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Interestingly, instead of blaming each other for the shutdown, congress is blaming Trump. Everyone is basically blaming Trump. Which makes sense. He’s not a deal maker (that’s just puffery from Trump himself and his campaign). As a politician, he’s a despot. And you can’t dictate terms to either side of a US budget negotiation as a despot, even if you are president. You can lead, if you know how. But Trump doesn’t ever lead. He tweets. So there’s an impasse but voters know who the real villain is: The tweeter in chief.

By November, this shutdown will be forgotten. The news cycle churns swiftly and between now and November, there’s likely to be about 100 things Trump says or does that infuriate, insult and appall. Let’s face it, we won’t even remember if the Shutdown occurred this year by voting time. But people will remember Trump, and his foul mouth, disgusting ideas and mostly vile agenda.

Over the weekend was the second woman’s march. It drew crowds so large, Facebook memes sprung up with various views from cities around the country and world. Trump mocked them in tweet, and while the shutdown is likely to be forgotten by the time the election draws near, again, Trump will not be. And while he takes glee at poking the giant the eye with his stick, his day will come. If the size of the woman’s march in any indication, it will be soon.

A day or two ago, Mike Pence was told by a supporter that she was basically ready to take up arms against the US government if voter fraud was responsible for Donald Trump losing the election. How she would make that determination was unclear, but after listening to the emotion in her voice as she asked her question, it seemed that ANY Trump defeat will be seen by people like her as voter fraud. Furthermore, given Trump’s predilection for crying about his treatment by, well, everyone, he can be expected to willfully fan the flames as well.

Making matters worse, Pence encouraged the idea. Instead of reassuring her of the overall health of the US voting system, he chose to discuss the ongoing investigation of voter fraud is his state, seemingly calling the entire election system into question. He then stepped things up a notch by suggesting that everyone needs to sign up to be volunteer poll watchers to prevent such things from happening as if voter fraud was a routine occurrence in our elections.

Those of us who pay attention know that Donald’s push for ‘poll watchers’ is nothing more than a blatant attempt to dress up voter intimidation in a pretty new outfit by creating the illusion that his supporters are there to help. Don’t be fooled. He just wants his own army of brown-shirts to ‘police’ polling places that they have no business policing.

How could 20 antagonistic (in some locations open-carry) Trump supports be anything BUT intimidating when they linger and leer at minorities trying to enter voting locations? Let’s get real, this is terrifying and dangerous stuff and predicting conflict to follow this scenario isn’t a stretch.

Worse than the demagoguery and private army building is the fact that people like this unfortunate woman aren’t clever enough to know they are being manipulated. They listen to to right-wing radio, watch right-wing TV, and read right-wing press. Then they hear voices like Trump who today suggested the US would literally end and ISIS would take over America if Hillary wins the election. Oh. My. God.

Donald isn’t just nuts, he’s downright dangerous and he’s begun treading into some dark places in his quest for power. With every proclamation of imminent doom, his die-hard followers are becoming more excitable and extreme.

So this begs the question: where does the line between free political speech end and dangerous political speech begin? Does the unthinkable need to actually happen before we recognize our peril?

Demagoguery is dangerous for a reason and if this woman’s worldview isn’t a perfect example of why, then you’re not paying attention. Race bating, fear mongering, and false cries of persecution are the demagogue’s tools. They should not be tolerated to any degree because they lead to conflict. Today it’s just threats, but things will only get worse if this continues.

This is possibly the most important reason we need to defeat Donald Trump. We need to win decisively. The Donald Trumps of the world can’t be allowed to overcome the strength of our republic.

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Today’s red meat loving right-wing base doesn’t mind hearing terrible things about Muslims, immigrants and anyone else they decided they don’t like. But when outrageous talk provokes outrageous action, , they won’t bother looking in the mirror or at their leaders for answers. Instead violence only provokes more violence and their leaders will be the ones clamoring to bring it to them.

Engagement has always been the way to quiet the angry rumblings of international animosity. Winning hearts and minds was never accomplished through violence. But most in the grassroots right-wing conservative movement don’t even know the difference between Sikhs and Muslims and often mistake them for one another. How can they be expected to vote for leaders who claim to understand the nuanced way to deal with a culturally different and population? They just want to vote for people who preach violence and intolerance.

The reason we have freedom of religious is not only to protect the religious group, but to prevent discord within the population in general. Antagonizing an entire group of people, especially religious fanatics, is a great way to provoke a response and we need to collectively come to that realization.

In the last decade, it seems that terror attacks just prior to elections have become all the rage. It’s almost becoming a regular expectation even when it doesn’t happen. As a population of intelligent and calm-minded people, we need to learn to expect such atrocities in today’s environment and not over-react to even the most terrible of provocations. If we can’t do that, then the bad guys win – the war mongers among us who would rather steal power through antagonistic methodologies and violence, and those who perpetrate the violence by provoking the reactions they set out to provoke.

For months now people on both sides of the political spectrum have been handwringing about how to beat Donald, or whether he might beat himself. The Republicans will be the first to fall by virtue of the fact that they meet Donald head-on in primary season but make no mistake – the Democrats will have to face him soon enough.

To just about everyone in the media, the circus turned serious contender has been nothing short of a jaw gaping mystery. You mean a total outsider with a loud mouth and ridiculous policy positions hasn’t been laughed out of the race? What about Michelle Bachmann, Todd Akin and Sarah Palin? That’s what’s supposed to happen to these kinds of people!

But lo, Trump has managed to elude the grip of death that has doomed so many before him leaving the media in their collective confusion to wonder about their own relevancy in this new, bizarre world. How does this end? And if I can’t predict the future with any reasonable degree of accuracy on this roller coaster, what good am I to anyone as a pundit?

But there is a simple answer, and that answer is to ignore the 3 Bs (bullying, bloviating and bombast) and forcefully return the conversation to one focused exclusively on policy. Donald can be beaten on policy, but if he’s allowed to run his entire campaign using the 3 Bs, he’ll control the news and the election.

Imagine for a moment a match-up in a general election between President Obama and Donald Trump. How would President Obama handle Trump and his 3 Bs? Obama wouldn’t get caught up in Donald’s web of nonsense. He would stick to the policy discussion, ignore personal attacks, and beat Trump by discussing his positions. The problem we’ve had this election cycle is that Trump has figured out that if he talks about waterboarding, carpet bombing, Losers and Megyn Kelly, he doesn’t have to talk about healthcare, minimum wage, gay marriage, or how he’s really going to handle Putin in the Ukraine, or North Korea, or Iran. Pulling back the curtain is the way to expose Trump to the middle of the road voters who decide every election.

At the end of the day, Trump is a showman who has relied on smoke and mirrors to drown out his competition. But his co-campaigners have also allowed Trump to control the dialog, flailing away with various tactics in their attempts to dodge the steam roller. Cruz tried by killing Trump with kindness – at least at first. But you can’t win playing a willing second fiddle. Bush tried feebly to stand up to the campus bully with predicable results. He was verbally wedgied out of the race. Rubio is finally putting up a stronger fight, but even if it wasn’t too little too late, it wouldn’t work anyway. You can’t out-3B Donald Trump. You simply need to change the rules back to the default. Get campaigns talking about campaign issues, and not Donald’s latest foray into his beloved mine field of taboos.

But Trump has used the Bs to great advantage and obscured from the public his lack of policy sophistication as his Achilles heel.

Recently Donald mentioned that he’s a fan of Planned Parenthood. This is policy kryptonite that not even Donald can overcome with some of his prospective supporters. If Hillary can find enough policy positions that are untenable to his RINO hating base, he’ll prove himself the closet liberal they are all afraid of, and he’ll lose vital support. Policy, and nothing else will sleigh this dragon, but we need to steer the conversation back from the brink of darkness. If Donald continues to be allowed to control the news cycle with the 3 Bs, he’ll control the election.

 

 

Let’s review the candidates as they stand today starting with Donald Trump. While he’s the so-called Republican front-runner, there’s very little chance he’ll win the nomination let alone the presidency. So let me be very clear about my prediction: Donald Trump will NEVER be the President of the United States. Period.

Why would I go out on a limb so early? First and foremost, you can’t be President and also a loose cannon – and Donald Trump is an unapologetically loose cannon. It makes for great political theatre as evidenced by his TV ratings, but you can’t win an election with 40% of the vote. Suppose for a moment that Trump was somehow (inexplicably) able to cinch the nomination. Now it’s just Trump and Clinton – all the other voices silenced in the primaries. How long do you think it will take Trump to say something stupid like he’s done so many times before – calling Rosie O’Donnell a pig, Carli Fiorina ugly, and Megan Kelly a bimbo. You can’t expect to get away with that stuff forever, no matter how brazenly unapologetic you are. And what works in primary season when only politicos care about the election is different from October of an election year when the rank and file voters start to get interested in the contest.

Next there’s his controversial immigration policy – if you can reasonably call it that. Threatening Gestapo-like tactics to round up and deport millions of illegals is a losing issue with the majority of the voters, let alone Latinos. You might find a few confused Mexican-Americans willing to vote for Trump, but most people are smart enough not to vote against their own interests when the consequences of an election would hit so close to home. In other words, what person would vote for a politician who advocates kicking their friends and relatives out of the country?

Trump is also weak on policy. He’s just a salesman with big, shiny ideas. But his ideas only appeal to the extreme right, and those folks don’t care about substance. It’s fine with them that Trump wants to build an expensive, impractical wall between the US and Mexico. They’d rather deport Mexican immigrants than worry about the cost or practicality of such an endeavor. But the voters at the center aren’t going to be so easily bamboozled and there’s still a year before the election where Trump is going to be forced to debate his ideas with more substantive policy positions. Telling us he’s going to have wonderful, talented people and amazing results will only take him so far and it’s only a matter of time before voters figure out he’s selling snake oil.

Moving on

Ted Cruz will never be president either. Nearly all his colleagues hates him and he’s far too extreme anyway. His tactics are slash-and-burn with a heavy dose of take-no-prisoners, and it will cost him. He’s far more knowledgeable than Trump when it comes to policy and will be a much better debater, but you can’t win from the fringe, and Cruz isn’t a pragmatist. Cruz has a shot at the nomination because he’s not stupid and he appeals to the republican base, so it’s possible he’ll the eventual nominee, but that’s as far as he’ll go.

And now for the rest: Jeb Bush never had a chance. He’s a Bush. I know it seems simplistic in the general analysis of things to say that Bush can’t win because of his family name, but there’s a lot of truth to it. Also, he’s been so underwhelming in his overall performance that it’s difficult to see him climbing out of the hole he’s in.

Kasich, Paul, and Fiorina just don’t have the star power or support to present a formidable challenge for the nomination. They might as well have been on the JV debate stage with never-were candidates like Santorum and Huckabee. Meanwhile, Carsen, it turns out, is something of a whack-o and he’s not going anywhere either.

So who does that leave? Just Marco Rubio, the only other person with a credible shot at the nomination. The problem with Rubio is that he’s no more capable of defeating Hillary Clinton than Ted Cruz. He might be smart, relatively clean, and even able to lure some Hispanics. But when compared with Clinton, he’s going to come up short. She’s got decades more experience than the young Florida Senator and he’ll be out of his league competing against her in a general election. He might not lose some debates, but he’s never going to win any.

Assuming that Marco Rubio grabs the nomination, and putting aside Hillary as a nearly unassailable challenge, Clinton still has two weapons for which the Republicans have no answer. Not one, but two former, beloved presidents. Bill Clinton is still wildly popular with many Americans, and Barack Obama gets passing marks from the majority of voters as well. Both will campaign relentlessly for Hillary and their star power will mean something when it’s time to vote.

Meanwhile who among the Republicans compares to these two men? There are none who do. Former Republican candidates are weak, fringe, or controversial. George Bush and Dick Cheney are toxic. John McCain and Mitt Romney are both blah. Palin is a joke and hardly worth mentioning, except as an example of the ineptitude of the available Republican surrogates. Simply put, the Republicans are a rudderless ship.

So it’s difficult to see how the Republicans win the Whitehouse. This will be the third presidential election in a row where they have failed to field decent candidates. When it comes time to vote, it’s hard to see how anyone but Hillary will prevail.

After universally trashing the most recent Republican debate format, furious activity at both the various campaigns and the RNC ensued immediately. The RNC, in danger of being marginalized, suspended the next CNBC debate and named new people within the organization to help manage the process going forward. Frankly, these moves probably fall into the ‘too little too late’ category but the RNC had to do something given the loud chorus of disapproval and contempt coming from every direction.

Meanwhile, the campaigns – or at least of some of them – came together to try and work something out that would benefit the candidates. That lasted less than a week. Today various news sites reported that some of the campaigns have asked for such things as temperature controls in the debate hall not to exceed 67 degrees, and the prohibition of hand-raising (both of which presumably to shield the heavy perspirers in the group).

In reality, it seems pretty clear to me this whole effort was doomed from the start. This group of Republicans is not cordial, conciliatory or in any kind of mood for actual compromise with each other. Put another way, bomb-throwers and negotiating are anathema.

Let’s review why: The Republican front runner is still Donald Trump – at least for now. Who among us thinks The Donald actually negotiates with anyone? He dictates. When you have billions of dollars, you’re probably used to getting your way, not negotiating. The idea that Trump negotiates anything with other campaigns or TV networks is probably a big fat lie. He’s a big spender and he dictates his terms, take it or leave it. That’s not really negotiation in the classical sense of compromise, but clearly he doesn’t mind calling it that. I’m pretty sure those he ‘negotiates’ with might have a different word to describe the interaction.

Following Donald trump in the polls with the possible exception of the creationist Ben Carson is, well, everyone. And since the front runner has been so successful with his unapologetic xenophobic and misogynistic opinions, many of the other trolls in the race for the nomination have followed suit. The result is an unruly bunch of pseudo politicians with an ostensible mean streak and an inability to agree on, well, nearly anything.

So I wouldn’t look for a tremendous amount of agreement between the campaigns and my prediction is that the RNC will continue to manage the debate process. Not because they necessarily deserve it, but because this particular troop of ‘expert negotiators’ can’t come together to produce a consensus on the debate specs.

Would it be going too far if I called the entire Republican presidential field of candidates over the last 2 election cycles a national embarrassment? Maybe, but it’s not far off.

Let’s start with the last election.

The only candidate in 2012 who had a plausible shot at beating President Obama was Mitt Romney, but he fit in with the rest of the Republican field about as well as a boy scout at a biker rally. He was strictly a business oriented Republican and a pragmatist, not a culture warrior, and most Republicans didn’t care for him. In fact, one might say he was barely tolerated by red state voters who held their collective noses as they cast their ballots. They were voting more as a rebuke of President Obama than an endorsement of then candidate Romney.

The fact that the Republican standard bearer was so undesirable to his own party speaks volumes about how the Republicans perceived the political environment at the time. Specifically, it demonstrated that the brighter bulbs in the party who had an eye on the Whitehouse had long since concluded that running against President Obama was dead end. You only get one real chance at the Whitehouse, so why waste it?

This collective realization from nearly all the A-listers led to a power vacuum at the national level for the Republicans and set the stage for the zombie-like B-listers to wander haplessly into the void. And in they came. Candidates that ordinarily wouldn’t capture the attention of a newsroom intern were suddenly relevant and that’s why 2012 turned out to be such a disaster for the party. The patients were attempting to run the asylum.

Along with the lukewarmly-received Romney there was Ron Paul – a smart, articulate politico but also a fringe candidate with impractical views. Newt Gingrich was on his third wife which is generally a bad thing when you’re aspiring to represent the party of religion and family values, and he had a reputation from his time in congress as an angry partisan. Next there was Rick Santorum who couldn’t even get re-elected to Congress from his own state. Michele Bachmann was demagogue and nakedly ambitious. Her laughable attempt at a rogue State of the Union rebuttal was a debacle and helped seal her fate. Herman Cain was not a politician and it showed. Mike Huckabee was a creationist, and the others were even less notable than the those already mentioned. None was a serious threat to Obama.

Even the Republican electorate knew the field was stuffed with punchlines and they struggled throughout the primary season to find a suitable leader. No one wanted to settle for Romney and he had to wait his turn on the sidelines like the last kid to be picked in gym class. Polls showed voters scrutinizing literally every other candidate in the field before settling on him. A dubious honor with an unhappy and predicable ending.

Fast forward to 2015.

Now that the brass ring is up for grabs for the first time in 8 years, it should come as no surprise that the prospective candidates who grudgingly sat out the 2012 cycle are frothing at the opportunity to stake their claim. Pundits have said that the large number of GOP hopefuls is a result of the Citizens United ruling, allowing candidates to be propped up by a wealthy few, but they are only half right. The other reason is because Republican demagoguery is all the rage among the voters. If the Republican’s 2012 race (and Sarah Palin who came before them) showed the extremists on the right one thing, it was that bomb throwing is a tasty treat for primary voters.

All of these environmental changes culminated, at least momentarily, in the rise of Donald Trump. Trump is nothing less than the pinnacle of bombast, and both the public and the media have responded with open arms, although for different reasons than Trump would care to admit. The stupider, the more offensive, and the more in-your-face Trump has become, the larger his poll numbers. This has had 2 effects.

First, it’s contributed to the further decline of the stature of the Republican political machine as civility and reasonableness have been replaced by unapologetic hubris. This has also given rise to a whole slew of new candidate behaviors that would not have been tolerated in years past. Mike Huckabee, for instance, has been tripping all over himself of late to say outrageous things just to win a soundbite in the daily news cycle. It’s kind of sad to watch, but not unexpected as candidates fall all over themselves to trump Trump.

Second, it’s become nearly impossible for the better candidates to break through the noise, leaving the Republicans wondering for a second presidential election in a row if they’re going to be forced once again to field a settled-for as their party’s choice. Everyone expects Trump to fall, but no one knows when.

The Republicans have a huge right-wing problem and it’s left them a laughing stock instead of an ideological rival. A quick glance at a bell curve reminds us that the Republicans have no chance of winning from the far right. They need the center, period – but bomb-throwers don’t live in the center. So they are left with a shattered reputation and unelectable candidates who can only pretend to compete effectively as malarkey can only get you so far.

And that’s how the Republican party presidential field became such a mess.