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Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Personal Reflections ... Politics ...

ON A PERSONAL NOTE: I wanted to have a “quasi-feminine” weekend: gardening, baking cupcakes, writing about feelings and spirituality for my blog . . . but instead I had to shift into maximum male mode. I got into a minor anger tiff with my brother, and I had to troubleshoot a CPU fan failure on my home computer. I started humming “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” to myself while driving up to the computer super-store on Monday morning, looking for a replacement CPU heat sink cooling assembly — I was thinking about the B-52 scenes from Dr. Strangelove after the crew received the “go code” and headed off to attack Russia.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to ride the rodeo-bull H-bomb into oblivion like Slim Pickens, nor did my computer blow up like that bomb (and I also didn’t wear a cowboy hat while fixing my computer). By Monday evening, my computer was back in action with a goodly amount of cooling capacity, keeping the CPU unit from self-destructing (like the CRM-114 communication device did in Strangelove, the movie plot device that blocked the recall signal that could have saved the world). Oh, and I had a beer with my brother after I got my computer back in shape, and so I cooled that overheated situation down too.

Now, on to the fun stuff, some POLITICAL PONDERINGS:

FIRST: Trump is such a bad Presidential candidate that he would only have a prayer of winning if he faced an abysmally bad opponent, someone clearly worse than any of the various people that the Democratic and Republican parties have proposed to the public over the past generation or two for the nation’s highest office. And Hillary Clinton is such a bad Presidential candidate that she could only think about winning against an equally bad opponent. And right now the polls are showing a near dead-heat between the two of them. In sum, the 2016 Presidential election promises to make history as the worst candidate choice ever. Either way the vote goes in 2016, the nation loses.

For the voter, it’s now simply a matter of choosing your poison. As such, the winner will be determined by who will be seen by the majority to do the least overall damage to their lives. Forget about national purpose, forget about FDR and the need to save the world from fascism, forget about Kennedy-like visions of a “New Frontier” or Johnson’s notions of a “Great Society”, or any Reagan-like dreams of a strong and just nation. For we, the voting public, it comes down quite simply to who “gores my ox” the least. It’s every man and woman for themselves this time! A Trump-Clinton choice eviscerates any sort of American idealism and national pride — not that there was all that much left anyway.

Had the current political situation and national attitude existed in 1860, the outcome probably would have been this: most of the people who could vote (which of course excluded women and anyone of color) would realize that they would be better off in the short-run if we let the southern states have their independence and their slavery; just let them go their way. Everyone (who could vote) would just be better off if the north and south made arrangements without any bloody and costly military action.

Forget about Abraham Lincoln; the big man for the 1860’s would have been President George McClellan. The north could do whatever it wanted to help the lot of any slaves who got across the border line; the south would probably just take a page from Donald Trump and build a giant wall along the Potomac River, Ohio River and through the Appalachian ridges where Virginia and West Virginia meet. Sure, the abolitionists would have called for boycotts of southern cotton, tobacco and other agricultural products, and for severe tariffs on any northern industrial goods and raw materials bought by the south. There would probably have been trade wars, but that would still much more humane and much less costly than a titanic struggle between Lee, Jackson, Longstreet et al versus Grant, Sherman, Sheridan and company. Right?

[Yes, of course that’s wrong. The Civil War was awful, but slavery was even more awful. And so is our current political and social climate!]

NEXT: Why Trump Won’t Debate Bernie Sanders. Trump was in typical form when he recently suggested during a public interview that he’d like to debate Bernie Sanders. Typical Trump, shooting from the hip, not thinking through the implications of what he says. Oh yea, this is really the guy we want with his finger on the nuclear trigger . . . This is the great dealmaker — who doesn’t realize that what he gets away with in negotiating business deals with Manhattan bankers and real estate owners and construction companies is a whole lot different from sitting with national leaders who control nuclear arsenals (Russia, China, North Korea, Pakistan, India, Israel, probably Iran before too long) and big conventional armies. Say the wrong thing with a bank and you can find another; say the wrong thing in an international crisis, and people start getting killed. Many people.

But back to Bernie — Bernie called Trump’s bluff, and Trump had to back down. But why didn’t Trump follow through on his first thought? Why not have the debate? Well, two things that the Donald realized after he had a chance to think about it (or more likely, his advisors brought to his attention) . . . first, Trump is NOT a good debater. Trump does his damage while acting like a loose cannon sheltered on a mountain-top, where he can attack without any threat of face-to-face retaliation. E.g., while shooting off his mouth in a media interview, or at a speech before supporters, or playing around with his Twitter account.

Sure, you can have someone like Elizabeth Warren attempt to fight fire with fire, try to give the Donald a taste of his own medicine; but unfortunately, whenever anyone lowers themselves to Trump’s level, they just don’t look good. Warren clearly comes off looking a bit silly when she tries to mock Trump on her Twitter account. Trump is a master at working from the gutter. Warren just looks like someone classy who has slipped and fallen into the gutter.

The only way that you can really fight a Donald Trump is to hold him still, out in the open, and be able to shoot right back at him. Trump really didn’t do all that well in the GOP debates — recall that he finally ended them prematurely. Rubio and Cruz landed a few good punches against Trump (and Trump never came up with any witty rejoinders in those instances). But for the most part, most of the GOP candidates were either afraid of him or too busy attacking each other. Trump definitely got off easy during the GOP debates, but he didn’t do too well in handling what little was thrown his way. In a one-on-one face-off against a skilled debater (and both Clinton and Sanders have been honing their debating skills over the past 6 months), Trump would clearly be in trouble.

So, now we see Trump’s kryptonite, his Achilles Heel – a DEBATE. And maybe Bernie Sanders scares him too. Sanders would probably have come out on top, had Trump followed through on his proposal. Sanders would then have been in much better shape to take California from Clinton in next week’s final round of primaries. And who knows, maybe Sanders could then somehow pull the nomination from under Clinton’s feet! Which is Trump’s worst nightmare — he and his advisors read the polls showing that Bernie would be the stronger candidate against Trump. It turned out to be a double nightmare for Trump — his vulnerability in a mano-a-mano debate would have been exposed to the public a few months earlier than necessary, and he would also be facing the Democratic candidate who could clearly beat him! That’s why Trump had to pull off a “strategic retreat”.

FURTHERMORE: Hillary’s VP Candidate, continued: I had previously opined that Tim Kaine would be Hilary’s best choice in the “Veepstakes”. In recent weeks, Kaine has been holding his own on the site and on the Euro betting sites, running neck and neck with Julian Castro. But in the last few days, both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders (!) have been moving up; as of today, Predictwise has Castro and Warren tied at 17%, with Kaine at 15% and Sanders right behind at 12.

Hmmm, I see two things behind this. First, Trump has shown signs of consolidating GOP support despite all the reservations that many Republicans voiced about him. The GOP now seems much more able to “hold their nose” than many pundits thought at first.

Second, Ms. Clinton has not fared well given the “slow drip” of unfavorable news about her unconventional e-mail use while Secretary of State. These two factors help to explain why Trump has been moving up in the head-to-head polls lately; as of today, the RealClearPolitics national average is Clinton 43.8%, Trump 42.8%; one month ago it was Clinton 49%, Trump 40.5%. The HuffPo “model estimate” today is Clinton 44.4%, Trump 40.1%; last month this estimate was at 47.7% / 40.5%. Depending on which source you trust or sympathize with more, Trump may or may not be doing better; but Clinton clearly is doing worse. More and more of the people who were willing to say that they would vote for Secretary Clinton are now retreating into the “undecided” zone. These voters could possibly be swayed to the Trump side (I was tempted to say “the dark side”, but both sides are pretty dark here!).

Third, it’s not yet clear that substantially all of the people that Bernie Sanders has attracted, which largely consists of those under 35, will throw their support to Clinton and actually vote for her on Nov. 8. Those Millennials can be a bit temperamental. And many of those older “down and almost out” people from swing states like Ohio, Florida and Michigan who took a liking to Bernie might see Trump as a better “second best” than Clinton, given his faux-working class populism. The more that Trump seems like a real threat to Hillary, the more that she needs those who “felt the Bern”. What can she do to appease them? Well sure, she can tweek her positions on some issues leftward, as she is already doing. But given Clinton’s sincerity and believability problems, this might not do too much. The biggest thing that she can do to impress them, the one real and permanent decision that she can make in their favor, regards the VP pick.

And thus the rising odds for Elizabeth Warren, and even for the almost unprecedented move of inviting your most main rival in the primaries to run on the ticket with you. I.e., Bernie Sanders. OK, the political historians will point out that things like this have happened; e.g. John F Kennedy having LBJ as his running mate in 1960 (and also recall Nixon as Eisenhower’s VP from 1954). But it has not been very common in the last 20 or 30 years; for the most part, Presidential candidates choose their VP’s as an expression of their own thinking and style, not for the sake of party unity.

So . . . if the present trends continue, I’d say that Tim Kaine is out, and Elizabeth Warren is in. (Julian Castro is arguably a bit more “Sanderish” than Kaine, but the former mayor and current HUD Secretary is probably too much of an establishment stiff for the angry Bernie masses). And if Sanders were to squeek by some how in California next week, then Bernie himself could be elevated to the running-mate pantheon! And of course, if James Comey and the FBI were to then present a good case for indicting Secretary Clinton due to national security law violations based on her e-mail practices . . . Sanders might then start dreaming about the West Wing instead of the Naval Observatory. But hey, as Ms. Clinton and her supporters all chant: “AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN”. We shall see.

FINALLY: Trump Dog Whistles: I have read a lot of articles lately arguing that Trump’s “working class” support is not really a matter of their feeling the pain of multiple economic injustices. A wide variety of left-leaning commentators accuse Trump of gaining popularity by using subtle, coded language that sympathetic whites will recognize as promising that pro-minority policies will be rolled back and whites will once again enjoy the benefits of ethnic superiority. Actually, though, it’s not so much a matter of Trump being subtle. Generally, Trump is not subtle. As a New Republic commentator points out, “Donald Trump doesn’t do dog whistles. He specializes in train whistles.”

The dog-whistle question is really more about the intent of those who have bought tickets for the Trump Express – and yes, those people do appear to be mainly white males. In a sense, the “dog whistle” commentators are using a dog whistle of their own. It’s a coded signal amidst people with a progressive bent, to assert that many or perhaps most white males in America are quiet racists and misogynists. It’s a way to say (without outright saying it) “just as we always thought, most of those white guys out there really do hate us and President Obama”.

Well, I’m probably doing the same thing that I’m accusing the “dog whistle sentries” of – exaggeration, making too much out of too little evidence. But yes, admittedly there are some white people who hope that Trump will benefit them and their families at the expense of pro-minority progressive causes. And by the same token, I believe that some commentators are trying to suggest, without saying it outright, that a very significant portion of the white population still doesn’t like people of color and harbors regressive attitudes about women and gay people. Which provides a convenient, non-complex way of explaining why minorities have made such slow progress over the past 40 or 50 years in attaining higher education levels, lower crime rates, higher incomes and asset levels, and more stable family situations.

I certainly agree that regressive white attitudes are still a part of the problem, and that police department interactions with blacks need to be monitored and reformed. But as to whether widespread white attitudes can be identified, dog-whistle style or otherwise, as the main driver of all minority woes . . . that I’m not convinced of. We really have come a long way from Selma in 1964 (but still have farther to go; black lives do matter). Let’s put the dog whistles away and get back to the complex facts of a complicated world. Even though Donald Trump is clearly trying to distort those complex facts in his own overly-simple ways.

IN SUM: The political situation this year is extremely dynamic, and everything I say here could be totally irrelevant in 8 or 9 weeks. Still, for us political junkies, it sure is fun to speculate. Especially since almost nothing is impossible right now, most every speculation is “in play”!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:33 pm      

  1. Jim, As to your “personal note”, glad you fixed your computer. It’s wonderful that you have the knowledge of how to fix the intricacies of it. When you retire, you might find a part time job with some store or company that fixes computers, just doing that here and there when you feel like it.

    As re Trump: I tend to think that things are more “up for grabs” than they seem to be. Everybody (or more accurately, a lot of his supporters) is 100% sure that Trump will be the next president; and not too sure that Hillary will be even nominated.

    “The Atlantic” has a good article on Trump. After reading that, I tho’t, well if Trump does win the election, we can be sure HE won’t be running the country; someone will be telling him what to do and how to say it (as already is happening). But will the man ever learn that not every tho’t he has is the best in the world? We should hope that the guy behind Trump (and, of course, it WILL be a “guy” behind Trump), IF he’s eventually president, is somewhat less “me, me, me, only me” than “The Donald” is.

    I am getting to the point where Trump’s negative non-verbal gestures just annoy me so that I found myself stopping watching him, just as Dan P. McAdams, author of the Trump article indicates could happen among large groups of people who suddenly lose interest in Trump. It could be, McAdams says, that past a certain point people get tired of the “me, me,” etc. of Trump, and they will begin to think in terms of voting for someone else.

    I’ve been encouraged to read a book on Alexander Hamilton by someone who is willing to do almost anything to get tickets to see the Broadway Play. (Well, I doubt either of those will happen, get tickets and/or see the play.) But that person’s enthusiasm did get me to begin a rather large study by Chernow of Hamilton. It seems that in the earlier days of our country the politicians were even worse than they are today. Thomas Jefferson pursued Alexander Hamilton (by further trying to besmirch Hamilton’s reputation) even after Hamilton was dead. Now that’s some mighty big “I think I’m great and you’re a nobody” thinking. But perhaps it were better Donald Trump not hear about that as he may get the idea and follow it. (Continued)

    Comment by Mary S. — June 1, 2016 @ 2:05 pm

  2. (Continued) I think that most politicians are narcissistic. They have to be. It’s such an arduous thing to carry on the campaign for so long, and then perhaps lose, that one must think of oneself: “How could anyone be better than I am?” (And, yes, I include even Obama [as much as I like him] in that category.) It’s just that with the politicians in my lifetime, for the most part, they have kept that narcissism to themselves, try to hide it; when it does show its face, they are sure to include the idea that their desire to be prez is for the good of others, not themselves. Still, hidden behind it all is that “I’m the best there can be” idea. They are all narcissists. (I’d say Jimmy Carter was an exception to this general idea; he was probably no narcissist; he is a really good man and still is [a not-good prez, tho]). But really good men (all our presidents have been men, so there’s no “him/her” possibility here) don’t do well in political life.

    Donald Trump seems, tho, to have had no hesitation to let his narcissism show thru and even advertise it. But there’s also a
    “something’s wrong with this picture” here because he seems to have little awareness of how much he loves himself; but I guess that’s part of the ultimate in being in love with oneself. Loving oneself so much, one naturally is NOT aware of it. It’s just a logical and sensible thing to Donald Trump.

    So, I’m interested to see if people tire sooner or later of Donald Trump; and all the polls near November suddenly change. A great many of the people for both Donald Trump are young and “the social media” are how they “work”. Social media can (and does) seem to me to have a very short attention span, quickly losing interest in most things. Otherwise, why the use of the word “trending” in regard to social media? It took me I don’t know how long to figure out that “trending” as used with regard to social media means “what’s new TODAY?” (My mistake was to think it might mean something of interest for perhaps a week or a month. But, it turns out “trending” is like saying, “‘sup’?”) The attention span of people today is VERY short.*

    Wait a month and see if there’s an Independent running in either or both parties. The “young people” would be quickly behind something new. Perhaps an Independent (Democrat or GOP) may take the election. Who knows? MCS
    *I might note that it’s no surprise to me that ADHD is so prevalent these days. What could be the mystery with the TV and computer screens and phones having at least 3 and sometimes 4 things going at one time to catch the individual’s attention. I’ve had to make it a point to focus on what it is I’m doing or I’d never get anything done on a computer; I’d jump from one thing to the other. I find myself thinking of the young people whose attention EXPECTS several things “going” at once; how could they avoid ADHD.

    Comment by Mary S. — June 1, 2016 @ 2:06 pm

  3. Mary,

    You talk here about the dark side of The Donald, and I certainly can’t disagree with what you say. But what about Hillary? You didn’t say a thing about HER dark side. If the polls are correct, a majority of American voters agree that Secretary Clinton does have a real dark side to her. The whole e-mail server thing — how could someone entrusted with a key national leadership role casually put our intelligence and military assets at risk, just because “all she wanted was a private life”, as Senator Feinstein recently said about this. Sorry Dianne, but when someone starts playing with top secrets and national security, “enough” is never enough. People who just want a private life don’t become Secretary of State or run for President.

    But OK, let me admit that there is a big difference between Mr. Trump’s dark side and Ms. Clinton’s dark side. For Trump, the dark stuff is just about all there is; despite the protests of Trump’s family, there doesn’t appear to be much of a gentle and humane side to him. With Hillary — well, I recently read this profile of her in New York Magazine, which serves as a good reminder that Hillary has always been passionate about public service, and that she believes strongly in family life and in the government’s ability to help families. So yes, I can almost — ALMOST — see why so many people are willing to look the other way regarding all the mountains of Clintonian “baggage”, hold their nose, and get in line behind Ms. Clinton.

    I will soon read the psychological profile of Donald Trump in The Atlantic. But I would be more interested in a psychological profile of Hillary Clinton. How does someone like her manage to balance all of the greed, power mongering, royalist condescension and public dishonesty in her persona with all of that drive to truly help American families in an increasingly hostile world? I believe that Clinton is actually much more complex and psychologically interesting than Trump !!

    One last thought about Secretary Clinton. I wonder if her health is up to what is coming — i.e., a very personal, brutal and psychologically taxing political battle against one of the worst political barbarians in American history; truly a figure on par with the monsters of the Roman Republic and Empire (Sulla, Pompey, Nero, Caracalla, Caligula, etc.) Recall Ms. Clinton’s previous fainting spells and her cerebral blood clot in 2013, which required a short hospital stay. Is she going to remain on her feet for the whole 3 month ordeal from the convention to Election Day? Clinton will be under constant media surveillance, just about 24/7. If she has so much as a 2 minute dizzy spell before the cameras . . . that could be enough to make Donald Trump the 45th President of the United States.

    Something to think about. (Of course, Trump is a prime candidate for a heart attack, given his age, weight and type A personality; but for now, he appears to be having the time of his life. If that changes however and Hillary starts getting to him, then who knows.)

    Comment by Jim G — June 2, 2016 @ 8:20 pm

  4. Jim, Well, as to Clinton’s dark side, I think you yourself answered the question your own queston: “Hillary has always been passionate about public service, and that she believes strongly in family life and in the government’s ability to help families. So yes, I can almost — ALMOST — see why so many people are willing to look the other way regarding all the mountains of Clintonian “baggage”.

    And I also think that you are right that Clinton is probably more interesting psychologically than Trump.

    When it comes right down to it, it seems to me that a colleague of mine some 30 years ago spoke for ALL politicians, which would also account for why ANY of them might be even a little bit interested in any office at all. He said to me as we worked on something and had a chance of winning the situation (I paraphrase but I’m very close): “But, Mary, here you have a chance to get a little power in a particular niche. Aren’t you interested in that?” I had to answer bluntly: “No, I am not.” It has many times over the years occurred to me that he expressed EXACTLY what it is every politician at the heart of things is interested in—power which would have as IT’S goal more power, etc. Then too, what is that saying? Power is the greatest aphrodisiac.

    After listening to this a.m.’s news and the protests in California, it’s obvious neither Trump nor Hillary is a Mother Teresa. I’ve noticed many times over the years that women seeking to “break the glass ceiling” in no matter what field end up, sadly, taking on the habits and ways of dealing with situations that are men-like, when what is needed badly is a more woman-like approach to things. But sadly, anything “woman-like” is considered by most in the male of the species, and some females too, to somehow be lacking in any sense of the value and worth of the female contribution.

    If all this trash talking from both sides keeps up, I’ll end up voting for a write-in candidate. Maybe Joe Biden wouldn’t be bad for that; I’m looking around for a woman I like for a write-in candidate too. When things get as they are now, each side trash talking the other and no sensible or useful or positive contribution seems to be coming from either side, I start to ignore things from both sides; sadly, things seem to quickly be approaching exactly that point. MCS
    P.S. Is it just me or does this period remind me of the 1960s?

    Comment by Mary S. — June 3, 2016 @ 9:47 am

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