Friday, July 28, 2017

How Much Do Issues Matter In Elections?


Is this going to be an accurate portrayal of the 2018 midterms?

I had a good talk today with a progressive attorney, Dan Canon, running for Congress in a pretty red Indiana district. Dan's district, IN-09, has been a GOP bastion since 2010 when Republican Todd Young beat Blue Dog Baron Hill. Last year Trump beat Hillary there 61-34%. I asked Dan how he proposes to win in a district like that. He laid out a pretty comprehensive plan plan with lots of details-- that we'll be getting into here at DWT soon-- but the one thing he said that really stuck with me is that most voters are far less concerned with policy details than they are with being listened to and having their experiences and interests taken into account by political leaders and representatives.

Soon after speaking with him i read a piece at the National Journal by Josh Kraushaar making a related, albeit far from identical, point. He points out that Trump's new Republican base also doesn’t care all that much about issues. But what they do care about-- and what keeps Trump in their good graces no matter how insane and embarrassing he is to normal people-- is fighting the Left. It’s why, wrote Kraushaar, the hardcore Trumpanzee base-- about a third of the voters-- will stick with him, even as he humiliates one of his most loyal supporters.
This time, it’s the populists’ turn to make the mistake of predicting Donald Trump’s political demise. After humiliating Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russian investigation, Trump is testing the limits of how much chaos Republicans are willing to take. Already cracks are appearing in the conservative iceberg. The pro-Trump website Breitbart has taken Sessions’s side in the dispute. Several typically supportive Fox News hosts, like Tucker Carlson, have adopted a more critical posture on the president’s bullying of Sessions.

The political world is going to find out, all over again, that most Republican voters will side with the president-- even over Sessions, who provided political credibility to Trump at a critical time during the presidential primaries. Most Trump voters backed him because of his antiestablishment attitude, not his specific policies on immigration and trade. In the heat of the Sessions scandal, Trump continued to draw adoring fans in his Rust Belt base who could care less about his shabby treatment of the attorney general. Reporter Salena Zito, who has been chronicling blue-collar voter sentiment, wrote that Trump received a “hero’s welcome” in Youngstown, Ohio on Tuesday.

Even Sessions’s supporters in Washington are bending over backwards to give Trump the benefit of the doubt in this ugly clash. Senators are defending Sessions, but not slamming Trump for his destabilizing behavior. Sessions’s successor in the Senate, Luther Strange, in the middle of a heated campaign, remarkably blamed the media for manufacturing a feud between the two. “Jeff and President Trump are trying to make America great again, and it’s a privilege to work alongside both to accomplish the Trump agenda for the American people, and we need to stop letting the media distract us from that agenda,” Strange said in a statement.

Republican candidates are betting it’s politically smart to act like Trump. Josh Mandel, a Marco Rubio-backing state treasurer vying to become the first Republican Jewish senator in Ohio history, posted a tweet slamming the Anti-Defamation League for issuing a report that criticized anti-Semitic language spewed from pro-Trump online voices. Republican strategists were privately stunned, but Mandel apparently felt he was reaching out to a relevant GOP constituency.

In the Michigan Senate race, businesswoman Lena Epstein responded to rumors that Kid Rock was considering a candidacy by releasing a video joking that she “might have to kick your butt in a primary first.” Corey Stewart, a Trump cheerleader in Virginia who delighted in provoking elites with neo-Confederate tweets, nearly beat establishment favorite Ed Gillespie in a gubernatorial primary.

Next month’s Alabama primary to fill Sessions’s old Senate seat will offer a critical test over whose coattails matter more. Strange is eagerly casting himself as Trump’s best friend in Washington. He’s being aided by a Mitch McConnell-aligned super PAC, which is blasting his tea-party-aligned rival, Rep. Mo Brooks, for being insufficiently supportive of the president. For his part, Brooks on Wednesday called Trump’s treatment of Sessions “a public waterboarding” and “inappropriate and insulting to the people of Alabama.” If taking Sessions’s side in his home state can’t turn Brooks’s fortunes around, it will speak volumes about the mood of the GOP base.

One of the most significant findings about Trump supporters came from an in-depth survey of the president’s voters commissioned by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics in April. The survey found that nearly half of Trump voters backed him because of his “willingness to tell it like it is instead of being politically correct”-- four times as many people who said they backed him because of his positions on issues. It’s why Trump was able to build a broad GOP coalition, from moderates in the Northeast to tea-party activists in the South. It’s why the Republican Party is slowly morphing into a cult-of-personality vehicle around Trump.

The glue holding Trump’s coalition together is a deep-seated cultural resentment of the liberal, cosmopolitan elite. Trump is masterful at pushing those buttons to secure loyalty from his base. (His announcement banning transgender people from serving in the military is the latest example of this.) Trump’s overall job approval is low, but despite all the head-snapping news of the past six months, his support among Republican voters has remained remarkably stable.

During the presidential campaign, many Republicans made a cynical gamble to rally behind Trump, hoping that he’d be the unwitting vehicle to pass conservative legislation. Sessions, as the first Republican senator to back his campaign, was most cynical of all in this respect. Republicans now realize they’ve created a political Frankenstein, and no amount of disloyalty or ideological apostasy will break Trump’s bonds with his core backers in the near-term.

Trump is now the face of the Republican Party-- and that means he’s successfully and speedily shaping the party in his image. The revolution, indeed, eats its own.

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At 1:19 AM, Blogger Skeptical Partisan said...

The Rise of Trumpism
(1) Sensory organs evolved over billions of years to provide animals mechanisms to detect and interact with their natural environments in order to survive.
(2) Theistic religions disengage human sensory input from knowledge of the universe/environment. Believing does not require seeing; invisible god(s) are real.
(3) Right wing media feeds the cognitive dissonance opened by religion (Christian Right) an unending stream of logical fallacies about American culture and politics. This completely hobbles the critical thinking ability of their audience and makes them ever more receptive to, as the Bible would say, false idols.
(4) Enter Donald J. Trump, who spent a lifetime gilding his own image with gold colored dust, onto the pedastal built by right wing media to elevate idols to the level of God.

Trumpism isn’t politics or ideology; it’s a cult. The cure will involve mass cult recovery.

At 5:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very salient SP.

IMO, however, there is one issue and details implied therein which binds all trump cultists together. And that issue supersedes all other information and input making their sub-sentient lives "meaningful".


Their tribe, their idols, their cult clergy all share their hate.

Consequently, all non-cultists cleave to the non-R in response. The fact that the D is ALSO SHIT, being corrupted since the '80s by the Clintons et al, and with total fidelity today to that corruption, has no bearing on their thinking at all. The ONLY quality that matters is that they are NOT R.

So, correct. Issues don't mean shit to American voters. Learning from facts, observations and experiences just does not happen. Dumbest fucking hominids in the history of HOMO on earth.

At 11:50 AM, Blogger mary helen ayres said...

Found your post cause I'm a Dan Canon fan. Thanks for mentioning his campaign! Wanted to point out that your wonderful masthead quote, an old favorite of mine, did not originate with Sinclair Lewis. You might want to check into it, just for the sake of your own credibility. The truth of the statement is in no way lessened, but you won't find it in Lewis. Best wishes with your work!


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