Archive for the ‘California Politics’ Category

The Key Facts Behind Clinton, Trump State Leads

Monday, March 28th, 2016

clinton-sandersThat Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are leading their respective presidential contests in California, according to the latest PPIC poll, is not surprising: what is noteworthy is how significantly the Democratic race appears to be affected by independents who are permitted to vote in that contest.

In the closed Republican race, Trump leads with 38%, followed by Ted Cruz at 27% and John Kasich at 14%, assigning to the three candidates the second-place choices of Marco Rubio, who dropped out as the survey ended. The LA Times/USC poll, partly released Sunday*, found similar rankings, with Trump at 37%, Cruz at 30% and Kasich at 12% among registered Republicans but  a virtual tie — Trump 36% over Cruz 35%  – among likely GOP primary voters.

In the Democratic contest, according to PPIC, Clinton leads Bernie Sanders 48-41% among Democrats and independents who say they will vote in the Democratic primary. But among Democrats alone, according to PPIC, Clinton leads Sanders 50-39%. There were too few likely Democratic-voting independents in the sample to break down their vote, but it’s apparent from the results that those independents favor Sanders over Clinton.

obamasunglassesHillary’s Coalition: So how would Clinton boost or at least assure her margin in California among independents? By further emphasizing, as she has already, her strong relationship with President Obama, whose approval rating among Democrats in California is 85-14% positive.

Moreover, while liberals approve of Obama 83-14%, moderates also approve of Obama 50-42%. And while men are about evenly divided, women approve of Obama 56-42% and get this – voters under age 45 (who prefer Sanders 63-22%) also approve of Obama 57-41% — even more than those over age 45 who already prefer Clinton over Sanders 63-27%.

Among Latinos — who approve of Obama 67-32% — Clinton also leads Sanders 58-35%.

In short, the Clinton coalition – Democrats, women, Latinos, older voters, liberals and moderates – represents the sweet spot in statewide California politics. Sanders may run up his margins in congressional districts where younger, very liberal voters are clustered – especially where universities are located. And his best hope is to attract independents who don’t approve of the job Obama has done — a rather perverse appeal for someone seeking the Democratic Party nomination. So with a smart campaign, Clinton should be able to win California.

trumpcruzMiddlin’ California Despite its reputation as the “left coast” where wide-eyed liberals dominate, California voters have historically tended toward rather moderate candidates, whether Democrats or Republicans: Pete Wilson, Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown in recent years.

Where this gets screwy and unpredictable is on the Republican side, where it’s a closed GOP primary that has generally picked the more conservative candidate available to represent the party.

For whatever reason, the most conservative California Republicans thus far prefer Trump with 40% over Cruz at 35% and Kasich at 13%, according to PPIC. Whether that perception will hold through June is uncertain. In the LATimes/USC poll, Cruz was preferred by Tea Party Republicans 46-38% over Trump while the Donald was favored over Cruz among traditional Republicans 35-25%.

The LATimes/USC poll, however, also offered a warning to Trump: while 42% of Republicans said they would enthusiastically vote for him in November and 27% said they would support him reluctantly, another 27% said they would refuse to vote for him. Moreover, while Tea Party Republicans have a favorable view of Trump 62-33%, among traditional Republicans he suffers a 49-44% unfavorable rating.

Assuming the GOP race is alive and well in June,  Cruz (or Kasich) will have to make the case to California Republicans that Trump is not one of them. Unless they do, it’s likely the New York developer will win the lion’s share of California GOP delegates.

*At the time of this post, the LATimes/USC survey had not released results for the Democratic presidential contest.

Why Trump Voters are Slaves to Authoritarianism

Monday, March 21st, 2016

trumpangerNothing that has been or will be said about Donald Trump has or will dissuade his supporters from voting for the narcissistic New York developer and TV star: their fealty is based on a visceral response to Trump’s virulent, nativistic, protectionist, pie-in-the-sky message.

There’s no other way to explain people who are not turned away when their candidate, asked with whom he is consulting on foreign policy, replies:  “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

All that good reporting, analysis and commentary can accomplish is to provide the information that might prevent those flirting with voting for The Donald from falling into the authoritarian abyss that is Trump World.*

What has become clear is that Trump’s appeal is less political than it is sociological. “Left” and “right” apply only marginally, which is why reporters consistently find people torn between voting for ultra-capitalist Donald Trump or democratic socialist Bernie Sanders – a choice that at first blush is so illogical as to be unbelievable.

nazipartySpringtime for The Donald Until you remember that the group to which Adolph Hitler was elected chairman in July 1921 was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party – the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei.

Now, Bernie Sanders – himself a Jew — is about as far removed from the Nazi Party as one could imagine. But whether or not Donald Trump is actually a fascist – and there are solid arguments pro and con – one thing appears to be true about his supporters: they are authoritarians.

Turns out four simple questions about child rearing – posed in a reputable survey of 1,800 registered voters nationwide – provide the most statistically significant data regarding Trump supporters.

Matthew MacWilliams, founder of MacWilliams Sanders, a political communications firm, and a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, asked voters:

fingerwaggingWhether it is more important for the voter to have a child who is 1) respectful or independent; 2) obedient or self-reliant; 3) well-behaved or considerate; and 4) well-mannered or curious. Respondents who pick the first option in each of these questions are strongly authoritarian.

Running a standard statistical analysis, I found that education, income, gender, age, ideology and religiosity had no significant bearing on a Republican voter’s preferred candidate. Only two of the variables I looked at were statistically significant: authoritarianism, followed by fear of terrorism, though the former was far more significant than the latter.

We’re All Americans Now: That’s not to say other classical survey questions tell us nothing about Trump supporters. As Neil Irwin and Josh Katz explained in the New York Times, analysis of U.S. Census data “shows that Trump counties are places where white identity mixes with long-simmering economic dysfunctions.”

The most highly correlated characteristics of Trump voters? They are whites with no high school diploma, who hold “old economy jobs,” live in mobile homes and report their ethnicity as “American.”

hoganamericanWhen the Census Bureau asks Americans about their ancestors, some respondents don’t give a standard answer like “English” or “German.” Instead, they simply answer “American.”

The places with high concentrations of these self-described Americans turn out to be the places Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has performed the strongest…

The places where Trump has done well cut across many of the usual fault lines of American politics — North and South, liberal and conservative, rural and suburban. One element common to a significant share of his supporters is that they have largely missed the generation-long transition of the United States away from manufacturing and into a diverse, information-driven economy deeply intertwined with the rest of the world

Trumpism — A Toxic Mixture of Malevolence, Testosterone and Narcissism: Other analysts have shown that Trumpism is most successful where unemployment is higher than the national average and where the minority population is higher – not that Trump is getting minority voters (he’s getting hardly any) but these are places where lower-income, less-educated white voters feel most threatened.

Trump’s appeal to authoritarian impulses is well documented. As Charles E.W. Cooke wrote in the National Review:

Hitler-TrumpSince he announced his candidacy, Trump has threatened to ignore those who are carping about free speech and shut down parts of the Internet; he has promised to summarily deport those who are suspected of being illegal immigrants, without due process of law; he has endorsed extensive campaign-finance regulations that fly directly in the face of the First Amendment; he has vowed to restrict the Second Amendment rights of those on the terror watch list, again without due process; he has praised Franklin Roosevelt’s internment of American citizens, suggested that natural-born Americans can be deported against their will, and proposed that American Muslims be barred from reentering the country; he has described as “wonderful” a Supreme Court ruling that obliterated the “public use” limitations on the invocation of eminent domain; and he has refused to rule out registering Americans on the basis of their faith.

All that before calling for ”opening up the libel laws” (threatening the First Amendment) and promising to pay legal bills for supporters who punch protesters at his events, saying he’d like to smack a protester in the mouth and in myriad other way urging  his crowds to violence, turning his public gatherings into Brown Shirt rallies.

He’s now begun threatening that if he is denied the nomination in Cleveland, his supporters would likely riot – his own Cleveland Kristallnacht.

To borrow from Edmund Burke, all that is required now for Trump’s evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.


Trumpism — a toxic mixture of malevolence, testosterone and narcissism masquerading as a political world view

Spencer to Kasich: Keep it Simple and Surprise ‘Em

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

stuspencerStuart K. Spencer, California’s grand master Republican strategist, who has just been hired as a consultant by John Kasich, has three key words of advice for the Ohio governor’s GOP convention game plan: simple, suspense and surprise.

“Why am I doing this? Because I’ve spent my life trying to keep the Republican Party together and this may be the last chance,” Stu, an old friend and a certified Great Man, told Calbuzz on Wednesday.

“I’m not a spokesman for the Kasich campaign and I only talked to them yesterday,” he said. “The last thing we should be doing is talking tactically or strategically or talking about the process.”

JohnKasich (1)Old Reagan Hand. Kasich, who trails far behind Donald Trump in delegates, has acknowledged that the only way for him to win the GOP presidential nomination is at an open convention; that would come about only if Trump fails in the remaining primaries and caucuses to capture the 1,237 delegates needed for a first-ballot victory when Republicans gather in Cleveland this summer.

If that admittedly long shot scenario plays out, bringing Spencer on board sure improves his chances of pulling it off.

The 89-year old Spencer ran Ronald Reagan’s gubernatorial campaigns in 1966 and 1970 and presidential campaigns in 1980 and 1984. He said that Kasich will confront a three-front war in Cleveland: 1) a Trump delegation composed mostly of neophytes in party procedures and operations; 2) Ted Cruz delegates who are evangelical purists with considerable organizational expertise and; 3) delegates previously pledged to the dropped-out Marco Rubio, who would be up for grabs.

“And those three fronts could form a coalition along the line somewhere,” Spencer said.

Stu agreed that Kasich has a persuasive case for being the only candidate standing who could actually defeat Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democratic nominee. However, he added: “That’s a good argument, but that doesn’t necessarily get you there with the delegate group that’s going to be there.”

Kasich – and, of course, Trump and Cruz as well – will try to convince Rubio’s delegates that he’s the only genuine conservative Republican who stands a chance against Clinton. “My hope is they’re making those calls to those people today,” Spencer said.

Spencer confirmed that he and Charlie Black, another Republican warhorse, have been hired to be on call for consultations, as reported by Politico. The two GOP warriors were on opposite sides of the last GOP convention struggle, in 1976. Then Spencer was working for Gerald Ford’s presidential re-election, and Black for Reagan’s unsuccessful insurgent challenge.

9-20-11webthumbTimes They Are a-Changin. Spencer has not yet talked to the candidate, he said. But he stressed that the game has changed radically since his heyday, when white voters were in the majority. “All the old rules we played by aren’t applicable any more,” said Spencer who forcefully argued in 1997 that the GOP had to reach out to Latino voters or risk extinction.

“Old white men aren’t going to win the general election,” Spencer told us. And while it drives him crazy that the leading GOP contenders are driving Latinos away from the party, “I’m Irish enough that I can have a drink. Or call all my Mexican friends and complain.”

For his part, Trump appears to be preparing for Cleveland, not by seeking to cut deals for more delegates, but by threatening violence if he is denied.

“I think we’ll win before we get to the convention,” Trump told CNN on Wednesday morning. “But I can tell you, if we didn’t, and if we’re 20 votes short, or if we’re 100 short, and we’re at 1,100, and somebody else is at 500 or 400 – because we’re way ahead of everybody – I don’t think you can say that we don’t get it automatically. I think you’d have riots.”

At an open convention, however, that still might not make him the nominee.

As for Kasich, whatever he does in Cleveland, Stu told Calbuzz, “It’s got to be simple, there has to be suspense and there has to be a surprise involved.”

The GOP’s Best Hope: Kasich and Rubio Ticket

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

johnkasichOn Super Duper Tuesday, Hillary Clinton, with her five-state sweep, relegated Bernie Sanders to the ash heap of history, and John Kasich, by winning Ohio, kept hope alive for the Republican Establishment, who lost their boy Marco Rubio in Florida.

Sanders no doubt will continue running on the Democratic side, but he now has reverted to a message candidate, which is how he began, and his hopes of winning the nomination have been crushed.

The most likely scenario going forward is still for Trump to win the Republican nomination outright by racking up 1,237 delegates, but he would have to over-perform in the upcoming contests, including California’s June 7 primary, which may be relevant after all.

If Trump does have a majority of delegates at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, he’ll be the official Republican Party candidate. If not, well, several other intriguing scenarios loom:

bill_kristolThird Party Option: Although it’s unlikely, a Trump triumph could spark a third party option organized by high profile members of the GOP Establishment, including elitist faction leader Bill Kristol, who have vowed to get behind the third party campaign of a mainstream conservative. Such an effort surely would fail, but keeping control of the Congress is a far more important priority for the GOP bigwigs than winning the White House and this would allow the party symbolically to reject the fascism of Trump while giving political cover to incumbent House members, Senators and governors.

But if Trump doesn’t make it to Cleveland with a majority of delegates, and Cruz and Kasich have racked up enough delegates to keep him from a first-ballot victory, all bets are off. Moreover, there will be a bunch of unbound delegates — Rubio’s and others — who will be for sale in play.

cruzmunsterThe Ted Option: Cruz would continue to argue that he’s the only conservative Republican who stood up to Trump and has a chance of beating Clinton. What he’d have going for him in Cleveland is that lots of the delegates will be the kind of grass-roots, Bible-thumping, knuckle draggers who have rallied to Cruz. But no one in the GOP hierarchy can stand him. And they don’t really want a die-hard, evangelistic flame-thower at the top of their ticket. Still, despite his smarm and oleaginous personality, Cruz would be a more respectable choice for conservatives than the unpredictable and unstable reality TV big shot.

If Cruz can’t put it together,  however, delegates to the RNC – and these will be Republicans, not independents – could well decide on a second, third or fourth ballot, to come to their senses, boot Trump and nominate a ticket with at least a fighting chance to win a general election, while posing a major challenge for Clinton and the Democrats.

calbuzzartThe Calbuzz Option: Calbuzz says: The shrewdest move for Republicans would be to nominate Kasich and Rubio, who would be a superb vice presidential attack dog despite getting skunked by Trump in his home state, thus giving the GOP a genuine chance of winning the two most pivotal toss-up states in the nation.

Trump’s supporters would, of course, go nuts. Especially those who hate the Republican Establishment, i.e. all of them, and The Donald might even mount a third party candidacy of his own. The chaos and recriminations would be great spectator sport.

But the GOP regulars running the convention might well be willing to risk it in order to create a ticket that a) would have an outside chance of winning and b) would do less damage to down-ballot Republicans running for U.S. Senate and House and statehouses.

Forget all the conspiratorial talk about a “brokered convention.” Every convention is brokered is some way or another, including who gets picked as a running mate by the presidential nominee. And it would all be within the rules, which party regulars control.

Like Trump, this is rich.

Death of Truth: The Brazen Lies of Donald Trump

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

trumpeyesDonald Trump is many things: an archetypal narcissist, a reckless provocateur, a vicious demagogue, a menacing bully and a ruthless thug. Most of all, he’s a pathological liar.

As such, he is the most fully evolved creature of an insidious political development we first described in 2010 and coined “the death of truth.” In the 2016 presidential race, it has become a familiar meme, and explanatory variations on the theme now may be found everywhere from Al Jazeera and NBC to Politico and the Washington Post.

As Trump stands on the brink of building an insurmountable delegate lead in tonight’s Super Duper Tuesday primary voting – only John Kasich by winning Ohio can stem his momentum – the fundamental elements of his victory-through-lying campaign are unchanged, if monstrously magnified, from the way we reported them back in eMeg Whitman’s failed GOP bid for governor.

Perhaps it’s just a case of wishful nostalgia, but it seems to us that before the rise of Fox News, Rovian manipulation and the abnegation by certain people of fact-based reality, there was some sort of agreed-upon truth that was adjudicated daily by the mainstream media.

In that race, day in and day out, we catalogued a stream of Whitman’s transgressions against the truth, enabled in large part by the unprecedented stacks of cash she threw into her campaign, which overwhelmed efforts by the MSM (and certain plucky bloggers – we name no names) to communicate the Actual Facts to voters.

whitmanlies3288 lies a day: So it is more than a little ironic in 2016 to find ole eMeg leading the charge against Trump’s constant spewing of falsehoods, fabrications, contradictions and exaggerations. In her defense, The Donald’s brand of perfidy does represent a quantum leap from her less staggering mendacity.

To wit, Politico just reported on over 60 Trump falsehoods in just the past week. This followed an earlier report by WashPost fact checker Glenn Kessler that 58 of 76 Trumpisms in the final weeks of 2015 were untrue. From Politico:

The result: more than five dozen statements deemed mischaracterizations, exaggerations, or simply false – the kind of stuff that would have been stripped from one of our stories, or made the whole thing worthy of the spike. It equates to roughly one misstatement every five minutes on average (emphasis ours).

From warning of the death of Christianity in America to claiming that he is taking no money from donors, the Manhattan billionaire and reality-show celebrity said something far from truthful many times over to the thousands of people packed into his raucous rallies. His remarks represent an extraordinary mix of inaccurate claims about domestic and foreign policy and personal and professional boasts that rarely measure up when checked against primary sources.

Donald-Trump-in-kitchen-of-top-floor-apartment-Trump-Tower-NYCTransformation of truth: Six years ago, we cited three factors underpinning the rapidly advancing ability of politicians to transcend the traditional, and now quaint, boundaries of fudging and spin and begin to discard all notions of fact-based, objectively verifiable reality:

-The attention span of the average citizen, never very long, has been hyper-accelerated by the rise of new media, including the Internets, where something is old before it is barely new — and certainly not fully digested — and everyone is off on the next new thing. Beyond that, the rise of ideologically sated outlets like FOX and MSNBC ensures that partisans will never again have to watch something with which they disagree.

-The lugubrious mainstream media is often strangled by self-imposed, on-the-one-hand-on-the-the-hand, false-equivalency “balance,” in part intimidated by loud, if unfounded accusations of “bias” most frequently lobbed  by the right-wing. Thus the MSM at times seems unable and/or unwilling to cut through the miasma and call a lie a lie or a liar a liar. (Even Jerry Brown won’t call a spade a spade, referring instead to Meg Whitman’s “intentional, terminological inexactitude.”)

-It’s now clear that a candidate with unlimited resources can and will blow off complaints, critiques and factual analyses of those who dare to speak up and will instead declare that the truth is whatever he or she says it is — in their paid advertising and the assertions of their mercenary prevaricators.

Each of these factors has metastasized since then. In the case of Trump, his base of voters not only has short attention spans, but also a shortage of education and a psychological bias towards authoritarianism, a story for another day.

And although he has not spent vast amounts on his “self-funding” campaign, Trump has more than made up for it by commanding massive amounts of largely uncritical “news” coverage, worth multiple times what broadcast and cable advertising would cost. And in this, the MSM has been horribly complicit, giving Trump constant access to the airwaves and only recently beginning to call out his lies for what they are.

jeffersonWe don’t need no stinking facts: In an excellent examination of post-truth politics, boston.com recently reported on new research reported in the journal “Political Behavior:

Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite.

In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to correct facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

This bodes ill for a democracy, because most voters – the people making decisions about how the country runs – aren’t blank slates. They already have beliefs, and a set of facts lodged in their minds. The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false. And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper.

mark twainAnd so in the Year of Trump, we find that one of Thomas Jefferson’s most cherished statements — “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,” – is no longer operative.

What is operative, alas, is Mark Twain’s timeless dictum: “A lie can run around the world six times while the truth is still trying to put on its pants.”