The world is in motion, we are living in an era of crisis and transformation that is dangerous and profound. The purpose of this blog is to reflect on, document, and and make sense of this very consequential period in world history. I’m back to my blog!
This blog started on May 9, 2008 with the first post being “Katrina vs. Nargis,” a comparison of the hurricane that hit the US in 2005 with a typhoon that savaged Myanmar that month. I had dabbled with blogs before. In 1999 I wrote a daily re-action to the Kosovo war, and in 2004 I started one on the university server as a part of co-teaching a course on children and war. I continued that one until I decide to move to WordPress and have a blog with a theme and purpose.
For a large chunk of that time, I was prolific, posting an article a day. Early on I was fascinated by the Obama-Clinton clash in the Democratic primaries, the appalling influence of hyper-consumerism on American society, and then the economic crash and why it happened.
Yet I also touched on spirituality, science, religion and philosophy. I had some posts that were part of a series, like the game Quantum Life. I made on line friends, generated followers, and my writing improved as I took more time to re-read and re-write.
So why did I slow down so much in 2016 and cease after the election of Donald Trump?
I found the entire 2016 campaign so mind numbing and appalling that I lacked a desire to follow it or write about it, a far cry from my blogs of 2008 and 2012. I did not watch any of the Presidential debates, I gave up trying to reprise my “polls” page. My heart was not in it.
Beyond that, I was busy with other things. New friends, working out consistently, taking on the role of Faculty President at UMF, and being on the school board. Mix having a lot to do with not having a drive to write and a blog hiatus emerges.
But I must write. Especially in these times, if only so my children, now 11 and almost 14 can read what their father was thinking during this time of crisis and transformation. The world remains in motion.
I’ve had time to reflect on recent events. There is a lot to write about.
After Trump’s victory John Oliver said “this is not normal.” True. But in many ways, this entire era we’re living through is not normal. The world is going through a period of immense cultural, social and political change. The world is in motion, and it’s hurling into a vast unknown, in which the political and social structures we know and expect are likely doomed – or at least will be altered to become something quite different.
This is a consequential, dangerous, and turbulent era. It’s exciting to watch it unfold, both the positives (and there are many) and negatives. In my blog I’ll continue to try to make sense of it on a multi-dimensional level. Politics, society, culture, meaning, spirit, economics, religion, and reflection of what it means to be human. So the blog hiatus is over, starting tomorrow I’ll have regular posts concerning this era of crisis and transformation.
Michael Moore called it. While most of us were thinking the Latino vote surge or female voters would put Hillary over the top, white working class folk in the rust belt hurt by globalization and lower paying jobs gave the system a “big fuck you” as Moore predicted. Unable to hold Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, Clinton fell to Donald Trump, despite winning the popular vote.
Now what? The internet has been a mess. Many of Trump’s opponents are accusing Trump voters of enabling racism, sexism, and misogyny with their vote. They are brutal in their critique, even attacking me for suggesting that the country could take Trump’s victory in stride and that things aren’t all bad. On the right there is either gloating (fair enough – they suffered liberal gloating when Obama won) or annoyance at the vehemence of the anti-Trump rhetoric.
So, at the risk of annoying those who are angry about Trump’s victory, I’d recommend everyone relax. Chill. Or if you’re really upset, organize and get active! This isn’t the end of democracy, we’re not going to have a resurgent KKK, gay folk don’t have to go back to the closet and Muslims are not going to be put in internment camps. Some of the policies of the next two years will anger the left, but take it in stride.
In 2018 people vote again. If Trump governs poorly or makes unpopular decisions, the Democrats will have a chance to do to the GOP what the Republicans did to Obama and the Democrats in 2010. In 2020 people will have a chance to find a strong candidate to run against Trump, and try again. In those two to four years, the world isn’t going to end.
There is also a generational thing going on. The under 30 crowd has been raised in schools and universities where sexist, racism, homophobic and misogynistic language and ideals are banned – you can get in trouble in school now for saying, “that’s so gay,” something that wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow not that long ago. That’s good – this generation is in the process of creating a world where racism, sexism and homophobia are rejected.
But the over 30 crowd is still part of a culture where such ideas are common. Many people think homosexuality is a perversion and shouldn’t not be tolerated as such ideas will corrupt the youth (let alone transgender bathrooms!) Sexism is powerful despite decades of progress. Those voices are real, and will be heard – at least until the older generation dies out.
Finally, unlike Ted Cruz and many other Republicans, Trump is not a conservative. He is probably nothing – he doesn’t seem to have core principles, whatever is in his interest at any given moment is where he stands. He’s a con man who just pulled the biggest con of his life! So who knows – he might reshape the Republican party to a more centrist or even liberal bent, or he might end up with internal GOP dissent.
But even if Trump is as bad as his opponents fear, that’s motivation for the left to mimic the right after 2008 – their antipathy for Obama lead to the tea party, and huge gains in the midterm elections. If Clinton had been elected, the Democratic party would have remained the party of the status quo and DC insiders for four more years; now the party can recast itself. Being in complete opposition, it will benefit from frustration and anger at Washington in coming elections.
Ultimately, America’s democracy has lasted a long time. I don’t think one bad President will create a collapse. I don’t think homophobia and racism will be worse because of Trump. But maybe this is the start of a process of reform for both parties – for the system. In any event, if you’re a Democrat, don’t fret. 2018 and 2020 will come quickly and I would not be surprised if those elections evoke much different emotions than this one!
Donald Trump’s recent surge has awakened hope amongst his supporters, as Democrats look nervously towards tomorrow’s election day. There are many reasons to think that Trump has a good shot at winning. He has been moving up in the polls, independents and late deciders are breaking his way, and state polls have shown cracks in Clinton’s fire wall. This appears a classic case of a late surge potentially upending the lead of the favorite, much like Reagan in 1980.
A Trump win is definitely possible. But as I make my prediction – as I’ve done every election eve since 2008 — a few things push towards seeing this as not only a Clinton victory, but potentially a big Clinton win:
- Hispanics are voting in record numbers in swing states like Florida, Nevada and Arizonia (and may even surprise people in Texas). A large chunk of these voters are first time voters who may be under-represented in the polls that screen for likely voters. This leads me to predict that Florida, Nevada and even Arizona will go for Clinton. These are three states that Trump must win.
- The Clinton get out the vote effort is first class – and Trump has dropped the ball on his. He’s relying on the Republican National Committee for their GOTV efforts, but that falls far short of what Hillary’s campaign can accomplish.
- Early voting seems to be favoring Clinton in important swing states; and
- Almost every major poll has Clinton leading by 2-5 points on the day before the election, a pretty solid lead.
For Trump to win, the scenario is straight forward. He has to win rust belt states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio, all places where US trade policy is unpopular and thus the Trump message resonates. Then he has to win swing states like New Hampshire, Florida and North Carolina. If he can do that — all of which is possible — he could eek out a victory, perhaps relying on Maine’s second district. Maine divides up its electoral votes by district, so that the winner of the state gets at least three votes, but the other candidate can get a vote if he or she wins the district. That could conceivably be the vote that gets Trump to 270.
But I don’t think that will happen. Instead I think that Hillary Clinton will defeat Donald Trump in both the popular vote and the electoral college.
In the popular vote, my final prediction is: Clinton 48.7%, Trump 45.1%, Johnson 4.5%.
For the electoral vote, I’ll predict Clinton 333 Trump 205
The most far out part of that prediction is I have Clinton winning Arizona. If the Hispanic vote is as strong as some say, it could tip the scales in Arizona. Otherwise, I have Clinton winning all the important swing states except Ohio. Tomorrow we’ll find out.
What a difference a week makes! One week ago it looked like Clinton was headed for a sure victory. Trump had been tanking in the polls, and her probability to win was up to 87% on Nate Silver’s model, over 90% according to some others.
Now she’s down to a 69% chance — still good, though the trend is bad, and recent polls for Trump have looked very promising. State polls where Clinton held a firm lead are now wobbly – and change is consistent across many states. Trump has a path to victory, Clinton may have peaked too soon.
Should Democrats panic? Are we staring into the abyss of a President Trump?
Well, panic is never a good idea, so no – there is no reason to panic. But right now Trump stock is rising and Hillary looks to be sinking. The possibility of “President Trump” is at a high. So distress and fear are reasonable Democratic responses. But there are reasons for each candidate’s supporters to be optimistic.
Why Trump supporters should be optimistic
- The black vote is down in early voting, all over. This suggests that Clinton is in trouble; Obama won in part because of high African-American turnout.
- The narrative of this election ends not with “pussy grabbing,” but “e-mail rumors.” Clinton has lost control of the narrative.
- The trend line is moving sharply to Trump; at this pace he’d have a clear lead by election day.
- The Brexit effect – voters who want to challenge the system might come out stronger than the polls indicated. This could be enough to put Trump in the lead in many swing states.
Why Clinton Supporters should be optimistc
- Early voting looks strong for women and Hispanics, which is good news for Clinton. A really strong Hispanic turnout may give Clinton more support than the polls indicate in a number of swing states.
- The impact of a new event – a debate, in this case the e-mail story – tends to dissipate after a week. The e-mail news, which contained no bombshells or evidence against Clinton, may have had its peak impact.
- Clinton has a vastly superior get out the vote effort, which could make a difference in close elections. Indeed, Trump’s focus on rallies and free advertising may cost him the election. This may be Clinton’s secret strength.
- The state polls have tightened, but haven’t gone completely south for Clinton. She’s still the favorite.
I’m hesitant to blame the e-mail story for this completely. Trump’s tightening of the race started almost a week before that story broke. But it is significant in helping energize Trump’s voters and shift the narrative towards one critical of Clinton. On the other hand, any Democrats who were unenthusiastic about Clinton and thinking maybe Jill Stein might now decide they need to stick with the one who has a chance to win. There is differently no more complacency in the Clinton camp.
So it looks like we may have a cliff hangar. Or not. If the get out the vote effort for Clinton is strong and the impact of the e-mail story starts to wane, it could still turn out a big night for the Democrats. But this surreal election, now subject to a surreal October surprise, promises to defy expectations to the very end. But in one week, we’ll know.
The coronation of Hillary Clinton may be premature, despite the fact she won all three debates and has run a much better campaign than that of Donald Trump.
But first – why people are ready to call the election: Clinton’s polling in swing states is very strong. She not only leads by a significant amount in enough states to give her 270 electoral votes and the election, but she leads in many others, and has a fighting chance in Arizona, Georgia and even Texas. This suggests that the battle is being fought on Trump territory, which is never good for a candidate late in an election cycle.
Given the polls, the fact Clinton has a lot more money for a late ad blitz, and she has a much better get out the vote operation, it’s possible that this could even be a Democratic wave, sweeping in a majority in the Senate and threatening Republican control of the House.
Or maybe not.
Politico has a story that quotes Republican operatives as believing there is a “secret Trump vote” out there, as people don’t want to admit to pollsters that they’re voting for the controversial media baron. That is unlikely, however there are reasons to give such a theory credence:
- The polls that are most kind to Trump are on line or automated polls – polls where one does not have to admit to a live person that they are voting Trump;
- The Demographics of the rust belt swing states – Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania – are similar. If there is an error in one, it probably affects them all since pollsters use similar methods. In other words, if the polling errors were idiosyncratic to each state, the odds of them being wrong in all three (or others) would be high. But really, if there is an error, it’ll impact all states.
- This is an odd election. Trump was predicted to be all but dead long ago. He keeps coming back like an Energizer Bunny. So predictions of his demise are risky, even given current polling; and finally
- The race is tightening. How much is a matter of question. Nate Silver’s website, fivethirtyeight.com, currently gives Clinton an 81.2% chance of winning. Earlier this week it hit 88% (this is in the polls only model). She still has the odds on her side, but her strength is eroding. Trump having a 1 in 4 shot of winning is not good odds – but if you were given a one in four shot to win the lottery, you’d snatch it up!
If Trump loses, it’s on him. If he had come in to the first debate prepared and Presidential, he might have convinced a lot of moderates and educated women to vote for him. If he hadn’t convened a forum of Bill Clinton’s former accusers and gone on an aggressive defensive attack of his own accusers, he could have handled the controversy with more grace. He would likely be in a position to win, perhaps easily. Moreover, his lack of a ground game and poor organization also are likely to cost him. So if the polls are right, Trump has only himself to blame for the potential loss.
Trump is comparing the polls to the Brexit vote. Those polls showed the race neck and neck going into the final phase, with the “stay” vote slightly in the lead. The “Go” side won by four points. A four point polling error here would definitely make it a very competitive race. For team Clinton, the next eleven days promise to be the longest 11 day stretch of their lives.
I still predict a Clinton win – the polls are rarely so far off, Clinton does have a state of the art ground game, and the Trump campaign seems inept. Moreover, Trump’s claims could be much like the “skewed polls” claim of 2012 – a desperate attempt to convince supporters there is still a chance. Every political science indicator I can imagine points to a Clinton win.
But this year is an election cycle like no other. We could be shocked by a Trump victory, or amazed by a Democratic take over of the House. Most likely is a Clinton victory, Democratic take over of the Senate, and GOP hold of the House. But in 2016 anything can happen. Hold on, it’s going to be a wild ride.
(Thinks to an unexpected rift in the space-time continuum I was able to access this blog entry from an alternate universe.)
Just over three weeks until the election renewed Wikileaks e-mail dumps and on going concern about Hillary Clinton’s past have catapulted John Kasich into a small, but potentially durable lead in the polls. .
For Hillary supporters, there is still hope. “We have the best campaign organization,” said John Podesta, “We have financial resources, and the Secretary is the most qualified candidate for President in recent history. We believe that the final debate will help us convince the American people to entrust President Obama’s legacy to her.”
“The country is tired of the Clintons, just as they are tired of the Bush name,” said one Democratic operator who asked that I not use her name.
Last April it looked like the bombastic Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee, but concerned party leaders staged a coordinated effort to stymie Trump’s campaign, and in a divided convention, Kasich won in the most dramatic convention floor battle since 1976.
Kasich was upbeat about his chances on Meet the Press, noting that his, “we need to work together” campaign was winning over many Democrats and that he would be committed to “cooperative problem solving” with Congress should he win. Marco Rubio’s outreach to Latino communities benefits from his thorough repudiation of Trump last year just when it looked like the controversial business man might grab the nomination. “We are the party of diversity for the 21st Century,” Rubio said. Experts expect Republicans to make inroads with black voters this year.
To be sure, some angry Trump supporters still haven’t forgiven the “establishment,” saying that Kasich is just another insider. “We had the one man who could shake things up, and the establishment torpedoed him. I’ll never vote for Kay-Sick,” one former Trump supporter spat.
But many have come around, like former Trump campaign worker Dorothy Snugglebutz. “I am not happy, but Kasich is the lesser of two evils. I’ll never forgive Rubio’s betrayal of Donald, however. But if it’s Kasich or Hillary, the answer is clear.”
Clinton bested Vermont independent Bernie Sanders is the primaries, and though he is campaigning for Clinton, his eyes are on 2018 and 2020. “We started a movement,” he said, “the movement will grow regardless of who is elected President.”
Time is running out for Clinton. Kasich has already formed the nucleus of a transition team, which will be run by former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice.
“The public wants change,” Political Science guru Jim Melcher from the University of Maine at Farmington stated. “The Republicans have kept the heat on Clinton and she’s not been able to control the narrative. Still, the election isn’t over yet.”
Republican National Commission Chair Reince Preibus remains upbeat. “Can you imagine where we’d be if Donald Trump were the nominee” Priebus mused, recalling Trump’s angry and at times incoherent behavior at the Republican national convention. “It could have been an utter disaster, he was out of control! But the party was up to the challenge and now control of both the Presidency and Congress are in reach.”
When I teach Comparative Politics I point out that democracies are hard to create, and very difficult to maintain. Without a strong civil society and a culture supportive of democracy, systems fail. A culture of democracy requires people to recognize that disagreement is good and to listen to other opinions. You cannot see opponents as evil, but an ‘essential opposition.’ It needs to be OK to lose an election, respecting the institutions and rule of law as more important than political power.
This current election campaign reflects a democracy in trouble. Many Trump supporters see themselves as part of a movement, with the “left” and “Hitllary” being not just the opponent, but evil. Trump even called the Democrats “devils,” and said Hillary should be in jail. In fact, prosecuting and jailing his opponent is one of his most popular lines.
What’s happening? It started seeming like a joke. Donald Trump running for President? Trump has been around for decades, Bloom County made fun of him in the 80s (famously having Trump’s brain placed in Bill the Cat’s body). He was always the same – a narcissistic con man whose businesses spiraled into bankruptcy while he managed to extricate himself in order to run another con. His last memorable act on the political stage was to claim he had hired an investigator who found “shocking things” proving Obama was born in Kenya.
The latest controversy – Trump saying yet another thing proving he disrespects women and is at heart a narcissistic bully – isn’t especially telling. His response to the uproar is. As always he doubles down, goes on the attack, and shows no remorse.
Back in September before the first debate he was drawing even with Hillary in the polls. He had won over the right wing nationalist crowd, and now to get into the oval office he had one task – keep the Republican party united, and show himself to be Presidential. He had a couple good weeks, taking the media focus off him and allowing negative stories of Hillary to spread.
He knew that debate one would be watched by 100 million people and probably be the biggest event of the campaign. He could have prepared well, determined to show the country a man they could trust as President. If he had pulled that off, this campaign would be in very different territory, and the pussy tape would not have done as much harm.
He couldn’t. He refused to take time to prepare, preferring to hold as many rallies as possible. He was undisciplined, off message and had the worst Presidential debate in history. There have been gaffes and poor performances before, but given the stakes, it was amazing to see Trump so ill prepared.
The next four weeks will be less like a traditional campaign and more like World Wide Wrestling. Trump’s attacks on Bill Clinton are pure ego on his part. When those scandals were fresh they couldn’t stop Bill from elected elected twice as President, and the public didn’t find his accusers especially convincing. To use him against Hillary? There are no new votes in that territory, he’s simply trying to make himself look better by saying, “hey, he’s bad too.”
The election is disturbing because it is what it is. Someone like Trump should not even be close to winning.
Trump is not a real Republican. He’s a con man. Many Americans are fearful about the way the world is changing. The change isn’t Obama’s or Bush’s fault, or Bush’s fault. Globalization and the information revolution are reshaping society and rendering old political and social structures obsolete. People sense that what we have isn’t working; out of fear they look to find someone who can set it right – a strong leader who can “fix things.” In Political Science we call that “Bonapartism” – after Napoleon who rose as such leader in the wake of the French revolution.
It’s also the strategy Adolf Hitler used to grab power in Germany during the Great depression. Not every Bonapartist is a Hitler – I don’t think Trump has a real agenda, he’s just a narcissist – buta threat to democracy, especially when the emotions of the movement push people to see politics as good vs. evil, demonizing the other side. That concern is why so many Republicans are refusing to support Trump.
This brings to the forefront very ugly aspects of American culture – showing the real extent of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia that remains hidden as many people self-censor, not wanting to show others their inner hates and fears. By being bombastically open about them, Trump says it’s OK – and the result is a torrent of hateful speech and actions.
It also shows that our democracy, while resilient, isn’t magic. It can fail. If politics remain more reality show than thoughtful process, if we continue to yell more than listen, then our Republic will fray at the edges and be vulnerable when the next crisis comes.
There is no easy way out. We are living in one of the most important and consequential times in history (which is why I started this blog eight years ago). The pace of change will only increase, the pressure on economic, political and social structures will grow. If we can’t find a way to work together to make meaningful reform, the future could be bleak. .
This is not just a bizarre election, it’s an omen – a warning shot. Yes, defeat Trump – I think the American people are up to that. But if we don’t fix the larger problems, it’s just the first act of a democracy in crisis.