Monday, October 10, 2016

Trump vs. Clinton With Four Weeks to Go

My brother David had it right nearly a year ago:  By the end of 2014 Republican leaders had squandered away their party's base voters and Trump, a novice at politics, simply tripped, stumbled, and fell into bed with the most disgusted members of that largely white, male, non-college-educated, and downwardly mobile base. Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum?  These establishment members of Congress put their mouths on cruise control in the early primaries, blaming everything as usual on Obama, not realizing the base hated them more than it hated Obama!  Trump almost literally slapped each one on the face a couple of times and they were gone from the contest, still shocked that Trump's disrespect of them was what the base really liked about him. 

That Trump was willing to use raw, insulting terms against Mexicans, Afro-Americans, Syrians, and Muslims, rejecting the more polite dog-whistle terms (such as "law and order" and "family values") through which politicians appealed in the past for the R base vote, made him seem all the more authentic and fresh, to this base. Alone among his opponents, he not only understood their anger:  he also spoke their language.  When the news media attacked him for the use of his language, Trump scored again, big-time, by attacking the news media's Big-Brother-like penchant (called "political correctness") for enforcing the stilted language, full of subterfuge, of the political class.  For the Republican base these were two home runs for Trump in the early innings.  For the entrenched political class in both political parties, including the grossly overpaid but mostly mediocre talking heads on television, Trump's unexpected victories showed them up to be out of touch, desperately wielding checkers skills unsuccessfully in a game of chess, and too arrogant to wake up soon enough to understand, much less control, the flow of events.  Only Kasich had the huevos to play hardball at Convention time:  the rest joined in, half-heartedly, in the Convention celebration, which briefly gave Trump a national lead.  Kasich aside, no Republican figure from the primary season emerged with the slightest sign of moral conviction or devotion to the common good, a stunning commentary on the poor quality of Republican leadership.

Tonight I heard a talking head sputtering about whether Trump might split the Republican Party after the election.  My brother had it right months ago:  the base of the party split from leadership two years ago, and this fact, still not understood in Washington, dominated the dynamics of the 2016 presidential campaign throughout the primary campaign season.  Yes, the realignment has already taken place.  Republicans simply have to learn how to deal with it, and the GOP will be lucky to emerge from this election controlling both houses of Congress.  If the Rs lose the Senate, they will of course blame Donald Trump for the loss.  But Donald Trump's success as a candidate is a living symbol of the failure of the Republican Party to satisfy its own base, or to be creative in forging a winning coalition.  When Trump loses the election next month (demographic realities won't permit him to win) the split within the party that occurred two years ago will still be there, after two years of festering without medical attention from Republican leadership.

Yes, Trump will lose, barring a catastrophic development.  But the Republican dysfunction that gave rise to Trump is only part of the political story in the USA today.  The other part is the growing polarization against the political establishment among Democrats, who threaten the same kind of split within the party that occurred two years ago in the Republican Party.  This split has been aggravated by the nomination of Hillary Clinton, in the present anti-establishment context one of the weakest possible candidates, who should thank her lucky stars she ended up running against a man so boorish as to trump her glaring failure, thus far, to understand and respond to her own base.

More to come.....including an analysis of New Mexico!

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