Friday, July 22, 2016


I gave up on the Trump speech when it was well after eleven in the East and there still seemed to be ten or fifteen minutes to go, judging from the advance draft, which lacked the bloat added by all the ad-libbed "Believe me"s. The pounding, hectoring tone of a speech that was poorly delivered had worn me out. I took the risk that I wouldn't miss anything important, that he wouldn't wrap it up by deviating from the script and saying, "VOTE FOR ME OR YOU'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!" That was the message in any case.

And for much of America it was probably effective.

Am I saying it was a speech that made viewers forget what a terrible convention the GOP put on? No, because I don't think this was a terrible convention for the GOP. I understand the conventional wisdom about the first three days, and I'm not denying that Team Trump had a few faceplants. Not checking Melania's speech for plagiarism was a rookie error, compounded by the decision to keep the story in the headlines for days. The Ted Cruz speech was a humiliation, even if the Trumpites turned the humiliation right back on Cruz.

But these are things ordinary undecided Americans don't care about. They're about process. They matter to political insiders and politics mavens. They don't matter to Joe Sixpack in the heartland. So, no, I don't think this convention was a "dumpster fire," a phrase I'm as tired of now as I was of "clown car" during the Republican primaries. Maybe the GOP field was a clown car. But we got John Wayne Gacy as the nominee.

And just to finish what I started in that last paragraph: No, I don't think allowing Cruz to go on so he could be booed was an act of sinister brilliance on the Trumpites' part -- or maybe it was, but again, ordinary voters don't care.

Ordinary voters care about their own lives, and the lives of members of their tribes. They have anxieties, sometimes half formed, about the state of the country and the world.

It isn't just that Trump's speech successfully tapped into the anxieties of many Americans -- it's that the entire convention did, in between all the things that were so fascinating to political insiders. And while the four days of speeches, up to and including Trump's own, didn't provide solutions beyond "Donald Trump will magically fix everything because he's all-powerful," they did offer up a scapegoat for all the world's ills: Hillary Clinton, the worst person in the world.

I'm not supposed to worry about this because the presidential electoral is supposedly etched in stone: Yes, older whites always vote Republican, and whites are a majority, but they're a dwindling majority; Barack Obama built a coalition that can't lose a presidential election anymore. But Obama's coalition never stopped liking him; his approval/disapproval numbers always hovered within a few points of 50-50, and those who approved of him really admired him. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has a 40%/58% favorable/unfavorable rating right now, according to the average at Huffington Post's Pollster. To win in November, she needs the votes of a lot of people who simply don't like her and don't trust her. So why are we so certain the Obama coalition will turn out for her?

In the Obama years, we've seen dogma-driven Republicans expand their near-monopoly on white people's votes from the South to supposedly blue parts of the North -- see the governors' mansions in Maine, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio. I know -- they won because the Democrats' presidential electorate doen't show up in off years. But which electorate will show up for Hillary Clinton if she doesn't get her disapproval ratings down?

If she wins, it will be because Trump isn't trying very hard to appeal to voters outside his base. He's gone out of his way to insult Hispanics and Muslims. Despite his painstaking enunciation of the acronym "LGBTQ" in last night's speech, he's unlikely to win over many voters from that community, for all his post-Orlando pandering -- not after he picked a running mate who signed a discriminatory "religious freedom" bill as governor. And he didn't even try to pander last night to African-American voters -- he doubled and tripled down on rhetoric that was unconditionally pro-police, on a day when we watched a cop shoot an unarmed black mental health worker lying on the pavement with his hands raised in the air in a gesture of surrender and self-abnegation.

Insiders think Trump's speech was a missed opportunity:
After reading the speech, Paul Begala, a longtime Democratic strategist and speechwriter, called the missing personal details “an enormous mistake.”

“The American people,” he said, “need to know their president’s mythic arc.”
But from his TV show and books and media gossip, Americans think they already know Trump's "mythic arc." He rode in from Queens and remade the Manhattan skyline! He can make deals better than anyone on earth! Everything he touches turns to gold! And he gets the most beautiful women!

This is why all the media talk about the convention's incompetence is irrelevant: If you plan to vote for Trump or even think you might, you probably believe he's extraordinarily capable by definition. You probably come from a community where there isn't a building nearly as tall as Trump Tower, and there's no one nearly as rich as Trump. You have no idea that there are many developers who are more successful than Trump in New York, many buildings much taller, many fat cats much richer. He's as good as it gets!

So is all this working? Up to a point, yes:
Donald Trump is enjoying a mid-convention bump in the polls, surging to within striking distance of Hillary Clinton in a national survey released Thursday.

The Reuters-Ipsos rolling national poll, which includes data collected from three of the four days of the Republican National Convention, shows Clinton leading Trump by 4 points, 40 percent to 36 percent.

That’s a far closer race than the same poll found only one week ago, when Clinton led by 15 points, 46.5 to 31.5.
Ruters-Ipsos was one of Clinton's best polls, and now Trump is within shouting distance in this poll. Other polls show an even tighter race.

I agree -- it probably won't be enough, given how many people Trump has offended. But I was hearing that this convention was so awful Clinton might get a bump from both conventions. That won't happen.

I agree with the poll prediction Chris Hayes made yesterday afternoon:

After that, I think Trump will probably fade -- but barely. He's what a lot of Americans want, and they vote.

Or Hillary Clinton could blow this. The polls could be underestimating Trump's popularity as they underestimated Brexit's popularity.

It's going to be scarily close. So please miss me with the phrase "dumpster fire."


Ten Bears said...

Comparison to Hitler is indeed misplaced, Hitler could speak in public.

Victor said...

For a lot of people, Trump is "The Gold Standard."

For those who know him better - like this native NYer - he's 'the gilded standard.'

He's always been as full of shit as a stopped-up bull.
And he's always been full of nothing else, but himself.

But, you're right, Steve, a lot of people don't know that.
And so, here we are...

swkellogg said...

"Yes, older whites always vote Republican..."


Steve M. said...

On average. I'm white and 57 and I don't, but I'm in the minority.

Feud Turgidson said...

Steve M., I average your standard Nordic-issue 5+ inches taller and a statistically irrelevant Y-quibbl-Y-not definitely more than 7-to-NotWay10 years older, which IAE variesa lot because I only acknowledge exact numbers on days when the measure best fits my illusion of self.

What would the WORST IMAGINABLE poll look like?

1. It's have to be a geographically diverse and/or large country to allow for a whole lot of regionalism,
2. It'd have to be done in predominantly capitalist setting, to allow for maximum message spread, speed and manipulation.
3. There'd have to be a widespread deeply ingrained sense of denial in one or more large ethnic and/or tribal group.
4. Optimally you'd need to be able to play all or most of the polls questions off a backdrop of grievances, eitehr a lot of them but more reliably durable is one big central ethnic and/or tribal grievance can, especially if it;s been repeatedly institutionalized and periodically re-aggravated (eg slavery).
5. You'd really want to do it in the heat of the summer,
6. ideally just at or after the apex of irrational exuberance one can expect from a nationally televised and indeed fascinating political event (eg the presidential national nomination convention, which is closet to ideal for a whole bunch of reasons going to the perception limitations on humans).
7. Unquestionably there'd hwve to be a heightened favorable environment for disingenuous pollsters and deliberately skewed polls, but mostly in a country where the cell-phone-only and land-line populations are both significant.

Once again, there's REASON to haul out my Wang:
Sam Wang, Princeton psych prof, national figure in polling, posted in MARCH that this sort of nonsense would happen, so beware of false impressions, keep referring back to history and the February polls.

Oh, now what's this is see my in inbox? Reminders of the upcoming DNC? How TIMELY!

The New York Crank said...

Michael Moore is predicting a Trump win. See this, about 10 minutes and 45 seconds into the program:

If he's right, we are all so screwed, as is the United States of America, that you won't be able to count the ways.

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank

CH said...

Steve, you managed to express well what I've been thinking. (Maybe it's because we both vote against our common demographic.) I see these articles dismissing the R convention, its candidate, and its base in smug, faux-knowledgeable tones, and I come away with the feeling that the authors are addressing only each other and a very few like-minded others. Out here in RealWorld, where the actual votes are, the people who are going to cast them (or not) don't give a tinker's damn about the things that seem to make the political scribblers so certain that the whole 2016 R enterprise is a busted flush. What really concerns me is that I fear the guiding lights on the D side are more in tune with the scribblers than with the electorate(s). I keep recalling Gore rolling his eyes at W with that same misguided smugness.

Dora Carrington said...

White, 60, female; have never voted Republican in my life. That said, I agree with almost everything you've written. For younger voters (who at this point is almost everyone), two thoughts: A whole lotta voters 18-35ish of every color aren't going to like Trump's racism all that much. He's dissing their friends and their spouses and their colleagues and co-workers. But they're going to L O V E his isolationism. Heard a youngish-sounding woman on a NPR call-in begin her comments with "not a Trump supporter" and go on to rave about his NATO dis, his rejection of foreign wars and nation building. We cannot forget what thirty years of failing schools and declining educational standards mean in terms of what people younger than 40 actually know about the world. If they know anything about NATO it's what Trump said. They haven't got a clue what Europe was like before WWII, let alone the 500 years before that.

KenRight said...

As far as Obama's popularity ratings, Japan has a kind of near untouchable class called the Burakumin. (sp)
The Japanese government perhaps circa 1990s started conducting propaganda campaigns to rehabilitate them, as it were. Somewhere in this chronological mix, opinion polls were conducted among the citizenry , then others, which established that many Japanese really still didn't consider the Burakumin equals, or let us say, in the improved manner that earlier polls suggested they did. They admitted, what amounted to a few percentage points anyway did, that they had polled favorably on the Burakumin out of a peer pressure guilt complex in part.

Of course such a phenomenon might in no way affect Obama's popularity vote
in the United States currently.

Glennis said...

KenRight is both an idiot AND a racist.

AllieG said...

Will this election be close? Quite possibly. The last one was. But I'll have to see Trump winning more polls than he's losing to think he can win.