How Donald Trump Is Hijacking the GOP

An interesting summary of how the GOP “elite” has become disconnected with its voters. Referring to The New York Times article published today that dives into this topic in more detail, this article in The Washington Post adds some analysis:

But this one anecdote captures this whole phenomenon as perfectly as any other that I’ve seen. Last March, GOP lawmakers met privately to figure out how to sell the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which GOP elites support, to Republican voters who were suspicious of it:

For help, the lawmakers turned to Frank Luntz, the Republican messaging guru. For two decades, Mr. Luntz had instructed Republicans on how to talk about thorny issues. Do not say “estate tax.” Say “death tax.” Do not privatize Social Security. “Personalize” it.

Few issues were now as dangerous to them as trade, Mr. Luntz told the lawmakers, especially a trade pact sought by a president their voters hated. Many Americans did not believe that the economic benefits of trade deals trickled down to their neighborhoods. They did not care if free trade provided them with cheaper socks and cellphones. Most believed free trade benefited other countries, not their own.

“I told them to stop calling it free trade, and start calling it American trade,” Mr. Luntz said in an interview. “American businesses, American services — American, American, American!”

Most of the ingredients paving the way for the rise of Trump are on display here. GOP lawmakers, faced with the problem that economically struggling GOP voters might not believe freer trade would help them, asked for guidance on how to better message it. Luntz also personifies longtime Republican efforts to sell the GOP drive to end the estate tax (a boon mostly to wealthy families) and the longtime GOP drive to reform Social Security. Broadly speaking, the GOP elite agenda has included free trade deals, tax changes that would deliver windfalls to top earners, and entitlement reform that would reduce benefits, and for many years, Republicans have messaged these things as good for American workers.

Yes, many Democrats also have supported free trade deals, including the Obama-backed TPP, and yes, the Dem establishment is currently paying for that in the form of the Bernie Sanders challenge.)

But GOP voters don’t appear to believe this messaging any longer, if they ever did. A national poll of Republican voters conducted recently by political scientist Alan Abramowitz found that majorities of them favor raising taxes on the wealthy and oppose cutting Social Security and Medicare. The poll showed an overlap between Republicans who hold those positions and support Trump. Exit polls have also shown GOP voters are suspicious of trade deals.

I blame Democrats for not providing a more convincing agenda to these same voters as well. Blue collar people of any race or color — the “working American” — have been the natural constituency of the Democratic Party since the New Deal. They’ve been losing that demographic for years. Even though President Obama ran his 2012 re-election campaign with his focus almost completely on the middle class, they are not regaining ground because the policy benefits have just not been there (this is avoiding a whole conversation about whether an agenda can even be passed through a Congress controlled by the opposite party anymore).

The chaos of the Republican Party offers a unique opportunity to start winning some of that back. It’s unfortunate that this year, the Democrats are fielding a candidate who brings with her all the whiffs of oligarchy: family connections to the presidency, cozy ties to Wall Street, and great personal wealth built on leveraging connections when out of office.

When Politics Gets Dirty

Dick Nixon writes about the latest Trunp/Cruz feuding:

Calling Trump a “sniveling coward”? What the hell was that? Who “snivels”? What is it?

Say “son of a bitch,” like any man whose wife is attacked.

People would understand. But Cruz, who’d obviously rehearsed the line, came off like a ship’s captain challenging a brigand to pistols at dawn.

Then he refused to disown Trump if he’s the nominee, essentially admitting that Mrs. Cruz is less important to him than a shot at being Secretary of Commerce.

So Cruz is a ruthless, high-handed snob who’d sell his wife to get ahead. We all know it, but it’s another thing to see it live.

If the Enquirer story blows—and if it’s any kind of sophisticated leak, more evidence will come—some evangelicals will stay home. Others will give up and go with Trump.

But ugly wives, rumors, the whole sordid business—it’s not about winning a bloc. It’s about television.

Trump knows, as I do, that if you slip up on television, even once, the weakness is tattooed on your chest forever.

Rubio didn’t know how to fight, so Trump made him fight.

Cruz doesn’t know how to lie.

The Media Helped Make Trump

Trump is not just an instant ratings/circulation/clicks gold mine; he’s the motherlode. He stepped on to the presidential campaign stage precisely at a moment when the media is struggling against deep insecurities about its financial future. The truth is, the media has needed Trump like a crack addict needs a hit.

Ann Curry

“How Could You Be Shocked?”

From President Obama’s speech at a fundraiser over the weekend:

We’ve got a debate inside the other party that is fantasy and schoolyard taunts and selling stuff like it’s the Home Shopping Network.

We’re shocked someone is fanning anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim sentiment. … We’re shocked! We’re shocked that someone could be loose with the facts. Or distort someone’s record. Shocked!

How can you be shocked? This is the guy, remember, who was sure that I was born in Kenya — who just wouldn’t let it go. And all this same Republican establishment, they weren’t saying nothing. As long as it was directed at me, they were fine with it. They thought it was a hoot, wanted to get his endorsement. And then now, suddenly, we’re shocked that there’s gambling going on in this establishment.

What is happening in this primary is just a distillation of what’s been happening inside their party for more than a decade. I mean, the reason that many of their voters are responding is because this is what’s been fed through the messages they’ve been sending for a long time — that you just make flat assertions that don’t comport with the facts. That you just deny the evidence of science. That compromise is a betrayal. That the other side isn’t simply wrong, or we just disagree, we want to take a different approach, but the other side is destroying the country, or treasonous. I mean, that’s — look it up. That’s what they’ve been saying.

So they can’t be surprised when somebody suddenly looks and says, you know what, I can do that even better. I can make stuff up better than that. I can be more outrageous than that. I can insult people even better than that. I can be even more uncivil. I mean, conservative outlets have been feeding their base constantly the notion that everything is a disaster, that everybody else is to blame, that Obamacare is destroying the country. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. It’s not, we disagree with this program, we think we can do it better — it’s, oh, this is a crisis!

So if you don’t care about the facts, or the evidence, or civility, in general in making your arguments, you will end up with candidates who will say just about anything and do just about anything. And when your answer to every proposal that I make, or Democrats make is no, it means that you’ve got to become more and more unreasonable because that’s the only way you can say no to some pretty reasonable stuff. And then you shouldn’t be surprised when your party ultimately has no ideas to offer at all.

Via Twitter and The Washington Post.