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“Another ‘Trump’s In Trouble’ Story”: Even Trump’s Former Campaign Aide Doesn’t Think He’ll Win The Nomination

The end of the year brings another entry into the Trump won’t win oeuvre (of which I am not only a connoisseur but also contributor). The interesting twist is that the latest warning storms ahead for the tyrant of Trump Tower come from a (possibly disgruntled) former campaign aide.

Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg, who started consulting with Trump in 2011, joined him full time in 2014 and got sacked shortly after Trump got into the race because of a series of racist Facebook posts, shared his concerns about the Trump trajectory with The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak.

Falling poll numbers in the first key states, a lack so far of reserved advertising, a low net favorability and underperformance in the college-educated voting bloc that dominates the early presidential contests – all these contribute to a darkening forecast for the Trump campaign, Nunberg argued.

The way Nunberg sees it, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will cruise in Iowa and the long-heralded (including here) coalescing of the establishment behind Marco Rubio will occur in time for the Florida senator to win that primary.

If Trump loses Iowa and New Hampshire, he’ll stumble into South Carolina. “Once Cruz wins Iowa, and if he beats Trump in New Hampshire, which he very well could, Cruz would win South Carolina, from a momentum perspective,” Nunberg predicted.

If this scenario plays out, Nunberg doesn’t “see a pathway to the nomination – he certainly wouldn’t be the frontrunner anymore, and his numbers will start to fall.”

It’s an intriguing scenario. Certainly the conventional wisdom – and polling – have lined up behind the idea of a Cruz Iowa victory. The New Hampshire case isn’t quite so strong given that Trump still has a comfortable lead there. Of course the caveat is that even now, a little more than a month before the first ballots are cast, polls are not necessarily reliable. As FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver has noted, something like 40 percent of Iowa voters and half of New Hampshire voters decide who they’re supporting in the last week before they go to the polls.

Nunberg told Mak that his decision to speak out was the result of a concern that Trump may not be getting a clear picture of his impending doom. But there are indications that he may be getting the message. For one thing, the veiled suggestion that Ted Cruz is an inauthentic evangelical because he’s from Cuba has returned to Trump’s stump speech (because God only knows that Donald Trump is a true evangelical). At the same time, Trump’s Iowa organization is ramping up, per the Wall Street Journal. And the retired reality TV star has started saying that he’s actually going to spend money on television ads in the new year.

At the same time Rubio’s rivals for the establishment mantel have started gunning for him, with both a pro-Jeb Bush super PAC and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie slamming the Floridian for absenteeism. I suppose it makes sense for the various traditional candidates to want to wipe each other out in an attempt to get a solo shot at Trump and/or Cruz, but The Donald’s free pass continues to amaze.


By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor for Opinion, U.S. News & World Report, December 30, 2015


January 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Privilege, Pathology And Power”: What Happens To A Nation That Gives Ever-Growing Political Power To The Super Rich?

Wealth can be bad for your soul. That’s not just a hoary piece of folk wisdom; it’s a conclusion from serious social science, confirmed by statistical analysis and experiment. The affluent are, on average, less likely to exhibit empathy, less likely to respect norms and even laws, more likely to cheat, than those occupying lower rungs on the economic ladder.

And it’s obvious, even if we don’t have statistical confirmation, that extreme wealth can do extreme spiritual damage. Take someone whose personality might have been merely disagreeable under normal circumstances, and give him the kind of wealth that lets him surround himself with sycophants and usually get whatever he wants. It’s not hard to see how he could become almost pathologically self-regarding and unconcerned with others.

So what happens to a nation that gives ever-growing political power to the superrich?

Modern America is a society in which a growing share of income and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small number of people, and these people have huge political influence — in the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, around half the contributions came from fewer than 200 wealthy families. The usual concern about this march toward oligarchy is that the interests and policy preferences of the very rich are quite different from those of the population at large, and that is surely the biggest problem.

But it’s also true that those empowered by money-driven politics include a disproportionate number of spoiled egomaniacs. Which brings me to the current election cycle.

The most obvious illustration of the point I’ve been making is the man now leading the Republican field. Donald Trump would probably have been a blowhard and a bully whatever his social station. But his billions have insulated him from the external checks that limit most people’s ability to act out their narcissistic tendencies; nobody has ever been in a position to tell him, “You’re fired!” And the result is the face you keep seeing on your TV.

But Mr. Trump isn’t the only awesomely self-centered billionaire playing an outsized role in the 2016 campaign.

There have been some interesting news reports lately about Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas gambling magnate. Mr. Adelson has been involved in some fairly complex court proceedings, which revolve around claims of misconduct in his operations in Macau, including links to organized crime and prostitution. Given his business, this may not be all that surprising. What was surprising was his behavior in court, where he refused to answer routine questions and argued with the judge, Elizabeth Gonzales. That, as she rightly pointed out, isn’t something witnesses get to do.

Then Mr. Adelson bought Nevada’s largest newspaper. As the sale was being finalized, reporters at the paper were told to drop everything and start monitoring all activity of three judges, including Ms. Gonzales. And while the paper never published any results from that investigation, an attack on Judge Gonzales, with what looks like a fictitious byline, did appear in a small Connecticut newspaper owned by one of Mr. Adelson’s associates.

O.K., but why do we care? Because Mr. Adelson’s political spending has made him a huge player in Republican politics — so much so that reporters routinely talk about the “Adelson primary,” in which candidates trek to Las Vegas to pay obeisance.

Are there other cases? Yes indeed, even if the egomania doesn’t rise to Adelson levels. I find myself thinking, for example, of the hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer, another big power in the G.O.P., who published an investor’s letter declaring that inflation was running rampant — he could tell from the prices of Hamptons real estate and high-end art. Economists got some laughs out of the incident, but think of the self-absorption required to write something like that without realizing how it would sound to non-billionaires.

Or think of the various billionaires who, a few years ago, were declaring with straight faces, and no sign of self-awareness, that President Obama was holding back the economy by suggesting that some businesspeople had misbehaved. You see, he was hurting their feelings.

Just to be clear, the biggest reason to oppose the power of money in politics is the way it lets the wealthy rig the system and distort policy priorities. And the biggest reason billionaires hate Mr. Obama is what he did to their taxes, not their feelings. The fact that some of those buying influence are also horrible people is secondary.

But it’s not trivial. Oligarchy, rule by the few, also tends to become rule by the monstrously self-centered. Narcisstocracy? Jerkigarchy? Anyway, it’s an ugly spectacle, and it’s probably going to get even uglier over the course of the year ahead.


By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 1, 2016

January 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Economic Inequality, Money in Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Perfect Echo Chamber”: Why Is Matt Drudge Boosting Donald Trump?

Who’s responsible for Donald Trump? The establishment honchos of the Republican Party first and foremost, for not having the stones to stand up and stop the crazy in their party over the last seven years when Steve King and Louis Gohmert and Michele Bachmann and all the others said the unhinged things they said. The cable networks, for covering his every utterance and letting him play them like a fiddle.

A less discussed culprit: Matt Drudge. He may not get the headlines he got 15 years ago, so if you don’t read his site you might think he’s kinda gone away. Well, he has not. The Drudge Report is as huge as ever: Around 700 million visitors a month.

And what they’ve been getting for the last six months is a steady stream of pro-Trump agitprop. Drudge’s own weird, quasi-libertarian, crypto-racialist-populist political views have found their perfect echo in Trump’s campaign. If you’ve read the Drudge site over the years, you know how expert the site has always been at finding and promoting news stories that aren’t capital-P political on their face but whose political moral, and the reason Drudge highlights them, is obvious.

A preposterous-sounding grievance from a minority group member; a left-wing academic making some nutty claim or another; some new manifestation of political correctness afoot. These stories are the mother’s milk of the site, and they create the same paranoia that Trump is creating, and among the same audience.

And the audience is gobbling it up—and regurgitating it in the hoped-for way. As Republican-turned-independent (and now Hillary Clinton supporter) Jimmy LaSalvia noted at Salon recently, after every GOP debate, the Drudge site polls its readers on who won. And every time, Trump has won, usually big.

It’s no wonder. The Drudge site is (gulp) its readers’ most trusted news source, and nearly every day it’s playing a pro-Trump piece high up. As I write this, Tuesday the 29th, the story is “New poll shows Trump strong among minorities.” The link is to a story on World Net Daily, a far-right site whose stock in trade is headlines like “Democrats Think Christians Bigger Threat Than Muslims,” and it’s to a poll commissioned by…World Net Daily! It finds that “40 percent of blacks are lining up behind Trump, as are 45 percent of Hispanics, and even nearly 19 percent of Asians.” Right.

Now, if you’re reacting to this by thinking so what, tell me something new, my answer is that I am telling you something new. In 2012, Drudge generally backed not Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul or Rick Santorum or Herman Cain, but Mr. Establishment himself, Mitt Romney! You can go back and Google it and find loads of stories from that cycle about how Drudge highlighted pro-Romney stories and how the other GOP contenders groused that Drudge was helping Mittens.

Why the change? I’m not exactly a Drudge world insider. The public evidence we have is the big and very rare interview Drudge gave back in October to wingnut radio host Alex Jones, where he delivered gems like this one: “You’ve got to be the greatest you can be now—now. Before this country is so completely altered and we’re left with Hillary’s brain in the Oval Office in a jar. Cuz that’s what we’re getting. She is old and she’s sick. She is not a contender. They’re making her a contender with these propped up Saturday Night Live things; it’s like a head on a stick. And then on the Today show with [Savannah Guthrie]—a head on a stick. She is not a viable, vibrant leader for this country of 300—including the illegals, 380 million—Americans. So the media is trying to put us to sleep.”

Eighty million illegals. And you thought it was 11.5 million. See how the corporate media have been lying to you? For what it’s worth, Drudge has been a major promoter of Jones’ conspiracy-mongering websites, often giving them prominent links.

So now we’re getting to crunch time. How much juice does Drudge still have with GOP primary voters, especially in the key states? Probably a lot is my guess. It’s obviously impossible to say how much Drudge has helped Trump thus far. Trump probably didn’t need a push from Drudge to get where he is. But look at it from the reverse point of view: If Drudge had been anti-Trump these last six months, Trump very well might not be where he is right now.

The more serious question is how much juice Drudge might have in a general election contest. He will want to destroy Hillary Clinton, there’s no doubt about that. If Trump is actually the Republican nominee, Drudge will have his dream match-up: the right-wing nativist fuck-the-establishment candidate versus a Clinton. Destroying, or trying to destroy, a Clinton (Bill) is what made Drudge world famous in the first place, back in 1998. But that didn’t work out for him. And promoting the candidate that half the Republican Party would run away from holding its nose doesn’t seem like the best way to stop this Clinton.

Maybe deep down on some level even they only dimly grasp, all these people want her to be the president. She’s great for ratings and page views, and everything they don’t like about a changing country that they no longer speak to or for can be immediately blamed on her. Only a Clinton victory would support their idea of America as a place where the corporate media are brainwashing people to become diversity-worshipping automatons, and conservative media will be there to ride the decline.

And that’s what Drudge’s move from Romney to Trump proves: On the radical right, it’s not about stopping liberalism anymore. It’s about demolishing conservatism.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, December 30, 2015

January 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Matt Drudge | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Power And Limits Of Symbolism”: There Is A Lot More That Goes Into Making Up Our Identity

I remember back in 1984 when I first heard rumors that Walter Mondale was considering the possibility of nominating a woman as his Vice Presidential running mate, my reaction was pretty dismissive. I thought, “Pffttt…another woman in a supporting role, no big deal.”

But then as I watched him actually announce that Geraldine Ferraro would be his running mate, I cried. The tears totally surprised me – I didn’t see them coming. Their source was not my rational mind. Instead, they came from something very deep inside.

I saw the same kinds of tears on the faces of people at Grant Park in Chicago on the night Barack Obama was elected in 2008.

That is the power of symbolism. It touches the place that needs to hear, “You belong.” Whoopi Goldberg captured that very well the next morning when she said, “I’ve always considered myself an American, but for the first time last night, I felt like I could finally put my bags down.” We should never underestimate the power of “you belong” for people who have felt marginalized in our culture. It is not something that we articulate often on a rational basis, but it resides deep in our being.

On the other hand, there are limits to symbolism. There is a lot more that goes into making up our identity than the fact that we are a woman, or African American, or a member of another group that has been marginalized. We are complex human beings with a variety of thoughts and feelings when it comes to politics.

That is something that Republicans (and some Democrats) don’t seem to understand about symbolism. It’s why John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate and thought that is all he needed to do to reach out to women. And it is what some pundits and political strategists think will happen with candidates like Herman Cain and Ben Carson. In many ways that kind of thing only perpetuates the marginalization by assuming that we can be reduced to the fact that we have a uterus or a heavier dose of melanin.

Keep that in mind when you hear pundits assume that a presidential candidate like Marco Rubio will attract Latino and/or young voters. It is, first of all, insulting to many Hispanics to ignore the very real differences between Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Puerto Rican-Americans, etc. And, of course, it assumes a linkage between both cultures and complex human beings that is reduced to the fact that – for the most part – they share the same language.

I also know of no better way to insult young people than to suggest that the most important thing about them is their age. What most young people are telling us these days is that they are ready to move past the racism/sexism/homophobia that has divided us for so long and get busy tackling things that actually affect their future – like education and climate change. I think they’re smart enough to chose a candidate who speaks to those issues and not get hung up on the year they were born.

So yes, there is power in symbolism. But to assume that marginalized voters can be reduced to one demographic factor is why the word “token” was introduced into discussions about diversity. It is demeaning to think that’s all that matters.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 1, 2016

January 2, 2016 Posted by | Symbolism, Walter Mondale, Young Voters | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Democracy Trumped”: Could Trump Actually Win The Election?

I’ve been having incessant conversations with friends, family, and colleagues about politics, and they all boil down to the same question. Could Donald Trump be our next president?

Here is an amalgam of the conversation. See which side you’re on:

—I think Trump might actually win.

—You mean the Republican nomination?

—No, I mean the election.

—Get serious. For starters, the Republican leaders would never allow that. They’d be much better off with Rubio-Kasich or Kasich-Rubio.

—Maybe they would. But there are no smoke-filled rooms anymore. Leaders don’t make these decisions. Primary voters do, and they love Trump. The more outrageous he is and the less connected to facts, the more his support grows.

—Yeah, but he’s a media phenomenon. He is such an egomaniac that he hasn’t even bothered to build an organization. He has no ground game. That’s why Cruz has pulled ahead on Iowa.

—Iowa is a special case because it’s a caucus state. In a society where people are increasingly disconnected from politics, Trump can motivate people just as a media candidate. If he needs an organization to get out his vote, he can buy one.

—He’s already peaked.

—Maybe, but under the new Republican rules that were put in place in 2014, all of the primaries after March 15 are winner-take-all. He only needs to come in first and he gets all of the state’s delegates, even if he has 25 percent of the vote and, say, the runner-up has 22 percent. The Republicans did this to get an early nominee. They didn’t foresee Trump.

—It’s still unlikely that he will get 50 percent of the delegates. If he gets less than 50 percent and it’s a brokered convention, all of the others will unite to prevent Trump from being the nominee.

—Think again. Trump may be a fool and a demagogue when it comes to actual policy, but one thing he’s good at is making deals. Suppose he comes into the convention with 45 percent of the delegates. All he has to do is offer the vice-presidential nomination to someone who controls at least 5 percent of the delegates, and he’s over the top. Can you imagine all of the other candidates, who really hate each other, somehow uniting to block Trump?

—Even if by some miracle he’s nominated, he can’t win. He has just alienated too many groups—women, blacks, Muslims, immigrants.

—That depends. If we have a few more terrorist incidents, or if some more skeletons come out of Hillary’s closet, all bets are off.

—Mainstream Republicans will vote for Hillary in droves.

—Yes, such as they are. But Hillary is not producing much enthusiasm, whereas Trump’s base is really fired up.

—But imagine the debates. This is complicated stuff. Hillary is so much better informed on the issues. He just makes it up.

—Right, but that doesn’t seem to hurt him. She is hawkish for a Democrat, but there is no way she will be tougher than Trump. And the fact that this is very complicated stuff and Hillary really understands the complexity—that doesn’t necessarily play to her advantage. A lot of voters want simple. And there is one more element.

—What’s that?

—Trump is already the most populist of the Republican candidates, and the most appealing to working-class voters. He doesn’t hate government the way the others do. You can count on him to move left after he is nominated, posing as the defender of Social Security and Medicare, and demanding higher taxes on the rich. Hillary, long allied with Wall Street, is less than an ideal opponent. She may take some Republican votes, but he may take more Democratic ones.

—That’s sobering. Do you happen to know the rules for emigrating to Canada?


By: Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect, December 29, 2015

January 2, 2016 Posted by | Democracy, Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Voters | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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