Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Last Call For Trumping The Long Con

Greg Sargent notes the Democratic strategy for hitting Trump: they will go after the obvious racist misogyny yes, but they also plan on going after his business record.

And so what we may now see is a two tiered attack. First there may be a relentless focus on the stuff about Trump that voters are currently prepared to accept: His sexism, xenophobia, bigotry, and unfitness to serve as president. This could energize core Dem voting groups (nonwhites, young voters, socially liberal college-educated whites), and perhaps sow further doubts about his temperament with swing voting constituencies (particularly suburban, independent, blue collar, and moderate college-educated women). There may also be an all out assault on the seamy underside of his business record, as is reportedly being worked up
The question will then be whether all of this — particularly the attack on his business dealings — will lay the groundwork for a successful prosecution of Trump’s economic agenda and worldview. Trump has a very simple economic message: The elites have screwed you with trade deals that have sucked jobs out of the country. He’d bring them roaring back by kicking the asses of other countries, international bureaucrats and elites, CEOs who ship jobs overseas, and immigrants who are eating out of American workers’ lunch buckets. 
If this focus grouping is right, the challenge for Democrats, in addition to cranking up core Dem groups, will be to persuade swing voters not just that Trump is wholly unfit for the job, but that he’s also running a massive economic con. Will savaging his temperament and business dealings successfully prime those voters to accept this argument? 
Maybe. If that isn’t enough, the Clinton campaign might have to do better at making a broad, affirmative argument on behalf ofher economic agenda, one that tries to directly rebut the appeal of the story Trump is telling about the economy. Fortunately, all signs are Democrats are already thinking hard about how to do that, too.

It's a good plan.  There are a lot of folks that say that Trump's obvious and obnoxious racism/misogyny designed as "nationalism" should easily break him in the general, but frankly there are millions of people who will delude themselves into thinking Trump is putting on an act, and that the real deal is "sticking it to that Clinton bitch."  It's those folks that the Dems want to go after by saying the Don Man is a con man.  "You don't like her, fine...but this guy is playing you for a fool."

It's that last part, making that "broad, affirmative argument" on the Clinton economic plan that will be needed to turn those folks from "Why bother voting" into "I guess I'll give her a chance."   That's going to be a lot, lot harder.

I am glad however that the Dems are taking Trump's threat seriously.  He's not going to win, but it doesn't mean that the people who voted for him are going to magically go away and start loving the Dems, either. Trump, as I've said multiple times here, may be the largest boil needing a good lancing on the ass of the body politic, but the infection itself is what needs to be treated.

That starts with giving people reasons to vote for progressive policies and not just against the GOP con game.

The Rules Lawyer Versus The White Nationalist

In the great Republican reality show/LARP session from hell that will be the Cleveland convention in July, there may be one final chance to stop Donald Trump from getting the nomination and losing in November in a landslide and taking the Senate (and possibly the House!) with him, and that's through the power of "Well, actually..."

Curly Haugland loves the rules. The stubborn 69-year-old pool-supply magnate is North Dakota’s top Republican gadfly, its rule-mongering crank, its official state pain in the ass. On the national GOP’s standing rules committee, he’s been the pedantic curmudgeon, the stubborn speed bump who for years has raised points of order only to watch establishment Republicans stampede over him. 
Yet now, as his party teeters on the edge of civil war, Haugland has become one of the most dangerous men in politics: He’s the mainstream GOP’s last hope to deny Donald Trump the Republican nomination in Cleveland. It would take a miracle—and almost certainly lead to a historic split in the party—but there is still a way, buried in the labyrinthine rulebook, that the party could free delegates from their obligation to vote for Trump. To get there, the convention’s rules committee would need to travel a perilous road. But nobody knows the terrain better than Haugland, a self-taught maverick expert on the Republican convention rules, who has spent a decade pushing schemes to take power away from Republican primary voters and give it back to party insiders. 
There is one article of faith in the Republican Party: On the convention’s first ballot, bound delegates are required to vote for the candidate to whom they’re bound. What you need to know about Haugland’s radical vision is this: He insists that’s not the case. Haugland has been trumpeting this nuclear option for months. In March, he blasted out a letter to fellow Republican National Committee members with the subject line: “NEWS FLASH: All Republican Delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention are Unbound!” He’s on a mission to let all the delegates at the convention in Cleveland to vote however they’d like on the first ballot, no matter whom their state’s voters chose.
This has long seemed like a crazy cause—who doesn’t want voters to decide? Back when Haugland was advocating the party assert its independence from a sitting Republican president, George W. Bush, Curlyism was viewed as a kind of benign, obscure heresy. 
But could this be the year Haugland’s strange view of the primary—that the party, not voters, chooses the nominee, as he often insists—finds its moment? In April, Eric O’Keefe, a Cruz supporter and Club for Growth activist, told the Wall Street Journal that he would lobby Republican delegates to assert their right to reject Trump at the convention. (O’Keefe did not return an email seeking comment.) Trump’s old pal Roger Stone has predicted for months that the Republican establishment would try to snatch the nomination from Trump at the convention, even if he won a pledged-delegate majority. Now that Trump’s opposition has dropped out, “the whole scenario is far, far less likely,” Stone says—but, he admits, it could still happen. “The Republican convention can do whatever it wants,” he says. “You can’t bring a lawsuit. There’s no jurisdiction.” 
Now, as #NeverTrump conservatives begin to turn their attention to the possibility of a third-party candidate, it’s clear many GOP leaders are still deeply opposed to Trump as the nominee. The question is: How unhappy are they? And how far are they willing to go to stop him on the floor in Cleveland? Haugland knows the weird contours, obscure clauses and contradictory history of the party’s governing rules—so he knows the last, desperate hand the #NeverTrump crowd could play. He says he’s not taking sides in the presidential race—and, oddly enough, he even praises Trump. Still, now that Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee, all that stands in the way of the Trump Train is the idea Haugland champions: that the party can rewrite the convention rules to undo the voters’ choice.
As amusing as this would be to see Three Stooges style physical violence on the GOP convention floor instigated by the machinations of a man named Curly, there's a real problem with the people Trump will have at the convention in the form of some of his more...odious...delegates.

On Monday evening, California's secretary of state published a list of delegates chosen by the Trump campaign for the upcoming Republican presidential primary in the state. Trump's slate includes William Johnson, one of the country's most prominent white nationalists. 
Johnson applied to the Trump campaign to be a delegate. He was accepted on Monday. In order to be approved he had to sign this pledge sent to him by the campaign: "I, William Johnson, endorse Donald J. Trump for the office of President of the United States. I pledge to cast ALL of my ballots to elect Donald J. Trump on every round of balloting at the 2016 Republican National Convention so that we can MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!" After he signed, the Trump campaign added his name to the list of 169 delegates it forwarded to the secretary of state. 
Johnson leads the American Freedom Party, a group that "exists to represent the political interests of White Americans" and aims to preserve "the customs and heritage of the European American people." The AFP has never elected a candidate of its own and possesses at most a few thousand members, but it is "arguably the most important white nationalist group in the country," according to Mark Potok, a senior fellow for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate groups. 
Johnson got the news that he had been selected by Trump in a congratulatory email sent to him by the campaign's California Delegate Coordinator, Katie Lagomarsino. "I just hope to show how I can be mainstream and have these views," Johnson tells Mother Jones. "I can be a white nationalist and be a strong supporter of Donald Trump and be a good example to everybody."

And guess what, Republican party?

You own this.

They're Finally Starting To Get It

It's amazing how many pundits are finally coming around to the true driver of Donald Trump's popularity among Republican dead-enders.  It's depressing that it only took them years to figure out what was obvious to most voters in seconds, but hey, at least folks like Matthew Yglesias are admitting it.

Well, as much as Yglesias can, anyway.

It's taboo in the United States to throw around accusations of racism. And obviously nobody can be sure what's in the heart of Donald Trump or his voters. 
But we do know that the unusual geographic pattern of Trumpism — stronger in the South and Northeast than in the Midwest or West — corresponds to the geography of white racial resentment in the United States. We also know that Trump rose to political prominence based on the allegation that America's first black president wasn't a real American at all, and launched his 2016 campaign with the allegation that Mexican immigrants to the United States are largely rapists and murders. 
We know that this kind of rhetoric does not resonate with nonwhite Americans but has appealed to white voters in the kinds of places — some poor, others affluent — where the level of racism among the white population is unusually high.

Which, if you're familiar with Yglesias, is about as close as he's going to get to saying that racism is helping Trump.

Leaving this racial element out of the story not only paints a false portrait of Trump's rise, it makes it impossible to understand the resistance to Trump in some segments of the GOP elite. It's true that Trump has been less than entirely orthodox on some important policy issues. But that was also true of George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. 
Part of the difference is that Trump simply hasn't kissed the right rings in an effort to have his past deviations expunged. But a big part of the difference is that over the past 15 years the Republican Party has been trying to respond to the shrinking white share of the population by broadening its demographic appeal. There have been plenty of disagreements about exactly how to do that, but building bridges to black and Latino voters has been a common goal. 
Trump represents, in effect, abandonment of that goal in favor of a very different idea of responding to the shrinking white share of the population by politicizing and mobilizing white identity while downplaying free market doctrines. That, in turn, reflects a broader trend in right-of-center politics that is also manifesting itself in different ways everywhere — from the UK and France to Sweden and Finland, a trend that threatens the ideals many American conservative leaders are deeply committed to. 
It's polite to both Trump and his supporters to sweep this all under the rug with hazy talk of "anti-establishment" feeling. But to do so completely misses a huge part of what the conflict between pro- and anti-Trump forces is actually about — is the Republican Party going to be an ideological party or an ethnic one?

With Trump as your candidate for president, the answer to that question is obviously the latter. Republicans have not only abandoned outreach efforts to black and Latino voters, they are now looking to actively punish them, and to promote the idea that the GOP is fully the party of white resentment the way the Dixiecrats were 60 years ago.

Combine that with the same misogyny that we're seen out of the GOP and especially in Trump's virulent strain of Republicanism, and you've got a recipe for a cocktail of White Guy Rage.

It could have won 60 years ago, and even 20 years ago if Ross Perot hasn't managed to screw things up for the GOP with his third party runs, handing the country to Clinton twice.

But the demographics of 2016 are markedly different.  The numbers would require Trump getting upwards of 75% of the white male vote, something that's simply not going to happen, and he's alienating everyone else to the point where there simply won't be enough voters for him to win.

But years after Donald Trump started all this by becoming the highest profile "birther", it amazes me that people are still pretending like his campaign isn't based solely on racism and hatred.

And the GOP is now 100% on board.


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