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Dueling Populist Revolutions

PS#37

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Terrifying in some circles, hotly desired in others: the party divided by a populist revolution and defeated by an electorate that cannot unify behind the eventual candidate. Do you think I mean the Republicans? Yes. But also the Democrats.

Most of the 2016 excitement in both parties emanates from voters who have rarely seen an actual result from their votes. If they ever voted. In Trump’s case it’s the pasty white underbelly of the electorate and in Sanders’ case it’s the young.

Those narrow definitions do not describe the only people in either camp. But each will suffice as the “face” of their respective revolutions. These groups supply the grassroots energy and indomitable excitement. Put their candidate on the ballot and you’ll guarantee a record number of voters.

The question for both groups is: will they stick with the party if their messiah is not on the ballot? And the answer from both groups seems to be an unqualified no. Or so worry the people who thought they were in control of such things.

Because the Republican revolutionary—Trump—is poised to win the nomination but his Democratic equivalent—Sanders—is poised to not win it, you would think that the likely endgames for each party would differ greatly. IMO, they don’t. Both end in defeat.

Some commentators have the Republicans losing no matter what happens. If Trump wins the nomination, the reasonable half of the party stays home or votes for a third-party candidate. If a brokered convention cheats Trump out of the nomination, his half of the party stays home or votes for him as a third-party candidate.

And let’s not forget those riots that Trump mused about. Either way, they lose.

But it’s not that simple. The Democrats have a Hillary Problem. She’s not exciting. She’s got Bill’s wonky credentials but not his charisma. Her blessings are also her curses: familiarity, an actual record in world politics, and a long record of surviving every scandal you can throw at her—real or imagined.

Tied up with that is the Bernie Problem. He has stirred up the young and the downtrodden. (Rightfully so, although sadly, he has not stirred up minority voters.) At any rate, will his passionate supporters simply stay home when they are jilted out of an actual place at the electoral table?

I remember my idealistic youth. My first presidential vote was for George McGovern in 1972. By 1976 I was so disillusioned with politics that I didn’t vote at all, and in 1980 I voted for a third-party candidate. So: although lots of Sanders supporters tell me that they’ll vote for Hillary if she’s the nominee, I am certain that many, many others feeling the Bern will simply stay home.

And that could mean a Republican victory, in the face of all the excitement on their side.

The Democratic National Committee has not helped one whit, favoring Hillary by limiting the number of debates and scheduling them for Saturday nights and the like. But watch the DNC scream about cheating when Donald Trump—perceived to be debate-impaired—limits his face-offs against Hillary in exactly the same fashion.

Obama inadvertently fanned the flames of discontent among Sanders supporters by asserting in a private meeting that the party must come together behind Clinton. He should have known better. There’s no such thing as “private” during campaign season.

The DNC and Hillary, assuming that she has the nomination in hand prior to the convention, do have ways to woo Bernie’s people. She could offer him the Veep slot. But he’s unlikely to accept; his greatest appeal is his independence.

Hillary should do up-front what she is already doing surreptitiously: adopt significant aspects of Bernie’s agenda. That accomplishes two things: it draws a real contrast between her and Trump and it tells Sanders supporters that they are being heard.

Up-front acknowledgement of Bernie’s influence would be crucial: the young and the disenfranchised have experience with lip service, and can easily recognize it. Hillary cannot let those voters abandon the party out of frustration. Each non-vote is a plus for the other candidate.

Here’s why: if Trump gets the nomination, Republicans will support their nominee. Forget what they say now. I keep reading that they won’t vote, and I don’t believe a word of it. The former candidates are already flushing what’s left of their souls down the toilet. They hate Democrats in general and Hillary in particular THAT much…

Listen to Rubio and Graham speak kindly of Ted Cruz—a senator so hated by his colleagues that, in Graham’s own words: “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate and the trial was in the Senate, nobody could convict you.”

Graham said that just a couple of weeks after he described the choice between Trump and Cruz as death by gunshot vs. death by poison. When Cruz goes down, they’ll fall in behind The Donald.

Read Charles Krauthammer blaming the violence at Trump rallies on the “totalitarian left” and its “Bolshevik tactics” …and then laying just a tad of responsibility on Trump himself. This after Trump used Krauthammer’s wheelchair to insult him a few months back.

Watch Chris Christie die inside while attaching himself to Trump’s juggernaut like a barnacle to a ship’s hull. This after Christie spoke out, loudly and often, about Trump’s lack of Presidential qualifications.

Watch Mitt Romney expound a ridiculous anyone-but-Trump strategy—oh wait, we already watched that last time. Here’s what’s new: Mitt won’t endorse Cruz, but he’ll vote for for him in the Utah primary.

And watch not one of those strategies work. Watch Trump’s share of the vote and delegate count rise. Oh wait, we’ve been watching that since he declared his candidacy last June.

Now watch the the latest salvo of Trump’s campaign against Hillary in the general election. It’s a commercial where she’s dubbed to bark like a dog, and no, I’m not including a link. As my wife and I say to each other way too often: just when you think these people can’t get any worse, they do.

Hillary dropped off the campaign trail for five days following her five victories on Super Tuesday III, to raise money and presumably do some serious strategizing. I’ve read that her campaign considered three possible angles of attack…

1. Ignore him. If only the media would. If only it could. But the arithmetic in ratings=income is too compelling. There’s more: Trump understands TV and Twitter and has spent his life honing the sensationalism that keeps him at the top of most news cycles.

2. Sink to his level. Look at how well it worked for “Little Marco” Rubio. On the other hand, look at how poorly not sinking to Trump’s level is working for John Kasich.

3. Take Trump seriously. This is the strategy that I’m told Hillary has chosen. It’ll be wonky and not wowie, but I don’t think she can succeed any other way. Trump’s skin-deep knowledge of foreign policy — he’s his own and only advisor! — not to mention so much of the inner workings of government, is a yuge weakness.

His belief that everything in government has its price is only partly true. Trump has no diplomacy in him, and Ted Cruz’s colleagues will quickly tell you what that character flaw will cost you in the long run.

Here’s what I think Hillary should say every time Trump accuses her of being weak: “Donald practically fainted during that 3-hour debate in the Reagan Library. He complained and refused to attend any debate longer than two hours. But he spent most of it just watching others talk! Let’s see him spend 11 hours in front of a hostile congressional committee. He’d wilt like the paper tiger he really is.”

Saturday Night Live could contribute too, with a skit that has Trump in the locker room showing off his big dick. Then someone points out that it only looks big because of his small hands. “You should stop watching when you stroke it.”

I have one more suggestion:

4. Take Bernie Sanders seriously. I don’t believe that he ever thought he would come even this close to the Democratic nomination. I think he entered the race to move the conversation leftward. And so he has.

I believe in so much of what Sanders talks about. None of the socialism he’s offering is free, any more than the emergency room health care that the indigent receive now is free. (We cover it in the cost of our health care.) I fervently agree with Sanders’ single-payer model, and that the increase in taxes would balance out against the reduction in health care premiums.

But I gotta tell you: no candidate ever won the presidency promising higher taxes. Republicans would kill him on that topic alone. Forget what the hypothetical polls say now. Fox News and every Republican would hit “more taxes” every minute of every day until the election, and we’d have President Trump.

But there is a way to actually vote on Sander’s democratic socialist agenda, and perhaps garner enough support to implement it. Interestingly enough, it involves adopting a Republican strategy! As early as 2006, the GOP plotted a long-game, state-oriented strategy. They identified vulnerable congressional districts in each state and poured money into those races.

The goal: control of the reapportionment that follows every census. The target was the 2010 midterms, and by luck they also caught the tea party wave of whites angry that a man of color had “taken their country.” Republicans won control of a majority of state legislatures and proceeded to gerrymander themselves into power for a decade.

They’ll be in control even longer if the Democrats don’t figure out how to undo that work by the 2020 census. At least they have the inexorable changing of demographics on their side, but that’s not yet enough. They need an actual plan.

BTW, the Republicans in control of state legislatures also passed an historic number of anti-abortion measures, and with the Supreme Court’s aid created laws that limit voting access—and IMO represent the real election fraud going down in this country.

An article in truthdig.com describes exactly how Bernie Sanders’ political revolution could become a reality, using essentially the same strategy. In a nutshell, Democrats find and back progressive candidates of like mind in all 50 states—for every office possible. The enthusiasm at Sanders rallies tells us that the support is there if you can only appeal to it.

Where would they find these like-minded candidates? I’ll bet you could find a lot of possibilities at any Bernie Sanders rally.

But the revolution couldn’t come in 2016, even if Bernie wins the presidency. How many other democratic socialists—people who would support Bernie’s agenda—are running for the Senate or the House? Few to none. That’s why you have to develop a long-game strategy and execute it in all fifty states.

Can the Democrats learn from what the Republicans did? They haven’t in the past. If they don’t now, they face losing this election and quite possibly another decade of progress.

On that chilling note, let’s end with some pre-apocalypse silliness. Try your skill at the fun new game #TrumpUniversityMascot!

 

Political Survivor #37

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Written by

Steve Schlich writes fiction about software: “easy to use,” “does what you want”—lies like that—for the mortgage money. For his soul, he writes fiction and music. Hobbies include webmaster for www.RodSerling.com. In 2004, he created www.NakedWashington.com, a website chronicling the naughty public art in Washington, D.C. He lives happily with his wife and cats, north of San Francisco, where he’s been a technical writer of in-house software manuals since 1982.

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