Hillary sharpens — Trump softens — Philly suburbs — Painting the opponent as extremist, volatile, clueless, unfit, dangerous

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By Charles Krauthammer
Opinion writer

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If you are the status quo candidate in a change election in which the national mood is sour and two-thirds of the electorate think the country is on the wrong track, what do you do? Attack. Relentlessly. Paint your opponent as extremist, volatile, clueless, unfit, dangerous. Indeed, Hillary Clinton’s latest national ad, featuring major Republican politicians echoing that indictment of Donald Trump, ends thus: “Unfit. Dangerous. Even for Republicans.”

That was the theme of Clinton’s famous “alt-right” speech and of much of her $100 million worth of ads.

Problem is, it’s not working.

Over the past month, Trump’s new team, led by Kellyanne Conway, has worked single-mindedly to blunt that line of attack, on the theory that if he can just cross the threshold of acceptability, he wins. In an act of brazen rebranding, they set out to endow him with stature and empathy.

Stature was acquired in Mexico, whose president inexplicably gave Trump the opportunity to stand on the world stage with a national leader and more than hold his own. It’s the same stature booster Sen. Barack Obama pulled off when he stood with the French president at a news conference in Paris in 2008.

That was part one: Trump the statesman. Part two: the kinder gentler Trump.

Nervy. Can you really repackage the boasting, bullying, bombastic, insulting, insensitive Trump into a mellow and caring version? With two months to go? In a digital age in which every past outrage is preserved on imperishable video?

Turns out, yes. How? Deflect and deny — and pretend it never happened. Where are they now — the birtherism, the deportation force, the scorn for teleprompters, the mocking of candidates who take outside money? Down the memory hole.

Orwell was wrong. You don’t need repression. You need only the sensory overload of an age of numbingly ephemeral social media. In this surreal election season, there is no past.

Clinton ads keep showing actual Trump sound bites meant to shock. Yet her numbers are dropping, his rising.
How? Trump never goes on the defensive. He merely creates new Trumps. Hence:

1. The African American blitz. It’s a new pose and the novelty shows. Trump is not very familiar with the language. He occasionally slips, for example, into referring to “ the blacks.” And his argument that African Americans inhabit a living hell and therefore have nothing to lose by voting for him hovers somewhere between condescension and insult.

But, as every living commentator has noted, the foray into African American precincts was not aimed at winning black votes but at countering Trump’s general image as the bigoted candidate of white people.

Result? A curious dynamic in which Clinton keeps upping the accusatory ante just as Trump keeps softening his tone — until she finds herself way over the top, landing in a basket of deplorables, a phrase that will haunt her until Election Day. (Politics 101: Never attack the voter.)

2. The immigration wobble. A week of nonstop word salad about illegal immigration left everyone confused about what Trump really believes. Genius. The only message to emerge from the rhetorical fog is that he is done talking about deportation and/or legalization. The very discussion is off the table until years down the road.

Case closed. Toxic issue detoxified.

Again, that’s not going to win him the Hispanic vote. But that wasn’t the point. The point was to soften his image in the Philadelphia suburbs, pundit shorthand for the white college-educated women that Republicans have to win (and with whom Trump trails Romney 2012 by 10 points). Which brings us to:

3. The blockbuster child-care proposal. Unveiled Tuesday, it is liberalism at its best, Big Government at its biggest: tax deductions, tax rebates (i.e., cash) and a federal mandate of six weeks of paid maternity leave. The biggest entitlement since, well, Obamacare.

But wait. Didn’t Trump’s acolytes assure us that he spoke for those betrayed by the sold-out, elitist GOP establishment that for years refused to stand up to Obama’s overweening mandates, Big Government profligacy and budget-busting entitlements?
No matter. That was yesterday. There is no past. Nor a future — at least for Ivankacare. It would never get through the GOP House.
Nor is it meant to. It is meant to signal what George H.W. Bush once memorably read off a cue card. “Message: I care.”

And where do you think Trump gave this dish-the-Whigs cradle-to-college entitlement speech? Why, the Philadelphia suburbs!

Can’t get more transparent than that. Or shameless. Or brilliant.

And it’s working.

Read more from Charles Krauthammer’s archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/clinton-sharpens-trump-softens-hes-rising-shes-falling/2016/09/15/81d57536-7b6c-11e6-bd86-b7bbd53d2b5d_story.html?utm_term=.dc3aa435de09

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Hillary’s Risky ‘Deplorables’ Strategy

Behind her comments: a sea change in how Democrats really think they can win.

September 15, 2016

Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” moment blew up on the campaign trail last weekend like the major gaffe everyone had been waiting for. Donald Trump had new ammunition for the home stretch — a moment echoing Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comment that made clear just how much he disdained a wide swath of America. The attack line was clear: Clinton had just needlessly maligned, even thrown overboard, millions of white working-class voters.

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Yet Clinton only half walked it back—and the Clinton campaign overall appears happy to keep talking about Trump’s most loathsome supporters. This might all be a mistake on her part, a blunder followed by a refusal to back down. More likely, in such a thoroughly data-driven operation, it’s a strategy — a calculated gamble that represents a new turn in American politics. By squarely siding with civil rights activists who demand that racism be forcefully confronted, she’s making clear that she views her path to victory doesn’t run through the white working-class vote. Rather, she’s making a bet that the makeup of 21st century America allows her to do something no Democratic nominee, not even Barack Obama, has done before: win the White House without winking at white grievance.

This marks a big shift for the Democrats. You can see how big by traveling back to 1992, contrasting Hillary Clinton’s “Basket of Deplorables” moment with Bill Clinton’s famous “Sister Souljah” moment. With race relations in America a tinderbox, Bill Clinton stood up at Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition conference and tackled the issue of race relations. And what he delivered — in front of a crowd of America’s most influential black leaders — was a blunt appeal to white people.

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Bill Clinton took advantage of the fact that he addressed the Rainbow Coalition one day African-America rapper-activist Sister Souljah. She had become a lightning rod for criticism after glib comments about the deadly riots sparked by the Rodney King verdict that, if taken literally, condoned homicide. (“I mean, if black people kill black people everyday, why not have a week and kill white people?” she said.) Clinton condescendingly scolded the room for having invited her. “Her comments before and after Los Angeles were filled with the kind of hatred that you do not honor today,” he said. After digging up an earlier comment in which she said, “If there are any good white people, I haven’t met them,” Clinton shot back, “If you took the words ‘white’ and ‘black’ and reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech.”

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It was a risky move and drew ire from black leaders, but it worked. Clinton lost the white vote by only 2 points— a huge improvement over the drubbing 1988 nominee Michael Dukakis took, He actually won, just barely the non-college educated white vote, something no Democratic nominee has done since. And he did so while still cornering the black vote on his way to picking off four southern states and several white states in the Midwest and interior West. This year, Hillary Clinton is taking almost exactly the opposite tack, betting that America has changed enough that doubling down on her civil rights pitch will make up for a bunch of white voters she might not win anyway. The only thing similar about how Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton tackled the issue of race relations during their presidential campaigns is they both name-checked

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“Basket of Deplorables” is a 180-degree reversal from “Sister Souljah,” unnerving certain Democrats who believe that the blue-collar whites should not be abandoned. While many of those white working-class voters have been staunchly Republican for some time, Clinton’s insult runs the risk of supercharging Trump’s base, paving the way for an upset.

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However, Clinton’s double down is not without its own logic. After decades of Democrats chasing the white working-class vote, mostly to no avail, Barack Obama rendered the chase unnecessary. Obama lost whites without a college degree by 18 points in 2008, and 25 points in 2012. Those numbers weren’t much different from those for the last two defeated Democrats, but thanks to a big boost in Latino and African-American support, and a decline in the white share of the overall electorate, Obama succeeded where other Democrats failed. As The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent observed this week, “one of the big questions has been whether the Obama coalition will turn out for Clinton in 2016 at 2012 levels.” By highlighting the racism among Trump’s worst supporters, she’s giving the Obama coalition an extra incentive to show up o

But not even Obama — who bet his presidential run on his life-long experience in navigating the thorny politics of race — tried to do what Clinton is doing. He had his nods to blue-collar whites, and he won enough of their votes in the states where it counted. Is Clinton taking the strategy too far?

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The Democratic Party has come a long, long way on race in the past 68 years. But its evolution on civil rights has also triggered a decades-long quest to win back the votes of working-class whites while maintaining its deepening bond with African-American voters. The effort has long been awkward, and often flopped.

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The loosening of white working-class support dates back to the 1948 Democratic convention, when then-Mayor Hubert Humphrey won a contentious floor vote to include a civil rights plank in the party platform, prompting several “Dixiecrats” to bolt the convention and briefly form a segregationist “States’ Rights Democratic Party.” After President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the tectonic plate of Dixiecrats began to break off for good. South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, the 1948 States’ Rights presidential candidate, switched from Democrat to Republican. The segregationist Democrat Alabama Gov. George Wallace ran for president in 1968 under the newly created American Independent Party banner, siphoning off working-class white voters from the Democrats, depriving Hubert Humphrey a popular vote majority, and winning five Deep South states for himself.

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Seeing that the Democratic “Solid South” was no longer solid, Democrats began trying to engineer a new appeal to blue-collar white voters—with limited success, and some notable embarrassments. George McGovern whiffed big in 1972 with a series of ads featuring him on a factory floor talking to workers. In one titled, “Welfare,” a regular Joe vents, “They’re paying people on welfare today for doing nothing … We’re all hardworking people and we’re getting laughed at for working every day. Why not have them go to work and clean up the dirty streets in our towns?” McGovern then makes a pitch for his ambitiously liberal public works proposal, mixed with a pre-Bill Clinton pledge to end welfare as we know it: “We’re gonna do whatever is necessary to provide a job for every able-bodied man and woman in this country who wants to work. And those who don’t want to work shouldn’t be paid anything in the way of public support.”

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The left-right play missed the mark, in part because McGovern was hit hard in TV ads as a flip-flopper, not only in regards to his welfare plan, but also for seemingly taking both sides of the deeply divisive debate over integrating schools via busing. (McGovern was inclined to take a firm anti-busing position, which would have appealed to white voters, but his advisers convinced him that was politically dangerous.) McGovern ended up with a paltry 32 percent of the white vote.

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Jimmy Carter fared much better four years later, winning 48 percent of the white vote en route to the Oval Office. But not without challenges. During the primary, he defended communities “who are trying to maintain the ethnic purity of their neighborhoods,” and while opposing housing discrimination, he insisted that “the government ought not take as a major purpose the intrusion of alien groups into a neighborhood.” After his strongest African-American supporter, Rep. Andrew Young, said he made a “terrible blunder” for using a phrase “loaded … with Hitlerian connotations,” Carter apologized for the phrase “ethnic purity.” But, in a nod to those ethnic working-class whites, he stuck with his policy position.

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Then on the Sunday before the general election, in a scene that makes Obama’s troubles with Rev. Jeremiah Wright look tame by comparison, the deacons of the Plains, Georgia, church where Carter worshipped refused to let four African-Americans enter, locking its doors and cancelling services instead. The minister accused the deacons of following a rule that banned “all n***ers and civil rights agitators” from the church. The church clerk, who was Carter’s cousin, not-so-helpfully clarified that the rule in question specified “Negroes.”

The next day, Carter denounced the policy and pledged to work toward ending it. But much like how Obama could not “disown” Rev. Wright or his “white grandmother,” Carter refused to disown his church: “I can’t resign from the human race because there’s discrimination. I can’t resign as an American citizen because there’s still discrimination. And I don’t intend to resign from my own church because there’s discrimination. … Now if it was a country club, I would quit … but this is not my church, it’s God’s church.” Such a response today might have sunk him. But in 1976, Carter successfully walked the line, winning the black vote handily while retrieving those Deep South states that both Wallace and Richard Nixon had swiped from the Democrats.

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Carter’s working-class white victory was short-lived, as the “Reagan Democrats” gave the 1980 Republican challenger a 20-point margin with whites. That gap that would not close until 1992, when Bill Clinton’s poor Southern background, unique talents on the stump—and his canny Sister Souljah moment—were able to re-forge the connection and bring those voters back to the fold.

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The gap quickly reopened once his two terms were up. Desperate to solve the problem, in February 2003 liberal insurgent candidate Vermont Gov. Howard Dean made an audacious move. Speaking to a multiracial crowd at a Democratic National Committee meeting, Dean thundered, “I intend to talk about race during this election in the South, because the Republicans have been talking about it since 1968 in order to divide us, and I’m going to bring us together. Because you know what, you know what? White folks in the South who drive pickups with Confederate flag decals on the back ought to be voting with us and not them, because their kids don’t have health insurance either and their kids need better schools too.”
He got a standing ovation at the time. But later, trying to maintain his momentum in the polls, he gave a reporter a truncated, rehashed version of the quote, “I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks.” A fierce backlash ensued—Al Sharpton accused him of insensitivity toward blacks; John Edwards took offense on behalf of the South—contributing to his eventual flameout.

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Which brings us to Obama.

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Barack Obama’s 2008 win may have proved Democrats could win without a majority of the white working class, which went for Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin by 18 points. But even the Harvard-educated African-American constitutional law professor didn’t completely give up on them. In 2008, he survived videos of his pastor saying, “God damn America” for past and present racism by pushing back in his famous “More Perfect Union Speech.” He rejected Wright’s critique as “a profoundly distorted view of this country—a view that sees white racism as endemic.” He went further, sympathizing with “white resentments” from those who have “worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away.”
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A month later, footage from a private campaign event leaked, showing Obama sociologically dissecting those resentful whites: “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Then-rival Hillary Clinton, years away from denouncing racists as “deplorables” went on the attack, saying, “Sen. Obama’s remarks are elitist, and they are out of touch.” Recognizing the potential damage, a contrite Obama offered “regret” for his wording. He would eventually perform slightly better with the white working class than 2004 Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry in 2008, though he would fare slightly worse than Kerry in 2012.

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How did Obama overcome that weakness? He was able to win with a different coalition than Bill Clinton, less Southern and less working class. In 1992, the Latino share of the electorate was 2 percent; in 2012, it was 10 percent, and Obama won it nearly 3-to-1. The African-American electorate was bigger too, and Obama’s level of support there was nearly unanimous. And he got white support where he needed it. He lost the college-educated white vote to Mitt Romney by only 6 points. And his northern white-working class numbers were better than in the South, buoying him in Ohio, Colorado and Iowa.

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The New York Times’ Nate Cohn has argued that white voters mattered more to Obama’s win than is commonly assumed: Based on analysis of census and voter-file data, Obama did better with the white working class than the exit polls indicated, suggesting that Clinton cannot cavalierly abandon them. Trump’s competitiveness in Florida, Ohio, Iowa and Nevada polling bolster the case that his working-class appeal could flip some blue states red.

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Clinton is not completely writing off the entire white working class. She turned against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. She has gamely proposed an aid package for coal communities, despite her infinitesimal chances in West Virginia. Even in her “Basket of Deplorables” comments, she distinguished between the bigoted and those who “feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change.”

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But what she doesn’t do is rationalize “white resentments,” as Obama did in 2008 and as many Democrats did before him, which certainly cuts off her ability to win votes from whites who carry racial resentments.
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Clinton is making a highly risky choice in refusing to extend that hand—if you assume that the white working-class is monolithic on racial issues. But we need not be “grossly generalistic.” It’s true that college-educated whites are more likely than other whites to believe, as the recent ABC/Washington Post poll showed, that Trump is “biased against women and minorities.”. But only within the cohort of noncollege white men is there a majority who believe Trump is not biased, and even with that group, a not insignificant 38 percent say he is.
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As political scientist Michael Tesler explained in a separate Washington Post article, whites are not unified on racial issues the way they were 50 years ago. There is deep polarization within the white community along partisan lines: “… white Democrats are more than 40 percentage points as likely as white Republicans to support the Black Lives Matter movement, to think that blacks are treated less fairly by the police, and to say that racial profiling … is a problem in the United States.”

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In the 1960s, playing the race card meant driving a wedge through the Democratic Party and bringing white Democrats under the Republican umbrella. Today’s white Democrats are resistant to the Nixonian “law and order” race-baiting appeals that Trump regularly employs. Such rhetoric works relatively better with those who do not have a college degree than with those who do, but for the most part, those people are the working-class whites who are already Republicans.

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Meanwhile, Trump appears to be losing affluent and college-educated whites who previously voted Republican. He could flip Ohio, Iowa, Nevada and Florida, and still lose if he can’t win Pennsylvania, where Clinton has maintained a consistently healthy lead. Said Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray two weeks ago: “It looks like Clinton’s got a friend in Pennsylvania, particularly in the Philly suburbs … half of white voters in this region have a college degree.”

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Democrats have been the party of civil rights ever since the 1964 Civil Rights Act scrambled partisan affiliations. Yet no Democrat has won the presidency without, in some fashion, bowing to racial grievances by whites. If Hillary Clinton does so for the first time, it will confirm a new kind of election math can work for the Democrats and forever change how American elections are won and lost.

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Bill Scher is the senior writer at the Campaign for America’s Future, and co-host of the Blogg

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/09/basket-of-deplorables-strategy-democrats-214246#ixzz4KP2raiRi
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One Response to “Hillary sharpens — Trump softens — Philly suburbs — Painting the opponent as extremist, volatile, clueless, unfit, dangerous”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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