By Mark Green
Stuart Stevens and Ron Reagan -- who know something about Republican nomination contests -- see Trump is a stress test for our democracy, They discuss how he rose and what lessons the GOP will learn after November. Also: like other primary losers who elevate grievances over beliefs, will Sanders choose to hurt Hillary or Donald?
How the hell did Trump win the GOP Nomination? Yes, the media's $2 billion in-kind gift to the blond bloviator helped boost him. But Stevens and Reagan emphasize other culprits. "It's like The Guns of August," says Romney media guru and novelist Stevens, "There was alot of stupidity and cowardice that fed together but mostly it was opponents who foolishly let him win. They thought that if Romney could win a nomination, how hard could it be? But it's very hard and they never went after Trump." Why not? Referring to The Emperor's New Clothes, the Host cites their fear of getting hurt by Trump's tweets and expectation that one of the other guys would take him on and down. Didn't happen.
Ron deplores how the media "treated him as a normal candidate when he wasn't", instead providing him saturation without analysis. He also blamed a party "kept ignorant by right-wing talk radio and Fox about a Kenyan president, ISIS coming across the border, climate change as a hoax", a party of nativists and racists that Trump know how to play.
What can the media do now? Since it's very hard to interview a river of lies and assertions, both hope for more "ridicule." Stuart: "Trump knows nothing and what he thinks he knows is wrong. So interviewers should ask 'how many amendments are there in the Bill of Rights and what years did Lincoln serve as president?" Ron argues that the media should have learned its lesson and now always ask why he's not disclosing his tax returns as all candidates have done going back to Nixon.
But how to pressure him to do so? Stuart thinks that should be a criterion that the Debate Commission uses before permitting someone in the Fall debates while the Host suggests that Clinton or surrogates should now just assert what's logical: "Since every recent nominee has released tax returns, we have to assume that either he's a philanthropic cheapstake, exploits loopholes to pay a low or zero tax rate, or is worth a fraction of his self-touted $10b. Since only he can provide the answers and doesn't, it's fair to assume he's a tax fraud until he shows otherwise."
Host: There are two models of how to cross-examine Trump. When Chris Matthews in a MSNBC town hall asked him a rapid-fire series of questions ending with "would you punish the woman" if abortion is murder, Trump stumbled and said "yes." And when Trump called into "This Week", George Stephanopoulos inserted this quick question in a conversation about his tax disclosure, "what 's your tax rate?", provoking Trump's testosterone to blurt out, "That's none of your business." (So the private sex life of a candidate's spouse is fair game but not a nominee's tax rate?)
Chance Trump can actually be president? Reagan says 10% while Stevens
ns pegs it at 25%, "which assured a friend of mine until I asked him whether he'd fly a plane with a pilot who crashed a quarter of the time."
Should Trump lose by the expected 5-10 points that today's fundamentals indicate, what will the GOP learn? Stevens lauds the RNC and Priebus for conducting a painful but thoughtful "autopsy" after its 2012 loss which concluded that the party had to reach out more to growing minorities, "both for political and moral reasons." But we then agree this was unlikely given a base that cheers when Mexicans and Muslims are villainized and the Trump/Cruz folks -- who totalled 80% of the vote in recent primaries and now comprise most delegates and party regulars -- keep trying to out-wing each other notwithstanding the likely 6th popular vote loss in the last 7 presidential contests. Or as preachers say, "it's the congregation that writes the sermon."
What does Bernie want? This week saw his supporters shout-down Senator Boxer in Las Vegas, leading her colleague Diane Feinstein to fear another "'68 convention." Indeed, new polling does show a tightening of the General Election contest because 28% of inflamed Sanders voters now say they'd boycott Hillary in November.
When Clinton mathematically clinches the nomination by the June 7 California primary, what will Sanders do? Will he work with the party & Clinton to defeat the loathed Trump or keep belittling the nominee citing something -- Superdelegates unfair! Closed primaries unfair! Wasserman-Schultz mean!? (Actually, Clinton won 10 of 14 "open primaries" with 58% of the vote.) The panel assumes a reconciliation since, in Stevens view, "Trump is the Democrats great unifer."
Stevens suggests that Clinton choose Sanders as her VP to keep his liberal millennials in the tent. Or perhaps Warren. We then have spirited debate about whether Clinton, who's doing especially poorly among white working class men, would choose another woman...even one as appealing as the popular populist, Elizabeth Warren. Stuart thinks that'd be smart but "Hillary probably won't because she's risk-averse."
Host: Forgive the Ferrer-Ramirez-Sharpton reference from 2001 but it does seem like a comparable situation. Unless a nominee can unify his/her party, any primary loser can find a pretext to seek revenge by defeating the person who defeated him. And make the margin of difference.
But since the Fall contest will be as pure a contrast between Democracy and Authoritarianism as any presidential contest in our history, it's hard to believe that a sincere liberal like Sanders and most of his adherents won't join a progressive nominee on choice, racial justice, economic and social inequality etc. However, as I admit and discuss in my new generational memoir brightinfinitefuture.net, I thought the same thing about Ferrer et. al. in the mayoral race of 2001 after eight years of Giuliani, and was wrong.