Thank You White People for Electing Obama in 2012!

 President Obama at a campaign event in Concord, N.H., shortly before the 2012 election. He performed better among white Northern voters than is generally assumed. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama at a campaign event in Concord, N.H., shortly before the 2012 election. He performed better among white Northern voters than is generally assumed. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

New Orleans   In the age of big data, one of the clear lessons, is that we need to be very, very careful about what we think we know, at least until we have asked all the right questions rather than just swallowing the headlines whole without examining the bottom lines. What am I talking about, you might ask? Well, how in the heck with all of the megadomes out there in the political world can we have undercounted white people? White people of all people! What were they? Were they translucent or something, like white walkers, and the quants and bean counters looked right past them because they looked like themselves in the mirror or what?

The New York Times statisticians dropped the bombshell on us that Trump wasn’t looking quite as bad while running a racist campaign, because there are more white people out there in the electorate than any of these folks had been reporting for years. Not only that but the all-important narrative about the Obama victory in 2012 was, well, how can we say this, wrong! Turns out Obama was rocking the white vote better than previously understood.

Here’s the new story, and maybe the true story,

“…new data from the census, voter registration files, polls and the finalized results tells a subtly different story of the 2012 election with potential consequences for the 2016 election. The data implies that Mr. Obama was not as weak among white voters as typically believed. He fared better than his predecessors among white voters outside the South. Demographic shifts weren’t so important: He would have been re-elected even with an electorate as old and white as it was in 2004. Latino voters did not put Mr. Obama over the top, as many argued in the days after Mr. Obama’s re-election. He would have won even if he had done as poorly among Latino voters as John Kerry.”

Of course Latino-based organizations and all of us who support them and work with them had a stake in the story that it was Hispanic votes that propelled Obama to victory in 2012, so spin or substance be damned, someone did a very good job on this for the last four years, and it mattered, true or not. What leverage would we have had talking about doing a big, fat thank you to all of the old, white people stepping up for Obama? Not that we won immigration reform, and not that the story won’t change in the future as demographic trends continue to move towards more, not less, diversity and dilute the white vote, but it wasn’t there in 2012, and it might not be in 2016.

Why did we get the news so late? What’s up, is this the same as Andrew Jackson, Jean Lafitte, and the gang fighting and winning the Battle of New Orleans after peace had already been signed in Paris? Hasn’t communication changed? Well, it seems that most of this incomplete narrative was based on exit polls, and the other data is stronger and better, but it’s not available the night of the election and the day after. We’re so committed to speed and “premature certainty,” that we would rather believe we know it all immediately and go from there, than wait until all of the information is sliced and diced.

What’s the lesson we need to take away for today? Talk to every white person you know! Tell them thanks for 2012, but we need them to do it again in 2016 as well, because if they couldn’t handle Romney then, they sure as heck don’t want to live through four years with King Trump trying to rule the country.

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Haters Going to Hide: The Trump Story Revealed

BN-ND016_IMMIGR_P_20160316182315New Orleans   There’s hardly room in the newspapers and weekly magazines these days for other news between the pulling of hair and rending of clothes by all of the pundits and data dogs about how they miscalculated the odds on the Trump nomination and their fumbling around trying to figure out the “who” of the Trump voter.  Judging by an article in Harper’s as one prominent example, the temptation is going to be to stereotype his voting base as whacko haters. 

Big, big mistake.  You can’t have a demagogue without the demos, the people, boiling with anger, and the candidate ready to meet it and move it forward.

Pew Research has also weighed in with some frightening news:  haters are not just going to hate, they’re going to hide.  Pew found that internet polls compared to telephone polling was finding another 8% or more of Trump support that was not willing to come clean talking to a semi-real person on the blower.  These are the monkey wrench folks everywhere in America who see a chance to flup the stuff up and show all of them, whoever they are, that they want to be heard and not just heard, but heeded.

Even more dangerous to my lights is that they are fired up and aren’t going to take it anymore, while Clinton supporters are on autopilot, snoring through the rallies or playing with their smartphones, while Rome is burning. 

The biggest fantasy is that Trump is going to change.  Not only is that not going to happen, but there’s every indication that behind the scenes, he’s getting high-fives and “git ‘r dones” from Republican politicians right and righter from Speaker Paul Ryan on down.  Whatever the rationale or fairytales they are telling themselves to try and put clothes on the emperor, they are almost universally in kowtow mode. 

Here’s hoping that women save us, and that Hillary actually figures out sooner rather than later how to play that card.  Reading about Trump’s private and personal interactions with women behind the scenes is a muckraker’s view of the slaughterhouse and the meat market.  Objectification is too long and dainty a word to describe the permanent, leering appraisal that seems to be Trump’s default.  This is a dirty old man!  And, he has been that way forever it seems.

Trump defines transactional politics devoid of principles of any sort.  In that sense he is the perfect representative of the modern political moment, almost startlingly transparent about the equation compared to all of the rest of the political class who try to hide the transactional nature of politics behind one artifice or another of pretense or philosophy.  As donors and opponents line up behind him, you can see the hopes for the main chance later, grifting the short game for the long. 

Sadly, there’s probably no better case study than Megyn Kelly, currently the queen of Fox News.  After being insulted in the vilest way by Trump and eviscerated by a boycott, she now props him for bringing her more attention, and exchanged her pride for an exclusive interview she hopes will propel her into the Oprah and Barbara Walters atmosphere.  She could have upped her game, instead she just signed up for the market exchange.

Here’s one thing for certain:  help America conserve water!  Take your daily shower after you read the morning papers, or you’ll have to take another one to wash off this filth before you leave the house. 

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Money Talks and Trump Walks

donationsNew Orleans   Anyone who follows politics closely has been waiting for the Gucci loafers to fall, and now that Trump finds himself as the presumptive nominee this self-funding talk is over and dead, as he realizes the general election is six months away, and it’s dialing for dollars, groveling for grub time for his campaign. The consensus price tag these days is $1 billion, so of course Trump, being a total high-low bargaining guy, says he is going to raise $1.5 billion, “no problem.”

Well, there are some problems with this, and they are the typical problems that Trump has been deriding for months of the campaign trail. The piper wants to be paid. There is no free lunch. Go to Wall Street for money and Wall Street in Trump-talk, “owns” you. In the past he accused both Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz of being bought and sold. What will be the new Trump tune, especially now that we all know his price tag?

All signs are that the big bucks players on the Republican side will want their pound of flesh from Trump before they are willing to come in or they will stay on the sidelines which in these days of big money politics is the final death blow. The Koch Brothers who previously had pledged $900 million this cycle are now dangerously – and for all of us, depressingly — flirting with Hillary. Other big donors are also playing footsie on the issue. Adelson, the big donor from Vegas, is saying “anybody but Hillary,” which will likely be the banner many of them are forced to carry and that some Republican politicians are already belly flopping and crawling behind. Former Louisiana governor, abysmal presidential candidate, and currently unemployed Bobby Jindal, not surprisingly was one of the first to pledge fealty to Trump on the Hillary-will-be-worse caboose.

For all of us little people just trying to keep score it will be interesting to try to watch how far Trump will walk when money talks. He’s been claiming that the superrich, like himself, should pay more taxes? How many days will that position last? He has said he’s against the hedge fund tax dodge called “carried interest” that lets Wall Streeters keep billions from the taxman. How many minutes will that position last? He’s waffled around on the need to increase the minimum wage saying first, let’s go, then, oh no, and most recently as he starts going to his knees to beg for money, he’s saying, let someone else handle this, like the states.

Some signals are pretty powerful as he gets ready to flip the switch from populist disrupter to the new “I’m one of youse” stance with Wall Street and the one-percenters he needs to deliver him money. He has appointed a former Goldman Sachs, Wall Street vet, investment banker, and film financier to head his campaign finance committee to get the game going.

As Trump has said countless times. They won’t give you money for nuthin,’ they’ll all want sumthin.’ Explaining his own contributions to the Clintons’ in the past, he says, politics is “transactional.”

It hasn’t been pretty so far, but this next round will really be ugly.

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Trump Actually Makes a Good Point

republican-symbolNew Orleans      Donald Trump, the presumed Republican nominee for the presidency, made a very interesting point in a rebuke to Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and also a Republican.  He turned away Ryan’s “wait and see” answer on the question of his endorsement, based on whether or not Trump met certain litmus tests he wanted to use to measure the nature of Trump’s conservative commitments, by not only reminding him that he had 10 million Republican votes mandating change, but also by chiding Ryan on a political philosophy point.  Trump told Ryan, “…I’m a conservative, but don’t’ forget, this is called the Republican Party.  It’s not called the Conservative Party.”

            So, sure, have at Trump.  Call him names, claim he’s a buffoon, or an ignoramus, as Nobel prize economist and Times’ columnist Paul Krugman did, but don’t every make the mistake of believing for one minute that he’s really any of those things.  This guy is clever and quick like a fox.  Underestimating him, as many, maybe most, have done, would, particularly at this point, define stupid, and not the other way around.

            He belled the cow on his comment to Ryan, and on at least this one score all of us have to hope he prevails.

            A republic, classically, is a sovereign state whose authority rests with the people, either directly or through elected representatives.  In a pure, theoretical and practical sense, it differs from a democracy in how it balances individual versus collective rights.  In a republic, individual rights can sometimes prevail over civil or citizen rights.  The United States Bill of Rights protects individual rights.  For example, one vote on a jury can free an accused person in the dock, rather than how the majority might have voted on her innocence or guilt.  In a pure democracy, the majority rules, so 50% plus one assuring the majority interest could make for a democrat and the rights on one individual would make for a republican.  A conservative is by definition resistant to change with a default position respecting how things have been in the past. 

            What Ryan wants is a pledge from Trump that he will genuflect in the direction of what has been the current hard right ideology that has ruled the Republican Party.  The Republican establishment’s disgust with Trump is not necessarily about his xenophobic positions around Muslims or immigrants, but the fact that he is changing the game they have run and the rules they have made.  This dispute with Trump is about power, plain and simple.  Trump is correctly reminding Ryan that a republican is really someone who can cobble the citizens together around their representative positions and respect for their rights.  To the degree Trump has locked into the Republican base, is feeling their pain, and advocating their positions, even when they are abominable, he’s a better Republican, than he is a conservative.  He’s an apostate on the politics and policies of Reagan, the Bushes, the Ryan’s, and a host of others who don’t want change, and he’s all about change.

            Trump certainly shouldn’t be the President of the United States, but on this issue he is one-hundred percent correct, and for goodness sakes all of us have to root for him to blow the bums out of their conservative bunkers and bring change by the bucket load to the Republican ideology and practice.

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How Crazy is this Women’s Card Attack?

Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton cheer at her New York primary campaign headquarters, Tuesday, April 19, 2016, in New York

Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton cheer at her New York primary campaign headquarters, Tuesday, April 19, 2016, in New York

Little Rock    Really? You have to be kidding me! In the 21st century what kind of political calculations lead someone to believe that there is gain to be had by attacking Hillary Clinton expressly on the issue that she is a woman? Unbelievable!

I mean really, if the choice is electing the first billionaire or the first woman, who can possibly believe that’s really a choice. Better to play the card than think you can get a better deal with someone trying to buy the deck, the table, and the whole casino.

Where has Donald Trump been the last 70 years? He needs to get his plane out of the clouds. Are women tough enough, geez look what Margaret Thatcher did to the United Kingdom and Indira Gandhi did to India. There’s a case to be made that – right or wrong – men are soft by comparison. Can they lead, look around, and take the measure of Germany’s Angela Merkel who is virtually holding Europe together with her bare hands.

And, yet a Republican analyst was arguing that maybe, just maybe, Trump and his people were being shrewd and trying to “Swift boat” Hillary early on the women’s issue to sow doubt now on one of her significant assets against Trump by casting a shadow on her strengths, just as Bush did to Kerry on his war record. Hillary’s advisors were both jumping up and down over Trump’s wild misogyny and trying to figure out the proper tone of response so they didn’t alienate men.

Geez, my take was different and disappointment more real. Only a day after I had argued that Hillary needed to “go big” and sew up working women’s vote everywhere with a bold proposal for government programs and increased federal support for adequate and affordable daycare and eldercare to rally women, now with Trump’s preemptive attack on her solely over her gender, basically she doesn’t have to swing hard to win the critical women’s vote, she just has to keep standing, and it’s hers.

Even more depressing is the underlying comment about American culture and the continued divide even between race and sex. There is no doubt that a huge percentage of the stubborn resistance to President Obama, both personally and politically, emanates from resistance to his race. Yet, no candidate, big or small, well-meaning or mean spirited, ever was stupid enough to attack Obama precisely. Nonetheless, there is absolutely no hesitancy to attack Hillary exclusively on her gender.

On race, we have finally drawn a line about what is beyond the pale, but on gender it’s still anything goes, the sky is the limit, and there’s no such thing as too low to go. No coding there. No dog whistles to the masses, just straight-up women hating. Explains a lot about everything from the Republicans’ perverse interest in trying to infantilize women on the issue of their bodies and babies and their fear of other orientations from the bathroom to the bedroom.

We all knew this race was not going to be pretty, but we’re now getting a grasp of how humiliating the whole affair may be to all of us as a people.

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Is a Progressive Future Ours to Lose?

02supertuesday-sanders-superJumboLittle Rock   Ok, puzzle me this, joker, if Bernie Sanders doesn’t go out of the box as I’ve argued he should to gain increased leverage, but instead gets lost in the arcane minutia of Democratic platform politics, what is the progressive future? There are several scenarios that are possible, even if unlikely, but at least worth strategic consideration.

We’ve learned two things that we shouldn’t forget in the 2016 primaries thanks to the Sanders’ campaign. First, to use a sports analogy, small ball can at least stay on the court against the big guys, meaning in politics that small donors can equal big fat wallets. The money primary can be won with the right candidates and program as we have seen with Obama in 2008 and now with Sanders in 2016. Secondly, to quote Nate Silver’s data crunching, FiveThirtyEight website, “The Democratic electorate turning out in 2016 has been a lot more liberal than it was in the last competitive Democratic primary, in 2008.” The tide is turning our way.

To Charles Blow of the New York Times that says that the “moderate/conservative portion of the Democratic primary electorate [could] become a minority in the next 10 years.” He worries that that could create the kind of divisiveness within the Democratic Party that the rise of Trump is creating for the Republicans. Maybe, but let’s say Clinton wins the presidency as a moderate/liberal/hawk having survived by the reckoning of many as the best of bad choices. The Sanders constituency that stays in the Democratic Party won’t be happy and an evolving progressive base will still be looking for someone or something to carry its banner, so my bet is that Clinton will face a challenge on the left in the 2020 primaries, especially since she won’t solve inequality, the betting odds are that we will be more likely to be in military conflict than not, and Sanders has created more space that someone will want to fill. She would still win the Democratic nomination in 2020, because there’s no way a sitting President doesn’t, remember Jimmy Carter, but the Republicans will learn from the Trump trouncing, and might then hold her to one term. Sadly, that would leave the progressive faction discredited, farther out of power, and estranged from its own growing base.

I think progressives get trapped in that scenario because we are competing with a significant base, but in an arena so alien to our core competency on rules that so radically privilege incumbents and elites that we can’t win, and worst can be ignored. All of which argues that we do better building an independent base either through an alternative party, a national Working Families Party style fusion strategy, or a temporary free floating ad hoc coalition strategy of running and winning with independents. There is energy for such strategies, and there are young, savvy candidates who will emerge as well.

Implementing any of these strategies means years of hard work in the vineyards, but at least there’s something real at the end of the rainbow. The short term strategies that depend on taking down the establishment with an inside coup, seem destined for failure and leave us holding an empty bag, and, worse, starting over from scratch on a job we should have started yesterday, but at the least need to get busy with today.

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