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“Clinton vs Trump: A Shift In Gender Roles”: This Campaign Has Come Down To Fear vs Getting Things Done

One of the criticisms we’ve heard often about President Obama is that he doesn’t do enough to show us that he feels our pain. That has been a staple of pundits like Maureen Dowd who wrote this about the President during the Gulf Oil Spill in 2010.

Once more, he has willfully and inexplicably resisted fulfilling a signal part of his job: being a prism in moments of fear and pride, reflecting what Americans feel so they know he gets it.

That critique resurfaced over his two terms, most notably during the Ebola scare and the attacks from ISIS. It tends to place more emphasis on reflecting America’s feelings than it does on the actual “signal part of his job” – taking action to address the problem.

I thought about that when I read the report from Greg Sargent on his interview with Hillary Clinton’s chief strategist, Joel Benenson, about how she plans to take on Donald Trump in the general election. This part is revealing:

“This isn’t about bluster. It’s about having real plans to get stuff done. When it comes to the economy, Hillary Clinton is the only candidate with plans that have been vetted and will make a difference in people’s lives.”…

A certain species of fatalism has taken hold among our political classes in general and among Democrats in particular. The idea is that, because Trump has successfully broken so many of our rules…it must mean he has a chance at blowing apart the old rules in the general election, too.

And so, you often hear it suggested that Trump can’t be beaten on policy, since facts and policy positions no longer matter; that he is going to attack in “unconventional” ways, so there is more to be feared;…and that he has some kind of magical appeal that Democrats fail to reckon with at their own extreme peril.

That might be what this campaign comes down to – a contest between someone who is trying to reflect our feelings of anger and fear and someone who is determined to tackle the challenges we face as a country.

Beyond the importance of us getting that one right, it strikes me that these two candidates have completely flipped the script of who might be expected to take which side of that argument. When I was growing up, it was the Eisenhower Republicans who claimed the mantle of being the policy wonks to the Democrats who – even as rabble rousers – were the purveyors of peace and love. Whether you see that through the prism of Mommy and Daddy parties or the Myers/Briggs binary of “thinking vs feeling,” the roles between Republicans and Democrats have been completely reversed.

But the bigger cultural dynamic will come from having a woman be the thoughtful wonk and the man being all about the bluster of feelings. That is why I found the comedy of Samantha Bee to be so prophetic when she said this about the Republican presidential hopefuls as a group: “I don’t mean to sound sexist, but I think men are just too emotional to be president.”

That is a huge shift in our perception about the genders. It might help explain why so many voters still have trouble “getting” Hillary Clinton – she’s not playing the traditional woman role (just as Obama challenged the stereotypes about the angry black man). When she talks about breaking down barriers, one of the big ones she’s challenging is that a woman can be a thoughtful, intelligent leader.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 18, 2016

May 21, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fearmongering, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Unprecedented Demographic Change”: Adapting To Change Requires Curiosity And Creativity

Our 24/7 news cycle that is addicted to the crisis of the moment and the horse race of electoral politics doesn’t do a good job of recognizing the tectonic shifts of change that are undergirding our lives.

The attacks of 9/11 followed by the Great Recession changed the way a lot of people feel about America in ways that aren’t articulated often enough. We are experiencing demographic change that is unprecedented, are nearing the end of two terms for our first African American president and are likely on the cusp of electing our first female president. All of that is happening as we are experiencing the effects of globalization and automation in our economy while technology becomes more central to how we live our everyday lives. Finally, we are just beginning to see the effects of climate change – with dramatic impacts looming on the horizon.

We can play the political parlor game of trying to suss out which of these is the most responsible for the dynamics of our current politics, or we can notice that the combination of those changes is affecting all of us. When Kevin Drum wonders why both political parties are afraid to talk about an improving economy and Gregg Easterbrook asks when optimism became uncool, I suspect that it is the weight of all of these changes that is the answer. But Easterbrook makes an interesting observation.

Though candidates on the right are full of fire and brimstone this year, the trend away from optimism is most pronounced among liberals. A century ago Progressives were the optimists, believing society could be improved, while conservatism saw the end-times approaching. Today progressive thought embraces Judgment Day, too…

Pessimists think in terms of rear-guard actions to turn back the clock. Optimists understand that where the nation has faults, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

The Tea Party responded to these changes by saying that they wanted to “take our country back.” When Donald Trump talks about “making America great again,” that’s essentially what he is saying too. Fear and retreat are a pretty common reaction to change among human beings.

Traditionally progressives have faced challenges like this by working on ways to move forward rather than pinning for days past. To do so requires things like curiosity and creativity. The past can be examined objectively, but the future is still uncertain. Ideologues too often stand in the way of curiosity and creativity. Here is how then-Senator Barack Obama talked about that back in 2005:

…the degree that we brook no dissent within the Democratic Party, and demand fealty to the one, “true” progressive vision for the country, we risk the very thoughtfulness and openness to new ideas that are required to move this country forward. When we lash out at those who share our fundamental values because they have not met the criteria of every single item on our progressive “checklist,” then we are essentially preventing them from thinking in new ways about problems.

I believe that this is why the President so often says that it is young people who inspire his optimism. They tend to be free of the ideologies and baggage of the past. Instead, they bring fresh eyes to the challenges we face going forward. Progressives need not fear the changes we are experiencing today when we tap into all of that.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 17, 2016

May 17, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Liberals, Progressives, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“If Trump Wins, Will There Be Blood?”: Maybe It’s Time To Take Crazy At Face Value

That question has gone conspicuously unasked as we enumerate the possible outcomes of November’s election. The potential impact on the nation’s economy, its foreign policy and its standing in the world have all been duly analyzed. But there has been little, if any, discussion of the potential for violence.

It is, of course, Donald Trump’s name on the ballot that necessitates the discussion. His rallies have erupted into brawls with depressing frequency; his followers assaulting demonstrators while he eggs them on.

And then, there’s this: Last year, two South Boston brothers — Scott and Steve Leader — were arrested after allegedly peeing in the face of a homeless, 58-year-old Mexican immigrant sleeping on a bench. They beat him with a metal pole, breaking his nose. Authorities say Scott Leader explained himself thusly: “Donald Trump was right. All these illegals need to be deported.”

Trump’s initial response was simply to note that his followers “love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.” If that is the sort of “passion” a few rallies and speeches incite, how much worse would it be in the event — God help us all — of an actual Trump victory? How emboldened in their bullyboy behavior would people like the Leader brothers become with one of their own in the White House?

And that’s not even the worst-case scenario. What if the far more likely thing happens? What if Trump loses? His followers are already filled with fury and an exaggerated sense of their own victimhood and entitlement. What happens if an embarrassingly emphatic repudiation is added to that mix?

Hate crimes might be the least of our problems. The greater worry might be terrorism.

In a nation conditioned to think of terrorism as the exclusive province of Muslim fanatics with difficult names, the idea will strike some as ridiculous. But to be sanguine about the danger of radical right violence is to pretend Cliven Bundy’s armed standoff in Nevada and the armed takeover of federal property in Oregon never happened. And it is to ignore a litany of radical right terror plots enacted or interdicted in recent years.

From the Oklahoma City bombing to the Atlanta Olympics bombing to a New York state plot to murder Muslims by radiation poisoning, to a massacre at an African-American church in Charleston, to the attempted bombing of a Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane, to the crashing of an airplane into an IRS office in Austin to a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs to, literally, dozens more, the radical right has hardly been shy about using violence to frighten people as a means of achieving their political goals — the dictionary definition of terrorism.

Small wonder Mark Potok, editor of Intelligence Report, the magazine of the Southern Poverty Law Center, does not laugh off the possibility of violence from aggrieved supporters of Donald Trump. Radical right terror, he says, “is a worry anyway, as we go through this huge demographic transition in the United States. But the thing about Trump’s voters is that they are angry, they are riled up, and they are expecting to win.” If and when they don’t, he says, terrorism might well be their response.

It’s not as unthinkable as some of us will want to believe. Too often, as the right has descended into tribalistic incoherence, the rest of us have underestimated the crazy, baselessly reassuring ourselves that they’ll go this far, but surely no further. And too often, we’ve been wrong. Maybe it’s time to abandon baseless reassurance. Maybe it’s time to take crazy at face value.

Will there be blood? Here’s a better question:

Will you honestly be surprised if there is?

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 11, 2016

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Trump Supporters, Violence | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Economic Food Poisoning”: The Bankrupt Delusions Of Donald Trump, The ‘King Of Debt’

According to Donald Trump, at $19 trillion the federal government has too much debt. Or so little debt that we could pay it off in eight years.

He says we could buy back federal debt at a discount by raising interest rates. But if interest rates rise by a couple of percentage points, he said last week that the United States of America would cease to exist.

As for taxes, we need to raise them on the rich. No, we need to lower them. Or raise them.

And American workers? Their wages are too high. No, too many earn nothing because foreign workers make so much less. Then again, maybe the minimum wage is too low.

If all his contradictory comments seem confusing, the fact is that they are. They are also difficult to square with Trump touting his economics degree from an Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania, where he claims he was a top student.

What reality-show hosts say is of no consequence. But every public word presidents speak gets scrutinized worldwide. Candidate Trump’s wildly inaccurate and ahistorical statements are of no official consequence, but were he president they would have serious and damaging effects on the United States.

Consider what Trump said on May 5 to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about the cost of servicing federal debt: “If interest rates go up 1%, that’s devastating. What happens if that interest rate goes up 2, 3, 4 points? We don’t have a country.”

By Trump’s reckoning America should have ceased to be a country long ago. Back in 1982 the 10-year bond paid 14.6%. Uncle Sam’s average interest cost on all federal debt was 6.6% when George W. Bush took office. Last month it was just 2.3% even though the debt is 17 times the level of 34 years ago.

Trump talked about buying back debt at a discount and cited his own success in taking out loans, but not paying them back in full. “I’m the king of debt,” he said, in one of his frequent tangential comments focusing not on how a Trump administration would govern, but reminding us of his self-proclaimed greatness.

When journalists try to parse Trump’s words—no easy task because transcripts show jumbled thoughts galore—his response is to accuse them of misquoting him. So, whom to believe: Trump or that lying videotape?

On CNBC, Trump implied that when he took out some loans, he never intended to repay them in full.

“I’ve borrowed knowing that you can pay back with discounts,” he said on CNBC. “And I’ve done very well with debt. Now, of course, I was swashbuckling, and it did well for me, and it was good for me, and all that. And you know debt was sort of always interesting to me. Now, we are in a different situation with a country, but I would borrow knowing that if the economy crashed you could make a deal.”

That last sentence might send shivers down the spines of those who buy federal debt, as it could be read to say he would crash the economy as president just to make the market price of Treasury debt fall. I read his remarks as another example of his lack of articulation, but others could reasonably read into those remarks a plan to submarine the economy.

When challenged about his words, Trump revised his comments saying he was thinking only in terms of renegotiating the federal debt—88% of which matures in 10 years or less—to longer terms. What Trump didn’t mention is that Treasury bonds with maturities of up to 30 years pay on average 4.5% interest, more than double the average federal interest rate. The contradiction here is obvious: By Trump’s own words switching to longer-term Treasury bonds would result in interest expenses so high that America would cease to exist.

The Politics of Winging It

How and why “we wouldn’t have a country” were interest rates to rise is just one of the many observations that Trump has never been asked to explain.

When Trump’s comments drew widespread criticism as reckless, he turned the tables on those who reported what he said. He claimed that others put words in his mouth and distorted his intent.

So how do we make sense of the following: “If we can buy bonds back at a discount,” he said, “we should do that.” He also said that there would be no reason for holders of federal debt to ask the government to buy their bonds back at a discount. If that is so—and it is—then why say any of this?

The explanation is that Trump is winging it, making it up as he goes along just as he has through his career, which I have covered on and off for 27 years.

To those who understand economics, public finance and taxes, listening to Donald Trump talk about these issues is like listening to Sarah Palin talk about anything. The contradictions, the baseless assumptions, the meandering sentences that veer off into nowhere belong more in the fictional world of “Alice in Wonderland” where, as the Cheshire cat advised, “it really doesn’t matter which way you go” in search of the White Rabbit, but you could ask the Mad Hatter or the equally mad March Hare.

You might think that after decades of planning a run for the White House—after all, he did run in 2000 as a Reform Party candidate—Trump would have developed a clear set of views on economics. You might think he would have devoured policy papers, retained top experts and tested out ideas in speeches heard by few. You might think he would have polished and logical lines by now.

But that would require treating these issues as matters deserving of serious study. Absent such study, it is no surprise that much of what Trump says confounds those who have spent their lives studying economics, public finance, taxes and history.

Whatever Trump may have learned in college, his flip-flopping and wavering suggest that Trump saw no need to prepare to be president. It’s as if a chef decided he didn’t need to learn how to cook before pulling off a White House State Dinner.

Trump just tosses concepts into a pot. He starts with made-up numbers (our China trade deficit is $338 billion, not Trump’s $500 billion); adds some brazen conspiracy theories (Obama was not born an American citizen); mixes them with irreconcilable vagaries (taxes should go down, but so should budget deficits); tosses in some populist myths (thousands in North Jersey celebrated as the Twin Towers burned) and rotten ideas (the President telling Carrier, Ford and Nabisco where to build factories)—and finishes it all off with a bucket of rhetorical nonsense.

Trump is superb at one aspect of this. His economic stew would induce economic food poisoning, but he sells it with an appealing name: Make America Great Again.

 

By: David Cay Johnston, The Daily Beast, May 10, 2016

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Economic Policy, Federal Debt | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Rational Outcome Can’t Be Taken For Granted”: Democrats, Don’t Celebrate Trump’s Nomination. Fear it.

I know the polls say Donald Trump cannot win. But what if we are looking at the wrong poll question?

What if Trump’s overwhelming negatives don’t matter? Or, to put it another way, what if the country’s negatives matter more?

Right now, about 6 in 10 Americans have an unfavorable view of Trump, and only 36 percent view him positively.

But the country is faring even worse. In the most recent average of polls calculated by RealClearPolitics, 26.9 percent of Americans think the nation is headed in the right direction and 64.9 percent think we are heading down the wrong track.

So what if even voters who respect Hillary Clinton’s competence reject her as the embodiment of business as usual? And what if even voters who do not like Trump’s bigotry or bluster care more that he will, in their view, shake things up?

Sure, these voters might tell themselves, he may be crude, or inconsistent, or ill-informed. He may insult women and Hispanics and other groups. But it’s part of a shtick. He probably doesn’t mean half of it. He’s just an entertainer. The desire to send a message of disgust or disapproval, in other words, could lead voters to overlook, discount, wish away or excuse many Trump sins.

Meanwhile, Clinton cannot shake free of the status quo. You may remember how this bedeviled Al Gore when he asked voters to give the Democratic Party a third straight presidential term in 2000. The vice president managed to achieve the worst of both worlds, alienating Bill Clinton and his most ardent supporters without establishing himself as an entirely new brand.

Unlike Gore, Hillary Clinton is not an incumbent. But she is no less associated with the establishment, having served as first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state over the past quarter-century. Even if she were inclined to do so, she could not afford to distance herself from President Obama, whose backers she will need to turn out in large numbers.

I know there is an element of irrationality in these fears. I understand that not every dissatisfied American will vote for Trump.

About two-thirds of the country may think we are on the wrong track, after all, but Obama’s approval rating is 51 percent and rising.

Meanwhile, only 4.7 percent of eligible voters have actually cast a ballot for Trump in the party nomination process so far, as an analysis by FairVote shows. Many of the remaining 95.3 percent, no matter how unhappy most are with the performance of their government, will take their responsibility seriously enough that they will not vote for someone who casually threatens the faith and credit of the United States, breezily posits the merits of nuclear proliferation and cheerfully espouses torture as an instrument of U.S. policy.

Republicans are divided, the economy is improving, the demographics are increasingly in Democrats’ favor. The likeliest result of a Trump nomination is a Republican washout up and down the ballot.

I do get all that.

Still, when I hear smart people explaining why Trump cannot win, all I can think is: Aren’t you the ones who told us that he couldn’t top 30 percent, and then 40 percent, and then 50 percent in the Republican primaries? Weren’t you confident that he was finished after he called Mexicans rapists, and insulted prisoners of war, and dished out a menstruation insult?

Did you predict his nomination? If not, we don’t want to hear your certainty about his November defeat.

Nor is it reassuring to read how happy the Clinton camp must be to be facing such a weak opponent. They need to be running scared — smart, but scared — now and for the next six months.

I do have faith in the American voter, I really do. But when two-thirds of the country is unhappy, a rational outcome can’t be taken for granted.

 

By: Fred Hiatt, Editorial Page Editor, The Washington Post, May 8, 2016

May 10, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Donald Trump, General Election 2016 | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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