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Trump in Roanoke

[ 8 ] July 26, 2016 |

Donald Trump, racist whoopie cushion, appeared this afternoon in my hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, where I’ve relocated my insomnia for the past few weeks. Because I’m pathologically incapable of avoiding cheap and writable discomfort, I stood in line for several unwhiskeyed hours in 100-degree heat to experience the least-amusing civic joke in recent American history. At this point, one could assemble a pretty decent anthology of “I Went to a Trump Rally” narratives, so there’s nothing particularly special about the experience or about anything I might offer here. But today’s event was goddamn predictable and boring in a way that I actually found somewhat horrifying. There’s no question that the Trump campaign remains an ambling shitshow, and his “speech” reminded me of a somewhat less-cranked Spud from Trainspotting, but the normalization of Trump’s weirdness strikes me as more deeply troubling than what we all witnessed earlier in the year, when he was simply tugging his dick and yodeling while career patrons of the local Kum & Go punched hippies and black people. Adding to what Erik observed earlier, conditions like these underscore the horror of recognizing that Trump might actually win.

*

The two-hour wait outside the Hotel Roanoke was for the most part innocuous. It was hot and humid as Lucifer’s taint this morning, which might explain why no one in line near me was particularly chatty. My companion and I spent most of our time getting to know “Austin,” a 20-year-old future alimony delinquent from a nearby town who — if his odyssey was to be believed — had worked a 16-hour shift at a tire factory before driving several hours to spend time in the same room with Donald Trump, a humanoid pimento cheese tub. We talked about his family for a while before detouring into an extended review of his achievements on Call of Duty, interrupted by his occasional hoots of “TRUMP!” and “BLUE LIVES MATTER” when the local constabulary generously rolled by with another cooler of bottled water. When I asked if his parents shared his enthusiasm for politics, he ruefully shook his head, paused for a moment as if to relive an angry moment with Pop over the burn barrel, and explained that his folks preferred Ted Cruz. During a lull in the conversation, he showed me a recent match he’d earned on Badoo; “Scarlett,” as it turned out, was transgender, a deal-breaker for the young rake Austin.

While everyone waited for the hotel doors to open, journeymen plied their trade along the line. Every single one of them was a person of color, engaged in a secondary grift layered atop the primary grift that had drawn people like Austin to Roanoke in the first place. For $20, vendors offered shirts emblazoned with Elizabethan insults like “If you don’t bleed red, white & blue take your bitch ass home” or “If you build it, they won’t come” (featuring Trump waving through the fissure in a nearly-finished brick wall — an image that incongruously puts the shirt’s observer on the other side of the wall from Trump, implicating all of us as Mexican rapists and drug dealers.) In any event, I didn’t know what to make of the fact that literally the only black people in sight were fleecing white folks and selling them new church clothes; it’s difficult to cheer the continued circulation of dumb Lewinsky blowjob jokes (e.g., “Hillary sucks, but not like Monica”), but at least the proceeds were flowing away from the Trump campaign.

*

After gaining entry at long last to the air-conditioned hotel ballroom, we lingered for another two hours before the event began. During the last half-hour, the listless Trumpkins distinguished themselves mostly by failing to sustain any of the predictable chants — “USA,” “Build the Wall,” and “Lock Her Up” — for longer than about ten seconds. It’s been years since I spent much time in Roanoke, and while it may be somewhat less amped than the irate cornholes that seem to populate the campaign’s itinerary, I was mildly surprised that the self-assigned pep-squad deputies scattered around the room were unable to whip up some stiffer peaks of fury before the arrival of TrumpPence. Alas.

While the millennials in front of me Tweeted and Snapchatted and swiped left and right, the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” played unironically in the background. The song reminded me of The Big Chill, which reminded me of how much I hate The Big Chill, before I remembered that the song plays during the opening scene of The Big Chill, which involves the dressing of a corpse who had filleted his goddamn wrists so his friends could come to his funeral and smoke dope and fuck each other for a few days. It’s not the first tune that would come to mind if I were assembling a “Make America Great Again” playlist, but no one asked me.

Finally, the Indiana tube sock known as “Mike Pence” emerged to introduce Trump, who apparently developed his “big heart” toward and “understanding” of Americans by building things with them — “skyscrapers and skylines,” Pence explained, which Trump completed by “standing shoulder to shoulder” with the people he employed. No, really. After some armpit fart noises about how Trump would get better trade deals from other countries and how we need a president “who digs coal,” Pence welcomed the man that the better-liberals-than-you in your Facebook feed regard as a threat no more worrisome than Hillary Clinton. It took Trump all of about five seconds to mention all the beautiful property he owns in Virginia and how he signs lots of paychecks in the commonwealth, before he proceeded into a distracted, 45-minute vortex that consisted mostly of scattered commentary on the sectarian drama unfolding within the Democratic Party. He cracked wise about Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, made fun of Tim Kaine for being a “weird little guy,” invoked BENGHAZI! and Pocahontas, and accused Clinton of being a “low-energy” candidate who needs to take lots of naps. I wasn’t aware that this was a thing with Clinton, but evidently Trump believes napping is detrimental to national security, a point he ought to take up with Ronald Reagan someday. The entire speech was an incoherent mess, as if Donald Trump’s brain were a Firefox window, and he sits at his desk every day shuttling between various Breitbart sites, YouTube, and Craigslist Casual Encounters, never bothering to wonder how he managed to wind up with 75 open tabs.

But the audience today didn’t care. In his own distracted way, Trump is a genius who understands that his supporters are simply bundles of dopamine receptors. All he needs to do is invoke BENGHAZI!, or the Second Amendment, or the importance of repealing the Johnson amendment, and he earns a room full of ecstatic eyerolls and jazz hands. During the “town hall” portion of the event — which consisted of three questions and a prayer — someone asked if Trump would promise to support Israel “100 percent” (whatever that means). Trump simply nodded and said “yes,” and the entire room went fucking bazonkers. He barely even needed to mention The Wall, except to promise that it would keep heroin out of New Hampshire and that it would be “as good looking as possible.” His biggest applause line, in fact, came when he griped about the fact that an enclosed hotel ballroom packed with 1200 bodies might get a little warm after two hours. Because he evidently doesn’t understand physics, Trump blamed the hotel itself for being inept — blurting out that he didn’t even know its name — before announcing that the owners “should be ashamed of themselves” and that if he were staying there, he’d skip out on the bill. That’s right: A man who aspires to live in the White House is now trying to earn Bad-Ass Points with his supporters by fantasizing about something equivalent to a dine-and-dash. And at the moment, this is a man who stands a 40 percent chance of winning in November.

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Were the Democratic Primaries Rigged?

[ 76 ] July 26, 2016 |

hrzgal.dnc

No:

I bring these examples up in light of the new WikiLeaks revelations about staffers of the Democratic National Committee and their attitudes toward this year’s Democratic nomination race. The disclosed e-mails have been depicted as showing a rigged system that systematically undermined Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

But even if you believe the worst interpretations of these e-mails, the evidence is pretty mild. What we see is DNC staffers trying to spin the media in favor of Hillary Clinton and to complain to each other about Sanders. One certainly does not get the impression that the DNC staff was impartial between Clinton and Sanders — they appear biased and unprofessional — but there’s hardly evidence they materially manipulated the contest.

And also no:

Wikileaks’s tweets conjured dark and menacing conspiracies, but these are not borne out by the emails themselves. Take the group’s claim that the “DNC knew of Hillary paid troll factory attacking Sanders online.” The highlighted email isn’t some secret communication laying out nefarious plots. It’s a summary of a panel discussion on Fox News Sunday.

But forget the emails for a second. The main problem with the notion that the DNC rigged the results for Clinton is that it requires one to assume the improbable. The DNC had no role or authority in primary contests, which are run by state governments. Clinton dominated the primaries. The DNC, through state parties, had a bit more influence over caucuses … where Sanders dominated Clinton.

None of the thousands of leaked emails and documents show the DNC significantly influencing the results of the nomination. Furthermore, if it is true that last fall Clinton campaign chair John Podesta tried but failed to have DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz sacked, the underlying premise of the entire WikiLeaks dump—that Wasserman Schultz machinated to deliver Clinton the nomination—is hard to believe.

The main direct consequences of the WikiLeaks dump have been the resignation of Wasserman Schultz—which will probably relieve the Clinton team as much as satisfy Sanders supporters—and tut-tutting from the press, which sees something nefarious in the DNC strategizing how to get favorable press or grousing about a campaign accusing it of corruption.

When the best evidence you have of a conspiracy is a not notably influential staffer making a dumb and offensive suggestion that was not acted on because it was dumb and offensive…there’s no conspiracy.

Kinky Linkin’

[ 49 ] July 25, 2016 |

Even this won’t get me clean after having watched the RNC

 

Here a few Monday links for your evening perusal:

  • OK, we may never completely solve the mystery that is the text on the sides of the Dr. Bronner’s soap bottles…but do we really want to?
  • My longtime internet pal and all-around awesome guy, Big Bad Bald Bastard talks about the scammier side of Trump and his supporters. They’ll cure your butt cancer! Oh no, wait: they are butt cancer.
  • Somebody has proven that “Atheism has failed!” Is there anything feminism can’t ruin? I mean, first Ghostbusters, now an entire philosophy? Bitches be busy.
  • The Republican convention boosted biz for a Cleveland dungeon. Lemme show you my shocked face. Oh no, that’s not my shocked face, that’s my resting smug and world-weary face. Let’s Make America Kinky !
  • I’ve got two new pieces up, “Defiance Creek” and “Menu.”

What are the sources of Trump’s support?

[ 132 ] July 25, 2016 |

h and t

I agree with Scott that polls taken a couple of days after a convention mean almost nothing in regard to predicting who will win an election that’s still more than three months away. I also agree with him that Clinton should still be considered a solid to heavy favorite because Trump appears to be both a uniquely awful and incompetent candidate (he still has nothing resembling a normal campaign organization, nor is there any evidence that he’s raising real money).

Still, we now have several recent polls which show Clinton and Trump essentially tied in regard to the national popular vote. And although this fact has in itself very little predictive significance, it’s still plenty depressing for other reasons.

There’s a famous garbled anecdote, misused by right wing pundits as a supposed example of out of touch left wing intellectuals failing to predict elections, regarding how Pauline Kael said she couldn’t understand how Nixon beat McGovern when everybody she knew voted for McGovern. OK, but . . . Donald Trump??? How is it possible that he’s polling even with Clinton at present? Potential explanations, from least to most disturbing:

(1) A general anti-establishment mood in the electorate, that’s hurting uber-establishment candidate HRC. To the extent this explains Trump’s popularity, then it’s like that somebody like Warren would be killing him.

(2) Low information partisan responses. Relative to the average person who posts or comments on political blogs, most people pay essentially no attention to the details of day to day politics, or the actual positions espoused by particular candidates. On this account, Trump’s support has little to do with anything about him other than that he’s not the Democrat Party’s candidate.

(3) Hatred of Clinton specifically. Part of this is a product of 25 years of GOP hysteria with its endless fake scandals, etc. Part of it is no doubt old fashioned misogyny. Part of it is that Clinton has shown poor judgment/a political tin ear on a number of issues, such as taking millions of dollars from banksters for giving a few speeches on the eve of her presidential run. I think one reason people swooned for Kaine so much on Saturday was simply that he wasn’t Clinton, and a lot of people are suffering from Clinton fatigue, for both bad and good reasons.

(4) Ethno-nationalist nativism, soft version. “I’m not a racist but . . .” (I hate PC, immigrants are taking our jobs, I hate the bilingual signs at Home Depot, yeah Trump says some bad things but Hillary” etc etc).

(5) Ethno-nationalist nativism, hard version. “I believe in white supremacy. If that makes me a racist then I guess I’m a racist.”

Obviously all these things are factors in the astonishing fact that at the moment nearly half the American electorate (and fully half of the electorate once you toss out votes for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein) is made up of people who say they’re going to vote for Trump. The extent to which the factors at the top of the list predominate determine whether something other than deep pessimism about the overall political situation is warranted. What that extent actually is I have no idea.

Trump Could Easily Win

[ 270 ] July 25, 2016 |

150827102252-donald-trump-july-10-2015-super-169

Yes, I know that the fundamentals are against Trump, like they are against any Republican candidate. But if there’s one thing we should take from the Republican National Convention, it’s that the racist disaster of it did not hurt him at all. The rapidly changing 538 forecast is scary, not because Trump is receiving a major post-convention bump right now, which is expected, but because there is literally nothing he could do that would convince most Republican voters not to vote for him. All the racism, all the complaining among the Republican elite about him, it all means nothing. The New Yorker story about the guy who actually wrote The Art of the Deal exposing what a complete psychopath that Trump is, it means nothing. Trump joking about having sex with his daughter and his history of womanizing, it means nothing to voters who talk about morals and sin.

In the end, I don’t see how this election looks much different than 2012, in that while it is likely that the Democrats will win, it’s far from guaranteed. It’s probably going to rely on the same close states that it usually does. Even an extremist racist unstable candidate like Donald Trump is going to win 45 percent of the vote. It’s going to be a fight to finish, perhaps not only for this election but for the future of the republic given Trump’s complete disdain for democratic norms. All hands on deck.

The Convention

[ 311 ] July 25, 2016 |

bernie

Watching a few minutes of Bernie Sanders’s speech to his supporters made me very worried about this convention. Not because of Sanders. But because many of his die-hard supporters who are at the convention hate Hillary. When he brings her name up, they still boo. What Clinton needs is a convention that is united and shows stability going forward into the election. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Bernie can’t control these people and they have no intention of being controlled. Some are probably going to jeer Hillary Clinton during her acceptance speech on Thursday. I think we are going to see a really divisive four days with a media narrative about an untrustworthy Hillary Clinton that can’t unite her party, even though the actual Bernie supporters sitting at home watching are rapidly coming around to voting for Clinton. This is very much not good news going forward to the last three months of this horrible election year.

Candidate Benefits From Convention Bounce

[ 59 ] July 25, 2016 |

Trump has eked past Hillary Clinton in the polling averages. This has led my Twitter feed to light up with consternation. But let’s keep some perspective, shall we? The Monday after the RNC should be the most favorable point for Trump. John McCain had a narrow lead in the Gallup tracking poll after the RNC and Dukakis had a double-digit one.

I wouldn’t say don’t panic, exactly, because any chance that Trump could win is pretty much a reason to panic, and it’s possible that he could win. But nothing about these polls suggests that Clinton doesn’t remain a heavy favorite. If Trump maintains this bounce a month from now, that’s a different story, but as of now it doesn’t mean very much.

DWS

[ 207 ] July 25, 2016 |

DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-FL, speaks at the Democratic National Committee's Womens Leadership Forum Issues Conference in Washington, DC on September 19, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

I guess I am just amazed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s determination to address the convention, even though she knows she is going to get booed and shouted down. I imagine she sees herself as a righteous figure and I’m sure she knows this is the pinnacle of her political career, but why would you put yourself through this for nothing? And why would the Clinton team be OK with this?

Maintenance!

[ 9 ] July 25, 2016 |

We’ll be down for maintenance for the next couple of hours.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 41

[ 16 ] July 24, 2016 |

This is the grave of Thurlow Weed.

2016-06-04 16.55.21 HDR

Thurlow Weed was a political kingmaker of the Whig Party. Born in 1797 in New York, Weed became involved in politics at a young age, first supporting DeWitt Clinton and then John Quincy Adams. He was elected to the New York state assembly in 1824, becoming a leader of the Anti-Masonic Party. He took over a series of newspapers and effectively became the boss of the New York Whigs during the 1830s. He was a major player in a series of Whig presidential nominees–Henry Clay in 1832, William Henry Harrison in 1840, Zachary Taylor in 1848, and Winfield Scott in 1852. He was originally close to Millard Fillmore so had hopes when Taylor died that Fillmore would see his policies through, but the new president proved quite susceptible to southern influence and Weed grew distant from him. With the Whigs’ collapse, Weed moved into the new Republican Party and worked to elect John C. Fremont in 1856. Typically for Weed’s ambitions, this ultimately failed. Weed was very close with William Seward and hoped to get him the 1860 Republican nomination. When Abraham Lincoln won it instead, both Seward and Weed were disappointed but supported the nominee. After the Civil War, like Seward, Weed turned far to the right, becoming an important supporter of Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction policies, which effectively made him politically irrelevant by 1868. Weed lived until 1882, but had little political pull after this.

Thurlow Weed is buried in Albany Rural Cemetery, Menands, New York.

Rejected blog post titles

[ 372 ] July 24, 2016 |

Debbie Downer.

The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee resigned Sunday after a trove of emails were disclosed showing DNC officials working to undermine the underdog presidential campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, said in a statement that she would resign from her post at the DNC at the end of this week’s convention. She said she would still open and close the gathering and would address the delegates.

Only 11 million more days until Election Day!

Choose your news here.

The current GOP response seems to be Trump tweeting about it as fast his Lackey in Charge of Social Media can type.

Cooperstown Day

[ 84 ] July 24, 2016 |

Watching that eternally glorious bottom clip again, I was thinking about Buck Showalter, a fine manager who’s done an excellent job in Baltimore. Part of me has always thought that it’s unfortunate that he didn’t get a chance to manage the dynasty he helped build just as Jeter was about to come up. But it’s also true that he did unconscionably screw up an elimination playoff game. He sort of did Grady Little one better, letting a completely gassed pitcher give up the leads in the 8th and the 11th innings. When Cone walked the immortal Doug Strange with the bases loaded to allow the Mariners to tie the game in the the 8th, it was his 147th pitch. (And as with Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, it wasn’t just the pitch count — any idiot could see that Cone had nothing left well before Strange came to the plate.) And then he let Jack McDowell — an above-average innings eater but nothing more than that — throw to 10 batters on one day’s rest, letting him blow the game in the 11th. And he did this despite having John Wetteland, a very good closer, available. (Yes, he had given up a grand slam in Game 4 and also gave up a couple runs in a non-save situation in Game 1, but you can’t overreact to a pitcher giving up a home run to peak Edgar Martinez, who in 1995 had an OPS north of 1.100.)

The decision to fire Grady Little was easy — when a guy indefensibly screws up an elimination playoff game and is nothing but a generic hack anyway, there’s no choice at all. But Showalter was a good manager, and while it was really dumb not to bring Wetteland (or Wickman, or Rivera earlier, or anyone who wasn’t as obviously done as Cone), I’m not entirely sure that his firing was fair. But you have to say it worked out well for the Yankees.

…good to see that Piazza’s overdue induction is making blogger and back acne analyst Murray Chass cry.

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