9
May

Where Does The Presidential Campaign Stand?

Presidential Campaign 2016 2I’ve done a lot of writing in the past two weeks, thanks to several invitations from the Aspen Institute’s European branch in Rome, in addition to my regular contributions to US News & World Report. I penned a think piece on think tanks for Aspenia that’s awaiting publication – but meanwhile I contributed an analysis of where the presidential campaign stands.

The primary season: end of the beginning argues that Trump’s chances in November need to be taken much more seriously than many currently accept:

Conventional wisdom asserts that Trump has offended so many groups that make up an ever-larger share of the electorate – minorities and women – not to mention mainstream voters, that, as sports-statistics pioneer Bill James entertainingly wrote on his website, there aren’t enough “morons” for Trump to win. The history of elections the world over undercuts James’ claim.

In part this is because Republicans will make their peace with the party nominee and “come home,” and, for every swing state Trump’s xenophobia takes “out of play,” there’s a larger one that his nativism and misogyny might put back in. But mostly, it’s because of the bet Trump, like countless successful politicians before him, is making about the American public:

[H]e intends to say something different to the rest of us, and count on the two different audiences ignoring what he says to the other. In short, he will run a campaign based on the assumption that there really are enough morons out there. And as a man who conceived a chart-topping reality show, and is widely accepted as a business genius despite going bankrupt repeatedly – well, he may be on to something.

As I argued in The Missing Moral Core of Donald Trump, the real danger posed by Trump is not cynical disrespect for truth – which hardly makes him unique – but rather that

Trump’s argument isn’t amoral – it’s immoral: The Islamic State group beheads people and burns or drowns them in cages. So we should get to torture them and kill their families. It’s unfair that we can’t just because, you know, we have rules against those things….

Those pesky rules. They get in the way of us good people getting to do what the bad people do. We shouldn’t have to live by the rules. Because we’re the good people.

But for most of us, living by the rules is what makes “good people” good people.

Voters of all persuasions have good reasons for the anger at the political class – including well-heeled donors – into which Trump has tapped. But, as my new US News piece  — Supreme Court Cynicism — notes, the Supreme Court appears poised to rule that corruption is essentially just government-as-usual.

At the same time, those in the political arena – including the Supreme Court, in its Citizens United decision that essentially allowed unlimited flows of money into politics – insist that campaign contributors aren’t committing bribery because they neither expect nor get anything back in return for their “donations.” Well, you can’t have it both ways: You can’t contend that there isn’t any quid-pro-quo for campaign contributions, on the one hand, and that such “innocent” behavior is indistinguishable from the bribery that anti-corruption laws target.

The Supreme Court’s tone-deafness on this issue reflects part of the growing anger throughout the country with the elites (the other part being uneven economic gains) that has fueled the insurgencies of both Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders — and looks set to continue into the fall and beyond.

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