Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Trump's New York Landslide As Felt In Istanbul

I've been in Istanbul for approximately the last week but committed to my Canadian readers to write something about the pivotal New York state primary. Below is what ran at Blazing Cat Fur where I've been asked to blog the 2016 presidential races.

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Our American Friend: Trump’s New York Landslide As Felt In Istanbul

Yes, our American friend was cornered in a flat in a middle eastern metropolis. Briefly deprived of Twitterfeed (to him what Kryptonite is to Superman), he agreed to write this for us:


I’m finishing up a week’s vacation in Istanbul and today was awoken before the morning call to prayer. Let me assure you that that is indeed early (for those of you who know Istanbul, I’m staying in a private flat just off Sultanahmet Square with a view of the Blue Mosque from one of my windows). I was awoken by notices cascading into and onto my iPhone about the early New York returns and what they portended.

Trump Towers, blared the New York tabloids later in the day and that, in fact, was the case.

As of this writing it appears Trump will receive 90 of the 95 delegates available in this primary. His win was wide and deep, forcing even some of his most relentless critics to admit that he had, in a single primary, made the path to the requisite 1,237 delegates substantially more likely. This was a bitter admission from those who had for months denied the reality of Trump’s appeal to a base that hasn’t been this energized in several generations.

Ted Cruz, Trump’s sole remaining substantial competitor, was destroyed by the Empire State, earning a pathetic 15% of the vote and zero delegates.

The upcoming states–Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey & Rhode Island–will favor Trump as well. This gives him quite a stretch of doing nothing but “winning.”

To be candid, this comes as a relief to his supporters, who are often derided as ignorant or worse. In fact, they know more than anyone the strengths and weaknesses of their candidate. The last two weeks saw Trump quiet by his standards, tweeting much less often and speaking in measured tones with an eye toward the convention in Cleveland in July and beyond.

Trump’s victory speech was short, gracious and focused. Everything, in a word, that it should have been. He was scrupulously on message and when he is, he’s at his most effective.

Thank Paul Manafort, says the conventional wisdom, which for a change is not wrong or facile. Manafort is an experienced player in this realm and his management of Trump’s campaign is increasingly obvious and increasingly effective. He was recently hired and with not much time to spare. Having said that, the more reality based observers are starting to admit that Trump will be the nominee, for good or for ill.

I’ve said in this space that if he won South Carolina, which he did handily, he would be the republican nomination. The GOP establishment has shown itself to be hide bound, blinkered and incompetent, content with feeding at the trough of the status quo whether elections were won by it or not.

The discussion going forward will now be how Cruz is simply unable to compete with Trump in large areas of the country, cementing a reputation for losing. “Lose with Cruz” applies both to the nomination and the general election.

A “tell” is something in gambling which gives away the game, usually denoting a bluff. The most interesting tell of the night (and early morning here) came from Anthony Scaramucci.

He is one of the GOP’s top fundraisers in a cycle which has shown their ownership of the republican party to an unprecedented degree and concomitant contempt for the base.

He tweeted: “If [Trump] doesn’t get to 1237 it won’t be by much. Stealing nomination from him at that point would be party suicide.”

Quite. And the party will not commit suicide no matter how much bravado is currently being thrown about. Then it’s on to the general election against Lady Macbeth, who handily won New York over Bernie Sanders.

Trump has a knack for succinctly and fatally defining his opponents. He call Jeb Bush low energy and referred to Senator Rubio as Little Marco. Of course, he continues to call Cruz Lyin’ Ted.

He unveiled this week his moniker for Mrs. Clinton: Crooked Hillary.

This will stick because it’s true. The next seven and a half months will prove to be remarkably interesting and unusual.

As I’m fond of saying on Twitter: “Never end, cycle.”

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Do Minnesota Republicans Believe In Anything?

Political parties by definition exist because they are one thing and not another. They define themselves both by what they adhere to, what they promote and that to which they stand in opposition.

The current highly unusual presidential cycle is what a political realignment looks like. As I've said to Diana West in private correspondence, I was naive for thinking that it would be interesting and relatively painless. Instead it's been quite painful and ferociously divisive, at least to date and at least on the Republican side. I do think that similar sorts of struggles are coming to the Democratic Party but that's for another time.

Recently former Minnesota House of Representatives member Ryan Winkler (D), now resident in Belgium, Exhibit A in the failed experiment of multiculturalism, or as Hitchens tired of it "one way multiculturalism," and I found ourselves in broad agreement about wage and income stagnation and the abandonment of the average American worker of any color or gender (there are only two) by both parties. This is what political realignment looks like and I hesitate to put a substantial term on such a small interchange. Still.

The problem for party elites is that the base of my party and Winkler's agree in one way or another with what we were saying. The surprise to my fellow republicans may be in realizing democrats are not happy with their elites either: this is how Trump wins but I've gotten ahead of myself.

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In a reverse Ozymandias moment, I looked upon the works of Minnesota republicans and despaired. A review of their handiwork leaves little room for satisfaction.

In the 2010 election republicans won both chambers of the Minnesota legislature. Unforgivably, however, in a national wave election we lost the governorship to a profoundly flawed democrat.

Having won an unprecedented majority in the Senate, and a not rare win in the House, Minnesota republicans were set to stop the far left agenda of Alida Rockefeller's ex husband, so programmed, robotic and medicated that he makes Marco Rubio look authentic.

But no: a staffer wanting to sleep his way into controlling the Senate via, rather literally, its Majority Leader, was brutally put down once republican senators realized the psychological & emotional manipulation of their leader, with spectacular and ongoing damage to republicans across the state throughout their remaining terms. There was no one to root for.

Minnesota republicans are the last to understand media, even with Trump now showing them how daily. In 2011 they were tossed about at will by a press keen to advance the most damaging narratives possible. Given the subject matter, not even I could truly blame them.

The rest of the legislative session saw no accomplishments but only incompetence and foolishness going into the fall election. As if to answer "how does a party top a sex scandal?" republicans saw fit to put on the ballot not one but two dubious Constitutional propositions: enshrining one man/one woman as the definition of marriage as well as implementing voter ID. I happen to agree with both matters but making them a matter of the state constitution was hardly the route to have been taken.

This encore of incompetence proved enormously damaging, untethered from what the voters who put them into office wanted but no matter. As today, Minnesota republicans were controlled by their donors.

The last discussion you'll ever hear in open Minnesota republican politics is a candid discussion about their donors.

In the 2012 elections the Republican Minnesota legislative majority was voted out in as little time as humanly possible. Both chambers: that takes some doing, even for the stupid party. Please clap.

Don't forget, however, that republicans at this time saw fit to nominate Kurt Bills, a genuinely nice guy but wholly inexperienced, to run against the buzzsaw of Senator Amy Senator For Life Klobuchar with predictable results.

Minnesota politics frequently strikes me as boring, as endlessly small potatoes, but that's mostly because there appears to be only one party in the state that knows what it's doing.

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Yet in combining amazing overreach by insufferable Twin Cities liberals, as well as targeting races in rural Minnesota, Republicans clawed back a majority in the House in 2014. It's as yet unrealized what good this has done, besides stopping one or another far fetched thing. To be sure, that's not nothing but it's also not a program of governing principles.

We've seen little results so far. When republicans went along with a shocking degree of spending by democrats, people who have no business being in politics framed the matter thusly: it was the third smallest increase ever. Republicans seemed to be saying they were not so much an opposition party but a series of (increasingly ineffective) speed bumps.

At the same time in 2014, republicans ran an untested millionaire to run against Al Franken for US Senate. Like Klobuchar in 21012, this race was never close, was never "competitive" to use consultant speak. If Minnesota republicans don't take themselves seriously in whom they nominate for high office, why should voters?

It's even money whether republicans can hold the House this fall, or so I've been told by those in a position to know. The Senate was never in reach. Join the Minnesota Republican Party: together we can dream small.

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Nine years after I became (what was I thinking) involved in politics my side still does not have its equivalent of "The Uptake." Nine years. I realize Stanley Hubbard isn't in the business of throwing away money but could he and his chums not have found a lousy 250K and help start something?

I use "The Uptake" as a stand in for every organization and group the left in Minnesota has created and funded. They're so well known I don't need to list them by name. And they're good: it bugs me.

Sometimes they fail but they're always working. They can do so because they know what they believe and are able to advance those beliefs at almost every turn, sometimes truthfully, often times not. The fuel of these organizations is their message because they actually believe in something.

Republicans message badly because at any given time they're not really sure what their message is. In any event, it's the job they care about, not its substance. This shows.

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Besides spending a disproportionate amount of money to beat candidates like my friend Sheila Kihne when challenging an incumbent in leadership (but virtually indistinguishable from a democrat), what is it that Minnesota republicans are about?

Yes, keeping your gig is understood. But for any approximately conservative cause, what do they actually do?

Precious little, it turns out, aside from feathering their own nests. The feathering takes the most innocuous forms, it is true, but feather nesting it remains.

You'd think I'd be over my shock at how easily Minnesota republicans are bought but I'm not. I don't think I ever want to be, really.

Not long ago republicans shilled for money to talk about the glories of National Popular Vote, whose local lobbying agency was Ainsley Shea. Big name republicans signed up, betraying without a second thought the most universally conservative idea of preserving federalism and the Electoral College. Nothing came of the effort legislatively but the republicans involved got their money.

This is who we've become and we think nothing of it. #MNGOPe

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Smaller government and lower taxes are said to be among the hallmarks of republican belief in this state. Of course, there's precious little evidence of success on these fronts but no matter, it's the platitudes that count to those who mostly care about keeping the position they have.

Minnesota republicans don't believe in anything sufficiently persuasive to the voters to have won a statewide office in ten years. I've already written off 2018 so let's make it a dozen years.

We live surrounded by states governed by republicans. Only here does that stop.

That Minnesota republicans aren't embarrassed by this tells you all you need to know about them.