The Donald vs The Media. Who Ya Got?

Since successfully emasculating Chris Christie into serfdom, dueling Paul Ryan to a draw, and hypnotizing Marco Rubio into supporting him, Donald Trump has finally settled on his newest target of bombast.  The media.

Regardless of his ire, the media is the lifeblood of his campaign.  It is estimated he has received over $2 billion in free air time and he has spent less on advertising than Green Party candidate Jill Stein. During a recent interview with the Washington Post, he famously stopped the interview 5 times – including mid-sentence – to stare at the TV and comment on himself.  He is like a dog who barks at a squirrel while you’re trying to get it to sit.  And lately he has been doing a lot of barking.

To hear Trump tell it, in the past week he has been the victim of two media conspiracies to make him look bad after he said a couple completely innocuous words.  First was his apparent reference to encourage assassinating Hillary Clinton and the second was his declaration that President Obama “founded ISIS.” But the media was wrong Trump says, the Clinton comment was “sarcasm” and merely meant to encourage Second Amendment supporters to shoot vote and the Obama comment wasn’t literal, obviously.

The media has such a sensitive gag reflex to his quotes because he has developed a reputation as a caricature of a dictator where it isn’t far-fetched to assume he could intend something as incendiary as an allusion to assassination.  

Remember, the media doesn’t operate in a vacuum. They have chronicled Trump’s history. They live for continuing narratives. If Mitt Romney had said either of those things, the spin wouldn’t have been the same because he didn’t have the same track record that Trump does.  

Unlike Romney, Trump repeatedly employed thinly veiled dog-whistles during the primaries to gin up support among blue collar white voters such as when he played funny with the endorsement of the KKK by pretending to not know who David Duke was.  The media was suspect his explanation of that incident and they will continue to be with others like it.

This style of reporting on the Trump campaign also extends beyond Trump himself.

For example, Trump surrogate and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is currently backpedaling at Olympic speed for saying that the United States suffered no terror attacks in the eight years preceding the Obama presidency.  The media jumped it because on its face it is an absurd and insultingly false comment.  Giuliani, after all, was the mayor of New York City on 9/11 and can (hopefully) do math to realize that that is less than eight years prior to Obama.

What upsets Trumpians is that if one looks at Giuliani’s full remarks, only a couple minutes before the quote in question he had mentioned that 9/11 was a foreign attack on U.S. soil during a time of Republican leadership, thus clearly Giuliani was taken out of context.

So is Trump right? Is the media treating him unfairly?

The short answer is that no, they are not.

The media doesn’t think that Giuliani has forgotten when 9/11 was. They are aghast at him for the absurdity of the remark because he and his fellow Trump mouthpieces are so willing to say literally anything to hurt the president and Hillary Clinton that they don’t consider fact, history, or reason before speaking. 

Presidential campaign speeches and talking points used to be some of the most highly vetted words ever spoken, but Trump’s campaign and its surrogates are employing the same vetting process as your drunk cousin at Thanksgiving.  

As I mentioned earlier, Trump and his surrogate’s quotes get written about from an angle of seriousness and shock because he has previously acted in such a way to make those quotes seem intentional.  If a Mormon missionary is found at the scene of a crime, he is much more likely to get the benefit of the doubt than someone who has a rap sheet the length of a CVS receipt.

The other reason that the media treats obviously false statements like “Obama founded ISIS” with such intensity is that Trump says them to play to the whims of conspiracy theory junkies.  Just as Trump’s hesitancy to disavow David Duke was seen as a nod to southern whites, the Obama-ISIS quote was seen as a nod towards those who don’t believe Obama is a patriot.  If the media gives him a pass on these “hint-hint” style allegations, they’d view themselves as abdicating their duty to not perpetuate ugly conspiracies and flat out lies.

The final point is that the media mostly just repeats verbatim what Trump says. They don’t have to skew opinion one way or another because just simply saying “Trump said” and playing the tape does a pretty good job of getting the point across.  President Obama made this point at a fundraiser for Clinton recently saying “I don’t have to make the case against [Trump] because every time he talks, he makes the case against his own candidacy.”

As long as Trump keeps holding press conferences, the media will continue to cover him with skepticism, shock, and dueling panels of “experts.”  Trump can either adapt and save his campaign or continue on his path and save money on confetti and balloons.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Photo Credit: (Getty Images)

7 Things You Can Expect From Donald Trump This Week

Last week Donald Trump treated us to all new sorts of crazy.  He started the week by hinting at the assassination of Hillary Clinton and finished by declaring that President Obama founded ISIS.

It will be a tough act to follow, but here at Eighteenth&U, we offer you a sneak peak into what Trump has planned for us this week.

7 Things You Can Expect From Donald Trump This Week

  1. “I heard from a reliable source – very reliable, believe me – that Hillary Clinton deleted those 30,000 emails because she actually is the Nigerian Prince. Many people are saying that.”
    1. Turns out that reputable source is an email from a Nigerian Prince.
  2. In a 7-tweet series starting at 11:43 pm, he’ll denounce KFC as “really a terrible establishment” that “even starving African children wouldn’t touch” after he realizes mid-flight that his 10 piece bucket only has 9 pieces.
  3. Trump will write a letter to the editor declaring BuzzFeed a “puny, insignificant website that is so 2014” after they post a listicle titled: “23 Things Bigger Than Donald Trump’s Tiny, Tiny Hands.”
  4. He will insist that Mike Pence twirl around on stage to model his new Trump suit and tie. Trump will add that “Mike is probably the ugliest dude to ever wear one of those.”
  5. At an event in Illinois, he’ll make fun of Senator Mark Kirk for wearing glasses asking “like, how does even check his Twitter mentions without looking like a four-eyed loser?”
  6. Trump will ponder aloud to an audience in Texas; “Thank god Hillary isn’t a beach volleyball player, am I right? She’s barely a hard 6, much less a 10!”
  7. A tweet “revealing” that Obama killed Harambe.

 

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Donald Trump Needs To Call A Timeout

Donald Trump must think he is a shark with the way his mouth and/or thumbs are in near constant motion.  It is like if he is not in front of a microphone, en route to a microphone, or using his tiny fingers to whimsically punch out 140 new characters, he feels like he is dying.  

But alas, he is not a shark.  He is actually closer to a blow-fish bred with a yam, but I digress.  He doesn’t need to keep moving to stay alive and someone should tell him that in fact, moving for the sake of moving is often a mistake in the political world. Sometimes doing nothing is the best action you can take.

Trump keeps “accidentally” insulting new people because he has exhausted so many previous talking points that he must stretch for more material. He’s like a television show entering its fifth season when it never expected to make it past the pilot.

His bigger problem is that he has no articulated policies besides “build the wall” which requires roughly three words to detail.

“What are we gonna do?” “Build the wall!” “Hrmm okay, right, well moving on.”

He doesn’t have a structured stump speech either, so when he wanders up to the microphone he spews a stream of consciousness similar to the keystrokes of your crazy right-wing uncle.

The whole Selina Meyer-esque interaction with a crying baby at one of his rallies recently happened because he was so bored with his talking points that his mind began to wander and like a comedian who forgot his next bit, he turned to engaging the crowd.

At some level Trump may also know that like a comedian, if his material gets stale people will stop listening.  Jokes are only funny so many times and if you know the punchline, it’s hard to stay engaged.  The same goes for a Trump speech. It’s hard to stay fired up about kicking out those darn immigrants through twelve straight months of rallies.

“What are we gonna do?” “Yeah yeah, the wall, we know.” “Hrmm okay, right, well moving on.”

Even the media is bored of his gaffes.  It’s become a cut-and-paste ritual in every article where the author lists Trump’s offenses in the same manner in which you list “proficient in Microsoft Office suite” on your resume.  Everyone knows it, you have to say it, but it isn’t going to impress anyone.

He also doesn’t seem to get that just because he’s making noise doesn’t mean he’s making progress.  He remarked last week that he was confused about how he wasn’t higher in the polls because his rallies were so big.  Trump rallies feature a thousand die-hard crazy folks and the voting public is about 110 million people.  You do the math.

With three months until the election, you can bet that you haven’t seen the last press release from the Speaker’s office attempting linguistic Tai Chi condemning Trump’s latest offense while also still kinda sorta supporting him and also slipping in a Benghazi reference or two.

Trump has morphed into the love child of a Jack-In-The-Box and the Energizer Bunny. You know something crazy is going to pop out at any second, you just don’t know when or how to stop it–and it will continue indefinitely.*

*hopefully not after November 8.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Photo Credit:  AP

Here Comes Hillary, Champion of Children!

If you had never heard of Hillary Clinton before the start of the Democratic convention, then first of all, you’re probably an alien, and second of all, you’d probably be surprised to learn that everyone else knows her as a Secretary of State, not as a lifelong champion and advocate for children and families.  

The first act of Clinton’s campaign was centered on the thesis that she should be president because she is the single most qualified human on earth for the job. She had served as a senator and a Secretary of State and was successful at both. But last week in Philadelphia, the Clinton campaign began rolling out Hillary Clinton version 2.0, who is a lifelong fighter for women and children and oh, also happened to serve as Secretary of State.

This rebranding was a deliberate choice driven primarily by voting demographics.  The campaign knows that their odds of winning white men are about the same as you finding that m&m you dropped between the driver’s seat and center console of your Honda.  Trump is up roughly thirty points with white men and there is little looking back.  Her negative ratings with them are approaching 70% which believe it or not, is higher than Trump’s unfavorable with women.

The is mostly because the Republicans have successfully defined her time as Secretary of State as a period branded by Benghazi and her use of a private email server.  They have kept Benghazi in the news for nearly 5 years now and spent $7 million on the latest investigation by the House.  Embassies had been attacked before and never produced vitriol like this and even the 9/11 report stopped short of 500 pages. But nevertheless, Republicans wanted Clinton to be the Benghazi candidate.

As a result, the area where she can draw the biggest contrast and make the most gains is with women.  Trump has a long record of offensive statements towards women and has done literally nothing for their benefit his entire life.

Although, knowing Trump he’d probably tell you that he built the best kitchens in his buildings so women should thank him accordingly.

Branding Clinton as a lifelong fighter for women and children may be a strategic choice, but it has-as Henry Kissinger once said-the added advantage of also being true. She has truly made it her life’s work.  She started working on behalf of families after college and continued after she and Bill moved to Arkansas. Most notably as First Lady she worked towards passing comprehensive healthcare reform and eventually helped to ensure the passage of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Reminding people of this is important because politicians are brands like Coke or Toyota before anything else. They are fighters, advocates, winners, and leaders first and human beings second.

Trump has mastered his brand. He is anti-pc. He is Roundup weed killer mixed with Everclear and if you have too much, you’ll wake up finding out you drunk texted your boss, but you won’t apologize.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is McDonald’s.  She is a juggernaut and known quantity and Benghazi was her “Super Size Me.”  The Democratic Convention last week was the roll out of Clinton as white meat chicken, salads, and apples in Happy Meals.

If the Democratic convention’s rebranding was successful, Clinton will see a sustained rise in her numbers as voters look to connect with a sensitive, empathetic family advocate who is oil to Trump’s water.

After all, General Motors saw their sales turn around partly as a result of their rebranding Buick that saw people no longer viewing Buick as their grandfather’s car, but as a symbol of new, young luxury.  Will Clinton share the same fate?

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

The Electorate Is Full of Shit

If the Republican and Democratic conventions have proven anything, it is that Americans are generally full of shit when it comes to their political views.  

Folks will stand passionately by a candidate until the cows come home and yet when the political winds shift, they will suddenly advocate for the totally opposite thing like it’s been the bedrock of their beliefs their entire life.

In Cleveland last week, we watched an entire party commit harakiri by embracing a self-promoting, serial liar with tiny fingers who stands for just about everything the Republican party has traditionally stood against.  

For example, weren’t Republicans the party of family values? The party of church on Sundays and family game nights that don’t end in someone flipping the monopoly board?  I thought so, until they nominated a man who has repeatedly said how much he disdains parenting and is married to his third wife 24 years his junior.  For pete’s sake the only anecdotes his kids could muster about their father’s parenting were about them sitting in his office or visiting construction sites. This is a man who patted his daughter in a way that was barely appropriate for a football field after she introduced him in front of an audience of millions.

And what about Trump’s favorite issue of trade, that wonderful consequence of globalization that Republicans have long championed. Now what if I told you that they just chose a candidate who says that trade deals are “raping America,” has advocated for isolationism, and has said that the TPP would ruin America.  Remember his almost-running-mate Bob Corker? He spent years advocating for the TPP and then almost signed on to a team that made killing it their main priority.

Republicans have also spent years criticizing President Obama for being weak in terms of projecting military power and letting down our allies overseas.  Want to take a gander at the position they now support? If you guessed leaving NATO allies to fend for themselves and withdrawing troops from abroad, you’re a winner!

Yet, conservatives everywhere have put on their red hats and blanketly stated that he’s their guy, that he represents the values they care about and is the right man to represent the United States of America.

Can you really blame the average pickup-driving, rare-burger-eating, Fox News-watching ‘Murican for throwing everything they stand for out the window when they’ve watched their party leaders and talk show hosts do the same?

Last week, Jon Stewart made a glorious reappearance with Stephen Colbert and spent thirteen minutes highlighting all of Sean Hannity’s wild reversals of opinion on the character qualities that he always hated about Obama, but now loves in Trump.  Hannity even went so far as reverse his position on the use of teleprompters. Are teleprompters now a fringe issue in our elections?

Sadly, Republicans aren’t alone in their ability to be full of shit.  Bernie Sanders supporters have been raising hell in Philadelphia this week as they refuse to accept that their revolution has come to an end.  Many have gone on camera to say that they will refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton in the fall, because that makes sense.  

Let’s follow that logic: They support positions that are a “12” on a scale of “1-to-socialist,” so rather than accept an “8,” they want to abstain and tacitly support the guy who is a “-65.”   If they really supported the issues they say they care so passionately about, they would devote all their efforts to electing Clinton, who by the way, supports nearly everything they do.  As Obama said earlier this year, “it’s steak or fish” and these guys claim to be vegan.

The truth is, I don’t think the majority of people are as principled as they claim to be.  Trump’s base of support has grown like the White Walker army in Game of Thrones, killing good Republicans and reincarnating them as Trumpians.  If the conservative electorate really believed in trade, or military alliances, or really… anything, they would never have cast over 13 million votes for him.

Sanders’ supporters are no different. They subscribe to an ideology that anyone with government experience knows is impractical, yet instead of using their momentum to accomplish realistic ends, they plug their ears and stomp around with the rationality of a third grader, all but assuring the impossibility of their stated agenda.

Winston Churchill once said that the greatest argument against democracy was a five minute conversation with the average voter.  I’d venture to bet if he were alive today he’d tell you that conversation would only need to be thirty seconds.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Photo Credit:  Sean Rayford/Getty Images

7 Things That Will Make Cleveland Great Again

7 things I think I think about the Republican convention this week:

  1. Dubya, H.W., Romney, and John McCain will play a weeklong drinking game together.  The game will be called “I chug, you chug” and the drink of choice will be anti-freeze.
  2. Trump will convene a breakout session Wednesday afternoon to crowdsource a nickname for Hillary’s VP.  Early money is on “Gringo Tim.”
  3. Quicken Loans Arena will be 10 degrees warmer by the end of Donald’s acceptance speech as a result of the A/C being turned off such as to not blow his birds nest hair out of place.
  4. Ivanka and Donald will compete for who can use the words “amazing” and “awesome” more.
  5. Melania’s speech will make you wish First Ladies could debate.
  6. Bobby Knight will give the second most memorable convention speech featuring a chair.
  7. Chris Christie will refuse to take off his “Make America Great Again” hat, holding out hope that Donald could still pick him as VP.

 

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Photo Credit: Yahoo.com

Paul Ryan: The Novice Speaker

Paul Ryan just showed why electing a 46-year-old policy wonk to be Speaker of the House is a bad idea.  

The Speaker is not only the agenda setter for the party, but also the party’s top political officer in charge of messaging and image.  In the past 24 hours, Ryan crafted a message akin to a toddler cutting out letters from a magazine and painted a party image no better than if that same toddler dumped a can of paint on the family’s new white couch.

On Wednesday morning, the House Democrats began protesting the refusal of Ryan to bring up any gun control bills for a vote in the House – a vote Ryan knows he would win.  Tired of being rendered feckless, Democrats decided to take drastic, unprecedented action.  They stormed the well of the House and refused to leave or allow any floor action until Ryan agreed to a vote.

This move was inspired by a similar filibuster last week in the Senate by Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, who has been a staunch advocate of gun control since the Newtown massacre in 2012.  Murphy spoke for 15 hours on the Senate floor and eventually yielded after McConnell agreed to a series of votes on gun control measures.

Those votes went forward and all were defeated, largely along party lines, just as McConnell planned.  Herein lies the difference between McConnell and Ryan.  

McConnell spent his entire career working his way up the political ladder to earn his job as Majority Leader.  He spent decades mastering the Senate parliamentary rules and used that mastery to advance his cause, something he first demonstrated in 1994 when he used parliamentary gamesmanship to defeat Bill Clinton’s campaign finance reform bill.

As such, McConnell understands not only how to govern a party, but how to message and win. So when Murphy took the floor last week, McConnell let him have his day in the spotlight, and then scheduled four votes that he knew he would win.  

While the news cycle was briefly critical of Republicans for defeating gun control (again), McConnell’s messaging machine pitched it as a conflict of constitutional due process and, well, sorry.  By ripping off the band-aid in one motion, McConnell stole the thunder from the Democrats who were reduced to once again watching their bills go down in flames.

Now let’s take a look at how the kid’s table across the Capitol handled the same situation.  

As Rep. John Lewis, civil rights icon, took to the House floor yesterday, Paul Ryan made the fateful, House-of-Cards-inspired decision to recess the House and turn off the CSPAN cameras in an attempt to deny Democrats an audience.  Instead, Democrats used their smartphones (hi, 2016 here, pleasure to meet you Mr. Speaker) to livestream the event from the floor themselves, which CSPAN in turn broadcast for the rest of the day.  

Now, instead of another boring day on CSPAN, the spectacle morphed into almost a cult phenomenon that was being shared thousands of times across all social media platforms.

“Look at the Democrats! They’re overcoming adversity! Streaming from their phones! #NoBillNoBreak!”

Then, as if all the attention Democrats were getting wasn’t already enough of a failure for Ryan, he decided to hold an unrelated vote in the middle of the night. What did this accomplish? It brought all the major media coverage back to the House floor.  Just as the fire was dwindling to coals for the Democrats, Ryan came to the rescue with a gallon jug of lighter fluid.

In his final act of political naivete, Ryan ultimately decided to recess the House for the next two weeks.  In doing so, he ceded the moral high-ground to the Democrats.  Their floor speeches during the sit-in castigated Republicans for refusing to take tough votes, so what did Ryan do in response? Proved them right and sent his caucus scurrying for the hills.  

Could he have chosen a more cowardly way to end this standoff?

If Ryan had agreed to allowing a vote (which he would win), the news cycle would have briefly given Democrats a pat on the back for their effort and for another day or two discussed how sad it was that gun control didn’t pass (again).  But by then Trump would have said something else outrageous and the House would have voted to repeal Obamacare (again) and everything would have been back to normal.

Instead of just ripping off the band-aid like McConnell did, Ryan tried to slowly pick at the edges and ended up with a festering wound.  This is the difference between a father and child.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Photo credit: (Andrew Harnik/ AP)

Donald Trump is Allergic to the Truth

Donald Trump is a lying liar.  If he had cut down Washington’s cherry tree he would have called into CNN and claimed a miniature tornado picked up the hatchet and repeatedly spun it against the tree until it fell.

For someone who says they are the antithesis to lying, corrupt politicians, Trump lies more than anyone… ever.  I watched Trump’s energy speech in North Dakota last week and in the first part of the speech counted almost a lie every two minutes.  If I had made it into a drinking game I would have had my stomach pumped by the time the Q-and-A started. 

Some of his lies are persistent lies (“I saw Muslims cheering on 9/11”) and some of them are convenient lies (“Hillary is going to abolish the second amendment”) but they are all lies.

We would never accept this sniveling lying from any other candidate, so why do Trump supporters accept it from him?  

Over the past week Trump has been on the defensive over the whereabouts of donations he allegedly made to veterans groups.  The Washington Post detailed his lies about the donations, which became increasingly bold and even included Trump denying statements he had made in the face of video of him making said statements. He gave $6 million: lie. He gave a million himself: lie. (He has since made a $1 million donation but only because he was called out for not having made one…)

He lies more impulsively and frequently than a child who claims they didn’t eat the last piece of cake despite having frosting smeared across their lips.

One of Trump’s favorite lies to tell involves him mysteriously coming down with rapid onset amnesia when questioned about his past.  For example, Politico wrote an extensive piece on Trump’s ties to mob members and in the article Trump repeatedly claimed to “hardly know” people who he had used to work with and one guy who he had even vouched for during a court sentencing procedure.

And then also last week, while appearing on Jimmy Kimmel, Trump admitted to being “full of shit” when he praised Hillary Clinton back in 2008.  During the same interview he also admitted to using aliases but continued to deny (read: lie) that he impersonated his own spokesman who conveniently had the same name as the alias he said he liked to use.

As if last week weren’t chock-full of enough lies, Mediaite responded to Trump’s assertion that he “never reads” the Huffington Post, by posting a handful of times Trump has re-tweeted them.  Huff-Po writer Sam Stein even noted that Trump has written to him.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Well, Trump could.

Politifact has rated an astonishing 77% of Trump’s statements somewhere between “mostly false” and “pants on fire.”  That means only 23% of Trump’s public declarations are “half true” or better – not even 100% true!  Mitt Romney, by contrast, has ~60% of his statements rated as “half true” or better.

These lies are not slight exaggerations or mischaracterizations, they are downright, unequivocal, cut-and-dry lies.  Trump simply cannot tell the truth. He as an aversion to it like a cat to water or a dog to the vet.  If the answer to a question is inconvenient, unfortunate, or unflattering, he lies.  He says he doesn’t remember, he says the premise is wrong, or he makes something up.  

There is no sugar coating this. Donald Trump is allergic to the truth and a man of such severely decrepit character should never be allowed to step foot in the Oval Office.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Photo Credit: AP

The Right’s Silence Is Deafening.

A snowball by itself isn’t very harmful. In fact, when thrown at someone it explodes into a satisfying cloud of flurries and fun.  But if it were to be rolled down a mountain, it could grow larger and larger until transformed into a full blown avalanche capable of burying hikers, cars, towns, and anything else in it’s path until it has morphed an entire landscape into a violent sea of white.

Last year Donald Trump rolled up a snowball of Mexican rapists and rural white fear and tossed it down a mountain towards the unsuspecting public below.  Over the past year, Trump’s momentum has grown exponentially and now, with the magic number of delegates having been reached, has reached the point of no return.

America is in the midst of an impending avalanche with a bad haircut and tiny hands.

It might already be too late however, as the entire GOP seems to have resigned themselves to their fate and rolled over waiting to meet their maker.  But it didn’t have to be this way.

Look I get it, Hillary Clinton is just about the worst thing in the world that could happen to conservatives.  The idea of her in the White House probably makes their skin crawl the same way mine does thinking about President Cruz (I literally shivered typing that).  But there is a limit to party loyalty and the sudden and reflexive kowtowing by the conservative establishment to their new Chosen One is utterly terrifying.

Robert Kagan observed in the Washington Post recently that this type of blind loyalty is what leads to authoritarianism.  He’s right.  Words matter when you’re the leader of the free world and Donald Trump has said a lot of words that should disqualify anyone from seeking this office.  If a Democratic candidate called for a ban on a religion or called women the names Trump has, I wouldn’t in good conscience be able to say I support them.

Country over party, right?

What is scary isn’t the capitulation of those like Chris Christie – who tucked his tail between his legs and sold his soul to the devil early on – it’s those who have been carefully tap-dancing and silently nodding in acceptance.

  • Paul Ryan went from saying he “couldn’t endorse” Trump to saying he was “encouraged” by him and just can endorse him “yet.”
  • Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said she voted for Trump but wasn’t happy about it.
  • Rep. Peter King said he had to endorse the nominee but wasn’t enthusiastic about it.
  • Senator Marco Rubio won’t even use Trump’s name, and just says he’ll “support the nominee.”

The candidate these “leaders” are offering tacit approval to is not a candidate who inspires with ideas of economic prosperity and hope.  He is a candidate whose prominence is the sole result of a swelling rash of fear, xenophobia, and anger among predominantly white Americans who believe “their country” is slipping away from them.

The establishment’s silence is deafening in a moment where a concerted effort by the conservative elite could go a long way in denying Trump the credibility he craves.  Every endorsement Trump receives gives his candidacy a little more legitimacy that allows voters to say; “See, he can’t be that bad, all those Congressman think he’ll be great.”  

The inability to put country ahead of party when the stakes are so high represents the worst of our politics.  I’d be willing to bet there is implicit – or maybe even explicit – understanding from the RNC that the Republicans will win or lose as a team this year and that renegade members who bash their nominee will not be supported with party money.

If Trump becomes president and our country heads down the path he has indicated he’ll take it, all of the GOP leaders who stood by idly in favor of their own self interest will have to answer for why they didn’t act when they had the chance.

Just like Trump’s support has snowballed into an unstoppable avalanche, so will his ideas if elected.  Fear is a powerful force and if it prompts the banning of Muslim immigration who is to say the trend won’t continue to other races and religions that scare red America.  If it starts with expanding libel laws so Trump can sue those who speak ill of him, who is to say it won’t end with FBI arrests of journalist who critique the Administration.  

You may say that is silly exaggeration and could never happen, but then again, a year ago it was thought impossible that a candidate could prey on “the other” to become a nominee for president in the Land of the Free.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Tom Cotton wants to jail more people. Are you kidding me.

Earlier this week, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) gave a speech at the Hudson Institute in honor of Police Week, where he made the audacious claim that the United States has a problem with “under-incarceration.”  You read that correctly, Tom Cotton thinks that the developed country with the highest per-capita prison population in the world hasn’t put enough people in jail.

Cotton’s intended audience were law enforcement officials, so I understand he was attempting to pander to their position, but the idea that the United States should be putting more of its citizens behind bars is so ludicrously asinine and insulting that it makes Hillary Clinton’s attempts to pander to African Americans by telling a hip-hop radio station she keeps hot sauce in her purse look like child’s play.

First, let’s start with Cotton’s claim that mass incarceration in the 1980’s and 1990’s is responsible for the precipitous drop in the national crime rate.  The Brennan Center for Justice did a comprehensive study of the possible explanations for the drop in crime and mass incarceration was just one of thirteen possible explanations, most of which were deemed “inconclusive.”  The simple truth is that we don’t know why the crime rate has dropped so much.  It also may not be any one factor, but a combination of all of the above.

Cotton’s blatant cherry picking of this statistic to make his point is effective, but also dishonest and ignorant.  Public policy should be rooted in careful analysis, not prejudice, predisposition, and petty politics.

But let’s pretend for a second (and only a second) that Cotton is right, and that jailing everyone who commits a crime for the next ten years of their life really is the best way to prevent crimes.  But, is that really the best use of our resources?  Does it contribute to a just and verdant society down the road?  Does it help those criminals repent, reform, and move on from their transgressions?

For starters, it certainly isn’t the best use of our resources.  The National Dialogue Network recently conducted a study where it was determined that the state of Ohio could fund a child’s entire education at public schools and university through a master’s degree for the price of one year of incarceration.  

It is well known that the best way to prevent a child from becoming a criminal is to provide them with a great education.  If the state is so willing to spend six figures every year jailing those who have strayed from a good path, why not invest that money on the front end to give them opportunity outside of crime?

Once people are jailed (and thus not committing crimes in society) will they be better off once they are released?  Most of the time the answer is absolutely not.  Serving time stigmatizes a person for life.  Jobs become harder to get, house becomes harder to acquire, and social relationships falter.  In addition, most people who commit crimes do so in their prime development years, so if they spend those years in jail they are sacrificing their prime years for work training, retirement savings, marriage and family time, and educational opportunities.  

How is someone better off as a 35 year old with no previous job experience, no family, and a black mark on their employment application better for society than someone who went through a rehabilitation program in their early twenties and went on to find a steady job?

Cotton then attempts to back up his mass incarceration claim by stating that “criminal leniency would lead to more poverty” and that the state “cannot decrease the severity and certainty of sentences without increasing crime. It’s simply impossible.”  He supports this with absolutely no facts and no data.  In real life – which Cotton seems to be detached from – prison actually proves to be detrimental to preventing crime.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics showed that 65% of those who are sent to jail recidivate and another study showed that every year spent in jail increases recidivism rates by nearly 6%.  Cotton would argue that is because “criminals are criminals” but I would argue that it’s because jail doesn’t accomplish what the “justice” system was intended to.  The theory behind sentences is not only to punish but to reform.  

Given the high recidivism rate, it is obvious the reform part is completely failing.  And when you take into account the sky-high price of locking people up, it would make infinitely more sense to invest in a justice system that focused on reforming citizens instead of putting them in an environment more likely to harden them.

But Cotton doesn’t stop there.  In his speech he proceeds to target Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia for restoring voting rights to former felons. He says, “Just last month, one governor restored voting rights to more than 200,000 felons, regardless of the offense committed or evidence of rehabilitation.”  What Cotton doesn’t mention was that this new order just restored voting rights of Virginia felons to the same status as former felons in Arkansas.  Cotton either didn’t do his research, or is aiming to make a nakedly political point.  I’m guessing it’s both.

What is most egregious about the arguments Cotton is making is that he is turning people’s lives into political footballs.  Restricting individual’s liberty is the most powerful thing a state can do.  Once an officer puts the cuffs on someone, their life is no longer in their own hands.  They become subject to the mercy of the courts. Their finances become subject to payment of court fees and their future freedom becomes subject to a judge’s whims.  

Cotton later added for dramatic effect: “I saw this in Baghdad. We’ve seen it again in Afghanistan. Security has to come first, whether you’re in a war zone or whether you’re in the United States of America.”  Jailing people who commit crimes in order to survive due to destitute conditions or others who are caught smoking weed for fun are not comparable to securing a road free of IEDs.  

Senator, your service is admirable, but your political pandering is shameful.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Photo credit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon