Election in Georgia Clouded by Racial and Voting Controversy

One of the most closely watched elections on Tuesday is in Georgia, where Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp are competing for the governorship.

Abrams led Democrats in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017 and is the first-ever female African American gubernatorial nominee of a major political party in the United States.

Kemp has been the secretary of state of Georgia since 2010. That puts him in charge of overseeing the very election he is hoping to win. Read more “Election in Georgia Clouded by Racial and Voting Controversy”

Americans Largely Uninterested in German Election

Donald Trump Angela Merkel
American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6 (Bundesregierung)

In America, the German election is mostly being ignored.

Our media today are tightly focused on the ongoing controversy regarding President Donald Trump, NFL players, free speech and the national anthem.

In previous weeks, the endless health-care saga and unusually hasty hurricane season stole the headlines.

These issues are dramatic and tangible to Americans. The German election is viewed more as procedural than exciting or impactful. Read more “Americans Largely Uninterested in German Election”

Trump Reveals Himself to Be Bumbling Strongman

Donald Trump
Donald Trump gives a speech in Derry, New Hampshire, August 19, 2015 (Michael Vadon)

What is the essence of Donald Trump? Is he an aspiring strongman? Or is he just a plain old bumbler?

These two schools of thought have been in competition ever since we started to take Trump seriously. Of course he’s narcissistic, duplicitous, misogynistic, bigoted and so forth. But what is at the heart of Donald Trump? Does he intend to emulate Mussolini? Or is he primarily an uncurious incompetent?

The answer: He’s both. And after the firing of FBI director James Comey on Tuesday evening, this has been made astoundingly clear. Read more “Trump Reveals Himself to Be Bumbling Strongman”

French System Encourages Temporary, Not Permanent, Polarization

French parliament Paris
The sun sets on the Bourbon Palace, seat of the French National Assembly, in Paris, June 8, 2007 (J.R. Rosenberg)

Matt Yglesias of Vox points out on Twitter:

You see in Trump vs Le Pen once again that authoritarian nationalist movements only win with the support of the establishment right.

There are two particular reasons why this may be the case. Read more “French System Encourages Temporary, Not Permanent, Polarization”

Eagerness to Criticize Obama Explains Trump’s Inconsistency on Syria

Critics are calling Donald Trump’s missile strike against Syria a flip flop, but it’s really the logical outcome of holding two wildly inconsistent opinions on an issue.

In 2013, Trump said to President Barack Obama, via Twitter (caps his):

AGAIN, TO OUR VERY FOOLISH LEADER, DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA — IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN & FROM THAT FIGHT THE U.S. GETS NOTHING!

Indeed, Trump has expressed a consistent willingness to allow Bashar Assad, a Russian puppet, to stay in power so as to focus exclusively on defeating the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

While problematic, it is at least an internally consistent talking point. Read more “Eagerness to Criticize Obama Explains Trump’s Inconsistency on Syria”

Toxic Trump Doomed to Disappoint Supporters

Last week, I wrote about Donald Trump’s soft support among Republicans. Democrats already strongly disapprove of his bigotry, buffoonery and right-wing ideology. In order to dip down to Nixonian or Bush ’43 levels — high 20s, low 30s — he will have to lose support from conservatives and Republican-leaning independents.

This is looking more and more likely. The recent health-care debacle shows why Trump is in trouble — and, unless he makes a fundamental change, doomed to a pointless presidency free of policy accomplishments.

This is the dynamic at play:

  • Trump is toxic to the vast majority of Americans.
  • Trump’s involvement in any issue makes that issue toxic and hence more difficult for Republicans to win on.
  • Trump is easily distracted, has little interest in policy and does not have the energy or political skill to pursue a contentious legislative debate to completion. He (inevitably) withdraws once things become challenging.
  • The conservative argument is weakened with little to show for it. Republicans are dismayed. Liberals are energized. Read more “Toxic Trump Doomed to Disappoint Supporters”

Trump Ignores Reluctant Conservative Supporters at His Peril

Donald Trump is on the fast track to approval depths last plumbed by George W. Bush, or at least that’s what many Democrats hope. RealClearPolitics has his approval at 41.1 percent — and trending downward.

But without a major change in the political environment, Trump’s ratings won’t sink that much lower. Why? Because he has already burned off the public benefit of the doubt normally afforded to new presidents. In other words, those that could disapprove of him because of his clownish behavior or rank bigotry already do.

Any further decrease in his popularity will have to come from disaffected Republicans and conservative independents.

Until the health-care debacle, this was an unlikely prospect. But now it may be inevitable. Read more “Trump Ignores Reluctant Conservative Supporters at His Peril”

Trump’s Ban: Alternative Facts Create Real-Life Policy

Donald Trump has always had a difficult relationship with the truth. His sheer volume of daily falsehoods overwhelms an unprepared news media — and buries unsavory stories which the Republican would prefer to keep hidden.

Trump even manages to construct entire narratives via a steady diet of alternative facts delivered to his supporters.

This weekend, we saw something new: For the first time, those falsehoods came together to generate, enact and justify policy.

Here is a brief overview of the alternative facts (previously known as lies) underpinning the travel ban which has thrown international travel into chaos and capriciously interrupted thousands of lives. Read more “Trump’s Ban: Alternative Facts Create Real-Life Policy”

Muslim Registry Would Require Investigation of Thought Crimes

As the Trump transition rolls along, the infamous “Muslim ban” has returned to the forefront.

It all started on December 7, 2015, when then-candidate Donald Trump spoke to supporters after the San Bernardino mass shooting. He advocated a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” This proposal is still on his website.

It has been willfully forgotten or explained away since, but the fact remains: Trump’s first instinct was to call for a Muslim ban of indeterminate length.

It doesn’t stop there. Even in July, Trump said his plan had undergone an “expansion” and would bar individuals from places “compromised by terrorism.” This includes NATO allies like France and Germany. They “totally” meet this definition, Trump said, because they “allowed people to come into their territory.” Read more “Muslim Registry Would Require Investigation of Thought Crimes”

Trump Closes In, But Clinton Has Four Structural Advantages

Hillary Clinton Barack Obama
American secretary of state Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama attend a summit of Pacific nations in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, November 20, 2012 (State Department/William Ng)

The week before election day is always nerve-wracking, this year’s near-apocalyptic feel notwithstanding.

So perhaps it’s fate that in the most contested election in decades, the gap between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is narrowing.

According to FiveThirtyEight, the Democrat enjoyed a 6.8-percent lead in the popular vote projection on October 18. As of November 2, it’s a 3.5-percent lead. The race is tightening.

Not that 3.5 percent is an insubstantial margin: FiveThirtyEight — the most Trump-favorable of the election models — projects that Clinton retains a seven-in-ten chance of victory. Those are solid (albeit not certain) betting odds.

Even the “Dewey Defeats Truman” beat-the-polls trope rings hollow. Yes, Harry Truman won reelection by a margin of 4.5 percent despite trailing by 3.5 percent in the polls (an 8-point swing). But as FiveThirtyEight points out, the fact that there are now exponentially more polls in the field — and almost seventy years of methodology improvement since then — we can’t reasonably expect such a monumental error to take place. Read more “Trump Closes In, But Clinton Has Four Structural Advantages”