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“Every Republican Bad Habit”: Why Donald Trump’s Ham-Fisted Incompetence Is Such A Winning Combo For The Republican Party

Despite his brand as a ruthless businessman whose greed borders on the sociopathic, it’s becoming clear that Donald Trump couldn’t organize his way out of a wet paper sack.

After a deluge of truly abysmal headlines, he has tripped himself up yet again on the way to the Republican nomination, as poor logistics lost him multiple delegates in five states over the weekend. His own kids didn’t even realize they had to change their New York party registration last October in order to be able to vote Trump in the primary on April 19. Sad!

Ted Cruz, with his carefully organized army of staring ideologues, is the natural beneficiary of Trump missteps, and has gathered most of the lost delegates. Of course, if Trump had even a modicum of political competence, he would have long since locked up the nomination. Just look at this tidbit from the weekend caucuses: “The frontrunner’s advisers repeatedly instructed supporters to vote for the wrong candidates — distributing the incorrect delegate numbers to supporters,” Time reports.

Still, it’s hard to imagine a politically competent Trump who would also have run the same campaign that launched him to the front of the pack, where he still remains, despite the recent flailing. It’s a good demonstration of why nobody can lock up this primary.

Trump soared to frontrunner status by exploiting the fact that the GOP base has, for years, been running on the political equivalent of solvent abuse. Angry, resentful, and paranoid, the conservative movement has responded to inconvenient politics or facts with sheer denial or an enraged doubling-down. Climate change going to drown half of America’s coastal cities? It must be a conspiracy cooked up by all those scientists out to get that grant money. Got creamed among Latinos in the presidential election of 2012? To Hades with elite attempts to pass immigration reform as an unavoidable compromise, and primary some major supporters for good measure.

Trump first got into major national politics on the back of the conspiracy theory that President Obama wasn’t really born in the United States. (Obama himself completely humiliated Trump for this at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, which reportedly was the spark for Trump to run for president.) During the primary, he has taken every Republican bad habit — every plausibly-deniable racist dogwhistle, every game of footsie with rancid demagogues, every piece of crank economics or pseudoscience — and made them overt slogans painted in 20-foot-tall letters.

As a strategy to win the Republican primary, such tactics combine extremely well with Trump’s spider sense for his audience’s worst instincts and his absolute genius at manipulating TV media to get himself free coverage.

The rest of the primary field has been unable to mount a serious challenge despite being implicated in exactly the same stuff, just to a lesser degree. If Trump’s tax plan is total garbage (which it is), Rubio’s and Cruz’s were no less so. His signature immigration policy of “huge wall plus deport the brown people” is bonkers, but rooted in decades of conservative anti-immigrant hysteria. And you can draw a straight line to Trump’s “ban Muslims” idea from many previous episodes of whipped-up anti-Muslim bigotry.

But it turns out that such a strategy means absolutely obliterating one’s standing among the broader population. If nominated, Trump would very likely be the least popular major party nominee since the advent of modern polling. Virtually any Democratic nominee would be the heavy favorite against him.

And that illustrates why traditional national Republican candidates wanting to leverage white racism for electoral advantage have used the dogwhistle instead of an actual whistle. Without plausible deniability, you’re going to turn out like Strom Thurmond in 1948. Only Trump, with his unmerited arrogance and manifest ignorance of basic political mechanisms, is dumb enough to try it.

But as a primary strategy, it’s successful enough that the only actual politician to pose a serious challenge to Trump, Ted Cruz, is having to scramble to pick up all the scraps he can find — and Cruz is similar enough to Trump that the party is still fantasizing about nominating someone else. Who knows, it might even work. But it’d be simpler to prevent the party from being eaten by galloping nonsense in the first place.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, April 12, 2016

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Base, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Thanks For Asking”: How Do You Make Change Happen? Show Up

In my travels and conversations this year, I’ve been encouraged that grassroots people of all progressive stripes (populist, labor, liberal, environmental, women, civil libertarian, et al.) are well aware of the slipperiness of “victory” and want Washington to get it right this time. So over and over, Question No. 1 that I encounter is some variation of this: What should we do!?! How do we make Washington govern for all the people? What specific things can my group or I do now?

Thanks for asking. The first thing you can do to bring about change is show up. Think of showing up as a sort of civic action, where you get to choose something that fits your temperament, personal level of activism, available time and energy, etc. The point here is that every one of us can do something — and every bit helps.

Simply being there matters. While progressives have shown up for elections in winning numbers, our movement then tends to fade politely into the shadows, leaving public officials (even those we put in office) free to ignore us and capitulate to ever-present, ever-insistent corporate interests. No more. Grassroots progressives — as individuals and through our groups — must get in the face of power and stay there.

This doesn’t require a trip to Washington, though it can. It can be done right where you live — in personal meetings, on the phone, via email and letters, through social media (tweet at the twits!), on petitions, and any additional ways of communication that you and other creative people can invent. Hey, we’re citizens, voters, constituents — so we should not hesitate to request in-person appointments to chat with officials back home (these need not be confrontational), attend forums where they’ll be (local hearings, town hall sessions, speeches, meet & greets, parades, ribbon-cuttings, receptions, etc). They generally post their public schedules on their websites. Go to their meetings, ask questions, or at least say hello, introduce yourself, and try to achieve this: MAKE THEM LEARN YOUR NAME.

OK, you’re too busy to show up at all this stuff, but try one, then think of going to one every month or two. And you don’t have to go alone — get a family member, a couple of friends, a few members of the groups you’re in to join you. Make it an excursion, rewarding yourselves with a nice glass of wine or a beer and some laughs afterward.

Then there are times (“in the course of human events,” as Jefferson put it) when citizens have to come together in big numbers to protest, to insist on being heard. Lobbyists are able to meet with officials in quiet rooms, but when we’re shut out, a higher form of patriotism demands that ordinary folks surround a public official’s district office or a high-dollar fundraising event to deliver a noisy message about the people’s needs.

This is especially necessary for officials who get a substantial or even majority vote from progressive constituencies… but still stiff us on such major needs as increasing the minimum wage, overturning Citizens United, endorsing a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street speculators, and prohibiting the outrage of voter suppression. We have a right to expect them to respect our vote, and stand with us on the big issues. We’ve been too quiet, too indulgent with such office holders, and they won’t change until we start confronting them publicly.

Both in terms of having your own say and in demonstrating the strength of the grassroots numbers behind the policy changes we want, you and I are going to have to get noisier, more demonstrative, more out-front in demanding that elected officials really pay heed to those who elected them. Let’s make 2016 the year of reintroducing ourselves and our expectations to policymakers. At their every turn, we should be there, becoming a personal human presence (even an irritant) they cannot ignore.

 

By: Jim Hightower, Featured Post, The National Memo, April 13, 2016

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Democracy, Elected Officials, Progressives | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Elections Are Games With Complicated Rules”: How Donald Trump Got The Republican Primary Rules So Very Wrong

Donald Trump is a man obsessed with fairness. Not so much as an abstract principle, but whether he is being “treated fairly,” which essentially comes down to everyone giving him whatever he wants. As the primary campaign moves into its final stages, he is most definitely not being treated fairly, at least as he sees it. Strangely enough, it turns out that presidential campaigns run according to complex rules and procedures that you might not have mastered if you’ve never run for office before.

Trump is still winning, but lately Ted Cruz — nothing if not a shrewd operator — has been working the system to snatch delegates from Trump left and right. It has happened piecemeal in one state after another, but Trump’s outrage erupted after Cruz captured all of Colorado’s 34 delegates. The state party decided last year to allot its delegates not through a primary, but via an intricate process involving caucuses and a series of meetings; Cruz’s people worked that process hard before the Trump campaign even realized what was happening, and wound up with the entire prize.

So now Trump is telling everyone how unfair it was, and his supporters are doing things like burning their registration cards in protest. It no doubt looks to them like, once again, the party insiders are rigging the game in their favor. But the real problem here is that Trump and the people supporting him were laboring under the misimpression that the nomination process is democratic. It isn’t.

The fundamental fact is that this entire enterprise we’re witnessing is about two private entities, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, choosing the people they want to put up for the real election in the fall. Just like the Democrats, the GOP can conduct that contest in any way it wants. It could select its nominee with primaries, or caucuses, or state conventions, or by holding an essay contest, or using one of those carnival strength testers, or with careful phrenological measurements of the candidates’ craniums. It’s up to them.

The fact that Trump didn’t understand that, and doesn’t understand the particular rules under which the contest is taking place, is like someone complaining that his opponent used a flea flicker in a football game or a double steal in a baseball game. Even if it momentarily confused you, that doesn’t mean it was cheating.

It can be easy to forget, when so many Americans are going to polling places and we’re taking exit polls and counting votes, that for most of American history, the backroom deal at the convention was the norm. Each party’s leaders would get together and pick the person they thought most likely to bring them to victory (or the person best able to dole out favors). It wasn’t until both parties transformed their nomination processes in the late 1960s that the parties’ rank and file took much of a role in the nomination process, and primaries became something more than a way for those leaders to get a sense of what voters wanted — which they could ignore at their will.

Since those reforms, we’ve gotten used to the idea that the parties’ nomination processes are supposed to uphold our fundamental right of fair representation. But they don’t have to. And that’s not to mention the fact that there are lots of features of the process that no one including Donald Trump is questioning, but that are equally unfair to voters. For instance, some of the states on the Republican side allot their delegates on a winner-take-all basis, which effectively nullifies the votes of anyone who didn’t vote for the winner. Donald Trump won the Florida primary with 46 percent of the vote, yet even though most Florida Republicans voted against him, he got all 99 of the state’s delegates. I don’t recall him complaining about how unfair that was.

And of course, there’s an analogy with the general election, which is determined by the decidedly undemocratic means of the Electoral College. If you’re a Democrat living in Texas or a Republican living in California, you know for certain that your vote will have absolutely no effect on the outcome of the race, no matter how close it might be.

So even though the stakes are impossibly high, elections are games with complicated rules. It isn’t enough to be the most appealing candidate; you also have to master those rules, or at the very least, hire people who understand them and can help you avoid their pitfalls. Donald Trump never bothered, and now he’s paying the price.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, April 13, 2016

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Rules, Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, GOP Primaries | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Hypocrisy Watch”: When Bernie Sanders, Conventional Politician, Called For Still More Mass Incarceration

Could Bernie Sanders be starting to look ever so slightly like just another pol? Not to his besotted legions, of course. For them, nothing can tarnish the great man. But for other voters, the past week may mark a turning point in the way he’s perceived.

I have three events in mind. First was the Hillary-is-not-qualified business. Yeah, he walked it back fast, but not before he grossly mischaracterized what Clinton had said on Morning Joe and then went out and raised money off of his own mischaracterization! Far be it from me to suggest that the righteous one ever reads a poll, but I bet he does, and I bet his were showing that the controversy was killing him.

Second was the Vatican dust-up. What really happened there, who knows. But if your behavior leads two Vatican officials to start cat-scratching each other on the record, you have not won the morning. Given that he’s apparently not meeting with the Pope, I have no idea at this point why he’s even going. We all get that it’s a pander for Latino votes in New York, but why not just spend that time meeting actual Latino voters?

But third and biggest by far is Sanders’s continuing hypocrisy regarding the 1994 crime bill. Hypocrisy is a strong word. Is it fair? Well, he’s been going around for months criticizing both Clintons on the bill. But of course, as we know, he voted for it. And as we learned Sunday from Clinton surrogate John Podesta on ABC, Sanders boasted as recently as 2006 that he was tough on crime because he supported the ’94 bill.

Say what you want to say about the bill. It was really bad in many respects. It did help contribute to mass incarceration, especially of young black men. These arguments weren’t secrets at the time. Many people made them. In the House, about one-third of Democrats voted against the bill, most of them liberal or African-American (or both) critics of the bill on exactly these grounds. So Congressman Sanders was sitting on the House floor, or in the Democratic cloakroom, being exposed to these arguments, and he still voted for it.

He says it was because of the provisions that cracked down on violence against women. Fine; laudable, even. But if he gets credit for the good parts, don’t Bill and Hillary get that credit, too?

The story gets worse for Sanders. Over the weekend, an excerpt of remarks Congressman Sanders had inserted into the Congressional Record in 1995 started making the rounds. A debate was raging at the time about the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparities (black people were more often arrested on crack charges, for which the sentencing guidelines were much harsher). The U.S. Sentencing Commission had recommended to Congress that it eliminate the disparity (PDF). It meant that Congress should do so by lowering the guidelines for crack so that they’d be equal to those for powder. Most Democrats, of course, supported this change.

Sanders? Well, he wanted to eliminate the disparity—but by raising the powder guidelines to those for crack! Here are the salient sentences, from the Record of Oct. 18, 1995, tweeted over the weekend by James E. Carter IV, President Carter’s grandson:

“This Congressman thinks that drugs are a scourge on America, and I strongly believe we must fight cocaine use in any form. We should be addressing the fairness issue by raising the punishment for powder cocaine, not lowering the sentence for crack offenses. I am deeply disturbed that this was not given as an option today.”

Well, I’ll give him this much. The Sanders option would have eliminated the disparity. But it would have done so by throwing millions more people behind bars for years, ruining that many more lives, black, white, and otherwise. It’s totally at odds with Sanders’s rhetoric, which I agree with by the way, about how we need to give young people from difficult circumstances more opportunity. Bernie wanted to give young people from all circumstances less opportunity. He may never have used the word “superpredators,” but he sure seems to have believed in their existence.

Why was Sanders such a law-and-order type? It’s hard to know, since of course he never talks about it and now says just the opposite, with all that imperious moral thunder that some find bewitching and others bothersome or bewildering. But this excellent Yahoo! News piece from early February lays the record out. He even voted against a bill in 1995 that would have established separate drug courts and taken steps to demilitarize police departments, preventing them from using any money in the act in question (which failed) for the purchase of Army-style tanks or aircraft.

It’s hard to imagine that crime was raging across the state from Burlington to Brattleboro. Maybe it was, by Vermont standards. Or maybe he just believed it was. But if he did believe it, he ought to just say so and explain why.

Hillary Clinton’s record on these matters is compromised as well. But at least the Clintons acknowledge error. Bill said last summer that the crime bill made mass incarceration worse. Hillary, in her first major speech of her campaign, also last year, ducked mentioning the crime bill by name but clearly spent parts of the speech criticizing it.

The Clintons, quite imperfect the both of them, live in a world where things are complicated, history advances and changes, and you have to rethink and explain. Sanders lives in a world where no explanation is ever required of him. Clinton has a week to change that.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 12, 2016

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Crime Bill 1994, Hillary Clinton, Mass Incarceration | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Paul Ryan To GOP; I Can’t Be Your Everything”: His Current Job, That He Didn’t Want, Isn’t Going That Great

Paul Ryan wants you to know he’s not in the running to be president, and it’s not like when the Speaker of the House assured the public he wasn’t in the running to be Speaker of the House.

This time he wants you to know he means it.

That’s why he’s been putting out shiny, overly produced, campaign-style videos on foreign policy and giving flag draped speeches about the “common humanity” that should unify the Republican Party and the nation?

Nevermind that. This time he means it.

“We have too much work to do in the House to allow this speculation to swirl or to have my motivations questioned. So let me be clear: I do not want, nor will I accept, the nomination for our party,” Ryan told a room brimming with reporters at the Republican National Committee’s Capitol Hill headquarters.

(We’ll come back to the work Ryan wants to (and has failed to) get done in the House later.)

His forceful non-presidential announcement itself turned some heads on Capitol Hill.

“Was he in the running [at] the convention?” asked Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) when The Daily Beast informed him of Ryan’s press conference. “From Paul and from my friends in the House, I have had no one ever confirm the fact that he ever had any interest.”

The news that Ryan’s taken his name out of the running, by some accounts for the 19th time now, hit more moderate Republicans like a punch in the gut as they survey the GOP field that is dominated by reality TV star Donald Trump and conservative bomb-throwing Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

“That’s too bad. He was never pushing the talk – it was others,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), admitting that he was one of those on the Hill prodding Ryan to allow his name to be offered on the convention floor in Cleveland. “Paul Ryan would be great for the party and he could certainly win. I’ve known him for years and he’s a good conservative.”

But we’ve heard Ryan take his name out of the running for Speaker, only to offer it and be handed the most coveted gavel on Capitol Hill.

How different will this really be?

“Those are apples and oranges. Being Speaker of the House is a far cry from being President of the United States, specifically because I was already in the House; I’m already a congressman,” Ryan argued as progressive activists protested outside. “I was asked by my colleagues to take a responsibility within Congress that I’ve already been serving in from the one that I had. That is entirely different than getting the nomination for President of the United States by your party, without even running for the job.”

In fairness, his current job, that he didn’t want, isn’t going that great.

As Speaker, the numbers wonk has failed to unite the conservative wing of his party. Take this year’s budget battle, which Ryan seems to have lost.

Ryan was propelled to Republican fame during his tenure as chairman of the Budget Committee where he offered aggressive proposals to cut the social safety net and restructure entitlements, like Medicare. While that made him the whipping boy of progressives, it earned him the GOP’s vice presidential nomination in 2012.

After that  failed campaign, he returned to the House as the Ways and Means chairman – not as prestigious as the veep spot but that’s where tax policy is written, so powerful nonetheless.

When he was elected speaker, he vowed to use his new perch atop the House to show the American people that conservatives can govern by passing a spending blueprint by Tax Day.

That deadline is just days away. And  the tea party wing of the House revolted – as they are known to do – and it seems the lower chamber will fail to even pass a budget.

Thus instead holding a press conference showing a united Republican Party, budget in hand, he was forced to insert himself into presidential politics and beg convention delegates to stay in line and stop loving him so much.

“If no candidate has a majority on the first ballot, I believe that you should only choose from a person who has actually participated in the primary. Count me out,” Ryan added. “If you want to be the nominee for our party, to be the president, you should actually run for it.”

Many conservatives argue it would be better for Speaker Ryan’s future to focus on governing the House, instead of jumping into the crazy world of Election 2016.

“There’s no doubt about that,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) told The Daily Beast. “Being Speaker of the House, it’s an extremely difficult and challenging job, and he has the ability to be successful at that. I would just ask, but I think his problems will be greater if he’s not in the mainstream of Republican voters on big questions like trade and immigration.”

Sessions, who has endorsed Trump,  added it would be unfair to millions of conservative primary voters for Ryan or another GOP leader to orchestrate a twelfth hour takeover at the convention.

“A lot of people have spoken at these elections. American people are not happy with the establishment of the Republican Party,” said Sessions. “And I guess the Speaker of the House would have to be classified as part of the establishment, right? So it would be hard to make that move—to go from a Ted Cruz and a Donald Trump to somebody who symbolizes the business as usual.”

 

By: Matt Laslo, The Daily Beast, April 13, 2016

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Election 2016, Establishment Republicans, Paul Ryan, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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