Friday, November 11, 2016


Paul Krugman:
God knows it’s clear that almost everyone on the center-left, myself included, was clueless about what actually works in persuading voters.
A lot of people will read that and conclude that it's futile to try to portray a political opponent as a hatemonger in a country where so many people are bigots themselves, or at least are highly tolerant of bigotry. Others will read it and conclude that Hillary Clinton's campaign insulted voters ("deplorables") and drove many who might have been wavering into Donald Trump's arms.

But beyond those arguments, I have another question: Did the Clinton campaign spend too much time portraying Trump as a monster and not enough debating him on policy?

I know, I know: The press didn't want to hear about policy. The press was concerned with Clinton's emails and Trump's personal behavior.

But Clinton's campaign echoed the media's message that what was important about Trump was his character and personal behavior. Ad after Clinton ad showed Trump insulting women and mocking a disabled reporter. No Clinton ad, as far as I know, ever went after Trump's economic plan the way this Barack Obama ad, for instance, went after Mitt Romney's:

This morning on public radio I heard a discussion of Trumponomics with two economics writers, Rana Foroohar, the author of Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance & the Fall of American Business, and Rob Cox, the global editor for Reuters Breaking Views. Among other things, they talked about the likely results of a Trump trade war with China or Mexico. Foroohar noted that such a trade war would disrupt global supply chains, because so many parts for so many goods pass through those countries.
FOROOHAR: Every single time that widget comes in and out, that's a charge that a U.S. company has to pay that eventually gets passed on to a U.S. consumer....

In a global system, everybody's going to suffer. The consumer is going to stop spending....

COX: ... It would create a lot of inflation, first of all, but that inflation would hit those for whom consumption, normal consumption, is a larger percentage of their pocketbook. And that actually is going to hurt the less well off more than it will the well off. And the consumers who will be hit the worst will probably be the people who voted for Donald Trump, frankly.
Meanwhile, there's this, from Neil Irwin of The New York Times:
The conservative-leaning Tax Foundation ... estimates that Mr. Trump’s tax plan would reduce federal revenue by about $12 trillion over the next decade, and faster growth would offset only about $2 trillion of that....

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics ... assumed that if Mr. Trump’s policies were taken at face value, it would increase the deficit from 3.5 percent of G.D.P. this year to more than 10 percent by the end of Mr. Trump’s term. He said this would cause the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates above 6 percent in 2018 to prevent inflation.
Higher prices? Inflation? Exploding deficits? Much higher interest rates? Surely there's something here that can boiled down to a kitchen-table economic message suitable for a TV ad or a speech.

Now, it's possible that if Clinton had tried this approach, Trump would have said with a sneer that he's an expert in business and Clinton doesn't know what the hell she's talking about. Fine -- so try to get Marc Cuban or Warren Buffett, or even some non-celebrity who runs a small or medium-size business, to deliver (or reinforce) the message.

Clinton's portrayal of Trump as an unprecedented figure of evil reaffirmed his supporters' sense of him as someone who's so powerful he can shake anything up. Attacking him on policy would have meant at least trying to get him to fight on Clinton's turf. Would it have made a huge difference? Maybe not. But it might have been worth trying.


tonycpsu said...

It's not about Trump saying he's an expert in business, it's about him not being vulnerable to policy critiques at all because (a) he will simply obfuscate or even change his position if it suits him politically and (b) the press wouldn't have covered it in any way that would gain traction with the American people. Once the Clinton camp is talking about CBO scores and fiscal responsibility, they're using Republican arguments, and everyone knows Republicans are the fiscal responsibility party, facts be damned.

It would have also caused her to lose some of her support on the left from those who would worry that she'd be too deficit conscious. The thought of Simpson / Bowles II: Deficit Boogaloo would have lost a lot of the Bernie faction that she'd worked hard to consolidate after the primary.

Feud Turgidson said...

Sure she did. The mistake was in thinking it'd work to gain her white voters. In the context of our polarization, this reflects bad political thinking.

I can hear her supporters in my mind's ear, saying, But she couldn't depend on the MSM to do it! Fine, but only to an extent. The news and commentary sources for those folks inclined to want to vote D don't watch the MSM any more than wingnuts. D voters may have needed some of that (I didn't, but I my even being here puts me way left end on the spectrum.), but in general Steve M. has nailed this:

She was never going to win over white Dumpers, the best she could hope for was try to reason with white Rs in or around #NeverDumps about governance & pocketbook issues.

More broadly, if grotesque: Obama caught a lot of MSM mockery and lefty heat for running general election campaigns on naive even wonky hopefulness, but the byproduct was treating voters like adults.

The converse is risks coming across hard-edged and savvy, which pleases the MSM lovers of all things savvy; but the subtext is an impression of seeing voters as stupid.

Obama over-credited voters with intellect and generosity of spirit, to some extent effecting divisions in the opposing camp but more importantly stoking GOTV. HRC insulted their intellect & caricatured them as bigots & morons.

The IRONIES underlying all this are that Obama's approach to voters came across as 'feminine', and when carried over into governance proved to expose vulnerabilities & create problems in dealing both with Congress & the bureaucracy - while her approach to voters, when carried over into governance, is pretty much what LBJ did in making Washington DC work.

To that extent at least, there's some not unreasonable basis for thinking she could have been MORE effective than him in the White House (& he had big highlights). Now, though, there'll be no way of testing this conjecture -
possibly ever.

Those last two words I might regret more. I've been awfully dark over last 3 days. There actually ARE examples of nation states who find themselves in this pickle then fairly quickly pulling back from the cliff's edge, often in one election cycle.

Unfortunately, most if not all such examples are from parliamentary democracies. I also can hear in my mind's ear an argument for France's 3rd Republic, but note: THIRD republic. France has been bumbling along the edge of falling into then later dramatically crashing out of periods of authoritarian dictatorship for mostly the whole time we've been a democratic republic.

There's still that skinny young popular soon to be ex-president, staying on in Washington. What's he gonna do?

BTW, Keith Ellison for DNC Chair would be a good move. Better? Tom Perez. Better late than never.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a valid point. I kept waiting for the "Trump is a giant rip-off artist" ads, too, but those never came. I think I read somewhere that focus groups would dismiss them as just the kind of thing that happens in business.

tonycpsu said...

Flipyrwig, it'd be like nailing Jell-O to the wall. We made fun of him for "I never said that", but it worked. The press was unable to handle a candidate who simply didn't care about hypocrisy or any kind of coherent policy message. What set of voters in the Obama coalition who didn't show up for Hillary would have if she'd run these kinds of ads?

The New York Crank said...

Many good, or pretty good post mortems here, but autopsies of Hillary's campaign are pointless. Why are we wasting our time with this crap? What we ought to be focusing on is, what's next, and how do we stop it, or deflect it, or lessen its impact?

How can we begin persuasively begin informing Trump voters of the harm he's about to do them — increased medical costs, no health insurance, fewer government services, bigger national deficit, death or partial dismemberment of Medicare and maybe even Social Security. Arrests for getting an abortion, or for trying to vote.

Let the Trump voters know. Make them so angry that Republican legislators and The Donald himself are afraid to go as far as they'd like to go. And start gearing up minds for a turnaround in two years in the Senate and House.

The New York Crank

Lit3Bolt said...

In my mind, they should have attack him as a RINO, a billionaire playboy who brags about forcing his mistresses to have abortions. Also they could have said that he'll try to run the United States as a casino, and the White House would turn into Playboy Mansion. They could have said Trump will rubber stamp anything Congress puts in front of him, like taking away Medicare and Medicaid, and crack down on drug offenders and put you in jail for pot while he snorts cocaine. They could have attack his affairs and marriages to porn stars. There were lots of avenues of attack, but Clinton tried to appeal to white peoples' sense of decency and inclusiveness instead. That's why she lost the Rust Belt.

slumpyb said...

I think attacking his perceived strengths MIGHT have worked. Showing he was a lousy businessman who got all his money from Daddy. Showing he's a bully who sues anyone less powerful than him (I heard he sues 2 shock jocks once). Showing he's not really a conservative but is just saying what the right wing fact he really doesn't say what he thinks without any PC. But if the media doesn't report on anything but Clinton emails none of it matters.

Ken_L said...

For God's sake forget about speeches and most importantly, TV ads. Who watches TV ads about politics? Hillary would have done well to spend less time raising money and more time campaigning.

Trump spent his campaign doing two things: holding rallies and putting out newsworthy content firstly by Twitter and secondly by an endless stream of media appearances. How often did Hillary call into a radio or TV show to talk about Trump's plan to give the rich a mighty tax cut, or to take away poor people's childcare payments, or to deport 11 million people? How many tweets did she send with provocative content that got headlines at Memeorandum and encouraged the media jackals to ask the Trump campaign for its reaction?

She did none of these things. She didn't even hold press conferences. Her rallies, such as they were, were non-events. A typical day in the campaign featured Trump saying something original and newsworthy, and Judicial Watch or some similar mob inflicting the latest cuts in Hillary's death-by-a-thousand-emails torture. How's that supposed to get out the vote?

It's no good blaming the media for not helping you run your campaign like it's 1996. It's no good whimpering about the billions of dollars of free media time Trump's getting when you're too inept to get any for yourself. Listening to her tell debate watchers they should go to her website to find out how much Trump was lying was cringeworthy. Hillary and her team showed absolutely no understanding of how contemporary online media works, and they paid the price.

Unknown said...

Trump was wonderful for ratings, due to his propensity to say outrageous things. The media fawned all over him and certainly helped his campaign. That said, Hillary Clinton ran a poor campaign.