Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bernie Sanders’ Hubris and Chutzpah

It has become increasingly clear to me that Bernie Sanders exhibits two extremely undesirable traits: hubris (excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance) and chutzpah (shameless audacity; impudence). He is not a Democrat. He registered as one only recently for the sole purpose of trying to capture the Democratic nomination for President, rather than start his own movement in pursuit of his political revolution. 

His hubris and chutzpah are evident every time he speaks these days. He has increasingly been lashing out at the Democratic Party leadership who have built and sustained the party and he is vowing to take his fight to the convention floor even though Hillary will likely have enough delegates to win the nomination in a month and he has no chance of winning the nomination. Bernie has made promises that even left liberal economists, healthcare experts, and educators have repeatedly concluded cannot be realized in the manner Sanders is suggesting. Most notably, they have documented that he has repeatedly underestimated the costs of his programs and the revenues needed to pay for them. He constantly invokes the principle of democracy in condemning the Democratic Party nominating process, including the role of Super Delegates, but he refuses to acknowledge that very small percentages of the eligible electorate actually vote in primaries and even smaller percentages in caucuses.  Let the people decide? To Bernie, that seems to mean the 5% who turn out for caucuses. Perhaps he conceives of them as the vanguard of his political revolution. Even then, Hillary has actually won more votes in this nominating process than Sanders, but Bernie has “answers” for that as well, at one point making light of the Southern states in which Hillary did very well.

It appears that, over the years, Bernie has on occasion run and railed against Democrats, and, despite some of his comments suggesting otherwise, in his most recent bombast he appears ready, and perhaps even eager, to try to take down the Democrats this time around. Just as some Republicans think it would be better to lose than to win with Trump, I am sure that Sanders can convince himself, and may already have done so, that a Trump victory and Hillary defeat in November would actually serve his ambitions more than a Hillary victory by, with Trump as President, inflaming his followers' passions even more than at present, thereby, in his fantasies, bringing about the political revolution he imagines.

Of course, if Trump wins, Sanders' youthful supporters will be hurt most, or as much as other Trump victims. Trump will stack the U.S. Supreme Court, and lower courts, with conservative judges who will preside for a generation; he will press for a tax cut for the richest; he will utterly fail to bring jobs back to the United States; he will oppose meaningful immigration reform and seek to build his Wall; he will undermine Obamacare with no suitable alternatives; he will destabilize the world by conceivably pushing allies and others to build their own nuclear arsenals; and those actions will only have been for starters.

If Trump wins, it will at least in large measure be because Bernie Sanders convinced his supporters, as Ralph Nader did in 2000, that Trump and Hillary are merely tweedledum and tweedledee, both puppets of the billionaire class Sanders loves to demonize, with no major distinctions between them. Bernie's supporters who, as a consequence of his rhetoric, end up sitting on their hands will have no one to blame but themselves for a Trump presidency although Sanders and they will no doubt blame everyone else but themselves. They have much more at stake in this election to see a Democrat in the White House than many of Hillary’s older supporters who will not be as adversely affected by a Trump presidency as the Millennials but who support Hillary and oppose Trump because Trump will hurt so many.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Can Trump Win the Presidency?

Tonight, Donald Trump effectively won the 2016 Republican nomination for President by soundly beating Senator Ted Cruz in the Indiana primary leading Cruz to suspend his presidential campaign. Ohio Governor John Kasich remains in the race but the likelihood that he will stop Trump, or that the Stop Trump forces will be able to deny Trump the nomination, is extremely remote.

The question that many have already been asking and reflecting upon – whether Donald Trump can win the Presidency – is now truly germane. My response as of today? Yes, he can win the Presidency. He may win the Presidency. And, let me be clear – a Trump victory would be an enormous setback for this country.

A great many pundits, political strategists and observers contend that Trump cannot win the Presidency; that there is no way he can secure enough Hispanic votes to win, even were he to do exceedingly well among white voters. Others reach the same conclusion based upon Trump's current negative numbers among women voters. I hope these prognosticators are correct. I am not claiming that Trump will win the Presidency, only that the possibility is greater than remote.

In part my concerns stem from the fact that the Democrats have controlled the White House for the last two terms. Although President Obama's popularity is greater today than it has been throughout much of his tenure, I believe that the Democratic nominee, likely to be Hillary Clinton, whom I support, will have an uphill battle as Americans often grow tired of giving the same political party control of the White House for too long.

But, beyond that, in certain ways, Donald Trump and his candidacy remind me too much for comfort of Ronald Reagan and his successful 1980 campaign for President. Listening to Dana Bash and Gloria Borger on CNN tonight talk of the fact that almost all observers felt Trump was a joke when he first announced his candidacy, I'm reminded of similar sentiments so many observers had about Ronald Reagan, the Hollywood actor, when he first turned to running for office. To be sure, those sentiments about Reagan were more intense when Reagan first sought the Governorship of California in 1967 than they were when he sought the presidency, first in 1976 and then in 1980. But even in 1980 there were many, particularly among Democrats, who still dismissed him as a mediocre Hollywood actor who really seemed lost making public policy.

But, despite the ridicule and skepticism, Reagan's charisma and his ability to appeal to voters' emotions, particularly to a sense of nationalism and American rebirth at a time when things seemed not to be headed in the right direction, helped him mobilize working class Democrats and others and win. Donald Trump as well has charisma, whether one likes him or not. And his appeal to working class whites of whatever political affiliation seems to be real and to be working for him thus far very effectively.

Then, too, Reagan had not always been a conservative Republican. Over time, he altered many of his beliefs. To be sure, Reagan's political evolution occurred over a much longer period of time than Trump's "conversion". Trump has flip flopped in recent years. Even during this campaign he has flip flopped on a number of issues, calling the changes media misunderstandings. But both Reagan and Trump share the fact that they changed political views and gravitated to the Republican Party.

To be sure, I am not suggesting that Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump are political twins. Not only are there profound differences between them but the times have changed and the demographics of the American electorate have profoundly altered since Reagan ran for office.

However misguided he may have been, Ronald Reagan seemed to believe the conservative principles he articulated. While he didn't necessarily pursue some of the more extreme principles he seemed to endorse, and, in today's political environment Reagan and his policies would likely be characterized as moderate, Reagan seemed to truly embrace a conservative political perspective.

The same cannot be said about Donald Trump. While, in my view, Donald Trump as President would be no more likely to institute some of the more extreme policies he has articulated than, in reality, Reagan ever did, Trump's personality and style are far worse than Reagan's ever were and many of Trump's pronouncements are more extreme than Reagan's. Donald Trump truly enjoys insulting others and he does so regularly. Donald Trump appears to be a political opportunist with no core principles or beliefs, willing to adopt extreme, inflammatory positions when he concludes they will appeal to and mobilize white voters. Then, too, Trump has proven himself to be a serial liar. He creates "facts" out of thin air that have no truth to them but then refuses to back down; shades of The Big Lie, as used in Germany in the 1930's. Trump as well displays a narcissistic personality. And, Trump, who in contrast to Reagan has never served in public office, seems far more convinced of his own genius than Reagan ever did. Reagan took counsel from others who knew more. Trump seems to take some input but is convinced he knows best, which he clearly does not.

I am not one who came to appreciate Ronald Reagan's presidency in retrospect. I still think he was not an impressive President. The incredible deficits he created, his trickle down Reaganomics, the Iran-contra scandal, among other aspects of his presidency, are never acknowledged by his admirers, including those who love to invoke his name in support of their own political aspirations. 

But I sincerely believe that a Donald Trump presidency poses a far greater threat to this country and generations of Americans, particularly the younger generations, than Ronald Reagan ever posed. Critics have compared Trump to Il Duce (Mussolini), Juan Peron, George Wallace and Pat Buchanan, among others. Trump has frequently ridiculed the press, attacking particular journalists and their characteristics. He has denounced and on occasion seemingly encouraged physical attacks on protesters. He has indicated he would reinstitute torture and pursue other interrogation techniques in response to global terrorism that are condemned under international law. His insults of women are well documented and include attacks on female journalists throughout this campaign. And, in place of sound policies, Trump has offered sound bites, on how to defeat ISIS, how to address immigration, how to retain or grow manufacturing jobs in the United States, and on other issues. Trump will no doubt seek to soften certain pronouncements as well as aspects of his image during the general election campaign although certainly not in all respects. Hopefully, the Democratic candidate will constantly remind the electorate of Trump's character, behavior and statements displayed and made during and prior to the primaries.

Will so called "Establishment Republicans", moderate Republicans, and conservatives follow columnist George Will's advice and vote to defeat Trump? That would require them either to not vote for President or to vote for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or perhaps a third party candidate. That would likely be a difficult challenge for many Republicans, even those who detest Trump. And Trump will have a few months to try to appease Republican and other voters who at this juncture have been repelled by him.

We shall see what transpires.☐