warning, and it garnered more praise than scorn.  

Punishment by bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy by lawyer may not be the stated goal of an investigation  but it is a powerful weapon for prosecutors and political opponents.  I have watched it happen here in Oregon. Former Governor John Kitzhaber was investigated by federal prosecutors for two years. They found nothing prosecutable.  He needed to participate in the records discovery, with deadlines and severe consequences for mistakes.  The governor's salary in Oregon was $98,600, but his lawyer bills cost him many hundreds of thousands of dollars, paid for personally out of pocket by Kitzhaber.  The new governor having declined his requests for his legal costs to be reimbursed by the state.  He was on his own here.   

The end of the federal investigation does not end it for him.  Now there is a round of state investigations.

Kitzhaber is 70 years old.  He is not too old to start over.  Seventy is the new fifty. There is no quick or easy solution for him; he is not someone likely to get a million dollar advance on a book.  He paid a price, as did the various aides, some of whom will get their legal expenses reimbursed, some not.

What happened?

What happened for them is that they got caught up in a new deeply undemocratic and dangerous idea that is becoming normalized with politicians and with the public they arouse into angry chants.  We have criminalized politics.

Is Oregon a corrupt place?  Is the criminalization of politics well deserved here and a strong incentive for good, clean government?   The Washington Post says just the opposite.  But one consequence of the criminalization of politics is that people who might be willing to serve well and honorably look at the situation and think "no thanks."

Thursday, October 26, 2017

White privilege. Democrats are split.

He was accused of inserting "white manself."   A group on the progressive left delegitimizes a white candidate.  


I observed an example of group unity and race-based disapproval.  It had an interesting twist.  It wasn't southern whites with racial disapproval of a black.  It was white people in the progressive left objecting to a white candidate.

People on Facebook reacted to the announcement that a young man, Spenser Raymond, filed as a candidate for a Portland City Council position.  A firestorm of protest erupted, with every Facebook comment criticizing him for exercising a haughty form of white supremacy, as indicated by his filing for the office.  There are three other candidates in the race, all black women.

How dare he?  The presumption!  

There was no mention of his politics or any other issue beyond his status as a young white male.  Their argument was that he was illegitimate per se, wrong for the job and undoubtably motivated by privilege and racism.  The fact that he was a reporter for a public radio station gave him no liberal credibility.  Indeed, the opposite.  Within this group, public radio was a corporate sellout.   

Examples of the comments:

". . . for those who think it's just white hoods or torches or extremists, THIS is exactly what White Supremacy looks like."

And, "Spencer, or perhaps maybe you do understand how white dominance works, and that's why you're running.  You don't want to dismantle white dominance--you want to double down on it?"

And, "Nah bro.  Stop with your blind privilege."

And, "Bow out, put your resources and privilege behind the three women of color running."

And, "Inserting ones white manself into this very exciting race is so tone deaf it speaks for itself."

And, "The future of Portland isn't another white guy.  Step down away from this campaign."

And, "Do you really want to deal with me at City Council?  Because buddy, we will be relentless.  You career as an anybody will be toast.  In fact, you are hemorrhaging your reputation now.. Your White Privilege is not welcomed here."

There were some twenty more posts like this one.   What is going on?  

Some of this is left identity politics, a position that this blog describes as counter-productive.  In identity politics as practiced here, status (race, gender, religion, etc.) are central, not incidental. 

Some of this is the power of organization and leadership.  Gregory McKelvey, a political activist leading he anti-Trump protests in Portland has led this protest against the City Council candidate.  Leadership matters.  This was a united effort, piling on, accusing the candidate of bad motives and illegitimacy.  

There is not a big cohort that feels this way, but it is an activist cohort and important in Democratic politics.  A Democratic candidate disagrees with this group at his or her peril.  This group is alert for heresy, or what one person accused this blog of being, "very pro-establish-muddy-progressive noise", i.e. not doctrinaire.  The net result is that the wider political audience of white working class people hears this talk, notices that it is not contradicted, and gets the impression that it represents general Democratic thinking.  (Maybe it is general Democratic thinking.  Certainly a great many on the left hope so.)  

Not surprisingly, white people don't like hearing that.  They understand that they are being accused of enjoying white privilege.  Many of them may be, but the 2016 election suggests that many of them in the struggling working and middle class don't believe it.

Click here
This blog wrote about race two days ago:  "Backlash."  The burden of the post was that many on the progressive left had adopted the policy of racial grievance and victory through conflict rather than the policy of racial equality and harmony.  (Malcolm X vs. Martin Luther King.)  The blog said this was a mistake, because it causes backlash of the majority, and it wins states for George Wallace in 1968 and 1972, and for Trump in 2016.

That blog post elicited comments, and they document the persistence of that deep split within the left, one that may not be bridgeable by any candidate.  Some people, white self-identified Bernie Sanders supporters, are deeply dug into their positions, utterly dismissive of white working class grievance or the potential of white political backlash:

"Ridiculous!  Poor spoiled white people, unwilling and unable to see the sharing, at last, of the privilege we enjoy."

And, "I have NO sympathy with whites who think they are discriminated against.  Sorry!"

And, "Oh. . . . poor, poor white people.  They have so much trouble in the world.  How sad they are picked on, beat up and disrespected."

And, "Sometimes you gotta fight. . . .I'm on board with Malcolm X--not giving an inch. . . . If so-called progressives can't handle it, tough."

Donald Trump deals with bad political news by returning to his bedrock fortress: the culture war and racial politics.  He picks a fight with a black athlete or a black woman or he condemns a brown criminal.  It works for him to change the subject to one he thinks he wins.  Many white people will grimace at his tactics but they come away knowing something important: that Trump is on their side in the war of racial resentments.   

America has a long, long history of those resentments.  Some members of the activist left think they have a winning issue in pointing to racial grievance.  After all, the evidence is so clear that prejudice persists, and people of color are the victims.  It is only fair and just to condemn whites for their deplorable attitudes, right?.  They want a fight on this issue.

So does Trump.  He is sure he has the winning hand.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Trump is winning. GOP voters are with him.

Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake have thrown in the towel.  Trump has the support of GOP voters, and they knew it.

Democrats are reading Arizona Senator Jeff Flake's speech and feeling great.  Big mistake.  

Click Here
A GOP Senator stands up and tells it like it is, as he sees it.  He is getting it off his chest.  Trump is an embarrassment.  Trump is wrong.  Trump is bad for America.  The recklessness!  The pettiness!  The corrupting tone!  The undermining of democratic norms!

Democrats can read the speech and get a wonderful warm feeling of reassurance that they are winning.   Actually, it is a terrible sign for Democrats.  Trump is winning big.

The Flake speech was a concession speech.  He is dropping out because Republican voters like Trump, not him, and Jeff Flake knows it.

Same with Bob Corker in Tennessee.  Voters are with Trump there, too.  

They conceded.
Trump is so formidable that he does not even have to play out the primary election fight.  Republican voters are with him.  Corker and Flake saw the polls, they saw the energy moving to their primary opponents, and they folded their tents.  They gave up without a fight, knowing they would lose big.

But what about the GOP revolt?  What about the speeches in short succession by Corker, Flake, McCain, and then George W. Bush?   Actually, so far it is a sign of the revolt's weakness, not strength.   

Look who did not give the speeches:  McConnell, Ryan, Congressmen and Senators running for re-election, cabinet officers, the RNC, Fox News.  Anyone hoping to have a future in politics is keeping quiet.  Corker, Flake, McCain, and Bush are has-beens, not players.  They are leaving politics, have aggressive terminal cancer, or are retired from politics.  They represent the abandoned past.  Trump is the present and future, demonstrated by Corker and Flake dropping out. 

What about those polls showing Trump's favorability ratings in the 30s?  He must be losing, right?

Trump is popular where it counts, in the GOP
No.  There are two ways to interpret those polls.  One is that Trump is unpopular and therefore weak.  The other is that some 37% of voters continue to support Trump notwithstanding Trump doing and saying things that are outrageous.  A great many people agree with Senator Flake's characterization of Trump's behavior--the reckless tweets, the narcissism, the open and overt mis-statements--yet he is still supported by a significant majority of Republican voters--a significant enough majority that people like Corker and Flake saw the handwriting on the wall and dropped out.

This is not evidence of the Trump message weakness.  It is evidence of the strength of the Trump message, since the messenger himself can be so flawed, yet still have a substantial majority of the majority party.   Officeholders in the majority party are sitting tight, supporting the Trump message.  A majority of the majority party is a governing majority.  And Trump is consolidating it, not losing it.

Trump, notwithstanding.   Democrats who ask themselves "how can evangelical Christians possibly support a person who brags about grabbing women?" are missing the point.  The point is that evangelical Christians--and Republican voters generally--supported Trump notwithstanding hearing him with his own words brag about groping women, notwithstanding his open adulteries and three marriages, notwithstanding him telling outrageous stories about fellow Republicans, and notwithstanding generally demonstrating a temperament that sends up alarm signals.   They support him anyway.  He is saying things they like hearing.  They like what he stands for.

That demonstrates strength, not weakness.  He must be doing something right.  Democrats don't see it, but apparently Republican voters do.  That is what matters.