Posts Tagged ‘Clinton’

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Sitting in the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego County, California looking back on his wasted life is Sirhan Sirhan, the aggrieved pro-Palestinian Jordanian who fifty years ago today fatally shot Bobby Kennedy for his support for selling war planes to Israel.

But what he killed that day was not only the wildly popular primary contender for the Democratic nomination for President, but also the post-war “big government” consensus that had held sway in America since the Depression. With Kennedy effectively died the idea that Government had a legitimate role in enabling social cohesion and attacking evils such as poverty and the racial divide.

After his death, the Democrats turned to Hubert Humphrey as a consensus candidate, but the bumbling Humphrey was never going to be a match for the charismatic and experienced Richard Nixon.

That event began a thirty year or more realignment to the right in American politics, which eventually led to a wider realignment around the democratic world, which affected both future Democratic candidates (such as Carter and Clinton) as well as notable Republicans such as Ronald Reagan. By the end of the process the “post war consensus” around enabling government and Keynsian economics was largely broken, and it is not clear yet whether or not it will ever be revived.

Texan political scientist Walter Dean Burnham’s 1970 book Critical Elections and the Mainsprings of American Politics presents a theory of American political development that focuses on the role of party systems that endure for several decades, only to be disrupted by a “critical election”. Such elections not only hand presidential and congressional power to the non-incumbent political party, but they do so in a dramatic way that repudiates the worn-out ideas of the old party and initiates a new era whose leaders govern on a new set of assumptions, ideologies, and public policies. The elections of 1860 and 1932 are perhaps the clearest examples of critical elections, and scholars have disagreed about how well Burnham’s theories still explain American electoral politics. Others contend that 1968 was a realigning election for Republicans holding the presidency from 1969 to 1977 and again from 1981 to 1993.

Some political scientists, such as Mayhew, are skeptical of the realignment theory altogether, saying there are no long-term patterns: “Electoral politics,” he wrote, “is to an important degree just one thing after another … Elections and their underlying causes are not usefully sortable into generation-long spans … It is a Rip Van Winkle view of democracy that voters come awake only once in a generation … It is too slippery, too binary, too apocalyptic, and it has come to be too much of a dead end.”

That is in all probability true. “Realignment” elections are probably the result of long-term trends that then coalesce around an individual or event. In this sense, the election of Margaret Thatcher in the UK is unquestionably onesuch, in that it can be seen as not so much an enthusiasm for Thatcher personally (for some time after her election in 1979 she actually languished in the polls and could arguably have been defeated in the 1983 election were it not for the Falklands War) but as an enduring and growing response to militant trade unionism that had disrupted the country during the previous Heath and Callaghan premierships.

In this sense, though, it is interesting to debate what type of America we might now see had Robert Kennedy survived and won the election. Would we have seen a rejuvenated consensus around government intervention, led by Kennedy’s personal charisma, and fervour? Or was Kennedy a “man out of time”, a liberal consensus man who belonged ten or twenty years earlier? It is an enticing discussion.

Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” in response to the dissent brokered by the civil rights movement thoroughly moved large numbers of older, conservative and male whites (most directly) into the Republican camp. Whether or not Kennedy’s personal appeal and rhetorical flourish would have kept them in the Democrat fold is impossible to say. Republican leaders consciously appealed to many white Southerners’ racial grievances in order to gain their support. Whether or not Kennedy could have “sold” a different narrative is hard to say. The Southern Strategy and its effectiveness certainly annoyed black and other minority voters. In 2005, Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman formally apologised to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a national civil rights organisation, for exploiting racial polarisation to win elections and ignoring the black vote. The very substantial preference for the Democrat ticket currently evidenced by the black population stems in part from this period and there can be little doubt that the election of Donald Trump reresented the most stark division between black and white voters in modern electoral history. Would Kennedy have reduced or prevented that divide? Who knows?

Certainly, many left-leaning leaders at the time felt Kennedy’s loss very keenly and for many Kennedy’s death ended the revival of American liberalism.

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 2.31.06 pm“King had prepared us for his death, and after it [MLK’s death] happened, there was no weeping, we immediately started figuring out how we were going to carry on the Poor People’s Campaign,” says former UN Ambassador Andrew Young, one of King’s closest aides.

But that maintenance of effort was scuppered by Kennedy’s death. “That was when I broke down,” says Young. “I think that the rational liberal democratic socialist view of the world, from Franklin Roosevelt all the way to Lyndon Johnson, was really cut short by the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.”

Others disagree. “By the end of the 1960s, the forces that were swelling up against the Great Society, which was an extension of the New Deal of the 1930s, were going to defeat whoever the Democrats put up,” says HW Brands, historian and author. “Americans were disillusioned and angered by the violence of the 1960s, and by the failure of the Democratic governments of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson to take Vietnam to a successful conclusion.”

Brands notes how also the Civil Rights movement had largely achieved its legislative aims, and so if either Martin Luther King Jr or Robert Kennedy had lived they would have had to battle the great American conundrum of economic inequality and poverty that has thwarted all others.

“That’s a much tougher nut to deal with going off the last 50 years of American politics,” Mr Brands says. “You can repeal laws against blacks, but can you mandate economic equality? Nobody’s figured out how to do it … for a society that is organised economically along capitalist lines.” It’s a fair point.

 

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Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 1.44.58 pm.pngWhat is certain is that the election of Nixon and the general drift to the right that continues to this day resulted in economic policies – an understanding of the economic framework – that are wildly different to what went before … right up to until, perhaps, the election of an innately interventionist Trump administration, with its talk of directly investing in rustbelt industries, trade wars, and all the rest of it – which election can at least in part be squarely laid at the door of voter dis-satisfaction with the actual out-workings of the very “trickle down” economics that the Republicans for a generation have been enthusiastically promoting.

Yet as the result of the Trump revolution, American economic policy is now a curious (and not necessarily sustainable, or necessarily successful) mixture of lowering taxes and increasing spending, of triumphalist nationalism and “America First”, and an apparent rejection of free tradeism. Aided, no doubt, by Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity in some sections of the population, Trump’s election was above all a reaction to the fact that the new consensus, established after Kennedy’s death and pursued by both Democrats and Republicans, hasn’t really “worked”, either.

So it is at least worth speculating exactly what Sirhan Sirhan destroyed that day, 50 years ago. Jeremi Suri, a history professor and author, has commented: “Kennedy … was the last politician who came from a background of Franklin Roosevelt-influenced social welfare policies who could connect with rural voters,” Mr Suri says. “What ended in the late 1960s and early 1970s was a set of policies of expanding rights, expanding government services and assistance for those in need, and the backlash against that was facilitated by the absence of effective figures like Robert Kennedy.”

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So was Kennedy-ism the last gasp of the liberal consensus, or will we see that consensus revived, at least in part, by a new crop of populist centre-left politicians, in America and around the world, of whom Trump is merely, perhaps, a somewhat confused example?

How do we judge, for example, the huge popularity of a character like Bernie Sanders, a self proclaimed “democratic socialist”, whose economic prescription for America could have been written by any “big Government” thinker from 1926-1966 without anyone finding it in the least unusual or even worthy of much comment?

Was Kennedy’s death merely a pause in left-liberal consensus building, or the end of it?

Time, as always, will tell.

(Some of the quotations in this article previously appeared in a BBC article.)

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trade

 

As everyone by now knows, this is an incredibly tight election, and it is looking increasingly likely that Donald Trump will pull off an historic victory.

The race is very close in Michigan, a state where polling indicated a win to Clinton by 4-10%, and getting better for her, not worse. And Wisconsin is looking dodgy for Clinton. She really cannot afford to lose either of them, and definitely not both of them.

One motivating factor in these states is the decline of manufacturing jobs, particularly in the automobile sector, and particularly in Michigan. Although Clinton was favoured to win Michigan by FiveThirtyEight’s forecast and many others, Trump has touted a message that could appeal to many voters there: International trade has harmed the county.

Sure enough, exit polls indicate that 50 percent of Michiganders agreed that trade with other countries would “take jobs away” from the U.S. Only 31 percent thought trade “creates more jobs.” And among Trump supporters, a whopping 65 percent had a negative view on trade.

Think about that. The party of business, bouyed up by those who don’t believe in business.

How does trade “take jobs away”? It “takes jobs away” in a country where ignorance is frighteningly rife, where self-confidence has plummeted to hitherto never seen before levels, a country that has been constantly sold an untruth, which is that America leads the world economically, when it has been clear for some time now that this is no longer true. A country where a majority of people now say they think things will be worse for their kids than them, and they are probably right. But they have the wrong target in their sights.

Trade doesn’t take jobs away. Trade is the only thing that creates jobs. America used to know that. It’s forgotten. Ignorance has triumphed, egged on by those who should know better – assuming they care – egged on by the very people who use the global economy to feather their own nests.

In other words, this is not a win against the elite. This is a win for one portion of the elite running a better lie.

The rest of the world has a great deal to fear from a blindly protectionist American administration. There may be celebration in Trump Tower tonight, although that is yet to be completely confirmed. There will be no celebrating in world markets.

 

 

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We haven’t been doing very well with our predicting, recently. There: that’s a sentence you don’t normally expect in the world of political punditry.

But the fact is we got the Brexit vote totally wrong – we were hardly Robinson Crusoe in that regard, but that doesn’t matter – and we also failed to predict a Conservative overall majority in the UK, but again, almost no-one got that right either and it was a very close run thing … from a psephological point of view the change in the Lib Dem seats in the West can literally be assumed to have taken place in the last 48 hours, so we weren’t the only people surprised.

But for a year now, we have been confidently predicting a Clinton victory in the 2016 Presidential election. Our analysis has ranged from “massive Clinton victory” to “comfortable Clinton victory” and at no stage have we EVER speculated that Trump could win.

And today, despite all the recent froth and bubble in the media, we repeat our prediction. Clinton’s got this. With a margin somewhere between “just” and “just about comfortable”. Which considering she has been subject to the longest period of personal vilification ever seen in modern political history, much of which has been entirely politically motivated and rank untruths, is really quite a remarkable thing. She has been pilloried, lied about, accused of ludicrous things, with a level of pure vitriolic hatred that can only be described as anti-democratic and neo-fascist in its expression. And she’s a woman. And anyone who thinks that there isn’t evidence of blatant sexism in some people’s denial of her right to be President is simply naive, just as many of the attacks on her health and stamina – which seem to be just fine when you consider her punishing schedule – are codes for “weak, poor little woman thing”.

Let’s be clear: we have previously pointed out at length that “No”, Clinton is not a perfect person. Who is, after all? Let alone in the field of politics. She is, however, a shining knight clothed in holy armour wielding a blazing sword of righteousness compared to Trump. That a large percentage of intending American voters can’t see that is truly distressing and disturbing to the rest of us.

We can’t bring myself to be angry with every Trump voter. After all, they’re perfectly entitled to disagree with us, and we know some of them personally, and they are patently obviously decent folk. Social media has dominated where they are getting their information from, and this is what’s dominating their social media , a highly sophisticated misinformation campaign mounted deliberately, and with malice aforethought.

So what we have been witnessing is a perversion of democracy. Let us hope that enough Americans agree so that after Tuesday we see some real and meaningful reform to both media coverage and the tone of campaigning. This morning on radio in Melbourne one of the more senior (and least alarmist) hosts remarked “America is broken. It’s like Humpty Dumpty, and I cant see how it’s ever going to be put back together again.” Which is a miserable thought for all who treasure much of what is good – even great – about America.

Anyway, back to the impending result. A lot of people have been opining that some Trump voters are hiding their intentions from pollsters because they’re embarrassed to admit they support him, and arguing that the phenomenon is “like Brexit”, which is all very well except right up to the Brexit vote it was always going to be close (Brexiteer Nigel Farage famously remarked that a 52-48 vote in favour of Remain should be ignored, then promptly changed his tune when his side won by that very margin), and speaking out against the EU was never something that the vast majority of Britons had any problem with.

It should also be noted that for someone to be so embarrassed to be supporting Trump that they would have to lie to pollsters yet still be intending to vote for him would require some very complex mental circumlocutions. And given the hurricane of criticism she has received, we think it just as likely that some Clinton supporters might not wish to express their support for her, so any “ashamed of Trump” effect would in all probably be evened out by an “ashamed of Clinton” effect. Indeed, if anything, the “enthusiasm” levels that are measured are lower for Clinton than Trump, so that effect would be greater.

So we simply do not believe, as the Trump side has been furiously talking up, that there is some vast unspoken well of support for the Republicans.

Essentially, we think the opinion polls have it about right, which is somewhere in the region of a 2-3% lead in the popular vote for Clinton, which is now climbing again, but a stronger lead for her in some key battleground seats. We think Trump may actually do better in some of the solid “red” seats than is currently expected, except it won’t matter because he’ll be piling up votes where he doesn’t need them.

There has been much talk about which the key swing states are. We all know about Florida, where we suspect Trump may just pull it off, following an erosion in support for Libertarian Gary Johnson which has caused a drift back to him, as people focus on the main game. But Florida really is too complex to call with any degree of certainty. Two other factors are complicating matters. Firstly there is some strong evidence that a significant percentage of early Republican voters have backed Clinton, which in a state with a very significant early voting percentage, and where the Democrats ground game is markedly better, may just tip the state back to her. It was won by Obama, remember. Secondly, Latinos in the state are voting in increased numbers, and as we have opined previously, Trump has very good reason to fear an uptick in the Latino vote. Because of our political preferences we are hopeful of a Clinton victory, but the psephologist in us urges caution. And in any very close election, we are minded to remember Bush v Gore, which we remain convinced was nothing more nor less than a judicial coup. Now, though, the Supreme Court is split 4-4 between Liberals and Conservatives, so any similar farrago this time may be avoidable … Hillary Clinton is ahead 48 – 42 percent among Florida voters who already have cast ballots.

Let us hope this election doesn’t come down to lawyers at dawn. One calculation has a 17% chance that Florida will be the “tipping point” state, yet again.

FLORIDA VERDICT Too close to call/Very close Clinton victory

Moving up the country, the next vital state is North Carolina. There were some early indications that Clinton might be in trouble in a state with a large black vote where there was less enthusiasm in black voters than in the Obama elections, in a state won by the Republicans last time, and in areas where Republican voter suppression has been seen at its most naked. The voter suppression laws have been largely declared invalid, but possibly too late to rescue the situation. Then again, President Obama, who is still a talisman for the African-American vote, has been strategically deployed to “get the black vote out”. If he succeeds, what might have been the narrowest win for Trump may turn into a narrow win for Clinton. There’s no question that the race is tight, but we perceive Clinton inching ahead in the last couple of days. In particular, a normally very reliable poll now has her up by three having previously had Trump ahead by four just a couple of weeks ago. In a reliable poll using the same methodology, that’s a significant movement, and in the last week Clinton has seemingly risen slightly further. The only impossible to discern factor is how far Libertarian candidate Johnson will fall. Five Thirty Eight actually says Trump is more likely to win, but we think there may be enough African-American enthusiasm to carry the day for the Democrats.

NORTH CAROLINA Too close to call/Very close Clinton victory

The next crucial contest is Ohio. We think that this can now be safely called in the Trump camp. He has been improving there steadily, and there is, clearly, a generalised move to the Republicans in the central states. Some of the key factors here are that Clinton is doing significantly less well with female voters here than generally, and Trump has garnered an historically high number of male voters.There is also a strong sense amongst the working class and non-college educated vote that they are being ignored by the elite, especially as regards trade deals and employment initiatives. The notably right wing Governor, Kasich, has ironically and pointedly refused to back Trump, but his general stance seems to have solidified Republican support.

OHIO Trump

Moving to the right, but only geographically, Pennsylvania seems equally locked in the Clinton column. The state seems to be delivering a solid lead of 4-6% for Clinton in survey after survey no matter how you dice and dust the results. That’s now too big for Trump to overhaul except in some mythical scenario where his vote is being under-estimated by 10-20%, which isn’t going to happen. A potential transit strike in Philly won’t help poorer voters of either party to get around on polling day. It remains to be seen whether the City’s attempt to injunct the strike is successful.

PENNSYVANIA Clinton

It is worth pointing out that no one has been elected president since 1960 without carrying two of the three key swing states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. This year, North Carolina has been added to that mix. We see the four states leaning to Clinton overall – just. Are we confident in that prediction? Not especially. In Florida and NC we could be dead wrong, as the current polls are well within margins of error. Interestingly, though, that can cut both ways. Take 3-4% off Clinton and Trump does very well indeed. Add 3-4% to Clinton and it becomes a Clinton landslide.

Can we get a better idea by looking at other close states? Maybe. But first a word overall. Nate Silver’s normally highly reliable 538 site has a movement back to Clinton from Trump in terms of their chances of winning of what may be a hugely significant 0.8% from the fourth to the fifth of November. This presumably reflects both the FBI’s confirmation that Clinton is to be charged with nothing regarding the endless email scandal, and the following:

The small state of Nevada should deliver it’s 6 votes to the Republicans without any difficulty. Except … the Democrats ground game here has been especially aggressive, particularly via organised labor and targeting the Latino community. If Trump loses Nevada – and he could – he’s in trouble.

Whilst New Hampshire has come back towards Trump in the very recent past, Clinton is still solidly ahead in the vast majority of polls, although there have been a couple that have it line ball or leaning Trump, but these come from polls that seem less reliable than some others, and one which is positively partisan. The role of the Libertarian candidate here will be crucial in a state where “alternative” candidates often do well. How well his vote holds up will probably decide the state, and at the moment he seems to be hanging onto enough votes to cruel things for Trump. It’s only 4 electoral college votes, but they’re four votes who if they went to Trump it would suggest a real Republican surge.

In Michigan, with its important 16 electoral votes, Clinton is holding onto about a 4% lead, with Gary Johnson’s vote holding much steadier than in some other places. Whilst the race unquestionably tightened in the last half of October the situation now seems more stable for Clinton, and possibly moving back to her slightly. The opposite is true in Iowa, where Trump is strengthening his position, as with many mid-West states.

Virginia was close for Obama but it is becoming increasingly suburban and – as it does – liberal. If Clinton were to lose it – we don’t think she will – she can kiss her hopes goodbye.

So: our prediction?

We predict that without Pennsylvania, Trump cannot win, even if he carries Ohio and Florida – unless he is able to also capture Michigan and Wisconsin. But both states have voted Democratic in the last six presidential elections and Clinton is ahead in both.

One of the interesting factors will be how early Florida declares – or is declared – by the media. Beyond the very fact of the significance of its votes going to Trump, because of the time difference a very early declaration for Trump could cause a cascade effect through the centre and west.

A Trump win in Pennsylvania would be very difficult for Clinton to make up. The loss of Pennsylvania together with Florida would be a real blow to her chances.

We see Clinton with anything from the barest 270 electoral college votes up to about 290-300. Trump probably about 230-256, maybe a few less.

Which means Trump will do better than anyone ever imagined possible until recently. But no: he isn’t going to win.

Betting odds are currently 4-1 or so ON Clinton and 4-1 or 5-1 AGAINST Trump. That looks about right.

Well, for today, at least. We’ll see more polls and analysis tomorrow, but till then, well, that’s what we think.

UPDATE as at 14.25 AEST

Polls have firmed for Clinton overnight with it now looking likely she will take Florida, unlikely she will take North Carolina but not impossible, not going to take Ohio, will take Pennsylvania, and will take Michigan and Nevada.

Somewhere, a fat lady is singing. Clinton wins.

 

 

pinProvided even a reasonable percentage of her supporters turn out, as opposed to spending the day in a bar drowning their sorrows at what has become of America, then Hillary Clinton has already won the Presidential election.

Barring an opinion earthquake, of course. Of which, yes, there is always a tiny possibility – especially in this most unusual year – but we surely now know everything there is to know about Mrs Clinton after her much-touted thirty years in public life. The chances of anything truly dramatic coming out now is vanishingly low, especially after the Wikileaks big expose, which kept some right-wing Americans up all night with excitement waiting for the goss, turned out to be a complete fizzer.

How can we be so sure? Simple. The size of the mountain Trump has to climb.

This is famed statistician Nate Silver’s latest forecast of the likely result.

Likely election result

This takes into account a wide range of opinion polls, some traditionally favouring one side, some the other, but only some of which factor in opinions SINCE the Trump “groping” scandal broke. The CNN poll on “who won the debate” isn’t factored in, but that strongly favoured Clinton too, even though it generally overstates Clinton support slightly, a factor that CNN acknowledge.

In other words, if Trump’s scandalous remarks are not fully factored in yet, and the debate isn’t either, then this is a dire result for Trump. His position, already looking rocky, has declined further. And still has some downside to go.

This is how Trump has been faring recently:

Clinton creeps towards 50% in the popular vote.

Clinton creeps towards 50% in the popular vote.

 

The College starts to favour Clinton markedly.

The College starts to favour Clinton markedly.

 

Chance of winning

The “chance of winning” calculation looks insurmountable for Trump.

 

The “path to a win” problem

Most pointedly, when we look at the Electoral College likely result, Trump’s path to the White House now looks impossible, because the polls are predicting critical wins for the Democrats in Florida (up by more than three points) and Pennsylvania (up by nearly seven points), in North Carolina and Virginia by comfortable margins, and, indeed, in every other battleground state except Nevada and Arizona, and in Nevada Trump’s lead is just 4%, and in Arizona it’s “even stevens”, but then again we also know that the main newspaper in that state is now campaigning for Clinton.

Trump simply doesn’t have a route to win, on these figures. As things stand, Clinton will win 310-340 electoral college votes: more than enough for a very comfortable victory. Trump may well pile up votes in very conservative locations, but that doesn’t help him, no matter how much “singing to the choir” he does.

But the real killer for Trump is that things are going to get worse from here, not better. Blind Freddie can see that there will be some fallout from the recent furore that will be reflected in polls that will get reported by about Wednesday or Thursday, American time. How big a hit Trump will take is as yet unknown, but a hit there will be.

And as Silver argues:

Trump couldn’t really afford any negative shock to his numbers, given that he entered Friday in a bad position to begin with. Let’s say that the tape only hurts him by one percentage point, for instance, bringing him to a 6-point deficit from a 5-point deficit a week ago. Even that would be a pretty big deal. Before, Trump had to make up five points in five weeks — or one point per week. Now, he has to make up six points in four weeks instead (1.5 points per week).

In other words, Trump’s mountain is growing, not getting smaller. A gain of 1.5 points a week will require a massive sea change in opinion and there is no evidence whatsoever that is happening.

In addition, we see three more anti-Trump factors that will be starting to bite against him, given that is always a delay between things coming up and them affecting the opinion polls.

Trump’s “non payment of Federal tax for 20 years”

The expose over Trump’s tax situation is, we believe, much more telling than some people have realised. It’s simply too smug for Trump to dismiss it as “smart business” to use write offs to reduce tax seemingly forever. The idea that a billionaire doesn’t need to pay ANY tax, year after year, is a lousy atmospheric for the Republicans, especially for a party often condemned as being only interested in the big end of town. Trump’s natural support base is angry. Angry in an inchoate, unspecific way.

And they all pay their taxes, on much lower incomes. Sure, a few will say “good on him”, and a few will argue “he did nothing illegal”, but that is emphatically not the point. Most will say, “Well, f***.”

Trump’s stunt on Sunday with “the Bill Clinton women”.

No one would argue that Bill Clinton is anything other than a womaniser: it’s a near-fatal character flaw when his record is judged. But there’s a reason that Republican strategists have historically NOT gone after him as a means to get at Hillary. It’s because every time it’s brought up, it produces more sympathy for Hillary than everything else, especially amongst women voters. In desperation, Trump broke that rule. It won’t help him, and could hurt him.

Also, every time Trump brings up Clinton it reminds people of his own transgressions. His first wife accused him of rape – an allegation withdrawn after a confidential settlement. A “live” rape case with a thirteen year old plaintiff is in the courts now. Trump denies both, but, you know, so did Clinton …

The Republican backlash.

Sure, the Republican Party is split right down the middle. Sure, Tea Party types will accuse all those Republicans now abandoning Trump as being the best possible reason to back him and his intra-party revolution. But not all Republican voters are Teapublicans, and they and “independent” voters leaning towards Trump will be dismayed at his own colleagues’ thumping rejection of him. Some of those voters will plump instead for the Libertarian, Johnson, some will simply stay home rather than vote for the hated Clinton. Neither of those possibilities help Trump. By contrast, the centre and left have coalesced effectively around Clinton, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein is fading.

Now opinion polls have been wrong in the past. (Most notably with “Brexit”, which we and everyone else called wrong.) But not this wrong.

Which is why we say, as we have all along, it’s all over. Somewhere, a fat lady is singing her lungs out.

Probably one that Trump insulted.

Trump v Clinton second Presidential debate

We were very taken with this quick comment by the Wall Street Journal on the Presidential debate just gone: “marking as it did the nadir of the bitter partisanship and personal rancour that has steadily grown like weeds over the edifice of American government.”

Bitter partisanship and personal rancour that has steadily grown like weeds over the edifice of American government. Yes, indeed. Well said, that man.

American democracy has been in trouble for quite some time. Let’s just look from, say, the turn of the 1960s onwards.

The death of two Kennedys, and Martin Luther King, three tragic events driven by visceral hatred. The mental exhaustion of LBJ. The ascension of the criminal (and traitorous) Nixon. The standstill of Gerald Ford and the essentially neutered failure of Jimmy Carter – the latter a man who was too good to be in that role. The Reagan era, so terminally tainted by Iran-Contra and adventurism in Central America that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands. George H Bush who famously promised “No New Taxes” (and promptly despatched his friend and rival Bob Dole) only to turn round and increase taxes and produce a notably weak economic performance. (His evisceration of Dukakis was also the beginning of modern “hate” politics.) Then we had the economic and policy-wonk success of Bill Clinton hopelessly over-shadowed by his mangling of the truth and his appalling personal behaviour. Of George W Bush and his off-sider Dick Cheney only one thing needs to be said: 500,000 Iraqi dead, over oil, and the comprehensive attempt to confuse people into believing it was about something else. Oh, and, “The great Recession”, or “GFC”, depending on where you live in the world. And then, of course, Barrack Obama, who after raising the watchword “Hope” has delivered a stuttering economic revival but only at the expense of a massive increase in Federal debt, and who has presided uneasily over a fractious Congress and a series of foreign policy mis-steps.

It is a pretty sorry performance, overall, to be sure.

But even after that list is chewed over and considered and debated, this debate was, very possibly, the most unedifying spectacle in modern American political history.

trump-v-clinton

There was no nobility. There was no soaring vision. There was no wit. Precious little wisdom. No humility. There was just the contrasting styles of two deeply unpopular candidates knowing that they are buried up to their knees in mud in their trenches and there is no longer an opportunity for either of them to climb out.

There was no courtesy. No mutual respect. There was bullying. There was disturbing body language, especially from Trump, who prowled around behind Clinton in an aggressive and frankly disturbing manner. The bulk of the debate was taken up with discussions that should properly take place in front of a psychological counsellor, not a worldwide TV audience.

It was, frankly, embarrassing. It was ugly to watch. It was cringe-worthy.

In our view, Trump avoided a complete implosion, battered a too-meek Clinton in a way that will play well with his core supporters, but probably no one else. If he made one glaring mis-step it was in publicly disagreeing with his Vice-Presidential running mate on Syria, who he said he had not discussed the conflict with. That admission is truly bizarre, given how significant that conflict currently is.

Clinton appeared poised, and steely calm, and confident. But history may judge she could and should have gone for the jugular more effectively. Certainly Trump’s jibe that “she’d be in jail” under his Presidency hit home, and she was less than convincing on the ever-running emails saga.

As a friend opined to us, in all probability, not one Democrat-leaning voter would have moved towards Trump, not one Republican-leaning voter would have moved to Clinton, and anyone genuinely undecided probably became yet more depressed an unenthusiastic.

According to CNN’s poll of debate watchers (a poll they say tends to skew towards the Democrats because their supporters are more likely to watch), Clinton did well – but almost a quarter of the audience were expecting her to do better.

Who was the winner?
Clinton 57%, Trump 34%

How did Donald Trump perform?
Better than expected 63%, worse 21%

How did Hillary Clinton perform?
Better than expected 39%, worse 26%

(If that’s the case, by about Wednesday or Thursday Clinton will have a lock on the race with about a 6-7% lead, possibly as high as 10%, higher in the battleground states, lower in the centre and the South.)

But taking everything into account, “depressing is right”. This is, unquestionably, the most significant Presidential election in a generation. A titanic struggle of ideas should be going on. Yet this election may yet turn out to have one of the worst turnouts, too. As for America’s image overseas, it is being trashed. The “Great Democratic Experiment” is doing a very poor job of recommending itself to the world, just at the moment. How, for example, can liberal democracy recommend itself to, for example, parts of South America, large swathes of Africa, the Middle East – most pressingly – and large parts of Asia including obviously China – when this is how low it can sink.

America can – MUST – do better.

America, you’re not just letting yourselves down. You’re letting us down, too.

A few oddities – Trump was still sniffing audibly and often, two weeks later. Most curious.

Trump claimed the moderators were biased against him. But by our estimation by halfway through the debate he had hogged at least 2/3rds of the available time, and we will see what the final figure looks like when someone works it out.

You may also like to read Dan Rather’s analysis of the debate on Facebook. He pretty much agrees with us.

Anyhow, the full WSJ article is below: we agree with it, and politely recommend it to you.

A Memorable, Riveting, Nasty Debate – but Will It Change the Direction of the Race?

This was one of the most memorable debates in history. It was perhaps the debate that American politics has been cultivating for a quarter of a century, marking as it did the nadir of the bitter partisanship and personal rancour that has steadily grown like weeds over the edifice of American government.

It featured two of the most disliked candidates in modern history taking lumps out of each other – with accusations of sexual assault and defending rape and repeated allegations of deceit and mendacity.

And yet, will it change the contours of the race after an astonishing few days?

The initial exchange of fire in the wake of the release of Mr. Trump’s crudely offensive remarks captured on videotape on Friday, followed by a moment in which Mr. Trump apparently threatened to try to put Mrs. Clinton in jail if he is elected (a threat that, as some have commented, looks like something close to an unprecedented authoritarian turn in American politics) were as electrifying as anything in a presidential debate.

Once that dust had settled, though, Mr. Trump succeeded, much better than he did in the first debate, in hitting Mrs Clinton on key policy issues of health care, immigration and foreign policy. He was sharper on his feet and had some of the most memorable lines of the night. His lampooning of her calling Abraham Lincoln in defence of her Wall Street speeches won spontaneous applause and laughter from many sides of the hall.

The two somehow managed to end with a kind word (just one really) for each other and the handshake that they had denied each other at the start.

But this was raw and angry politics as blood sport and served perhaps only to underscore even more how unappetising political debate has become.

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-4-50-39-pm

This is one very possible outcome for the USA presidential election.

It shows Clinton winning by 308 electoral college votes to Trump’s 191, crucially giving Florida to Clinton, plus North Carolina and Pennsylvania. A couple of states are left as toss ups.

The rationale for the above map is quite simple. We do not believe Trump can win a Latino heavy state in Florida (29 precious votes), and Clinton is ahead in both Pennsylvania and North Carolina (which in the two last elections were toss ups, won once each by each side, but where court actions to disallow Republican voter restrictions may tip the state to Clinton, and where she also holds a 2% opinion poll lead currently). Trump cannot really find a path to the 270 electoral college votes he needs without Pennsylvania, and whilst his raw appeal may swing some disgruntled blue-collar votes to him, it will be destructive of the Republican vote in the more liberal city suburban areas.

You can have your own fun speculating on various scenarios here.

 

trump__clinton

 

So far so good, but it’s all pure speculation at this stage, of course. There are plenty of days to go, all of them with potential trip ups for both candidates, and both candidates are hugely unpopular anyway. We happen to think the televised debates will see a very startling poll bump for Clinton, the first of which is next Monday night in America, at Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY. We think Clinton – who is fearsomely bright – may wipe the floor with Trump, who isn’t. But we may be way wrong. Clinton has a habit of appearing stiff and starchy, and that won’t play well against Trump’s famously informal style.

Still, we think she will effectively expose what a nonsense the man is intellectually, and that, as they say, will be that. If there’s a “gotcha” moment, it will be very clear.

But that isn’t really what this article is about.

This article is really to discuss the nightmare scenario that America is actually splitting – psychologically and emotionally, if not literally – into two states with strongly opposed views. One made up of the industrial north, the east and west coasts, and one made up of the centre of the country. It’s very clear to see in the map above, which with a few wrinkles will almost certainly be roughly what the country’s electoral map will look like after the election.

Is the Union actually under threat once again?

We must remember that the United States descended into a civil war that was essentially a conflict over slavery, but more essentially a conflict over the economic influence and wealth that slavery allowed its practitioners. (Concepts of “states rights”, incidentally, have comprehensively been shown to be an intellectual red-herring as regards the cause of the war.)

America is today divided into two states economically again. Much of the (much more populous) north and the coasts are leaving the centre behind as regards economic recovery, and where that is not the case, lugubrious amounts of Federal monies are pouring in to take up the slack. The centre, and much of the south, mostly much more agriculturally-based, feels neglected. And angry.

Where the centre is doing well economically – Texas, for example – there is little latent enthusiasm for the Union, and even a spasmodic resurgence of arguments that the State would do better on its own. Much of the centre and South is still virulently “anti Washington” and “anti Establishment” – opinions that have largely remained unchanged since the conflict of the 1860s.

So what does this mean for America’s future?

One obvious outcome is that it becomes increasingly difficult to see how the necessary reforms can be enacted to allow America as a whole to take advantage of its recent economic growth can be made – certainly not with the general cross-aisle agreement that would be necessary. The atmospherics and mutual dislike will simply be too fierce.

Yet whichever party wins in November there simply has to be a concerted attempt to reverse the massive Federal Government debt – and the debt held by States – but a country riven by division is very unlikely to agree a program to do much more than slow the growth in debt, which is all the Obama administration and the Republican Congress have managed to achieve in the last eight years. That achievement is to Obama’s credit, but it isn’t enough.

A country cannot live “on tic” forever. A fact realised in Australia, where the conservative Government and socialist Opposition just agreed a package of spending reforms.

In foreign policy, America still faces very serious challenges in the Middle East, and especially with a newly assertive Russia and China. The country needs to be essentially “speaking with one voice” to effectively address a whole morass of scenarios that threaten world peace.

Then there are the core social attitudinal differences. The centre is overwhelmingly Christian (and fundamentally so, to a large extent), the north and the coasts are much more socially liberal and culturally diverse. As both parties seem to lose any sense in which they are competent economic managers, so people increasingly eschew making a judgement about that, and vote on the basis of other matters, despairing of anyone’s ability to “make America great again”. So matters such as abortion, and LBGTI+ rights, assume a higher significance. In 2016, opinions on those and other matters could hardly be more divided.

Whatever the result in November – and we still believe it will be a strong win for the Democrats – the incoming party will have a massive job putting America back together again. And we are not at all sure that they can. Exactly how that would play out is yet to be seen.

Like her, love her, idolise her, mistrust her. That’s not what today’s post is about.

Please spare us “she’s a witch/she’s a God”. She is neither. She’s just a very hard working, driven, senior politician, with all the faults and foibles and strengths and pluses and minuses which that implies.

What she is, without question, is the first female major party nominee for President since American Independence. And that, in itself, is hugely noteworthy. And she should be praised for crashing through that particular glass ceiling, just as Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Corazon Aquino, Julia Gillard and even Isabel Peron did before her. In doing so, she empowers women everywhere to strive for the top – to strive to be the best they can be.

Our opinions on these women will vary dramatically. That’s not the point. In rising to the position she has in one of the most small-C conservative countries in the world, Hillary Clinton’s achievement should be praised. The American election has been dragging on so long, and Hillary is such a familiar figure, that it’s easy to forget that she is blazing a trail for others.

So well done, her. Let it be noted.

 

Clinton NY Post

OK, well, Ted Cruz just beat Donald Trump, especially supported by country voters and died-in-the-wool conservatives, as we proposed was a possibility.

If there is one area where we could consider our prediction lacking it is that Trump’s result was really rather poor by expected standards, and given his demeanour afterwards, lower than he and his team expected. Whilst Cruz was always a possibility to win, Trump looked the more likely until perhaps a few hours ago. Clearly there’s been a late swing against Trump, possibly because Cruz’s “ground game” was better. Cruz actually criticised Trump’s “fly in fly out” campaigning recently, and it looks as though those comments have been justified.

It may also well be the case that skipping the last GOP debate has counted very badly against Trump, with his decision seen as petulant and whiny.

Moving along … third place getter Marco Rubio IS the story of the night as we predicted. The charismatic young man can genuinely claim to be the real winner on the night having been a long way behind the front runners until recently. Clearly the “oxygen” of publicity has done him no harm at all and his vote is right about the upper limit of where we suggested it would be. The charismatic, good looking Floridian is determined and will appeal to Latino voters (as will Cruz, but less obviously) which marks him out as attractive to the GOP establishment, who know they cannot win a general election without Latinos. We have been predicting Rubio to take the nomination for some time now, and nothing that has happened today persuades us otherwise.

Hillary-AngryThe Democrat race is incredibly tight between Clinton and Sanders. Possibly within 1%. We did predict Clinton shading it, although in all honesty before publishing we deleted the word “just” before “shading it” as we thought the Clinton’s ground game would see her home, as well as Democrat supporters being concerned that Sanders cannot win a general election.

In one incredible event Clinton and Sanders tied 61 votes each in one precinct – the result, going to Clinton, was settled by a coin toss. How interesting THAT might be in an incredibly close race. Watch the video of that most unusual – and completely legal – event here: https://twitter.com/FernandoPeinado/status/694345745420320768?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

As we write – right now – apparently both Clinton and Sanders are about to declare victory, which would be closer than even we imagined. Our money’s still on Clinton.

Whomever finally stumbles over the line, such a tight result cannot be considered good news for Hillary Clinton, and New Hampshire looks an awkward test for her with Sanders polling well there. The Democrat race may trundle on for some time yet – but we still believe Hillary has a lock on the nomination because of her support from the party establishment, super delegates already committed and so on.

Mind you, if a week is a long time in politics, then a few months is an eternity.

cruz2Ted Cruz, who was not favoured to win Iowa just a few months ago, is delivering his victory speech.

“God bless the great state of Iowa,” he said. “Tonight is a victory for the grassroots. Tonight is a victory for courageous conservatives across Iowa and across this great nation.”

Amid cheers of “Ted! Ted Ted!” he said his win was a victory for “millions of Americans” who have “shouldered the burden” of seven years of Barack Obama’s policies.

In a comment which will cause raised eyebrows amongst just about anyone but the religious right, he commented: “Our rights come from our creator, not any political party”, he said, citing Bible passages.

Given the determination of America’s founding fathers to create a SECULAR state, those words seem odd, even comical. but there’s no doubt they play well with evangelicals.

Whether they play as well with independents and those Cruz needs to lock in both the nomination and election is a different matter entirely.

This might be the most interesting thing we have heard about Rubio since the results have come out, from David Wasserman at 538.com:

DAVID_WASSERMAN
Remarkably, it looks like Rubio may end up winning five of Iowa’s 10 largest counties, and ZERO of Iowa’s other 89 counties. Yet this urban coalition may be his blueprint for victory nationally.
An interesting point, well spotted and well made.

 

cruz2We have an enduring fascination with trying to pick election results before they happen.

And we are nearly always spot on, or at the very least, very close.

So here we go.

Turnout will be very high, and will be the first news story of the night.

A high turnout might suggest a sudden last minute surge for Sanders in the Democrat primary, but we believe the Democrat primary will be won by Hillary Clinton, shading the insurgent Sanders. Thetrump hands more overblown predictions of a Sanders victory will, we think, be shown to be wishful thinking by his supporters and progressives generally, as enough Iowans consider who can actually defeat the Republicans in a general election.

In this, Donald “Bogeyman” Trump and the perennially unpleasant Ted Cruz are actually helping the Democrat establishment to encourage people to coalesce around Clinton.

Hillary-AngryBut Sanders will do well amongst students and young people particularly, and cannot be counted out entirely yet.

Of course last time round she got a nasty shock when she surprisingly got beaten by Barrack Obama.

With Iowans, anything’s possible, but the talk afterwards will be, we think, of how the Democrats folded in behind Hillary when push came to shove. Sanders will, however, fight on, so that the Democratic nomination isn’t just a coronation.

On the Republican side we expect Trump to beat Cruz. That said, Cruz will poll more strongly in the evangelical and country areas where a lot of Iowans live, and where caucusing is a particular social and well-regarded event. So don’t discount a win by Cruz, even though we think Trump will do better. You might see a city/country split between these two, which would be interesting in its implications for the whole Republican race and the ultimate general election.

We expect the big story of the night on the right, though, will be a better than expected showing by Marco Rubio, who we think (have thought for some time) has an excellent chance of being the party’s eventual pick. We wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him poll 15-20%, or even, at a pinch, higher. And interestingly Cruz has turned to criticising Rubio in recent days, perhaps a reflection of a calculation that he is leaking votes to him while Trump’s supporters are staying mainly true to him. But this will be the day that Rubio really “arrives”.

And Trump and Cruz? What would they take out of the night when one of them wins?

Well, just ask Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee how much significancesanders2 winning the Iowa caucuses really has.

Anyhow, that’s our best guess.

We’ll see if we were right soon enough.

Pay close attention to Bremer County. This particular collection of 24,000 Iowans have chosen the right President in the last 9 Presidential elections.

There are any number of good ways to follow the results as they come in, if you are a fellow election tragic. This is one of the better ones, and not being American it will hopefully be a bit less biased and a bit more informative.

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2016/feb/01/iowa-caucus-results-live-county-by-county-interactive-map