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“The ‘Wait and See’ Republicans”: The Idea Of Sending A Narcissistic Bully To The White House Should Be Unthinkable

Republican reaction to Donald Trump as their presumptive presidential nominee is all over the map. Of course there are those who are lining up to support him, some are digging in their heels and saying #NeverTrump, and a few are simply planning to remain silent. Regardless of how you feel about Trump’s candidacy, it is possible to make a case that those are principled positions. But the most bizarre (and unprincipled) reaction comes from those who are saying that they’ll “wait and see.”

That is apparently the case that Joe Scarborough made this morning. But its most ridiculous (and unprincipled) form came from Sen. Susan Collins.

“Donald Trump has the opportunity to unite the party, but if he’s going to build that wall that he keeps talking about, he’s going to have to mend a lot of fences,” said Collins. “He’s going to have stop with gratuitous personal insults.”

“You mean, like saying Ted Cruz’s father killed JFK,” the host interjected.

“Yes, that was the most bizarre yet, I think,” responded Collins, adding Trump needed to now articulate what his presidency would look like through policy, plans, and programs beyond his slogan.

“I think he’s perfectly capable of doing that,” Collins said. “It will be interesting to see whether he changes his style, he starts acting more presidential, and whether he brings people together.”

That is a bizarre position on a couple of levels. First of all, does Collins really need Trump to articulate in more specificity his proposals like banning all Muslims from immigrating to the U.S.? Or his plans to deport all undocumented immigrants? Or targeting the families of terrorists? Or reduce taxes by $1 trillion per year and balance the federal budget? Or his promise to torture prisoners? Or his plan to start a trade war with China? I could go on, but perhaps you get the point. Trump’s policy, plans and programs are absurd and dangerous. Getting into them in more detail over the next six months won’t change that reality.

Secondly, there is this ludicrous notion that the Donald is going to start acting “more presidential” and stop the “gratuitous personal insults.” What Collins probably means is that he will stop bullying Republicans and focus his attacks on Clinton. We all know that is coming. But the truth is that Trump hasn’t just been bullying politicians. He goes after anyone that he sees as a challenge to his ego. Over the last few months that has included Mexican immigrants, the disabled, reporters, women, etc.

I find it hard to comprehend how anyone would think that a man with a long history of narcissistic bullying is suddenly going to become “presidential” over the next few months. Contrary to what some people would have you believe, this isn’t an act that Trump has assumed since he became a reality TV star or decided to run for president. He has a long record on that front. Perhaps some people have forgotten about how he called for the death penalty for the Central Park Five before they were ever convicted. Recently we’ve been hearing about his attack on Native Americans when he was battling them over casinos.

The most egregious example of this came in 2000 in upstate New York, when Trump began bankrolling an ad campaign to stop a casino from being built in the Catskills. As the New York Times reported last month, the local newspaper ads showed “hypodermic needles and drug paraphernalia … [and] warned in dire terms that violent criminals were coming to town.”

“Are these the kind of neighbors we want?” the ad asked, referring to the St. Regis Mohawks Tribe at Akwesasne, which was planning to build the casino. “The St. Regis Mohawk record of criminal activity is well-documented.”

This narcissistic bullying from Trump is not an act. Its who he is. As I’ve said before, if you doubt that, go back and read what Mark Bowden wrote about the time he spent with Trump in 1996.

It just might be possible for Trump to keep a lid on things over the next six months (although I doubt it). But this is the temperament of the guy the Republicans will nominate to be our next president. No one needs to wait and see how all of that is going to turn out. The idea of sending a narcissistic bully to the White House should be unthinkable.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 6, 2016

May 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Nominee, Susan Collins | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Donald Trump’s Narcissistic Delusion”: Incapable Of Assessing His Candidacy Beyond A Dominant White Male Perspective

Donald Trump rose to the top of the pack of Republican presidential candidates with his inflammatory rhetoric about Mexican immigrants. It looks like Hispanic Americans haven’t forgotten about that.

Registration among Hispanic voters is skyrocketing in a presidential election cycle dominated by Donald Trump and loud GOP cries to close the border.

Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials, projects 13.1 million Hispanics will vote nationwide in 2016, compared to 11.2 million in 2012 and 9.7 million in 2008.

Many of those new Hispanic voters are also expected to vote against Trump if he is the Republican nominee, something that appears much more likely after the front-runner’s sweeping primary victories Tuesday in five East Coast states.

A whopping 80 percent of respondents in a poll of registered Hispanic voters in Colorado and Nevada said Trump’s views on immigration made them less likely to vote for Republicans in November. In Florida, that number was 68 percent.

Note that the 80% of registered Hispanics in those states said they are less likely to vote for Republicans…not just Donald Trump. So his rantings are not only affecting the presidential race, but could also have an impact down ballot.

As November looks likely to be a contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, there are whispers of a possible landslide election in the making. It is interesting to note that the Republican Party had a moment of sanity immediately following the 2012 election when they published the infamous “autopsy” suggesting the need to do better outreach – specifically with women and Hispanics. But Donald Trump is succeeding in the Republican primary precisely because he is so intent on alienating those two groups (among others).

There are those who expect that Trump will somehow “pivot” during the general election and increase his appeal beyond the angry white male Republicans who are the base of his support right now. What is important to keep in mind, however, is that Trump is incapable of assessing his candidacy beyond the frame of a dominant white male perspective. That’s why he continually suggests that women, Hispanics and African Americans “love” him despite reality. He won’t feel the need to pivot because he honestly thinks he’s already arrived. In other words, he is living in a delusional world that reinforces his narcissism.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 28, 2016

April 29, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hispanics, White Men | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trump’s Makeover Will Fail”: The Idea That Trump Could Reinvent Himself Mid-Campaign Has Always Been Implausible

If Donald Trump’s political campaign ever gets re-told as an appropriately cheesy biopic, this current moment will be the crucial makeover scene, where the flawed hero finds a mentor who gives him a new polish needed to win. It’s easy to imagine how the scene would play out in an inspirational movie: The Trump campaign is in chaos as they realize he might not get a majority of delegates and his crude antics might alienate so many in the party as to hand over a contested convention to Senator Ted Cruz. As defeat looms, Trump turns to a grizzled political veteran in the form of Paul Manafort, who schools the roughhewn candidate on the necessity of being tactful. The refurbished Trump then goes on to win the Republican nomination and the general election.

This is certainly the scenario Manafort is trying to sell to Republican Party leaders. In a meeting in Hollywood, Florida, he tried to convince GOP bigwigs that Trump’s transformation was well underway and that the candidate was ready to pivot to the center by adopting a more moderate campaign persona. “The part that he’s been playing is evolving into the part that now you’ve been expecting, but he wasn’t ready for, because he had first to complete the first phase,” Manafort said. “The negatives will come down. The image is going to change.”

There are ambiguous indications that some sort of pivot to moderation is happening. Yesterday Trump came out against North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law, which targets transgender people who want to use public bathrooms in keeping with their gender identity. But, as is his wont, Trump waffled on the issue Friday when he said that it should be left up to local communities.

Trump’s flexibility, some argue, would make him a formidable candidate in the general election. After all, he’s not anywhere as beholden to existing Republican constituencies as Cruz, who has deep ties to evangelical Christians, or Senator Marco Rubio, who never allows himself a thought that would alienate the donor class. So in theory Trump can afford to jettison unpopular GOP positions such as opposition to LGBT rights or tax cuts for the rich. This would make him a more viable candidate in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, where the party has been shut out for nearly a generation. A Trump surge in those states would change the electoral map and give him a chance to win in November.

But the idea that Trump could reinvent himself mid-campaign has always been implausible. Aside from his core issues—a draconian immigration policy and mercantilist trade policy—Trump has already been a chameleon, saying whatever he thinks an audience wants to hear. On abortion, he moved in a matter of three days from saying women should be punished to saying there should be no change in the legal status quo. On an appearance on Fox and Friends, Trump embraced the flat tax and then condemned it within a few minutes.

In terms of his persona, Trump’s ability to re-make himself seems minimal. Despite criticisms of his tweeting habits from even his wife, Trump continues to re-tweet white supremacists. And after briefly trying to be polite to “Senator Cruz,” Trump has reverted to his favorite nickname, Lyin’ Ted.

These wild shifts haven’t hurt Trump with his base, who apparently love his stance on immigration and trade so much that they are willing to forgive his ideological heresies. Conversely, though, Trump’s intermittent adoption of moderate positions hasn’t helped him with the general public, where Trump enjoys a near-record level of unpopularity.

Given this enduring unpopularity, any further shifts are unlikely to help. But Trump might still have a legacy for future Republicans who want to adopt a more centrist politics. Trump has shown that a Republican presidential nominee can win a plurality of the vote while being unorthodox on many issues (in Trump’s case, going against the party line on the Iraq war and free trade as well as flirting with abandoning social conservatism).

Even if Trump fails, it might still be possible for a future Republican to win with a streamlined version of his strategy. A successful Trumpian of the future would be anti-immigrant, but express it in less overtly racist ways that alienate mainstream opinion. Such a candidate might also avoid Trump’s blatant misogyny. In effect, the candidate would be Trump Lite—and thus, would be much more palatable to the general public in November.

 

By: Jeet Heer, The New Republic, April 22, 2016

April 23, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, GOP Convention, GOP Establishment | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Every Republican Bad Habit”: Why Donald Trump’s Ham-Fisted Incompetence Is Such A Winning Combo For The Republican Party

Despite his brand as a ruthless businessman whose greed borders on the sociopathic, it’s becoming clear that Donald Trump couldn’t organize his way out of a wet paper sack.

After a deluge of truly abysmal headlines, he has tripped himself up yet again on the way to the Republican nomination, as poor logistics lost him multiple delegates in five states over the weekend. His own kids didn’t even realize they had to change their New York party registration last October in order to be able to vote Trump in the primary on April 19. Sad!

Ted Cruz, with his carefully organized army of staring ideologues, is the natural beneficiary of Trump missteps, and has gathered most of the lost delegates. Of course, if Trump had even a modicum of political competence, he would have long since locked up the nomination. Just look at this tidbit from the weekend caucuses: “The frontrunner’s advisers repeatedly instructed supporters to vote for the wrong candidates — distributing the incorrect delegate numbers to supporters,” Time reports.

Still, it’s hard to imagine a politically competent Trump who would also have run the same campaign that launched him to the front of the pack, where he still remains, despite the recent flailing. It’s a good demonstration of why nobody can lock up this primary.

Trump soared to frontrunner status by exploiting the fact that the GOP base has, for years, been running on the political equivalent of solvent abuse. Angry, resentful, and paranoid, the conservative movement has responded to inconvenient politics or facts with sheer denial or an enraged doubling-down. Climate change going to drown half of America’s coastal cities? It must be a conspiracy cooked up by all those scientists out to get that grant money. Got creamed among Latinos in the presidential election of 2012? To Hades with elite attempts to pass immigration reform as an unavoidable compromise, and primary some major supporters for good measure.

Trump first got into major national politics on the back of the conspiracy theory that President Obama wasn’t really born in the United States. (Obama himself completely humiliated Trump for this at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, which reportedly was the spark for Trump to run for president.) During the primary, he has taken every Republican bad habit — every plausibly-deniable racist dogwhistle, every game of footsie with rancid demagogues, every piece of crank economics or pseudoscience — and made them overt slogans painted in 20-foot-tall letters.

As a strategy to win the Republican primary, such tactics combine extremely well with Trump’s spider sense for his audience’s worst instincts and his absolute genius at manipulating TV media to get himself free coverage.

The rest of the primary field has been unable to mount a serious challenge despite being implicated in exactly the same stuff, just to a lesser degree. If Trump’s tax plan is total garbage (which it is), Rubio’s and Cruz’s were no less so. His signature immigration policy of “huge wall plus deport the brown people” is bonkers, but rooted in decades of conservative anti-immigrant hysteria. And you can draw a straight line to Trump’s “ban Muslims” idea from many previous episodes of whipped-up anti-Muslim bigotry.

But it turns out that such a strategy means absolutely obliterating one’s standing among the broader population. If nominated, Trump would very likely be the least popular major party nominee since the advent of modern polling. Virtually any Democratic nominee would be the heavy favorite against him.

And that illustrates why traditional national Republican candidates wanting to leverage white racism for electoral advantage have used the dogwhistle instead of an actual whistle. Without plausible deniability, you’re going to turn out like Strom Thurmond in 1948. Only Trump, with his unmerited arrogance and manifest ignorance of basic political mechanisms, is dumb enough to try it.

But as a primary strategy, it’s successful enough that the only actual politician to pose a serious challenge to Trump, Ted Cruz, is having to scramble to pick up all the scraps he can find — and Cruz is similar enough to Trump that the party is still fantasizing about nominating someone else. Who knows, it might even work. But it’d be simpler to prevent the party from being eaten by galloping nonsense in the first place.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, April 12, 2016

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Base, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Faith’s Mysterious Ways In The 2016 Campaign”: The Politics Of White Evangelicals Are Evolving

The 2016 election is transforming the religious landscape of American politics.

It’s hard to imagine a Democratic presidential candidate receiving a mid-campaign invitation to speak at the Vatican.

But on Friday, Bernie Sanders put out word that on April 15 he’ll attend a gathering of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Both Sanders and Hillary Clinton, his front-running rival, have regularly praised Pope Francis.

And on the day of Sanders’s announcement, Francis released “The Joy of Love.” The groundbreaking document signaled what can fairly be called a more liberal attitude toward sexuality and the situation of divorced and remarried Catholics.

The pope didn’t change church doctrine on gay marriage but was offering another sign that he’s pushing the church away from cultural warfare and toward a focus on poverty, economic injustice, immigration and the plight of refugees.

On the Republican side, the conservative evangelical movement is divided over Donald Trump’s candidacy. Many of its leaders have denounced him in uncompromising terms they usually reserve for liberal politicians.

One of his toughest critics has been Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. “Can conservatives really believe that, if elected, Trump would care about protecting the family’s place in society when his own life is — unapologetically — what conservatives used to recognize as decadent?,” Moore wrote early this year in National Review.

He added: “Trump’s willingness to ban Muslims, even temporarily, from entering the country simply because of their religious affiliation would make Jefferson spin in his grave.”

Such denunciations are good news for Ted Cruz, who began his campaign at Liberty University, an evangelical intellectual bastion, and had hoped to unify evangelical conservatives.

But in primary after primary, Trump has won a large share of self-described “born again” or evangelical voters, particularly in the South. In the Southern-inflected Super Tuesday contests in March, his showings in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama were exceptionally strong.

Evangelicals made up 77 percent of Alabama’s Republican primary electorate, and Trump carried them 43 percent to 22 percent over Cruz. Among non-evangelicals, Trump beat Cruz 41 percent to 18 percent, with roughly a third in this group casting ballots for either Marco Rubio, who has since dropped out, or John Kasich.

Even in defeat in Wisconsin on Tuesday, Trump did about as well among evangelicals (he won 34 percent of their ballots) as among non-evangelicals (36 percent).

In one sense, it is not surprising that the politics of white evangelicals are evolving. Their social issue frame and the most important institutions in their movement were created in the late 1970s and 1980s. But this year’s developments do suggest, as Elizabeth Bruenig (now of The Post) argued in the New Republic, that “the old-fashioned model of reaching evangelicals no longer appears functional.”

Robert Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute (and with whom I have collaborated), sees many evangelicals now as “nostalgia voters.” Writing in the Atlantic, he said they are animated less by “a checklist of culture war issues or an appeal to shared religious identity” and more by an anger and anxiety arising from a sense that the dominant culture is moving away from their values.

A backlash around race, which led many white Southern evangelicals toward the Republicans in the 1960s even before the rise of the religious right, also appears to be at work. It is conjoined with opposition to immigration. And evangelicals, like other Republicans, are split by class and their degree of religious engagement.

Were Cruz to secure the Republican nomination, traditional patterns of white evangelical voting might well reassert themselves.

But with Pope Francis lifting up what can be called social justice Christianity, cliches that religion lives largely on the right end of U.S. politics might finally be overturned.

This view was already flawed, given, for example, the long-standing activism of African American Christians in the politics of economic and racial equity. Clinton especially has been engaged with black churches from the outset of the campaign.

Her own deep commitment to her Methodist faith and its social demands is central to her identity. It could be the key to solving her much-discussed “authenticity” problem, because faith is a powerfully authentic part of who she is.

In the meantime, a Jewish socialist presidential candidate will head off to the Vatican to make a case about climate change and social justice quite congenial to Francis’s outlook.

In today’s American politics, religion is working in mysterious ways.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 11, 2016

April 12, 2016 Posted by | Evangelicals, Faith, Pope Francis | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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