Saturday, September 24, 2016

On the impending coronation of Deplorable Donald

Aaron Blake (Washington Post) asks "Why is Clinton not much further ahead in a race that her supporters — and many in the media — thought was un-lose-able?" and provides three answers in This is why Hillary Clinton isn’t ’50 points ahead’ — or even 10 points ahead

1) Rank partisanship

If you're a major-party presidential nominee in this day and age in American politics, you’ve frankly got to work pretty hard to get less than 40 or even 45 percent of the vote. Because we’re just that partisan.

Party lines have hardened - dramatically so. In 1984, voters in 43.7% of the congressional districts were split, but in 2012, only 5.7% of the districts split.

The point is that, whether through the parties becoming more polarized or people becoming more polarized (or both), voters are much more predictable when it comes to definitely pulling the lever for the Republican Party or the Democratic Party.

Trump certainly has his faults — and his record-high unfavorable rating proves it — but he hasn’t alienated that 40-plus percent. And he probably never will.

2) Enthusiasm

Beyond predictable partisanship, there’s the matter of turnout and who can actually get their supporters to the polls. And when it comes to doing that, it helps to have enthusiasm. Right now, Trump may have more of it.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll earlier this month showed that while 46 percent of Trump backers were “very enthusiastic" about voting, just 33 percent of Clinton backers said the same. And 93 percent of Trump backers were certain to vote in November, as compared with 80 percent of Clinton backers.

3) Hillary Clinton

The big reason this election isn’t a blowout right now may be Hillary Clinton herself. Trump’s image numbers are bad enough that a candidate with even middling numbers of his or her own would probably be leading him by a substantial margin. But Clinton’s numbers are also bad, and it makes the race close.

Clinton is running against a highly flawed opponent who has done plenty to hurt himself in this race. She also happens to be running to continue the policies of a suddenly quite popular incumbent Democratic president in Barack Obama. So perhaps she should be further ahead. (Obama himself has offered some theories as to why she isn’t, including partisanship and sexism. “This should not be a close election, but it will be, and the reason it will be is not because of Hillary’s flaws,” he told supporters at a recent fundraiser.)

But the idea that this race would ever have been a complete blowout for her was always far-fetched. It’s just not how politics in this country work these days, and it ignores the fact that Clinton has long been a very polarizing politician in her own right.

The polls are mixed, but here is the latest from the HuffPollster averages (via email).

CLINTON LEADS IN NATIONAL PRE-DEBATE POLL - A new McClatchy/Marist survey, like NBC/WSJ, gives Clinton a 7-point lead over Trump. Sean Cockerham and Lesley Clark: “Hillary Clinton heads into the first presidential debate with a 7-point lead over Donald Trump, but doubts among voters about about her trustworthiness and stamina are keeping Trump in the race, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll….She leads in a two-way matchup with Trump by 48-41. She leads in a 4-way contest 45-39, with Libertarian Gary Johnson drawing 10 percent support and Green candidate Jill Stein getting 4 percent….The weakness she’s been unable to shake is the public’s view of her honesty and trustworthiness. While voters don’t trust Trump either, skepticism of Clinton runs deeper and provides an opening for Trump to potentially tighten the race in the final month and a half.” [McClatchy]

Clinton’s lead is remaining stable - Additionally, an AP/GfK poll out Thursday shows Clinton up by 6 points. The Democratic nominee lost about a point in the HuffPost Pollster aggregate after a week that included the “deplorables” comment and nearly collapsing at the 9/11 memorial. But the decline has stopped, and her lead appears to be stable ― and possibly increasing again..

But one prediction runs counter to the polls. Peter Stevenson at the Washington Post interviewed a college professor who has used his own "keys" - true/false statements, to predict accurately the winning presidential candidates in every election since 1984, and this year Trump is headed for a win, says professor who has predicted 30 years of presidential outcomes correctly.

Nobody knows for certain who will win on Nov. 8 — but one man is pretty sure: Professor Allan Lichtman, who has correctly predicted every presidential election since 1984.

When we sat down in May, he explained how he comes to a decision. Lichtman's prediction isn't based on horse-race polls, shifting demographics or his own political opinions. Rather, he uses a system of true/false statements he calls the "Keys to the White House" to determine his predicted winner.

And this year, he says, Donald Trump is the favorite to win.

You can check out Lichtman's predictive "keys" in the article. But before jumping off the nearest bridge over the Santa Cruz "river", bear in mind that Lichtman admits this year is a predictive nightmare. He says this about Trump.

We've never before seen a candidate who's spent his life enriching himself at the expense of others. He's the first candidate in our history to be a serial fabricator, making up things as he goes along. Even when he tells the truth, such as, "Barack Obama really was born in the U.S.," he adds two lines, that Hillary Clinton started the birther movement, and that he finished it, even though when Barack Obama put out his birth certificate, he didn't believe it. We've never had a candidate before who not just once, but twice in a thinly disguised way, has incited violence against an opponent. We've never had a candidate before who's invited a hostile foreign power to meddle in American elections. We've never had a candidate before who's threatened to start a war by blowing ships out of the water in the Persian Gulf if they come too close to us. We've never had a candidate before who has embraced as a role model a murderous, hostile foreign dictator. Given all of these exceptions that Donald Trump represents, he may well shatter patterns of history that have held for more than 150 years, lose this election even if the historical circumstances favor it.

My naive puzzlement is, given that list of Deplorable Donald's horrors, why so many of my neighbors have Trump/Pence signs in their yards. My only answer is Blake's #1 reason why Clinton is not doing better: rank partisanship - or, in other terms, tribalism. Trump voters either do not know, or or do not care to know, or just do not care about the reasons why Trump should have been dumped long ago. If Adolph Hitler or Jack the Ripper were on the "R" side of the ballot, my neighbors would vote "R." And this year they will do so in spite of the documented crookedness of the Republican candidate.

Let me leave you with this thought. Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) covers the pronouncement of a Trump aide in Trump aide: Critics will ‘bow down to President Trump’.

Perhaps now would be a good time to talk a bit about Donald Trump’s messianic streak.

Donald Trump’s director of African-American outreach has an ominous warning for all who dared to criticize the Republican presidential nominee: Soon, they will have to bow down to “the most powerful man in the universe.”

No, really. Omarosa Manigault, a reality-show personality who joined the Trump campaign as a staffer in July, told PBS – out loud, on the record, on camera – “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.”

Of course, quotes like this one stand out largely because they fit into a pattern. Let’s not forget, for example, that in his Republican convention speech, Trump boasted, “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it…. I am your voice.”

Around the same time, Trump told supporters, “I feel like a supermodel, except like times ten. It’s true. I’m a supermodel. I’m on the cover of these magazines – I’m on the cover of the biggest magazines.”

A couple of months prior, the Republican declared, “Politicians have used you and stolen your votes. They have given you nothing. I will give you everything. I will give you what you’ve been looking for for 50 years. I’m the only one.”

Remember when rhetoric like this used to be considered creepy in American politics?

Trump has predicted his own anointment. The press has bowed to him. Republican voters have abandoned their own party's historic ideals in the coronation known as the Republican National Convention. Now all that remains is for America to hand the crown and scepter to Despicable Donald the First.

If this thought scares the crap out of you, then you'd best see that there is only one firewall between our constitutional democracy and an imperial Trump. And that is voting for Clinton. Sitting it out or voting third party guarantees the "supermodel" the keys to his kingdom.

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