Monday, December 14, 2015

You've Got To Watch Out For Extremists


Nothing is going to make Karl Rove less of a villain. His Wall Street Journal OpEd about the likelihood of Herr Trumpf being creamed in the presidential election is just old fashioned, Bismarckian realpolitik. In fact, before we go any further the HuffPo Pollster moving average of head-to-heads shows Bernie beating Trumpf substantially-- 49.2% to 43.2% and even the Democratic Establishment's Wall Street-backed candidate, the incredibly unpopular Hillary Clinton, beats Trump by a healthy margin, 47.5% to 43.5%.

Underlying Rove's critique is the barely-concealed contempt in which he holds for Trumpf's fans. "No matter," Rove wrote, "how outrageous his statement [about banning all Muslims from entering the U.S.] seems to most Americans, his supporters apparently eat up stuff like that. Forty-six percent of Mr. Trump’s backers say that their minds are made up and won’t change before the primaries, according to a Dec. 2 Quinnipiac poll. Only 33% of Ted Cruz ’s supporters, and 23% of Marco Rubio ’s, say that they are sure of their choice."

Rove's problem with Trumpf, he claims, is that "his antics" make it impossible for him to grown his base of support. "Almost as many Republicans (26%) told Quinnipiac that they will “definitely not support” him in the primaries as said they back him (27%)."
The picture for the general election is even bleaker. The Donald’s favorability rating in the Quinnipiac survey was the worst of the 12 Democratic and Republican candidates tested: 35% favorable to 57% unfavorable. That was lower even than Mrs. Clinton’s 44% to 51%. Dig into the demographic breakdowns and Mr. Trump’s numbers look abysmal. Sixty percent of independents dislike him, along with 69% of voters aged 18-34, 84% of Latinos and 87% of blacks.

He and Mrs. Clinton were the only two of six candidates to be upside down on Quinnipiac’s question about honesty. The pair were nearly tied: 35% found the real estate mogul trustworthy and 59% did not; 36% trusted the former secretary of state and 60% didn’t. A Nov. 22 Fox News poll showed similar results. Mr. Trump was seen as honest and trustworthy by 41% of voters, and not by 55%. Mrs. Clinton’s numbers were marginally worse, at 38% honest, and 58% not.

But Mrs. Clinton beat Mr. Trump in the Quinnipiac poll on three important characteristics: By 67% to 32%, voters thought she has “the right kind of experience to be president.” His numbers were almost the reverse: 34% to 63%.

When Quinnipiac asked whether each candidate “cares about the needs and problems of people like you,” 46% said Mrs. Clinton does, and 51% said she doesn’t. If that sounds bad, take a look at Mr. Trump’s figures: 36% said he cares about people like them, and 59% said he doesn’t. Among Hispanics his numbers were 14% to 83%, and among blacks 9% to 88%.

When asked if each candidate “shares your values,” 42% of voters said Mrs. Clinton does, and 55% that she doesn’t. This might be problematic for the likely Democratic nominee, depending on who winds up as her Republican opponent. But, again, Mr. Trump’s numbers were worse. Only 35% said he shares their values, and 61% said he doesn’t.

All these numbers combine to make Mr. Trump the weakest Republican tested by Quinnipiac in head-to-head matchups against Mrs. Clinton, to whom he loses 41% to 47%. Among young voters, he loses by 20 points, 32% to 52%. He receives only 13% of Hispanic votes-- less than half of what Mitt Romney did in 2012-- to Mrs. Clinton’s 76%.

The Donald doesn’t compensate by beating Mr. Romney’s nearly 20-point margin among whites: He leads Mrs. Clinton among whites by only 12 points, 50% to 38%. So although Mr. Trump’s antics may not drive away his current supporters, they make him unlikely to win the White House.

Yet if the Republican field remains large and splintered through mid-March, Mr. Trump could become the Republican nominee by winning states with 25% to 30% of the vote. Then Democrats would attack Mr. Trump, a target-rich candidate, with an endless stream of ads.

Perhaps they would open with his immortal line from the Cleveland debate-- that he had “taken advantage of the laws of this country” in having his companies declare bankruptcy four times. This footage might be followed by compelling testimony from contractors, small-business people and bondholders whom he stiffed. America has never elected a president with that kind of a dubious business record.

Donald Trump would be the dream opponent for the Democratic Party. We’ll see in the next four months whether that matters to Republicans.

Rove fears that Trumpf will be the GOP nominee and prays that Hillary will be the Democrats'. He doesn't mention in all his head-to-head stats that Bernie would do even better than Hillary against Herr Trumpf, beating him 49-41% (2 points better than Hillary). And where Hillary and Trumpf are both underwater in terms of favorability-- she at 44-51% and he at 35-57%-- Bernie does better than either and better than any other Republican to boot-- 44% favorable and only 31% unfavorable. Bernie also gets the the best honesty grades among all the candidates, 59 - 28%. And on that who cares about the needs and problems of people like you, Trumpf got a 36%, Hillary got a 46% but Bernie got a 53%, higher than anyone else running. Shares values? Remember, Hillary had 42% and Trumpf had 35%. Bernie, conveniently unmentioned by Rove, was at 44%.

Just around 2 months ago, we called your attention to an important book by historian, Heather Cox Richardson, a professor at Boston College who was worrying that the Movement Conservatives now calling the shots in the Republican Party are forcing the nation toward a Constitutional crisis. Writing over the weekend at Salon, she takes the next step-- civil war, in warning about a right-wing insurgency the GOP can no longer control, comparing the Trumpf/Cruz neo-fascism sweeping the Republican Party to the radicalism of 1860, which lead to... well, you know what it led to. She starts with some questions for her readers to consider: "The rise of dictators-in-waiting Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz has left political observers bewildered. How did the establishment wing of a dominant American political party end up with a radical extremist carrying the party’s banner? Will the Republican Party split and die? More important, how will this crisis play out for the nation?" And then veers into a little talk about a dangerous fascist from South Carolina, John Breckinridge, long before the word "fascist" had been coined.
In [1860], the southern slave owners who had dominated the American government since the beginning felt their control over the nation slipping. While large planters made up only about 1 percent of the population, they were the wealthiest people in America. But their very success endangered them. They had promised poor white men that they, too, could rise to prosperity, then they had monopolized the  land and the resources that made rising possible. Only rich families lived in fine houses, only rich sons got educations. When poor men called for the government to provide free Western land for farming, or for the government to dredge rivers to make it easier to transport goods to market, or even for schools, slave owners recoiled. Such projects would cost tax dollars, they complained, and thus would prevent them from accumulating the vast amounts of money that enabled them to direct society efficiently. Worse, if the government started doing anything to mess with the economy, it would only be a question of time until it started interfering with slavery. Any interference would destroy the system that made them dominant. It was unthinkable.

But as economic doors closed, a growing number of white Southerners resented the planters who dominated their region. By the 1850s, slave owners kept them at bay by harping on the sanctity of the slave system. They defended it as a positive good, sanctioned by God, providing the world’s most perfect society, economy, and government. All their elevated language, though, could not disguise that the slave system concentrated power in a small group of white slave owners, and that such a system did not work in the best interest of the majority of Americans. Slave owners knew that, and it scared them.

In the 1850s, pressure on the slave system got worse. Good cotton land became harder and harder to come by. Slave owners began to insist that they should have the right to move their slave economy into Western lands that  the national government had reserved for freedom. But Northerners objected to the spread of slavery. If slave owners took over the new lands with their vast gangs of slaves and seemingly unlimited wealth, small farmers would not be able to compete. Slave owners would dominate the new state governments, where they would pass laws that enabled them to consolidate their power, just as they had been doing all along in the Southern states. Those new Western slave states would join with the Southern slave states to  outweigh free states in the national government. They would make the slave system that privileged the wealthy 1 percent national.

Northerners opposed what they saw as an attack on the American principle of equality of opportunity. They organized a new political party, the Republican Party, to stand firm against the expansion of slavery into the West. Instantly, slave owners insisted that it was Republicans, not them, who were changing the rules of the nation. The Constitution protected property, they pointed out, and slaves were certainly property. Democrats, they argued, not Republicans, were the ones who stood for equality. Equal rights in America meant that Southerners must be allowed to carry their property into the new territories, no matter what other laws had been passed or expectations nurtured in the past. Democrats rallied voters against the upstart Republicans by insisting that only local folks, far from Washington, should determine the fate of local government. The people were sovereign, they insisted. Voters eager to move into the new territories liked the idea of determining their own fate… but they missed the loophole: once a slave owner moved his chattel into a territory, the Constitution required that the new state constitution must protect slave property. Popular control sounded good in theory; in practice it meant the 1 percent would solidify its control of the nation.

As pro-slavery and anti-slavery advocates struggled for control of the West, Democrats harped on the idea that the Republicans were attacking the culture of traditional America. Republicans were trying to force racial equality on the superior race. America, they insisted, was a white man’s country, and African-Americans had “no rights which a white man was bound to respect,” as Democratic Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney put it in the Dred Scott decision. Republicans wanted to rip the government out of the hands of the Democrats. They would marginalize Southern whites in the country they had ruled with such success for generations. Soon, the argument went, Southern whites would be forced to bow down to Northern rule, humiliated in their own region. The Republicans had set out to destroy America. The only way to stop them was to join together and fight back. This inflammatory Democratic rhetoric worked. It unified Southern whites behind the party in the 1850s.

But in 1860, Democratic leaders discovered that they had created a monster.

In that year, the party establishment backed Illinois Sen. Stephen A. Douglas on a platform that continued to call for local control to decide the fate of slavery in the West. But Southern insurgents wanted no part of a government that might compromise with the Republicans they had come to believe wanted to destroy them. Slave owners bolted the Democratic convention. They nominated their own candidate, Vice President John C. Breckinridge, and demanded nothing less than that the federal government protect slavery across the West. When horrified establishment Democrats accused them of trying to destroy the nation, insurgents retorted that they were the only ones truly trying to protect it. The split in the Democratic Party permitted the election of the Republican candidate, Abraham  Lincoln. Breckinridge came in second.

When it was clear Lincoln had won, Breckinridge’s men railroaded their states out of the Union. Their supporters had listened to years of rhetoric about fighting and dying for democratic principles. Riled up to believe their very lives were at stake when Lincoln was elected, they picked up guns to save what they had come to believe was an America under attack.

But those men had never experienced a war and had no idea what they were signing up for. They launched a war that looked nothing like the one Breckinridge’s men had promised. Rather than being a romp that reinforced white southern dominance, the American Civil War took 620,000 American lives and left the South shattered.

Today the parties have swapped sides, but the pattern is the same. Once again, political leaders have for years used inflammatory rhetoric to bolster a system that favors the very wealthy. Once again, their rhetoric has created an insurgency that they cannot control. Once again, that insurgency appeals to Americans who have never actually had to grapple with what it might mean to fight for an ideology.

Let’s hope we don’t find out.
Oh dear, look who was pushing the Rovian line yesterday about Hillary being guaranteed a win if Trumpf is the Republican Party nominee!

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