Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Monday, May 30, 2016

What Could Go Wrong?

The Wrongest Man In Politics has a cunning plan to derail Trump.  I can hardly wait for the announcement to drop, followed by the realization that it's too late to get his or her name on most of the state ballots.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Graduation Day

Every year, another crop.

If I can find it, I will post the student speakers' speeches.  Among the very best I've ever heard.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Campaigns Don't Matter (Except When They Do)

Generally speaking, I hold in low regard the idea that tactical masterstrokes can alter the course of a campaign.  John McCain kept throwing these Hail Mary "game changers" that did nothing but signal his desperation.  Tactically speaking, you can lose a campaign through mistakes much more than you can win one by being shrewd.  Obviously, this is different in a very close election like 2000.

It seems pretty apparent that Clinton is as much trying not to lose as she is to win.  The reason is that Trump is an organizational dumpster fire.  Because he rose outside the usual political avenues, he is disdainful of their efficacy.  The problem with that "logic" is that Trump won less than 50% of the votes of the smaller political party.  His shoot from the hip manner worked in a fractured field of winner take all or most primaries.

The big demographic issues still hold sway.  There are still more Democratic voters than Republican voters.  Both Trump and Clinton motivate the OTHER side in a negative way.  Hard core Republicans may not like Trump, but they loath Clinton.  Same goes for Democrats.

In the middle, where the elections are presumably decided, it pays to use analytics.  It pays to organize field offices.  It pays to line up non-party organizations.

Clinton is already raising more money than Trump.  And she knows not to spend it in North Dakota or New York.  She's going to spend it in Virginia and Colorado, where it will do the most good.  Trump meanwhile is campaigning in both those states.  That's just stupid.

And what's more, Trump's personal style is incompatible with critical self-evaluation.  When the NY Times asked Trump about the tumult in his campaign - including firing Rick Wiley, one of the few people associated with the campaign that knows anything - Trump responded in typical Trumpian fashion:
Asked for comment about his management style, and the current state of his campaign, Mr. Trump declined, criticizing the reporters writing this article.  "You two wouldn't know how to write a good story about me if you tried - dream on."

That is not the voice of a man who can adjust to the constantly changing landscape of the campaign.  That is the voice of a man who only hears his own voice.

Chaos is Trump's medium.  He will bring plenty of it to the campaign.  If the election is close (and I don't think it will be), that chaos could be what costs Trump the presidency and saves this country from a true disaster.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Knowing The Rules

I'm watching the excellent All The Way from HBO, with Bryan Cranston as LBJ.  It's fun watching him know where all the levers are to be pulled.

Trump (and Sanders) really don't know where the levers are.  Clinton's advantage there could be pivotal.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sick And Tired Of The Damned Emails

The IG report had a harsh tone, but it really didn't break any new ground.  Clinton shouldn't have had a private server, but that wasn't unusual.  There is no evidence that the servers were hacked, but they could've been.  Clinton screwed up, she has apologized.  Unless the FBI report uncovers anything, this is a case of institutional poor judgment, not criminality.

One of the wonders of the Obama administration has been its scandal-free nature.  That hasn't stopped Republicans from trying, from birth certificates to Solyandra to Benghazi.  But they have ultimately fallen flat in their attempts to gin up a scandal where none exists.

The Clintons have always been problematic in how they respond to these ginned up scandals.  They tend to be defensive and reactive.  They don't get ahead of these stories, and the accumulated weight of them have an effect.

Hillary Clinton is routinely perceived as corrupt.  Killary, she is called, because of fucking Benghazi.  That perception is based on things that go back to the original nothingburgers that were Whitewater, Travelgate and Vince Foster.  Benghazi and the email nontroversies are similar efforts to create enough smoke that people assume there is fire.

If she is going to win convincingly and govern effectively, she is going to have to change how she manages these scurrilous attacks.  Bunkering down won't cut it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Minority Rights

I friend of mine shared a piece by Damon Linker about transgender rights, the current "Bathroom Wars" and - as Linker put it - "liberals latest lazy cultural crusade."

His argument is that it's a political loser, and Obama just caved to left wing culture warriors out of laziness.  As Linker says, he can't understand it because "I'm not the right kind of liberal."  His basic argument is this:
For far too many contemporary liberals, that kind of informal, grassroots pressure from civil society never seems to be good enough. Too lazy and impatient to do the hard work of formulating arguments and trying to persuade, and too addicted to sanctimonious displays of moral righteousness, these liberals now prefer to use the ever-expanding edifice of anti-discrimination law to impose edicts from the top down.

The point of anti-discrimination laws is to prevent discrimination, you moron.
Once the courts accept the narrative, the logic of anti-discrimination locks in, new rights become codified, and the former victims of injustice get to enjoy total victory while decades or centuries of communally based norms, practices, and beliefs get pulverized.
All for the sake of bending the arc of history a few more millimeters toward justice.

Well, yes.  That's exactly the fucking point.  You move a little bit with each step.  Ten years ago, the issue was gay marriage.  The president, as a candidate, was coy and circumspect and failing in moral courage.  When he finally got to where he could proclaim to the public that he indeed supported what everyone knew he already supported, the battle was mostly won.

But Obama's belated embrace of same-sex marriage helped persuade African American church goers in ways that no one else could.

Trangender people are a tiny percentage of Americans.  Let's be generous and say half of one percent.   But that's over one and a half million people.  People who - I'll admit - did not exist in any clear form on my cultural screen a decade ago.

And a decade ago, I was nervous about same-sex marriage.  It had presumably cost John Kerry Ohio in 2004 and therefore the election.  That feels like lazy conventional wisdom, but even if it were true, it's not 2004 anymore.

Vox went out and asked people about trangender people.  The findings are a bit muddled.  Generally speaking, about a third of Americans hold unfavorable views of trans people.  But 22% hold unfavorable views about gays and lesbians.  I would guess the circles of that Venn diagram are pretty much concentric.  Up and down the survey, opinions about trans people are roughly a little worse than opinions about gays and lesbians.

A solid plurality (48%) think we should protect transgender's rights.  Those numbers get closer when the bathroom issue gets interjected, but overall, a plurality still sides with trans people's rights.

What we are likely to see is what would have happened without Obama and Loretta Lynch getting involved.  This will become yet another partisan issue, with Democrats supporting an expansion of rights and Republicans opposing.

But among younger people, there is more tolerance and acceptance of LGBT rights overall.  Time is on the side of transgender people.  As far as 2016 goes, there are precious few people who oppose transgender rights who were EVER going to cast a vote for Hillary Clinton.

I'm sorry for poor Mr. Linker, who seems discomfited that these "lazy liberals" are once again pushing rights for a group that Mr. Linker has decided are too small a group to care about.

In his Letter From a Birmingham Jail, King wrote: Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

Obviously, transgenders make up a much smaller portion of the population than African Americans.

But does that mean that rights are apportioned simply by numbers?  I guess I'm not that right(wing) sort of liberal.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Polls

Recent polls have shown an essentially tied race between Clinton and Trump.  This is to be expected.  Trump has sewn up the nomination and is consolidating his control over the GOP and winning the loyalty of GOP voters.  Clinton still has the Bernie or Bust crowd to deal with.  At this point in 2008, McCain led Obama for the same reason.

Polls in the early spring are usually pretty predictive.  Then we enter a weird period during the summer where all sorts of strange numbers appear.

After the conventions and Labor Day, the numbers will again make more sense.  That isn't to say that the poll numbers aren't saying anything, they are.  They are noting that Trump is shoring up his support on the Right, while Clinton continues to fight on the Left.

But there still aren't enough Republicans to elect Donald Trump, and he still polls horribly with too many different groups.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

New England

Days like this can single handedly make up for a fortnight of winter. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Friday, May 20, 2016

History Or Poli Sci?

There are two theories about where this ends up with Sanders and Clinton.

The first notes that the 2008 campaign was much more vicious and hard fought than this one.  Josh Marshall has a nice sampling of emails from back then that shows how toxic is was.  And that worked out fine.

Jon Chait makes an equally reasonable argument that Sanders - unlike Clinton 8 years ago - has no investment in the Democratic party.  For him, the system is broken.  For Clinton against Obama, the system failed her, but she wasn't trying to overthrow the system.

So, is Sanders sui generis? Or will his pragmatic side show up and bridge the current rhetorical chasm between his most adamant supporters and the Democratic party?

UPDATE: Markos also lays the blame at Sanders' feet.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Berning His Bridges

Josh Marshall sums up the state of the Sanders campaign pretty well.  Marshall especially feels that this current toxicity is coming from Sanders - as opposed to those who blame Jeff Weaver.

Whatever the source, after the Nevada incident and Sanders' refusal to tone down the rhetoric, there is a growing backlash, especially among left-leaning Democrats.  Plenty of people I know who said, "I support Sanders/I voted for Sanders, but I'm really OK with Clinton and desperately want to win in November" are now saying, "Screw Sanders."

Sanders is not a Democrat.  Never has been.  That is integral to his appeal.  But that means he was never going to win the Superdelegates.  Now, he's both pitching a strategy that relies on the Superdelegates, all the while shitting all over the party that they represent.

Sanders ran originally on an issue agenda.  His campaign has now collapsed into an ego-filled squid cloud of butthurt.  Any credibility and sympathy he had from people like me evaporated a while ago, but now he's alienating his softer supporters.

What hill (pardon the pun) is Sanders will to die on?  What are the one or two issues that he needs to insist make it into the party platform?  Because that's all he's got right now.

If I were advising Sanders, I'd demand a substantial reduction in superdelegates and more primaries rather than caucuses.  I'd demand a plank on the minimum wage and maybe a public option.  But those latter two he was going to get anyway.

But Sanders pushes this much further and he won't get anything.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Primary Is Not The General

Donald Trump's ability to win a plurality of the GOP voters has been followed up by many Republican voters coalescing around his candidacy.  Meanwhile, Sanders threatens to burn down whatever gains he's made within the Democratic party by refusing to accept that sometimes you lose elections.

However, Trump's success and Sanders' current disruption doesn't alter the dynamics of the race.  Trump has not brought in "new voters." And I can't see Clinton losing a state that Obama won.

So it's not a surprise that the Clinton team is going to play it safe.

Of course, playing it safe probably means they forfeit any chance of winning the House, but...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sanders Is Dancing Up To A Line

The brouhaha in Nevada over the state convention is threatening to create rift with the Sanders people.  And it's the Sanders people who are inflaming this.  Sanders lost the fucking process.  He won a bunch of geography, but not enough people.  John Cole uses his typically intemperate but on-point language to describe the Sanders people as entitled students who want their grades raised for no real reason.

Martin Longman suggests that Clinton be magnanimous, and perhaps she should.  But only to a point.

Sanders needs to decide if this is really a movement or a cult of personality.

Poop Anywhere

The freakout over protecting transgender students in schools is typical of politics in 2016.

First, there are very few transgender students.  There are more than we commonly thought,  because many transgender people simply identified in the broader world as "gay" when they were in fact transgender.  So, there is a non-neglible population of trans people, but hardly a lot of them.

Second, they've been using these bathrooms for years in the broader world.

Third, liberals have asserted a battle over this issue that is likely to hurt them in the short term and help them in the historical long run.

Fourth, the conservative reaction is so freaking over the top that it defies categorization.

Is this THE most important issue in the world?  No.  Is it really important for trans students and their parents?  Yes.  Will it lead to child predators going into bathrooms?  Hell, no.

But this is the state of our politics today.

Monday, May 16, 2016


Today on the NPR, I heard Donald Trump picking a fight with David Cameron, saying he wouldn't get along with him.

Meanwhile, he likes Putin's style.

I've always assumed that most Republicans will either kiss his ring or ignore him.  Only a few have actively rebelled, but I wonder if he will cross some bridge that finally creates the all out rupture that seems inevitable.  Meanwhile, I no longer feel sorry for Boehner, because he's on K Street living the dream.

Now, I feel sorry for this guy.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


A couple of weeks ago, my students asked me to give them a class where I would lay out my entire worldview.  It was flattering.  I said it might surprise them to learn how optimistic I am about things in general.

My optimism is born of the basic liberal idea of progress.  Things in any given moment might seem bad, but overall, things are getting better and will continue to get better as long as we try to improve them.

It is also part of being a historian (as opposed to a cheerleader).  Having some understanding of the past is a powerful endorsement of the present and the future.

Gregg Easterbrook is an unusual writer who has seemingly come in and out of my line of sight over the past fifteen years.  He's written a defense of optimism that is sorely needed.  However, he tends to glide by the structural and institutional reasons people are pessimistic and focus on the fact that pessimism is cool and optimism is not.  As he writes sarcastically: "If you don't think everything is awful, you don't understand the situation."  He then goes on to use empirical data to note how much better things have gotten.

Job growth is robust, America is remarkably safe - both externally and internally, clean energy is expanding rapidly, America's industrial output is near record highs, disease and pollution are declining.

And he is right, both in his data and his assertion that if you point this out, "you just don't get it."  Job growth is good and unemployment low, and we are producing more industrial goods than just about any time in our history.  BUT... that increased productivity comes with fewer jobs.  Just as the mechanization of agriculture led to fewer farm workers, so has the automation of industry reduced industrial jobs.

Real wages have stagnated, but it's not quite as bleak as the Sandernistas suggest. Easterbrook writes: "Gary Burtless of the Brooking Institute has shown that when lower taxes and higher benefits are factored in, middle class buying power as risen 36 percent in the current generation.

We are surrounded by marvels, and all we see are the things we lack.

Last night, the missus and I took in a fantastic movie, Sing Street, about a dorky kid who starts a band in 1985 Dublin to "get the girl."  What was striking was how awful things were in Ireland back in the '80s.  Today, Ireland's standard of living has risen incredibly.  And the same is true today in the US.  Think back to the Reagan '80s: AIDS, cigarettes everywhere, lead poisoned youths on a crime wave, terrorist attacks and hostage crises in Lebanon, the Cold War, the routine sexual harassment of women in the workplace and on and on.

Every day, we are making the world a slightly better place.  And Easterbrook is right to point this out.

However, I do think there are structural and psychological issues at play that he ignores.  Most profoundly, one of the great wonders of the age - the Internet - has created a cycle of reinforcing pessimism.  I once tried to argue that things were getting better on Facebook, and it was like I was defending the KKK.  I "just didn't get it."

Some of that is cultural, as Easterbrook rightly points out.  The structure of that culture is built on epstimological closure. People only talk to people who agree with them and that creates reinforcing beliefs. But there also seems to be some psychological component at play.

As we get more and more removed from survival conditions, as we enjoy more and more comfort, we get more and more uncomfortable with it.  It's like the line in The Matrix, where Agent Smith notes that they tried to make the matrix more pleasant, but the human mind rebelled against it.  So they made it gritty and uncomfortable.  That fit the human mind better.

We are hard-wired for threat and survival.  Now that those things are largely gone, we create them where they don't exist or we squander or waste what we do have.  In our unhappiness, we medicate ourselves with alcohol and drugs, and this turns our abundance into loss.

One other point Easterbrook makes that it really important: progress is impossible without optimism.  To be a progressive or a liberal is to believe that your applied reason and effort can improve the world.  That is the essence of liberalism.  But if you believe the "system is rigged" or that "we are all doomed" then it is too easy to give up.

This is the crux of Barack Obama's speech at Howard.  Read this:

Given the current state of our political rhetoric and debate, let me say something that may be controversial, and that is this: America is a better place today than it was when I graduated from college. (Applause.) Let me repeat: America is by almost every measure better than it was when I graduated from college. It also happens to be better off than when I took office -- (laughter) -- but that's a longer story. (Applause.) That's a different discussion for another speech.

But think about it. I graduated in 1983. New York City, America’s largest city, where I lived at the time, had endured a decade marked by crime and deterioration and near bankruptcy. And many cities were in similar shape. Our nation had gone through years of economic stagnation, the stranglehold of foreign oil, a recession where unemployment nearly scraped 11 percent. The auto industry was getting its clock cleaned by foreign competition. And don’t even get me started on the clothes and the hairstyles. I've tried to eliminate all photos of me from this period. I thought I looked good. (Laughter.) I was wrong.

Since that year -- since the year I graduated -- the poverty rate is down. Americans with college degrees, that rate is up. Crime rates are down. America’s cities have undergone a renaissance. There are more women in the workforce. They’re earning more money. We’ve cut teen pregnancy in half. We've slashed the African American dropout rate by almost 60 percent, and all of you have a computer in your pocket that gives you the world at the touch of a button. In 1983, I was part of fewer than 10 percent of African Americans who graduated with a bachelor’s degree. Today, you’re part of the more than 20 percent who will. And more than half of blacks say we’re better off than our parents were at our age -- and that our kids will be better off, too.

So America is better. And the world is better, too. A wall came down in Berlin. An Iron Curtain was torn asunder. The obscenity of apartheid came to an end. A young generation in Belfast and London have grown up without ever having to think about IRA bombings. In just the past 16 years, we’ve come from a world without marriage equality to one where it’s a reality in nearly two dozen countries. Around the world, more people live in democracies. We’ve lifted more than 1 billion people from extreme poverty. We’ve cut the child mortality rate worldwide by more than half.

All of this is empirically true. And believing in this is how you make progress.  Not through a revolution that is based on false premises.  And certainly not by building walls.

Hillary Clinton must find a way to make America optimistic again.  Her husband was phenomenal at this, but it is not her forte.  She needs to find the music for these words.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Normalizing Hate

This is what worries me most about Trump.  As we are seeing, as he solidifies his grip on the nomination, he solidifies his grip on the GOP message.  That message is steeped in hatred and dehumanization.  It is precisely his ability to tap into that hatred of the "other" that has catapulted him to the nomination.  There are still voices like Gerson's in the GOP to call him out on that, but Trump was never the first voice that dehumanized non-white non-Christians.

As Gerson points out in the article, Hungarians responded to the rise of ethno-nationalist rhetoric by changing their own minds.  The racist party of that country gave license to other Hungarians to adapt exclusionary rhetoric and ideas.

I don't think Trump wins.  I can't see the math.

He could do severe damage to pluralism in this country before he loses though.

Friday, May 13, 2016

If It Quacks Like A Duck....

There is some debate over whether or not Donald Trump represents some form of fascism.  Probably not the Hitler-kind, but maybe the Mussolini-kind?  This goes to the idea that he represents some form of American authoritarianism.

Certainly, threatening to go after newspapers because they print things about you that you don't like isn't really in the spirit of American democracy and civil liberties.  Unfortunately, the press is held in almost as low esteem as Trump himself, so I'm not sure attacking them will really change many minds.  People who respect the freedom of the press aren't voting for Trump anyway.  The fact that Trump's attacks on WaPo are factually illiterate won't matter either.

With Sheldon Adelson becoming the first mega-donor to endorse Trump, we are going to see some movement towards Trump.  Paul Ryan has begun his inevitable capitulation before the Great Orange Satan.

The question becomes what happens when Trump says something so outrageous - or allegations surface from his past of criminality - that you really can't justify Trump to yourself or the world at large?

And will the press be willing to abandon their "both side do it" reflex - and their tendency to wilt in the face of charges of bias - and hold people accountable?

I have my doubts.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

West, By God, Virginia

Some really good analysis of the West Virginia primary, and the nature of Sanders voters.  The key bit is that many Sanders voters are not voting at all for the specific agenda of Sanders' "Revolution."  In fact, this might explain why Sanders' agenda has never received much scrutiny.

Sanders - and Trump - are really running as insurgents, not ideologues.  This is readily apparent in Trump, but often gets hidden in looking at Sanders, because Sanders himself is ideological.  But for many of his supporters, Clinton is simply the paramount example of the "corrupt system."

Ultimately, they are more fixated on tearing stuff down, rather than building a truly new system.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

OK, Sandernistas. What Do You Want?

Greg Sargent flags Clinton asking the Sandernistas to join her coalition.  He wonders what this might look like.  As Stephen Stromberg notes, Sanders actual proposals are unrealistic.  In particular, Sanders has suggested that he can expand the welfare state, especially in health care, without taxing the middle and working class at the levels necessary for it to work.

So, Clinton has sort of laid down a gauntlet: Why do you want from my election?  Let's say they ask for the $15 minimum wage.  Let's say that somehow Clinton get a $13 minimum wage through Congress.  Will people see this as a necessary progress?  Or will it simply disillusion the people who are waiting for their revolution?

Many - though certainly not all -  Sanders supporters suffer from the same unicorn problem that afflicts the far right.  They want what they want, and they are unwilling to accept that sometimes you only get half a loaf.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Historical President

Obama is obviously historical as the first non-white President, but he is also historical in his appreciation of the long view.  In his remarks at Howard, that Jon Chait summarizes and excerpts, Obama is making the case for incremental change.  I was having this argument with a Sandernista online last week - sadly on my phone, which limited my verbosity, my thumbs are only so fast - about the nature of change.

She had a number of points that seemed fairly fantastical to me - the ACA is not a "new program," it was identical to the Heritage plan, some stuff about Clinton scandals - but I know trying to change people's minds about "false facts" only reinforces those false facts.  So I've tried to engage on the idea that incremental change needs to be celebrated.  Of course, there are breakthrough moments, but those often come after a long period of slow movement.  Like the slow thaw of a frozen river.

I shall certainly miss having a President who gets the Big Picture.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Stupid Coming Home To Roost

A few pixels have been shed about how the current plight of the GOP is from their long embrace of arguments based on falsehood and ignorance.  Krugzilla points out that Donald Trump's chillingly ignorant statement that he would essentially take the US into Chapter 11 is really a product of poor economic policy from the GOP that stretches back decades.  The GOP has routinely driven up the national debt, but as soon as the Democrats take over the White House, they collapse into a caterwauling mess over the big, bad debt.

The debt exists as a boogeyman to scare people away from spending on the American public.

What's scary is that Trump exists in the fictitious world of "Why can't the government balance their books, just like my family."  Leaving aside that few families do balance their books, the fact is the governments aren't families.  And they aren't businesses, either.  Trump does not seem to understand the difference.  Even more worrisome, he doesn't seem to care that he doesn't understand the difference.

Ladies and gentleman, the 2016 GOP.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Process Vs. Purity

I've written this to death, but the main difference between liberals and the Left is that liberals accept institutions as they are and try and work within them, whereas the Left wishes to change the institutions themselves.

John Cole gives a nice summary of this, too, using the text of Obama's speech at Howard and links to a Dylan Matthews piece that I somehow missed.

Institutions are critical for everything.  We like to think we are above the influence of these impersonal forces, but we aren't.  My course uses the following definition: Institutions are self-perpetuating and valued for their own sake.  They are very, very difficult to dislodge.  The GOP has spent the last 20 years - since Gingrich - trying to destroy the institutions of government that they don't like.  They haven't quite succeeded, but they've given it a go.  Trump is a product of that strategy.

However, that means that being a liberal almost by definition means supporting the institutions of government.  The Left feels entirely unmoved by institutions, too.  That's at the heart of Sanders' "revolution."  The problem is that institutions ARE valuable, and if they are getting attacked from the left and right, that is an assault on the very idea of the commonwealth.

I do hope we find our equilibrium soon.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Donald The Dangerous

Alex Pareene wonders if the Democrats are going to blow this.  He makes a decent case that attacking Trump for being dangerous isn't playing to his strengths.  It's precisely because Trump is dangerous that he won the GOP nomination.

However, when he says things like wanting to essentially default on America's debt, it's very difficult to simply walk away from that.  Trump is legitimately scary in his ignorance and willful disregard for facts.  The idea of attacking Trump as a loser and a deadbeat is, of course, appealing.

My question is: given that you aren't going to win over any of his supporters, who are you really pitching your message to?  Trump's most avid voters make up a rather small slice of the electorate.  He's won less than half the votes cast in the GOP primaries.  You aren't going to win over voters who believe that he will "make America great again" simply by the mindless repetition of that phrase.  Facts are fundamentally irrelevant to the Trump phenomenon.  (And frankly to the Sanders phenomenon.  I spent too much time arguing with a Sandernista on Facebook yesterday, trying to convince her to support Clinton.  She had interpretations of the past thirty years that were simply non-factual, and any effort to challenge those facts simply reinforced them in her mind.)

Donald the Dangerous is obviously pitched to the business community.  The Wall Street and even Main Street Republicans who are repelled by Trump.  Clinton clearly wants to sew up elite support in a year of angry populism.  And that's risky, but maybe not THAT risky.  Elite support typically does matter.

The question is, can she pivot and also use the Donald the Deadbeat attack, too?  This is the Karl Rove playbook: turn your opponent's strength into a weakness.  Go after Trump University.  Go after his numerous bankruptcies (and the effect that had on his employees).  And of course, continue to go after the racism and misogyny.

It's worth noting that all of this suggests that "tactics" are fundamental to winning a campaign.  Increasingly, I find tactics only make a difference at the margins.  People know who Trump is and what Republicans stand for.  People know who Hillary is and what Democrats stand for.

And Clinton has about a 10 point lead.

There aren't enough angry white men to elect Donald Trump.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Coming Conservative Crack-Up

There are signs and portents, people.  Signs and portents.

Martin Longman predicts that this will be a landslide election, and as I said the other day, he's more right than most political analysts I can think of.

The way I see it is where the Hillary wins quite comfortably in a two person race or runs up the score in a three-way race.  I can't help but feel there are some Republicans who simply can't stomach a Trump candidacy and will cast about for ANYONE to allow them another choice.  Maybe it's Gary Johnson, but who knows.  Ballot slots are closing.

The question is which result is better for Democrats, and I think having a third party run by some milquetoast candidate like Tim Pawlenty of Pete Wilson would absolutely assure Clinton winning the White House.

But a narrower two-person race assures Democrats of the Senate and perhaps sizable pickups in the House.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Sadly, This Is True

The media and the GOP will seek to elevate Trump and tear down Clinton.  For all the reasons stated in the article.

The scary thing is not that it will work; I don't think it will.  But it will succeed in damaging Clinton even further.  For all the nastiness of the 2008 general election, McCain never "went there."  Neither did Romney, for the most part.  Trump will dive deep into the sewer and create norms that no one in their right mind will want created.

You can't unfuck the chicken.

Dropping The Etch-A-Sketch

There is a theme running around the media that Trump will shake the Etch-A-Sketch and become more reasonable as the general election moves forward.

The problem is that Trump is an egotistical moron.  And so are the people he surrounds himself with.

Ben Carson long ago manifested his supreme ignorance of basic facets of government, but this one is both ignorant and creepy.  Carson suggests that Trump nominate Ted Cruz - who may or may not be the Zodiac killer - just so Cruz can go after a political opponent.  Then, Trump would nominate Cruz to be on the Supreme Court.  This is both Nixonian and incompetent, as it would leave Scalia's seat open until July of 2018.

I swear these fucking people....

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The GOP Is Not Dead

Martin Longman is a very wise commentator.  I don't always agree with everything he says, but when I don't, he usually turns out to have the better of the argument.

He notes, correctly, that the GOP isn't dead, but the long awaited crack-up with movement conservatism is here.  An exerpt:
As Barro notes, “All three of the supposed “legs” of the Republican coalition stool — libertarian economics, social conservatism, and militarism — are at risk from Trump and the populist-imitator candidates he will spawn.”
There’s a sense in which few Republicans truly care about all three legs of the stool, but simply tolerate one or two of them to get the other(s) that really motivate(s) them. But virtually all Republicans care passionately about either fiscal or social conservatism, or about international affairs and conservative principles in foreign policy.
Trump will force loyal Republicans to support or tolerate or grudgingly accept many of the things they’ve spent their whole lives warning us would lead to armageddon. When that happens, many of them will change their core beliefs and their standards for what a Republican should be and what they should represent. When it’s over, assuming he loses, the party will never be the same. They will never go back to those three legs of the stool. And, if he wins, the party will definitely be transformed into something unrecognizable.

Movement conservatives began to take over the party under Goldwater and then launched the Reagan Revolution.  They have controlled the party ever since.  But as Pat Buchanan proved, as the baffling primaries of 2012 proved and Donaldus Magnus now proves, the appetite for doctrinaire conservatism is waning, even among Republicans.

Trump has never embraced the social conservatism of many rank-and-file Republican voters.  How will they respond to Trump shrugging off the Great Bathroom Panic of 2016?  Trump rejects the arguments of free trade and saner immigration laws, alienating the Wall Street wing.  Trump's foreign "policy" is already causing defections among neoconservatives.

I can understand the appeal of Trump to certain segments of the electorate.  But I wonder how much certain constituencies within the GOP can stomach Trump.  And where will they go?

I had a few ex-students lamenting that they finally get to vote for President, and they have no one to vote for.   A canny politician with Libertarian leanings might be looking at that ballot slot right about now.

Overall, the GOP that emerges from this election will be very different than the one that elected two Bushes.  As a Democrat, I am glad, but more importantly as an American, I fear what may emerge.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Buh, Bye Ted

Ted Cruz is arguably the most loathsome politician in the country.  It's still arguable whether or not Donald Trump is a politician or a reality TV star.


Conservative activists are often the people most guilty of the crimes they rail against.  The only people committing in-person voting fraud are activists showing that it possible to do so.  The fact that it doesn't happen, because it is largely pointless doesn't matter.

Now, we have (presumably) heterosexual men entering women's bathrooms in order to prove that heterosexual men can enter bathrooms in Target stores under their policy that allows transgender people to use the bathroom that they identify.

Look, assholes, there are very few transgender people in the world.  And chances are they have been using the bathrooms they want all along.  If you're a trans woman - someone assigned male at birth - and you identify, dress and present as female, then you have been using the women's room all along.  And no one knew about it or cared about it.  I mean, there are stalls in there for FSM's sake!

So, once again, the conservative fever swamps have created a crisis where none exists (Shariah law!) and have now proceeded to create the problem that only they think exists in the first place.

What are the media going to talk about when it becomes apparent that Trump can never get elected?

I mean, of course, he can get elected.  It's within the realm of possibility. But in reality, he can't.  He's toxic, and he's incapable of keeping his foot out of his mouth.  In fact, he mistakes the bounces he gets with the GOP electorate for being an asshole with actual campaign acumen.

The horse race is over, so all we will have is the reality show, which will both help and hurt Trump.

If the media feels bad about elevating this orange-tinted sack of bile, they could focus on the actual issues this fall.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Party Does Matter

One thing that differentiates Clinton and Sanders supporters - or Trump and anyone else's supporters - is how they feel about the party.  Clinton is a Democrat, Sanders is barely one.  Clinton is raising money for candidates across the board, Sanders is not.  That's why she has the Super Delegates sewn up and will be the nominee.

This article by Scott Lemieux explains well why party matters more than the candidate.  Especially in a time of parliamentary levels of party loyalty and polarization, the party you choose to run for matters a great deal.  Lemieux's example of Terry McAuliffe is a great one.  He was a hack, he probably still is a hack, but like any good hack, he can tell which way the wind is blowing.  This makes the differences between Clinton and Sanders actually appear quite small within the possible range of policies that they might actually be able to enact.  They may quibble on the margins of what they can and cannot do, but they agree fundamentally on the direction.

What worries me more and more is that there is a flip-side to this partisan loyalty.  The GOP tends to fall obediently behind their nominee, but this year they have been fighting like hell to stop Trump.  Given their tendency to fall in line, they really don't have any mechanism to stop him though, which has led to all those sad, failed Stop Trump efforts.

When Trump becomes the nominee, he becomes the face and voice of the party.  This scares Republican leaders, because Trump's economic and foreign policy positions are so heterodox.  The good news is that Trump might move the GOP away from it's panty-sniffing moralistic efforts to regulate bedroom and bathroom behaviors.  He's also expressed interest in infrastructure spending.

The worrisome part, of course, is that Trump represents the sneering, angry bigotry that many Americans still have towards minorities and women.  As he descends into the gutter to attack Clinton, he will unleash more misogyny and more racism.  And that will become the GOP position.  Millions of Americans will take their cues from the party and adopt Trump's voice as their own.

Maybe this leads to the creative destruction of the old GOP.  Maybe it just coarsens our discourse for a season.  Or maybe it unleashes some rough beast upon the land that cannot be returned to it cage in early November.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Except that Obama elevated the White House Correspondent's Dinner as he did so much else.

I'm really going to miss that guy.