Blow and Krugman

In “Off to the Races” Mr. Blow says that despite Hillary Clinton’s enormous advantage in qualifications, the presidential race is likely to remain very tight.  Prof. Krugman, in “Worthy of Our Contempt,” addresses the civic irresponsibility of indulging your feelings in the age of Trump.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Attending both political parties’ conventions last month, I certainly had some upside-down-world moments.

The Republican convention featured a sprawling blended family, an L.G.B.T. first, and promises of a top-down government fix, while the Democratic convention showcased religiosity, patriotism, militarism, and American exceptionalism.

The Republican convention pushed radical change while the Democratic one championed the more conservative tenet of unwavering consistency.

It was enough to make my head spin.

But beyond the oddity of the incongruities was the production itself. Modern conventions are all about stagecraft and television production. They are multimillion-dollar infomercials for the candidate and the party. There are few surprises and few flashes of unpolished candor. When such flashes do occur, they often come from people who are not practiced politicians.

That said, purely as a vehicle to shape and drive home a narrative foundation for the final stretch of a campaign, they can be quite valuable, though they are not all equally successful.

On that note, the Democrats were by far the winners. The overwhelming lineup of political luminaries made the Republican convention feel like a high school talent show. And Donald Trump’s speech was a disastrous hodgepodge. As Hillary Clinton said during her acceptance speech: Trump spoke for “70-odd minutes — and I do mean odd.”

Indeed, according to a Gallup report last week: “Trump’s speech got the least positive reviews of any speech we have tested after the fact: 35 percent of Americans interviewed last weekend said it was excellent or good. Of the nine previous speeches we have rated, the top one was Barack Obama’s in August 2008, which 58 percent of Americans rated as excellent or good. The lowest-rated speech other than Trump’s was Mitt Romney’s in 2012, with 38 percent excellent or good.”

And yet, he still got a bit of a bump in the polls following his convention. Clinton will no doubt also see a bump in the polls.

But we should make no mistake: This is a very tight race and will likely be a tight one on Election Day.

Anyone paying close attention to each convention and each candidate and listening through a lens of rationality knows that Trump is not even in the same league as Clinton when it comes to qualifications. It’s like the difference between a tomcat and a tiger.

But Clinton can’t seem to break into the space of true dominance. There is tremendous dissatisfaction with both candidates.

According to a Pew Research Center report last month: “Overall satisfaction with the choice of candidates is at its lowest point in two decades. Currently, fewer than half of registered voters in both parties — 43 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of Republicans — say they are satisfied with their choices for president.”

And Clinton is continuing to struggle with younger voters, a deep scar inflicted during the harsh primary with Bernie Sanders that is proving incredibly hard to heal. According to a Gallup opinion piece last week written by Frank Newport and Andrew Dugan, Clinton’s approval ratings among young voters — those 18-29 — went from her strongest asset among age groups in July of 2015 to her greatest weakness this July.

As the authors wrote: “In 2012, Obama won the youth vote over Mitt Romney by a margin of 67 percent to 30 percent. This strong performance was complemented by the higher-than-average turnout of 18-to-29-year-olds in both the 2008 and 2012 elections, providing Obama — according to one independent analysis of the 2012 presidential election — with the edge he needed to win the key swing states of Ohio, Florida and Virginia.”

Add to that a subject that has gotten far too little coverage this presidential campaign season: the likely impact of voter suppression, particularly in key states, following the outrageous ruling in the Shelby County v. Holder case. Just Friday, a U.S. appeals court struck down a North Carolina voter suppression law, ruling, according to Reuters, “that it intentionally discriminated against African-American residents.” North Carolina is a swing state.

But there’s more. A report last week by NBC News points out: “But now the Shelby ruling is putting voting rights at risk in a whole new way: Citing the ruling, the Justice Department recently announced that it would significantly reduce the number of federal observers that it deploys at polling places to guard against voter suppression and intimidation.”

Even though Trump is a blustering buffoon, he speaks to a fear in America, particularly white America, among those with low levels of education, who work with their hands and sweat through their shirts. It is a fear of a future in which threats are global; in which the culture and complexion of the country are changing; and in which power and privilege are shrinking. They want protection from it. They want to erect a wall between them and that future.

Clinton and the Democrats have quite a few hurdles to clear and fewer than 100 days to clear them. We are now off to the races.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Donald Trump said some more disgusting things over the weekend. If this surprises you, you haven’t been paying attention. Also, don’t be surprised if a majority of Republicans approve of his attack on the parents of a dead war hero. After all, a YouGov survey found that 61 percent of Republicans support his call for Russian hacking of Hillary Clinton.

But this isn’t a column about Mr. Trump and the people who are O.K. with anything he says or does. It is, instead, about Republicans — probably a minority within the party, but a substantial one — who aren’t like that. These are people who aren’t racists, respect patriots even if they’re Muslim, believe that America should honor its international commitments, and in general sound like normal members of a normal political party.

Yet the great majority of these not-crazy Republicans are still supporting Mr. Trump for president. And we have a right to ask why.

True, a Clinton victory would mean a continuation of the center-left governance we’ve had under Barack Obama, which would be a big disappointment for those who want a turn to the right. And many people have convinced themselves that ideology aside, Mrs. Clinton would be a bad president. Obviously I disagree on the ideology, and while we won’t know about a Clinton presidency until or unless it happens, I find much to admire in the real Hillary, who is nothing like the caricature. But never mind: even if you’re a conservative who really dislikes the Democratic candidate, how can you justify choosing Donald Trump?

Put it this way: Is there any reason to believe that a Clinton victory would lead to irretrievable disaster? Because that’s the question you should be asking yourself.

Start with the least important issue (even if it is my specialty), economics. If you’re a Republican, you presumably believe that center-left policies — higher taxes on top incomes, a big subsidized expansion of health insurance, tighter financial regulation — are bad for the economy. But even if you think the Obama economy should have been better, the fact is that we’ve added 11 million private-sector jobs; stocks are way up; inflation and interest rates have stayed low; the budget deficit has withered away.

So it’s not a disaster, and there’s no reason to believe that a Clinton economy would be a disaster either. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump is talking about wildly irresponsible tax cuts, renegotiating debt, and ripping up trade agreements.

Moving up the scale of importance, what about national security? Even if you think that President Obama could have gotten better results by bombing more and talking less, there’s just no way to paint Mrs. Clinton — who has the support of many retired military leaders — as some kind of pushover for terrorists and foreign aggressors. Meanwhile, her opponent talks about abandoning NATO allies if they don’t pay up and seems fine with Russian adventurism in Ukraine.

Most important of all is the question of democracy at home.

I know, conservatives like to complain that Mr. Obama has overstepped his authority by, say, using administrative discretion to delay some provisions of the Affordable Care Act. But let’s be serious: no non-crazy person, even on the right, thinks that this president is acting like a dictator, or that the woman he wants to succeed him would threaten basic liberty. On the other side, anyone watching her opponent has to be very, very worried about his authoritarian streak.

The bottom line is that even if you don’t like Mrs. Clinton or what she stands for, it’s hard to see how you could view her possible victory with horror. And it’s hard to see how you could view Mr. Trump’s possible victory any other way.

How, then, can rational Republicans justify supporting Mr. Trump, or even remaining neutral, which is in effect giving him half a vote?

For rank-and-file Republicans, it’s presumably about feelings. Having spent so many years denouncing Democrats in general and Mrs. Clinton in particular, they have a hard time admitting that someone else could be much, much worse. But democracy isn’t about making a statement, it’s about exercising responsibility. And indulging your feelings at a time like this amounts to dereliction of your duty as a citizen.

And whatever one may say about ordinary voters, the real sinners here are Republican leaders — people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell — who are actively supporting a candidate whom they know poses a danger to the nation.

It’s not hard to see why they’re doing this. Opposing their party’s nominee, no matter how awful he is, would probably end up being a career killer.

But there are times when you’re supposed to put such considerations aside. The willingness of some people who know better to support Donald Trump is understandable; it’s also despicable.


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