Op-Ed | Trump’s Foreign Soulmates

Alexei Bayer and Bill Humphrey for The Globalist: “Look at commodities-export strongmen like Chavez and Putin if you want to understand Trump.”

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Foreigners see Donald Trump as one of those outlandish characters the New World periodically produces and then thrusts upon the international stage.

It is, however, far more than a bewildering one-man show. The rise of Trump underscores that we are witnessing a split of the United States of America into two distinct nations.

It is, perhaps, a return to form for a country that has often split politically (and once militarily) between its economically developed regions and its farm- or mineral-driven regions.

One of those two nations remains closer to the image that America has projected toward the outside world for nearly two centuries – an industrialized, highly innovative nation and a modern society that is open, liberal, tolerant and democratic.

The other America is once again displaying the characteristics of a commodity-exporting nation, as it did for much of U.S. history.

Poor role models worldwide

It is therefore only logical that — in order to understand Trump and above all the folks who cast their votes for him – it is fitting to look at other modern commodity-export-dependent nations, such as oil-rich Russia, Venezuela and so on.

Commodity exporting nations are a mess everywhere – from Algeria and Azerbaijan to Zambia and Zimbabwe.

They live off the distribution of free-flowing revenues which require a strong state. Friends and family of those who control the distribution obviously get a lot more. These nations tend to be ruled by charismatic strongmen who safeguard the interests of their cronies while feeding nationalist rhetoric to the masses.

Naturally, the masses hate immigrants and outsiders, because they represent additional mouths to be fed by crumbs from the strongman’s table. They are full of disdain for neighbors who aren’t fortunate enough to have natural resources in their soil.

Commodity exporters don’t need representative democracy, appointing their leaders by popular acclaim and very often for life. Read more

Is there a delegate firewall against Trump? Maybe not.

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A week or two ago, FiveThirtyEight posted a really elaborate procedural and statistical case arguing there may be Blue State firewall against insurgent conservative candidates like Trump (or Carson).

It would take too long here to explain the case fully, but the gist is this: First the calendar order places a bunch of Blue States relatively early (e.g. Massachusetts, Vermont, Hawaii, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island). And second most of these particular states (e.g. New York) will award Republican delegates by Congressional district instead of statewide (which gives a huge delegate-per-voter bonus to states with dramatically fewer Republicans, since Congressional districts are drawn by population not number of Republicans). These factors both combine to give an early boost to delegates from Blue States.

The piece then argues that various insurgent candidates will be disadvantaged by this, to the benefit of a Bush or Rubio type establishment-backed candidate. While that might be true for a Ted Cruz, and maybe even Ben Carson, it’s not clear to me that’s necessarily true for some of them, particularly Donald Trump.

The two main flaws I see with this theory (of the firewall, not the math) after thinking about it since the article came out are:

First, it presumes that the remaining Republicans in very Blue States aren’t extremists themselves, which might not be true. It takes a lot of dedication to The Cause to remain registered R in a very liberal place. Maybe they’re Jeb Bush Republicans. But maybe they’re Ted Cruz Republicans. Even likelier, in my view? They’re Trump Republicans, which means whatever you want it to mean — hard right or moderate — because he’s running as the populist who is exactly what you want him to be. And that brings us to the other flaw.

Second, it presumes that genuinely moderate northeast Republicans don’t view Trump as one of them more than as a hard-right White Knight. For the record, I don’t think Trump is all that liberal, but if you really wanted to convince yourself he was a moderate New York City Republican on most issues, you easily could. (Especially based on his pre-campaign track record as a literal New York City Republican who was pro-choice and pro-universal healthcare.) I expect him to do quite well among Republicans in a lot of liberal northeastern strongholds.

As a result, I think that the delegate system aspect identified by FiveThirtyEight might not be a firewall against Trump but rather his coronation. Plus, I also think there are a lot of southern states and rural-Red but overall Blue-leaning northern states that will vote even earlier in the calendar, so we might not even make it to the end of April (to see what the supposed firewall states do) before this is wrapped up.

Trump is overwhelming favorite for MA GOP primary

Emerson College Polling Society released a poll on likely voters in the semi-open Republican presidential primary next March. It’s… well, there was never going to be a good outcome, but this certainly isn’t. However, it also doesn’t surprise me at all.

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Massachusetts is notoriously difficult to poll accurately — but when the margin is 34 points between first and second place, I think we can assume it’s probably in the right ballpark.

The War on Chronology

Donald Trump’s quote about George W. Bush was literally as simple as “The World Trade Center came down during his reign” — which is a statement of chronological fact, without even making a judgment upon its significance or lack thereof, yet establishment conservatives are furious about that.

This emblematic is what we’re up against on a major scale: People who don’t just have an alternate worldview but an alternate view of chronological reality.

I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: So many points of “conventional wisdom” from the political and media establishment in Washington (including both sides of the aisle, but especially conservatives) fall apart when chronology is applied to cause-and-effect claims they make. It’s not just “correlation is not causation” — it’s that they get the order of historical events consistently wrong in drawing broad conclusions about them. Everything becomes of the fault of their opponents (whether on their own side or the other side) by presenting the reaction to something as its historical cause.

Procedurally, GOP nomination is within Trump’s reach

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“Party Rules to Streamline Race May Backfire for G.O.P.” – New York Times:

In the starkest sign of how unsettled the situation is, what once seemed unthinkable — that Mr. Trump could win the Republican nomination — is being treated by many within the Republican establishment as a serious possibility. And one reason his candidacy seems strong is a change by the party in hopes of ending the process earlier: making it possible for states to hold contests in which the winner receives all the delegates, rather than a share based on the vote, starting March 15, two weeks earlier than in the last cycle. Ten states have said they will do so.

If Mr. Trump draws one-third of the Republican primary vote, as recent polls suggest he will, that could be enough to win in a crowded field. […] With 15 candidates in the field, and Mr. Trump at the center of the action, the debates have become ratings bonanzas for the networks and drawn record-setting viewership. And many states, eager to play a more influential role, seized the opportunity to schedule their nominating contests earlier. Eight states in the conservative-dominated South, where insurgent candidates like Mr. Trump could do well, have created a Super Tuesday on March 1, when delegates must still be awarded proportionally.
[…]
After March 15, he could begin amassing all the delegates in a given state even if he carried it with only a third of the vote. And the later it gets, the harder it becomes for a lead in delegates to be overcome, with fewer state contests remaining in which trailing candidates can attempt comebacks.

 
This is why it’s always important to know and understand the rules for how delegates will be awarded. Steve Schmidt acknowledges that in the article:

“There is a bubble of delusion among Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C., with regard to their parties’ respective nominating processes,” Mr. Schmidt said. “There is no magic date upon which the air will come out of the Donald Trump balloon. The notion that Donald Trump cannot be the Republican nominee is completely and totally wrong.”

 
It’s worth recalling that one of the collapse factors during the 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign was due to her campaign advisers mistakenly believing delegates would be awarded differently, in her favor, early in the cycle, even if she stumbled in one or two of the early states. (Not that they expected that either, which may be why they didn’t study the rules carefully…)