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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Cable President

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's use of mass media.

Ashley Parker and Robert Costa report at The Washington Post:
During a small working lunch at the White House last month, the question of job security in President Trump’s tumultuous White House came up, and one of the attendees wondered whether press secretary Sean Spicer might be the first to go.
The president’s response was swift and unequivocal. “I’m not firing Sean Spicer,” he said, according to someone familiar with the encounter. “That guy gets great ratings. Everyone tunes in.”

Some White House officials — who early on would appear on TV to emphasize points to their boss, who was likely to be watching just steps away in his residence — have started tuning into Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” because they know the president habitually clicks it on after waking near dawn.

But Trump’s habits have consequences far beyond being the quirky, unchanging ways of a 70-year-old man who keeps an eye on cable as he goes about his day, as his confidants describe his behavior. Foreign diplomats have urged their governments’ leaders to appear on television when they’re stateside as a means of making their case to Trump, and U.S. lawmakers regard a TV appearance as nearly on par with an Oval Office meeting in terms of showcasing their standing or viewpoints to the president.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Trump, College America, and Non-College America

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the demographic divides of the 2016 campaign.  Those divides are evident in the latest ABC-WP survey on Trump approval ratings:

White women college grads....40%
White women, not col. grad....51%
Men college graduates............54%
Men, not college grads............65%

From Defying the Odds:
The gap between college America and non-college America went beyond economic issues. It literally extended from birth to death.

In 2009, only 8 percent of college-educated white women were unwed when they gave birth, compared with 34 percent of white women with some college, and 51 percent of those with no more than a high school diploma. A 2015 survey found that 88 percent of children with least one college-graduate parent were living in a two-parent household, compared with 59 percent of those whose parents had only high school diploma and 54 percent of those whose parents did not finish high school.

There was a rise in the mortality of middle-aged (45 to 64) non-Hispanic whites between 1999 and 2013. (African Americans and Hispanics saw mortality rates fall.) This change stemmed mostly from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis. Mortality for those with a high school diploma or less increased by 134 per 100,000. Those with some college saw little change while with a bachelor’s degree or more saw death rates fall by 57 per 100,000.There was a similar pattern among younger people. The death rate for whites between the ages of 25 and 34 rose between 1990 and 2014. For those with a college degree, the increase was a modest 4 percent. For those without a high school education, it was 23 percent.

In other words, non-college families were less stable than college families, and they disproportionately suffered from substance abuse and other pathologies that showed up in death statistics. Accordingly, working class whites had a more negative view of American society than other groups. 

Least Popular

Dan Balz and Scott Clement report at The Washington Post:
President Trump nears the 100-day mark of his administration as the least popular chief executive in modern times, a president whose voters remain largely satisfied with his performance, but one whose base of support has not expanded since he took the oath of office, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Trump’s first months in office have produced some tangible successes. Beyond the continued enthusiasm of his most loyal supporters, a small majority of Americans see him as a strong leader. A bigger majority approves of his efforts to pressure U.S. companies to keep jobs in this country. Those who say the economy is getting better outnumber those who say it’s getting worse by the biggest margin in 15 years in Post-ABC polling.
But the president’s balance sheet overall tilts toward the negative. Majorities of Americans say Trump has not accomplished much during his first months as president. Meanwhile, he shows little improvement on his temperament and honesty, and while he’s gained ground on empathy, over 6 in 10 still say he does not understand the problems of people like them.
Mark Murray reports at NBC:
Forty-five percent of respondents in the survey believe Trump is off to a poor start, with an additional 19 percent who say it's been "only a fair start." That's compared with a combined 35 percent who think the president's first three months in office have been either "good" or "great."
Trump's 100th day in office takes place on April 29.
By contrast, in the exact same question from April 2009 NBC/WSJ poll, 54 percent of Americans said that Barack Obama's first 100 days had gotten off to either a good or great start, while 25 percent said they were fair, and 21 percent called them poor.
Trump's overall job-approval rating stands at 40 percent — down four points from February. It's the lowest job-approval rating for a new president at this 100-day stage in the history of the NBC/WSJ poll.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


In Defying the Odds, we compare the 2016 campaign to the 1992 race, pointing out that both featured a Clinton, a Bush, and a bombastic billionaire.  But Trump not only resembled Perot in certain respects, he also drew on the same issues as Pat Buchanan.
Within his own party, Bush faced an unexpectedly strong primary challenge from columnist Pat Buchanan. After growing up in Washington, DC, earning degrees at Georgetown and Columbia, working as a White House aide in two Republican administrations, and logging many hours on the television talk-show circuit, Buchanan was yet another insider who took up outsiderism. Specifically, he became a spokesperson for a faction of conservatism that disdained internationalism and free trade, and even flirted with Holocaust denial. Bush’s support for NAFTA and Israel outraged him. “He is yesterday and we are tomorrow,” Buchanan said in his announcement speech. “He is a globalist and we are nationalists. He believes in some Pax Universalis; we believe in the Old Republic. He would put American's wealth and power at the service of some vague New World Order; we will put America first.”After the Los Angeles riots, he placed much of the blame for disorder on undocumented immigrants: “foreigners are coming into this country illegally and helping to burn down one of the greatest cities in America.” His solution will sound familiar to those who saw the 2016 campaign: “If I were President, I would have the (Army) Corps of Engineers build a double-barrier fence that would keep out 95% of the illegal traffic. I think it can be done.”
Buchanan also saw the budding desperation of the white working class. In his 1992 convention address, he said:
There were the workers at the James River Paper Mill, in the frozen North Country of New Hampshire–hard, tough men, one of whom was silent, until I shook his hand. Then he looked up in my eyes and said, “Save our jobs!” There was the legal secretary at the Manchester airport on Christmas Day who told me she was going to vote for me, then broke down crying, saying, “I’ve lost my job, I don’t have any money; they’re going to take away my daughter. What am I going to do?”
The social and economic forces driving the two Americas apart had been brewing for a long time. But why did they have such impact in 2016, and not ten years earlier? One reason was the Great Recession, which slammed working-class communities, and whose effects lingered long after its official conclusion. In 2016, Pat Buchanan looked back at his 1992 race and told journalist Jeff Greenfield: “Those issues started maturing. Now we’ve lost 55,000 factories. … When those consequences came rolling in, all of a sudden you’ve got an angry country. We were out there warning what was coming.

Abortion, Identity Politics, and the Democratic Party

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 election, pointing out that the Democratic Party has moved to the left, particularly on social issues such as abortion.

At The Atlantic, Emma Green spoke with Michael Wear, former director of Barack Obama’s 2012 faith-outreach efforts, who said:  "The Democratic Party used to welcome people who didn’t support abortion into the party. We are now so far from that, it’s insane."

Mr. Sanders and the new leadership of the Democratic National Committee touched a party sore spot this week when they took their “Unity Tour” to Omaha to rally for a mayoral candidate who opposes abortion rights. Mr. Sanders, repurposing the themes of his presidential bid, told a crowd of about 6,000 on Thursday night that the candidate, Heath Mello, 37, would be a future star in the Democratic Party who could help break the grip of big money on the nation’s politics.
Identity politics reared its head, and pro-abortion forces attacked, forcing party chair Tom Perez to backtrack.
By Friday afternoon, Mr. Perez had issued a far more strongly worded statement. “I fundamentally disagree with Heath Mello’s personal beliefs about women’s reproductive health,” Mr. Perez said. “It is a promising step that Mello now shares the Democratic Party’s position on women’s fundamental rights. Every candidate who runs as a Democrat should do the same because every woman should be able to make her own health choices. Period.”
In an interview on Friday, Mr. Perez further toughened his language, saying he respected those Democrats who “have personal beliefs” against abortion rights but warning them not to pursue such policies in office. “If they try to legislate or govern that way, we will take them on,” he said.

Bernie Is Popular, Bannon Is Not

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the improbable presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders.

Jonathan Easley reports at The Hill:
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) is the country’s most popular active politician, underscoring his importance to the Democratic Party as it seeks to rebuild in the wake of a disastrous 2016 election cycle.
Sanders is viewed favorably by 57 percent of registered voters, according to data from a Harvard-Harris survey provided exclusively to The Hill. Sanders is the only person in a field of 16 Trump administration officials or congressional leaders included in the survey who is viewed favorably by a majority of those polled.
White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon is far and away the least popular political figure in the poll, with only 16 percent viewing him favorably, compared with 45 percent having a negative view of him.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Stranger Things: Policy and Politics during the First 100 days of the Trump Administration.


A Twitter president.

An unpopular president:

First Quarter Presidential Job Approval Averages, Elected Presidents Since World War II

A polarizing president

Health Care

Tax Reform