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“First, Know How Power Works”: Revolutionaries Have To Be Smart And Ruthless

Truer words were never spoken:

A top Republican National Committee staffer fired back Tuesday at presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, saying it’s not the committee’s fault that Trump’s campaign staffers and his children don’t understand the rules.

Sean Spicer, an RNC spokesman, said on CNN the delegate allocation rules in Colorado and every other state were filed with the national committee back in October and made available to every GOP campaign.

“If you’re a campaign and you don’t understand the process that’s going on, then that’s bad on the staff. That’s bad on the campaign,” he said. “Running for office entails putting together a campaign that understands the process. There’s nothing rigged.”

Spicer continued: “I understand that people sometimes don’t like the process or may not understand it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fair and open and transparent.”

Apparently, a couple of Trump’s children couldn’t even understand how to register themselves to vote in the New York primary.

Look, I understand the sentiment that the system is rotten and the game is rigged. I do. But I don’t take people seriously who seek power but have no real idea how power works. If you want to be the nominee of the Republican or the Democratic Party, you need to figure out how that can be done. And, if you’re an outsider who is running with a message that the gatekeepers are all a bunch of losers and morons, or that they’re all corrupted by money, then you’ll need a plan for winning the people you’ve insulted over to your side.

Let me remind you to take a look at the list of Republicans that Donald Trump has insulted just on Twitter. I won’t deny that Trump’s insult-dog comedy routine contributed to his electoral successes, but it’s biting him in the ass now that he’s losing delegates who should rightfully be in his corner.

Bernie Sanders ought to have understood that he needed to work very hard on introducing himself to southern black voters, but that’s only half of his problem. The other half is that the superdelegates are overwhelmingly opposed to his candidacy. He needed a plan to prevent that from happening.

We can argue about how possible it ever was for either of these candidates to win over more establishment support, but they both thought they could overcome the lack of it by going straight to the people. Trump may still pull this out, maybe, but he’s acting awfully surprised to discover that his delegates can be stolen from him for the simple reason that delegates don’t like him. A savvy adviser would have told him about this likelihood last summer, and maybe he could have been a little more selective in his insults and a little more solicitous of establishment support.

Obviously, Sanders is running an outsider campaign built on criticizing those who are flourishing in our current political system, but he’s also running to be the leader of a party (and all that party’s infrastructure and organizations), and there has to be a better middle ground that allows you to challenge entrenched power without totally alienating it. Even if there wasn’t a way to be successful in gathering more institutional support, I would have liked to see him make the effort.

So far, I’ve been focusing on a straightforward strategy for winning a major party nomination as an outsider and challenger of the status quo, which is difficult enough. But imagine if one of these two outsiders actually won the presidency. They’d both have a lot of repair work to do with an establishment that they’d have to govern.

I really do understand the appeal of declaring the whole system rotten and just going after it in a populist appeal for root-and-branch change. But I think it’s a bit of a sucker’s game to hitch yourself to that kind of wagon if you don’t get the sense that the challengers really understand how power works, how to seize it, and what to do with it if you get it.

I want a progressive challenger who is pragmatic and ruthless enough to navigate our rotten system and then have the leadership abilities to lead it once they’ve taken control of it.

I never got the sense that Sanders was that guy, or even close to that guy.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 13, 2016

April 15, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Campaign Consultants, Donald Trump, Governing | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Bloodbath Alert”: Donald Trump Issues New Threat To Destroy The GOP

The big news of the morning is that the weak, doomed-in-advance efforts by Republican Party elders to hold off a crack-up of their party may be collapsing before our eyes: Donald Trump and his two rivals have now backed off their pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee.

Here’s Trump:

“No, I don’t anymore,” Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, when asked if he remains committed to the pledge. Trump said that he would instead wait to see who emerges as the nominee before promising his support, recanting the pledge he previously signed with the Republican Party.

“I have been treated very unfairly,” Trump added.

It was always painfully obvious that Trump, in originally joining the Republican National Committee’s “loyalty pledge,” had carefully given himself an out, stating that he reserved the right to abandon the pledge if he were treated “unfairly.” Conveniently enough, Trump also knew he could define what constituted “unfair” treatment. Now he has done exactly this.

The crucial point here is not that this necessarily means Trump will run a third-party candidacy if the nomination goes to someone else at a contested convention. He may try to do that, but such an effort might depend on ballot logistics. Rather, what really matters here is that Trump is signaling his possible intention to do maximum damage to the party if he is denied the nomination, through whatever means he has at his disposal.

We simply don’t have any idea yet how much damage Trump can do to the Republican Party. It could go well beyond denying Republicans the White House. If a raging Trump, having lost the nomination at a contested convention, urges millions of his followers not to vote Republican, it could cause large numbers of GOP voters to sit out the election, potentially rupturing their plans for holding their Senate majority.

The significance of this spills over into the Supreme Court fight, too: GOP Senate leaders are explicitly refusing to consider Barack Obama’s nominee to keep the base energized, in hopes of holding that Senate majority. The idea: Republican voters might be fizzed up by the GOP leadership’s awesome willingness to do whatever it takes to prevent a liberal Court, and by the added benefit this strategy has of seeming to stick a thumb in the eye of Obama’s legitimacy as president. But Trump — by doing all he can to rupture the base — could roll a grenade into the center of all this.

Even if Trump wins the nomination with a minimum of convention drama, that, too, could do a lot of damage. If a lot of GOP voters alienated by Trump back the Democratic nominee or sit the election out, that could imperil GOP control of the Senate. It’s possible this could also begin to produce cracks in the GOP’s House majority. Paul Kane reports that political observers are suggesting it now looks possible that a Trump nomination could lead to major gains for Democrats in the House. Winning the 30 seats needed to take back the majority still looks like a major long shot. But some analysts think “double digit gains” for Dems are possible:

Such a big loss would leave Republicans holding the slimmest House majority either party has held in more than a decade. That could further destabilize the control of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan over a chamber in which his conservative flank has recently rebelled against his agenda.

If Republicans do lose the Senate, a much smaller House majority could matter a lot in determining whether the House can continue to function for Republicans as a kind of ideological island fortress, seemingly impregnable to the pressures of demographic and cultural change and evolving national public opinion.

This is why some Republicans may move to push a third-party challenger if Trump does win the nomination — to give Republicans a reason to go to the polls and vote for Senate and Congressional incumbents. But even in this scenario, they’d effectively be sacrificing the White House in order to do as much as possible to salvage their Senate (and House!!!) majority.

To be sure, it’s possible that Cruz could win the nomination at a contested convention and that Trump could support him. While this would also likely cost Republicans the White House, it could avert the most damaging down-ticket scenarios. But it’s also possible that we’ve only just begun to glimpse the damage Trump can do to the GOP.

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, March 30, 2016

April 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Loyalty Pledge, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Lessons From Rome”: The 2,100-Year-Old Word For Trumpism

Everyone’s grasping around for the best historical Trump analogies. Nazi Germany still seems a little over-the-top to most people, although it’s certainly no longer crazy, depending on how you use it. More people seem to feel a little more comfortable with Mussolini, which is an easier lift—he wasn’t nearly as evil, and like Trump, he was a buffoonish bloviator. You could picture Il Duce tweeting. And of course there are loads of other fascists out there.

But there’s another way to look at Trump historically. I don’t mean to suggest that he doesn’t deserve to have the f-bomb dropped on him. He’s earning it more and more each passing week. But it seems more accurate to say (at this point, anyway) that he’s less committed to destroying the principles of democracy, which a fascist is, than he is to perverting them to serve his demagogic ends. Welcome to—new word alert!—ochlocracy.

Don’t know what that means? Better learn it fast. It basically means mob rule. No different from mobocracy, I suppose, but as Trump himself would say, much, much classier!

This Greek historian named Polybius coined the word. “Ochlos” means multitude or throng, but it carries a pejorative whiff. The angry mob. Unwashed. Polybius came up with this theory he called anacyclosis, which was kind of an evolutionary theory of systems of government. His study of ancient Rome led him to conclude that the stages went like this: 1, monarchy; 2, tyranny; 3, aristocracy; 4, oligarchy; 5, democracy; 6, ochlocracy; and 7, back to monarchy.

Being the young nation that we are, we managed to our great relief to skip the first few stages. We started right in on stage 5. But can you honestly say that it doesn’t feel like Trump has us teetering there on the edge of 5, lurching toward 6? You bet it does.

Now you might ask. All right, doesn’t sound crazy, necessarily; but exactly how does a society make the lamentable jump? For this we look back to the 3rd century BCE and the very Rome that Polybius studied. The patricians and the plebeians had clashed for decades. It was a class struggle pure and simple. The elite patricians made the rules. The more numerous plebeians had to follow them. The patricians had the status and for the most part the money. Some plebeians were wealthy, too, but for the most part, the plebeians got hosed, and the patricians stiffed them where it counted. Anyway the plebeians finally got fed up. The dictator, Quintus Hortensius, I suppose because he could count, decided to take the plebeian side of the argument and decreed the Lex Hortensia, or Hortensian laws, which held that all resolutions passed by the plebeians had the force of law and didn’t have to be approved by the Senate. Get it? The lower orders got to call the shots now. This is where the word plebiscite comes from.

Does this not describe pretty perfectly what is happening in the Republican Party right now? The plebeians here are the working-class Republicans—you know, the “poorly educated!”—who’ve been voting for Republicans for four decades now because of God and guns but have been getting taken to the cleaners economically by a party that may sort of care about them on some level but that, when it attains power, actually executes actions only in behalf of the 1 percent; a party whose entire economic agenda is determined by the 1 percent. Or more likely the 0.1 percent. They’re the patricians who dictate Republican economic policy.

Well, the plebeians have finally risen up. It was bound to happen. Now, my sympathy for them is limited. Trump hooked them with the xenophobia and racism. Make no mistake. That’s the opioid here. Without it, Trump wouldn’t have gained altitude with these people, and that’s to their shame.

But xenophobia and racism aren’t all this is about. It’s also about economic rage. That’s why there’s a kind of crossover between some Trump and Bernie Sanders voters, some people out there who are deciding between the two of them. Sanders is Trump without the racism. Well, and a lot of the personal coarseness and human repugnance. But they’re the two candidates who are talking to struggling and angry white Americans.

So the plebeians are rising up against the patricians in the GOP, just like in ancient Rome, and the patricians are freaked out. This explains this insane Kevin Williamson outburst in the National Review about how these dumb, lazy crackers have only themselves to blame for their misery. Well, it has another explanation: As many have observed, writers and thinkers on the right have always blamed the poor people’s plight on their own moral failings; it’s just that up until now, they’ve only had black people in their sights. It’s only natural that once they fixed their gaze on white people, they’d come to the same conclusion.

But in the context I’m talking about, Williamson, and the NatRev more generally, which has been dyspeptically anti-Trump, are speaking for the patrician class. Now to be fair, there have been a few conservative writer-intellectuals who have been writing for years that the Republican Party had to do more for the plebeians than God and guns. Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, notably. But of course their pleadings have fallen on completely deaf ears in their party—except, to some extent, with Trump, which must gall them but which is true.

So back to the question. How do we slide from stage 5 to stage 6? It might start with Trump and his followers forcing a change on the Republican National Committee. Suppose Trump comes up 50 delegates short when the voting is done. The universal assumption today is that in that case, the party will find a way to screw him.

But what if he finds a way to screw the party? I wouldn’t put it past him, and admit it, neither would you. The party has done nothing to stop him so far, so why should we think it will be able to do so this summer? If Trump were to succeed at such an effort, what with his threats of riots and such, then the Republican Party would just have changed its own rules to allow him to be the nominee. The plebeians will have struck a statutory blow against the patricians, just like in 287 BCE.

Of course, for us to really slip into ochlocracy, he’d have to win the presidency. Let’s hope that can’t happen. And then maybe President Clinton can say to the patrician Republicans: OK, boys, these furious people you’ve been feeding shit sandwiches to for all these years while you get their votes by telling them how evil I am…how about we get together and actually do something for them?

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, march 19, 2016

March 20, 2016 Posted by | Democracy, Donald Trump, Ochlocracy | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Ugliest Campaign Ever”: We’re Headed For Most Divisive, Scorched Earth General Election In Modern History

“Don’t vote for a Cuban” seems like a pretty straightforward campaign motto for Donald Trump at this point. True, it’s not his campaign that is making these robocalls. Instead, it is a Super PAC associated with the American Freedom Party, a white nationalist organization that loves them some Donald.

Their message is admirably concise.

“The white race is dying out in America and Europe because we are afraid to be called ‘racist,’” the call said. “I am afraid to be called racist. Donald Trump is not a racist, but Donald Trump is not afraid. Don’t vote for a Cuban. Vote for Donald Trump.”

It’s curious that they don’t want to be called racist. Sounds like they’re afraid to be called racist.

Anyway, these robocalls have been detected in Minnesota and Vermont, and then there is this:

David Duke, a white nationalist and former Klu Klux Klan grand wizard, told his audience Wednesday that voting for anyone besides Donald Trump “is really treason to your heritage.”

“Voting for these people, voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage,” Duke said on the David Duke Radio Program

…“And I am telling you that it is your job now to get active. Get off your duff. Get off your rear end that’s getting fatter and fatter for many of you everyday on your chairs. When this show’s over, go out, call the Republican Party, but call Donald Trump’s headquarters, volunteer,” he said. “They’re screaming for volunteers. Go in there, you’re gonna meet people who are going to have the same kind of mindset that you have.”

That’s kind of vague, but you can see a closer tie between the robocalls and David Duke here:

In December, Duke told POLITICO that Trump’s candidacy allowed Americans to be more open about their racial animus.

“He’s made it ok to talk about these incredible concerns of European Americans today, because I think European Americans know they are the only group that can’t defend their own essential interests and their point of view,” Duke said. “He’s meant a lot for the human rights of European Americans.”

It’s a good thing that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has a plan to keep Trump on a leash. Maybe that will work (I doubt it), but a better question might be to ask what the RNC plans to do if the lawsuit over Trump University doesn’t go well.

…the upcoming civil trial could be a much bigger burden on Trump’s time. If it takes place in May, that would put it in the middle of the final phase of the GOP primary schedule: Nebraska and West Virginia vote on May 10, Oregon on May 17, and Washington state on May 24. Then on June 7, the biggest prize of all: the California primary (with 172 delegates at stake). New Jersey, Montana, New Mexico and South Dakota vote the same day.

Trump could easily have the nomination wrapped up before these late primaries and caucuses. (We’ve written about the Trump University scam here, here, and here).

Yeah, it’s going to be a scorched earth campaign for sure.

The unintended consequences of both parties nominating their most unpopular or polarizing figures means we are headed for the most divisive and scorched earth style general election in modern history. When you start with negatives at 50% or above, it means the only way to win is to become the lesser of two evils.

I don’t see Trump becoming more popular. But Reince Priebus has a plan, so I guess things will go swimmingly.

In reality, Priebus won’t be able to control any of this, but he will be able to assist in making Hillary the greater evil. And, considering how difficult that task will be to achieve, we’re all gonna need hazmat suits.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 25, 2016

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Reince Priebus, White Nationalists | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Every Group Has Its ‘Other'”: Here We Go Again, Trash-Talking The Working Class

Bear with me, please, as I start this column with a brief story about my two grandmothers who lived in trailer homes.

They lived in Ashtabula County, which is tucked into the northeast corner of Ohio, an hour east of Cleveland. If ever you’ve travelled a good distance along U.S. 90, you likely passed our county’s handful of exits on your way to somewhere else.

For all of my childhood, this was home, and I was seldom happier than when I had time alone with my maternal great-grandmother, Ada, who raised my mother from the age of 8. In the late ’60s, after her husband died, Ada sold her house and 20 acres to move into a trailer home a couple of miles down the road. It was closer to her church, her second home.

I spent weeks at a time in the summers with her, freed from the responsibilities of the oldest child always on duty. She taught me how to cook, garden and quilt. Every Sunday after church, rain or shine, we walked to the cemetery to tend my great-grandfather’s grave and say a prayer of gratitude for the time we’d had with him. We had our evening rituals, too. She believed a steaming cup of tea at sunset was a great way to settle the mind for the big thoughts that show up only under the night sky.

My maternal grandmother, Vivian, lost custody of my mother when she was 8 and spent the rest of her life trying to make it up to her and taking care of my uncle, who had a mental disability. His name was Francis, and she never spent a day away from him until he died from complications of diabetes in his late 50s.

Grandma Vivian was the first person I knew to buy an aluminum Christmas tree. What a sight for my siblings and me. My mother stood behind us and whispered orders to close our mouths and stop acting like we’d just seen a ghost.

This was the grandma with the trunk full of antique dresses and hats for us to play with whenever we visited. When my mother wasn’t around, Grandma often served me a cup of coffee loaded with milk and sugar — a grown-up reward for “being so responsible.” When her house in Ashtabula County became too run down to be safe, my grandmother closed it up and lived in a trailer on the back lot until Alzheimer’s robbed her of the ability to take care of herself.

I wanted you to know a little bit about my grandmothers so that you might better understand my outrage over a Cleveland Plain Dealer writer’s reaction to Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump for president:

“Thanks to Trump, the entire Palin clan is now back in the spotlight they so crave. Come July, Republican National Convention organizers should house the whole dysfunctional family at a trailer park in Ashtabula.”

This is surely not the first time a pundit has cast the Palins as “trailer park folks” — which is code, of course, for “white trash.” We are hearing these phrases more frequently as pundits try to make sense of Donald Trump’s soaring poll numbers.

In her book “Framing Class: Media Representations of Wealth and Poverty in America,” sociologist Diana Kendall describes how in 2008 then-“Late Show” host David Letterman “maintained a night-after-night monologue about Sarah Palin and why she is white trash.” He was joined, she writes, by “print media, television and Web blogs … full of descriptions of Sarah Palin’s trailer park lifestyle.”

Much closer to home, since Donald Trump’s charade of a candidacy caught fire, I have heard many fellow liberals freely toss around the terms “white trash” and “trailer trash.” These are people who would never dream of telling a racist joke, but they think nothing of ridiculing those of lesser economic means.

Every group has its “other.” For too many white intellectuals, it’s the working class.

Neither of my grandmothers had much money, ever, but they contributed so much to the lives of the people they loved. They were both storytellers who helped me understand the long-ago sacrifices of people I would never know but who live on in the blue of my eyes and the ambitions of my heart. They are why I’ve devoted a number of columns and stories over the years to people who live in trailer parks.

Just this week, I was remembering Marjie Scuvotti, a 24-year-old mother of four. I interviewed her in 2002, on the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. She talked to me in her home in a trailer park as she painted her 6-year-old son Issac’s face red, white and blue for a parade celebrating first responders.

“You’re my American-flag boy,” Marjie whispered in his ear. She couldn’t have been a prouder mother.

This campaign year has barely begun, and it promises to be a long one. Regardless of which partisan lens we look through, we will see some voters who confound us.

Mocking them will never bring us closer to understanding them, but it will surely reveal us, and we will not benefit from the exposure.

 

By: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist and Professional-in-Residence at Kent State University’s School of journalism; Featured Post, The National Memo, January 28, 2016

January 29, 2016 Posted by | America, Poverty, Working Class | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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