Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Why does Krugman hold Clinton and her campaign harmless for . . .

the public’s cluelessness about Trump’s policy agenda vs. her own?

PHILADELPHIA — On Wednesday night, the Harvard Institute of Politics pulled together a focus group of eight millennial voters from the Philadelphia area, and a small group of journalists watched. One of the millennials supported the Green Party presidential candidacy of Jill Stein. The rest professed to be totally undecided — despondent about the election, offended that they were being asked to choose between major party candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Most of the participants asked for anonymity. A few, including the Green-voting 27-year-old Amanda, offered up their first names and allowed a few follow-up questions. The small sample of voters, in one swing state, was illustrative just as the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs and Researchpoll had been — and with the same tantalizing power for Democrats. Unlike some of the white working-class men who are breaking for Trump, the millennials were onboard with the Democrats’ 2016 agenda. But they were struggling to cast a vote. Among the lessons:

1. They agree with the Democrats on the issues. For the better part of an hour, the members of the group listed their most pressing policy concerns, from climate change to taxes to education to agriculture. When all the terms were written on a whiteboard, they were ask to list their top three, and for each, say which candidate they agreed with. Seven of the eight millennials ended up preferring Clinton on the issues; the eighth, as mentioned above, preferred Stein.

4. They’re counting on something — an assassin, impeachment — to prevent Trump from doing too much damage. Alex paralyzed the room with laughter when he floated a strange and “dark” idea. “If Trump wins,” he said, “he’s probably going to be assassinated, and Mike Pence will become president.”

Alex, a Democrat who had voted for Barack Obama in 2008, had stayed home in 2012 and cooled on most politicians. He had come to like Pence for his demeanor, as seen at Tuesday night’s debate. But the more important point was that a Trump presidency did not seem like a four- or eight-year proposition.

“He’s going to be in court most of the time as president,” said one focus group member who preferred to be anonymous. “He’s going to get impeached.”

5. They’re not necessarily thinking about all the powers a president would have. One of the questions that halted the group’s discussion was simple: How was the Supreme Court affecting their vote? Several members of the group admitted that they had not considered this; when they did, as in the issue round, they preferred that Clinton appoint members of the court.

— Five lessons about millennial voters from a Philadelphia focus group, David Weigel, Washington Post, yesterday

Meanwhile, today, Paul Krugman, Clinton’s penultimate cheerleader pundit, continues to pin on the political news media the entire blame for this epidemic of cluelessness about Trump’s and the Republican Establishment’s actual policy agenda. And for such things as the unawareness that Trump will be appointing Supreme Court justices, lower-federal-court judges, and federal-agency heads, and will be signing Paul Ryan’s fiscal and regulatory bills.

And that if Trump resigns, is impeached, or is assassinated, Mike Pence (the rightwing talk-show host cum Tea Party pol) will.

Krugman often beats the drum with praise for Clinton by reminding the public of such things as how poised and how much stamina she showed last fall during that 11-hour Benghazi House Committee hearing.  He can’t understand why that doesn’t suffice as reason to be fond of her, or at least to vote for her against Donald Trump.

He even more often rages in anger at the appalling, diametrically opposite manner in which the mainstream political media has covered both Clinton and Trump—and its god-awful-absurd, unremitting obsession with Clinton’s email for a full one-and-a-half years until finally it stopped late last month.

But never, ever, does he acknowledge that the profound lack of knowledge, particularly among millennials, about the differences between these two candidates’ agendas, and between their respective parties’ agendas, may be as much because Clinton herself has failed to apprise the public of this.  Some of it at all, some of it with actual specifics, the rest of it with anything resembling consistency.

To wit, Krugman’s column today, titled “What About the Planet?”  It begins:

Our two major political parties are at odds on many issues, but nowhere is the gap bigger or more consequential than on climate.

If Hillary Clinton wins, she will move forward with the Obama administration’s combination of domestic clean-­energy policies and international negotiation — a one­-two punch that offers some hope of reining in greenhouse gas emissions before climate change turns into climate catastrophe.

If Donald Trump wins, the paranoid style in climate politics — the belief that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by a vast international conspiracy of scientists — will become official doctrine, and catastrophe will become all but inevitable.

So why does the media seem so determined to ignore this issue? Why, in particular, does it almost seem as if there’s a rule against bringing it up in debates?

He goes on to castigate Kaine/Pence debate moderator Elaine Quijano for her general awfulness and, specifically, for this:

[I]t’s really stunning that in the three nationally televised forums we’ve had so far — the “commander in chief” forum involving Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump, the first presidential debate and the vice­-presidential debate — the moderators have asked not a single question about climate.

This was especially striking in Tuesday’s debate.

Somehow Elaine Quijano, the moderator, found time for not one but two questions inspired by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget — an organization concerned that despite relatively low budget deficits now and extremely low borrowing costs, the federal government may face fiscal problems a couple of decades down the line. There may be something to this, although not as much as deficit scolds claim (and Ms. Quijano managed to suggest that Mrs. Clinton’s proposals, which are fully paid for, are no better than Mr. Trump’s multitrillion-dollar debt blowout).

But if we’re worried about the longer­-term implications of current policies, the buildup of greenhouse gases is a much bigger deal than the accumulation of low-interest debt. It’s bizarre to talk about the latter but not the former.

And this blind spot matters a lot. Polling suggests that millennial voters, in particular, care a lot about environmental protection and renewable energy. But it also suggests that more than 40 percent of young voters believe that there is no difference between the candidates on these issues.

I watched that debate from beginning to end (although I’m sure I broke a record for times checking the clock during a 90-minute period).  And I couldn’t believe this moderator’s focus on the national debt.  Or, to be accurate, I couldn’t believe her loaded, circa-2011 questions about it and deep urgency in the tone of her voice.  Might a question specifically about what Trump’s massive tax cuts and massive military board-patrol buildup relative to the debt not have been, y’know, a good thing for her to ask?

But it also might have been a good thing for Kaine to ask.  And it might have been helpful if he’d responded to Pence’s false statement that the debt has increased massively since Obama assumed office with a truthful statement that in fact it has been significantly reduced, but he didn’t.  But Kaine had one, and only one, assignment in that debate, and it wasn’t to make either of those two points.  It was instead to force Pence to accept, reject, or deny the fact of Trump’s racist, xenophobic, misogynist, vulgar, etc., etc., pronouncements.

Mission accomplished.  Unless, of course, the mission was to educate the public about the Trump agenda that huge swaths of the public—including, apparently, most millennials—doesn’t know about.

Including all those court and agency-head appointments. And what that would mean.

I don’t expect that Clinton and her campaign strategists can be disabused of their foundational presumption that moderate suburbanites just love extreme tax cuts for the wealthy, further deregulation of the finance industry, global warming, and complete control of government at every level by a handful of billionaires and some mega-corporations.  Which is why she doesn’t campaign on these, and campaigns almost entirely on the racist, xenophobic, misogynist, etc., etc. stuff, in the belief that only that will sway or hold moderate suburbanites.

So I suppose it would make no difference if someone other than me—someone like, say, Krugman—pointed out that Clinton’s been an extreme enabler of the political news media’s de facto blackout on these dramatic policy-and-appointments agenda differences.  But it would be worth a try.

Although first the people I’m urging to do this would themselves have to be persuaded that Clinton’s poise and stamina during the Benghazi hearing did nothing to educate the public about those policy-and-appointments agenda differences.

I guess I won’t hold my breath.  Even though time is now so short that I probably wouldn’t even turn blue.

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President Paul Ryan

I’ve said since last winter, when it first became fairly clear that Trump likely would win the nomination, that Trump hadn’t taken over the GOP, but rather that it was the other way around: Trump is the ultimate Paul Ryan/Heritage Foundation/Koch Borthers Trojan Horse.

I was right. And it’s now, literally, official.

Meanwhile, large numbers of millennials, apparently, remain clueless that that is the situation.  And Clinton still doesn’t think it’s important to discuss anything much other than what everyone does already know about Trump.

Great.

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Would this lengthy statement by Clinton about millennials, make millenials MORE, rather than LESS, likely to vote for her?

Here’s the article, by Yahoo News’ Michael Walsh, titled “#basementdwellers — The actual words and spin on Hillary Clinton’s remarks about Bernie Sanders supporters.”

Clinton should run the video clip on her campaign’s website.

And I say that as a virulent Bernie supporter who remains angry recalling some of Clinton’s public statements during the primary campaign—including some she made at debates with Bernie—and who laughs at Paul Krugman each time he claims that Clinton has run a decent campaign and has appeared appealing throughout her campaign, and (weirdly) that a good reason to vote for her is how poised she remained throughout that 11-hour Congressional Benghazi Committee hearing in defending herself when she had no choice but to be there and do so.

Whatever, Prof. Krugman.  You’re completely right about the outrageous mainstream-media obsession with Clinton’s emails, the appalling AP report in late August and other mainstream (e.g., the NYT’s) coverage of that, and the failure to give Trump’s business-related-and-pay-to–assure-the-friendship-of-a-state-AG scandals.  But, seriously, Clinton has run a really off-kilter, out-of-touch (literally as well as figuratively) campaign.  But it’s not at all too late to make up for lost time.

I’m most definitely absolutely completely and thoroughly with her now, as is Bernie.  And I wish she’d take my advice (including in this post, but, wayyy more important, in other recent ones) about how to nail this election down.

 

____

UPDATE: Hey!  Bernie’s back in the spotlight!  For HER!

Yayyyy.  (Luv ya, Bernie.)

Added 10/2 at 12:27 p.m.

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What Clinton and her surrogates need to get across to millennials, racial minorities and union members

Coming soon: President Barack Obama, who’s expected to campaign [in Florida] at least twice before Election Day. First Lady Michelle Obama — more popular than her husband — will likely visit Florida as well, in addition to the ad she cut for Clinton that’s currently airing on Florida radio.

“Hillary Clinton’s campaign is in panic mode. Full panic mode,” said Leslie Wimes, a South Florida-based president of the Democratic African-American Women Caucus.

“They have a big problem because they thought Obama and Michelle saying, ‘Hey, go vote for Hillary’ would do it. But it’s not enough,” Wimes said, explaining that too much of the black vote in Florida is anti-Trump, rather than pro-Clinton. “In the end, we don’t vote against somebody. We vote for somebody.”

Part of the problem Clinton faces is that Obama, the actual black president, is the toughest of acts to follow. Obama enjoyed support from 95 percent of Florida’s black voters in both 2012 and 2008, according to exit polls.

Clinton campaign in ‘panic mode’ over Florida black voters, Marc Caputo and Daniel Ducassi, Politico, yesterday

“In the end, we don’t vote against somebody. We vote for somebody.”  Sounds like a plan!  If your plan is to ensure that the Supreme Court remains in the hands of the rightwing Federalist Society for another two decades, and that the lower federal bench, which after three decades of Federalist Society control is no longer in that stranglehold.

Guess the “we” who, in the end, don’t vote against somebody but instead vote for somebody, are just fine with the Supreme Court’s killing of the Voting Rights Act; the Court’s killing of federal-court habeas corpus review of state-court and state-prosecutor actions wayyy beyond what the 1996 jurisdictional statute they purport to just be interpreting (they’ve actually rewritten it); the Court’s singlehanded creation of a legal doctrine called “qualified immunity” (by their own admission not based on any statute but instead solely on their preferred policy) that exempts all law enforcement people, including (especially) prosecutors (including those who falsify evidence and those who withhold clearly exculpatory evidence) from any civil lawsuit liability, like, ever.

And the possibility of the Supreme Court upholding new campaign-finance laws—federal and state. Including state judicial elections or appointments.  And state attorneys general and local DAs.

You think black lives matter, but you don’t care enough about who in the federal judicial branch is making policy that goes such a long way toward deciding whether or not black lives matter?  Or, you don’t know that it the judiciary—and particularly the federal judiciary—at least as much as Congress that determines the relevant policy, and that the person who determines the makeup of the Supreme court and he lower federal courts, and therefore determines how much latitude state court judges and state prosecutors and state and local police have, is either that person whom you won’t vote for because you’re not enthusiastic about her, or that the person whom you don’t want to just vote against?

Ditto for millennials in general.  Most of the African-Americans saying that are, best as I can tell, millennials, leading me to wonder where they were during the primaries, when African-Americans in the South effectively determined the outcome of the primary contest.  Was Sanders not someone they could vote for?  Apparently not, so I guess they just didn’t vote.  Which should, maybe, suggest to them that if there are things that matter to them that will be determined by whom the next president is, they should ditch their high-mindedness and vote for the one of the two candidates that they would rather see making those decisions who will be making those decisions (court appointments, for example).

But its by means just African-American millennials.  It’s millennials generally.  It’s just the in thing this year.  The fashion. Which is good, to a point.  But not beyond that.

I say: Heck, millennials, just tell reporters and pollsters whatever you want about how cool you are to vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, or to not vote (even for Senate and House, and state legislators).  It’s certainly the millennial in thing to support Johnson or Stein, or not vote.  And it will be unless and until President Trump, say, fulfills his promise to appoint a justice like Antonin Scalia to fill Scalia’s seat on the Court.  But if that’s not what you want to actually see, then vote.  For Clinton.

It’s one thing to threaten to cast a vanity vote, but quite another to actually cast one, ceding to others, without an iota of input, the actual decision about who will become president.

Care about consumer and employee protections (including the Supreme Court’s series of 5-4 opinions rewriting the Federal Arbitration Act in favor of … well, not consumers and employees), and finance-industry regulations?  Really?  But you’re fine with the prospect of President Trump and all those someones he’ll appoint?  Because you only vote for someone—the candidate herself or himself.  You won’t vote against someone.  Or, apparently, all those someones the candidate will appoint once in the White House.

Clinton, her husband, and her campaign do seem finally, and ever so belatedly, to have gotten the message you’ve sent through the polls.  But she doesn’t seem to fully know what to do about it.  Yes, it’s great that she’s finally campaigning on the Party platform—and even doing so with Bernie!  And her most potent surrogate besides Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, is becoming active after (what I’m guessing) was a period of about seven weeks when Clinton and her campaign didn’t want these two prominently campaigning for her.  Suburban moderate women would have been thrilled about what platform planks these two would have highlighted.  But, y’know, all those name Establishment Republicans whose endorsements she was trying for (successfully, for the most part) might not have happened.

And since this election cycle is nothing if not one in which to highlight support of name Establishment folks, that seemed to Clinton, her husband and her campaign as the route to the White House.  Even if everyone else was stupefied by it.

Well, almost everyone else.  But Clinton, her husband and her campaign really, really do finally understand this (even if Paul Krugman does not and still thinks Clinton’s failure to campaign intensely, or at all, on the Party platform for six weeks, and to not herself respond immediately and very publicly to the late-August Clinton Foundation pay-to-play meme).  Sort of, anyway; Clinton still won’t tell the public about the Mercers or the oil-and-gas billionaires who will in effect be making these appointments—nor, apparently, even wants Sanders and Warren to do so.

But this week there does seem to be real progress. Or at least it had seemed that way.  But today there is this, from Greg Sargent:

Clinton may have erred in calling “half” of Trump’s supporters “deplorables,” but there’s little question she wants this broader national argument. Of course, in some ways, Trump might also want this debate. He obviously sees expressing outrage about Clinton’s “deplorables” and “implicit bias” comments as a way to juice up his base by playing to white grievance.

But Trump also needs to improve his appeal among college educated whites, who are already convinced that Trump is either personally biased against minorities or is running a campaign designed to appeal to bigotry, which could be one reason his unfavorable numbers remain so high among those voters. And in this context, it’s worth appreciating that there’s a basic political imbalance underlying this debate: It energizes the base for both candidates, but it arguably could limit the broader appeal of only one of them.

As Democratic strategists have pointed out, by fully confronting Trump’s bigotry, and by talking about systemic racism as a continuing societal problem, Clinton may be able to engage core Dem voter groups in ways that tip the composition of the electorate in her direction on election day. It is always possible that engaging this debate might alienate some swing voters. But it seems more likely at this point that a continuing national focus on Trump’s racism could further alienate from him those college educated whites that Clinton hopes to win among, which would make her the first Democrat in over half a century to pull that off.

Either way, Clinton appears fully committed to this debate at this point, and most signs are that Democrats broadly see this orientation of the party as a short-term and long-term positive. So she probably won’t stop taking about it anytime soon.

Presumably this is because there are a few people hiding in caves with not even radio transmission who don’t know that this has been debated intensely for the last 16 months.  Or who want to hear still more debate about it. Maybe that’s the ticket.  Then again, maybe not.

It’s the court and agency appointments, stupid.*

Got that?  It’s the court and agency appointments, stupid.**

But … whatever.  As always, it’s only the Republicans who understand and campaign on this.  Or at least who campaign on this–even if they’re not the only candidates who understand this.

Progressives of all generations are tired of this.  Really.  We are.  Although by and large, it’s only millennials who plan to play with matches.

 

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NOTE: *That line is intended as a takeoff on the (I guess no longer) famous line that Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign manager, James Carville, posted to his office wall to remind himself of what to focus on above all else during the campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

The “stupid” being a reference to … himself. As in: Remember, James, you idiot. It’s the economy that should be the main focus of the candidate’s campaign, not the side stuff (like culture wars issues). That campaign was during a recession.

After reading the first comment in the Comments thread I realized that I needed to explain that rather than presume that this would be understood, as it would have been, say, even a decade ago. Oh, dear.

Added 9/29 at 5:07 p.m.

**I just added this link to the Wikipedia article about “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Lordy.

Added 9/29 at 5:27 p.m.

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