Monthly Archives: October 2016

About Tonight’s Debate

Let’s get the easy part out of the way first: ¬†Hillary Clinton. ¬†Like any other regular politician, Hillary Clinton can be counted on to have a top-notch team of advisers coaching her on both specific policy talking points and demeanor, advising her to keep her cool, show humanity as well as strength and expertise, and keep the high ground in every way, including not interrupting Trump. ¬†That last point will be hard, but if she interrupts him, it won’t be more than once or twice.

Now, about Trump. ¬†What he has for a team of advisers at this point, and how much he listens to a word they say, is anybody’s guess. ¬†Consistent with the perception that Trump has narcissistic personality disorder, it can be figured that he is absolutely right in feeling that he has adequately apologized for his misogynistic remarks, and that he’s entitled to have everybody move on, because he alone can make America great again. ¬†Narcissists genuinely believe that they’re absolutely right, and they can’t handle criticism or contradiction.

What all that means, in my view, is this: ¬†If Trump were a man of normal temperament, and able to attract a team of good advisers to whom he would listen, he would be prepared tonight to be a model of composure and humbleness, praising the American people for giving him a second chance, speaking of the lessons he has learned about the importance of respecting women, and, for good measure, making some cogent policy arguments to show that he actually knows what he’s talking about on some important measures. ¬†That’s what one could expect from a normal politician. ¬†But Trump isn’t a normal politician. ¬†Thus, we may well see a narcissistic meltdown.

But anything is possible. ¬†If we just remind ourselves that just over a year ago nobody thought he stood a chance of winning the primaries after the field of competitors had been winnowed down, and if we also remind ourselves that two weeks ago he was tied in the polls with HIllary Clinton and even pulling ahead by some measures, despite having been way down in August, the fact that he’s way down and in more disgrace than ever with many in his own party still doesn’t mean the race is over. ¬†Sure, it’s highly improbably that he’ll win. ¬†Then again, 2016 has been the year of the highly improbable.

Esteemed associates, I hope you’ll watch tonight’s debate, and post comments on the OpenLab discussion board before, during, and after. ¬†I’m opening a new discussion thread there now.



NPR Report: Not all African American Voters Are Anti-Trump

Interesting story here. ¬†I like the way NPR gives air time to a wide variety of views. ¬†I doubt there’s a single NPR reporter who likes Trump, but they frequently interview Trump supporters, and they do it very fairly and politely.

This story is from North Carolina, an important state for both the presidential and senatorial campaigns.



The Latest

Well, just when our political scene seemed as if it couldn’t possibly get any crazier, it did.

Truth be told, the newest revelations about Donald Trump’s remarks back in 2005, reducing women to sex objects, didn’t really tell me much about the kind of man Trump is that I didn’t already know, and I would have had no way of knowing how much of a difference they would make to the Republican establishment than all the many things we already knew about him before. But according to the latest reports, Republicans are deserting their party’s nominee in droves, acting as if they were finding out for the first time that their primary voters have nominated a ridiculously unfit and unworthy candidate to be president of the United States.

What’s going to happen next? This is truly uncharted territory. Trump has announced that there is zero chance he’ll step aside from the ticket voluntarily, and whether the Republican National Committee is in any position to throw him off of it by force and put Mike Pence up in his place remains to be seen. And if there is a change at the top of the ticket, making it stick is going to require the cooperation of the states, which will mean legislatures throwing revisions of the laws together rapid-fire, and some battles being fought in courts, like if there’s a battleground state where a Democratic-majority legislature doesn’t want to cooperate.

In the coming days, updates should be flying fast and furious. Lawyers will be exploring possibilities, and the Republican Party will be running damage control, especially for the Senate races. Reminder: Though Hillary Clinton currently enjoys a comfortable lead over Trump–which was true even before these new revelations came out–the Democrats have only a slight edge when it comes to the probability of winning back a majority in the Senate. (There is no realistic chance of the Democrats taking back the House.)

While you’re on this page, please click onto some of the news headlines on the news feed at the right, to see what’s been happening. ¬†And I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of it.



No Boost for Trump after the VP Debate

Running mates Mike Pence and Tim Kaine faced each other in the vice-presidential debates on Tuesday night, October 4. ¬†They both had their talking points prepared, they both got in some good barbs, and while Kaine succeeded in putting Pence on the defensive about whether Pence could defend Trump’s behavior and assertions, Kaine also made himself look rude, especially in the beginning, by interrupting Pence again and again.

In a lot of ways, I found the debate to be a brief return to politics as usual. ¬†After all they¬†are both regular politicians. ¬†Pence boasted that the economy of Indiana improved while he was governor while the economy of Virginia ¬†took a nosedive when Kaine was governor; fact-checkers later pointed out that they were governors at different times and that their states reflected what was happening with the economy in the country at large. ¬†That’s politics as usual. ¬†Politicians usually take credit for things that aren’t their doing, and blame opponents for things that aren’t their doing. ¬†So the whole debate gave the election a brief semblance of normality.

For that reason, I was fully expecting Trump’s position in the polls to get a boost. ¬†Just to review something, as of Friday night, September 23, the fivethirtyeight blog¬†gave Hillary Clinton a 60% probability of winning. ¬†(That was when I asked students whether they would feel comforted knowing that they had a 40% chance of their house burning down in the next year.) ¬†But for as precarious as that figure may have been, by Sunday night and Monday morning, Sept. 25 and 26, the figures weren’t even¬†that good for Hillary Clinton: they showed Trump pulling up to her, even pulling ahead by some measures.

Then came the presidential debate, the night of September 26.  Since then, Hillary Clinton has been steadily rising and Trump has been steadily falling, in the measures of probability.  Battleground states that were leaning toward Trump are leaning toward her now.  (North Carolina and Florida are the main examples, as well as Iowa sort of, and Ohio almost.)  Pennsylvania, which was leaning toward her, is closer now to being securely for her.

And now comes my point. ¬†It is a day and a half after the VP debate, and it really looks as if the VP debate has done absolutely nothing to reverse Hillary’s rise in the polls. ¬†At this present moment, her probability of winning is given as 78% in the polls-only measure,¬†¬†74.1% for polls-plus, and 84.9% if the election were held right now. ¬†Again, these are not projected vote counts, but rather, estimates of the¬†probability that she will win.

The VP debate did not give Trump a boost. ¬†I doubt that either of the two remaining presidential debates will do that either, because after all, in the presidential debates, it’s Trump himself that people are listening to. ¬†In fact, some have said that the town-hall format of the next debate (Sunday, October 9) may be the perfect setup for Trump to go off-script and¬†really make himself look bad.

So, Trump can’t win and we’re out of danger of getting him for a president, right?

WRONG!  If the election had been held on Monday morning, September 26, he would have had at least an even chance of winning it.   If the polls could go there then, they still can again. Even now, the polls may be exaggerating how far ahead Hillary Clinton is, because (among other things) not all respondants tell the pollsters the truth when they call.  But the biggest thing is, if anything happens close to the election that causes Americans to feel as if they are under siege and need a strong, dictatorial commander to take charge and protect them, that could affect the outcome.

There’s still the question of which party will have a majority in the Senate¬†to talk about; I’ll be posting about that sometime soon.

Trump’s Tweets and Taxes

It should be remembered that last spring the¬†New York Post, in endorsing Donald Trump–during the primaries, while there were still other viable candidates in the race–predicted that he would “pivot.” ¬†In other words, though his behavior at the time was atrocious, he would at some point in the future start to behave himself, act more dignified and presidential. ¬†Then, when he actually got the nomination, the Republican party leaders, while announcing their support of him, started trying to give him some remedial coaching, as if his problem were that he didn’t know how to run for office and needed to be taught.

I have to confess, from the point of view of someone who is virulently anti-Trump and horrified that there’s a possibility he’ll become our president, that I start to get really anxious every time a couple of weeks in a row go by when Trump doesn’t do anything grossly outrageous. ¬†I start to think, maybe he is ¬†controlling himself now, maybe he is letting the party coach him, and maybe he will persuade enough people to put him into the White House, which of course I regard as a total disaster no matter how many days in a row he can go without shooting off his mouth. ¬†But the good behavior, such as it is, never lasts long, as we’re seeing this week.

I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, if you were running for a high office and if you had a team of expert advisers at your beck and call, wouldn’t you consider it the most basic common sense–truly the most basic common sense–that you would not, under any circumstances, issue a public statement without consulting with those advisers first? ¬†And of course sending out a tweet on Twitter¬†is issuing a public statement. ¬† What’s more, if you knew that the other party was going to be trying to bait you into having an outburst that would make you look undignified and vicious, wouldn’t you be taking care not to take the bait?

In last Monday night’s debate, Hillary Clinton referred to an episode where he had a¬†called former¬†Miss Universe winner¬†Miss Piggy and Miss Housekeeping, and said “Donald, she has a name. Her name is Alicia Machado and she has become a U.S. citizen, and you can bet she’s going to vote this November.”

So, what did Trump do a few days later, early in the morning? ¬†Send out a tweet that included these words: “Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?”

Very presidential, Mr. Trump, very dignified.

And now, a new bombshell has come out, with the¬†New York Times obtaining ¬†portions of Trump’s 1995 tax returns from some unknown inside source, and printing them. ¬†This has resulted in some more undignified tweets from Trump, including some remarks about the Clintons’ sex lives–precisely what the Republican Party leaders were admonishing him to steer clear of.

Here are some links, and there’s more at the right side of this page on the automated news feed:

Debates Coming Up

The debates remaining are as follows.

Tuesday, October 4, at 9:00 p.m.:  The running mates, Pence vs. Kaine.

Sunday, October 9, at 9:00 p.m.:  Trump vs. Clinton.

Sunday, October 19, at 9:00 p.m., Trump vs. Clinton.

For the vice-presidential debate, I don’t plan to be in the city myself that day, but if you’re looking for a public viewing forum, there’s on that night at the Baruch College Performing Arts Center at East 23rd Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. ¬†It’s free, but you need a reservation, and the website for that is right here.

I’ll post further updates on what’s happening with the remaining presidential debates. ¬†Meanwhile, there’s a possibility that Trump is on the decline now. ¬†I’ve gotten my hopes up before about that, so I’m not saying more than that “there’s a possibility,” but I can say that the Republicans who said that he would “pivot” and become more “presidential” by now should really feel foolish now (my personal sentiment, of course).