Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cokie On Trump & 'The Bradley Effect' On GOP Voters

When selfies with Donald get really awkward
As the media turns the power of its focus and attention on the two remaining presidential front runners and the public vetting process begins to intensify, it's gotta be awkward to be a card carrying Republican these days.

The New York Times in-depth investigation into Donald Trump's treatment of, interactions with, and behavior around women that he's worked with or been around in the past is alarming to say the least.

And from just a brief sampling of the commentary about the article I've read online, or heard on public radio, for both Democrats and Republicans alike, it raises deeply troubling questions about Trump's intellectual capacity to deal with the complexities and nuances required of the commander in chief.

Yesterday afternoon, as is my habit at least three days during the work week, I took my lunch hour at the gym, and while I was on the exercise bike, I watched Brooke Baldwin interview veteran journalist, inside the Beltway commentator and author Cokie Roberts.

Now I've always found Roberts to be thoughtful and measured in her political analysis, which is always insightful as it benefits from her years in D.C. and having grown up in a prominent political family; more on that in a moment. 

Author and journalist Cokie Roberts
She's from the old school of journalism where a sense of objectivity is a prized asset.

Even though you know where she stands on the issues, she generally keeps her personal political leanings to herself, unlike some of the opinionaters on both the liberal and conservative side.

Personally I view Cokie as an enlightened pragmatic centrist with Democratic leanings.

And I admire her ability to balance compassion, reason and keen political analysis, regardless of whether she's actually a Republican, Democrat or independent.

She was ostensibly on CNN yesterday to plug her latest book 'Capital Dames: The Civil War & the Women of Washington, 1848 - 1868',  but she also weighed in on her reaction to the New York Times piece on Trump's interaction with women.

As always she was classy and reserved in her analysis, but it was clear she found the accounts of Trump's behavior around women to be abhorrent and disturbing.

Without directly saying it, she compared the overall tone of Trump's commentary and campaign message to a period of this nation's history when women and African-Americans were marginalized by mainstream society.

As a fairly astute observer of the human condition, I watched Robert's normally cool "television" facial expression momentarily contort into a rare flash of emotion when she alluded to the kinds of overt sexism she'd faced on the job as a younger journalist; when such a thing was not as common as it is today.

You could actually see her eyes water up ever so slightly as she rolled her eyes with a slight shake of her head as if to silently say, "Oh the stories I could tell you!", but that's not why she was there and as a professional she stayed on subject.

Hale Boggs with President Kennedy in 1963
While trying to describe the tone of Trump's campaign, she said she hasn't seen anything like it in years, and she recalled that as a girl growing up in the south, she witnessed the darkness of racism and bigotry first-hand when the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on the lawn of her house in response to her parent's support of civil rights. 

Her father was the Mississippi-born former Democratic House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, who was famously declared dead in November 1972 after a twin-engine plane he was traveling in with Congressman Nick Begich mysteriously disappeared during a flight from Anchorage to Juneau, Alaska on October 19, 1972.

The two were on their way to a political fund raiser and it is of interest to note that Hale Boggs was a member of the Warren Commission tasked with investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Boggs was the lone member of the Commission who refused to accept the validity of the "single bullet theory", and over the years some have speculated that the plane crash was related to the still unnamed people responsible for Kennedy's death - despite a rigorous 39-day search by members of the United States Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, the wreckage of the plane was never found.

Roberts has stated (publicly anyway) that she doesn't believe the conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy's death have ever been proven true with facts.

But given her political lineage and her experiences as a journalist, there's little doubt how she feels about Donald Trump as a presidential candidate.

We're a long way away from November, but with all the division Trump's candidacy has caused within the ranks of the Republican party establishment, including politicians, pundits and major party donors alike, I think a lot of Republicans must be torn over the actual reality of his candidacy - and the potential damage he could do to the Republican Congressional majority down the road.

I have to wonder if there aren't large numbers of mainstream Republican voters who's conservative ideology will be trumped (pun intended) by reason when they close the curtains to the voting booth or drop their ballot in the box this November.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley
It's possible Trump is going to be affected by a 'reverse Tom Bradley effect' this fall, meaning that there are conservatives who may say they're voting for Trump to like-minded friends, family or associates, but when it comes to their actual vote, they may quietly cast votes for Hillary Clinton based on his troubling interactions with women, lack of clear policy objectives and some of the abhorrent things he's said about Mexicans, immigrants, women and others.

"The "Bradley Effect" is the name commonly given to the theory that political polls and and actual outcome of elections can vary when an African-American and white candidate are running against each other - some suggest the theory can apply to candidates who differ widely in terms of policy, regardless of race, a la Hillary and Trump.

Its named for the popular former African-American Los Angles Mayor Tom Bradley, who helped bring the city back together after his election in 1973 in the wake of the Watts Riots (when blacks were only about 15% of the LA population) by forging coalitions that crossed race and ethnicity - he was the longest serving Mayor in LA history and the first African-American elected to the position.

Polls suggested he had a commanding lead in the 1982 California Governor's race against a white Republican opponent named George Deukmejian, but lost the actual election.

Some political experts have speculated that some white California voters who were polled prior to the election felt self-conscious about being perceived as harboring racial prejudices by telling pollsters they didn't want to vote for Bradley (whether because of his policy or his race) so they simply lied to the pollsters then voted against Bradley on election day.

With Republicans I wonder if there's a reverse-Bradley Effect going on with angry conservatives who feel like they should be supporting Trump, but are privately turned off by the idea of his actually being president knowing his stance on women and non-whites and the contempt with which people in other nations view him could make him a disaster as president.

It's hard to gauge what Republican voters are going to do this fall, but there are clearly large numbers of conservatives who may like some of the things he says, but who realize that he's totally unsuitable for the highest office in the land.

Will they quietly turn the lever for Hillary in the voting booth, and not tell anyone they did? 

No comments: