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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Rigged Elections and Delegitimized Democracy Increasing Polarization

 A rally last week in Philadelphia, where Hillary Clinton said voter registration efforts were the best tactic against Donald J. Trump. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

A rally last week in Philadelphia, where Hillary Clinton said voter registration efforts were the best tactic against Donald J. Trump. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

New Orleans    The early warning signal was a report that 40% of recently surveyed Republicans already believed that ACORN was going to steal the election between Trump and Clinton. Yes, that’s down from the even higher percentages reported on other surveys since 2008 arguing that ACORN stole both elections for President Obama, but it’s still total falsehood and fantasy backed by not one iota of proof, not to mention the fact that ACORN has not operated in the United States since 2010, which seems to trouble none of these conspiratorialists in the least about such a zombie attack on election purity.

Now Trump partnered with the hate mongering, fact-adverse Breitbart bunch is putting out its first television advertisements with the subliminal headline, “Rigged,” flashing across the screen. Trump told his rallies in Pennsylvania that the polls were all corrupt and that the only way he could lose the election in Pennsylvania was if the election was stolen and the whole process was rigged. Normally, these would be tactics only associated with what we would usually call, “sore losers,” except that Trump seems to have virtually trademarked the word “loser,” and may not realize yet, as he undoubtedly will soon, how permanently that moniker will stick to him for the rest of his life, perhaps even in epic, historic terms.

If this were just about Trump, we could easily ignore his attempt to inoculate his fanboys and girls from what is increasingly seeming like the inevitable. The problem, as we have all sadly seen in the eight-year war by the right to delegitimize Obama, is that such a strategy is designed to polarize and erode democracy, which in the vicious circle of our political life, also paved the way for a Trump candidacy. Many will remember from his earliest days in office when President Obama, then a naïve democracy advocate, tried to remind the Congressional Republicans that he “had won the election,” believing that the mandate from the voters came with an understanding that some of his positions should be implemented in policy. We don’t believe any of that nonsense in Washington anymore that somehow the voters will deserves respect. It’s dog-eat-dog period, and the people take the hindmost, which is happening on a state-by-state basis where the rightwing has been able to work their will without restraint.

What does this augur? If Hillary Clinton prevails, will we once again watch her try to be bipartisan, as Obama did, and fail while the right quickly tries to reframe a defeat as not about them but about the flawed Trump candidacy?

Some are advancing the theory that the Senate could change hands if the Trump defeat continues on its current abysmal trajectory. A turnover of four or five seats would make the difference there for four years until 2020 when more Democratic seats are up for grabs, but that wouldn’t break through the logjam, even if it would hedge against our worst nightmares. For the House to flip, thirty or so seats would have to change, and most pundits are estimating only half of that will happen.

It’s depressing when the end of this polarized dysfunction still seems nowhere in sight, even as November’s outcome seems more and more inevitable.

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