"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“A Toxic Social And Cultural Stew”: Get Ready For A Long, Very Ugly Election Won On The Ground

Yesterday I wrote that the politically obsessed should not pay attention to general election polls right now, because the GOP primary is over while the Democratic one continues. That in turn has given presumptive nominee Trump a consolidating boost, while Sanders supporters still resist supporting Clinton. That phenomenon will dissipate within the month, and Clinton will get her own boost once the last votes are cast.

Still, the latest poll showing Trump leading Clinton by 2 points is instructive not for its toplines, but for the very high negative public perceptions of both candidates. While the topline numbers should change over the next few months in Clinton’s favor, the candidates’ negatives are unlikely to. Compounding this reality is that the public has lower-than-ever perceptions of the news media, which means we’re ripe for a toxic social and cultural stew as we approach the election.

What does this mean going forward? Mostly that the election will be driven in part by core supporters who do like their respective candidates on both sides, but mostly by fear of the other side. Conservative voters who don’t like Trump will have to make a choice whether to trudge to the polls to vote against Clinton, and liberal voters who don’t like Clinton will have to do likewise against Trump. Undecided voters who don’t like either choice will have to decide whether to vote at all.

Pure partisans won’t have any trouble showing up, because that’s what we do. But general elections aren’t won by pure partisans who vote in every election. Nor are they usually won by persuading the very small slice of people who can’t seem to make up their minds between two very different candidates all the way into October.

General elections are won by turning out the people who already agree with you ideologically, but only show up to vote every other election when they really feel inspired to but otherwise feel that politics is a waste of time that doesn’t change anything dramatically affecting their daily lives.

In that sense, the way both sides will try to win is not to convince the disaffected that their candidate will affect dramatic positive changes (though Trump may have some disaffected voters with whom he can make that argument; Clinton’s chance of persuading her own version of the same is somewhat less due to her intentionally incrementalist message), but to scare them into believing that the other candidate will make dramatic negative changes.

In other words, Trump will try to convince apathetic conservatives that Clinton will turn America into a gun-free Venezuelan socialist despotism, while Clinton will try to convince apathetic liberals that Trump will turn America into an unstable, trigger-happy fascist dictatorship. Clinton will use Trump’s lascivious past against him, even as Trump brings up decades of unsavory personal Clinton associations. It’s going to a very nasty affair. The one big advantage Democrats will have is a probable surge in the Latino vote out of genuine self-preservation.

In the meantime, the election will actually be won not in the air, but on the ground. The ugliness on the air will depress turnout even further, which will require campaign organizers to depend on millions of face-to-face conversations with voters on the fence about whether to vote at all.

All of which is to say this: as we approach the general election, those who want to help their candidate win in November should probably spend a lot less time arguing with other people in online forums or obsessing over television ads, and a lot more time making calls and knocking on doors. That’s where this very ugly game is going to be won and lost.


By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 23, 2016

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Bizarrely Common Argument”: No, Hillary Doesn’t Have An Obligation To Try To Win Over Southern White Voters

Do presidential candidates have an obligation to campaign everywhere, and to make particular appeals to every demographic group? That’s the case made by this big article that appeared in Sunday’s New York Times and continues to drive discussion today. Here’s an excerpt:

Hillary Rodham Clinton appears to be dispensing with the nationwide electoral strategy that won her husband two terms in the White House and brought white working-class voters and great stretches of what is now red-state America back to Democrats.

Instead, she is poised to retrace Barack Obama’s far narrower path to the presidency: a campaign focused more on mobilizing supporters in the Great Lakes states and in parts of the West and South than on persuading undecided voters.

Mrs. Clinton’s aides say it is the only way to win in an era of heightened polarization, when a declining pool of voters is truly up for grabs. Her liberal policy positions, they say, will fire up Democrats, a less difficult task than trying to win over independents in more hostile territory — even though a broader strategy could help lift the party with her.

This early in the campaign, however, forgoing a determined outreach effort to all 50 states, or even most of them, could mean missing out on the kind of spirited conversation that can be a unifying feature of a presidential election. And it could leave Mrs. Clinton, if she wins, with the same difficulties Mr. Obama has faced in governing with a Republican-controlled Congress.

In terms of geography, this is a bizarre — yet bizarrely common — argument. I addressed this at some length in this piece at the American Prospect, but the simple fact is that as long as we have an Electoral College and 48 of the 50 states assign their electors on a winner-take-all basis, there is absolutely no reason for candidates to campaign in states where they have no chance of winning. So they don’t. They also don’t campaign in states where they have no chance of losing.

Neither the Democratic nor the Republican nominee will spend large amounts of time stumping for votes in California, nor in Oklahoma, because everyone already knows what the outcome in those states will be. Democratic senator Joe Manchin is quoted in the article saying Clinton should campaign in his home state of West Virginia, since if Al Gore had won the state in 2000, he would have been president. But in the last presidential election, Barack Obama lost West Virginia by 27 points. If Manchin actually thinks Clinton or any Democratic presidential contender has a shot there, he may not be quite the political genius he fancies himself.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributing Writer, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, June 8, 2015

June 12, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, Red States | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Real Mitt Romney”: Bully, Lie, Manipulate,Threaten…Whatever It Takes

Mitt Romney is unbelievable. Literally. On Tuesday the GOP presidential candidate told the Des Moines Register’s editorial board: “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.”

With four weeks left until the election, Romney unquestionably needs to win over undecided voters by camouflaging his anti-choice stance. But he’s on record championing some of the most extreme — and more importantly, extremely unpopular — tactics aimed at blocking women’s access to basic reproductive health care, including abortion and birth control.

Throughout his campaign for president, Romney has said again and again that he would end funding for family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood that provide abortion services as part of a broader range of women’s health care.

His own party’s platform states: “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.” Plain English translation: they support criminalizing abortion.

In October 2011, Romney told Mike Huckabee on FOX News that when he was governor of Massachusetts he “absolutely” would have supported a state constitutional amendment establishing that life begins at conception. Like the measure defeated in Mississippi earlier this year, such “fetal personhood” laws not only criminalize abortion, but would also outlaw popular forms of contraception, fertility treatment and stem cell research. Romney added, “My view is that the Supreme Court should reverse Roe v. Wade,” and promised that he would send justices to the high court who would be inclined to do just that — take us back to the days when abortion was criminalized in much of the country.

But somehow we’re supposed to believe that a President Romney wouldn’t pose any threat to reproductive choice? With a candidate this dishonest, voters have to decide for themselves which version would preside over the nation. Right-wing supporters of Romney are standing by the socially conservative incarnation of their guy.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, told USA TODAY:
“We have full confidence that as president, Gov. Romney will stand by the pro-life commitments he laid out in National Review in June 2011,” including his promise to “advocate for a bill to promote unborn children capable of feeling pain.”

I’m inclined to agree with Dannenfelser. In that National Review piece, penned by Romney himself, the candidate said: “If I have the opportunity to serve as our nation’s next president, I commit to doing everything in my power to cultivate, promote, and support a culture of life in America.”

Interestingly, Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul sent to the conservative National Review a stronger backtrack of her boss’s latest pronouncement than the one she delivered more widely. In an email to the National Review, Saul had this to say: “Governor Romney would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.”

It’s not hard to figure out why, where women’s reproductive health care is concerned, Romney flips here, flops there, gives the old Etch-A-Sketch a good shake, and slicks out a sound bite for each new audience du jour. The simple reason: Romney’s policy agenda for women’s health is deeply unpopular with all voters, and especially women voters.

So now it has dawned on Romney that his unpopular positions may hurt him with the voters who are still up for grabs. So what does he do? Lie. Shape his message not to reality but to the goal of winning debates, winning votes, winning at all costs.

Here’s my newsflash for Governor Etch-A-Sketch: Women are not fooled by his shape-shifting public persona. The real Mitt Romney is revealed by what he says in private, when the cameras aren’t rolling (or so he assumes). In these unmasked moments, Romney has revealed a more accurate version of himself. He is the guy who glibly wrote off 47 percent of the U.S. population as lazy, irresponsible moochers. He is the guy who used his position as lay bishop to bully women in his church about their pregnancies, their health and their families. That guy’s the real Romney.

Romney Knows Best

The following stories reveal just how chilling the real Mitt Romney can be. Repeatedly, he has shown himself to be a man who thinks he knows best what women should do with their bodies and how (or even if) they should raise their children.

Before entering politics, Romney served in several positions of authority in the Mormon Church. Judith Dushku, a Mormon feminist who stood up to Romney numerous times when she was in his congregation, shared with the Boston Globe and other media outlets her impression that Mitt’s fleeting pro-choice stance was a strategic move to win votes when he ran for the U.S. Senate. Dushku said Romney told her face-to-face: “Well, they told me in Salt Lake City I could take this position, and in fact I probably had to in order to win in a liberal state like Massachusetts.”

Dushku also brought to light the story of her friend Carrel Hilton Sheldon, a Mormon woman who discovered she had a blood clot while pregnant. With her life potentially at risk, this mother of four children decided to have an abortion, and she even got permission from the proper authorities in the church. But Romney tried to talk her out of it, shaming her with comments like, “Well, why do you get off so easy when other women have their babies?” He told her that “as your bishop, my concern is with the child.”

And it wasn’t just one incident. According to The New York Times, Janna and Randy Sorensen approached Romney in the early 1990s seeking his help in adopting a child. The church did not facilitate adoptions for mothers who worked outside the home, and the couple told Romney they thought the rule was unfair. But Romney would not proceed with helping the couple until he had convinced Janna to quit her job.

Ten years earlier, Romney similarly tried to twist the arm of Peggie Hayes when he was bishop in his local ward. As reported in Vanity Fair, Romney urged the 23-year-old single mother, whom his family had known quite well for years, to give up her soon-to-be-born second child for adoption. When Hayes informed Romney of her intention to keep and raise the child, his response was to threaten her with excommunication from the church.

Bully, lie, manipulate, threaten. Mitt Romney believes these tactics will get him what he wants. But I believe in the good sense of women voters throughout the country. And for the next four weeks, I’ll be working along with thousands of NOW chapter leaders and activists to get the word out: Mitt Romney’s real agenda is dangerous for women. Come Nov. 6, we will defeat Governor Etch-A-Sketch and re-elect President Obama, who actually means it when he says he is pro-choice.


BY: Terry O’Neill, President, National Organization For Women; The Huffington Post, October 10, 2012

October 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Republican Playbook”:The Politics Of Fear And The Party Of Non-Voters

The latest Pew Research Center poll shows Mitt Romney ahead of President Barack Obama among likely voters, 49% to 45%. But the latest Gallup poll shows the President Obama leading Romney among likely voters, 50% to 45%.

What gives? The Pew poll covered the days immediately following last Wednesday’s presidential debate. It didn’t include last weekend. The Gallup poll, by contrast, included the weekend — after September’s jobs report showed unemployment down to 7.8 percent for the first time in more than three years.

So it’s fair to conclude the bump the President received from the jobs report bump made up for the bump Romney got from the debate. No surprise that voters care more about jobs than they do about debate performance.

But don’t be misled. The race has tightened up.

Moreover, polls of “likely voters” are notoriously imprecise because they reflect everyone who says they’re likely to vote – including those who hope to but won’t, as well as those who won’t but don’t want to admit it.

Remember: The biggest party in America is neither Democrats nor Republicans. It’s the party of non-voters — a group that outnumbers the other two.

So the real question is which set of potential supporters is more motivated on Election Day (or via absentee ballot) to bother to vote.

The biggest motivator in this election isn’t enthusiasm about either of the candidates. The Republican base has never particularly liked Romney, and many Democrats have been disappointed in Obama.

The biggest motivator is fear of the other guy.

There’s clear reason for Democrats and Independents to fear Romney and Ryan — their reverse Robin-Hood budgets that take from the poor and middle class and reward the rich; their determination to do away with Medicare and Medicaid, as well as Dodd-Frank constraints on Wall Street, and ObamaCare; their opposition to abortion even after rape or incest, and rejection of equal marriage rights; their support for “profiling” immigrants; and their disdain of the “47 percent,” to name a few.

And the thought of the next Supreme Court justices being picked by someone who thinks corporations are people should strike horror in the mind of any thinking American.

Yet Romney is such a chameleon that in last Wednesday’s debate he appeared to disavow everything he’s stood for, hide many of his former positions, and even sound somewhat moderate.

Meanwhile, for four years the GOP and its auxiliaries in Fox News and yell radio have told terrible lies about our president – charging he wasn’t born in America, he’s a socialist, he doesn’t share American values. They’ve disdained and disrespected President Obama in ways no modern president has had to endure.

They’re drummed up fear in a public battered by an economic crisis Republicans largely created, while hiding George W. Bush so we won’t be reminded. And they’ve channeled that fear toward President Obama and even to the central institutions of our democracy, casting his administration and our government as the enemy.

They’ve apparently convinced almost half of America of their lies – including many who would suffer most under Romney and Ryan.

Republicans are well practiced in the politics of fear and the logistics the big lie. The challenge for Obama and Biden and for the rest of us over the next four weeks is to counter their fearsome lies with the truth.


By: Robert Reich, Robert Reich Blog, October 9, 2012

October 10, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Testosterone Effect”: How An Obama Victory Hurts Republican Men

In response to habitual conservative claims that polling firms are cooking the books in Obama’s favor, Jon Chait recently made the case that poll denialism was understandable, even if its reasoning was wrong.

A good deal of what undecided voters who are just now tuning in will learn about Romney is that he’s a loser disdained by fellow Republicans. Conservative rage over this fact may be utterly misplaced, but the sentiment itself is perfectly understandable.

The desire to vote with the winning team–regardless of party affiliation–is even stronger than Chait suggested. An essay in this weekend’s Sunday Review argues that all those discouraged Republican men are going to be even more depressed if Romney loses for psychological, rather than strictly political reasons.

Men who had voted for the losing presidential candidate, John McCain, suffered a big drop in their testosterone after hearing of his defeat. The scientists reported that the male McCain voters “felt significantly more controlled, submissive, unhappy and unpleasant.” The testosterone effect was “as if they directly engaged head-to-head in a contest for dominance” and lost, one researcher told a reporter when the study was published in 2009. The men who voted for Obama fared better. The researchers speculated that there might be an Obama baby boom.

No change, meanwhile, was observed in women’s testosterone levels. This evidence, as the author notes, suggests higher female voting rates may reflect the fact that women don’t let elections affect their self-worth. Pardoxically, it seems, hypercompetitive male behavior has made men less likely to fight for their own teams.


By: Simon van Zuylen-Wood, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 7, 2012

October 8, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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