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How did Trump win the primaries? I’ve been working on a theory that he essentially did to the Republican Party what they’ve been doing to American society for the past two generations: divided and conquered it with polarization. He split off the Bush people, turned their latest office contestant into a despised joke and let Jeb! die off quietly. (The irony of the father’s tolerance of racebaiting (via Ailes and Atwater) creating a new GOP in which the son could not find purchase is both rich and satisfying, as is his being alive to see it.) Then Trump split the religious right into Trump and Cruz camps and turned Cruz into a pariah among many of the voters he needed, undermining Cruz’s integrity by calling out his aggressive tactics, making a mockery of any claim to moral leadership. He outsourced the work of taking down Rubio to Chris Christie, and then added Christie to his team. He basically ignored Kasich, which was the smart move there. So he won with 38%, likely the absolute maximum he could have gotten, but it was perfectly orchestrated so as to be enough. Karl Rove would toast him if he weren’t too busy crying into his beer.

Which is what makes this so comical. The notion that Democrats are “choosing” Muslims over LGBT people by, I guess, not supporting Trump’s immigration policies is a perfect example of why Trump’s skill set worked so brilliantly in the primaries but does not scale up to the general election. A wedge issue is only successful if the larger group actually supports it, and the Muslim ban does not do well outside of Republican primary voters. Seems obvious to me that Trump’s already used up his ammunition on Hillary and it did nothing, while the Democrats have just begun to hit Trump.

Given how poorly it’s going for Trump, you have to figure the odds of a convention coup are rising, but that cure would probably be worse than the disease. The only way it ends less than catastrophically for them is if Trump takes himself out of the race, and the likelihood of that depends on how much of a team player you think Trump to be.

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Lev filed this under: ,  

Josh Marshall:

What’s most telling about this is that little of this has been due to bad luck or news events out of Trump’s control. With the partial exception of the release of Trump University documents, it’s been almost entirely from Trump himself. A month ago Republican elected officials were unenthusiastically but resolutely rallying around Trump. Since then they’ve slowly been reduced to a public and political version of a family dealing with a hopeless addict or a degenerate gambler. They keep saying, insisting he’ll change, only to have him provide more evidence he can’t, won’t and has no intention to. Their very indulgence seems to prompt more unbridled behavior.

The disgraceful way Trump handled the hours after the Orlando atrocity seems to have confirmed for many Republicans that change will never change or pivot or whatever other phrase we’re now using. It’s not an act. It’s him. How this couldn’t have been clear months ago is a topic for the psychology of denial and wishful thinking. But now it seems clear.

No single poll should ever carry that much weight. But yesterday’s Bloomberg Poll, which is actually in line with the trend of polls of recent weeks, will probably serve as a wake-up call for where things could go. (ABC and CBS both have polls out this morning which lack ‘horse race’ numbers – probably coming soon – but show equally devastating approval numbers for Trump.) The GOP might pay a catastrophic price for months with the party headed by a man who is erratic, morally rudderless, mercurial and emotionally unstable – and that on his better days.

As I’ve said before, the nation really dodged a bullet here. It was easy to see how either Marco Rubio or John Kasich (perhaps even Jeb Bush, maybe, possibly) could have superficially rebranded themselves as a different kind of Republican by means purely rhetorical and symbolic changes, with aid of a compliant media. Thankfully none of those guys were any good at actually building a winning campaign.

If you want my advice, don’t bother giving any money to Hillary for the general election–Trump is likely to be woefully underfunded anyway. Put it instead on the Democratic challengers to John McCain and Chuck Grassley. I doubt many of the swing-state Republican Senators survive a Trump blowout, but these two will need a bit more of a push to lose, so…

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Lev filed this under: ,  

While he’d certainly fare a little better than Donald Trump or Ted Cruz in a general election, it’s worth remembering that the casual sexism, condescension, and tendency toward outburst that embody John Kasich’s public presentational style would make for a less than ideal contrast with Hillary Clinton. So by all means, laugh at the man who only makes the news by embarrassing himself: the man still most likely to give us Donald Trump, the man who continues to operate a presidential campaign that has been unable to compete in more than a handful of states, and yet the man who is still the smart, clever one of the bunch. Kasich is a classic example of a man who doesn’t understand his weaknesses–Trump has the same exact traits, but he uses them to his advantage in getting what he wants, while Kasich continually gets himself into situations that grant him no sympathy from Republicans when he’s jumped on by liberals. Just fucking useless.

I honestly don’t understand why the GOP just doesn’t do the easy thing and give the nomination to Trump. I mean yes, he’ll almost certainly lose, and more likely than not Republicans will lose the Senate too and a lot of House seats. But it won’t be all that bad for them: most of the seats they’ll lose will be relative moderates they don’t like anyway that they can replace with staunch conservatives for the midterms. Of course, they’d have to deal with a liberal Scalia replacement in this occasion, but if Ruth Bader Ginsburg continues in her foolish insistence of refusing to retire from the Court at a politically advantageous time, then that could be undone easily enough (I’m hoping that the next Democratic president would float Pam Karlan’s name as a possible replacement to induce her to retire, but that’s beside the point). Let’s not kid ourselves: a Democratic Court would make short work of the Roberts Court’s major precedent, but it would almost certainly not engage in similar judicial activism to theirs (impossible to imagine a Kagan- or Breyer-written opinion finding a Constitutional right to healthcare, say). And even if Democrats somehow managed to recapture the House, it would be a small majority built on red-district Democrats desperately wanting to serve more than a single term, and Clinton herself has become so locked into a mode of pragmatism that I couldn’t even tell you accurately what her top priorities as president would be (aside, of course, from ratcheting up tensions in Ukraine and the Middle East) and I pay a lot of attention to these things! Maybe something to do with infrastructure would pass, perhaps a voting bill, but nothing at all like the ACA, and almost certainly nothing on healthcare at all (a necessary reminder that throwing in the towel on healthcare going forward would be the equivalent to anti-abortionists chucking in the towel after passing the Partial Birth Abortion Ban under Dubya). Naturally, even the smallest of small ball measures would be trumpeted as FascistCommunism, but if I’m a Republican, on the whole, this doesn’t seem too bad to me. On the other hand, the defeat of Trump would be easy to write off as a one-time thing, they’d still be able to make use of whatever clout he has with his supporters in the future as a surrogate if they wished to use him as such, and all they’d have to do would be to just wait for the steady stream of Clinton scandals, domestic inertia and “humanitarian” foreign interventions to chip away at her popularity. I suspect we’ll be about due for another major banking scandal during her presidency that could be very dicey, and possibly an economic slowdown as well (it is a cycle, after all, and “up” times don’t last forever). And given Clinton’s treatment of Sanders in the primaries, she cuts a very first President Bush type of figure, someone who’s been in the bubble for quite some time and isn’t well-equipped to manage a rapidly changing party whose center of gravity is becoming more ideological and less amenable to the sorts of centrist compromises the Clintons cut back in the Gingrich days. Running on Obama’s legacy was the smart move for Clinton just like running on Reagan’s was for Bush, but at the end of the day, it couldn’t smooth over the ideological divisions forever for Bush and it won’t for Clinton. In other words, there’s plenty of reason to think that 2020 could be very competitive, and the likely consequences of Clinton wouldn’t be too bad from a practical perspective. Compare this with a Cruz defeat, which would be impossible to blame on anything other than his doctrinaire conservatism, and could well lead to the sort of real reformist movement that Republicans have been desperately trying to stifle starting before Obama even took office.

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73659-004-2D64C700Just something to noodle on.  If the Republican establishment is somehow able to subvert Trump’s commanding delegate lead, he may very well decide to run as an independent; because, quite obviously, this is 100% about his ego and nothing else.  To run as an independent, a candidate has to petition each of the 50 states (and D.C.) to get added to the ballot, which requires gathering a certain number of signatures in each state.  Estimates put the total number of signatures Trump would need to gather at around 880,000 across all states, which would obviously be a pretty easy feat for The Donald.

In addition to signatures, we need to consider the filing deadlines for being added to the ticket.  The Republican Convention runs July 18-21.  However, the state deadlines for being added to the ticket vary widely.  Check out the table here.  There are lots of state with deadlines in August, but there are also a sizable number with deadlines in July.  (There are even a few deadlines in June).  Most notable among the July deadlines is all-important Florida, with a deadline of July 15, before the Republican Convention

If Trump suspects that he might somehow find himself in a sore loser position, he better start working on secretly gathering at least some of those signatures soon – just in case.

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In a weird way, it’s almost refreshing to have blatant racism have such a huge public resurgence.  Code words and dog whistles have become so passé, n’est–ce pas?

the-war-on-terror-terror-war-on-terror-aladdin-jasmine-durka-demotivational-poster-1272179286There’s clear evidence that Trump supporters in Illinois gave fewer votes to Trump-pledged delegate candidates who have minority or foreign-sounding names like “Sadiq,”

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What’s something so truly beyond the pale that Trump could do to cause him to lose most of his support?  I keep thinking about it.  I’m sad to think that he could come out on stage wearing a Nazi uniform and bite the head off a kitten and he’d still have millions of people supporting him.
TrumpEvilLunchroom

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Bearing in mind the current populist mood of the country, I think this is the key thing behind Bernie supporters right now: At least with him there’s HOPE for something radically different and HOPE for true change; change that promises to beat the donor class and predatory bankers and financiers with the large stick we’ve always been exhorted to carry. As anyone who’s truly honest with themselves would agree, Clinton is, for better or worse, a moderate incrementalist in a Democrat establishment that is still terrified of ever being called LIBERAL by anyone. (Don’t believe me? Just listen to any of Clinton’s recent speeches about health care.) As usual, it’s part of the tired “New Democrat” centrist bullshit of the 90s and 2000s. Republicans, aided and abetted by fearful centrist Democrats, have successfully stunted the incomes and livelihoods of middle income, working class and poor Americans and enabled a massive transfer of wealth to the donor class over the last 30+ years. None are blameless. People were bound to rise up eventually. (Look at what happens with austerity-stricken people in Greece for example.) But Americans haven’t risen up, because the frog has been slowly cooking in a boiling pot of cheap Wal-Mart goods and predatory Payday Loans, which has effectively gutted organized labor (who are, despite their many problems and scandals, the only true “lobbyists” dedicated to raising worker incomes) and helped create the illusion that our standards of prosperity and comfort haven’t diminished all that much.

As passion for Trump and Bernie demonstrates, this isn’t an election about moderate incrementalism. It’s an election driven by Americans finally expressing real fury over what both parties and the donor class have done to them. It’s also pent-up liberal rage at perceptions of Obama not really being as much of the change-agent he promised to be (even though, to be fair, a lot of what he tried to do was torpedoed by Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress).

In this election, it’s not enough to point out that the other side is crazy, when the alternative is four years of nibbling around the edges and making incremental improvements. This is what drives those supposedly baffling polls that show big portions of independent Bernie supporters prepared to vote for Trump if Bernie doesn’t get the nomination. Personally, I think that’s stupid and horrifying, but I understand the limited thinking and outrage behind it. (Notwithstanding the obvious fact that Republicans have been the main villains in fucking over American workers, and a vote for a Republican is a vote for our own self-immolation.)

I have no idea how this election will turn out. I do think this is the generational change people were hoping for during the Obama-Clinton primaries. But the outrage we see now hadn’t yet really fully boiled out of the pot the last time around.

I hope we can all soberly evaluate what is driving people during this election. And let’s at least be honest about what our candidates truly stand for. Will people flood to the polling booth for moderate incrementalism? Or will they instead rise up in the hope of finally sticking up an enormous middle finger and saying Fuck You to the system we’ve ultimately created for ourselves (because yes, at the end of the day, we’re the ones who voted for these assholes all of these years, and living in dubious denial is a load of bullshit too).

And, finally, let’s stop being so fucking dismissive of the chances of saying Fuck You winning the election. It’s tiresome and you need to back it up with facts and sober analysis, not sneering and high-minded derision. (For example, you need to intelligently describe what’s wrong with so many polls consistently showing Bernie beating Trump by larger margins than Clinton.) There have been a lot of successful radical Fuck You candidates in the history of this country. So stop it with the dismissal and condescension. We ignore the widespread party-agnostic rage in this country at our own peril.

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