Trump and the GOP’s Winning Strategy

April 19, 2019

Say what you want about Trump and the Republicans being corrupt liars, benefactors of the rich and well-born, media bashers and purveyors of conspiracy theories, they know how to frame a message that not only holds their political base but also gives them enough support among independents to forge a winning coalition in 2020.

The Democrats are clueless when it comes to countering the right-wing message built on fear of immigrants, support for a strong military, anti-abortion, demonizing social programs, and calling out liberal women as a danger to our national security. These positions may be outrageous and dangerous to many Americans in the ever-diminishing middle of the political spectrum but they make sense to Trump supporters who now are told that the President was sent by God. Throw in a red-hot economy and the Democrats will be in the fight of their life trying to retake the White House.

The question that has always bedeviled the Democrats since Trump took the presidency is how to respond to all the attacks on long established norms of policy and procedure, the gross avalanche of lies, and the ever-growing corruption. Trying to adopt a measured posture with facts and media appearances on CNN and MSNBC has not worked. Pelosi, Schumer, Sanders and the rest are always on the defensive offering solutions to issues on their agenda but not dealing with what’s on the mind of 45-50% of the nation.

Medicare for All, the Green Plan, taxing the rich may put a small dent in the protective covering of the Trump base, but it is no match for the secret weapon of the President and the GOP – fear of a liberal takeover of government. Of course the 2020 election will be about the economy, jobs, and growth, but it’s that extra edge of fear that may carry day for Trump and the GOP. If the Democrats want to rid the country of Trump and GOP control of the Senate they will have to talk about illegal immigration, military might, abortion, social program costs and the slide toward liberal big government. So far there has been little evidence that the Democrats know how to win over even a small portion of the Trump base; that’s a real electoral problem.

 

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Democrats Forget the Real Issues

March 20, 2019

With the national economy going full blazes, jobs plentiful and more people with a few more bucks in their pockets (except the rich who have bushel baskets full of bucks) the Democrats running for President are going off the rails with issues that are non-starters or worse yet scare the livin’ daylights out of many voters.

Elizabeth Warren started off  with some likely popular policy recommendations-free day care, tax reform for the middle class and the break-up of the social media giants. But then recently she and other pretenders to the White House started talking about reparations for slavery, changing the constitution to do away with the Electoral College, packing the Supreme Court and embracing socialist-like policies as the answers to America’s income inequality disaster. Victory  for the Democrats in 2020 will not be won by fringe issues that most voters only have a passing understanding of or view as anti-American.

The Democrats continue to forget that they once were the party of the working men and women in this country and that Democratic Presidents like FDR, JFK, LBJ, Clinton and Obama won the White House because they talked the talk and walked the walk of the middle class. I still remember JFK standing in front of factory gates in Milwaukee, my hometown, shaking hands with workers and asking for their vote. Needless to say, he took Wisconsin in 1960.

If the Democrats want to win in 2020 they need to choose a candidate and forge a message around issues like tax reform for the middle class, infrastructure projects particularly in rural area and small towns, realistic climate change policies, affordable health care and scandal-free government. The American middle class is beginning to see that the Trump crowd is only out for the rich, the well born and of course Wall Street, but what they hear on the stump are Democrat candidates who either are fixated on Trump or introduce ideas that have zero chance of success.

If the Democrats want to win in 2020 they need to talk about fixing capitalism, not replacing it with “soft socialism.” Democrats need to talk the talk of all those carpenters, electricians, plumbers, nurses,  teachers, technicians, farmers, truck drivers, and waitstaff, who are looking for a leader who understands their life and their challenges. Democrats continue to be wedded to so-called identity politics – directing their policy prescriptions to African-Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, and Gays – rather than presenting policies directed at improving the lives and futures of the middle class, whatever their skin color, religion or sexual identity.

What this country has experienced these last two years is a class war clearly won by the Republicans and the White House as they effectively filled the pockets of the rich, gave crumbs to the rest and scared the middle class with bogus claims that the identity crowd was destroying America. To win the White House in 2020 the Democrats must change the political conversation and tell the middle class how a change of party in the White House will make their lives and their futures better. How about this for a Blue Hat logo – Make The Middle Class Great Again.

 


The Republican Fear Factor

February 18, 2019

The Republicans, whether in the White House or in Congress, are really masters of fear-mongering, in fact they are brilliant pushing at a political strategy that works. The list of fears is long and diverse – fear of immigrants, fear of crime, fear of gun laws, fear of taxes, fear of strong women, fear of big government, and now fear of socialism. I may have left a few out but I think you get my drift.

The Democrats are novices at the fear game and have not been up to the challenge of tapping into the driving force of voter motivation. They have tried with global warming/climate change and now with taxing the rich but they just don’t know how to convince people that governing is about cowering in a corner – whatever happened to the land of the free and HOME OF THE BRAVE.

Thanks to the progressive side of the Democrats in Congress pushing for a Green Deal, Medicare for all and tax increases on the rich the Republicans are back at the fear gambit  characterizing the female leaders of the movement as radicals who are taking the United States down the road to Venezuela. Fear has been at the core of the Trump strategy, especially with immigrants, and so the long knives are out to convince Americans that they must fear big spending, big taxes and big programs.

Now what may help the Democrats deal with the fear factor is that the new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, does not appear to wilt in the face of President Trump’s threats or the Republican leadership. Also the new women in the House like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez show little concern over challenging cabinet officials, lobbyists and the Republican men. The fact that she and others might get their facts wrong or over play their policy recommendations has not stopped them from responding to the fear strategy with a healthy dose of class warfare.

So as the politics of governing plays out in the coming months what we will likely see is a tug of competing strategies as the Republicans continue to try and scare the livin’ daylights out of Americans with the fear strategy while the Democrats try and convince voters that they have been cheated out of their hard earned money by greedy millionaires and billionaires.

The fact that Trump Republicans continue to hold onto their base suggests that the fear strategy still works (at least while the economy remains strong), but preliminary polling shows that Americans like the concept of Medicare for all, believe that climate change must be addressed, and agree that the rich need to start paying their fair share of taxes. We could be at a turning point in American politics as fear is replaced with class, in fact the 2020 election is likely to be a contest between these two powerful motivations.

 

 

 


Even You Could Run For President

January 28, 2019

By my rudimentary calculation we are about 22 months from the 2020 elections. To most common sense citizens that would appear to be a long, long away from casting ballots for a whole host of local, state and national leaders. But this is the United States and already candidates from both parties are testing the political winds for the presidency – visiting Iowa and New Hampshire, forming so-called exploratory committees ( the fancy name for raising money) and trying to get as much name and face recognition as possible.

Remember those days when Uncle Al asked you what you wanted to be when you grow up and the answer often times was President of the United States. Well, although the career options have increased a bit to include astronaut, professional athlete, and start up billionaire, the allure of the presidency still remains in the mix.  Ask any of the ever increasing gaggle of Democratic politicians who have already thrown their hat into the ring – Harris, Warren, Gillibrand, Gabbard, Castro ( not Fidel), Sanders and a couple of guys I have never heard of. Still out there waiting in the wings are Biden, O’Rourke, Brown, Booker, Klobuchar and maybe even Hillary.

On the Republican side, There is Larry Hogan, the governor of Maryland, with likely candidate former governor John Kasich of Ohio talking policy, and of course The Donald, if he lasts that long. A run for the presidency by Mitt Romney is certainly not out the question, and who knows many Jeb Bush will give it a try.  As the White House continues its implosion look for more Republicans brave enough to take on a sitting president.

And don’t count out the independents who could decide to muck up the two party system- billionaire Michael Bloomberg, billionaire Howard Schultz and billionaire Tom Steyer – all short on national political experience but holding gobs of money, which is the mother’s milk of a run for the presidency.

All this traffic shows is that despite the fact that the job of running the United States is one bit migraine headache with little gratitude for accomplishments and crazy people at every turn, the egos of these people is so large that they think they have what it takes to hold the highest office in the land and run the world.

Not surprisingly, no where to be found is a candidate who actually runs something, other than selling coffee or making vacant promises. It would be nice to see a local official, a bureaucrat, a small business owner or a platoon leader running for the White House, but alas these options are off the table.

We are a long way away from November, 2020 but who knows maybe someone who exudes humility, common sense, compassion, and yes, honesty will come forward, after all anyone over 35 and a natural born citizen can run for the White House. Let’s face it, if Donald Trump can grab the golden ring, anyone can.

 


2018 – If You Think This Year Was A Mess, Wait Until 2019

December 11, 2018

As 2018 comes to a end there are countless reviews of what happened of consequence during the year and where we may be headed in 2019. As is often the case, the review of the past is mostly negative and the future is described as uncertain. So as not to shy away from this exercise of yearly review and prognostication, here is my take on the past and the future.

If politics, governing, leadership and public policy is your passion, 2018 could only make your confidence level take a sharp turn downwards. Almost everyday brings new revelations about presidential misconduct or at the very least presidential incompetence. Democrats and Republicans still can’t get along much less get legislation moving forward. Members of the cabinet are increasingly being shown as crooks and bogus charlatans.  And the media still can’t shake the fake news label, despite being more open and accurate than those in the White House. Not a day goes by when honest and thoughtful Americans wonder whether they live in an emerging authoritarian state or at the very least a very bad dream.

If the economy, jobs, GDP and spending power are your passion, 2018 would likely bring a smile to your face. Americans are on a spending spree ( mostly with credit cards), jobs are plentiful ( despite little real wage growth), data on key indicators show the US leading the major countries of the world ( at least for the time being), and overall consumer confidence is strong ( but could change in a heart beat). 2018 was a “good year” for most Americans, which is why President Trump continues to have a solid approval rate; there is nothing like a upbeat economy to make a president, any president look like a genius.

If values, mood, beliefs, standards, judgment and truth are your passion than 2018 was in crisis mode. There were very disturbing upticks in hate crimes, outright bigotry, shameless lying, a fundamental decline in basic decency, and just plain disinterest in searching for what is real and what is clearly false. The American Dream is under attack; the American Rule of Law is under attack, the American Governing Traditions are under attack, and the American Political Culture is under attack. The old days of cooperation,compromise and consensus have been replaced with gut-wrenching anger.

All in all 2018 gets mixed reviews with a definite lean towards the negative side. If grades are given, probably a C+ or if you were one of the lucky ones to benefit from the upper end tax cut or generous bonuses or job security than perhaps a B-. A mediocre year at best.

Now to 2019. There is not a prognosticator out there who knows where we are headed in the coming year, but there are sufficient signs in the wind to suggest that 2019 will be considerably worse than 2018.

In politics and government the I word will fill the airwaves and office conversations, that is I as in impeachment, indictment, investigations.  Again, not much in the public policy area will get done as Washington and America is consumed by what transpires in the White House. Political divisions will only increase, Twitter storms will increase, charges and counter charges will increase and institutional gridlock will rule the day. The unexpected, the uncertain, the unconstitutional will dominate. A real mess.

In the economy, 2019 could be the year of economic downturn, perhaps a recession.  Growth will stagnate, 401Ks will take a hit, joblessness will creep upwards and income inequality will continue to take the country further and further apart. No one knows where the tariff wars will be headed but one thing is certain, our national debt will climb upwards to the point where we will be putting more of our budget dollars into interest payments rather than toward substantive programs.

As to our national condition, 2019 will only bring uncertainty and disappointment and of course anger, always anger. The confluence of terrible politics and weakening economics can only create a nation of lost Americans who will question where their once great country is headed and whether their personal security and economic future are in grave danger. In short, Not Good.

At this early point the grade for 2019 is a C-, perhaps a D+. As someone who graded thousands, upon thousands of papers, I have been wrong and at the request of the aggrieved student took another look and maybe even made a change. This could also happen as 2019 plays out but right now this country is heading into uncharted territory with only trouble on the horizon.

 

 

 


Democratic Values v.The Forgotten

October 30, 2018

Talk to any critic of President Trump and they will likely say that he has ignored, weakened or destroyed our democratic values – the rule of law, freedom of expression, respect for diversity and inclusion, and a welcoming and humane spirit. Talk to any of his supporters and they will likely say that President Trump has strengthened the economy, put money into the hands of those the liberals have forgotten, taken strong steps to rein in illegal immigration and expanded our military while sending a clear message to the world that the United States is a nation to be reckoned with. Those who detest the President see him as a buffoon who is only out for himself; those who idolize him see the President as someone who speaks the language of those who have had no voice in American politics and are mad as hell.

While the current wave of polarization can be viewed from numerous perspectives, the great divide is really about what we stand for as a nation versus what we have forgotten as a people. A mid-term election of Democrats in the House or perhaps the Senate may temper this divide a tiny bit by checking the White House but it surely is not going to close the deep gap over what we stand for versus what we used to be as a people. In the days before we became divided the middle class acted as the “great stabilizer” as prosperity was spread over a wide spectrum of the populace leading to a general consensus on the American Dream and the commitment to build consensus and centrism in our political life. Today the middle class is in shambles with too many people either outright poor or unable to make it from paycheck to paycheck. Why should these forgotten Americans care about democratic values and proper norms of presidential behavior when they believe the elites don’t care about them or the precariousness of their economic predicament. Throw in a healthy dose of racism or at the very least the perception of unfair advantages for minorities and democratic values mean little to those who wear the Make America Great Again hat.

If there is a resolution of this great divide it is returning to the days when the economic pie was more evenly allocated, when Democrats stood fore square for the working man and woman,  when Republicans remembered that great power requires great responsibility and when we treat all Americans no matter their race, religion, ethnicity and gender characteristics as worthy of respect, decency and equality. That is a tall order and an outcome that unfortunately is years away given the current climate of distrust and hate. It would help if we had calming leaders, political cooperation, less anger and more compromise, and perhaps most of all just plain quiet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Why is Trump Still Popular, It’s Easy

June 5, 2018

Legions of liberals scratch their heads when they see polling data that show President Trump’s approval rate over 40%. Despite the stupid tweets, the lies and exaggerations, the flaunting of the rule of law, the destruction of presidential norms of behavior, blatant corruption, and the embrace of public policies that isolate the United States and pose real dangers to our future as the leader of the free world, Trump trudges on not just with his base but also with independent-minded voters who are unwilling to denounce him and push for his removal from office.

So what’s going on here with the stability of the Trump approval? It is really quite easy. Trump supporters see more money in their paychecks, and some have seen bonuses or small increases in their salaries, jobs are so plentiful that workers can now pick and choose, the stock market despite regular ups and downs is generally on the uptick, inflation is minimal, and areas of the economy once viewed as dead are no longer on life support. As the Democratic strategist James Carvelle reminded Bill Clinton’s staff, ” It’s the economy, stupid.”

Although some in his administration and certainly those among the punditry have called him a “moron” or just plain “dumb”, Trump knows the current state of American political culture – flag waving patriotism, fear of minorities, militarism, disgust with political correctness, support for small town Americana, and hatred of the eastern and California elite. Somehow the Democrats forgot that our political culture can be defined by what the working class believes is what America stands for, not what the New York Times editorializes. Trump has tapped into this working class culture and is not afraid to use it to bludgeon the left. Few people read the Times but they do listen to the President.

Of course having an approval rating in the low 40% range means that somewhere in the 60% range Americans either despise Trump or have serious questions about where he is taking the country. But if liberals are to make any serious dent in that 40% they have to admit there are now two competing political cultures in our country and begin to make efforts to understand the Trump culture and where possible make efforts to offer realistic alternatives.

What does that mean – “realistic alternatives”? In no particular order liberals must tag Trump with the inevitable increases in health care premiums, offer a better package of tax cuts that puts more money in the pockets of working class people, stop making pro-choice the signature position of the left, forget the big cities and take bus rides to rural America for listening tours, show the American public that patriotism means more than the flag,  and last but not least ask Nancy Pelosi to retire.

The challenge of the liberals as they try to compete with Trumpism is like moving a huge aircraft carrier on a different course; for years liberals have forgotten that they were originally the party of the working man and woman and that their support came from the heartland. If the Democrats hold to their old model of politics the blue wave of November 2018 just may fizzle out as the economy hums along. Trump may yet set himself up for self-destruction, but the liberals must change or face their own self-destruction.