Archive

October 25th, 2016

Why Hillary Wins

    Hillary Clinton is a terrible candidate. Hey, that’s what pundits have been saying ever since this endless campaign began. You have to go back to Al Gore in 2000 to find a politician who faced as much jeering from the media, over everything from claims of dishonesty (which usually turn out to be based on nothing) to matters of personal style.

    Strange to say, however, Clinton won the Democratic nomination fairly easily, and now, having pummeled her opponent in three successive debates, is an overwhelming favorite to win in November, probably by a wide margin. How is that possible?

    The usual suspects are already coalescing around an answer — namely, that she just got lucky. If only the Republicans hadn’t nominated Donald Trump, the story goes, she’d be losing badly.

    But here’s a contrarian thought: Maybe Clinton is winning because she possesses some fundamental political strengths — strengths that fall into many pundits’ blind spots.

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No candidate in history has used the kind of 'rigging' rhetoric that Trump is using

    Donald Trump has raised alarm over the "rigged election" as the closing argument of his campaign. Of all of the moments that stood out in Wednesday night's final presidential debate, none equaled his refusal to tell moderator Chris Wallace that he would concede if Hillary Clinton is victorious. "I will look at it at the time. I will keep you in suspense," Trump said.

    This is not the first time that Trump has advanced the idea that American elections are rigged. After Mitt Romney lost to President Obama in 2012, Trump went on a Twitter rampage as he warned his followers that the results were unfair: "We should have a revolution in this country!" he wrote. Another tweet read: "We can't let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty." (He deleted most of the tweets.) As a key part of the birther movement in 2011 and 2012, Trump was contesting the legitimacy of the 2008 election by raising doubts about where Obama was born.

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If she were elected, what could Hillary do?

    If the polls are right and they hold up, Hillary Clinton will be the next president. What happens next in economic policy? Conventional wisdom says "nothing," but I disagree, by which I mean even in a hostile Congress, new presidents typically get something they've run on. At least, they get a hearing. So here's my list of things that you could be hearing more about in the relatively near future.

    Infrastructure: Call it wishful thinking, but a deep dive into public infrastructure investment is a distinct possibility. Historically, such investments have received bipartisan support - even tea partyers use roads, bridges, water systems, and so on. I know many Republicans both in politics and business who want this to happen. Clinton has listed all the above targets for a five-year, $250 billion plan, including $25 billion to capitalize an infrastructure bank, where private investors could lend to infrastructure programs that spin off some return on their investment (this implies users fees; it's outside the box, and would probably be a heavier political lift).

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Don't just vote against Trump; vote for Hillary

    Regular readers of this column will remember two recent offerings on this crazy 2016 presidential election: one, a warning not to risk destroying everything we've gained by voting for Donald Trump; two, a plea not to make a mockery of this election by voting for Gary Johnson.

    Here today the important third installment: Making your vote count -- not just by voting against Trump or Johnson -- but by voting for Hillary Clinton.

    For all Democrats, for all Republicans who love their country more than their party, and, yes, for all former Bernie Sanders supporters like me, voting for Hillary Clinton should be an easy, automatic and enthusiastic choice. A no-brainer.

    She is, hands down, as President Obama frequently notes, the most qualified person to run for president -- ever! Yes, we know, experience doesn't always count for everything. But it counts for a lot. And certainly her experience as first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the United States, U.S. senator from New York, and secretary of state gives her an unparalleled grasp of how government works and how to get things done. There will be no period of on-the-job training needed for Hillary Clinton.

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Clinton's 85 slogans explain 2016 campaign

    "Sloganeer" is a dismissive term, generally used to describe a shallow, insincere huckster. Yet political slogans, as a new WikiLeaks release of stolen, presumably authentic Hillary Clinton campaign e-mails makes clear, are serious business. Top campaign staff and the candidate all weigh in, looking to convey crucial information, a competitive advantage and a thematic point of view in a succinct phrase.

    The Donald Trump campaign may be a daily circus of crass incompetence, but its slogan, "Make America Great Again," was expertly crafted to appeal to his core followers. It conveys nationalism, nostalgia and deep pessimism and insecurity about the nation's current status -- three pillars of Trump's run -- along with the implied agency required to reverse course. You, Disgruntled American Voter, can "make" it happen.

    The contrast with Trump's opponent is also implicit. He'll do what's necessary to return to the great days of yore when white men were on top at home and America dominated the world. Under his opponent, his slogan portends, white men will continue to lose power to racial minorities and women, while the U.S. loses out to foreign nations.

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October 24th

Why most Indian American Hindus do not support Trump

    "If I am elected president," said Donald Trump, speaking on Saturday to a gathering in Edison, N.J., organized by the Republican Hindu Coalition, "the Indian and Hindu community will have a big friend in the White House." In that speech, Trump tried to appeal to Hindus among Indian Americans in three ways:

    First, he equated Indians with Hindus, erasing India's religious minorities -- 172 million Muslims, 28 million Christians, 21 million Sikhs and 8 million Buddhists, among others -- from the picture.

    Second, he equated his position on Islamic terrorism with that of India's government. As he put it: "We appreciate the great friend that India has been to the United States in the fight against radical Islamic terrorists . . . we are going to be best friends."

    Third, he equated himself with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "I look forward to working with Prime Minister Modi who has been very energetic in reforming India's bureaucracy. Great man, I applaud him. I look forward to doing some serious bureaucratic trimming right here in the United States . . ."

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We can learn from a misunderstanding of the American Revolution

    In the grade-school version of American history, the Revolutionary War seems like a righteous inevitability. The typical narrative conflates taxes with tyranny, casting the rebellion as a break from British greed and oppression. "King George III didn't seem to care what the colonists thought," one children's book explains. "He needed more and more money, so Great Britain's Parliament passed more and more taxes on the colonies."

    Such mythologizing is dangerous because it creates the false impression that the nation was conceived out of an allergy to taxation. You see this fable repeated in slogans from the Tea Party, the latest in a long tradition of activists attempting to dragoon the Founding Fathers into their arguments for reducing taxes.

    In truth, the British only wanted the colonists to start paying their fair share of public expenses. And the colonists themselves weren't opposed to taxation in principle; they were angry that they had no official say in the matter, since they had no seats in the British Parliament. As the famous slogan goes, the colonists bristled at "taxation without representation."

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Use of WikiLeaks weakens Trump's case against Clinton

    To get an idea of how much Donald Trump has debased the party that nominated him, consider that he relies on an organization dedicated to disclosing state secrets to prosecute his opponent for endangering them.

    This just came up at the third presidential debate. Trump bellowed about how the FBI and the attorney general colluded to let Hillary Clinton off for mishandling classified information when she used a private e-mail server as secretary of state. Trump said this alone should have disqualified her from seeking the presidency.

    This charge would be more credible if it weren't coming from a man who tells his supporters that evidence of Clinton's criminality can be found in e-mails published by WikiLeaks, an organization whose unofficial motto is "We steal secrets."

    The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that the e-mails of leading Democrats being released by WikiLeaks were stolen by hackers working for the Kremlin. As Clinton herself said, "The Russian government has engaged in espionage against Americans."

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Trump succeeds in campaign to corner Paul Ryan

    Donald Trump hasn't succeeded in discrediting Hillary Clinton, but he has managed to tarnish one target: Paul Ryan, the top Republican office holder in the country.

    This week's Bloomberg national poll, which has Clinton trouncing Trump, shows the painful extent to which the GOP presidential nominee has dragged down the speaker of the House. Ryan's favorability with all voters has dropped, while the Republicans surveyed think Trump, not Ryan, should be the face of the party. This follows a series of attacks on Ryan by Trump for insufficiently supporting him. This week, the nominee even suggested that Ryan might want him to lose since it would clear the way for the speaker to run in 2020.

    After Trump's comments about assaulting women were aired, Ryan said he would no longer campaign for him. Before that, the speaker criticized Trump for his slurs against a Hispanic judge. Trump's attacks on Ryan have been more personal and, as a nominee assailing the party's top congressional leader, unprecedented.

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Trump confirms everyone's worst fears

    It was a two-track debate. At times, it was the setting for a detailed argument over serious issues in which Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump offered voters a relatively straightforward clash of progressive and conservative perspectives.

    But this is 2016, and eventually the third and final debate on Wednesday reached the fundamental issue of the campaign: whether Trump is fit to be president. Despite her substantial lead in the polls, Clinton did not hang back, as many predicted she would. Instead, she pressed Trump sharply on the entire catalogue of his shortcomings, accusing him of being a "puppet" of Russian President Vladimir Putin and denouncing his treatment of women, his mocking a disabled reporter and his habit of saying that any contest he loses is "rigged" against him.

    And she clearly signaled one of the closing themes of her campaign when she declared that Trump had shown "a pattern of divisiveness, of a very dark and • dangerous vision for our country." The election, she said, was about "what kind of country are we going to be."

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