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“There Are Rules Involved”: Want To Change The System, Trump And Sanders Supporters? Learn How It Works First

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” — George Orwell

Civic participation is one of the most important responsibilities of being an American. I’m old enough to remember when being selected to lead your homeroom class in the daily Pledge of Allegiance was a source of great pride. As kids, with our hands over our hearts, shoulders squared, we’d recite those venerable words, “…and to the republic, for which is stands…” with purpose. Unfortunately, the moral imperative of being a good steward of this great nation and understanding what it takes to preserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, is an afterthought for many, if any thought at all.

Without question, the insurgent candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have jolted many Americans out of their normal political malaise. Bringing more citizens into the political fold is a good thing. But, what many of them are now realizing is that it takes more than just rolling out of bed to rage against the machine at big political rallies to select the next leader of the free world.

Surprise! There are rules involved. Rules governing the presidential election date back to our founding and the establishment of the Electoral College. The Constitution also gives latitude to the states in how to structure their nominating process. Electing the president wasn’t necessarily meant to be easy. Nothing worth safeguarding usually is. The founders deliberately designed our constitutional republic that way to avoid the tyrannical pitfalls of past societies like ancient Greece or the monarchies of Europe.

The Framers wanted multi-layered stakeholders invested in the best interest of the republic making it less vulnerable to the rash whims of a majority. They understood how pure democracy without checks and balances historically led to the subjugation of minority voices. It was true then and still rings true today. That’s why our Constitution does not allow for direct voting to elect the president.

The inconvenient truth is it’s our responsibility as citizens to be informed and understand how our voting laws work. And it’s the responsibility of any serious candidate for president to do the same. In this day and age, when the answers to almost anything are no more than a Google search or Siri question away, there’s no excuse for ignorance of the law/rules. With freedom comes responsibility by each and every one of us to pay enough attention to make sure those freedoms are protected.

The act of voting is one of the most fundamental rights and privileges of being an American, yet millions take it for granted and seemingly can’t be bothered to learn how their state voting procedures and deadlines work, i.e. Colorado or even New York for that matter. Just ask Trump’s own children.

It’s typical of not only Donald Trump’s personality to shift blame onto everyone and thing other than himself when he fails miserably, but it’s a growing characteristic of our society. Perhaps many are victims of their own uninformed apathy.

Perhaps there’s a lack of emphasis on the importance of civic engagement and what that entails.

Which brings me to a story shared with me by a former elementary school teacher of a charter school in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C.  She wanted to incorporate lessons on World War II into her curriculum. When she approached the principal about her plan, the principal scoffed and said, “What do we need to know about World War II for?” Seriously? If this is the attitude of some educators, no wonder it’s so easy to throw slogans around like Make American Great Again when so many don’t even understand what made America great in the first place.

Unfortunately, this teacher’s experience is not isolated. It’s going on in school districts around the country. Federal education policies like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have shifted emphasis away from social studies and history to a focus on standardized testing. In 2012, 21 states required testing in history and only nine of them required it to graduate. Only one-third of Americans can name the three branches of government, much less say what each does.

As a result of this disheartening trend, the Civics Education Initiative was born. It seeks to require high school students, as a condition for graduation, to pass a test on 100 basic facts of U.S. history and civics similar to the United States Citizenship Civics Test. The national effort is gaining traction with Arizona, Utah, and the Dakotas now requiring the civic proficiency test for graduation. A dozen other states are considering the same. It’s a start.

A dumbed down electorate is more susceptible to the manipulation of charismatic figures willing to allegedly “tell it like it is” while preying on their fears and ignorance of the history and framework of the country. It allows for someone like Donald Trump, or Bernie Sanders for that matter, to whip mobs of people into a frenzy believing they’ve been disenfranchised by a system they don’t even understand.

Scores of folks on both the Left and the Right complain that “This is not how democracy works!” They are right. This is how a constitutional republic works.

Is our system infallible? Of course not. Various changes have been made from the enactment of the 12th Amendment to the creation of the McGovern Frasier Commission after the tumult of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. If people are unhappy with the current rules, then by all means work to improve them.

However, the time to do that is not in the middle of an election cycle when the rules have already been set and agreed upon by all campaigns involved. There’s no whining in politics.

Albert Einstein famously said, “First you learn the rules of the game. Then you play better than everyone else.” Prior to running for president, Trump retweeted that very quote in 2014.  Too bad in 2016 he’s chosen to kvetch about allegedly “rigged” rules instead of putting in the campaign work to finish the job and win. It’s much easier to play the victim than take responsibility. Nowadays, it’s always someone else’s fault.

It takes effort to become President of the United States. Just like it takes effort to be a good citizen. When something is important enough, we make it a priority. It’s not the government’s job to compel us to pay attention.

How far we’ve come from President Kennedy’s decree to “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”

Let’s start by learning how it works.


By: Tara Setmayer, The Daily Beast, April 19, 2016

April 20, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democracy, Donald Trump, Presidential Elections | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“United In Our Loathing For Trump”: Why Donald Trump Is Probably Praying For An Amnesia Epidemic

There are a few unfortunate people in the world who, because they experienced a brain trauma, are unable to form new memories. They exist in a combination of the distant past and the present moment, unable to contextualize what they see right now with what happened yesterday or the day before. If Donald Trump is to become president of the United States, he needs a majority of the American electorate to experience this cruel brand of amnesia.

To understand what I mean, let’s start with where Trump is right now. While the contest for delegates is in a phase of uncertainty, it’s still likely that Trump will become the Republican nominee. And Trump is not just unpopular, but spectacularly unpopular. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll showed 67 percent of voters have an unfavorable opinion of him. Not only has no presidential candidate with negatives that high ever won, no candidate has ever had negatives that high, period, with the sole exception of KKK leader David Duke. Trump is disliked by majorities of men and women, whites, blacks, and Latinos, young people and old people, rich people and poor people, Southerners and Northerners, liberals and conservatives. America may be a divided country, but we’re united in our loathing for Trump.

Even a candidate with the evident weaknesses of Hillary Clinton would not just beat Trump, but destroy him. Based on the polls as they are now, not only could Clinton win the states Barack Obama won four years ago — enough to give her a comfortable victory in the Electoral College — but some Republican states, as well. One poll even shows her beating him in Utah, one of the most conservative states in the country.

But not to worry. Trump promises everything is going to change, just as soon as he has pulverized Ted Cruz and John Kasich. “When I take them out, I will be so presidential you won’t believe it,” he said earlier this week. He goes on: “And then, of course, I’ll start on Hillary, and then I’ll be a little bit less presidential. But assuming I win, I will be very, very — the country will be very proud of me and we will make America great again.”

One can’t help but wonder what being “presidential” means to Trump, besides not being a jerk. He has said more than once that when it’s necessary, he’ll transform into someone completely different. And if he’s going to have any chance at all to win, he’ll have to. But once he does, will the public forget the person he is now?

Sure, every presidential candidate adapts when moving from the primaries to the general election. But most of the time, that involves a change in emphasis, highlighting a different set of issues to appeal to a broad electorate with different priorities from your party’s faithful. For instance, if Cruz becomes the nominee, he’ll probably talk less about building border fences and repealing the Affordable Care Act, and more about creating jobs and fighting terrorism. Wholesale flip-flops are exceedingly rare; instead, candidates seek to alter the ingredients of voters’ decision-making, putting their more widely popular positions nearer to the top of voters’ agendas.

The problem for Trump, however, isn’t just the positions he’s taken but the way he’s taken them. Try to imagine, for instance, that he stopped talking about his border wall and deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants, and instead made some kind of push to woo Latino voters. To succeed, he’d need one of those little memory-wiping devices from Men in Black. According to that Post-ABC poll I mentioned, only 15 percent of Latinos view him favorably, while 81 percent view him unfavorably. It’s going to take an awful lot to change their minds, given Trump’s extreme and vivid rhetoric about immigrants.

Or what about women, 75 percent of whom view Trump negatively at the moment? Are they going to forget his long history of misogyny? What could he possibly say to change their minds?

Trump is counting on Americans having not just short attention spans, but incredibly short memories. He’s planning on giving a series of policy speeches, which is presumably supposed to make voters say, “Huh, I used to think he was the biggest ignoramus ever to run for president, but I guess he’s actually pretty wonky and really knows his stuff.” I have no doubt that once the primaries are over and he’s won the nomination, Trump will alter his tone. But for such a shift to be successful, millions upon millions of voters will have to get temporary amnesia on election day.

Are our memories really that short? It looks like we’re probably going to find out.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, April 15, 2016

April 17, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, GOP Presidential Nominee | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Elections Are Games With Complicated Rules”: How Donald Trump Got The Republican Primary Rules So Very Wrong

Donald Trump is a man obsessed with fairness. Not so much as an abstract principle, but whether he is being “treated fairly,” which essentially comes down to everyone giving him whatever he wants. As the primary campaign moves into its final stages, he is most definitely not being treated fairly, at least as he sees it. Strangely enough, it turns out that presidential campaigns run according to complex rules and procedures that you might not have mastered if you’ve never run for office before.

Trump is still winning, but lately Ted Cruz — nothing if not a shrewd operator — has been working the system to snatch delegates from Trump left and right. It has happened piecemeal in one state after another, but Trump’s outrage erupted after Cruz captured all of Colorado’s 34 delegates. The state party decided last year to allot its delegates not through a primary, but via an intricate process involving caucuses and a series of meetings; Cruz’s people worked that process hard before the Trump campaign even realized what was happening, and wound up with the entire prize.

So now Trump is telling everyone how unfair it was, and his supporters are doing things like burning their registration cards in protest. It no doubt looks to them like, once again, the party insiders are rigging the game in their favor. But the real problem here is that Trump and the people supporting him were laboring under the misimpression that the nomination process is democratic. It isn’t.

The fundamental fact is that this entire enterprise we’re witnessing is about two private entities, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, choosing the people they want to put up for the real election in the fall. Just like the Democrats, the GOP can conduct that contest in any way it wants. It could select its nominee with primaries, or caucuses, or state conventions, or by holding an essay contest, or using one of those carnival strength testers, or with careful phrenological measurements of the candidates’ craniums. It’s up to them.

The fact that Trump didn’t understand that, and doesn’t understand the particular rules under which the contest is taking place, is like someone complaining that his opponent used a flea flicker in a football game or a double steal in a baseball game. Even if it momentarily confused you, that doesn’t mean it was cheating.

It can be easy to forget, when so many Americans are going to polling places and we’re taking exit polls and counting votes, that for most of American history, the backroom deal at the convention was the norm. Each party’s leaders would get together and pick the person they thought most likely to bring them to victory (or the person best able to dole out favors). It wasn’t until both parties transformed their nomination processes in the late 1960s that the parties’ rank and file took much of a role in the nomination process, and primaries became something more than a way for those leaders to get a sense of what voters wanted — which they could ignore at their will.

Since those reforms, we’ve gotten used to the idea that the parties’ nomination processes are supposed to uphold our fundamental right of fair representation. But they don’t have to. And that’s not to mention the fact that there are lots of features of the process that no one including Donald Trump is questioning, but that are equally unfair to voters. For instance, some of the states on the Republican side allot their delegates on a winner-take-all basis, which effectively nullifies the votes of anyone who didn’t vote for the winner. Donald Trump won the Florida primary with 46 percent of the vote, yet even though most Florida Republicans voted against him, he got all 99 of the state’s delegates. I don’t recall him complaining about how unfair that was.

And of course, there’s an analogy with the general election, which is determined by the decidedly undemocratic means of the Electoral College. If you’re a Democrat living in Texas or a Republican living in California, you know for certain that your vote will have absolutely no effect on the outcome of the race, no matter how close it might be.

So even though the stakes are impossibly high, elections are games with complicated rules. It isn’t enough to be the most appealing candidate; you also have to master those rules, or at the very least, hire people who understand them and can help you avoid their pitfalls. Donald Trump never bothered, and now he’s paying the price.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, April 13, 2016

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Rules, Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, GOP Primaries | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Dems, Don’t Freak Out About Rubio Just Yet”: Let’s Take A Look At His Drawbacks, Shall We?

So in the past week or so, it seems that people have decided that Marco Rubio is going to be the GOP nominee. What people, you ask? Oh, you know—the kind of people a person like me means when he says “people.” Which is to say, not regular real people, but total political junkies, and, being on the side of the fence I’m on, mostly liberal total political junkies.

The logic is straightforward enough. It looks like the race will eventually whittle down to one outsider vs. one insider. The outsider could be Donald Trump or who knows maybe Ben Carson, with an outside shot at Carly Fiorina. As for the insider, not so long ago that was either Rubio or Jeb Bush or John Kasich, throw a dart. But Bush just keeps getting worse and worse, and Kasich looks increasingly goofy. This is a great mystery so far. Here’s a guy 20-something years in the public eye. He should be better at this. But he’s not. An NBC/Marist poll that came out Monday showed Kasich on the march in New Hampshire over the last month, but in the wrong direction—he’s gone from 12 to 6 percent. In Iowa, he’s nowhere.

So that leaves Rubio as Mr. Insider. He’s been good in the debates, has gained some ground in most polls, and at least conveys the impression of actually trying. And since none of my people can really believe that Trump or Carson is going to win the actual nomination, it’s going to have to go to the insider in the end. Hence, Rubio.

Now, here’s the second thing these people believe: Rubio frightens them. They think he could win. “He’s the one who makes me nervous,” they say.

Well, of course he could win. And I don’t deny that he has certain attributes the others lack. But I think my little focus group is over-sweating this. So herewith, four reasons why Rubio might be formidable, and four corresponding reasons why he’s being overrated.

Reason One: This whole youth business. Let’s face it, on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is the spring chicken. At least she’d be shy of 70 when inaugurated. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden probably couldn’t last two terms. So Rubio can lay it on thick with all that cloying rhetoric about the future and passing torches to a new generation. The media really fall for that. Oh, and speaking of…

Reason Two: It seems the media like him. They sure like him more than they like Hillary. If she’s the nominee, the default narrative in the media will be something like “fresh-faced new figure takes on tired old hag.”

Reason Three: The Latino vote. You’ll be reading a lot if he’s the nominee about how he won 55 percent of the Latino vote in his first Senate run in Florida in 2010. The press will be full of breathless stories about how if he can replicate that, the Democrats are doomed.

Reason Four: He seems reasonable and totally unthreatening, which may make it hard for Democrats to sell people on the idea that he’s a right-wing extremist. There’s an art for these wingers in knowing how to emphasize all the non-extreme stuff and really play down the extreme parts. Rubio is better at that than the others. A case in point is that woman-on-the-$10-bill business from the second debate. Three of them said Rosa Parks, but Rubio said it first. This was after Rand Paul said Susan B. Anthony, which isn’t bad, but Anthony doesn’t cover nearly as many reassure-mainstream-America bases as Parks does. Also keep in mind that he had that crackerjack answer about Black Lives Matter recently, which was likely the best response to the movement by a GOP candidate. If Rubio can keep doing things like that, the “No, you fools, he’s a true right winger!” counter-narrative might be very tough to advance.

All right. Now, here are the reasons why Rubio is eminently beatable in a general election.

Reason One: His youth story line can be very easily countered. Picture a Clinton-Rubio debate. Rubio prattles on about youth, the future, optimism, what have you. Mrs. Clinton? “Well, look, the Senator is undoubtedly younger than I am, that’s an objective fact. But if we’re talking about which one of us has the policies of the past, I’d say voters should look beyond mere age. Which one of us wants to keep fighting the Cold War in Cuba, and which one of us wants to move toward a new future there? Which one of us opposes gay people getting married, a policy of the past that large majorities of Americans no longer support? Which one of us would allow no abortions even in the case of rape and incest, which is literally kind of a 19th-century position? Which one of us not only opposes raising the minimum wage but opposes the existence of a federal minimum wage law, which would put us all the way back to 1937, the last time this country had no federal minimum wage? That’s the candidate of the future?” Boom. If she said something like that and made two good commercials and Democrats in general hammered away at it, Rubio would shut up about the future pretty fast.

Reason Two: The women’s vote. Let’s go back to that abortion sentence above. It was at the first debate that Rubio said no rape or incest exceptions on abortion. Now, if he becomes the nominee, he’ll try to walk that back in some way, at least rhetorically, and he’s usually been clever and slippery in the way he’s worded it. No Republican nominee since abortion became a public issue has ever opposed exceptions for rape and incest. It’s an extreme position that should, if the Democrats hit it the right way, cost him a few points among suburban women in all the key swing states.

Reason Three: The Latino vote. He’s not getting close to 55 percent among Latinos. OK, some say, but what if he gets a mere 40, isn’t that enough? Well, maybe, maybe not, depending on other factors. But after being for immigration reform, he’s now basically against it and against a path to citizenship, although here too he is slippery. He says now that we should postpone the citizenship debate for 10 or 12 years, which means that if he serves eight, he won’t be the guy to be doing anything about it.

So that’s a way of being against it without saying the words “I’m against it,” but people aren’t stupid. In one recent poll that looked especially closely at Latino preferences (PDF), Clinton led Rubio among Latinos 61 to 31 percent (statistically, no different from how she fared against Bush or Ted Cruz). I would bet you today that that’s about how it will end up if those two face each other. And that ain’t enough.

Reason Four: The Electoral College. My long-suffering readers know that I bang on about this a lot, but the Democrats have a big advantage here, and I see nothing about Rubio that will shake this up. Rand Paul could have beaten Clinton in Colorado and Nevada, maybe even Ohio. Not Rubio. And fine, let him win Florida. A Democrat can still get 300-plus electoral votes without Florida.

So there you have it. Calm down, people. Rubio is better than the rest of the field. That’s about all that can be said of him at this point.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 6, 2015

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, GOP Presidential Candidates, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“A Bizarrely Common Argument”: No, Hillary Doesn’t Have An Obligation To Try To Win Over Southern White Voters

Do presidential candidates have an obligation to campaign everywhere, and to make particular appeals to every demographic group? That’s the case made by this big article that appeared in Sunday’s New York Times and continues to drive discussion today. Here’s an excerpt:

Hillary Rodham Clinton appears to be dispensing with the nationwide electoral strategy that won her husband two terms in the White House and brought white working-class voters and great stretches of what is now red-state America back to Democrats.

Instead, she is poised to retrace Barack Obama’s far narrower path to the presidency: a campaign focused more on mobilizing supporters in the Great Lakes states and in parts of the West and South than on persuading undecided voters.

Mrs. Clinton’s aides say it is the only way to win in an era of heightened polarization, when a declining pool of voters is truly up for grabs. Her liberal policy positions, they say, will fire up Democrats, a less difficult task than trying to win over independents in more hostile territory — even though a broader strategy could help lift the party with her.

This early in the campaign, however, forgoing a determined outreach effort to all 50 states, or even most of them, could mean missing out on the kind of spirited conversation that can be a unifying feature of a presidential election. And it could leave Mrs. Clinton, if she wins, with the same difficulties Mr. Obama has faced in governing with a Republican-controlled Congress.

In terms of geography, this is a bizarre — yet bizarrely common — argument. I addressed this at some length in this piece at the American Prospect, but the simple fact is that as long as we have an Electoral College and 48 of the 50 states assign their electors on a winner-take-all basis, there is absolutely no reason for candidates to campaign in states where they have no chance of winning. So they don’t. They also don’t campaign in states where they have no chance of losing.

Neither the Democratic nor the Republican nominee will spend large amounts of time stumping for votes in California, nor in Oklahoma, because everyone already knows what the outcome in those states will be. Democratic senator Joe Manchin is quoted in the article saying Clinton should campaign in his home state of West Virginia, since if Al Gore had won the state in 2000, he would have been president. But in the last presidential election, Barack Obama lost West Virginia by 27 points. If Manchin actually thinks Clinton or any Democratic presidential contender has a shot there, he may not be quite the political genius he fancies himself.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributing Writer, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, June 8, 2015

June 12, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, Red States | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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