Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Whom Do We Scapegoat This Year?

Somewhere in a Chick Fil A in Manassas, VA, Reince Priebus and his assistant meet to debate  electoral strategy for 2016.

"Alright so, every non white non evangelical under the age of 65 that resides in a place with a stoplight pretty much hates us. What can we use to instill fear in what remains our supporters this year to entice them to come in off the farm and vote. Ideas?"

"Well, we could scapegoat poor African Americans."

"An oldie but a goodie. Sadly, that didn't work out too well in 2008 or 2012, and it doesn't look like we're going to have a candidate who can make that message stick. Besides which, we don't need an overt message against African Americans, we've passed voting restrictions in three dozen states to keep undesirables away from the polls. What's next?"

"What about gays? We're good at scapegoating gays."

"True, that did get George W Bush "elected" to a second term. Unfortunately, millennials don't really like that tack and the Supreme Court took away all of our fun. What else do you have?"

"We could say Democrats are coming for their guns."

*Text Alert* Mass Shooting Kills Eight in Southern Ohio.

"Well, that's out."

"Anything else?"

"We could scare people with the Zika virus like we did with Ebola before the 2014 midterms."

It's a thought, but white people get Ebola, and the Zika virus impacts primary Hispanics, so there's no way we'll get any traction with that. File that away for 2018, though. It may come in handy.

"I have it. What about transgender people? They're a really small part of the population and most of our supporters find the idea of cross dressing and using different gendered bathrooms totally disgusting. We can totally spin it as a public safety issue."

"C'mon now, that's ridiculous. I mean, transgender bathroom assaults happen at the rate of less than ten per year, and the majority of those assaults are committed by people who have mental problems and aren't actually transgender. At the same time, the assault and murder rate of transgender people reached it's highest point ever. "

"And even if you could pass a law like this, how would you enforce it, have someone in every public bathroom there to do a genital check?"

"Well, to be fair, sir, it would stimulate the economy." Reince and his assistant elbow each other and chuckle uproariously.

"I mean, this idea is about as dumb as suggesting we could win an election by building a wall to keep out Mexicans. No one would believe it, and it would alienate us even further from the rest of society, if that's even possible."

"So shall I get Pat McCrory and Mike Pence on the phone?"

"Assuming they can take time out from figuring out how to prevent non white people from voting yes, ring them immediately. Get yourself a frosted lemonade on me. Brilliant!"

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

On Victory Speeches

One note from the Democratic side of the ledger tonight.

I've been careful not to state an opinion on both of the Democratic candidates for President of the United States, because I like both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. I can acknowledge the best intentions and potentially fatal flaws of both candidates, and I think both candidates are doing both the party and the country a service by running.

But I had a very different takeaway from Hillary's speech tonight, which was very good. Beyond the high level rhetoric of a specific anti-Trump positive message in a speech I felt was very human, not traditionally her strong suit (it's worth noting that it was one of Bill's strong suits and I felt his hand in that speech) where specific shots at:

Wisconsin based Johnson Controls, for moving their headquarters overseas after taking federal bail out money.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for poisoning the entire city of Flint to save a few dollars.

The State of North Carolina for disenfranchising African American voters. 

What do these three states have in common? They are, or have the potential to be Blue States with Republican governors. Two of the three have pivotal Senate races in the fall.

It was a terrific speech that will fall a bit under the radar considering the fact that the Republican clown show is going to get most of the oxygen tomorrow. But if this is who Hillary is now, and if she does earn the nomination, it's a sign of good things to come.

I Don't Know Whether to Laugh (Wait, Yes I Do)

So, I'm running errands this afternoon when I happen across a news report that contained an audio clip of current Speaker of the House Paul Ryan making comments on the recent KKK related kerfuffle involving Donald Trump.

The full story can be read here, but the part that nearly made me spit out my drink was this:

"This party does not prey on people's prejudices. We appeal to their highest ideals. This is the party of Lincoln. We believe all people are created equal in the eyes of God and our government," Ryan added. "This is fundamental, and if someone wants to be our nominee, they have to understand this.

Just let me know when you want me to stop because:

There are these classics

And this one

And I assume we were all alive in 2008.

Or this one, you "thug".

I mean, I could go on. But fortunately, I don't have to because, these fine folks do the work for me.

Seriously, who, other than whites without college degrees, do they think they're fooling with this?


The Trump Map

Well, I suppose it's time to address the elephant in the room.

I know we're all shocked (shocked!) to learn that the Republican Party's standard bearer is now a carnival barker that embodies all of the things anyone who has actually lived in this country for any length of time already knows about the Republican Party; that they earn their votes and money on racist, sexist, homophobic rhetoric funded by both the military industrial complex and the backs of poor (white) people conditioned to resent and blame those with just a little bit less than they have, or have a different skin tone.

So good on Donald Trump for laying all of that so bare that the rank and file supporters have officially lost their taste for the genteel veneer of 'compassionate conservatism' that the party has used for all these years in favor of the raw red meat of an open false sense of superiority.

I'll explore why this is in another post, but the much easier question that occurred to me this morning is this:

Just what does a Presidential electoral map look like in a Trump versus Hillary or Bernie Sanders match up? For Republicans, it's ugly.

First, don't underestimate the ability of Democrats to do what they do well in Presidential election years, and that's drive up turnout. Is it likely to top the Obama years? Not really, simply because Hillary isn't as inspirational a candidate (though whether gender politics can make a difference has yet to be determined). But the anti-Trump turnout is likely to be quite high. Any candidate who walks into the election with negatives in the high 60s has a real problem; this was as if W decided he was going to run for a third term in 2012.

So let's mix in the usual assumptions of urban versus rural and the continued evolving demographics of the Republican Party into a white, rural version of the French National Front to get the following:

That's a 425-115 Democratic Party win if you're scoring at home or on the road. It is the most optimistic projection I can come up with, if we're being honest, and there are only four states that are seriously "in play".

Missouri - I've kept red, simply because I don't think the urban turnout in Kansas City and St. Louis is going to out pace the white and rural turnout in the rest of the state.

Georgia - On the other hand, I think, for the first time, we might see minority and urban turnout inside of Atlanta proper outweigh the suburban and rural vote so much that Georgia swings toward the Democrats, particularly if the candidate is Hillary and not Bernie Sanders. I don't regard this as a permanent trend, necessarily, just a by product of an anti-Trump vote.

Texas and Arizona - When 8 in 10 Latinos have a negative view of Donald Trump, you're going to have real problems in some states in which you ordinarily shouldn't. These two states wouldn't be close in a typical year, but in a year where Trump is the candidate, you can at least see trouble from here. 

This is the very, very bad night scenario for the Republicans at the Presidential level.

The Senate

It gets even better in the Senate in this scenario:

Barring local controversies, Democrats are likely to hold their Senate seats in Nevada, Colorado, the only two that conventional wisdom considers contestable among candidates standing for re-election at this point.

This scenario puts Democrats in what I would consider a strong position to pickup seats in Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wisconsin, along with retaining open seats in Maryland and California.

It also puts them in a soft position to pickup seats in Arkansas, North Carolina, Missouri, Florida (which is the seat Marco Rubio is vacating) and Indiana, and it puts even Kentucky in play if Jim Gray campaigns sufficiently deftly against Rand Paul (though I'm not optimistic). Louisiana is also an open seat but the Democratic bench is so shallow there that I doubt a candidate steps forward that can take David Vitter's vacated seat, diapers and all.

Democrats need to pick up five of these Senate seats to get to a 51-49 majority. Even a 50-50 tie, with a Democratic President, nets them the Senate. 

So that's the skinny on the damage the Donald can cause to the Republican Party. It's not quite Goldwater in 1964, but it's pretty grim.

Next time, we'll talk about why Sanders and Trump supporters have very different responses to the same fundamental angst that drives their political views.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

And This Goes On And On And On.....

The American media landscape is so disparate that networks cover what will get the attention of the portion of the audience that is most easily duped into spending money and spend the most time listening to/watching their product.

In an era where the only way you keep this audience is through the age old trick of making that audience feel victimized/held back/terrorized by "others" and being charismatic enough to convince your idiot uncle that they, and only they, are telling you the truth.

It's just a deviation on the Evangelical church model, really.

To that end, among this group of people, which is primarily white, rural and aging, that make up somewhere between 9 and 12% of the US adult population, Donald Trump is more or less their Holy Grail. In a normal election, a Republican field filled with charisma sucking black holes like Mitt Romney who have some cross demographic appeal would be fine. This group would even grumble at an egghead like Ted Cruz or someone as vapid as Marco Rubio (who would and will get slaughtered in debates like labor laws in a Walker Administration) and fall in line.

But this time, they're being led by the nose by the Carnival Barker in Chief, and there's no one who's going to talk them out of it.

Quite the dilemma for the GOP this cycle, wouldn't you say?

Is Trump going to be President? Not if the Democrats scrounge up even a reasonable ground game. There's a zero percent chance he takes any significant demographic slice out of the existing Democratic coalition, as unenthusiastic as it may be. The eight remaining moderate Republicans, three of whom are wondering why they're still donating money to Jeb Bush's campaign, would likely either cross the aisle or sit it out.

Is Trump going to get the Republican nomination? Unless he gets bored, he has a decent chance of conquering the hinterlands and earning enough delegates as part of the process to cause a serious schism in the party at a national level, resulting in a brokered convention. Which makes me glad I'm half an hour away from downtown Cleveland when the true believers set the Quicken Loans Arena on fire. (And a good chance for Republicans to learn the consequences of the Cleveland Police Department's 'shoot first and ask questions later' police first hand).

Normally, I'm screaming at the Democrats for playing rope-a-dope, but for once it's working brilliantly. The schism on the right Trump is causing is absolutely consuming the news cycle and is destroying, possibly once and for all, any hope the GOP had at image rehab someone like Marco Rubio could employ with non-white people below the age of 50. And for that, we have Donald Trump to thank.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Donald Trump as Wish Fulfillment

Donald Trump and Doug Flutie at a 1984 press conference, because why not?

Primary season is always an interesting season, because you get a good idea at how the coalitions that make up the two dominant parties in American politics will behave.

And that brings us to the GOP clown car field, which consists largely of people backed by billionaires, business failures and, of course, The Donald.

It's no coincidence that Donald Trump dominates the GOP field at this early point. He is loud, obnoxious, brash and adept at sucking the oxygen out of a room on a moment's notice. Oxygen, at this point in a primary, is essentially press coverage.

But what's most interesting to me is what he represents. His favorables essentially exist among one subset of Republican voters; white males above the age of 65.

This makes sense, since Trump is 69, white and male. (This also seems to be roughly the sweet spot for the average demographic of a Fox News viewer).

It occurred to me recently what Trump is. He is the unchecked ID of the Republican Party. He speaks without regard for consequence. He cares nothing about the responsibilities of his actions. He boasts of obscene wealth that doesn't exist. Nothing is his responsibility. He trades in wives once they reach a certain age. He rails against the "other" as if they are the source of all problems, covering the external locus of control position that is the default position for the entire platform of the Republican Party.

Essentially, he embodies the perception that life can be lived to excess without consequences or regard for anyone other than one's self, and is expert at creating the perception of excess. He is, along with aviator sunglasses and Hall and Oates revivals, the 1980s last stand. And if we're being honest, living that by proxy is much more fun than slapping a Reagan '84 bumper sticker to cover over the rust spots on your Lexus LS 430 or Mercury Grand Marquis and dreaming of the good old days (that never actually existed).

But he's also the wish fulfillment personality of every angry old white male temporarily displaced millionaire that makes up the Republican Party's base. And that's why he's so popular. You don't have to have any regard for women, or minorities or foreigners, you can walk around saying whatever you want and you roll through life with 'fuck you' money. Who wouldn't want to be that person by proxy if they could?

Well, for starters, people with basic human empathy and an understanding that the world consists of more than elderly white people and their willing arm candy. Also, it should be noted that this is an election for the highest office in the United States, not Prime Minister of Italy, so maybe the person being chosen should have a bit more intellectual and diplomatic gravitas than Trump.

Who am I kidding, as soon as he's due to reveal his financials, he'll rage against the transparency machine and ride off into the sunset with middle fingers blazing until the next election cycle. Then we're left with boring old Jeb! trying to pretend he's smarter than his brother, and won't that be a treat?