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“The Nation’s Cult Leader”: From ‘Yes We Can’ To ‘I Alone Can Fix It’

At roughly this point eight years ago, when Democrats were desperate to reclaim the White House after two terms of a Republican president, then-Sen. Barack Obama accepted the party’s nomination and delivered a speech that emphasized unity. “In America, our destiny is inextricably linked,” he said, “that together our dreams can be one.”

The speech used the word “we” constantly. “America, we cannot turn back,” Obama said. “We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future.”

The campaign’s slogan, of course, was “Yes we can.”

It was therefore a little jarring last night to hear one of the more memorable lines from Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican convention: “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” He added, “I will restore law and order to our country.”

Trump concluded, “I am your voice.”

The language was a little jarring, as The Atlantic’s Yoni Appelbaum explained very well.

[Trump] did not appeal to prayer, or to God. He did not ask Americans to measure him against their values, or to hold him responsible for living up to them. He did not ask for their help. He asked them to place their faith in him.

He broke with two centuries of American political tradition, in which candidates for office – and above all, for the nation’s highest office – acknowledge their fallibility and limitations, asking for the help of their fellow Americans, and of God, to accomplish what they cannot do on their own.

To be sure, the Republicans in attendance didn’t seem to mind. The more Trump positioned himself as the nation’s savior, the more the crowd cheered.

But as a rule, when a man with authoritarian instincts condemns the political system and declares, “I alone can fix it,” he sounds less like a president and more like a cult leader.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 21, 2016

July 24, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Republican National Convention | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just Another Day On The Campaign Trail”: Donald Trump To Republican Lawmakers: Hey, Losers, Vote For Me

Donald Trump spent his day on Capitol Hill calling fellow Republicans losers, complaining that the media is just too mean, and doubling down on his defense of Saddam Hussein.

So basically, just another day on the campaign trail for the GOP nominee.

It’s just 124 days til the election and less than two weeks until he gets officially nominated, and Trump’s stop on Capitol Hill proved that—while he’s won some converts—Republican unity is still very theoretical.

Some of his relationships here are complicated. Others are simple. You can put his dynamic with Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk in the latter category.

The Washington Post reported that Kirk skipped Trump’s Capitol Hill huddle, and that Trump called him a “loser” in the closed-door meeting. The mogul also predicted that Kirk will lose his re-election bid, but that Trump,  himself, will win Illinois—a state which hasn’t voted for the Republican nominee since 1988.

Kirk told reporters, flatly, that he thinks Trump is wrong.

“I’ve never been defeated in Illinois,” he said.

Then he added that he thinks Trump will bomb in Illinois, predicting that he will do about as well as Alan Keyes did in 2004—when he only got 27 percent of the vote in the Senate race against then-state Sen. Barack Obama.

Kirk wasn’t the only Senate Republican to tussled with Trump. Sen. Jeff Flake, of Arizona, confronted him in the meeting, according to the Post, criticizing him for belittling Sen. John McCain’s time as a POW in Vietnam. Next on Trump’s “to alienate” list:  Sen. Ben Sasse for criticism.

Sasse is a dogged, long-time opponent of Trump, and called him a “megalomaniac strongman” on the Senate floor last December. He left the meeting long before his fellow Republican colleagues did, and was blank-faced and silent as reporters swarmed him with questions.

Later, his spokesman released a statement saying the 2016 contest “remains a dumpster fire. Nothing has changed.”

Trump’s courtship of House Republicans didn’t seem to generate that level of fireworks. But it also wasn’t a lovefest.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who backed Jeb Bush and then Marco Rubio in the primary, told reporters that Trump’s overtures left him unmoved.

“It was a lot of stream-of-consciousness again,” he said of the mogul’s remarks, “like what you’d hear at the rallies but with less cheering.”

Multiple members told reporters that Trump doubled down on his comments on Saddam Hussein. When asked how it felt to hear the Republican presidential nominee say nice things about the late Iraqi dictator, Kinzinger gave a one-word response:

“Awkward.”

He added that he thinks giving him credit as a terrorist-hunter is “disgusting and despicable.”

“To somehow give him credit for killing terrorists—he also killed a lot of innocent people, fed them into acid and did some really terrible things,” he said.

And Rep. Charlie Dent, a Republican from a swing district in Pennsylvania, also told reporters that when a member asked Trump how he would reach out to Hispanic voters, he gave an answer we’ve all heard before.

“He said Hispanics love him,” Dent said.

Dent added that the polls do not back up that assertion, and that Trump also said he is “all for trade.”

When asked if Trump’s remarks about supporting trade were persuasive, Dent chuckled.

“No!” he said.

Other members said they were charmed.

Rep. Peter King, who once joked he would leave politics if Republicans nominated Trump, said the mogul got a warm welcome. He added that his daughter, Ivanka, got even more applause. She attended the meeting along with her husband, Jared Kushner. And Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican, said he’s made a complete 180 on Trump. He was a longtime detractor, but now said he’s enthusiastic about the candidate.

“I may have been one of Trump’s most vociferous opponents in the primary, and I am now one of his most committed supporters,” he said, “partially because I understand the profound significance of the coming election. If I tell you that the party’s coming together, you can believe it. Because I’m living proof.”

Kirk and Flake probably beg to differ.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, July 7, 2016

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Behold, The Arsonist Is Here”: How Donald Trump Turned Republicans’ Smoldering Resentments Into A Dumpster Fire

The Republican Party has long faced a simple yet vexing mathematical problem. While there are benefits that come with being the party that represents the interests of large corporations and the wealthy, executives and rich people won’t give you enough votes to win a majority come election day. So one of the ways the GOP has handled the problem is with a deflection of discontentment: There’s an elite you should resent, they tell ordinary people, but it isn’t the people who control the country’s economic life. Instead, it’s the cultural elite, those wine-sipping, brie-nibbling college professors, Hollywood liberals, and cosmopolitan multiculturalists who look down their noses at you and tell you your values are wrong. The best way to stand up for yourself and stick it to those elitists is to vote Republican.

It’s an argument that dates back to the 1960s, but for the first time since then the GOP has a presidential nominee who doesn’t quite get it. Not steeped in the subtleties of Republican rhetoric and the goals it’s meant to serve, Donald Trump is blasting in all different directions, even hitting some Republican sacred cows.

There’s nothing coherent about Trump’s arguments — he’ll say how terrible it is that wages haven’t grown, then say that we need to get rid of the federal minimum wage. But he has taken the core of the GOP’s trickle-down agenda — tax cuts for the wealthy and a drastic reduction in taxes and regulation on businesses — and tossed on top of it a garnish of protectionism, promising to impose tariffs on foreign competitors and initiate trade wars until other countries march right over here and give us back our jobs. He’s even feuding with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Trump’s offensive against international trade is apparently based on the theory that it will help win working-class white voters to his cause, particularly in Rust Belt states where manufacturing jobs have declined in recent decades. And this has his party very nervous.

“Mr. Trump wants to make Republicans into the Tariff Party,” laments The Wall Street Journal editorial page, house organ of America’s economic masters. “He’ll have a better chance of winning the economic debate if he focuses on the taxes, regulations, and monetary policy that are the real cause of our economic malaise.” In other words, stick to the stuff the people in the board rooms care about.

That’s not to say that Trump’s infantile ideas about trade would actually produce any benefit to working people — on that basic point, the Journal has it right. And there have been Republicans who advocated protectionism before; some of them even ran for president. But they lost. The party’s nominee always understood which side its economic bread was buttered on.

All the while, though, the audience for an explicitly economic anti-elitism remained in the party, a product of their success at bringing in whites of modest means with appeals to cultural and racial solidarity. Those downscale voters may have been told that upper-income tax cuts were the best path to prosperity for all, but they never quite bought it. One recent poll showed 54 percent of Republican voters supporting increasing taxes on those making over $250,000 a year, a result that’s enough to make Paul Ryan spit up his Gatorade.

There’s a way to handle that, which is to turn up the dial on cultural resentments. But it has to be done carefully in order to minimize the collateral damage. Republicans always knew that nativism and racial appeals had to be fed to these voters carefully, couched in dog-whistles and euphemisms. But Trump just hands them an overflowing glass of hate and tells them to tilt their heads back and chug. A secure border? Hell, we need to build a 20-foot high wall because Mexicans are rapists. Strong measures to stop terrorism? Just keep out all the Muslims.

Part of what has Republicans upset is that Trump’s nativism narrows the cultural argument down to ethnic and racial identity. They may have condemned “political correctness” to get people upset at liberal elitists telling you what to think, but in Trump’s version, rejecting it means indulging your ugliest impulses, taking every rancid thought about foreigners or minorities that pops into your head and vomiting it right out of your mouth in triumph.

Once you unleash that stuff, it’s hard to pretend that it’s anything other than what it is. So the Republican elites — who, let’s be honest, usually bear more of a cultural resemblance to the liberals against whom they whip up all those resentments than to the working-class whites whose votes they want — look on in horror as Trump ruins everything. He lays the GOP’s racial appeals bare so they can’t be denied, and he can’t even be trusted to keep faithful to all of the party’s economic agenda. If you can’t rely on an (alleged) billionaire to keep all that straight, what hope does your party have?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, July 2, 2016

July 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, White Working Class | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“No One Wants To Speak At The GOP Convention”: Trump’s Toxicity Is Swaying Top Republicans From Even Attending

Seemingly no one wants to speak at the Cleveland convention that will elect Donald Trump as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate:

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, a rising star who helped to write the GOP platform at the 2012 convention, “will be in her district working for her constituents and not attending the convention,” said a spokesman. Oklahoma Rep. Steve Russell, a former Army lieutenant colonel who helped capture Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, “has no plans to be a speaker at the convention,” said his office. North Carolina Rep. Richard Hudson, who’s frequently talked about as a potential future statewide candidate, “won’t be at the convention.” Mia Love, the charismatic Utah rep seen by many as the GOP’s future, is skipping Cleveland for a trip to Israel. “I don’t see any upsides to it,” Love told a reporter on Friday. “I don’t see how this benefits the state.”

Reporters at Politico reached out to “more than 50 prominent governors, senators and House members to gauge their interest in speaking” there and found almost no takers. So, I took a look at the list of speakers at the 2012 Republican National Convention, and guess what I found?

Pretty much anyone who was anyone had a speaking slot there, from Speaker John Boehner, to House members like Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Marsha Blackburn, to up-and-comers like Mia Love, to senators across the ideological spectrum, to pretty much every major Republican governor in the country.

Romney made sure that Latino governors Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval of Nevada were given primetime slots. Govs. Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Mary Fallin, Bob McDonnell, and John Kasich all made appearances, most of them prominent.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire spoke four years ago, but this time around she’s not even going to attend the convention.

The convention is being held in Ohio, and that’s awkward.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman will attend the convention and host several events in Cleveland over the course of the week. But a spokesman, Kevin Smith, said “no announcements” had yet been made on whether he would speak. A spokesman for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Trump primary rival who has pointedly refused to endorse the presumptive nominee, declined to comment on whether he wanted to deliver a speech.

I don’t want to be a “nasty, nasty guy,” but it’s pretty evident that Trump is toxic.

Even the GOP leaders in charge of maintaining the party’s congressional majorities — Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker and Oregon Rep. Greg Walden — wouldn’t say whether they’d take the podium…

…“Everyone has to make their own choice, but at this point, 70 percent of the American public doesn’t like Donald Trump. That’s as toxic as we’ve seen in American politics,” said Stuart Stevens, a longtime Republican strategist who helped to craft the party’s 2012 convention. “Normally, people want to speak at national conventions. It launched Barack Obama’s political career.”

Just to give an idea of the scope of the problem, in primetime of the first night of the 2012 convention, there were 18 separate speakers and a video. I don’t know how Trump is going to replicate their firepower.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, June 27, 2016

June 28, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“It’s Anybody’s Guess Right Now”: How Low Can The Congressional GOP Go In November?

A big part of the angst Republicans are expressing over Donald Trump’s presidential nomination is the fear that he’ll doom GOP candidates down ballot. In part, that reflects the reality that ticket-splitting has been declining steadily in recent presidential years. The GOP’s Senate majority is fragile because of a particularly bad landscape. But now even the 59-seat margin Paul Ryan commands in the House could be in peril, though that’s a more remote contingency.

Ace House-watcher David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report has a new analysis at FiveThirtyEight that weighs the odds of a Democratic takeover pretty carefully. The GOP majority in the House is entrenched, he explains, by factors that have little to do with the popularity of the two parties:

Democratic voters have never been more concentrated in big urban areas than they are now. In 2012, President Obama won by 126 electoral votes while carrying just 22 percent of America’s counties — even fewer than losing Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis’s 26 percent in 1988. That means Democrats are wasting more votes than ever in safe congressional districts they already hold …

 Republicans’ astounding state legislative gains in the 2010 midterms — the year before the decennial redistricting cycle — allowed them to redraw four times as many congressional districts as Democrats in 2011 and 2012, stretching their geographical edge even further. As a result, in 2012, Democrats won 51 percent of all major-party votes cast for House candidates but just 47 percent of all seats.

A third thumb on the scales for House Republicans is that Democrats did not anticipate the possibility of a presidential landslide, and thus did not recruit top-flight candidates in some districts that now look vulnerable. With candidate-qualifying windows having passed in 79 percent of districts, it’s too late to do anything about that in much of the country.

All in all, Wasserman estimates, Democrats would need something like an eight-point national popular-vote margin to put themselves into a position to achieve the 30-net-seat gains necessary to retake the House. That’s hardly unprecedented since Democrats matched that margin in 2006 and exceeded it (with 10.6 percent) in 2008 (the much-ballyhooed Republican landslides of 2010 and 2014 were based on 6.8 percent and 5.8 percent House popular-vote margins, respectively). And current polls certainly indicate that a win by that sort of margin at the top of the ticket by Hillary Clinton is entirely feasible. But Wasserman’s own ratings for Cook show only 26 Republican-held seats — along with seven Democratic seats — being competitive. A “wave” election would require that additional seats come into play. There’s also an argument that if the presidential race gets out of hand for Republicans, they could make an implicit or explicit “checks and balances” argument in congressional races. That is supposedly how the losing presidential party minimized down-ballot losses in the landslide years of 1972 and 1984. It’s unclear that would happen again in this straight-ticket-voting era, but it’s not inconceivable.

The Senate’s a different situation. Of the 34 seats up this November, Republicans are defending 24 and can only afford to lose 3 and hang on to control if Democrats retain the White House and thus the vice-president’s tie-breaking Senate vote. Seven Republican seats are in states Obama carried twice (no Democratic seats are in states carried by McCain or Romney). Looking at the races more closely, Cook’s ratings show seven Republican-held seats in competitive races, with just two among the Democratic-held seats. A Democratic wave could make several other Republicans vulnerable. And none of the factors that give Republicans an advantage in keeping control of the House are relevant to Senate races.

If anyone’s going to be privately hoping something disastrous happens to the Trump candidacy before he’s nominated in Cleveland, it should be Mitch McConnell. But for Paul Ryan, the time to panic likely won’t arise, if at all, before the leaves begin to turn.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 21, 2016

June 23, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Down Ballot Candidates, GOP | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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