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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Who Will Blink First?

The Daily Escape:

Maui, 2013 – photo by Wrongo

Sometimes you get the right person for the job:

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday she will block President Trump from delivering the State of the Union address in the House chamber on Jan. 29. In a letter to Trump, Pelosi said she would not move forward with the legislative steps needed for the address to take place:

‘The House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the president’s State of the Union address in the House chamber until government has opened,’ she wrote.

Pelosi’s move comes just hours after Trump informed her in a letter that he would move ahead and deliver the address at the Capitol on that date, essentially daring the Speaker to scrap his plans.”

This is why the election of House Speaker truly mattered. Dems should have assumed that whoever got the job would be immediately tested by Trump. When some Dems moved to replace Pelosi in December, the possible shutdown and test of a new Speaker was on the horizon. If another Democrat had been elected Speaker, don’t you think Trump would have already gotten his Wall money?

Someone’s gonna blink, and soon. Trump’s support looks like it’s beginning to crack:

“Overall, 34% of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance in a survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That’s down from 42% a month earlier and nears the lowest mark of his two-year presidency. The president’s approval among Republicans remains close to 80%, but his standing with independents is among its lowest points of his time in office.”

Trump has similar numbers in the latest CBS poll:

“Seven in 10 Americans don’t think the issue of a border wall is worth a government shutdown, which they say is now having a negative impact on the country….Among Americans overall, and including independents, more want to see Mr. Trump give up wall funding than prefer the congressional Democrats agree to wall funding. Comparably more Americans feel House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is handling negotiations better than the president is so far.

Republicans are more divided than Democrats are on whether the shutdown is worth it.”

As we’ve said in the past, $5.7 billion is not a lot of money, but it’s always been about more than just the money. If Democrats cave in now, particularly when public opinion supports them, it would reward Trump’s tactic of taking hostages. He would gladly bring more pain any time he wanted something, and he wouldn’t care who, or what he took hostage.

But there are other insights to why Trump may persist with the shutdown despite poor polls. Sarah Kendzior said this on Twitter: (emphasis by Wrongo)

”The Trump camp is not worried about public approval, because they’re not worried about losing elections, because they don’t plan on having free or fair elections. This is an acceleration of the move toward authoritarianism….The shutdown is a hostile restructuring…Mueller will not save you…We are being ruled by a coalition of corruption, a burden we as ordinary citizens all share but none deserve. The shutdown is not about Trump knowing too little about how government works, but about his team of GOP operatives and outside advisors knowing too much.”

Perhaps Kendzior is correct, but more likely, Trump is learning that the Art of the Deal doesn’t work when the other side has roughly equal power. He hasn’t caused Democrats to blink, if fact they seem more united than ever.

He hasn’t “won” anything with China. So far, they’ve had alternative solutions to keep trade flowing. He certainly hasn’t “won” his war of words with Nancy Pelosi.

But someone will blink, and possibly, soon. The GOP is asking for concessions when they ought to be offering them.

Thursday’s votes in the Senate will tell us nearly nothing, but since Schumer and McConnell had to agree that both votes would happen, maybe they point to an evolving position that 60 Senators and Pelosi can support.

Most likely, Pelosi will offer an alternative after the Senate votes, something that possibly could get 60 votes in the Senate.

Maybe Trump will console himself with a military action in Venezuela. He launched an attempt to kick President Maduro out of office by recognizing the opposition leader as interim president. Maduro responded by telling our diplomats to leave within 72 hours. The US replied that our diplomats will not leave simply because the elected president of Venezuela (that we no longer recognize as legitimate) has asked them to.

Going to war in the middle of a government shutdown: what could go wrong?

Someone will blink. The bet here is that it will be Senate Republicans who will prevail upon Trump to back down, and support whatever compromise can garner sufficient votes in the House and Senate.

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Monday Wake Up Call – August 28, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Rats Restaurant, NJ Grounds for Sculpture – 2017 photo by Wrongo

The politics of disruption brought us Donald Trump. With hindsight, the evidence was everywhere. Americans were unhappy with our political system. Voters had lost faith in the government and political parties. About 10% of voters believed Congress was doing a good job. Both political parties had favorability ratings of less than 40%.

In 2008, people were frustrated and angry. By November 2016, with continued economic discontent, worsening conflicts in the Middle East, and serious public policy issues left unattended, people voted for the guy who promised to break our politics.

Trump won 53% of the over-65 vote, but was supported by only 37% of 18-29-year-olds. He won the white vote by 58% to 37%. And 51% of American women voted for him.

Mark Leonard  says that the election was decided by pessimistic voters. They were attracted by Trump’s anti-free trade arguments, his anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric, his (false) statistics about increased crime, and the loss of American jobs to Asian countries.

Trump said all of this was caused by Washington and could be fixed by a disruptive billionaire. The pessimists won, and felt very hopeful that Trump would change America.

Are they having buyer’s remorse today? No, most say that they still support their guy.

Yesterday, we highlighted some findings of the Public Policy Polling (PPP) national poll taken after Charlottesville. PPP found that Donald Trump’s approval rating was steady despite all of his backtracking around the Charlottesville attack:

40% of voters approve of the job Trump is doing to 53% who disapprove, little change from the 41/55 spread we found for him in July.

This despite that just 26% of Trump voters think he has delivered on his promise to “drain the swamp”, to 53% who say he hasn’t. When asked if Trump has come through on “Making America Great Again,” just 33% of his voters say he has, to 59% who say he hasn’t.

PPP found that 57% of Republicans want Trump to be the party’s nominee in 2020, compared to 29% who say they would prefer someone else. That 28 point margin for Trump against “someone else” is the same as his 28 point lead over Mike Pence. Both Ted Cruz, with a 40 point deficit to Trump at 62/22, and John Kasich, a 47 point deficit to Trump, are weaker potential opponents than ‘someone else’.

All in, Trump is keeping his base together, while losing a few moderate Republicans. So the question is, what will it take to make Trump a one-term president?

If you want to defeat Trump, focus on how his political disruption has only caused destruction. It isn’t enough to tear shit down. Any president has to be a builder, and not just for a phony wall.

Have there been any gains from the disruption? Is there any evidence that Trump has the leadership skills to bring policies into law that will improve the lives of those who voted for him?

The winning message is about building: Build unity. Build the economy. Build a vision for a growing middle class.

Be a builder, not a disruptor.

Wake up America! Find a builder, or be a builder. To help you wake up, here is John Mayer with his 2006 Grammy-winning hit “Waiting On The World To Change”:

Takeaway Lyric:

It’s hard to beat the system
When we’re standing at a distance
So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change

Now if we had the power
To bring our neighbors home from war
They would have never missed a Christmas
No more ribbons on their door
And when you trust your television
What you get is what you got
Cause when they own the information, oh
They can bend it all they want.

Don’t wait to be a builder. Dr. King didn’t wait, neither did Mandela. They changed the world. WE have the power to change America.

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Trump Can’t Lead

The Daily Escape:

Zion NP Utah, 2001 – photo by Wrongo

Leader of the Free World. Leader of the Republican Party. Commander-in-Chief. Leader of the US Government. Donald Trump holds all of these titles, but he isn’t a leader. We just lived through a lab experiment in Trump’s leadership, his curious response to the Charlottesville protests. Either he had a lapse in clear thinking, or he cannot show empathy when the rest of us need it.

Either way, he failed as a leader.

On Saturday, America reacted to a moment in which armed racism was celebrated by members of the KKK, neo-Nazis, white nationalists and white supremacists, who sought a confrontation to help them achieve high status among the far right. The ugliness of the rally – which included crowds of young white men carrying torches, an air of menace, and the offering of the Nazi salute — should make our president think about how not just to defuse the situation, but how to blunt this from becoming a wave of similar protests across the nation.

Trump’s remarks on Saturday said in essence, “All lives matter”. By Monday, when most of America thought that what he said was far less than the situation required, he gave a terse speech saying:

Racism is evil…Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.

There was no emotion or believability behind it, he said what he was told needed to be said, not what he believed. Where was Trump’s sympathy for Jews, African-Americans, Muslims and others that these white-right protesters savaged?

And where was his leadership? Richard Neustadt wrote “Presidential Power” in 1960, a definitive book for its time. Wrongo read it as a freshman in college. Here is a quote:

The president’s primary power is to persuade and bargain, not to command. When a president has to resort to commanding people, he is showing weakness. Commands only work in very special circumstances. The essence of a President’s persuasive task is to convince…that what the White House wants of them is what they ought to do for their sake…

The power to persuade is perhaps the most important tool a president has. Power in our government is dispersed, so the president must bargain and persuade others that what he knows is in their best interest, and coach them to move in the right direction. Do you see Trump doing that?

Dr. Christine Porath of Georgetown thinks that “warmth” is the most important trait for a leader to have:

Warmth is the primary characteristic that people judge you by, and they make that judgment first…Can I trust you? If you seem warm, then that’s great…Leading with warmth, for leaders, has shown to be helpful. It’s a way to connect with people and again they’re more likely to work harder for you and perform better.

Do you see any warmth in Trump? Any empathy? It isn’t there.

Neustadt agrees. He calls how the public views the president, “public prestige”. Even though the public has no direct association to policymaking, the public’s view of the president affects how legislation moves through the Congress and into law. Neustadt also says that a president should think and act prospectively, so decisions he makes today aid his ability to persuade tomorrow.

Trump’s opinion polls are in the dumpster. A very small core of Americans find him believable.

Scott Adams the Dilbert guy, has said that Trump is a master persuader, and that he won the election because of his mad persuasion skills. But, those skills, which did seem to exist in the 2016 primaries and general election, have deserted Der Trump, and have been replaced by continuing Twitter attacks on a growing list of institutions, groups of people, and individuals.

Charlottesville was a protest by those who define themselves not just by who they are, but by who they hate. And they also define themselves as Trump supporters. There were shouts of “Heil Trump” on Friday night. They see no benefit in finding commonality with a diverse America, but pointedly, thrive off of hating our differences.

These people are content to blame “The Others” for their lot in life, and Trump persuades mostly by telling us what he hates, rather than what he likes.

In the 1960s we had much larger, and more violent (though mostly unarmed) protests. Those protesters didn’t want to jet us back to the past, but to propel us forward to a better future.

The white nationalist agitators in Charlottesville want to return us to an era that cannot (and should not) be recreated. All in the name of making America “great again.”

And they back Trump, a charlatan who pretends to lead.

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Do Trump’s Poor Approval Ratings Mean Much?

The Daily Escape:

Lake Louise Sunrise, Alberta, Canada

On Monday, Gallup released Trump’s job approval rating in all 50 states, based on a collection of over 81,000 survey results gathered in the six months between the president’s inauguration on January 20 and June 30. The results show an interesting trend, particularly if you divide them into three categories: states where Trump is above 50%, states where Trump is in the 40%’s, and states where Trump is under 40%:

The dark green states where Trump is above 50% are states Trump carried in 2016. The yellow states, where Trump is under 40%, are all states that Clinton carried in 2016. The light green states are 2016’s swing states: New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nevada. From Gallup:

Trump largely owed his victory in the 2016 presidential election to his wins in three key Rust Belt states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — that had not backed a Republican for president since the 1980s. In these states, his January-June approval ratings were just slightly above his overall average of 40%, including 43% in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and 42% in Michigan.

So those three states that put him over the top in the 2016 Electoral College could now be in play. Other interesting data:

  • In the 2016 election, Trump won all 17 of the states where Gallup now shows him with an approval rating of at least 50%.
  • During the six-month survey period, residents in West Virginia (60%), North Dakota (59%) and South Dakota (57%) gave Trump his highest approval ratings. Montana, Wyoming and Alabama all had average approval ratings of 55% or higher.

This is consistent with the geographic patterns of Republican strength nationally. Trump’s highest approval ratings tend to be in Southern, Plains and Mountain West states. His lowest ratings are in Northeast and West Coast states.

Maine, Georgia, Missouri, Indiana, Mississippi, Arizona and Texas are now in the minority-favorable category. Clinton carried Maine and Nevada, but the rest are states that voted for Trump.

In Michigan, North Carolina, Florida and Texas, Trump is at 42% and at least nine points underwater with majority disapproval. Majority disapproval in Texas could help Dems in 2020.

This means that Trump is solidly under 50% in 33 states, including every swing state.

Gallup has been running this daily tracking poll for about 70 years. It showed Trump’s approval at 46% at inauguration. Now the same Gallup poll, done with the same protocol, shows Trump’s approval at 36%.

But this doesn’t mean that Trump is toast in 2020, or that the Democrats have a path to control either the House or Senate in 2018. Peter Hessler had an interesting article in The New Yorker about how Trump has a deeper influence on his voters than we previously thought:

If anything, investigations into the Trump campaign’s connections with Russia have made supporters only more faithful. “I’m loving it – I hope they keep going down the Russia rabbit hole,” Matt Peterson told me, in June. He believes that Democrats are banking on impeachment instead of doing the hard work of trying to connect with voters. “They didn’t even get rid of their leadership after the election…”

Trump is drawn to making silly statements on the Twitter machine like a moth to flame, and it is scorching him enough to reflect in his approval numbers. But Russia alone won’t be a winning hand for Democrats, as the New Yorker article shows. These Russia investigations may not amount to anything, or they may be something that takes until Trump’s second term to fully flower.

In the meantime, the Dems issued a new manifesto, “A Better Deal”, a re-branding of their greatest hits: more and better-paying jobs, lower health care costs, and cracking down on the abuses of big business.

But this time, they really mean it.

It is doubtful that the new slogan or its underlying policies will have Republicans quaking in their Ferragamos.

If there is one lesson Democrats should have learned from 2016, it is that opposition to Trump is not enough to win elections. They need new leadership and a better message.

Otherwise, despite the rosy (for Democrats) poll results on Trump favorability, Democrats will be explaining what went wrong again when the 2018 midterms roll around.

On to today’s tune. Here is Aretha Franklin doing “It Ain’t Necessarily So“, with lyrics and music by George and Ira Gershwin. It is from their opera, “Porgy and Bess”:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 14, 2017

(Wrongo and Ms. Oh So Right are heading to Europe today. We will be gone for 10 days, so blogging may be sparse. Please keep America great while we are away.)

Happy Mother’s Day to all. A few more thoughts about BLOTUS (Big Liar of the US): Not only does he have the worst approval ratings of any president at this point in his term, but he’s also incapable of moving the needle of public opinion toward his positions. Ironically, for all of Trump’s sycophants’ talk that Trump’s words ARE his actions, his tweets and public pronouncements are making his positions more unpopular.

What matters most to Wrongo is his non-adherence to basic rules and norms, and here, there’s a lot to be concerned about. His fear of an investigation into possible Russian influence, and his refusal to release his tax returns probably mean he’s hiding something. Now we learn that Trump’s law firm, Morgan Lewis, which wrote a statement saying Trump’s tax returns showed no significant business ties to Russia, itself has extensive ties to Russia, and received a “Russia Law Firm of the Year” award in 2016. The swamp is reaching flood stage. On to cartoons.

Trump wanted a different dog:

Comey’s resume shows poor reviews by former employer:

McConnell plans to protect The Donald:

Trump thinks any negative story about him is made up:

Trump creates new versions of the truth faster than his team can spin them:

Trump hears from a guy inside the White House that he doesn’t know:

 

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