I have spent the past three mornings holding forth on radio stations from Seattle (WA) to Burlington (IA) talking about my books, “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House.” Naturally, when you’re on morning drive “live” in an election year, eventually the host (or hostess) wants to get around to this year’s presidential race. Sometimes, I beg off, saying that I’m not actively reporting on this year’s race, which is true—sort of.
The truth is that I started out getting tickets to the candidates as they streamed into Iowa for the caucuses and, if you want to make something of it, I saw twice as many Republican candidates as Democratic (i.e., Jeb, The Donald and Bernie Sanders). I don’t like labels. Or incivility. Or being penned up and vilified as “lamestream media,” so I went as a citizen. I quit after some of the press were physically attacked. (I’m sure you’ve seen the same video that I have seen.) Not my idea of a good time to be penned up so that Donald Trump can hurl insults at me, and that is what is happening with the media who are assigned to follow his campaign.
But the on-the-air radio questions just keep coming about this year, which does have some similarities to 2008. For example, the recent outburst in Nevada from Bernie Sanders followers who felt the rules were being unfairly changed is not unlike the threat by Hispanic voters in 2008 on the floor of the Democratic National Convention to walk out if their candidate, Hillary Clinton, were not the nominee. And, at that time, Hillary was a lot closer to Obama’s total than Bernie is at this time during this race.
Ultimately, Hillary herself had to come down off the pedestal she sometimes seems to occupy in regards to we common folk and urge her followers to support Barack Obama. As the song goes, she “knew when to hold ‘em and knew when to fold ‘em.” She folded, and did so with better humor than many, even ultimately taking a position in the current President’s cabinet as Secretary of State.
So, I’m not in the position I was in ’04, ’08 and ’12 to “predict” based on being “on the ground” and out amongst the common folk. But I have stayed abreast of developments. I have watched all the debates. I have read the thoughts of other commentators from Texas to Chicago to New York and all states in between and of all ideologies (last one read: Charles Krauthammer).
I like to think I’m open-minded, independent, fair, unprejudiced and thoughtful about who should and could represent me abroad with grace , dignity, and expertise, which, I feel, has been the case this past 8 years. I was proud to call Barack Obama and Michelle Obama the President and First Lady of the United States of America. They represented America well abroad.
The policies of President Obama did not always coincide with my own thoughts, but what do I know about running a nation? Nothing. I merely observed developments in places like the Middle East and Egypt and said, “What happens when this guy is gone? What happens next?” And I waited for that other shoe to fall, which it has.
What I don’t do is say, “Let’s behave like spoiled brat schoolchildren and do everything we can to obstruct and slow progress. Let’s read Green Eggs and Ham on the Senate floor while our nation’s credit and image abroad crumbles.”
Or, on a state level, let’s go without a budget for a full year and be so lame about Medicaid payments that it takes 555 days to be reimbursed in Illinois, 49th out of the states in the Union.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Green Eggs and Ham as well as the next reader and even have a Dr. Seuss-like children’s book series (“The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats,” 5 rhyming books).
But back to the subject of this year’s election.
The Koch Brothers have let it be known that they are sitting on their wallets this election cycle. They didn’t like the way their money went down the tubes in 2012 in support of Mitt Romney and they are sitting this one out. Mitt, himself, has made it perfectly clear where he stands on the issue of a President Trump and has only recently given up the effort, forged with political commentator Bill Kristol, to find a third party candidate. Neither Bush ex-President will support Trump after the graceless, classless way he “dissed” brother Jeb. The Republican Governor of Ohio (and third place presidential candidate), John Kasich, in an interview, admitted that he does not know if he can support the presumptive Republican nominee, and this year’s convention is being held in his all-important swing state of Ohio. [In another article, I’ll repeat some wisdom from today’s Chicago Tribune, quoting Trump delegates, but let’s stick to the topic.]
On the question, “Can Trump win?” I would be the last person to say “Never ever.” He will win if good people sit on their hands and do not vote, just as Auschwitz would never have happened if the good people of Germany had stood up and said, “This sort of action is wrong; this sort of behavior is not right. It is reprehensible and it must stop.” That happened in some countries, quite famously, as in Denmark, where all citizens began wearing the Star of David and 99% of their Jewish citizens survived, but obviously collective resistance to something so obviously wrong did not happen enough to save thousands of lives. And I’d like to save thousands of lives that might be disrupted if the wrong person has his (or her) finger on the button. I don’t want the nuclear codes in the hands of a reality TV star with few other qualifications for national office. And the thought of Sarah Pain OR Newt Gingrich serving with him is no longer laughable; it is just sad.
Trump might win if some sort of national emergency were to take place on U.S soil in the run-up to the election, which, alas, is always a threat. He might win if thinkers don’t outnumber disgruntled voters so fed up with politics as usual that they will try almost anyone or anything else, even a guy as polarizing as Donald Trump. And, let’s not forget, he’s a BRAND! He’s on TV. He fired Gary Busey and Li’l John! He refused to remove his surname from his new hotel in downtown Chicago and proved he had negotiated the right to have it appear in letters that are overwhelmingly high. (It doesn’t bother me, aesthetically, but there are those who become apoplectic discussing the downtown Trump Tower building.)
It’s an interesting bit of information that the GOP, after its sound defeat in 2012, did its own internal survey and found that as a party it should be more welcoming, more inclusive, less old and white, if they wanted to win future elections. Like the country of Germany (average citizen’s age: 46), which is growing old and not replacing its youth at a fast-enough clip, the GOP has grown old and white. In 2008 there were 36 black GOP delegates in St. Paul at the RNC, which Conan O’Brien joked at the time “means that there are now 37 African Americans in the state of Minnesota.”
All joking aside, there are books out now with titles like “The Browning of America” and those books take a good look at how the Hispanic vote has swelled from 12% in ’08 to something like 32% now. African Americans go for the Democrat in the race 84% to 9% according to an NBC poll released on May 17th. Latinos go for the Democrat 65% to 28%. Independent voters prefer Hillary to The Donald 44% to 36% and moderate voters say they prefer Hillary 53% to 39%. Women are slowly coming around to Hillary’s side, with a 15 point advantage, but that is largely erased by the 11 points Trump gets from adult white males. Those with just a high school degree like Trump, which is somewhat inconsistent with the later fact that voters who make less than $50,000 a year express a preference for Hillary, while college-educated voters prefer the woman who has been First Lady, Secretary of State and a Senator from New York (not to mention wife of the Governor of Arkansas).
When asked about Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and trustworthiness, poll respondents picked The Donald as more trustworthy 63% to 34%, which should give Paul Ryan some insight into (a) why the ticket lost in 2012 and (b) why Americans, in general, are down on politicians.
But can Trump win? Radio talking heads don’t like to hear a reasoned response based on reality, but the reality is that Trump should be creamed by Hillary in a general election. She is possibly the best qualified candidate to come down the pike in the last 50 years.
But, as I wrote in “Obama’s Odyssey,” way back in 2008, voters told me then (p. 78 of Volume I, on sale today for 99 cents in e-book format), “I won’t vote for Hillary, no matter what.” “Why?” I asked the voters. They told me they don’t “like” her. An Austin writer (reprinted in the Friday the 13th Chicago “Tribune”) Cheryl Wilhelm said that Hillary just doesn’t act like she likes them much, either, so, she says, the feeling is mutual. She went on to say that you don’t have to be a political analyst to know that this spells trouble. Hillary does not have Bill’s gifts as a campaigner. It was evident in 2008 and it is even more evident in 2016. Some of my friends complain about her cackle, her screech, her clothing, her hair. Nothing the woman does or says pleases them. They don’t “like” her. If a national catastrophe strikes OR the smart and educated voters stay home (including Bernie’s supporters, if they refuse to cross over), Hillary could have trouble, because she is not going to get votes because people like her so much and, if nothing else, the recent Kentucky near split should prove that. (Not to mention her loss in Oregon)
Voters did “like” Barack Obama, and still do.
Do voters “like” Donald Trump? And if so, why?
He is brash, obnoxious, overly orange, thrice-married (with in-laws who are card-carrying Communists), overly smitten with Russian leader Vladimir Putin while undersmitten with our traditional allies, the British, (who even considered passing a bill to ban him from the country). He is, as Vanity Fair likes to describe him, “a short-fingered vulgarian.” We don’t even know if the man paid the taxes he owed or is worth anywhere near what he claims, as he has not released his tax returns, something that Clinton has released from the past 33 years.
Sure, it’s nice to hear some honesty from the debate stage, but are we hearing honesty from the stage? What is Donald’s take on abortion or Muslims today? He changes views more frequently than most people change their socks and one astute columnist noted that, like Obama in ’08, Trump is essentially a blank slate with no political record onto which the voter can project his or her own reality.
And is it really necessary to use disparaging nicknames to put down political opponents? Names like “Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted” are new to the political process in public, if not in private. (The last person to use nicknames for everyone, George W. Bush, called Karl Rove “Turd Blossom” and was similarly denigrating to others, which they did not appreciate; it’s a sign of a troubled ego.) Usually, the candidate on a debate stage at least attempts to show deference to his or her rivals, but The Donald is rich (or so he says), smart (or so he says) and anything he touches will turn to gold, (as is evidenced by pictures of his personal residence, wherein nearly everything was gold-plated, as though decorated for a Roman orgy.) “It’ll be HUGE!” he says, while wearing his made-in-China red baseball cap.
So, what do I think is going to happen THIS time around to and for the candidate (or candidates) sadly lacking in the “Q” factor, as broadcasters call it?
There are 2 possibilities:
1) If there is a national emergency of some sort, it will all be blamed on the present administration (even though Obama will probably go down as one of our better presidents, probably even one of our great presidents–opening trade with Cuba, passing Obamacare and still trying to achieve the goals he set out in 2008 in the face of unbelievable disrespect) as he saved us from the brink of collapse during the sub-prime mortgage scandal.) Everything could blow up in HRC’s face if that emergency happens.
It is worth noting on the negative side that no Big Bankers went to jail to pay for that economic sub-prime mortgage mess, and I agree with those who have dubbed our Middle East policy “feckless.”
2) Voter turnout will be pathetic and that could be disastrous. This year’s flawed candidates seem so bad that many obituaries are cropping up with lines like, “She chose death rather than having to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump,” or “In lieu of flowers, please do not vote for ____________.” (Fill in the candidate you would not like to see win.)
But talking about using nuclear weapons in Europe, building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico which THEY will pay for, deporting 11 million illegal immigrants, banning ALL Muslims and generally acting like old white men in an isolationist pose that no longer works in the days of the Internet is equally “feckless.”
The Donald says he will “make America great” again, but he has no specifics as to how he might do that. He doesn’t even seem to know the names of leaders of other countries or where those countries are. It is doubtful that he understands the intricate process by which a bill becomes law. He has announced Supreme Court nominees at a time when the current do-nothing Congress won’t move forward in conducting hearings for the nominee of the sitting president, a questionable act and yet another example of disrespect. (Hear the guy out; you can always vote against him!)
The names I’ve seen bandied about for potential VP (Chris Christie notwithstanding) are has-beens (Newt Gingrich? Sarah Palin?), know-nothings, or both. They are like the cast of “Dancing with the Stars.” One such name mentioned, Joni Ernst from Iowa, was just elected in the northwest corner of the state, Steve King’s bailiwick, where conservatives gather and give him term after term, despite his reactionary views and some stupefyingly dumb things he has said and done. She barely has her political feet wet, but she does have bad hair akin to Donald’s, so there’s that. [They could form a “Bad Hair Club.”]
So, since we are now talking about the Steven Kings of life, let’s end with the words of THE writer Stephen King, “Donald Trump is an entertainer, a carnival man, a buffoon. His followers are white, scared, and angry. He will never be elected, not as long as minorities, liberals and educated people vote. But he has certainly exposed the ugly underbelly of conservatives in America today.”