Trump, the Confederate Flag, and Cleveland

Will Donald Trump let Confederate flags wave among American flags on the Republican party’s convention floor in Cleveland? Imagine the optics of that.


Back in July of 2015, Trump signaled his support for sending the Confederate flag to museums, no longer to fly over courthouses, but now he’s shifting again. Here’s Politico: “[I]n contrast to his remarks about the [Confederate] flag a year ago, Trump has shifted rightward; many of those in the bizarre coalition of racists, anti-government radicals and states’ rights activists who’ve led the battle charge for restoration of the rebel flag believe the GOP presumptive nominee is dog-whistling encouragement to them.”

Posted in donald trump, hillary clinton, Politics, Ted Cruz | 4 Comments

Donald Trump’s Orlando Speech, June 13, 2016

I watched Trump’s full speech on Orlando just now. Hillary is going to have problems responding. His speech has its demagogic parts, and there are two moments along the way where he teeters into an emotional place where you can see his mercurial mental instability and hysterical side coming dangerously close to the surface, but on balance it’s a very strong speech (and by that, I don’t mean I share Trump’s point-of-view; I mean it’s politically effective).

I can see how Trump could give Hillary more than a run for her money if he sticks with a teleprompter and keeps his cool like this for the rest of the general election campaign. I can see the content of the speech readily appealing to a majority of Americans, as well as the way he delivered it.

Trump just showed his potential for coming across as caring, protective, inclusive, and strong in ways that could capture for him a lot of votes. His desire to defend Jews, Christians, women, and the LGBT community from radical Islamists is clearly sincere, and even moving. When he talks inclusively, keeping everybody, including moderate Muslims, in the same boat, he sounds–dare I say it?–inspiring. He definitely wants to be the good father to those who love America, and that comes across.

As a Hillary supporter, and as someone who thinks Hillary’s general demeanor and approach to terrorism is superior to Trump’s, I’m frankly worried about her ability to fend off this speech. Policy-wise, the speech is incoherent on many levels. But I also think Trump has found his general election sea legs here, much as Hillary did with her foreign policy speech in San Diego last week.

It should be watched carefully by liberals who might be complacent, thinking Hillary’s got this in the bag.

Posted in donald trump, hillary clinton, Politics | 8 Comments

Orlando, Gun Control, and the AR-15 Rifle

How could this happen? How is one lone wolf able to kill fifty people so quickly? AR-15 rifles are not hunting rifles. They’re military rifles. They put out thirty rounds in less than a minute. They’re easy to get, they’re easy to get, they’re easy to get. And easy to shoot. And easy to reload. The Orlando shooter used the same 1950s military rifle that the Newton shooter did; that the 2012 theatre shooter did; that the San Bernardino shooter did.
What about Islam? Yes, Islamic fundamentalism is a serious global problem. It’s a threat to rational, moderate people everywhere–including rational, moderate Muslims. It’s not just the kufar (outsiders, infidels) who are under threat from Islamic terrorism, but moderate Muslims who are considered by their fundamentalist and radicalized counterparts to be not Muslim at all. So there’s no doubt that Islamic fundamentalism needs to be resisted everywhere. But it’s also the lack of sensible gun control laws in the United States that makes mass shootings possible again and again. It keeps happening, in part, because there is not simply motive, but opportunity.
Motive and opportunity. The Republican-controlled Congress could begin to shut this down tomorrow with gun control legislation, and President Obama would obviously sign it, but instead they’re focused on only one side of the opportunity equation: new immigration from Muslim countries, and locking down the southern border (rationalized in part as keeping international terrorists from sneaking in). So on the opportunity side of the equation, there’s a spigot issue: Democrats want to stop the flow of armament trafficking and Republicans want to stop the flow of immigration. But what about the motive side? If a person gets radicalized by religion or politics, or wants to commit a mass hate crime, or is unhinged psychologically, there’s just not much that can be done. An individual’s motives are an individual’s motives. But, at minimum, you can make it difficult for a person with a motive to kill to get hands on military assault rifles.
Posted in donald trump, hillary clinton, Politics | 4 Comments

Hillary is Running as a Feminist

Below is the YouTube link to Hillary Clinton’s full speech to Planned Parenthood, larded with pro-women policy proposals and juicy take-downs of Donald Trump. She is running, not just as a woman, but as a feminist; a take-no-prisoners, bad-ass, unapologetic feminist. Donald Trump doesn’t like her feminism? Tough. Say it loud, she’s feminist and she’s proud. She’s going to win by not closeting her feminism.

And I notice that her demeanor in her speeches has, of late, been extremely effective. She is cool, calm, collected, rational, serious. She enunciates her words clearly and slowly, inviting audiences to really think about what she’s saying. It’s the perfect tone to place into contrast with Mr. Trump.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pocahontas: Trump Tells Warren Who She Is

Pure domination. Disrespectful of a woman. When I read yesterday Donald Trump’s tweet mocking Elizabeth Warren’s Native American heritage–calling her “Pocahontas”–I thought of the following lines of a James Fenton poem: “The laughter from the armored car. / This is the man who won’t believe you’re what you are.”

Here’s the stanza in which the lines appear. It comes from Fenton’s poem, “Jerusalem”:

It is superb in the air.
Suffering is everywhere
And each man wears his suffering like a skin.
My history is proud.
Mine is not allowed.
This is the cistern where all wars begin.
The laughter from the armoured car.
This is the man who won’t believe you’re what you are.

Especially powerful, in my view, is the line, “This is the cistern where all wars begin.” Trump’s disqualification for being an American president of a multiracial and multicultural society is in that line, for he divides Americans into warring factions: “My history is proud. / Mine is not allowed.” This is the sort of exchange you hear when two people are no longer in the same boat with one another; when their destinies have separated; when the social contract between them has been severed.

Trump’s new birtherism: Warren birtherism. Trump’s mockery of Warren extends to his wanting documentation that she really is part Native American. But it’s an uncivil and rude question–akin to Trump’s birtherism: Was Obama really born where he says he was?

Regarding her heritage, in 2012 Elizabeth Warren said this:

As a kid, I never asked my mom for documentation when she talked about our Native American heritage. What kid would? But I knew my father’s family didn’t like that she was part Cherokee and part Delaware — so my parents had to elope.

That ought to be enough. For any decent person, that is enough. But to get a feel for how Trump intends to use the Pocahontas jab at Warren for the duration of the campaign–especially if she becomes Hillary’s VP–this was in The Washington Post last night:

A half-full coli­seum erupted into Indian war whoops as Donald Trump called a U.S. senator “Pocahontas” Friday at a rally here [in Richmond, Virginia],…

In other words, the racist incivility of a mocking war whoop chant could turn into this year’s version of Sarah Palin’s mocking of climate science and global warming in 2008 with “Drill, baby, drill.”

Who defines you? In a multiracial and multicultural society like ours, it’s not right to intrude on other people’s narrative autonomy in a way that takes it over. I go back to the last line of the “Jerusalem” poem above, “This is the man who won’t believe you’re what you are.” In a multiracial and multicultural world, it breaks the bond of civility.

And this relates to other issues, like gay marriage and women’s equality. The far-right wants to tell others what their marriages are, what gender they obviously belong to, what roles they must naturally play, whether they can use contraceptives. Trump is tapping into this dark, domineering side of the far-right where self-definition yields to our definition. They tell you who you are, you don’t tell them who you are.

Blonde hair and high cheekbones. One reason Trump won’t believe Warren is who she says she is has to do with her blonde hair. Native Americans aren’t supposed to have blonde hair. But a moment’s reflection reveals this to be, from an evolutionary point-of-view, an illegitimate line of attack. Male and female genes do not melt into their offspring, but remain distinctly identifiable. Half of one’s genes come from one parent, and half come from the other. That means that a trait like hair color could be an expression of a European parent, and a hint of, say, high cheekbones, could be a trait going back to a great grandmother who was half-Cherokee. And please recall that a grandparent or great-grandparent brings to the mix an ever decreasing expression in offspring (1/4 and 1/8, etc.).

So what genes are actually expressed in an offspring are up for grabs and make for human variation.

Thus it’s not reasonable to say that Warren is obviously European in her ancestry. To the contrary, she has people in her own immediate family who were quite certain that non-Europeans were in her family line and told her so–and in a civil multiracial and multicultural society, that should be enough.

Warren, by the way, has gotten this ugly treatment from the right before–in her first run for the Senate against Scott Brown. If she becomes Hillary’s VP pick, we can expect more of this.


Posted in donald trump, hillary clinton, Politics | Leave a comment

Trump Calls Warren Pocahontas–Again!

After all the idiocy and racism that Trump has already spewed at the “Mexican” judge, I felt reasonably certain that the Republican Party leaders had finally gotten through to him: he needs to use a teleprompter and stop the racist Twittering and mercurial, unpredictable impromptu.

Yet here he is, just two hours ago (it’s Friday morning, June 10th), after a disastrous couple of weeks for his campaign, calling Elizabeth Warren, mockingly, “Pocahontas” yet again, implicitly disrespecting, disregarding, and blowing-off her claim of having some Native American ancestry:

“Pocahontas describing Crooked Hillary Clinton as a Corporate Donor Puppet.”

Trump’s modus operandi is to give women who stand-up to him a name (“Bimbo” for Megyn Kelly, for instance, “Pocahontas” for Warren, “Crooked” for Hillary). The purpose of this, of course, is to change the subject: he doesn’t have to listen to what they have to say if they are silly or wicked–and neither do his voters. He can treat them trivially and disrespectfully, as not really his equal.

For Trump, women should be seen, not heard–and this is also true of “Mexicans” and other non-whites. “Pocahontas” directed as an epithet at Elizabeth Warren is thus Trump’s way of managing to be both racist and sexist at the same time. The racism and sexism function as a way to deflect his Twitter followers away from reason and toward passion (the passion, in this case, of hatred toward women in politics and contempt for the embrace of multicultural identity).

“2004 VIDEO: Pocahontas describing Crooked Hillary Clinton as a Corporate Donor Puppet. Time for change!”
Posted in donald trump, feminism, hillary clinton, Politics | Leave a comment

Obama’s Cool Head vs. Trump’s Hot Head

He has overcome–with a cool head. What a contrast with Trump. Below is a great paragraph, written by David Maraniss in the Durango Herald, describing President Obama’s cool-headed temperament. I especially like how Maraniss concludes his paragraph by noting Obama’s attraction to critical thinking. It plays a big part in accounting for Obama’s success. His cool head, combined with patient and rational thought, has definitely prevailed. He knows how to play intellectual chess–and in politics, the long game.

“His coolness as president can best be understood by the sociological forces that shaped him before he reached the White House. There is a saying among native Hawaiians that goes: Cool head, main thing. This was the culture in which Obama reached adolescence on the island of Oahu, and before that during the four years he lived with his mother in Jakarta. Never show too much. Never rush into things. Maintain a personal reserve and live by your own sense of time. This sensibility was heightened when he developed an affection for jazz, the coolest mode of music, as part of his self-tutorial on black society that he undertook while living with white grandparents in a place where there were very few African Americans. As he entered the political world, the predominantly white society made it clear to him the dangers of coming across as an angry black man. As a community organizer, he refined the skill of leading without being overt about it, making the dispossessed citizens he was organizing feel their own sense of empowerment. As a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago, he developed an affinity for rational thought.”

Posted in donald trump, hillary clinton, Politics | 1 Comment

The Simulation Argument: The Probability of Wetware vs. Dry Wire in Light of What You Think Will Happen in the Future

If you think it’s highly likely we’ll be able to simulate reality to the point where it’s completely indistinguishable from actual reality (say, 400 years from now), then we’re probably already living in a simulation.


Just as a matter of probability, convincingly simulated realities, if they ever come into existence at all in the future, will massively outnumber the singular ground reality.

So it’s not just plausible, but seriously probable–indeed, overwhelmingly likely–that the eighty years you experience subjectively is actually a month (or less!–minutes? seconds?) of data crunching in a computer in the ground reality. What you take to be wetware (neurons firing electrically and chemically over eighty years in your meat computer, generating consciousness and experience) is more likely dry wire in a computer existing in the singular ground reality, a thousand years beyond where you think you actually exist in history right now. It may be, say, the year 3016, not 2016.

Again, if you take simulated reality indistinguishable from actual reality to be an inevitable part of the human future, then this conclusion seems inescapable.

Here’s Joshua Rothman at The New Yorker:

[S]imulated human consciousnesses could vastly outnumber non-simulated ones, in which case we are far more likely to be living inside a simulation right now than to be living outside of one.

Superficially, the simulation argument bears some resemblance to the one made by René Descartes, in the seventeenth century, that there could be an undetectable “evil demon” shaping our perceptions. But, where Descartes’s argument was essentially about skepticism—How do you know you’re not living in the Matrix?—the simulation argument is about how we envision the future.

Here’s the link at YouTube of Elon Musk’s recent discussion of simulated reality. It’s what stimulated Rothman’s reflections in The New Yorker.
The posthuman future has never been easier to imagine—especially for those who work at the forefront of technology.
Posted in atheism, philosophy | Leave a comment

Is The New Tarzan Movie Racist?


The Harry Potter director, David Yates, has a Tarzan film coming out July 1st, and I’m guessing I’ll see it, but I’m also thinking about race with regard to it: why is Tarzan always white? The recently departed Muhammad Ali asked this very question in the 1960s, and has a thoughtful clip at YouTube reflecting on this (see below).

I wonder what sorts of nods to 21st century sensibilities the director incorporates into this film. At various points in the trailer, for example, I see a white Tarzan, the embodiment of individual persona, and tribal black men virtually indistinguishable from each other. How might the director play against genre type (and stereotype) in the context of the full film itself? And if he doesn’t bother–if he lets racist assumptions play out with a shrug as being “just action entertainment”–what does that say about this cultural moment, and with Donald Trump looming like a heavy cloud over our collective cultural life?


I have a similar question as to what it means for our cultural moment with regard to the new Ghostbusters film in which women, rather than men, play the lead characters. Here we have a nod to feminism–and yet the reaction from the chauvinist right has been sharp–much like the right’s reaction to Hillary Clinton. I wonder if a black Tarzan was contemplated by the director–then dropped as an idea for the controversy it would entail, perhaps sinking the film at the box office.

For instance, one could imagine an African American or African Brit family coming to Africa and falling into similar circumstances as the white family in the film, leaving behind an orphaned child raised by apes–and then letting the genre play out without the uncomfortable racist overlay of a clever and superior white man battling scores of cookie-cutter black men. But then maybe white audiences in Europe and America wouldn’t go see it in sufficient numbers to make the film a blockbuster. Hmm.

I like Tony Warner’s reflections on learning of a 2016 version of Tarzan coming to theaters:

“This is the house of Tarzan, the killer of beasts and many black men”. This is how Tarzan introduces himself to Jane in Tarzan of the Apes (1914). Later in the book he rescues her from a “black ape rapist”. Tarzan started off as a character written by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) in the 1912 All-Story Magazine before being edited into a series of books and films….

Racism permeates all the Tarzan spin offs as they always portray black people in a negative manner. The only possible exception is George of the Jungle (1997) starring Brendan Fraser, where black people were given some of the best lines and turned the stereotypes upside down….

The most recent [2016] version of Tarzan is a German production but it would be naïve to think there will be an authentic black presence in it. Given the source material one wonders why there is such a sustained interest in resurrecting this colonial figure of white supremacy in the 21st century.


Posted in donald trump, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Trump Mocks A Disabled Man–And Children Notice

When Donald Trump mocked a reporter with disabilities, it was ugly. But now the ads are coming like the one below. It’s karma time. How does one vote for a racist who shows contempt for a man with the same disability as the little girl has in this ad? All her classmates know, and have talked about, how Trump mocks disabled people. They see him on television. What signal is Trump sending children about bullying? And if he wins? Well, the President bullies the disabled, so it’s my turn. Is this the man we want to put forward to our children as a model for our collective aspirations as a people?

Posted in donald trump, hillary clinton, Politics | Leave a comment

Trump Hearts Racists–And Alex Jones

Who will be cheering for Trump on the convention floor in Cleveland? According to Dana Milbank at The Washington Post, Trump’s racist and alt-right signalling (Trump is a fan of Alex Jones, for instance) has infected his delegate list, which includes some rather unsavory characters:

[T]he Trump campaign chose prominent white nationalist William Johnson to be one of its delegates. The campaign blamed a “database error” and Johnson resigned, but the racist American Freedom Party claims it has “more delegates” on Trump’s list. Another Trump delegate was indicted recently on federal child-pornography and weapons charges, and Mother Jones magazine, which discovered Johnson’s selection, on Friday reported that another Trump delegate, David Riden, has said that U.S. leaders who abuse the Constitution should be “killed by American citizens with weapons.” And the Chicago Tribune reported that Illinois Trump delegate Lori Gayne uses the social-media handle “whitepride” and said: “I’m so angry I don’t even feel like I live in America. You can call me a racist.”

The presidential candidate wasn’t just putting on a show for the primaries.
Posted in donald trump, hillary clinton, Politics | Leave a comment

Donald Trump Wants Surrogates To Defend His Racism

This reportage for Bloomberg Politics, the details of which were sussed out by, not one, but three, journalists, is devastating for the Trump campaign. Two of Trump’s closest surrogates broke ranks today and leaked to Bloomberg their notes on a conference call in which Trump himself sounds completely unhinged mentally, instructing his surrogates to double-down in support of his racist comments on the “Mexican” judge, and to in no way apologize or change the subject. Crazy, crazy stuff. Trump wants to defend his racism and go on arguing the point that, because the judge’s parents are Mexican, this is a disqualifier for his presiding over the Trump University case.

On “With All Due Respect,” Bloomberg Politics’ Jennifer Jacobs discusses a Monday conference call with supporters during which presumptive GOP nominee…
Posted in donald trump, hillary clinton, Politics | 18 Comments

Trump University and Scientology

Trump “University” was set up like Scientology. Wow. This sentence is in The Washington Post today: “Three-day courses typically cost $1,495, the records show. But people who paid to attend them were then urged to sign up for even pricier ‘elite’ programs.” Once you reached the inner sanctum of Trump’s secret gnosis (making contact with his deepest inner asshole, I presume), you were in something like $30,000 of debt. Perhaps it was then that you learned Donald Trump is Xenu, the intergalactic warlord, on a mission to strap his enemies around active volcanoes and blow them to smithereens with nuclear weapons. (Like he did, according to L. Ron Hubbard, 75 million years ago.)

New interviews and documents show how customers were pushed to spend on…
Posted in atheism, donald trump, feminism, hillary clinton, Politics | Leave a comment

Donald Trump Is Already Wearing Thin

We’re barely into the general election cycle, and Trump’s shtick has grown tediously predictable and boring. He’s almond milk past its due date. He has no variant flavors or notes. He’s already shot his wad. You pick the metaphor.

He’s done.

Yes, there are five months to the election, but the writing is on the wall, Nebuchadnezzar.

Here’s Rick Perlstein at Salon recounting the start of a recent Trump rally: “In Fresno, Donald approached the podium. He led off with a customary boast. (‘What a crowd…I saw on television this morning,…’).”

Does anybody give a shit at this point? We’ve seen this performance. We already know that, with Trump, there’s no there, there.

He started as a pirate, and only a month ago it looked like Mussolini-style politics might win over a majority of Americans in 2016.

But how fast the winds have changed. His galleon is obviously going down–and at the very moment when the Republican rats have been scurrying on, not off, the ship!

Good riddance to Donald Trump and his ship of fools and opportunists. It’s evident it will soon rest at the bottom of dragon seas, brought down by nothing more complicated than sustained scrutiny.

So I’m already calling this election: not Trump. Somebody will be taking the oath of office to serve as President of the United States in January of 2017, but it won’t be Trump.

This doesn’t mean don’t vote, don’t work against his election. That has to be done. But it’s increasingly clear where this is headed.

Trump was well-adapted to the demographic and temperamental environment of the 2016 Republican primary; he is ill-adapted to the demographic and temperamental environment of the 2016 American electorate in general.



Posted in donald trump, hillary clinton, Politics | Leave a comment

Donald Trump: “Look at my African-American over here.”

This is in The New York Times. I’m not making this up. At an airport in California a couple of hours ago, Donald Trump pointed to a black guy in his audience as evidence that black voters love him and he’s not racist: “Look at my African-American over here.”

While recalling a past protest involving a black supporter, the candidate pointed to a spectator in the crowd who was out of view of the news media.
Posted in donald trump, hillary clinton, Politics | Leave a comment

Life Perspective: Elon Musk Thinks Odds High We Live In A Simulation

Posted in philosophy, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hillary Clinton Just Gave The Speech Of Her Life

In San Diego, Hillary Clinton just gave the speech of her life. I watched it. It was amazing, and it’s already on YouTube. I’m a bit of a softy, but by the end, I was in tears. She said exactly what needs to be said about the country, and Trump’s threat to it–and with perfect pitch and self-possession.

In the YouTube below, her speech starts twenty minutes in. If Hillary can stay centered and draw the contrasts between herself and Trump as effectively as she does here, she’ll win–and win big. I WANT to vote for her after seeing this–and not JUST vote for her because she’s not Trump. I will work for this woman’s election. She is going to break through the static and win. I can see it.

Posted in donald trump, hillary clinton, Politics | Leave a comment

Richard Cohen Discovers Hitchcock’s Birds

I think the following comment over the weekend by Richard Cohen in The Washington Post is profound:

Donald Trump has taught me to fear my fellow American. I don’t mean the occasional yahoo who turns a Trump rally into a hate fest. I mean the ones who do nothing. Who are silent. Who look the other way….When I see these Trump supporters on television — the commentators, the Politician’s Puttanesca (a dish to poison the body politic) — I have to wonder where they would draw the line. The answer seems to be: nowhere.

It’s the birds. The movie for this election is Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963). In 2016, the movie’s birds seem to be an apt trope for Trump’s voters. What the characters in the film take at first to be an isolated and controllable phenomenon blooms into an infestation, calling to mind Camus’ The Plague (1947). The blonde elitist woman in The Birds (played by Tippi Hedren) can be seen as Hillary Clinton, and her very presence in the blue collar world of Bodega Bay has set the order of nature on its head. What was sedate, predictable, and tame is now unsettled, untamed.

So first there is the shock of the isolated incidents of a few birds here and there behaving erratically, then, by the end of the film, you realize that the birds have morphed into a mass phenomenon, stretching to the horizon. They appear to have achieved full take-over of America. The goal of vanquishing them has been replaced by the lesser goal of simply outlasting them (or finding a place, anyplace, where they are not). In the concluding scene, the birds are tip-toed around by the surviving characters as they move quietly from their house to an automobile, no longer resisted. They have learned not to stir them. The birds, at the ready to whip into a frenzy on the least provocation, have become the new normal.

In 2016, liberals and moderates like myself think we know our more conservative neighbors, our fellow citizens, and of what they’re capable. Perhaps we don’t. Perhaps we have never really known them at all. The film concludes on a note of profound alienation–as may the 2016 election.


Posted in donald trump, hillary clinton, Politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Draft Dodger Donald

Draft Dodger Donald. If I were advising Hillary Clinton, I would suggest she try on this moniker for Donald Trump because it tells you everything you need to know about his lifelong corner-cutting. Rather than go to Vietnam, Trump received, not one, but four deferments–and then, when he ran through those, he got a dubious medical exclusion.

His medical condition? He says it was bone spurs in his foot–even though he was thoroughly active in sports at the time.

So while men of his generation were going through the ordeal of Vietnam, he not only avoided the draft, but got into the Wharton School in Pennsylvania–and not on the strength of merit, but on his family connections. It’s not even clear that he actually attended his classes consistently.

Think about that. Trump is partying and playing on weekends in New York, and he’s maybe–maybe–attending some classes here and there, while people like John McCain are fighting a war.

Trump didn’t avoid the draft because he thought the war was wrong, or because he was a conscientious objector or pacifist, but because he was a coward. Draft Dodger Trump.

And now, at age seventy, Trump is playing the role of Mr. Pro-Military. What a joke.

The benefit of the moniker, especially if directed at him by Hillary and others face-to-face, is that it punctures the cult-like spell that he puts over his followers as a tough guy, and vividly reminds us that he’s actually low energy, lazy, and cuts corners. It exposes his hypocrisy and cowardice.

Draft Dodger Donald’s recent raising of funds for veterans can thus be seen as yet another example of him deploying money as substitute for actually exposing himself to risk. In Draft Dodger Donald’s world, his money covers over everything, and fixes everything.

Trump select service.gif


Posted in donald trump, hillary clinton, Politics | Leave a comment

Hillary’s Floor is Trump’s Ceiling

I have a theory as to why Hillary and Trump are essentially tied in the polls right now: Trump is at his ceiling and Hillary is at her floor. 44% is where Hillary is at when she’s having a poor news week, and 46% is where Trump is at when he’s having a strong news week.

I don’t think Trump has any more voters he can really attract. All the low-hanging fruit is picked. The Republican base, the Republican Party as a whole, and conservative leaning independents: that’s Trump’s 46% (max).

So I predict that once Hillary starts to consolidate the Democratic vote, you won’t see many polls–not even Rasmussen–that consistently put her in a dead heat with Trump. She’ll always be in the 44-55% range and Trump will always hover in the 39-46% range. The rest will go to the Libertarian candidate.

This shouldn’t make for complacency. Democrats will need to get out the vote to guarantee a win in November. But I think what we’re seeing is Trump’s high water mark in polling right now, in this very week (the last week of May, 2016). It looks close, like Trump could break out to a new level, peeling off Hillary voters, drawing 50% or more of the vote–but this is illusory. Trump really has nowhere to go from 46%, but down. Every percentage point above 46% is going to be, for him, akin to the dieter knocking down those last few pounds of a goal. They’re the most difficult. Like a dieter, even if Trump were to get closer to his goal (50%+1)–which he won’t–the gain would be brief and unstable–and vulnerable to rapid collapse.

Trump getting between 39-46% of the vote is his natural level. Given the demographics and voting patterns of the country (women are more likely to vote than men; Hispanic voter registration is on the rise, etc.), Trump’s natural level of appeal to the American voting population in 2016 is about 39-46%–and that’s where Trump is likely to land on election day (somewhere below Romney, who got 47% of the vote).

Trump’s fundamental weakness in the polls is why he dodged a debate with Bernie this week. The moment Trump has voters’ full attention on issues that he’s supposedly strong on (protecting blue collar workers, etc.), people will register just how fully he is in the pocket of the rich, Wall Street, and the Republican Party. (Bernie would point out Trump’s hypocrisies forcefully.)

Take the minimum wage, for instance. If Trump commits to raising the minimum wage, he alienates key Republican voters, and if he won’t go as high as Hillary and Bernie on a number (Bernie’s number is $15 an hour), he loses the argument that he’s for the workers anyway.

This will all be absorbed by the electorate when the Super PACs start swift-boating Trump, demonstrating that where Trump is seemingly strong, he’s actually weak. In the Republican primary, the ad war was tepid, but in the general election, it will be fierce and relentless. Trump will have great difficulty maintaining 46% of support from the electorate as a whole, let alone 50%. Hillary will get her swift-boating from pro-Trump PACs as well, but, again, her floor is roughly equal to Trump’s ceiling.

Or, to put it in Emily Dickinson terms, Trump’s cornice is in Hillary’s ground. Because Trump could not stop for demographic death, demographic death will kindly stop for him. This is what the 2016 election is about: demonstrating to Republicans in real time that a party devoted to anxiety politics and blue collar white resentment, even when combined with celebrity (a hyper-confident, TV-familiar con-man), cannot win in America’s fast-evolving demographic environment–and even if Democrats put up a relatively weak candidate like Hillary Clinton.

There’s no substitute, Republicans will discover, for the hard work of adaptation. Donald Trump is the ultimate corner-cutter. That’s what he sells to desperate people. His appeal is akin to the carnival barker who sells a diet pill that (he claims) can lead to weight loss without a change of behavior.

So reality over the next several months will assert itself in the ongoing polls, and on election day itself. That reality is demographic reality. Donald Trump is presiding right now over a cargo cult that imagines its leader has a Reagan-imitative formula for achieving flight: combine the existing Republican constituency with Trump Democrats (the equivalent of the Reagan Democrats of the 1980s). But Trump’s seeming magic in this moment–he’s at parody with Hillary in the most recent polls–does not mean he is on the verge of resurrecting the ghost of Reagan over the 2016 electorate, and casting a populist spell on them. The reality is that Trump is simply not that popular. A minority of Americans will vote for him–and will express support for him in polls–but not a majority.

So what will be shown over the next several months is that there’s nothing really sustaining Trump’s fantasies of everybody loving him, and he will soon leave his devotees–the bulk of the Republican Party–to pick through the wreckage of a devastating electoral loss.

The Republican Party is vulnerable to a cult leader right now because it is not yet able to adjust to the country’s demographic reality. Like an immune system in a novel environment, the Republican Party is susceptible to exotic diseases. Its disease of the moment is Donald Trump. After the election, Republicans will be walking around, saying, “How could I have believed in that guy’s con game? I really got snookered. I got carried off. How embarrassing.”

So here’s the bell curve: (1) Trump shock (that is, the stunned realization over the past month that Trump has truly captured the GOP nomination); (2) fight or flight (the majority of Republicans are choosing right now, to their shame, to go ahead and fight alongside Trump, rather than fly from him); (3) no matter how hard his enthusiasts peddle their bicycle of support going forward, Trump’s poll numbers will remain stalled in the 39-46% range; (4) Trump’s stalled poll numbers will serve to break the Trump spell generally, and that’s when the sharks will really start to circle the corpse of his candidacy; (5) fatigue and demoralization will set in as Republicans realize Trump is almost certainly going to lose; (6) demoralization will turn to panic in some quarters, and anger that Trump has brought the GOP to such an electoral impasse–and perhaps even a cliff; and (7) on election day, Trump will lose badly (as the polling averages predicted he would all along).


Posted in donald trump, hillary clinton, Politics | 9 Comments