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“Significantly Ambivalent On Key Issues”: The White Working Class As “Yes, But” And “No, But” Voters

I think we are beginning to understand this year more than in the past that non-college white voters–a.k.a. the “white working class” are currently bifurcated into those who intensely dislike government but aren’t sold on conservative economic panaceas and those who are very angry about the “rigged” economy but aren’t sure they trust government to do anything about it. The former are heavily represented in the current support base of Donald Trump, while the latter should be targets for Democrats. That proposition about the latter was, of course, the main message in Stan Greenberg’s essay on the white working class in the current issue of the Washington Monthly, which also served as the basis for the roundtable discussion WaMo sponsored in conjunction with The Democratic Strategist.

In his WaPo column yesterday, E.J. Dionne grasped the importance of this realization in writing about “yes, but” voters who may have partisan voting habits but are significantly ambivalent on key issues. After discussing some polling from WaPo and Pew, Dionne noted:

[A] third study, a joint product of the Democratic Strategist Web site and Washington Monthly magazine, points to the work Democrats need to do with white working-class voters.

One key finding, from pollster Stan Greenberg: Such voters are “open to an expansive Democratic economic agenda” but “are only ready to listen when they think that Democrats understand their deeply held belief that politics has been corrupted and government has failed.” This calls for not only “populist measures to reduce the control of big money and corruption” but also, as Mark Schmitt of the New America Foundation argued, “high-profile efforts to show that government can be innovative, accessible and responsive.”

This ambivalent feeling about government is the most important “yes, but” impulse in the American electorate, and the party that masters this blend of hope and skepticism will win the 2016 election.

Yessir. The broader lesson is that the stereotype of swing voters as Broderesque, Fournierite “centrists” looking for bipartisan compromises that don’t upset elites misses the real swing voters, who may not be as numerous on the surface as is years past, but who could move political mountains in response to the right combination of messages that take seriously their concerns.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 27, 2015

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Economy, White Working Class | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Paradox In The Making”: For The GOP, Donald Trump May Be Evil Incarnate — Literally

What if a candidate for president were evil?

I’m not talking about the way “evil” is thrown around as an insult. I’m talking about real evil, the kind you find in the Bible. Chuckle if you must, but Donald Trump’s opponents are beginning to make the case that he is truly evil. And the deeper you look, the more you see that it’s no laughing matter.

The prevailing wisdom says Trump is riding high because the Republican base is raising a middle finger — once again — to the establishment. But the prevailing wisdom also says the base is dominated by Christian conservatives. That’s a paradox in the making.

Certainly, just because you’re Christian doesn’t mean you’re a wimp when it comes to politics. You can stand up and cheer, or grimly nod along, when someone — anyone — cuts through today’s tightly scripted Beltway blather with random rants and oh-no-he-didnt jabs.

But it’s becoming clear that Trump’s candidacy asks Christians to go much further than that — down the road of perdition, if Trump’s enemies are to be believed.

It all started when Trump went on record describing an attitude toward sin that would make the average churchgoer flinch. At the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Frank Luntz asked Trump to share with the audience whether he’d ever asked God for forgiveness.

“I don’t think so,” said Trump. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”

He went on. “When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. I think in terms of ‘let’s go on and let’s make it right.'”

Many Americans would probably hesitate to be so forthright about their view of communion. But Trump’s apparent honesty threw his insurgent campaign in a scary new light.

In secular America, one of the most broadly accepted ways to describe Trump is with swear words. People straining to be decent often resort to calling him an ass. But in Christian America, there’s another term of opprobrium that gets more to the heart of the matter. It’s not just that Trump’s campaign revolves around his harsh and ungenerous demeanor. It’s that he’s all about sowing discord. It’s what he does. It’s who he is.

And sowing discord, in the Christian imagination, isn’t just mean or nasty. It’s evil.

For Rick Perry — a man who might very well have to sit out the GOP primary debates while Trump hogs the mic — it’s time to call a spade a spade. He didn’t explicitly call Trump an evildoer at the Opportunity and Freedom PAC forum in Washington, D.C. But he came about as close as you can get.

“In times of trouble, there are two types of leaders,” he warned, “repairers of the breach and sowers of discord. The sower of discord foments agitation, thrives on division, scapegoats certain elements of society, and offers empty platitudes and promises.”

Readers of Dante will recall that, in the Inferno, a special slice of hell is reserved for the sowers of discord — schismatics who tried to advance themselves by dividing institutions. For these evildoers, Dante meted out the poetically just punishment of physical dismemberment. Just as they hacked apart the human bonds around them, so their bodies now were sliced and diced forever.

Readers of the Bible will remember that Dante wasn’t just freestyling. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, God “tempered the body” of Christendom together so that “there should be no schism” and “the members should have the same care for one another.”

Or as Perry put it, the sower of discord “offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness, and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.”

“Enter ye by the strait gate,” runs an early English translation of Matthew 7:13; “for the gate that leadeth to perdition is large, and the way is broad, and there be many that enter by it.”

Trump’s candidacy, Perry went on, “cannot be pacified or ignored, for it will destroy a set of principles that has lifted more people out of poverty than any force in the history of the civilized world — the cause of conservatism.” In sum? Trump’s evil ways tempt Republicans to turn away from their greatest moral purpose — a sin worthy of damnation.

Perry is the first to advance this argument so bluntly. But we can expect it to catch on, because Trump’s candidacy is forcing the base’s hand. If The Donald can keep up his numbers without a come-to-Jesus moment, that either means that the base has become a lot less religious, or that it’s so frustrated that it’s willing to cast aside the better angels of its nature.

Either of those developments promise Armageddon for Trump’s bedeviled rivals.

 

By: James Poulos, The Week, July 24, 2015

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Rick Perry | , , , , , | 9 Comments

“Enthusiasm Does Not Equal Organization”: Decentralized Political Organizing Could Be A Problem For Team Sanders

Journalists are just now coming to grips with this, and there’s always a danger on such subjects of buying campaign spin. But there does seem to be a growing recognition that Hillary Clinton’s campaign differs from its 2008 predecessor because of a pervasive emphasis on organization-building in the states.

WaPo’s Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy come at the story from a different angle today, noting that HRC’s high “burn rate” for contributions is being driven by systemic investments in campaign infrastructure:

Details in the newly filed reports paint a picture of a campaign harnessing the latest technological tools and constructing the kind of deep ground operation that Clinton lacked in her 2008 bid. That kind of organizing capability has gained importance as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), one of Clinton’s rivals for the Democratic nomination, has drawn large crowds and gained ground in polls….

Clinton’s operation is paying rent in 25 cities across nine states, Federal Election Commission filings show. Along with about 340 staff members on the payroll, the campaign had hired nearly 60 field organizers by the end of June.

“It’s a sign that she’s approaching the campaign differently than the last time,” [David] Axelrod said. “They didn’t have as thoughtful an approach to laying the foundation for that campaign, and it ended up hurting them when it ended up being an organizational fight.”

At the “Politico Caucus” subsite, where there’s a sort of large focus group of early-state “Insiders,” the judgment is even clearer, per Katie Glueck:

Asked to assess what Clinton is doing right, and wrong, in their states, almost every Caucus participant — Democrats and Republicans — answered the question of what she’s doing right by saying Clinton has pulled together a strong staff and is doing all of the little things right when it comes to being organized for the early state contests and beyond.

“Doing right: building and investing in a monster field operation. Scares the hell out of this Republican knowing that many of those staff will easily pivot to organizing for the general election,” an Iowa Republican said.

“HRC is building a campaign rooted in organizing,” added a New Hampshire Democrat. “I’ve been to several house parties & campaign events and there are always new faces present — faces that weren’t involved in the 2012 presidential race. There is absolutely no one taking this primary race for granted whatsoever.”

“The organizing strategy is straight out of the Obama 2007 playbook,” an Iowa Democrat added. “The crew is enthusiastic and well-trained on the basics (pledge cards, pledge cards, pledge cards). Sanders and O’Malley will find it impossible to compete with the sheer size of the organizing.”

In New Hampshire, in particular, Democrats also largely lauded Clinton for visiting more rural parts of the state that are often overlooked. And across the board, her staff was praised for keeping cool amid the rise of Bernie Sanders.

Meanwhile, there’s also some recognition that the impressive enthusiasm that suffuses Bernie Sanders’ campaign is not automatically transmittable into a good organization, helpful as it is. At TNR earlier this week, Suzy Khimm suggested that the Occupy-influenced passion for decentralized political organizing could be a problem for Team Sanders:

Sanders is betting that passion will enable him to surmount the serious obstacles he faces in broadening his base of support. But that also means the campaign needs to find a way to corral popular enthusiasm into more traditional, on-the-ground organizing if Sanders wants a real shot at expanding his base beyond largely white, liberal enclaves. That means convincing more supporters to embrace a more centralized, hierarchical type of organizing, while still preserving the authentic, grassroots populism that Sanders embodies for his fans.

Iowa will be the acid test of this challenge. Caucus rules place an emphasis on local organizers knowing exactly what is expected of them in almost any circumstance, within the rubric of a Caucus Night strategy with some central direction. The epitome of the organization-outbids-enthusiam hypothesis occurred in 2004, when Howard Dean’s armies of orange-hatted volunteers may have done more to alienate than to organize Iowa Democrats, leading to a disastrous third-place finish despite strong poll numbers and an endorsement from Tom Harkin.

It’s all hypothetical at this point, of course. But neither crowd sizes nor expenditure numbers precisely capture the kind of qualities a campaign needs to win in a place like Iowa.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 17, 2015

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Don’t Let This Fester”: Hillary Clinton Needs To Address The Racist Undertones Of Her 2008 Campaign

Black Lives Matter, the advocacy group for black interests, has gotten the attention of the Democratic presidential candidates, who are reportedly scrambling to reach out to the movement. Even heavy favorite Hillary Clinton is getting in on it, addressing the movement in a Q&A session on Facebook, where she checked most of the right boxes.

DeRay McKesson, one of the movement’s leaders, wrote on Twitter that the post was “solid.” But he also noted that she had two days to work on it, and did not attend the liberal forum Netroots Nation, unlike her challengers Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, who flailed in front of activists from Black Lives Matter.

McKesson is right to be suspicious. Hillary Clinton’s record on race is not great. If she wishes to earn some trust on issues of racial justice, a good place to start would be with the distinctly racist undertones of her 2008 campaign against Barack Obama.

As the first primaries got underway in 2008, and Obama began to slowly pull ahead, the Clinton camp resorted to increasingly blatant race- and Muslim-baiting. It started in February, when Louis Farrakhan, the head of the Nation of Islam, endorsed Obama in a sermon. In a debate a couple days later, moderator Tim Russert repeatedly pressed Obama on the issue, who responded with repeated reassurances that he did not ask for the endorsement, did not accept it, and in fact was not a deranged anti-Semite. That wasn’t enough for Clinton, who demanded that Obama “denounce” Farrakhan, which he did.

About the same time, a picture of Obama in traditional Somali garb (from an official trip) then appeared on the Drudge Report, and Matt Drudge claimed he got it from the Clinton campaign. After stonewalling on the origin question, the campaign later claimed it had nothing to do with it. A Clinton flack then went on MSNBC and argued that Obama should not be ashamed to appear in “his native clothing, in the clothing of his country.”

Later, a media firestorm blew up when it was discovered that Obama’s Chicago pastor Jeremiah Wright once delivered a sermon containing the words “God damn America.” In response, Obama gave a deft, nuanced speech on racial issues, but Clinton kept the issue alive by insisting she would have long ago denounced the man.

The late Michael Hastings, who covered Clinton’s campaign, described one instance of this strategy on the ground:

[Clinton supporter] Buffenbarger launched into a rant in which he compared Obama to Muhammad Ali, the best-known black American convert to Islam after Malcolm X. “But brothers and sisters,” he said, “I’ve seen Ali in action. He could rope-a-dope with Foreman inside the ring. He could go toe-to-toe with Liston inside the ring. He could get his jaw broken by Norton and keep fighting inside the ring. But Barack Obama is no Muhammad Ali.” The cunning racism of the attack actually made my heart start to beat fast and my ears start to ring. For the first time on the campaign trail, I felt completely outraged. I kept thinking, “Am I misreading this?” But there was no way, if you were in that room, to think it was anything other than what it was. [GQ]

Then there was Bill Clinton comparing Obama’s campaign to that of Jesse Jackson’s unsuccessful run in 1988. The capstone came in May, when Hillary Clinton started openly boasting about her superior support from white voters.

The effort was not so blatant as George H.W. Bush’s Willie Horton ad, but the attempt to play on racist attitudes through constant repetition and association was unmistakable — in addition to playing into right-wing conspiracy theories that Obama is a secret Muslim who was born in Africa. It’s likely why in West Virginia — a state so racist that some guy in a Texas prison got 40 percent of the Democratic primary vote in 2012 — Clinton won a smashing victory.

This brings us back to today’s presidential race. Many of the demands posed by activists focus on rhetorical gestures of support and solidarity (a notable feature of the Netroots confrontation last weekend). But this raises this issue of trust: A very charming, cynical person could simply promise support using the right words, win the election, then forget all about it.

Does the Hillary Clinton of 2008 sound like someone who’s genuinely committed to the cause of racial justice? If she has changed her views, now would be a good time to explain.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, July 23, 2015

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Black Lives Matter, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Netroots Nation | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“GOP’s Condemnation Of Trump Pure Hypocrisy”: What Is Right Does Not Change From Red State To Blue

Here’s the thing about principle.

Unless applied equally it is not really principle at all. He who climbs on his moral high horse when a wrong is done to him or his, but leaves the horse stabled when an identical wrong is done to someone else, acts from self-interest and that is the opposite of principle.

All of which renders rather hollow the GOP’s recent chastisement of its problem child, Donald Trump, over an insult to Sen. John McCain. As you’ve no doubt heard, Trump, speaking at a conference of Christian conservatives, took issue with a suggestion that McCain, a Vietnam-era Navy flier shot down by the North Vietnamese, is a war hero.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump shot back. Then, perhaps hearing what he had just blurted, Trump turned smarmy and facetious. “He’s a war hero because he was captured,” he said, in the same tone you might use to say someone is a poet because he scribbled a limerick on a bathroom wall. “I like people that weren’t captured, OK? I hate to tell you. He’s a war hero because he was captured, OK? And I believe — perhaps he’s a war hero.”

McCain, should it need saying, is a war hero, period, full stop. If that term doesn’t fit a man who survived five brutal years in enemy hands — and refused an offer of release as the son of an American admiral because it did not include his fellow captives — then it doesn’t fit anyone.

So Trump deserves every bit of scorn his party has heaped upon him. He deserved to have Jeb Bush call his remark “slanderous” and Rick Perry to call it “offensive.” He deserved Rick Santorum’s tweet that “McCain is an American hero,” and the Republican National Committee’s statement that “there is no place in our party or our country” for such remarks. In a word, he deserved condemnation.

But the people who slandered John Kerry deserved it, too. The Secretary of State is also a war hero, period, full stop. If that term doesn’t fit a wounded man who braved enemy fire to fish another man out of a river, then it doesn’t fit anyone. Yet in 2004 when then-Sen. Kerry ran for president and a shadowy Republican-allied group mocked that heroism and baselessly called Kerry a liar, the GOP had a different response.

Jeb Bush wrote a letter praising those who questioned Kerry’s heroism. Perry declined to condemn them. “I think that there’s a lot of questions,” he said. Santorum said Kerry “brought this upon himself” by emphasizing his military service. And Republicans went to their convention sporting small purple bandages in mockery of Kerry’s Purple Heart.

That behavior was what Trump’s comment is: shameful. It is to their discredit that so many Republicans failed to condemn it as such. Interestingly enough, at least one did. His name was John McCain.

Perhaps he understood that principle is not politics. And that what is right does not change from red state to blue.

This much is surely right: It is a sin to mock the honorable service of those who have gone into harm’s way on their country’s behalf, particularly if, like Trump, you’ve never served a day in your life. We’ve seen a lot of this in recent years: It happened to former Democratic Sen. Max Cleland, who left three limbs in Vietnam, happened to the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha who spent 37 years in the Marines, happened to Kerry and has happened more than once to McCain.

Principle — a decent respect for the sacrifices of military men and women for this country — demands that patriotic Americans condemn this, no matter who it happens to. But if, somehow, your condemnation depends on whether the insulted person is of your political party, please understand that there is a word for what motivates you, and “principle” is not it.

“Hypocrisy” is.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, July 27, 2015

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, John Kerry, John McCain | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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