Saturday, April 23, 2016

Trump campaign "leaks" story: "It's all been an act."

What are we to make of the Associated Press report that a "leak" from Trump aides revealed that his campaign managers had told Republican party leaders that Trump has been "projecting an image" in the campaign thus far and that "the part he's been playing is now evolving"?   He will now begin to be (or act) more presidential.

Leak, my foot.  I believe that the "leak" was deliberate, a signal to news media that Trump is pivoting to presidential mode -- just in case they missed it.  It's part of a carefully planned strategy by his new campaign manager, Paul Manafort, to convert Trump into a more serious candidate that the establishment can feel more comfortable supporting.   He's quoted as saying: "You'll start to see more depth of the person, the real person. You'll see a real different guy. . . . The part that he's been playing is evolving into the part that now you've been expecting, but he wasn't ready for, because he had first to complete the first phase. The negatives will come down. The image is going to change." 

Which, of course, is exactly what Trump needed and what any good manager would have done some time ago.   Is it too late?    Is it too late to change Trump's image?    Too late to actually change Trump's behavior?

It's a little hard to know what to root for.    Do we want a cleaned-up Donald Trump, who might be more likely to win in November than the unfettered, angry guy?    He's pretty well sewed up the voters who fell in love with that image.   Now if he begins to seem acceptable to the establishment . . . he could be more formidable.

Unless Hillary Clinton can take advantage of the obvious image-manipulation and raise the issue of authenticity.   But, with her own problems with authenticity, how can she play that card without bringing up the "untrustworthy" charge against her?

On the other hand, Ted Cruz would be so much worse than Trump if he won.  Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who is a moderate Republican and not a big fan of either Trump or Cruz, was interviewed on CNN on Friday.    He said:  "I would take Trump over Cruz.   But to be effective in the general election, [Trump] has to show some substance, he has to show that he's gone beyond just the name-calling and the sound bites. . . .  He has to show that he knows what he's talking about."

In answer to why he prefers Trump to Cruz, he said:  "Ted Cruz is a phoney.  I don't trust him.  Donald Trump behind it all is a more reasonable person, and I believe he has enough common sense;   but he has to show that. . . .  Ted Cruz is hopeless;   he's irredeemable."

We'll see.   It looks like the establishment is going to warm to Trump . . . and he will wind up with the nomination -- if he lets his new campaign manager style him and tame him and educate him  and get him as speech writer.


Friday, April 22, 2016

It's true -- the selection of presidential nominees is not a democratic process. And why that's OK.

Last weekend, another state, Georgia, held a convention for selecting delegates to the Republican convention this summer -- and once again the Ted Cruz people walked away with the lion's share of the delegates, despite Donald Trump's having won the primary vote by a 14% margin over Ted Cruz.    So once again the Trump campaign is charging that the system is rigged, that delegates are being stolen from him, etc.

Some clarity about this particular example in Georgia:   the correct number of delegates that Trump earned by being the front runner will be pledged to vote for him on the first ballot.   The complaint is about what happens after that.   They will be free to abandon Trump and vote for Cruz, if he does not win on the first ballot at the convention.   Trump loyalists didn't get elected, at this convention, because Cruz out-maneuvered them. 

The Cruz people understand all this and have been working for months to be prepared to do just what they did.   It's not illegal.   It's politics.   The fact that Trump and his people did not understand or prepare for this is their own failing.

Now there's a good argument to be made for changing this system so that we have truly democratic primaries.   I admit that is initially appealing, but let's look a bit deeper at what the political party system is all about.

1.  Political parties are voluntary, private organizations that can make their own rules.   Joining the party means that you agree to abide by their rules in their system.   If you don't like their rules, you can join another party.  Or you can try to work from within their party to change their rules -- for the future.   Like sports, you don't change rules in the middle of the game.    Which is what Trump is asking to do.

2.  The party runs a slate of candidates under their banner, receiving their help, hoping to elect a group of office holders who will support party principles and policies.   The whole point is trying to win elections.   So they don't want to nominate someone who can't win in the general election.   They also don't want to nominate someone to run on their ticket that does not represent their party principles and values -- nor should they have to.

3.  It used to be that the party bosses chose who the party would support, often in the legendary "smoke-filled back rooms."  The people had little say in it, and the bosses never pretended to be fair or democratic.   That has largely changed, although the degree and type of say the people have differs among the states, from actual primary votes, to caucuses, to some sort of convention.

4.  Nevertheless, when people go to their regular voting places, they naturally assume that the party primary is an "election," governed by laws that guarantee equality and fairness.    The party may choose to conduct its primary that way;   but it is not illegal for them to do it another way, like caucuses or conventions that are not representative.   These presidential party primaries are not government elections.

OK.   That's the How It Works question.  What about the Why? question.   Here's how Jay Bookman explains it in his AJC column:
"[Trump] is right.   The system is indeed rigged against him, just as the system in the Democratic Party is rigged against Bernie Sanders.  But it is 'rigged' for good reason.

"The genius of the American system -- the key to its survival for more than two centuries -- is its ability to let the people govern themselves and make decisions while ensuring that self-governance does not devolve into mob rule, in which the passions of the moment overwhelm common sense. . . ."
Bookman then cites the Electoral College, rather than popular vote for president;  the Bill of Rights, which forbids the majority from denying basic rights to the minority;  the presidential veto;  and the Supreme Court -- all of which can override popular pressure from pushing us to rash and unwise actions.   He continues:

"The political parties have installed similar checks on populist passions, designed to require second or even third thoughts before rash action can be taken.  The delegate-selection process, the existence of superdelegates on the Democratic side -- they are all designed to slow a revolution, to make it more difficult but not to make it impossible.

"Those obstacles are a feature, not a bug, and it's a feature worth preserving."
On the same AJC editorial page, conservative columnist Thomas Sowell, with whom I disagree on almost everything, wrote this -- and, for a change, I do agree.
"First of all, it is not Trump's nomination until after he has earned it, under the rules that apply to all candidates.  Nobody can 'steal' what was not his in the first place. . . .

"Political parties are private institutions.  They exist to choose candidates they think can win elections.  How they do it is their business.  Nobody has a constitutional 'right' to vote to choose a party's nominees. . . .  The time to change rules is before the game starts.  If the current rules need changing, there will be four years before the 2020 elections in which to try to create better rules."
Yes.   But something in me also wants the revolution that Bernie Sanders is inspiring -- and I think in the long run it is the way our country should go.    But, is it too much of a leap at one time that would leave him without the support in congress that he needs to change so much that would have to change?   That's exactly my dilemma.

I want a crystal ball to tell me whether it is possible.   If it can't work, then I don't want to risk losing the White House and all the setback that would bring . . . in the quest for the ideal.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

New York gives big wins to Trump and Clinton

Trump won the Republican primary with 60% of the vote, followed by Kasich at 25% and Cruz at 15%.    Trump got 93 delegates and Kasich 4.

Clinton won the Democratic primary with 58% to Sanders' 42%.   Delegates were split, with 159 for Clinton and 106 for Sanders.

What happens now?    Both of them are expected to win the next batch of states coming up next Tuesday.   But it's still a close call as to whether either front-runner will have enough delegates to win on the first ballot at their conventions.   Trump still will need to win about 60% of the remaining vote.   It's a little easier for Clinton, since she has only one opponent instead of two.

Trump's victory speech was a departure for him from his past rally behavior.   First, it was in the glitzy lobby of Trump Tower and the guests mostly seemed to be from the upper echelons of New York -- wealth, beauty, sophistication.   No angry crowds, no jostling.  Trump himself had toned down his rhetoric.   The main issue he mentioned was jobs.   Nothing about immigrants, deportations, deals.   He referred to his opponent as "Senator Cruz," not "Lying Ted."   Everyone assumes this is the doing of his new campaign manager, an experienced political operative rather than his tough-guy Lewandowski, who has been relegated, as one observer put it, to the role of "scheduler and body man."

But will it last?   Or will Trump be Trump again?   Reports from the campaign trail today say that he was back to calling Cruz "Lying Ted" again.   Ah well, it may take a few more rounds to learn to appear "presidential."

Bernie Sanders went into primary day predicting that he would win, but he wound up doing not quite as well as even the latest polls had indicated.    That seems pretty easy to explain.   New York primaries are open only to those registered with that party as of last October;  and that was before the Sanders phenomenon became a real movement.   So large numbers of these new young new voters, who have been energized by the Sanders' campaign, were probably not able to vote.   In fact, New York had the lowest turnout for a 2016 primary at 19.7%, second low only to Louisiana.  Sanders vows to keep going and work to try to get superdelegates to support him.

In Hillary Clinton's victory speech, she called for unity, saying to all those who supported her opponent that we have more that unites us than what divides us.    She increased her delegate lead over Sanders by another 53 delegates.   So that path for him to the nomination keeps getting narrower and steeper.

There was a serious challenge about voter disenfranchisement that the New York Attorney General has announced an investigation of.   It's said that 126,000 registered Democrats in Brooklyn had their party registration changed from Democrat to Independent or Non-Affiliated without their permission.    Brooklyn is Sander's home town and stronghold of support.  Apparently it was not widespread in other areas, so it wouldn't affect the overall election outcome, but it could change some district results and hence a few delegates. 

Election officials have said that they had a personnel shortage in bringing voting rolls up to date and that their last minute work to catch up only made it appear that an unusually large number were dropped from voting rolls at the last minute.   But that doesn't explain the numerous complaints from voters themselves who tried to vote and were told they were not registered in that party.  We'll see what comes of this.   Glad the AG is looking into it.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Changing public opinion about senate vote to confirm Obama's SCOTUS nominee

The senate Republicans are refusing to have hearings or vote on President Obama's nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.    This graph shows how public opinion on this has changed since February 2016.  It is from an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

The question asked is whether you prefer that the senate vote this year or leave the position vacant and wait for the new president to make the nomination.   The blue bars are for "vote now," the red bars for "wait," and the yellow for "no opinion." 

In February, it was 43% for vote now, 42% for wait.   By April, it has changed to  52% now, 30% wait.

As Chris Cillizza points out in the Washington Post, this does not necessarily mean that this issue will be a determinative factor for voters in November;   but public opinion is definitely moving toward the Democratic position -- and that just adds more weight to the negative feelings people have about deadlock in congress, for which they blame Republicans more than they do Democrats.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"Why I Want Ted Cruz To Win GOP Nomination -- And Flame Out In The General" -- John Amato

John Amato, progressive political blogger on "Crooks and Liars" explains why he prefers Cruz as the Republican candidate for the general election.   He starts out with the understanding that, in the minds of conservatives, conservatism cannot fail.   Republicans fail only because they are not conservative enough.

In this view, all the recent Republicans who lost their presidential races -- Bush 41 for re-election, John McCain, Mitt Romney -- lost because they weren't true conservativesAt least, when they became losers, that was the answer.

The corollary to this is that you also have to be angry.   Amato concludes that"Anger is the driving force behind modern conservatism."  Trump is not the true conservative, but he does voice the rage "in the kind of simplistic AM talk radio jargon the GOP base has longed to hear a candidate express. . . . "
Ted Cruz expresses that same anger, but he frames his outrage "around staunch, religious right wing conservatism.   The "entire AM hate talk radio circuit from Rush Limbaugh to Mark Levin [to Glenn Beck] love Ted Cruz."  And they choose him because he combines that rage and the bona fide conservativism.

The Republican establishment is desperately trying to stop Trump;  but, if he does get the nomination and goes on to lose the general election, Amato says: 

". . . they will always have their get-out-of-jail card right in their back pockets. They've already expressed . . . that Donald Trump is not a conservative, so when he is resoundingly beaten in the general election they can wash their hands of him and say once again, conservatism doesn't fail, only the candidate does. 

"However, if Cruz gets the nomination . . . [and then] loses, they will have nothing to complain about except maybe to blame the mainstream media for the loss. . . .

"I want Ted Cruz to be the nominee so the conservative movement cannot deny the reality of America.  It's not the candidates that are failing conservatism, it's that conservatism is failing America."
*   *   *
 That makes a lot of sense to me.   But it still feels like such a risk that either of them could actually become president.