54, 32, and 12

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A Quinnipiac University poll released a few days ago asked voters this question: “In the 2020 general election for president, if Donald Trump is the Republican candidate, would you definitely vote for him, consider voting for him, or would you definitely not vote for him?”

54 percent picked “definitely not vote for” Trump.

32 percent picked “definitely vote for” Trump.

12 percent picked “consider voting for” Trump.

Those percentages add up to 98—which, obviously, is almost everybody. The rest either said they “didn’t know” how they would vote in 2020, or they just refused to answer at all.

Let’s compare these numbers with Trump “approvers” and “disapprovers,” as derived by aggregating polls of “likely and registered voters.” (Today’s results as presented by fivethirtyeight.com are shown above.) Having done so, let us draw some lessons and articulate some working hypotheses.

A Foundational Working Hypothesis—and a Metaphysical Possibility

My foundational working hypothesis is that the above numbers are generally accurate. Accurate, that is, in this specific and limited sense: that they accurately reflect the verbal responses that the entire population would give, if and when asked these same questions by another pollster.

That leaves open the metaphysical possibility that a whole bunch of people might be systematically lying to pollsters about their true beliefs and their true intentions.

I do not believe that to be the case, but, yes, it’s a metaphysical possibility.

Conclusion One

“Approve” and “disapprove” are broad terms, subject to varying interpretations by people who are asked for their opinions. Moreover, I don’t think we ever “approve” or “disapprove” every single thing about any other human being, including even the Trumpster. So “approving” or “disapproving” requires some weighing and balancing of the good against the bad. How you weigh and balance the good versus the bad in another person depends on your values. And different people have different values.

With that thought in mind, observe that the percentage of people who “disapprove” of Trump corresponds pretty closely to the percentage of people who say they will not vote for Trump in 2020, come hell or high water.

That is to say, around 53 or 54 percent of us.

Conclusion Two

By contrast, 32 plus 12 adds to 44, which corresponds very closely to the percentage who “approve” Trump.

I am cursed with a logical mind, so I will spell out this conclusion: About one quarter of the people who tell a pollster they “approve” of Trump are not at all sure they will actually vote for him next time.

Conclusion Three

Even if the 32 percent all turn out at the polls for Trump, and even if the 12 percent who are Trump-cautious also vote for the Trumpster, we still win by about nine or ten points—which implies we also win in the Electoral College.

That’s provided turnout is strong among the 54 percent who definitely won’t vote for Trump.

Conclusion Four

We may be cautiously optimistic in attitude, but we should still be prudent in our actions. That’s not something I deduce logically from the poll numbers. It’s a conclusion I reach when I read the numbers in light of the dire and tragic consequences that would flow from a second term for Trump.

Conclusion Five

We badly need to garner lots of votes from the 12 percent. To have a reasonable prospect of doing so, we need to have an accurate understanding of what the hell the 12 percent might be thinking.

I am no advocate of mendacity or hypocrisy. But different people are moved by different arguments. We need to be making truthful and sound arguments that will rev up our base but simultaneously appeal to many of the 12 percent.

These are not necessarily the same truthful arguments that you or I, personally, would find most persuasive.

Trump’s Working Hypothesis

Trump’s working hypothesis—his “theory of the case”—seems to be that some of his support is weak because some of his supporters fear he may not be enough of a racist thug to suit their taste. So he feels a need to remind them constantly that he is, indeed, a racist thug of the first water.

And a need constantly to remind them to be very afraid of people with brown skin and of people who live in cities, not on farms.

That’s what Trump believes. And, you, dear reader—whose life experience differs from mine and whose gut tells you different things than my gut tells me—might believe it, too.

But I am persuaded that Trump’s working hypothesis is a delusion. And that it’s really important that Trump continues to act on that delusion.

I believe that many of the 32 percent surefire Trump voters are people who revel in Trump’s validation of their stone cold racism, and who enjoy congregating together in large numbers so they can bay at the moon in unison.

But logic tells me that if, at this point in time, you are the kind of person who enjoys Nuremburg rallies, then you are already a surefire Trump voter, not a semi-reluctant passenger on the Trump train.

Better Working Hypotheses about the 12 Percent

Here are several related, rational—and possibly correct—explanations of what is going on.

  1. The 12 percent are comprised, disproportionately of Republican-identifying women, rather than men.
  2. The 12 percent are comprised, disproportionately, of self-identified Republicans who live in cities or suburbs, not in rural areas.
  3. As a group, the 12 percent are much more likely to vote for Trump if he dials down his horseshit, and much more likely not to vote for him if he dials it up.
  4. Working assumption number four is that the 12 percent, as a group, are more affluent than the 32 percent, as a group. Being fairly affluent, their health care situation is, mostly, under control. That being the case, they are fairly susceptible to arguments that Democrats will disrupt the health care system to their considerable prejudice, at least in the short run.
  5. Many of these people hated and despised Hillary Clinton—for reasons good, bad, or indifferent. We are much more likely to garner their votes if we offer up someone who is inherently likeable and who does not suffer from significant character defects.
  6. How the economy is doing will strongly influence how many of the 12 percent hold their noses and vote for Trump.

Trump Celebrates 400 Years of Illegal Immigration

Jamestown

Irony challenged, as ever, today Trump gave a speech celebrating the first meeting of an elected legislature in the Jamestown colony.

One of my ancestors was among that 144 illegal immigrants who arrived in Jamestown on May 13, 1607. A few years later, there came a time when the American Dream just wasn’t workin’ out for him. So he joined a party of raiders, aiming to beg, borrow, or steal—with a strong preference for stealing—food from the Native Americans.

The latter were not best pleased. Illegal immigrants, they might reluctantly tolerate. Illegal immigrants committing crimes, not so much. Illegal immigrants committing crimes against their property? That crossed a line.

They left one of my ancestor’s party alive, to carry this account back to Jamestown:

[The chief] caused [my ancestor] to be bound unto a tree naked with a fire before, and by women his flesh was scraped from his bones with mussel shells, and, before his face, thrown into the fire, and so for want of circumspection [he] miserably perished.

According to an oral tradition, the Natives also said the following, in words or substance, to the witness as he was just leaving the village: “Ttell your confederates that illegal aliens who commit crimes must suffer condign punishment. So the adult criminals had better watch out. But we don’t put kids in cages. What do you think we are? Savages?”

200 Years Later: Migrant Caravans of Illegals Without Visas

During the first decade of the nineteenth century, a migrant caravan of illegal immigrants traveled along the Old Federal Road from South Carolina into the Creek Nation. At that time legal entry into the Creek Nation required a visa. These folks didn’t have no stinkin’ visas. They were, you might say, sin paperless.

Finding a spot they liked, the caravan of immigrants sin papeles settled down and started to build farms. Two of the young people found a preacher and decided to tie the knot in 1809. That is how I come to be sitting at this computer today, blogging away.

All of this illegal immigration was just too much for the Natives. They became decidedly restless. The illegal immigrants assembled in stockades, which they called “forts.” There were quite a number of them. Fortunately, my ancestors did not pick Fort Mims.

Fort Mims

Wake Up and Smell the Flop Sweat

Trump in a corner

Eugene Robinson, Trump’s escalation of racism means one thing: He’s worried about reelection:

Some traumatized Democrats may have lost all faith in polls following the 2016 election, but Trump hasn’t. We know he pays close attention to the numbers. …

Indeed, the Fox News national poll of registered voters showed Trump losing to former vice president Joe Biden by 10 points, 49 percent to 39 percent. It also showed him losing to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) by six points and edging the other top-tier Democratic candidates, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), by a single point each.

Another survey released last week must have made Trump break out in a cold sweat. A Quinnipiac poll of registered voters in Ohio — a state Trump won in 2016 and absolutely needs to win again — showed him trailing Biden by eight points, 50 percent to 42 percent, and statistically tied with all the other leading Democratic contenders. Losing Ohio would almost surely mean a landslide electoral defeat.

The Robinson piece doesn’t discuss in any detail exactly why juicing up the racism might be linked to fear of losing. Instead, Mr. Robinson attributes Trump’s recent behavior to underlying temperament. And, surely, temperament is a big part of it. But here’s the other thing. Health care is important to the voters, and they have decided they now like Obamacare. Taxes are important, and the voters don’t much cotton to big tax cuts for the immensely wealthy.

Trump and his enablers fall back on fear and race-baiting because fear and race-baiting are all they’ve got.

Not genius. But not exactly clownishness, either. Just the only tactic a cornered animal has left to employ.

The Small Difference Between Two Large Numbers

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Over at the B School, they teach that profit or loss is the small difference between two large numbers.

In 2018 Donald Trump thought he was going to juice the base by revving up the racism. The election took place on November 8. On that day, the fivethirtyeight.com aggregation of polls of “likely and registered voters” showed Trump “disapprovers” and 52.4 percent, and Trump “approvers” at 44.0 percent. A difference of 8.2 percent.

And what was the actual result? The actual result, in the aggregate popular vote for members of the House of Representatives, was 8.6 percent.

So let’s compare apples to apples. What do the comparable fivethirtyeight.com numbers look like this morning?

Donald Trump “approvers” have slipped from 44.0 percent to 42.9 percent.

“Disapprovers” are no longer at 52.4 percent. They are now at 53.6 percent.

The difference is no longer 8.2 percent. It’s now at 10.2 percent.

And that’s “approval” versus “disapproval.” Remember that recent Fox poll I posted about? The one where a small percentage of those who told the pollster they “approved” Trump turned around and picked Biden over Trump in response a subsequent question? It’s likely that the 42.9 percent who “approve” of Trump, as of this morning, include a small number who will vote Democratic.

So please buck up, folks. Trump is not a political genius, he’s just a metaphorically blind man who has grabbed hold of a piece of the elephant and foolishly think he understands the whole thing.

Is Donald Trump a Political Genius or a Clown Irrestibly Driven by His Vile Impulses?

I just said the talking heads talk this morning of two silly questions. And the question posed in the headline above is, of course, the second of these. It is occasioned, of course, by the fact that yesterday’s vile tweetstorm took place before Trump’s announcement, in the afternoon, that he was going to replace the competent Director of National Intelligence with a boot licking sycophant, someone inclined to enable Trump more effectively to fulfill his mission as a Russian intelligence asset.

Those focusing only on the vile tweetstorm picked “clown irrestibly driven by his vile impulses.” But other talking heads, looking at the two things together, thought that “political genius” might be the better choice.

The question is silly because the dichotomy is false.

six blind men

The poem tells us that the six blind men were not unintelligent: in fact, they were “to learning much inclined.” Feeling the elephant’s tail and “seeing” a rope was not an act of “genius,” but neither was it evidence that the blind man grasping the rope was a “clown.” What happened, simply, was that each of the six, familiar with only part of the evidence, drew a reasonable but incorrect conclusion from the limited evidence within his grasp.

Donald Trump sees and understands that a large portion of our population are stone cold racists. Because he has no moral limits, and because he, himself, is a stone cold racist, Donald Trump correctly understands that he can maximize the political enthusiasm of those who think like him—by maximizing the vile, racist tweets and the mob chants.

So far, so bad.

But, metaphorically “blinded” by his incapacity to understand the non-racists and anti-racists among us—or, indeed, to count them—Donald  Trump erroneously thinks his race-baiting strategy is the way to win reelection.

And what should progressives do? Progressives should take a lesson from Brer Rabbit. We should take every occasion to shout, “Please, Donald, o please, please don’t throw us into that racist briarpatch!”

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And the Smile on the Face of the Tiger

lady from Niger

There was a young lady of Niger

Who smiled as she rode on a tiger.

They returned from the ride

With the lady inside

And the smile on the face of the tiger.

A Tiresome Rhetorical Question with an Obvious Answer

This morning the talking heads talk yet again of two tiresome questions. In this post I will address the first of these: Why aren’t the Republicans standing up to Trump’s racism?

This is not a difficult question. Let us, please, roll back the film for several decades. In my early youth, the Democrats were willing to put up with racism in some parts of our country in order to gain votes for a New Deal economic agenda. But, beginning in the 1950s, the Supreme Court forced us to address the issue of racism. And in the 1960s the Democrats decided they would have to address the issue legislatively, even though they would royally piss off a good portion of their base.

That left the racists without a comfortable political home. (Just as, BTW, the Never Trump anti-New Deal Republicans are without a comfortable political home today.)

Seeing a political opening to gain votes in their long effort to roll back the New Deal, Nixon and the Republicans adopted the Southern Strategy. In The Long Southern Strategy,  we are reminded that the ensuing developments were complex and took place in distinct stages. But that was the essence of it: coopt the racists to oppose any expansion of the New Deal and, if possible, to roll it back.

Fast forward to the year of Our Lord 2019. Though some still support it, the roll-back-the-New-Deal strategy is vastly unpopular. Obamacare, for example, currently enjoys wide support. By contrast, Republicans have no coherent health care plan. Currently they don’t even have a health care plan at all—except to pursue a suicidal lawsuit to take away the protections enjoyed by those with preexisting conditions.

Pretty much all the political steam and emotional oomph has left the anti-New Deal agenda. Pretty much all that is left is the racism.

And a bunch of empty-suited Republican pols have got in front of a mob of peasants with pitchforks. If a pol stopped in the middle of the road and urged the mob to calm down, it would not work. The peasants would keep on running. They would run over the empty-suited pol, pausing only long enough to stick their pitchforks through a vital organ or two.

Changing the metaphor, the Republican pols have taken a ride on the tiger, and they have wound up inside.

So, children, would you please cease and desist from bootlessly inquiring, Where oh where are the Republicans?

**

Good morning—or afternoon or evening, as the case may be—to readers in Austria, Germany, the Philippines, Thailand, and the United States, all places where they know something about peasants with pitchforks.

The Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn

darkest

Came across these two articles late this afternoon. Cumulative, but, IMHO, worth a look, nevertheless.

Jonathan Chait, Why Trump Spent his Summer Vacation Sending Racist Tweets:

The best explanations for Trump’s actions are often the stupidest ones. Trump has decided the answer to “how I spent my summer vacation” will be sending racist tweets, primarily because that was the thing that he felt like doing at those moments, contradicting the pleas of most of his fellow Republicans.

Yet these impulsive thumb-rants amount to some of the most important and revealing communications of Trump’s presidency. For one thing, they convey the beliefs that have undergirded his career. As Victor Blackwell points out, Trump reserves terms like “infest” and “infestation” — which most people use only to describe diseases or vermin — exclusively for nonwhites. As much hate as he might generate for a target like, say, the mainstream media or transnational institutions, he would never describe the New York Times as an infestation.

Ed Kilgore, Trump’s Hate Offensive Could Turn Off White Working-Class Women

Yeah, not to mention royally pissing off more than half of the voters who showed up last time. Not to mention making every single African-American hopping-up-and-down mad.

Kilgore writes, “If Trump were being purely strategic, he’d tone down the hate-rage and the racism while continuing to pound away at the vulnerable points of the progressive agenda. But that may not be in his DNA. And it’s possible the joy he takes in turning Americans against each other could be his undoing.”

Shhh!!! It’s a Secret!!! Nobody Tell Him!!!

Yes, it probably is in his DNA. But sometimes, faced with mortal danger arising from behaviors deep within their DNA, people manage to wake up and smell the coffee, curb their compulsions, and save themselves from destruction.

Sometimes they save themselves before it is too late.

And sometimes they don’t.

Trump doesn’t face just the indignity of defeat in 2020, he faces the likelihood of indictment and jail.

So, please, nobody tell him that his racist rants are leading to his own destruction. Encourage him, instead, to give witness to his inner asshole at every opportunity.

This thing is bad, and it’s getting worse, and it probably needs to get worse before it gets better. Sometimes it has to get very dark, before the dawn breaks.