The Decline of the Republican Party

The Decline of the Republican Party

by

Howard Adelman

Yesterday evening I attended a wedding. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing young people, handsome young men and beautiful young women, marry and set off to turn a cohort into a new generation. However, these days one cannot go out into the public without encountering the effects of the shock waves that have been sent through the body politic, not only in America but around the world. It is as if Italy’s massive new earthquake had encircled the globe. Whether in the hospital attending my wife and listening to the visitors talking with the patient in the next bed, or engaging in conversation last evening with two well-off businessmen – one had traveled all the way from Oregon to attend the wedding – the spectre of Donald Trump filled the air.

Preoccupation with Donald Trump pours out into the conversation unbidden. What does it mean? What does it portend for America and for the world, even if Donald Trump loses after his last spurt to close the gap? It seems that few expect Donald Trump to fade from the scene quietly even if he loses. The only consolation – I am not the only one obsessed.

Donald Trump has often been portrayed as an outlier to the Republican Party, at odds with its essential nature, principles and many, if not most, of its policies. Donald Trump from Queens has painted a self-portrait of the self-made billionaire taking on the billionaire governing class from Wall Street, the ordinary self-made man from the Bronx, Brooklyn or Queens coming forth as a cast off from the ruling hierarchy to lead his dispossessed followers like Moses towards the promised land. In fact, Donald Trump is the logical extension of the way those principles have evolved and have been expressed in most of the recent policies proposed by the GOP as the essence of what used to be its nature has been hollowed out to contribute to a darker, meaner, stressed out and grumpier America.

Begin with immigration, the initial headline issue with which Donald Trump launched his pursuit of the presidency – build a wall, deport all the illegals, Mexicans are rapists, refugees are security threats, the intake of Muslim refugees should be stopped “until we know what we are doing.” No queue jumping. No amnesties. Immigration law has to be enforced to ensure that anyone who wants to come to America waits in line until he or she is adequately vetted and selected. Fear of the invader – Mexicans and Central Americans, terrorists from the Middle East (even though the vast majority have been home-grown radicalized youth) – is married to the sense that neither the legal system nor borders have been up to the task of securing Americans (or Hungarians or Poles or Frenchmen or Brits). Ignore the reality that 25% of America’s core rite of baseball now has 25% of its players with Hispanic backgrounds. Instead, attend to the important shift in the body politic as the proportion of whites in the population is steadily reduced.

But have the Republican Party principles and policies been any different, at least in the basics? The first principle of the Republican Party platform has been that the RP “believes in immigration laws.” The fundamental criterion for any policy is not American economic self-interest but national security, though the immigration program should fundamentally be a skills-based program for selection and a temporary visa program for the unskilled. The RP advocated putting more resources into keeping people out who have not been granted legal admission to the U.S. Otherwise, they contended, the law is a farce. Amnesties only encourage a future wave of new illegals. And large numbers of illegals on American soil (estimated at 11,000,000), they insisted, place unfair demands on the American social security system. All this is stated as a given truth in spite of the data showing that illegals contribute far more to the system than they extract from it. Nevertheless, the focus is on the need to expand enforcement, the use of a Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement (SAVE) program and the creation of a biometric data tracking system akin to the one already in place at airports.

Recall that House Leader John Boehner lost his position largely because, in his immigration reforms, he was considered too soft, including even those of his proposals that emphasized border security as the prime criterion. His plan denied any path to citizenship for anyone who had arrived on American soil illegally.

Donald Trump differed in only details – the wall should be higher and stronger. The Mexicans will pay for it. At heart, it was the same hardline Republican Party doctrine on immigration, but blasted out at many decibels higher as a boast rather than an obvious backhanded trick. Further, while the Boehner platform offered no path to citizenship for illegals, he threw them a bone – which drove his more puritanical Republicans in the House crazy, let alone The Donald himself. No legal path to citizenship, except if “they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits).” On the other hand, Boehner’s plan was even more radical in some ways than ones proposed by other more radical Republican members of the House. For he would repeal the opportunity allowed for an immigrant to sponsor his wife and children.

The evidential irrationality, the huge barriers to implementation, the enormous costs undercutting any self-interest and the inhumanity of the policy proposals that would send the parents of American citizens back to their country of origin, suggests a far deeper motive that had nothing to do with the importance of upholding the rule of law. This was nativism writ large, the flip side of the undercurrent of racism and of birtherism that has haunted the Republican Party and made every day seem like Halloween.

In economic policy, the Republicans have been the clearest and most puritanical supporters of lower taxes, reduced guarantees for social security (citizens should be incentivized to provide for their own social security, social and medical benefits), minimal government, and offering the most unregulated environment for the expression of capitalism, including increased regulation for and restrictions on labour unions. Who better to choose to represent the party than a billionaire who has evidently paid no personal income taxes for eighteen years? Republicans support fewer taxes on even the rich who are esteemed as the engines of economic growth. Republicans oppose the Democratic Party proposals to institute a $15 minimum wage. Republicans certainly oppose the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Many in the past opposed Medicaid and Social Security. On all these economic policies, Donald agrees with the economic policies of his party.

There is one exception. The Republican Party has consistently promoted free trade agreements. The Donald has pointed to free trade as the cause of the decimation in the rust belt and characterized NAFTA as “a disaster.” “It’s the worst agreement ever signed” – though that is also how he described the Iranian nuclear deal, but, of course, for Donald Trump, there is no contradiction in declaring a large variety of arrangements as “the worst” Speaking of NAFTA, Trump promised, “We will either renegotiate it, or we will break it. Because, you know, every agreement has an end. … Every agreement has to be fair. Every agreement has a defraud clause. We’re being defrauded by all these countries.” With one stroke, Trump upended a Republican long-standing trade policy and wedded his proposal to conspiracy theorists.

More importantly, Trump had followed a long historical precedent going back to Napoleon III of appealing to those tossed aside or whose security has been reduced by the latest revolution in capitalism, what Karl Marx called the lumpen proletariat. Instead of the Hispanics, Blacks, women and gays that National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus had proposed to appeal to in his March 2013 reform recommendations for the Republican Party that recommended immigration reform and policies directed at the inclusion of minorities, Trump went in the opposite direction and appealed to white males who felt their roles had been undermined by a combination of benefits offered to minorities and opportunities transferred to foreign workers. The hollowing out of America’s industrial core, the thinning out of the middle class and the huge increase in the fat cats versus the working poor, the emergence of the new dot com economy and the financializing of corporate America, the resulting dislocation and insecurities reinforced by a weak social security system, produced an earthquake in which the optimism of the American creed came tumbling down in the face of the new Joshua and his populist trumpet blasts.

In doing so, Trump had collected a base that could offer the Republicans a majority foundation just as they had discovered fifty years earlier in the turn to take the old South away from the Democrats. Count the numbers of social conservatives concerned, for example, with abortion and embryonic stem cell research (12%), but who are disproportionately politically engaged (19%), almost offsetting an equal-sized committed liberal population (15% who would never support the Republican Party and are even more politically engaged (21%). Add to that core economic conservatives (10%), also disproportionately very engaged politically (17%). Add the two groups together and this is where you find Trump’s core support of 36% with some disaffection from economic conservatives upset by Trump’s crass populism and his rejection of free trade.

These losses, however, were more than offset by an appeal to the previously politically disaffected financially stressed members of the population who had been left behind by the economic changes underway. If this 13% of the population could be motivated to participate in politics at much higher rates than their traditional reluctance, Trump will have provided the GOP with a third strong leg and built a new and powerful foundation for its future. To retain the religious right, he opportunistically stressed conservative social values, though he was unable to sweep up large numbers of young voters sceptical of big government but liberal on social issues – Sanders supporters. Nevertheless, he had identified a potentially winning combination. For the latter group of Democratic dissenters forced Hillary initially to equivocate and subsequently support the TPP and TIP treaties only if specific modifications are made. These compromises and blandishments are unlikely to mollify the critics on her left while reinforcing the stature of Donald Trump’s unequivocal renunciation of free trade.

The Democrats, in contrast to Trump, relied on a mixture of die-hard liberals (the 21% mentioned above), minorities (12% of voting activists even though they were 14% of the population), and the new millennial left (11% of activists even though 12% of the population) giving the Democrats a 44% base of support, but one which was vulnerable if enthusiasm to vote for “crooked Hillary” were to be suppressed. This became a major goal of the Trump political campaign. Sweep the lumpen proletariat into the party and reduce the turnout for the Democrats by undermining the enthusiasm of the body politic for his opponent. If Trump has a ceiling above which he cannot rise, then lower Hillary’s floor. Get a higher percentage of the population who actually vote to support the Republican candidate. As Nathan Silver has warned, polls that fail to take this enthusiasm factor into account could well be incorrect. The “crooked Hillary” campaign targets the turnout factor for the Democrats while raising the enthusiasm of his own base which does not need any further convincing. His supporters recite the mantra like automatons while Trump runs a do-not-vote campaign targeting voters leaning towards voting for Hillary. You may hate and distrust me, but Hillary is worse.

Then there are the undecided or those who rarely vote. It becomes clear that the goal of each side is threefold: 1) peal away some supporters from the other side; 2) suppress the enthusiasm factor in the opposing camp to decrease the turnout rate of those inclined to support that side’s candidate, and 3) prevent too much slippage to minor party candidates. (For a breakdown in the factions of the American population supporting different candidates with the enthusiasm factor taken into account, but not the slippage element, see “Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology, 26 June 2014 published by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press – http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/26/the-political-typology-beyond-red-vs-blue/)

The anti- or pro-immigration bias and the scepticism for or stress on minority rights had already been built-in on each side. “Extremism” on any of these positions might suppress enthusiasm on one side or the other, but the offset would be a boost in one’s own side’s enthusiasm factor. Clearly, we were dealing with a high-risk candidate on one side and a cautious, calculating candidate on the other side. The objective factors mattered far less than how they were perceived. Is it any wonder that substantive issues played such a small part in the debates and the election? Is it any surprise that not one question in the debates addressed the most important issue of our time – human induced climate change?

Take NAFTA. It may not have worked out nearly as well as its architects planned, creating fewer net new jobs than envisioned. But the techies and the skilled who saw their job options increase would not feel as emotional about the new economy as those distressed poorer less educated voters among the 350,000 and 750,000 directly impacted, along with the sales and service personnel that supported them. They fell by the wayside and lost jobs or moved to lower-paying ones. If the latter were combined with resentful whites and religious minorities (as long as one pandered to the social values of the latter), it can be seen that Trump had forged a potentially winning coalition, even though it would be one coming with a handicap. Thus, although the actual impact of the trade agreements and the openness to free trade had been relatively positive, though also considerably smaller than anticipated, the new targeted population became the victims of the relatively modest positive impacts of free trade. Thus, the real potential of an anti-free trade and anti-immigrant posture, whether in the U.S. or in the advanced democracies in Europe that have also experienced the rise of the alt-Right, was apparent to any opportunist.

The contradictions were not so apparent. Increase the number of high value jobs on one side and the number of low-valued jobs on the other side of a border, then not only does each side benefit from the rising tide, but the pressure on immigration is significantly reduced as increased job opportunities open up on the poorer side. Closing off the spigot through coercion rather than through foreign domestic incentives can only come about at enormous direct costs and a multitude of indirect ones so that you end up having a negative sum game for both sides.

To recognize this requires ignoring the lost political opportunity costs. And Donald Trump, with an attention span of twenty minutes, was certainly not interested in that. The same is true of the negative impacts of Donald Trump’s tax policies on the very people he is winning and getting to turn out to his large rallies. This is also true of a decrease in the social safety net for these very populations who will suffer much more than they are suffering now. But if the blame can be displaced and built into the equation from the start, that failure will only result because there is an effort by international bankers, crony capitalists, led by the get-rich-quick through government largesse of the Clinton clan and that of their corporate partners, then the possibility of political victory is enhanced by more economic suffering.

Donald Trump offered an additional new enhancing formula – an anti-imperial and anti-activist American leadership in foreign affairs, but now enhanced by the spectre of an opponent launching World War III. The irony was that Trump preached making America great again as a cover for becoming a mouth piece for the fears that the Putin mafia have been promulgating since 2014 – that of America as the initiators of a new world war. As Russia tests its new ambitions for expansion in the Ukraine and in the Middle East, make America great again became a formula for shrinking America from its global responsibilities. This switchback required extending Barack Obama’s lead in making America small again, retreating from an active interventionist role and paying far more attention to the well-being of one’s own population.

This was a tour de force for it undercut the appeal of the Hillary Democrats to their own left base. But it came at a cost, but one Donald Trump bet would work to his advantage. As Colin Powell, a former Republican Secretary of State, noted in reference to the birther movement, when nativism is combined with “a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party,” the party has to engage in some intense naval gazing. But conspiracy theories obviate the compulsion to do so.

Not one of Donald Trump’s competitors for the leadership of the Republican Party recognized this route to the White House. But they had already built into the party an attraction to demagoguery, an absolute insistence on no compromise, even if the cost was a burning political system crashing down upon their heads, a propensity for constructing conspiratorial groupings aimed to deprive Americans of their second amendment rights joined by a scientific conspiracy of leading intellectual figures to foster on a naïve domestic population a myth about climate change. When fostering ignorance at the expense of knowledge, when blaming others at the cost of assuming responsibility, when creating a narrative of a besieged American betrayed by the ruling establishment, the pathway to a potential victory had been forged by the previous leadership of the Republican Party. Trump had simply upped the ante, driving his rivals out of the game. The Tea Party’s fight with the traditional establishment in the party was not intended to but did serve to prepare the ground for Donald Trump by bringing into the party the power of negative thinking, the enhancement of suspicion, the huge increase in mindblindness and the anxiety and insecurity that now undergirds the party.

So when the enthusiasm factor is introduced into polling so that different voters get different weights depending on that enthusiasm, the result of outlying scientific polls show either a victory for Donald Trump or, on the other hand, a narrow victory for Hillary Clinton when she needs an overwhelming win with the consequent win in the Senate and even potentially in the House of Representatives to actually govern.

Racism, the general distrust of government, the insecurities of white males, particularly those who are less educated, as well as evangelicals primed to expect the immanent end of days, have been linked together to create a toxic brew of fear and insecurity, an emotional maelstrom that bubbles like a volcano about to explode and pour its hot lava through the cracks and fissures of the Republican Party. Hence the focus on the after-effects of the Trump earthquake and the shock waves that have reverberated around the world. Hence the sacrifice of reasoning and evidence-based policies for ones that reinforced passion and unbridled vehemence, that emphasize entertainment more than dialogue, that confers authority on celebrity itself. Hence atavistic nationalism rather than just patriotism, xenophobia married to racism and sexism. Hence a political campaign built on grievances and whining. Hence the politics of resentment. Hence the scare-mongering and the rise once again of the Know Nothings. Hence, the discontent with democracy and the faith in a rational voting population.

For those who believe in attachment, who either esteem or long for a strong community, but encounter one increasingly atomized by technology, Facebook and Twitter, the use of coarser language and a reduction in empathy are used to prove that “community” itself is weak and evanescent. The results of economic, social and technological forces have been devastating and prepared the ground for the takeover of the Republican Party, the rise of Trumpism and a divided and meaner polity with civility driven to the margins. Is it any wonder that this Halloween the main ghost is that of Donald Trump?

With the help of Alec Zisman

The Mid-West Presidential Primaries

The Mid-West Presidential Primaries

by

Howard Adelman

We are now in South Dakota in a little town called Chamberlain known for its trout fishing. We will do no fishing, but that seemed to be the main attraction for all the men in Charlys Restaurant & Lounge last evening where N’s chardonnay was terrible and her filet minion even worse. I remind myself that we should follow my personal guideline – never order a steak in cattle country because the best meat gets shipped to the high class restaurants in New York. (This conclusion is, of course, based on extensive empirical research.)   However, we very much look forward to visiting the Akta Lakota Museum this morning before we set off further west.

Yesterday morning in Des Moines, Iowa, we had an auspicious start. Instead of writing my blog, I got up early to move the top tarp on the packed trailer we are hauling to deliver a load of personal belongings to our son Daniel who has become a farmer in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. The tarp was luffing and one of the straps on top seemed to have gotten loose. eyes, problematic enough, but because of how I process visual information. I have difficulty recognizing faces, though nowhere as difficult as Oliver Sacks. I had enormous difficulties in medical school in recognizing what I was looking at through a microscope. A neighbour who had helped me finish covering the trailer and fastening the ratchet straps sent me a video with clear and simple instructions on how ratchets worked.

I watched it perhaps five times. It was short, direct and clear, but when I went to translate what I had seen into practice, I seemed to bugger it up every time. I did not tell N what an idiot I had been, but told her that everything was perfectly tied down. For, after two hours – most of the time admittedly not spent on the ratchets – I finally asked a truck driver in the parking lot for help. In less than a minute, he corrected my mistakes and had the straps properly tightened. I relearned what I have learned many times before. I have the visual intelligence of an idiot. I may be terrific with abstract thought and analysis, with absorbing reams of material, but my visual intelligence is sub-moronic. And to think that I was admitted to medical school! Can you imagine all the lives I saved by quitting medicine?

We then had to find and go to an auto shop, for our right brake and blinker light on the trailer were not working. The mechanic had to rewire the connection because the plug was in poor shape and one of the wires had been pinched. Then we stopped at an auto parts dealer to purchase and put on some universal reflector plates for the side of the rear lights on the trailer that had gone missing and that we had been advised to put in to prevent moisture getting into the rear trailer lights. Not to worry. In addition to all the driving, N did the job. Such are the joys of pulling a trailer.

Yesterday was the first day of spring. The temperature rose from 28 degrees Fahrenhei t in the morning – there was frost on the top of the tarp on the trailer – to 65 degrees F. It was a glorious day. However, we are lucky. If we had delayed our departure by two days, we would have run into rain later today and snow tomorrow in Sioux Falls and Sioux City. As it is, the temperature will drop today when we get to Billings, Montana to 42 F and we may get 1” of snow the next day on route to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, but no high winds or squalls, so we are almost in the clear weather-wise all the way to Oregon.

In the past two days we have travelled from Michigan through the north-west corner of Indiana through Illinois and stayed overnight in Des Moines, Iowa, actually a suburb called Urbandale. Yesterday we traversed the rest of Iowa, the north-east corner of Nebraska and ended up in South Dakota. So in two days we have traveled through six of the fifty American states, not a bad sample size, except het the states come from only a few geographical regions. I have already written about Michigan, but I will first reply to two of the responses for clarification. But first, one correction!

I think the number of electors in the electoral college for each state equals the number of that states number in congress: representatives plus senators.  For Michigan, I think it is 16.

Dead on! My apologies.

Response 1:

  1.  I would not norm around Michigan.  Ohio’s a better index for the Dems.  From here on in, Hillary should lock up most of the states and especially the big ones.  The question lingers: why she captures the votes but not the hearts.  It’s interesting to hear Jacob on this, because he captures an important, lingering sentiment.  It’s about trust.  People trust Sanders even though his policy program is unrealistic.  One is tempted to say this is the hangover from 2008 and Obama’s hope pitch.
  1.  Is Trump a winner or the GOP a loser?  I think it’s the latter; as the GOP coalition splinters, Trump benefits.  Their worst nightmare was Ohio.  Kasich will now stay in the race and continue to splinter the anti-Trump bloc.  His latest declaration that Merrick Garland should come up for a vote is part of his gambit to seem moderate.  This will only perpetuate the divide.  With Rubio gone, which really was the GOP establishment’s last, very flimsy, hope, the pathway to Trump is clearer than ever.  Neither Cruz nor Kasich can possibly win so long as the other stays in.  Once CA and NY vote, and it seems likely Trump will win both, there is no real alternative without shattering the party, which the brass may choose to do: smash it all in order to rescue it.  See below, nuclear options.

You have to love the irony of the anti-country clubbers voting for the man who builds country clubs.  Literally.  What has surprised many observers, though is that the breaks don’t go the anti-Trump way — that’s to say, when a rival drops out, his backers (or in the case of Carla F, her backers) they don’t go to the runner up to Trump; they break in his favor more than many expected.

Hillary could lose to Trump is the right conjugation.  But it is implausible.  The only demographic he has a chance at winning is white men.  That’s a small fraction of the US population now.  About 35%.  So, even if he takes 55% of that vote, he’ll get swamped by the tide going the other way.  This is the reason why the GOP brass are in a total panic; for the long term health of the party, it’s a disaster.  Have a look at this report:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/20/us/politics/donald-trump-republican-party.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Of course, I am mindful of the fact that we should presume the triumph of reason.  It’s happened before that demagoguery — of the hard and soft kinds — have prevailed.

Response 2:

If Trump runs for president as the GOP candidate and loses, will he then self-describe as a loser?  If Trump wins, it is guaranteed more Americans will leave for points south and north.  Will that not make him a loser of citizens?   If Trump wins as an expression of the ugly, stupid and AND angry American, what can he possibly do to make that contingent happy and calm?  Won’t they quickly become disaffected and, once again, he is a loser?  Bottom line: if Trump wins, isn’t that just a loss by another name?

My Reply:

  1. I did not offer Michigan as a norm but as an outlier given the results the following week, but there are lessons to be learned from outliers. You are correct that Ohio is a better indicator for the Democrats, but why did Sanders win Michigan, why were the polls so wrong, and is there any implication for the presidential election even as Hillary clinches the nomination?
  2. Re Jacob’s leaning towards Sanders, Gabriel too has for a long time been a strong Sander’s supporter’ So are his friends who think about politics, but he admits most are uninterested.
  3. In my examination, it is better to keep Kasich in the race since, if he dropped out, many of his supporters would not go to Cruz, who is at least as unrealistic as Trump and much further to the right. Some would go to Trump because he is relatively more appealing to Reagan democrats and working class Republican voters than Cruz. The only way to keep Trump from winning is to make sure he cannot win on the first ballot and then fight for the votes released, particularly from the winner take all states. Given the broader base of Trump supporters, Trump would be a riskier opponent for the Democrats than Cruz.
  4. Is Trump the winner and the GOP the loser?  Other than replying that everyone is a loser if Trump wins, including Trump, the real issue the Republicans face is whether they want a very different party or whether they are better off trying to put together the shattered pieces of what is left, especially since, for many Republicans, Trump is believed to be a disaster for America as well as the Republican Party. Though neither Cruz nor Kasich can possibly win as long as the other stays in, it is also true that neither can win if the other drops out. The only way Trump can lose is in a brokered convention, admittedly a nuclear disaster for the Republican Party. Who will blink? Definitely not Trump.

Back to the primaries.

Tonight we will have the results from Arizona which, in the Republican primary, has 75 delegates in a winner-take-all state where Trump is expected to win big. Cruz may win both Idaho (23 delegates) and Utah (33 delegates), but those states are divided proportionately, so Trump is once again expected to be the big winner. As of today, he has 680 delegated to 424 for Cruz and 123 for Kasich, more than the other two put together. Because of carryovers from other delegates in the race and his expected performance in the remaining primaries (South Dakota’s is not until 7 June), he is not likely to get the 1237 required, but is expected to come close and to easily beat both his rivals by considerable numbers. So the issue has now become whether the party will observe the will of the largest plurality of voters or behave in accordance with the rules and let the delegates decide on the second and possibly subsequent ballots. I suspect they will not give in to Trump’s bluff and bullying and will let the delegates choose, even though Trump is still expected to win even then.

Passing through Iowa the day before yesterday and yesterday, helps recall the state which was a turning point in the primary race. Last night on CNN in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, Trump was boasting he was likely to win a majority of delegates in the primaries and, in any case, would come so close that, given the distribution of delegates among the 17 candidates who started in the race, he would deserve to be crowned as the winner. He also insisted that he had the momentum, winning 4 of 5 states last week and losing to Kasich in his home state of Ohio by only a very small margin. True to Trump’s pattern of constructing reality out of his imagination rather than actuality, the vote in Ohio was 956,762 (46.8%) for Kasich to 727,585 (35.6%) for Trump (Cruz received 267,592 votes – 13.1%). When Trump wins by 10%, for him his victory is “huge, really huge,” but when Kasich beat him by more than that margin, Trump contends he came “close, really close” and only lost by a small margin. Trump is almost impossible to fact check simply because the number of facts he gets wrong and distorts is so enormous. But mostly he obfuscates and evades.

Bernie soldiers on now, no longer as the surprise real contender but as the leader of a movement rather than a force seeking to be the Democratic candidate. Of course, Ohio was really the end of the road for Bernie, because he could not carry over his victory in Michigan to Ohio and received only 42.7% (513,549) to Hillary’s 679,266 votes (56.5%), so the real excitement remains the Republican race. And it ends in Ohio in the convention in Cleveland. One interesting observation in Ohio: Kaslich captured the eastern and southern third (geographically) of the state, while Trump won in the western third. In contrast, in the democratic race, Bernie won a smattering of counties in the south-east, the south-west, the north-west, the centre, but only one county in the north-east.

In contrast to the Ohio primary, where it was hoped that Bernie would come close to or even beat Hillary, Illinois was a virtual tie, with Hillary eking out a very slight psychological victory with only 50.46% of the vote, but only the same number of 78 pledged delegates as Bernie. But Hillary is expected to get 100% of the 22 unpledged or super-delegates. In Illinois where Trump won his “huge, really huge” victory, he received only 38.8% of the vote (exactly as the average of the poll projections) to Cruz’s 30.3% and Kasich’s 8.7%. Together, his two opponents beat him and both came in slightly higher than poll expectations. However, Trump must get a majority of the delegates. Even more interesting, Trump boasts that he brings out huge numbers of new voters, but his total vote in Illinois was only 556,916. In contrast, Hillary garnered over a million votes.

In Iowa, Ted Cruz was the big winner with 51,666 votes to Trump’s 45,427 in a clear two-way race in the Iowa caucus, even though in the polling prior to the vote, Cruz had been trailing by roughly 5%. As we listened to talk radio in Iowa yesterday, the radio host on the phone-in show was a clear Trump supporter. One of his callers was a woman who had just been in a verbal political argument at her chiropractor’s office. She had emerged totally frustrated. The media were all against Trump playing one video clip over and over again showing a supporter hitting a protester. (Last night, Trump insisted that they were not protesters but professional agitators.) For the female Trump supporter, Trump was for peace as he said and she ignored the statements (as did Trump) that Wolf Blitzer in his interview cited of his encouraging violence. After all, as Trump said, he opposed any violence at the Cleveland Convention, but if the establishment denied him a victory, the voters were very angry and, he was just saying, you can expect riots. The female call-in supporter said she just would not vote if the Republican Party denied her candidate the right to be on the ballot in accordance with the will of the people.

Nebraska, though it only has a small number of delegates, is interesting because, in a Republican state, in the Democratic primary, Bernie won 57.1% to Hilary’s 42.9%. In South Dakota, all the men up early with me in the motel breakfast room were far more interested in discussing fishing than watching or analyzing the replays of Clinton and Trump addressing the AIPAC meeting yesterday. (I did not see any replays of Cruz or Kaisich – perhaps they speak today, and Bernie rejected AIPAC’s invitation to address them.) The men at breakfast all seemed to be Republican voters, but rather than enthusiastic for one candidate or another, politics as conducted just seemed to turn them off. Perhaps not one of them would actually vote.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Nomination Time in the U.S.A. 1. Michigan

Nomination Time in the U.S.A.   1. Michigan

by

Howard Adelman

There is no magic or appropriate rationale for beginning this exploration of the current electoral mood in the United States except that Michigan is my first stop in my American tour. I begin writing, not in order to predict what will happen in the rest of the presidential nomination process in the U.S., but to understand the process and the factors that have pushed it one way or another and to anticipate possible rather than likely outcomes. The direction of the Southern States is now clear, but not the Northern tier or the Western cluster; Bernie Sanders stands virtually no chance of winning the nomination as the Democratic candidate. Yet without Bernie Sanders, if Michigan is an indication, in a faceoff between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Hilary could be the loser. That is a provocative assertion, but after I clear the underbrush, I will explain my thinking. But before you get all worked up with anxiety about the future of the leadership of the Western world, keep in mind that I wrote, “if Michigan is an indication.”

Given the data, there is an obvious puzzle over why Hillary Clinton, who was projected to win Michigan by a substantial margin according to virtually all polls, lost by a narrow margin. Since the polls for Republican voters were reasonably accurate, what happened? Further, the polls in the subsequent elections in Illinois and Ohio were reasonably accurate, so what happened on 8 March in Michigan, the 24th state to vote
in this year’s American primaries? And what is the relevance for the Presidential election in which Michigan holds 242 votes in the electoral college that will select the President?

I begin with the GOP. The Republican race in Michigan was a primary with a minimum threshold of 15% to even win any delegates, a key factor for Marco Rubio. At the half-way mark, with the contenders reduced to four, Michigan was supposed to offer a good indication of the eventual results. Note that although any candidate whose vote exceeds 50% wins all at-large delegates (as distinct from congressional district delegates) from the state, no candidate did.

Understanding the following basic data is important in Michigan where the total number of delegates at stake in the Republican primary was 59 to be distributed proportionally among the candidates receiving at least 15% of the vote.

Ave. Poll

Candidate          %      Projections      Votes        Delegates   Targets

Donald Trump   36.5     39                  483,751           25             345,000

Ted Cruz            24.9     24                 330,015           17             345,000

John Kasich        24.3    23                  321,655           17             ?

Marco Rubio        9.3    14                  121,672             0             ?

A key indicator was whether Ted Cruz could bring on board white voters without any college experience who, in large proportions did not normally vote. Could his formidable ground force of evangelical/Tea Party supporters, using old-fashioned door-to-door campaigning to bring out the vote, achieve their target of 345,000 votes? They came reasonably close. At the same time, could Donald Trump continue his streak of bringing on board large numbers of previous non-Republican voters and non-voters, especially again among white voters, again without college experience. He succeeded beyond his expectations. John Kasich hoped his track record of creating jobs in neighbouring Ohio could stand in good stead in Michigan where underemployment and unemployment were major issues. He did about as well as expected.

The big loser was, of course, Marco Rubio. As the election approached, Marco Rubio was panicking over polls in his home state of Florida and he shifted to concentrate his efforts there. But his decline in the number of expected delegates and failing to achieve the minimal 15% left him branded as a loser that multiplied his troubles in Florida. The shift in resources and surrender in Michigan proved to be a big mistake, compounded by his stooping into the gutter to engage in dissing with a master of the art, Donald Trump. Elections are not simply or even mostly about policies and programs, especially this year’s Republican primary. They are about stamina and the communication that the candidate in question is a winner. Rubio made a major mistake and lost the Florida primary to an even larger extent in Michigan.

Mitt Romney, a prince among Republicans, had called Donald Trump a phony and a fraud among a large number of epithets thrown at the candidate leading the Republican pack. Mitt Romney was a former governor of Michigan. Although the combination of unaffiliated PAC ads and candidate-affiliated super PAC ads as a percentage of all GOP ads that were anti-Trump grew from 9% in February to 47% in the first week of March, and given that the pro-Marco Rubio Conservative Solutions PAC accounted for five times as many anti-Trump ads as the next-highest group, the ads were, nevertheless, counter-productive and reinforced the anger against the country club establishment in the Republican Party. Donald Trump benefited more from the Rubio loss of votes than either Ted Cruz or John Kaslich.

Look at the results of the exit polls:

  • Trump won 44% of male Republicans, 28% from women.
  • Kasich posted a strong and early lead in the country club counties such as Oakland as expected.
  • Cruz did well considering that Republican congressional representatives tend to be moderate in a state ranked as very liberal generally; Cruz is at the extreme right in the Party, but so are Bill Huizenga and Justin Amash from Michigan.
  • The Trump vote increased by 3.5% over projections.

All of the above are critical to understanding the path of the Republican primary vote, but in the last half dozen presidential races, Michigan voters have supported the Democratic Party’s candidate. So the primary results may help choose the Republican candidate but probably not the winner in the presidential election where the Democrats are expected to take the 242 Michigan electoral college votes.

That is why the Democratic race with 130 Michigan delegates at stake (340 overall that day) is so crucial to determining the eventual results. Clinton entered the Michigan primary with 677 pledged delegates (59%) to Sanders’s 478 (41 %) making her, by far, the most likely candidate to win even if Bernie Sanders took Michigan. Bernie was a long shot, but emerged as a long shot winner, nowhere sufficient to ever catch up to Clinton, but an important psychological victory nevertheless. The primary vote indicated that the younger the voters, the lower the minority population as a percentage of the total and the greater the percentage of educated as well as working-class, the better Sander’s chances are.

According to the weighted (based on record of accuracy) average of a large number of polls, Hillary Clinton was projected to win 59.2% of the delegates (range of 52%-66%) to Bernie Sanders 38.3% (33%-47% range). Only one poll came close to the margin of error in predicting Bernie’s win, the Mitchell Research and Communications Poll, with52% for Hillary Clinton and 47% for Bernie Sanders. Given the surprise for both candidates at the actual results, it seems that internal campaign polls did not differ from the various external ones. On the other hand, the number of targeted delegates by each candidate indicated that the results were not totally surprising since the Clinton campaign’s target was 63 delegates while that of Sanders was 67 delegates. The targets and the actual results were congruent.

As stated above, the results were psychological more than political, boosting morale in the Sanders camp and initiating a recalibration in the Clinton camp, but with no deep concern that Clinton would not eventually win the nomination, though the prospect of a dark horse candidate had now become real even though implausible. Even more significant, according to exit polls, was Sanders increase in support among Black voters – up from 10 or so percent in the South to 30% in Michigan. He was projected to win 21% of Black voters in Michigan, but won 30%. The oddest result was that Sanders, a Jew and a self-declared socialist, did very well among Arab Americans, especially in Dearborn where Sanders won over Clinton by a huge 2:1 ratio (64:36).

  1. Was Sander’s increase in the Black vote in part due to his appeal to blue-collar workers because he was so opposed to the free-trade deals which did not provide a net for workers earning good wages and now requiring retraining?
  2. Since self-identified independents also seem to vote for Sanders, does this bode ill for Clinton indicating that these voters might switch to Trump rather than Clinton since Trump also has been very critical of those trade deals?
  3. Further, since Sanders has benefited from much higher turn out of voters, and this is the same phenomenon that has buoyed the Trump campaign, will Trump benefit from a good proportion of these voters?

Aside from the fact that I am in the most liberal part of the state, in Ann Arbor, my personal “extensive” polling last evening and this morning of people exiting, not the polling booth, but the motel, indicates that the largely unexpected results in the race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Michigan may have been due to a number of factors:

  • The polls were inaccurate because younger voters get their news and information from the new social media and it is very difficult to access their opinions using traditional methods so that, when it comes to determining the preferences of younger voters, polls may not be reliable.
  • There seems to be some overlap between the voters to whom Trump appeals to those flocking to Bernie Sanders, not among the young educated voters, but among the disaffected working class in Michigan that have turned voters against any establishment, Republican or Democratic.
  • In the primary vote, it was safe to vote for Bernie because he was unlikely to be the presidential candidate and, even if he was, polls showed him beating Trump by an even larger margin than Hillary Clinton, evidently because Sanders was a more formidable competitor for the disaffected vote than Donald Trump.
  • Local conditions, especially considering the subsequent vote in Ohio, seem to have had a powerful influence on the disposition of the voters in the primary in Michigan.

Let me expand on those local conditions. Perhaps the most important factor has been the reams of stories about the lead poisoning of the water supply in Flint, Michigan, and, even more importantly, the apparent indifference and insensitivity of the previously well-esteemed Republican governor to the plight of the citizens of Flint, Michigan. First of all, it was learned that Michigan authorities adopted cost-saving changes in the city’s water supply that caused mass lead poisoning. The governor, Rick Snyder, as a Republican accounting technocrat determined to cut costs. He had set the tone for such policy decisions. In 2013, an official appointed by the Governor decided to save money by changing the water supply for Flint Michigan. Though the problem of lead poisoning quickly became evident in tests of the water supply, it was not until 2015 that the old source of water was reinstated. Contrary to the efforts of Republicans in Washington to blame the Obama administration, states are in charge of enforcing drinking-water standards, not Washington. In fact, the Republican- controlled Congress has hamstrung the federal government and even eliminated the power of the EPA to intervene.

Donald Trump has promised to eliminate the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, as have other Republicans. For voters influenced by issues rather than by assertions of a faith in the strength of the leader, by voters who have come to understand that government, rather than being the source of the problem, is, in reality, the sine qua non of adequate services and the foundation, economic as well as social, for the well-being of a society, “socialism” in the U.S. has subsequently been retired among many as an epithet of abuse, Bernie became the preferred option in the fight over the good versus claimed evil of governance and government.

Another powerful and continuing scandal resulted from the enormous $18 billion municipal bankruptcy of Detroit. In the bankruptcy resolution, just as in the bailout of the automobile industry, the big institutions were protected, but not the salaries or pensions, even of the 12,000 existing retirees.. Not only did pension cheques shrink by 6.7%, but large numbers of pensioners were required to pay back “overpayments” of tens of thousands of dollars, not even spread out over time, but in a lump sum. If the pensioner opted to pay over time, the account was subject to a 6.75% interest charge. To make matters worse, the settlement was initiated in the beginning of March for the repayment for what former Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr said was excess interest paid out in special payments on top of the regular pensions.

In Ann Arbor this past weekend, there is a large swim meet with high school students participating from all over the state. The meet has been plagued evidently by poor air quality and consequent skin irritation and rashes for the students caused by the chlorine in the pool mixing with the oil on the skin of the swimmers, exacerbated by large numbers and the desire of the swimmers to compete with dry bathing suits and, therefore, avoiding washing off before they plunge into the pool. However, the problem is evidently easily relieved by a good up-to-date ventilation system, but the school infrastructure is old and has long been in need correction, just one relatively minor item in a very long list of capital improvement deficits that plague states and municipalities given the last three decades of assaults on taxation and governments.

It was not clear to me than any of those whom I questioned who came from the nether reaches of the State of Michigan made any connection between political ideology and current practices and the capital deficits, unemployment and condition of rust-belt America. They tended to blame  the problem on the kids for not showering, though they acknowledged that, given the importance of small advantages in competitive swimming, it was understandable why students did not shower properly.

In the process of the discussion, I believe I acquired a greater understanding of why, even if Bernie Sander’s campaign to become the Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party may be hopeless, the movement and its long term effects on American society and attitudes is probably more important than even Bernie winning. That is why I believe he is staying in the race.

I write this as more reports on altercations at Trump rallies are being broadcast on CNN this morning. Will these unaffiliated voters be drawn towards a posture of strength in a leader or towards someone campaigning against the critics, not of bad government or of corrupt government, but at government in general? Given Clinton’s shifts in her rhetoric recently, perhaps she can win most of those voters to the Democratic camp.