Friday, April 29, 2016

Prospects for November

I have been rather quiet about the election for many weeks, partly because Bernie Sanders turned me once again into a partisan rather than an observer.   Sanders is right: his campaign accomplished an extraordinary amount.  Its greatest achievement was to show via polls that a candidate like him, committed to social democracy for all Americans and a fundamental reshaping of the US along western European lines, could command broader support in the nation than a representative of the status quo like Hillary Clinton.  The Democratic establishment, however, includes the mainstream media, which generally ignored him, and has very real ties to critical constituencies, especially among minorities. In addition, the younger voters who are Sanders's base do not seem to have shown up in sufficient numbers.  Some of my younger friends expect them to transform the Democratic party in the next four or eight years anyway, but without any leadership from the older generations I do not know how they can do so. 

Clinton seems likely to face Donald Trump in November, and this week, the contours of the race re taking shape.  Trump, as many noted during the key Republican primaries, has a knack for finding his opponent's jugular.  He is beginning to do so once again, by accusing Clinton of playing "the woman card."  Many of her supporters, the New York Times informs us this morning, are welcoming Trump's stratagem, and indeed, Clinton herself picked up the challenge in her Tuesday night victory speech. That reflects the reality in which she and her supporters have been living for about thirty years.  But how it will play with crucial voters is a very open question.

Let us be clear.  For several decades, it has been dogma among the Democratic elite and its allies in journalism and academia that unfairness to women, minorities and gays is the biggest problem facing the United States.  This view has its roots in the late 1960s, when a generation of young liberals, rebelling against their parents, seized upon these flaws in American society as proof of their own superior virtue.  Within these circles, any suggestion of sexism, racism or homophobia is as detestable as advocacy of racial equality was in the white South 100 years ago.  I have believed in fairness all my life, and I certainly favor equal rights for all those groups.  But the exclusive emphasis on the problems of those particular groups has inevitably alienated many white men--and more importantly, it has taken away from broader, very serious economic and social problems that affect us all.  We now have far too much income inequality, and a financial and tax system which makes it worse every year.  We imprison far too many people, regardless of their race and gender.  Our infrastructure is crumbling for all of us.  While the Democratic Party worries about who has seats at the head table, the foundations of the dining hall are crumbling, and too many Americans lack basic resources.

I doubt very much that anyone in the  Clinton campaign will see this post, but if they do, I would like them to think about this.  They are not running a support group for nonwhitemales; they are trying to elect their candidate to the White House.  One can run an academic department based on the principal that no one will dare disagree with you, but one cannot run an election campaign that way.  Every position the candidate takes has to be evaluated based upon the reactions of voters--particularly critical voters.  And I doubt very much that the politically correct vote is large enough to elect any President.

Donald Trump's misogyny and xenophobia will induce many normally Republican voters to stay home or vote for Hillary Clinton.  But given our electoral system, the question is, where are those voters?  In my opinion, most of them are in reliably blue states in New England, the mid-Atlantic region, and the west coast.  Those states are going for Clinton and with Trump (or Ted Cruz) leading the Republicans they will go for her by larger majorities.  But the election will be decided in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa.  Any sensible campaign will have to target the swing voters--male and female--in those states.  I am not in the least convinced that emphasizing equal pay for women, family leave, and more attention to minorities is the way to get those votes.

Donald Trump has wrecked the establishment of his own party and gotten most of the way towards its nomination by appealing to the disaffected voters for whom the establishment has done less than nothing for the last 35 years.  There are a great many of those voters in the key states.  A Trump Presidency, I feel sure, will do nothing for them.  But Trump is appealing to them by stressing truly national issues: immigration and trade agreements.  He is arguing, as Clinton is not, that the country is fundamentally going in the wrong direction.  Like Sanders, he can argue that she has welcomed trade agreements and financial deregulation, and thus helped get us where we are.  And I am confident that some of Clinton's Goldman Sachs speeches, which she carefully kept under raps during the primary season, will leak during the general election campaign, and that they will show her thanking Goldman for the fine things that it has done for the American economy.  Trump will accuse her of being part of a corporate establishment that doesn't care about average Americans, and that accusation will contain more than a grain of truth.

And what of the Democratic base? Yes, black voters in particular turned out for Clinton in overwhelming numbers in the primary, even though younger black people, like their white counterparts, favored Sanders.  But will they turn out in November in numbers comparable to their support for Barack Obama?  Will less well off women be energized by the prospect of a female President?  I don't know.  What I do know is that a Democrat like Sanders who appealed impartially to all Americans based on economic issues would have been in a much stronger position facing Trump--and it is probably too late for Clinton to adopt that stance, even if she wanted to.

Clinton leads Trump narrowly in national polls at this point, but narrowly.  (I would note, however, that given the polarization in the country, the danger that we might face a repeat of 2000,. in which a candidate lost the popular vote but took the electoral college, is quite real.)   But if she wins by emphasizing the problems of women and minorities, the polarization in the country will get even worse, and might even lead to serious attempts at secession.  From time to time, commentators have compared Clinton to Richard Nixon.  The comparison in my opinion is apt.  Like Nixon, she has never been deterred by setbacks from pursuing her dream.  She, not her husband, is the real "comeback kid."  And like Nixon, she has grasped that however unpopular she may be within the opposition party, she could remain a key figure by cultivating her own party's base.  What she needs now, however, is Nixon's political horse sense.  "Let's get a woman on the ticket," Nixon remarked to William Safire in 1994 shortly before his death. "It hurts the Democrats, but it wold help us."  That is the kind of realism the Clinton campaign needs--especially when it comes time to pick the Vice President.  The swing voters of the eight states I listed above need to know there will be a place for them in Clinton's America, and a white male on the podium beside her would help.


JRW said...

I find your latest mostly "right on". Of course it isn't politically correct and you are open to be called a chauvinist or just a die-hard New Dealer. But I think the Democratic Party has become too centered on gender and race issues without looking at the entire picture. These gender and race issues are often part of the entire fairness issue, but are packaged to appeal to certain constituencies that the Democrats think are theirs and thus getting them riled up to participate to a larger extent is all they need to do. This works in the already Blue States, and is also more reliable in Presidential election years, but is a dangerous strategy as the campaigns pushed on by Emily's List and others can also leave out a large number of the alienated who may sit on the sidelines or even worse go for a Trump.

In 2014 I worked hard for Mark Udall's campaign in Colorado. I was sent out to lower middle class neighborhoods, some fairly high in Hispanic population, and didn't get much response. Udall lost because of low turnout of many who should have supported his positions versus those of Cory Gardner. The campaign was so one-sided almost entirely working the women's right issues and Gardner's history against reproductive rights that people I talked to were over-tired of the attack ads on TV. They were Udall: "Gardner is against the right to choose", and Gardner: "Udall votes with Obama, and is against jobs " ( not said, but paid hugely by Koch who doesn't like any regulation against full resource exploitation). So the Koch puppet won. The white male working class that did vote went hugely for Gardner. The bottom line that I got was that in swing states, going for just the "new liberal" base, the post Bill Clinton base will not be enough. It is good for primaries, but not for elections.

Some of this can be blamed on Citizen's United, and other parts on the social media frenzy these days. People post and read only with their like opinions and start believing they are a great force. There is little real dialogue. Back in the day of 4 TV networks, the fairness doctrine (the conservatives believe fair equal time is only applicable to science issues - false beliefs should have equal time with facts, but on politics they can buy all the time they want), you could actually get a better view of different sides of issues - and at least get some give-and-take from both sides. That isn't like the Internet of today where many people get their news and opinions from questionable sources - with anything goes - with the crazy extremes and conspiracy folks writing nonsense responses on blogs. In some senses Obama tried to be reasonable in an age where quiet reason and dignity don't seem to work too well. He did, indeed, have the race card to deal with that inflamed his opponents.

So it appears that a reasoned politician who doesn't appeal to strong-willed or well-oiled (money) issues won't make it through the primaries. Sanders had a strong-willed issue and a valid point about the financial industry control of the economy and the continuing growth of income (and power) inequality. Breaking up the Banks, free tuition and such are hopeful thoughts, but it the reflection on where this country is going that counts as much. The reply by the big money that regulations hurt your jobs, that Horatio Alger is still alive (look at the entrepreneurs of the Internet) keep the white working class in line, especially if you can get them to concentrate on the Mexicans, Moslems, and the feeling that minorities are getting special previleges. So Democrats should try to be a bit more inclusive to working folks, not to financial institutions or Hollywood celebrities. If they just work against Trump as racist, hot-headed, and not FOR all Americans, they might be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Bozon said...


Thanks for this post.

American politics is immensely distasteful for me to even discuss, but...

Your comments here seem to me correct in the main about both. Trump will do nothing for those who vote for him on this basis.

"Donald Trump has wrecked the establishment of his own party and gotten most of the way towards its nomination by appealing to the disaffected voters for whom the establishment has done less than nothing for the last 35 years. There are a great many of those voters in the key states. A Trump Presidency, I feel sure, will do nothing for them. But Trump is appealing to them by stressing truly national issues: immigration and trade agreements. He is arguing, as Clinton is not, that the country is fundamentally going in the wrong direction. Like Sanders, he can argue that she has welcomed trade agreements and financial deregulation, and thus helped get us where we are. And I am confident that some of Clinton's Goldman Sachs speeches, which she carefully kept under raps during the primary season, will leak during the general election campaign, and that they will show her thanking Goldman for the fine things that it has done for the American economy. Trump will accuse her of being part of a corporate establishment that doesn't care about average Americans, and that accusation will contain more than a grain of truth."

Clinton, as you say will do less than nothing for those who vote for her.

So, given that, whom should one vote for, nothing or less than nothing?


All the best

ed boyle said...

Finally democracy is working, getting interesting. Only so can bloody revolution be avoided. Nomenclatures clinging to power, 30 years in senate, etc. superrich inherited wealth leaving the poor to die on a planetary scale is nasty. Bomb the poor, or enslave them. Rome similar, roman senate being a law unto itself like westrn elites exporting 'democracy', wage slavery to lowest wage country. Computers, cheeap container transport, internet, usd, post cold war system with eastern europe, china integrated into WTO is failing.30 trillion is parked offshore. These offshorers win when we all lose. War or speculation on yen or gold or copper brings more money. One keystroke and one million die or hunger or lose jobs.

China, Russia believed in American dream in 90s.I got an MBA and believed in WTO, NAFTA, EU too. Postwar peace was obvious. Trade was peace. Sport is alternative to war for wage class male. Salary class does the same with business acumen. Somehow these salary class lost perspective on why this system was established. To avoid war. They just see more profit as reason and the ball game turns bloody. Chinese and russians and wage class globally are the enemy. Destroy your base. Saw on the branch you are sitting on.

Of course this is generational. Everyone learns again what grandpa learnt the hard way. Peace and prosperity, globally and at local class, race, family level is bought by hard work, common sense. Unfortunately elites are very hormone driven, sociopathic even. Win at al costs. Preprogrammed prejudice of antirussian sort or feminist sort or whatever compares poorly in leadership to ike's or FDRs mental flexibility, fear of past ghosts of megadeath. US elite is so cushy they will go to bitter end and never care till they get hanged. Privilege is a right. This is decadence.

sf said...

My apologies Prof. Kaiser for attempting to reach you via your comments section, but I was at a loss as to how to contact you. We overlapped on the faculty at the Naval War College, and I recently wrote a piece that I think would be of interest to you.

All the best,

Steve Knott

Steve Clark said...

David, I wonder if you have recently reviewed the opening ten pages of Chapter 13 in Generations (Completing the Millennial Cycle)? It is well worth a fresh read. Aside from Bill's and Neil's telescopic vision and engaging writing, the section's most salient point may be the year that demographic data project as the turning point of today's Crisis: 2020. They write:

"The climatic event may not arrive exactly in the year 2020, but it won't arrive much sooner or later. A cycle is the length of four generations, or roughly eighty-eight years. If we plot a half cycle ahead from the Boom Awakening (and find the forty-fourth anniversaries of Woodstock and the Reagan Revolution), we project a crisis lasting from 2013 to 2014. If we plot a full cycle ahead from the last secular crisis (and find the eighty-eighth anniversaries of the FDR landslide and Pearl Harbor Day), we project a crisis lasting from 2020-2029. By either measure, the early 2020s appear fateful."

They go on to say,

"The Crisis of 2020 will be a major turning point in American history and an adrenaline-filled moment of trial. At its climax, Americans will feel that the fate of posterity -- for generations to come -- hangs in the balance."

By this guidance, the 2016 election would be an early rendezvous with destiny. Perhaps then, Sanders will not be the next Gray Champion. Clearly, it will not be Clinton or Trump, both of whom would likely (will) have ragged, dysfunctional presidencies. I see nothing but calamity ahead; then, an effort at "political revolution" (a new social contract) beginning in 2020 (or, a very worst case, in 2024).


Unknown said...

As much as Mr. Sanders policy positions are attractive, he is not electable. One recurring ad with his face superimposed upon a hammer and sickle warns off older voters. That he is Jewish unfortunately has its own historic effect on the bigoted segment of the US electorate.

Mrs. Clinton has intelligence, an education focused on law, experience in two of the three branches of US government and in foreign and domestic policy positions. She is a centrist; that is, one whose policy positions are mostly spread one standard deviation on both sides of the mean, albeit a mean that has shifted rightward in the last 35 years. She comes from common stock, not the elite, brahman, eastern aristocracy that has been so prevalent in past governments, so she retains at least some appeal to blue collar America that a candidate like John Kerry did not. Mrs. Clinton has much in her favor, if one believes that balance and compromise are the essence of democratic government. However, she, like Sanders, has issues weighing against her: she is not charismatic, and she is a woman.

Mr. Trump, her likely opponent in the general election, has none of the qualifying attributes for national leadership that Mrs. Clinton possesses except for a narrow intelligence as it relates to business dealings. He is, however, charismatic as demonstrated by success as a media celebrity, and he is a man, more importantly, a white man. Therefore, he starts his general election campaign, and indeed his presidency should he be elected, with the advantage that the ignorant, misogynistic, racist, enduring segment of the population that vociferously opposed a black man as president would constitute part of his base of electoral supporters.

This means that Mrs. Clinton, if elected, will have to govern under the same handicaps as president Obama. The likely Republican congress will withhold support for her legislative issues, citing as justification its support for its constituent base, the same base that supports Mr. Trump and so hated the Obama presidency. If Mr. Trump is elected who knows what a Trump presidency might look like; images arise that are highly disturbing.

One wonders if any minority or female could govern effectively during this period in history. Would an Angel Merkel, a Golda Meier, or even a Margaret Thatcher be elected and be able to govern? Assuming that Clinton and Trump are the nominees, we seem faced with choosing between the least bad alternatives in the next presidential election.

samuel glover said...

Call me a conspiracy theorist if you want -- I mean, **I** can't quite believe this -- but I think this election might've turned on the biggest practical joke in history.

Today Trump actually released an Cinco de Mayo post on his Facebook site, which brags about the taco bowls in one of his restaurants, and ends with "I love Hispanics!" Maybe we'll learn that his account got hacked, and some pranksters are behind it. So far, though, there's been no disavowal from Trump; it seems genuine. Naturally, it's circled the world, and will have everybody talking for the next 24-48 hours or so.

What serious presidential candidate would do this, in 2016?!?! Sure, Republican tone-deafness is legendary, it's allowed whole generations of comedians to buy boats, cocaine, whatever. But not even Strom Thurmond, Tom Delay and Mitt Romney combined are that clueless. And sure, Trump's dodgy as hell, but even he isn't that much of a buffoon.

What if Trump's entire campaign is some kind of fantastical stunt that ran light-years beyond what its authors imagined? What if it began as some kind of weird inter-oligarch favor between Trump and the Clintons? It's well known that they have at least some social ties. Maybe the thinking was, hey, let's throw some sand in the gears of the Republican machine, make Bush (the likely nominee, in the Clinton mind, way back when) sweat a bit, throw him off. And then it succeeded more than anybody could have guessed, and took on a life of its own.

I don't know how to make sense of this taco bowl stunt other than this: It's the "tell". It's the knowing wink of a prankster, saying, "Having fun yet? Because I'm just getting started." It always seemed really odd to me, Trump's sudden desire to be a politician. I always thought that even in the unlikely event that he actually won the election, he'd get bored with the presidency and resign early. Now I'm nearly sure that he doesn't want it. Instead, he wants to put on the greatest piece of performance art the world's ever seen.

We should enjoy the slapstick while it lasts, because in the end we'll have... Clinton. Nothing funny about that at all.

samuel glover said...

I'm going to pile on with my Clinton plant/world's biggest prank theme, because as insane as it sounds on its face, there's a certain plausibility to it that I can't quite shake. I can almost picture the whole thing starting out as some kind of "Trading Places"-style bet between tycoons, but I wonder if Trump might have some real, tangible motives, now.

What happens if a candidate loses an election with money remaining in his campaign fund? Usually that doesn't happen, right? Usually campaigns end up in the red -- as they should, really. Anyway, there’s no requirement that a candidate return unspent money, is there? How could he? Even if there were some requirement to shed the money, perhaps a guy skilled in ornate financial architectures might find a way to evade it?

So…. Trump already knows that he can run a national campaign on the cheap. All he needs to do is get the fleeting attention of the spastic ganglia of the journalistic "profession". Easy, he’s got that down to an art. He can even have fun while he’s doing it. And all the while he can scoop up money for the “campaign fund”.

While they were still going, I remember hearing that the campaigns of Cain, Gingrich and, more recently, Carson were nothing more than grift operations. There was no way that any of them was going to go the distance. But for a while the would-be “public servant” got some publicity, good for hawking “books” and “seminars” down the road. And some favorite hangers-on got some sweet “consulting” money, too.

I wonder if we’re about to see their game “trumped” by an order of magnitude, even two. Maybe there's an election law that makes my whole scenario moot. But if not, what's to keep Trump from emerging from an "agonizing" loss with an extra several hundred million dollars (maybe more!) in the bank?

samuel glover said...


"Trump Campaign Could Use New Donations to Pay Donald Trump $36M for Loan"