Monday, February 29, 2016

An Open Letter to (and Winning Campaign Theme For) Hillary Clinton

Dear Madam Secretary:

The conventional wisdom at this point has you in an ultimate head-to-head match-up with Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States. Given that Super Tuesday will certainly bring you closer than ever to the Democratic nomination, you're going to need a simple, clear and strong campaign theme that can effectively counter that of the presumptive Republican nominee, who's been campaigning since June to "Make America Great Again" (meaning, America is not great now.).

Not only is Trump's slogan negative and uninspiring, it's simply not true. So how about turning his words against him with a more positive, patriotic and uplifting version that proudly declares that we're the greatest nation in the world with even brighter days ahead: "Making America Even Greater!"

"Making America Even Greater!" establishes for voters a crystal clear contrast between the two campaigns. It gives them a choice between pessimism and optimism; discouragement and inspiration; failure and success. A message that continues the hope and change mantra delivered so effectively by Barack Obama in 2008.

I'm sorry, but "Fighting For Us" doesn't cut it. It's dull and spiritless. You're so much more transcendent than that. Your campaign needs an effective bumper-sticker that perfectly sums up who you are and what your candidacy is all about. Every time Trump tells voters he'll make America great again, you'll be telling them we're already great and getting greater. That you'll be leading them to an exciting future, not back to America's dark, ugly past.

"Making America Even Greater!" It's a winner. Take it. It's my little gift to you.  

(by the way, I don't work for you, but I should (and would)).

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Here's How Donald Trump Could Actually Win the Presidency

I have to admit, I've been dead wrong about Donald Trump's unprecedented candidacy. I had predicted by now he'd be long gone. That Jeb Bush would win the nomination. And why? Because even though I disagree with Republicans on virtually everything, I held out that the party's voters would eventually get serious, turn off the salacious Trump reality show and, as they did in years past with candidates such as John McCain and Mitt Romney, support a serious moderate who's put forth substantive policy proposals.

I also gave Republican voters more credit than they apparently deserve in assuming they'd ultimately reject Trump for his ad hominem attacks, racist comments and rude, dismissive behavior targeting, for example, Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants, blacks, women, Jews, war heroes, the disabled and even the Pope. I cringed when I heard him at rallies use words like shit, fuck and motherfucker. Almost certainly, I thought, this would accelerate his demise. Conservatives would surely not nominate someone with R-rated rallies, right?

Furthermore, right up through Saturday, I believed that the South Carolina primary would be the place where Trump's bubble would finally burst. I was confident that, in the state where good 'ole Southern evangelicals comprise more than two-thirds of the voter turnout, the bloviating billionaire would be soundly kicked to the curb over his divorces, infidelity, Bible misquote, ethnic ban, 9/11 lie, profanities and, as the Pope pointed out, decidedly un-Christian-like views. But again he won. By an impressive 10 points. The God-fearing folk of South Carolina blessed him with a clear victory.

To be sure, it certainly looks likely at this point that little can stop Trump from winning the nomination. If South Carolina is a barometer of what's to come, it's hard to imagine much of the remaining Bible Belt, the Midwest, the Great Plains and the West not getting behind him. But let's not stop at the GOP nomination. Is it possible that Trump could actually win in a general election against either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders? 

The Republican Party has always had a large base of white, blue-collar, uneducated voters. And let's face it, a lot of these people may not be the most racially tolerant (I'm being kind). Fortunately for Democrats, many of them believed their votes were meaningless, and so they typically stayed home on election day. Which might explain why just 50-55% of eligible American voters actually make it to the polls in presidential elections.

To be fair, there are millions of blue-collar, low-income, uneducated Democrats who choose not to vote either. But to stir up the masses to vote, the right has Trump, and he's winning. The left's grass roots messenger is Bernie Sanders, and he is not. Trump's anti-establishment, inflammatory, racist rhetoric has fired up these dormant voters like nothing we've seen in history. But while Sanders' talk of "revolution" has indeed grabbed the hearts and votes of millennials, his "Democratic Socialism" message is not resonating beyond these young idealogues. Which creates a plausible scenario for Trump's path to the White House.

As Ezra Klein wrote after Saturday's primary results, "Donald Trump's run for president has been so wild, so strange, so entertaining, that we've stopped noticing -- or maybe just grown tired of pointing out -- what a dangerous force he is in American politics. And for awhile, that seemed fine -- everyone knew Trump couldn't win, he didn't have a chance, this was all just a big joke. But it isn't a joke. He won huge in New Hampshire. He won huge in South Carolina. This is the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. And he's a dangerous personality perched atop an ugly ideology. It's time to stop laughing."

Over the past several elections, both parties have consistently put tremendous resources into their get-out-the-vote campaigns. But with Trump, this year's record-breaking GOP turnouts could prove to be a game-changing, history-making phenomenon that lands Trump in the Oval Office. And that should make tens of millions of Democrats, Republicans and Independents very, very scared.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

An Open Letter to Millennials: Bernie Sanders Will Break Your Heart


Let's turn the clock back to 2008. Millions of young people were swooning over Barack Obama, a hip, cool, black first-term Senator from Illinois who, in his bid for the presidency, tantalized them with visions of hope and change. For his infectious optimism and promises of a new, united America he was rewarded with a resounding victory over his Republican opponent John McCain: 365-173 electoral votes and 53%-46% of the popular vote.

But leading up to that historic win, the Democratic primary was a real slug fest. While Obama took about 15% more delegates than rival Hillary Clinton, it was Clinton who won the popular vote. It was a truly ugly battle. I can't begin to tell you how many verbal brawls I got into with rabid Obamacon friends who were so drunk on the Kool-aid that they could neither understand or accept my support of Hillary.

Wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, they leaped head-first into the Obama pool while at the same time drowning in their Hillary vitriol. And their hostility towards her, and those who supported her, grew with each stirring Obama speech. The more he became this transformational political figure, the more she became a tired, shrill symbol of the past.

But the years passed and the hope and change soon turned into anger and disappointment. The progressives bristled at Obama's stand on marriage equality. That the rich got richer. That he was too militaristic. That he caved too quickly and easily to Republicans on the budget and key elements of his healthcare proposal. While the right called him a socialist, the left accused him of being too conservative. He broke their hearts.

Which brings us to Bernie Sanders. The new cool kid in school. The one who inexplicably excites you millennials, and whom you believe transcends politics, despite his establishment credentials as a 25-year Washington insider. You love him. Yet you hate Hillary despite the fact that for decades she's been a passionate supporter of myriad progressive causes including marriage equality, paid family leave, a woman's right to choose, universal pre-kindergarten, universal healthcare and gun control.

And that "Bern" you've been "feeling" has made you quite nasty. The social media smear campaign against Clinton has become so toxic and sexist that Sanders himself had to tell the bullies to back off this week.

I get your "anti-establishment" fervor, and I can certainly appreciate your passion and idealistic view of the world at this early stage in your voting life. But I'm baffled by your enthusiastic support of a shrill, fairly dull, wonkish 74-year-old white-haired Jewish socialist from Vermont with a grating Brooklyn accent... (full disclosure: I'm a NY Jew)...who rants about income-redistribution, breaking up banks and free health care and college education for all. To borrow from my (also Jew) pal Dave, Sanders is that loud curmudgeonly uncle that you hope doesn't corner you on Passover to ask why you're dating a non-Jew, don't have children yet or chose art over medicine.

I hate to burst your bubble, but Bernie Sanders will never win a general election to become president of the United States. And it's highly unlikely that, after an expected victory in his neighboring state of New Hampshire Tuesday, he'll have any meaningful nomination juice. But if he did ever make it to the Oval Office he'd break your heart just as Obama did. He'll either cave under Republican pressure and/or shift to the center to compromise. And his "progressiveness" will quickly start to look like, well, the behavior of every other career politician who has to play the dirty game of politics.

Monday, February 08, 2016

An Open Letter to Independents: Can You Really Be That 'Undecided'?

Oh, you independents! For decades now you've been the hot girl at the party. Those highly coveted 'undecided' folks who at the last minute will finally figure out who you prefer and become the critical votes that tilt an election to one candidate or the other. According to polls, as many as 43% of Americans are political independents.

But this phenomenon confounds me. In fact, I think it's 100% bogus. I find the concept of 'undecideds' fundamentally disingenuous. Sorry, but I think you're nothing more than a bunch of attention-seekers who drag candidates, the media, your friends, family and co-workers into one very long ass-kissing marathon until election day. And you love every minute of it.

With the exception every couple of decades of a grass-roots, doomed-from-the-start third-party run at the White House, America operates under a two-party system: Republican and Democrat. And at no time in history has our political system been more dysfunctional, more polarized and with the two parties further apart on just about every single domestic, global and social issue. Given these diametric differences in core beliefs, is it really that hard for you guys to choose sides?

You either believe that all people, including gays, have a right to love and marry, or you don't. You either believe that a woman's body belongs to her, and that it's her choice to have an abortion, or you don't. You either believe in the separation of church and state or you don't. You either believe that guns kill people and that we need more regulation, or you don't. You either believe in climate change or you don't. You either believe in immigration, including Muslims, or you don't. You either believe that no one should work for less than $15/hour or you don't. You either believe in affordable health care and education for all, or you don't. You either believe in government helping the needy, or you don't. You either believe that America's role in the world is one of isolationism, or you don't. I could go on.

So why the meandrous internal debate? Why all the protracted soul-searching? Are you guys so out of touch with your own core beliefs and values that you really can't decide between Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders... and Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or the other Republicans, even if ideologically the two sides are in different galaxies?  Are you really going to wake up November 8, 2016 and think, "Ya know what? I was gonna vote for Cruz, but I really am for aiding the poor, the sick, the needy...and believe in a woman's right to choose and same-sex marriage, so, I'm actually gonna vote for Hillary!"

Grow up. Pick a side. Stand for something. For someone. And then spend this year helping that person get elected.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

It's Official: Donald Trump is a Loser!

Donald Trump, the New York billionaire seeking the Republican nomination for president, achieved something monumental in Monday night's Iowa caucuses. He became the very thing he most despises: a loser. With Texas Sen. Ted Cruz winning 28% of the vote, Trump's 24% narrowly beat  Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for second place by one point. So much for all the polling, which Trump had obsessively been citing every three seconds.

To be sure, voter turnout was huge, at record levels. About 50% more Iowans braced the nighttime cold to get in on the action. That's a good thing for our Democracy. The more people who engage in our political process the more effective and inclusive it will be. And yes, as in-the-tank-for-Trump conservatives like MSNBC's Joe Scarborough have been pointing out, he garnered the most votes in the history of this state's caucuses save for Cruz himself. But Cruz won, not Trump, and Rubio essentially also achieved "the most" votes except for Cruz. So in the context of the totals, Trump achieved nothing special except grab a proportionate slice of the record turnout as did his more viable opponents.

And why was there record turnout? The conventional wisdom prior to Monday held that Trump was so wildly popular that he would be drawing tens of thousands of Iowans off the couch and into the caucuses for the first time. People so angry, so fed up, so ready for "something different" that this would be an election like no other. Quite the opposite could also be said though. That Trump so angered and offended the collective intelligence of the good people of Iowa that they got off that couch, alright, but to ensure that he wouldn't win.

As I've been saying for months, Trump is an embarrassing sideshow. A modern day Morton Downey Jr. A carnival-barking agitator, spewing hate-filled racist rhetoric, not a mainstream politician with substantive policy proposals. And while it's been fun for Iowans and others to pack arenas to experience The Donald Trump Reality Show, as evidenced last night, it's not translating to victory. 

So what about New Hampshire? Unless Jeb Bush pulls off a miracle and rises up from the ashes (which I still believe is a strong possibility), the smart money's on Trump fading into oblivion from this point forward, with Rubio taking the Granite State's contest next week. From there, Cruz will win South Carolina, and then it'll be a tough battle between the two "non-establishment" Senators thereafter.

Trump will soon figure out a way to exit the race--based on some typically self-aggrandizing, truth-stretching gibberish--and go back to doing what he does best: borrow the shit out of other people's money to slap his ubiquitous brand on gauche skyscrapers, ugly clothing and anything else he can license. Maybe even file a bankruptcy or two and get divorced again. But no matter the spin, he's still a loser. The thing he hates most. There's nothing more delicious than a Trump concession speech.