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“A ‘Base’ Election?”: The Trump Campaign Seems To Be Forgetting That Its Real Audience Isn’t In Quicken Arena

Thursday night’s official Republican National Convention theme is “Make America One Again.” After the first three nights, displaying Donald Trump’s campaign as a force for unity anywhere — even just in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena — will take some doing.

On Wednesday night, Team Trump deliberately provoked what can only be described as a lose-lose confrontation with Ted Cruz that created a nasty and divisive scene overshadowing the maiden speech of the vice-presidential nominee. With each such decision, you get the impression the people in charge of this convention have forgotten that the real “arena” is the general election, and that their real audience is an electorate far beyond this bowl seething with unaccountably angry delegates.

Otherwise it’s hard to credit the constant, interminable, over-the-top feeding of red meat to the crowd, beginning with Willie Robertson’s first-night taunting of people who are not “real Americans.” It may be understandable that speakers are tempted to interact with the people on the floor howling for Hillary Clinton’s incarceration, but the job of convention managers is to remind them that these people are TV props — ignore them and remember the whole world’s watching!

It’s almost as though the Trump people are treating the convention as the culmination of the mogul’s campaign: an opportunity to glory in their extremely unlikely conquest of one of America’s two major parties, to gloat over the shattered Establishment that’s being forced to accept them, and to shake their fists at the unbelievers who still mock their orange-tinted champion. That there is still a difficult election ahead and that this convention is a priceless earned-media opportunity to reach out beyond their own ranks seems to be lost on this wild show’s organizers and participants.

Perhaps they have oversubscribed to the idea that this is a “base” election with virtually no swing voters that will be decided strictly on the basis of who can get supporters so whipped up into a hate-frenzy that they vote at unprecedented levels. Or maybe they decided in advance that conventions don’t really matter as anything other than a reward to core supporters who are cavorting over the supine bodies of their class and ideological enemies in the GOP.

In any event, Donald Trump has set quite the challenge for himself in making unity, of all things, his announced theme for the climactic convention address, the one thing that could make people forget the atavistic images from the first three nights. As I noted in an earlier column, Paul Manafort says the tycoon is modeling his speech on Richard Nixon’s reasonably successful (if retroactively ludicrous) 1968 acceptance speech effort to pose as a moderate third-way alternative to the raging forces of left and right. In this case it would be like George Wallace seizing the podium at that 1968 convention and denouncing the furies he had himself conjured up.

Short of self-criticism, which does not seem to be in his repertoire, Donald Trump is going to have a hard time projecting himself as a unifying figure. But to have any chance of success, he needs to begin by reminding himself that it just doesn’t matter whether the delegates physically before him in the arena go away slightly disappointed that he passed up an opportunity to reflect their excited rage.

 

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

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

“A Dysfunctional Circus”: Trump Picks An Odd Time To Sue A Former Staffer

It’s tempting to assume Donald Trump would have plenty to occupy his time right now: choosing a running mate, preparing for his national nomination convention that begins in five days, trying to close the gap against Hillary Clinton, etc.

But as it turns out, the Republican candidate has also found the time to focus on filing a new lawsuit.

Donald Trump is seeking $10 million from a former aide he accused of leaking confidential information about a public spat between two senior campaign staffers, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Trump claimed that fired campaign consultant Sam Nunberg went to the press with confidential information in violation of a nondisclosure agreement, which the real estate mogul requires nearly all staffers for his campaign and businesses to sign.

Even by this campaign’s standards, it’s an odd story. Nunberg was fired last summer for publishing racist messages via social media. He then allegedly leaked word of an affair between two Trump campaign staffers. This leak, Team Trump believes, was a breach of the non-disclosure agreement Nunberg signed.

Which brings us to today’s court filing.

The Washington Post’s Robert Costa added that Trump reportedly “decided to file a lawsuit in the middle of a general-election campaign because he’s furious” with Nunberg.

But that’s not much of an explanation. Donald Trump is scheduled to receive a major-party presidential nomination literally next week. He’s announcing his running mate in two days. Whether he’s furious with Nunberg over campaign gossip or not, it’s not unreasonable to think Trump should have some impulse control.

As for the larger context, Trump’s entire political operation too often resembles a dysfunctional circus. Let’s not forget that the GOP candidate fired his campaign manager less than a month ago, and he’s parted ways with several other top aides since.

One senior aide was let go after less than three weeks on the job, while another was given the boot after less than three days.

For months, Trump’s campaign staff has earned a reputation for amateurish infighting, high turnover, and a complete lack of direction. I suspect the typical American voter will not know or care about any of this, but it matters: a national candidate who can’t run a credible campaign operation will struggle to oversee a competent White House operation.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 13, 2016

July 14, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Republican National Convention, Trump Campaign | , , , , | 2 Comments

“Ask Me No Questions If You Can’t Take The Answer”: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Abandons All Subtlety Towards Trump

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dipped her toe into the political waters last week, conceding to the Associated Press that she’d rather not “think about” the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency. “If it should be,” she added, “then everything is up for grabs.”

A couple of days later, Ginsburg went just a little further while speaking to the New York Times. Reflecting again on a possible Trump administration, the justice said, “For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be – I don’t even want to contemplate that.” Echoing a sentiment from her late husband, Ginsburg said a Trump victory in November would mean “it’s time for us to move to New Zealand.”

Apparently, the more she answers these questions, the stronger Ginsburg’s feelings on the subject.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called Donald Trump “a faker” Monday night, doubling down on her critical comments about a potential Trump presidency.

“He has no consistency about him,” Ginsburg told CNN. “He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego…. How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.”

It’s at this point that objective observers have to start wondering whether Ginsburg is going further than she should.

I realize, of course, that justices’ ideologies are not exactly a secret. The fact that Ruth Bader Ginsburg wants to see Donald J. Trump lose should surprise literally no one. It’s a safe bet that Clarence Thomas is equally eager to see Hillary Clinton lose. There’s no great mystery here.

But as much as I admire and respect Ginsburg, critics are raising a legitimate question. If I’m being honest, I probably wouldn’t be at all pleased if, say, Samuel Alito started giving a series of media interviews, playing the role of election pundit and intervening in the electoral process. If the question today is whether Ginsburg is breaking with judicial protocol, fairness dictates that the answer is yes.

Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor and a Georgetown University Law professor, wrote a piece for the New York Times defending the progressive justice for speaking her mind.

Normally Supreme Court justices should refrain from commenting on partisan politics. But these are not normal times. The question is whether a Supreme Court justice – in this case, the second woman on the court, a civil rights icon and pioneering feminist – has an obligation to remain silent when the country is at risk of being ruled by a man who has repeatedly demonstrated that he is a sexist and racist demagogue. The answer must be no. […]

When despots have ascended to power in other regimes, one wonders how judges should have responded. Should they have adhered to a code of silence while their country went to hell? Not on the watch of the Notorious R.B.G. She understands that if Trump wins, the rule of law is at risk.

I can appreciate the argument. I even want to agree with it. If Trump is a unique threat to the American political system and a genuine menace, it’s unreasonable to think people of good conscience should stay silent in the name of propriety.

But Ginsburg isn’t just another voter; she’s a sitting justice on the Supreme Court. If there were a crisis along the lines of the 2000 election, and the high court was asked to adjudicate a case related to this election’s outcome, would Americans have confidence of Ginsburg’s impartiality? Would she have to recuse herself, thus affecting the outcome?

I appreciate the broader context and the fact that Ginsburg may be understandably worried about her own role in sending the nation in a radical and regressive direction. But the fact remains, those who’ve said she’s going too far are raising a legitimate concern that is not easily dismissed.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 12, 2016

July 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Politics, Ruth Bader Ginsburg | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Bandwagon Effect”: How Trump’s Dog Whistles Work

The headline from an article by Jill Colvin and Matthew Daly caught my eye: Trump: ‘A Lot Of People’ Feel That Black Lives Matter Is ‘Inherently Racist.” Here’s the context:

Trump also had harsh words for the Black Lives Matters movement, which has organized some of the protests. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump adviser, labeled the group “inherently racist” over the weekend in an interview with CBS News.

“When you say black lives matter, that’s inherently racist,” Giuliani said. “Black lives matter. White lives matter. Asian lives matter. Hispanic lives matter. That’s anti-American and it’s racist.”

Asked whether he agreed with Giuliani’s assessment, Trump said the group’s name is “divisive.”

“A lot of people agree with that. A lot of people feel that it is inherently racist. And it’s a very divisive term,” he said. “Because all lives matter. It’s a very, very divisive term.”

We could talk about the racism being expressed by both Giuliani and Trump in that exchange. But the framing of Trump’s statement is something he does very often; “A lot of people agree with that. A lot of people feel…” It is a logical fallacy called argumentum ad populum.

…a fallacious argument that concludes that a proposition is true because many or most people believe it: “If many believe so, it is so.”

We sometimes call this the “bandwagon effect” captured by the Chinese proverb, “three men make a tiger.”

“Three men make a tiger” refers to an individual’s tendency to accept absurd information as long as it is repeated by enough people. It refers to the idea that if an unfounded premise or urban legend is mentioned and repeated by many individuals, the premise will be erroneously accepted as the truth.

Jenna Jones noticed Trump’s attachment to this fallacy about a month ago and documented how he used it to spread his conspiracy theories. For example, when he was asked to explain a statement about how President Obama doesn’t understand Muslim terrorists, he said this:

“Well,” Trump said on the “Today Show” Monday morning, “there are a lot of people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it. A lot of people think maybe he doesn’t want to know about it. I happen to think that he just doesn’t know what he’s doing, but there are many people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it. He doesn’t want to see what’s really happening. And that could be.”

Here’s what he said in an attempt to insinuate that the Clintons were involved in the death of Vince Foster:

“I don’t bring [Foster’s death] up because I don’t know enough to really discuss it,” Trump said in an interview with The Post in May. “I will say there are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder. I don’t do that because I don’t think it’s fair.”

Jones points out that this is how Trump maneuvers in order to be able to backtrack when circumstances require him to do so.

Trump frequently couches his most controversial comments this way, which allows him to share a controversial idea, piece of tabloid gossip or conspiracy theory without technically embracing it. If the comment turns out to be popular, Trump will often drop the distancing qualifier — “people think” or “some say.” If the opposite happens, Trump can claim that he never said the thing he is accused of saying, equating it to retweeting someone else’s thoughts on Twitter.

What is important to remember is the part about why he does it in the first place. It is a way for Trump to give a wink and a nod to white supremacists and conspiracy theorists to say, “I hear you, I’m with you.” That is his way of doing dog whistle politics.

 

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

July 13, 2016 Posted by | Black Lives Matter, Donald Trump, Racism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Johnson-Weld Ticket”: An Opportunity For #NeverTrump Republicans To Save Face

Let’s face it: the #NeverTrump movement is an admission of embarrassment on the part of veteran Republicans, an acknowledgment that the Southern Strategy was suicidal, a concession that as a result of fifty years of playing to ignorant fears, the GOP base is largely comprised of people who think the term “animal husbandry” refers to bestiality. You can’t blame these veteran Republicans for wanting to wash their hands of their creation–and you can’t blame them for seeking alternate political routes:

For some Massachusetts Republicans, the return of Bill Weld — the law-and-order Yankee who charmed his way into two terms as governor of a liberal state — is nothing short of face-saving.

Finally, they have a reason to show up on Election Day.

“I think for a lot of Republicans, especially in a state like Massachusetts, it gives us an option,” said Virginia Buckingham, a Republican who once worked as Weld’s chief of staff, and will vote for him this fall. “We were kind of in a difficult position facing voting for Donald Trump.”

Weld’s reemergence as a vice presidential candidate on the Libertarian ticket with former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson has been viewed largely as another curiosity in a crazy election cycle in which, it seems, anything might happen…

Although the #NeverTrump movement isn’t beating down their door, Johnson and Weld are reaching for voters disenchanted with Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In a Web ad launched last week, Johnson and Weld presented themselves as a “credible alternative to ClinTrump.”

I have previously suggested that it is not beyond possibility for the Johnson-Weld ticket to perform strongly enough in national polls to warrant inclusion in the presidential debates. If so, the symbolism will be powerful. Think about it:  Clinton, Johnson and Trump–a Democrat demonized for decades by the demagogues who dote on the Donald, an ex-Republican who was regarded as a RINO by the same twits who think Trump is terrific, and the Orange Goblin himself, the single most unqualified individual to ever secure a major American party’s nomination, the single most irrational figure in modern politics, a hero to haters, a Jesus to jerks.

I give Johnson credit for defying both Republican and Libertarian taboos in his July 1 appearance on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher (relevant segment runs from 3:02-5:15):

Other than former Cato Institute fellow Jerry Taylor, I have never heard anyone associated with libertarianism acknowledge that human-caused climate change is real. That’s progress. If Clinton and Johnson appear on the debate stage next to Trump and affirm that mainstream climate science is legitimate, and Trump reiterates his belief that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese government, climate hawks will be able to declare a moral victory, because the optics will not work in Trump’s favor.

The Johnson-Weld ticket is an option, and an opportunity, for veteran Republicans to save face. It will be interesting to see how many Republicans avail themselves of this option and this opportunity. Having said that, I hope Republicans who support this ticket at least have the decency to admit that men like Johnson and Weld were effectively forced out of the GOP because they were not blind ideologues, because they understood that some issues are not left or right, because they recognized that we’re all Americans first…because they were too nice, too civil, too human for the Trumpublican Party.

Clinton will be able to hold her own in a three-way debate with Johnson and Trump. She will also not hesitate to remind viewers that if the GOP had not gone grotesque, a man like Johnson–flawed but not foul, mistaken but not malicious, incorrect but not insane–would be the Republican nominee, and not a deacon of derangement like the Donald.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 10, 2016

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Johnson-Weld Ticket, Never Trump Movement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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