Is Donald Trump Sent From God?

December 3, 2019

A recurring theme brought forth by the evangelical right is that Donald Trump is sent by God, which in many respects accounts for the unwavering support for the President from this segment of the voting population. How can members of the Christian right leave their president when he stands up for all the policy issues that have been ignored or ridiculed by liberals – anti-abortion, anti-transgender, anti- gay marriage, pro- religious liberty, pro-conservative Supreme Court and pro-ending separation of church and state. To this staunchly religious group of Americans God has ordained Trump to end the reign of the secular left and its hedonistic, self-centered, and anything goes value system.

Now as someone who believes in God, tries to follow the model of Jesus Christ and is a regular churchgoer, it is not my right to judge the beliefs of others, after all the First Amendment gives all of us freedom of religion. Yet I do have to ask the evangelicals a simple question – how do they know that God sent Donald Trump to save America from the progressive left? Isn’t it enough just to thank him for embracing their policy agenda and their personal values? Why make him a deity?

The answer comes from my instincts as a political scientist. With the impeachment hearings moving forward and a vote to pin a huge I on Donald Trump’s red tie, there apparently is a political need to further solidify his base and ensure that no one on the religious right leaves the fold or worse yet decides not to vote for the President next November. As a political scientist I don’t think it necessary to raise the President to the level of a deity, but there may be a concern in the White House and among his political allies like the newly departed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry that further revelations during the impeachment process could soften the evangelical base.  There is nothing better to strengthen political allegiance then to tag the head guy as God directing the nation from heaven.

Not surprisingly, those on the left snicker at the claim that Donald Trump was sent by God, but those snide smiles do little to change the mindset of the evangelicals. Such condescending attitudes only verify what the right has been saying all along – the godless left has ruined the values of this country and only Trump can return America to the way of life of the 1950’s. The Trump is God strategy will likely be ignored by most Americans as an amusing side light to this bizarre presidency, but it does show how it will be difficult to defeat the President , especially in small town America,  when he is supported by a godly army of true believers.


How to Watch the Impeachment Hearings

November 19, 2019

Week One of the impeachment hearings was certainly not the equivalent of watching the Super Bowl or even Jeopardy’s Tournament of Champions.  The reviews from across America described the hearings as “boring”, ” hard to follow”, “partisan”, and no where near a “game changer.” Those Americans who bothered to inform themselves about “Ukrainegate” often turned to their favorite cable talk show for the analysis that solidified their position about whether the President was impeachable. There is  some poll data that suggests the public is slowly coming to the position that President Trump should be impeached but with so much opinion gathering that is often unreliable it is difficult to determine whether the work of the Democrats is really having an impact.

Unlike the Nixon Watergate hearings we live in a far different world of politics and media. Most Americans don’t sit down after dinner to watch the evening news or watch the inquiry from their favorite watering hole. Because we are so divided and angry as a nation, the questioning of witnesses creates a glaze effect as viewers just can’t bring themselves to see the drama unfolding as diplomats challenge the veracity of the President or Republicans try their best to debunk testimony. Back in the 70’s Americans watched with rapt attention to see which Republicans would turn on Nixon. Today what we see, at least for now, is Democrats talking about the end of democracy while the GOP provides a staunch defense of President Trump as just doing his job; it is all so predictable and indeed “boring.” Some wiseguy pundits have suggested that to get the peoples’ attention somber background music should be played or a running scorecard “hits” or “misses” in the questioning; anything to get the attention of a tired audience.

Perhaps this week will bring a bit more public interest to the hearings as the Democrats try to link the President to the only Latin phrase Americans will remember – quid pro quo. But even if the Democrats score a game changer, the Republicans will not lose their base of support or see some of their members bolt from the ranks. Remember Trump’s base agrees with him that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York and nothing would or should happen to him. Because Trump has effectively developed what is often termed a “cult of personality” die hard fans in and out of Congress are not going to move over to the other side.

So what we are faced with is a litany of witnesses trying to convince Americans that their President did wrong, Democrats hoping that their efforts will galvanize support for impeachment, Republicans holding fast with their leader, and Americans knowing that impeachment is not going to remove the President, while they wait for the 2020 election. In a real sense many Americans believe they should judge the President rather than Congressional committees in large part because they don’t trust Democrats or Republicans

And so the impeachment soap opera continues, daily installments of bland bureaucrats trying their best to deliver the truth, while Democrats and Republicans try to juice up the proceedings with ominous claims and the President sending along threatening tweets to get the attention of the audience. The television ratings are weak because the American public have either made up their mind, don’t care or are waiting for their chance to make a decision of President Trump. The only drama that has occurred in the hearings is the face off between Fox and CNN over which cable network deserves the attention of the American people. So far Americans aren’t watching.


“You Can’t Handle the Truth”

November 6, 2019

Movie goers will likely remember the exchange between Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. Cruise, the Navy attorney, shouts at Nicholson, the commander of Guantanamo Base in Cuba, ” I want the truth.” Nicholson, fires back, with the classic line-“You can’t handle the truth.” Whoever was responsible for that line, perhaps director Rob Reiner, was way before his time when it comes to the dilemma we face today in American politics – there is the truth and then there are those who “can’t handle the truth.”

One of the core issues of the Trump presidency (there are too many to mention) is the President’s unrelenting attack on the truth. Since mid-August the President has made over 12,000 false or misleading claims, some of them so outrageous that even a middle school kid could recognize a blatant lie. And yet Trump’s base has held steady and the vast majority of his supporters don’t seem to buy the argument that their president is lying. They either don’t care; they see lies as part of the political game; they have bought into the fake news argument;  or most likely, they simply love their guy who can do no wrong.

Critics of Trump and his base point out that Nicholson’s outburst about Cruise not being able to handle the truth may be at the heart of the problem of a president who has clearly set the record for lying while in office. Besides being the 45th President of the United States, Trump is a cult figure who has shrewdly developed an appealing (to some) persona around himself. By speaking the language of largely white, working class Americans, talking tough to his adversaries, promising to defeat the liberal elites, Trump has made it difficult for his supporters to embrace truth and reality. Simply stated, Trump is their guy and no amount of fact or reasoned criticism is going to change their devotion to the cult figure. They can’t handle the truth because to embrace the truth would destroy their political soul and dismantle the underpinnings of the personality cult.

At the end of the courtroom drama Cruise deftly gets Nicholson to admit that he ordered a Code Red that led to the death of a soldier under his command. As Nicholson is hauled out to face serious charges he can’t believe what is happening, after all he was held in high regard by those in the military and was likely destined for promotion to a White House position. But the message of the story is that eventually truth wins out and that thinking people can indeed handle the truth; it may take some time, courage and unrelenting pressure but truth does overcome falsehood.


To Boo or Not To Boo, That is the Question

October 29, 2019

Much has been made of the fan response during the 5th game of the World Series when President Trump and a coterie of his supporters showed up to watch the game. In short, many of the fans took a page out of the Trump rallies and booed the president, shouted “lock him up” and waved signs that called for his impeachment. Almost immediately liberal critics tried to remind folks that when Republicans go low, Democrats go high, meaning such behavior was uncalled for and unnecessary. Such a position did not sit well with the “boo birds” who had been waiting for an opportunity to get Trump out of his comfort zone among his base and embarrass him on national television. Many simply stated that it just made them feel good to give the President some of his own medicine.

Of course booing a siting president is nothing new in American politics. Anytime a president goes to a sporting event or throws out the first ball during the World Series there is always evidence of contrarian viewpoints expressed with the old fashioned “Bronx cheer.” Does this kind of juvenile outburst do any good or change the course of national politics? Certainly not. But we live in a time when emotions are ragged about the President and the state of our country. Rather than rational discussions about our president, the impeachment inquiry and our divided nation, we have descended into middle school chants and barroom antics.

Sadly as this impeachment process moves forward expect heightened unsportsmanlike conduct – smear campaigns, slandering true patriots, unsubstantiated charges and  counter charges, conspiracy theories, and daily tweets from the Commander in Chief, Nancy Pelosi, Rudy Guiliani and a host of other characters from both sides in his epic struggle for power and control. Perhaps public hearings on the charges likely to come from the Democratic leadership in the House may serve to lessen the emotional outburst, but don’t count on it. There is always a way to spin statements and contradict testimony. We will just have to live with this political circus, even though impeachment is serious business and the fate of the presidency and indeed the constitution is at center stage.

So as Americans if you relish political spectacle, mean-spirited comments, partisan hi-jinks and cable news that isn’t news, then sit back and enjoy returning to the theater of the absurd. It’s only going to get worse.


Polling Trump

September 11, 2019

Public opinion polling, especially of presidents and elections, has become a huge cottage industry in this country employing thousands and raking in millions of dollars from campaigns and political organizations anxious to determine the preferences of Americans. Needless to say, polling outfits are in intense competition to make the claim that they are the most accurate and the best predictor of outcomes.

As this country heads toward a still distant national election there are almost daily polls on the job performance of Donald Trump, the chances of his reelection and the popularity of his Democratic challengers.  One of the most interesting developments in the polling race is the mini war of public opinion data crunching between the Rasmussen organization and all the more well known pollsters such as Quinnipiac, Monmouth, CNN, Politico, Reuters, Marist, NBC/Wall Street Journal and ABC/Washington Post.

To make a long story short, Rasmussen was one of the very few pollsters that got the 2016 election outcome correct showing that Donald Trump would win the presidency. Since Rasmussen is often viewed as an “outlier” pollster and according to some a front for conservative points of view, its correct prediction of a Trump victory sticks in the craw of the establishment polling organizations. The folks at Rasmussen waste little time in pointing out that in this election cycle there’s is the most accurate appraisal of Trump’s popularity and presidency.

Why this is important is because currently Rasmussen’s polling is far different than most if not all of the rest of the more well known organizations in terms of assessing Trump’s job performance and his chances for a repeat of his 2016 victory. While the establishment pollsters have Trump in the neighborhood of the low 40 percent range in terms of job performance and popularity, Rasmussen has the President in the high 40 percent range ( and many times over 50 percent) in job performance and the same with his overall popularity.

Now I am not in any way an expert on polling techniques in terms of sample size, demographic identification, and likely voters vs. registered voters, but Rasmussen boldly claims that most of the establishment polling that is being done today is seriously flawed and biased against President Trump. Of course if Rasmussen is correct about the current status of Trump the president and Trump the Republican candidate for reelection, then the Democrats are kidding themselves about taking the presidency in 2020 and are following the flawed strategy of Hillary Clinton who bought into the erroneous polling numbers that showed she was way ahead in 2016.

Perhaps Rasmussen got lucky in 2016 with its call of a Trump victory and perhaps all the current pollsters have fixed their models so that their current analysis showing Trump in deep trouble are on the mark. It is way too early to speculate on where the 2020 race for the presidency stands and I always wonder whether all those phone calls to Americans get a truthful answer or whether voting decisions are made in a split second while filling out the ballot. Whether Rasmussen is right or wrong this time around or its competitors have a better handle on American political opinion will certainly shape campaign strategy, but Democrats beware- they ignored Rasmussen in 2016 and the rest is history.


Fear and The Flag

July 24, 2019

Say what you want about President Trump being an “idiot”, a “liar”, a ” racist”, and “unfit for office”, the guy knows how to speak to Main Street Americans and use the language that gets them nodding their heads in agreement. The Democrats can yell about the rule of law, congressional oversight, democratic values and constitutional principles till they are blue in the face, but Trump’s ability to tap into the innermost fears and patriotism of Americans is a winning strategy.

Americans love their country, their flag, and their citizen soldiers; Americans fear crime, government give-aways, and constant harping at what’s wrong with this country. Americans also love strong leaders, plain speaking politicians, and allies of the forgotten folks; Americans fear the elites, the media and liberal political correctness.

Sure the recent controversy about four US representatives of color is racist in tone and delivery and targets strong women who are smart and not afraid to speak their mind. But sadly far too many Americans do not like strong women, especially women of color who challenge the President of the United States. Also, too many Americans and certainly our president have forgotten or have no clue that everyone in this country except native Americans is either an immigrant, a refugee or someone who successfully attained asylum status.

But those details are not strong enough to break down the political culture of our country that is built on fear and the flag. Americans basically want to feel secure, prosperous and proud. They now have a president who taps into their fears and their patriotism by calling out football players who take a knee during the national anthem, Democrats who play to the two coasts rather than the working class heartland, and members of Congress who want to lead the revolution.

Democrats and progressives just don’t seem to understand the innate sources of our national psyche. Understanding the constitution, the Bill of Rights and our governing norms and traditions is all well and nice, but if their objective is to remove the President in 2020 and take the Republicans out of the Senate then Democrats and progressives have to respond to the climate of fear in this country and proudly embrace country, flag and our military. It’s all well and good to make promises about student loan forgiveness or green policies or soaking the rich, but how about Democrats and progressive talking  real tax relief for the working class, going after the rapacious banking system, and supporting the agenda of America’s union movement.

Currently, Democrats and progressives are too often seen as pro illegal immigrant, pro welfare state, and anti business. Democrats and Progressives need to take a page out of Trump’s playbook and show Americans what real patriotism means, why they will provide security and prosperity and why their objective is real reform not revolution.

President Trump continues to be unpopular, but not by much. But if his campaign of fear and the flag is allowed to continue without a vigorous response based on security, prosperity and real patriotism, the Democrats could be toast come November, 2020.


The Art of Political War

April 28, 2019

The score of Democrats seeking to lead their party into the fire of the 2020 presidential election are desperate to find the right mix of policy, personality and pugnaciousness to remove Donald Trump from the White House. At this point in the electoral process none of the challengers admit to finding the right approach, in fact it is fair to say that many of them are worried that the strong economy and a solid Trump base will make it difficult to grab the golden ring of the presidency.

Now, I don’t claim to have the answer  to the right approach to taking on President Trump, but I came across a quote the other day from the Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu, who authored The Art of War, a book that has become a classic of political and military insight and strategy that might hold the answer. Sun Tzu offered his advice on acquiring power and control by stating, ” It is the unemotional, reserved, calm and detached warrior who wins, not the hothead seeking vengeance and not the ambitious seeker of fortune.”

Granted that Trump won the White House by being a hothead who sought vengeance in the name of the ” low educated” and then proceeded to use his position to advance his fortune. But 2020 is not 2016, and there are growing signs that the American electorate is getting a bit tired of the Trump act with all the hyperbole, goofy ideas, outright lies and dangerous directions. The Trump base remains solid but those independents are starting to wonder whether it is  worth it as a country to have four more years of the circus.

The Democratic challengers will likely be tempted to fight fire with fire as Trump uses his Twitter account to call people silly names and insult reasonable policy positions, but Sun Tzu may have it right when he talks about how to win as he recommends warriors reject hotheaded vengeance and fortune seeking and embrace calm and unemotional detachment. After four years of Trump, the American people may just be ready for a leader who approaches the job of running this country as an adult not an eighth grader.

Right now Trump has the economy on his side and many voters will likely not want a change of leadership, but you can be sure that he will run a campaign of verbal retribution and half truths and spend less time and effort on pocketbook issues. By battling the Twitter tirades of the President with calm and reserved responses and attractive policy prescriptions to correct the decline of the middle class and gross income inequality, the Democratic challenger, whoever he or she is, may find a winning strategy.