Hard to believe the election was already a week ago. Life goes on, but it has been disorienting. A loved one turned off Nirvana’s “Come as You Are” in favor of Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open” the other day. I don’t know anything anymore.
Steve Bannon becoming chief strategist for President-elect Donald Trump’s White House should be the story of the week, the month, the transition period – really, for whatever amount of time he holds power. Ignoring Bannon’s run as head of Breitbart and the white nationalists, racists, misogynists, and anti-Semites who correctly note that Bannon’s elevation also empowers them is whistling past the graveyard.
Paul Ryan wants to destroy Medicare. Many Trump and third party voters don’t understand that’s what they just voted for, because Trump ran on preserving Medicare (as well as Social Security and Medicaid, also likely to be on the chopping block in Ryan and Mitch McConnell’s congress.) Josh Marshall, whose Talking Points Memo helped illuminate George W. Bush’s efforts to destroy Social Security back in 2005, is on the case again. Call your representative, your senators, and even Ryan’s offices in order to find out where they stand and start putting pressure on them to defend Medicare. I would not bet on Trump vetoing legislation. This fight is going to have to be won in the House and/or the Senate.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence is involved in his own email scandal (warning: auto-play video at link). Pence’s situation, unlike the pseudo-scandal of Hillary Clinton’s email, actually has a clear motive. Pence wants to hide communications he’s had around using public money to fight President Obama’s actions on immigration. I look forward to the nation’s new and sincere email management and transparency voters taking Pence to task for his efforts to shield his emails from the public.
Protests against Trump’s election are potentially useful for a few reasons: they can remind the country that neither a plurality nor a majority of the 2016 electorate voted for Trump, they can encourage passion and help build community among protesters, and they demonstrate strength to resist some of the malignant forces Trump’s presidency threatens to unleash. However… violence and/or destruction of property should be condemned. They are not necessary and will only distract from the genuine issues at stake. Also, reports like this one out of Portland, Oregon that find many non-voters among the protesters probably get Trump voters and Clinton voters to agree on one thing, at least: grow up and get your ass to the polls next time. To be clear, I’m not saying you don’t have a right to peaceful protest if you didn’t vote. I’m saying nobody is going to listen to you because in a democracy, you don’t matter unless you vote.
Not sure what to make of the turmoil in the Trump transition team. While bad news for Chris Christie warms the hearts of humans everywhere, the lack of experienced, competent and decent people willing to work for Trump’s government is concerning.
Whomever you voted for, stay informed and hold Trump and his unified Republican government accountable. I plan to provide a links roundup once or twice a week, in addition to writing one or two of my own essays a week. Feel free to share other articles and essays we should read in comments or in an email. Have a great day!
Everyone interested in organizing to win future presidential elections will closely study Donald Trump’s path to the presidency. Since vote tallies are still incomplete in some key states, we’ll have to wait to see just how thin the margins were in the battleground states and just how large was Hillary Clinton’s win in the national popular vote. While I look forward to digging into all that later, here are some scattered thoughts about the election so far:
How will Trump Govern?
Trump’s presidency is going to be similar to that of George W. Bush. I expect big tax cuts for the wealthy put on the national credit card. He and the Republican Congress will probably repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and no, they’ve never had a replacement plan and likely never will. The only thing that gives me hope on this point is that they may be cowed by the political repercussions of throwing more than 20 million people off of their health insurance plans.
Trump may get an infrastructure bill in exchange for signing off on all the tax-cutting, entitlement-cutting, and welfare-cutting bills Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell send him. If we get an infrastructure bill, it will also be on the national credit card.
Maybe Trump’s Mexico wall will be the goal of an infrastructure bill or in addition to one. The wall is another priority I’ll be interested to see whether Ryan and McConnell share or not, if it’s actually even a priority for Trump himself. On trade, his incentives will be to forget he ever talked about trade protectionism because Ryan and McConnell won’t move bills on that front. Trump has made vague promises to protect entitlements, but destroying Social Security and Medicare has been a major goal of Republicans going back decades now. Democrats in Congress would make sure Congressional Republicans can’t override a Trump veto, but would he have the guts to veto legislation killing entitlements? Why would he pick that fight with his own party and shatter the dreams of generations of Republicans?
So I doubt Trump will build a wall or restrict trade in any meaningful way. “But Trump’s a truth-telling outsider!” his supporters say. He can’t possibly renege on his most important campaign issues! He can and he probably will. Trump needs cooperation from Congress. Congressional leaders agree with him on tax cuts and repealing the ACA. They’ll give him those things, but trade protectionism and probably the wall are non-starters for Ryan and McConnell.
How does a Trump Presidency Go Badly?
There are two worst-case scenarios for a Trump presidency. One is that Trump and his administration do nothing to stop – or worse, they aid – continued attacks on the rights of minority groups and women. Those attacks may be through law, like how Wisconsin recently made it extremely difficult or impossible for hundreds of thousands of its citizens to vote in this year’s elections. Or those attacks may be violent, carried out by individuals or hate groups. Jim Crow all over again, 21st century style. There are signs this is happening already; see here and here. The second worst case scenario is that Trump gets into a war, either by blundering his way in or starting one deliberately (perhaps to quell scandal). By the way, these worst-case scenarios are not mutually exclusive and come on top of how I predict he’ll govern above.
Any best-case Trump presidency scenario would also have to include Trump himself disavowing hateful rhetoric and dealing forcefully and decisively with attacks on minority rights or violent attacks on minority persons. While Bush was bad in practice on rights issues, he did condemn hateful speech and attacks on minority groups. I hope Trump and the vast majority of his supporters follow Bush’s example there. The obliviousness many have shown to the awful possibilities presaged by Trump’s campaign does not give one confidence.
The Meme That Must End, Now
I see some college-educated whites are already blaming Clinton’s supporters for Trump’s election because they say Clinton’s supporters needed to be taught a lesson about not being politically correct wusses, or something. This is a meme that seems to be getting some traction, and it needs to stop. College-educated whites, you can eat your Trump cake, but you can’t keep it too by blaming Clinton’s supporters for it. By definition, people casting their votes for Clinton were the only ones in the country trying to prevent Trump’s victory. The country can get through a Trump presidency, but it will be harder if his most powerful supporters – college-educated white people – refuse to take responsibility for him and try to mitigate his darker potential consequences.
To riff on this a bit longer, what is it with white people and political correctness? I’m a white dude and I have a vague sense of what being anti-p.c. is all about, but maybe I don’t really understand it. I mean, Facebook friends and acquaintances’ pages are currently filled with some version of the following: I’m sorry but I had to vote for Trump because somewhere there’s a liberal arts college that created a safe space. Another version goes like this: I’m sorry but I had to vote for Trump because black people can say bad stuff in the hip-hop rap but I can’t say those things loudly in a restaurant.
What am I missing? I know my tone here is not conciliatory. These are trying times. But I’d like to hear from people about this. I need someone to explain why my caricature of p.c.-obsessed conservatives is unfair and why progressives’ p.c. concerns are so problematic that they must be fought and rejected.
I hope the worst-case scenarios don’t happen, obviously. They’re unlikely to occur but only about as unlikely as I thought Trump’s chances at winning the election were: something like 3 to 1 or 2 to 1 odds. I’m more confident that Trump will govern like Bush. That is a feature, not a bug, for many people in this country and while I won’t like it, Republicans have the right to do it after winning the election. They will likely enact policies I don’t like, run an incompetent administration, and produce needless suffering. Of course, I hope I’m wrong about those, too.
It’s important that Trump’s supporters know our worst fears for his presidency. If we cannot agree that minority citizens deserve equal protection and access to our laws as well as freedom from intimidation and violence, well, we know where each other stands. On other policy matters, we can agree to disagree on the merits, but we expect a full and honest accounting of united Republican government performance. I pledge here to admit I was mistaken should Trump have a generally peaceful and successful presidency. I sincerely hope he does.
Congratulations to Donald Trump, Republican candidates and their supporters for their many victories last night. Obviously, they weren’t the results I was hoping for or expecting. That Trump could and would win the Republican nomination for president has been a major theme of my blogging. And I always thought he had a chance to win the presidency, saying yesterday morning that he still had a 2 to 1 shot at victory. Trump’s win is not shocking, though concerns over the consequences of this election involve their own feelings of shock.
For example, I am one of the people who pays entirely out of pocket for a health insurance plan made available by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With this law almost certain to be repealed under unified Republican government, how am I going to afford health insurance? I’m paying just under $4000 in annual premium for my serviceable policy this year. If Republicans dismantle the ACA system overnight, as they promised to do, my premium payments may double or triple. And I’ll still be lucky compared to people who needed subsidies or were newly qualified for Medicaid. I’ll scrape the money together somehow. Unless the market for these kinds of plans collapses, in which case it’s back to no insurance.
The ACA is just one item in a long list of President Obama’s accomplishments that will be on the chopping block. There are also climate change regulations, labor regulations, finance industry regulations, and international agreements that Trump and Republicans have promised to undo. In addition, don’t be surprised when Paul Ryan takes an ax to entitlements like Social Security and Medicare and slashes welfare spending.
However, what concern me most are some of the forces that drove Trump to victory. Trump’s campaign became a hotbed of anti-Semitism, a surprising and unfortunate addition to other well-known conservative heartland prejudices against women, African Americans, Latinos, LGBT citizens, Muslims, and immigrants. Even if Trump was sincere in his gracious gestures towards all Americans during his victory speech, can we really keep these dark forces under control? What do they want to do with their newfound power? What do they expect from the president they were instrumental in electing? Trump owes these mongers of hate and bigotry much more than he owes the old school Republicans who just want to cut taxes and deregulate industry. Indeed, many of the old schoolers actively opposed him.
Trump painted a picture of a dystopian America during his campaign. No jobs, no education, constant threats of random violence, government deliberately making citizens’ lives worse, and the only way to get ahead is if it’s at the expense of someone else. If that actually syncs with his supporters’ realities, then I’m sorry for them and I guess they really have been failed by their leadership. Now, the rest of us are left hoping that Trump’s presidency doesn’t turn our own communities into dystopias.
I gotta say, not a whole lot has changed in this election since I was routinely blogging here twice or three times a week. Since my thinking has not really changed much throughout this campaign, I’m happy to let the following pieces stand in for my laziness these past couple months.
As some in the country are still trying to decide whether their concerns (long-held and genuine, I’m sure) over email and server management practices are worse than their fears of a know-nothing, racist fascist with impulse control issues gaining control over the country’s nuclear arsenal, “Presidential Elections are Not National Psychodramas” is a good place to start. Generally speaking, we’re voting to empower the leader of a particular political party to lead the country. We’re not choosing a best friend.
In a similar vein, “Voting is About Empowering the Political Movement with Which You Agree Most” argues that any given candidate is going to have moral flaws. While I maintain that Donald Trump is an exception to the norm that most candidates who receive a major party’s presidential nomination are fit to serve as president, I won’t argue too much with voters who insist they want Trump to win because they agree with his policies.
In my most widely read piece ever – “An Open Letter to Sanders Supporters” – I make the case that Bernie Sanders and Clinton are part of the same political movement and with Sanders’ defeat looming, his supporters would do well to make their peace with Clinton’s nomination and work to influence her policies. In the end, Sanders acquitted himself very well in defeat, as did most of his supporters.
“Your Vote is Not a Special Snowflake, Except When It Is” is about how voting for a non-major party’s candidate is at best a waste of one’s vote, and at worst it can throw the election to the candidate a voter least prefers. That’s what happened when enough voters in Florida voted for Ralph Nader and swung the presidency to George W. Bush over Al Gore in 2000. I voted for Nader that year and regret that vote to this day. I should add that in this year’s election, third party voters still make up around 6 to 8% of the population. In the infamous 2000 election, it only took 3.75% of all voters to choose third party and produce a worst case result. There’s a little too much volatility out there in the polling, and I agree more with Nate Silver’s relatively pessimistic assessment here that Trump’s odds are more like 2 to 1. I still think he’ll lose, but unfortunately, a Trump victory wouldn’t shock me at all.
My first piece, here, shows that the Democratic and Republican parties have very different agendas. They are in consistently stark ideological opposition to each other. Also, modern elected Republican officials behave in manners that are way out of line with previous norms, and they bear much more of the responsibility for Washington gridlock and dysfunction. There is no significant Democratic behavior that is equivalent. Both sides do not do it.
I’ll be going out to vote for Clinton as soon as I finish my coffee. Exercise your right to vote if you haven’t done so already. I urge you to also cast your vote for Clinton. That would be a vote cast for a solid and competent center-left Democratic candidate, and it’s no small thing that she’d be our first female president. On top of those, it’s very important to keep Trump – a know-nothing, racist fascist with impulse control issues – out of the White House. Finally, I urge you to vote a straight Democratic ticket. Especially if you live in a state where there’s a competitive Senate race, vote for the Democrat. It’s important that Clinton have at least one chamber of Congress on her side. Also, it’s becoming clear that Republicans will refuse to let Clinton fill Supreme Court vacancies should they retain control of the Senate. Republicans’ continued obstructionist behavior cannot be rewarded.
It’s been a tough week for those who would prefer that Donald Trump not become the next president of the United States. Sure, Hillary Clinton is still the clear favorite to win the election, but the anti-Clinton tenor of recent news coverage threatens to make it closer than it might otherwise be. It’d be one thing if there was a good reason for tearing Clinton down. It’s another that many in the media air and publish unjustified insinuations about Clinton while ignoring actual violations of both laws and norms by Trump. He can still win this election, and the media will deserve much of the blame if he does. Follow the links for context and examples:
Jonathan Chait finds Frank Bruni, one of the NY Times columnists who was guilty of fluffing Bush back in 2000, now blaming liberals for Trump. Chait eviscerates his claim. In fact, liberals were right all along about how dangerously racist and ignorant a bloc of Republican voters was becoming. Trump is certainly not the first leader to come along and give voice to that bloc.
Throughout her career, Clinton has had to endure a lot of non-scandals getting inappropriate and/or excessive attention. It’s hard to say whether it’s “the foundation” or “the emails” that qualifies as the most damaging non-scandal this election.
That’s bad, but what makes “the emails” worse is the fact that Clinton did misbehave. That complicates things. She has apologized and admitted she should have done things differently. Reasonable people can disagree about the severity of Clinton’s misbehavior. What makes “the emails” a non-scandal is that we have yet to hear anyone explain what nefarious intentions Clinton had in the email practices she chose. In fact, Clinton chose to ensure her work emails were retained as required by law, unlike the sainted Colin Powell. Also, the idea that she and her staff were willy-nilly sending classified emails is ignorant of or held with blatant disregard of the facts. At it’s worst, “the emails” is a work process story about Clinton following custom and practice rather than going by the books. It’s no scandal because nobody intended any harm, no harm occurred, and nobody even knows what harm was supposed to ever have been intended anyway. Plus, Clinton agrees she should have behaved differently!
Meanwhile, there is a candidate who personally and through his organizations has actually broken the law and misbehaved in ways morally wrong and injurious to others. Just recently we learned of this instance: Donald Trump’s Trump Foundation gave an illegal political contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi after she declined to investigate Trump University for fraud. Not only did Trump’s organization break the law, the facts suggest the people involved went to great lengths to hide what they were doing and are now lying about it. Now that’s a scandal! And nobody disputes that Trump’s foundation violated the law! Yet our mainstream political shows are dominated by parades of doofuses talking about how they feel “the foundation” and “the emails” “raise questions” that contribute to voters’ feelings that Clinton is dishonest.
Of course we should hold those up for election to rigorous vetting and high standards. There’s nothing wrong with investigating Clinton’s past and present in order to understand her record and character. If it turns out that she committed a crime, willfully harmed others, or otherwise behaved in a reprehensible way, then that should be judged accordingly. There’s just no evidence she did any such thing. Making a weekly story about wondering if one of her non-scandals should be a story does Clinton and the country a disservice. It intensifies feelings that she’s dishonest when a fair reading of the facts suggests the opposite.
If new facts come to light, then naturally we’d have to reconsider. Recent facts have shown no wrongdoing on Clinton’s part. Repeated suggestions otherwise are inappropriate editorializations.
I didn’t even get to these issues, so quickly: no, Trump is not softening, and no, Trump is not fuzzy like the American fuzzy lop rabbit.
The Republican Convention was a tour de farce of plagiarism, F-list celebrities, lies, and stupidity, capped off by Trump’s “This country is a hellhole, and you’re all going to stay unemployed, lose your jobs and/or die if you don’t elect me” speech. The Democratic Convention was a well-run affair, featuring speeches by actual celebrities and accomplished elected officials, none of whom seemed to be raving lunatics. There was some bad behavior from sour Sanders dead-enders, but they’re now gone and irrelevant.
Hillary Clinton gave an okay speech that accomplished one big thing: it put the Democratic Party on the offensive, seizing the mantle of what it means to be an American in 2016. This is remarkable to me, as the Democratic Party has been on the defensive my entire life when it comes to questions of which party better represents American ideals.
The conventions mark the point in an election cycle when the general American electorate begins to think seriously about the choices for president. For those of us who follow politics on a daily basis, it seems unbelievable that many Americans don’t know anything about the candidates or the parties’ platforms before the conventions, but that is actually the case. The conventions help voters focus by formally deciding on their candidates and providing them and their parties with four days of prime time opportunities to introduce themselves and their policies.
In the wake of last month’s conventions, Clinton quickly took a commanding lead in the polls and has yet to relinquish much if any of it. It turns out that Trump’s candidacy, catering to the grievances and resentments of a faction within one of the major parties, cannot gain much traction with the general electorate in 2016. I always thought/hoped that the election would look like this after the conventions. Trump may have won the votes of 50% or so of the Republican Party’s base by letting the racist freak flag fly, but it didn’t survive first contact with the general electorate. This is why polling trackers give Trump almost no chance of winning the election. FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton an 83.6% chance of winning, likely in an Electoral College landslide. Meanwhile, RealClearPolitics finds that Clinton pretty much has a lock on 272 Electoral College votes (270 are needed to win the presidency). That’s even without quadrennial swing states like Florida and Ohio that have leaned Democratic the last few presidential elections.
Trump is now desperate. He can’t abide losing. He’s an idiot. So what’s a desperate idiot who’s losing supposed to do?
It turns out that he’s reneging on his promise to deport all undocumented immigrants, flirting with the dread “amnesty” on Fox News Channel with Sean Hannity last night. This must be an effort to stop looking like a racist gleefully intent on mobilizing the forces of the federal government to hunt down 11 million people, deport them, and break up their families. Trump’s too dumb to realize that that horse has left the barn, got hit by a freight train, and then had its hooves salvaged for glue.
The Trump campaign is out of ideas and tricks. It doesn’t know what the point of itself is anymore. Like Fonzie and Happy Days in its fifth season premiere, it has jumped the shark.
When you find yourself flip flopping on the one issue that got you the nomination, it’s time to pack up and go home. Imagine Hillary Clinton securing the nomination, and then saying maybe it’s okay if we don’t have universal pre-K or paid family and medical leave after all. Or Sanders securing the nomination, and then saying big financial banks should remain large and unregulated and hey maybe the rich pay enough in taxes after all. They’d be skewered and rightfully so.
Where does Trump go from here? The election is still two and a half months away and there’s just no point to him anymore. Trump was useful in the sense that it was useful to learn for a certainty that 30 to 40% of the country’s voters are ignorant rubes, just waiting for a Trump to come along and take their dignity and/or their money. But if Trump can’t even keep the one position he’s held clearly and consistently, which enabled him to beat all the other Republican candidates – including John Kasich and Marco Rubio both of whom I think could’ve won the general election – what exactly is he doing?
Before trying to answer that question, I’d like to introduce readers to “Trump’s Razor.” This is a principle coined by John Scalzi to capture what Josh Marshall was getting at in this piece about how Trump immediately regretted and tried to reverse his decision to have Mike Pence run as his candidate for Vice President (remember that happened!?!?). As Marshall wrote in a follow up piece:
According to Trump’s Razor: “ascertain the stupidest possible scenario that can be reconciled with the available facts” and that answer is likely correct.
Let’s take a look at some of the available facts from recent weeks:
Manafort was replaced by two new people: Steve Bannon, the guy who’s been running Breitbart and turned it into a haven for white nationalists and misogynists; and Kellyanne Conway, presumably hired to help Trump gain ground with women. (Women, it should be noted, generally don’t care for misogynists.)
“Our government has totally failed our African American friends, our Hispanic friends and the people of our country. Period,” Trump said in Akron, Ohio, straying from the prepared remarks the campaign provided to reporters. “The Democrats have failed completely in the inner cities. For those hurting the most who have been failed and failed by their politician — year after year, failure after failure, worse numbers after worse numbers. Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing, no homes, no ownership. Crime at levels that nobody has seen. You can go to war zones in countries that we are fighting and it’s safer than living in some of our inner cities that are run by the Democrats. And I ask you this, I ask you this — crime, all of the problems — to the African Americans, who I employ so many, so many people, to the Hispanics, tremendous people: What the hell do you have to lose? Give me a chance. I’ll straighten it out. I’ll straighten it out. What do you have to lose?”
Trump opined that women who face sexual harassment at work should find new careers.
As mentioned previously, Trump tried to get a do-over on Pence as V.P.
Trump spent days defending his statement that, literally, Obama founded ISIS. Then he backtracked, accusing people of not understanding sarcasm. It wasn’t sarcasm, literally or figuratively.
We could go on. So, what’s the stupidest possible scenario that can be reconciled with the available facts? I’m open to other suggestions, but I’d say the stupidest possible scenario is that nobody in the Trump campaign nor Trump himself has any idea what they’re doing. They make it up on a daily basis, constantly changing to meet the demands of Trump’s feel for the audience he’s talking to at that particular moment. Or, as with Trump’s flirting with doing a 180 on his immigration policy after meeting with some Hispanic leaders, constantly changing to meet the demands of whichever person he spoke to last.
With my wife out of the country on a business trip, I spent the weekend with my parents on the Jersey shore. Lovely if hot beach day yesterday, capped off with one of my favorite dinners: lobster! My mom found them at the supermarket at $5.99 a pound, so why not? We grilled them, which was easy and we all thought tastier than boiling. Although neither preparation method is likely to get the lobsters’ endorsement. Anyway, to grill them: brush the lobsters with olive oil, place them backs down on grill preheated to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit, flip them after six or seven minutes, then grill for another six or seven. Serve with melted butter, and our sides were baked potatoes and grilled corn on the cob. Delicious!
Murdering lobsters and then writing about it the next day requires one to provide a link to David Foster Wallace’s great essay about the Maine Lobster Festival: “Consider the Lobster.”
Donald Trump’s suggestion that 2nd Amendment fanatics might be able to do something about President Hillary Clinton’s appointees to the Supreme Court is just the latest in a long line of similar rhetoric from Republican candidates, officials, and their supporters. And that “do something” is assassination. Words have meaning and to argue that’s not what Trump was saying is to be a hack or someone who does not understand the language. Ed Kilgore has a brief history, with examples, of people on the political right suggesting violence is appropriate when they don’t win elections.