Monday, October 3, 2016

The Trump Phenomenon------Falling Into the Trap

After he had lost a lot of momentum after the conventions by taking on the Khans and other errors, Trump got things back together. He did very well most of August and into September, gaining momentum back and even edging past Hillary Clinton in a number of the polls.

The came the debate. It was watched by around 90 million Americans. It was Trump's opportunity to really put Hillary away.

Of course, everyone knew the debate was going to be set up for Hillary, and Trump should have known it as well, and prepared for it. Instead, he was an amateur and did not do the hours of preparation necessary.

The moderator, of course, did not ask Trump important questions. Instead Trump was asked about completely inconsequential things like birtherism and tax returns. Trumps answers were off the cuff and unprepared....just as one might expect from an amateur. There was no effort to turn the questions back on the moderator as he probably should have done.

On the other side, Hillary was asked softball questions that allowed her to give canned responses consisting of the age old Democratic gobbledygook that they have been saying for decades without there ever having been any positive change. Trump was unable to really inject himself into that side of the debate.

This gave the advantage to Hillary, and she ran with it. She clearly was the "winner" of the debate.

The most important part of the debate from her standpoint was that she was able to lay a trap for Trump by asking him about "Miss Piggy." Trump fell for it. This move got Hillary inside Trump's OODA Loop just like he got inside the loops of so many of his Republican opponents in the primaries

Not only did he fall into the trap, like with the Khans, he kept doubling down on the issue instead of moving on. It became the "news" on the mainstream media for a week or more.

Trump lost all of the momentum and gains he had made. He is now back to the post convention situation with a lost lead and lost momentum......and just a bit over a month to go.

There are two more debates. Trump has to take them seriously and prepare while still getting out and campaigning. He also needs to get off Twitter. It only makes him appear to be not serious.

Can he do it? Maybe. There will be a lot more attacks on him from all directions. Will his ego and nature allow him to respond properly, or will he over do the response?

He is doing a lot of advertising into the election as he should. Most of the ads seem effective, but will be only if they are well placed and reach enough undecided voters.

This is an election between two very flawed candidates, one a rank amateur in politics and the other an experienced, hardened politician with a very shady, perhaps even criminal, background.

Who will win?

It is pretty easy to see who will lose.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Trump Phenomenon.......Reality Strikes

As noted before, Donald J. Trump achieved the Republican nomination for President while breaking almost all of the rules for politicians that have been developed over history.

Having done so, he failed to recognize that once he was nominated, the strategy and tactics used during the primaries would no longer work. Once he got in the big arena, the mainstream media put him in their sights, and proceeded to parse every word he said and use them to beat him up.

And he provided them plenty of ammunition in the first weeks. It cost him a month in which the media and the Democrat they serve did their best to brand him however they wanted. In those weeks, his poll numbers fell accordingly. No surprise there.

In August, he has seemed to get things under better control, and he has stopped making the undisciplined statement and tweets that we saw during the primaries. This appears to have helped with the poll numbers.

To have a chance of winning the election, he is going to have to get the branding the media and his opponent have done to him reversed. This is difficult to do now. One cannot do it with rallies, however well attended. There he is preaching to the choir.

To reach the biggest part of the electorate, he is going to have to do it with media. During the primaries, he got free media from everyone. Now, only Fox and a few others report on him positively. The rest of the media, best described as Democrat operatives with bylines will only report him in a very negative way.

That means he will have to buy advertising, and therefore do a lot of fundraising. He has taken some pride in self funding much of his campaign so far, though he has been raising money since the nomination.

He will need to do much more in order to buy the advertising he will need.

Perhaps his biggest issue from the beginning has been illegal immigration. During the primaries, he was able to get by with generalizations. We are going to deport all illegals is very easy to say, and appealing to many, but again ugly reality raises its head.

Trying to deport 12 million illegals immediately is just impossible to do. Even if that is what is wanted, the resources to do so do not exist, nor will they. We have a system of laws in place that deal with the procedures for doing so, and although they are not being used by the current administration they would have to be followed by a Trump administration. The hope that the laws could be changed to facilitate mass deportation is not justified because Democrats would filibuster it in the Senate even if Republicans would pass it.

Trump appears to have realized that, and is modifying the policy a bit. We do not know how much change there would be, but he has said that he would follow the law. That is at least something that Democrats have failed to do for many years.

Some Trump supporter will be critical of any change, but my view is that the change is necessary and proper. Of course, many of those critics are people who would drive the bus over the cliff to stand for "principle." A good leader would not do that.

Trump is meeting today with Enrique Pena Nieto, the President of Mexico, in what is a very interesting development. That will be followed shortly with what is billed as a speech giving details about his immigration policy going forward. These things could very well make or break his candidacy.

Whatever he says and does today, Trump must face the reality that in order to get his ideas into the body politic, he cannot rely on the media for free publicity. He has to raise the money and buy ads.

So, we will see how it goes.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Trump Phenomenon-----The Conversationalist

In my 58 year experience in politics, I have found that one thing that is learned by practicing politicians is to be careful and precise in the language used in a campaign. If one does not, then the candidate leaves oneself open to misconstruction of what is said. And opponents will leap at the opportunity.

The prior two posts talk about how Donald Trump has broken all of the rules of politics, and yet he has emerged as the nominee of the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States. Given the circumstances, that is an amazing feat for someone who is clearly a novice at retail politics.

Once he secured the nomination, he needed to pivot a bit away from the style of campaign he had been running. During the primaries, the media really gave him a lot of exposure that other Republican candidates didn't get. The reason, of course, is that the media is almost entirely Democratic, and they viewed Trump as the easiest for their candidate to beat.

Prior to the nomination, Trump's approach to the campaign was more conversational than a prepared group of talking points. When he spoke, it was right off the top of his head. He talked more like he was having a conversation at a cocktail party (after a couple of hours of drinking). His statements were broad and imprecise. He got away with it because the press let him.

Trump's big mistake has been not realizing that the minute he got the nomination, the press would turn on him with great vigor. He should have seen it coming, but he clearly did not.

Instead of turning his attention toward Hillary and Obama, the morning after he attacked Ted Cruz. Then he gets involved with criticizing the Khans.

He has not seen yet that he must have some discipline over his mouth or let the media destroy him. They will happily do so, and are proceeding with that as I write.

Every undisciplined thing he says will be parsed, misconstrued, and misquoted by almost every media outlet in the world.

Get smart, Mr. Trump. Put a governor on your mouth. Get on message and stay there. Let petty stuff go. You are on the big stage now. Act like it, or you will make Hillary Clinton the next President of the United States.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Trump Phenomenum----Breaking the Rules

It has been a year since Donald Trump announced for the presidency. In that year he has gone from being laughed at for thinking he could actually win to being at least the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. Amazing.

How did he do it? Certainly not in a conventional way. In fact, he broke many of the "rules" for running for office.

My first experience in politics was in 1958, when a student in college. Since then I have been engaged in politics, though I am retired now. As a candidate in eight elections and an active participant in many other campaigns, there were certain rules that one learned the follow.

The first was "money is the mother's milk of politics." In other words, money, and raising a lot of it, is usually the key to winning. Advertising is costly, and has grown even more so as the years go by. As the population has risen, advertising has become more and more the only way to reach most voters. This is why our elected officials spend so much time fund raising. Money provides them the power.

Though not completely, Trump has ignored this rule for the most part. Self funding, with some money volunteered, has financed his campaign to date. He has done very little advertising, and none in the major media. Instead, he worked the media, freely giving interviews to all comers. He has held rallies, but no ad buys.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has raised nearly $200 million, and has already reserved large ad buys for the general election.

The second rule that one learns early on in politics is "you don't pick a fight with someone that buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton." Of course, that refers back to an earlier time before the electronic media became so dominant, but the point remains the same. Don't fight the media. They can kill you if they want.

Trump, of course, has ignored that rule as well. Every speech I have heard, he has taken on the media, even though they gave him all of the free publicity. Now that he is the presumptive nominee of the GOP, most of the media has now turned on him, and will demonize him as best they can. I suspect it will make what they did to Sarah Palin look mild in comparison.

Another rule in politics is that "you have to go along to get along." That essentially means that you don't fight the party establishment or its powerful members if you want to be successful.

Trump, of course, has done the opposite. He has turned the party establishment on their collective ears. He has apparently won the nomination having done that.

That has embittered most of them, and they continue to oppose him. That means that although he beat them in the primaries, they can still deny him the election. We will just have to wait and see.

In any event, I believe this at least marks the beginning of the end of the Republican Party as it has been. It can either morph into a broader based party with considerably less influence by its old establishment, or go the way of the Whigs.

What Trump has done is hit a real nerve with a large segment of the population. Bernie Sanders has hit much the same nerve, with just a different constituency. Americans have grown tired of the "business as usual" in Washington.

It remains to be seen if enough of them vote to change it.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Trump Phenomenon and the GOP

A year ago when I was contemplating this year's election and the race for the GOP nomination, we were considering a host of candidates: governors, senators, and the like. The GOP field looked wide and deep. Everyone was confident that the GOP would nominate one of those traditional politicians and have a very strong chance to win the presidency.

What a difference a year makes. In June, billionaire Donald Trump burst on the scene, surprising everyone.

Within weeks, Trump had sucked the air out of many of the traditional politicians' campaign. His media savvy and celebrity left little room for other candidates who were less well funded. Soon, one by one, they began to drop out.

Few really took Mr. Trump seriously in those days. It was just an instant  sort of thing and he would fade when faced with actual campaigning. Nobody really wanted to take him on. Those that did almost immediately regretted it.

Then he started winning. Not only was he winning, but he got a pretty good lead. Suddenly, the depleted band of politicians in the race took notice. So did the Republican establishment after most of their favorites bit the dust.

For the last two months there has been a concerted effort by the establishment and their PACs, the remaining candidates and their PACs, and the media to stop Trump, whatever it may take. No holds barred.

This barrage has seeming slowed the Trump bandwagon, and certainly has a chance to derail him. It will be close.

So what has caused this phenomenon? It is really easy to tell. He burst on the scene with issues that a lot of voters are very concerned about, but which got short shrift from the establishment Republicans.

Illegal immigration and the need to secure our borders.

The harm that unfettered free trade has done to our manufacturing base and its now unemployed workers.

The weakened military and as an adjunct, the total failure to provide good care for our veterans.

These issues and others resounded with a lot of voters across the political spectrum. They turned out for Trump at rallies and at the polls. The befuddled GOP just could not see what anyone could see in a brash, egotistic, non politically correct rich guy like Trump.

I think that what they saw was someone, anyone, who would stand up for the issues they were interested in and thought were vital. That is pretty simple.

Too simple for politicians who have spent their careers coddling the people who provided them money, and therefore power. Too simple for politicians who are more interested in their own welfare and that of their donors instead of the welfare and interests of the voters who elected them.

Trump is very clearly not a politician, and is woefully unprepared to make a traditional political campaign. It is almost as if he did it on a lark, and then was surprised by the outpouring of support from the grassroots voters. He has had no plan, no "ground game." The fact that he continues to do well in many jurisdictions is amazing to me.

The entire array of political forces are against him, yet he continues to win. Perhaps it is time for those forces to ask themselves why that is happening.

The Republican Party has utterly failed to deliver on promises made. The people have elected them to make changes in Washington, yet the leadership continues down the same old path of taking care of the money people and letting the rest of their voters go.

So we get Trump. It is amazing to me to see the forces arrayed against Trump, and wonder whether those same forces arrayed against Obama and the Democrats with the same aggression might have made a Trump unlikely.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


After a year and a half absence, I had the idea I should put my thoughts on things down, so I hunted up my old blog, and here I am.

The grand project that I was writing just kind of petered out. It occurred to me that every decade was much the same, except it kept getting worse.. So I lost my momentum.....and my interest in the subject. My apologies.

What is now occurring in our body politic is rather extraordinary, and I hope to put down some ideas about it over the next while.

I will refer back to my blog on June 15, 2014. In that post I mentioned the problem with money in politics, and pointed out that nobody seemed to care as long as they got their "stuff."

Obviously, this year people have started to care about the two parties and their directions. A lot of Democrats want a lot more stuff, so we have Bernie Sanders doing well. On the other hand, voter on the Republican side are tired of sending people to Congress to change things and having them stymied by the old order, or co-opted by it. So we have Donald Trump.

This will provide plenty to muse about the rest of the year.

But enough for today. It's nap time.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Great Changes, Delayed

I started a series called Great Changes in Progress a while back intending to bring the discussion decade by decade to the present. Unfortunately, that has been delayed a bit. My sweet bride has been having a bout with breast cancer.  Mammograms, biopsies, two surgeries, and she will start radiation treatments next week.

The cancer was ductile in situ, meaning we caught it early before it was able to spread, and the second surgery assured us as much as possible that all of the tumor has been removed. So we are very thankful to say the least. The radiation should take care that it does not recur.

As a result, the continuation of the series will have to await the time when I can get my mind back on it.

I do intend to finish it. For what it will be worth.