Monday, August 29, 2016

Politix Update: Why Trump Is Beating Clinton In The Right-Wing Echo Chamber

If your world does not extend beyond the confines of Fox News or one of the other rooms in the ghetto known as the right-wing echo chamber, you could be (barely) forgiven if you believe that the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton not only is competitive, but The Donald actually is in the lead with 10 weeks to go.  This is because of two big lies: The polls are all wrong and there is a secret reservoir of Trump voters -- we'll call them Trumpkins -- who are going to magically appear on Election Day to elect the Cheeto Jesus.  Then there are October Surprises and Black Swans, which we'll get to in a moment.   
The echo chamber was booming away on Fox the other morning while I was waiting to get my hair cut as one of the network's ubiquitous air hostess blond commentators (who seem to all be the same person, or is that just me?) breathlessly intoned that: 
"Donald Trump is turning his campaign around with a new stand on immigration and the latest poll results show him head to head or leading Hillary Clinton.  Meanwhile, Trump has taken the lead in Arizona." 
Three little problems with that 10-second sound bite: While Trump may be able to figuratively turn his campaign around, it is literally too late for that to make a difference.  He is head to head with Clinton only in a few outlier polls that are consistently weighted Republican and leads in only one that has a suspect methodology.  Arizona has gone Democratic only once in 68 years (Give 'Em Hell, Harry), but because of Trump's toxicity among minorities and the antipathy some Republicans have for him, it is now trending for Clinton.  
Putting aside the crisis of morality sucking at Fox these days, can you imagine the amount of bilge sloshing around in the brains of Trump supporters after watching the network for years, let alone a mere 10 seconds?
All of this is reminiscent of Election Night 2012 when Karl Rove melted down before millions of viewers on Fox over his disbelief that Barack Obama had carried Ohio despite that call by his own network.  And as the night wore on, it became obvious that Rove and his pals had allowed the boom-boom-boom of the echo chamber to fool themselves into believing that Mitt Romney was going to kick the president's Kenyan butt. 
Not even a hyper-partisan smacked ass like Rove is likely to make the same mistake this time around. 
Rove's catharsis is not just because of Clinton's commanding lead in national polls that screen for likely voters and discard other responses -- an average lead of 7.4 percent over Trump at this writing -- but because of where the calendar is.  Historically, and we're going all the way back to that Harry Truman fella here, polls become far more predictive after the conventions and there is no reason to expect this election season is different in that respect despite its inherent strangeness. 
In fact, no candidate who was leading at this stage in the race has lost the popular vote, which is why the major polling models all give Clinton such a high likelihood of winning: 85 percent in the FiveThirtyEight polls-only forecast, 90 percent in The New York Times calculator, and 96 percent in the Princeton Election Consortium survey.   
One of the strangest aspects of this strange election season is a big reason why these forbidding odds are likely to hold up: Only one candidate is running a campaign in the traditional sense of the word.  That is, doing what it takes to win a national election. 
Clinton's headquarters operation in Brooklyn is huge and her field organization so vast that when Arizona began coming into play earlier this month, her operation there grew to 20 field offices with 160 workers practically overnight.  Trump, on the other hand, has no real campaign operation, no infrastructure, an anemic budget, few volunteers and a by-now well publicized proclivity for hiring extremely unvetted problem children like campaign chief executive Steve Bannon, who replaced a man with a hot line to the Kremlin who replaced a potty-mouthed serial brawler.  Bannon for a time was fraudulently registered to vote in Florida, once beat up his wife and is proudly anti-Semitic.   
"There is no horse race here," writes Jamelle Bouie in Slate.  "Clinton is far enough ahead, at a late enough stage in the election, that what we have is a horse running by itself, unperturbed but for the faint possibility of a comet hitting the track.  Place your bets accordingly."   
But what about those other factors that could undermine or spell defeat for Clinton?
The existence of Trumpkins, known to pollsters as "underground voters," is in the eyes of the beholder. Kellyanne Conway beholds a whole fricking army of them, and suggests that it is on their shoulders that Tump will be carried to victory. 
Conway is Trump's new campaign manager and the other half of the package deal that gifted us Steve Bannon.  Conway also happens to be a pollster, which hypothetically should enhance her credibility when it comes to knowing about underground voters. 
She leads the army of Trumpkin believers with statements like this one: 
"Donald Trump performs consistently better in online polling where a human being is not talking to another human being about what he or she may do in the election.  It's because it's become socially desirable, if you're a college-educated person in the United States of America, to say that you're against Donald Trump."
At a glance, polling data would appear to confirm Conway's view. 
The aforementioned 7.4 percent national polling average breaks down to 47.5 percent for Clinton and 40.1 percent for Trump.  Breaking it down further, if you eliminate live callers and count only robot callers and online polls, the margin narrows to 5.1 percent.  If you count only live callers and eliminate robot callers and online polls, Clinton's lead grows to 9.8 percent. 
Except that like that 10-second Fox News sound bite, Conway's view doesn't stand up to scrutiny.   
First, because it's not Trump's support that changes; the movement is almost entirely within Clinton's support.  Slate's Jim Newell points out that if there is any inter-methodology disparity, it's that respondents are more likely to tell a human being that they support Clinton than a robot. 
And second, there are not anywhere near enough Trumpkins to make up The Donald's substantial deficit.   
While Mitt Romney won the white college-educated vote by 14 percentage points in 2012, Clinton leads Trump by 48 to 37 percent in one reliable poll, and that doesn't include non-white college-educated voters.   
But Trump's biggest demographic deficit is among Catholic voters, who traditionally make up the largest bloc of swing voters.   
The Republican candidate has won the Catholic vote in five of the last 10 presidential elections, and Romney lost it by only 2 percentage points in 2012.  But Trump trails Clinton among Catholics by staggering margins of over 20 percentage points in national polls.  
Bottom line: There are far more college-educated voters who are more turned off to Trump than Clinton, and Trump cannot win without their support.  Same with Catholics.  
An October Surprise is, as the term implies, a news event that is deliberately timed to influence the outcome of an election.  The term originated in October 1972, some 12 days before the Richard Nixon-George McGovern massacre, when Henry Kissinger, Nixon's national security advisor, announced that "peace is at hand" after four years of negotiations to end the deeply unpopular Vietnam War. 
(Wag the Dog, a novel and film about a war started solely to distract attention from a presidential scandal, is a pungent fictional example of an October Surprise.) 
As it turned out, peace was not at hand in 1972 and Nixon routed McGovern anyway, but the term October Surprise stuck and has been used with numbing regularity in most presidential elections since.  Problem is, these "surprises" don't amount to much even if true, a good example being the announcement by the Democratic candidate for Maine governor a few days before the 2000 election that George W. Bush had been arrested in that state for drunk driving in 1976.  Bush quickly confirmed that was true and the rest, as they say, was history.   
My leading candidates for a 2016 October Surprise are: 
* Another WikiLeaks revelation -- possibly aided and abetted by Trump's Russian hacking backers -- about Clinton's email practices, possibly the contents of her so-called "scrubbed" emails.  But if that's the best that Julian Assange and other pro-Trump forces can come up with, the reaction of voters is likely to be another big ho-hum. 
* A leak of Trump's federal tax returns, which he has adamantly refused to release.  While damaging in and of themselves because they probably would show that Trump diddled the system and perhaps paid no taxes, this would have little overall impact because he was going to lose badly anyway.
Interestingly if not surprisingly, most October Surprise talk is coming from right-wing websites.
Of all the electoral game changers, a Black Swan Event is both the least likely and the one likely to matter the most should that comet hit the track.   
A Black Swan Event is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a big surprise, has a history-changing effect and is irrationally rationalized after the fact that the event could have been expected.  The term is based on an ancient saying which presumed black swans did not exist but were later discovered in the wild, connoting the idea that a perceived impossibility might later be disproven.   
Classic Black Swan Events include World War I, the rise of the Internet, and events such as floods, droughts and epidemics, and my favorite -- the September 11 attacks.   
Could an event of this magnitude improbably result in the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States?  Of course, and I've got a bridge in Brooklyn that I'm interested in selling you.

© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN 


Cartoon du Jour

Tom Toles/The Washington Post

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Politix Update: A Pivot On Immigrants -- Or Anything Else -- Won't Save The Donald

Trump’s pivot turned out to be a 360-degree pirouette: back into the mud, where he feels most at home. ~ EUGENE ROBINSON, The Washington Post
I have dreaded having to write this column because I am just about out of snappy Donald Trump rejoinders, although a pundit's recent description of him as "a walking order of deep-fried orange chicken" was pretty good.  But my malaise has to do with the glacial speed at which we are heading toward Election Day and more specifically Trump's clocklike "pivots" -- declarations, do-overs, reshufflings, game changers and something or others -- that are greeted by his sycophancy and a news media hungry for a fresh angle as being stop-the-presses developments that will suddenly make him a viable candidate.   
This week's pivot concerns rumblings from the Trump campaign that he is poised to come forth with a kinder and gentle immigration policy.  This from a man who roared to the top of the Republican presidential race by promising to build a border wall, deport 11 million people and not let in anyone who isn't related to Jerry Falwell.   
When I first heard the news, I figured that Trump would propose a wall only half as tall, deportation for only 5.5 million people and perhaps let in a few people of the Jewish persuasion here and there.  Surprise, surprise!  It turns out the pivot is nothing more than one of Trump's patented exercises in mixed messaging -- on this occasion a vague suggestion to his hitherto unknown Hispanic advisory council and an obtuse reference or two in an interview or three that he might be open to not deporting illegal immigrants outright.  Or something.   
There are all kinds of problems here, all of Trump's own making, of course.   
A real immigration policy change, and I am skeptical that there indeed is one, leaves Trump vulnerable to charges that his original policy was awful, which of course it was, and will not enamor him to his pitchfork brigade, for whom no anti-immigration measure can be too harsh.  Same with his halting efforts to reach out but not really reach out to blacks without alienating the racists who got him to the big dance.  (Oh, and the reason Trump doesn't hold rallies in black neighborhoods is that they're "not a safe environment," according to a former campaign manager.)  
Trump's immigration fan dance leaves open the question of whether he would be proposing anything different than the status quo.   
Federal law already allows illegals to apply for citizenship as an alternative to deportation in some instances.  And if history serves, Trump's new position -- if he turns out to have one -- probably would stir in a dollop of what President Obama has long proposed (George W. Bush did, too) but merely be a variation on the standard Republican dodge of demanding that immigration authorities enforce existing law without saying exactly what that means.   
Then there is the awkward economic reality that at least 8 million of those 11 million illegals have jobs, many have been in the country longer than Melania Trump has, and they do stuff like washing dishes and mowing lawns at Trump's country clubs that we don't want to dirty our hands doing.   
The pivot is . . . uh, pivoting while his campaign runs its first general-election TV ad.  This dystopian masterwork portrays immigrants as a dire threat to national security, falsely suggests they collect Social Security benefits, and implies they will do bad things to your daughter.  On Monday, Trump recommitted to building a border wall during a rally in Ohio, one of the swing states where the ad is running, and on Tuesday campaigned in Texas with the mothers of victims killed by illegal immigrants.  Meanwhile, his campaign keeps postponing plans for "a big immigration speech" and newly-minted campaign boss Kellyanne Conway tells reporters that the boss's deportation policy is "to be determined." 
For those of you not keeping score, Trump's other pivots have included: 
* Committing to chilling out after securing the nomination in May, but instead dissing a judge of Mexican ancestry presiding over Trump University lawsuits and finding vile new names to call Hillary Clinton. 
* Firing campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in June and hiring the all-wise Paul Manafort, but then ignoring his pleas to tone down by going on a Twitter bender while his poll numbers tanked.   
* Promising to showcase his yugeness at the Republican convention in July but instead delivering a four day prime-time tutorial on fear and loathing that included incitements to violence.
* Replacing Manafort with Stephan Bannon and Conway in August, who sent Trump out on a "sorry" tour that was over before it began and then had him helicopter into flood-ravaged Louisiana dressed like Judge Smalls at the yacht club.      
Trump's peanut gallery and the media can grasp at pivot straws all they want, but the reality is that Trump was, is and shall forever be an undisciplined narcissist who is no more capable of making course corrections than the Titanic, so what we end up with is periodic deck chair rearranging as the mighty November 8 iceberg hoves into view.   
At this point, confirmed by the latest round of national and state polls coming out of the field about the time the "new" immigration policy crawled out of its crib, Trump has little chance of improving his dismal position with Hispanics, let alone anyone else not locked and loaded with an AR-15, despite smacked-ass helpmate Newt Gingrich declaring that with junkyard dogs Bannon and Conway in the wheelhouse, The Donald will beat Clinton by a "surprising margin." 
And yes, the media has finally gotten inside Trump's head, which is another reason he is incapable of changing. 
This welcome development is confirmed by the deep-fried orange chicken man turning up the volume on whining that the media won't cut him a break.  Recent nasties include stories on his mighty business empire imploding under nearly $1 billion in debt, the gory details of his serial bankruptcies, which by design screw investors while he makes out handsomely, diddling the tax man over the valuation of his country clubs, his ties to American organized crime figures and Russian oligarchs, his failure to cough up a single cent of the charitable contributions he claimed to make on "The Apprentice," and more recently his failure to come through on promised donations for Louisiana flood relief.
Oh, and reports that Melania may turn out to have been one of those illegal immigrants. 

© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN


Cartoon du Jour

Michael deAdder/Halifax Chronicle Herald

From Soup To Nuts: An Index To 2016 'Politix Update' Posts (January ~ August)

(August 15) Why Trump's Claims Of Election Fraud Should Be Taken Seriously.  LINK.

(August 10) Trump Crosses The Line Yet Again.  Now Back To Our Regular Programming.  LINK.

(August 9) Landslide Ho As The Bottom Falls Out Of Trump's Campaign.  LINK.

(August 8) Credit The Red Queen For Why Trump's Strategy Has Backfired.  LINK.

(August 5) As Trump Imolates, Would He Rather Be A Quitter Than A Loser?  LINK.

(August 3) Outrage Fatigue & The Perils Of Dismissing Trump's Demagoguery.  LINK.

(July 31) Why Portraying Trump As A Menace Is A Re, White & Blue Winner.  LINK.

(July 28) On The Inevitable But Sadly Joyless Ascendancy Of Hillary Clinton.  LINK.

(July 27) The Story That Dangerous Donald Trump Insists On Keeping Alive.  LINK

(July 25) Trump's Deeply Troubling Ties With Putin & Big Russian Money.  LINK.

(July 22) GOP Is Left In The Gutter As Trump's Lemmings March To The Sea.  LINK.

(July 17) The Republican Convention Promises To Be A Paean To Intolerance.  LINK.

(July 14) Has The Elusive Hillary Clinton Been Hiding In Plain View All Along?  LINK.

(July 10) Speculation heats Up That Herr Donald Is Only In It For The Game.  LINK.

(July 5) Trump's Gonna Lose, But Is He Going to Take The GOP Down With Him?  LINK

(June 27) Thomas Jefferson's Vision Takes A Beating In This Election Year.  LINK.

(June 21) Trump Is The Ultimate Nowhere Man.  He's Everything & Nothing.  LINK.

(June 17) In Which We Discuss Womanizing, Snake Oil & Platinum Drool Cups.  LINK.

(June 13) Hillary Is Fundamentally Sound & Donald Is Fundamentally Clueless.  LINK.

(June 6) Why The Days Of Whine & Roses Are Over For Dangerous Donald.  LINK.  

(June 3) Grifter Extraordinaire Trump Proudly Steals From The Rich & Poor.  LINK.

(June 1) Is It Possible That Donald Trump Could Be The Next President?  LINK.

(May 23) Feeling' The Bern' Becomes Scorched Earth As Sanders Flips Out.  LINK.

(May 16) Trump Has More Positions Than A Porn Star & The Media Eats It Up.  LINK

(May 9) Why You Don't Need Rand McNally To Map A Clinton Landslide.  LINK

(May 4) Trump, The Ghost of Lee Harvey Oswald & Future Of the Republic.  LINK.

(May 3) 'Sometimes I've Believed In Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast.'  LINK.

(April 25) Philly In The East, Pittsburgh In The West & Alabama In The Middle.  LINK

(April 20) Is Trump Pondering How To Quit?  And Feeling The Bull . . . Er, The Bern'.  LINK.

(April 15) Donald's Tent Party Runs Into Obstacles; Why We Mistrust Hillary.  LINK

(April 11) Dems Suppress The Vote, Too. And Why Paul Ryan Is No Unicorn.  LINK.

(April 8) The 2008 Election (Kind Of) Lived Up To Its Promise.  Will This One?  LINK.

(April 6) Ted Thinks He's The Big Cheese; Bernie Gets Comfortable In The Gutter.  LINK.

(April 4) When The Hunter Is Trump & He Gets Captured By The Game.  LINK.

(April 1) Fabtastic News For Bernie!  He Needs Only 988 More Delegates.  LINK.

(March 28) The GOP Will Lose, How Badly Depends On The Poison It Picks.  LINK

(March 24) The Media's Incredibly Craptastic & Trumpcentric Election Coverage.  LINK.

(March 21) A Political Party In Crisis -- Dysfunction, Datfunction & Malfunction.  LINK

(March 16) Do Republicans Betray Trump Supporters Or Betray Their Country?  LINK

(March 11) This Cold Shower Is Brought To You Courtesy Of Bernie Sanders.  LINK

(March 7) A Gadzillionaire, An Evangelical & Neo-Nazi Walk Into A Bar.  LINK.

(March 4) In Another New Low, Phallic Braggadocio Dominates GOP Debate.  LINK

(March 2) 'Strike Another Match, Go Start Anew, It's All Over Now, Baby Blue.'  LINK

(February 29) Repubs Filled Trump's Swamp, But Now They Don't Want To Drain It.  LINK 

(February 27) The Breathtaking Cynicism of Chris Christie's Trump Endorsement.  LINK.

(February 24) Don't Mind That Iceberg, Captain Rubio, It's Full Speed Ahead.  LINK.

(February 21) GOP Establishment Bloodied As Trump Nomination Becomes Likely. LINK.

(February 19) Hillary Clinton, Feminists & The Great Battle Of The Pheromones.  LINK.

(February 17) Those Obdurate Republicans Keep Planting Ice & Harvesting Wind.  LINK.

(February 15) Why The Election Is Now A Battle For All 3 Government Branches.  LINK.

(February 11) Don't Let The Tollgate Hit You I The Ass On The Way Out, Christie.  LINK.

(February 10) Dear Jeb, It's Time To Say Goodbye To the Nice People.  LINK.

(February 7) Confronting The Dark Shadow Over The Bernie Sanders Campaign.  LINK. 

(February 4) The Union Of Ted Cruz & Evangelicals Is A Deal With The Devil.  LINK.

(February 2) Iowa Republican Caucus Results Are Shocking, But Not Surprising. LINK.

 (January 27) Ted Cruz Is On Thin Ice Constitutionally, But Will He Go Under?  LINK. 

(January 25) So It's Come Down To 'Merely Awful' Versus 'Truly Awful' For The GOP.  LINK.

(January 17) If Dr. King Looked Beyond The Grave, He'd Surely Be Disappointed.  LINK.  

(January 13It's Official, The Republican Party Has Finally Screwed The Pooch.  LINK.

(January 10)