This Very Ugly Game

Donald Trump is proud that he isn’t a gentleman. He hates that sort of thing. He won’t be “politically correct” and says that we, as a nation, have to “stop being nice” or we’ll all die. It’s time we hurt some people’s feelings, and that would include other nations, especially our allies who have been shamelessly using us and laughing at us behind our back, and Muslims, and all minorities that keep telling us they’re so special, when they’re really not. And it’s the same with women too. Hillary Clinton is playing the “woman card” – she wouldn’t get five percent of the vote if she were a man. In fact, women have had it too good in America and it’s time to stop worrying about hurting their damned feelings. Face it. Saying what’s hurtful is saying the truth – and so on and so forth.

Hillary Clinton, of course, can’t be a gentleman, by definition. There’s no model for what she should be. If she’s too “womanly” she’s weak and useless. If she’s a bit more manly and firm and direct she’s shrill and a nag, or a hag. She’s in a bit of a bind, and that makes what is coming soon an election of a sort we’ve not seen before. This will not be gentlemanly. It can’t be, with these two. It will all be new.

Expect the politics of humiliation – unless the nation decides it wants nothing to do with Donald Trump and his proposed universal nastiness. We, as a people, don’t see “winning” in this world as a simple process of humiliating all others – unless we do. It seems half of us do. They hate Hillary Clinton. The other half of us hates Donald Trump, and now it really is half and half – at least that is what it says in the Washington Post:

Never in the history of the Post-ABC poll have the two major party nominees been viewed as harshly as Clinton and Trump.

Nearly 6 in 10 registered voters say they have negative impressions of both major candidates. Overall, Clinton’s net negative rating among registered voters is minus-16, while Trump’s is minus-17, though Trump’s numbers have improved since March.

Our two national parties are each going to nominate people most voters don’t like:

At this point, the two candidates are in a statistical dead heat among registered voters, with Trump favored by 46 percent and Clinton favored by 44 percent. That represents an 11-point shift toward the presumptive Republican nominee since March. Among all adults, Clinton holds a six-point lead (48 percent to 42 percent), down from 18 points in March.

It’s a dead heat, but there’s the other guy:

Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has given Clinton a stiff challenge in the contest for the Democratic nomination, enjoys the most positive rating of the three. Among registered voters, Sanders is net positive – 49 percent to 41 percent – and has seen his image improve steadily the longer he has been a candidate.

So, the one candidate more people like than don’t, who even more people are beginning to like as the three of them continue to fight it out, cannot win the nomination of either party. The math doesn’t work on the Democratic side, where he’s running, and he’s certainly not Republican material. No “democratic socialist” ever could be. He’s the odd man out, or the “good man” out. It’s a tie between what’s left. The ABC/WaPo poll shows Trump up by two points, 46% to 44%, and a new NBC/WSJ poll that shows Clinton ahead of Trump by 46% to 43% – and that’s that.

This is dismal, and Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo tries to sort it all out:

There are two clear things we can draw from these polls.

The first is that there’s a very real chance that Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States, a prospect which should genuinely scare people in a way that a conventional, even very conservative, Republican would not. The second is that Trump’s move into what is for now something like a dead heat is largely or perhaps entirely due to the fact that Republicans are consolidating around their nominee in advance of Democrats doing the same, something that seemed wildly improbable in March or even April.

So, be worried sick, or relax, and consider this:

Another way to look at this is that these results is that they should be deeply worrisome to you if you’re expecting that Hillary Clinton is going to win in a blow out in November. On the other hand, these numbers should be mildly encouraging if you recognize the powerful draw of partisan alignment (the fact that partisans of both parties, but especially Republicans, will fall in line behind almost anyone from their party) and the difficulties of either party winning a third presidential term in office.

The key is that even with what should be a momentary advantage (having Republicans unify while Democrats are still battling it out) Trump is still at best even and probably a couple points back. As long as Democrats can unify in the relatively near future, Hillary Clinton should get her own nudge forward in the polls, enough to give her a meaningful though not large advantage.

Marshall may be messing with us, but he cites the Washington Post’s Philip Bump noting here that a whole party is running against Hillary Clinton at the moment and no one is any longer running a Republican campaign against Donald Trump. That distorts things, but Marshall notes the “likable” guy is still a worry:

Bernie Sanders endorsed Time Canova, the primary challenger to House member and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Wasserman Schultz has become the embodiment of the Sandersite belief that the Democratic establishment stacked the primary deck against Sanders. In truth, the DNC chair is not much more than a functionary who doesn’t control much. I’ve also made clear that I think the Sanders’ camp’s complaint that the contest was rigged is bogus. But that is clearly an article of faith on the Sanders’ side. And Wasserman Schultz is the embodiment of that.

To say there’s no love lost between these two would be an understatement. When asked, Sanders told Jake Tapper this morning: “Clearly, I favor her opponent. His views are much closer to mine than as to Wasserman Schultz’s. Let me also say this, in all due respect to the current chairperson: If I am elected president, she would not be reappointed chairwoman of the DNC.”

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza says this is a ‘declaration of war’ against the Democratic establishment, but Marshall isn’t so sure of that:

As critical as I’ve been of Sanders, this strikes me as rather an overstatement. First of all, a presidential nominee or president virtually always installs their own person at the head of the DNC. Second, Canova’s close to Sanders. Sanders appointed him to a panel to advise him Federal Reserve reform back in 2011. Canova has put himself firmly in the Sanders mold during his campaign.

It would be very surprising if Sanders didn’t favor Canova. Still, obviously, formally endorsing him at this moment is certainly a stick in Wasserman Schultz’s eye. No question. War on the establishment? Not really. War on Wasserman Schultz? Absolutely.

Still, this is a minor matter, which Marshall thinks masks the real problem on the Democratic side:

I see this as less a declaration of war on the Democratic establishment than Sanders’ belated recognition that he’s not losing but that he’s lost. There’s nothing to lose in sticking it to Wasserman Schultz as much as he can. … Losing candidates go through a lot of tumultuous ups and downs, just as their supporters do, at this phase of a campaign. I think a lot of what Sanders is doing right now is ugly and dishonest. But the same went for Clinton at this point eight years ago.

This still comes down to whether Sanders does what he needs to do to wrap up his campaign (though not the movement he’s come to embody) and unify the party. If he does, I think it’s quite likely Clinton is the next President. People often jump in at this point (Sanders often does too) to say, “Well, Sanders can’t and won’t just snap his fingers and get his backers to fall in line behind Clinton!”

Marshall is not impressed with such arguments:

One of the revealing nuggets of information from the recent NYT/CBS poll was that 72% of Bernie supporters say they plan to vote for Clinton against Trump. That compares to 60% of Hillary supporters who said the same thing about Obama in the same poll eight years ago. As we know, virtually all of Hillary’s supporters went on to vote for Obama. (People are often not the best predictors of their own actions.) We should expect pretty much the same this year. Indeed, this poll says they’re already substantially further along in that direction. But of course the difference between 90% and 95% and 99% of Sanders supporters voting for Clinton makes all the difference in the world. And whether Sanders lines up unambiguously and strongly behind Clinton will be the key for that pretty small – but still critical – number who could go either way.

Still, there was that report that Sanders is quietly telling Senate colleagues that he will be behind Clinton and the Democrats in the fall. He’s just saying what he thinks. In the end he won’t really sabotage Hillary Clinton, so Marshall is hopeful:

I suspect at the end of the day Sanders will do what Clinton did eight years ago – though I confess he’s really putting that prediction through its paces. If he does, Clinton is the very likely next president. If he doesn’t, well… that would be very unfortunate.

So, who will be the next president? The polls in May for an election in November may not mean a lot, and Marshall seems to cover all the possible permutations, but David Atkins at the Washington Monthly says that something else is more important:

The election will be driven in part by core supporters who do like their respective candidates on both sides, but mostly by fear of the other side. Conservative voters who don’t like Trump will have to make a choice whether to trudge to the polls to vote against Clinton, and liberal voters who don’t like Clinton will have to do likewise against Trump. Undecided voters who don’t like either choice will have to decide whether to vote at all.

Pure partisans won’t have any trouble showing up, because that’s what we do. But general elections aren’t won by pure partisans who vote in every election. Nor are they usually won by persuading the very small slice of people who can’t seem to make up their minds between two very different candidates all the way into October.

General elections are won by turning out the people who already agree with you ideologically, but only show up to vote every other election, when they really feel inspired to, but otherwise feel that politics is a waste of time that doesn’t change anything dramatically affect their daily lives.

In short, forget the polls, because this will be the ultimate base-election:

The way both sides will try to win is not to convince the disaffected that their candidate will affect dramatic positive changes (though Trump may have some disaffected voters with whom he can make that argument; Clinton’s chance of persuading her own version of the same is somewhat less due to her intentionally incrementalist message), but to scare them into believe that the other candidate will make dramatic negative changes.

In other words, Trump will try to convince apathetic conservatives that Clinton will turn America into a gun-free Venezuelan socialist despotism, while Clinton will try to convince apathetic liberals that Trump will turn America into an unstable, trigger-happy fascist dictatorship. Clinton will use Trump’s lascivious past against him, even as Trump brings up decades of unsavory personal Clinton associations. It’s going to a very nasty affair. The one big advantage Democrats will have is a probable surge in the Latino vote out of genuine self-preservation. 

That may be the best way to read these polls. No minds will be changed. Keep it ugly. Rile up your own folks:

The ugliness in the air will depress turnout even further, which will require campaign organizers to depend on millions of face-to-face conversations with voters on the fence about whether to vote at all.

All of which is to say this: as we approach the general election, those who want to help their candidate win in November should probably spend a lot less time arguing with other people in online forums or obsessing over television ads, and a lot more time making calls and knocking on doors. That’s where this very ugly game is going to be won and lost.

And so it begins, as the New York Times’ Amy Chozick reports here:

Continuing to treat a victory over Senator Bernie Sanders as a fait accompli, Hillary Clinton on Sunday questioned Donald J. Trump’s business record and assailed his ideas, warning that the coming weeks represented a critical period in which, if left unchallenged, Mr. Trump could “normalize himself” as he seeks to broaden his support. …

Even as she contends with Mr. Sanders’s unflagging critique from the left, Mrs. Clinton said it was vital for her to pivot to confront Mr. Trump now, lest he successfully repackage himself for wider consumption, rather than appealing to the Republican primary electorate alone.

“I do not want Americans and, you know, good-thinking Republicans, as well as Democrats and independents, to start to believe that this is a normal candidacy,” Mrs. Clinton said of Mr. Trump’s campaign on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I know he has a plurality of Republicans who have voted for him,” she added. “But I think in the course of this campaign, we are going to demonstrate he has no ideas. There’s no evidence he has any ideas about making America great, as he advertises. He seems to be particularly focused on making himself appear great. And as we go through this campaign, we’re going to be demonstrating the hollowness of his rhetoric.”

Very few Republicans will buy that, but they don’t matter, as the idea is to scare her folks:

Mrs. Clinton also poked at Mr. Trump’s failure to release his tax returns. Told that Mark Cuban, the media executive and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, had expressed interest in being her running mate, Mrs. Clinton said she was “absolutely” open to considering business leaders, not just elected officials.

“Businesspeople, especially successful businesspeople, who are really successful – as opposed to pretend successful – I think, have a lot to offer,” said Mrs. Clinton, whose campaign has begun taunting Mr. Trump with a #PoorDonald hashtag on Twitter, suggesting that he is not nearly as wealthy as he claims. Mr. Trump has cited an audit by the Internal Revenue Service as his reason for keeping his tax returns private.

“We’ve got to get below the hype,” Mrs. Clinton said. “I think we’re beginning to find out, but I don’t think we know enough, and that’s why he should release his tax returns.”

She’ll hammer that home, while cleaning up her won vulnerabilities:

Mrs. Clinton drew criticism from some Democrats and Republicans recently after telling voters she would put her husband, former President Bill Clinton, “in charge of revitalizing the economy” and job creation. On Sunday, she clarified her intentions, saying his role would be advisory, not ministerial.

“I am going to ask my husband, who has a great track record in creating jobs, putting people back to work, revitalizing communities, to be in an advisory role working with me, working with our cabinet, to try to figure out what we can do” in particularly hard-hit areas, Mrs. Clinton said on NBC. “You know, every first lady has taken on special projects.”

Ah, Bill becomes a “lady” – the Republicans will have a field day calling her an emasculating bitch – but an Associated Press item reports on how she plans to handle that and other such nonsense:

Hillary Clinton has a message for Donald Trump: keep on talking.

She’s just weeks away from wrapping up the Democratic presidential nomination, and friends, aides and supporters describe a candidate who isn’t particularly rattled by what she expects will be Trump’s increasingly direct attacks on her marriage and husband’s personal indiscretions.

In fact, Clinton believes that she can turn Trump’s deeply personal assaults to her benefit, they say, particularly among suburban women who could be crucial to her hopes in the fall. Her plan is never to engage in any back-and-forth over the scandals. Instead, she’ll merely cast him as a bully and talk about policy.

“I don’t care what he says about me, but I do resent what he says about other people, other successful women, who have worked hard, who have done their part,” she told an audience in Louisville, Kentucky, this month.

That’s a different way to play the “woman card” – it’s not about her at all – so Trump falls into a trap:

“It’s all fair,” Trump told The Associated Press last week.

He drew a distinction between his own personal history, which includes three marriages and public admissions of infidelity, with that of the former president.

“He was the president of the United States when certain things happened,” he said. “My stuff is nothing when you take a look, in terms of a comparison.”

Clinton said she wouldn’t respond to those kinds of attacks. “That’s exactly what he’s fishing for,” she told CNN.

Her supporters contend Trump’s slams on her character will motivate Democrats, particularly female voters, so long as Clinton stays focused on rising above these matters.

“I couldn’t believe it, you blame the woman for male infidelity?” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. “To me it was kind of bizarre that you would visit the sins of one on the other. I don’t think there’s any woman in America that doesn’t understand that.”

Yes, imagine the back-and-forth. Her husband cheated on her! Yes, Donald, all men are pigs, including you!

What does he say to that? And what does he say to this:

Hillary Clinton on Saturday slammed Republican rival Donald Trump as a politician beholden to the gun lobby and said a Trump presidency would mean “more kids at risk of violence and bigotry.”

Clinton’s comments, which came at the Trayvon Martin Foundation’s third annual “Circle of Mothers” meeting, came a day after Trump used a speech at a National Rifle Association convention to blast Clinton as ill-prepared for the presidency and to falsely claim that Clinton “wants to abolish the Second Amendment.”

The NRA endorsed Trump on Friday.

“Unlike Donald Trump, I will not pander to the gun lobby, and we will not be silenced and we will not be intimidated,” Clinton said. “As long as children anywhere are being killed by gun violence, we will keep fighting for our kids, because they deserve a president who stands up for them and stands with the mothers here. Their lives are valuable.”

Well, he did try to turn that back on her:

Trump said Clinton was “heartless” for backing restrictions on gun ownership, and said he would overturn President Barack Obama’s executive actions on guns and do away with gun-free zones, including in schools.

Okay, it seems to be heartless to keep guns out of schools and movie theaters and bars and sporting events and courtrooms and stores and whatnot, which is a new way to use that adjective, and she pounced:

Clinton, responding to that speech, said Trump’s vision “isn’t just way out there, it’s dangerous,” and noted that while Trump wants to allow guns in schools, she believes “parents, teachers and schools should have the right to keep guns out of classrooms, just like Donald Trump does at many of his hotels, by the way.”

“If you want to imagine what Trump’s America will look like, picture more kids at risk of violence and bigotry,” Clinton said. “Picture more anger and fear. Ask any of the mothers here tonight if they want to live in that kind of America. Enough is enough.”

Clinton will try to convince apathetic liberals that Trump will turn America into an unstable, trigger-happy fascist dictatorship? She’s working on that, and she caught Trump off balance:

GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump said Sunday that he doesn’t want guns to be in classrooms, but that “some teachers” should have guns.

Trump was asked to respond on Fox & Friends to criticism from Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who said his idea to put guns in classrooms would endanger students.

Trump at first said they were “just words.”

He actually said she was flat-out lying about his position on this, and then clarified:

“I don’t want to have guns in classrooms, although in some cases teachers should have guns in classrooms frankly,” Trump said. “Because teachers are – you know – things that are going on in our schools are unbelievable.”

He went on to say that he wasn’t “advocating” guns in classrooms, but said “trained teachers” should be able to have them in classrooms.

Oh. No, wait. Oh, never mind – his folks will be satisfied with that. Her folks will worry about that trigger-happy fascist dictatorship. They’ll turn out to vote in big numbers. His folks will worry that Hillary Clinton will turn America into a gun-free Venezuelan socialist despotism. They’ll turn out to vote in big numbers too. That will resolve the current tie. This very ugly game is now underway – but it had to be ugly. No one likes either of them very much, and for the next six months we’ll be told, again and again, why that is so. Then we vote, but what do we get, either way?

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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One Response to This Very Ugly Game

  1. Jeff Ryan says:

    Ah, “Both Siderism” in full flower! They’re each as bad as the other! You can vote, but either way we’re screwed!

    Are you freakin’ kidding me?

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