Monday, May 16, 2016

Three Ways Clinton Could Go Down in History as the Person who Handed the Presidency to Trump

by Nomad

Philip Wallace, writing for the Washington Post Weekly, offers some words of caution for Clinton supporters who might believe they have the election in the bag.
This has been an election filled with mistaken assumptions. Nothing can be assumed, especially at this point. There are, Wallace observes, three ways that Trump could win the election. 

When Racism is Just a Word

By overestimating the negative reaction to Trump's bigotry and misogynist remarks Clinton could be miscalculating the mood of the nation.
People care most about bigotry most if it translates into harmful acts, says Wallace. In this way, allegations that Trump's remarks are injurious or directly related to discrimination (or violence) could have an impact.

Otherwise, the voting public is much more likely to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, and believe his  heartfelt declaration that there is no hatred in his heart." There are more people who are willing to dismiss Trump's thoughtless and tacit approval of racism than you might think.
"More fundamentally, Trump's chosen idiom is us-verses-them xenophobia, not racism. The "us" part invites "regular" Americans to feel themselves as a people, in large part by identifying and rejecting the elites' cosmopolitanism as poisonous to our national fiber. That way of thinking doesn't have to be racial at all.
To date, Trump has already shown skill at re-branding intolerance and discrimination as a form of free speech. More importantly, he has, with some help by the media, been able to transform the rejection of intolerance as a form of censorship by a misguided politically-correct minority. 
It's might be a surprise to liberals but that notion resonants with a lot of Americans. Trump is making full use of it too.

"Trump says it like it is" is a phrase that can often be heard at his rallies. Whether he will be able to convince the majority of voters that tolerance is a tired idea, and diversity must have its limits in modern America remains to be seen.   In a real sense, Trump is putting to the test whether expressing unpopular (and generally obnoxious) ideas is a virtue and merely a new form of open discussion. 
Clinton must find a way to sell these fundamental principles of American democracy to a largely disenfranchised and bitterly angry public. 

Losing Control of the Discussion

Wallace also points out another dilemma for Clinton. One of Trump's greatest strengths is his ability to dictate the terms of engagement. 
He has, noted the author, proved to be a "brilliant manipulator" of the terms of engagement, so far he has been able to control the subject he does and does not wish to talk about. In the debates, in terms of style and substance (or a lack therefore, says Wallace) he has been allowed to talk about what he wanted to talk about and to "discuss the world in a more Trumpian way."

If the discussion turns to immigration- a complicated issue full of voter minefields- Trump turns the debate into an image of a wall that our neighbors will pay for. If the subject is about his lack of credentials, Trump can claim that the world is in love with him. 

When it comes to specifics, many voters would prefer to opt-out of the complicated and boring details. It's too difficult to understand and besides, on subjects like the economy, one can never find a consensus opinion. 
Trump offers confused voters a more-or-less practical solution: He provides them with concrete (literally, in the case of the wall) imagery and leaves it to their imaginations to fill in the blanks. 

Trump has demonstrated a great deal of skill at dodging what was once considered a campaign requirement: thoughtful proposals about what he will do if elected. Instead, he simply repeats how he is going to make America great again- an idea simple enough to be a bumper sticker. In some ways, voters have translated this into a confidence in his own abilities and faith in the nation. 
Until now, at least, this lack of depth has satisfied right wing voters to a degree that established Republicans found impossible to grasp and to challenge.

Clinton cannot afford to make the same mistake as JEB! Unless she can find a way to force Trump to discuss and outline in depth the important issues, she may find herself trapped in the weird and scary world of Trump.

Quo Vadis and the Status Quo

Wallace also cites another serious problem for the Clinton campaign. the candidate will be forced to defend the status quo. Democrats must resist the temptation to become overly confident that they can make the election all about Trump, the man.
Trump will be selling voters something more than his "outsized personality" which is fairly easy to mock. For many voters, this election is much more than that. It also represents a choice between Trump as a personification of the rising anger against the ruling class" and Clinton- a person who, to many Americans- represents "more of the same."
"One doesn't have to have to like Trump to choose the former: indeed, there will be more than a few voters who talk themselves into the idea that only someone with as many noxious quality as Trump will be capable of upsetting the apple carts."
Clinton - and her campaign managers- might run on her record of accomplishments as Senator and Secretary of State, but that comes at a risk when confronting an anti-establishment opponent. In effect, Trump is using his lack of qualifications and his lack of history to his advantage and Clinton's proven track-record as her liability.

Does this mean that Clinton will lose in November and we had all better get used to the phrase "President Trump said today.."?
No, calm down. Breathe deeply and count to ten slowly. It doesn't mean that.
Trump has demonstrated to the world that he is a potentially one of the most dangerous candidates in American history. In the past two elections, the Republicans have nominated much stronger (and in most respects, saner) candidates and yet, they were refused the keys to the White House. 

Candidate Trump in comparison to John McCain and Mitt Romney is the worst of the past selections. At least, those candidates could put forward a coherent political platform and speak above a four-grade level. They could do a little more than talk about how much everybody adores them. 

No, what terrifies so many independent, progressive and quite possibly, conservatives voters isn't that he could win but that if he did win, the kind of disasters that would immediately ensue.
That fear shows up in a multitude of polls. Respondents have expressed their dislike of Trump and an unmistakable rejection everything he stands for. 

According to the latest polls, not one of over 25 polls does Trump scored higher than 40% favorable rating with the lowest at 24%, as per NBC/WSJ poll from this month. On the other hand, his unfavorably is extraordinarily high. The highest, Public Religion Research Institute/The Atlantic poll, was a mind-boggling 70%.

However, as we have seen this campaign year has been full of horrific surprises. To avoid a national calamity in November, Candidate Clinton should consider her strategy at every step and take nothing for granted when it comes to Donald Trump.

If not, she could have the dubious distinction in US political history as the person who handed the presidency to Trump.