Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What's Behind the Trump Surge

For months, pundits have been adamant that Donald Trump's poll numbers were an aberration; that sooner or later he would come down to Earth as other, more mainstream Republicans made their case to the base. However, six months in and not only are Trump's numbers still holding, it is now looking very much like the nomination is his to lose. Only Ted Cruz appears to be a credible threat to him.

So why is Donald Trump so popular among the Republican base? How is it that someone so myopic, insular, xenophobic and misogynistic has such a commanding lead in what was supposed to be a wide field? In my opinion it comes down to four factors.

One, the electorate has had it up to here with Washington. The prevailing sentiment is that the political system is broken and the establishment leaders are useless and corrupt. This didn't just happen overnight; it took decades for us to get here and, contrary to many, the contempt isn't just coming from the Right. The Left's love affair with Bernie Sanders underscores progressives distrust with their own party. Some of the comments on social media regarding Hillary Clinton mirror almost to a T what many conservatives are saying about Jeb Bush.

Two, the Great Recession of 2008 created a groundswell of unrest within the country as millions of people were hit hard, while the culprits who caused the crisis got away with golden parachutes. In my opinion, it was a tragic mistake for Democrats and the Obama Administration to turn a deaf ear to the chorus of disenfranchised voters; voters who later found solace in, of all things, the Republican Party. While the GOP never fully understood this movement, it nonetheless coopted it and rode it all the way to a 2010 midterm wave victory. The Tea Party, as it became known, is now the most dominant political movement in the country and thoroughly dominates the Republican Party.

Three, the country is at a crossroads. As society becomes more and more diverse and pluralistic, some people feel threatened. The world as they know it is rapidly coming to an end and that has lead to a great deal of resentment among them. While the election of Barack Obama was an historic event to many, to them it was a nightmare come true. The row over immigration reform has little to do with Mexicans breaking the law; rather it stems from the perceived treat a growing Hispanic community poses to a predominantly white country. Trumps campaign slogan "Make America Great Again" is code for turning back the clock and restoring the hegemony his supporters crave most.

Four, let's face it, like him or despise him, Donald Trump is a master manipulator who has tapped into a vein like a skilled surgeon; a filthy-rich skilled surgeon. As Stephen Colbert said in an interview on CBS's Face the Nation, "I have a respect for Trump for knowing who the real audience is, that if you really want to win you got to get the people. There's a populism to Trump that I find very appealing. And it's only this: that the party elders would like him to go away but the people have decided that he is not going to." No one who has followed his career should be remotely surprised at the success he is having. He is putting on a clinic. Win or lose the general election, he has forever changed the rules for how future campaigns will be run.

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure anyone can stop this freight train that Donald Trump is riding. It isn't just dyed in the wool conservatives who are infatuated with him. His appeal cuts across several demographics. While Hillary Clinton would have the advantage in a head to head match up against him, it wouldn't be a huge advantage. In football parlance, she'd be a three point favorite, nothing more.  Ask any football oddsmaker and they'll tell you, three points is nothing.

If progressives carry out their threat and stay home rather than vote for Hillary, Donald Trump could well be sitting in the Oval Office come 2017.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz: The GOP Ticket From Hell

Don't Look now, but Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are running neck and neck in the Iowa polls. Depending on which poll you look at it, it's either Trump or Cruz at the top. Everyone else is a distant third, including Marco Rubio, who was supposed to be the boy wonder, but has been stuck in the low to mid teens, and Ben Carson, who is finding out what Herman Cane found out four years ago, that even among Republican voters you have to seem like you know what you're talking about. Once more, Ben, Hummus is a food, Hamas is a terrorist group. Got it?

In a way, Trump and Cruz are a perfect match. I call them 1A and 1B. Trump has managed to galvanize the xenophobic racists within the Republican Party, which apparently comprise a substantial portion of the base. Cruz's ascendancy in the polls over the last couple of weeks is owed almost directly to his appeal among the conservative evangelical mob, the other substantial portion of the base. Taken together, the two now have approximately half of the vote locked up. Both are rabid antiestablishment, which is essential to any candidate looking to win the nomination. After nominating RINOs in the last two elections, the base has about had it.  This time around they're demanding the real mccoy.

Never mind that neither of these two Neanderthals stands an ice cube's chance in hell of winning a national election. All that matters is the blind rage that is driving the base of the Republican Party. While Trump is responsible for the lion's share of it, Cruz is hardly an innocent babe. Let's not forget, he rode the Tea Party wave in 2010 and is responsible for some of the most inflammatory rhetoric of the campaign, some of which he's directed at his own party, including his favorite whipping boy: Mitch McConnell. He's despised by almost as many Republicans as Democrats.

But Cruz on his best day couldn't hold a candle to the Fuhrer: the Donald. In case you didn't catch his latest rally, he's calling for a complete ban on ALL Muslims entering the country. In a move that would make Hitler proud, he further announced he would go after the families of all Muslims he suspected of being terrorists.

"At least I would go after the wives who absolutely knew it was happening, and I guess your definition of what I'd do, I'm going to leave that to your imagination."

Well at least he isn't proposing they wear arm bands. At this point nothing Trump says seems to hurt him. Indeed, just the opposite. The more offensive he sounds, the more popular he becomes. I actually believe if Trump came out for the mass extermination of all Muslims, gays and Mexicans, he could wrap up the nomination tomorrow.

We are living in perilous times these days. There is a wave of nativism that is slowly gaining traction within the country. Many people are frightened and frightened people often react against their best interests. That someone like Donald Trump could rise to the top of the polls, even within the Republican Party, is a sign that something is terribly wrong.

It wasn't that long ago that people like Trump were dismissed as being mindless demagogues. Now he's eight weeks away from winning Iowa. If he wins New Hampshire, and he currently leads there, he might very well be unstoppable. And with Cruz as his running mate next fall, every wingnut in America will be in their glory.

Some people may think this is a huge joke. I happen to think it's shameful.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Nothing's Changed. We're Still Screwed

Let's get one thing straight. What happened in San Bernardino was no 9/11.  Yes, it was a terrorist attack, but it pales in comparison to what happened that fateful September morning fourteen years ago.

While the FBI continues to search for clues as the exact motivation behind this mass murder, this much is certain. Young Muslims are being radicalized everywhere in the world, INCLUDING the United States. It matters not whether the total is a few dozen or a few hundred. The fact is it is happening and we'd better start doing something about it or we can expect more of these attacks.

There is enough blame to go around here. Let's face it, the Obama Administration completely botched Syria. The whole red line in a sand fiasco, while not on the same scale as the Iraq invasion under Bush, nevertheless will go down as one of the all-time screw ups in American foreign policy. Every effort should've been made to depose Basher al-Assad and aid the Syrian rebels. Obama's desire to avoid another Libya and not embroil the U.S. in a potential quagmire blew up in his face. The U.S. is now in the process of having to deal with two very bad decisions: one by Bush to topple Saddam Hussein and the other by Obama not to topple Assad. One hundred eighty degrees from wrong is still wrong.

Another tactical error by the Administration is this reluctance not to use the term radical Islam. While I understand to some extent the need not to give ISIS and other terrorist groups the satisfaction of claiming Islam for their own, it is absolutely ridiculous to refer to them as mere thugs as he has done repeatedly. With all due respect, Mr. President, Tony Soprano was a thug. These people are terrorists who represent a very extreme and conservative view of Islam. They are not just a few rotten apples in the midst of an otherwise healthy orchard; they comprise a significant percentage of Middle-Eastern Muslims who share that same world view. It is high time you and your administration wake up to that fact.

But now we come to the real culprits in all this: our good buddies over at the GOP. Just a couple of days after the attack in San Bernardino, Ted Cruz held a Second Amendment rally in Iowa. You heard right. Fourteen people are executed gang style and conservatives' favorite poster child holds a rally in support of guns for everyone. I'd say unbelievable, but sadly it's quite believable.

And while shit-for-brains was pissing on the good people of San Bernardino, Republicans in the Senate managed to pass a bill. No it wasn't a bill to close the loophole that allows terrorists to purchase guns. We can't have any of that. No, this bill was to defund Obamacare and it was passed through reconciliation, meaning it only needed 51 votes to get through. Well, I'm glad to see the GOP has its priorities in order.

This entire political party is the laughing stock of the country. Donald Trump is leading in the polls to capture the nomination, followed by Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. Seriously, I got nothing. The party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower has now become the party of Moe, Larry and Curly.

The mass shooting in San Bernardino was the 355th such shooting this year. That's right. We've had more mass shootings in this country this year than we've had days. And this trend is likely to continue, so long as the NRA owns the GOP and, sadly, quite a few Democrats. The truth is if you live in this country, you are six time more likely to get shot than if you lived in Canada.

In other words, we're screwed!