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“Keeping The Jackasses Out Of Power”: Trump’s Unique Ability To Help Clinton Unite Democrats

One of the most common questions in Democratic politics is obvious, though it’s not easy to answer: Once the primaries are over, how will Hillary Clinton unify progressive voters ahead of the general election? Much of the discussion involves speculation about Bernie Sanders’ strategy, the party’s convention, the party’s platform, Clinton’s eventual running mate, etc.

But there’s a piece to this puzzle that sometimes goes overlooked: Clinton will try to bring Democrats and progressive independents together, but it’s Donald Trump who’ll seal the deal.

Last October, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi covered the House Republicans’ Benghazi Committee and its 11-hour grilling of Clinton, and he wrote a very memorable piece soon after. Taibbi, a Clinton detractor, conceded at the time that he started to feel more sympathetic towards the Democrat, not out of pity, but in response to the GOP’s outrageous antics.

Those idiots represent everything that is wrong not just with the Republican Party, but with modern politics in general. It’s hard to imagine a political compromise that wouldn’t be justified if its true aim would be to keep people like those jackasses out of power.

In context, none of this had anything to do with Bernie Sanders or the Democratic primary, but Taibbi’s point – there’s value in compromise if it means keeping “those jackasses out of power” – lingered in my mind because I suspect many of Sanders’ die-hard supporters will be making a similar calculation in the coming months.

And Donald Trump, whether he realizes it or not, is going to help.

This is sometimes forgotten, but for much of Bill Clinton’s presidency, he was popular with Democrats, but not that popular. The former president developed a reputation, which was well deserved, for adopting a “triangulation” posture and taking advice from the likes of Dick Morris. Among congressional Democrats at the time, they supported Clinton, but often through gritted teeth.

How did Bill Clinton eventually bring Democrats together, uniting them behind his presidency? He didn’t; Tom DeLay did. The more intense the congressional Republicans’ anti-Clinton crusade became – culminating, of course, in impeachment – the more congressional Democrats rallied around their ally in the White House. It wasn’t overly complicated: Dems may have been annoyed by the president triangulating, but they were far more disgusted with Republican extremism.

Nearly two decades later, consider how Donald Trump is shifting his focus to the 2016 general election: Trump is attacking Hillary Clinton over her gender; he’s blaming her for ’90s-era sex scandals; and in a line of attack that no sane person should consider normal, he’s suggesting that she might have had something to do with Vince Foster’s death. You’ve heard the cliche, campaigns are always about the future? The presumptive Republican nominee, who has no real policy agenda or specific goals of his own, has decided this campaign is entirely about the past.

There may be Republican voters who find all of this compelling, but let’s not discount the fact that these are the kind of attacks that also motivate Democratic and progressive voters in the opposite direction.

The number of liberal Sanders supporters watching the news this week, eager to hear more from Trump about Vince Foster conspiracy theories, is probably infinitesimally small. But the number of progressive voters watching all of this unfold, thinking about keeping “people like those jackasses out of power,” is probably quite high.

The question of how Clinton and Sanders will reconcile, keeping left-of-center voters together, obviously matters. But the question of how many of these same voters will gravitate to Clinton instinctively out of contempt for the Republican nominee may end up mattering just as much.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 25, 2016

May 26, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Donald Trump Can’t Win Without Women”: Trump’s Crude Sexist Spiel Has Backfired

Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s freshly-minted presumptive nominee for president, has called his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton a weak candidate lacking in stamina whose only asset is the “woman’s card.”

“And the beauty of this is that women don’t even like her,” he claimed after he won the Indiana Republican primary.

Harsh words, but not totally surprising from an unrestrained rich guy who has called Rosie O’Donnell a “fat slob,” among other epithets, and suggested that Fox News host Megyn Kelly was menstruating when she asked him tough questions at the first GOP Debate. (“She had blood coming out of her whatever.”)

Clinton, however, is betting that Trump’s crude sexist spiel has backfired, igniting opposition to him from women across the political spectrum.

“The whole idea of ‘playing the woman card,’ which he charged I was doing, and by extension other women were doing, has just lit a fire under so many women across the country,” she said during an interview with the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times posted yesterday.

“And I think it’s because they see his attacks on me, or Megyn Kelly or Carly Fiorina or whoever else he’s attacking at the moment as really a much broader attack on them. I think we are going to be pushing back and drawing the contrast whenever he does that. Because it’s just absolutely beyond the pale. He’s not going to get away with it, at least going forward.”

About half of Republican women (some 47 percent) say they don’t like Trump.

And several prominent female politicians in the Party of Lincoln are openly antagonistic to the foul-mouthed real estate mogul and his immodest proposals — like banning Muslims from entering the U.S. and deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants. Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, for one, has compared Trump and other GOP candidates to fascistic dicators like Hitler.

“Trump especially is employing the kind of hateful rhetoric and exploiting the insecurities of this nation, in much the same way that allowed Hitler and Mussolini to rise to power in the lead-up to World War II,” she wrote last December in Politico Magazine.

Whitman has also said she might vote for Hillary Clinton.

Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and sole female in the GOP race for president before she dropped out, is no ideological sistah to Clinton. But she was quick to attack Trump for boasting about his endorsement in April from “tough” Mike Tyson, the former world heavyweight champion who has had seriously rocky relationships with women.

“Sorry, I don’t consider a convicted rapist a tough guy,” Fiorina told reporters in Indianapolis during her brief stint as Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s pick for vice president. She was alluding to how Tyson was convicted of raping a teenage beauty contestant in the same city in 1992. (He spent three years in prison.)

Fiorina, who antagonized Trump when she was still running for the GOP presidential nomination, noted: “And I think it says a lot about Donald Trump’s campaign and his character that he is standing up and cheering for an endorsement by Mike Tyson.”

Cruz made a similar point with far stronger language when he assailed Trump as a “serial philanderer” and “pathological liar” who supports rapists as voters headed to the polls in Indiana on Tuesday. After they handed the bloviating billionaire a big win, Cruz abruptly suspended his campaign.

He was furious with Trump for making the bizarre and unsubstantiated claim on Tuesday morning that Cruz’s father was somehow involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Trump’s proof? He had seem a picture in the National Enquirer of a man who looked like Cruz’s Dad standing next to Lee Harvey Oswald. Cruz seemed astounded: “This is nuts. This is not a reasonable position This is kooky.”

Cruz’s has depicted Trump before as “utterly amoral,” in his apparent bid for the evangelical vote. Those words are among the sound bites that appear in a brutal anti-Trump ad released by the Clinton campaign earlier this week. Clinton lets Trump’s former Republican rivals on the campaign trail and other detractors do the talking. (“A con artist,” summed up Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who lost to Trump in his home state; “a race baiting xenophobic religious bigot,” stated Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who was among the first of 17 GOP candidates to drop out of the GOP contest).

Another Clinton ad shows Trump talking himself into further trouble with female voters, telling Chris Matthew’s of MSNBC’s “Hard Ball” that women should receive some sort of unspecified “punishment” for having abortions in the event the procedure becomes illegal. He’s also shown in an interview refusing to disavow an endorsement from KKK leader David Duke.

Trump’s popularity among GOP standard bearers is hardly whole hearted.

“There’s more enthusiasm for @realDonaldTrump among leaders of the KKK than leaders of the political party he now controls,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts. wrote on Twitter. Warren, who has yet to endorse anyone, has become a one-woman scourge of Trump.

Meanwhile, a recent CNN/ORCA survey shows Clinton mopping up the floor with her fellow New Yorker, leading him by 54 to 41, a 13 point edge. That figure augurs well for the former two-term junior senator from the big blue state should she capture the Democratic Party’s nomination over Sen. Bernie Sanders in Philadelphia.

 

By: Mary Reinholz, Featured Post, The National Memo, May 6, 2016

May 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, War On Women | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“He Has A History”: As Journalists, Let Us Not Tiptoe Around Trump, The Nominee

Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president, and now journalists must decide how to cover him.

How do we reconcile the carnival act he’s been with the seriousness of what is now at stake?

Do we cast him as a man equal to the gravitas of the position he seeks instead of the guy, for example, who proudly harangued President Barack Obama for proof that he was born in Hawaii?

Do we cover him as the contender with a suddenly measured tone without also reminding voters of his long habit of misogynist commentary? For another example, commentary such as this about Rosie O’Donnell: “I’d look her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say, ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’” Or this, about Megyn Kelly after she dared remind him during the first Republican debate that he has called women he doesn’t like “fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs” and “disgusting animals”: Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever.”

“Women,” Trump has said, “you have to treat them like sh-t.”

Yes, I’ve written about this before. And yes, I will continue to write about it. How can we possibly pretend Trump never said stuff like this — that it doesn’t really matter — and expect any thinking American to take us seriously?

I’m going to watch this coverage with the fierce focus of a hound on the hunt, and I am confident that I will not be the only columnist or the only woman to do so. As I’ve written a number of times in recent months, this is not the misogyny of the 2008 campaign, but only because so many of us women are older now and we are so done with this.

This morning, by the way, I listened as several male panelists on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” talked about how Hillary Clinton is so unlikable compared with garrulous Trump. I heard this on satellite radio as I drove to work. I don’t recommend doing that if you want to have any faith in Beltway punditry or if you have an interest in driving within the lines. To quote my friend Joanna Kuebler, it’s as if they start their day with a heaping bowl of testosteroni.

It is one thing to cover Trump as the Republican nominee. It is quite another to pretend that he isn’t the same man who has repeatedly used the language of misogyny — and racism and xenophobia, too. He refused to rebuke an endorsement from former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke. He told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that women should “face some sort of punishment” for getting legal abortions. He said Muslims should be banned from entering our country. He has a history, this man, this billionaire reality TV star, and it must follow him every day of this presidential race.

As I pointed out in a public post on Facebook earlier this week, I understand the challenges of reporting about Trump, one of which is to avoid appearing as if we’re punishing him for hating us. He openly disdains the media and enjoys inciting crowds to mock journalists at his rallies. We tread a fine line in describing his behavior without looking as if we are taking it personally.

Add to that problem some editors who can be too quick to temper their reporters’ coverage to avoid another avalanche of outrage from Trump fans. This tentativeness chips away at the sharp edges of journalism while accomplishing nothing in the way of placating our critics. A person who loves Trump has no use for us anyway. Why are we worried about defending the truth to people who’ve decided they’re so over that?

I ask that we journalists not tiptoe around the obvious hallmarks of who Donald Trump is. He may attempt to dial back the rhetoric, but that doesn’t change who we know him to be.

 

By: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist and Professional in Residence at Kent State University’s School of Journalism; The National Memo, May 5, 2016

May 6, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Journalism, Journalists, Reporters | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Spectacularly Stupid Strategy”: Why Trump’s ‘Woman Card’ Attack On Clinton Is Sheer Lunacy

I have no idea what kind of discussions go on when Donald Trump is talking to his campaign advisers, though I suspect there’s a lot of “You were terrific, Mr. Trump!” and “That’s a great idea, Mr. Trump!” But it’s hard not to wonder what they’re telling him about how enthusiastically he’s been going after Hillary Clinton for allegedly playing the “woman card.”

This seems on the surface to be spectacularly stupid as a strategy, yet Trump won’t stop saying it. So I have a theory about what he’s up to, but even if I’m right, he’s going about it in exactly the wrong way.

Here’s what he said yesterday on Fox News Sunday when Chris Wallace asked him about it. It starts with Wallace telling Trump that people in both parties think Trump is being foolish in attacking Clinton this way, to which Trump replies, “Really?  OK.  Well, I’m my own strategist and I like that — what I said and it’s true.  I only tell the truth and that’s why people voted for me.” Then he recites a bunch of poll numbers about how well he’s doing against Ted Cruz, and goes on:

“I mean, Bernie Sanders, what he said was a lot worse than what I said and I’m going to use that. We’ll have that teed up. But Bernie Sanders said she shouldn’t be allowed to run, that she’s not capable.

“And, you know, what he said is incredible. It’s a sound bite. It’s an — in fact, as soon as he said it, they broke in and they said, I can just imagine Donald Trump watching these statements Bernie Sanders has made — is making about Clinton.

“So, look, she’s a strong person. She’s going to have to be able to take it. The fact is, the only card she has is the woman’s card. She’s done a lousy job in so many ways and even women don’t like her.  They don’t like her.

“But it is the woman’s card and she plays it, and I’ll let you know in about six months whether or not she plays it well. But I don’t think she’ll play it well. I don’t think she’ll play it well at all. And it’s true, if she were not a woman, she wouldn’t even be in this race.”

For the record, Bernie Sanders never said Clinton “shouldn’t be allowed to run.” Trump’s assertion that “If Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get five percent of the vote” led multiple commentators (see here, here, and here) to wonder just how well someone with Trump’s lack of experience and colorful history and ideas would fare in a presidential race if he were a woman, and the answer is pretty obvious. And you couldn’t find a worse candidate to make this argument, given that Trump’s unfavorable ratings among women in recent polls have ranged from 67 percent to 74 percent.

So how can he possibly think this is a good argument to make? Here’s my hypothesis: Trump is trying to execute a version of a strategy Karl Rove used so effectively throughout his career. That strategy says that you don’t go after your opponent’s weakness, you go after her strength. The most well-known case was that of John Kerry, where Republicans took the fact that Kerry was a war hero with multiple citations for bravery during his service in Vietnam, and convinced voters that not only wasn’t Kerry a hero at all, he was almost a traitor. In another colorful example from earlier in Rove’s career, he had a client opposing a candidate known for his volunteer work with children, so he spread rumors that the opponent was a pedophile. Suddenly, pictures of the candidate with kids he was helping took on a different meaning.

If this is what Trump is trying to do, it starts from an accurate premise: Clinton’s gender may indeed be one of her greatest strengths. She enters the general election with plenty of weaknesses, particularly since she’s been embroiled in an endless string of controversies over her quarter-century as a national figure. Yet her election as the first woman president would be truly historic, and the closer we get to the election, the more salient that fact may become to women voters (and many men as well). And Clinton isn’t hamstrung by many of the unfair questions that many female candidates have to endure. She’s viewed as strong and competent, and since her daughter is grown, no one is asking why she isn’t at home taking care of her family (a question female candidates with children get, but male candidates never do). There has been a significant gender gap in recent presidential elections, but this election could see the widest one in history, particularly if Democrats can succeed in turning out single women, one of the groups they perform best with.

But if Trump is trying to undermine Clinton’s ability to use her gender to her advantage, he’s going about it in exactly the wrong way. Instead of arguing that a Clinton presidency would actually be bad for women, he’s actually using sexist tropes against her, tropes that women voters find all too familiar. When he says she’s not qualified, every woman who’s ever held a job will be reminded of how she had to work twice as hard to be taken seriously as her male colleagues. They’ll also laugh at the idea that being a woman confers some kind of unfair advantage, in politics or anywhere else. And we’re talking about someone who was a senator and secretary of state, whatever else you might think of her. Trump has never worked a day in government and doesn’t understand the first thing about policy, but she’s the unqualified one? It’s as though the 2004 Bush campaign, instead of “swift boating” John Kerry to convince voters he was no war hero, instead said, “Sure, John Kerry is a war hero, but bravery and service are stupid and military experience should disqualify you from the presidency.” You can imagine how well that would have gone over.

The challenge for Clinton is to figure out exactly how to react to Trump’s blundering attacks. Her initial response — “If fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in!” — was her way of saying that there’s a substantive basis to this argument, that it’s about more than just rudeness. But she needs to keep women motivated to vote against Trump for emotional reasons, too: in the best scenario for her, women are so disgusted by Trump that they register and vote in unusually high numbers. And as some early political science research shows, there’s a wrong way to do it: celebrity endorsements touting Clinton as a strong, accomplished woman have little effect, while a recitation of Trump’s vulgar statements about women move voters powerfully against him.

Of course, it’s also possible that Trump doesn’t have any Rovian strategy in mind when he tells voters that the only reason anyone supports Hillary Clinton is that she’s a woman. It could be that Trump is just a misogynistic jerk who can’t help himself, and isn’t following any strategy at all.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 2, 2016

May 3, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, War On Women, Women in Politics | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Tough Guy Assertiveness”: Membership Has Its Privileges; Donald Trump’s Man Card Pays Off

Donald Trump cut to the chase after his big wins Tuesday night: “Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the women’s card.”

Which is a hell of a thing to say after almost 250 years of American presidential candidates implicitly playing their “men’s cards”—perhaps no one more so than Trump himself, whose campaign rests largely on tough guy assertiveness and machismo bloviating. For many of his supporters, his appeal is very much that he’s a white man.

Don’t believe me? Try to imagine a woman of color running for president on his playbook. “Trump’s attitude coming from a woman or minority would make that person even more beloved by Trump supporters,” one person tweeted me. Which is not only incorrect but preposterous.

First of all, I can’t think of a single woman of color in American politics today who would back the sorts of ludicrous attacks on women and people of color that Trump supports. I can’t name one woman of color who wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States, summarily round up and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants—let alone who habitually calls other women like “dogs” and “fat pigs.”

But even if some Trump-ian woman of color Trump were to exist, it’s impossible to imagine her suffering the same landslide of critiques as Trump and yet emerging similarly unscathed. Women and people of color are simply held to a higher bar in our society. When you’re the only white woman in the corporate board room or the only black man in the legislature, you’re under constant pressure to prove that you’re as smart and qualified as everyone else and that you deserve to be there. It’s a bar white men are simply presumed to meet.

That’s the very definition of privilege—which is not just about where you come from, but what’s assumed about you the moment you walk in a room. And we know from study after study that the sexism and racism baked into American culture means that women and people of color are presumed less than—less than qualified, less than talented, less than deserving.

Try to imagine a woman of color skating by in a presidential primary with Trump’s thin soup of policy “ideas.” Imagine a white woman candidate reading a meandering, inconsistent and impractical foreign policy speech off a teleprompter. Imagine a black male candidate asserting he doesn’t need to give specifics on his policy proposals or how he’ll get things done because people should just trust him. Imagine a woman of color saying she only likes the soldiers who don’t get captured.

You know as well as I do they would be laughed out of politics.

Meanwhile Trump’s entire appeal is based on hyper-masculinity and machismo. He critiques Clinton, saying it’s “always drama” with her and she “doesn’t have the strength” for the job while he calls his Republican opponents names like “little Marco” and “low energy” Bush. He brags about his hot wife and how rich he is. Hand size innuendo aside, Trump is literally and figuratively boasting that he is the biggest guy in the room and as president will be the biggest guy in the world and will “Make America Great Again” because he’s great.

To buy into Trump’s candidacy, you have to buy into the Trump persona— because, let’s be honest, there’s nothing much else to go on there.

And his appeal is most directly to those who feel they have nothing else to go on themselves—mostly working-class white men who feel somehow that the ever-so-modest increase in rights for women and people of color in America has somehow meant less rights and opportunity for white men such as themselves. These voters would not, very simply, vote for a woman or person of color because that’s who they implicitly blame for their lot in life. Data have shown that, among white voters, higher levels of racial resentment correspond with higher support for Trump.

When Trump bases his entire campaign against political correctness, he’s implicitly evoking opposition to those who traditionally support political correctness—namely people of color and women. It’s no coincidence that Trump is running to succeed the first black president while running against the first major woman candidate. As Jamelle Bouie noted in Slate, this doesn’t feel like change to these voters as much as an inversion: “the end of a hierarchy that had always placed white Americans at the top, delivering status even when it couldn’t give material benefits.”

These Trump supporters—clearly not all, maybe not even most, but definitely many—are arguably the same people who think that racism against African-Americans isn’t really a problem in America today but believe in the myth of “reverse racism” against white people as a growing danger.

The impossibility of it aside, Trump supporters would never vote for Trump if he were a woman of color because they see women and people of color as a symptom of if not the actual cause of America’s problems today. These voters are clinging desperately to their white maleness and to their white male candidate.

 

By: Sally Kohn, The Daily Beast, May 1, 2016

May 3, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, War On Women | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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