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“Dramatizing The Truth About Trump”: Trump University Is A Devastating Metaphor For The Trump Campaign

When Donald Trump became the heavy favorite to win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, news leaked out of Clinton world that the campaign against him would resemble the 2012 campaign Democrats ran against Mitt Romney. “The emerging approach to defining Trump is an updated iteration of the ‘Bain Strategy’—the Obama 2012 campaign’s devastating attacks on Mitt Romney’s dealings with investment firm Bain Capital,” Democratic operative and campaign aides told Politico. “This time, Democrats would highlight the impact of Trump’s four business bankruptcies—and his opposition to wage hikes at his casinos and residential properties—on the families of his workers.”

That idea was puzzling to some liberals because, for all the superficial similarities between Trump and Romney, they represent very different kinds of oligarchs: Trump, a tribune of the working class, versus Romney, a champion of capitalism and big business. Trump’s everyman-billionaire political identity, taken at face value, is much harder to weaponize than Romney’s was. The fear was that if Democrats set about reprising the 2012 campaign against a self-styled populist, it would fail or backfire. Trump, after all, acknowledges his personal avarice— “I‘ve been greedy, greedy, greedy.” His promise now is to turn that greed outward on behalf of us.

Fortunately, the steady pace of disclosures from the civil case against Trump University—including testimony from Trump employees who say his business-education program scammed the vulnerable out of tens of thousands of dollars a head—provides Democrats a way to repurpose the Romney strategy against a very different kind of foe. The Trump University scam undermines the very notion that a man of Trump’s greed can ever be trusted to advance the interests of others. If exploited properly, it will be Trump’s undoing.

The Democrats can capitalize on lessons they learned from 2012. Early in that campaign, they ran up against a problem they hadn’t planned for. When they pressed voters in focus groups for their views on Romney’s economic platform, it didn’t rate as negatively as they expected, because voters literally couldn’t believe the premise of the questions: Why would anyone who wanted to be president propose privatizing Medicare and giving rich people enormous tax cuts? For a scary number of voters, it just didn’t compute.

Trump University will dramatize the truth about Trump for those voters in the same way Bain Capital dramatized Romney’s stone-heartedness.

The sustained attack on Romney’s private equity career and his capital worship—the ads featuring people whose lives were ruined by the “creative destruction” Bain Capital rained down on their places of employment, and quoting Romney telling a voter, “Corporations are people, my friend”—allowed Democrats to dramatize the story they were trying to tell about Romney’s political agenda.

“[O]nce people have learned that Romney was willing to fire workers and terminate health and pension benefits while taking tens of millions out of companies,” a prominent Democratic pollster told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent four years ago, “they are much more ready to understand that Romney would indeed cut Social Security and Medicare to give tax breaks to rich people like himself.” If the Republican nominee is a heartless capitalist who cares naught for working people, then perhaps he really does want to serve the rich in office.

Trump University will serve the same purpose for a campaign aimed at exposing a phony populist for what he is:

Trump U is devastating because it’s metaphor for his whole campaign: promising hardworking Americans way to get ahead, but all based on lies

— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) June 1, 2016

Fallon is the Hillary Clinton campaign’s secretary, so consider the source, obviously, but his argument holds up to the 2012 test case exquisitely.

Democrats won’t want to attack populism per se, and will have a hard time convincing certain voters to take them at their word that Trump’s promises are fraudulent. He’s incredibly successful, after all! But Trump University will dramatize the truth about Trump for those voters in the same way Bain Capital dramatized Romney’s stone-heartedness. Trump says that he—and only he—has all the answers for the ailing middle class. That he will ply his business acumen on behalf of the everyman and turn his good fortune into theirs. All they have to do to secure his beneficence is fork over their votes. But it’s all a scam. All lies. And when his victims and former employees testify to this for the country, it will be devastating.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, June 1, 2016

June 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Trump University | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“From The Ground Up”: For Sanders Backers, A Focus On Downballot Primaries Is The Right Idea

Progressive pundits across the spectrum have been blasting out a resounding message in the last week: it’s time for Sanders to stop attacking Clinton and the Democratic Party directly. That doesn’t mean Sanders should drop out, or refrain from making his withering and accurate critiques of unrestrained capitalism, Wall Street, and big-donor fueled politics on both sides of the aisle. Sanders can and should continue to push back against the neoliberals and incrementalists in the party and demand that Democrats offer a more visionary and bolder approach, and he should maintain his focus on corralling and curtailing the financial sector–not just the shadow banking industry but more importantly the big banks.

But in truth, the sort of political revolution the Sanders campaign ostensibly has been pushing for rarely originates in the form of a top-down presidential run or Oval Office win. It bubbles up from the bottom.

That’s why, in the wake of Howard Dean’s unfortunate 2004 loss at the hands of establishment Democrats who turned all their fire on him, he recommended that his activists run for central committees and local offices all across America to reinvigorate and renew the Democratic Party in a progressive mold, from the ground up. A large number of those inspired by the Dean campaign did just that, and used their influence in local primaries to push more progressives into statehouses and ultimately into Congress as well. Howard Dean himself made great strides in implementing the 50-state strategy as head of the DNC, ensuring that a progressive message would be heard and that organizers would be hired all across the country.

The Sanders campaign is well equipped to do likewise. For now, most of the attention is on whether Sanders will be able to influence the Democratic Party platform at convention. But that’s frankly tiny potatoes compared to making a difference downballot.

Whether you agree with Sanders and his voters or not, tactically speaking going after downballot primaries is the right approach for a populist base voter insurgency. When movement conservatives wanted to take over the Republican Party from the Eisenhower crowd, they started at the local level and moved their way up. When the Tea Party wanted to overtake the establishment, they began with primaries that ultimately engulfed and ousted even Eric Cantor. That energy has been a boon to conservative politics and pushed the country rightward. It also set the stage for Donald Trump’s run, which has torched a moribund Republican establishment that still looks to the failed decades-old policies of Ronald Reagan in an increasingly globalized and automated world that abuses and discards workers even in developed economies. Trump may be bad for the GOP brand with minorities and women, but his embrace of domestic jobs over corporate profits will ultimately be a necessary course correction and boon for the party.

Regarding Sanders, his backers are unlikely to snatch any primary victories in the short term–and the victories would need to happen for the right reasons to maintain long-term credibility. The big story at the moment surrounds Sanders voters attempting to primary DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz on account of her handling of the DNC and perceived bias against the Sanders campaign. However, while she has undoubtedly tipped the scales in Clinton’s favor, Sanders supporters would be better served reinforcing their populist, anti-Wall Street credentials by focusing on Wasserman-Schultz’ defense of payday lenders, instead.

The 2018 midterms will provide a great test of whether the brand of progressive populism championed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren can actually have the lasting staying power of movement conservatism. The so-called political revolution will need to win primaries in open seats, and even potentially supplant some of the most conservative and/or finance-industry-backed Democrats. That would do far more good for the movement’s stated goals at this point, than continued attacks on Clinton and the Democratic Party itself.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 21, 2016

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Down Ballot Candidates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Cause For All The Fuss”: Bernie Sanders Is No Fool. He’ll Back Clinton When He Drops Out

Eight years ago, I spent an election night in a basement gymnasium in Manhattan, watching Hillary Clinton and her campaign advisers take up residence in a parallel universe.

It was June 3, 2008, and Barack Obama had just clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, making official a victory that had seemed inevitable for months. But Terry McAuliffe, then the campaign chairman and emcee of this Clinton “victory” party, recited a list of Clinton’s primary wins and introduced her as “the next president of the United States.”

Clinton that night made no mention of her defeat, boasting that she won “more votes than any primary candidate in history.”

Yet four days later, Clinton graciously bowed out of the race. In a concession speech at the National Building Museum in Washington, she said she and her supporters would “do all we can to help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States.” Some in the hall booed — but Clinton delivered her supporters to Obama in November.

Recalling this serene end to the bitter and extended 2008 Democratic primary battle, I’m not inclined to join in all the hand-wringing about the damage Bernie Sanders is doing to Clinton’s chances in November by remaining in the race.

Tempers flared this week after a Sanders supporter, actress Rosario Dawson, mentioned Monica Lewinsky at a campaign rally. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), a Clinton supporter, demanded Sanders tell his supporters “to stop providing aid and comfort to Donald Trump and the Republican Party.”

This, in turn, caused Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver on Tuesday to accuse the Clinton campaign and her supporters of using “language reserved for traitors to our country.”

Why the hysteria? It doesn’t matter if Sanders continues his candidacy until the last votes are cast in June. What matters is that he quits gracefully, and there should be every expectation that he will, for a simple reason: Sanders is not a fool.

Sanders showed no sign of retreat Tuesday night, even as Clinton extended her lead by winning the night’s biggest prize, Pennsylvania, as well as Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut; Sanders won only Rhode Island. He gave a defiant, hour-long speech in which he said he was “taking on the most powerful political organization in America.” The reference to Clinton drew boos.

Sanders sounded like an extortionist Monday night when he said Clinton, if she won the nomination, would have to earn his supporters’ votes by embracing single-payer health care, free college tuition and a carbon tax — all things Clinton rejected in her (successful) campaign against Sanders. But seconds later, Sanders, prodded by the moderator, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, added a qualifier: “I will do everything in my power to make sure that no Republican gets into the White House in this election cycle.”

That’s the crucial part. Sanders wants to exert maximum leverage to the very end to move Clinton toward his populist policies. But he is a practical man, and he certainly doesn’t wish to see a President Trump or President Cruz. This is why there’s no cause for all the fuss over him remaining in the race until he is mathematically eliminated.

Elimination is coming. Even before Clinton padded her lead with Tuesday night’s wins, Sanders needed to win 59 percent of remaining delegates, or 71 percent if you include superdelegates. That isn’t going to happen.

Clinton loyalists worry that Clinton will suffer general-election consequences from Sanders’s suggestions that she is unqualified and in Wall Street’s pocket. It’s true that Trump has echoed these attacks and said he’d like Sanders “to keep going.”

Still, this just doesn’t qualify as ugly campaigning — particularly compared with a Republican race in which candidates have called each other liars and argued about genital size. Or compare it with the Obama-Clinton standoff of 2008 — a much closer contest than this one. At a May 31, 2008, meeting of the Democratic National Committee, the two campaigns clashed with accusations of cheating. There were hecklers, howls and foul language, and extra security had to be called in to keep order. At the time, Clinton aides, sounding much like this year’s Sanders aides, were threatening that Obama “has work to do” to convince Clinton backers to go his way.

But a week later, Clinton was out, and the party was on a path to unity.

And so it will happen this time. Sanders, when he quits the race, can justifiably declare victory in moving the debate — and Clinton — in his direction on trade, Wall Street, income inequality, campaign finance and energy. His campaign has exceeded all expectations, and he isn’t about to jeopardize his movement by handing the presidency to Trump.

 

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 26, 2016

May 5, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Common Purpose”: Nevada Gives Hillary Clinton A Clear Path To Victory

Hillary Clinton needed a decisive victory in Nevada to put to rest fears that her campaign was in trouble, and it looks like she got it. At this writing, with final results still to come, it appears that she will win by four or five percentage points, basically matching her 2008 win in the state over Barack Obama. With this victory, Clinton has a clear path for pushing aside her too-close win in Iowa and big loss in New Hampshire. She can plausibly argue that Bernie Sanders’s coalition is too narrow—that it is, in particular, too heavily white—to reflect the Democratic Party, which after all is a multi-racial coalition.

And she’s clearly aiming to broaden her own coalition. In her victory speech, Clinton incorporated many of the themes of Sanders’s campaign, emphasizing economic populist messages like student debt. She also made sure to note (a la Sanders) that most of her funding comes from small donors contributing less than $100. And throughout the speech, she repeatedly used the communitarian “we”—a response perhaps to criticism that her campaign has been too much about her leadership and experience, and not enough about common purpose.

If this win is followed by Clinton’s expected victory in next Saturday’s South Carolina primary and the six Southern states of Super Tuesday on March 1, she has a clear path to racking up enough delegates to be the prohibitive front-runner, especially in light of her strong lead among the Democratic super-delegates. The irony is that Clinton might end up making the same argument from delegate math that Obama made in 2008. If Clinton wants to wrap up the primary early, she could soon be in a position to argue that the delegate math overwhelmingly favors her—and Sanders would have to make the same argument that Clinton did in 2008, when Obama took the lead, that every voter needs to be heard from and that he could still conceivably win a majority of votes going forward.

The news isn’t entirely bleak for Sanders. He doesn’t have as clear a path out of Nevada, but he has done better in the state than he could’ve been expected to do even a few weeks ago. By all logic, a state where the demographics trend both older and non-white should have been a bigger Clinton blow-out. Even as the Clinton campaign will likely gather force in the Southern states, Sanders can still make a credible showing in other Super Tuesday states like Colorado, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. In theory, if he does well enough in those states he can make the race tighter again nationally, especially if the inroads he appeared to make among young Latinos in Nevada can be replicated elsewhere.

But just how well Sanders actually did with Latinos in Nevada is murky. Entrance polls showed Sanders winning Latinos, but these results are suspect given the fact that he lost the race. What’s more plausible is that he was at least competitive with Latinos, given the margin of the final vote—heartening for Sanders, but hardly convincing proof that he’s made the breakthrough with non-white voters that he needs.

Ultimately, the harder part for Sanders going forward will be crafting a plausible narrative. Coming out of Nevada, Clinton can reasonably argue that she won in a state that looks much more like the Democratic coalition than largely white states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Clinton has the support of women (although it’s not clear if she won young women in Nevada after losing them in New Hampshire), African-Americans, and Latinos. That is close to the coalition that Obama used to win two elections in a row. The only thing missing from the equation is the enthusiasm of young people, which Sanders still has.

As the challenger, Sanders has the more difficult task of proving that he can both bring in new voters and appeal to loyal Democrats. So far, Sanders has been more successful at the first half of the equation. And unless he can make genuine inroads among African-Americans and improve with Latinos above what he’s achieved in Nevada, it’ll be hard for him to argue that he represents the broader Democratic Party. Even a self-professed revolutionary has to work with the existing party before he or she can expand it. Sanders remains a viable candidate, but coming out of Nevada he faces the bigger burden of forging a winning coalition.

 

By: Jeet Heer, The New Republic, February 20, 2016

February 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Nevada Caucus | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“How America Was Lost”: Maybe We Should All Start Wearing Baseball Caps That Say, “Make America Governable Again”

Once upon a time, the death of a Supreme Court justice wouldn’t have brought America to the edge of constitutional crisis. But that was a different country, with a very different Republican Party. In today’s America, with today’s G.O.P., the passing of Antonin Scalia has opened the doors to chaos.

In principle, losing a justice should cause at most a mild disturbance in the national scene. After all, the court is supposed to be above politics. So when a vacancy appears, the president should simply nominate, and the Senate approve, someone highly qualified and respected by all.

In reality, of course, things were never that pure. Justices have always had known political leanings, and the process of nomination and approval has often been contentious. Still, there was nothing like the situation we face now, in which Republicans have more or less unanimously declared that President Obama has no right even to nominate a replacement for Mr. Scalia — and no, the fact that Mr. Obama will leave soon doesn’t make it O.K. (Justice Kennedy was appointed during Ronald Reagan’s last year in office.)

Nor were the consequences of a court vacancy as troubling in the past as they are now. As everyone is pointing out, without Mr. Scalia the justices are evenly divided between Republican and Democratic appointees — which probably means a hung court on many issues.

And there’s no telling how long that situation may last. If a Democrat wins the White House but the G.O.P. holds the Senate, when if ever do you think Republicans would be willing to confirm anyone the new president nominates?

How did we get into this mess?

At one level the answer is the ever-widening partisan divide. Polarization has measurably increased in every aspect of American politics, from congressional voting to public opinion, with an especially dramatic rise in “negative partisanship” — distrust of and disdain for the other side. And the Supreme Court is no different. As recently as the 1970s the court had several “swing” members, whose votes weren’t always predictable from partisan positions, but that center now consists only of Mr. Kennedy, and only some of the time.

But simply pointing to rising partisanship as the source of our crisis, while not exactly wrong, can be deeply misleading. First, decrying partisanship can make it seem as if we’re just talking about bad manners, when we’re really looking at huge differences on substance. Second, it’s really important not to engage in false symmetry: only one of our two major political parties has gone off the deep end.

On the substantive divide between the parties: I still encounter people on the left (although never on the right) who claim that there’s no big difference between Republicans and Democrats, or at any rate “establishment” Democrats. But that’s nonsense. Even if you’re disappointed in what President Obama accomplished, he substantially raised taxes on the rich and dramatically expanded the social safety net; significantly tightened financial regulation; encouraged and oversaw a surge in renewable energy; moved forward on diplomacy with Iran.

Any Republican would undo all of that, and move sharply in the opposite direction. If anything, the consensus among the presidential candidates seems to be that George W. Bush didn’t cut taxes on the rich nearly enough, and should have made more use of torture.

When we talk about partisanship, then, we’re not talking about arbitrary teams, we’re talking about a deep divide on values and policy. How can anyone not be “partisan” in the sense of preferring one of these visions?

And it’s up to you to decide which version you prefer. So why do I say that only one party has gone off the deep end?

One answer is, compare last week’s Democratic debate with Saturday’s Republican debate. Need I say more?

Beyond that, there are huge differences in tactics and attitudes. Democrats never tried to extort concessions by threatening to cut off U.S. borrowing and create a financial crisis; Republicans did. Democrats don’t routinely deny the legitimacy of presidents from the other party; Republicans did it to both Bill Clinton and Mr. Obama. The G.O.P.’s new Supreme Court blockade is, fundamentally, in a direct line of descent from the days when Republicans used to call Mr. Clinton “your president.”

So how does this get resolved? One answer could be a Republican sweep — although you have to ask, did the men on that stage Saturday convey the impression of a party that’s ready to govern? Or maybe you believe — based on no evidence I’m aware of — that a populist rising from the left is ready to happen any day now. But if divided government persists, it’s really hard to see how we avoid growing chaos.

Maybe we should all start wearing baseball caps that say, “Make America governable again.”

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 14, 2016

February 16, 2016 Posted by | GOP, Governing, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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