Here’s why Donald Trump appeals mostly to people of little political sophistication

A list of synonyms for “sophisticated” includes these words: knowledgeable, aware, practical, educated and experienced. These are not words that apply to people who want simple answers to complicated problems. They are not words that apply to people who think Donald Trump makes a lot of sense. Trump’s political rhetoric consists mainly of streams of consciousness adding up to ridiculous simplisms. He promises to be a president who simply tells everyone what to do — the Mexicans, the Chinese, whomever. There is no subtlety at all to his proposed solutions to the nation’s problems and challenges. Accordingly, Trump’s presidential candidacy is especially popular among people who disdain complicated approaches to complicated issues — people who don’t like political sophistication. These are the people who comprise much of the Republican Party’s base. Most of Trump’s rivals for the GOP nomination want to appeal to those same people, but many of them have held public office at one time or another, which means they’ve had to at least pretend that they are political sophisticates. Trump has never held public office and has never been a candidate for anything. He comes to the game with a clean slate. He’s never had to shepherd legislation through the political process.  He’s never had to bargain with political adversaries or work out political compromises. He’s only contributed money to politicians — and then complained about their failures. Most Republican politicians, even the supposedly sophisticated ones, loved it when the Tea Party movement that arose in the wake of the election of President Obama spawned a sizable subgroup of people who hate the political  process or don’t understand it — or both. But now, Donald Trump has emerged to teach the Republican pols a lesson on how to exploit this lack of sophistication among millions of potential voters. Mainstream Republican politicians hate Donald Trump with a passion because he’s beating them at their own game.  ...

read more

Republicans denounced the deal with Iran before they knew what it said

My Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines the term “knee-jerk” as follows: “Reacting in a readily predictable way.” It’s a perfect term for the Republican reaction to the agreement reached with Iran the other day by the United States and certain other major nations. We all knew what the Republicans would say, didn’t we? We all knew that the GOP’s warmongers would hate the agreement, didn’t we? We all knew that almost any deal brokered by the Obama administration would elicit the wrath of America’s pseudo-patriots, didn’t we? Some of these Republicans denounced the agreement even before they had read the details, as we see HERE: Negotiators in Vienna had announced the Iran nuclear deal only an hour earlier, but Sen. Lindsey Graham [above] of South Carolina, a Republican presidential candidate, was already on the airwaves denouncing it. “You have created a possible death sentence for Israel,” he declared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “This is a virtual declaration of war against Sunni Arabs,” he said. “This is the most dangerous, irresponsible step I have ever seen in the history of watching the Mideast. Barack Obama, John Kerry, have been dangerously naive,” he added. Tough stuff. But had Graham actually seen the deal? “No,” he admitted, when host Mika Brzezinski asked him.      ...

read more

The Republican Party’s real problem is its angry base, not Donald Trump

The chattering classes of  American politics, me included, are busy these days examining the Donald Trump phenomenon in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. How in the world, we’re all asking ourselves, did this egotistical crackpot become a factor in this contest? Perhaps the answer is that Trump is just filling a void. If it wasn’t him, it would be some other crackpot. Of course, Trump isn’t going to win the nomination. The Republican Party isn’t that far-gone. But his surge suggests that we should examine the question of why people of his ilk appeal to a certain sizable faction of the Republican base. Damon Linker examines the matter HERE: The GOP’s Trump problem goes all the way down to the roots of the party — the grassroots. We’ve seen it all before. And no, I’m not just thinking about 2012, when a succession of unelectable rabble-rousers bounced to the top of the Republican primary field for a week or two. You remember: First there was Michele Bachmann. Then Rick Perry. Then Herman “9-9-9” Cain. Then Newt Gingrich. Then Rick Santorum.  Each briefly became the champion and standard-bearer for the same restless, angry faction in the party that’s now coalescing around Trump (and Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson — and to a lesser extent Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and, once more, Santorum. But that faction’s roots go back much further than 2012 — all the way back to the origins of the modern conservative movement in the right-wing populism of the postwar John Birch Society and similar groups. They were a ragtag conglomeration of ideological radicals animated by rage against various actors, forces, trends, and policies in mid-20th-century American life: the New Deal, Big Government, communists, negroes, elites, decadent city folk, Catholics, Jews, immigrants, feminists, homosexuals, and secularists. Some feared them all, others focused on one or a few. All of them saw the world through a fog of paranoia and conspiracy. (Snip) More than 30 years later, they’ve grown and spread like a fungus (thanks to the fertilization efforts of Rush Limbaugh and Roger Ailes). The populists are the now base of the party — its most loyal and devoted members, surpassed only by super-rich donors for influence among the party’s leading politicians and strategists. Candidates for president have no choice but to woo this base, to legitimize its obsessions and flatter its prejudices. And the underdog candidates, meanwhile, pin their entire campaigns on these voters, hoping that the flattery will pay off in a surge of support, catapulting them to prominence.  ...

read more

If the GOP loses the culture wars, its tricks on economic issues will be laid bare

Here are the trends: President Obama is rising in the polls. Americans generally approve of recent Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage and Obamacare. The Confederate flag has fallen into great disfavor, and Americans are more sensitive to the persistence of white racism in our society. Donald Trump’s wild disparagements of immigrants have made him a pariah. Much of the populace is laughing at the clown car full of GOP presidential candidates. Yes, these and other developments are evidence that the long-term right-wing offensive in the culture wars suddenly is failing — and failing badly. But the news for Republicans could well become much worse, as David Russell explains HERE: The Republican Party has been masterful in using culture war wedge issues as a means of attracting and distracting voters, while they used their time in office to repeatedly pass legislation that favored business over workers and downshifted costs to individuals, which accelerated the erosion of stagnant wages. They have smugly gone about the business of enriching themselves and their sponsors, comfortable in the knowledge that Americans are largely uninformed and do not pay attention to the details of the legislative process. This time around, however, the evolution of the Republicans will come too late for them to maintain the control they have had over their base. As the party is forced to shift away from cultural issues, it will become increasingly clear that the Republican stance on economics has not benefitted small business, as they claim; it has not benefited American families, as they claim; it has not benefitted students; and it has not benefitted workers. However, the Republican stance has uniformly and consistently disadvantaged the working American under the guise of “unwarranted government welfare,” “freedom to chose,” and “liberty from government interference.”...

read more

Is the Republican Party literally dying away?

Over and over again in recent years, the point has been made that demographic changes in America tend to favor Democrats over Republicans. For example, the non-white segment of the populace, most of which leans Democratic, is growing faster than the white segment. But there’s another factor that spells trouble for the GOP: It’s membership is dying off at a faster pace than that of the Democrats. Daniel J. McGraw has the story HERE: There’s been much written about how millennials are becoming a reliable voting bloc for Democrats, but there’s been much less attention paid to one of the biggest get-out-the-vote challenges for the Republican Party heading into the next presidential election: Hundreds of thousands of their traditional core supporters won’t be able to turn out to vote at all. The party’s core is dying off by the day. Since the average Republican is significantly older than the average Democrat, far more Republicans than Democrats have died since the 2012 elections. To make matters worse, the GOP is attracting fewer first-time voters. Unless the party is able to make inroads with new voters, or discover a fountain of youth, the GOP’s slow demographic slide will continue election to election. Actuarial tables make that part clear…      ...

read more