Friday, April 28, 2017

Making the Case for 2020 Hillary Clinton

Ok, before I go any further, let me state unequivocally for the record that I believe Hillary Clinton ran one of the worst campaigns in modern political history. Her management was inept; her messaging misguided; and her character terribly flawed. Let’s put this into proper perspective: she lost to Donald Trump, for fuck’s sake! A colossal joke of a candidate who by all accounts should’ve lost to a chair. As the saying goes, the election was Clinton’s to lose...and she lost it. So why on Earth would I want her to run again in 2020? 

The answer is rather simple: I remain committed to the belief that Clinton would be an incredible president. And I believe she not only will run again, as her recent and outspoken re-launch onto the public stage indicates, but that she will also win. No, I’m not crazy. I just believe that history repeats itself. And for that we simply need to look to Richard Nixon.

It was 1960. The first televised presidential debate. Nixon refused make-up. John F. Kennedy, well, he was JFK. The battle pitted the young, charismatic Democratic upstart with the movie-star looks against the nervous, sweaty, 5 o’clock-shadowed, beady-eyed, prematurely-aged Republican. The rest is history. As is Nixon’s startling comeback eight years later to win not one but two presidential elections. Times change. Situations change. People change. Can Hillary? My money’s on yes.

Clinton is perhaps the most qualified candidate in history. A prestigious legal career, eight years as First Lady, another eight as U.S. Senator from New York and four years as Secretary of State. A die-hard progressive who voted 93% of the time with Sen. Bernie Sanders when both served together. And, she’s a woman...and it’s fucking time America is led by a woman. 

The key to the 2020 election is that Trump will no longer be a political outsider who can lie through his teeth 24/7. No more outlandish positions and pie-in-the-sky promises. That con-game can only work once. Next time he’ll be running on his record, not Clinton’s or Barack Obama’s, or his own bloviating, self-aggrandizing uber-hype. 

Voters will judge him on whether he delivered or not. Did they get their wall, and did Mexico pay for it? Did he fix immigration and “extreme vetting?” Did he “rid the world of Isis” as he’s already declared he’s doing? Did he prevent terror attacks on U.S. soil? Did he keep China, North Korea, Russia and Syria in check? Did he and Boy Wonder Jared Kushner achieve Israeli/Arab peace? Did he favorably renegotiate, or terminate, NAFTA? Did he get our NATO allies to “pay their fair share?” Did he bring back the factory and coal jobs? Did he give the poor and middle class their big tax cuts? Did he give them better and cheaper healthcare? Did the economy grow 3%+ annually? Did he reduce the debt and deficit? Did he create as many if not more jobs as Obama? Did he ‘drain the swamp’ or fill his cabinet with it? Did all the tough talk and bluster translate to action and results? In short, did he make their America ‘great again?’ 

To be sure, Trump’s biggest asset during the campaign was his masterful manipulation of his base through an endless barrage of big promises, lies and political rope-a-dope. But now these same qualities are his biggest liability. As Aaron Burr reminds Hamilton in the Broadway musical, “Winning was easy, governing’s harder.” It’s a lot more fun to promise the world as a candidate than to defend against having accomplished nothing after four years as president. 

Plus, a weakened Trump will more than likely be primaried by a slew of retreads like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker and John Kasich, as well as new challengers such as Nikki Haley, Paul Ryan, Sen. Ben Sasse (NE) or even another outsider billionaire like Marc Cuban. All of whom would do much of Clinton’s bidding for her. 

But if Trump succeeds in fulfilling his campaign promises and, more so, improves the lives of his voters, then he would likely win again. But his MAGA crowd—the sleeping beast who he roused off the couch and motivated, often with sexist, racist rhetoric, to vote for him—won’t have the same drive, passion and commitment for him if they end up disappointed and feeling conned. Some of them, like Kraig Moss, who I wrote about earlier in the week, have already jumped ship. Many millions more could follow. It could get very, very ugly for the man who, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll, already has the lowest approval rating (44%) in modern presidential history. 

Let’s keep in mind that Clinton won the popular vote by 3-million. Nothing to sneeze at, and certainly a strong foundation from which to build even further support these next three years, especially if Trump continues to struggle. And it’s not like Trump gave her a Reagan-like trouncing with his electoral college total either. While he loves to brag at how “massive” his win was, he snagged the presidency with just 306 electoral votes, among the lowest in modern history. Factor in FBI Director James Comey’s unprecedented last-minute politically-based clusterfuck, and Russia’s hack and overall influence in the election, and it’s not hard to understand how the Democrats’ heretofore rock-solid “blue wall” (Pa, MI, Wi, Mn) was lost by the thinnest of margins, giving Trump a squeaker of a victory.

If Clinton runs the first thing she’ll need to do is assemble a kick-ass team. No more Robby Mook, with his millennial naivete and obsession with useless data, or Huma Abedin, who’s saddled with Anthony Weiner’s humiliating legacy. 

Clinton needs to do whatever’s humanly possible, including begging, to get Bill’s old band back together: Paul Begala, James Carville and George Stephanopoulos. And throw in Obama’s brain, David Axelrod, for good measure. She also needs a few truly sharp, aggressive young strategic soldiers, such as Bakari Sellers for example, to assist with media and messaging. She also needs a War Room, like the one Bill had, to deftly and swiftly address each attack...and there’ll be plenty of them again. 

The next thing Clinton will need to do is study Trump like she’s never done before. Every tick. Every tell. Every position. His speeches, his rhythms, his overall appeal. She must painstakingly study what he did to connect so powerfully with the “Trump Democrats,” a constituency that should rightfully be hers. 

Lastly, she must look within. She must do an honest and forensic review of her many gaffes and flaws. She needs to successfully address the perceptions and criticisms that she’s entitled, disconnected, unlikable and shrill. She needs to relate. Needs to win over more women. And, for God’s sake, more men. And Southerners. And those in the Heartland. They all used to vote Democrat, and they can do so again. Like the man’s the economy, stupid. Still is.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

This Trump Voter Lost His Son To Drugs. Now, Trump's Lost Kraig Moss To Lies.

Kraig Moss is not your typical Donald Trump supporter. The grieving father of a 24-year-old son, Rob, who died of a heroin overdose in 2014, Moss became known last year as “The Trump Troubadour,” traveling to 45 campaign rallies where he played guitar, sang songs and held out hope that the Republican nominee would win the election and fulfill his promise to create programs to combat the nation’s drug epidemic and help the young people whose lives it’s been swallowing up in record numbers.

Unfortunately, Moss gave Trump his heart, and the 45th president of the United States broke it.
The love affair began at a Jan. 15, 2016 rally in Urbandale, Iowa. Trump, directing his comments at Moss, said:

The biggest thing we can do in honor of your son ... we have to be able to stop it. I know what you went through.” He told his supporters, And he’s a great father. I can see it. And your son is proud of you.” 

But what ultimately changed for Moss was his disappointment with Trump’s American Health Care Act, the GOP’s replacement for the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which was presented to the public last month but failed to win support as part of Trump’s repeal and replace effort. What Moss and others like him were expecting failed to materialize. Of most concern was the GOP’s plan to drop the mandate that Medicaid cover basic mental health and addiction services for an estimated 1.3 million people in states where Medicaid was expanded under Obamacare.

It was a devastating broken promise that struck way too close to home for the construction business owner who had sold his equipment and stopped his mortgage payments to fund his Trump travels.

“From the rally in Urbandale when he spoke to me directly I was convinced Mr. Trump was the candidate for me,” said Moss. “I believed every word Trump said during his campaign, same as millions of other supporters, when he said he’d ‘make America great again.’ It wasn’t until I saw his proposed health care bill and read reports on it’s inclusions that I realized it was nothing like the bill he promised, including lower deductibles, less overall cost and better coverage. And, provisions for substance-abuse and treatment. This was the first indication he had lied.”

The genius of Trump is that he succeeding in pulling folks like Moss into his political orbit, many to the point of brainwashing. People who, prior to 2016, were not just apolitical but apathetic, disenfranchised and feeling helpless. They held the general belief that all politicians are the same (i.e. self-serving liars) and that their vote doesn’t matter. Trump masterfully exploited and manipulated this indifference and anger through inflammatory, often racially-charged rhetoric and convinced them their vote does matter. His victory proved it.

“I’ve never voted before,” said Moss. “Never registered and never voted. Since my son died I had done nothing. Only worked enough to get by. Stayed at home and did not socialize, only to play a concert for the Rob Moss Heroin Awareness Tour. When I heard of Trump’s desire to stop or slow down the flow of drugs into this country I started listening more to what he had to say.”

Trump’s supporters are typically drawn to his charm, celebrity and outsider bluster, but for Moss his interest in the campaign was singular.

“In my mind, Mr. Trump was the answer to help the heroin epidemic in this country.” 

And like many Trump supporters, Moss held his nose and overlooked much of what the candidate stood for that he did not agree with, including his attacks on the media; his mocking of a disabled reporter; that women should be “punished” for abortions; his proposed Muslim ban; and his plan to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.

“I absolutely wished Mr. Trump would revisit his deportation plan and provide amnesty to those immigrants who are in this country for a long time and have not committed a crime, and say “Welcome To Our Country.” 

But despite his being lied to over an incredibly personal issue, Moss is not yet ready to claim buyer’s remorse.

“If you ask me am I disappointed I voted for President Trump I say ‘no.’ I didn’t care for Hillary’s platform. There are however, 100’s of thousands of supporters who feel as I do...not happy with his actions so far but not wishing we voted for Hillary.”

But Moss says he would not vote for Trump again.

“The more I think about what Trump tried to do I drift further away. The more he changes his position on China, Mexico and who’s paying for the wall...changing statements and game plans overnight...he’s just a politician con that is commander-in-chief.”

And give Trump time with the rest of his MAGA crowd. It’s not quite 100 days into his nascent presidency and he’s already turning off formerly loyal supporters like Moss. So it’s not hard to fathom that a year, two or four from now millions like him could fully jump off the Trump train.

A fascinating aspect of this abandonment, and it’s potential impact on a Trump 2020 re-election campaign, is that many former diehard Trump supporters like Moss share a passion for progressives Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA), a strange phenomenon because these politicians couldn’t be further in their ideology and positions from Trump.

“I have tried to have people take a good listen to Elizabeth Warren because she gets it (health care),” Moss explained. “I was also attracted to Bernie’s health care ideas but with the “socialism” label everyone gave him I didn’t give him thought. But I think he got a raw deal from the Democratic Party. He didn’t have a chance.” 

It’s understandable how politicians like Sanders and Warren could, on the surface, appeal to Trump voters. All three are unconventional outspoken firebrands who aren’t afraid to attack the mainstream. Their populist messaging is similar and resonates with working-class Americans; the ‘forgotten middle-class.’ But the rich vs. poor theme is where the similarities end. What Trump and the Republican Party stand for goes against every core belief of progressives and democrats on critical subjects including women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, civil/human rights, health care, education, the environment, immigration, taxes and foreign policy. Which is why it’s puzzling to hear anyone who voted for Trump claim, as many did after the election, that ‘I would’ve voted for Bernie had he been the Democratic nominee.’ 

Whether or not these folks would actually pull the lever for a progressive or a ‘democratic socialist’ in 2020 remains to be seen.

And what about Moss? Does he have any idea who, if anyone, he might vote for in 2020?

“Whoever I support I will do so as passionately as I did for Trump... with my son Rob riding by my side every step of the way.

And, he reminds us, “I like Bernie Sanders and I love Elizabeth Warren.”

Those are powerful words that could spell disaster for Trump.