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“Sanders Is Exploiting The Trade Issue”: Mirroring The Republican Approach To Obamacare

Some people are suggesting that Bernie Sanders‘ win in Michigan was a result of his opposition to trade deals like NAFTA and TPP and that this will serve him well with white working class voters in the so-called “rust belt” states. Just prior to the debate in Flint, Michigan, Sanders tweeted this:

Both Danielle Krutzleben at NPR and Steve Chapman at the Chicago Tribune did some fact-checking on the role of trade deals in the challenges faced by cities like Detroit and Flint. Krutzleban begins with a chart showing that the migration out of Detroit started around 1950 and that since then, it has lost more than 60% of its residents. That started long before the trade deals Sanders suggested as the cause of all those abandoned buildings.

Chapman identifies several factors that are not accounted for if we simply look at things like NAFTA to blame. He points out that Michael Moore’s documentary “Roger & Me” about the shut-down of the General Motors plant in Flint came out four years before NAFTA took effect and that the challenge to the auto industry back then was coming from Japan (not China or Mexico), where they were producing more reliable and fuel-efficient cars.

The other issue that hurt Detroit was the migration of auto plants – not overseas – but to states (mostly in the South) who adopted so-called “right to work” laws that undermined unions. Another factor was automation – which reduced the number of workers required to produce cars by a third. Finally, Chapman makes this observation:

Breaking down trade barriers would actually help the American auto industry and those on the assembly lines. One major attraction of building cars in Mexico is that it has free trade agreements with 45 countries — while the U.S. has free trade deals with just 20. Exporting to most of the world is easier there than here.

Bernard Swiecki, an analyst at the Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research, told Business Alabama why Audi recently decided to put a factory in Mexico instead of the U.S.: “If they export it, they save $4,500 per vehicle in tariffs they don’t have to pay.”

These are just some of the complicating factors that affected a state like Michigan. But they are paralleled by a look at history that informs us of what drove the manufacturing boom in the United States as well as what is challenging its survival today. To sum up: it is not as simple as blaming trade deals.

What I find troubling about Sanders’ approach to all of this is not simply his avoidance of even a cursory mention of these complex issues. It is more about the fact that he is obviously tapping into the anger and despair that is felt by those who are affected (much like Donald Trump is doing) and then locating a singular culprit on which to focus their blame.

But beyond even that, the one thing many of us have spent the last seven years criticizing about Republicans is their use of anger/fear mongering to foster obstruction. What is totally lacking from Sanders is any articulation of what his own approach to trade would be. In that way, he is mirroring the Republican approach to Obamacare: suggesting that trade deals need to be repealed without offering a replacement. For those of us who think that it is important to get beyond the anger/fear and talk about actual policy that works, that is not good enough.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 10, 2016

March 16, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, NAFTA, Trade Agreements | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Yuuuge Media Failure”: The Press Was Wrong, And Remains Wrong, About Donald Trump

The system failed. That’s what they say about the establishment Republican party, such as it is. For me, there is a logical progression from Newt Gingrich’s harsh revolution to the present moment. The tea party brought Donald Trump to the 2016 dance with its angry outsider rhetoric. Six years ago, the tea party whipped up a frenzy that Trump has furthered with every passing day as the Republican primary front-runner.

Count me out of mourning for the Republican party. This is the party that produced Richard Nixon, a vicious spirit, schemer and liar. Please don’t tell me about China, or I’ll bring up Vietnam and Cambodia. This is the party that gave us George W. Bush by one Supreme Court vote over the popular vote. The Iraq War was the longest, and for what? It has tied the Middle East up into knots and power vacuums. This is the war nobody won. Bush left messes for his successor, Barack Obama, to clean up for eight years, not to mention junking good will from our allies and military morale.

This is the party that has given us hundreds of members of Congress that, to a man, oppose reproductive rights for girls and women. There’s only one Republican woman defined as a pro-choice moderate: Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. One. This is the party that gave us Clarence Thomas. Need I say more?

But there are tears that another system failed, a system just as central to democracy. Despite great debate coverage, the press has failed and fallen down on the job of covering Trump, and I’ll tell you how. First they – we – snidely covered him as head of the “clown car,” assuring readers and viewers that he could never win the nomination despite his strong poll numbers from the start. That was a strong chorus from friends and foes alike. Don’t worry, nobody could take him seriously as a standard-bearer.

I belong to this tribe, some of my best friends are journos, but I did not share this complacency. I had actually watched Trump’s reality show, “The Apprentice,” with a reluctant respect for his deal-making and character judgment. Like him or not, he is a formidable player. And, clearly, the climate was just right for him. Now the confessions and apologies are coming up for air, from white male pundits who never saw Trump’s swath coming. Like a lifeguard who misses a tidal wave coming to shore. I won’t name names, but I will say the reason for this short-sightedness is that the media viewed Trump through the spectacles of our own class privilege.

For my part, I wrote that Trump might be a “textbook demagogue” fully ahead of the wave. And I give him credit for vociferously criticizing the Iraq War, which may be part of his populist appeal. He is the only candidate to decry that foreign policy folly, except for his fellow populist, Sen. Bernie Sanders. To me, the scary thing is that he wasn’t even the worst in the Republican line-up. I’d take him over Jeb Bush any day, or the other Floridian, Sen. Marco Rubio, the pretty darling of the pundits.

Winds of white working-class anger were blowing out there, at Trump’s rallies, but not taken seriously enough as a force. Now that we people in the press have sobered up, I fear that pendulum is swinging the other way, and the press is taking Trump too seriously. Conservative pundit Kathleen Parker wrote this in Sunday’s Post: “Trump is still terrible for the country, and therefore the world.” In Monday’s Post, Fred Hiatt tore into Trump as a narcissist, a bigot and yes, a demagogue. So now the clown is being demonized.

Here in the world’s oldest democracy, let’s let the party decide without undue hysterics from the establishment media. Yes, the press is compensating for reading the winds so wrong when the stakes are so high. But it happens all the time.


By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, March 14, 2016

March 15, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Mainstream Media, Press | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Will ‘Trumpism’ Take Over The GOP?”: Trump Is Exploiting A Rich And Very Real Vein Of Public Sentiment

In Thursday night’s 12th GOP candidate debate, somebody pulled a plug and the candidates turned in an amazingly muted performance, with none of the high-volume insults and attacks that characterized the last get-together in Detroit. That mostly made the event a nothing-burger — unless you are really interested in hearing GOP boilerplate on Social Security privatization or Obamacare — with one important exception. With the volume turned down, the emptiness and incoherence of Donald Trump’s approach to public-policy issues becomes especially clear. He’ll make good deals and will be lethally inclined toward America’s enemies (including, for the moment, global Islam, it seems). Even on the one topic where he seemed to have a new thought — supporting the deployment of ground troops to fight ISIS — no reason was given for the change in position, other than a sort of gut feeling it would be necessary to “destroy ISIS.”

Everyone understands that Trump is exploiting a rich and very real vein of public sentiment, centered in but not limited to white working-class folk who may have voted Republican in the past but never shared the economic and foreign-policy views of the business and movement-conservative elites who run the GOP. Some optimistically view this Trump constituency as an addition to the Republican coalition; I think it’s mostly elements of the existing coalition that are threatening to leave unless the party changes. Either way, does this all go away if Trump loses or gets bored and goes back to different modes of brand promotion?

You might think so, but a certain erudite if occasionally cranky polymath and thinker, New America’s Michael Lind, believes there’s something we can call Trumpism, and it’s the future of conservative politics. Here’s how Lind boils it down in a piece on Trump as “the perfect populist” at Politico:

It remains to be seen whether Trump can win the Republican nomination, much less the White House. But whatever becomes of his candidacy, it seems likely that his campaign will prove to be just one of many episodes in the gradual replacement of Buckley-Goldwater-Reagan conservatism by something more like European national populist movements, such as the National Front in France and the United Kingdom Independence Party in Britain. Unlike Goldwater, who spearheaded an already-existing alliance consisting of National Review, Modern Age, and Young Americans for Freedom, Trump has followers but no supportive structure of policy experts and journalists. But it seems likely that some Republican experts and editors, seeking to appeal to his voters in the future, will promote a Trump-like national populist synthesis of middle-class social insurance plus immigration restriction and foreign policy realpolitik,through conventional policy papers and op-eds rather than blustering speeches and tweets.

Now, that’s a fascinating prospect, isn’t it? The entire conservative policy and messaging edifice, the product of hundreds of billions of dollars of investments and many years of development, employing God knows how many thinkers, researchers, gabbers, and writers, replaced by an infrastructure devoted to making Trumpism not just a brand or an epithet but a whole way of thinking about public life.

Where this would all come from is a mystery. The Trump campaign itself is a strange assortment of personal retainers, hired guns, and the occasional public figure reeking of brimstone after climbing aboard Trump’s bandwagon out of what appears to be sheer opportunism. When you look at a guy like Sam Clovis — the intellectually well-regarded Iowa “constitutional conservative” who abandoned Rick Perry’s sinking ship last summer and signed on with Trump as “senior policy adviser” — you see someone who’s probably winging it as much as the Donald himself. So the question abides: Does Trump represent anything larger than himself (not that he could imagine it!)? Is he the harbinger of some “national populist” movement that will kick conventional conservatism to the curb, or just (like many right-wing demagogues before him) the vehicle for the occasional rage that seizes people furious with change?

It’s hard to say. There was a similar moment in the mid-1970s when William Rusher, publisher of the conservative-movement beacon National Review, labored to create a “Producers Party” that would abandon the husk of the Republican Party to its desiccated Establishment and unite Reagan and Wallace supporters in furious opposition to the political elites of both parties and their alleged underclass clientele. Nothing much came of it, and instead Reagan supervised the capture of the GOP by Rusher’s friends and associates who remained within the party. If Trump is somehow elected president, the challenges of actual power may domesticate him and make him a real Republican. Without question, the prestige of the presidency and its vast patronage inside and outside government would stimulate the kind of interest in developing Trumpism that Michael Lind expects. If he wins the Republican nomination but then loses the general election, it’s far more likely the right will turn the whole Trump phenomenon into an object lesson about the consequences of irresponsibility and ideological laxity.

And if Trump can’t even make it to Cleveland and seize the nomination with all of the things working in his favor at present, he’ll become just another loser, and no more likely to become the founding father of a new ideology than Rick Santorum. So don’t hold your breath waiting for the development of Trumpism until and unless Trump takes the oath of office as president. But then we’d have more things to worry about than the future shape of center-right thinking, wouldn’t we?


By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 11, 2016

March 14, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How The GOP Stupidly Enabled A Donald Trump ‘Comeback'”: GOP Anti-Trumpers Lack The Credibility To Make The Kill

Remember when Donald Trump was losing?

If you blinked, you might have missed it.

It started during last Thursday’s debate, continued through the muddled results of Saturday’s caucuses and primaries, and lasted until, oh, around the time that news outlets began calling Mississippi for Trump a few minutes after the polls closed in the state on Tuesday night.

Now that Trump’s march to the nomination appears to be back on track with decisive victories in Michigan, Mississippi, and Hawaii, it’s worth pausing for a moment to assess just what went wrong with the #NeverTrump movement. Why has it done so little to alter the shape of the race? How has Trump managed to stay on top through the unrelenting critical coverage of the past week?

A good part of the answer lies in the distinctive defects of the messengers. In just about every case, those leading the charge against Trump lack the credibility to make the kill.

Let’s begin with Trump’s opponents in the race for the GOP nomination.

For two endless, sordid hours last Thursday night, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz tag-teamed with the three Fox News debate moderators in laying into Trump. They were merciless. By the time it was over, Trump looked like an incompetent, vulgarian huckster whose renegade presidential campaign may well pose a dire threat to the republic.

Yet when Rubio and Cruz were asked at the conclusion of the debate if they would support Trump in the event that he secured the party’s nomination, both of them outed themselves as unprincipled Republican Party hacks by answering, astonishingly, yes.

In those 30 seconds, two hours of damage was undone. After all, how bad could Trump really be if both of his antagonists wouldn’t hesitate to rally to his side and work to see him prevail in a battle against Hillary Clinton?

A similar bit of self-sabotage was at work in Mitt Romney’s historic speech ripping Trump to shreds earlier that day. It was an extraordinarily powerful statement, and unlike anything we’ve ever seen before: The Republican standard-bearer from just four years ago excoriating the present-day frontrunner of his own party.

But the moment one’s attention drifted from the message — Trump is a fraud and a phony — to the messenger, the cognitive dissonance became too much to bear. As everyone knows, when Romney was governor of Massachusetts he signed into law the direct forerunner of the Affordable Care Act — and then ran a presidential campaign devoted to denouncing the federal version of the law as nothing less than the advent of tyranny in America.

Which seems like pretty compelling evidence that Romney himself must have been at least a little bit of a fraud and a phony at one of those past moments.

Then there are the sour memories of Romney’s ostentatiously oligarchic 2012 campaign — with its denigration of 47 percent of the country as moochers, obsequious praise of entrepreneurs, brittle defenses of Bain Capital’s role in sowing creative destruction, and talk of car elevators, dressage, and other perks of life among the richest of the rich.

How likely was it that Trump’s angry white working-class voters were going to be moved by an appeal made by such a man? No wonder it seems to have backfired.

Finally, Trump has also come in for severe criticism from “members of the Republican national security community,” several dozen of whom have signed a hotly worded “open letter” that culminates in the claim that Trump is singularly “unfitted” to serve as commander-in-chief.

They’re certainly right about that. The only problem is that nearly every one of the 117 people who have (so far) signed the letter supported the disastrous Iraq War, most of them favored the military intervention in Libya that has led to similarly ruinous consequences, and many have sharply criticized President Obama for failing to commit more forcefully to arming and defending so-called (and exceedingly difficult to detect) “moderate” rebel groups in the Syrian civil war.

These are the people judging Donald Trump unfit to serve as commander-in-chief of the armed forces?

Let’s just say that their opinions would carry somewhat more weight had they not repeatedly demonstrated over the past decade and half that they possess consistently poor judgment in matters of foreign affairs.

These were the anti-Trump messengers of the past week — the week when Trump started losing. And then started winning again.

The really surprising thing is that anyone was surprised.


By: Damon Linker, The Week, March 9, 2016

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Poetic Justice, A Big Beautiful Wall”: Will Latinos Wall Off Trump From The White House?

How’s this for poetic justice? Donald Trump’s favorite scapegoats could end up having the satisfaction of blocking him from the White House.

Latino voters have the potential to form a “big, beautiful wall” between Trump and his goal. If Trump gets the Republican nomination and Hispanics are provoked into voting in numbers that more nearly approach their percentage of the population — and if, as polls suggest, they vote overwhelmingly against Trump — it is hard to see how the bombastic billionaire could win.

Such an outcome would serve Trump right. Unfortunately for the GOP, it would also threaten to make Latinos a reliable and perhaps monolithic voting bloc for the Democratic Party, just as African Americans have been since the 1960s. If this were to happen, simple arithmetic would make it increasingly difficult for Republicans to win the White House.

In 2012, Mitt Romney won just 27 percent of the Latino vote; his policy of “self-deportation” for undocumented immigrants is believed to have contributed to this poor showing. After Romney’s defeat, a GOP postmortem called on the party to regain its footing with the nation’s largest minority group. “We must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform,” the report said.

This never happened. A group of senators who became known as the Gang of Eight, including Marco Rubio, managed to win passage of a reform bill, but House Republicans refused even to consider the legislation. It seemed the immigration issue would once again be a liability for the GOP in the presidential contest.

Then along came Trump, who opened his campaign by charging that immigrants coming from Mexico were criminals and rapists — and promising to build a wall along the border to keep them out. As for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already here, Trump’s solution is not self-deportation but rather forced deportation: He pledges to round them all up and send them home.

Trump may be all over the map on a host of issues, but xenophobic opposition to Latino immigration has been his North Star. He invites supporters to see their nation under siege from Latinos who allegedly take away jobs, commit crimes and alter traditional American culture. Last year, he criticized campaign rival Jeb Bush — whose wife is from Mexico — for speaking Spanish at a rally. “He should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States,” Trump said.

Trump’s chauvinism has been winning approval among the mostly white, working-class voters who form the core of his support. But there are signs that he may also be animating Latinos — to come out and vote against him.

A poll last month by The Post and Univision showed that just 16 percent of Latino voters had a favorable view of Trump, as opposed to 80 percent who view him unfavorably. The remaining GOP candidates — Rubio, Ted Cruz and John Kasich — all do considerably better. But no Republican does nearly as well as Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both of whom are seen favorably by healthy majorities.

In a hypothetical matchup, according to the poll, Clinton would beat Trump among Latino voters by 73 percent to 16 percent. Assuming those who had no opinion went equally for the two candidates, Clinton’s share of the Latino vote would approach 80 percent. Swing states with large Hispanic populations such as Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado would effectively be off the table for the GOP.

Moreover, the sheer number of Latino voters will almost surely increase across the nation. According to the Pew Research Center, the 23.3 million Hispanics who were eligible to vote in 2012 will have grown to 27.3 million by Election Day, mostly from young citizens who turn 18. The specter of a Trump presidency is giving urgency to widespread voter-registration drives.

Trump’s claim that he “won” among Hispanic voters in Nevada is based on entrance polling at the party caucuses, but the sample was so small as to be virtually meaningless. More pertinent is that more than twice as many Hispanics participated in the Democratic caucuses as in the Republican ones.

Assuming Trump wins the nomination, where does this leave him? If Latinos come out to vote against him in greater-than-usual numbers, he would have to win what looks like an impossibly high percentage of the white vote to be competitive. Even if the Latino vote just grows proportionally with population, he would have a hard time winning states that GOP presidential candidates can’t afford to lose.

He may wish he could say “I’m sorry” in Spanish.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 7, 2016

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Hispanics, Latinos | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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