Browsing the archives for the elections category.


Stuff to Read About Trump

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Bad Hair, elections, Obama Administration

Charles Pierce argues that now is the time for the Republican Party to die. See also The End of the Republican Party at FiveThirtyEight.

While I don’t see the Republican Party disappearing anytime soon, Donald Trump’s chances of becoming POTUS are sinking faster than cement shoes in the East River. Per FiveThirtyEight, on July 30 it was Trump, 50.1, Clinton, 49.9. Now it’s 18.4 and 81.5, respectively. At this rate Trump will be in negative numbers by Monday.

A former Wall Street Journal reporter writes about his days covering Donald Trump. He writes that Donald Trump is a bad, bad businessman.

A former deputy director of the CIA endorses Hillary Clinton. This is the juiciest bit:

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated.

Mr. Putin is a great leader, Mr. Trump says, ignoring that he has killed and jailed journalists and political opponents, has invaded two of his neighbors and is driving his economy to ruin. Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests — endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.

In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.

Trump’s erratic behavior is getting so much media attention that Hillary Clinton is nearly invisible. This may be helping her also.

Clinton’s biggest problem now is that she’s not doing so well among Millennials.

And yet even though roughly three-fourths of all battleground-state Millennials expressed these disparaging views of Trump, the survey found Clinton drawing just 43 percent against him in a four-way race that included libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. While Trump attracted only 24 percent, nearly as many picked Johnson or Stein, and the rest said they were either undecided or wouldn’t vote. By comparison, Obama carried two-thirds of Millennials in 2008 and three-fifths in 2012.

But in comparing two-way and four-way polls at Real Clear Politics, it seems to me that the two fringe party candidates, Stein and Johnson, are taking votes from both Clinton and Trump about equally. So that may be a wash.

Fortunately, the Olympics will give us a little relief from politics. Enjoy.

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On Safari

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elections

I’m visiting family in the Ozarks. It is very quiet here. Unlike Brooklyn, there are no firetrucks or ambulances roaring by every ten minutes; no incessant construction and traffic noise. It’s like a decompression chamber.

The big event in the community today was a golf cart parade followed by a hot dog roast. But it’s raining, so I didn’t go. I hope the rain doesn’t cancel all the local fireworks displays. Otherwise it will be a few days before something else happens.

The politics ads are very depressing here. One candidate after another gets on television and swears to be a constitutional conservative who will protect our rights to guns and to refuse to bake gay wedding cakes. One guy actually shoots a gun in his ad.  They’re also big on cutting taxes and reducing crime. (When “crime” is mentioned, the ads show what appear to be videos of Ferguson.)

The Missouri state legislature, which always was crazy, spends most of its time coming up with ways to restrict abortions and gay rights and un-restrict guns. I can’t tell that they do anything else. The primary function of the governor, a Democrat, is to veto stuff. He vetoes a lot of stuff. But his second term is about to expire, and he can’t run again.

The Democratic candidate for governor, Chris Koster, is a centrist who at least is good on reproductive rights and gay rights issues. I don’t have a sense of where he stands elsewhere.  The Republican candidates are tripping all over themselves to earn the title “Crazier Than Thou.” If any of them get into the governor’s office, the state is doomed.

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It Ain’t Over ‘Til the Spinning Is Over

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elections

There are election results, and then there is the post-voting spin contest. Especially in the case of Iowa, the latter is arguably more critical.

Marco Rubio finished a “strong” third, only one percentage point behind second-place The Donald. Already the Establishment types are pinning their hopes on Marco as the guy who will restore sanity to the election and become a reasonably presentable GOP nominee. The Chicago Tribune wants to believe that Trump wasn’t even a factor last night, even though he did beat Rubio. Behind the scenes, Toast! will be pressured to drop out and endorse Rubio. He’d probably rather eat live frogs.

What to make of the Clinton-Sanders virtual tie? Some spinners are smugly saying that Sanders had to win big to remain viable, so Clinton is the big winner, even though (as of this morning) the race is still too close to call as far as news media are concerned.

But other reports say the Clinton campaign is “unnerved.” Andrea Mitchell reported the Clinton folks were in meltdown.

Mr. Sanders showed strength in unexpected ways that could signal trouble for Mrs. Clinton, performing surprisingly well in rural counties and small caucus precincts, and even making some gains among Hispanic Democrats, his advisers said on Tuesday morning.

Mr. Sanders won several counties that Mrs. Clinton carried in 2008 in conservative-leaning southwestern Iowa and in the northern part of the state, including Cerro Gordo County, where Mr. Sanders drew three times as many people as Mr. Clinton as the two men held dueling rallies last Wednesday night.

Many of Mrs. Clinton’s friends and former advisers from Arkansas and the White House planned to meet her in New Hampshire to provide moral support and energy to her campaign team. Her backers said the results in Iowa should not be given too much weight.

Her backers said the results in Iowa should not be given too much weight. Spoken like a campaign that just had a wakeup call. My sense of things is that Sanders may be winning the post-election spin contest. However, it remains to be seen if he can win any primaries other than New Hampshire.

This breakdown shows that Sanders had the overwhelming support of younger participants, while older voters went for Clinton. It also shows that people still consider Clinton to be the one who is safely electable. That’s a bubble Sanders needs to burst if he’s going to win after New Hampshire.

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We Need Some New Dogs, ‘Cause the Old Tricks Ain’t Workin’

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elections

My insight into politics 2016 is that the old political tricks that used to win elections don’t work any more, and the candidates who realize that are the ones who are winning.

For example: Once upon the time, the candidate with the biggest war chest, the most money, had a huge (or is that “yuuuuuge”?) advantage. More money, more ads, more votes. But that’s no longer true.

In this strange primary season, there is little relationship between money spent on ads and poll numbers for candidates, at least on the Republican side. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio, the top two spenders, have spent about 10 times as much on ads as have the two polling leaders in Iowa, Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — who until recently bought far fewer ads than their rivals.

At this early stage of the race, the negative correlation between spending and support appears to be the result of the ever-evolving media landscape and a few other factors, some unique to 2016: a celebrity front-runner, a crowded field, questionable campaign strategies and voter burnout.

I remember reading a few years ago that television ads were getting less bang for the buck with every passing election cycle. I’d like to believe viewers are better at recognizing bullshit than they used to be, but the truth is we’ve all been so saturated with advertising that, unless it is unusually clever or funny, we tune it out.

(Example of funny/clever ad; not from U.S. television)

I don’t know if that makes me want to buy the dumplings, but at least I would remember the ad.  The problem is, how many funny/clever campaign ads can you think of? And would the infamous “Daisy” ad of 50+ years ago work today, or be laughed at?

On the Dem side, IMO Hillary Clinton’s biggest blunder is that she’s trying to run a 1990s-style campaign against Bernie Sanders, who is way not a 1990s-style candidate. Charles Blow nicely sums this up:

… instead of Clinton finding a way to express that her plans are more tangible than Sanders’s, and her chances in the general election are stronger than his, she and her campaign have made some incredulous inferences about Sanders’s honor.

Sanders may be a dreamer, but he’s not dishonorable. Trying to sully him in this way only sullies her.

There are a tremendous number of echoes starting to be heard between the way Clinton ran against Obama, and the way she is running against Sanders. …

… If Clinton can’t find a positive, energetic message to project, and soon, she is going to be swept away by Sanders.

Clinton’s off-the-wall swipes at Sanders do connect … with Clinton supporters. I see the same talking points repeated ad nauseam in social media. But people who are not already in the tank for Hillary are not buying them.

Clinton could just as easily make a positive argument for herself, saying that while she supports Sanders’s ideals, her more incremental approach has a better chance of actually working to realize those ideals than his “revolution” approach. That’s a very compelling argument, I think, and one that could win over people on the fence. But instead she’s going for cheap smears, and that does nothing but underscore her own negatives — in particular, the perception that she has a history of selling out progressive principles for her own political expediency.

And yes, her campaign is starting to sound like a re-run of 2008 — when she lost, as I recall.

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Need to Know

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elections

There are a lot of postmortems of Scott Walker’s failed campaign. The most basic reason his campaign failed is lack of money. He had all kinds of super-PAC money, mind you, but it seems there are rules about using super-PAC money for common campaign expenses like paying one’s staff, travel, renting campaign headquarters, etc.

And while Walker may have had some megadonors ready to write checks, he couldn’t raise money from small donors that he could use for the campaign essentials. According to this article, one direct-mail solicitation campaign cost more money than it raised. There are also complaints that Walker’s campaign manager “went big” too soon. Back when Walker was a front-runner, the manager hired a big staff, a PR firm, and lots of consultants to keep the Big Mo going.

Maybe they should have spent the money hiring a more exciting candidate. The small donors dried up after the first debate and never came back.

(Lest anyone think this will bring about the demise of unlimited campaign spending, see Steve M.)

The campaign apparently also had to hire people to explain to Walker what a President does. Frank Bruni (yeah, I know, it’s Frank Bruni):

I’m weary and wary of politicians whose ambitions precede and eclipse any serious, necessary preparation for the office they seek. Walker is a perfect example.

I kept hearing and reading — after he’d obviously decided to run for president — that he was being briefed by an emergency crew of wonks. Shouldn’t that have happened first? Shouldn’t he have been paying attention all along, out of a genuine interest in this sort of material rather than a pragmatic one?

In the Republican primary battle, though, not knowing stuff apparently doesn’t matter.

Donald Trump has prospered, and he’s utterly unapologetic about all of the matters that he hasn’t taken the trouble to bone up on and all of the experts whom he hasn’t bothered to consult.

When NBC’s Chuck Todd asked him where he gets his military advice, he said: “I watch the shows.” He presumably meant “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation,” though I don’t think we can rule out “Survivor” or “Game of Thrones.”

Time and again, Trump pledges to amass the proper information just before he needs it — no point in doing so now, before he finds out if he’s hired — and he predicts that he’ll shame everyone then with his abracadabra erudition. He’s a procrastinating college freshman planning an all-nighter before the final exam.

I already talked about Trump’s and Fiorina’s issues-free campaign websites on this post. Ben Carson does have an “issues” section on his website, but it doesn’t say shit.  For example, he plans to repeal Obamacare, but the only idea presented for replacing it is Health Savings Accounts. (As a writer, I recognize bullshit “filler” copy when I see it. Carson’s issues page is all filler.)

Basically, the current “top three” in the Republican field have given us no clue what specific policies they might pursue in office, and indeed have given no indication they’ve thought about it much. “ISIS is bad” is not a foreign policy plan, folks.

Marco Rubio’s issues page has a lot more verbiage, most of which is dedicated to complaining how awful President Obama’s policies are, followed by some simplistic bullet list of what Rubio will do better. For example, his plan to reduce the debt consists of cutting spending and “reforming” (which means cutting) taxes. Oh, and he wants a balanced budget amendment.

“The Tax Foundation found that our plan, over the next decade, would increase GDP by 15 percent, boost wages by 12.5 percent, and create almost 2.7 million full-time jobs,” Rubio’s website boasted. Note that the Tax Foundation has ties to ALEC . Krugman took the Tax Foundation apart awhile back when it claimed there had been no long-run upward trend in income inequality.

Looking at the last of the GOP Most Likelies, Jeb! doesn’t have an issues section, but instead has dribbled out random policy positions on his “news” section.

And yes, I’ve looked at Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’s web pages. In some cases HRC is still promising what she plans to do (climate change) and in others she has some plausible details worked out (reducing higher education cost). Bernie Sanders seem pretty firm about what he wants to do, although I notice his issues page leaves off climate change and health care, except for prescription drugs.  (He’s called for Medicare for All in the recent past.)

Then there’s the website On the Issues, which can be a useful place to get a general idea about a candidate’s position. Just for fun:

Here is the condensed version of Bernie Sanders positions on Social Security.  Now, compare that to Carly Fiorina. Um, see the difference?

Talk about buying a pig in a poke. Basically, if you look for them you find that most of the GOP positions amount to the same stuff they’ve been pushing for years — cut spending, especially on programs for the poor and retired  (but not defense), cut taxes, replace Obamacare with a few ineffectual tweaks that won’t help most people, give Israel everything it wants, ISIS is bad, ban abortions, pass a balanced budget amendment, hooray for guns, more drilling for oil, illegal immigration is bad, and there is no climate change. There are some exceptions to that list, but not many.

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Opposing Income Inequality Is the New Black

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elections, Mittens, Obama Administration, Republican Party

It was funny enough when Rick Santorum tried to rebrand himself as an economic populist. But you’ll never guess who’s getting on the “we are the 99 percent” bandwagon. Well, unless you’ve already read this.

Mitt Romney, sudden champion of Americans trying to make ends meet — it’s coming off to progressives and veterans of Obama’s winning re-election campaign as a little too rich.

The 2012 Republican nominee’s sudden return to presidential politics already had them dusting off old attack lines. His reinvention Friday night as an anti-poverty warrior has them in a frenzy of excitement, even glee at what they see as the Democratic Party’s stroke of good luck.

Yes, children, Mittens now fancies himself to be the Savior of the Downtrodden. This is something like making Ronald McDonald the poster boy for heart-healthy diets.
His message, or as much as I can glean from news stories, is this:
  • Mittens really cares about poor people. He knows this because his wife Ann says so.
“She knows my heart in a way that few people do,” he said. “She’s seen me not just as a business guy and a political guy, but for over 10 years as you know I served as a pastor for a congregation and for groups of congregations… She’s seen me work with folks that are looking for better work and jobs and providing care for the sick and the elderly. She knows where my heart is.”
  • Liberal policies haven’t worked. Of course they haven’t actually been tried for decades because they’ve been obstructed by conservatives, but let’s not quibble. The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer, and this must be Obama’s fault. The fact that the rich have been getting richer and the poor poorer since the Reagan Administration is water under the bridge.

“Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before,” Romney said. “Under this president, his policies have not worked. Their liberal policies are good every four years for a campaign, but they don’t get the job done.”

  •  Mittens has a plan, something bold and original that hasn’t been done before. He explained to Republican National Committee members,
“The only policies that will reach into the hearts of the American people and pull people out of poverty and break the cycle of poverty are Republican principles, conservative principles,” Romney said to no applause from the Republican crowd.
I’m sure they forgot to applaud because they were struck numb by the boldness of Romney’s plan. And maybe he could get Gov. Sam Brownback to serve as an economic policy adviser.

Snark aside, it appears income inequality is going to be a big issue in 2016. Hillary Clinton also has been making noise about it and trying to tie herself to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a long-time friend and alleged progressive. Opposing income inequality is the new black.

But hearing it from Romney, de Blasio said, is a sign that income inequality has really arrived as the defining issue of the 2016 campaign.

“This is on the minds of more and more people around the country, because income inequality is basically the touchstone of what we’re dealing with right now,” de Blasio said. “It is very telling that a guy who’s trying to find his way back to political relevance will grab onto it.”

It is telling, and it suggests the 2016 election campaigns will be a ton of fun. But if we end up with a HRC-Jeb Bush general election choice the terrorists will have won.
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Politics of the Id

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elections, Obama Administration, Republican Party

I avoided political news yesterday, but this morning I bit the bullet and took a look at a few postmortems. I think Charles Pierce comes closest:

I think it was contemplating the fact that both Sam Brownback and Paul LePage both may have survived as governors that was the last straw for me tonight. Brownback has wrecked his state. Even Kansas Republicans believe that. LePage is a local embarrassment who became a national embarrassment in the final days before the election. Even Maine Republicans believe that. But Brownback will go back to wrecking his state, and LePage will go back to embarrassing his because of an attitude that Republicans, and the conservative movement that has powered the party, have cultivated carefully over the last three decades. They have engaged, quite deliberately and quite successfully, in a concerted effort to convince the country that self-government is a game for suckers. Nobody does what they say they’re going to do, so ignore the fact that our candidates have drifted so far to the right that they’ll be falling into the Thames any minute now because they’re not going to act on their fringe beliefs, and just go out there and vote your Id. Once you’ve divorced the act of voting from the conviction that voting will have any connection to what the government actually does, voters do not vote their desires, they vote their anger and their fear. And Sam Brownback goes back to wrecking his state and Paul LePage goes back to embarrassing his own.

Seriously, if we’d all taken a drink every time some election night bobblehead declared voters were tired of “politics as usual” or “fed up with Washington” we’d still be passed out. The bare-assed facts of the results would suggest that voters want more of the same. They want more wreckage, more gridlock, more drama, more stagnation. Except, they probably really don’t. They’re probably mostly really disgusted. So they vote for the candidate who personifies their disgust. As Pierce says, they are voting their Id. That’s the only explanation that makes sense.

Also, too:

Let us dispense with some conventional wisdom before it petrifies. First of all, the president’s basic unpopularity was unquestionably a factor, but not anywhere near as much of a factor as was the reluctance of the Democratic party — from the president on down — to embrace the actual successes that the administration has achieved. The economy is, in fact, improving. It is the responsibility of the president and his party that we have the paradoxical polling that indicates that the elements of the Affordable Care Act are popular, while “Obamacare” is not. (Mitch McConnell told a transparent lie that Kentucky could get rid of the ACA and still keep its very popular state exchange. He didn’t suffer at all for that.) The senatorial candidates who lost were senators who ran away from the administration.

I think President Obama’s single biggest mistake as President is that he has allowed himself to become too remote. It seems to me we don’t see as much of him as we have seen past POTUSes while in office. He’s a likeable guy, and while I don’t always agree with him he’s turned the economy around quite a bit and considerably lowered the deficit. How many Americans actually know President Obama has reduced the deficit? I’d be willing to bet real money that if you stopped people randomly in the street and asked them whether the deficit has gone up or down under Obama, 99 out of 100 would say “up.”

And, of course, a lot of the reason for this is that news media don’t inform the public of anything the public needs to know about their government. All we ever hear is the spin. News for the Id.

Second, I think it’s generally true that Democratic politicians campaigning for higher offices now probably started their political careers in the 80s or 90s or early 00. They learned that the way to succeed is to not stick their necks out for progressivism. So their don’t offer a real contrast to the Republican candidates except for seeming, well blander. No Id appeal. Combine that with apparently successful voter suppression efforts, and there’s nothing to stop the Republicans from swamping the ship of state.

Last, and I hate to break this to Tom Brokaw, and to Kasie Hunt, who talked about how the Republicans know they have to “govern,” but this election couldn’t have been less of a repudiation of the Tea Party.

That’s the other howler we heard over and over election night — the GOP establishment prevailed; the Tea Party has been leashed. Seems kind of the other way around to me.

Now the bobbleheads are putting on their best suits and telling us in their polished and resonate baritones that the Republicans will have to govern. No, they don’t, and they have no intention of doing so. In fact, The Editors of National Review have declared governing to be a trap. The reasons, boiled down, are these:

  1. Governing may require compromise which may require giving Democrats something they want.
  2. If we attempt to pass legislation Democrats will just obstruct us, doing to us what we did to them. The nerve.
  3. If we actually do something it might piss off the Tea Party.
  4. If government actually started working while a Democrat is in the White House, voters might elect another Democrat in 2016.
  5. Because of the four reasons above, instead of trying to pass legislation that would require compromises with Democrat and which might not be vetoed by a Democratic President, we should focus on what we will be able to accomplish after 2016 when we are in complete control.

Seriously, look for yourself. That’s what they’re saying.

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Derp Nation

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disasters, natural and unnatural, elections

Headline on an AP Story: “Exit poll: Voters unhappy with Obama and GOP.” So they elect more Republicans to send to Washington? Why do voters hate America?

We’re in for a nasty couple of years.

Peter Baker writes in the NY Times that President Obama is “fighting for his own relevance.” But President Obama’s relevance is the least of my concerns today. What’s really at stake is America’s relevance. If we thought U.S. politics has mostly been a clown show for the past 20 years, I fear that was just the warm up act. I know we’ve been joking for years about moving to Canada, but frankly were I a young person I would seriously be considering finding a more stable country to live in. We can’t keep this up.

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See You Later

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elections

I have a lot to do today, but consider this an open thread. I’ll plan on live-blogging election returns tonight unless it gets too depressing. Feel free to drop by if you need company.

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I’m Getting Tired of Winning by Losing

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elections

Dems are bracing themselves for losing the Senate tomorrow. Some are consoling themselves by saying this will be a wake-up call for progressives. To which I say, sweetums, if they ain’t awake already, I don’t know what’s going to do it.

Others are saying there are very tight races in states that will be key in the next Electoral College count, and given the “fundamentals” Republicans ought to be doing better, and this is a bad omen for them in 2016. In other words, a near miss is something like a win for the Dems. But a near miss is still a near miss.

Some commenters think the GOP is bound to overreach and spend the next two years making fools of themselves and proving their own ineptitude, and they won’t have Harry Reid to blame any more. Ah, but they can still blame President Obama. So sorry if I’m not in silver lining mode right now.

I’m personally hoping to see some governors going away, notably Brownback, Walker and Scott. These are very close races. Right now Brownback and Scott are considered likely to lose and Walker to win, but they’re all going to be nail biters.

But, y’know, in a sane world it shouldn’t even be close.

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