Why Trump Won in Rural America

By 5.4.16

Were the 2016 elections governed by anything remotely approaching “conventional wisdom,” a candidate like Donald Trump should have done abysmally in America’s most-rural communities. While Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) achieved stunning victories in states where the economy is dominated by agriculture, Trump has defied logic by racking up wins in states like Georgia, Missouri, and clinching the GOP nomination in, of all places, Indiana!

One understands urban centers, and one understands states whose manufacturing base has been eviscerated over the last half-century. But the reason Trump has done so well in these states and the reason Trump remains popular with rural voters who might have otherwise been attracted to Sen. Cruz’s untarnished conservative bona fides are very much intertwined: Trump has tapped into the popular zeitgeist of Americans who perceive that not only has America become less-competitive over the last four decades, but that the ruling political elites have taken advantage of this decline in competitiveness and put into place deals that have put our economy at an even greater disadvantage.


Mob Rule and the Modern Primary

By 4.28.16

During his victory speech following the April 19 New York Republican primary, Donald Trump repeated what has become a common refrain from his campaign of late: that the Republican nominating process is “crooked” and “rigged.” The solution, Trump proposed, is “going back to the old ways: You get votes and you win.”

The idea that “you get votes and you win” coheres with most Americans’ definition of democracy, but the framers of the Constitution, looking back to the origins of democracy in the city-states of ancient Greece, would not have defined it that way. In Greek democracy, as James Madison noted in The Federalist no. 10, assemblies of citizens voted on all political decisions. Such a system was only practical in polities with a compact territory and relatively small population. Larger polities would find direct democracy unworkable, hence citizens had to cede decision-making power to other institutions, which might be more representative (the House of Representatives) or less (the U.S. Senate, especially before the Seventeenth Amendment).


Conservatives for Trump?

By 4.26.16

The sudden appearance of Donald Trump on the political horizon last year may have been surprising, but not nearly as surprising as seeing some conservatives supporting him.

Does Trump have conservative principles? Does he have any principles at all, other than promoting Donald Trump? A smorgasbord of political positions — none of them indicating any serious thought about complicated issues — is not a principle. Nor is cheering for himself and boasting about all the great things he is going to do as President.

Haven’t we seen this movie before? Wasn’t Barack Obama going to heal the racial divide, end the partisan bickering in Washington, have the most transparent administration ever, lower the cost of health care and let you keep your own doctor?

Had he actually done all those things, walking on water as an encore would have been an anti-climax. But instead, he did the opposite of all those things.

There was absolutely nothing in Obama’s track record that should have led anyone to think that he would even try to do any of the things he declared he was going to do. But why spoil a great vision, and soaring rhetoric, by checking track records?


Winners or Whiners?

By 4.19.16

If there is one pattern that is emerging from this year’s political campaigns, it is that rhetoric beats reality — in both parties.

The biggest surprise among the Democrats is Bernie Sanders, and among the Republicans is Donald Trump. Although they are each seeking to be put in charge of the nation’s government, does anyone know — or care — what their actual track record in government has been?

Trump of course has no track record at all in government. If Sanders has anything to show for his many years in Congress, no one seems to know what it is. But both are great at rhetoric.

Hillary Clinton’s biggest selling point is that she has lots of “experience” in government, having been a Senator and a Secretary of State. But what she actually accomplished in those roles gets remarkably little attention.

The foreign policies under Secretary Clinton have led to one disaster after another, whether in the Middle East, in Ukraine, or in North Korea. Where are her successes?


The ‘Voice of the People’ Fallacy

By 4.12.16

We hear many fallacies in election years. The fallacy that seems to be most popular this year is that, if Donald Trump comes close to getting the 1,237 delegates required to become the Republican nominee, and that nomination goes instead to someone else, then the convention will have ignored “the voice of the people.”

Supposedly Republican voters would be outraged, many would stay home on election day, and some might even vote for the Democrats’ nominee, whether Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

Mr. Trump has more than once made the veiled threat that he would run as a third-party candidate if the Republicans failed to “respect” him. And of course Trump would himself decide what “respect” means.

In so far as the voting public believes the fallacy that choosing someone other than Trump is ignoring “the voice of the people,” when Trump has the most delegates, his threat carries weight.

In reality, Trump has never gotten a majority of the votes in any state. In other words, “the voice of the people” has been consistently against nominating Trump.


Dangerous Donald Trump

By 4.5.16

Donald Trump’s victories in the Republican primaries may make him seem like a sure winner. But those victories have been achieved by receiving either somewhat less than 40 percent of the votes or somewhat more than 40 percent, but never a majority.

The fragmenting of the Republican vote among many candidates in the primaries made this possible. But victory in the general election for President of the United States in November is going to require a lot more than 40 percent of the votes. And polls consistently show Mr. Trump to be the most negatively regarded of any of the candidates in either party.

In some Republican winner-take-all states, 40 percent of the votes can be enough to get 100 percent of the delegates. This leverage might enable Trump to gain a majority of the delegates needed to become the party’s nominee.

But Trump and his supporters want more. They are now talking as if winning a plurality of the delegates ought to be enough to gain him the nomination, despite his failing to get a majority, as required by long-standing rules.


Republicans: Who Are You?

By 3.21.16

It’s the understatement of the new century to say that the GOP is going through an identity crisis. The conservative movement is too.

If Donald Trump wins the GOP nomination, which looks probable — though I’m still hopeful that Ted Cruz can catch him — he will have reshuffled the deck of the Republican Party in a way that no one has since Ronald Reagan transformed the GOP into a conservative party.

Trump is remaking the GOP into a populist /reform party of working class, evangelical, and entrepreneurial class voters. He is completing what Ross Perot tried to build in 1992 with his Reform Party.

For the Republican establishment this is a complete disaster, much worse than the election of Barack Obama. And they know it. Trump and his supporters don’t hire the cadre of Republican consultants, pollsters, funders and party organizers and they don’t spend money on super PACs. The party apparatchiks are the people the Trump brigades are rebelling against.


Where Conservatives Still Lag Liberals in Digital Politics

By 3.17.16

It’s no secret that conservatives trail liberals when it comes to digital activism. To those who were paying attention at the time, Howard Dean’s failed 2004 presidential bid showed the power of the Internet in rallying far-flung supporters to a single cause. Democrats got the message; Republicans didn’t. Eight years later, Mitt Romney’s campaign watched helplessly as its much vaunted digital “get-out-the-vote” platform proved a complete failure on Election Day.


Voting at a Crossroads

By 3.15.16

It is seldom that the fate of a nation can be traced to what happened on one particular day. But that may be what happens in the United States of America on Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

That is because the front-runners in both political parties are not merely inadequate but appalling — and the vote in this Tuesday’s primaries may be the last chance for the voters to unite behind someone else.

The trends that brought us to this crucial day go back for years. But whatever the paths that led to this crossroads, we are in fact at a crossroads and our future, and our children’s futures, depend on whether we can come up with some presidential candidate better than either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

In other times and in other conditions, one bad president could not ruin a great nation. We survived Jimmy Carter and we may survive Barack Obama, but there is no guarantee that we can survive an unlimited amount of reckless decisions in a dangerous world.


‘Anyone But Trump’ Becomes ‘Anyone But Cruz’

By 3.8.16

It is desperation time for the Republican Party establishment. Its extremely well-financed favorite — Jeb Bush — never got anywhere with the voters in the primaries, and has already been forced out of the contest.

This should at least cause some second thoughts — or perhaps first thoughts — by people who keep repeating that money buys elections. It is one of many theories that seem impervious to evidence.

The desperation of the Republican establishment comes from the fact that the two biggest vote-getters in the Republican primaries — Donald Trump and Ted Cruz — are people they do not want to be the Republican candidate for President of the United States.

The immediate panic is over Donald Trump. His surprising string of victories in the primaries conceals his vulnerability in the general election in November. Most of Trump’s primary victories were with less than 50 percent, and even with less than 40 percent. In the general election, less than 50 percent usually means losing.