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

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.

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