The #NeverTrump movement is rightfully disgusted and deeply concerned about the prospect of Donald Trump winning the presidency. These #NeverTrump conservatives have admirably broken from the Republican National Committee, which seems to care far more about avoiding “an embarrassing spectacle” at the convention than about sparing the party from being enduringly identified with Trump.
I admire and sympathize with #NeverTrump motives. But I’ve been unable to shake the feeling that the movement’s goal is not just futile but also somehow illegitimate. Trump won the nomination fair and square. He pulled in nearly 45 percent of the vote in the GOP primary, which is on the low end historically but not at all unprecedented. He carried 36 states and ended up with 300 more delegates than he needed to clinch the nomination. Roughly 14 million people voted for him, which is 4 million more than Mitt Romney won four years ago. All of which means that Trump seems to deserve the honor of standing as the Republican Party’s nominee for president.
The GOP should dump Trump anyway.
Yes, an anti-Trump coup (in which delegates are given the freedom to vote their consciences) would most likely fail. And even if it succeeded, it would almost certainly guarantee a GOP loss in November. Bill Kristol may like to indulge in fantasy-tweets about how an alternative nominee could win in November. But the result would almost certainly be a badly fractured party, with probably around a third of its voters bolting to a protest candidate or just staying home on Election Day.
The case for a coup has different grounds. It’s not about the conservative movement or the Republican Party’s chances in the 2016 election. It’s about what’s best for the country.
Since he clinched the nomination, Trump has managed the seemingly impossible by becoming even more erratic and even less presidential than he was during the primaries. The insults, the transparent lies, the racist taunting and bullying, the demagoguery, the narcissistic self-obsession, the incapacity to take a position and stick to it, the failure to raise funds and manage a campaign — the man has no business running anything of public consequence, let alone the government of the most powerful nation on the planet.
It really is that simple: Donald Trump should not be president of the United States. If there is even a small chance of successfully deposing him at the convention — an act that, if it worked, would deprive him of the means to compete in the general election — it should be undertaken. The alternative is complicity in a politically reckless and blatantly irresponsible endeavor: the attempted election of a candidate who deserves to lose.
Beyond the dangers posed by Trump himself are more sweeping concerns. As Jonathan Rauch argues in his important cover story in The Atlantic, American politics has gone “insane” in recent years due to the unintended consequences of a series of democratic reforms since the 1970s. These reforms severely weakened, and in some cases eliminated entirely, numerous informal intermediary institutions in Congress and the parties that once served to stymie the self-interested egoism of individual politicians and channel the populist passions of grassroots movements. Individual politicians are now increasingly free agents out to do the bidding of the angriest and most agitated voters, with both sides using social media to circumvent the institutions that would have once hemmed them in.
Rauch’s analysis is mostly correct — and he’s right to conclude that the best thing we can do to prevent the further degradation of our political system is to reassert the vitality of those old, anemic intermediary institutions. Allowing delegates to opt for an alternative to Trump would be a powerful example of precisely such a reassertion. The party would be saying, in effect, that although Trump prevailed democratically, democracy isn’t the only thing that counts. The party itself stands for something — not just popular government, but good government — and it would rather go down upholding a high standard than allow itself to be used as a hollow conduit for a demagogic rabblerouser to attain the pinnacle of power.
But wouldn’t this backfire? If the party denied Trump the nomination at the Republican convention, wouldn’t it fuel a “stabbed in the back” narrative that would inspire an even darker political movement four years from now? This was Jeet Heer’s argument in a recent smart piece in The New Republic. The Trump voters are a problem for American democracy, Heer asserted, one that can only be solved by allowing them to get their nominee and then ensuring that he’s roundly defeated at the ballot box in November.
It’s a powerful argument, but I’m unpersuaded that a general-election defeat will “solve” the problem of the Trump voters. These voters are activated now. Trump has given them a style and the rudiments of a policy agenda that they clearly prefer to the offerings from either the Republicans or the Democrats. The only way to keep those voters from flocking to Trump four years from now, or rallying around some even-worse populist copycat, is for the GOP to woo them by adjusting its platform and agenda.
That’s what both parties did after the original Populists upended American politics in the 1890s. It could happen again. It needs to happen again. And whether and how it happens will do far more to determine the future shape of the Republican Party than whether it dumps Trump this July.
In the short term, the party would most likely be wrecked. But that could well be less destructive, in the longer term, for both the party and the country, than trying to ride the Trump tiger. Exiling the Trump voters in 2016 would save the GOP from making a fatal compromise with competence and put it in a relatively strong position to run more compelling and capable post-Trump populists in the 2018 midterm and 2020 presidential elections. America would be much better for it.
At the end of the transformation, the Republican Party would look and sound quite a bit different than it has since Ronald Reagan took it over 36 years ago. But Republicans should consider that vastly preferable to allowing Trump to remake the party in his own Know Nothing image. We all should.
By: Damon Linker, The Week, June 29, 2016
“Anger, Desperation, And The Desire For Drama”: Why There Will Be More Violence During This Campaign
The 2016 election may not quite be turning into a repeat of 1968, but the tension is certainly rising. Just as the violence around Donald Trump’s rallies seemed to abate, it has now returned, in a widening circle of chaos. And now people outraged by Trump are getting in on the action; last Thursday outside a Trump rally in San Jose, Trump supporters were hit with eggs and fists, leading to some blood being spilled and people being arrested. Prominent Democrats everywhere condemned the incident, including Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, not to mention all manner of liberal pundit-types. But there were also voices on social media praising the violence, essentially arguing that since the threat from Trump is so urgent, beating up some people who support him is justified.
That’s plainly ridiculous; if you object to Donald Trump’s thuggish ways, breaking out a little thuggery of your own has no moral justification. If you slug a Donald Trump supporter, all you’re doing is agreeing with him that people who disagree with you politically should be subjected to violent abuse as punishment for their thought crimes. As Jamelle Bouie writes, “it’s mobocracy. And it runs counter to the liberal democratic ideal—the thing we’re defending in the first place.”
It’s also just about the worst way you could come up with to move events in your desired direction, presuming that those few lefties throwing punches actually want to see Trump defeated. There’s going to be an election in five months, and if you don’t want Trump to become president, you should think about how to persuade the maximum number of people to vote against him, because that’s how he’ll be defeated. I’m pretty sure that beating up Trump supporters in front of the news cameras is not the way to do that.
But I’d guess that the ones spoiling for a fight aren’t thinking strategically. They’re mad, and they go down to the Trump rally to express their anger. And let’s be clear about something else: It’s pretty exciting, even if you don’t start a melee. Just being in a hostile environment, facing off with your comrades against people you’re sure are personally contemptible, and are certainly participants in a cause you despise, guarantees you an eventful evening.
We should never underestimate the role drama plays in motivating political involvement and political decisions. Political action isn’t just about bringing the kind of change you think is desirable, it can also offer social gratifications and a sense of purpose. Nevertheless, most of the things one does to participate in politics are pretty unexciting. There’s rarely anything electrifying about knocking on doors or making phone calls, no matter how meaningful the overall effort. But going to the other side’s rally to confront his supporters? That’ll get your blood pumping.
I suspect that the desire for drama is now leading at least a few Bernie Sanders supporters to consider a way to thrust their swords one last time at Hillary Clinton, no matter how doomed the effort. As Annie Karni of Politico recently detailed, some Sanders delegates are heading to the convention in Philadelphia with the intention of stirring things up, eager to stage protests and draw attention to their own ideas and concerns. To which one might say: Of course they are. Even if the overwhelming majority of Sanders voters will vote for Clinton and realize there’s not much purpose in trying to screw up the convention for her, there are those for whom a unified convention seems like the end of a noble crusade, with no gratification to offer them. There are some activists participating in this primary contest not because they want Democrats to win or even because they’re all that concerned about the outcome of the presidential race, but because it’s a vehicle for them to draw attention to their own issues, the issues they cared about before this election began and the ones they’ll care about after it’s over. “This is a battle and we’re not going to give in,” one told Karni. “We will not stop yelling about what we think the people need.” If that’s your plan, no concession on the party platform is going to satisfy you; the yelling is the whole reason you’re there.
That’s not really Bernie Sanders’ fault; right now he’s trying to both give his supporters hope that he can still beat Clinton and turn the focus on Trump, which is a tricky line to walk. But disruptions could happen at the Democratic convention whether Sanders sanctions them or not. When he issues his call for unity (and he will), there will be Sandernistas who conclude that Sanders himself is insufficiently committed to the Sanders cause. And they’ll want to keep fighting Clinton in Philadelphia, because fighting her and what she represents is what gives them energy and purpose; joining with her to fight Donald Trump doesn’t feel quite as revolutionary.
So both conventions may end up featuring loud protests, backroom dealings, and even some pushing and shoving, if not worse. The comparisons to the bloody Democratic convention of 1968 will be inevitable. In that campaign, there was a candidate who claimed to speak for the “silent majority.” He used the violence at the Democratic convention to weave a tale of a nation in chaos, with crime in the streets, hippies scorning traditional values and hierarchies, war overseas, and a general atmosphere of societal breakdown. He aired ads like this one, meant to tie it all together in one horrifying, seizure-inducing assault on all that was right and good. And, he said, Democrats were the enablers of chaos, too weak and indulgent to give those no-goodniks the smack upside the head they deserved.
This year isn’t quite the same; Donald Trump may claim to speak for a new silent majority, but it’s obvious to just about everyone that he’s the primary sower of chaos. That’s not to mention the fact that he doesn’t have a majority, and his supporters are anything but silent. And if he looks like he’s losing, more of his supporters, who already feel like the America of their youth has been stolen from them, may be tempted to take a swing at the people they perceive are sending them to another defeat. This isn’t the last time we’ll see bloodied noses at a campaign event, from one side or the other. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get any worse.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, June 6, 2016
“No, Trump, Most Dangerous Place In The World Is Not Ferguson”: It’s Every Polling Place In America, Come November
I hesitate to bring up facts.
If recent years have proven nothing else, they’ve proven that we have fully embarked upon a post-factual era wherein the idea that a thing can be knowable to an objective certainty — and that this should matter — has been diminished to the point of near irrelevancy.
Donald Trump is the avatar of the era. Not content to rest on his laurels, he recently provided superfluous proof of his supremacy in mendacity. Asked by The New York Times to name the most dangerous place in the world he’s ever visited, Trump replied that “there are places in America that are among the most dangerous in the world. You go to places like Oakland. Or Ferguson. The crime numbers are worse. Seriously.”
You wonder whether it’s worth correcting him. After all, neither Trump nor his followers seem especially interested in truth. But for the record, according to the Citizens Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice in Mexico, which tracks murder statistics around the world, only four U.S. cities make the list of the 50 most dangerous places on Earth. None of them is Ferguson or Oakland.
Trump’s use of those cities, both with high poverty rates and large African-American populations, is, of course, intended as a crude dog whistle to the angry white men he’s courting — some old-fashioned victim blaming and shaming to rouse the rabble. But it got me thinking about this whole concept of the most dangerous place on Earth. If by that we mean the place with potential for the greatest amount of harm to the largest number of people, maybe we should broaden our definition of “danger.”
For example, climate change is sure dangerous, linked as it is to increased risk of fire, flood, famine, drought, freakish storms, high temperatures and resultant illnesses. The World Health Organization says this already contributes to 150,000 deaths a year and that between 2030 and 2050, the death toll could rise to a quarter million a year. A 2015 study in the journal Politics and Policy found the GOP is virtually the only major conservative party in any democracy on Earth still denying this reality — and opposing measures to deal with it.
So the most dangerous place on Earth could be Republican headquarters.
Lead poisoning causes behavioral problems and irreversible brain damage in children and memory loss, high blood pressure, decline in mental functioning, reduced sperm count and miscarriages in adults. The water crisis in Flint, Mich., we now find, was the tip of the proverbial iceberg, with reports that high lead levels have been found in 2,000 water systems serving 6 million people in 50 states.
So the most dangerous place on Earth might be your local water department.
The economic collapse of 2008 wiped out $7.4 trillion in stocks, $3.4 trillion in real estate and 5.5 million jobs, according to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts. It cost the average American household $5,800 in lost income. The effects were felt worldwide amid fears of a global financial meltdown, a Second Great Depression, brought about by too-big-to-fail-banks playing the U.S. economy like a Vegas casino. Some experts say the threat of a relapse endures.
So the most dangerous place on Earth may be Wall Street.
But it isn’t. No, the most dangerous place on Earth is none of the above.
Consider for a moment: To lead America through a world of complex and difficult challenges, the Republican Party offers us Donald Trump. He is pervy, thin-skinned, loud-mouthed and volatile, a preening bully and serial liar who shows little evidence of core values, nor even inner life. Yet, some large percentage of us thinks he should have access to the nuclear codes.
So if you really want to know the most dangerous place on Earth, it’s simple. It’s every polling place in America, come November.
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 22, 2016
“A Vainglory And Cult Of Personality”: Bernie Sanders’ Campaign Isn’t About Ideas Anymore. It’s About Him
Bernie Sanders made a huge mistake this week. It’s one that, if not soon corrected, could squander the sizeable influence he has over his party’s platform, and, more indelibly, create for the eventual Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a schism in the party that she does not have the means to reconcile.
The error: Bernie’s campaign became a vehicle to advance Bernie Sanders’ vainglory and cult of personality. His staff responded irresponsibly to violence at the state caucuses in Nevada. He compounded their tone deaf responses by wrapping a muted condemnation of the chaos inside a long justification of the complaints that caused it.
Clinton won Nevada by six points on Feb. 20. The rules for delegate selection are clear. They are complex but they are not opaque. Sanders knew them going in to the race, and by accepting delegates, he has signed on to their legitimacy. He can protest them and try to revise them, but he cannot, in good conscience, urge his supporters to ignore them — or to find them unfair, inter alia, as the stakes change.
But before you accuse me of not understanding what really was at stake, let me explain for you the reason why Sanders’s supporters got so angry.
The rules say that the chairperson of the state convention can call for a voice vote to approve the adoption of the credentials report — basically a list of delegate identities submitted by each campaign. The chairperson of the Nevada State Convention, Roberta Lange, did just that. The room erupted. Sanders’s supporters were angry that the credentials report had enshrined the selection of many more Clinton supporters than Sanders supporters, and they loudly tried to “no” vote the approval process. Lange reasoned — reasonably — that the volume of the nays did not reflect the size of the nay vote. (Indeed, there were more Clinton supporters in the room.) Only Lange can decide whether to call for a roll call vote, or some other mechanism. Those are the rules. Even as Sanders supporters screamed at her, spitting cusses in her direction, she decided not to. That’s her prerogative. Those are the rules.
A responsible answer to this chaos from the Sanders campaign would have been to say: “We think the rules are unfair and did not give voice to our supporters, and we will try to revise the rules to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”
That is not the answer that Sanders’s campaign gave. Instead, they (once again) questioned the legitimacy of the party. Questioning the legitimacy of the institution that you’ve chosen to work inside of is tantamount to a call for a revolt. If the DNC and its proxies are not legitimate, then, indeed, the election IS being stolen from Bernie Sanders, and since a hell of a lot IS at stake, then agitation verging on violence is pretty much the only alternative short of going home and giving up.
It’s fine for Sanders supporters in the heat of battle to believe this, but it is beyond irresponsible for Sanders’s campaign to encourage the provenance of this view. Why? Because it’s not true. It simply isn’t. The rules are not rigged in favor of or against any particular candidate. They can’t be. They were set long before the candidates entered the race. They haven’t been capriciously changed. Indeed, they are skewed in FAVOR of Sanders: He has received more delegates than his popular vote totals should see him allocated, assuming that, as he does, the only real form of democracy is direct. Or maybe not: He has repeatedly said that the party does a disservice when it doesn’t allow independents to vote in its primaries. And he has also said that he represents the “working people” — the “working people” only vote for him. (Do Clinton supporters not work?)
His campaign is descending into semiotic babble. He is creating unrealistic expectations for his supporters. If those expectations cannot be met by a reconciliation, and if the party truly cannot convince a large number of Sanders delegates that they have been treated fairly, then his delegates could cause real trouble at the convention. They could prevent Clinton from uniting the party. They could prevent Sanders from keeping the party accountable for its promises to voters. They could nullify the very real power Sanders has right now to remold the party in the image of the type of candidate who is independent and more attentive to working class voters.
In other words, his blinders, put upon him by campaign staff and other hangers-on, are hurting his cause right now. I’ve vacillated about whether a responsible Democrat should want Sanders to stay in the race, given that his chances of winning the nomination by accumulating delegates are vanishingly small, and that his arguments that superdelegates should follow the expressed will of their state’s voters have fallen largely on the back of necks — ears have turned away. For me, it came to down to the future of the party. If Sanders’s movement was best served by his presence in the race, he should stay in. If not, he should bow out. For a while, his victories in demographically appropriate states, his willingness to tone down his attacks against Clinton, his musings about building the party’s bench down the ballot — all of these pointed to a man with mature instincts for a tempered use of his considerable power.
Even his supporters know: Bernie’s campaign isn’t about them. It’s about policies. It’s about removing the influence of big money in politics. It’s about fairer trade. It’s about an American manufacturing renaissance. It’s about, in other words, stuff for other people. The moment it becomes about him is the moment he needs to make it about that other stuff again. Time is running out.
By: Marc Ambinder, The Week, May 20, 2016
“Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)”: Why Would It Be Offensive For Hillary Clinton To Woo Republican Voters?
Clinton’s reported effort to attract support from Republicans terrified of Donald Trump is a logically sound decision: heck, it’s Political Strategy 101. It is rational for Clinton to try to reach Republicans when one takes into account the two main obstacles she faces in a general election:
1) The likely suppression of large numbers of Democratic votes, thanks to the Supreme Court’s atrocious 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling, which effectively struck down the 1965 Voting Rights Act. As a result of that ruling, numerous states instituted restrictive voter ID laws, with the obvious purpose of blocking access to the polls for those who might find the Democratic Party’s message more palatable. No matter what the polls currently say about Trump’s popularity, Shelby County v. Holder gives Trump an advantage heading into November 8.
2) The bombastic “Bernie or Bust” movement, comprised of self-righteous snobs and egomaniacal elitists who regard Clinton as corporate America’s official escort service, and who turn up their noses in disgust at the thought of supporting a member of the so-called “Democratic establishment.” Many of these folks were the same ones who thought Al Gore was morally inferior to Ralph Nader sixteen years ago; they hate the former Secretary of State just as much as they hated the former Vice President.
In light of these political realities, it’s hard to argue against the logic of Clinton attempting to secure Republican support in the general election. If Clinton can siphon away a significant number of Republican votes to offset the number of Democratic votes she will not receive due to voter suppression and the “Bernie or Bust” movement, wouldn’t it be politically irresponsible for her not to do so?
Of course, some of the Republicans Clinton will try to attract will have to set aside 25 years of anti-Clinton propaganda in order to consider her candidacy. Some will find themselves unable to do so, their minds permanently poisoned by the lies of Limbaugh, the falsehoods of Fox and the BS of Breitbart News. However, if significant numbers of Republicans can come to the realization that human-caused climate change is not a hoax, why can’t significant numbers of Republicans come to the realization that Clinton is not, and never has been, corrupt?
I recognize the main argument against Clinton’s reported strategy, i.e., that it’s ridiculous to ask Republicans to put “country first,” so to speak, when they largely failed to do so in every post-Southern Strategy presidential election prior to 2016. However, the counterargument is that Trump is so uniquely ugly–far more loathsome than Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush Sr., Dole, Bush Jr., McCain and Romney combined–that a potentially large percentage of Republicans are now, at long last, open to seeking alternate political routes.
Some of these Republicans willing to cross the aisle will do so gritting their teeth. Consider this snark-filled endorsement of Clinton by former Maryland GOP official Michael Esteve:
I disagree with Hillary on a whole host of issues. She, too, may likely continue to abuse executive authority to circumvent an uncooperative Congress. She may try to curb Second Amendment rights (not without opposition from the likes of me). She may have repulsive political and personal ties and a dubious relationship with the truth.
But, honest to goodness (and I can’t believe I’m saying this), she’s at least surpassed the emotionality of a child. She doesn’t launch into personal tirades over minor slights, or worse yet, press criticism. She doesn’t shift her foreign policy at the drop of a dime, and form policy based on whatever stream of consciousness she’s in at any given moment. She doesn’t share tabloid stories as fact. She doesn’t scapegoat religious minorities for the nation’s woes. She doesn’t praise foreign dictators for strong leadership. She isn’t, in short, emotionally and politically unbalanced.
It’s also worth pointing out that for a Democrat, Hillary isn’t all wrong on the issues. She believes in a balanced approach to disincentivizing short-term thinking on Wall Street. She’s proposing keeping taxes flat for middle income families. Her foreign policy is neither as cavalier as George Bush’s nor as passive as Barack Obama’s.
For all of his sarcasm, Esteve at least understands that Clinton vs. Trump is rationality vs. radicalism, sagacity vs. savagery, analysis vs. anarchy. He at least understands that America under a Trump presidency will quickly move from democracy to dystopia, a vast wasteland of rampant prejudice and economic decline.
If enough Republicans share Esteve’s views–if enough Republicans recognize that the choice between Clinton and Trump is, in essence, a choice between decency and devastation–then Trump’s concession speech on November 8 will be shorter than Romney’s speech was four years ago.
By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 16, 2016