Thursday, July 21, 2016

Both Sides Do It! No matter what, apparently

Ron Fournier, who Steve M calls the "king of Both Sides Do It," is already cuing up the BSDI vocabulary for next week's Democratic National Convention in Why the Republican Convention Is So Mean The Atlantic 07/20/2016.

I do think the Democrats need to be careful not to underestimate the appeal of Trump's demagoguery to some swing voters who may be indifferent or only somewhat attracted to his racism and xenophobia, but who may see him as a vehicle for a protest vote or in support of his criticism of trade treaties.

Despite all the hoopla over Trump's obnoxious campaign, and events like Ted Cruz' non-endorsement speech at the convention, the Republican base seems to be united behind Trump's candidacy, though many may prefer to think of it as At Least He's Not Hillary Clinton. But I suspect that's always the case. It's usually a "safe" thing to say something along the lines of "I don't like either one, but ..."

But the heavy tendency among corporate Democrats like Hillary is to "move to the middle," which means saying things intended to please the One Percent and to frame even social issues with wide support for the Democratic position in Republican terms. One good indicator of how much Clinton intends to approach things that way will be how often the phrase "budget deficits" is used from the stage at next week's convention.

But Fournier is not warning about such developments. He's doing a pre-emptive strike at frarming the Democratic convention as being the BSDI equivalent of this week's Republican show. Steve M deconstructs Fournier's approach (Why Ron Fournier wrote this column today and not a week from now 07/20/2016):

In order to make this case in an honest manner, Fournier should have waited till next week. After a couple of days of the Democratic convention, we'd know whether it was as negative as the Republican convention. But Fournier knows it probably won't be, so he's making his Both Sides Do It case now, while it still seems plausible to gullible readers.

No one is going to shout "fascist" from the floor of the Democratic convention, unless the whole convention is time-warped back to 1972. There aren't likely to be "smug dismissals of Trump’s populist approach and policies" (what policies?), though there ought to be speakers who call out Trump as a phony friend of the common man. And I don't know what Fournier means by "black activists whose appearance could be construed as anti-police" -- to the right, anyone who ever acknowledges police misconduct is "construed as anti-police," even if it's done in the mildest and most responsible terms. Trust me, no one at the convention is going to call police "the enemy," a term applied to Black Lives Matter by Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke, a Republican convention speaker.
Leaving aside whether George McGovern supporters in 1972 were actually calling Humphrey supporters fascists, Steve M is on the mark.

The danger for the Democrats is not so much in displaying a smug attitude toward swing voters, although it's part of stock Republican rhetoric to accuse them of doing so. The danger is that they won't do and say the right things to get Democratic voters out to vote in November. That involves two major elements: the organizational effort to get out the vote like the Obama for America organization did in 2008, and a message that gives Democratic partisans motivation to go vote.

The danger of smugness on the Democratic side is smugness in their own chances and underrating the potential appeal of Trump to swing voters.

Nate Silver issues a caution about the whole idea of "bumps" in the polls from national conventions, Donald Trump’s Convention Is Flirting With Disaster FivethirtyEight 07/21/2016:

We don’t have all that much data on what makes for successful conventions and what doesn’t, and convention bounces aren’t always that predictable. Some conventions that are remembered as disasters, such as the 1972 Democratic convention, did produce minimal or even negative bounces for their parties. But Jimmy Carter got a fairly large bounce out of the 1980 convention, even though Ted Kennedy was defiant toward him, one of the better precedents for what happened on Wednesday.

Conventions 201 might also encourage you to think carefully about distinguishing correlation from causation. Is it the conventions themselves that matter, or that they provide a leading indicator about how the rest of the campaign might go? Barack Obama didn’t get much of a bounce after his 2008 convention, which was well-staged but felt like an anticlimax after his dramatic victory in the Democratic primaries — whereas John McCain and Sarah Palin made a big splash. But Palin soon turned from a positive into a negative influence for the GOP ticket, and Obama’s campaign performed very well down the stretch run. From that standpoint, this year’s RNC has been problematic not only because Trump is squandering an opportunity to put on his best face for the voters, but also because he’s made a lot of unforced errors, suggesting that his campaign might struggle in all sorts of ways from now through November.

Again, none of this is necessarily all that predictable. For all we know, Trump will deliver the speech of a lifetime on Thursday night and be up 7 percentage points on Clinton by the weekend. Our strong preference is to take a wait-and-see approach, and it will be a few more days before we can comfortably measure the magnitude of Trump’s bounce.

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