All Sorts of Worries

Six days out from the election and Hillary Clinton is going to lose. Donald Trump is rising in all the polls – over at FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver, trusted by most everyone, shows Trump with almost a thirty percent chance of winning, when just a few days earlier that was a fifteen percent chance. He’s on the move. But wait. That means that Donald Trump has a seventy percent chance of losing. He may not be able to fix that in six days – unless he does, somehow – but no one sees how he can do that. So it’s over, unless it isn’t.

This is an awful time for anyone who follows such things, and Philip Bump opens his analysis of how things stand with this:

It has always been possible that Donald Trump could become president, in the abstract sense. There are a slew of reasons that the map and the electorate were stacked against him regardless of his campaign, of course, but the past few months of polling seem mostly to have been about determining the margin of his defeat rather than his odds of winning. For Trump to win, an awful lot would have to go right.

On Wednesday, a lot did.

At the national level, the race has followed a broad pattern: a big lead for Hillary Clinton that narrows to a tie and then balloons back out. To some extent, the question was where in that cycle we’d land Nov. 8 – a giant Clinton blowout or a narrow fight to the finish. Recent national polls have suggested the latter – that on Election Day the race would be close.

There’s a reason for that:

That the race is tightening appears to be largely because of wavering Republicans deciding they could back Trump after all.

A narrowing national race means necessarily that the race is tightening in battleground states, too. As of this moment, Clinton leads in four of the 10 closest battleground states and Trump leads in six, according to RealClearPolitics averages. It’s enough, if we apply those averages to the Electoral College, to bring Trump within eight electoral votes of Clinton.

Sure, but eight isn’t enough. Bump then offers a state-by-state detailed assessment of it all, with lots of cool charts, but it comes down to the same thing. This will probably be close, unless it isn’t, and either way, Clinton wins. But the Clinton folks should worry anyway.

Michael Tomasky addresses that:

Worry? Hell, yes, worry. A man who just got the official endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan is close to becoming president of the United States. If that doesn’t worry you – and if it doesn’t make Republicans finally and fully ashamed – then nothing will.

Okay. Worry if you want to, because the odds are long:

Hillary Clinton isn’t running against just that man. She’s running against the Kremlin – yeah, I know, our government just said that those hacking into our electoral process aren’t necessarily favoring a candidate, they’re just trying to make mischief; but it’s a funny thing, isn’t it, that they didn’t hack any Trump campaign email accounts.

She’s running against Julian Assange, who claims neutrality but obviously despises Clinton because she was secretary of State when WikiLeaks got started and she opposed what he was doing (in other words, because she was doing her job as the world’s most important diplomat).

She’s running against right-wing legislatures and governors and electoral black-arts operatives in a number of states who’ve done everything they legally could – and, as we’ll no doubt learn on Election Night, illegally, too – to keep black people, who will back her at a rate well north of 90 percent, from voting.

And she’s running against a rogue FBI director about whom more devastating information came out Wednesday morning. We now learn that the bureau refrained from issuing subpoenas over the summer in probes involving both the Clinton Foundation and Paul Manafort because it was too close to the election. But Oct. 28 wasn’t too close to the election for Jim Comey to try to derail Clinton’s campaign.

That means that worry is appropriate, unless it isn’t, because of early voting:

Those going to the polls before Election Day tend to favor Democrats, in some states to such an extent that Clinton and down-ballot Democrats are building leads that may be close to insurmountable. The most striking example so far seems to be Nevada, where Clinton’s early-voting lead, says FiveThirtyEight, is enough that Trump would have to win by a huge margin on Election Day.

North Carolina is another state where Clinton has zoomed to an early-voting lead. Around 1.8 million people have already voted, out of a total 4.4 million expected to vote. The Upshot estimates that Clinton leads by 11 percentage points among those who’ve voted so far. If that’s accurate, again, Trump would have to over-perform the polling by pretty huge margins to overcome that.

The news wasn’t as good from Florida, but one poll popped late last night showing Clinton with an 8 percentage-point lead among early voters, propelled by her getting 28 percent of early-voting Republicans. I don’t know. It doesn’t seem crazy that her GOP crossover vote in Florida would be higher than in most states – Florida has a lot of Jeb-like, country-club Republicans in places like Boca Raton and in the wealthier cities of the Suncoast. If that number is right, the race in Florida, and nationally, is a done deal. But of course we won’t know until Election Night…

So worry, but don’t panic, given the Electoral College math:

It remains daunting for Trump as for any Republican. Unless something really weird happens, Clinton has 246 Electoral Votes she just shouldn’t lose (I’m counting Michigan and Wisconsin here, and Pennsylvania, but not Virginia, which is probably being generous to Trump). Trump has 180. Of course crazy things could happen. People are worried about voter suppression in Wisconsin, and Clinton will need a solid black turnout in Michigan. But just remember: Clinton can lose Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Colorado, Arizona, and Iowa and still hit 270.

And consider that Latino turnout is now off the charts:

Hispanic voter-registration numbers spiked like crazy all through the spring and summer. And early signs are that Latino early-voting turnout is wild high. If the pattern holds on Election Day, it should make a difference in the obvious states: Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico. If you read “Florida” and are thinking “but Cubans,” bear in mind: In 2012, Obama and Romney split the Cuban vote roughly 50-50. Also the Cuban vote is about half the state’s Latino vote. The other half is mainly Puerto Rican. So Clinton should get half of the first half and 85 percent of the second half for an overall margin among Florida Latinos of about two-to-one.

That would be the revenge of the “rapists and drug dealers and murderers” of course. Trump made his own mess there – he pissed off a lot of people who decided they’d finally vote this time – and Tomasky also thinks black turnout will probably spike on Election Day:

Some states are making it as hard as they can for black people to vote, but there’s little evidence to suggest that means black voters just won’t bother. Black turnout has been increasing steadily with every presidential election in recent years. There will probably be some falloff because Barack Obama isn’t on the ballot, but experts like Ruy Teixeira think it will be small (or perhaps won’t happen at all). And if anything, Trump is going to do worse among black voters than even Romney, who got 5 percent.

There’s a rule here. Don’t piss people off. Laugh and make it hard as hell for them to vote and they’ll make sure to stick it to you – they’ll stand in line for ten hours in the rain just to stick it to you. If you move the polling place and don’t tell anyone, they’ll find it anyway. Those states that changed all the voting rules didn’t help Trump, and then there’s Clinton’s ground game: 

Clinton hired campaign manager Robbie Mook basically to do this – run the most extensive and sophisticated ground game in presidential history. It seems as if a formidable machine is in place. And it seems as if the Trump campaign hasn’t built anything like the same kind of network.

If swing voters are put off by Clinton in these closing moments by what Jim Comey did, that makes pulling out the base voters all the more important. Again, we’ll have to wait until Election Night to see. But the Obama track record from 2008 and 2012 would suggest that the Democratic ground game – which at the local level will involve many of the same party and union and other activists who powered Obama’s operations – generally works as advertised. This was especially so in Florida, where, in polling, Obama was tied with or actually trailed Romney by a point or so on the morning of Election Day.

Given all that, Tomasky says Democrats should worry – they’re good at that – Republicans never do – but they shouldn’t panic. 

Jim Newell agrees with that:

Could she blow this? She could, and you should always panic. But is there any public polling evidence that Clinton’s path to 270 electoral votes is in danger of closing off?

Nope. Today’s new polling – specifically in Pennsylvania – shows that Trump’s path is still blocked, and his chance of winning the election if polling is in the ballpark is going to require more deterioration on Clinton’s side and perhaps the metaphorical equivalent of a second Comey letter.

So don’t be fooled:

The big picture story is that Clinton’s advantages appear to have declined across the board. It’s unclear whether that’s mostly natural tightening (Republicans coming home) or the Comey letter. The narrowing of Clinton’s advantages has sent Florida and North Carolina essentially into polling average ties. (In both states, Clinton has amassed early voting leads to protect against less favorable Election Day projections.) Ohio is safer for Trump now, as is Arizona. Iowa is safe for Trump. Clinton is maintaining her Colorado lead but has gone back on the air with advertisements there to protect it. Virginia is still safe for Clinton. Nevada is closer to a tie.

For experimental purposes, let’s give Trump Arizona, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, and Iowa. That leaves him with 265 electoral votes, five short of what he’d need to win. What then?

The go-to clincher state for the duration of this general election has been Pennsylvania. It still is. And Trump’s still not leading it. He has never been leading it. And he wasn’t leading it in the quartet of Keystone State polls released today: Clinton was up 5 percentage points in the Quinnipiac survey, 4 in Monmouth’s, 4 in CNN/ORC, and 2 in Susquehanna’s. The idea has always been that the white working-class western part of the demographically stable state would set up as a pickup opportunity for Trump in a way it didn’t for Romney. There is no evidence that is materializing.

Okay. Stand down. Go vote, but worry about something else. Worry that if (or when) Clinton wins, Donald Trump isn’t going anywhere. That’s what Slate’s Jamelle Bouie worries about:

Donald Trump is a dud of politician who squandered his advantages in a winnable election. More than just a bad candidate, he has been a catastrophe for the GOP itself. He has destroyed careers, compromised institutions, revealed deep contradictions within the Republican Party, and heightened tensions between its voters and its lawmakers, its activists and its intellectuals. On Nov. 8, nearly 18 months after he announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, the saga of Trump will come to a close. If polls are accurate, he will lose. He may even face a landslide, as Hillary Clinton capitalizes on a superior campaign to score victories in states like Arizona, Georgia, and Texas. There’s a slim but real chance that, when the smoke clears, Trump will have led the GOP to a historic defeat, handing the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives to the Democratic Party.

But it doesn’t end there:

Parties are protean things that respond to big losses by adapting and reconfiguring themselves around the new national median. Outwardly, at least, it would appear as if Trump, by running on a platform of explicit, racialized nationalism and revealing a key split in the GOP, has forced just such a reckoning. But to watch the stretch run of the election is to be struck by the fact that nothing about the Republicans seems to have changed. All the intraparty conditions that created Trump in the first place not only remain but have been reinforced. He may lose the election, but he will have recorded, through sheer bumbling opportunism, an incredible triumph: Like some kind of malignant artificial intelligence, he has installed within the Republican Party all the necessary machinery for replicating himself.

Yes, there will be more just like him:

The Trump campaign is best seen as a kind of arbitrage play. The ideological coloring it took on had less to do with the candidate’s beliefs than with those of the voters who’d grown alienated from their party’s leadership. That was the biggest fissure identified by Trump. Coming into the 2016 election, elite Republicans were lining up behind candidates like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, who offered a familiar package of policies, with reforms on the margin, aimed at building the party’s standing with Hispanic voters and working Americans writ large. Rubio, for instance, was a onetime champion for comprehensive immigration reform, shepherding a White House–friendly bill through the Senate before it was killed by a hostile House of Representatives. Likewise, Bush – the other Floridian in the race – had entered as one of the few Republicans with long and durable ties to Hispanic communities. They were following the pattern of parties past, working to adjust after losing a winnable election.

But there was a problem. Republican primary voters wanted something different, but they didn’t want this.

The others should have seen this:

Two months before Trump announced his campaign, in April 2015, the Washington Post and ABC News released one of their regular looks at the views and sentiments of American voters. In this survey, voters gave their priorities. What did they want the next president to support or oppose? On immigration, 46 percent of Americans wanted a president who would reject a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants. When split by party, a whopping 70 percent of Republicans – and 78 percent of conservative Republicans – said the next president should be someone who opposes legalization. On the larger question of bipartisan cooperation, 44 percent of Republicans – and 48 percent of conservative Republicans – wanted the next president to “mainly stand up for their side.” None of this should come as a surprise. The Republican base of 2016 was formed by successive waves of new voters, many of them working-class, all of them white. “George Wallace Southerners, Ronald Reagan Democrats, Pat Buchanan pitchfork populists and tea-party foot soldiers,” noted the Wall Street Journal.

For as much as Bush and Rubio and others had positioned themselves as sensible reformers, the mood of the actual Republican base was confrontational toward Democrats and hostile to elite conservative attempts to broaden the party’s appeal… Donald Trump made the most of it. He indulged the anger and fear of the Republican base, spinning a narrative in which its members were the victims of Mexican criminals, Chinese industrialists, Muslim terrorists, and incompetent and perhaps treasonous leadership in the form of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

That worked. They got the candidate they wanted. That’s the “new normal” in the Republican Party:

As the election comes to an end, that divide is still here, and it’s wider than previously realized. The bulk of Republican voters are in Trump’s hands more than anyone else’s. Following the release of a 2005 tape in which Trump described his method for sexually assaulting women, a cascade of GOP officials and politicians called for the Republican nominee to resign his position on the ticket. “While I continue to respect those who still support Donald Trump, I can no longer support him,” said Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, adding that he will be “voting Mike Pence for president.” Dozens of Republican lawmakers left the Trump camp. In the moment, it felt as if the party was finally rejecting him. But the reality was different. Even after the tape, anti-Trump elected officials represented a distinct minority of the party. And they were far out of step with the GOP base.

If so, and that seems to be so, there’s no way to fix this, and it’s a bit vile:

If more traditional Republicans are to beat back Trump’s influence, they are going to have to break his hold on GOP voters. So far, that’s not in the cards.

Indeed, it’s made more difficult by the most important shift in the politics of much of the Republican base: an appetite for explicit racism. Remember, Trump didn’t come onto the national stage as an advocate for better trade deals. He came onto the national stage as the chief advocate for the racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not an American citizen. And even after the president released his birth certificate, Trump continued. For five years afterward, he worked to delegitimize the president as a foreign outsider. When Trump re-emerged in 2015, it was to push another set of racist ideas. As a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination – and now as nominee – Trump has been an advocate against Hispanic immigrants and Muslim migrants, a vocal voice pushing racist ideas into the mainstream, like the idea that all black communities are defined by profound dysfunction and failure.

This isn’t a lark. It is the core of Trump’s political identity. And it’s been embraced by millions of Republican voters, who believe that Muslims and immigrants constitute an existential threat to the United States just as much as they think the country has been harmed by free trade and deindustrialization.

And now that’s the core of the party’s political identity:

American political parties are large, porous, and unwieldy. It’s rare that they move with any single purpose, and even at their strongest, they are rife with conflict and antagonism. But when they do move, it’s toward those groups with the most energy. The Trump campaign has revealed the Breitbart contingent of the GOP to be its most vibrant wing, with substantial support among Republican primary voters. Team Trump understands this, and it plans to use the infrastructure of the campaign to energize (and monetize) this group for future endeavors.

That means he’s not going away, and also means that he’s left a trail of slime:

By knocking down the taboo of explicit racism, Trump has brought a kind of white nationalism into the mainstream of American politics. Its mere presence makes it something to be appealed to and pandered to. The future of the Republican Party is still unwritten. But one thing is clear. Trump’s ideological progeny – as well as his allies and prospective imitators – are the ones organizing. They have the energy. And while they may not win a battle to define the GOP, they have a head start.

Jonathan Chait sees the same thing:

There is a fusty old school of thought called the Great Man Theory, which attributes the tides of history to the decisions and character of a handful of fateful men. While it lives on in the popular Father’s Day  gift/doorstop-biography genre, the theory fell out of favor more than a century ago, and historians now understand that larger social forces – movements, ideas, institutions, economic interests, power – are usually more responsible for shaping our destiny. Yet Donald Trump’s horrifyingly unique combination of personal traits, together with rather fluid beliefs about policy, has reoriented American politics as a psychology seminar. Never before in our history has a major presidential character stood apart as so great (in the Great Fire of London sense) or so opposite-of-great. We have been consumed with wonder at just what it would mean to have this flamboyant sociopath pacing the Oval Office. Trump has made Great Man theorists of us all.

But something important is happening that has been obscured by the captivating spectacle. Forget about Donald Trump for a moment. Or – given how famously difficult it is to not think of a pink elephant, not to mention an orange one – consider Trump’s rise not in terms of his uniquely dangerous personality but instead as the interplay of broader trends.

Hillary may win, but that might not mean much, given those broader trends:

Trump is an extreme event, but Trumpism is no fluke. Its weaknesses are fleeting and its strengths likely to endure. Far from an organization that is “probably headed toward a civil war” – as the Washington Post recently put it, summing up a rapidly congealing consensus – the Republican Party is instead more unified than one might imagine, as well as more dangerous. The accommodations its leaders have made to their erratic and delirious nominee underscore a capacity to go further and lower to maintain their grip on power than anybody understood. More consequentially, the horrors Trump has unleashed are the product of tectonic forces in American politics.

That was something else that people should have seen:

As the conservative movement has completed its conquest of the Republican Party, it has never resolved the dilemma that haunted it from the beginning. Conservative opposition to policies like business regulation, social insurance, and progressive taxation has never taken hold among anything resembling a majority of the public. The party has grown increasingly reliant upon white identity politics to supply its votes, which has left an indelible imprint on not only the Republican Party’s function but also its form.

Right-wing populism has had the same character for decades – in 1950, Theodor Adorno described the fear of outsiders, and the veneration of law and order, as “the authoritarian personality”; in 1964, Richard Hofstadter described a similar tendency as “the paranoid style” – but until recently, those movements lived outside both political parties. The political scientists Jonathan Weiler and Marc Hetherington found that, as recently as 1992, the Republican and Democratic parties had an equal proportion of voters with an authoritarian personality. By Obama’s first term, authoritarian personalities identified overwhelmingly with the GOP. In its preference for simplicity over complexity, and its disdain for experts and facts, the party has steadily ratcheted down its standard of intellectually acceptable discourse: from a doddering Ronald Reagan to Dan Quayle to George W. Bush to Sarah Palin. From this standpoint, Trump is less a freakish occurrence than something close to an inevitability.

There’s much more of this, but it comes down to this:

Trump will probably lose. That loss will provide little more than a temporary reprieve. The Republican-controlled House will be as conservative as ever, perhaps even more so. All the nice-sounding legislative programs Clinton offered up to soothe her restless base on the left – affordable child care and college, improvements to Obamacare, ­infrastructure – will be dead on arrival, making Clinton appear ineffectual. Or worse than ineffectual: Republicans will crank up the investigative machinery and produce endless media coverage of ­scandals, real or trumped up. (In fact, as the FBI melds its investigations into Clinton’s emails and Anthony Weiner’s sexting, we may be in for another Clinton administration defined by years of congressional sex investigations.) And then there is the likelihood that the current economic expansion, already one of the longest in American history, collapses into recession sometime during her term.

And don’t expect any relief:

Just because the conservative movement will face long odds attracting a plurality of American voters doesn’t mean that those odds are zero. This year, Clinton has had the luxury of competing against a candidate who does not hide his grossness. In 2020, she will probably encounter a candidate who uses dog whistles rather than air horns and is trying to build a majority rather than a brand. Republicans won’t necessarily need to moderate their plans to beat her in 2020. To compete, they may only need Trumpism with a human face (and, perhaps, human hair as well).

And meanwhile, the version of the party that survives the likely wreckage of November will be a rage machine no less angry or united than the one that sustained eight years of unrelenting opposition to Obama. That rage will again shake the creaky scaffolding of the Madisonian system of government. Trumpism is the long historical denouement of a party that has come to see American democracy as rigged. And what one does to a rigged system is destroy it.

Worry about that. Donald Trump will lose this election, but he’s already won something larger.

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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 All Sorts of Worries

  1. Rick says:

    The odd thing about Trumpism is, just as there’s this naive suspicion that we could completely do away with terrorism if only we could somehow capture enough of those “radical Islamic terrorists” and just sit them down calmly and reason with them — maybe somehow convince them that only some phony evil lesser god who was satirizing the main God would urge you chop off heads or burn people alive, and would then reward you with virgins in the afterlife! — one is tempted to think maybe the same could be done with our so-called “Trumpian Republican base”. If we could only capture them and deprogram them, like they used to do with cult members back in the 1970s; maybe get them to tell you what’s really on their minds and disabuse them of all of it.

    But neither conversion is likely, especially the latter one, according to John Cassidy of The New Yorker:

    To quote Benjamin Disraeli, the nineteenth-century British statesman, we now have “two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets.”

    Disraeli was writing about the rapidly industrializing England of the eighteen-forties, and the two nations he referred to were the rich and the poor. …

    The polls say that just less than forty per cent of voters in America have a favorable opinion of Trump. Whatever their views of him as an individual, they like what he stands for: nationalism, nativism, and hostility toward what they consider a self-serving élite that looks down on them.

    In addition to these confirmed Trump supporters, there are a number of other folks — moderate Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, mainly — who may harbor serious reservations about Trump personally, but who may also be willing to vote for him to keep Clinton out of the White House.

    Whenever I hear some Republican say something like, “Yes, Donald Trump is absolutely despicable in every way possible, and I don’t like anything about him, but I’m voting for him anyway, because we just can’t allow Hillary Clinton in the White House”, I’m always reminded of that conversation in the movie, “The Princess Bride”, between Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) and Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin):

    [Vizzini has just cut the rope that The Dread Pirate Roberts is climbing up]
    Vizzini: HE DIDN’T FALL? INCONCEIVABLE!!!
    Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    In other words, about half the voters in this country use language differently than my half — specifically, when they use the word “despicable”, they don’t seem to mean anything approaching what the rest of us mean.

    This means they could actually tolerate a president who is a liar, a cheat, a bully, a conman, a misogynist, an imbecile, and someone dangerously in the tank for his nation’s enemies; a tax-dodger, an alleged child-rapist, an actual crook, and a whole parcel of other nasty personal attributes that I’m not mentioning, but for sure, one out-and-out, straight-up asshole — over a woman of whom they get a nagging hunch may lie to us about how she uses email.

    Hell, for all we know at this point, Hillary will be the one in the group who will constantly overuse “Reply All”!

    And who amongst us doesn’t absolutely hate that?

    Rick

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