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“I’m No Math Genius, But…”: In Elections, Addition is Always Better Than Subtraction

In the November/December 2015 issue of the Washington Monthly, I wrote a review of Stanley Greenberg’s book America Ascendant. One of the main points Greenberg makes is to outline a reform agenda that Democrats should embrace to win the support of white working class voters.

Greenberg provides polling and focus group data to show strong support from Americans (not just Democrats or Republicans) for the following items: Americans want to protect Medicare and Social Security. They want paid sick days, and access to affordable child care for working mothers and families. They want equal pay for women. They want an affordable college education. And, finally, they want long-term infrastructure investment to rebuild America and create middle-class jobs, while raising taxes on the very rich so they pay their fair share.

I was reminded of that when I read an article by Phillip Rucker and Robert Costa about how Republicans – especially Trump and Cruz – are pinning their presidential hopes on wooing white working class voters. But they have a totally different approach.

Trump is making the most visceral, raw appeal to people who feel left out of the economic recovery and ignored by the political establishment. He espouses hard-line views on immigration that border on nativism, protectionist trade policies and a tough approach with countries like China, Japan and Mexico that he portrays as thieves of U.S. manufacturing jobs…

Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said the candidate’s words for the working class are deliberately personal. “People don’t feel like these jobs have disappeared,” he said. “They’ve been stolen, and they don’t mind if someone is speaking forcefully about taking them back for blue-collar Americans…”

“None of [the candidates] are saying what they should be saying — ‘Get them out of here’ — except Trump,” said Tim Labelle, 73, a retired auto mechanic who voted for Obama in 2008. “They’re taking our jobs, and they’re gonna take over our whole country if we don’t put an end to it.”

Interestingly enough, Mitt Romney is suggesting another approach – one more in line with what Greenberg outlined.

“As a party we speak a lot about deregulation and tax policy, and you know what? People have been hearing that for 25 years, and they’re getting tired of that message,” Romney said in a recent interview. He added, “I think we’re nuts not to raise the minimum wage. I think, as a party, to say we’re trying to help the middle class of America and the poor and not raise the minimum wage sends exactly the wrong signal.”

So the question becomes: what is the more effective strategy for appealing to white working class voters? Is it the one focused on a nativist appeal or the one that addresses their real economic challenges?

The advantage of the former is that it is animated by emotions – fear and anger – as opposed to a more thoughtful appeal to reason. That carries a lot of currency these days apparently. But to the extent that it might be successful immediately, it is destined to be a problem over the long term. That is because it is, by definition, an either/or formulation that is built on an us/them divide. The more candidates like Trump and Cruz embrace an appeal based on wooing white working class voters by denigrating people of color, the “whiter” their party becomes. That does not bode well given our country’s rapidly changing demographics.

On the other hand, the reform agenda outlined by Greenberg and the proposal Romney embraced about raising the minimum wage are just as appealing to the rising American electorate as they are to white working class voters. In that way, it is focused on a both/and rather than an either/or. I’m no math genius, but when it comes to winning elections, I’m smart enough to know that addition is always more effective than subtraction.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 14, 2016

January 14, 2016 Posted by | Economic Recovery, Fearmongering, Middle Class, White Working Class | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trump’s Emotionally Manipulative Secret”: How Donald Trump Tapped Into America’s Daddy Complex

Donald Trump likes to talk about himself in the third-person. “Nobody would be tougher on ISIS than Donald Trump,” the mogul boasted when he announced his candidacy for president back in June. I’ve noticed that I also talk in the third person — when I’m speaking to my toddler.

This is Trump’s emotionally manipulative secret.

I suspect he knows that parents instinctively talk to their young kids this way to comfort and reassure them. We moms and dads may not promise to make America great again, but we’ll happily tell a child what they want to hear: “Mommy will fly to the moon with you later, darling.”

By imitating this speech style, Trump plays to the idea that America wants a father figure in the White House. We want one person who can sit in the Oval Office and single-handedly solve all our nation’s problems while we play in the yard. Trump promises to be that president — America’s ultimate dad.

It’s not just his use of the third person either. His blanket pledge to fix stuff — from crumbling bridges and airports to immigration — while not bothering to trouble us with grownup details, like policy or budget, is oddly comforting to a huge number of people. Of course, Trump’s content-free pronouncements — and the fact that so many people seem impressed by them — make a significant number of us roll our eyes like angsty teenagers. But, alas, this isn’t putting much of a smudge on his luster.

So, what other trumped up paternal promises has Big Daddy made?

How is he going to handle all those dangerous Mexicans — aka monsters under the bed — who he claims keep flooding over our border? That’s easy: Dad’ll get his tools and build a big wall. The fact that the real Donald Trump is almost certainly incapable of mending so much as a blocked sink is, sadly, irrelevant. Kids worship their father regardless of his skill set.

And what about those bullies over at ISIS? “I would knock the hell out of them… and I’d take the oil for our country,” he told the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. This is an ultimate Dad move. That playground bully is bothering you? Daddy is going to punch him in the face and give you his lunch money.

Meanwhile, the mogul’s disingenuous pledge to increase taxation for the rich is reminiscent of the type of never-kept promise a frustrated parent tells a difficult child: “Daddy will get you a new toy at the weekend. Now eat your broccoli.” And just so we know that he’s genuine, Trump’s also promised to raise his own taxes: “Look, daddy’s eating his broccoli too!”

And, like the majority of hard-line Republicans, Trump has written off global warming as a “total hoax.” I have no way of knowing whether he actually believes this, but it certainly seems like something a parent would spout to reassure a petrified kid that they’re not, in fact, doomed. “Don’t worry, kiddo: Lots of people never die.”

With his pater patter, Trump has enough of us captivated to pose a real threat to the other Republican candidates — and maybe even the Mother of All Democrats, Hillary Clinton.

So here’s some parting advice for the left’s frontrunner: Start talking in the third person


By: Ruth Margolis, The Week, September 4, 2015

September 6, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, National Security | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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