Sunday, October 9, 2016

Last Call For Orange, Crushed Con't

As you watch tonight's debate fireworks, keep in mind that Donald Trump is most likely finished outside of the biggest comeback in US political history. He was going to lose anyway, but the GOP was going to definitely keep the House and the Senate would be at worst case a 51-49 Democratic party lead (with that 51st Democrat being Evan F'ckin Bayh).

That was before this weekend, as Ezra Klein explains.

Since Trump won the GOP primary, his party has been working to normalize an abnormal, unpopular, and frankly bizarre candidate. Trump has always had the support of his hardcore fans — but he needed more than that. He needed the mainstream Republicans who didn’t vote in the GOP primaries, or voted for someone else; he needed the independents who didn’t like Clinton, but didn’t trust Trump; he needed the movement conservatives who had entered politics to ban abortion and shrink the government, and who saw little of their crusade reflected in Trump’s history.

And so the party began to coalesce. Mitch McConnell endorsed Donald Trump, and so, eventually, did Paul Ryan. Fox News ended its brief feud with the Republican nominee and closed ranks around his campaign. Reince Priebus dispatched top RNC staffers to work for Trump’s campaign. Marco Rubio offered his support. The messaging was simple, and sober: better Trump than Hillary, better the lunatic who will nominate our judges and sign our tax bills than the liberal who won’t, and even if you don’t believe in any of that, better to support Trump and keep the House then to abandon him and witness the return of Speaker Pelosi.

The process took on its own momentum. To be a Republican in good standing, in recent months, has meant accepting Trump as the party’s nominee, and working to see him elected. As more Republicans backed Trump, the rest had to follow suit. John McCain endorsed Trump, even though Trump had mocked his war heroism. Ted Cruz endorsed Trump, even though Trump tied his father to JFK’s assassination and mocked his wife’s looks.

The effect of all this has been to build a floor under Trump’s vote share, and his media coverage. He might lose the election, but so long as Republicans were able to signal that he’s the guy you vote for if you don’t want Hillary Clinton, he couldn’t lose it that badly — and a three-or-four point loss would probably mean Republicans kept the House and Senate. By the same token, Trump gets plenty of bad press, but so long as the Republican Party stood behind him, he had to be covered as a basically normal candidate, not as a dangerous virus that had somehow infected American politics.

Trump’s army of validators protected him from feeling the force of his own abnormality, of his bizarre comments, of his frequent gaffes, of his erratic behavior. It was a permission structure for voters who didn’t like Trump to vote for him anyway, and it worked. Polls routinely showed that the number of people supporting Trump was larger than the number of people who thought him qualified for the presidency. Voting for Trump, in this context, became what you did if you were a Republican, or if you didn’t like Hillary Clinton. Why? Well, that’s what everyone else like you was doing, too.

And now that’s crumbling. The wave of Republican defections from Trump’s side is the same process that normalized him, but in reverse. Just as Republicans felt more and more pressure to support his candidacy as other Republicans signed on, Republicans — and everyone else — will feel more and more pressure to abandon his candidacy as their co-partisans defect.

We're now at the point where major Republicans are saying "I do not support Trump anymore".  It's a no-win situation for them, as his base still plans to vote for the guy in droves.  But not quite as many people will vote for Trump now when he was already losing by about five points, and not quite as many people will vote for his party down ballot either.

In other words, a three or four point shift against you when you're up five points (which is what happened to Clinton over the course of September) is a problem.  She stopped the bleeding and pushed Trump's gains back.  But a swing like then when you're down five points turns a solid but not party-wide loss into an avalanche. (See the Republicans in 2006 and 2008, Democrats, 2010 and 2014.)

That's where we are with Trump.  It's John McCain's "The fundamentals of our economy are strong" moment in Florida in September 2008 with the Dow falling 300 points during the course of his speech, the moment everyone realized that the entire Republican party was done eight years ago, and they got stomped for it.

The polls were already bad for Trump.  That was before Trump's floor was demolished. His campaign and the entire GOP are in freefall now, and it's only a matter of time before they go splat.

Dispatching The Donald

Joining a long line of conservative newspapers across the country, the Columbus Dispatch has for the first time in a century endorsed a Democrat in this year's White House race, entirely because the Republican is one orange piece of garbage.

For us, the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is not pleasant, but it isn’t difficult. Republican candidate Donald Trump is unfit to be president of the United States. Democrat Hillary Clinton, despite her flaws, is well-equipped for the job.

The Dispatch traditionally has endorsed Republican presidential candidates, but Trump does not espouse or support traditional Republican values, such as fiscal prudence, limited government and free trade, not to mention civility and decency. We are disappointed that so many Republican leaders have accommodated a narcissistic, morally bankrupt candidate who is so clearly out of step with those values.

While third parties offer a tempting way out of the dilemma, votes cast for the Libertarian or Green Party tickets could have the effect of helping Trump win the White House.

Clinton has spent a career spanning decades in politics as First Lady, U.S. senator and U.S. secretary of state, and has a long record of service to families, women and children.

The art of compromise, which once was respected by Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and which allowed for progress rather than gridlock, is one that Clinton understands and practices. She demonstrated that not only in the Senate, but as the nation’s chief diplomat.

She is well-known to foreign leaders and understands that world order depends upon a U.S. foreign policy that is committed to its international obligations. The United States is the most stabilizing force in a world prone to chaos, and she knows that role is not something to be trifled with on a whim, as Trump’s reckless pronouncements would do.

Yes, Clinton has faced controversy: These include allegations of corruption; convenient memory lapses, particularly while being questioned during investigations; lies such as the one about coming under sniper fire in Bosnia; and difficulty in admitting when she is wrong. Her use of a private email server that exposed secret State Department communications to interception was reckless, and her attempts to minimize and cover up the scandal damaged her further.

Preferring Clinton to Trump does not mean the Dispatch embraces all elements of her platform. Her calls for higher taxes, unsustainable spending and the likelihood that she will try to stack the U.S. Supreme Court with a left-leaning majority are unwelcome.

But her negatives pale when measured against the dangers posed by Trump.

This is straight up the nicest thing I can recall the Dispatch saying about a Clinton in the last decade or so. "We're not in love with her but Jesus Jumped-Up Christ on a pogo stick have you seen the other guy?"

That's as good as it's going to get for these guys.  I hope Ohioans listen.

Sunday Long Read: The Democrats' Nevada Gambit

Fusion's Ester Wang visits Nevada and talks to the voters that will most likely decide the swing state next month and in elections to come: the state's large Asian voting-eligible population.  But will they finally turn out?

2016 was supposed to be the Year of the Asian American Voter, the year that a swelling electorate finally turned out in massive numbers in November’s presidential election and provides the margin of victory not just in Hawaii or California but in swing states as disparate as Virginia, North Carolina, and Nevada. Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial group in the country, and the size of this voting bloc has doubled since George W. Bush entered the White House. Already, one of every four Congressional districts has a population that’s more than 5% Asian American, numbers high enough where these voters can be the decisive force in tight races that are sometimes won by mere decimal points.

It’s not just changing demographics. Asian Americans, advocates say, care more about this election than the last—more than half, according to a recent national survey. In the same survey, a full 85% of Asian American and Pacific Islander voters reported they plan on turning out in November.

This all paints a rosy picture. Silent, docile and passive no more, in 2016, Asian Americans are, in the words of one advocate’s op-ed, “ready to be heard!”

Not so fast. Asian Americans are also traditionally the most disengaged racial group in America, with only 56% of eligible Asian Americans even registered to vote, the lowest percentage out of all racial groups. Of those, less than half tend to come out on election day, lagging far behind black and white voters.

This leaves Asian Americans like Michelle Chen in a curious position: a fattening slice of the electoral pie, widely seen as crucial to victory, yet also the voting bloc with the least interest in political participation. As Election Day nears, the question remains: Will a record number of Asian Americans actually vote, or will the majority, as in previous years, stay home?

I know we've talked about the black and Latino vote around here at length, but by 2020 Nevada will join Hawaii, California and New Mexico as majority-minority states and that will be largely due to the state's major Asian population growth.

The Democrats aren't stupid here.  They know they will have to have these votes and these voters and are working to get them, but there's a LOT of work that has to be done.

It’s easy to understand why, despite voting for Obama twice, Michelle Chen is going to sit this election out. Their lives haven’t improved as much as she would have hoped. Her husband, who works for a car service as a driver and used to be able to make $3,000 a month, now faces stiff competition from Uber and Lyft drivers and his income has dropped sharply. A self-described member of the working poor (she makes $1,300 a month at her job), it was largely Obamacare, which she says she and her husband can’t really afford, that turned her off of politics.

In a different world, one where the Bernie Sanders campaign had prioritized reaching out to immigrant voters, she might have been a Bernie fan. I asked if she’d heard of him, using the Chinese transliteration of his name and describing him as the “old white guy with the messy hair.”

“Who? Do you mean Trump?” Nevermind.

Of the presidential election, she repeated firmly: “It has nothing to do with my life.” She then went back to work, hawking steamed pork buns to a steady stream of customers.

Chen clearly feels no loyalty to the Democratic Party, and she’s not alone; 46% of Asian American registered voters are independents. Despite the general tilt towards Democratic candidates—in 1992, Bill Clinton only captured about a third of Asian American voters, yet by 2012, 73% of all Asian American voters cast a ballot for Barack Obama—voters remain stubbornly unaffiliated, due largely to the fact that two out of every three AAPI voters are immigrants. (Without a family history of voting for one party or the other—one of the greatest predictors of party affiliation—immigrants tend to register as independents.)

To build any sort of majority in the future, Democrats need to make the case to Asian voters that America's politics actually do matter to people.  So far that has been a lukewarm case at best.  Donald Trump's awful politics can only go so far.

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