November 12, 2016

Talking to us not like we're stupid

Let history record that Obama goes out the door with:
  • Full, or nearly full employment
  • The national debt at manageable levels
  • Core inflation close to target

His other agendas, as documented here, were thwarted by a heroic Republican Congress, so, unlike Caesar, his good might live after him, perhaps even some of Obamacare.

For those who think the U.S. has gone mad (and maybe it has), I'd recommend this interesting article, which reports out some exit polling.  Key points:
  • In 2012, Obama won both voters who had graduated from college and those who hadn't; he took 50 percent among the former group and 51 percent among the latter. This time around, there was a far bigger divide. Clinton won voters with a college degree 52 percent to 43 percent. Trump won voters without a college degree by eight points.
  • Trump's victory should be in no way interpreted as a vote of confidence in him or his capacity to do the job. Less than 4 in 10 voters (38 percent) had a favorable opinion of him. Only 1 in 3 said he was "honest and trustworthy." Thirty-eight percent said he was "qualified" to be president. Thirty-five percent said he has the "temperament to serve effectively as president."  How can a candidate win with numbers like these? Because the desire for change was so great that it overrode all of the doubts - or at least many of the doubts - people had about Trump.
As to how such an unlikable person got so many votes (apart from Clinton Drama Fatigue) this interesting article praises Trump's ability to talk like a 6th grader:
More than 40 percent of Americans have only basic literary skills, according to a 2003 assessment...  A presidential candidate wants to be understood by all voters, from immigrants whose first language isn’t English to those with advanced degrees in linguistics. Trump rarely uses speechwriters, yet he’s grasped one of their principles: It is more important to be understood than to use $10 words. The simple way Trump speaks does not make his supporters think he is speaking down to them. The opposite, in fact, appears to be true. “He’s . . . talking to us not like we’re stupid,” one supporter said in a focus group conducted in December.
and also:
Most of the words in a speech don’t register in the brains of listeners, who are more likely to remember the general tone of a speech and how it made them feel. 
For all the talk of a crisis in the Republican Party, the Democrats, I think have bigger problems.  The two proffered candidates this time around were Davos Democrat Clinton, and Sanders, whose language was the most complex of any candidate.  This has happened to the Democrats again and again:  Kerry, Gore, and Dukakis, among others, were competent but largely insulated from the world of uneducated Americans.  Since only about a third of American adults have even a Bachelors degree, that's a problem.

To win back some power (hopefully in two years' time), the Dems will need to market effectively to ordinary people, not just their billionaire pals.

This whole thing has had a Reaganesque feel to it.  I remember sitting at Wesleyan one night in 1980, watching an expected close election turn into a blowout, and it was a similar type of rebuke.  The "Reagan Democrats" turned on their party, and it was morning in America, and it worked out great except for the millions of homeless people his policies created.  Thus, Garrison Keillor, who is old enough to remember, walks away from the table.
Alas for the Trump voters, the disasters he will bring on this country will fall more heavily on them than anyone else. The uneducated white males who elected him are the vulnerable ones and they will not like what happens next.
As much as I sympathize with him emotionally - it was not pleasant, sitting in Hong Kong, pondering my flight home to Trumpamerica - going away isn't really an option.  The Democrats need to get back to what has worked for them:  being the party of working people, the party that looks out for the less well-educated and less well-off.  And they need to put forth candidates who have been in a grocery store in the past decade, who have credibility in flyover land, have maybe even been to visit there once in a while.  Obama had all that, the Clintons, not.

I don't like what happened, but here is all I needed to know about Hillary Clinton.  The first big news after the election is that she blames Comey.  I understand, his behavior was reprehensible.  But how do we know this?  Because she said so...apparently...reportedly...on a call to donors that was closed to the press.

How did Americans ever get the idea she was disconnected?

The Democrats need to fix this, fast, or it will be Sundown in America for a long time.


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