Today’s New York Times features the erudite moderate Republican/Conservative columnist, David brooks, offering an even more chilling assessment of Donald Trump than I would have expected. This Blog has been too busy watching but not commenting on events to do justice to the substance of the strangest presidential race in modern memory. But that will change.



CreditDamon Winter/The New York Times

Does anybody else have the sense that Donald Trump is slipping off the rails? His speeches have always had a rambling, free association quality, but a couple of the recent ones have, as the Republican political consultant Mike Murphy put it, passed from the category of rant to the category of full on “drunk wedding toast.


Trump’s verbal style has always been distinct. He doesn’t really speak in sentences or paragraphs. His speeches are punctuated by five- or six-word jabs that are sort of strung together by connections that can only be understood through chaos theory: “They want the wall … I dominated with the evangelicals … I won in a landslide … We can’t be the stupid people anymore.”


Occasionally Trump will attempt a sentence longer than eight words, but no matter what subject he starts the sentence with, by the end he has been pulled over to the subject of himself. Here’s an example from the Mike Pence announcement speech: “So one of the primary reasons I chose Mike was I looked at Indiana, and I won Indiana big.” There’s sort of a gravitational narcissistic pull that takes command whenever he attempts to utter a compound thought.


Trump has also always been a little engine fueled by wounded pride. For example, writing in BuzzFeed, McKay Coppins recalls the fusillade of abuse he received from Trump after writing an unflattering profile (he called Mar-a-Lago a “nice, if slightly dated, hotel”).


Trump was so inflamed he tweeted retaliation at Coppins several times a day and at odd hours, calling him a “dishonest slob” and “true garbage with no credibility.” The attacks went on impressively for over two years, which must rank Coppins in the top 100,000 on the list of people Donald Trump resents.

Over the past few weeks these longstanding Trump patterns have gone into hyperdrive. This is a unique moment in American political history in which the mental stability of one of the major party nominees is the dominating subject of conversation.


Everybody is telling Trump to ratchet it down and be more sober, but at a rally near Cincinnati this month and in his Pence announcement speech on Saturday, Trump launched his verbal rocket ship straight through the stratosphere, and it landed somewhere on the dark side of Planet Debbie.


The Pence announcement was truly the strangest vice-presidential unveiling in recent political history. Ricocheting around the verbal wilds for more than twice as long as the man he was introducing, Trump even refused to remain onstage and gaze on admiringly as Pence flattered him. It was like watching a guy lose interest in a wedding when the bride appears.


The structure of his mental perambulations also seems to have changed. Formerly, as I said, his speeches had a random, free-form quality. But on Saturday his remarks had a distinct through line, anchored by the talking points his campaign had written down on pieces of paper. But Trump could not keep his attention focused on this through line — since the subject was someone else — so every 30 seconds or so he would shoot off on a resentment-filled bragging loop.


If you had to do a rough diagram of the Trump remarks it would be something like this: Pence … I was right about Iraq … Pence … Hillary Clinton is a crooked liar … I was right about “Brexit” … Pence … Hillary Clintons ads are filled with lies … We’re going to bring back the coal industry … Christians love me … Pence … I talk to statisticians … Pence is good looking My hotel in Washington is really coming along fantastically … Pence.


Donald Trump is in his moment of greatest triumph, but he seems more resentful and embattled than ever. Most political conventions are happy coronations, but this one may come to feel like the Alamo of aggrieved counterattacks.


It’s hard to know exactly what is going on in that brain, but science lends a clue. Psychologists wonder if narcissists are defined by extremely high self-esteem or by extremely low self-esteem that they are trying to mask. The current consensus seems to be that they are marked by unstable self-esteem. Their self-confidence can be both high and fragile, so they perceive ego threat all around.


Maybe as Trump has gotten more successful his estimation of what sort of adoration he deserves has increased while the outside criticism has gotten more pronounced. This combination is bound to leave his ego threat sensors permanently inflamed. So even if Candidate Trump is told to make a normal political point, Inner Boy Trump will hijack the microphone for another bout of resentful boasting.


Suddenly the global climate favors a Trump candidacy. Some forms of disorder — like a financial crisis — send voters for the calm supple thinker. But other forms of disorder — blood in the streets — send them scurrying for the brutal strongman.

If the string of horrific events continues, Trump could win the presidency. And he could win it even though he has less and less control over himself.

NRA: Obama’s ‘Political Correctness’ Let Orlando Shooting Happen

Draw your own conclusions: seems truly odd. ~fls

NRA: Obama’s ‘Political Correctness’ Let Orlando Shooting Happen


AP Photo / Mark Humphrey

“The terrorist in Orlando had been investigated multiple times by the FBI. He had a government-approved security guard license with a contractor for the Department of Homeland Security. Yet his former co-workers reported violent and racist comments,” Cox continued. “Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s political correctness prevented anything from being done about it.”

Cox wrote that gun laws didn’t stop attacks in San Bernardino, Brussels or Paris.

“Repeating the same thing but expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Law-abiding gun owners are tired of being blamed for the acts of madmen and terrorists,” he said.

The FBI interviewed Mateen for two separate investigations, but both probes were closed when he purchased the guns use in the attack at an Orlando gay club that killed 49.

Gun Industry Describes Mass Shootings Like Orlando as a “Big Opportunity”

June 13 2016, 11:05 a.m.

IN RECENT CORPORATE PRESENTATIONS, leading gun makers celebrated the fact that consumers bought more firearms because of the December terrorist attack in San Bernardino. And, prior to the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando on Saturday night, executives were telling investors to expect another big bump — because of the upcoming elections.

The surge in sales after mass shootings, as we’ve reported, is nothing new: Mass shootings lead to talk of gun control; the National Rifle Association — the gun advocacy group funded significantly by gun and ammunition manufacturers — uses its influence in Congress to block any legislative action; but gun owners, irrationally terrified that the government will restrict or ban firearms, rush out to buy more guns and ammo.

Sturm, Ruger & Co. Chief Executive Michael Fifer, speaking at his company’s annual meeting in May, noted that his company — the largest handgun manufacturer in the U.S. — saw a spike in demand that “was strongly correlated to the tragic terrorist activities in Paris and San Bernardino.” Sales eventually slowed down, but Fifer called that a “big opportunity for the distributors to step up and take on inventory” to be ready for election-related sales.

In February, on an investor conference call, Fifer had predicted that “we’ll see a step up of demand if a Democrat wins” the presidency. And if Democrats win control of the Senate, he added, gun sales will increase dramatically based on fears that a more liberal Supreme Court might restrict gun rights.

Stephen Nolan, executive vice president of Vista Outdoors, a gun distributor, said the election cycle might drive a “mini surge” in sales. Nolan, speaking at the RBC Capital Markets conference earlier this month, noted that “political reaction to the tragedy in San Bernardino” and the talk of “further gun control” appeared to drive recent sales.

Smith & Wesson Chief Executive P. James Debney, speaking at the UBS Global Consumer Conference in March, explained that recent terrorist attacks had pushed firearms “back into the world of politics, talking about increasing legislation in gun control,” which “no doubt” encouraged “a very strong buying period.” He speculated that the election cycle might be having an effect as well.

Following the mass killing on Saturday evening, a number of legislators stepped up calls for gun control legislation. “Congress has become complicit in these murders by its total, unconscionable deafening silence,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., in a statement.

But there is little hope for meaningful gun control legislation this year.

Meanwhile, as CNBC reports, “Shares of gunmakers Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger rose 9.8 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively, in premarket trading Monday following the massacre in Orlando, Florida.”



Lee Fanglee.fang@theintercept.com@lhfang


From my friend and poetry publisher, James Penha, of New Verse News poetry magazine

SUNDAY, MAY 29, 2016


by James Penha

Large group of school children, with their teacher, standing in a town street, circa 1850s. Daguerreotype by an unknown photographer. Original in the Daguerreotypes Collection of the Library of Congress.

Which of these boys
in the back rows shucked
his suit for another uniform, packed
a Remington revolver 1858,
a Colt 1860,
or a Beaumont-Adams,
aimed a Pattern Enfield 1853 rifled musket,
a Springfield 1861,
or an M1841 Mississippi Rifle,
held high a Model 1832 foot Artillery Sword,
a Cutlass, or a Bowie knife,
before he was cranked
and grounded by a Gatling
or by J.D. Mill’s Coffee Mill Gun?

And how

Which of their teachers?

Who among the girls cried
for the dead? Who
among the littler

Who craved

Could Sanders be the Next Ralph Nader for Trump?

From the NEW YORK TIMES May 18, 2016

Bernie Sanders, Eyeing Convention, Willing to Harm Hillary Clinton in the Homestretch


Senator Bernie Sanders spoke at a campaign rally on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills, in Carson, Calif., on Tuesday. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times
Defiant and determined to transform the Democratic Party, Senator Bernie Sanders is opening a two-month phase of his presidential campaign aimed at inflicting a heavy blow on Hillary Clinton in California and amassing enough leverage to advance his agenda at the convention in July — or even wrest the nomination from her.

Advisers to Mr. Sanders said on Wednesday that he was newly resolved to remain in the race, seeing an aggressive campaign as his only chance to pressure Democrats into making fundamental changes to how presidential primaries and debates are held in the future. They said he also held out hope of capitalizing on any late stumbles by Mrs. Clinton or any damage to her candidacy, whether by scandal or by the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump.

After sounding subdued if not downbeat about the race for weeks, Mr. Sanders resumed a combative posture against Mrs. Clinton, demanding on Wednesday that she debate him before the June 7 primary in California and highlighting anew what he asserted were her weaknesses against Mr. Trump.

Mr. Sanders, his advisers said, has been buoyed by a stream of polls showing him beating Mr. Trump by larger margins than Mrs. Clinton in some battleground states, and by his belief that an upset victory in California could have a psychological impact on convention delegates who already have doubts about Mrs. Clinton.

But his newly resolute attitude is also the cumulative result of months of anger at the national Democratic Party over a debate schedule that his campaign said favored Mrs. Clinton; a fund-raising arrangement between the party and the Clinton campaign; the appointment of fierce Clinton partisans as leaders of important convention committees; and the party’s rebuke of Mr. Sanders on Tuesday for not clearly condemning a melee at the Nevada Democratic convention on Saturday.

While Mr. Sanders says he does not want Mr. Trump to win in November, his advisers and allies say he is willing to do some harm to Mrs. Clinton in the shorter term if it means he can capture a majority of the 475 pledged delegates at stake in California and arrive at the Philadelphia convention with maximum political power.

Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Mr. Sanders, said the campaign did not think its attacks would help Mr. Trump in the long run, but added that the senator’s team was “not thinking about” the possibility that they could help derail Mrs. Clinton from becoming the first woman elected president.

Continue reading the main story
Bernie Sanders Facing Pressure Over Supporters’ Actions in Nevada MAY 17, 2016

From Bernie Sanders Supporters, Death Threats Over Delegates MAY 16, 2016

A Single-Payer Plan From Bernie Sanders Would Probably Still Be Expensive MAY 16, 2016
“The only thing that matters is what happens between now and June 14,” Mr. Devine said, referring to the final Democratic primary, in the District of Columbia. “We have to put the blinders on and focus on the best case to make in the upcoming states. If we do that, we can be in a strong position to make the best closing argument before the convention. If not, everyone will know in mid-June, and we’ll have to take a hard look at where things stand.”

The prospect of a drawn-out Democratic fight is deeply troubling to party leaders who are eager for Mrs. Clinton and House and Senate candidates to turn to attacking Mr. Trump without being diverted by Democratic strife. Mr. Sanders has won nearly 10 million votes, compared to Mrs. Clinton’s 13 million, and Democratic leaders say she needs time to begin courting the young voters, liberals and other Sanders supporters who view her as an ally of corporate and big-money interests.

But Mr. Sanders has sharpened his language of late, saying Tuesday night that the party faced a choice to remain “dependent on big-money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy” or “welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change.”

Mr. Sanders’s street-fighting instincts have been encouraged by his like-minded campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, who has been blistering against the Clinton camp and the party establishment. On Wednesday, he took to CNN to accuse Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the Democratic national chairwoman, of “throwing shade on the Sanders campaign from the very beginning.”

For weeks, some current and former Sanders campaign workers have privately acknowledged feeling disheartened about Mr. Weaver’s determination to go after the Democratic National Committee, fearing a pitched battle with the party they hope to support in the general election. The intraparty fighting has affected morale, they say, and raised concerns that Mr. Weaver, a longtime Sanders aide who more recently ran a comic book store, was not devoted to achieving Democratic unity. Several described the campaign’s message as having devolved into a near-obsession with perceived conspiracies on the part of Mrs. Clinton’s allies.

SUBJECT: How to beat Hillary Clinton in November


you will not regret going the distance with this one!

This is so funny that I had to get it right up. Please do read it as a companion to the post of earlier today! I was thinking of an op ed or blog piece entitled “What Trump Needs to Do Now”. But then, this came along and did two days’ work for me. And much funnier. But I still may try. ~fls


Though the outcome is hardly settled, it’s looking increasingly probable that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be facing off as the Democratic and Republican nominees, respectively, in this fall’s general election. Politico Magazine asked a liberal commentator, Bill Scher, to counsel Trump on how to beat Clinton, below, and a conservative pundit, Matt Latimer, to advise Clinton on how to win against Trump, here.

To: Donald J. Trump
Re: The 2016 Election
From: Bill Scher,
SUBJECT: How to beat Hillary Clinton in November

Congratulations, Mr. Trump. You are well on your way to winning the Republican nomination. Time to start thinking about how to take on Hillary Clinton.

This won’t be easy, but you can do it. Unlike the GOP primary, in which you led from almost the moment you entered the race, this race you begin behind. I know you like polls, and you are behind in nine of the 11 polls taken this year gauging a Clinton-Trump matchup. In the most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, you lose by 13.

You also start from behind in terms of the 2012 electoral map. Assuming you don’t lose any of the Mitt Romney states, you need to pick up, at the absolute least, three additional states from Barack Obama’s column.

You could go for a sweep of the “big three”: Florida (one of your “home” states), Ohio and Pennsylvania. If you can get only Florida and Ohio—the two tightest states of 2012—you’d need to add two or three of these Northern states: Michigan, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. If you can get only one of the big three, you need four or five of the smaller Northern states. If you can’t get any of the big three, you’ll need all five of the smaller set plus some of the less white swing states: Virginia, Colorado and Nevada.

Contrary to much speculation, the magical unicorn of new voters will not be your savior. Voter turnout has already been relatively high the past few elections. The 61.6 percent registered voter turnout of the 2008 election was the highest since 1968. In 2012, turnout slipped slightly to 58.2 percent, a loss of 2.2 million voters. Romney lost by 4 percentage points and 5 million voters. You need to make up far more ground than that.

The hard reality is that you need to win over some swing-state voters who went with Obama in both of the past two elections: the blue-collar workers saved by the auto bailout, the unmarried women who want equal pay and reproductive freedom, the Catholic moderates and other irregular churchgoers who swung from George W. Bush to Obama and, yes, the Latinos who made the same jump.

Stitching together such a Republican rainbow coalition would be a steep challenge for a typical Republican politician. But you, Mr. Trump, are no typical Republican politician!

It’s time to use your unmatched media skills to take you where no Republican has been able to go in recent years. But that means abandoning much of what has carried you to the brink of the Republican nomination and resisting a political consultant paint-by-numbers approach to attacking Hillary Clinton.

Scorching the earth? Tempting, but wrong.

The path to victory may seem obvious. Hammer her on trust: Benghazi, emails, Goldman Sachs speeches and Wall Street donations. Twist the knife by dredging up charges of Bill Clinton’s sexual harassment and abuse, and accuse Hillary of enabling. Pick up disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters and white working-class voters by rejecting big corporate donors, highlighting your opposition to unfair trade deals and assuring you know how to bring back jobs.

But that’s not so simple. You, your supporters and others have been doing that hammering for months. Yet her lead over you in the RealClearPolitics poll average has been fairly steady since September.

Furthermore, your insult game on Hillary lacks the panache you have for your Republican rivals. Correction: your male Republican rivals.

You have a knack for crystallizing the character flaw of your enemies—“low energy” Jeb, “Little Rubio” the “choke artist”—but your mockery powers fell flat when it came to Carly Fiorina. After you said of her, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?” Fiorina faced you down in the next debate. You were forced to grovel on stage, “she’s got a beautiful face and she’s a beautiful woman.”

With Hillary, you also miss the mark. “Clinton does not have the strength or the stamina to be president,” you keep repeating. There are a lot of things you can call Hillary that will make voters nod their heads, but questioning her endurance isn’t one of them. You don’t seem to know how to cleverly insult a woman. If you can’t do it, don’t do it.

Never forget that Clinton’s best moment in all of 2015 was her 11-hour marathon congressional testimony on Benghazi, an event concocted by unwitting Republicans. Her performance was akin to Obama’s table-turning race speech in the 2008 campaign responding to the controversial sermons of his Chicago pastor—reassuring Democrats that the candidates could handle whatever the Republicans threw at them.

You are unlikely to bag your bounty by drowning yourself in the right-wing fever swamps of Clinton scandal theories. Always tempting. Often backfires.

What you need to fix, now

So if you can’t easily tear down Hillary, what can you do to build up yourself between now and the convention? How can you re-introduce yourself to the constituencies you need?

You already know your biggest hurdle in this race is race. A whites-only strategy is mathematically daunting, and your pursuit of Republican white voters has severely damaged your reputation with nonwhites and socially liberal whites. Blithely asserting you are going to win with “the blacks” and “the Hispanics” will be far from sufficient in the general.

Look at the failures of the Sanders campaign. Just showing up for a few events in black neighborhoods, with a few surrogates and a lot of promises, does not impress when you haven’t been present in their communities for most of your professional life.

Consider spending your spring on a Hillary-esque “listening tour” of small roundtable discussions with African-Americans, Latinos and Muslims—not for the cameras, but for actual listening. Allow some unvarnished talk on bigotry in America to seep into your brain and change how you think and speak. Show understanding and personal growth, and you’ll at least get a hearing.

Although people-of-color voters are an obvious challenge for you, most assume you have an easy path to win over working-class whites. They see themselves in your politically incorrect persona and eat up your broadsides against the pending trade deals and “hedge fund guys … getting away with murder.”

But you’re about to go six months tangling with a candidate who is both one of the biggest wonks and one of the most surgical attackers in the country. She can match your populist rhetoric and expose yours as lacking substance if you don’t beef it up.

You are generally allergic to policy specifics, but that didn’t matter because so were most of your Republican rivals. (Even the ones with position papers didn’t dwell on them much.) Clinton is on another level.

Yes, yes, voters don’t read position papers or sweat details. But some of Sanders’ weakest moments were when Clinton’s policy fluidity made him seem out of his depth. When she shows off her plan to rein in Wall Street and reduce income inequality, your “I’m just gonna do it” bit isn’t going to fly.

And Clinton is going to take that back-of-the-envelope tax plan of yours, one of the few policy papers you grudgingly agreed to develop, and put it in the shredder. The Republicans won’t hit you for an $11 trillion tax cut that mostly favors the rich and nearly doubles the nation’s debt-to-GDP ratio. But the Democrats have been running that play for years to win working-class and middle-class votes.

You need a real policy team, and you need it now.

In the general: Pivot like nobody has pivoted before

Fortunately, you have a “psych profile” akin to that of Martin Blank of the film Grosse Pointe Blank: “moral flexibility would be the only way to describe it.” You can run a general election campaign that is completely different from your primary campaign, without a care about past contradictions. And you won’t lose your die-hard supporters because, as you have practically proved, you could “shoot somebody” without losing voters.

But what you have also said, back in November 2012, was that incendiary comments made in the primary can sink a candidate in the general: “[Romney] had a crazy policy of self-deportation which was maniacal. It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote. He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.”

To save yourself from Romney’s fate, you need to pivot like nobody has pivoted before.

You had elements of such a pivot in your Super Tuesday news conference. But it lacked a certain…coherence. “Planned Parenthood has done very good work for many, many—for millions of women,” you said, with a clear eye on moderate female swing voters. However, these pro-choice suburbanites are not impressed when you follow that statement with “we’re not going to fund as long as you have the abortion going on.” You will need to pivot much harder.

And you planted the seeds for a Latino pivot back in August when you said your “great wall” would have a “big beautiful door.” Shelve your rhetoric about deporting everyone. Talk more about how you will ensure healthy flows of legal immigration, protect immigrant worker rights once they are here, and keep families united. Maybe you can avoid Romney’s disastrous results and have a shot in Colorado, Nevada and Florida.

Attack Hillary with finesse

Of course, your campaign can’t be all positive. Hers won’t. But ask failed New York Senate candidate Rick Lazio about trying to humiliate her on the debate stage. Or ask President Obama how smart it was to call her “likable enough.” You can turn Hillary into a sympathetic character real fast. Besides, plenty of other independent entities will be throwing their own mud at her.

So give up the weirdly insecure “tweetstorm” rants and snarky Instagram video swipes. That feeds the long-time Hillary haters, but those folks are already with you, and they are not enough. You don’t have to be as noble as Sanders was and renounce any discussion of her “damn emails.” But you can play against type, and win plaudits for taking the high road.

Pray for an indictment.


Of course, the Clintons are a family that survived a presidential impeachment. So nothing can be assumed to be automatically fatal. And the political benefit from a Clinton indictment could be negated with a loss for you in one of the three fraud causes against Trump University.

Obviously, you’d have to hit Clinton hard if she actually were indicted. But recall how Bill Clinton won the political debate over impeachment: by constantly assuring the public he was fighting for them while Republicans were obsessed with personal destruction. Surely, she would try to downplay any negative development as small beer or politically motivated, while staying focused on “the issues that matter to the American people.” No matter what happens on the legal front, to either of you, you will need to do the same.

You face an uphill battle. You won’t have a united Republican army at your back. Meanwhile, Obama’s approval ratings roughly match his 2012 vote, making it easier for Hillary Clinton to replicate his winning coalition. I make no guarantees that the above strategy is foolproof. But your path to victory lies in burying your current persona as a crude vessel of white rage, and repackaging yourself to a totally different audience.

And if anyone knows how to play to an audience, it’s you.


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Washington Post: Republicans have a massive electoral map problem that has nothing to do with Donald Trump


Republicans have a massive electoral map problem that has nothing to do with Donald Trump

Indianans vote in their primaries on Tuesday. Stay caught up on the race.

The limits of Ted Cruz’s strategy

In 2012, Mitt Romney effectively ended Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign with a seven-point victory in Wisconsin. Just 44 percent of Wisconsin Republican voters picked him, yet in exit polls, 67 percent of them said they’d be “satisfied” if he won the nomination.

Cruz’s Wisconsin victory was nearly twice as large as Romney’s in 2012, with a 13-point margin, and a near-majority of 48.2 percent support. Yet in exit polls, asked how they’d feel if Cruz won the presidency, just 60 percent were optimistic. Put another way, for every two votes Romney got, another voter was open to backing him. For Cruz, the ratio was four-to-one.

Ted Cruz’s campaign runs out of base with Indiana primary on tap Tuesday  


These 10 states will decide whether Trump is the GOP nominee

 Play Video

Democratic polling in Indiana

In 2008, Hillary Clinton defeated Obama here by less than one percentage point.

49% 44%

GOP polling in Indiana

Indiana is the first of three big states left on the Republican voting calendar. (The others, California and New Jersey, vote June 7.)


Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told a crowd of his Indiana supporters on May 2 that Cruz would lose the state by “the biggest landslide in history.” (Reuters)

Politico reported today on a Florida poll conducted for a business group in the state that shows Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump by 13 points and Ted Cruz by nine.

Why is that important? Because if Clinton wins Florida and carries the 19 states (plus D.C.) that have voted for the Democratic presidential nominee ineach of the last six elections, she will be the 45th president. It’s that simple.

Here’s what that map would look like:


And here’s the underlying math. If Clinton wins the 19 states (and D.C.) that every Democratic nominee has won from 1992 to 2012, she has 242 electoral votes. Add Florida’s 29 and you get 271. Game over.

The Republican map — whether with Trump, Cruz or the ideal Republican nominee (Paul Ryan?) as the standard-bearer — is decidedly less friendly. There are 13 states that have gone for the GOP presidential nominee in each of the last six elections. But they only total 102 electorate votes. That means the eventual nominee has to find, at least, 168 more electoral votes to get to 270. Which is a hell of a lot harder than finding 28 electoral votes.

Many Republicans — particularly in Washington — are already preparing to blame a loss this fall, which many of them view as inevitable, on the divisiveness of Trump. That’s not entirely fair to Trump though.

While his dismal numbers among women and Hispanics, to name two groups, don’t help matters and could — in a worst-case scenario — put states like Arizona and even Utah in play for Democrats, the map problems that face the GOP have very, very little to do with Trump or even Cruz.
Instead they are, largely, demographic problems centered on the GOP’s inability to win any large swath of non-white voters. New Mexico, a state in which almost half the population is Latino, is the ur-example here. In 2004, George W. Bush won the Land of Enchantment in his bid for a second term. (His margin over John Kerry was 588 votes.) Eight years later, Barack Obama won the state by 10 points over Mitt Romney; neither side targeted it in any meaningful way.

What has become increasingly clear is that any state with a large or growing non-white population has become more and more difficult for Republicans to win. Virginia and North Carolina, long Republican strongholds, have moved closer and closer to Democrats of late. (Obama won both states in 2008 and +carried Virginia in 2012.)

At the same time as these states have grown friendlier to Democrats, there are very few states that are growing increasingly Republican. Wisconsin and Minnesota are two but neither is moving rapidly in Republicans’ favor just yet.

What you are left with then is an electoral map in which the Democratic nominee begins at a significant advantage over the Republican one. (It is the obverse of the massive Republican electoral college edge of the 1980s.) And that edge is totally distinct from any individual candidate and his/her strengths or weaknesses. Yes, Trump as the nominee is more problematic than Ryan as the nominee, but the idea that Ryan would start the general election with a coin-flip chance of being elected president is just wrong.

The Republican map problem goes deeper than Trump — or any one candidate. Blaming Trump for a loss this November not only misses the point but could ensure that Republicans are doomed to repeat history in 2020.

2016 Presidential Campaign Lessons Neglect (Even Benign) No Longer an Option: A. Lerman



We offer here an essay by Professor Arthur Lerman that is really worth getting into. Why are so many people so Angry in this election?. More than usual. “Angry Populism.” This has been “used” in very different ways especially well by Bernard Sanders and The Donald Trump.

Some explanations have been offered in previous pieces in this blog, like the review of Thomas Frank’s LISTEN, LIBERAL!. Is it true that a kind of anarchism or at least obstructionism is growing among us? And see what you think of Lerman’s solutions or solutions “out there” that he identifies.

Note: this will be re-blogged with further comments and perhaps Dr. Lerman’s and Your “comments on those comments!”

Also note: Prof. Lerman stresses that this is a Draft, that may be influenced by comments and his own further thinking

2016 Presidential Campaign Lessons Neglect (Even Benign) No Longer an Option ©

In the past, there were cases in which groups or individuals could be ignored and/or exploited by ruling classes, because the ignored/exploited had learned to accept their difficult position as part of the natural or religious order, or because they saw no hope of change–including the prediction that any attempt at change will make their situations even worse–e.g., severe/immediate repression from the ruling classes, for example.
Of course, throughout history, there were many cases in which groups or individuals did not accept their difficult positions as inevitable, so history is full of rebellions and revolutions—upsetting and overthrowing numerous ruling elite regimes.

In our modern world, with the spread of the power of groups and individual to threaten and ultimately disrupt the peace and security of socially privileged classes and, more importantly, with the spread of the consciousness of this power, this ability to blithely ignore and exploit is even less of an option.
This increased disruption capability, and awareness of such capability, has come with such new conditions as:

  1. the spread of rights of peaceful political action–voting and communicating about voting to others.
  2. the spread of technology for communicating to wide audiences.
  3. the increase in social complexity, making it easy for individuals or groups to “throw a monkey wrench into the works”, e.g., putting an orange traffic cone in front of an entrance to the George Washington Bridge.
  4. the increasing availability of the tools of violence to allow individuals and groups to wreak havoc.

(Interesting side note: In the mid-1960s, in graduate school, I remember a renowned sociology professor saying that social control has become so intense that the individual was already incapable of independent action that could disrupt society in any way. Seems the above conditions, especially b, c and d would reverse this judgment.)

So in our day, it is ever more perilous for political elites to allow groups (or even individuals) to fall into difficult social circumstances. And, therefore, we come, during the current presidential campaign, to the phenomenon of Donald Trump.

Of course, he is not unique. Angry populist movements abound in recent history. What is interesting is, that the workings of democracy should have precluded the rise of angry populism.

One could conceive of the workings of democracy as parallel to the workings of a market economic system—if there is a demand, producers will automatically act to supply it. So, if there is a political demand, political producers—i.e., creators and implementers of policy—should automatically act to meet the demand.

In such a case, the political producers would be continuously surveying the demands of all voting groups (if not the demands of isolated, unrepresentative individuals) to make sure they are supplying what is necessary to keep these groups supporting them..

Moreover, similar to a market system, it’s not just one political producer in play. Like in a competitive economy, anyone can present him/herself as a political producer, proposing ways to meet demands. In the U.S. that has pretty much meant that two organizations of political producers—the Republicans and the Democrats—have been the ones to respond to demands, keeping groups needs met and ensuring social stability.

In the recent U.S. past, for example, political producers responded to the Great Depression of the 1930s with Social Security and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, to the 1950-1960’s demand for racial equality with the civil rights bills of the 1960s, and to the 1960’s health problems of seniors with Medicaid and Medicare.

But, as with economic markets, the theory does not always work out in practice.

Markets are plagued by lack of accurate knowledge, so producers may produce what is not demanded, or neglect to produce what is in demand.

(Of special note—one of the most difficult areas of the market economy is those who have demands, but do not have the resources [money, goods, services] to make their demands effective.)

Political markets are also plagued by lack of accurate knowledge. Some of this is simply lack of information about groups and their needs—perhaps because of poor information gathering, or, perhaps because of not knowing where to look or what to look at, or, preconceptions about what exists. And there is also the difficulty that, one may know what exists, but one’s ideology suggests an improper response.

So, we have the rise of angry populism, personified by the candidacy of Donald Trump, presumably because our political producers—the Republicans and Democrats—lacked the requisite information about how to meet the demands of Trump supporters, or have offering the wrong “product” for meeting the demands.

(There is also a “Blame the Victim” angle here. Perhaps political producers have been offering the proper product, but those making the demand do not realize their demand is being met–i.e., economic progress during Obama’s administration?)

So let us explore the groups and the demands involved.

Trump’s support is coming from white voters with a high school education or less. Their clear economic demands are for secure, well-paying jobs. The analysis is that many of their jobs have been transferred overseas, leaving them unemployed, or employed at lower wage, less secure—often retail—jobs.

The obvious response of political producers would be to find other ways to provide secure, well-paying employment. Ways to do this would be to:

  1. Create alternative venues to work in—or promote private sector efforts to do so.
  2. One example is rebuilding the country’s infrastructure—everything from transportation (roads, bridges, mass transit facilities) to public buildings (hospitals, schools.
  3. And there are the new tech industries that are coming out of the Silicon Valleys of our land.
  • And there is the possibility of reclaiming industries that have moved abroad through new technologies, including robots, which can compete economically with foreign sweat shops.
  1. Afford opportunities to upgrade skills to fit oneself into such new industries.
  2. And the government could always be an employer of last resort. The idea that there is nothing worth paying the unemployed to do is false. And given that the country as a whole (though our companies that offshore their production) is still making immense, profits, indicates that the means do exist to employ individuals elsewhere where they are needed—for example, putting more teachers in the classroom or healthcare workers in our hospitals and clinics.

Yet, our two main political producers—at least the more typical, “Establishment” Republicans and Democrats—have not placed these employment products on the political market—resulting in the angry populism that is supporting the “anti-establishment” Donald Trump.

The question is why? Is it not an axiom of the market place—economic or political—that the self-interest of the producer will move him/her to provide the product to meet the demand?

Above, we have noted some explanations—lack of information, misperception, interpretation. To these we may add lack of ability to produce.

For the Republicans, some of this is interpretation. The Republican ideology is that government—including the political producers running the government—is not supposed to be responding to economically based demands. The ideology is that when government gets involved, things get worse—the government creates and runs incompetent and corrupt programs, and the individual becomes dependent on government, becoming a burden instead of an asset to society. . It is for the individual to respond to the market on his own, creating the economic opportunity to respond to such things as international economic competition.

(On thinks of articles by Thomas Friedman in the NY Times, urging individuals to retool themselves through advancing their education to meet the modern economy. Of course, Republican ideology does not promote government support for such, or government guidance on what retooling for what end. And then, what if in a few years, new products and competition from abroad necessitate another course of retooling. And how many times can an individual go through such a process. What of the psychological burden?)

The Democrats (full disclosure—I’m a loyal Democrat) do believe that the government can effectively meet these demands—but they have only limited ability respond—since they don’t control the Congress. Yet, since they control the executive, they still get lots of blame, since it’s the executive that’s the “face” of the “not-responsive” government.

Also, there is the analysis of Thomas Frank, brought home in his most recent book—Listen Liberal, that the Democrats have written off the white, high school educated working class—seeing them as having turned against the Democrats for their devotion to non-White minorities—who are as threatening to them as are overseas sweatshop workers—and having become a party of the meritocratic upper-middle classes—leaving the needs of the white working class to no one to respond to.

Oh! Yes, the Republicans have responded—but not with an economic product. They have responded to the psychology of the white working class that sees itself as having lost its status as having defined American. The white working class was psychologically supported, not only though solid economic jobs, but also with identification with the greatness of America. I’m great because America is great.

But now, America is more and more depicted as a mélange of whites and non-whites, in which white workers are just one more of America’s mélange of social groups. Loss of economic status (a secure, well-paying job) has been accompanied by loss of prestigious identification. And Obama, a black president, becomes the notorious symbol of this loss—explaining some of the vehement opposition to him—and anything he does, even when trying to compromise with the Republicans.

The Republicans have responded to this by their campaign of the loss of America’s power and prestige in the world and the loss of American morality at home—even before Trump—corralling the white vote for itself.

But, till Trump, the Republicans have not been able to improve things for the white working class—it only continued to play on the theme of resentment for loss of status.

Thus, they were open for someone who plays much more clearly and openly on these resentment themes.

So we have the angry populism that the Republicans were promoting—more clearly and angrily presented by Trump—he’s got the product and the white working class are buying.

Do the Democrats have an alternative? Hillary and Bernie both offer more concrete economic products, but is the white working class even looking at them?

Certainly some are—though many have long been in the Republican fold, seeing the Democrats as the friends of the minorities and sweatshop foreigners, as well as of elite upper-middle class types. So they are not listening.


A great challenge would be for Hillary (maybe riding on Bill’s charisma) to get them to listen again.

And Bernie—in his clear dedication to the workers—if he can get them to listen.

This is important, to go back to our beginning. Both producers in our political market place have neglected—failed to respond to– a major part of our society. And, given the easier ability for social groups to disrupt and threaten—not just the social elites, but everyone else—it is important to provide a product that will meet their own needs, while being compatible with the needs of all others in society.

Alternatively, they can be led by a demagogue—either to continuing ineffectual venting of anger (which the Republicans have been leading them on to do for years), or, more dangerously, to much more disruptive social action.

From Political Science and History courses: words to students



A little self indulgence here. This is a list constructed for American foreign policy (HISTORY-POLITICS 367) students. But it is shared with students of all my courses. Not to be read at one sitting, but let me know what you think. And questions/ suggestions to add.

Some Serious Questions to Think About from This Course



  1. The U.S. has surely done some good in the world: WWII, WWI, United Nations, idea of League, foreign aid, Marshall Plan. How does this measure up against “Not Good” things we have studied—or will? For you. Say “Vietnam or the Philippines 1901”.


  1. Kissinger and McNamara have said in different ways that foreign policy choices are often choices between the lesser of evils? Do you agree? An example might be the use of bombing to hasten the end of war and the slaughter on the ground going on in Europe. Or Vietnam.


  1. The US has crossed borders to intervene in far more foreign countries than, say, the USSR or China in the last 80 years. It might be argued that US interventions have often been for good causes or had good effects. Yet others disagree and say most interventions have not been worth it—or legal. What for You think—are some interventions beneficial and others not? Which?


  1. Much of the debate in this class and in the conversation nationally about American foreign policy has been carried on with the assumption that the US has a moral compass and a sense of fair play that make Its military interventions more reasonable and less self-serving than most. What do You think?


  1. Have American students and the American public been “lied to” by the media and by common national beliefs and history books. Can you think of an example of something you have been read or taught about American conduct that you have come to see as misleading or just wrong.


  1. I say, as your professor, that the US has a better than average record as a great power in the moderation of its ‘big power maneuvers’. I also say that, for whatever the reason, my research and the record demonstrates clearly that the US government and military, with the general approval of the US people and media, have been responsible for the deaths of at least 7 million foreign civilians in the 20th and 21st So….?


And I say that whatever you think the justification or necessity for these civilian casualties has been, the bodies we’ve created are just as dead as those killed by Russians, Germans, Chinese, Napoleon, Genghis Khan and so on. So are there defensible deaths, “good deaths” caused by great powers? Are there necessary civilian deaths?


  1. You are the president. You are faced with the choice of killing foreign individuals to save American lives. This could be Obama targeting suspect terrorists (but hitting some civilians) in Yemen with drones, or Clinton and Bush starving Iraqi civilians with an embargo (1990-2003) put in place as retribution for Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait (1990), or Roosevelt-Truman choosing to firebomb Japanese and German cities and hundreds of thousands, Millions of civilians, in the hope of ending the war sooner and perhaps saving tens of thousands of American MILITARY lives. Good practice? Fair? Moral?



  1. What area of the World has provided the most challenges for the US in its history (decade by decade. What area will be most likely to present future problems for American foreign policy and why? China/North Korea? Why? Latin America? Why? Africa? Why? The Middle East? Why? Australia? Why? (no just kidding?).


  1. Ask yourself: why do I feel about politics and the world as I do? (and do the same every 5 years for life). Parents? Peers? Travel? Where you grew up? Your personal finances? Significant other? Influential book? You might even try to construct a mental pie-chart of how much you think some of these things have influenced you. This is about self-awareness, consciousness, “going deep.” You do not have to be a politics or history “junkie” to benefit from this. Remember that many of our political views come from the gut, not the head—or at least the Unconscious,


  1. The analyst Ian Bremer has written a book that projects 3 models of foreign relations for the US (you might even so foreign Conduct) for the near future, the post Obama decades: 1. The US continuing as Superpower and doer of great and constructive deeds on the world stage (“INDISPENSIBLE AMERICA”), 2. The US as a practical traditional power mainly focused on economic advantage and developing its own well-being …”MONEYBALL AMERICA” The  US as a state mor detached from other countries, cooperating in trade and moral causes, but refraining from active use of its military (which may still be very strong) INDEPENDENT AMERICA.  



  1. What about the theory mentioned in the first class about HISTORY as a saga of criminality. This need not be depressing and it does not deny human goodness, achievement, ingenuity. It is just a useful mental exercise, I think especially for 21st Century Americans, to remember the effects of war, disease, imperialism, or more specifically, the consequences of personalities such as Stalin, Hitler, Napoleon, the German Kaiser, Theodore Roosevelt (usually you either like him a lot, or you don’t), conquests, interventions, human rights violations against: indigenous people, women, children, people of certain races and ethnicities, The Other.


  1. Most Americans are weak on world geography. Don’t be one of them! A mark of an educated person and respect for the world community is to know the names and whereabouts of as many countries as you can. Then brush up on mountain ranges, rivers, bodies of water, deserts, etc. You may end up going to some of these places. Or flying over them! This is not about memorization. It’s about exploration: try a globe or an atlas. Get away from behind that computer if you can. Not like this list. All typed out on a laptop.

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