Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Jessica Gomez: Mushy platitudes; powerful message

Republican Senatorial candidate Jessica Gomez introduced herself to voters with a soft focus video.  

It was sweet political babble.   In this case, the tone is the policy.

Here is the video:  Click: 90 seconds.

Message one:  Gomez is defining herself as nice, a conciliator, a bridge builder.  Gomez understands that this is a Democratic leaning district.  Previous candidates who ran negative campaigns lost the election and badly tarnished their reputations.  Republicans Jim Wright and David Dotterer received withering criticism from media referees for the nasty ads produced in their name. They lost. Democrat Tonia Moro received withering criticism for her own negative ad, which blew up in her face. She, too, lost.

A non-Trump message
Gomez defines a tone that is opposite the Trump-Tea Party-Fox-talk radio tone of outrage and ethno-nationalism, a tone Republican voters actively chose in the 2016 election for president.  She is different. This is nice-guy Republicanism. 

Message two:  Gomez is running as an "independent voice."  She is running on the Republican ticket but in 90 seconds the word Republican never appears.  She is sending a message whose credibility will be tested.  Will she go to Salem and take instruction from more senior members of the Republican caucus?  The median Republican voter may will want and expect her to vote Republican policies.  

Democrats are already saying she will be pressured to vote like a Republican, and Trump has captured the GOP.  Elect Gomez and you elect Trump in disguise.  [Post revised.  I have removed all references to any Republican candidate Gomez may have.]

Kevin Stine, an astute political observer and a Democratic candidate in the race, observes that she is trying to thread a thin needle. She needs to be Republican enough to get the nomination but independent enough to get crossover Democratic votes. It is going to be hard to do.

Message three:  Gomez has an insurmountable lead, so GOP rivals should back off.   Gomez's ad was expensive and highly produced.  It demonstrates she has money and support and that her campaign is up and running and she can overwhelm any last minute "regular Republican" opposition. [Post revised. References to an opponent deleted.]

Gomez is understood in local political circles to have been a Democrat until recently, to have voted for Hillary Clinton, to be appalled by Trump's behavior toward women and language against Hispanics.  Trump is president and leader of her political party, and he triumphed by locating and exacerbating resentment of the rising power of women, of Hispanics, of educated elites, and of new industries at the expense of traditional ones--people like Jessica Gomez!  Yet she is running as a Republican and Republicans are staying loyal to Trump and his messages and policies. She is vulnerable here to a rival but her video staked her claim: I've got this.

Jessica Gomez created a messaging problem for Democrats.  A Democrat would likely win easily in an election with a Trump-style Republican. Gomez's person and tone position herself in the center of the Democratic coalition, an educated, pro-community, pro-diversity, Latina, voicing a Democratic message.  

But it also creates a messaging problem for Gomez.  She will have an authenticity problem that will be questioned both in the primary and general election. The question will haunt her: what in the world is she doing in the party of Donald Trump?   Who is she really?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Jessica Gomez, Republican.

A Republican Candidate for State Senate: Jessica Gomez

Alan DeBoer decided not to seek re-election.  Jessica Gomez, who is serving as a volunteer assistant during this session, was ready in the wings to step in.

"Community.  Come together."
Here is her introductory video:


The video is very professionally produced.  Twenty seven different scenes in 90 seconds. Soft dissolves between them.  Earnest male narrator.  Gentle music underlay.

The message was soothing and warm.  Jessica spoke repeatedly of community, of working together, of avoiding "finger pointing."  

She speaks of "safer neighborhoods," "community first," "community means everything to me," "working with your neighbors, your friends," "a team that works together collaborating on solutions", "benefit to all", "come together, work together" and then "community that values our diversity and our cultural differences."

It is the opposite of the Tea Party and Trump.  It is opposite of Fox News. It reverses the formula that worked for Trump and the GOP, the tone of populist anger, accusation, we-they division, and ethno-natinalism.  There is clearly a market for that tone and Trump now enjoys 85-90% support within GOP voters.  

Outrage. Click here. 
Trump accuses and condemns:  Obama is a fraud, Hillary is crooked, the media is fake, Mueller is biased, and now most recently in today's news, the FBI dropped the ball, the sheriff deputies were "cowards "and "disgusting," and people here illegally are murderous thugs.  

The archetype of that kind of thinking is in this NRA ad.  The ad runs repeatedly on Fox and it reflects a strong form of GOP media and voter outrage.  It has divided and conquered.  The GOP has won with this.  I put it here to highlight the contrast with Gomez.

Jessica Gomez is re-defining the GOP message.  The question is whether Republicans will accept it as a GOP message.

Either Republican voters will call her out as a fake Republican, a Republican in Name Only, or they will breathe a sign of relief, happy that the GOP can nominate someone sho speaks to the value of cooperation, shared institutions, and ethnic diversity..

This is an ad that Jessica Gomez's Democratic opponents could make, if they had the money to produce it.  It is a beautiful ad. It reflects Democratic values.  It reflects my values.  I like it.

Republican voters might not like it. Gomez doesn't condemn or exclude anyone. Republican voters have been accustomed to hearing outrage, and many have developed a taste for it.  


Monday, February 26, 2018

Crazy Trump: guns in schools.

Democrats oppose any plan on guns proposed by Trump.  

Texas teacher

If Trump says it, it must be racist and stupid and designed to appeal to gun nuts and the Archie Bunker nativists.

Democrats do have a plan of their own.  It is to attempt to make Republicans look like foolish puppets of the NRA. More guns!  Arm teachers!  How crazy!  Teachers as warriors, hah!.  Mrs. Lorton and Mrs. Bundock and Mr. Lewis might pack heat and in a crisis confront a young man armed with an AR15.

It is a political plan, intended to win back the House, not a plan to address gun violence. 

Democrats have a token Plan B regarding violence: trust the government to pick and choose who can safely have guns. Regulate. Investigate.  Put police and FBI on suspicious people and interview them and stay on top of them. Few people trust the government to do this job well, and with good reason. There are guns everywhere, and predicting the future behavior of disturbed people is impossible. 

Dems:  "Implausible, and weird."
Democrats might win with Plan A.  Prudent Republicans are afraid of the optics of guns in schools and are echoing Democrats on this. Knute Beuhler, a Republican running against Oregon Governor Kate Brown, is positioning himself as a moderate, not a Trump-er, and he has announced that he opposes arming teachers, too.  

What if someone other than Trump made the argument?   Can a reasonable case be made? That is today's guest post, by Thad Guyer, an attorney who represents employee whistleblowers, located wherever he has his laptop computer, currently in Vietnam.

Guest Post by Thad Guyer:  

“Do Democrats love gun control more than the students?”  

This question, of course, is exactly as unfair as the claim that “gun owners love their guns more than the students”. Everybody has an opinion on solutions to school shooters. Baning future sales of assault rifles won’t stop school mayhem because a universe of alternative weapons are available. An argument that the shooter could kill only 6 students rather than 17 with a revolver is not a solution. Two cheap revolvers kills 12 students, three kills 18 students. America may hopefully someday ban assault rifles, but it will never ban shotguns or revolvers. 
Thad Guyer

I’m a Vietnam combat veteran. Instead of the 3 months infantry training, I went through a nine month specialized program in 1969. I had never handled a gun, I was 19. But gun training was a small fraction of the infantry curriculum, measured in days not weeks. Guns are uncomplicated and easy to use. Load, take off safety, aim pull trigger, reload. Truly any idiot can and does attain firearm proficiency in a very short time. Teachers who are willing can take specially designed classes, probably by the NRA, and be ready to effectively engage a shooter in short order with good marksmanship. Smart guns that police already use preclude others from firing these guns.

Police are not cowards but they are trained to act like a coward in uncontrolled shooter situations. Cops are taught to take cover, secure the scene and wait for backup before they charge into a building. But a teacher is already there under threat. The teacher knows and loves the children. It will be second nature for a trained teacher to take aim on a shooter, all of whom are also amateurs, and pull the trigger.

As an infantryman in Vietnam, the easiest and most primal thing to do was return fire. Selected trained teachers will protect themselves and the students they love without hesitation. Peter’s father, Bob Sage was a WWII veteran. I knew him. He was a Medford school system principal. Bob Sage would have run down the hallway at Roosevelt Elementary and engaged a shooter without a thought for his own safety. He would have loaded, aimed and fired. My son went to Roosevelt. I would want a trained teacher to defend him. Every reader would want that if there is a shooter in their child’s school.

School shooters are not only untrained, they are fearful and paranoid. Harris and Klebold at Columbine killed themselves when the police arrived. They made a feckless effort to dissuade police entry by firing from windows, hit no one, and then shot themselves. Suicide, not gun battles with armed counterforce is what these shooters do. They are untrained and scared when, as Trump puts it, the bullets start coming the other way. If they can flee, they do. The Texas church shooter fled as soon as a neighbor opened fire on him. These maniac shooters don’t stand their ground.
Trump has already won this argument, and will win more as red state school districts adopt this trained teacher program, as they already are. Democrats look dogmatic and ineffectual with their weak arguments in opposing trained teacher defense programs. To dismiss the NRA/Trump solution of arming selected volunteer trained teachers because we would rather use the momentum of heartbreak for gun control is pretty close to loving gun control more than students. We should get behind teacher defense programs.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

School Shooting. Police wait for backup.

An armed deputy was on the scene.  Actually, there were four.

Police did what they are trained to do.

They waited for backup.

Afterwards, his supervisor says the first deputy should have "went in.  Addressed the killer.  Killed the killer."  

He is a Monday morning quarterback, looking at videotape. 

Scott Peterson, the armed school security officer who heard gunfire stayed outside behind cover during the opening minutes of hearing gunfire inside.   Three other Broward County deputies also came to the scene, and also stayed outside, behind their vehicles.   (A neighboring jurisdiction's police force tattled on them. The infamous blue wall is for within the jurisdictional team.)

We train and equip policemen to survive and dominate encounters, not die futilely in them.  Police training is evident in the actual behavior of the four deputies who took up perimeter positions, behind a wall and behind vehicles.  They were waiting for overwhelming force.

Source: Neighboring police force
SWAT teams. Taxpayers spend a lot of money creating and supplying SWAT teams, and military style SWAT vehicles and equipment.  It is all justified to taxpayers by the fact that some criminals are armed by very powerful weapons, way beyond the capacity of a lone policeman, without highly specialized military training, without body armor, acting alone, armed simply with a handgun, to go into unknown situations to confront one or more people armed with unknown high powered firearms, who are perhaps firing from cover.  

It would be suicide.  So police departments ask Budget Committees for specialized SWAT units, and governing bodies say yes. 

There is a public debate currently on whether American school policy should be to arm teachers.  Trump supported it.  The NRA supports it.  There is an instant partisan divide.  Only 28% of Democratic voters support arming teachers, while 68% of Republicans favor it.  Independents are split evenly.

Would teachers be better protectors than policemen?  One reader of this blog says yes. An attorney with long experience litigating police officer and jail brutality cases, says teachers would protect students better than would policemen.

Medford's $260,000 SWAT vehicles
   "Police are trained cowards which is why they shoot unarmed blacks. Cops aren't trained to go solo as a hero, they are trained to coordinate backup. Teachers in the line of fire by contrast would have the advantage of a soldier-- returning fire with the adrenaline our survival instinct provides." 

"Trained cowards."  Those are tough words.

A nicer way to say it is that police would be prudent; teachers would be scared to death. Teachers would act--or so goes one theory.

Hazard pay bonus.  Trump posits that schools may already have on staff,  and could certainly hire with that qualification in mind, military veterans with past and continued training in close quarter combat. He said they could get hazard pay, like the History teacher who coaches girl's basketball or boy's tennis. 

Trump is out selling it as plausible.  

Democrats are saying it is implausible on its face.  They say teachers don't want this and would be no good at it. The idea is that teachers have a nurturing mindset not a combat-ready one.  If policemen cannot charge toward automatic fire, how could sweet old Mrs. Lorton do it?
Republicans want to arm teachers.  Democrats do not.

Besides, it brings more guns into the classroom, another hazard.  A third grader just fired off a round from inside the holstered gun of a school police officer whose attention was diverted that the curious nine year old stuck his finger into the holster.  An angry teenager might easily overpower and take a gun from a teacher.  More guns mean more opportunities for surprises.

Trump quickly backed off his early implication that all teachers should be armed and settled in on the idea that some teachers might be. He posited 4-star Marine general Kelly as just the sort of person who would be able to spring into action in a pinch, were he teaching high school.

Trump says to take action.
My own sense is that the adrenaline-survival instinct premise of the reader comment above is more plausible for individual classroom defense than offense.  Already, schoolroom doors have tiny windows and lockable doors.  Students and teachers are trained for defense by locking the door and staying barricaded.  My sense is that an armed teacher's instinct would be to protect his or her immediate charges, not to abandon them to go out toward gunshots and unknown hazards in unknown places on a search and destroy mission.  We may find out in real life.

A bad plan is more persuasive than no plan. Trump posited a plan that has some possibility of being actionable: more guns in the supposedly right hands, by arming volunteer teachers.  Republicans could push that agenda. Apparently it sounds good to Republican voters. 

Democrats are busy, right now in mainstream media outlets, saying the idea is "preposterous", "absurd," "ridiculous."  TV pundits are saying the problem is guns themselves, too many, too dangerous, and in the wrong hands. The argument has a problem.  There are some five million of them already in circulation, and in a free society guns--like drugs or any other contraband--will inevitably find their way into the hands of the wrong people. The Democratic solution requires regulation and control, in an effort to anticipate and predict the unpredictable, i.e. the mental health of individuals who may already be marginalized and near invisible.  Still, a lot of Americans are uncomfortable with AR-15s and other military style weapons per se, so efforts to controlling them has widespread general support.   

There is asymmetry in voter motivation on this issue. Gun supporters vote to protect the status quo on guns and they care a lot.  People uncomfortable with guns and who are willing to see more controls vote care more about other issues, and besides, they don't have confidence it will work. It would take active, highly competent government, with police, civilian bureaucracies, the FBI, and the nation's national security and intelligence agencies all doing their jobs well. They have been revealed to be less than competent. 

The gun issue is likely to remain a winner for Trump.  Trump looks like he is doing something that could possibly work.  Democrats are asking people to put their faith in efficient, dedicated, government.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Trump's Hair. Never apologize.

"I try like hell to hide that bald spot, folks."

Getting onto Marine One
Trump is open and honest about being a con man.  People consider that a mark of honesty. Democrats--appalled and disgusted by Trump--have a hard time seeing the appeal of this.

Late night comedy shows point at Trump's hair and bald spots and treat it as a matter of humor and expose.  See!  Look at that phony.  Fake hair!

The exposure doesn't hurt Trump.   Why?  

He openly admits it and acts like it doesn't matter, and therefore it doesn't matter. At the CPAC convention he noticed his own hair shown from the back in a TV monitor, and bragged humorously about it: "What a nice picture that is.  Look at that.  Oh, I try like hell to hide that bald spot, folks. I work hard at it.  It doesn't look bad."

Trump's attitude defines this as not-important.  If he isn't ashamed, then it isn't shameful.

Obstruction of justice is a federal crime and an impeachable offense.  Nixon resigned in the face of it.  Bill Clinton was impeached for it.  

Click. Watch.
Donald Trump openly and proudly said on national TV something as clear as what Nixon did, the "smoking gun" discovered via tape recordings played after protracted legal process. In an interview with Lester Holt of NBC news he openly admitted he thought the Comey investigation was wrong and unwelcome so he fired him to obstruct it.   We all heard it.  Trump acted like it was the most natural thing in the world.  

No secret, no embarrassment, and therefore no real political damage.

The video here is a text worth close study.  The political key is not what Trump said, the denoted words that admit he intended to stop a FBI investigation into his administration.  The key is Trump's demeanor.  He acts like it is the most natural think in the world to try to stop something annoying.

Trump communicates that he is simply doing what anyone would do--and therefore nothing to feel guilty about.

Tone and attitude do not merely trump denoted content.  In politics, it is the primary content. If a progressive candidate feels locked into a brand, or feels buried in a pack of others, it won’t be accomplished by the words you say.  It would be done by the attitude he or she expresses—something big and bold and defiant.  

Breaking addition, in response to an excellent comment, shown below:

By Robert Guyer, a Florida attorney:
"An individual commits a crime if he or she acts in a way that fulfills every element of an offense. The statute establishing the offense also establishes the elements of the offense. In general, every crime involves three elements: first, the act or conduct (“actus reus”); second, the individual’s mental state at the time of the act (“mens rea”); and third, the causal link between the act and the offense." ( Since you accuse President Trump of a specific crime, obstruction of justice, could you please explain how he, especially given his role as Chief Executive and his lawful authority over Director Comey, "fulfills every element" of the crime of which you accuse him?

Peter Sage responds:  Yes.  I said Trump was guilty of a crime, obstruction of justice.

Let's posit that some crime has likely been committed, e.g. generated by a suspicious piece of evidence but which, itself, is not necessarily a crime, a dead body on the front lawn of the White House with a bullet wounds in the body and head.  It might be suicide.  It might be an accident.  It might be murder.   An investigation by the FBI is undertaken.

An FBI finds some evidence that in fact the person was in fact shot by the candidate for president, either directly or through paid associates, and an investigation accelerates.  Still, the president's exact guilt is unclear, and no indictments have been produced, but it proceeds, questioning the president's associates.  They find significant--but not yet firmly conclusive--evidence that the now-president and his family was involved in some way in the murder.  Some of them were pleading guilty to crimes relating to the offense.

The president was worried sick that the truth about his exact involvement would come out.

In this case, if the president took an act to stop this lawful investigation, either by attempting to frame other people or by firing the people carrying out the investigation for the specific admitted purpose of impeding the investigation, he would 1. have done an act to obstruct the justice involved in finding the murderer, and admitted that his specific purpose was to obstruct the investigation of the crime as it centered on the president.  2. the fact that he openly admitted on national TV that he had thought about it and decided decisively to act for that purpose establishes that it was a guilty mental state to protect himself.  3. The causal act was firing the investigator to stop the investigation, because if the FBI Director, then his successors, could be fired or replaced, the investigation of the murder would end, and it was the very purpose admitted to by the president on tv.

The fact that the President had the legal right to fire the FBI director did not mean he was free to do it if his purpose was to impede a murder investigation.  That would be obstruction of justice.  Trump can probably legally fire a great many people in his administration, but he cannot openly state he is firing them solely because they are Jewish or Black and he hates Jews and Blacks.  That might run afoul of anti-discrimination laws. He could not fire Comey because he wanted to have sex with Comey and was angry that Comey would not comply.That might run afoul of harassment laws.  He could have fired Comey because he didn't like that he was very tall, not a protected status.

But he could not fire Comey because his investigation was getting too close to proving his guilt and that his very intention was to impede an investigation of an apparent crime.  That would be obstruction of justice, all three elements, admitted to on TV.

If he had just fired him for no apparent reason he would be morally suspect but would not have admitted to a obstruction.  

Friday, February 23, 2018

Is Golden doomed? A Guest Comment

Is Jeff Golden an "old guard progressive," with a stale brand past its sell-by date?   

Golden Bullet.  New and Improved.

 Not necessarily.

Today's post features a comment I received in the middle of the night. 

The comment likened Jeff Golden's candidacy to Hillary Clinton's.  It was a warning:  Democrats might well choose to nominate for a State Senate seat a dynastic old-guard progressive candidate with narrow appeal, lots of enemies, and a tired brand.  

The author identified him or her self (hereafter simply "she") as the author of a previous comment who had found Golden "frustrating and irritating" for sharing muddled considerations and reservations regarding an issue, rather than a "clear and substantive answer."  She said he would be ineffective in Salem.  She said he would lose the general election.

The entire comment, verbatim, is shown below.  I do not know who wrote the comment.  I don't care. What is important to me regarding comments is whether they add to a respectful discussion of the issues this blog addresses: political message, policy, electability. It does.

I consider both the comment below and the former one (Feb 20 posttough and critical.  I had posted that I considered the comment helpful to Golden--whether he knew it or not--because it is thrusting him out of a cocoon of legacy establishment Ashland progressive politics.  

Golden has enormous assets going into this primary.  He has 40 years of contacts with donors and supporters.  He can hold an event in the home of an influential person and people show up, with checkbooks. They have done it before and no doubt are doing so now.  He has highly skilled and motivated campaign staff.  He has a brand.  

He has three opponents in the primary, so people tired of that Golden brand are likely to be divided. Neither Medford City Council person Kevin Stine, nor physician Julian Bell, nor AllCare behavioral health supervisor Athena Goldberg have widespread name or brand recognition. Unless one--and only one--of his opponents explode into voter consciousness as the alternative to Golden, he has a clear path to the nomination.  

Hillary Clinton had her own suite of locked-in opponents, with her 40 years of work in progressive causes.  So, too, Golden.  He made enemies of the usual suspects of lumber mill owners, Chambers of Commerce, and social conservatives, plus the assortment of detractors one gets by having been a County Commissioner who cut budgets, a talk show host who expressed opinions, and person living in a tight community.

Golden Scrub Cloths.  New and Improved.
The comment below assumes that Jeff is trapped by his own mature personality and political philosophy deep into a single inflexible brand, a punctilious "niche progressive" from Ashland.  If that is true, then Democrats may well be trapped themselves, likely to nominate the strongest primary candidate but a weak general election candidate.  

It is not necessarily true.  

The Golden brand and style has two prongs to it.  One is pure college town progressive--the old guard establishment bubble--but the other is an outside-the-box openness to alternatives. That prong can come across as mushy indecision and kumbaya of universal one-ness, and if Golden presents it that way then, indeed, the comment below is well expressed and he is doomed. In that case the two prongs of his brand reinforce one another and make the Golden brand even worse.

.Click: "She was the candidate because it was her turn."
But it need not be. The prong of open-ness could be communicated as decisive independence and frank rejection of all bubbles, including his. He cannot just say it because every cynical politician says it, and it would just confirm Golden as one more of them. He would have to communicate a message of independence decisively, in the persuasive body-language message system of actually demonstrating independence.  He would have to break the bubble, conspicuously.

He probably needs to do it now, in the primary, when it would be credible.  Waiting to "move to the center" in a general election is precisely the kind of tired cliche trick that voters discount.  

I am more inclined to find message and policy flexibility in Golden than does the author of the comment below.  We will see.  November will be too late.

Guest Comment:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Some people like Jeff Golden. Some do not.":

I don’t think that Cathy Shaw wrote the first comment on this blog post; I think that comment was written by Alma Rivelle, the person who posted it. I know that Kevin Stine didn’t write the critical comment of Jeff Golden’s response and candidacy because I wrote it. I don’t intend to sign my name to that comment or to this one because I would rather avoid the insiders’ speculation as to which candidate I’m supporting, and the assumption that a desire to get a particular candidate elected was my motivation in writing that criticism.

I do not work for any of the candidates, nor am I affiliated with any campaign. I am a concerned voter whose primary interest is in seeing a strong candidate come out of the primary who will beat the Republican candidate in the general election and who will effectively serve their constituents. I understand that my words were harsh and critical, but I didn’t write them because I don’t like Jeff. He’s a nice person and I believe that he cares about this valley. However, I do not think that he’s a strong candidate outside of the primary or that he would be effective in Salem.

It’s true that he worked for progressive issues in his day, but were the issues that he fought for enough for Democrats in his district to fight for him in the general? Are those decades-passed efforts his legacy? Or is he identified as an old guard South Valley progressive who lost an election to a conservative the last time he was on a ballot?

I don’t generally like to draw comparisons between local and national politics because people tend to take that too far, but just as another frame to view this primary in, consider the 2016 national primaries. The party chose to support a dynastic candidate, one with support from key donors and strategists, who had already demonstrated an inability to win the support of voters. That decision was clearly made by “the establishment,” or in this case, the old guard, and drove the folks who don’t generally turn out for special elections or primaries further from the party, and that party divide and lack of enthusiasm for the establishment cost us the presidency.

What’s missing in this analogy is a Bernie Sanders candidate, but the analogy is not without the threat of a Trump outcome. I’m not saying that support should go to the most populist candidate, don’t get me wrong (this is why I tend to avoid drawing these comparisons). I’m just saying that you should take a step outside of your bubble and take into account what you already know about the voters we’ll face in the general. They don’t tend to support Ashland progressives or niche progressives in general, and don’t particularly like candidates who have spent decades “on the inside”; and, they’ll be reminded that they’ve rejected Jeff on the ballot previously (and why was that?). What do they like? Is there anything beyond some degree of name recognition that makes you think that he would be the best candidate in the general?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

De-legitimizing the Florida teens

Donald Trump mastered the technique of de-legitimization.  It works in the current political and media environment.

We are seeing another iteration of it now.

The school shooting incident in Florida has a new twist.  Unlike the mass shooting incidents in Las Vegas or Sandy Hook or San Bernardino this one produced angry, well spoken survivors who took to the microphones and camera to denounce the failure of the adult world to protect them.

David Hogg, 17:   Click: 40 second video.
The teenagers are photogenic. Several of them are camera and TV-adept. They adopted the talk radio/Fox News tone of indignation and outrage, which works on TV.  They accuse and denounce Trump.

"In response to your most recent tweet where you said that the Democrats had not been able to get anything done when they controlled the House and the Senate and the presidential executive branch.   

How dare you!

You are in that exact position now and you want to look back at our history and blame the Democrats?   That's disgusting.  You're the president.  You're supposed to bring this nation together, not divide us!   How dare you!  Children are dying and their blood is on your hands because of that.  Please.  Take action. Stop going on vacation to Mir a Lago. Take action.  Work with Congress.  Your party controls the House.  Take action.  Get some bills passed. And for God's sake, let's save some lives."

It is powerful because it is passionate.  It points right at Trump personally.  Stop going on vacation and do your job.  

Not all the teenagers were so nice.   One teenager responded to Trump's "prayers and condolences to the families of the victims" tweet by writing a tweet of her own: "I don't want your condolences, you fucking piece of shit. . . .Do something instead of sending prayers."

The de-legitimization begins immediacy.   

Click Here for more
Trump's conservative allies attack the teenagers personally, accusing them of being very different from what they appear.  They are fake. Ignore their argument and look closely at them.  There is something wrong with them and they are the issue.  

The leading edge of attacks on the teenagers is Alex Jones, who posited that the entire Florida shooting was perhaps a false flag con

This has bled into the usual suspects of pro-Trump media positing their accusations are  fake in some way.  So far I have heard these lines of de-legitimization: 

1.  They are actors, and this didn't really happen.
2.  They are paid to do this by others, perhaps by George Soros.
3.  They could not possibly arrange to go to Tallahassee and elsewhere without some parental or organizational support, so let's focus on their support structure.
4.  The kids are badly raised and out of line for disrespecting authority (Sheriff Clark said his father would have backhanded him across the face had he challenged authority like that.)
5.  The kids are examples of kids whose parents are crazy liberals.
6.  The most adept speaker, David Hogg, is the son of a retired FBI agent and the son is protecting and diverting attention from the FBI.
7.  Maybe there were scripts and talking points about guns written before the event and the whole thing was pre-planned as an anti-gun hoax.
8.  These are just silly kids, mouthing off in their ignorance. ("Adults-1, Children-0")
9.  The teenagers are knowing participants in an ugly bit of "moral blackmail", cynically using their tragedy to force people to listen to them.

Will de-legitimization work?   

It already partly has. Teenagers are already going on camera denying they are actors. Their legitimacy is now a matter in controversy.  Conservative media can report on the controversy, thus repeating the charge they are, maybe, fake.

Trump media also focuses on who is assisting the teenagers. This makes it harder for teenagers to organize and be effective, since the next steps inevitably involve getting institutional support, which the Trump-allied media has defined as nefarious.

Dangerous for a Trump to do
The power of de-legitimizaiton is so great that the attackers are going forward even thought the teenagers are bad targets. De-legitimization of politicians seems like fair game.  But not kids. 

The teenagers are young and attractive.  It is punching down and trivializing people angry over dead teenagers.  Standing in tee shirts in front of cameras, they look like what they are: too young to vote. Their essential argument, that they are dis-empowered by adult rules that put them at risk is affirmed by their very look and status. 

Donald Trump, Jr.'s "like" was a mistake.  Trump needs to let others do the dirty work of de-legitimizing teenagers.  

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Sweet Blessing of Sharp Criticism

Jeff Golden got criticized yesterday.  Lucky him. 

In politics sometimes your best assets are your critics.

Some rookie politicians think that criticism is bad and pleasantries are good.  They have it backwards.  

Politicians communicate in order to build networks of support. A lot of it is worthless social pleasantries.

1.  Nicey-nicey waste of time talk.  Rookie politicians say things they know voters like to hear. They confuse politics with polite dinner conversation.  They say they value hard work.  They want ethics in government. They want good things.   

Comments like that are a total waste of time for everyone, except to prove the politician has nothing to say. Everyone likes hard work, ethics, etc.

Rah-rah for the home team talk.  Rookie politicians seek cheap mini victories, saying things that the home team likes but others would not.  A Republican who says, "There's something about Hillary I just don't trust" is doing that.   Same with a Democrat saying Trump is a "dangerous loudmouth."  Statements like that don't distinguish one politician from another in their party.  They, too, are a waste of time. ("How are you?" "Fine, thank you.")

Political speech is only meaningful if one is saying something that someone would disagree with.   Only then is the politician staking out political turf.

Criticism is the magic elixir to build support. 

A politician has to show he stands for something by doing something costly, e.g. by risking votes and being criticized and standing firm for something some people won't like. Then voters can infer what you really stand for, because you took heat for it.

Jeff Golden, in his public persona, is an authentic archetype of old school Baby Boomer college town liberalism.

He matured out of 1960's student radicalism into a suite of unsurprising opinions and interests familiar in places like Ashland:  progressive, anti-GMO, anti-war, pro-diversity, pro-women, anti-pipeline, pro climate stability, tax the rich, anti-corporate, anti-PAC, pro health care expansion, pro renewable energy, anti-fossil fuels. He had a talk show on public radio, and he has a public TV show, Immense Possibilities, that give heartwarming examples of citizen involvement for a better world. He has written books about better civic engagement, conspicuous for their earnestness. 
Click: Sharp Criticism of Golden in yesterday's post

Jeff Golden is consistent.  He has a brand.  Golden has nurtured the votes of college town liberals for a lifetime. He should win a vast majority of that constituency because he has earned them.  His problem politically is not that those votes are at risk.  It is that is brand is so powerful that it appears that he is a narrow archetype of that college town consciousness, and nothing else.

Golden can win a primary election among Democrats, but lose everywhere else in a general election.  This isn't guesswork; this is history.  Golden has twice lost elections to Republicans when running in districts larger than Ashland.

Yesterday Golden got his sweet blessing of sharp criticism.  He got it from where he needed it, from the left, for not being a knee jerk college town liberal, for not being doctrinaire enough.  

The critic is angry Golden did something unexpected.  Lucky Jeff.

Criticism from inside the progressive group gives Golden's public brand some beginnings of credibility for balance and independence.  Could he actually act contrary to the demands of his friends on the progressive left? Maybe Jeff Golden is persuadable if there is a good case. Maybe the public needs to re-think the Golden brand.

The bandwagon of attaboys Golden gets from supporters do as much harm as good. (As I was drafting this post another one came into this blog's Comments file, saying "If you think Golden hasn't championed progressive issues, you have not been paying attention.")  His friends and allies may rally to his side, assuring each other and the world that Jeff is solidly predictable in his typecast role.  His friends will damage him, but with the best of intentions. 

More useful to Golden is the criticism that he is not always on the leading edge of every progressive issue and not locked into meeting the expectations of a tight knit political community, not a caricature. 

He needs more critics, complaining loudly he isn't doctrinaire enough.