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“Donald Trump’s Ignorant Honesty”: The Donald Never Learned What He Is And Isn’t Supposed To Say

For a guy so eager to tell you about the majestic size and quality of his brain, Donald Trump has a way of displaying his ignorance and getting into trouble whenever he gets asked detailed questions about a policy issue. And something has changed: Now it’s actually doing him some harm. The latest controversy, on abortion, shows us how some of what has served Trump so well in the primaries is coming back to bite him as he moves toward the general election.

For months, we all marvelled at how Trump could say almost anything, no matter how offensive or stupid, without suffering any damage in the polls. But that was possible because of the particular polls that mattered at the time: polls of Republican primary voters. And for Trump voters told for years that “political correctness” was oppressing them and ruining the country, the spectacle of someone so willing to offend and insult the people they never liked was intoxicating.

Today, with the nomination within his grasp, those primary polls don’t matter so much, and everyone is finally realizing that the things that so cheered his supporters were indications not just of how different a candidate he is, but of how the things about ordinary politicians that he rejects—the caution, the care taken not to offend, the carefully crafted talking points—serve an important purpose.

We’ll be seeing this cycle again: Trump gets pressed for details about an issue by an interviewer, he says something outside the expected or acceptable (or sane) range of opinions, without even realizing which norms and beliefs he has violated, and then he tries multiple times to refine and revise his comments after the unsurprising freak-out. In the abortion case, it took Trump a few tries—no doubt after huddled conferences with his advisers—to circle around the issue enough times that he could anger almost everyone. He was asked whether, if abortion becomes illegal as he and most Republicans support, women should be prosecuted for getting abortions. He responded that there should be “some form of punishment” for women, then said there shouldn’t be any punishment for them, then said we should leave the laws the way they are now, then said through a campaign aide that he’ll change the laws to outlaw abortion (here’s a wrap-up).

If Trump had come up through the Republican ranks like other candidates, none of this would be necessary, because he’d have learned what he is and isn’t supposed to say. On longstanding, contentious issues, each party has an entire structure of positions, ideas, and rhetoric that has been refined over years of thinking and arguing. That structure reflects their shared values and the policies they would like to implement. On an issue like abortion, which has moral, legal, and policy components, the structure is rather intricate. If you haven’t spent a long time within the places and among the people who use that structure to guide the way they think and talk about the issue, then you’re bound to make mistakes when you weigh in.

This incident is also a reminder that for all the time we spend on candidates’ “gaffes,” most of the time the people who run for president are executing a complex, demanding, and delicate rhetorical performance. They have to talk every day in public, covering a wide variety of complicated issues, and do it in a way that not only might persuade the undecided, but that won’t alienate large numbers of people at the same time. Except in the most unusual circumstances, you don’t get to the major leagues of a presidential run without spending years developing the knowledge and skill to pull it off.

But of course, there have seldom been more unusual circumstances than the one we’re witnessing right now, in the person of Donald Trump. And the irony in this incident is that Trump, unlike the rest of his party, kicked off the controversy by expressing a logically coherent opinion. If you believe that a day-old zygote is a fully human person and that abortion is murder, then how can you think that the person who planned that person’s murder shouldn’t be held legally culpable once you’ve outlawed abortion completely? After all, if a woman hired a hit man to murder her five-year-old she’d go to jail, and as far as conservatives are concerned there should be no moral or legal difference between a fetus and a child. Their answer to this problem is that “she’s a victim too,” because when it comes to anything involving the operation of their ladyparts, women must themselves be treated like children, or at the very least as though they were so mentally incapacitated that someone else has to make decisions for them.

It’s obvious that Trump was not sufficiently schooled in this intricate rhetorical dance, for the simple reason that he’s not a politician. But these kind of complicated positions aren’t constructed at random. They’re built to serve a set of sometimes contradictory purposes: allow us to pursue the outcome we prefer, give us a way to justify it in public, provide a rationale judges can build rulings on, and do it all while minimizing the number of voters it pisses off.

It doesn’t really work—the “gender gap,” where more women vote Democratic, is no accident. But Republican rhetoric is designed to, at the very least, minimize the damage by assuring women that the GOP really has their best interests at heart. If Donald Trump is the nominee, however, that’s going to be impossible. If nothing else, there’s something more honest about his fumbling around on issues like this. He may have no idea what he’s talking about, but that means he hasn’t learned how to skillfully wield the apparatus of deception Republicans have spent so much time crafting.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, April 4, 2016

April 6, 2016 Posted by | Abortion, Donald Trump, General Election 2016, GOP Voters | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Here’s A Shocker”: Republican Voters Really Don’t Care For The Idea Of Party Elites Picking The Nominee

It’s understandable that everybody’s absorbed with figuring out the various ways Republican Party elites could find to screw Donald Trump and/or Ted Cruz out of the presidential nomination and impose on the GOP a candidate more to their — and general-election voters’ — liking. After all, the whole “contested convention” thing is pretty novel, as is the white-hot antipathy of so many prominent Republicans to their party’s most likely nominee in a year when they thought they were going to have a downhill path to the White House.

What most of this speculation ignores is the growing evidence that actual Republican voters would not take too kindly to being shoved out of the decision-making process for a nominee. Greg Sargent of the Washington Post points to two emphatic data points:

A new Bloomberg Politics poll finds that 63 percent of Republican voters nationwide think that the winner of the most delegates should get the GOP nomination, even if he does not win an outright majority. Only 33 percent say the delegates at a contested convention should pick the nominee instead …

  [A] CNN poll earlier this week … found that by 60-38, Republican voters think the candidate with the most delegates should get the nomination, even without a majority.

As Sargent notes, both polls also showed Trump losing to Hillary Clinton in a general election, which will be the party elites’ excuse for taking over the nomination process if they can — and if they dare.

But they could be courting disaster if they do so. An even more emphatic indicator of rank-and-file antipathy to a bossed convention comes from a HuffPost/YouGov survey, which shows only 16 percent of self-identified Republicans and leaners being “satisfied” with a nominee chosen from outside the current field, while the idea makes 55 percent angry. The second-worst idea, respondents to the survey say, would be to nominate John Kasich, the closest thing to an acceptable-to-the-Establishment candidate left in the field and the brandisher of many a general-election poll. Seems Republicans who keep passing up opportunities to vote for Kasich may mean it.

There is, of course, more than a little irony in the insistence of Republican voters on intra-party democracy. This is, after all, the party that’s busy creating potholes in the path to the ballot box anywhere it can. And you could make the argument that latter-day “constitutional conservatism” is all about creating iron-clad protections for conservative governing models (and the interests that benefit from them) against popular majorities acting through Congress or the presidency to enact progressive policies. There’s very significant support among conservative activists for repealing the 17th Amendment to take away direct election of U.S. senators in favor of returning the privilege to state legislators.

In that context, this sort of opinion expressed by North Dakota RNC member Curly Haugland isn’t so surprising:

“Do the primaries choose a nominee or do the convention delegates?” he asked. “It can’t be both.” “Democracy is pretty popular,” he added, “but it’s simply not the way we do it.”

I suspect party leaders like Haugland are in the process of finding out that Republicans want democracy for themselves even if they are occasionally willing to deny it to those people who are presumed to want to live off the hard work of virtuous older white people, or murder their own babies, or force bakers of conscience to create same-sex-wedding cakes. And a “brokered convention” that ignores this sentiment may soon find those sunny general-election polls showing some non-Trump or non-Cruz candidate winning may be premature.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 25, 2016

March 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Voters, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“You Can’t Beat Somebody With Nobody”: The GOP Establishment Has Failed. It’s Up To Voters To Deny Trump

We the people are going to have to save ourselves from Donald Trump, because politicians don’t seem up to the task.

For the big-haired billionaire, it was another week, another romp. In winning three of the four states up for grabs Tuesday, Trump demonstrated once again the weaknesses of his rivals. Ted Cruz, whose core support is among staunch conservatives and evangelical Christians, should have won Mississippi. John Kasich, the sitting governor of Ohio, should have won next-door Michigan. And Marco Rubio . . . well, he should have competed somewhere.

Cruz did manage to win Idaho, somewhat bolstering his claim to be the only plausible anti-Trump candidate left in the field. But Trump has now won primaries in the Northeast, the South, the West and the Midwest. Exit polling showed he had strength among both conservative and moderate voters. If he were not so dangerously unsuitable for the presidency, at this point he’d be called the presumptive Republican nominee.

Fumbling efforts by what’s left of the GOP establishment to halt Trump’s march to power seem too little, too late. Mitt Romney’s never-Trump salvo may have been intended to influence voters in Michigan, where Romney grew up and his father was a popular governor. If so, it was a humiliating failure.

One problem was that after forcefully stating why Republicans should not vote for Trump, Romney refused to say whom they should choose instead. There’s an old saying in politics: “You can’t beat somebody with nobody.” There is no way the establishment will derail Trump without settling on, and backing to the hilt, a viable alternative.

This will likely be remembered as the week when the establishment finally gave up on Rubio. He was always the fair-haired boy of party insiders, but not, alas, of the voters; he has managed to win only two contests, in Minnesota and Puerto Rico, and routinely finishes third or even fourth.

Rubio acknowledged this week that he rues his decision to go after Trump with playground insults. He is right to be remorseful, because that ploy probably cost him any chance at the nomination. His grand display of juvenile behavior reinforced the notion that he is too young and unformed to be president. Trump, who knows how to find the jugular, started calling him “Little Marco.” It stuck.

Rubio is trying desperately to win his home state of Florida on Tuesday, and a new Washington Post-Univision News poll shows him perhaps within striking distance; Trump leads with 38 percent, but Rubio is fairly close at 31 percent. Kasich, meanwhile, is gaining on Trump in Ohio; a recent Fox News poll even showed the governor with a small lead.

If Trump wins those states, the Rubio and Kasich candidacies are effectively over. More important, the winner-take-all haul of delegates — and Trump is also leading in Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina, the other three states that vote Tuesday — would increase the possibility that Trump could win the nomination outright, rather than have to fight for it at a contested party convention.

Put me down as extremely skeptical that the party will try to deny Trump the nomination if he comes to the convention with anywhere near the required majority of delegates. To do so would require a fortitude and a willingness to stand up to Trump’s bullying that the establishment has not shown thus far.

The low point came at last week’s debate when Trump’s opponents all described him as unfit for the presidency — then meekly pledged to support him if he is the nominee.

Stopping Trump, either before or during the convention, would require party leaders to swallow hard and support Cruz, who is right to portray himself as the only realistic alternative. Cruz has, after all, won seven states. He is widely disliked by party leaders, many of whom believe he would almost surely lose in the general election — and potentially bring down some GOP Senate and House candidates with him. But if the establishment does not agree on someone else, Donald Trump will be the standard-bearer of a political organization that calls itself the “party of Lincoln.”

Can Republicans really stomach such a thing? Do they watch those Trump rallies, with protesters being roughed up by angry mobs, and feel proud? Do they agree with his call to reinstitute torture? Do they really believe that Mexico will pay for the wall?

The GOP allowed Trump to get this far and seems powerless to stop him. In November, it appears, voters will have to do the job.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 10, 2016

March 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, GOP Voters, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Electoral Gamble”: Why Working-Class Whites Can’t Propel Donald Trump To Ultimate Victory

If there’s one thing we know for sure about Donald Trump, it’s that he’s a candidate for white people.

This would seem to be an almost insurmountable problem in an increasingly diverse America, but some are beginning to suspect — either with hope or fear, depending on whom you ask — that Trump could win a general election by pulling in large numbers of working-class white voters who are responding to his message of alienation, anger, and resentment. As The Wall Street Journal recently put it, “Trump’s success in attracting white, working-class voters is raising the prospect that the Republican Party, in an electoral gamble, could attempt to take an unexpected path to the White House that would run through the largely white and slow-to-diversify upper Midwest.”

Indeed, if Trump were to win the White House, this would seem to be the only way. But it’s not going to happen.

The idea rests on a number of misconceptions, the first of which is that there are millions of blue-collar whites who would otherwise have voted Democratic, but who will vote for Donald Trump instead. As Chris Matthews said in January, “I think there’s a lot of Reagan Democrats waiting to vote for him.” The “Reagan Democrats” to which he refers were Democrats who crossed party lines to vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The problem with this belief is that the Reagan Democrats are gone. Where did they go? They became Republicans. The phenomenon of Reagan Democrats was largely about race, the continuation of a process that began when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. Those socially conservative whites who had voted Democratic in the past shifted their allegiance, and they didn’t go back.

You can argue, and many people have, that the alienation of the Democratic Party from the white working class is a serious problem for them, and it’s part of what produces off-year defeats in years like 2010 and 2014. But because of the country’s changing demographics, the white working class becomes a smaller and smaller portion of the voting public with each election, particularly in presidential election years when turnout is higher across the board. That’s why Barack Obama could lose the white working class in 2012 by a staggering 26 points (62-36), and still win the election comfortably. So if you’re going to argue that Donald Trump will ride these voters to victory, you’d have to believe that he’d do not just better than Mitt Romney did with them, but hugely better, so much so that it would overcome the advantages the Democratic nominee will have with other voters.

Consider, for instance, the Latino vote. Mitt Romney won only 27 percent of Latinos in 2012, an abysmal performance that convinced many Republicans that if they didn’t “reach out” to this fast-growing segment of the electorate, they might be unable to win the White House any time soon. Latinos will be an even larger portion of the electorate this year than they were four years ago. Now think what will happen if Donald Trump, the man who made venomous antipathy toward immigrants one of the cornerstones of his campaign, becomes the GOP nominee. Not only would it be shocking if he got 20 percent of their votes, his nomination will almost certainly spur higher turnout among Latinos than we’ve ever seen before.

That’s another problem with the blue-collar whites theory of a Trump victory: It rests on the idea that he’d bring out large numbers of those voters who don’t vote often, but also requires that people opposed to Trump won’t be similarly motivated to turn out. “I find it just so implausible that we could have this massive white nativist mobilization without also provoking a big mobilization among minority voters,” political scientist Ruy Teixeira recently told The New Yorker. “It is kind of magical thinking that you could do one thing and not have the other.”

Now let’s talk about that Rust Belt. Even if you believe that Trump would do better in those states than recent Republicans have, it wouldn’t be enough unless he was absolutely crushing the Democrat everywhere. The reason is that Democrats start in an excellent position in the Electoral College. In 2012, President Obama won reelection with 332 electoral votes, a cushion of 62 more than he needed. That means that if the Democratic nominee can hold most of the states Obama won — including swing states heavy with Latinos, like Florida, New Mexico, and Colorado — she could lose Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes), Ohio (18 votes), and Michigan (16 votes) and still be elected president.

I suspect that many people have been led to believe that Trump could ride white working-class votes to victory in the fall because he has performed particularly well with such voters in the Republican primaries. It only takes a moment to realize the problem with this logic. The people voting in Republican primaries are overwhelmingly, guess what, Republicans. Yes, there are Republican-leaning independents voting in those primaries, too, but they’re mostly people who call themselves independent but consistently vote Republican. They’re already in the GOP’s camp; Trump would need them, plus a whole lot more.

That’s not even to mention the moderate Republicans who are repulsed by Trump and would either vote for the Democrat, vote for a third-party candidate, or just stay home. Donald Trump’s problem in the general would be that he has all kinds of voters who will oppose him, and be highly motivated to do so; he is easily the most unpopular candidate in either party. He might pick up a few extra votes from those who respond to his nativism and race-baiting, yet used to vote for Democrats. But there just aren’t enough of them, and it won’t be anything approaching what he’d need to win.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, March 8, 2016

March 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, GOP Voters, White Working Class | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“The Most Damning Insult Of All”: Here’s What The GOP Needs To Say To Scare Voters Away From Trump

How has the Republican establishment tried, and failed, to take out Donald Trump?

Let me count the ways.

The GOP’s first line of defense against Trump is usually to claim that his policies would be disastrous. Last week Mitt Romney declared that, “If Donald Trump’s plans were ever implemented, the country would sink into prolonged recession.”

This argument is less than compelling, though, when you consider how little daylight lies between Trump’s policies and those of his two chief rivals, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

All three would blow up the deficit by trillions of dollars, losing more tax revenue as a share of economic output than any tax cut on record. Their health-care plans are virtually indistinguishable. All three promise to build a wall on the Mexican border, and both Cruz and Trump want to round up and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. None accepts the scientific consensus on man-made climate change. All want to further restrict access to abortion and further expand access to guns. And so on.

Caught undercutting their own arguments that Trump’s policies would be uniquely intolerable, Republican elites then confusingly resort to arguing that Trump may not actually believe all those intolerable policies after all.

Party elders and campaign rivals have doubled down on claims that Trump’s not a “true conservative,” and that he may not uphold his hard-line rightist stances, because not so long ago he espoused more liberal views. But this merely gives Trump an opportunity to invoke Ronald Reagan, another late-in-life party-switcher. More important, voters just don’t seem to care much about ideological purity.

When that tactic fails, Republican bigwigs attack Trump’s indecorousness and vulgarity. But there’s little high ground for them to stand on here, either, given that their preferred candidate recently crawled into the gutter, too.

Recall that it was Rubio, not Trump, who first invoked Trump’s genital size on the campaign trail. In an instant, what had been a subtext in Trump’s campaign — his big wall, big buildings, big wealth, big poll numbers — became text. But that was Rubio’s doing, not Trump’s.

Condemnations of Trump’s race-baiting and nationalism likewise fall flat, for the same reason: hypocrisy. Party leadership turned a blind eye when Trump spewed birtherist nonsense about President Obama’s citizenship and faith, and when talk radio hosts rallied the base with their own racially tinged rhetoric. Why should anyone, let alone Trump supporters, be swayed by the party’s protestations about such bile now?

Then, elites try targeting Trump’s opacity and lack of accountability in his financial dealings.

But the other candidates also only pretend at transparency. Rubio, Cruz and John Kasich all purport to have released their “tax returns,” but in fact the abbreviated documents they’ve published leave out charitable donations, income sources and all the other substantive details that are part of a real tax return — you know, the full documents that every major-party nominee has released since 1980.

Cruz likewise complains that the lamestream media has withheld negative coverage and exposés of Trump and his financial activities. This accusation is both demonstrably false and demonstrably funny, when you consider Cruz’s declarations that you shouldn’t trust anything you see in the media anyway.

Republicans have hacked away at both the customs and the institutions that impose accountability and now have the gall to complain that a party insurrectionist is not held to account.

Of all the ploys that Republican leadership has deployed to curb Trumpmentum, perhaps the most pitiful is the #NeverTrump campaign. Anti-Trump enthusiasts have spread the hashtag far and wide on social media. Rubio’s website even sells hats, stickers and other swag featuring the slogan.

Yet when asked during the last debate whether they’d support Trump if he became the Republican nominee, every candidate left standing pledged he would. If the other candidates believe a Trump presidency would really be so unendurable, agreeing to support him in November is a strange way to show it. Perhaps #NeverTrump is short for #NeverTrumpExceptDuringTheGeneralElection.

So why have none of the GOP’s attacks on Trump stuck? Maybe it’s because Trump, the new Teflon Don, has unusually effective nonstick properties. Or maybe it’s because party honchos have been too cowardly to do the one thing — an admittedly very unpleasant thing — that might convince Republican voters that Trump is a real threat to the liberal world order.

They’d need to voice the most damning insult of all, at least in the minds of Republicans: an acknowledgment that even Hillary Clinton would make a better president than Donald J. Trump.

 

By: Catherine Rampell, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 7, 2016

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Voters | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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