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

Restarting


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.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Great Changes in Progress; Part I

Introduction

After I posted Part I it occurred to me that this needed some kind of introduction so any reader might understand where I am going. I think great changes are coming to our country, some of which are already underway. What follows is my thoughts about these changes, starting with some history. This history is not intended to be all inclusive. It is all from my memories of the times unless I have provided a link. I am starting with the 1960s because this is the time I entered adulthood. Some of the trends had been in progress for many years before, but 1960 seems as good a point to start as any.

I do not know whether anyone is interested in my thoughts. I am doing this as an exercise for myself. But readers and comments are welcome. If you think I have made a factual error, please let me know and I will correct it if I agree.

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When I sat down to write the reflections after my 75th birthday, I first read those comments posted after my 74th, and determined that in that year, not much had changed.

Upon further reflection, I realize that that is not true. We are undergoing great changes in our country, culturally and politically. As an old timer, that is a bit unsettling.

I suppose every generation as it reaches elderhood thinks the younger generations have lost their minds, or is getting off the track, or are failing somehow. Mine is probably no different.

My thought today is that we have failed the younger generations.....our children and grandchildren. We have failed them both in our actions and our inactions.

My cohort (which is pre-baby boomer) had a great childhood. America was ascendant, everyone that wanted to work had jobs, and although the Cold War was in progress, and we had the "police action" in Korea, we had relative peace at home.

That world ended on November 23, 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. From that date, it seemed that the world we had known simply fell apart.

We had already gotten committed in Viet Nam, and that commitment soon escalated, even though there was no broad public support for the war. This of course led to the anti-war protests, which gradually escalated throughout the decade and beyond until the end of the war.

This was paralleled by the great civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and others. Although peaceful, this movement too frequently incited violence from die-hard segregationists.

Through the 1960s and well into the 1970s, these two movements led to a great deal of civil unrest throughout the country.

At the same time, our culture rapidly changed. The old social mores were thrown out, and license took their place. A revolution took place in our music, language and in sexual relationships. The Baby Boomers really fundamentally altered our society as they came of age.

With these revolutions came the beginnings of some really harmful trends. Divorce rate soared, as did the number of out of wedlock births. The concept of family began to fall apart, abetted by the welfare requirement that made a household ineligible if there was a man in the house. This latter requirement virtually destroyed the African American family and did significant harm to other groups as well.

All of the social and cultural trends remain in place today.

The economy has also seen great changes which stem from events and policies that began in the 1960s.

When Lyndon Johnson escalated the war in Viet Nam, he also began the War on Poverty. Nobody likes poverty, but LBJ determined that he was going to wage both of those very expensive wars without raising the necessary revenue to even start to pay for them. He would borrow the money.

This, of course, was very inflationary. Theretofore, the Bretton Woods Agreement had made the US dollar the world's reserve currency, used in all international trade. Other governments could freely convert the dollars they held into gold from the US Treasury.

The "guns and butter" approach by LBJ left the US with huge deficits, both fiscal and in trade, and other nations, particularly Switzerland and France, began to convert their dollars to gold. This forced Nixon, in 1971, to close the gold window, essentially ending to Bretton Woods Agreement, and detaching the dollar from gold. This made the dollar a purely fiat currency. It has also led to very large changes in the nation's economy which have been very costly.

More in Part II.

Great Changes in Progress, Part II

We left Part I with the end of the gold standard. This was the pivotal point in this history as will be shown.

1972 brought the election, and Watergate. The Viet Nam War was still in progress, with the attendant demonstrations and domestic violence from the anti-war crowd. With Nixon's re-election, he was able, at least some what, to pacify Viet Nam, and our troops were pretty rapidly with drawn, leaving a viable, but needy South Vietnamese government in charge, dependent upon American aid to be viable.

At the same time, shocks in the economy were constant, a result of the abandonment of the gold standard and a de facto devaluation of the dollar. OPEC caused oil prices to skyrocket, and the result was inflation throughout the economy.

The entire remainder of the decade saw inflation and a stagnant economy. This was commonly called "stagflation."

The 1970s was not a good decade for the United States. Stagnation, inflation, scandal dominated the scene. Viet Nam was ultimately lost when Congress pulled the aid from the South Vietnamese government, which promptly fell to the North, rendering the 52,000 American live lost purposeless.

We continued to have high inflation and energy woes through the end of the decade.

One may now ask why the gold standard was so important. What that did was require the US Government to exercise some fiscal restraint or face losing our gold. Without the convertibility, the government and the Federal Reserve had the ability to spend and print money as they wished, without an immediate apparent penalty, even though there would be an invisible penalty. Politicians love that kind of money availability, for they can then spend their way to re-election after re-election. And they did.

One thing that occurred in the overall economy was the beginning of the financialization of it. Manufacturing jobs began their decline, and Wall Street began to grow in power and influence. Money was "free" more or less.

And the invisible penalty began to be paid. Inflation adjusted earnings for men age 25 and up peaked in 1972, just as the gold standard was axed and the dollar devalued. They have never recovered to that point. Only the top quintile has done better, and particularly the top 5%. And these latter groups do better only when you count the households, not individuals.

We heard a lot about the "misery index" back in those days. Voters tended to hold the politicans responsible for that, and they were certainly partly to blame, but the Federal Reserve had the power to rein in the excesses, but failed to do so.

The president being forced to appoint a tough Chairman of the Federal Reserve marked the end of the decade. Paul Volcker would, in 1980, bring inflation to it knees. And that is where we will start Part III.