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“We lost to an insane person”: Democrats seek messaging help from … Hollywood

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Sort of understandable, and not just because Hollywood’s business depends upon knowing how to please Americans emotionally. In the Trump era, every dimwitted politically active celebrity secretly (or not so secretly) believes that they too could parlay their fame into high office with some money, a little luck, and tons of earned media. If the guy from “The Apprentice” can figure out how to get elected president, the guy who plays him on “Saturday Night Live” can in theory figure it out too.

But even beyond individual celebs’ ambitions, I think there’s a suspicion among the political class post-Trump that in an age of ubiquitous media, with voters newly open to flashy yet unconventional candidates in lieu of career politicians, media industries that don’t normally deal directly with electoral politics might have a useful perspective on how to win. If you want to beat a glib, image-obsessed TV star, who better to consult than glib, image-obsessed TV people?

Best of luck to them landing a big name like Robert De Niro to grunt gutturally into a mic about how much he hates Trump. It can’t not work.

“One of the first things we were at least talking about in the beginning meetings was how to improve upon the message as to what does the Democratic Party stand for, what does that represent,” said Andrew Marcus, who owns the television and film company Apiary Entertainment. “When the Republican Party or [President Donald] Trump is able to say ‘Make America great again’ and nobody that I know can tell you what the DNC or any of the leading candidates’ slogans [are], I think that’s a marketing problem.”

Alex Gregory, a writer and producer, said he has lobbied Democrats in their meetings to tie in vitro fertilization to abortion rights debates, while generally encouraging Democrats to adopt “more emotional content” in their messaging.

“It really is focused on … what do we stand for? In some ways, how did we lose?” Gregory said. “It is a moment of soul searching right now, in that we lost to an insane person … and that was more appealing than what we had to offer.”

The journey of a thousand miles begins with this first step: Run someone other than Hillary Clinton. Once they’ve got that straightened out, they’re on their way. As for scrambling abortion debates by introducing IVF into the discussion, that does … not feel like an election game-changer to me, but follow your instincts, I guess. If the goal is to make Democrats more mainstream on that issue, maybe try a rethink on the current party orthodoxy that abortion should be available on demand up until the moment of crowning.

The reason I said up top that consulting Hollywood is only “sort of understandable” is because the current Democratic leadership already shares the same identity-heavy political sensibilities as the entertainment industry. Reaching out to them essentially affirms that the party believes its policies and even its message are fine; all it needs is a little tweak with the ad copy. What they should be focused on are the white working-class voters who drifted from Obama to Trump in 2016 after showing some interest in Bernie Sanders in the primaries. They were the difference in the election, and most of them care more about kitchen-table issues than whatever this month’s progressive hobbyhorse might be. Who’s more likely to have something meaningful to say to, or about, them? A roomful of “Veep” writers or a bunch of middle managers from Bernie 2016?

Also, messaging is overrated. The messenger matters at least as much as the message. Both Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum ran variations of Trump’s working-class pitch in previous Republican primaries and didn’t get far. Berniemania might have seemed less lovably utopian and more dangerously radical coming from a younger, angrier Democrat. Obama beat the Clinton machine not because his policy platform was dramatically different from Hillary’s — just the opposite — but because he was light years more charismatic and personified a sharp change in direction from the Bush years. You want to beat Trump? Find a stellar, compelling candidate first and worry about the message second. Having a dynamic figurehead can atone for a lot (a lot) of messaging deficiencies.

But maybe the secret is even simpler than that. Modern American politics is driven by negative partisanship; convincing voters that the other candidate is garbage is your best bet for victory. It may well explain how Trump, a phenomenally unpopular candidate himself, was able to squeak by in key Rust Belt states. Populism, “drain the swamp,” celebrity — yeah, yeah, all well and good, but in the end maybe it wasn’t much more complicated than that swing voters loathed and distrusted Hillary Clinton more. If that’s true then positive messaging, even of the kitchen-table variety, will only get you so far. Especially when you’re up against an incumbent president, whose reelection bids invariably turn into referendums on their first term. Every time I see some big-name Dem like Obama or Pelosi encouraging liberal pols to ignore Russiagate and Trump scandals and focus on bread-and-butter like health care, I think it’s good sense and then a little voice reminds me that it contradicts the laws of negative partisanship. Want to beat Trump? Then convince the country that Trump is garbage. Whoever the Democratic nominee is, in all likelihood he or she will be perceived as “Not Trump” by Election Day anyway. Might as well embrace it.

Here’s De Niro apologizing to Canada on Trump’s behalf. Negative partisanship! Although negative partisanship that privileges the feelings of foreigners over those of Americans is not the smartest kind.

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Forecast: GOP now more likely to have *at least* 54 Senate seats next year than to lose its majority

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A nifty catch by Philip Klein, eyeballing the latest data from Nate Silver’s model (as of 5:15 p.m. ET). Check it yourself. Democrats momentarily have an 18.4 percent chance of gaining two seats and winning a majority next month. Whereas Republicans have a 9.1 percent chance of gaining three, a 5.5 percent chance of gaining four, a 3.2 percent chance of gaining five, a 1.4 percent of gaining six, a 0.7 percent chance of gaining seven, and a 0.3 percent chance of shooting the lights out and gaining eight (which would leave them one seat shy of a filibuster-proof majority, for what it’s worth). Add those up and you get a 20.2 percent chance of 54 or better.

Which can be summed up in four words: Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Klein on the path to 54:

Though Republicans were always favorites to keep the Senate, their odds have improved in recent weeks, with three states in particular giving them a boost. Republicans are now considered “likely” to keep their seats in Texas and Tennessee and North Dakota seems ready to flip into the Republican column. Barring any other major upsets, victories in those three races would be enough for Republicans to keep the Senate — hence their 81.6 percent chances overall.

To get to 54, the most likely scenario would be that Republicans win the tossup states of Nevada and Missouri, and then surge to victory in Arizona and Florida (two races that are currently tilting Democrat, but well within range of Republican victory). Beyond that, they’d have to start flipping some seats that are currently considered “likely” to remain Democrat, such as Montana and West Virginia.

Eh, I don’t know if Montana and Indiana, the latter of which he neglected to mention, are all that “likely” to remain Democratic. They’re leaning that way, with both Jon Tester and Joe Donnelly clinging to three-point leads. But Montana hasn’t been polled in three weeks and the latest from Indiana has Donnelly up four but with just 44 percent of the vote. In fact, in none of the four polls dating back to August has Donnelly topped 44, suggesting that a lot of Hoosiers are thinking hard about whether to stick with the incumbent. It’s likely that the GOP will be disappointed somewhere on Election Night — Missouri, Nevada, and Arizona are all leading candidates — but going for one for two on Montana and Indiana seems doable.

Whichever way they do it, if they can get to 54 then Collins and Murkowski might well be nonfactors during the next SCOTUS battle. Flake won’t be in the Senate at all, of course. Trump really might have the arsenal he needs to fill a Ginsburg or Breyer vacancy with a conservative.

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news, also from Silver’s model:

Click the link and add up the different probable outcomes and you’ll see that the GOP has about the same odds of holding the House as Democrats do of winning … at least 54 seats. They’ve got a 10 percent chance of winning at least 60. Gonna be a lot of subpoenas for Pat Cipollone to cope with next year.

There are no new swing-state polls as I write this but keep an eye on the one of Arizona that’s currently in progress (yes, in progress) at the NYT’s site, the Upshot. As I write this at a little after 5 p.m. on the east coast, they’ve compiled a sample of 299 people — not large enough yet to give us confidence in the topline numbers but large enough to make it worth paying attention to. Currently Martha McSally leads Kyrsten Sinema by four points, 49/45. If that holds through the end of the poll, it would be the second straight survey showing McSally ahead after trailing for most of the race. (The previous poll had her up six.) Stay tuned.

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Midterm 2018 TEXAS: Robert (Beto) O’Rourke vs. Ted Cruz

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Texas is Texas.

You don’t mess with Texas!

Texans don’t want a far left US Senator who lies about his background and police records, DUI included, and abuses everything the Lone Star State stands for.

Senator Ted Cruz is up by at least 5 points — but that is not enough.

Cruz is a real conservative and an intellectual giant. He has the highest possible ratings from conservative groups as a sitting US Senator.


We can’t let him down.

His opponent Beto (really Robert) O’Rourke isn’t Hispanic but he is loudly PROGRESSIVE.

He is a phony.

He is a Democratic Socialist and would spell doom for our Republic.

He wants open borders, more rights for criminals, and an end to the petroleum economy.

In Texas?

Trump won Texas by 9 points.

Cruz should win reelection by at least that amount.

Recall Cruz not only voted for Judge Kavanaugh but he articulately defended due process and innocent until proven guilty – the very hallmark of western jurisprudence.

We need him; America needs his voice in the Senate.

There has not been a Democrat to hold statewide office in Texas since 1994!

Keep it that way.

Cruz is a star in national politics and a firm vote for our side. He makes America first! And he is the best advocate for Texas bare none.

Turnout is critical.

Cruz MUST win.

Make this viral in every corner of Texas.

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Pat Robertson: C’mon, we’re not going to blow up a key Middle East alliance over one little murder

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Lefties are marveling that a brand-name Christian conservative would be encouraging followers to look the other way at an assassination, but they’re forgetting Jesus’s parting words at the end of the Sermon on the Mount: “If you want to make an omelette, you’ve got to break a few eggs.”

Wait, am I misremembering? My youthful memories of the gospels are not the best. I think perhaps the savior’s actual parting words were “Velvet glove, iron fist.”

I mean, that at least sounds like Jesus.

Lotta mixed feelings about the evangelical turn towards hard-nosed realpolitik under Trump. On the one hand, the gripe about Christian conservatives used to be that they were forever trying to inject morals into the messy business of politics, made more uncomfortable by the fact that many millions of people disagree with some of their stances on sexual morality and resent their attempts to convert them into policy. Well, good news: Between Robertson’s take on the Khashoggi affair and the complete pass given to Trump on matters like Stormygate, there’s less moralizing than ever.

The bad news? I’m unclear from the clip below on how many murders Pastor Robertson would be willing to tolerate in the name of preserving the alliance and “$100 billion worth of arms sales,” as he notes in passing. Presumably his interest in the latter answers my question: Some of those weapons will be used to continue killing civilians in neighboring Yemen, as he doubtless knows. If Robertson’s willing to condone that in the name of checking Iran, naturally he would condone looking the other way at a lot of things, Khashoggi’s murder just one among them. Christianity’s nice and all but we’ve gotta live in the real world.

I honestly don’t know whether to call him a fraud or to salute him for taking a cold but sober view of the international chessboard.

There may be another reason why he and POTUS’s friends at CBN are rushing to provide cover here, though:

To some extent the Saudis’ problem is Trump’s problem. Right now Trump can afford to ignore the Democrats’ interest in finding out how much his and the Kingdom’s interests overlap. In three months, with the House likely in Democratic hands, it’ll be harder.

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