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“A Toxic Social And Cultural Stew”: Get Ready For A Long, Very Ugly Election Won On The Ground

Yesterday I wrote that the politically obsessed should not pay attention to general election polls right now, because the GOP primary is over while the Democratic one continues. That in turn has given presumptive nominee Trump a consolidating boost, while Sanders supporters still resist supporting Clinton. That phenomenon will dissipate within the month, and Clinton will get her own boost once the last votes are cast.

Still, the latest poll showing Trump leading Clinton by 2 points is instructive not for its toplines, but for the very high negative public perceptions of both candidates. While the topline numbers should change over the next few months in Clinton’s favor, the candidates’ negatives are unlikely to. Compounding this reality is that the public has lower-than-ever perceptions of the news media, which means we’re ripe for a toxic social and cultural stew as we approach the election.

What does this mean going forward? Mostly that the election will be driven in part by core supporters who do like their respective candidates on both sides, but mostly by fear of the other side. Conservative voters who don’t like Trump will have to make a choice whether to trudge to the polls to vote against Clinton, and liberal voters who don’t like Clinton will have to do likewise against Trump. Undecided voters who don’t like either choice will have to decide whether to vote at all.

Pure partisans won’t have any trouble showing up, because that’s what we do. But general elections aren’t won by pure partisans who vote in every election. Nor are they usually won by persuading the very small slice of people who can’t seem to make up their minds between two very different candidates all the way into October.

General elections are won by turning out the people who already agree with you ideologically, but only show up to vote every other election when they really feel inspired to but otherwise feel that politics is a waste of time that doesn’t change anything dramatically affecting their daily lives.

In that sense, the way both sides will try to win is not to convince the disaffected that their candidate will affect dramatic positive changes (though Trump may have some disaffected voters with whom he can make that argument; Clinton’s chance of persuading her own version of the same is somewhat less due to her intentionally incrementalist message), but to scare them into believing that the other candidate will make dramatic negative changes.

In other words, Trump will try to convince apathetic conservatives that Clinton will turn America into a gun-free Venezuelan socialist despotism, while Clinton will try to convince apathetic liberals that Trump will turn America into an unstable, trigger-happy fascist dictatorship. Clinton will use Trump’s lascivious past against him, even as Trump brings up decades of unsavory personal Clinton associations. It’s going to a very nasty affair. The one big advantage Democrats will have is a probable surge in the Latino vote out of genuine self-preservation.

In the meantime, the election will actually be won not in the air, but on the ground. The ugliness on the air will depress turnout even further, which will require campaign organizers to depend on millions of face-to-face conversations with voters on the fence about whether to vote at all.

All of which is to say this: as we approach the general election, those who want to help their candidate win in November should probably spend a lot less time arguing with other people in online forums or obsessing over television ads, and a lot more time making calls and knocking on doors. That’s where this very ugly game is going to be won and lost.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 23, 2016

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Fake GOP Engagement Advantage”: Be Aware GOP, The Tide Will Come In And The Shoreline Will Move Against You

Why would Republicans be paying more attention to the presidential election than Democrats at this stage of the game? That’s not very hard to answer.

The most obvious reason is that they don’t have the White House right now and they haven’t had it since January 20th, 2008, when George W. Bush left office. Democrats simply aren’t craving what they already have, and it’s going to take them a while to focus on what they might lose.

That’s a cyclically-dependent variable, but there are others that are persistent, and still others that seem specific to this particular season.

As the electorate has sorted, older voters have trended Republican and younger voters have trended Democratic. Older voters read more newspapers, watch more television news, engage in more political activity outside the home, and vote more often in all elections than young voters.

There has also been a big difference between the parties in the nominating contests. The Republicans had eleventy-billion candidates, no certainty or even much consensus about who the winner might be, and the highly unusual (and famous) Donald Trump adding an entertainment value that could be enjoyed by even the least politically minded people. The Democrats have had (really) only two candidates, much less overall media coverage, and a presumed nominee from beginning to end.

Now, it should be a worrying sign to the Democrats that Republican engagement has been higher, and we’ve seen this not just in survey results but in the ratings for debates and in the voter turnout numbers in the primaries and caucuses.

But, I’m willing to argue that this should probably be of more concern to the Republicans. Despite Trump trending up in the most recent polls, his overall prospects look dim. And where is the room for growth?

Consider that Gallup finds that about twice as many people over fifty years of age are following the election “very closely” as are people under thirty. That number will begin to close and it will continue to narrow straight on through to Election Day. Consider, also, that 45% of whites claim to be watching the presidential election carefully while only 27% of nonwhites say the same.

Gallup says a central challenge for Democrats is to fix this disparity in engagement, and that’s true. But, with two conventions in July, followed by four debates, and the fall campaign, voter interest will rise automatically, and the Democrats have a lot more disengaged voters who will be coming online without any effort by the DNC or the Clinton campaign.

There’s also a current advantage the Republicans are enjoying in that their nomination is now a settled matter, and they’re consolidating a little earlier than the Democrats. Bringing the Clinton and Sanders camps together will more difficult than usual and will probably be somewhat incomplete, but that schism is minor compared to the one on the Republican side where the Speaker of the House can’t even endorse his own party’s nominee.

So, while the Democrats would probably prefer to see numbers that showed more parity in interest, they shouldn’t be overly concerned about these survey results. The Republicans should be aware that the tide will come in and the shoreline will move against them.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 23, 2016

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, General Election 2016, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“From The Ground Up”: For Sanders Backers, A Focus On Downballot Primaries Is The Right Idea

Progressive pundits across the spectrum have been blasting out a resounding message in the last week: it’s time for Sanders to stop attacking Clinton and the Democratic Party directly. That doesn’t mean Sanders should drop out, or refrain from making his withering and accurate critiques of unrestrained capitalism, Wall Street, and big-donor fueled politics on both sides of the aisle. Sanders can and should continue to push back against the neoliberals and incrementalists in the party and demand that Democrats offer a more visionary and bolder approach, and he should maintain his focus on corralling and curtailing the financial sector–not just the shadow banking industry but more importantly the big banks.

But in truth, the sort of political revolution the Sanders campaign ostensibly has been pushing for rarely originates in the form of a top-down presidential run or Oval Office win. It bubbles up from the bottom.

That’s why, in the wake of Howard Dean’s unfortunate 2004 loss at the hands of establishment Democrats who turned all their fire on him, he recommended that his activists run for central committees and local offices all across America to reinvigorate and renew the Democratic Party in a progressive mold, from the ground up. A large number of those inspired by the Dean campaign did just that, and used their influence in local primaries to push more progressives into statehouses and ultimately into Congress as well. Howard Dean himself made great strides in implementing the 50-state strategy as head of the DNC, ensuring that a progressive message would be heard and that organizers would be hired all across the country.

The Sanders campaign is well equipped to do likewise. For now, most of the attention is on whether Sanders will be able to influence the Democratic Party platform at convention. But that’s frankly tiny potatoes compared to making a difference downballot.

Whether you agree with Sanders and his voters or not, tactically speaking going after downballot primaries is the right approach for a populist base voter insurgency. When movement conservatives wanted to take over the Republican Party from the Eisenhower crowd, they started at the local level and moved their way up. When the Tea Party wanted to overtake the establishment, they began with primaries that ultimately engulfed and ousted even Eric Cantor. That energy has been a boon to conservative politics and pushed the country rightward. It also set the stage for Donald Trump’s run, which has torched a moribund Republican establishment that still looks to the failed decades-old policies of Ronald Reagan in an increasingly globalized and automated world that abuses and discards workers even in developed economies. Trump may be bad for the GOP brand with minorities and women, but his embrace of domestic jobs over corporate profits will ultimately be a necessary course correction and boon for the party.

Regarding Sanders, his backers are unlikely to snatch any primary victories in the short term–and the victories would need to happen for the right reasons to maintain long-term credibility. The big story at the moment surrounds Sanders voters attempting to primary DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz on account of her handling of the DNC and perceived bias against the Sanders campaign. However, while she has undoubtedly tipped the scales in Clinton’s favor, Sanders supporters would be better served reinforcing their populist, anti-Wall Street credentials by focusing on Wasserman-Schultz’ defense of payday lenders, instead.

The 2018 midterms will provide a great test of whether the brand of progressive populism championed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren can actually have the lasting staying power of movement conservatism. The so-called political revolution will need to win primaries in open seats, and even potentially supplant some of the most conservative and/or finance-industry-backed Democrats. That would do far more good for the movement’s stated goals at this point, than continued attacks on Clinton and the Democratic Party itself.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 21, 2016

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Down Ballot Candidates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Party Affiliation Ought To Account For Something”: Instead Of Banning Closed Primaries, Just Make It Easier To Change Parties

One of the more difficult demands the Bernie Sanders campaign is regularly making is a future ban on closed Democratic primaries in which independent (and Republican) voters are excluded from participating. It’s unclear how such a ban would work (since state governments, not the national party, usually make these determinations), and the idea is also offensive to many Democrats who think party affiliation ought to account for something in party-nomination contests.

Fortunately, there is a reform available that makes participation in Democratic primaries by independents much easier without abandoning party affiliation requirements: eliminating re-registration deadlines so that independents can become Democrats at the primary or caucus site just before they vote. That’s already the case in some states (notably Iowa). This would deal with the handful of extreme cases (most famously New York, with its re-registration deadline that is 193 days before the primary) where deadlines have often passed by the time voters even form the intention to vote.

Easy re-registration, moreover, could help with problems faced by independents, even in open-primary states. In California, for example, independents will be allowed to vote in the June 7 Democratic primary. But as the Los Angeles Times revealed in April after a study of the situation, hundreds of thousands of Californians who consider themselves independents accidentally registered as members of the American Independent Party, the ancient right-wing vehicle invented by George Wallace for his 1968 presidential run. It’s managed to maintain ballot status largely because of such mistakes.

An update by the Times indicates that the AIP suffered a net loss of about 21,000 voters in the two weeks after its initial report — which got a lot of publicity in California — was published.  That leaves 473,000 registered AIP members, with an estimated two-thirds or so having no intention of belonging to any party, much less the wacky Wallace party. Sure, some more AIP members have re-registered since early May, but the deadline for doing so is Monday. That is frustrating for a Bernie Sanders campaign that is desperately relying on independents to play a big role in the kind of overwhelming upset win they need to come within shouting distance of Hillary Clinton in pledged delegates. Instead, Lord knows how many tens of thousands of self-identified Democratic-leaning independents will get their mail ballots or show up at the polls to discover their choices include not Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton but a group of anonymous right-wing schmoes.

Hillary Clinton would be smart to propose same-day re-registration as a counter to the Sanders call for universal open primaries. It’s a way to keep the door open to independents — including those who make mistakes in their original registration — without diminishing the value of calling oneself a Democrat. Most of these indies will probably stick around, just as Bernie Sanders has pledged to do.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 20, 2016

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Closed Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Sanders Campaigns Against The Democrats”: The Question Is Whether Or Not He Cares

As the primaries come to a close, Bernie Sanders has upped the ante in his fight against the Democratic establishment, leading many Democrats to worry about party unity going into the general election.

This late in the game, it’s extremely unlikely that Sanders will manage to wrest the nomination from Hillary Clinton. She’s hundreds of delegates ahead, not counting super delegates that have pledged their non-binding allegiance to her, and many in the Democratic establishment have criticized Sanders’ decision to stay in the race.

“Bernie made his point,” said an unnamed Colorado Democrat to Politico. “It’s time to bring the party back together. The longer he waits, the more damage he does. The question is whether or not he cares. The rest of us do.”

Sanders knows that, which is why he has begun focus on committee assignments and other minutiae at the Democratic National Convention in July. But that hasn’t stopped him from focusing fire on his rival.

“We need a campaign, an election, coming up which does not have two candidates who are really very, very strongly disliked. I don’t want to see the American people voting for the lesser of two evils,” he said on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, describing the low favorability ratings both Clinton and Donald Trump face going into a presidential election match up.

Comments like that have signaled Sanders’ increasing investment in a divided Democratic Party as the primary calendar runs down to its last six contests. “The ‘burn it down’ attitude, the upping the ante,” wrote Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo, “seems to be coming from Sanders himself. Right from the top.” While blame was initially cast on Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ fiery campaign manager, commentators started placing blame more directly on Sanders himself after his statement following the supposed scuffles that took place in the Nevada Democratic convention — Sanders placed most of the blame for his delegate’s rowdiness on “Democratic leadership us[ing] its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place.”

Sanders has also been outspoken in his criticism of Debbie Wasserman Schulz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, who has been accused of tilting the nomination process in Clinton’s favor, primarily by scheduling what few debates the Democrats had early in primary season on odd days and over long weekends. Sanders has even endorsed Tim Canova, a Democrat currently fighting a Sanders-style insurgent primary campaign against Wasserman Schulz in South Florida.

“Clearly, I favor her opponent,” Sanders said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. “His views are much closer to mine than as to Wasserman Schultz’s.” He also said that if he were elected president, he would not reappoint Wasserman Schultz as chairperson of the DNC.

Nevertheless, Sanders has been able to extract concessions from the party. It was announced earlier today that Sanders would be given more seats in the party’s convention platform committee, a key body that decides party positions and policies. The agreement was part of a strategy advocated by both Sanders and Clinton allies to ameliorate the party divide and give a stronger voice to the substantial following Sanders now commands.

While Sanders initially wanted the committee to be split evenly between his and Clinton’s delegates, with one neutral appointment by the DNC chair, the announced changes were a victory in themselves for Sanders. The original rules allowed Schulz to appoint all 15 members of the committee — a move that likely could have led to a repeat of the chaos at the Nevada Democratic convention, but in Philadelphia on primetime television. One can only imagine the ways in which Donald Trump would try to use such a display to his advantage.

Clinton has been forced to tack further left in this election than most predicted she would, incorporating parts of Sanders’ message into her stump speeches. Following her surprise defeat in the Michigan primary, Clinton gave a concession speech that sounded remarkably like Sanders’s speeches, tapping into a growing anger over the behavior of American corporations outsourcing jobs and abusing the tax code.

We are going to stand up to corporations that seems have absolutely no loyalty to this country that game them so much in the first place. Look at Nabisco laying off 600 workers in Chicago and moving a production line out of the country.They have no problem taking taxpayer dollars in one and giving out pink slips with the other. Look at the Eden Corporation in Ohio. They get millions of dollars in tax credits and government contracts to make electrical equipment. But that has not stopped them from using accounting tricks to move their headquarters overseas and avoid paying their fair share of taxes here at home. Now they are shutting down a factory, eliminating more than 100 jobs, moving that work out of the country. And to top it off, they gave their CEO a payout worth more than $11 million. Now, we should make corporations pay for these so-called inversions with a new exit fare.

Her pivot towards anti-corporatism could be explained by the overblown fear that Trump will peel off white, working class Sanders supporters who espouse his anti-free trade, protectionist economic policies

In a comprehensive analysis by The Washington Post, a quarter of Sanders supporters had strongly unfavorable views of Clinton. Meanwhile, three quarters of respondents held negative views of the all-but-coronated Republican presidential candidate. More Sanders supporters said they would vote for an unnamed third party candidate than for Trump, effectively saying they would vote for literally anyone over the repeatedly-bankrupt businessman. Like much of what the racist billionaire says, his claims that independent voters will flock to him once Sanders is out of the race are more bluster than substance.

 

By: Sail Alnuweiri, The National Memo, May 23, 2016

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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