Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hillary Clinton jumped the political shark with Reno rant against Donald Trump

This past Thursday, on August 25, Hillary Clinton launched a full rhetorical broadside against Donald Trump. She called him out as a racist, and for having built his campaign on "prejudice and paranoia."

However, Hillary Clinton also exposed several vulnerabilities in her own campaign:

1. Unlike Donald Trump, she does not have a transcript of her speech (or, indeed of any speech) posted on her campaign website. Donald Trump not only posts transcripts of all his prepared speeches (NOT his rally presentations, which are mainly extemporaneous performances), but he documents those transcripts with liberal footnoting and citation of sources.

Donald Trump cites facts and evidence, while Hillary Clinton does not, yet Donald Trump is the candidate trafficking in "paranoia"?

2. Hillary Clinton abandoned substantive policy statements to attack Trump for his "divisive rhetoric." That "divisive rhetoric" is Trump speaking out directly, forcefully, and even bluntly about problems not only within black communities, but across America. His "divisive rhetoric" IS substantive and IS about public policy--one can argue his assessment, criticize his conclusions, and pan his proposals, but one cannot realistically dismiss the fact that assessment, conclusion, and proposal is the stuff of which serious public policy discussions are made. Rather than attack Trump on policy, she abandoned all discussion of policy to attack Trump personally. Worse, she explicitly admitted as such in her opening sentences. For a supposed policy wonk to concede the policy battlefield to Trump seems a bizarre and unwise strategem.

3. She resurrected her claims of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" from the 90's -- now recast as the "alt-right" conspiracy. The claim was absurd then and it is absurd now, and for the same reason: conspiracies by their nature require a rather limited group of conspirators, and to link together all Trump surrogates, conservative media outlets, and alt-right social media personalities in a single organized cabal simply flies in the face of all observed behavior by the people involved. Even worse, she bizarrely claimed this conspiracy was masterminded and controlled by Russian President Vladimir Putin--without a trace of irony she branded him as the "godfather" of an oxymoronic "global brand of extreme nationalism" (nationalist movements by their very nature are the antithesis of "global" anything).

4. As verbal barrages go, her attacks are largely weak and ineffective. Donald Trump has endured a steady stream of negative ads and campaign tactics since the middle of the GOP primaries and he's STILL running neck and neck with Hillary Clinton. The negative tactics and negative ads, and now Hillary's negative speech, simply are not moving the needle on Trump much, if at all. The negative campaigning to date has had the perverse effect of inoculating Trump against further attack, such that continued or even increased negative rhetoric against Donald Trump has little potential to pull Trump supporters into the Clinton camp.

On the other hand, there are reports from some Democratic circles that the extreme nature of Clinton's attack on Trump may alienate portions of the Democratic base--in particular those segments who were all in for Bernie Sanders.

5. With 76 days still to go before election day, Hillary Clinton has, quite simply, jumped the shark. Negative attacks, and even personal insults and slanders against a political opponent are hardly novel ideas for political campaigns. Yet to set aside presumably substantive policy remarks for an extended personal attack against Donald Trump begs the question "What does Hillary Clinton do for an encore?" How can she top this speech?

If this speech were to exist in a political vacuum, within a week or two its impact would be next to nil. For this speech to have lasting impact on Trump, Hillary Clinton has to keep repeating it, or at least keep repeating the talking points contained therein. And to ensure continued public focus on those talking points, she will have to keep making the charges more extreme, more noxious, and all the while each of those charges and talking points is time NOT spent discussing her public policy proposals and ideas. Worse, by focusing everything on Donald Trump, she is making sure Donald Trump's public policy proposals and ideas receive even more attention than they are now, while at the same time ensuring her own ideas are virtually ignored.

As Ted Cruz found out the hard way in the primaries, exchanging policy points for personal attacks quickly becomes a swamp of negativity that will drown a campaign. Hillary Clinton has not merely conceded a few policy points; she has abandoned policy altogether. After the Reno speech, her campaign strategy is now reduced to simply this: Donald Trump is evil.

It is very hard to envision a demonizing of The Donald as inspiring waves of Democratic voters to turn out and pull the lever for Hillary Clinton come Election Day.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Declaration of Independence. As relevant today as in 1776

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to declare America's independence from Great Britain. Throwing caution to the wind, they pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor to securing freedom for a fledgling United States of America.

Yet the Founding Fathers did something far more profound that merely tear thirteen colonies away from Great Britain. In putting their names to the Declaration of Independence, they ushered in one mankind's few successful political revolutions. In one single paragraph, Thomas Jefferson brought together all the reason, all the power, all the passion of the Enlightenment to reorder the foundations of governments everywhere:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Coming barely a century after England's chaotic and bloody Civil War, in an age when nearly all monarchs held virtually limitless power over their subjects, Jefferson's words were not merely radical. In a very real sense, the Declaration of Independence was and is the American Revolution. The Declaration of Independence declared not just the creation of a new nation, the United States of America, but declared for all time that, as President John F. Kennedy would later observe in his 1960 inaugural address, "...the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God."

The inalienable rights of man the Continental Congress declared in 1776 were under assault in 1776, they were under assault in 1960, and they are under assault today. In the wake of Great Britain's seismic "Brexit" vote, the European Union seeks to punish the British people for invoking their right to abolish a government deemed hostile to protecting man's inalienable rights--namely, their membership in that political union. In the Middle East, the Islamic State has proclaimed a new Caliphate, and seeks dominion over all Muslims worldwide, as well as the extermination of all non-Muslims. Totalitarian ideologies--fascism in all its myriad malevolent forms--have never ceased inspiring the power-hungry and the power-mad to seek dominion over various parts and peoples of the world.

The Declaration of Independence remains the proper response to all who would dominate and enslave their fellow men. The Declaration of Independence reminds us that when government anywhere is hostile to individual liberty, people everywhere are released from any allegiance to that government. The Declaration reiterates that the duty of free men is not just to resist tyranny, but to erase it, to drive tyrants wherever they may be into oblivion.

So long as tyranny exists in the world, the Declaration of Independence will remain relevant, not just to Americans, but to all people, in all places, at all times.