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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Trump: Bomb-Damage-Assessment


In Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy (which is all The Omnivore recognizes) the titular group--The Foundation--is created by a man who has pioneered a science of predicting the future by studying the psychology of mass-groups of people. In the second book, after his predicted fall of the empire, the new order, led by The Foundation, is threatened by something he did not see coming: a mutant known as The Mule who could alter men's minds through actual (and never-before discovered--as far as the reader knows) telepathy.

This one individual broke humanity's genius plan--altering it irreparably--because of his singular talent.

Exactly how this applies to today's GOP Primary is left up to the reader.

Trump will likely be gone by February of 2016 when the Iowa caucuses kick off the real Republican Primary season. That's according to a poll of political insiders--and it's only "no" by a slim margin (mostly on the Democratic side). The Omnivore's question, of course, is "what will change."

Right now that's unanswerable--indeed, the obvious answers seem to have been given and nothing has happened--so it's time to look ahead. What impact is Trump having--what real, long-lasting impacts? Like a bomb-target, what is the damage?

Direct Hit: Perry Out

Unless something spectacular happens, like, today, Rick Perry is out of the first debate. This is notable in ways that, for example, Fiorina and Jindal are not. Perry is--or at least should be--a serious contender for the White House. It is easy to say that if not for Trump he would be in the debate--but is it not to say if not for Kaisch he'd be in? Kinda yes--but really "no."

Rick Perry did do serious damage to himself in 2012--but his reasons for being a heavy-hitter didn't evaporate and the one thing he really needed was to show he wasn't, you know, stupid. Being in the first debate could have helped that. The Trump effect has cost one heavy-hitter what was likely his best shot at making a good second impression.

Body Blow: Walker In Iowa

Below is the Huffington Post Poll-average of the GOP Primary in Iowa.
In this average, Trump is gaining seriously on Walker--Walker is still ahead (and in the RCP average, substantially--but it uses a different methodology and much older polls). This is serious business because Walker's campaign strategy is to win Iowa proving he has the chops with the religious wing of the Republican party (and that he can gin up excitement), lose New Hampshire to Jeb Bush, and then,  maybe--or maybe not--compete in Florida as Rubio and Jeb fight it out for supremacy of the sunshine state.

Today Trump leads by a massive margin in New Hampshire, a smaller margin in Florida, and Rubio is collapsing in America's penis. If this condition lasts into the actual voting primary everyone's battle-plan is screwed. Badly.

If Trump can beat Walker in Iowa, while billionaire donors could still easily keep him afloat, it's hard to see where he gets momentum. South Carolina? Maybe. The closeness of Trump has got to be worrying him.

Let's also note, just for fun, that Walker got punked in a New Hampshire pizza shop where a guy with a pro-walker sign asked to take a picture with him--but when they got together, he flipped it around and ... 
Well Played, Random Dude
While this, frankly, could happen to anyone, it does not especially help Walker in his quest to look smart. Maybe after Perry drops, Scott can borrow the Texan's glasses?

Looming Threat: The Tea Party / Conservatives

Trump is, shall we say, not severely conservative. Exactly how not conservative you think he is varries a lot from person to person--but for serious-minded conservatives there is a scenario that scares them: The Dukakis Eventuality.

Huh?

From the PowerLine blog:
Are you happy that Trump is essentially a stalking horse for Jeb Bush? If Trump wins some early primaries in a crowded field it will be with less than 20 percent of the vote, but it will likely cause the party establishment—such as still exists—to rally around Bush, just as Democrats rallied to Michael Dukakis in 1988 after Jesse Jackson swept a round of Super Tuesday primaries in the South and caused panic at DNC headquarters.
This is a legitimate fear--Trump (today at least) doesn't match up well vs. Hillary and isn't vying for Bush's voters (at least . . .  not exactly). If Trump makes it past the February starting gun the GOP-Establishment may have no choice but to back Bush. They could also back Walker or Rubio--but neither is as sure a bet from a purely numerical stand-point.

Glancing Upper-Cut: The GOP's Reputation

While it's true that no candidate has literally set him or herself on fire in order to try to get voter attention, Huckabee has invoked Nazi ovens, Rand Paul used a chainsaw on the tax code, Ted Cruz cooked bacon with a machine gun or something, and so on. Trump's comments have made him unpopular with Hispanics--but what about the GOP in general? Well, the response to McCain being far more severe than the response to the Mexican comments hasn't gone unnoticed.

So will Trump actually damage the GOP? That remains to be seen--but it's not out of the question.

Conclusions

The obvious other damage that Trump has done is to knock out guys like Rand Paul and suffocate Ted Cruz. Thanks to copious SuperPAC money, this is recoverable--but some damage may be lasting . . . and that's assuming Trump exits. What if he doesn't?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Quick Note On Trump and The Debates


John Weaver, senior adviser to the campaign of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, offered a different description of what the other candidates could face. In a tweet Monday, he wrote: “Imagine a NASCAR driver mentally preparing for a race knowing one of the drivers will be drunk. That’s what prepping for this debate is like.” -- The Washington Post
The Omnivore was told in email that if Trump maintained his popularity after softening his positions that The Omnivore would have to re-assess his rationale behind Trump's popularity.

The Omnivore doesn't quite think so:

  1. Trump's super-power is that he can do "signaling" better than any other candidate by virtue of not needing donors, not needing the establishment, etc. He can talk like a conservative-blog's comments thread and get away with it. Even Ted Cruz mostly can't do that.
  2. His support is, essentially, a gigantic "fuck you" (in fact, the biggest, classiest "fuck you" available!) to the establishment who over-promised to the base to get elected (Jay Cost writing in The Weekly Standard) and has been unable to make good on their absurd promises (The Omnivore will note that no conservative blogger that he could remember ever set their readership straight during the run-up to 2014--so, huh, Jay?).
  3. So long as there remains some ambiguity (Trump wants to let the "good ones" [immigrants] back in--does that mean, like, two people? Or 2 million?) then they can rationalize support.
So we're not quite there yet.

However . . . 

One Simple Trick That Could Get Rid Of Trump . . .

If The Omnivore were advising Trump, the advice would be this: Go For The Throat in the first debate. You'll have time to look like a statesman later--but your base doesn't want a statesman--they want someone who will bust up Jeb Bush's face until he looks like . . .  Harry Reid. The base wants a fighter and if you go up there and be polite that WILL be a "softening of your position" that, The Omnivore assesses, won't pass.

So that's our test case: IFF the Donald is polite and normal in the the first debate THEN we should see his popularity start to decline shortly after. THAT would damage his brand.

Friday, July 31, 2015

A Coming Perfect Storm?

That Boat Could Be The GOP
This post isn't going to be about Trump.

The so-called Perfect-Storm was the meeting of two powerful weather-fronts that created enmorously dangerous (and actually fatal) conditions for the fishing boat that sailed into them.

School's out for summer: Congress has left for August recess and when they return in September they'll have 4 months to get a bunch of stuff straightened out. It just happens to be bad luck that this is going to happen in the middle of what looks to be a hotly contested and over-crowded presidential primary that is happening in conjunction with an escalation in the GOP's internal war.

What's Going On?

There are two major items that need to pass in September: The highway bill (needed infrastructure for American roadways) and continuing to fund the Federal Government (which has a deadline of the end of September). Both of these are, pretty much, no-brainers.

What makes them . . . brainers . . . is that they have become the rope in a tug-of-war against members of the Republican party and against the GOP-controlled Senate and Obama (and congressional Democrats). To whit:
  1. The GOP leadership wanted to reinstate the Export-Import bank and defeated the congressional conservative caucus' attempt to forbid its renewal by attaching an amendment to the highway funding bill. They did this with Democrat support leading Ted Cruz to publicly (and, apparently, shockingly) denounce Mitch McConnell.
  2. Cruz, again (but this time with more of congressional leadership's support), has stated a plan to, again, shut-down the Federal government if congress and Obama don't agree to defund Planned Parenthood.
This comes at a time when:

Know Who This Helps?

Okay, so The Omnivore lied: Trump. The problem with this perfect-storm of September-events is that it exacerbates the conditions that led Trump to first place. If the GOP Establishment backs down on any of that, Trump is still the message telling them to fuck-off. If Ted Cruz fails to shutdown the government he looks ineffective. If he succeeds in doing it--with the GOP behind him, there are three ways this plays out:
  1. Obama gets the blame and caves. This is victory--and it doesn't help Trump. The good news for conservatives is that the Planned Parenthood videos--fraudulent or not--have been well managed and the view most people who see them will see is, in fact, to quote Hillary Clinton: Disturbing. The bad news is that shutting down PP will play into the War On Women narrative and even with the emotional haymaker of the PP-videos, the shooting of Cecil The Lion got all the coverage this week. It's possible that despite most people probably getting a really bad taste from the videos they may find shutting down the government worse. That's what happened with Obamacare, remember?
  2. The GOP-Establishment won't have the fight. In this scenario we get close to a shutdown but instead pass legislation that calls for an investigation or something. This is seen as a total-cave on the part of the GOP-E who has (in a sense) lost their nerve. Cruz goes nuclear--but he's still part of the system. Conservatives defect from the party in large numbers having, now, a place to go: Trump.
  3. The government shuts down and the GOP takes the blame. For a party that has owned government shutdowns for some time--each time a disaster (for them)--it is going to be a hard-sell that this is the time to take the big stand. It looks like shutdowns (either the government, the debt limit,  or DHS) are just how they do business. The Omnivore bets that the GOP-Branding as the shutdown party overrides the righteousness of the PP-issue (and that assumes you even think it's righteous--but let's assume here). In this case it's the worst of all possible worlds: The GOP-E caves eventually and conservatives are both infuriated and damaged. Conservatives, again, move to Trump as, essentially, a rebel leader.

Game Theory and Trump

The problem for the GOP is that until Trump there was no win-condition for defecting from the GOP. In Game Theory and voting the general consensus is that the player (the voter) tries to maximize the power of their vote. This means voting for Romney over Obama, even if you think Romney sucks. When you vote, say, the Constitution party, you are consigning your vote to zero-power (or even a negative) in order to play a different game: sending a message.

The problem is, it's a shitty way to send a message. The GOP concludes, probably rightly, that if they adopted a far-far right-wing party's stance (no more legal Immigration--save for Swedish Swim-Suit-Babes, or something) they would lose more votes than they'd gain. In other words, you're net-drag to them.

Donald Trump changes that dynamic. For one thing, he's still basically, kind of, a Republican. For another thing, he sends a clear message: Throw The Bums Out. Even if he doesn't win the general election, if he wins the nomination, he makes this message loud and clear. Also: if he wins the nomination, your vote in the primary IS maximized. It's a Game-Theory-Win condition for conservatives.

It turns out that's true even if:
  1. He goes squishy on immigration (which he kinda has)
  2. He doesn't have a sane platform
What it would take would be personal humiliation of Trump that transferred to his supporters. Think Perry's "Oops" moment. The problem with Trump is that his "negative-brand" (the bad things people associate with him) are actually positives in his role as an insurgent. His brash nature and outlandish ideas are his strength: For example, he wants to take his personal luxury helicopter to the Iowa fair and give rides to kids--the fair grounds have shut that whole thing down for now ... but can you imagine how cool Iowa voters would find that?

So we'll see--but the combination of GOP Infighting, the prospect of a damaging shutdown, and the rise of Trump are the makings of a potential perfect-storm.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Why the GOP Can't Trump Trump

'Cuckservative' is a white-power term for a white politician who sells out his own race. It's popular with a set of Trump supporters.*
Trump continues to climb in the polls--even after his McCain remarks. John Podhoretz pens The Case For Despair:
No sense pretending: Donald Trump is the only news of the 2016 race, and this fact says something very troubling about the Republican party, the conservative electorate, the mass media culture, and the United States in general. Sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not. Really it’s not.
...
Efforts to figure out how to coopt him and his issues on the part of other Republicans are doomed to failure because it’s not the message that people are attracted to; it’s the messenger. Or, if it is the message, it is a message that cannot be coopted because it is little more than a vile expression of open hatred toward Mexicans in a country where people of Mexican descent make up 11 percent of the electorate. For those who want Trump because of it, anything less than his defamation will strike them as the castrated bleating of what they have started to call a “cuckservative.”
Conservative writer for Hot Air, Jazz Shaw is shocked to find gambling in this establishment:
Did he never read a comment section on his own blog? Of course he did--he just didn't believe what he was reading.

Throwing Fuel On The Fire

A cogent way to deal with Donald Trump would be to try to cool the passions that are driving him. To tone things down--to make a show of party unity and provide some conservative fan-service for the people giving the nod to a candidate who is, frankly, very unlikely to win. So let's see . . .
Okay (and you can read an actual Jewish person writing about it here--what Huckabee is doing is transparent).

Ted Cruz bites the hand that feeds him, attacking McConnell on the floor of the senate--baldly calling him a liar (YOU LIE! Remember that? Conservatives applauded!). McConnell enraged him by adding an Ex-IM bank resurrection plan to the Highway bill--which the House then refuses to take up!

It is worth noting that both Huckabee and Tex Cruz "doubled down" on their attacks--they learned something from Trump: No matter what the back-lash, keep moving forward. Trump showed them that you can never back-down, never compromise, not even in the face of Armageddon (one of Ted Cruz's favorite super-heroes is the uncompromising Rorschach from Watchmen).

Noah Rothman surveys the field and notes: The Chaotic, Backbiting GOP Does Not Look Like a Governing Party:
To some extent, this internal tension is healthy. Only a minority coalition is small enough to ensure that most of its members agree on specific policy proposals. But a Republican Party at war with itself does not look to the persuadable voter like a party that is capable of governing in the executive. The truly independent voters who determine the outcome of national elections don’t care about the Export-Import Bank or the parliamentary machinations that have so roiled conservatives. They care about whether or not they’re handing the levers of power to an undisciplined group of loose cannons and ideologues, and, to a marginally tuned in swing voter, that’s what the GOP looks like today.
You, uh, you don't say, Noah?

Here's an ENTIRELY Unrelated Note

Here's a headline from CNN 12 hours ago: Boy Scouts Change Policy on Gay Leaders.
"On Monday July 27 the national executive board ratified a resolution removing the national restriction on openly gay leaders and employees," Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates said in a video statement on Monday.
How do you think the group of conservatives who are not polling in the top 10 are going to react to this? How do you think the ones who are will react? How do you think Trump will react? Here are the Omnivore's guesses:

  1. Trump will condemn--perhaps not strongly--but he will condemn it since conservatives condemn.
  2. Rick Santorum and others will say something absurd to try to reach the Top Ten (and make the first debate).
  3. Huckabee and other people in the Top Ten will have to out-do the guys beneath them in (a) an attempt to unseat Trump and (b) an attempt to keep the lower-level guys from basket-of-crabing their way to a better position.
We'll see how this plays out. But keep this in mind: for a group that feels that society is falling apart and that the Left is sweeping the field the idea that their preferred candidate will not be a serious social warrior for their cause is a non-starter. No matter how much the Supreme Court has ruled, this battle MUST now be fought--and while talking about gay marriage is toxic in the general election, once anyone starts doing it (Rick Santorum) everyone has to race to the most extreme position available.

But it turns out that no one can go as far as Trump can.

Why The GOP Can't Trump Trump

The reason that the GOP can't outflank or co-opt Trump is because they've been pretending for a long time that their base didn't feel the way they did. Sure, having a horde of angry conservatives was a good way to beat Democrats--to stoke turn-out--to create safe House Districts. It was also a, well, a bit of a problem from time to time (government shutdowns, Todd Akins, and so on).

But mostly it was manageable. The GOP Establishment got Romney nominated and he wasn't an embarrassment. They gained the Senate in one of the lowest turn-out elections in modern history. The Chamber of Commerce was concerned about anti-immigrant sentiment--but, hey: Omelets, Eggs.

The problem comes when The Base feels heard. Ted Cruz, for all his recent dramatics, was a fairly well controlled demon: he could appeal to the GOP Base's appetite for war--but (a) his power was limited and (b) there was only so far he, himself, was willing to go (he voted for the TPP, for example). Cruz wasn't running a scorched earth campaign.

But he is now. He has to. Anyone up against Trump--except maybe Jeb, who is not appealing to The Base--has to. This is because while news like the boy scouts re-alignment continues to dribble in, and real-politik demands that the Senate do things like pass the Iran deal (which may or may not happen--but the vote on this really happened a while back)--and the Highway Bill (needed infrastructure) then conservatives who only see things in terms of pro-Obama or anti-Obama will feel continually defeated and victimized.

The fact that their leaders really cannot protect them from these things has never, ever been explained to them. From every blog-writer and talk-radio host to every Fox News talking head, people who are directly interacting with The Base have told them what they wanted--needed--to hear: that there was hope so long as their leaders were rock-ribbed enough.

They were never told their perspective on governing was basically unworkable. They were never told that the GOP housed some serious racists under its big-tent. This could never be said because it would be fatally wounding. The problem is that now The Base has a champion in Donald Trump: and he's thus far found a way to say exactly what they want to hear. This makes him very, very unpopular with a lot of people--but for an enraged base, they either have to hear it from their leaders--or they'll keep supporting Trump.

And that's the problem: what they want to hear isn't actually a governing solution. What the Mark Levins and Rush Limbaughs of the world (and even to a smaller degree the Jazz Shaws and Noah Rothmans) have been selling is a fantasy of righteous victimization and coming (always coming) dominance when Their Leaders are finally empowered.

Well, that's what Trump is--empowered, conservative (real or not, he's hitting all the right notes)--and now . . . they don't like it.

Who would have thought it??

A Note On Trump 'Raping' His Wife

The Omnivore is pretty sure that the latest Trump-tastrophe of his ex-wife saying she felt violated by him and Trump's lawyer saying "you can't rape your wife" won't bring him down. Why not? Well, folks, two reasons:
  1. Trump didn't say it--and like it or not, that matters. After all, much as we might like to think it would, Obama's pastor saying all kinds of anti-American bullshit didn't bring him down. Voters who like a candidate will dismiss/forgive anything that didn't come directly out of their mouth . . . and even then . . . 
  2. The Omnivore suspects that The Base either agrees that you can't really rape your wife (or, at least, that your wife feeling "violated"--but not in a criminal sense--doesn't count).
In any event, this will be solid gold with the women's vote next November--no matter how it plays out. Especially as The Omnivore thinks that with a non-negligible sub-set of Trump supporters, this window into Trump's gender relations will probably help him.



Friday, July 24, 2015

What To Do About Trump?





Ah you loved me as a loser, but now you're worried that I just might win
You know the way to stop me, but you don't have the discipline
How many nights I prayed for this, to let my work begin
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
-- First We Take Manhattan (Leonard Cohen) 
Politico took a survey of Republican Insiders and asked them (anonymously, of course) if we'd reached "Peak Trump." The answer (for 75%) was "Uh, yes. At least . . . we hope so." Right now that's all anyone can do: Trump is currently unstoppable by any force known to man. It is generally considered that something will happen to him on the way to the nomination--something 'has to'--but it's not clear what that will be right now and it's not clear how much damage he'll do before something gets him.

So what do you do?

Noah Rothman, writing in Commentary, suggested a consolidated top-down frontal assault to push him out. This would include the RNC, the other candidates, and other power-brokers. It was tried. It hasn't worked. Matt Lewis, writing in The Daily Beast, thinks it's down to Rush Limbaugh to "smother" Donald Trump. Limbaugh, though, is more interested in a somewhat nuanced defense of Donald Trump (as an object lesson in not letting The Media dictate the outrage-apology cycle that haunts the GOP)--not knee-capping him.

Lindsey Graham tried mockery. Rick Perry tried calling him a cancer.

Trump's numbers, thus far, have kept going up.

What To Do?

The Omnivore figures he's at least as good a PR-Crisis consultant as Carlos Danger so he's going to tell you what has to be done. Listen up, GOP.

First: What Won't Work

Let's get a few things out of the way first--the "obvious things"--that won't work to make Donald Trump exit the race.

1. No One Will Save You

You must get it out of your head that populist conservative talkshow hosts are going to bring the hammer down on The Donald. This is because until their listeners want to hear it, it won't be popular and they're not going to say it. It's also because Trump is tapped into a vein of popular thought (that Conservatives always lose, always are demonized, always apologize) that these same popular figures draw from as well. They are the original creators of Donald Trump's message. They're not going to tie the tourniquet around their own necks.

2. You Will Not Convince People Trump Is A Democrat

Oh, honey, The Omnivore knows it's unfair--it always is, isn't it? There there. People just aren't buying that the Confederate Battle Flag is a Democrat flag. They aren't even buying that it's heritage-not-hate! They didn't buy that it was Obama's government shutdown for the shutdown. Heck--they didn't even buy it was Obama's DHS shutdown even though Ted Cruz made it clear it was Obama's. People are just dumb.

Of course Trump gave to Hillary--that's a fact, jack. Shouldn't it resonate? Well, yes--but you have to use that pen-light amnesia thing from Men In Black to make everyone forget Mitt Romney standing on the stage with Trump during the 2012 elections. You also need to make Google get rid of that photo of The Donald with a smiling Rick Perry! Of course it's photo-shopped. Look, the shadows don't even line up!
Must Be Faked: Perry With a Noted DEMOCRAT??
It's like all your clever arguments just . . . aren't convincing (remember the Mitt Romney flip-flop video? That didn't seem to end his primary ambitions either--it's almost like . . . voters don't care too much about that. Who knew??).

3. That He 'Can't Win' vs. Hillary Isn't Enough

Look guys, the polling said Mitt Romney couldn't win against Obama and we all still supported him for the nomination (I'm talking to the professional GOP-class, not the base). If polling shows Trump tanking vs. Hillary, why wasn't that argument valid back in 2012? The polling also shows Cruz and Carson losing: Tell them to drop out too.

Nope--the term 'electable' is a dirty one for The Base right now and you should know why (McCain, Romney, for starters).

So What Do You Do?

Right now you have two working positions. The first is hopeful. The second is traumatic.

Option 1: Do Nothing

Trump's popularity in the polls may have peaked--we won't know for a few more days--but whether it has or hasn't, the operational position is the same: Let The Donald Trump All Over The Primaries. Attacking him feeds his ego and gives him credibility with his supporters. Cut it out. Try to ignore him--but also treat him like any other candidate. No one is saying Ted Cruz is a cancer on the Republican party even though he stands for a lot of the same things and even endorsed Trump.

The level of RNC outrage over his McCain statement eclipsed the level of RNC outrage over his Mexicans-are-Rapist statements: Hispanics were pretty tuned into that. You can't herd cats--you can't coordinate messaging--and right now in a hot over-full primary powerful candidates all have a lot of perverse incentives.

Just back away. Declare neutrality. Let the voters decide.

Ahhh . . . but what about brand damage? What about Trump shutting out Marco Rubio? What if you think Walker ain't ready so it better be Jeb? What if you want to give Ted Cruz a fighting chance and with Trump going around he doesn't have the oxygen.

What if you think Trump just might win?

Option 2:  Self Destruct

This is the bad one--but it's the one that will yield the best results. In this case the Republican Party breaks off from its base and becomes a new thing entirely--composed of the people right now who think Jeb and Rubio might be good (and Kaisch)--and consider Walker possibly good--but maybe not-ready to be President. These are people who were (if not publicly) skeptical of Sarah Palin.

Why do this? Well, here's a picture for you:
What YOU Think A Confederate Flag Rally Looks Like
On The Other Hand . . . (That's the Nazi/KKK Confed Flag)
Not convinced? Of course you aren't. Let's do another one. Remember the government shutdown? Remember how it was Obama's fault for not compromising?
That Second 'Barack Obama' Line? That's YOU. Everyone Else Is At The Top.
Also of note, the Not-A-Problem-At-All 24% Orange? That's probably GOP voters too. They were told the "shutdown" was really a "slowdown" after all.

Still not convinced? Well you got all the way here--so not surprising.

This is from the most recent Pew Poll:


The takeaway here is two-fold: Firstly that GOP favorability has tanked in this poll--and secondly that on each issue there was a substantial shift between February of 2015 and July of 2015. The Omnivore has a theory about why this is (note: Gallup shows a similar trend).

The problem is that the GOP is cornered by its base. The Base are the people who, right now are voting for Trump--Trump isn't the disease: he's the symptom. He's the only guy with nothing to lose who can time-after-time tell them what they want to hear--what they have been led to want to hear. It isn't just his never-backing-down: it's also his innate rudeness. He picked McCain as a target--and picked him well. The Base finds McCain the first point in a line of de-evolution that led to two terms of Obama. You couldn't say enough bad things about him.

The Base hates Lindsey Graham. They hate Planned Parenthood. Trump hasn't gone after Ted Cruz. He's barely wasted time on Rick Perry. Trump is a guided weapon by the base. That's why no approach other than letting the fire burn out or detaching them from the party will work. Matthew Continetti, writing at the Free Beacon (Free Bacon!) nails it here:
Our political commentary is confused because it conceives of the Republican Party as a top-down entity. It’s not. There are two Republican parties, an elite party of the corporate upper crust and meritocratic winners that sits atop a mass party of whites without college degrees whose worldviews and experiences and ambitions could not be more different from their social and economic betters. The former party enjoys the votes of the latter one, but those votes are not guaranteed. What so worries the GOP about Donald Trump is that he, like Ross Perot, has the resources and ego to rend the two parties apart. If history repeats itself, it will be because the Republican elite was so preoccupied with its own economic and ideological commitments that it failed to pay attention the needs and desires of millions of its voters. So the demagogue rises. The party splits. And the Clintons win.
Exactly. But the problem is that these non-college Republican whites are now weaponized. Their views are cast in automatic diametric opposition to what they perceive as "the mainstream." This is toxic. It's toxic because there is no sustainable policy or strategy that comes out of it. There can be no repeal of Obamacare so we must have theater. Obama is already bombing ISIS--to destroy them will require boots on the ground--so the candidates must hint at that--without saying it--which looks cowardly. The Confederate Flag is, yes, a symbol of rebellion against the Federal Government--and a lot of these voters appreciate it as such.

It was also the flag of the slave-owning south and as such, it is an imperfect symbol of defiance. It was resurrected in the 40's explicitly to oppose integration and civil rights. Reasonable Republicans know it is tarnished. However, it must still be defended anyway: the GOP cannot wholesale disavow it as this would "break" their Base. They must put up with flag-rallies, some of which are run by literal white supremacists, without nuclear condemnation of them. These play on TV and look, well, bad.
Ted Cruz just now gave a speech on the Senate floor attacking the GOP for operating just like the Democrats. He's Trump-lite: combative--a charging rhino (not a RINO!). The base loved him for it--but even he can't go where Trump does: He doesn't have 10bn to spend. On the other hand, he enacted a toxic strategy that would have eventually lost and done tons more damage if he was allowed to call the shots. He's not the guy you want running the show.

So What Do You Do?

You prepare to lose this cycle--yes, even to Hillary. The idea is to remove the toxins from the party. This will mean carving out a more moderate chunk--it will mean embracing a form of socialized health-care--a true alternative to Obamacare--maybe fixing some of it--but achieving an end-state that is more like Canada than 1950's America.

It will mean embracing diversity--immigration--and African Americans. It will mean doing so in ways that would not go far enough for Ta Nishi Coates--but would at least appeal to him. It will mean recognizing that institutional racism exists--and has been perpetrated by the US Government. It would mean recognizing evolution and climate change.

It will mean recognizing that in the future people who work in the wedding industry will have to serve gay customers. It will mean giving up on the "defense of marriage" all-together.

It might mean some form of gun-control--even if that leads to a slippery slope--even if it makes people enraged.

It'll mean losing in the short-run--but if Donald Trump doesn't suffer a Herman Cain-like polling collapse that'll mean losing too. This provides a recovery plan.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kaisch Straggles In: IS THE DOOR ALREADY SHUT?



Scoring #16, John Kaisch enters the race today. He's a big gun, really. Good resume. Smart guy. Hails from all-important Swing State Ohio. If anyone oughta be a game-changer, it's him.

But He Can't Win!

Yeah ...  FiveThirtyEight says he's running, Huntsman-like, against the base.  He's even got some of the advisers from the former Huntsman team. The problem is he has to win a GOP Primary and he's barely a conservative.
Let's also note that he's just barely showing up anywhere and an announcement bounce doesn't seem to even be getting past the Trump-field. If he can't win with the base (he's pro-Common Core, took the Medicaid expansion, and so forth) he doesn't seem to score nearly as well as Bush with the non-base voters.

Sure, his time in the debates will change that--except he isn't likely to be in the big one.

On The Other Hand . . .
John Kaisch is an underrated candidate. Firstly, he's a best-fit for a lot of the GOP voting blocs that aren't looking at either Trump or Rick Santorum. Secondly, his resume is, really, second to none. While he has some bad stuff in his history (allowing Obamacare in his state) from a right-wing perspective he's likely to match well against Clinton.

That's important: once the serious period of the primaries start, the largest voting bloc (moderates, fiscal conservatives, foreign-policy hawks) will be looking for an electable candidate  . . . and probably one whose last name isn't Bush. Kaisch compares well to first-term Senator Rubio in this regard.

Also, it's probably Kaisch can execute well: Look--Huntsman's campaign was actually pretty well run until he came back from China and ruined it all. So if he has the same guys and a better plan? Who knows. In the case of Kaisch, it hinges on New Hampshire--which is smart: guys like Santorum, Huckabee, and probably Cruz won't have a lot of street-cred there (also: Trump). The competition with other rational moderates will be stark.

If he takes New Hampshire and can get funding . . . he's a good contender.

The Net-Net on Kaisch
Kaisch will only have an impact on the race if things break his way--and he doesn't screw anything up. That could happen--but it probably won't--especially since he's starting so far in the hole and likely won't make the first debate stage.

Conservatives are saying this is a great super-strong field. In some senses that's true--but in other senses it isn't. Forget about Trump, the fact that guys like Huckabee and Carson and Cruz, all of whom are far less quality candidates than Kaisch, are out-polling him dramatically means that while the field has several very strong candidates, the electorate in general isn't interested in quality control.

If Kaisch never catches fire and just fades away, his arc will be further proof of the GOP's reluctance to view statesmanship as a valuable quality in a potential leader.

What IS He Thinking?
He's thinking he should have gotten into the race sooner, is what he's thinking. Maybe in 2012. John Kaisch probably thinks that sharing the stage with the also-rans would be an ignominous beginning-end of his campaign. Sure: he's braced for the long game--but hoping your opponents flame out and that you can somehow capitalize isn't a strategy. What's going on in his brain though?

Let's listen . . .

Dammit--I should have launched this shit earlier. With Trump out there, how am I gonna get my campaign bounce. Maybe I should give him my phone number . . .

Let's see--who am I up against?

Santorum? Pfft. Non-starter. Jindal? He's supposed to be clever. I can't see it. Fiorina? A chick?? Is this what we've come to? Maybe I'll have a beer with Graham after it's over. He'll probably be depressed too. 

. . . I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M BEHIND CHRISTIE!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!!?? Ohh--I despair!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Politics of: Kingsman



You can get Kingsman: The Secret Service through Netflix (or buy the Blu-Ray if you're into that). It's the Kick-Ass team's take on the James Bond . . . or Jason Bourne . . . or, you know, maybe Jack Bauer genre of super-spies. It's just turned up to 11. Or maybe 12.

The first part of this review will be a regular review. The second part assumes you have seen it.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman introduces to a world of super-spies well beyond even the most unrealistic Bonds or Bournes. These are bullet-dodging, horde-of-badguy fighting, secret weapon-laden super-agents who work for a mysterious "private" intelligence firm--and dress impeccably. The main character, however, isn't one of these spies--he's a British kid from the wrong side of the tracks.

It turns out his dad, however, may have had a connection to the Kingsman agency and when he makes contact with his past, he becomes entangled with the world-spanning espionage plotline.

For that, there's a super-villain with a dastardly plan that could destroy the world and his deformed/disabled henchwoman (in the tradition of Bond henchmen) who gives us a real reason to call someone who uses those prosthetic feed a "Blade Runner."

The movie is so far over the top it achieves escape velocity and takes flight in an odd orgy of ultra-violence, excellent fashion, and enough of the super-spy tropes to make you surprised when it breaks some of the rules.

Kingsman is undoubtedly high energy. Its cast including a very buff Colin Frith, a very likable Taron Egerton, and a very, very foul-mouthed Sam Jackson. The cast--including a lot of excellent secondary roles does more than enough heavy-lifting to keep the movie afloat even when it moves into head-scratching "What the heck am I watching??" space.

Its creators wanted to make an updated Bond movie in the way that Spielberg took the serial adventure stories of his youth and collapsed them into a single modern artifact: Raiders of the Lost Ark. In this, it's largely successful. The movie has a lot to say (well, kinda) about class distinctions--especially around dress--and the crew got some of the most famous designers to fashion the Kingsman clothing-line. They did a good job: those guys look awesome in their bespoke suits.

The rest of the movie looks good too with its parkour action-scenes and fast, brutal gun-play and fist fights that are well choreographed and exciting to watch. Like Mad Max, Kingsman keeps its action always in the middle of the screen to be easier to follow when things get fast and complicated. This works for it: the battles have a crispness that, for example, Batman and some Bourne movies totally ignore, leaving you sometimes wondering what exactly is going on.

Kingsman is a success as a film so long as you don't mind a ton of graphic violence, a story-line that sometimes seems off the rails (Did all those people just . . . actually die?) and periodically goes in for the 14-year-old humor.

Let's do the politics!

The Politics of: Kingsman

Kingsman gets credit for being specifically/explicitly conservative (The Guardian: Kingsman is the most conservative comedy this century). This is because (a) the villain is fighting Global Warming and (b) Barack Obama (unnamed--but it's clearly him) sides with the villain and then dies with an exploding head. Vox.com does a surprisingly good job of working out why the politics of Kingsman, such as they are, are a mess.

Is it really conservative though? RedState doesn't quite think so:
More importantly, though, there’s been an almost complete absence of explicit praise from the movie on the right, which is because the movie isn’t conservative, at least in any meaningful sense. Kingsman is a delightfully and deliberately over-the-top romp that skewers everyone and everything in its path (including especially global warming alarmists) – a task that is somehow made all the more hilarious by the staid performance of Collin Firth as the film’s lead. However, the movie never questions the assumption that global warming is real or that it is caused by man, and it contains no conservative message, as such. It has, essentially, been mistakenly labeled as conservative by some for the same essential reason that South Park is often erroneously labeled as conservative – it depends for its success on a skillfully executed irreverence that catches in its scattershot both liberal and conservative sacred cows.
So, is RedState right? The Guardian? Vox?

The Truth About Kingsman: It's Conservative

The fact is that RedState is wrong about Kingsman not being conservative. Yes, true, it does not make concrete conservative points--and is somewhat 'even handed' in its targets (it brutally kills off the Westboro Baptist Church, for example). The place that RedState gets it wrong is that today conservatism is only part ideology. It's also a big part 'Tribal Identity.' Yes: to be a movie with substantial conservative thought it would need to take sides on whether global warming is real, caused by man, and so on--but that isn't what the movie is interested in.

No, it goes straight to the Tribal Identity part of the conservative complex. This is important: movies today either have stalwart black presidents, old-guy central-casting white presidents, or heroic stand-ins for Obama. To have the real Obama, having him turn evil, and kill him off is crossing all kinds of cinematic red lines in the clearest possible way.

Secondly, the film doesn't need to actually ask if global warming is real or whatever: it goes straight to the "Gaia Worshipers Want To Kill Us All" final solution. This is damning whatever the case is: Jackson is clearly evil. His plan is clearly deranged. It makes no difference what the truth behind it is--anything is better than what Jackson plans.

Jackson also implicates the Hollywood Elite. Yes, he's playing a tech-billionaire (also implicated. Silicon Valley is pretty liberal, generally speaking) but he is also Sam Jackson--an actor. He presents himself more or less in an iconic role here as the billionaire crusader from Los Angeles (who hobnobs with movie-stars and European royalty).  He uses a craven intellectual professor (also "the elite") as a foil. This is hitting all the markers.

What Kingsman lacks in ideology, it makes up for in identity politics. There's a reason it resonated well with conservative audiences--and enraged lefties. It's a textbook example of good conservative film-making. It also shows how the populist effect we're seeing driving, for example, Trump (and before then, Palin) plays out in entertainment.