Well I know I had it coming

There’s a great Vox interview with Norman Ornstein about the Trumpocalypse:

But if you forced me to pick one factor explaining what’s happened, I would say this is a self-inflicted wound by Republican leaders.

Over many years, they’ve adopted strategies that have trivialized and delegitimized government. They were willing to play to a nativist element. And they tried to use, instead of stand up to, the apocalyptic visions and extremism of some cable television, talk radio, and other media outlets on the right.

I doubt though that Republicans will pay much of a price for this, at least in the short term. Yes, Trump will probably lose and Democrats will do better in the House and Senate than they otherwise would have. But they’ll find a way to obstruct most of what Hillary wants to do, and they’ll probably do okay in the 2018 midterms by attacking Hillary the same way they’ve attacked Obama.

It’s likely that the Republican strategy is suicide long-term. If I were a conservative, I’d be pretty fucking scared by the fact that, not only do young people vote overwhelming Democratic in general elections, they also just voted overwhelmingly for a Democratic socialist in the primary.

But that’s probably not Mitch McConnell’s or Paul Ryan’s or Reince Preibus’ problem. They’ll be gone out of the water by the time it boils.



He’s a bandit and a heartbreaker

It’s still hard for me to believe that #NeverTrump wasn’t able to make a dent in the Donald by hammering away at Trump University and Trump’s misogyny.

This ad about Trump University was pretty good:

As was this ad about Trump’s misogyny:

The media will try to recast Trump as a serious reformicon maverick between now and November. And we’ll certainly get a lot of this:

[T]he Clinton campaign and its surrogates will bring up Trump University and Trump’s bankruptcies and Trump’s mob ties and history of racial discrimination — but these stories will reported with the asterisk “On the other hand, the Clinton Foundation blah blah blah blah blah,” or “In the 1990s, Mrs. Clinton’s cattle-future trading was investigated….” Both Sides Do It, so the press will feel the need to yoke every Trump scandal to a Clinton scandal. This tendency is likely to be extended even to such matters as Trump’s racism: Yes, Trump calls Mexicans “rapists” and wants to ban Muslims, but Hillary Clinton said “off the reservation” that one time.

But I think that the reaction to the Trump University scam and “she’s a dog” etc. is visceral in a way that Both Sides Do It can never be. I think the only question is how voters react to MenaGate, TravelGate, MonicaGate, BenghaziGate, and so on. My guess is that most of it is too complicated for non-wingers to understand. I wonder if we’ll see some longer documentaries about the murder of Vince Foster on our teevee screens this fall.



Five years going by

There aren’t many people who foresaw the Trumpocalypse, but here’s Steve M. from April 2011:

But can’t you see him magisterially propelling himself into an Iowa state fair, or down a main street in small-town New Hampshire, in a motorcade of Escalades? And are we really sure that couldn’t work — winning the nomination, by being the macher, the mack, the big pimp?

[….]

The folks who moan that we’re on “the road to serfdom” — don’t they really want to be the serfs of rich guys like Trump?

I just don’t know. I’ve always heard that campaigning in the early states was an exercise in humility — the pigshit on your Gucci loafers at the Iowa state fair and all that. But is it different now on the right? Does the base want to prostrate itself before a plutocrat overlord, and not hold him to the same standards as mere mortals?



Long (Hate) Read: “The Selling of Obama”

This showed up online well in advance of last night’s WHCD, as part of Politico‘s “Media Issue,” as a story about how the President failed to uphold the Media Village Idiots’ prescriptions:

President Barack Obama insists he does not obsess about “the narrative,” the everyday media play-by-play of political Washington. He urges his team to tune out “the noise,” “the echo chamber,” the Beltway obsession with who’s up and who’s down. But in the fall of 2014, he got sick of the narrative of gloom hovering over his White House. Unemployment was dropping and troops were coming home, yet only one in four Americans thought the nation was on the right track—and Democrats worried about the midterm elections were sprinting away from him. He wanted to break through the noise… [I]in a speech at Northwestern University, he tried to reshape his narrative. If the presidential bully pulpit couldn’t drown out the echo chamber, he figured nothing could.

The facts were that America had put more people back to work than the rest of the world’s advanced economies combined. High school graduation rates were at an all-time high, while oil imports, the deficit, and the uninsured rate had plunged. The professor-turned-president was even more insistent than usual that he was merely relying on “logic and reason and facts and data,” challenging his critics to do the same. “Those are the facts. It’s not conjecture. It’s not opinion. It’s not partisan rhetoric. I laid out facts.”

The Northwestern speech did reshape the narrative, but not in the way Obama intended. The only line that made news came near the end of his 54-minute address, an observation that while he wouldn’t be on the ballot in the fall midterms, “these policies are on the ballot—every single one of them.” When Obama boarded Air Force One after his speech, his speechwriter, Cody Keenan, told him the Internet had already flagged that line as an idiotic political gaffe… Obama’s words couldn’t change the narrative of his unpopularity; they just gave Republicans a new opening to exploit it. They quickly became a staple of campaign ads and stump speeches tying Democrats ball-and-chain to their leader. “Republicans couldn’t have written a better script,” declared The Fix, the Washington Post’s column for political junkies. Even Axelrod called it “a mistake” on Meet the Press. The substance of the speech was ignored, and Keenan still blames himself for letting one off-message phrase eclipse a story of revival, a prelude to the second Republican midterm landslide of the Obama era. “I’m still pissed off about that,” Keenan told me. “Everything he said was true and important, and that one line got turned against him.”

Obama was hailed as a new Great Communicator during his yes-we-can 2008 campaign, but he’s often had a real failure to communicate in office. The narrative began spinning out of his control in the turbulent opening days of his presidency, and he’s never totally recaptured it. His tenure has often felt like an endless series of media frenzies over messaging snafus—from the fizzled “Recovery Summer” to “you didn’t build that” to the Benghazi furor, which is mostly a furor about talking points…
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From hell’s heart, I stab at thee

I don’t think George Will is ready to jump on the Trump bandwagon, you guys…

Donald Trump’s damage to the Republican Party, although already extensive, has barely begun. Republican quislings will multiply, slinking into support of the most anti-conservative presidential aspirant in their party’s history. These collaborationists will render themselves ineligible to participate in the party’s reconstruction.

Ted Cruz’s announcement of his preferred running mate has enhanced the nomination process by giving voters pertinent information. They already know the only important thing about Trump’s choice: His running mate will be unqualified for high office because he or she will think Trump is qualified.

[snip]

Were he to be nominated, conservatives would have two tasks. One would be to help him lose 50 states — condign punishment for his comprehensive disdain for conservative essentials, including the manners and grace that should lubricate the nation’s civic life. Second, conservatives can try to save from the anti-Trump undertow as many senators, representatives, governors and state legislators as possible.

God, that’s hilarious! Who does the prissy, bow-tied shithead think is reading his column, aside from schadenfreude-huffing Democrats like me? Even Marco Rubio, who called Trump a micro-dicked conman just a few months back, is coming around, perhaps angling for VP.



Threading the Needle (Updated)

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It’s instructive in a “compare and contrast” sense to read today’s NYT columns from David Brooks and Paul Krugman. Brooks is contemplating the Trumpocalypse and what it all means for professional plutocracy apologists like himself. He warns us to gird ourselves for more Applebees salad bar stories, as Doug points out downstairs, dog help us.

Brooks attributes Trump’s rise — and Sanders’ too — to a broad sense of American decline:

This election — not only the Trump phenomenon but the rise of Bernie Sanders, also — has reminded us how much pain there is in this country. According to a Pew Research poll, 75 percent of Trump voters say that life has gotten worse for people like them over the last half century.

In the morning thread, sharp-eyed commenter Jeffro noticed Brooks’ rhetorical switcheroo there, speaking of Sanders and Trump voters and then citing a poll result exclusive to the Trumpenproletariat, as if Sanders voters share the exact same concerns. And it is a sly form of both-sides-do-it-ism.

Krugman has a different take on why the Trumpites are angry as well as an explanation for why the GOP establishment candidates went down to humiliating defeat while Clinton is prevailing on the Dem side:

Both parties make promises to their bases. But while the Democratic establishment more or less tries to make good on those promises, the Republican establishment has essentially been playing bait-­and-­switch for decades. And voters finally rebelled against the con.

Krugman is right. But Brooks isn’t 100% wrong when he says there is pain on both sides of the political divide, even if he is dishonest in how he frames it. There is real pain out there, and it’s not all attributable to aggrieved white men who are finally getting a taste of the economic insecurity the rest of the world has been swallowing for decades.

Ostensibly middle-class families are one outpatient surgery deductible away from financial catastrophe. Students are graduating with crushing debt. Parents have no idea how they’ll ever retire. The unemployment rate is at a 40-year low, but try finding a decent job if you’re a 50-something woman or a 17-year-old black kid.

These things are real. And what Hillary Clinton is going to have to do is thread that needle – highlighting, protecting and expanding what President Obama and his Democratic predecessors have accomplished on the one hand while at the same time communicating that she understands how much further we have to go. It won’t be an easy task.

Yesterday, Bernie Sanders gave a speech in which he allegedly dialed back the criticism of Hillary Clinton a bit but lambasted the Democratic Party instead:

“The Democratic Party has to reach a fundamental conclusion: Are we on the side of working people or big-­money interests? Do we stand with the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor? Or do we stand with Wall Street speculators and the drug companies and the insurance companies?”

When I heard that, my first thought was, gosh, that’s not particularly helpful. How about at least acknowledging that there’s exactly one party that recently expanded healthcare coverage to 20 million people, passed Medicare, Social Security and CHIP and imposed any regulation at all on Wall Street and Big Pharma? And over the screaming intransigence of the only other party that is relevant in US elections?

But aren’t Sanders’ remarks a perfect segue for Clinton to deliver the message she must communicate? I still think Sanders will come around to endorsing Clinton and urging his supporters to support her and elect the Democratic Congressional majority she’ll need to get shit done. But in the meantime, maybe starting this conversation will do. If Hillary is going to sew it up, it’s time to thread that needle.

ETA: A piping hot new version of Cleek’s pie filter has just come out of the oven. Lay claim to your slice here.



Before they blow up the world

When I say that professional centrists frighten me much more than wingers, I am being completely serious. Let’s look at this passage by Jim VandeHei that Anne Laurie highlighted this morning:

Exploit the fear factor. The candidate should be from the military or immediately announce someone with modern-warfare expertise or experience as running mate. People are scared. Terrorism is today’s World War and Americans want a theory for dealing with it. President Obama has established an intriguing precedent of using drone technology and intelligence to assassinate terrorists before they strike. A third-party candidate could build on death-by-drones by outlining the type of modern weapons, troops and war powers needed to keep America safe. And make plain when he or she will use said power. Do it with very muscular language—there is no market for nuance in the terror debate…

And let’s remember this David Broder classic:

Here is where Obama is likely to prevail. With strong Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran’s ambition to become a nuclear power, he can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve.

Say what you want about the tenets of wingnuts, at least they don’t suggest starting wars for purely political reasons. It’s one thing to be an honest, earnest bedwetter who thinks we need to bomb the world to be safe, it’s quite another to suggest that presidents, or mythical third-party unicorns, start exploiting fear and killing people for purely political reasons.