Monday, August 01, 2016


Thank you again, Yastreblyansky, Tom, and Crank -- great work again while I was away.

I've come back to a New York Times story that sees Donald Trump's latest smear campaign as more dangerous for him than it actually is. I'm not saying he's in good shape right now, but he's in no worse shape than he's been after earlier controversies.
Donald J. Trump reeled on Sunday amid a sustained campaign of criticism by the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq and a rising outcry within his own party over his rough and ethnically charged dismissal of the couple.
First of all, Donald Trump doesn't "reel," because he never thinks he's done anything wrong and his cult (which now consists of the majority of Republican Party) agrees with him, or agrees that there's literally nothing he could do that would make him more of a danger to America than Hillary Clinton. And the "rising outcry" against Trump is just impotent squeaks of mild protest.
The confrontation between the parents, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, and Mr. Trump has emerged as an unexpected and potentially pivotal flash point in the general election.
Yes, Donald Trump insulted a family of Muslims, then doubled down when challenged. That was so unexpected! Nobody could have foreseen it!
Mr. Trump has plainly struggled to respond to the reproach of a military family who lost a son, and has answered their criticism derisively -- first implying that Ms. Khan had been forbidden to speak at the Democratic National Convention, then declaring that Mr. Khan had “no right” to question Mr. Trump’s familiarity with the Constitution.
Is this helping Trump? No, because for the moment he's not on offense against Hillary Clinton. But his cult doesn't think he's "struggling" because, well, he attacked two Muslims who have the audacity to call themselves Americans when they still practice Islam and have accents. They're not native English speakers and they're not Christian or Jews! And Mom wears a headscarf! To Republican voters, they're not even human, and nothing about them can humanize them, not even the fact that their son died fighting for America.
And Mr. Trump’s usual political tool kit has appeared to fail him. He earned no reprieve with his complaints that Mr. Khan had been unfair to him; on Sunday morning, he claimed on Twitter that Mr. Khan had “viciously attacked” him. Mr. Trump and his advisers tried repeatedly to change the subject to Islamic terrorism, to no avail.
With his base, "Mr. Trump’s usual political tool kit" is working just fine. With his base, Trump didn't have to change the subject to terrorism because the subject is already terrorism, as far as the base is concerned, whenever Muslims (or at least Muslims who aren't professional athletes) are brought up.
Instead, Mr. Trump appeared to be caught on Sunday in one of the biggest crises of his campaign, rivaling the uproar in June after he suggested a federal judge, Gonzalo P. Curiel, was biased because of his Mexican heritage.
And did you notice how little impact that "crisis" had on Trump's poll numbers? It didn't help, but it didn't hurt. Immediately afterward, he caught up with Clinton in the polls. Attacking the judge may have been what Trump was doing when he should have been "pivoting," but he clearly has no intention of "pivoting," and he retains his base's loyalty by not "pivoting." Because he never reaches out to the middle, he'll probably come up short in the general election, but barely so, because the majority of white American voters either love the way Trump campaigns or remain unfazed by his excesses.
... His treatment of the Khans has brought on a new wave of criticism of ... his mockery of Senator John McCain’s time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
Yeah, remember how that McCain attack destroyed Trump's campaign?
... the top two Republicans in Congress, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, signaled their strong disagreement with Mr. Trump, but stopped short of condemning him in blunt terms.
If they "stopped short of condemning him in blunt terms," then their disagreement wasn't "strong."
... It is too soon to say how severe the damage to Mr. Trump might be, but the clash has already entangled him in a self-destructive, dayslong argument with sympathetic accusers who are portraying him as a person of unredeemable callousness.
It's not "too soon to say how severe the damage to Mr. Trump might be," as the next sentence in the article makes clear:
Still, he has proved remarkably resilient, getting past controversies that might have sunk other candidates.
And that shouldn't be "remarkable" anymore. We should accept the fact that nearly half the country appreciates this approach to campaigning, because it's not "politically correct" and because Trump, in the view of these Americans, "tells it like it is" and "says what everyone is thinking."

Look, there are probably just enough voters in America to keep Trump out of the White House -- Trump is now trailing in the presidential race by 7, according to a CBS poll, the result of a convention bounce for Clinton. But I'm predicting that this multi-day story won't push Trump's numbers down further, and that Trump will narrow the gap several times before November. By November, no voter is going to say, "I would have voted for Trump, but he attacked those Muslim Gold Star parents" -- either you were already disgusted by Trump's hatemongering or you're incapable of seeing people like the Khans as human. And if you're in the latter category, you're in the majority of white Americans -- which is the real problem.


UPDATE: As I was saying:


Unknown said...

Their son died fighting for Halliburton. The longer we maintain pious fictions to the contrary, the more young men will share his fate.

If only he had never been ordered to participate in our war crime against Iraq. If only Hillary Clinton had had some opportunity to register her opposition to the plan whose insanity was so clear to all of us on the left.

AllieG said...

It isn't a question of Trump losing the votes he has. It's all the other ones. This is the first time I've seen local news discuss a Trump comment as bad on its face. If the feeling becomes prevalent among the American comfortable that a vote for Trump is not respectable, he will lose a nontrivial number of votes he might otherwise get.

Gerald Parks said...

This article is spot on!

"declaring that Mr. Khan had “no right” to question" and "are not seen as human" IS what most ofthe GOP/Republican Party believes and practices.

Why the surprise or shock?

Ever seen the black and white photos of LARGE CROWDS of white Americans at the lyching of an African AMERICAN?

white supremacist ideology is the foundation and source of American racism!

YES ...that is a thing!

Stratplayer said...

In reply to "Unknown" above: Way to completely miss the real point of this post.

Tom Hilton said...

I agree that this isn't going to hurt him with his base, because nothing would hurt him with his base. But I do think it (and similar incidents, past and future--because we know he can't help himself) hurts his chances of expanding beyond his base--which he has to do to have any chance of winning. Stuff like this hardens negative perceptions of Trump, which is really all Clinton needs to do to win. (To win big she needs to improve her own favorability numbers, which it seems the convention may have done to a modest degree.)

W. Hackwhacker said...

I have to agree with AllieG and Tom. I think there's about 10 percent of the voting population that isn't ready to commit to one side or the other, and the accumulation of these noxious events -- past and to come -- will drive enough of those voters away from him, understanding that they may not all go to Clinton. But his base will remain at upper 30's low 40's, which is disturbing enough as it is.

Steve M. said...

I'm afraid he could have an incident like this every week from now to November and still lose by no more than 3 or 4 points.

Unknown said...

Why the hell does everyone think that bitter old white men can elect this POS. I just turned 63, I loath all of the Clinton's and yet Hillary has my vote because I am not insane. And believe me there are many more people like me who see tRump as a dangerous wannbe dictator. Just because I don't go to rally's and protest doesn't mean I am going to support tRump.

BroD said...

Ok I get it but the focus in this and other "Don't expect a landslide (and, btw, don't think Trump doesn't have a reasonable shot." pieces is on Trump/Clinton polling numbers. There's no mention of turn-out and I have to think Dems will have a substantial advantage there.

Never Ben Better said...

Further to BroD's point, polling popularity doesn't correlate with turnout, and for that you need money, the party apparatus, and lots of volunteer support. The Democrats I believe will have a big advantage on the latter two, and from what I'm reading Trump doesn't have a lot of the big-money GOP donors supporting him, either.

I also agree with AllieG and Tom; he desperately needs to expand beyond the fanatical base, and every episode like this chips away more of the tenuously Trump-inclined.

Maxwell's Demon said...

In the turnout vein, Trump's base seem to hate everyone so can't really see them volunteering to go drive folks to the polls or even talk to them in a way that convinces the undecided that Trump is the way to go. His ceiling is quite hard and not made of glass.

Tom Hilton said...

Yeah, ground game is a big factor I haven't seen a lot of people talking about. It could make a 2-3% difference (given that at this point Trump has none, and time is running out for him to get a functioning operation in place). 538 polling averages currently have 4 states where Trump is leading by less than 1.5%: Florida, Ohio, Nevada, and Iowa.

Something else to keep in mind: undecideds are pro-Obama by 55-30, so there's a lot more potential for Clinton than Trump there.

My best guess is Clinton wins by between 5% and 9%.

Anonymous said...

Even the worst, least appealing Republican is going to get at least 40%, so it's always going to look uncomfortably close, like a basketball game where the lead is 9 and there's like 2:30 to go. Watching it you'll always think, damn, a long shot here, a stop, another shot, and who knows what'll happen! All they have to do is get hot! Holy cow this thing is anyone's game! But that sequence of events is very, very unlikely. Winning by 5% is a massive blowout by modern standards.

Unknown said...

Trumps new floor is the big story. Can he get above 38% -40%? Doubtful.

mlbxxxxxx said...

Things like the Khan controversy will have a marginal impact. But this election is going to be won or lost in the margins. No one will cite this or that event as the triggering event for rejecting Trump. That is asking too much of any incident. But there will be a point where the critical mass of crap like Trump dissing the Khans will tip the scales for those who are on the fence.

I am not too sure why we have to rehash the fact that Trump's support is rock solid over and over and over and over. I get that the pundits exaggerate the effect of any given controversy, e.g., "Trump reels..," but pundits will pundit -- they are more projector than reporter. Maybe I'm wrong, but there seems always to be a subtext in the pushback that if Trump's support can't be eroded why harp on his misdeeds? Then you, and others, inevitably point out how close the election is going to be. Which is, of course, exactly why we should harp on his misdeeds in order to reach those marginal voters who are, really, the only ones up for grabs and, luckily, the most likely to be negatively influenced by Trump's continuing trash fire.

Feud Turgidson said...

It's not that Rs won't vote R per se; if they don't say anything, they'll do like always.

It's that now it's becoming a culturally acceptable so soon will become a culturally accepted and then culturally DEMANDED thing to be seen as a rock ribbed Republican who is publicly rejecting Trump.

Forget the Win: absent some huge coordinated fraud the R party election-fixing apparatus isn't going to waste on Trump, Trump's going to lose by AT LEAST the 3-4-5 Steve M fears. Now the question is how much of the national electorate comes together to reject McCarthyism/fascism/Trumpism.

Trump has a support floor. That is what he'll get. What is that floor? How much will HRC beat THAT by?

Steve M. said...

Something else to keep in mind: undecideds are pro-Obama by 55-30, so there's a lot more potential for Clinton than Trump there.

I saw that at PPP -- but they hate Clinton (4% favorable, 83% unfavorable), and they're undecided only because they hate Trump slightly more (2% favorable, 89% unfavorable). They're going to vote Stein, Johnson, or (just as a fuck-you to us) Trump, or they'll write in Bernie, as many of them have promised to do. They're lost to us.

Phil Freeman said...

I will donate $10 to the charity of Steve M.'s choice for every point above 5% that either Stein or Johnson gets nationally. So if one of them gets 6%, that's $10; if each of them gets 6% of the vote, that's $20 to the charity of Steve's choice (as long as they take Paypal).

Lit3Bolt said...

It may not effect Trump's base, but it will effect whether or not anyone opens up a checkbook for Trump and which churches/organizations will volunteer for him publicly.

Trump is making himself so toxic he'll only have the cuckservative hating alt-right publicly supporting him. Everyone else will have run away, including a lot of evangelical and Catholic church and veterans' organizations. That has to have an effect at some point.

Steve M. said...

I will donate $10 to the charity of Steve M.'s choice for every point above 5% that either Stein or Johnson gets nationally. So if one of them gets 6%, that's $10; if each of them gets 6% of the vote, that's $20 to the charity of Steve's choice (as long as they take Paypal).

I don't think either one will get 5%, but you don't need 5% to be a menace. Nader was under 3%.

KenRight said...

Only computer vote fraud could defeat Trump and he should stress this so if it is performed there will be a solid bloc who will not accept an illegitimate president.

Clinton is not insulting Muslims by using them to promote intrinsically chaos-causing anarchy in the Muslim world, to which none but Israel seem immune?

Not that Trump is offsetting it with a little sophistication. He could find Muslims who thank him for early opposing the Iraq war and attempting to save lives and for his stated determination to avoid further intervention in the Mideast. Has this determination been stated consistently. Not particuloarly, except when compared to Clinton's ultra-hawkishness.

jsrtheta said...

This time is different in a couple of ways. First, the Khan story has legs. Longer legs than most of the prior foofaraws. Longer, I'll wager, than the gams on Curiel. The conventions are over, people are starting to take a closer look, and the drip, drip, drip of insanity Trump offers up at least daily is starting to matter. (I fully understand that I could well be full of it here, because I know of no one who has called this race with any reliability yet. The presence of pod people has not been completely disproved.)

Trump has now taken on the military, again, and in a very immediate way. The McCain debacle didn't really hurt him because, frankly, McCain is old news and not viewed as the elder statesman he probably should be, and only diehards like us were paying attention anyway. While Captain Khan died in 2004, Iraq and Afghanistan have never been out of the news since 2001, and continue to figure prominently now. Captain Khan was active military. While I'm not a vet, I certainly believe the armed services have been in the vanguard of tolerance generally, and soldiers tend to be ferociously loyal to their fellows irrespective of race, religion or gender. Pissing off the armed services is never a good idea, and this time it's a particularly bad one. Dumping on the parents of a fallen soldier only adds to the fire.

There are many people out there who do not seem to understand how horrible Trump really is. Some of these people that I've talked to are even thoughtful, and accustomed to holding their fire. In every election I have talked with people who were persuaded long after most people were, and in each case it was one particular thing that tipped the scales. This is just the sort of thing that will cause fence-sitters to walk away from a candidate.

The Politician said...


"he'll only have the cuckservative hating alt-right publicly supporting him."

I think that group is a lot larger than any of us are comfortable admitting.


"Only computer vote fraud could defeat Trump and he should stress this so if it is performed there will be a solid bloc who will not accept an illegitimate president."

Thanks, Roger Stone.

Glennis said...

KenRight is like Roger Stone only stupider. Just as vile, though.

jsrtheta said...

@Aunt Snow,

Yeah, but he cracks me up.

KenRight said...

You might prefer the Sheehans and the Tillmans and I won't take it personally if you do.