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“Donald Trump And The Power Of Denial”: Wake Up GOP, The National Leader Of Your Party Is Donald Trump

I hate Donald Trump and much of what he represents. But do you know what I hate even more?

Denial.

The right has been deep in denial for years. Honed under the last Republican president into a sure-fire method of inspiring confident resolve in the face of adversity, denial of reality has by now become almost second nature to many party apparatchiks and their intellectual compatriots in the right-wing media. Of course we’ll find weapons of mass destruction! The occupation is going just fine! It’s not Bush’s fault that New Orleans got caught with a bull’s eye on its back when Hurricane Katrina blew by! You can’t expect the president who’s been in office for seven and a half years to take responsibility for the worst financial crisis in seven decades!

Coulda happened to anyone.

And now, after seven more years of denial — this time about Barack Obama’s popularity, the Affordable Care Act, and much else — the instinct to close eyes and cover ears in the face of what most people would consider very bad news has settled into the slow-motion car wreck of the GOP primaries.

Donald Trump has now won 26 states. (His nearest competitor for the nomination, Ted Cruz, has won 11.) Trump prevailed in all five northeastern states that voted on Tuesday, all five of them with over 50 percent of the vote, and some with over 60 percent. (Cruz appears to have finished in third place in four of the five states.) Trump is now on track to reach or come extremely close to the magic number of 1,237 delegates by the end of primary season. (Cruz will be nearly 400 delegates behind him after Tuesday’s totals are sorted out.) If Trump falls a little short — because, say, his 17-point lead in California shrinks a bit — he is extremely likely to lock up the remaining delegates in the weeks between the last primaries on June 7 and the start of the Republican convention on July 18.

Barring some unforeseen event that completely upends the race over the next six weeks, Donald Trump is going to be the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 2016.

How do I know this? Because it’s been painfully obvious for a long time now that the Republican electorate prefers Trump to any of the alternatives running for the White House.

Yes, it really is that simple.

Was it obvious from the start of the primary season? No. But it was a lot less impossible to imagine than a dismayingly large number of conservative pundits seemed to think. Trump bounded to the front of the pack very quickly after announcing his candidacy last summer, and his polling lead has never seriously wavered in the intervening 10 months. While columnists and commentators spent the fall gaming out the caucuses and primaries to come, convincing themselves that Rubio or Bush or Christie was the real frontrunner, Trump stayed firmly in the polling lead.

And you know what? That meant Trump was winning.

Of course I realize that no votes had yet been cast. And that no modern party has ever elected a candidate like Trump. But the numbers weren’t lying. We learned that for sure once the voting began and it became clear that people weren’t simply threatening to vote for the man: They were actually going through with it. That meant the polls were measuring something real.

And that something hasn’t gone away.

It was there when Trump faced a dozen opponents. It was still there when he was competing against six. And it’s been there since the field narrowed to three.

It was there when Marco Rubio tried to strike a deal with Cruz and Kasich to deny Trump wins in Florida, Ohio, and Missouri, and Trump ended up winning all of them except Ohio (which, of course, was won by the sitting governor of the state — a candidate incapable of winning anywhere else).

And it’s there now, with Cruz and Kasich working desperately to find some way, somehow to keep Trump from reaching 1,237 delegates.

Oh, have I mentioned that on Tuesday morning Trump reached 50 percent for the first time in NBC News’ national weekly tracking poll? (Cruz languishes at 26 percent.)

I get the importance of resolution in practical endeavors. I understand the psychological necessity of driving doubts from one’s mind in order to lift morale and keep focused on achieving a goal. If you’re a committed Republican or movement conservative who hates the thought of the party nominating Trump, you may find it necessary (or at least helpful) to convince yourself that he’s bound to lose, that someone else can surely prevail against him, even if it requires banishing evidence to the contrary from your mind. In such a situation, the belief that victory is possible can make victory far more likely.

But there comes a time when all the pep talks and desperate rationalizations (like calling Trump’s wins a “hostile takeover” of the party) start to sound ridiculous. That’s when even those who’ve become addicted to denial should be able to recognize that it’s doing far more harm than good.

That time has now arrived.

By all means, help Cruz prevail in Indiana next Tuesday. Do what you can to keep Trump’s delegate total down. But please, Republicans, wake up from your self-induced slumber and begin to confront what reality has wrought.

The national leader of your party is Donald Trump.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, April 27, 2016

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Clown Car Race Heading Into Its Final Laps”: A Last-Ditch Effort From Cruz And Kasich To Stop Trump

As I noted after last week’s New York primary, neither Ted Cruz nor John Kasich can win the Republican nomination via delegates earned in the primaries. This is the point at which you would expect that candidates in that position would drop out of the race. But this is also the first time such a move would result in the nomination of someone like Donald Trump. So Kasich and Cruz aren’t about to ride off into the sunset. Instead, the two of them have joined forces in a last-ditch effort to stop Trump.

In order to understand their plan, it’s important to note that – because the delegates won to date have been spread between so many candidates – Trump still faces an uphill battle to win the nomination outright in the remaining primaries. The statement put out by the Kasich campaign is the most direct in laying out their attempt to stop him from being able to do that.

Our goal is to have an open convention in Cleveland, where we are confident a candidate capable of uniting the Party and winning in November will emerge as the nominee. We believe that will be John Kasich, who is the only candidate who can defeat Secretary Clinton and preserve our GOP majority in the Congress.

Due to the fact that the Indiana primary is winner-take-all statewide and by congressional district, keeping Trump from winning a plurality in Indiana is critical to keeping him under 1237 bound delegates before Cleveland. We are very comfortable with our delegate position in Indiana already, and given the current dynamics of the primary there, we will shift our campaign’s resources West and give the Cruz campaign a clear path in Indiana.

In turn, we will focus our time and resources in New Mexico and Oregon, both areas that are structurally similar to the Northeast politically, where Gov. Kasich is performing well. We would expect independent third-party groups to do the same and honor the commitments made by the Cruz and Kasich campaigns.

The Cruz campaign issued a similar statement.

This all sounds similar to Jeb Bush’s attempt to negotiate a deal back in March (after he was out of the race) to stop Trump. In retrospect, it looks like Marco Rubio was on board with that one (his last hope before dropping out), but Kasich and Cruz never really committed to the plan. Now they don’t have any other option.

Trump responded as expected.

“Collusion is often illegal in many other industries and yet these two Washington insiders have had to revert to collusion in order to stay alive. They are mathematically dead and this act only shows, as puppets of donors and special interests, how truly weak they and their campaigns are,” he said in the statement. “Because of me, everyone now sees that the Republican primary system is totally rigged.”

I guess he doesn’t have as much appreciation for the “art of the deal” as he continually suggests. This clown car race is heading into its final laps. But it’s very possible that we won’t know which one is the last clown standing until they get to Cleveland in July.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 25, 2016

April 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, John Kasich, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trump Upends Coalition”: How The Bathroom Controversy Exposes Rifts In The Increasingly Fragile Republican Coalition

It wouldn’t be an election without a good dose of culture-war sexual politics, and now Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are arguing about bathrooms. Specifically, the question of the law that North Carolina passed — mandating that transgender people use not the bathroom of their identity but of the sex written on their birth certificate — is now a part of the presidential campaign. When Trump was asked about it yesterday, he gave a perfectly sensible answer — but it was the wrong one. And in doing so, he highlighted just how fragile his impending nomination makes the complicated Republican coalition.

Here’s how it went down:

Trump said there was little controversy before the law was passed, and the measure has done nothing but hurt North Carolina economically. Businesses including American Airlines, Facebook and Google have condemned the measure, and the National Basketball Association hinted it might relocate next year’s all-star game from Charlotte.

“You leave it the way it is. There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble,” Trump said on NBC’s “Today” show Thursday. “And the problem with what happened in North Carolina is the strife and the economic. … I mean, the economic punishment they’re taking.”

Trump’s comments were met with fierce opposition from Cruz, who defended the law last week.

Cruz seems positively giddy to be able to talk about this issue. He describes the idea of transgender women using women’s rooms as, “Men should be able to go into the girls’ bathroom if they want to.” You’ll notice the contrast of “men” and “girls,” used so that you’ll think this is some sort of issue about pedophiles preying on children. To emphasize the point, he concludes, “Grown adult men — strangers — should not be alone in a bathroom with little girls.”

I won’t even bother refuting that rancid fear-mongering, except to say that the legislators in North Carolina were unable to cite a single case where a transgender woman assaulted someone in a bathroom in North Carolina, let alone any “little girls.”

But now Trump is gingerly walking back his statement, saying that the question should be decided at the local level, which is the best he can do to make Republican culture warriors less suspicious of him. And that’s where we get to the nature of the GOP coalition, which Trump doesn’t quite seem to grasp.

There was always an implicit bargain within that coalition, one that said that even if various kinds of conservatives had different priorities, they would sign on to each other’s agendas. The supply-siders would say that unfettered gun rights are deeply important, even if most of them don’t actually own guns. The antiabortion crusaders would say that military spending should always be increased. The neoconservatives would praise tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s a circle of interdependence and common cause, and to a great degree, they all came to believe in each other’s positions, even if they didn’t agree on what the top priority for the party should be.

But Trump has upended this bargain, partly because he has nothing resembling a coherent ideology, but also because he doesn’t appreciate the need to keep the coalition together. There are some issues, such as guns, where Trump has adopted the standard Republican position (without a trace of evident sincerity). But on others, he has been willing to anger parts of the Republican coalition. Perhaps it’s because of a careful calculation about what will play well in the general election, but I suspect it’s more impulsive — since Trump didn’t rise through Republican politics, he doesn’t have an intuitive sense of what’s important to which conservatives and what will make them angry.

So when a question he hasn’t thought about comes up, he just gives an answer that seems right for him at that moment. Then what often happens is that people who understand what Republicans think about that issue — reporters and Republicans themselves — say, “What?!?,” somebody clues Trump in to why his allies are mad, and within a day or two he comes back and clarifies what he meant to say, which winds up being something more palatable to the party. This has happened multiple times.

On issues that touch on sex, Trump’s impulses often seem basically libertarian (there are those New York values!), and as he tries to shift them so they can work within the GOP, he winds up ticking people off and going through multiple iterations before he can come up with the appropriate answer. So he says the wrong thing on transgender people, and he says that women should be punished for having abortions (which runs counter to the “We’re taking away your reproductive rights for your own good because you just don’t know any better” stance of the pro-life movement) but also says that there should be exceptions for rape and incest, which the hard-core pro-lifers don’t like either.

The bathroom issue highlights how Red America and Blue America are moving farther and farther apart. If you live in a state controlled by Republicans, your state legislature and your governor will ensure that gay people aren’t protected from discrimination, make abortions almost impossible to obtain, slash social services, undermine unions, make sure you can take your gun to church and generally do what they can to turn your state into a paradise of “traditional” values and right-wing economics. If you live in a Democratic state, your representatives are probably busy raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, expanding government-provided health care and child care, protecting people from discrimination and generally doing all the things the people in red states find horrifying.

Presidential candidates from either party can come from either kind of state, but if you cross over — if you’re a blue-state Republican or a red-state Democrat — you have to assure your voters that you believe deep in your heart that their kind of state embodies all the proper values. Trump doesn’t do that, or at least he doesn’t do it often enough.

For those who are already behind him, it doesn’t really matter. His supporters don’t have specific issues that are absolute deal-breakers, in large part because his campaign is built on personality. Cruz, on the other hand, has a campaign built on ideology. And when there’s a chance to pick up a culture-war baton like this one, he isn’t going to let it pass.

Does that mean that once Trump is the nominee, the social conservatives who really care about the culture war aren’t going to vote for him? Might they just sit the election out? We don’t know yet. What we do know is that they’re the ones who are most likely to get the short end of the stick from the GOP nominee, even as Republicans at the state level work like mad to advance the right’s social agenda.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, April 22, 2016

April 26, 2016 Posted by | Culture Wars, Donald Trump, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“2016’s Scrambled Coalitions”: Trump’s GOP Foes Have Six Weeks To Topple Him From His High Wire

Republicans belong to a more ideological party, but ideology has mattered less in the GOP primaries this year than in the race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Clinton is in a nearly unassailable position to win her party’s nomination. But assuming she prevails, her primary fight with Sanders has underscored weaknesses she will have to deal with to win in November.

And Donald Trump’s moves toward moderation on social issues last week reflect not only his campaign’s understanding that he cannot win as a far-right candidate but also his need to tread carefully to maintain the crazy-quilt coalition he has built in the GOP primaries.

New York and Massachusetts Republicans are quite different from the ones found in Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. Trump carried all five states, bringing together some of the most extreme voters on the right end of his party with a large share of those who consider themselves moderate.

As the 2016 primaries reach their decisive moment, the results so far point to a scrambling of alliances inside both parties.

To earn her delegate lead, Clinton has built a significantly different coalition in 2016 than she did in 2008. The most important and obvious shift is among African Americans, who formed Barack Obama’s base against her eight years ago and are now Clinton’s most loyal supporters. They will loom large in Tuesday’s primaries, particularly in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Clinton ran well behind Obama among voters under 30. She’s doing even worse among younger voters this year against Sanders.

She has done well among voters over 45, among those with a strong identification with the Democratic Party, and among the roughly one-third of primary voters who do not identify themselves as liberal (a group that includes many nonwhites). In her New York victory, she carried moderate and conservative Democrats by 2 to 1. But even where she has lost, this group has come her way. In Michigan, for example, she carried the non-liberals 52 percent to 43 percent.

Sanders speaks of increasing participation in Democratic primaries, but turnout this year has not exceeded the admittedly exceptional 2008. He does, however, seem to have mobilized more progressive voters: A comparison of the exit polls with surveys of Democrats nationally suggests that the primary electorate this year is more liberal than is the party as a whole.

Overall, turnout patterns have been mixed. They were down in many of the earliest states, such as New Hampshire, and sharply down in some later states, including Alabama, Texas and Ohio. But 2008 and 2016 turnouts were roughly comparable in other states, including New York, Massachusetts and Wisconsin.

There is another factor in Sanders’s strength that points to a Clinton problem this fall: Even where she has won, she has run poorly among white men. In New York, Sanders got 57 percent of their votes; in Michigan, which Sanders won, he got 62 percent. She has also regularly lost in rural areas.

White men as a whole would likely prefer any Republican over any Democrat this fall, but Clinton would have to find a way to cut her losses. Against Trump, at least, polls suggest she would so overwhelm him among women that she could triumph anyway. This would be less clear if she faced a different Republican.

An awareness of his need to improve his standing among women may have prompted Trump to insist last week — to the consternation of social conservatives — that the GOP’s traditional platform plank against abortion include exceptions for rape, incest and protecting a mother’s life. He also spoke out against North Carolina’s anti-transgender law.

Trump’s willingness to part with social conservatives (for now, at least) also reflects the ways in which his vote defies the old Republican patterns.

In primary after primary, he has split white evangelical voters with Ted Cruz. At the same time, Trump has performed as well among moderates as he has among conservatives. A partial exception is New York, where Trump ran best among self-described conservatives. But even there, the exit polls still showed him defeating John Kasich narrowly, 46 percent to 42 percent, among moderates.

The failure of both movement conservatives and established Republican politicians to stop Trump so far arises from their inability to imagine that someone could appeal simultaneously to moderates — they see Trump more as a manager and leader who could get things done — and to the party’s most hardcore right-wingers on immigration and race, and also in the ferociousness of his opposition to Obama.

Trump’s GOP foes have six weeks to topple him from his high wire.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 24, 206

April 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trump’s Fabricated New Image”: The New Trump Took Less Than Two Weeks To Fabricate

If authenticity is your calling card, how do you become authentically inauthentic?

Welcome to the New Donald Trump, a marvel of the Twitter-Cable-Facebook Non-Industrial Complex and the age of minuscule attention spans.

It took Richard Nixon prodigious feats of hard work between 1962 and 1968 to create the New Nixon who got himself into the White House. But in an era when “brand” is both a noun and a verb and when “curating” is the thing to do, why should it surprise us that the New Trump took less than two weeks to fabricate?

After the wild, undisciplined and offensive period leading up to his April 5 loss in the Wisconsin primary to Ted Cruz, Trump decided he needed to curate his brand big time.

Shoved aside were key staffers, including his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who had reveled in the, shall we say, forceful approach to politics that was supposed to be part of Trump’s authenticity. Trump is trying to banish offensive talk about women, the gratuitous fights with television anchors, the uninformed comments about abortion.

Trump is going as establishment as he can. He’s even forgoing opportunities to hawk his product line, including Trump-blessed slabs of red meat, on primary nights. He bizarrely indulged in this in early March after his victories in Michigan and Mississippi.

Trump’s restrained victory speech Tuesday night after his New York primary blowout led Bloomberg News’s John Heilemann to offer an eloquent three-word obituary on “Morning Joe” for the Old Trump: “No Steaks Sold.”

But any doubts about The Donald deciding that being himself is overrated are erased by a visit to what has been sacred Trumpian space, his Twitter account. Consider this message that crossed my screen at 8:42 a.m. Wednesday: “Ted Cruz is mathematically out of winning the race. Now all he can do is be a spoiler, never a nice thing to do. I will beat Hillary!”

What’s shockingly extraordinary about this was how thoroughly ordinary it was. “Mathematically” is not an adverb we are accustomed to seeing from @realDonaldTrump. The Trump Show’s recurring villain, Lyin’ Ted, was gone, replaced by a boring guy named Ted Cruz.

So jarring was this cast change to many of the 7.7 million of us who faithfully follow Trump’s Twitter drama that Sarah Huckabee Sanders, senior campaign adviser, appeared on CNN’s “New Day” to offer comforting words. “I wouldn’t be too sure to erase that,” she said of “Lyin’ Ted,” using language suggesting that Trump is trying to “erase” a lot of other things. She added: “My guess is it’ll still pop up from time to time.” Happy day.

Her efforts to reassure the fans may have been the most significant post-New York pronouncement from Team Trump, which has simultaneously created a long-running, highly rated TV show — it might be called “Celebrity Candidate” — and manufactured a durable niche product.

The campaign must know that altering a story line abruptly in the middle of a television season unsettles viewers who hate to see their favorite themes ditched. Changing a well-known brand is risky business because customers start thinking that their preferences are being ignored.

Many devotees of “The Good Wife” never recovered from the murder of Will Gardner, the tough lawyer/love interest played by Josh Charles, who disappeared from the show. The New Trump may prove to be as problematic a commercial gambit as New Coke was three decades ago.

It’s true that the Trump product is lucky enough to be in a space where the competition is weak. Cruz may yet bump up his market share when the race moves to Indiana and California, but his negatives rival Trump’s. John Kasich can be appealing, but in a goofy way, and he is selling a moderate spirit to a GOP customer base whose dominant preference is ferociousness.

But there is another major brand to worry about, Hillary Clinton, who immensely strengthened her hand in the Democratic race with a 16-point victory over Bernie Sanders in New York.

It’s practically written into the news scripts that Clinton has an authenticity problem. The paradox, as one Clinton partisan argued to me recently, is that she has been unwilling to go full-bore in competing with Sanders’s visionary big offers because she just doesn’t believe that’s the way the world works. She can’t be anything but a practical pragmatist, this supporter insisted, and that’s how she’ll run.

It would be a lovely irony if the retooled, restrained, professionalized New Trump made the same-as-always Clinton into the true representative of authenticity.

 

By: E. J. Dionne Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 20, 2016

April 24, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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