Category Archives: Politics

What if Trump were the Democratic nominee?

Mitt Romney on the campaign trail in 2012. Photo (cc) 2012 by Dave Lawrence.

Mitt Romney on the campaign trail in 2012. Photo (cc) 2012 by Dave Lawrence.

Alex Beam’s column in today’s Boston Globe got me thinking: What would I do if Donald Trump were the Democratic nominee? Alex confesses that he was a late arrival in the #NeverTrump camp. I’m not a Democrat, but I am a liberal. Because of the unique threat I think Trump poses to our democracy, I’ve broken with past practice and said whom I’m voting for this time around: Hillary Clinton. I have great respect for Republicans and conservatives like Mitt Romney and Charlie Baker, who came out against Trump early on. But what would I do if the shoe were on the other foot?

So here’s my little mind game. I can’t think of a Democrat who’s analogous to Trump, so let’s just imagine that Trump himself had won the Democratic nomination; it’s not that far-fetched given his chameleon-like political identity over the years. And since Trump is hardly a traditional conservative, let’s imagine, too, that there’s one significant issue on which he departs from Democratic orthodoxy. For the sake of argument, I’ll stipulate that Trump the Democrat holds the same views on immigration as Trump the Republican.

Now, then. There aren’t really any moderate Republicans left on the national stage, but there are rational, sane Republicans: Romney, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich to name three. So let’s extend this experiment by imagining that Romney had somehow won the nomination. How would I vote?

On the one hand, Trump the Democrat has promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who’d protect same-sex marriage and reproductive rights, to raise the minimum wage, and to reform Obamacare by seeking to add a public option. Romney has promised the opposite, and has vowed to repeal Obamacare, even though it’s based on Romneycare. On the other hand, Trump is Trump, with all the baggage we’ve seen on display throughout this campaign.

I would like to think I’d vote for Romney, but I’m honestly not 100 percent sure. Part of me believes that we could survive four years of Trump the Democrat, and that it would be worth it so as not to unleash the right. Then again, Romney’s a sensible guy, and maybe he could find some sort of middle ground.

It’s not easy, is it?

How Trump is trying to delegitimize a Clinton presidency

Trump rally in Arizona earlier this year. Photo (cc) 2016 by Gage Skidmore.

Trump rally in Arizona earlier this year. Photo (cc) 2016 by Gage Skidmore.

All of the media reaction to Wednesday night’s third and final presidential debate focused on one surreal and disturbing moment. Within minutes of the close, the Associated Press moved a story with this extraordinary lede:

Threatening to upend a fundamental pillar of American democracy, Donald Trump refused to say in debate that he will accept the results of next month’s election if he loses to Hillary Clinton. The Democratic nominee declared Trump’s resistance “horrifying.”

The homepage newspaper headlines this morning amplify on that theme. The New York Times: “Trump Won’t Say if He Will Accept Election Results.” The Washington Post: “Trump refuses to say whether he’ll accept election results.” The Wall Street Journal: “Trump Won’t Commit to Accepting Vote if He Loses.”

I want to offer a couple of points about Trump’s deeply transgressive act.

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Do presidential newspaper endorsements still matter?

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-8-57-52-amFrom my just-published Q&A with news @ Northeastern:

Presidential endorsements are a way for newspapers as community institutions to express their values and their vision. I’ve written plenty of endorsements over the years, and I was never under any illusion that what we had to say about the presidential candidates was going to change anyone’s mind. Rather, it is a way for a newspaper’s editorial board to say, “This is who we are. This is what we believe.”

The Comeback Id? Not so fast, say the pundits.

Photo (cc) 2016 by xx.

Photo (cc) 2016 by Colleen P.

If you thought that Donald Trump’s semi-coherent performance in the second debate would lead our ever-fickle pundits to proclaim him the Comeback Id, you were wrong—sort of.

Yes, he won some grudging plaudits for coming across as slightly less unhinged than he’d been in the first debate. Overall, though, the morning-after commentary suggests that virtually everyone this side of Breitbart saw the St. Louis encounter as merely another stop on the way to an overwhelming defeat.

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In VP debate, Pence helps Pence—to Trump’s detriment

Donald Trump and Mike Pence in Phoenix, Arizona, earlier this year. Photo (cc) 2016 by Gage Skidmore.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence in Phoenix, Arizona, earlier this year. Photo (cc) 2016 by Gage Skidmore.

The vice presidential debate will be forgotten by the time Donald Trump launches his next tweetstorm. Tuesday night’s encounter between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence was, as Glenn Thrush puts it at Politico, “less a game-changer than a channel-changer.”

To the extent that it matters, though, post-debate media commentary focused on two developments that over the next five weeks may prove more problematic for Trump than for Hillary Clinton.

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From the Globe, some needed context on charter schools

The Boston Globe has been notably favorable toward charter schools both on its opinion pages and in its news coverage. But if you oppose Question 2, a referendum that would expand the number of charter schools in Massachusetts (as I do), then you’ve got to like two pieces in today’s Globe.

First, a story by David Scharfenberg on a study by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation that claims to show charter schools aren’t draining money from regular public schools notes in the second paragraph that the study was paid for by a pro-charter-school organization:

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation study, paid for by the pro-charter Boston Foundation, shows that per-pupil spending in traditional public schools has grown at about the same rate as per-pupil spending in charter schools over the past five years.

Interestingly, the original version of Scharfenberg’s story, posted online Wednesday, made no mention of the funding. Whatever the reason, I’m glad that he and/or his editors decided to add that important context later on. And by the way: the study actually shows that, in some communities, the financial bite caused by charter schools is pretty serious.

Second, Joan Vennochi observes in her opinion column that Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s opposition to the ballot question is likely to be a big deal. Toward the end, Vennochi writes:

I don’t like union resistance to needed reform. But I also dislike charter advocates’ portrayal of union-backed teachers as universally lazy and inept. Of course, parents naturally want the best education for their children and they should be able to choose what that means. But the creation of a two-tiered system betrays the very mission of public education [emphasis added].

That really goes to the heart of the matter. Because the political will doesn’t exist to create great public schools for everyone, charter-school proponents want to create them for a few. It’s just unacceptable.

Disclosure: My wife is a public school teacher and a union member in a community unlikely to be affected if Question 2 is approved.

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Even most conservatives agree that Trump lost bigly


Photos (cc) 2016 (Trump) and 2015 (Clinton) by Gage Skidmore

Breitbart, the alt-right website whence came Donald Trump’s latest campaign guru, Steve Bannon, is today awash in alt-reality.

Drop in and you will learn that Donald Trump actually picked up more support following Monday night’s debate than did Hillary Clinton; that moderator Lester Holt “lived down to the worst expectations of conservatives” by diving into the tank on Clinton’s behalf; and that Clinton’s shimmy following a particularly unhinged Trump soliloquy went on just a bit too long, “getting awkward toward the end.”

In fact, as most people who watched the debate have concluded, Clinton defeated Trump decisively. To offer just one data point, an instant poll by CNN/ORC showed that viewers thought Clinton won by the lopsided margin of 62 percent to 27 percent. I thought Trump’s bullying, interrupting, scowling, and lying added up to the worst presidential debate performance I’ve seen—and I’ve seen just about all of them starting with Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford in 1976.

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