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“President In Name Only”: There Are Presidential Duties Trump ‘Doesn’t Want To Do’

Paul Manafort, a controversial Republican lobbyist, joined Donald Trump’s team in late March, and at least initially, his task was to help oversee delegate recruiting. It wasn’t long, however, before Manafort worked his way up to effectively running the entire operation: less than two months after joining the campaign, he’s now Trump’s campaign chairman and chief strategist.

Yesterday, Manafort sat down with the Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman for a fairly long interview, and while the two covered quite a bit of ground, there was one exchange in particular that stood out for me.

The vice presidential pick will also be part of the process of proving he’s ready for the White House, Manafort said.

“He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do. He seems himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”

This is no small acknowledgement. For months, it’s been clear that Trump has no meaningful understanding of public policy or even how government works at a basic level. By any fair measure, his ignorance and incompetence about affairs of state is unlike anything Americans have ever seen in a major-party presidential candidate. The question has long been when we can expect Trump to get up to speed.

And the answer is, he has no intention of doing any such thing. Day-to-governing and overseeing the executive branch apparently represent “the part of the job he doesn’t want to do.”

President Trump, in other words, would prefer to be more of a big-picture kind of guy who isn’t overly concerned about details and roll-up-your-sleeves kind of work.

As for who, exactly, might be the best person to “do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do,” Manafort added that there’s a “long list” filled with contenders who have “major problems.”

We should not, however, expect to see diversity on the Republican ticket. Choosing a woman or a member of a minority group to run as vice president, Manafort said, “would be viewed as pandering, I think.”

As for what else we learned from the interview:

* Manafort thinks Trump will be elected president easily. “This is not a hard race,” he said.

* The campaign chairman believes Trump may “moderate” his proposed Muslim ban a little.

* We shouldn’t expect to ever see Trump’s tax returns.

* Manafort believes Trump won’t budge on building a border wall: “He is going to build a wall. That is a core thing with him.”

As for the GOP candidate’s ability to demonstrate his preparedness for the Oval Office, Manafort added, “Does he know enough? Yes, because he knows he has more to learn.”

I’m honestly not sure what that means – it sounds like he’s saying Trump knows enough because he knows he doesn’t know enough – but in Trump Land, making sense is generally an annoyance that’s better left to others.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 26, 2016

May 27, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Executive Branch, Governing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Exploitation Of White Resentment”: Donald Trump’s Ready-Made Constituency

There are competing narratives being discussed right now about what is driving the white male support for Donald Trump. Last weekend, David Atkins did a great job of articulating one of them.

In short, voters really are angry about the economy. They want greater security. They don’t want more jobs so much as they want answers for how their jobs are ever going to pay for the lifestyle and security they deserve. And they want justice and accountability against the people they believe have cheated them.

Another narrative about what is animating white male Trump supporters was recently described by Jamelle Bouie.

…we’ve been missing the most important catalyst in Trump’s rise. What caused this fire to burn out of control? The answer, I think, is Barack Obama.

Bouie goes on to suggest that, unlike the theories about this on the right, Obama has not implemented a radical political agenda. But there is something else at play.

We can’t say the same for Obama as a political symbol, however. In a nation shaped and defined by a rigid racial hierarchy, his election was very much a radical event, in which a man from one of the nation’s lowest castes ascended to the summit of its political landscape. And he did so with heavy support from minorities: Asian Americans and Latinos were an important part of Obama’s coalition, and black Americans turned out at their highest numbers ever in 2008…

For millions of white Americans who weren’t attuned to growing diversity and cosmopolitanism, however, Obama was a shock, a figure who appeared out of nowhere to dominate the country’s political life. And with talk of an “emerging Democratic majority,” he presaged a time when their votes—which had elected George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan—would no longer matter. More than simply “change,” Obama’s election felt like an inversion. When coupled with the broad decline in incomes and living standards caused by the Great Recession, it seemed to signal the end of a hierarchy that had always placed white Americans at the top, delivering status even when it couldn’t give material benefits.

In terms of the shock Barack Obama represented, I was reminded of something Jonathan Chait wrote after watching the movie 12 Years a Slave.

Notably, the most horrific torture depicted in 12 Years a Slave is set in motion when the protagonist, Solomon Northup, offers up to his master engineering knowledge he acquired as a free man, thereby showing up his enraged white overseer. It was precisely Northup’s calm, dignified competence in the scene that so enraged his oppressor. The social system embedded within slavery as depicted in the film is one that survived long past the Emancipation Proclamation – the one that resulted in the murder of Emmett Till a century after Northup published his autobiography. It’s a system in which the most unforgivable crime was for an African-American to presume himself an equal to — or, heaven forbid, better than — a white person.

Perhaps the specter of “calm, dignified competence” reminds you of someone. I have often said that freeing Black people from slavery and giving them civil rights were the first two challenges to the racism that was embedded in this country’s founding. But going from Black people as equals to Black people as leaders is the one Obama put on the table. Even a lot of people who don’t consider themselves to be racist have struggled with that one.

But we really don’t need to see the arguments made by Atkins and Bouie as opposing one another. That is because this country has a very long history of using racial resentment to exploit the economic anxieties of white working poor people. That is the basis on which the modern Republican Party was formed with the advent of the Southern Strategy. But it goes back much further than that. Tim Wise points out that it was the very reason for the development of the concept of “whiteness” in the late 1600’s to use racism as a way to divide and conquer.

Over this country’s history African Americans have gained their freedom from slavery, fought for equal rights, and even risen to positions of leadership. The one thing they can’t do is change the hearts and minds of white people who insist on blaming them for their insecurities. That is on us. Until that happens, the Donald Trumps of the world will have a ready-made constituency to exploit.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 12, 2016

May 14, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Trump Supporters, White Men | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Back To The Future, Way Back”: Trump’s Core Supporters Long For A Bygone Era

For nearly a year, Donald Trump has been pitching a vague slogan: Make America Great Again. Even if we put aside the questions about how Trump intends to do that – and how, exactly, the Republican candidate defines “great” – it’s a phrase that inevitably leads a question about when America was great, if it’s not great now.

Margot Sanger-Katz explained in the New York Times today that Trump’s followers don’t necessarily agree on an answer, but they have a few ideas.

The slogan evokes a time when America was stronger and more prosperous. But Mr. Trump doesn’t specify whether he’s expressing nostalgia for the 1950s – or 10 years ago. That vagueness is reflected by his voters, according to the results of a new survey, conducted online by the digital media and polling company Morning Consult.

When asked to select America’s greatest year, Trump supporters offered a wide range of answers, with no distinct pattern. The most popular choice was the year 2000. But 1955, 1960, 1970 and 1985 were also popular. More than 2 percent of Trump’s supporters picked 2015, when Mr. Trump’s campaign began.

The same Times article flagged a Pew Research Center report from last month in which 75% of Trump supporters said life was better 50 years ago. Most Republicans also endorsed the idea, but it was Trump backers who were the most enthusiastic about it.

I don’t imagine many will find this surprising, but it’s nevertheless a notable validation of a broader thesis. Much of Trump’s core base includes older, white men, who’ve seen generational changes with which they’re generally uncomfortable. Over the last half-century, the United States has grown more diverse; women have made great strides towards overdue equality; and the current role of African Americans and LGBT Americans in society would have been difficult for much of the public to imagine 50 years ago.

It’s hardly shocking that Trump, pushing a nativist nationalism, has supporters who’d prefer to roll back the clock.

As for what Americans in general consider their country’s greatest year, apparently 2000 “was the most popular choice, a preference that cut across political party, candidate preference, gender and age.”

In all candor, without giving it a lot of thought, 2000 was my first choice, too. The economy was booming; there was relative international peace; and the nation’s reputation abroad was sterling and unrivaled. George W. Bush had not yet taken office, which means we’re talking about a time before 9/11, before the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, before the Great Recession, and before the radicalization of Republican politics reached a fever pitch.

There’s plenty of reason to believe we’ve achieved greatness since – marriage equality, the Affordable Care Act, etc. – and have bright days ahead, but is it really that surprising that so many would point to 2000 as the greatest year?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 26, 2016

April 27, 2016 Posted by | America, Donald Trump, Trump Supporters | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Simple Answer Is Donald Trump”: Why Republicans Couldn’t Make 2016 Their Version of 2008

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, wave as they wait in an airplane hangar in Hagerstown, Maryland, Sunday, April 24, 2016.

Parties exist in large part to bring order and stability to politics. When you go into the voting booth in November, you’ll be confronted with a bunch of races you know nothing about, but the party affiliations of the candidates will tell you almost everything you need to know in order to make reasonable choices. You can predict much of what a candidate for county council will do just by knowing which party she represents—and that goes for president, too.

Yet every four or eight years, the parties have to offer the country something entirely new for the office of the presidency, something that will be untainted by the party’s past mistakes and perfectly positioned to take advantage of the other party’s more recent ones. And only when timing and individual ambition come together can a party give the country exactly what it’s looking for.

Republicans had hoped that they could achieve that this year, that it could be for them what 2008 was for the Democrats: an election they’d always remember, when they rid themselves of a president they hated and swept into the White House someone they were truly excited about, who carried their dreams with him and brought a majority of the nation around to their way of seeing things. But it won’t happen.

Why not? The simple answer is “Donald Trump,” but it’s more complicated than that.

To understand why, let’s recall what 2008 was like—though you could make a similar comparison to 2000, 1992, 1980, or 1976. In all those elections, one party offered a candidate who seemed to embody everything the president whom voters were rejecting had failed to be. And critically, that candidate was both what his party wanted and what the country was ready for.

In 2008, Barack Obama really did represent Democrats in a multitude of ways. He was African-American, from the party’s largest and most loyal constituency group. He was from one of America’s largest cities, in a party that finds its greatest strength in growing urban areas. And perhaps most of all, he was the kind of person so many Democrats would like to see themselves as: thoughtful, intellectual, urbane and cosmopolitan, the kind of guy who can talk literature with Marilynne Robinson, croon the opening of “Let’s Stay Together,” and help Steph Curry work on his jump shot.

And the nation as a whole was open to the kind of change he represented. So could Republicans have found someone to do the same thing this year? On the simplest level, it’s a much greater challenge now than it was then. In 2008, the most important change Democrats wanted—getting rid of George W. Bush—was the same change the country was looking for. That’s not the case with Republicans today. Barack Obama’s approval rating is right around 50 percent, which in this severely polarized era is somewhere between solid and excellent. At this time eight years ago, on the other hand, Gallup measured Bush’s approval at an abysmal 28 percent.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of dissatisfaction out there waiting to be activated. But it’s worthy of note that even in previous elections where candidates succeeded by portraying themselves as anti-establishment figures ready to shake up the status quo—Bush did it in 2000, Bill Clinton did it in 1992, Jimmy Carter did it in 1976—those candidates never used anti-Washington rhetoric that was as angry and bitter as what we’ve heard from Republicans this year. Instead, they said they’d transcend partisanship and bring a new spirit of conciliation and integrity.

Maybe nobody believes that kind of thing anymore, no matter what their party. But if Obama embodied Democrats in 2008 (and still does), who embodies today’s Republicans? It certainly wasn’t someone like Marco Rubio, whom everyone seemed to agree was the most palatable candidate to the general electorate. He was supposed to be the new face of the GOP, and he opened his presidential campaign by saying that “The time has come for our generation to lead the way toward a new American century,” and that “yesterday is over, and we are never going back.”

But that’s not what Republicans turned out to want—in fact, going back to yesterday is exactly what they’re after. They’re looking not just for someone who isn’t Barack Obama, but a wholesale reversion to the past, to a time when hierarchies of home and community were clear, when the nation’s culture was their culture, before “diversity” became something people were supposed to value. So it’s no accident that their favored candidate is a 69-year-old white man who tells them he can “Make America Great Again” by tossing out immigrants, keeping out Muslims, and building enormous walls.

Donald Trump is the opposite of Barack Obama, and not just because he’s old and white. Impulsive, shallow, ignorant, prone to emotional outbursts and consumed with every petty slight, Trump couldn’t be more different from “no drama” Obama. That’s what Republicans wanted, at least a plurality of them. The problem is that the broader voting public doesn’t yet seem to be demanding the opposite of Obama, at least if Trump is what that means.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, April 25, 2016

April 27, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Reagan Democrats Are Gone”: Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Need White Men

The New York Times today has an article of a kind we’ve seen before and will likely see many times again before this election is over, warning that Hillary Clinton has a serious problem with white men, a problem that could threaten her ability to win a general election:

White men narrowly backed Hillary Clinton in her 2008 race for president, but they are resisting her candidacy this time around in major battleground states, rattling some Democrats about her general-election strategy.

While Mrs. Clinton swept the five major primaries on Tuesday, she lost white men in all of them, and by double-digit margins in Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio, exit polls showed — a sharp turnabout from 2008, when she won double-digit victories among white male voters in all three states…

The fading of white men as a Democratic bloc is hardly new: The last nominee to carry them was Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and many blue-collar “Reagan Democrats” now steadily vote Republican. But Democrats have won about 35 to 40 percent of white men in nearly every presidential election since 1988. And some Democratic leaders say the party needs white male voters to win the presidency, raise large sums of money and, like it or not, maintain credibility as a broad-based national coalition.

I’m not sure who the “Democratic leaders” are who think that, because the only one the article quotes is Bill Richardson, who’s been out of politics for a few years and frankly was never considered a strategic genius to begin with. But here’s the truth: Hillary Clinton doesn’t need white men.

Let’s be more specific. Clinton will have the support of tens of millions of white men. But she doesn’t need to do any better among them than any Democrat has, and even if she does worse, she’ll probably be completely fine.

That’s because whites are declining as a proportion of the electorate as the country grows more diverse with each passing year. In 1992, just 24 years ago, whites made up 87 percent of the voters, according to exit polls. By 2012 the figure had declined to 72 percent. Since women vote at slightly higher rates than men, white men made up around 35 percent of the voters.

Those numbers will be lower this year, which means that even if nothing changes in how non-whites vote, Republicans will need to keep increasing their margins among whites to even stay where they are overall — in other words, to keep losing by the same amount.

By way of illustration, in 1988, George H.W. Bush won 60 percent of white voters on his way to beating Michael Dukakis by seven points. In 2012, Mitt Romney did just as well among whites, winning 59 percent of their votes. But he lost to Barack Obama by four points. The electorate is now even less white than it was four years ago, which means that Donald Trump (or whoever the GOP nominee is) will have to do not just better among whites than Romney did in order to win, but much better.

Exactly how much better is difficult to say because we don’t know exactly what turnout will look like among different groups (David Bernstein recently estimated that Trump would have to get at least 70 percent of the white male vote, compared to Mitt Romney’s 62 percent). But as turnout increases among groups other than white men, the need to run up the score among white men gets higher and higher. And for certain groups — particularly Latinos and women of all races — Donald Trump provides an extraordinary incentive to get out and vote. Not only that, as I argued yesterday, women are likely to vote in even stronger numbers for Clinton.

It’s true that Clinton has done worse among white male voters in this year’s primaries than she did in 2008. But we should be extremely wary of taking voting results in primaries and extrapolating them out to the general election. For starters, the overwhelming majority of people who vote in primaries will vote for their party’s nominee in November, whether they supported him/her in the primary or not. Furthermore, the general electorate is a completely different group of people than the primary electorate, and they’ll be presented with a different choice.

The Times article talks to some white men who don’t like Clinton, and it’s always worthwhile to hear those individual voices in order to understand why certain people vote the way they do. But when you pull back to the electorate as a whole, you realize that there just aren’t enough votes among white men for Republicans to mine. The reason is simple: they’ve already got nearly all they’re going to get. While some people entertain the fantasy that there are huge numbers of “Reagan Democrats” just waiting to cross over, the Reagan Democrats are gone. They all either died (it was 36 years ago that they were identified, remember) or just became Republicans. The GOP already has them, and it isn’t enough.

Finally, the idea that the Democrats can’t “maintain credibility as a broad-based national coalition” unless they get more votes from white men is somewhere between absurd and insane. We have two main parties in this country. One of them reflects America’s diversity, getting its votes from a combination of whites, blacks, Latinos, Asian-Americans, and people of other ethnicities. Its nominee got 55 percent of his votes in 2012 from whites — smaller than their proportion of the population as a whole, but still a majority of those who voted for him.

The other party is almost entirely white; its nominee got 90 percent of his votes from whites in 2012. And we’re supposed to believe that if that party gets even more white, then it will be the one that’s “broad-based”?

Obviously, every candidate would like to get strong support from every demographic group. But if there’s one group Hillary Clinton can afford not to worry too much about, it’s white men. Most of them are going to vote against her anyway, and even if they do, she still would have a decent chance of winning the election.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, March 18, 2016

March 21, 2016 Posted by | General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, Reagan Democrats, White Men | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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