Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Jonathan Chait Reader: Donald Trump, His Garbage Fire of a Campaign, and the State of Today's GOP; Anti-Hillary Media Bias Quantified

Jonathan Chait has been on an extended, wonderful tear lately about Donald Trump and the giant "garbage fire" that is his campaign including having essentially zero organizational structure -- and what does exist is in bitter internecine strife with itself; having spent zero money on advertising or anything else and, on a related note, having what appears to be a massive financial deficit versus the Clinton campaign. (The New York Times has a piece on the financial deficit.)

Among Chait's recent entries on Trump and the role of the hapless Republican Party leadership include this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, and this one.

One piece last week that caught my attention (link embedded):

Extended excerpt:

It is increasingly clear that Trump's actions are inconsistent with any rational plan to become president. He is unpopular on a scale that defies historical precedent, utterly loathed by overwhelming majorities.

Some people believed Trump was merely playing the part of a right-wing provocateur in order to stand out from the field and win his party's nomination, and would "pivot" to the center afterward, but these hopes have been dashed. Trump has only become more hated. Nor is he doing basic tasks required of a nominee. When he was asked to call two dozen major Republican donors, Politico reports, Trump called three of them and then packed it in.

It is entirely possible that Trump is simply in way over his head -- he wants to be president but doesn't know how to go about it, and he trusts his own instincts far too much. The alternate possibility is that he has a different motive. In this scenario, Trump is not completely incompetent, but is shrewdly, or at least rationally, following a plan to enrich or otherwise gratify himself. The trouble has always been discerning what such a plan could be.

After discussing a report that Trump is actually planning on a 'mini-media conglomerate' external to his existing TV-production business, Trump Productions LLC, Chait concludes the following (which I've bolded for emphasis):

And if this is Trump's plan, it makes sense. Perhaps he grasps a truth the official Republican Party has refused to acknowledge: The conservative base is a subculture. It is a numerically large subculture, but a subculture nonetheless. It rejects the moral values of the larger society and wallows within its own imaginary world, in which Barack Obama is a foreign-born agent of anti-American interests, global warming is a lie concocted by greedy scientists or perhaps the Chinese, and hordes of foreigners are rendering the United States unrecognizable.

The greater the gulf between the reality perceived by Trump's supporters and the reality experienced by the rest of the world, the worse for the Republican Party, but all the more profitable for the media that can cater to their delusions. Figures like Rupert Murdoch, Ann Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh have grown rich doing so. Trump may have figured out that there's no reason he should work for them when he can cut out the middleman.

Keep in mind that for all of this, though, Trump is presently only about 5 points behind Hillary Clinton on the general presidential match-up polls, although at this point she is doing as well or better in the states she needs to win.

The Madame takes it in stride and plans carefully for the long-haul.


Having said that, Hillary's standing is actually quite good given the truly pathological levels of "mainstream media" hostility (never mind the rightwing media/entertainment complex's daily 24/7 Hillary Hate) directed towards her (and we aren't even talking about the rightwing media/entertainment complex's 24/7 Hillary Hate).

The mainstream media coverage has been quantified by this Harvard University Shorenstein Center study showing that for all of 2015, a full 84 percent of the "issues coverage" of her has been negative during the primary season, dwarfing that of any other candidate. The image below is figure 7 from that study.

From the study: "Figure 7 provides a summary of the tone and volume of Clinton’s issue coverage, including the scandals, compared with the tone and volume of the issue coverage of Sanders, Trump, and Cruz during 2015."

Note: I'm a bit unclear on the "including the scandals" part because the figure title itself and the paragraph whence this comes both state that the 84% is just on issues coverage (i.e., on the non-fake scandals part).

As for all the D.C. parlor talk of a internal GOP coup against Trump at the convention by changing the rules involving committed delegates or running third party spoiler candidates in selected states, all that just seems far-fetched -- and any attempt to steal the nomination from Trump at the Cleveland event would almost certainly turn it into a reprise of the 1968 Democratic convention.

By the way, I should also link to Paul Krugman's Monday New York Times op-ed: A Tale of Two Parties.

Changing subjects to actual policy stuff, Jonathan Chait also has this piece that is very much worth a read (link embedded): Paul Ryan's Promised Obamacare Replacement Plan Shockingly Turns Out Not to Exist Again.

Excerpt / conclusion of piece:

Conservatives have plenty of health-care ideas, of course. But all of those ideas impose widespread, unpopular fiscal pain on tens of millions of people. Conservative ideas would throw tens of millions of people off their insurance, raise taxes for many more people, make basic medical care unaffordable to people who can now access it, or possibly all those things.

Associating themselves with a measurable plan would expose them to devastating political attacks, so they won't do it.

If there was a real Republican plan with real numbers, it would politically implode. The numbers aren't just details to be worked out. The numbers are the whole problem.

Good stuff.

OK, that's all for now. I was going to post a quick update, but that will have to wait. It's late and I'm very tired and need to sleep. Tomorrow is a non-gym night, and I may post an entry after work.


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