News from the Votemaster
And so, it is time for the annual tradition (at least, since John F. Kennedy) of pardoning the Turkey of the United States (TOTUS—yes, really). Like last year, President Obama actually pardoned two turkeys—Honest and Abe. He announced that Abe won the online competition to be officially named TOTUS, remarking that, "for months there has been a fierce competition between a bunch of turkeys trying to win their way into the White House." The President wasn't done with the one-liners; he also announced that Abe had been moved to an undisclosed location so he could "serve in the TOTUS line of succession."
Remarkably, the seemingly innocuous ceremony managed to irritate a lot of Americans, for one reason or another. Several liberal bloggers observed with frustration that Obama has pardoned two turkeys this year, but zero human beings. Meanwhile, Public Policy Polling (PPP) asked respondents about the decision to pardon two turkeys rather than one in 2014. 38% of Republicans said that the President was wrong to do so. As PPP observes, "that's a pretty clear sign that if you put Obama's name on something GOP voters are going to oppose it pretty much no matter what." .
This is not the first time a Democrat has gotten into political hot water thanks to tinkering with Thanksgiving traditions, however. In an effort to stimulate the economy during the Great Depression by creating more Christmas shopping time, Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up one week in 1939, 1940, and 1941. "Franksgiving," as it was called by critics, did not have an appreciable effect on the economy, but it did interfere with things like college football. The response back then was also decidedly partisan—Democrats favored the switch 52% to 48% while Republicans opposed it 79% to 21%. On November 26, 1941, the President finally gave up on the scheme and set the fourth Thursday in November as the official day (where it remains). (Z)
In an effort to get Latinos on board with their idea that you have to work hard and there are no free lunches, the Koch brothers are running a major effort to lure Latinos with free turkeys. Each turkey comes with a side of political propaganda. Project Libre, as it is called, operates out of churches in Florida (and eight other states). In return for the free turkeys, all people have to do is give the project their name, address, telephone number, and email address, and accept a small political leaflet. The Koch brothers think the Republican Party has done a poor job of converting Latinos to their brand of laissez-faire capitalism, so they are now trying to do the job themselves. The project is expected to cost more than $16 million.
Although the group is well funded and well organized, it may not be successful, as many of the poultry recipients do not seem to understand what the project is all about. For those who do, well, how many hearts and minds have been changed by a leaflet, a handful of robo-calls, some spam emails, and a large bird? Further, the turkey beneficiaries who are politically sophisticated may know that the Koch brothers poured money into two House races, trying to defeat two Latino representatives, Rep. Pete Gallego (D-TX) and former representative Jose Garcia (D-FL). Word of this may very well get out, negatively impacting the whole project. But as usual in politics, money talks, so the Kochs get to try their idea out. (V)
The Washington Post nailed it with the headline: "Plan A for GOP donors: Wait for Trump to fall. (There is no Plan B.)" The political network of the Koch brothers has no plans to take on Trump and neither does Karl Rove's super PAC, American Crossroads. Jeb Bush's super PAC raised $100 million, but none of it is being spent to take down Trump. Everyone is scared witless by The Donald. They are all praying that he self destructs, and quickly, since the Iowa caucuses are only 10 weeks away and nobody will be paying attention to politics until January. Part of the problem is that they are scared of succeeding. If they launch a massive, well-funded campaign to take him down, he might well break his pledge not to run as an independent, which would almost certainly mean Hillary Clinton would be elected President, so the Republicans are praying for Trump to self destruct.
Interviews with donors show that they are all convinced that when the voters go to the caucuses rooms or voting booths, they will come to their senses and vote for a more conventional politician. However, Republican polling guru Frank Luntz has conducted focus groups with Trump's supporters and is convinced nothing is going to make them change their minds—not even his past support for universal health care or his fine words for Hillary Clinton. As a consequence, the other candidates and the big donors are just holding their breath (and their money) and praying that Trump implodes on his own or gets bored with the whole thing and just walks away. (V)
With the Republican leadership so freaked out by the rise and staying power of Donald Trump, a new Reuters poll showing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) moving into second place must come as a relief—despite the fact that Cruz is widely detested by his Republican colleagues in the Senate. The widespread feeling is that as a Cuban-American, a sitting senator, and excellent debater, Cruz would do far better in the general election than Trump.
Note, however, that the sample size for the Reuters poll was just 191, so we will have to wait for other polls to confirm that Cruz is really #2. (V)
After angering many different constituencies, Donald Trump has now irritated the one group in America that you simply do not cross: Civil War historians (of which Z is one). The New York Times reports on a Civil War-themed plaque at one of The Donald's golf courses that reads:
Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot. The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as 'The River of Blood.'
It's a powerful image, but any Civil War historian would realize that it's absolute nonsense on half a dozen levels. For example, it would have been suicide to try to cross a river in the midst of a Civil War battle. Trump might consider reading about the Battle of Antietam, where Burnside's Bridge—though very narrow, and heavily covered by Confederate guns—was still judged by Union officers to be a better option than trying to ford the river. If Trump does not like reading, he might also consider consulting with Gary W. Gallagher, who happens to be the preeminent military historian of the Civil War today, and who works a little over an hour's drive from the golf course.
Of course, this is a fairly trivial issue, and would be a non-story if the Donald acknowledged the obvious error, or simply passed the blame to the course's designer or manager. Instead, following a pattern that is becoming standard for him, he doubled down. Declaring himself a "big history fan," Trump insisted that "numerous historians" have confirmed the story. "That was a prime site for river crossings," he insisted. "So, if people are crossing the river, and you happen to be in a civil war, I would say that people were shot—a lot of them." A lot of people also crossed Fifth Avenue in New York City while the war was underway—presumably it ran red with blood as well?
It has become clear that Trump demands factual accuracy from the media, and from other candidates, but does not hold himself to the same standard. Will the 35% or so of Republicans who support him continue to tolerate this? Perhaps. Will the general electorate, if Trump becomes the GOP candidate? Politicians often stretch and/or spin the truth, but there is a big difference between that and being unwilling to back down when caught red-handed. The latter is a very bad habit for a politician to acquire, as Richard Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson (among others) learned the hard way. (Z)
Well, he didn't use those exact words, but yesterday Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) did say that if the government passes a law that violates God's law, then "we are called to ignore that." Then he added: "When those two come in conflict, God's rules always win."
Statements like that go over well with evangelicals in Iowa, but less well with independents and Democrats. In a general election campaign, he is going to be hit hard by the Democrats asking whether his Justice Department would prosecute someone who violates federal law, claiming his interpretation of God's law overrules the federal law in question. For a potential Republican nominee to say that sometimes it is all right to violate federal law is probably not a wise thing to do. It opens a whole range of attacks on him. (V)
A new Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday puts Hillary Clinton at 51% in Iowa to Sen. Bernie Sanders 42%. Martin O'Malley gets just 4% and only 3% are undecided. That last number should worry Sanders the most. Even if he wins all the undecideds, that's not enough. He has to peel off some Clinton supporters and time is running short. The poll did show that Sanders has an astonishing 81% to 7% favorable ratio. His problem is that Clinton also has 81% favorable but 15% unfavorable. So it is a popular insurgent against an almost equally popular establishment candidate. (V)
In contrast to George W. Bush, who earned praise for his efforts to counteract anti-Muslim sentiment in America after the 9/11 attacks, the current GOP field has all been willing to embrace Islamophobia to various extents, with Donald Trump leading the way. They have thus helped to create a climate that is becoming potentially very dangerous for American Muslims. On Tuesday, David Wright III, the leader of an anti-Muslim group in Texas, posted to his Facebook page a list of Muslims whom he (incorrectly) believes supported the adoption of sharia law in the city of Irving. He included their home addresses, along with the observation that, "We should stop being afraid to be who we are! We like to have guns designed to kill people that pose a threat in a very efficient manner."
At best, the individuals who appear on that list will have to spend the next few weeks or months living anxiously, constantly looking over their shoulders. At worst, an innocent person or persons could get shot and/or killed. So, will we continue to hear talk of shutting down mosques and of how Muslims cannot be president, as it becomes clear the kind of environment this kind of talk is helping to create? And what will happen if a violent act does come to pass? The point is that the Paris backlash appears to be cresting rather than abating, with potentially profound consequences for American society, and for the 2016 campaign. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
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