Tag Archives: 2020

Just Get Them To The Polls…

These days, good news is rare, so a recent article in The Atlantic-one of my favorite publications–brightened my entire week.

It appears that Trump has “reshaped” American public opinion, but not in the way I  feared he would.

Recent polling shows that Donald Trump has managed to reshape American attitudes to a remarkable extent on a trio of his key issues—race, immigration, and trade.

There’s just one catch: The public is turning against Trump’s views.

The article noted Trump’s increasingly obvious racism, characterizing it as a strategic effort to firm up his base. (I’m less inclined to apply the word “strategy” to anything Trump does–I think as he gets more and more out of his depth, he becomes more unhinged and his true “character” emerges…) Whatever the impetus, however, instinctive or strategic, it isn’t working.

Quite the opposite, if survey research is to be believed.

The Reuters analysis also found that Americans were less likely to express feelings of racial anxiety this year, and they were more likely to empathize with African Americans. This was also true for white Americans and whites without a college degree, who largely backed Trump in 2016.

Among the details, the number of whites who say “America must protect and preserve its White European heritage” has sunk nine points since last August. The percentages of whites, and white Republicans, who strongly agree that “white people are currently under attack in this country” have each dropped by roughly 25 points from the same time two years ago.

The article reports that there has been a 10 percent drop in the number of Americans who espouse white identity politics since Trump entered office, and that Trump’s increasingly explicit racist rhetoric turns off voters who may express some degree of racial anxiety, but who aren’t classical bigots.

The article also notes that Trump has radicalized Democrats, especially white Democrats. By several measures, they have become more liberal on race –on some measures, more liberal than Democrats of color.

Reuters found that more Democrats say blacks are treated unfairly at work and by the police than in 2016—remarkable given how coverage of police violence toward African Americans has dropped in the past few years—while Republican attitudes have remained unchanged.

When it comes to immigration, which the article calls “Trump’s signature issue” (and which is clearly race-based),

Reuters found that white Americans are 19 percent more supportive of a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants than they were four years ago, and slightly less supportive of increased deportations. Other polls find related results. A record-high number of Americans—75 percent—said in 2018 that immigration is good for the United States. Although the Trump administration took steps last week to limit even legal immigration, the Trump presidency has seen an increase in the number of Americans who support more legal immigration—not just among Democrats, but even slightly among Republicans.

Ironically, as the article reports, although Trump has managed to force a national conversation around the issue of immigration, rather than bringing more people to his anti-immigrant views, he has convinced them he’s wrong.

And it isn’t simply his bigotry. His obvious ignorance on issues of economics and trade has also moved public opinion.

One big problem for Trump is that voters have now gotten a chance to see him implement ideas that seemed novel or at least worth a shot during the campaign, and they don’t like what they’re seeing in practice. A trade war with China might have seemed worthwhile in summer 2016, but now that there’s actually one being fought, the public is having second thoughts, and fears of a recession are growing. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday found that 64 percent of Americans think free trade is good, up from 57 in 2017, 55 in 2016, and 51 in 2015. Meanwhile, the percentage who say free trade is bad has dropped 10 points since 2017.

As reassuring as these results are, they won’t mean diddly-squat unless the people who hold anti-Trump opinions go to the polls in 2020. As I have insisted ad nauseam, the name of the electoral game is turnout, and in 2020 that is truer than ever.

Fortunately, the Atlantic article even had some encouragement on that score.

Raw polling can, admittedly, be somewhat misleading on its own. Progressives have for years lamented the gap between the fairly liberal policies that the public says it favors and those that its elected representatives actually pursue. One reason for that is not everyone votes, and those who don’t vote tend toward the left.

But the Reuters poll offers reason to believe that the shifts it documents are directly relevant to the coming election. The poll found that “people who rejected racial stereotypes were more interested in voting in the 2020 general election than those who expressed stronger levels of anti-black or anti-Hispanic biases.” That wasn’t the case in 2016, when Americans who held strong antiblack views were more politically engaged.

Again, I repeat: we shouldn’t waste time talking to voters in Trump’s base. Anyone who still supports him is clearly beyond reason. Instead, we need to get every non-racist, non-crazy person who cares about this country–especially those who took a pass in 2016– to the polls!

America’s future depends on turnout.

 

 

 

 

America: Pick A Torch

It’s impossible to read a newspaper without encountering a solemn “analysis” of what the Democrats absolutely must do in order to defeat Donald Trump in 2020.

Meanwhile, it becomes clearer every day that–stripped to its essence– the 2020 election will be about one overarching issue: what kind of country do we want to be?

A widely shared visual summed it up nicely with two photographs, side by side. One was a picture of Neo-Nazis with their tiki torches in Charlottesville; the second was a photo of the Statue of Liberty, focused on her torch. The caption asked “which torch will you choose?”

I rarely visit Twitter, but a friend directed me to a thread directly relevant to that question. 

The author was Tim Wise, a political consultant who was involved in two Louisiana campaigns against David Duke. Wise dismissed the handwringing, trolling and well-meaning advice being heaped on the Democrats.

If the Dems blow this election it will not be because they were “too far left on policy” or because they “weren’t left enough.” It will have little to do with policy at all. They are making a mistake caused by traditional consultant theory that does not apply here…

And by listening to influential pundits in liberal media who also don’t get the unique nature of Trumpism, relative to normal political movements & campaigns…this election is NOT going to be won by talking about all your “great plans” for health care, jobs, education, etc..

 And the reasons are several…Let me begin by saying that I have experience confronting the kind of phenomenon we see in Trumpism, and far more than most. Any of us who were involved in the fight against David Duke in LA in 90/91 know what this is and how it must be fought…

Wise then relayed his experience with campaigns against Duke. Political consultants warned against highlighting Duke’s racism; they said such a focus would play into Duke’s hands, and allow him to set the agenda.

Sound familiar?

In the Senate contest, the campaign followed mainstream advice not to “make a big deal” out of Duke’s racist appeals. To the extent they went negative, they talked about Duke paying his taxes late and avoiding service in Vietnam. They won, but very narrowly.

Wise regrets that approach because it normalized Duke. Attacking his bill paying habits or inadequate policy proposals “treated him like a normal candidate. But he was/is a NAZI…”

And none of his voters were voting 4 him bc of jobs, or tax policy or support for term limits, etc. And none were going to turn on him over late tax payments, Vietnam, etc. Indeed throwing that stuff out there & downplaying the elephant in the room (racism) seemed desperate..

It allowed people to say “well if he’s really this racist, white supremacist, why are they talking about all this other stuff?” It actually undermined our ability to paint him as the extremist he was/is. And as a result, the threat he posed was not clear enough to voters…

 And this didn’t just allow him to get votes he might not have gotten otherwise; it also depressed turnout among people who almost certainly disliked him but didn’t think he could win or would be all that big a deal if he did. In fact I recall convos with “liberals”…

Who said they weren’t going 2 vote bc after all Duke’s Dem opponent was just a shill for the oil and gas industry, and that was just as bad, blah blah fucking blah…because some lefties can’t tell the difference between corporatist assholes and actual literal Nazis…

 But we bore some responsibility for that because we got suckered into playing this conventional game and “not playing into his narrative.” Anyway, black and white liberal turnout is lower than it should have been and Duke gets 44% of vote…

In the Governor’s race we dispensed w/all that bullshit. We talked about Duke’s ongoing Nazism and the moral/practical evil of his racist appeals. We discussed how that moral evil would have real world consequences (driving tourists and business away, rightly so, from LA)..

Because it was wrong, and it was not who we wanted to be, and it was not who we were. We were better than that and needed to show the rest of the country that…

Now, did this flip any of Duke’s 1990 voters? Nah, not really. Indeed he got 65k MORE votes in the Governor’s race than the Senate race. But it was never about flipping them. We knew that would be almost impossible…

To flip Duke voters would require that they accept the fact that they had previously voted for a monster, and people are loath to do that. Our goal was not to flip them, but to DRIVE UP TURNOUT among the good folks, many of whom stayed home in 90…

And that is what happened. The concerted effort of the anti-Duke forces (not just us), challenging Duke’s “politics of prejudice,” and making the election about what kind of state we wanted to be, drove turnout through the roof…

When it was over, Duke had gotten 65k more votes than in 90, but his white share went to 55 (from 60) and overall to 39 (from 44) because the anti-Duke turnout swamped him…So what does this have to do with 2020 and Trump? Do I really need to explain it?…

First, trying to flip Trump voters is a waste of time. Any of them who regret their vote don’t need to be pandered to. They’ll do the right thing. Don’t focus on them. That said, very few will regret their vote. They cannot accept they voted for a monster or got suckered…

Duke retained 94% of the folks he got the first time out (and got new people too), as Trump likely will. So forget these people–or at least don’t wast time tailoring messages to them. And policy plans for affordable college don’t mean shit to them, nor health care…

Their support for Trump was never about policy. It was about the bigotry, the fact that he hates who they hate…

Wise is right. Much as we might wish it were otherwise, in 2020, America will choose a torch. Pray it’s the right one.

 

2020–A Vote On America’s Original Sin

I want to elaborate on yesterday’s post.

It has been fascinating–and infinitely depressing–to follow the reactions to Trump’s racist rants on Facebook and in the Twitter-verse. I’ve been particularly struck by comments defending him and insisting that his attacks “weren’t racist”–that he was just “expressing his opinion,” perhaps inartfully.

Right.

And Bill Barr’s refusal to indict the officer who choked Eric Garner to death–despite DOJ lawyers’ contrary’ recommendation– wasn’t another not-so-subtle message to Trump’s white supremicist base.  Kellyann Conway’s response to a Jewish reporter’s question with a demand to know his “ethnicity,” was just an innocent question. And the troglodytes at Trump’s North Carolina rally chanting “send her back” were just patriotic Americans.

Nothing to see here.

We all know better. Those MAGA caps might just as well say what they have always implied: Make America White Again.

Yesterday, I characterized the upcoming election as a contest for the soul of America. Let me enlarge on that assertion: 2020 will force America to confront the country’s “original sin”–the persistent racism that once allowed some people to own others, that reacted to emancipation with segregation and Jim Crow, and that has responded to every movement toward civic equality by  doubling down on racist rhetoric and discriminatory behavior.

With the ascension of Donald Trump, the GOP has stopped denying its “southern strategy,”  abandoned its dog whistles, and publicly embraced white nationalism.

Denying Trump’s racism requires deliberately ignoring his long and consistent history of racist behavior, a history that David Leonhardt laid out in a recent New York Times newsletter.

His real estate company tried to avoid renting apartments to African-American tenants. He described “laziness” as “a trait in blacks.” He called for five black and Latino teenagers to be executed — and then insisted on their guilt even after DNA evidence proved their innocence.

He rose to prominence in the Republican Party by questioning the citizenship of the first black president. He launched his presidential campaign by saying Mexican immigrants were “rapists.” His political organization created a television advertisement that Fox News pulled for being too racist.

He frequently criticizes prominent African-Americans for being unpatriotic, ungrateful, disrespectful or unintelligent. He mocks Native Americans and uses anti-Semitic stereotypes. He retweets white nationalists. He said that a violent white supremacist march included some “very fine people.” He regularly appoints people with a history of racist comments.

And over the weekend, he told four nonwhite members of Congress — all citizens, of course, and three of them born in the United States — to “go back” to where they came from.

President Trump doesn’t just make racist comments. He is a racist. He’s proven it again and again, over virtually his entire time as a public figure. His bigotry is a core part of his worldview, and it’s been central to his political rise.

Paul Krugman didn’t mince words either.

In 1981 Lee Atwater, the famed Republican political operative, explained to an interviewer how his party had learned to exploit racial antagonism using dog whistles. “You start out in 1954 by saying ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’” But by the late 1960s, “that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, ‘forced busing,’ ‘states’ rights,’ and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

Well, the dog whistle days are over. Republicans are pretty much back to saying “Nigger, nigger, nigger.”

What voters need to understand in the run-up to 2020 is that it isn’t just Trump.

Krugman points to the silence of prominent Republicans in the wake of Trump’s most recent racist outburst, to the administration’s dishonest conflation of immigration and crime, and to a proclamation just signed by the Republican governor of Tennessee honoring Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, a war criminal who massacred African-American prisoners and helped found the Ku Klux Klan. I’ll add the increasing coziness of the GOP with the alt-right, Neo-Nazis, and fellow-travelers like David Duke.

I’ll also reiterate–and update– my son’s analysis, which I shared yesterday.

A vote for Donald Trump or any Republican  in 2020 means one of only two things: The voter is a racist, or the voter doesn’t consider the GOP’s thoroughgoing embrace of racism/white nationalism disqualifying.

In 2020, no other issue matters.

If we resoundingly defeat the cancer that is Trump and Republican white nationalism in 2020, we can return to our  heated debates about public policy, left versus right, and the proper interpretation of various constitutional rights. If we don’t, none of those things will matter.

In 2020, we will find out whether a majority of Americans are ready to confront –and reject–America’s original sin.

The 2020 Election: A Fight For America’s Soul

In the wake of the 2016 election, when well-meaning people were trying to understand voters who opted for Donald Trump, a common explanation was economic: Trump voters were people who were economically fragile, worried about job security, etc.

Subsequent research has pretty conclusively disproved that excuse.

As my youngest son said at the time, there were two–and only two–groups of people who voted for Donald Trump: those who shared and applauded his obvious racism; and those for whom his racism was not disqualifying. 

Over the past months, as Trump’s dog-whistles have morphed into explicitly racist rhetoric, people in the mental health field have suggested that his recent tweets are evidence of his continuing mental decline. Others disagree; in a recent column, Thomas Edsall suggests it is strategic–that Trump is “ramping up” his racist  base.

Democrats heading into the 2020 election need to determine just how monolithically racist  the GOP has become.  Are there still some Republicans who can be persuaded to leave the dark side, or have virtually all voters who still identify as Republican become part of Trump’s White Nationalist cult?

John Kane, a political scientist at N.Y.U. and a co-author of a new paper, “Ingroup Lovers or Outgroup Haters? The Social Roots of Trump Support and Partisan Identity,” is among the activists and scholars examining these challenges. In an email, Kane described Trump’s lock on a key set of voters: “For Republicans that absolutely loathe and detest” such progressive constituencies as minorities, immigrants and members of the LGBT community, Kane wrote, “an appeal from Democratic Party elite is likely to be dismissed out of hand.”

Among Republicans more sympathetic to these liberal groups, Kane continued, “the share that could, under any circumstances, actually vote for a Democrat is quite small, below 10 percent, and this is likely concentrated among those who only weakly identify with or lean toward the Republican Party.”

“Loathing for progressive constituencies” is academic language for hating “those people.”

Edsell quotes another scholar for the proposition that Trump is campaigning “largely on issues of white identity”–issues that include not just racism, but misogyny, anti-Semitism and homophobia. Fear and hatred of “the other.” (And if you aren’t a Christian white guy, you are definitely “other.”)

All of which helps explain Trump’s shift to rolling back gay and lesbian rights, for example, after many decades of supporting just those causes.

In the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump described himself as a “real friend” of the LGBTQ community. Since taking office, however, the Trump administration has argued that the 1964 Civil Rights Act rights law does not protect gay workers from discrimination and that transgender people should be barred from military service.

There is an underlying political logic to the switch from Trump’s campaign stance to his policies once he won the White House. As he heads into the 2020 election, his “base,” the voters essential to his re-election, are hostile not only to gay men and lesbians, but to racial and ethnic minorities as well. (emphasis mine.)

Trump’s political survival now depends on catering to — indeed, inflaming — those hostilities.

The studies that Edsell quotes–studies which join the virtually unanimous conclusions of other researchers–confirm that the president’s supporters are driven by hatred of African-Americans, Hispanics, Muslim-Americans, Jews, and the LGBTQ community.

Clearly, Trump benefits immensely from hostility to African-Americans, to Hispanics and to gay men and lesbians. If he is an expert at anything, it is at exploiting and generating hostility. Trump’s relentless derogation of racial and ethnic minorities, his support for the anti-abortion movement and his right-wing appointments to the judiciary, reflect his political dependence on a key bloc of his loyalists, white born again and evangelical Christians.

These voters, in turn, have demonstrated exceptional determination to use the ballot box to protect their beliefs, values and prejudices from liberal challenge.

The 2020 election is shaping up to be a contest between the party of White Nationalists and the rest of us.

As Max Boot–a former Republican– recently wrote in the Washington Post:

There is nothing — nothing — more important in the United States than racism. Where you stand on that one issue defines who you are as a human being. Silence is complicity. All Republicans who stand mute in the face of Trump’s latest racism are telling you who they really are. It’s an ugly picture of a morally bankrupt party that has now embraced racial prejudice as a platform.

We need to listen to what the research tells us. Democrats are not going to peel off votes from Trump’s Republican base. Those voters are lost to us–and to the America we thought we inhabited.

In order to decisively defeat White Nationalism, we have to mobilize the Americans who didn’t bother to vote in 2016.

The haters will vote. We must outvote them–massively.

 

 

The Problem With Labels

I’ve written previously about the problem labels present for political discourse. Rather than a means of communication–labels are used to insult, to foreclose communication.

When I was younger, the insult was “liberal,” and when that lost its potency, the Right  substituted “socialist.”

You can make a pretty convincing argument that people throwing these terms around are utterly unable to define them. (When Putin asserted that western liberalism had outlived its usefulness Trump’s embarrassing response disclosed he hasn’t the foggiest notion what western liberalism is.)

Paul Krugman addressed the intentional misuse of economic terminology in a recent column

The Democratic Party has clearly moved left in recent years, but none of the presidential candidates are anything close to being actual socialists — no, not even Bernie Sanders, whose embrace of the label is really more about branding (“I’m anti-establishment!”) than substance.

Nobody in these debates wants government ownership of the means of production, which is what socialism used to mean. Most of the candidates are, instead, what Europeans would call “social democrats”: advocates of a private-sector-driven economy, but with a stronger social safety net, enhanced bargaining power for workers and tighter regulation of corporate malfeasance. They want America to be more like Denmark, not more like Venezuela.

Of course, reality won’t keep the GOP from using the term to frighten their base (most of whom couldn’t define socialism if their lives depended on it), and assorted pundits are agonizing over the effectiveness of this strategy in columns with titles like “Are Democrats Moving Too Far To The Left?”

The belief that there is electoral danger in policies that are too “left,” however, rests on what may be a faulty premise: that the 2020 election will be a contest between Left and Right. An interview conducted for the Atlantic with Dave Wasserman, an editor for the Cook Report suggests otherwise.

Wasserman agreed that more extreme positions would be unwise– a platform of completely open borders or the immediate abolition of private health insurance. As he said, there are, of course, limits. But he sees the political battleground as essentially cultural, not ideological.

A few of his observations:

Generally, the tiny sliver of voters in this country who are still persuadable are not highly ideological people. They are fundamentally anti-élite in nature, and they are looking for three characteristics in a candidate for President that don’t have much to do with left-versus-right. And those characteristics are authenticity, being a credible agent for change, and empathy. In other words, does this person understand my daily struggles? And a common thread between Obama and Trump was a common touch.

It’s all relative, but, whether it was having been a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago or a billionaire who ate K.F.C. and went to professional wrestling matches, it struck a chord with those voters….

At this point in 2015, there was a widespread notion that the Republican candidate who wanted to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it was unelectable in a general election. That proved to be false. And we should be careful about making broad pronouncements about platform positions such as Medicare for All or an overhaul of ICE….

Wasserman noted that the bar is much higher for Democrats, thanks to the Electoral College, but he dismissed conventional wisdom about needing to appeal to “moderates” as a result.

I believe too much of the media in Washington, D.C., is viewing candidates’ chances against Trump through a left-versus-right spectrum, or a sliding scale, in which if they nominate Biden they can win middle America, but if they nominate someone too far left they will risk alienating those voters. I don’t view it that way. The reason that, in my opinion, Biden is vulnerable—perhaps more vulnerable than other Democrats in the race [against] Trump—is that I have watched congressional races for the last twelve years, and, over and over again, I have seen candidates with long paper trails and voting records get picked apart for every comment they made twenty or thirty years ago. And that’s what is happening at the moment.

Wasserman dismisses the hope that disillusioned Trump voters will desert him; he says they have become “culturally loyal” to Trump. And he points out that those voters are likelier to live in places where local news is declining—making them more susceptible to aggressive social-media propaganda campaigns.

And he clearly expects the “aggressive” use of social media, like the one Fox employs on Facebook.

The entire interview is worth reading.