Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Where Hillary is Really Going With All This Loving Kindness Stuff

So, its going to be Trump (angry white people spoiling for a fight and desperate for security) and Hillary (a mixed group of Obama voters and depressed/angry/selfish self proclaimed leftist purity trolls and Sander's voters).* Trump is going to be wildly successful. His patented combination of fascist seduction and prosperity gospel makes him very, very, hard to beat.  He's not only promising to "make America Great Again" but to bring back jobs galore. I've heard him exhorting his fans to "get greedy!" because he's "going to make them all rich."  
This, needless to say, is not so much a political argument so much as it is a double helping of cake and ice-cream, laced with quaaludes and coke, and the promise that there will be no headache or vomiting tomorrow. Because its all promise and no policy it can't really be rebutted by another political figure. It doesn't resolve itself into an argument such as I will/will not build a wall at Mexico's expense. Or I will/will not raise taxes to pay for my policies. 
Trump doesn't have to say anything specific, or at any rate his voters don't want him to and will instantly forget anything he does promise.  The thing is that Trump, like Disney, is a <i>destination event</i>.  Being a Trump voter <i>is</i> the achievement. What Trump himself does or promises to do isn't relevant. Its how he makes his voters feel about their future and the future of the country.  
Steve M. made this argument with reference to anti Trump advertising and I think he is absolutely correct. You can't undermine Trump by referring to him or discussing him. His voters adore him, and they feel good just looking at things that remind them of him. His name, his hats, his ridiculous hair.  You have to expect that, like any addict, his voters are very well defended against anything that undercuts their addiction. That even the shabby opium dens and crack filled streets where they get their fix is, in its own way, a triggering and pleasurable memory for them.  They will wallow in their own vomit while congratulating themselves on having the time of their lives.  I have no doubt that in the long run people will remember the way they felt at Trump rallies very happily, whether he wins or not. Its a peak experience for his voters--finally a feeling of being spoken of, being spoken for, after what feels like a lifetime of being ignored and silenced. Trump's voters are like the miserable kids who got beat up every day at school when the jock finally adopts them as a pet.  They will put up with any amount of bad treatment from Trump or whoever Trump appoints as a surrogate, and they will protect Trump with everything they have.  
I think that HRC can beat Trump with the Obama coalition, and she seems to me to be on track to hold it together. After all, as I have to keep explaining to people who are not keeping up, Clinton and Obama both lost the white male vote (or the white vote entirely I keep forgetting).  HRC can win just with the Obama coalition even if she loses most of the white vote again. But she can't lose it all. And she probably still has to play for some portion of the Republican vote--those mythical people who are supposedly repulsed by Donald's racism, jingoism, intemperate behavior, boorishness, and recklessness. Of course for the most part they don't actually have a problem with the racism, jingoism, militarism or even the anti elitism.  But Trump is going to ratchet tension up until there is literal blood in the streets between his supporters and any minority person out there. And then he is going to gin up a race war to be the retroactive excuse for his racist pandering. Its going to be all “see what you made us do” all the time. He's got nothing to lose with this strategy.  Trumps voters will never abandon him--they will rationalize away whatever they have to in order to keep getting their fix from Trump.  Accusations that his campaign or his voters attacked some Black Students? It will all be seen as a lie or just Hillary's brand of bare knuckles partisanship.  These people are skilled at ignoring any reality they don't like. And they don't want to be unsold from the Donald experience.  
But there are probably a few Republicans who are not going to be able to stomach that. Some of them are old line Republicans, actual conservatives, or people with a stake in the system. Still others might be those recently flipped Democrats in MA who might end up coming back to the fold after the fever passes.  The thing about Trump is he's an acquired taste. He's like a virus you catch if your immune system is already weak.  If you've been powerless so long that this looks like success to you, you are a gonner. But if you come from slightly higher up the social scale, or you are not so scared, you never fall for this stuff at all. So for those on the fence, or possibly in recovery from the Trump fever, what do we need to do? They need a reason and a socially acceptable method to refuse to vote for him. 
Our only hope is if HRC can hold on to the Obama coalition, and ride a wave of specifically anti trump fervor, while also assuaging the fears of the sliver of Republican voters who will sit out the election even if they don’t cross over. In other words regardless of the provocation or the cries from the most left fringe that she become abusive to Trump or his voters she has to take the position (which, btw,she is already taking) of welcoming defectors and promising good treatment to everyone.
Trumpers are in the throes of a self justifying fury–every single thing that rebuts their love affair or attacks their love object is going to just harden their determination to crawl over broken glass to defend him and vote for him.  Trump is like some mythic monster who only grows stronger the more you throw at him.  Only by lowering the tension and fear for (some) of them can we overcome them.  And this, of course, is exactly what Hillary is doing with her "make America whole" and a return to purpose and kindness. This is not an argument from weakness--its extending an olive branch to Trump voters in the same way that promising not to torture and kill captured soldiers encourages them to surrender. 

*Which, to the extent they post furiously over at dkos about how Kissinger or the TPP or her imminent arrest by the FBI will doom Hillary, probably will still be typing furiously on election day and not bother to get out to vote anyway. Hillary is going to have to go after the disaffected Republican voters, those for whom the open racism and jingoism of Trump is kind of too much, even though they probably agree with a lot of what he is saying (the racism and the jingoism and the anti elite stuff).