Thursday, March 31, 2016

Trump's Female Outreach & Tavern Caucus Results

Tavern regular "Mike" weighs in on Trump
You have to give Donald Trump credit for his ability to offend and alienate such wide demographic segments of the American populace with just one statement.

With his recent calls to arm Japan and South Korea with nuclear arms, he's evidently trying make enemies with foreign policy experts, the diplomatic community and Pacific Rim nations in one shot; the White House branded Tump's simplistic stab at nuclear strategy "catastrophic."

Despite his rather feeble effort to attempt to backtrack his comments made Tuesday on MSNBC that "there has to be some sort of punishment for women" who obtain an abortion procedure (in the event it's made illegal), he's already outraged both foes AND supporters of abortion.

The fact that he said it at all proves that being a billionaire doesn't automatically make you smart, especially given his remarkably low approval ratings with U.S. women.

Trump's thuggish, ill-tempered campaign manager Corey Lewandowski should've reminded his boss that women make up 52% of the U.S. population, but he's too busy defending himself against battery charges for grabbing reporter Michelle Fields.

Now the photo above (which I took with my iPhone) is not an actual Trump supporter, that's my friend "Mike" wearing a Trump hat pretending to be a Trump supporter the other night.

"Mike" is one of the regulars at my favorite local haunt, The Franklin Corner Tavern. There's nothing particularly special or fancy about The Tavern, in fact, it's just a relatively small U-shaped bar located inside Franklin Corner Liquors just off of Franklin Corner Road in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

I suppose it's biggest claim to fame is that comedian and former Daily Show host Jon Stewart used to work there when he was a student at nearby Princeton University.

The online review on Yelp! pretty much sums it up: "Nice little liquor store and bar. Bar seems to attract a local/older crowd, but still a nice place to relax and have a few."

But it attracts some interesting local characters and a good conversation can always be had; and I'm much more interested in substantive conversation than in making some "scene".

The other night another regular named Jeff brought in one of those red "Make America Great Again" hats that Trump wears like some kind of costume.

Jeff confided to me beforehand that he'd bought two of them off of E-Bay to give as a gag gift for a co-worker's retirement party, but he was curious to see if giving one to "Mike" to wear inside the bar would rile up some of the progressives like me who hang out there.

Now Jeff is a Republican and an Army veteran who now works in the pharmaceutical industry.

He likes to hunt, but he's not a "gun-nut" and he's a very responsible hunter who butchers and freezes any deer he kills to eat, and he only hunts with a proper license. We often talk politics and he's got some pretty progressive views on some things; but he's a card-carrying Republican through and through - and he loves mischief.

So I went along with Jeff's Tump-hat gag when we went back inside as I was curious to see what would happen. Within minutes of "Mike" putting the hat on (see photo at top), people started making comments.

There were murmurs, snickers and some finger-pointing, of course "Mike" was in on it and he decided to not say anything, simply wear the hat as if nothing was amiss.

Within ten minutes, everyone of the 12 people sitting at the bar was talking about Trump, there are some conservative folks in there but I can tell you the consensus was that Trump was an embarrassment to the nation, a liability to the Republican party, a bigot, a misogynist and an obnoxious, boorish loudmouth.

It started to get heated, like just the subject of Trump raised the tension in the room. So finally a woman I'll call "Sharon", got up on her knees on a bar stool and announced she wanted to say something about Trump and raised her arms authoritatively for quiet.

"Sharon" is a married (once-divorced) white, forty-something mother of two who is a professor at a local college who grew up in North Carolina. We often discuss issues related to college education and she's brought her father from NC to the bar for a drink on occasion during the holidays when he visits - she's cool people, well-mannered in the southern way and very smart.

I guess it's the mom in her, but she managed to get the people in the bar quieted down and proceeded to offer a lengthy, very rational and well-spoken critique of Trump, the core of which was her deep offense at the way that he talks about and treats women and what that says about his character and his capacity as a leader - "Sharon" is conservative but she's not a Republican and she found his comments about Fox host Megyn Kelly to be repugnant.

She never raised her voice, and as I listened, I felt like she was honestly reflecting the way the vast majority of women in the U.S (those that are registered to vote and care about politics anyway) view Trump as a person and as a candidate.

When she finished, she got down off the stool, paid her tab and left with her husband and as she walked by me I high-fived her and realized that Trump has already likely lost the general election, even if he does manage to get the GOP nomination.

My sense is that women's role as "influencers" within American families and society are often underestimated. As I've mentioned, I used to work in the ad-design department when I worked at the NFL in New York back in the late 90's.

One of the core principals and drivers of the massive "Feel the Power" advertising campaign was not just to make people in general feel better about the NFL brand, it was to attract and actively court women's involvement in the game - to embrace them as part of the brand.

The extensive research we conducted to develop the campaign revealed not just that women were NFL fans, but the sometimes subtle roles they played in how the game was watched in the home on Sundays or Monday nights had a big influence on NFL fans and the way the League is perceived.

Women are often the ones making food shopping choices for game day, or the ones taking responsibility for preparing meals in the home during the games, or inviting people over - and, perhaps most importantly for advertisers; holding a huge influence in the household purchasing decisions related to what people buy to wear, eat or drink on game day.

To come back to Trump, my point is that women like "Sharon" are going to wield enormous influence over the 2016 presidential election; and I don't just mean that in terms of their being measured as a large slice of the American demographic.

They're going to wield influence over sons, fathers, husbands, brothers, nephews, cousins, co-workers and friends.

I mean, I can't speak for every American man but as a rule we can be sort of hard-headed and childish in some ways well into adulthood; but we generally listen to the women in our life - be they mothers, sisters, grandmas, aunts etc.

Fivethirtyeight blog creator-writer Nate Silver
Now as a part-time blogger and amateur political observer, no one is ever going to confuse me with Nate Silver. 

He's the brilliant statistician and writer who correctly called 49 of 50 states in the 2008 presidential election and all 50 states in the 2012 presidential election.

Check out his thoughts on how Trump's overt sexism will impact the general election in the March 29th entry on his influential fivethirtyeight blog titled, "One Weird Trick to Loose the 2016 Election: Alienate Women"

But based on listening to "Sharon", and other female thinkers, my sense is if just 50% of American women think like "Sharon" does about Trump, the sometimes-difficult-to-measure influence they wield on our society is going to mean the GOP finds a way to block him from being the 2016 candidate, or if they're stupid enough to make him their candidate, he's going to take a beating in the general election - and he may put the GOP House majority in jeopardy too.  

I think Trump is less substance than an appealing lightening rod for the deep-seated anger and frustration coursing through the majority of the American populace who've been excluded from the economic recovery enjoyed by the top 10% of this nation.

Over the course of this 2016 race, Trump hasn't improved as a candidate; he's actually devolved like some political neanderthal in reverse-evolution.

In the March 24th issue of Rolling Stone, Mark Binelli wrote a sharp political analysis exploring the 2016 president race and why Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (unlike their Republican counterparts), have matured politically on the campaign trail and emerged as better candidates.

Candidates whose debates have revolved around substantive issues and actual policy proposals.

In his RS piece, Binelli interviewed Robert Reich, the amusingly quirky economist and former secretary of labor under Bill Clinton. Since leaving the federal government, Reich as reemerged as a pretty interesting and outspoken progressive in the mold and style of Princeton economist and New York Times Paul Krugman.

Former labor secretary Robert Reich
If you've seen any of the insightful short videos Reich has hosted for as part of their efforts to address wage inequality (like his two-minute fifteen second explanation of the Republican War on the Poor and Working Families), you've seen how he blends an academic mastery of economics to the issues impacting the poor, working-class and middle-class American families.

Reich offered a really sharp analysis of the grassroots anger that lies at the core of the wide popularity of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders; even though the two candidates are polar opposites in so many ways. As Reich observed in Binelli's RS piece:

"Trade policies have helped people at the top and taken out the middle rungs of the job ladder and pushed millions into the personal-service sector, where they're getting paid very little. When the median wage started to stagnate, the first thing a lot of families did is, the wives and mothers went into the workforce. 

When wages continued to decline , the second thing they did was work longer hours. Then, when that coping mechanism was exhausted, the third thing was to go deep into debt, many people using home loans as collateral. And when that bubble burst, people woke up to what was happening, and you begin to get, starting with the bank bailouts, a surge of anger, the Tea Party on one side and Occupy on the other. And it doesn't stop, because the political establishment doesn't recognize it for what it is. They think it's left versus right!"

I think Reich's comments reach to the heart of what's at stake in the 2016 presidential election.

His comments also help to bring a measure of understanding as to why Donald Trump holds such appeal to the throngs who pack his rallies and cheer his extremism, ignorance, xenophobia, racism and misogyny.

Trump has learned to tap that anger but the reality is he doesn't actually have any idea of what to actually do with it; which is why he has virtually no policy specifics beyond building a really big wall.

 In truth, the imaginary wall he dreams about has already been constructed.

Only it's a wall in people's minds, one he's built brick by brick with each insult, lie, arrogant smirk, baseless accusation, call for violence, violation of reporter's right to free speech and the undisguised contempt he demonstrates towards people of color and women.

So as we say farewell to March and head towards April, politically I'm feeling pretty energized about the fact that Donald Trump continues to wall himself off further from an ever-growing huge cross-section of the American electorate in part because of a relatively simple truth most young men are taught at an early age but that seems to elude him:

Treat women with respect.

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