“Rigged,” What’s New?

2016-electionsNew Orleans   Headlines in both the local and national papers focused on Donald Trump’s unwillingness to commit that he would honor the verdict of the voters in a democratic election. Clinton responded in the debate that his position was “horrifying.” My question continues to be, “What’s new?” Am I the only one who wonders why this is such a flashpoint now, and hasn’t been for the last eight years or longer?

Part of this is both personal and political for me, as I have noted before. But at least I’m not alone. David Weigel writing in The Washington Post this week had a memory that was longer than yesterday’s news cycle, and began his piece this way:

According to the Republican nominee for president, his opponents were “on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history.” In an ad, his campaign warned of “nationwide voter fraud” that could swing the election. His running mate worried, in a fundraising letter, that “leftist groups” were trying to “steal the election.”

 

The candidate was not Donald Trump. It was Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who in the final weeks of the 2008 presidential election embraced the theory that ACORN, a community organizing group previously embraced by Democrats and Republicans, was helping to rig the election for Barack Obama by filing fake voter registration forms.

Poor Weigel. He’ll probably be fired soon for pointing out that the emperors continue to walk naked in Congressional hallways and DC corridors. It also goes without saying, and time has proven this out, so I’ll bore everyone by saying, that no such thing happened, nor was there ever any evidence then or now to back up such nonsense about voting.

Even for McCain in 2008 this was an old saw, rather than something he was inventing. Such claims on voter fraud based on voter registration work have been part of the standard operating procedure on election tactics for Republicans for a number of cycles, certainly since the concept of “battleground” states became prominent and the George W. Bush election turned into a Supreme Court disputed umpire call after Al Gore won the popular vote. In Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania for a number of election cycles before 2008, ACORN had been the subject of similar attacks and fabrications with fake FEC complaints and state election charges all of which would be withdrawn by early the following year after the elections were over. Our assumption had been that McCain had wrongly assumed that the election might be close with Obama and was tactically hedging in order to prepare claims in some states and hope for a repeat of the Bush 2000 scenario. As it turned out, he was stomped by Obama, so none of that emerged, though thanks to McCain the target for conservatives would stay on ACORN’s back.

And, let’s be honest about all of this. Of the hardcore 40% base that is sticking with Trump and listening to all of this balderdash, I would put good money on the fact that a huge percentage of that base has still refused to accept the legitimacy of President Obama’s two election victories and the work of his eight years. The continuing drumbeat of the Republican faithful up until recently that ACORN stole both elections and was preparing to steal this one is more than sufficient evidence for such a bet.

Once the votes are all counted, the winner will be named, and whether Trump and his Trumpeteers accept it or not isn’t relevant come Inauguration Day, except that such schoolhouse door resistance to the choice of voters in our fragile democracy only assures even more polarization and extremist from Congress on down to the grassroots.

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Rigged Elections and Sore Losers

Supporters carrying side arms wait for the start of a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Supporters carrying side arms wait for the start of a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

New Orleans   Polls are showing a consolidated lead for Hillary Clinton with three weeks to go and many states already beginning early voting. Republican strategists are warning that it may be too late for a Trump turnaround. The cascade of issues from racism to tax dodging to misogyny and sexual harassment and abuse seem to be baking all of the negatives into Trump’s prospects. Republicans from Speaker Paul Ryan on down the ballot and outsiders, including influential and deep-pocketed donors, have either deserted Trump or are actively arguing that he must be abandoned in order not to inflect permanent damage on the party.

Trump’s response has been to question the very validity of the election and raise the specter of refusing to accept the results of the voters in a direct threat to long and deeply held democratic traditions. Governor Pence, the VP on Trump’s ticket, has said in essence, of course we will accept the results, but Trump has pulled his Twitter-finger and seemingly backed off that pledge, so who knows.

None of this is new. In fact, this has been the Republican tradition in all of the recent elections they have lost and part of their concerted effort over the last eight years to deny President Obama the legitimacy of his two victories. The Atlantic magazine quoted a study in a recent issue saying,

“Backing a losing candidate can also damage voters’ trust in the political system. An analysis of surveys from 1964 to 2004 found that over time, voters who supported losers were less likely than others to see the electoral process as fair. They also tended to be less satisfied with democracy generally.”

It seems that what we are witnessing now is something on the order of “pre-emptive sore losing.” Preparing for a humiliating defeat for a candidate enamored of calling everyone but himself a “loser,” it was predictable that he would whine that he couldn’t win because the election was “rigged” against him and everyone ganged up against “poor little me.”

But, this has been a recurring Republican theme from the very base of the party for years. How else could we explain the fact that the majority of Republicans surveyed without a shred of evidence continued to believe for close to seven years that ACORN had stolen both Obama elections? Or the fact that almost a majority of Texas Republican voters already believe that ACORN is stealing the election for Clinton this time around.

The commitment to democracy of many Republican leaders and much of their hardcore base seems extremely weak. The finger pointing about rigged elections at large cities with minority populations like Philadelphia and others seems totally racist. Inventing excuses for losing elections so that no one has to face the consequences of politics and program seems to argue that party leaders do not want to either learn from their errors or listen to the voters.

It will be interesting once this campaign is over to see how we rebuild a semblance of democratic practice from the thin soup we’re being served in this election. Perhaps I should say “if” we can rebuild a semblance of democratic practice after this election.

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Calling All Mugwumps to Desert Trump

Songs Grover Cleveland's Presidential Election 1888

Songs Grover Cleveland’s Presidential Election 1888

Seattle    The day’s papers told the story of Donald Trump’s self-inflected political barn burning pretty well. Here’s a sampling:

  • From Steven Law, a Mitch McConnell acolyte now running Crossroads America PAC: “The Republican Party is caught in a theater fire; people are running to different exits as fast as they can.”
  • From comedian Jena Friedman: “If only we could gauge American misogyny what percentage of American democracy would rather have a tweeting asteroid crash into American democracy than a woman leading.”

And, that’s about as nice as it gets. A Republican strategist, Steve Schmidt, commenting on MSNBC before the debates mourned the fact that we have never had a debate where there has to be a warning that the content was not going to be acceptable for children because it was going to be so X-rated. All reports indicate it was, if anything, worse.

Republican elected officials deserted Trump in droves over the weekend. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan who has led the two-handed vacillator caucus in Congress as he chides Trump for bad behavior and then still “stands by his man,” found himself having to withdraw an invitation to Trump to campaign with him in his home district in Wisconsin. Senator McCain was finally clear that Trump would not have his vote. Women Republican Senators from New Hampshire and Nebraska jumped off the train. Utah legislators were calling for Mike Pence, the VP running mate, to step into the first chair.

None of that is going to happen. Trump is going down with this ship, and might take the whole Republican ship to the bottom of the sea. It seems like it is time for a revival of the Mugwumps.

In 1884, Republicans elites, moralists, and businessmen, calling themselves Mugwumps, deserted the Republican nominee in that contest, James G. Blaine of Maine, the former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, to support Grover Cleveland, the Governor of New York, for election. The reasons they did so were concerns about reports of Blaine’s corruption and his ambition. Let me know when anything sounds familiar? Cleveland went on to win the 1884 election, lose the 1888 election, and in a rare and little remembered comeback, win both the 1892 election and a second term in the 1896 election, being one of the few three term Presidents ever, and the only one in history to win non-consecutive terms. None of which is to say that he was great shakes, since he also was famous for intervention in the Pullman Strike, had some questionable moral issues of his own, and presided over a dismantling of much of the Populist movement, but we’re talking about the Mugwumps, and now should be their time.

With so many Republicans running for the exits, how could it be so hard for some Republican so-called leaders to jump to the front of that line, if for no other reason to try and save some of their gang with some late efforts at a kind of courage even as most still hide in fear of offending Trump and what’s left of his base.

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Trump is a Twitter Troll

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-10-07-44-amNew Orleans   I’ll admit it. No matter what I had thought was possible with Donald Trump, when my companera told me he had been tweeting before dawn about a sex tape of some kind, I was incredulous. I answered her skeptically, saying I hadn’t seen anything on the web editions of the papers I had checked before leaving the office. Was she sure? She confidently told me it was all over the news. I ended up changing the subject by saying this had to be a first ever and only time that a presidential candidate was tweeting during a campaign about a sex tape for some unknown minor celebrity.

But, I had tricked myself into believing that there was a limit somewhere to Trump’s outrageousness. I had believed deep down that there has a bottom of the well somewhere in the Trump tower which would trigger some level of self-control somehow. But, I was wrong.

Sure enough, Trump was tweeting before dawn. Oh, brothers and sisters, understand it wasn’t just one slip of the thumb, but a series of tweets. All of them ranting about this former beauty queen from the Miss Universe pageant he owned named Alicia Machado, who he and Hillary Clinton made famous in the recent debate. He seems to have had a problem with her weight gain or something while she was the queen at some point ten or fifteen years ago, and he definitely has not gotten over it. Somehow she reminds him of Rosy O’Donnell or some other fixation he has that I’m frankly unable – and unwilling – to try and explain.

Hillary got his goat by mentioning Machado and his fat-shaming, misogyny during the debate, and Trump took the bait, hook, line and sinker, and seems not to have spit it out yet from the evidence of his tweets. The incident may have hardened the position of independent women voters against him to 80% and pushed another more than 30% away from him after the debate. No matter to the Donald. Now he’s running for the most famous Twitter troll on the internet, not president I guess. He wants us to look at a sex tape, which already sounds disgusting. How do we explain that to youngsters living through their first presidential campaign? He also invented a new issue to rival the birther-lies, saying that Clinton must have pulled straws for Machado to become a US-citizen so she could be used to gig Trump.

I thought everyone had learned that Twitter was a dying tool and a dangerous one in the hands of many. Marc Andreessen who is a big-time Silicon Valley tech-investor and super Twitter man with more than 100,000 tweets to his name, usually averaging 100 a day, put himself on a Twitter moratorium recently and pushed pause. He’s quoted as saying that doing so was like “taking a 50 pound weight” off of his chest. He says going tweet-less has made him feel “free as a bird.”

Before this campaign gets any more X-rated, maybe Trump’s handlers need to take away his Twitter account and tie his thumbs behind his back until there’s sunlight at the least. You know, for his own good, and that of the whole country.

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At This Point Do Health Records Really Matter?

day2New Orleans   Big news! TV and radio are full of 24 hour commentary on Hillary Clinton feeling the heat and now a doctor’s opinion that maybe her cough is pneumonia, rather than a reaction to allergies, as she has said earlier. Some pundits and editorialists are calling for more disclosures of the candidates’ health records, which in both cases have been somewhat sketchy.

As you recall, Clinton’s were somewhat perfunctory, though they were effusive in comparison to Donald Trump’s letter from one of his doctor’s that seemed like he might have gotten it from a doc-in-a-box with a one-hundred dollar bill in an envelope and essentially said, he was healthy as a horse. But, really, what do we expect. Neither of these candidates are youngsters like Obama. One is 68 and the other is 70. We’re not talking about folks ready for the Olympics. We’re more in the Reagan and Eisenhower demographic. These will be the last candidates to understand that Vietnam was more than a question on a geography quiz.

But, my question is, really, does it matter at this point? Either would have to suddenly have a stroke and then go into a coma to not be on the ballot in less than two months. Be serious. There’s not going to be a do-over at this point. If their hearts are beating and their tongues are wagging, one of these seniors is going to be President.

One reporter suggested that they each provide their health records to a few elite reporters in order to make a report to the public. That almost seems reasonable, but we’re not dealing with very transparent folks. We are already dealing with Trump and Republican forces fabricating ill-health voodoo spells on Clinton in recent months. Trump’s VP candidate, Mike Pence, released his income tax records, but Daddy Warbucks is still gripping his with a tight death grip. We all know about Hillary’s views on privacy versus publicity, and if not, read up on the email server mess. Who is prepared to believe that reporters would get the complete package on something so personal and private? This is a situation where no one is going to believe anything, so it’s likely just destined to be a hot mess.

And, what makes the public think that this is something that the press can handle. Remember the mess with Senator Eagleton as the presumptive running mate for George McGovern in the last century? He was eviscerated for some mental health issues that most now would see as certainly manageable, if not trivial. And, if anything that’s what most of us would like to know about a candidate for President. How stable are they with their fingers near the button? How firmly are their feet anchored to the solid ground? There has already been speculation on Trump and psycho drama, and with Hillary, as a woman, that’s just a common assumption for a whole group of voters. But, friends, no one is talking about sharing any info on mental health.

This is one issue we should let evaporate into back ground noise. There’s no good that can come of it. Our rights to this information are tenuous and our ability to handle healthcare information is nonexistent. We have a long record as a people proving that we don’t understand anything about health. The ongoing conflict about Obamacare is a good case in point.

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Two Campaigns: One Tight Ship and One Full of Leaks

Source: George Herbert AP

Source: George Herbert AP

Vlodrop, Netherlands   Trump and his family have to be walking around his namesake tower in New York City just hopping mad. Everywhere they turn they have to wonder at sieve of a drowning campaign who is leaking to the press.

The latest flood level leak from the top of the campaign to the New York Times detailed a split between the Republican party operatives and the campaign managers quoting the Trump folks right up to the son-in-law and right down to describing his tone in a meeting with a key RNC official as “impervious.” There just simply cannot be that many people in the room when meetings happen at that level. What do you reckon? Five or six, maybe ten, but even ten seems unlikely. Can you imagine the circular firing squad that is lining up to try and pull a confession – and resignation – out of the people spilling these stories to the press of more chaos and dissension? And, with or without confessions, trust has left this campaign.

Furthermore, reading between the lines, you just have to know the Republican National Committee folks who were assigned over to the Tower, had to be the leakers. And, for all of the denials from the Chair of the party, it’s hard not to see him nodding an ascent to the leaks in order to send one last message to the Trump campaign that they have reached their limit after his fiasco around immigration in the short hours between his visit to Mexico City and his speech in Arizona. There’s nothing subtle about any of this. It’s hardball and a pitch to the head.

Meanwhile, not a peep from the Clinton campaign. Testimony from the FBI is released. Thud. Not a sound from the campaign. No lone voices or squeaks of concern. Nothing but the authorized spokesperson rolling out the script for the occasion. One report noted that Clinton has not held an open press conference since December 2015. This is a new strategy. A candidate running for president that doesn’t want press. The Clinton campaign was quickly out with a count of 350 press contacts this year, but these were curated calls from random call-ins to radio DJs to carefully curried reporters in specific, often local outlets.

We have on offer two completely different strategies emanating from the same root source. Neither Trump nor Clinton trust nor care for the press, and they all fly separately this campaign, which is also unusual, but one can’t stop talking and one can’t start. One is leaking information right and left on a sinking ship, while the other is sealed tighter than a drum. From one side we know way, way too much, and from the other, we know way, way too little.

The percentage of undecided voters is at historic levels by some reports. One set of pollsters indicated,

“Undecided voters and professed non-voters are at 29 per cent, seven times higher than in 2012. If these people were to break one way or the other before election day, they could reverse Clinton’s lead and put Trump in the White House.”

When significant percentages of both candidates’ support is based on opposition to the opponent, rather than support of the candidate, how can either of these strategies, win, lose or draw, be persuasive to potential voters, much less good for the American people?

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