Live Blog: Election Night In America

american-presidential-election-night-results

Live Blog: Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton, Election Day and Results

Contact: semipartisansam@gmail.com

 

9 November – 6:25PM Washington D.C. / 11:25PM London

Okay, I’ve been pondering how best to continue this blog’s coverage of the extraordinary US presidential election result and Donald Trump’s victory. I think the best thing to do is to shut down this particular live blog and open a new one, looking at the best way forward from here (from this blog’s own conservatarian perspective as well as from the Democrat vantage point), and looking at some of the best hot takes and best/worst reactions to the election result.

Thanks for following along with my coverage of election day (and night, and day again), and please do join me on the new live blog, starting now.

And yes, there will be a Trump Victory Catastrophisation Watch series…

9 November – 2:55PM Washington D.C. / 7:55PM London

A glimmer of realisation from the Identity Politics Left?

There are signs that some people on the American Left are beginning to realise and tentatively suggest that years of hysterical demonising of conservatives and attempting to police the language and political discourse may have been overreach, and may have just backfired horribly by sweeping Donald Trump to victory.

Seth McFarlane, creator of Family Guy and former Bernie Sanders supporter, effectively admits that the Left have been cynically crying wolf far too often, effectively desensitising the American people to real instances of prejudice and bigotry:

The Hill reports:

Actor Seth MacFarlane says liberal hyperbole may have left voters ignoring their warnings about President-elect Donald Trump.

“This will not be a popular observation, and I don’t even know if I subscribe to it myself,” he tweeted Wednesday following Trump’s White House win.

“But it can be argued that the Left expended so much energy over the last several years being outraged over verbal missteps, accidental innuendo, ‘tasteless’ tweets (see Justine Sacco) etc. in the name of clickbait, that when the real threat to equality emerged, we’d cried wolf too many times to be heard.”

I imagine that we will soon see a co-ordinated attack on Seth McFarlane and others who question the tactics of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, by the SJW cultists themselves. They will argue that the American Left should double down, shriek ever louder about identity, wallow even deeper in victimhood culture and preach to the choir.

There is shaping up to be quite a battle for the soul of the American Left. Will more left-wing Americans of principle dare to realise their side’s overreach and finally stand up to the illiberal, censorious identity politics cult, or will they fearfully avoid confrontation and doom the Democratic Party to another possible defeat in 2020?

9 November – 2:13PM Washington D.C. / 7:13PM London

Some magnanimity from defeated 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney toward president-elect Donald Trump:

If Trump’s presidency is to be remotely successful he will indeed have to hew closely to the spirit of his victory speech, and not revert to the thin-skinned egomaniac we have seen all too frequently during the campaign.

9 November – 2:05PM Washington D.C. / 7:05PM London

Left-wing media in denial

And MSNBC is immediately failing to learn the lessons of the election result, fawning over one “undocumented” immigrant after another in their coverage as they lament the fact that rights and privileges to which they are not entitled may soon be potentially taken away by a Trump administration.

Of course, they refer obstinately to “undocumented” rather than “illegal” immigrants, seemingly oblivious to the way in which their overt attempts to undermine the idea of borders and managed migration helped to fuel the huge popular backlash which consigned them to defeat and elected Donald Trump to the White House.

https://twitter.com/JustURAvgMedic/status/796301526709010432

9 November – 1:45PM Washington D.C. / 6:45PM London

Donald Trump has promised his supporters the moon. Now he has to deliver.

I think it’s worth quoting from the email just sent by Donald Trump to his supporters:

They said we could never do it.

But last night you showed the world that America will once again be a country of, for, and by the PEOPLE.

You fought like a winner, you defied all odds, and history will forever remember the role you played in taking our country back.

[..] Last night we learned that America is still a beacon of hope where the impossible is possible.

For far too long, we’ve heard Washington politicians give the excuse that “it can’t be done.” They say we can’t balance the budget, we can’t stop corruption, we can’t control the border, we can’t bring jobs back to our country.

I REFUSE to accept that it can’t be done. This is the country that declared its independence, won two world wars, and landed a man on the moon. This is America. We can and we WILL get it done.

Now it’s time to start uniting our country and binding the wounds of our divided nation. I promise to be a president for ALL Americans. I will work for you. I will fight for you. And I will win for you.

You will soon remember what it’s like to win as an American.

Donald Trump is making some very grand promises – and setting incredibly high benchmarks – for his administration, by promising his supporters that they will soon taste victory against global forces that no other Western politician has yet managed to successfully tackle, and by promising a return to the confident, optimistic America which made extraordinary human achievement (like the moon landings) seem effortless and inevitable.

Lord knows that I hope beyond hope that the prosperity promised by Donald Trump is achieved, despite the fact that the candidate himself has given almost no indication as to how he will bring about this national renaissance. But Trump has left himself absolutely no margin for error here. He has essentially promised the equivalent of another moon landing, only without sketching out a new Apollo Program to make it happen. It is rapidly becoming crystal clear that a Trump presidency will stand or fall on the quality of the advisers and cabinet members with whom Trump chooses to surround himself.

And what we know so far about Trump’s thinking when it comes to cabinet members and senior aides is not encouraging.

From Politico:

He’s also expected to reward the band of surrogates who stood by him during the bruising presidential campaign, including Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, all of whom are being considered for top posts. A handful of Republican politicians may also make the cut, including Sen. Bob Corker for secretary of state or Sen. Jeff Sessions for secretary of defense.

Trump’s divisive campaign may make it difficult for him to attract top talent, especially since so many politicians and wonks openly derided the president-elect over the past year. And Trump campaign officials have worried privately that they will have difficulty finding high-profile women to serve in his cabinet, according to a person familiar with the campaign’s internal discussions, given Trump’s past comments about women.

And considering that Trump is reportedly looking at people like Newt Gingrich (Secretary of State) and Rudy Giuliani (Attorney General), we are being asked to believe that a new American century can somehow be forged by some of the most familiar faces of the last century.

I’ll be honest – I have grave doubts that these dubious figures from America’s past will be able to drag the country successfully into the future.

9 November – 11:45AM Washington D.C. / 4:45PM London

Hillary Clinton gives her concession speech

A long standing ovation for Clinton as she takes the stage, flanked by Bill and Chelsea.

“I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans”, says Clinton of president-elect Donald Trump.

“Our campaign was never about one person or one election”, says the person whose campaign slogan was “I’m With Her”. Okay, then.

“Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitution enshrines the peaceful transfer of power and we cherish that”, says Clinton, before markedly underlining the freedoms of speech and worship enshrined in the Constitution.

Clinton is gracious to the Obamas too, saying “our nation owes you an enormous debt”. “We thank you for your graceful, determined leadership that has meant so much to many Americans and people across the world”.

For all her many real flaws, it is hard not to feel a pang of something as the Clinton era definitively comes to an end:

I maintain that America is more than ready for a woman president. This election result was absolutely not the repudiation of the idea of a woman president. It was a repudiation of Hillary Clinton, and Clinton alone. The glass ceiling will be broken.

“My friends, let us have faith in each other – let us not grow weary, let us not lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and more work to do”, says Clinton, quoting scripture as she closes her remarks.

The full transcript of Clinton’s concession speech is here.

9 November – 11:37AM Washington D.C. / 4:37PM London

Clinton prepares to speak

Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine has taken the stage in front of an audience of Clinton campaign workers, saying how proud he is of Hillary Clinton and noting that Clinton is on track to win the popular vote in this election, though obviously not the presidency itself.

“She has been in battles before where things didn’t go her way and she accepted it, and then woke up the next day and battled again”, says Kaine.

And he raises applause as he quotes William Faulkner: “They kilt us but they ain’t whupped us yit”.

9 November – 11:33AM Washington D.C. / 4:33PM London

Hoping for the best

Jonah Goldberg, as avowedly an anti-Trump conservative as anyone, largely sums up my wariness about the future:

It looks like Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States. I can’t say I’m rejoicing about his victory — though Hillary Clinton’s defeat is certainly welcome.

This is nothing short of an amazing achievement. I’m not sure one can exaggerate what a remarkable accomplishment this is, whether you’re a fan, foe, critic, or skeptic. My views on Trump are well known and I stand by them all. Except, of course, for my skepticism about his chances of winning. I was clearly wrong about that.

And, now that he will be the next president, I sincerely hope he continues to prove me wrong. We only have one president at a time and he deserves a shot, not because I think he’s worthy or deserving — but because the country is.

As a conservative writer and as someone who has been very critical of Trump from Day 1, I feel like I have zero ownership of a Trump presidency — which is quite liberating, actually. But as an American I have every bit as much ownership of his presidency as anyone. And for that reason alone, I hope I’m proven wrong about all of my deep seated concerns and fears.

But, as a conservative, I also hope Trump surprises me. I hope the Republican House and Senate (!), work to give him a positive conservative agenda. Likewise, I hope his cadre of campaign advisers and media boosters are successful at making sure that Trump actually governs as the competent conservative they promised he would be. I think they will have their work cut out for them but they, too, deserve their shot. Indeed, they are the ones who “own this” now.

We all remember the touching note left for incoming president Bill Clinton by the outgoing George H W Bush, wishing him well and pledging to support and pray for him, despite their political differences (and the fact that Clinton had consigned him to a one-term presidency).

It is hard to utter the same support for Donald Trump because of his known character flaws, the things he has said on the campaign trail and the policies that he has advocated. But for America’s sake, we must all hope that a Trump presidency is either successful against all the odds, or else mercifully short.

9 November – 11:30AM Washington D.C. / 4:30PM London

Supreme relief

Rod Dreher articulates the thought foremost in the minds of many conservatives who had no love or respect for Donald Trump, but who feared the potential impact of a Clinton presidency on the judiciary:

9 November – 11:25AM Washington D.C. / 4:25PM London

The GOP is now the Party of Trump

Paul Ryan is now speaking, looking incredibly pleased with himself and talking about how closely he and the Republican House majority will work with Trump.

“We do remain a sharply divided country”, he acknowledges, and then talks about the need to heal the divisions of a long campaign. “This needs to be a time of redemption, not a time of recrimination”.

One can imagine how different Paul Ryan’s speech might have been had Trump led the party to defeat, as many expected to happen. But Ryan clearly sees the way that the wind is blowing. If he does intend to be the statesmanlike legislative check and balance on Donald Trump’s whims and flights of fancy, he is giving no hint of it now.

9 November – 11:18AM Washington D.C. / 4:18PM London

An uncompromising look at Clinton’s failures

More prescient wisdom from the National Review’s Jim Geraghty, from back in May of this year:

If Trump wins, the recriminations against Clinton and her team will be brutal. The idea that she could be the first woman president will be seen as a mass delusion, a grand, party-wide exercise in willful denial. Democrats are now given to softly worrying that “she’s just not as good a retail politician as her husband was.” The more honest truth would come out after a November loss: Her instincts are terrible. She plays it safe with focus-grouped pabulum and offers implausible lies when people call her on it. Her record as secretary of state offered no reason for inspiration or confidence. When faced with a garish, absurd opponent who generated broad, bipartisan fear, she offered only the soggy mush of the status quo. Democrats are trying to make themselves love her now; they’ll hate her if she loses.

And Geraghty is equally unsparing when it comes to the consequences for President Obama’s legacy:

How successful can Obama’s two terms be if Americans were willing to take a chance on an outsider who stands for everything he abhors? Obama took office optimistic despite the Great Recession he inherited. How would it look if eight years later he left the office to Trump, who has risen on the strength of a despairing, angry, bitterly divided electorate eager to “burn it down”?

It would look like Obama left Americans with so little respect for the office of the presidency that they thought Trump could do the job.

After a Trump win, Democratic recriminations about Obama would flourish as well. His presidency would have been the story of the party’s slow, steady, painful fall from the heights of power to the depths of defeat.

One wonders what on earth President Obama will say when he gives his speech later.

9 November – 11:05AM Washington D.C. / 4:05PM London

Jim Geraghty of National Review seems to concur with the left-wing / identity politics overreach theory:

Back in August, I offered the counter-intuitive theory that the Right was winning the culture wars in 2016, that the hard Left had bitten off way more than it can chew and was crumbling before a backlash: transgender bathrooms, celebrating Catilyn Jenner and policing the pronouns people use, college alumni donations down, the end of Gawker… now we can add in a giant, sweeping victory for Republicans of all stripes to the list.

It is still early days, but I think we can safely say that this phenomena – the identity politics backlash – is a significant part of the Trump victory.

Geraghty’s original piece from back in August is here.

9 November – 10:50AM Washington D.C. / 3:50PM London

What hath the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics wrought?

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt is currently offering some of the best early analysis – and warnings – about the astonishing Hillary Clinton defeat. As he has consistently offered robust commentary on the social justice and identity politics crazes sweeping college campuses, so he is worth following while we digest these presidential election results.

First in this tweet:

I think we all know the answer to Haidt’s question without even pressing “play” and watching the video.

And then in this tweet:

One can already hear it – the opening chorus in the howl of outrage from incandescent Democrats who expected to romp home to victory last night, and who now find themselves and their worldview summarily rejected by the nation. The temptation to lash out undiscriminatingly at all Trump voters, suggesting that they voted for Donald Trump as a positive affirmation of his worst traits and behaviours, will be strong. Check Twitter – many are already giving way to this temptation.

But this will only feed the monster. Calling Trump supporters “deplorable” and accusing them all of endorsing Trump’s questionable behaviour toward women and minorities with their vote will only lead the half of the country who voted Trump to feel even more misunderstood and under attack. It will harden Trump’s support. And no matter how cathartic it may feel for SJWs today, to suffer and roar on Twitter about the supposed inhumanity of their fellow Americans, in the longer term they only set the stage for another presently unimaginable defeat in 2020.

The American Left may never bring themselves to like the half of the country which supported Donald Trump. But for their own sake, they must stop actively hating them.

9 November – 10:28AM Washington D.C. / 3:28PM London

Andrew Sullivan is not taking the news well:

We are witnessing the power of a massive populist movement that has now upended the two most stable democracies in the world — and thrown both countries into a completely unknown future. In Britain, where the polls did not pick up the latent support for withdrawal from the European Union, a new prime minister is now navigating a new social contract with the indigenous middle and working classes forged by fear of immigration and globalization. In the U.S., the movement — built on anti-political politics, economic disruption, and anti-immigration fears — had something else, far more lethal, in its bag of tricks: a supremely talented demagogue who created an authoritarian cult with unapologetically neo-fascist rhetoric. Britain is reeling toward a slow economic slide. America has now jumped off a constitutional cliff. It will never be the same country again. Like Brexit, this changes the core nature of this country permanently.

This is now Trump’s America. He controls everything from here on forward. He has won this campaign in such a decisive fashion that he owes no one anything. He has destroyed the GOP and remade it in his image. He has humiliated the elites and the elite media. He has embarrassed every pollster and naysayer. He has avenged Obama. And in the coming weeks, Trump will not likely be content to bask in vindication. He will seek unforgiving revenge on those who dared to oppose him. The party apparatus will be remade in his image. The House and Senate will fail to resist anything he proposes — and those who speak up will be primaried into oblivion. The Supreme Court may well be shifted to the far right for more than a generation to come — with this massive victory, he can pick a new Supreme Court justice who will make Antonin Scalia seem like a milquetoast. He will have a docile, fawning Congress for at least four years. We will not have an administration so much as a court.

Oh, get over yourself with your contempt for Brexit, Andrew. Quite rightly you would never expect America to subsume herself into a supranational political union of the Americas, yet you think that this democracy-leeching status quo is just fine for your country of birth? This is the lazy, instinctively pro-EU commentary of somebody who has not been paying attention, who has half forgotten his conservative principles and who has nothing worthwhile to say.

That being said, I do share many of Andrew’s concerns about Trump’s strong authoritarian tendencies. They are real and pronounced, and no matter how much Trump may cosmetically pivot away from his more extreme rhetoric, will need resisting:

I see no way to stop this at first, but some of us will have to try. And what we must seek to preserve are the core institutions that he may threaten — the courts, first of all, even if he shifts the Supreme Court to an unprecedentedly authoritarian-friendly one. Then the laws governing the rules of war, so that war crimes do not define America as their disavowal once did. Then the free press, which he will do all he can to intimidate and, if possible, bankrupt. Then the institutions he will have to destroy to achieve what he wants — an independent Department of Justice as one critical bulwark, what’s left of the FBI that will not be an instrument of his reign of revenge, our scientific institutions, and what’s left of free thought in our colleges and universities. We will need to march peacefully on the streets to face down the massive intimidation he will at times present to a truly free and open society. We have to hold our heads up high as we defend the values of the old republic, even as it crumbles into authoritarian dust. We must be prepared for nonviolent civil disobedience. We must transcend racial and religious division in a movement of resistance that is as diverse and as open as the new president’s will be uniform and closed.

And, impossible though it may be, we will have to resist partisanship. The only way back to a free society, to a country where no one need fear the president’s wrath or impulses, is to unwind the factionalism that has helped destroy this country. We have to forge a new coalition on right and left to resist fascism’s reach and cultic power. In a country which just elected and re-elected a black president — whose grace feels now almost painful to recall — it is surely possible.

Andrew Sullivan himself admits that he is emotional and prone to hyperbole in the heat of the moment. I think that many of us are probably feeling the strain at the moment. But the Republic has not “repealed itself”, as Sullivan claims. The US Constitution was crafted specifically for moment such as these.

9 November – 10:00AM Washington D.C. / 3:00PM London

And we’re back. I’ll be reviewing some of the most interesting reaction to this stunning US presidential election result, reviewing Clinton’s upcoming concession speech and then giving my hot take on the result.

donald-trump-presidential-election-victory-speech

9 November – 2:57AM Washington D.C. / 7:57AM London

“To be really historic, we have to do a great job, and I promise not to let you down” says Trump. “Hopefully at the end of two years or four years – or maybe even eight years – you will say that this was something you were very proud to do. And I can only say that while the campaign is over, our work – or rather this movement – is only just beginning”.

And Trump closes, stating “I love this country”.

Well. This is all entirely shocking and unexpected (to me). Donald Trump, president-elect of the United States. Yikes.

I’m going to take a brief break to recharge. The live blog will continue in due course – stay tuned.

9 November – 2:57AM Washington D.C. / 7:57AM London

“We must dream big and bold and daring”, says Trump.

I don’t want to like this speech. I am sceptical of most of the content. But I do like the faint Lincolnian and now Ted Rooseveltian allusions in the early part of Donald Trump’s victory speech – the latter to Roosevelt’s “dare mighty things”.

If only I had any confidence that these words might actually be backed by a Lincolnian resolve or a Rooseveltian character.

9 November – 2:55AM Washington D.C. / 7:55AM London

“I’ve spent my entire life in business looking at the untapped potential in people and projects around the world”, says Trump. “It’s going to be a beautiful thing”.

“The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer”, says Trump, pledging to rebuild infrastructure and make it “second to none”, before going on to praise veterans and promise them greater support.

“We will double our growth and have the strongest economy anywhere in the world”, he continues. Really? How?

9 November – 2:53AM Washington D.C. / 7:53AM London

Donald Trump takes the stage

“Sorry to keep you waiting – complicated business”, Trump jokes as he takes in the applause and says the unimaginable words “I just received a call from Secretary Clinton. She congratulated us – us – on our victory, and I congratulated her and her family on their campaign, they fought very hard”.

And HERE is the belated Trump pivot – “We owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country”.

And a nice Lincolnian reference to “bind[ing] the wounds” of the nation.

“I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help, so that we can work together to unify our great country”, Trump says. “Ours ways not a campaign, but an incredible and great movement”.

9 November – 2:47AM Washington D.C. / 7:47AM London

Mike Pence addresses Trump supporters

Mike Pence has now taken the stage to address Trump supporters at their victory rally. “The American people have spoken, and the American people have elected their new champion”, Pence declares.

The crowd respond with chants of “USA!”

9 November – 2:41AM Washington D.C. / 7:41AM London

Hillary Clinton concedes

Dana Bash of CNN confirms that Hillary Clinton has apparently now called Donald Trump to concede the 2016 presidential election.

9 November – 2:29AM Washington D.C. / 7:29AM London

Hillary refuses to concede tonight

It is quite remarkable, really, that rather than staying up to await the final result – with Trump so close to victory, needing only Michigan or Pennsylvania to make it to 270 electoral votes – Hillary Clinton chose not to concede, not to address her supporters but rather to send her campaign chairman, John Podesta, out to utter a few vague platitudes before sending the crowd home for the night.

The Clinton campaign is being rightly (I think) roasted for this decision on the television news – at least on CNN, where I am currently watching. One can imagine the howls of outrage from Democrats were the situation reversed and Donald Trump refused to emerge at the appropriate time.

One can understand the shock at this apparently unexpected reversal of fortune, but there is a nation out there waiting for reassurance. When everyone predicted that Trump might refuse to concede defeat, we rightly heard a lot about the importance of smooth and peaceful transitions. In light of those pronouncements, the Clinton / Podesta decision tonight looks churlish, not to mention hypocritical.

9 November – 2:23AM Washington D.C. / 7:23AM London

The Democrats and their dangerous contempt for the white working classes

Janet Daley has an excellent piece in the Telegraph, excoriating the Democrats and the metropolitan American Left in general for not only giving up on speaking to or representing the white working class, but often treating them and their priorities with open contempt:

The white working class voter no longer sees the Democratic party as his natural home. This has enormous political and social consequences. And there is an open question whether this election could bring about a permanent shift in party loyalty, much as Barry Goldwater did in turning the southern states Republican. There are clear indications that Hillary overplayed the woman card, failed to make any real gesture to those who had been famously “left behind” by the global economy and took far too much for granted.

[..] The Democrats are urgently in need of an epiphany: the message they are sending does not reflect the voice of their traditional constituency. They are not talking the language of blue collar Americans: they speak Left-liberal claptrap which engages their cosmopolitan friends. But there are not enough of them to create a national mandate.

You may notice the parallel with our own dear Labour party. The Left has lost its centre of gravity and its historical identity. But if Trump really pulls this off, we will have more to worry about than the chatter of Left-wing society.

The West will have lost the leadership of the one remaining superpower in the world. The globalisation of labour which has served the wealthy so well – and the bitterness that it has generated among indigenous populations – will have altered the international power balance for a generation. All of the assumptions about military alliances, free trade and global cooperation will come into question. The future is seriously alarming. And not just for Americans.

And all because of selfishness – because the establishment was determined to hang on to policies which benefited themselves without bringing the rest of the country with them, or ensuring that other, less well-connected people were also getting a fair deal.

My Conservatives for Liberty colleague Paul Nizinskyj, currently in the thick of the action in Washington D.C., makes a similar observation:

The guys on CNN are already reacting with complete surprise at districts which were expected to come out for Hillary which have come out for Trump. What I’ve been warning Americans my entire time here appears to be happening; the Trump campaign appears to be bringing out people who do not usually vote.

This is exactly what happened during the Brexit vote and is exactly what the Canadian Tories did to win a surprise majority some years ago. There is an anti-majority mood in the country, which has galvanised citizens which never usually vote.

I and other British conservatives have reasons to fear a Trump presidency, but if it happens, the message must be clear; this would have happened because politics as usual has neglected the common man for so long, the Republican Party has degenerated to such a degree, that people grasp for extremes.

Whether Trump wins or Trump loses, there will follow a period of reflection for the Republican Party from tomorrow, to decide just what it has done wrong over the last decade to lead to this point. I only hope people of the same ilk as Conservatives for Liberty are part of that process.

If there is now to be a period of instability, the turbulence is largely due to the fact that establishment politicians of both main political parties in America preferred to sit and jealously guard their treasures rather than listen to the often-legitimate concerns of people less fortunate than themselves.

9 November – 1:47AM Washington D.C. / 6:47AM London

Mike Cernovich, take a bow

If you don’t know who Mike Cernovich is, then you need to find out pretty darn quickly. Because it is insurgent, guerilla online activism like that practised by Cernovich which did so much to drive online discussion of the presidential campaign, push Trump-friendly memes and topics into the public discourse and ultimately help secure what looks to be an historic and otherwise unexpected Trump victory.

(For the uninitiated, this feature in the New Yorker is a reasonable introduction).

And I say “otherwise unexpected” because Cernovich, along with some others mentioned in this Slate article, predicted a Trump victory all along, and now appears almost certain to be vindicated in that early confidence:

There was a time, not so long ago, when reasonable people all across America believed that Donald Trump was a fake presidential candidate. The guy was a novelty act, we thought—a narcissistic dingbat who was going through the motions of running a political campaign in service of nothing more sinister or consequential than promoting his big dumb brand.

That turned out to be an incorrect assessment. At some point it became clear that Trump was a narcissistic dingbat who was also possibly going to be president.

As many of us continue to grapple with the depth of how wrong we were to dismiss Trump in the opening months of his campaign, it’s worth looking back at the handful of individuals who declined to join our giddy chorus of skepticism. While the rest of us giggled like idiots, or else reasoned our way to being convinced that a Trump nomination could never happen, these commentators saw something in Trump that made them confident he had what it took.

The article says of Cernovich:

What tipped him off: “I knew Trump would do well because I read his books and had only watched a couple of episodes of The Apprentice over 10 years ago,” Cernovich said in an email. “I didn’t have the same biases on Trump that others had. I read his books and saw a man who had a strong mindset, a track record of succeeding, and who would make strong and sometimes offensive comments as a way to get media attention.”

He went on: “Culturally, people were tired of politically correct culture. We live in an age of micro aggressions where people are deemed racist or sexist of phobic for making one wrong tweet. There will always be a counter-culture, and Trump, with his take no prisoners style of commentary, is that counter-culture.”

Also: “Trump … has the ‘strong father’ masculine energy. Consider how his family members all live (opulent wealth aside) normal lives. They have families. The children and grandchildren have avoided the Kim Kardashian style drama common these days. Trump must’ve been an extraordinary father to have raised well-adjusted kids.”

What he says now: “I received a lot of hate and doubt when backing Trump. I’m used to that, though, as I prefer taking contrarian positions. …. It feels great to be vindicated, especially because most of Trump’s doubters were snide.”

I agree with Mike Cernovich on some issues and probably disagree with him on many more (particularly where he veers into conspiracy theories), but anyone who has watched one of his Periscope videos will attest to the sense of purpose and excitement his recent political activism has generated among many of his followers.

Cernovich was also probably prescient when he slapped down mainstream media predictions that Trump was only in the race to generate interest in a future cable news channel, or Trump News Network. As Cernovich pointed out then – and as was immediately apparent to anyone trying to decide how to watch and read the election unfold tonight – the old monopoly of the television news (and the grip that their narrative held over the public understanding of politics) has been broken for good.

One can argue whether it is good for presidential candidates to have their own cable news-style Facebook Live events, with anchors and talking heads all in the pay of the politician they are covering – and I think it is a pretty terrible way to go – but we are likely to see much more of this in future.

If Donald Trump does prevail tonight and becomes president – and if he survives his four year term without resigning or being impeached – then it is a fairly safe bet that his angry Democratic challenger in 2020 will be using many of the same insurgent techniques as used with such devastating effect by the Donald Trump campaign and his most effective cheerleaders.

mike-cernovich-donald-trump

9 November – 1:18AM Washington D.C. / 6:18AM London

Free riders beware

The chancellories of Europe may rightly be waking up in a cold sweat this morning at the realisation that the decades-old agreement – in which America bore the burden of militarily defending the West while European countries frittered money on their generous social welfare programmes – may be about to come to an abrupt end:

9 November – 1:10AM Washington D.C. / 6:10AM London

The lure of protectionism

Penned a week before the election, John Daniel Davidson at The Federalist explains the allure of Donald Trump’s muscular, confrontational (and one might add regressive) protectionist stance on trade, through the prism of Pennsylvania – a state which looks about ready to declare for Trump:

For much of the twentieth century, Pennsylvania was America’s poster child for industrial prosperity, from its massive steel mills around Pittsburgh to its anthracite coal mines in the northeast. From Bethlehem to Braddock to Scranton, middle-class communities were often built on the foundation of single industries (or even a single company), and ever since the New Deal and the organization of powerful labor unions, the workers in those industries invariably voted Democratic.

Allegiance to the Democratic Party was tied, for the most part, to trade policies that protected Pennsylvania’s twin economic engines: steel and coal. When Pennsylvania steel producers began feeling pressure from new technologies and overseas competition in the decades after World War Two, the industry pushed for, and got, tariffs and import quotas. Government contracts—many of them secured with the help of Rep. John Murtha, who died in 2010 after 36 years in Congress—helped stem the loss of jobs. Generations of steelworkers and miners across the state had grown accustomed to middle-class wages, generous health and retirement benefits, and the promise of protection in all its forms.

Then it all came crashing down. Beginning in the 1970s and continuing to the present day, the steady loss of mining jobs and the dramatic closure of steel mills across Pennsylvania struck a blow to vast swaths of the state, hollowing out communities and leaving former middle-class workers dependent on welfare and unemployment benefits.

[..] Across the state, Democratic-majority counties are turning to Trump and his promise of protectionist trade policies. One recent statewide poll found Clinton ahead by just two points statewide, but Trump with a nine-point lead in Pittsburgh and a twelve-point lead in Wilkes-Barre, the seat of Luzerne County. In 2012, Obama easily won both Pittsburgh and Luzerne County. Ron Ferrance, the GOP chairman of Luzerne County, says Democrats have lost their hold on northeast Pennsylvania. “I think this area is done with them. They’re played out,” he says, predicting Trump will win Pennsylvania by double digits.

The Democrats – really, the entire American political establishment – ignored these suffering Americans at their peril. And now, it seems, they will suffer the consequences.

9 November – 12:50AM Washington D.C. / 5:50AM London

Watching some hand-wringing leftist on CNN moan about his pain right now makes me think that however much Democrats and large-L liberals may be hurting as they face possible defeat, it is worth remembering that many of Donald Trump’s supporters have known nothing but defeat and betrayal by the politicians who promised to fight for them, in many cases going back decades.

I write this as somebody who passionately does not want Donald Trump to win, but who recognises that many of those who voted for him were in no way endorsing his dubious prior behaviour or the worst aspects of his personality, but simply saw in Trump somebody who might not lead them on the usual merry dance.

Sadly I believe that they were wrong to put their faith in Trump. And if he is indeed elected president, as now seems likely, Donald Trump will have an immense job to live up to the many glib promises that he has made.

9 November – 12:45AM Washington D.C. / 5:45AM London

Are we witnessing an anti-Social Justice backlash?

Robby Soave of the Daily Beast suggests that we are witnessing a massive backlash and reaction against the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics which has captured swathes of the American Left:

Can we lay the blame for a possible Hillary Clinton defeat at the hands of identity politics? No, that would be too simplistic. But it is certainly part of the tapestry, a thread running through the rope with which the white working class and assorted conservatives are threatening to hang the Democrats.

If you demonise and persecute swathes of people for the relatively moderate beliefs that they hold or language that they use, as the Social Justice Warriors live to do, it will inspire resentment. Incredible resentment, in some cases. This is certainly part of what we are now witnessing. As to how big a factor an anti-SJW backlash may be, that will have to be picked over in the coming days and weeks.

8 November – 11:46PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 4:46AM London

Maybe some of those people who acted as though a President Mitt Romney would be the Worst Thing Ever four years ago might now want to reconsider their standard hyperbolic reaction to standard, moderate, dyed-in-the-wool conservatives.

I quite agree with Ed West here:

8 November – 11:40PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 4:40AM London

Hillary Clinton’s last stand

Politico lays it out:

Hillary Clinton’s reeling campaign is now hinging on three predominantly white industrial states that were never supposed to be in play.

Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin – and their combined 46 electoral votes – appear to be the last bastion of hope for her candidacy, after Florida, North Carolina and Ohio were called for Donald Trump.

None of the three have voted for Republicans since 1988, and all appeared until the final days of the campaign to be safely in Clinton’s column. Yet as the clock ticked past 11 p.m. on the East Coast, Trump led narrowly in Michigan and Wisconsin, and Clinton clung to a thin in Pennsylvania.

“All eyes on Michigan,” tweeted former Congressman John Dingell, as Clinton’s path to the presidency narrowed dramatically as the evening wore on.

Trump spent the waning days of the campaign barnstorming Michigan. He, his running mate Mike Pence and top surrogates like Sarah Palin hit crucial cities in the state in the final days, considered a last ditch attempt to salvage his candidacy. Instead, it appears that it was Clinton’s campaign that was triaging when she, Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama made last-minute stops there. With more than half of ballots counted in the state, Trump led by 24,000 votes.

With this ominous note:

There were warning signs that Clinton was weak in both Michigan and Wisconsin. She lost the primary in both to Democratic rival Bernie Sanders and rarely campaigned in either state since.

Signs which the Clinton campaign apparently ignored.

8 November – 11:05PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 4:05AM London

Apparently Clinton aides (and many people on Twitter) are chalking up Hillary Clinton’s sudden lurch in fortunes almost exclusively to FBI director James Comey’s decision to re-open the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email scandal:

This is ludicrous. I’ll grant a waiver for a day or so, just because tonight’s events must be a huge shock to the systems of many Democrats, and people say silly things when they are emotional. But if this is indeed to be a Clinton defeat, to chalk it all up to the actions of the FBI – as though Hillary Clinton’s email scandal were not already largely priced in to the public’s estimation of her – is a case of massive denial.

If Trump goes on to win, it will be a thorough and unprecedented repudiation of Clinton and the opinions of much of the establishment. To begin by blaming it all on the Bad Man at the FBI is to dodge the work of coming to terms with the defeat.

8 November – 10:55PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:55AM London

Did Ronald Brownstein predict the strategic error which has led Hillary Clinton to this excruciatingly difficult place in an article written less than one week ago?

Brownstein wrote:

Hillary Clinton’s easiest path to an Electoral College majority does not include Ohio, Florida, or North Carolina.

Yet those three states all rank at the very top of the list of locales where she has invested the most time and advertising spending, especially in the campaign’s critical closing weeks. By contrast, the campaign has devoted very little advertising or time from Clinton and her top surrogates in several of the states that are part of her core strategy for reaching 270 Electoral College votes—among them Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Virginia, and New Mexico.

The Clinton team’s decision to focus so much more attention on states that it wants to win—as opposed to those it believes it needs to win—represents one of the central, if often unremarked upon, choices of the 2016 election. It has allowed her to play offense for most of the general election, while forcing rival Donald Trump to spend most of his energy defending states more indispensable to his strategy than to hers.

But it’s also meant Clinton has devoted little attention, beyond field organizing, to fortifying states where Trump is now making a late push amid the tailwind of tightening national polls. With Trump consolidating traditional Republican voters, Clinton faces the risk that she has overestimated her hold on the places most central to her strategy.

My emphasis in bold.

This certainly seems plausible. And if Hillary Clinton goes on to lose the election – the New York Times prediction is now hovering at 94% probability of a Trump victory – it will prove to be one of the most grave strategic errors ever made in American presidential politics.

What was Robbie Mook, Clinton campaign manager, thinking?

h/t Rich Lowry

8 November – 10:50PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:50AM London

What a change is here

The mere fact that Clinton aides and allies are having to circle the wagons like this is incredible, given where we (thought we) were just one day ago.

From the Atlantic:

Top Democrats here at Hillary Clinton’s election-night party are still projecting confidence, but there’s clearly concern as her path to the presidency narrows.

“It’s tight, but we still have a lot of the country left to come in,” Representative Steve Israel, a Clinton ally in New York, told me. “We knew from the beginning that Donald Trump had to win Florida to stay alive. We have other places to go, but I’m confident that we’re in very strong shape.”

On the stage, Senator Charles Schumer tried to rally the crowd with a chant borrowed from the Naval Academy Prep School, by way of fans of the U.S. men’s national soccer team. “I believe that she will win! I believe that she will win!” Schumer shouted. Yet he did not repeat the prediction of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in assuming a Clinton victory. Schumer, who won reelection to his Senate seat easily, is poised to become the Democratic leader with the retirement of Nevada’s Harry Reid. But with key Senate seats now favoring Republicans, he is not likely to become majority leader.

Among the crowd, many partygoers had retreated to the food court in anticipation of a long night.

Even as he held out optimism for a Clinton win, Israel began to consider the implications of just how close the race had become and how much stronger Trump had performed than Democrats expected. “This election was not about the candidates,” Israel said. “It was about the time that we’re in. Donald Trump could never have run in any time other than the time we’re in right now. We’re witnessing a new convergence of pressures on the American public. The economy is changing radically. They’ve lost faith in institutions, in government, in sports, and in Wall Street. They feel threatened at home. You put it all together, and you have a very anxious environment that Donald Trump has tapped into.”

8 November – 10:32PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:32AM London

Donald Trump’s likelihood of victory is now up to 86% in the New York Times live presidential forecast:

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Make that 87%. His odds are increasing faster than I can post updates on this blog.

8 November – 10:26PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:26AM London

This is frankly astonishing. As Rod Dreher points out, even if Donald Trump does go on to lose tonight, the fact that he has fought the election this close after all the predictions of his defeat means that Trumpism now will not die with the defeat of the candidate.

8 November – 10:23PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:23AM London

Goodness me. If this isn’t a pre-concession, I don’t know what is. I’m stunned.

To repeat (again), Donald Trump is not like “Brexit plus plus plus”, as he loves to claim. But that feeling of shock and history in the making in the pit of my stomach right now is exactly the same as I felt on the night of the EU referendum.

8 November – 10:12PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:12AM London

This is utterly stunning. Clearly absolute panic and dejection in the Clinton camp right now. She always was a terrible candidate. What were the Democrats thinking?

8 November – 10:09PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:09AM London

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa…

8 November – 10:07PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:07AM London

It looks increasingly certain that Florida has fallen to Donald Trump:

8 November – 10:05PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:05AM London

Like Brexit all over again?

That thrill / nervousness everyone is feeling right now, as the presidential election result teeters on a knife edge? That’s the feeling you get when a country is sovereign, and the outcome of elections actually matters because politicians and their choices are not constrained by, say, a supranational political union of some kind. This is hopefully what British elections will start to feel like – because they will actually matter again, because citizens might actually notice a tangible difference based on who wins.

Is it scary? Yes, I suppose it is. But I think Brendan O’Neill would agree with me that politics is supposed to be a bit scary. As O’Neill said before the 2015 UK general election:

I, like many others, want my politics hard, existential, frightening even, addressing the biggest questions facing humanity: freedom, progress, morality, war, the future. But all we’re being offered is a choice between managers, primarily of Britain’s economic decline. ‘Who will YOU trust to shave the public deficit?’

Politics at its best should encompass the big decisions about freedom, responsibility and the role of the state. We have been blasé about our politics because by and large our constrained political decisions have not much mattered for the past few decades. With Brexit, that could be about to change for us – which makes it all the more important that we are all informed and engaged citizens.

Under the American Constitution, any president is rightly constrained in what they can do without the consent and cooperation of the other two branches of government. So fear not – Donald Trump will not be able to do all of the crazy things he has indicated he wants to do, in the event that he does win. But yes, the winner of the American presidential election matters, because America is a free country, more so than Britain at present. Hopefully we in Britain will soon know this freedom – and hopefully we will make wise choices with the power we claim back for ourselves.

8 November – 9:45PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 2:45AM London

Like Brexit all over again?

With the race having potentially tipped in Donald Trump’s favour, many are now highlighting comparisons with the British EU referendum returns as they came in, with initial Remainer confidence giving way to doubt, and then panic:

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet – but something is clearly going on here. Trump is now up to 58% probability of victory in the New York Times estimate. 58 percent!

8 November – 9:35PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 2:35AM London

Trump surge?

Update: As of 9.30PM East Coast Time, the New York Times prediction has crossed over to a Trump popular vote victory and slim lead in the electoral college:

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This is becoming incredibly tense.

8 November – 9:30PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 2:30AM London

A late swing to Trump?

With Donald Trump performing more strongly than expected in Florida (over 1% ahead with over 90% of votes counted) and strong early showings in Ohio and Michigan, some live predictions – including that of the New York Times – are recharacterising this race as a “tossup” rather than leaning toward a Hillary Clinton victory:

new-york-times-live-presidential-forecast

The same prediction shows an anticipated 2.9% popular vote lead for Clinton, and a slender 5-vote lead in the Electoral College.

8 November – 9:03PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 2:03AM London

What hath Trump wrought?

That is the question posed by Pat Buchanan in The American Conservative:

The Trump candidacy exposed what seems an unbridgeable gulf between this political class and the nation in whose name it purports to speak.

Consider the litany of horrors it has charged Trump with.

He said John McCain was no hero, that some Mexican illegals are “rapists.” He mocked a handicapped reporter. He called some women “pigs.” He wants a temporary ban to Muslim immigration. He fought with a Gold Star mother and father. He once engaged in “fat-shaming” a Miss Universe, calling her “Miss Piggy,” and telling her to stay out of Burger King. He allegedly made crude advances on a dozen women and starred in the “Access Hollywood” tape with Billy Bush.

While such “gaffes” are normally fatal for candidates, Trump’s followers stood by him through them all.

Why? asks an alarmed establishment. Why, in spite of all this, did Trump’s support endure? Why did the American people not react as they once would have? Why do these accusations not have the bite they once did?

Answer. We are another country now, an us-or-them country.

Middle America believes the establishment is not looking out for the nation but for retention of its power. And in attacking Trump it is not upholding some objective moral standard but seeking to destroy a leader who represents a grave threat to that power.

Trump’s followers see an American Spring as crucial, and they are not going to let past boorish behavior cause them to abandon the last best chance to preserve the country they grew up in.

Look, I get the anti-establishment thing. I do. After all, I’m a Brexiteer, and the fight to secure Britain’s secession from the European Union was nothing of not a David vs Goliath, insurgents vs establishment showdown. But Donald Trump is not a plucky anti-establishment hero whose only flaws are a few youthful indiscretions. Trump’s character flaws have been exposed over and over again during this election campaign, often at about 3AM on Twitter. If temperament matters at all, Trump’s temperament makes him ineligible for the presidency.

But more than that, Trump is simply not a conservative. He believes in a large, coercive state exercising considerable power over individuals and corporations alike. He almost never speaks about liberty and freedom because they simply do not register as important to him.

If the Republican Party still intends to be America’s conservative party then they cannot simply throw away their old principles and adopt the Trump platform wholesale. Of course they should do a better job listening and responding to the concerns of their base – this blog has been saying so consistently since Trump started to run away with the Republican nomination:

Unfortunately Trumpism cannot be easily put back in the bottle now it has been released. First, it must be defeated in November, however unappealing the thought of giving the Washington establishment four more years in charge may be. And then the rebuilding of American conservatism must start – a difficult feat since so many of its most intelligent and respected figures have sullied themselves by bending the knee to Donald Trump.

[..] Great electoral rewards await the first party to grapple with the core question of how to reconcile the imperatives of globalisation with the need to equip citizens with the skills and services needed to prosper in a modern economy which can no longer promise a high standard of living for mass unskilled labour. Republicans have the harder job here – the conservative emphasis on self-sufficiency and a small state requires inventive solutions, whereas the Democrats can wave their hands and simply promise a new government program. It’s a difficult issue for conservatives, one which this blog is still struggling to work through.

This is the challenge now facing American conservatives. The culture wars are not insignificant, and there are battles to be fought – some of which this blog sympathises with (political correctness, free speech, religious freedom) and others less so. But no longer will it be enough for Republican politicians to stoke anger about these issues while failing to meaningfully tackle them, or to ignore the economic interests of the American working and lower middle class – doing so will only open the door to another Trump-style populist insurgency.

But if the GOP is now to be the party of protectionism and statism then the conservative coalition is fatally fractured, and we will be set for a generation of Democrat rule.

8 November – 8:32PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 1:32AM London

Obama has spoken

President Obama wants us all to be nicer to each other on Twitter:

Obama is also right to encourage Americans to remain politically engaged beyond election year. This will be particularly interesting to observe among Donald Trump’s supporters, should the election go against them. Will the forces that the Trump campaign mustered remain active and visible, will they melt away altogether, or can they be marshalled by another leader or movement capable of articulating their legitimate grievances without the negative personal baggage of Donald Trump?

Regardless, the president’s message is well taken. As this blog has already observed, America is a far greater country than either of the two rather small figures vying to become its next president.

8 November – 8:20PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 1:20AM London

The Trump Effect claims its first victim

In a hint of the electoral carnage which could hit down-ticket Republicans unable to escape from Donald Trump’s shadow, Republican senator Mark Kirk of Illinois (who first won election back while I was living in Chicago) has been defeated by his Democratic challenger, Rep. Tammy Duckworth:

Mark Kirk publicly disavowed Donald Trump, declaring that he could not and would not vote for the GOP nominee. But clearly no amount of distancing himself from Trump could spare Mark Kirk from the judgment of voters.

8 November – 8:10PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 1:10AM London

No time for cowards

This blog has been strident in its insistence that conservatives who oppose Donald Trump should openly declare their opposition to him if they are to help save the soul of American conservatism.

Conversely, conservatives who do support Donald Trump (or intend to vote for him) should have the decency to explain their decision and defend it in public, rather than trying to skulk along unnoticed.

Republican senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania fails this test. From the Washington Post:

Embroiled in a difficult reelection campaign, first-term Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania refused for months to say whether he would support his party’s presidential nominee.

His opponent, Democrat Katie McGinty, publicly pushed him to take a stand, but Toomey stayed mum. Until now.

Waiting until about an hour before polls closed, Toomey voted and then revealed that he had backed Donald Trump for president after all, according to The Morning Call.

Earlier in the day, McGinty’s campaign put out a particularly harsh news release chastising Toomey for waiting until the last minute to say whom he would support.

“Pat Toomey is officially the most craven and self-interested politician in the country,” said McGinty’s spokesman, Josh Levitt. “Let’s be clear here: Pat Toomey is intentionally waiting until millions of his constituents have already voted today before making clear to them who he supports to be our next commander in chief.”

What utterly craven behaviour. If Toomey lacked the decency to come clean and admit his presidential preference to his constituents then he does not deserve to represent them for another term in the United States Senate.

8 November – 7:50PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 12:50AM London

This is a touching tradition:

It has become a tradition on Election Day for voters to leave their “I Voted” stickers on the grave of women’s suffrage activist Susan B. Anthony in Rochester, N.Y.

Mount Hope Cemetery announced Tuesday it would extend its visiting hours “to accommodate those wishing to celebrate their vote at Susan B. Anthony’s gravesite.” The cemetery normally closes at 7 p.m., but it will remain open until 9 p.m., when polls close in New York.

Some cynics (ahem) might point out that it would be even more inspiring if the woman on the cusp of winning the presidency were somebody else…

8 November – 7:45PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 12:45AM London

Blame Eisenhower

One might think that the modern age of television politics began with the Nixon / Kennedy campaign of 1960, but Jordan Michael Smith of The American Conservative notes that President Dwight Eisenhower, Kennedy’s predecessor, is responsible for many of the innovations in political campaigning which we have long taken for granted:

It is undeniable that Ike introduced some regrettable practices into American politics. Though John F. Kennedy is often remembered as the man who first exploited the power of television, College of New Jersey professor David Haven Blake establishes that it was his presidential predecessor who was the real trailblazer. “Guided by television pioneers and Madison Avenue advertising executives whom insiders dubbed ‘Mad Men,’ he cultivated scores of famous supporters as a way of building the kind of broad-based support that had eluded Republicans for twenty years,” he writes. Liking Ike is the most comprehensive treatment yet of the ways in which the two Eisenhower presidential campaigns launched the commodification of American politicians.

Jingles, commercials, televised endorsements, biographical videos—all were initially the products of the minds of New York ad agencies. Broadway performers took the stage at Madison Square Garden to gin up support for him, animators created television commercials, and Irving Berlin composed the song, “I Like Ike.” This large-scale manufactured enthusiasm all seems commonplace now, but employing the power of celebrity had never been done on this scale before Eisenhower. Warren Harding and Franklin Roosevelt had benefited from campaign appearances by entertainers, but television’s national reach made 1952 a watershed year for celebrity politics.

Eisenhower was the overseer of the merger of entertainment, advertisement, and politics. Perhaps it was inevitable that campaigns would realize the potential of television and treat candidates like any other product, to be packaged and sold and bought in large quantities. Blake repeats comically naïve statements from Eisenhower’s Democratic Party rival, Adlai Stevenson, and Stevenson’s campaign staffer George Ball. “They have conceived not an election campaign in the usual sense but a super colossal, multi-million dollar production designed to sell an inadequate ticket to the American people in precisely the way they sell soap, ammoniated toothpaste, hair tonic or bubble gum,” Ball complained in a speech called “The Corn Flakes Campaign.” But Eisenhower knew the influence that celebrities and novel products had on Americans.

8 November – 7:30PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 12:30AM London

News from the bunker

The Washington Post gives this account of the Donald Trump campaign’s election night bunker:

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s friend and adviser, said in an interview early Tuesday evening that he had just left a small gathering with the Republican nominee at Trump Tower. Trump, he said, was in his apartment “watching everything even though I’m telling him not to.”

Giuliani said Trump was drinking Diet Coke as he eyed the television and the initial returns out of several states. At 6 p.m., Trump had not yet eaten dinner.

“He’s calm. We’re all cautiously optimistic,” Giuliani said when asked to describe the mood at Trump’s home. “We think it’s going to be very, very close. We know there is a populism across the country that’s powerful and he has been lifted by it.”

On George W. Bush and others not voting for Trump, Giuliani said he and others close to Trump shrugged off the reports today. “It doesn’t hurt at this point. Everybody knew that’s where they were.”

The former New York City mayor said he left to do a television hit. “The last thing I said was, ‘Don’t pay attention until the results are in.’ I’ve learned a few things over the years.”

It’s probably good that Giuliani is leaving Trump’s side. One can only imagine the counsel that he would be giving an agitated Trump if and when the results begin to turn against him.

8 November – 7:20PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 12:20AM London

Getting their excuses in early

Already we are seeing some signs of pre-emptive finger-pointing from senior members of the Trump campaign, with campaign manager Kellyanne Conway complaining that Donald Trump had not received the full support of the GOP hierarchy.

The Washington Post reports:

In what sounded a lot like scapegoating in the event of a loss, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway suggested her candidate was hurt by not having the full weight of the Republican establishment behind him.

On MSNBC, Conway told Chuck Todd that if Trump loses narrowly it would be “too bad” that “we have former presidents not voting for us, former nominees not voting for us.”

“That’s got to hurt,” she said, according to the exchange reported by the Wall Street Journal. “When you talk about growing the party, the idea was growing it, but having that base together.”

[..] While Conway appeared to be largely complaining about those party standard bearers, it does seem like an about face from earlier in the day when the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee held a joint conference call with reporters to discuss how well situated they were to win.

While some prominent anti-Trump conservatives have also been feeling the heat:

Fortunately, in the case of Jonah Goldberg, he can give as good as he gets:

Rod Dreher also finds himself under attack:

Sorry, but no. Donald Trump – and Trump alone – is responsible for killing the better ideas that he espoused in this campaign by forever associating them with his boorish, ignorant and ungentlemanly persona. Somebody needed to challenge the bipartisan consensus on immigration and resistance to things like term limits, but the fact that Trump championed these ideas has made them fringe at best, and toxic at worst.

Nobody has betrayed Trump voters more than Donald Trump himself.

8 November – 7:05PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 12:05AM London

An important but depressing reminder that whoever prevails tonight will start off deep underwater with the American people in terms of popularity and trust:

8 November – 6:59PM Washington D.C. / 11:59PM London

Education, education, education

MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki pulls out a detail from the early national exit poll:

While the National Review comments:

MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki is reporting that the early national exit polls show, as expected, a massive gap between the enthusiasm level of college-educated whites and non-college-educated whites for Trump.

But while Trump is outperforming by ten points Mitt Romney’s 2012 showing among whites without a college degree (+26 vs. +36), he’s doing much worse among college-educated whites: Romney won these voters by 14 points; Trump is winning them by only a single point.

Stark, but unsurprising.

8 November – 6:35PM Washington D.C. / 11:35PM London

Florida looking favourable for Clinton

VoteCastr reports that Hillary Clinton currently leads Donald Trump in Florida by about 300,000 votes, with both candidates already having surpassed the totals amassed by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney respectively back in 2012.

Josh Voorhees provides this commentary:

The Sunshine State is essentially a must-win for Donald Trump. If Hillary Clinton were to win the 19 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have voted for the Democratic nominee in each of the past six presidential elections, she could clinch the presidency simply by claiming Florida’s 29 electoral votes. Right now, things are looking pretty good on that front. (Numbers current as of 4:12 p.m. EST.)

Again: VoteCastr is not saying Clinton will win Florida, only that she appears to be leading at this moment based on early voting and today’s estimated turnout, which has already exceeded the state’s 2012 vote total. It’s entirely possible that Trump could make up ground later in the day, particularly given that Florida’s traditionally conservative panhandle is in the Central time zone, and is therefore an hour behind the rest of the state. Still, Clinton’s camp is likely celebrating the fact that her estimated Florida vote total has already topped Obama’s total from 2012, when he beat Mitt Romney there by less than a percentage point.

One reason the Clinton campaign is likely optimistic about her chances in Florida is the strong showing of Hispanic voters in the state, which was evident during early voting. As the New York Times points out, Florida voters who indicated they were Hispanic on their voter registration forms cast as many early ballots this year as they cast total ballots in 2012, when they accounted for 12 percent of the Florida electorate. That enthusiasm seems to have continued on Election Day.

According to VoteCastr, Clinton currently holds a lead of 600,000-plus estimated votesin the five Florida counties that are predominantly nonwhite. That advantage more than offsets Trump’s current advantage in predominantly white counties.

If Trump loses Florida to Clinton then it is pretty much game over for his presidential hopes. Hillary Clinton has to be feeling quite good right now.

8 November – 6:12PM Washington D.C. / 11:12PM London

Technical issues

Apologies for the interruption – technical issues with my news feeds have meant I spent the last two hours troubleshooting (in vain) rather than doing the blogging I wanted to do.

I would like to single out the useless Sony corporation for particular venom and criticism for their technologically backward, user un-friendly smart TVs which single handedly ruined my election evening – thanks guys, great job.

Anyway, back to work.

8 November – 12:00PM Washington D.C. / 5:00PM London

America is better than this

Tim Stanley is that rare thing among British political commentators who presume to offer their opinion about American politics – someone who actually knows his subject. I say that not because I was briefly a contemporary of his at Cambridge, but because as a student of American history and someone who actually spends a decent amount of his time in the United States, he has the kind of everyday interactions with ordinary Americans outside of election season which are crucial to understanding the national psyche.

Therefore, unlike other journalists who parachute in every four years to airly offer their ignorant opinions, one can give Stanley’s assessments a little more weight than those big names who write fatuously about something of which they are largely ignorant.

In an excellent column for the Telegraph, Tim Stanley makes number of good points. Firstly, that while Donald Trump is odious and utterly unworthy of election as president, we should not be reduced to cowering in our safe spaces at the mere thought of his election:

Some of my liberal friends feel I should be running around in panic, proving how worthy I am by denouncing Trump as a Nazi. Sorry. Won’t do it. One reason is that the alternative to him genuinely leaves me cold. Clinton is an empty pantsuit. Her campaign has been predicated on three things: I am not Trump; I am a woman; Bruce Springsteen likes me. She is also enthusiastic about legalised partial-birth abortion – so, no, I won’t be joining the ranks of “regrettably for Hillary.”

I also honestly believe Trump isn’t quite the danger people – especially non-Americans – think he is. His views on women are vile; his stance on refugees turns my stomach. He is unethical and unenlightened. But he has probably damaged the conservative movement far more than he can ever hurt the rest of the country.

Why? Partly because it’s ungovernable. Fifty states, all pulling in different directions, are barely led by a president who can be controlled and even impeached by Congress. Size matters, too. This country is so damned big. As I drove out of Washington DC, it was striking how humanity melted away. The odd town; a couple of farms. But otherwise an enormous, epic landscape that defies conquest. America and its republic are larger than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

This is so true. America is far bigger than either of the two very small individuals running for the presidency in 2016. Even Barack Obama, elected on a wave of “hope and change” fever in 2008, was able to do little to dramatically reshape the country, even for those early years when Democrats held Congress and the White House.

A Trump (or indeed a Clinton) presidency would be stymied in many of its worst aspects by the same gridlock. Now, that gridlock presents challenges of its own – sometimes America suffers from not being more politically and institutionally nimble – but it is also an effective firewall against ill-considered attempts to dramatically reshape the country.

Stanley continues:

Nothing is new. Politics shifts from Left to Right, and those who lose power can never quite grasp what is happening to them. In the past few years we’ve seen a shift in the West away from liberalism – and many liberals have reacted as though this was unreasonable and appalling.

Like Louis XVI’s aristocrats, they couldn’t see how distasteful their habits were to most people. Free trade has not benefited everyone, my lords; mass immigration has social costs. Cultural liberalism is actually a bit weird. And the enormous, vulgar disparities in wealth add to the sense that it’s not fair, something must be up, the system must be rigged.

When you’ve descended from a family of factory engineers to a family of Walmart greeters within a single generation, that’s not an unreasonable conclusion to reach. What is unreasonable is assuming that Donald Trump – who has been rigging things his whole damn life – is your champion.

But if people think that then it’s the mainstream’s fault. Centrists didn’t have to become so distant. It wouldn’t take much to help reconnect. If Labour, for instance, dropped Jeremy Corbyn, elected an ordinary man or woman and endorsed “Brexit within the single market,” then it might well win a general election. It’s Labour’s choice to deny the voters than option. Just as it was the Republican Party’s decision to surrender their nomination to Trump by failing to address immigration or free trade. Centrists have no right to castigate the people for this situation. The voters aren’t all dumb bigots. They’ve just got very limited choices.

Yes. As has happened in Britain, a growing chasm has opened in America between what Brendan O’Neill once termed the “middle class clerisy” – the urban, large-L liberal types with their trendy progressive opinions – and the bulk of the country. These people could have sought to bring the country with them, to respond to their concerns and focus on things that really matter (like jobs and living standards, rather than, say, transgender bathroom issues). But the fevered pursuit of left-wing, identity politics goals meant that the struggling working classes were often ignored, pushed down the priority list.

Take immigration – there has been a near universal effort among the political elite, particularly the Democrats, to undermine the idea of national borders, to encourage and celebrate illegal immigration (delegates at the Philadelphia convention stood and cheered illegal immigrants brought onto the stage to boast of their status) and even subvert the language to encourage people to accept the status quo, with politicians and many journalisms now referring to “undocumented” rather than “illegal” immigrants.

Meanwhile, the concerns of Americans who object have simply been ignored. One can hardly be surprised that many of these people have now gone shopping for an alternative, even if one strongly disagrees that Donald Trump is the solution to their problems.

Tim’s conclusion is also spot-on:

If the citizens do choose Hillary on election day, what does this mean? That given a contest between radical populism and dead-from-the-neck-up centrism, they still, on balance, prefer the latter. Liberal jeremiads will be proven wrong. Liberals will have to learn to love the voters again – and stop treating them like the wild animals out in the dark who prowl around the house at night looking for food. Speak to them like adults. Reason with them. Talk about bringing jobs back; about country, home and God. Franklin D Roosevelt used that language, and his grasp of American spirituality won him four elections.

Even if they prevail today, the Democrats have a mountain to climb in terms of actually learning to love the whole country again. One could level the same charge at the Republicans, of course, who lag badly with many minority voting constituencies. But this is already well known. By contrast, few commentators seem willing to mention to contempt bordering on hatred which the liberal half of the country is coming to view the conservative half – probably because most journalists and commentators belong firmly to the liberal camp themselves, and see nothing abnormal about viewing those who disagree with them as morally and intellectually inferior.

But this poisonous and contemptuous attitude – which at its purest level can be summarised as “what are all those Trump people complaining about? Modern America is working just great for me and the people I know, and anyone who disagrees must be ignorant at best or racist at worse” – could undermine the Democrats just as America’s demographics otherwise really start to tip in their favour.

Say what you want about his socialism, but Bernie Sanders at least understood and tapped into the suffering and anger of struggling Americans in a sincere and legitimate way. For all her slogans and her team’s careful positioning of her on the issues, Hillary Clinton is nothing but a continuity candidate, a bit two fingers stuck up at conservatives by the establishment.

And at some point, once Clinton has made her victory speech (in which case she will doubtless pledge to be a president for all Americans, even those who did not vote for her), the victory parties have finished and everybody has got some much-needed sleep, it would do the Democrats well to ask themselves exactly what kind of outreach they are prepared to make to the half of the country left utterly unmoved by her message.

8 November – 6:40AM Washington D.C. / 11:40AM London

An unsparing assessment of Donald Trump’s character

Andrew Sullivan, who declared (far more enthusiastically than this blog) that “I’m with her” almost as soon as Hillary Clinton took the stage at her nominating convention in Philadelphia, gives a stark assessment of Donald Trump’s many flaws:

This is what we now know. Donald Trump is the first candidate for president who seems to have little understanding of or reverence for constitutional democracy and presents himself as a future strongman. This begins with his character — if that word could possibly be ascribed to his disturbed, unstable, and uncontrollable psyche. He has revealed himself incapable of treating other people as anything but instruments to his will. He seems to have no close friends, because he can tolerate no equals. He never appears to laugh, because that would cede a recognition to another’s fleeting power over him. He treats his wives and his children as mere extensions of his power, and those who have resisted the patriarch have been exiled, humiliated, or bought off.

His relationship to men — from his school days to the primary campaign — is rooted entirely in dominance and mastery, through bullying, intimidation, and, if necessary, humiliation. His relationship to women is entirely a function of his relationship to men: Women are solely a means to demonstrate his superiority in the alpha-male struggle. Women are to be pursued, captured, used, assaulted, or merely displayed to other men as an indication of his superiority. His response to any difficult relationship is to end it, usually by firing or humiliating or ruining someone. His core, motivating idea is the punishment or mockery of the weak and reverence for the strong. He cannot apologize or accept responsibility for failure. He has long treated the truth as entirely instrumental to his momentary personal interests. Setbacks of any kind can only be assuaged by vindictive, manic revenge.

He has no concept of a non-zero-sum engagement, in which a deal can be beneficial for both sides. A win-win scenario is intolerable to him, because mastery of others is the only moment when he is psychically at peace. (This is one reason why he cannot understand the entire idea of free trade or, indeed, NATO, or the separation of powers.) In any conflict, he cannot ever back down; he must continue to up the ante until the danger to everyone around him is so great as to demand their surrender. From his feckless business deals and billion-dollar debts to his utter indifference to the damage he has done to those institutions unfortunate enough to engage him, he has shown no concern for the interests of other human beings. Just ask the countless people he has casually fired, or the political party he has effectively destroyed. He has violated and eroded the core norms that make liberal democracy possible — because such norms were designed precisely to guard against the kind of tyrannical impulses and pathological narcissism he personifies.

Read the whole thing – there’s much, much more. Andrew Sullivan openly admits that he is an emotional character, prone to hyperbole, but it is very hard to dispute the charges which he lays at Donald Trump’s feet. They form the core of the reason why this blog cannot support Trump, and would prefer four years of Clintonian big government statism, divisive identity politics and other assorted left-wingery than place the fate of the Republic in his hands.

8 November – 6:25AM Washington D.C. / 11:25AM London

Remembering better times

Conservative Home takes a misty-eyed look back at the underappreciated presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush, the unsung heir to Ronald Reagan, in light of the currently debased Republican Party’s low moral standing:

On this day, over a quarter of a century ago, the best living former President of the United States was elected.  George Walker Herbert Bush is not the most eloquent man to have held the office.  Nor is he the most electorally successful.  Nor was he the most popular with his own party: how could he have been, when he followed Ronald Reagan?  Nor is he identified, like “the Gipper”, with representing a body of ideas, reflecting America back to itself, and changing the course of history.  But Bush was a fine President, in at least one way a better one than Reagan, and his reputation continues to grow – towering over the moral dwarf who succeeds him as Republican candidate today.

We are reminded of Bush Sr.’s heroism:

Volunteering to serve in the Second World War, like so many of his generation, he became the youngest pilot in the U.S Navy, and was nearly killed in action.  His plane was shot down while trying to knock out a Japanese radio transmission station.  His two fellow crewmen died.  Bush leaped from the plane, injuring his head on the back of it, and ripped his parachute, dropping faster because of the tear.  He was lucky not to fall into the hands of the Japanese, being eventually fished out of the water by an American submarine.

As well as his pragmatism, at home and abroad:

Reagan’s successor as Republican candidate was distrusted on the right of the party, and Bush over-compensated in consequence, making his famous pledge: “read lips: no new taxes”.  It was one that he abandoned in office.  Perhaps in reaction to his predecessor, “the Great Communicator”, he didn’t strive to explain why.  Bush believed that action, and not words, would be enough: that the American people would grasp that the deficit had to be reduced without the case having to be pitched to them.

It turned out not to be so – and, in any event, there is a cycle in politics.  The Republicans had won three successive presidential elections, and America wanted change by 1992.  That the country had been in recession helped to drive the mood.  But Bush was right about the public finances.  “The deficit is big enough to look after itself,” Reagan once said, but to say so is to laugh reality off, or try to.  Indeed, Bush’s stewardship of the economy, by an irony of the kind familiar in politics, helped to pave the way for two terms of the man who defeated him, Bill Clinton.

Elsewhere at home, Bush got a lot done in his single term, working with Congress to improve education, expand free trade, protect the environment, and pass the Americans with Disabilities Act – the model for our own Disability Discrimination Act, steered through by William Hague under John Major.  And abroad, Bush brought all his experience to bear at a tumultous time.  His judgement call was to back Gorbachev, who he originally distrusted, and it proved to be right.  Bush eased the collapse of communism by not publicly celebrating the fact.  America was the dominant world power by the time Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and Bush used its position to form an overarching international coalition that took the country back.

Also notable is the grace with which George H W Bush handled defeat and consignment to a one-term presidency by Bill Clinton in the 1992 election:

A measure of the man is his attitude to the man who beat him.  “Dear Bill,” he wrote in a note to Clinton, as he himself left the White House, There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.  You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you. Good luck – George.”

Heroism, pragmatism, resolve, grace and good character – even one of these characteristics would be seen as a remarkable improvement in 2016’s Republican Party presidential nominee. How far we have fallen.

8 November – 6:10AM Washington D.C. / 11:10AM London

What if the result is contested?

Politico considers what might happen if voting irregularities or other disputes mean that the election is contested, given that the Supreme Court (which would probably have to decide the case) is currently down one member following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, and therefore effectively poised 4-4 between the liberal and conservative elements.

It’s the campaign scenario that keeps partisan operatives and lawyers awake at night: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton end Election Day deadlocked with key states in a recount, and a short-handed Supreme Court can’t resolve the matter because the eight justices split down the middle.

In such a case, a lower-court ruling would probably be left to stand, and the decision would carry even less authority than Bush v. Gore, the high court’s widely criticized 5-4 ruling resolving the 2000 presidential election.

With Trump and Clinton concluding one of the most toxic presidential campaigns in modern history, amid charges of foreign influence and “rigged” procedures, the lack of a fully functioning Supreme Court to act as a legal backstop is worrisome to some operatives on both sides.

“There’s a hell of a scary thought,” said Jim Manley, a longtime Democratic staffer. “I’m not sure the country can handle that right now.”

“This would not be a good moment for the Supreme Court to have to deal with a partisan dispute,” added Trevor Potter, a veteran Republican attorney and former chairman at the Federal Election Commission.

And while most polls currently show Trump losing fairly decisively, his rhetoric on the campaign stump – and that of many of his supporters, who have been told again and again that the only way they can possibly lose is if Hillary Clinton rigs the election – is likely to ensure at least some degree of post-defeat denial if the result does indeed go Clinton’s way:

Trump’s real estate and business career are coursed with litigation and the Republican has run his presidential campaign alleging everything from voter fraud to widespread “rigging” by the political establishment and the media.

“It does seem if Trump loses there’s going to be challenges to the voting results. When you spend all your time saying the results are rigged you’ve got to expect there are lawsuits challenging results,” said Adam Winkler, a UCLA constitutional law professor.

The issue is not an insurmountable one, and the probability of a contested election landing in the lap of the Supreme Court is probably highly unlikely. But there could scarcely be a worse time for the unlikely to happen.

8 November – 5:45AM Washington D.C. / 10:45AM London

No, Donald Trump is not like Brexit

One of the more sickening things about this US presidential election campaign for people such as myself has been the way that many pundits, amply aided by unsavoury characters on both sides, have been drawing links between the UK’s vote to secede from the European Union and the rise of Donald Trump.

To be very clear: no, Donald Trump is not like Brexit. The campaign for Brexit was very much an anti-establishment movement, yes. But it also had as its goal something rather pure and noble, when you strip away all of the huffing about immigration and the invective on both sides. The purpose of Brexit was to remove Britain from a deeply anti-democratic and relentlessly integrating political union whose direction of travel remains a federal Europe which almost none of its citizens want. By voting to leave the EU, we are asserting that the British people and our laws should be sovereign, and not the rulings of a remote collection of unloved and (largely) unknown institutions in Brussels.

Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, by contrast, is great at making the establishment squirm – and often for very valid reasons. Trump captured the GOP nomination in large part thanks to a groundswell of anger at years of betrayals by Republican elites, whose rhetoric and policies in government and opposition have often worked directly against the interests of their party base. But beyond making the establishment squirm, there is no positive good to come from electing a man so ignorant, egomaniacal and unstable to the presidency. With Brexit, we got to poke the establishment in the eye and win back our democracy. With Trump, Americans will get to poke the establishment and themselves in the eye, and very little else will change, at least for the better.

Of course, this has not stopped UKIP’s Nigel Farage, distressed at finding himself out of the limelight and largely cut out of the picture when it comes to enacting Brexit, from flying to the United States and draping his arm around Donald Trump at every possible opportunity. And nor has it prevented the candidate himself from swanning around the country declaring that his election as president will be “Brexit plus plus plus“:

This is utter nonsense, as my Conservatives for Liberty colleague Nathan Friend patiently lays out:

Let’s get one thing straight; Trump and Brexit could not be further separate. Some people, primarily the smouldering remains of UKIP’s membership base, have got it in their heads that Trump is a continuation of a movement sparked by Brexit, and that Trump’s nationalism is exactly what Brexit was about. In fact, it would also seem that The Donald himself believes this twisted narrative; backed up by his advisor Nigel Farage, who he dubs ‘Mr. Brexit’.

Brexiteers who also support Trump know that by touting these two separate phenomena as the same, you are living up to what our nay-sayers accused us of. Bastions of the metropolitan elite such as the BBC and The Guardian touted us as fear-mongers, abusing the dissatisfaction of the lower classes and demonising immigrants to win the referendum. Whilst some people in the campaign were unsavoury at times; as someone who knocked on more doors and gave out more leaflets than he should have been during his A-Level exams, I can tell you that we were a campaign of hope.

Everyone I talked to wanted to leave the EU because they had higher hopes for our nation. They dreamed of a free Britain on the global-stage, and of the repatriation of powers to our people. It wasn’t nationalism in the traditional regressive sense, we wanted a new Britain, not and old one. In fact, the statistics show that the ability to control immigration in to Britain ranked only as the third most common reason people voted to Leave. People’s fears made up part of the vote, as they do in any election, but aspirations and dreams of a better future made up the bulk our campaign and our voters.

Trump’s campaign is the antithesis of our campaign. Whilst I do concede that there are some similarities between the voters in both phenomena, I refuse to recognise any real similarities beyond a few salient links. For example, many people are voting for Trump because they are sick and tired of a Washington Elite, closely related to the Brussels Elite, symbolised in the Clinton dynasty’s latest attempt at the White House. Lots of his voters also wish to control immigration to some greater extent than it is currently controlled. However, that is where the similarities end, with the key difference being that Trump’s campaign is far closer to ‘Project Fear’ than it is to Vote Leave.

Ultimately, one of the good things about the EU referendum and Brexit – and one of the reasons that people felt secure in voting to leave – is that they knew they could achieve something they dearly wanted as well as kick the establishment, but still not end up ruled by the leaders of the Leave campaign.

Britons knew that they were not electing Vote Leave or Leave.EU, the official and second largest pro-Brexit campaigns respectively, to any official government role. And indeed it now turns out that a former Remain-supporter, Theresa May, has succeeded David Cameron as prime minister, and is pursuing Brexit in the manner that she sees as most suitable, not according to the hyperbolic and often ambiguous claims of the Leave campaign.

With Donald Trump, Americans will not have this firewall. Expressing dissatisfaction with the status quo and the political elite by electing Donald Trump means that Trump will then be president for at least four years (or until he gets impeached). Americans would be very much voting for the man just as much as his ideals, to the extent that he even has any.

So let’s have no more lazy journalistic talk of Donald Trump representing America’s Brexit. Many (if most) Brexiteers are horrified or at least concerned by the Trump candidacy, which in no way reflects the long and principled history of our own movement.

7 November – 8:45PM Washington D.C. / 8 November – 1:45AM London

D-Day

Hello and welcome to this semi-partisan live blog of the United States presidential election day and results. This feed will remain open and regularly updated from now all the way through polling day, into the night of 8 November as the results come in and then on to the morning of 9 November as we review the aftermath and (quite possibly) pick through the wreckage.

For newcomers to this blog, I write from the perspective of a British chap and future American citizen married to a proud Texan girl, currently living in London but ultimately destined to move back to the United States (timing potentially dependent on the outcome of this election!)

I have lived and worked in Chicago and the Mid West, travelled widely throughout America, follow American politics as closely as British, and so feel more than justified in weighing in with my numerous opinions. Those still in doubt as to my credentials can read my brief bio here, and a more long-winded version here.

Politically, I lean classically liberal or (depending on the definition) conservatarian. My worldview in a nutshell: Catholic, small state, maximum personal liberty, pro civil liberties, free speech, pro-Second Amendment (with common sense gun control), anti-death penalty, pro separation of church and state, pro-legal immigration, anti attempts to ennoble illegal immigration, anti identity politics, anti-SJW. If it’s remotely socialist, I generally oppose it.

And yet…

As to my preference in this election, given the unappetising choice before us I would wholeheartedly choose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. I am certainly not “with her”, but the future stability and prosperity of my soon-to-be adoptive country is more important than my desire to see more conservative principles advanced in America. First, we need to save the Republic – then we can worry about the deeply concerning leftward drift.

To paraphrase PJ O’Rourke, Clinton is the kind of bad that America has endured before, is used to and can withstand for a time, while Donald Trump is an unstable and unknown quantity whose personal flaws as exposed throughout this election campaign – together with his disrespect for the Constitution and complete disinterest in the detail of policy – mean he is all risk and very little upside, save giving the establishment a good kicking.

Anyhow, that’s where I stand. I have a stash of Red Bull and a constant stream of coffee brewing, and will be glad of your company as I live-blog election day. Please feel free to use the Comments, or to contact/troll me on Twitter or by email.

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FBI Reopens Investigation Into Hillary Clinton’s Emails As More Come To Light

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Hell hath no fury like a Clinton facing an existential political threat

And so with just eleven days until the presidential election, the week closes with the shock announcement that the FBI is reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private unsecured email server now that new potentially significant emails have come to light through a separate, unrelated investigation into former congressman (and estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin) Anthony Weiner.

Cue the standard reactions you would expect from the major players. Donald Trump took to the stage at his next campaign rally and solemnly (well, with what passes for solemnity when delivered by Trump) told his supporters that there had been a critically important development in the campaign, relaying the news of the FBI’s reopened investigation to tumultuous cheers from the crowd. He went on to claim that the developing story was “bigger than Watergate“.

Meanwhile, the cable news channels, grateful for anything which disrupts the rather predictable “Clinton romping to near-certain victory” narrative which is so bad for ratings, eagerly talked up the “bombshell” development.

The only one we had yet to hear from was Hillary Clinton herself. She had precious little to say on the subject at her next campaign rally in Iowa, but we have now heard that the campaign is understandably furious at the timing of the announcement, and is pressing for immediate answers (and a swift second exoneration) from the FBI.

But what is the likely significance of this flurry of Friday activity? I think that Jonah Goldberg’s initial hot take is right on the money:

I think Comey has to have found something significant to have done this. Re-injecting himself into the presidential campaign eleven days before the election is not something he would do lightly or happily. But I have no idea what that something might be.

I agree. James Comey has a reputation to protect, one which will not be enhanced by making himself the sudden focus of the presidential election campaign this close to polling day if it turns out that there is nothing to the newly discovered email stash. Serious conversations would have gone on before Comey made the final decision to write that letter to congressional committee chairmen informing them of his decision to reopen the investigation, and that alone counts for something.

Goldberg continues:

I’m more confident, however, that if the Clinton campaign was holding back any opposition research in reserve, it is now very likely to get dropped like the payloads from a squadron of B-52 bombers. So far the Clinton camp has been very, very skillful in deploying its oppo. It doesn’t rush things and has been comfortable letting story lines develop. (Yes the Trump team is right that many of these sexual abuse stories are “orchestrated.” But “orchestrated” isn’t a synonym for “untrue”).

What would that oppo look like? I don’t know. But, unless there’s something much worse than the “groping” storyline we already know, the sexual-abuse charges are now baked in with most of the public (and among Republican apologists). Until today, that was probably fine with the Clinton camp because she’s been on course for a big win. If you’re in the clear lead, the incentive to drop more oppo is not there because there’s always the risk of blowback.

But the polls have tightened a little. More troubling for her is the fact that between the Doug Band story and now this, Clinton is likely to be in the spotlight for the next few days or longer. (By the way, how happy is Doug Band to be wiped out of the news cycle?) And the dilemma for Clinton is that whichever candidate is in the spotlight tends to suffer in the polls because the American people don’t like either of them.

And that’s why I think we can expect the Clintonites to do what they do best: change the subject from their wrongdoing to someone else’s, presumably Donald Trump’s. Maybe it won’t happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time the Sunday shows are on, or by Monday morning at the latest, we’ll have at least two “bombshells” to discuss.

Most people I have spoken to seem agreed that Hillary Clinton is holding something back in reserve – an additional Trump scandal (either real or confected) different in tone and nature to the others, which could be deployed as a kind of political doomsday device if Clinton found herself behind in the polls or facing serious political difficulties going into the home stretch. Anyone who knows how the Clintons operate would probably concur that this would be absolutely in character.

The only question, to my mind, is whether Hillary Clinton panics and deploys her doomsday device now, in an attempt to change the narrative and avoid losing a whole weekend’s worth of news cycles, or if she holds her nerve and waits to see any potential wobble in the tracking polls before deciding whether or not to take action.

As Jonah Goldberg rightly points out, there are disadvantages to unleashing an opposition research-generated political doomsday device this close to the end of the election. If the scandal is “good” enough, it could succeed in driving more moderate Trump supporters away or depressing his overall voter turnout. But if it is perceived as being little different to a restatement of Donald Trump’s personal flaws which have already been “priced in” by his supporters then it will make little positive difference, while potentially tarring Clinton with having used underhanded tactics in the home stretch.

There is no margin for error in this decision, so if we do see a big revelation from Hillary Clinton it will be a good sign that her campaign is seriously worried – and perhaps that they do not have full confidence in the many polls which have shown her maintaining a consistent lead over Donald Trump.

So while on face value this has been a rare good news day for the Trump campaign – probably the best since Hillary Clinton’s “medical episode” in New York on 9/11 – rather than rejoicing and taking a premature victory lap, now might actually be the time for the Donald Trump campaign and his supporters to hunker down and prepare for the worst.

Sticking their heads above the parapet to enjoy the spectacle of Hillary Clinton flailing in response to new questions about her improper use of email may be tempting and even cathartic, but it also increases the risk of being taken by surprise in the event of the deployment of Hillary’s Revenge.

If Hillary Clinton has something, anything else on Donald Trump, the temptation now comes hardest upon her to use it. This election campaign has either been blown wide open in Donald Trump’s favour, or is about to be slammed shut in his face.

 

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Live Blog: Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton, Third Presidential Debate

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Live Blog: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton face off in their final live televised debate

Debate Time: 6PM Pacific Time / 2AM UK Time

Watch Online: Live Stream Here

Contact: semipartisansam@gmail.com

 

7:48PM Las Vegas / 3:48AM London

Summarising the final debate

Well, that was by far the best of the three presidential debates. Chris Wallace had by far the most gravitas of all of the moderators called to undertake this most difficult of tasks (shaming those who questioned his abilities simply because he works for Fox News), and broadly kept things on track. I particularly liked the way that he ordered his questions, ensuring that the debate started with substantive policy discussions, with the more contentious issues (the personality based stuff) sandwiched in the middle.

Others seem to agree that this debate was a cut above the rest:

The headline that most pundits will take away is the “shock” revelation from Donald Trump that he will not necessarily accept the result of the presidential election if he is not declared the victor. I have no idea why they are surprised – Trump has been essentially making that very point continually for weeks now, with his accusation that the election is being “rigged” by Hillary Clinton and a compliant media. If you really do believe that the election is stacked against you (as Trump seems to have persuaded himself), why on earth would you concede in the event of defeat? This isn’t a matter of agreeing with Trump, it’s a matter of logic.

Will Trump’s refusal to accept the validity of the election upfront actually harm him? Well, in terms of everything else that he has done over the course of this campaign I don’t see how this will be any more off-putting to undecided voters than his other antics. And of course it will be red meat to his most ardent supporters.

But from a policy perspective, what did we actually learn from this most policy-focused of the three debates? Well, essentially the candidates simply reinforced what we already knew. Hillary Clinton sees government and the state as the answer to nearly every question, even those questions which nobody has asked yet. She wants to “invest” in the American people, which sounds positive until you remember that investors tend to demand a dividend or some other type of return for their largesse.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, gave no more evidence that he has actually studied the issues or gained a level of expertise (or even curiosity) beyond the same glib soundbites that one would expect from a first-term congressman in a very safe Republican district. Repealing and replacing Obamacare, but with what? We still don’t really know. Rebuilding the military, but in what areas and to what levels? We don’t know. Eliminating the budget deficit and tackling the national debt? Sure. But how? Donald Trump will tell us later.

And so the decision before American voters remains as unappetising as ever:

https://twitter.com/LouiseMensch/status/788932030037946372

Hillary Clinton remains this blog’s choice, for the simple reason that she is the type of uninspiring, statist technocrat that Americans have had before (and proven that they can endure), while Donald Trump represents a leap off a cliff. It is a thoroughly depressing choice, but the only conceivable choice that this blog can make.

Andrew Sullivan seems to be drinking the Kool-Aid and actually mustering enthusiasm for Clinton, which is more than I can do:

I mean, he’s not wrong in terms of Trump’s temperamental unsuitability for office. But was this a “devastating” defeat for Trump from the perspective of viewers? I think not. In fact, Trump may have just squeaked another points victory in this debate. What may well be devastating from Trump, though, is the fact that he failed to score the kind of knock-out victory that he really needed.

Points victories and incremental improvements will not save Donald Trump at this point. And Democrats, together with conservatives of conscience, should probably be very grateful that he failed to do much better.

7:36PM Las Vegas / 3:36AM London

Apparently the candidates did not agree to closing statements. Chris Wallace blindsides them by demanding one anyway, one minute each. Good for him. These debates have all suffered for not having the candidates try to wrap up their message and key themes (as far as Trump can claim to have a “theme” at the end.

Clinton says she will do “everything I can to ensure you have good jobs and rising incomes”.

Trump says “she is raising money from the people she wants to control. It doesn’t work that way”. Whereas Clinton painted a positive message (as one would expect from the continuity candidate), Trump paints a dark vision of America where “you get shot walking to school”, the military is run down and everything is bad.

“We cannot take four more years of Barack Obama, and that’s what you get with her”, Trump concludes.

And that’s a wrap.

7:32PM Las Vegas / 3:32AM London

Good final question by Chris Wallace, asking candidates whether they would adopt a “grand bargain” to save entitlements incorporating benefit cuts and tax increases to share the pain.

Trump immediately pivots to the need to “repeal and replace ObamaCare”. He won’t ask anything of Americans or suggest that difficult decisions or sacrifices might have to be made. No, everything is easy in Trump Land. Everything can be fixed by signing another great trade deal or standing up to China. This is just infantile, superficial stuff.

Clinton says that she will “raise taxes on the wealthy”, and makes a witty remark that she would raise taxes on herself “and on Donald, assuming he doesn’t find a way of getting out of it.” But she “will not cut benefits”.

7:30PM Las Vegas / 3:30AM London

Clinton wants “to invest in you, to invest in your family”. Again, there is no role which she does not envision the state playing in the lives of Americans. But her line about American growth being powered by the middle class rather than the wealthy few will resonate.

7:29PM Las Vegas / 3:29AM London

Hillary Clinton guns for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan again, affirming that America already is great. These Canadians would agree:

7:27PM Las Vegas / 3:27AM London

Hillary Clinton again specifically describes the picture of the Syrian boy “sitting in an ambulance with blood coming down his face” in an attempt to sentimentalise the need for military action in Syria. Of course, this enlightened humanitarian was also part of an administration which dramatically stepped up drone warfare against numerous targets, including American citizens, and which has been highly reluctant to reveal civilian casualty estimates.

7:19PM Las Vegas / 3:19AM London

How things stand so far

I generally concur with this assessment:

By the greatly warped standards with which we now judge presidential debate performances, this is probably on the money. Trump has been hitting Hillary Clinton very hard, quite effectively in some places, displaying open contempt and derision for her in some places – “Thanks a lot, Hillary, great job!”, he said at one point.

But because of his manifold personal flaws, Hillary Clinton has always had at least ten ready comebacks and zingers to every criticism that Trump has made. Even where he was effective on the email scandal and on foreign policy, Clinton has been able to wriggle her way out of trouble.

From a Clintonian perspective, Hillary can look back with satisfaction thus far. She has remained calm and composed, avoided committing any obvious gaffes once again, and effectively rendered Trump ridiculous-looking (to all but his most committed supporters) at several points. There have been no magisterial moments of brilliance, but then Hillary Clinton isn’t a brilliant political candidate. Agree with her or not, she is a shrewd political operator. But a candidate, not so much.

7:18PM Las Vegas / 3:18AM London

Hillary Clinton says that Trump is “the most dangerous person to run for president in the modern era.”

7:16PM Las Vegas / 3:16AM London

Donald Trump hammering Hillary Clinton for the Obama administration’s policy of drawing down troops in Iraq, and the subsequent fall of Mosul and other cities to ISIS.

This would be a whole lot more effective if Donald Trump was not stubbornly and transparently lying about having supported the initial invasion of Iraq.

7:13PM Las Vegas / 3:13AM London

Cynical Democratic posturing on taxes – and their subverting of language by speaking of “undocumented” rather than “illegal” immigrants – knows no limits:

7:10PM Las Vegas / 3:10AM London

Hillary Clinton accuses Trump of “whining”, and “denigrating our democracy”, and says that she is “appalled” that a major party nominee would take that position.

Both candidates are now finally starting to have some success steamrollering over Chris Wallace when they really want to make a point or land an attack.

7:08PM Las Vegas / 3:08AM London

“She should not be allowed to run. She’s guilty of a very serious crime”, says Trump, speaking about Hillary Clinton’s email scandal and “so many other things”.

Well, he’s coming out fully swinging now, that’s for sure.

7:07PM Las Vegas / 3:07AM London

Chris Wallace putting Donald Trump on the spot as to whether or not he will accept the outcome of the presidential election if he loses.

Trump responds: “I will look at it at the time. What I’ve seen is so bad. The media is so corrupt”.

So that’s a no, then.

7:05PM Las Vegas / 3:05AM London

“Everything he says about charity or anything else – you can’t prove it”, says Clinton, finally bringing up Donald Trump’s undisclosed tax returns. Fair criticism.

What is not fair, though, is criticising Donald Trump for offsetting his income tax liability against past business losses. Clinton is in no position to clutch her pearls in faux moral outrage about this – if you don’t want people to take advantage of legitimate tax loopholes, don’t create them and don’t tolerate them.

7:04PM Las Vegas / 3:04AM London

Hillary Clinton complaining that Donald Trump used money given to his foundation to buy a portrait of himself. Fair enough. But Hillary Clinton hired Sidney Blumenthal to the Clinton Foundation – after the Obama administration forbade her from hiring him at State – for the expressed job of polishing the Clinton legacy. She is in absolutely no position to criticise Donald Trump for being vain.

7:01PM Las Vegas / 3:01AM London

Chris Wallace asking Hillary Clinton about “pay to play” allegations relating to the Clinton Foundation.

My take on the foundation:

The point, I suppose, is that a family charitable foundation is a perfectly legitimate option for an ex-president and his family who intend to quit the political game after leaving office. But when this is not the case – when Hillary was pursuing senatorial ambitions and later becoming Secretary of State – conflicts of interest are inevitably going to occur.

When one is as rich and well-connected as the Clintons, acquiring more money becomes of limited interest. Instead, the reason for getting up in the morning after having left the White House often becomes the building of power, influence and legacy – and, of course, keeping the family in the style of living to which they have become accustomed (i.e. minimal contact with ordinary people). A family foundation accomplishes all of these objectives wonderfully. But when one or more members of the family are still politically active it is highly questionable.

It would have been far better, when there are still active political careers in play, for the Clintons to have put ego aside and thrown their support behind an alternative, existing foundation – much like Warren Buffett is giving away much of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, recognising that it makes little sense to build up his own philanthropic expertise from scratch and create all the overheads which come from a second foundation when a perfectly good one already exists.

Why did the Clintons not take the Warren Buffett approach? Three reasons – ego, power and prestige. It is great that the Clintons are philanthropically active. But nearly all of their philanthropic work is done through the Clinton Foundation ($1 million to the foundation in 2015 and just $42,000 to another charity), meaning they want to do charity on their terms. It is a few distinct shades further away from pure altruism, and more to do with continuing to exercise power after the White House.

6:59PM Las Vegas / 2:59AM London

It’s worth pointing out that Hillary Clinton would not be able to make herself look good by reeling off a list of all the indefensible things that Donald Trump has said if the Republican Party had nominated somebody remotely serious. But they didn’t, so here we are.

6:57PM Las Vegas / 2:57AM London

If we are going to call out devious pivots, then it is only fair to criticise Donald Trump for his evasions too:

6:55PM Las Vegas / 2:55AM London

Clinton rightly rakes Donald Trump over the coals for scoffing at the possibility that he might have sexually assaulted several women because they were not good looking enough.

“Trump goes after [women’s] dignity, their self worth. And I don’t think that there’s a woman out there who doesn’t know how that feels”, says Clinton. A powerful line.

She then descends into bland platitudes about diversity, and America being great, and our children and grandchildren and blah blah. But it was a calm, measured and broadly effective denunciation of Trump’s character.

Donald Trump denies saying something that he blatantly did say, and accuses Clinton’s campaign of being “sleazy”.

6:54PM Las Vegas / 2:54AM London

Chris Wallace asks why so many women would make up stories about Donald Trump behaving inappropriately toward them.

Trump responds by alleging that the Clinton campaign fed the stories to the media, and then goes further, accusing Hillary Clinton of fomenting violence at his campaign rallies. In any other presidential campaign that would be an incendiary statement. This time…it’s about average.

6:52PM Las Vegas / 2:52AM London

I’m not sure that Hillary Clinton’s broad, beaming smile when Donald Trump alleges that “she gave us ISIS” is the best reaction shot…

6:51PM Las Vegas / 2:51AM London

Looks like Clinton has come with a prepared response to Trump’s “thirty years” criticism this time. She reels off a list of all of her past jobs, contrasting what she was doing at certain points in time with what Donald Trump was doing.

“When I was in the situation room for the Osama Bin Laden raid, he was hosting Celebrity Apprentice”, snaps Clinton. Ouch.

6:49PM Las Vegas / 2:49AM London

Donald Trump resurrects his “you’ve been around for 30 years; why didn’t you do all these things earlier?” line. It’s effective. I mean, it also completely overstates the political power of a first lady and first-term junior senator, but it is still an effective line.

6:49PM Las Vegas / 2:49AM London

I’m with Giordano’s:

6:46PM Las Vegas / 2:46AM London

Again, Donald Trump unfavourably compares the GDP growth of the United States (a developed country) with that of India and China, both developing countries. This is infantile, sheer economic illiteracy. No advanced economy in the world grows at a clip of 8-10%. What is Trump’s secret formula?

6:44PM Las Vegas / 2:44AM London

Andrew Sullivan concurs with me on Donald Trump’s effective call-out of Hillary Clinton’s “open borders” evasion:

She has no good answer on her private remarks about her dream of open borders in the Western hemisphere. And so she tries to shift the question to Putin’s role in Wikileaks. Trump is right: that was a nifty pivot, and he exposed her.

6:42PM Las Vegas / 2:42AM London

Amazing “free trade deals” are not going to eliminate the budget deficit, Donald Trump, let alone tackle the national debt. It’s a glib answer worthy of a junior congressman, not a presidential candidate.

6:40PM Las Vegas / 2:40AM London

Clinton mocking Trump’s “trickle-down economics on steroids”.

Well, it’s better than “Trumped-up trickle-down”, I guess.

6:38PM Las Vegas / 2:38AM London

Naturally Hillary Clinton sees the state as saviour, promising “the greatest jobs program since World War 2”. This is all so predictable, a cookie-cutter Democratic nominee’s response.

6:37PM Las Vegas / 2:37AM London

And we’re on to the economy.

6:36PM Las Vegas / 2:36AM London

Stefan Molyneux has a great rebuttal to Hillary Clinton’s sudden concern about foreign powers wielding influence over American policy:

6:34PM Las Vegas / 2:34AM London

So far, Trump has failed to have the kind of stand-out moment that he really needs. There’s still an hour to go, but he is not winning on the Russia argument and there are a decreasing number of remaining openings available to mount a fightback.

6:33PM Las Vegas / 2:33AM London

Getting very tired of Hillary Clinton’s opportunistic, cynical scaremongering about Russia. This is everything I detest about Clinton. This blog is no fan of Putin’s Russia, but Clinton is vastly over-hyping any possible threat Russia poses to the United States in her pursuit of power.

6:31PM Las Vegas / 2:31AM London

Good response from Trump, calling out Hillary Clinton’s pivot and evasion. Wanting open trade and open borders is a perfectly legitimate political position, but if that is what Hillary Clinton really wants then she should have the courage to own her leaked statement and defend it. But she won’t, because she lacks principle.

If only the alternative wasn’t Donald Trump…

6:28PM Las Vegas / 2:28AM London

Excellent! Chris Wallace brings up Clinton’s speech in which she revealed her dream of a “hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders”.

Clinton has no response – she immediately pivots to scaremongering about Russia, a country with a GDP less than Spain who are no longer the powerful Evil Empire of Reagan’s era. Nice pivot, but will Wallace allow her to get away with it?

6:28PM Las Vegas / 2:28AM London

One of Trump’s weaknesses is that he cannot restrict himself to criticising Hillary Clinton, and veers off to criticise her husband as well:

6:25PM Las Vegas / 2:25AM London

“We are a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws” says Hillary Clinton, whose nominating convention in Philadelphia featured lots of illegal immigrants standing on the convention stage being cheered for their lawbreaking.

6:24PM Las Vegas / 2:24AM London

And Clinton naturally begins with an anecdote about a young girl worried about her illegal immigrant parents being deported, sentimentalising the issue and waxing about how she doesn’t want to “rip families apart”.

And of course she refers to “undocumented” rather than illegal immigrants. Because this is all part of the leftist agenda to control thinking through use of language, softening the language to make people tacitly accept – even celebrate – illegal immigration.

6:22PM Las Vegas / 2:22AM London

Seems that Trump has brought four women who have lost children or relatives to murderers who turned out to be illegal immigrants. Looks like he is taking the “law and order” approach to the immigration issue rather than the jobs issue.

“We have to have strong borders; we have to keep the drugs out of the country .. We absolutely cannot give amnesty” says Trump.

“One of my first actions would be to take the drug lords – we’re going to get them out”, he continues. It’s that easy, apparently.

6:22PM Las Vegas / 2:22AM London

Oh good, we’re on to immigration. At least Chris Wallace might distinguish between legal and illegal immigration in his questioning, unlike much of the left-leaning media.

6:18PM Las Vegas / 2:18AM London

Good to see Chris Wallace putting Hillary Clinton in the spot as to how far she would go in support of abortion rights. Clinton, of course, is of the opinion that the foetus has no Constitutional rights. It’s easy to mop up votes by waxing about the “right to choose”. Much harder to grapple with the thorny questions to emerge from that blanket pronouncement.

Clinton gives a solid answer – clearly she has prepped well, knowing to expect some more socially conservative questions in this debate.

Trump talks about “ripping the baby out of the womb” in an abortion just prior to birth. Clinton says that the language Trump used is “unfortunate”. Yes, it is – because Trump didn’t sanitise the issue as Clinton so desperately wants to do.

6:16PM Las Vegas / 2:16AM London

The US Libertarian Party, a refuge for many principled conservatives this election cycle, is providing some liberty-minded commentary of this debate as it proceeds:

6:14PM Las Vegas / 2:14AM London

Hats off to Chris Wallace. Ten minutes into the debate and we are talking about real, thorny issues and matters of policy relating to gun control and the Second Amendment. Neither of the first two debates managed to get so serious so quickly. That an anchor from “evil” Fox News has managed to do so should be a matter of shame for the others.

Dreher agrees:

6:12PM Las Vegas / 2:12AM London

Rod Dreher rightly warns that Donald Trump didn’t mention anything about religious freedom. And that, of course, is because deep down he doesn’t care about religious freedom. Because he isn’t a real conservative.

6:10PM Las Vegas / 2:10AM London

Interesting choice by Chris Wallace, diving into the debate by talking about the Supreme Court and judicial process. Neither candidate is able to come out swinging in dramatic fashion – will this more measured opening set the tone for the debate?

6:08PM Las Vegas / 2:08AM London

Donald Trump predictably starts talking about how the Second Amendment is “under siege”, a reliable vote winner for Republicans. Note how the great federal gun seizure is always planned for “tomorrow” though. GOPers have been warning that Obama is coming for America’s guns since before he took the oath of office, and yet the Second Amendment remains intact. But Trump is happy to keep peddling an existential threat which is largely non-existent.

6:07PM Las Vegas / 2:07AM London

Hillary Clinton immediately politicises the Supreme Court, saying that it should stand on the side of “the people” (meaning her leftist policies). I’m sorry, but no. The Supreme Court should stand on the side of the Constitution, not on the side of whatever basket of special interests Clinton decides to label “the people”.

Clinton sees the Supreme Court as an essential vehicle for continual, aggressive social change, far beyond anything that can be reasonably inferred from the text of the document and the original intent of the Founders. Not good.

Unfortunately, Clinton is able to score a point by pointing to Republican obstructionism over the nomination of Barack Obama’s appointment for Justice Scalia’s replacement.

6:05PM Las Vegas / 2:05AM London

Chris Wallace’s first question is about the Supreme Court, and where both candidates “want to see the court take the country”. He follows on to ask whether they believe the Constitution is a living document or set in stone.

6:04PM Las Vegas / 2:04AM London

And they have taken the stage. Both look serious – no handshake.

6:01PM Las Vegas / 2:01AM London

David Harsanyi rages against the media’s moralising against Donald Trump in a piece for the Federalist. Harsanyi writes:

So forgive me if I don’t take liberal concern-trolling about the GOP’s wicked presidential choice too seriously. After all, even if Republicans had nominated the most qualified, competent, and chaste moderate in the existence of the republic, there still would be no #NeverHillary movement within the Democratic Party. No matter how many scandals were uncovered. No matter how many lies she told. What they’ve done is normalize Hillary’s behavior. Because Trump.

Actually, many of these same people treated a competent and ethically upright moderate like Mitt Romney just like they treat Trump. And even the most sexist-sensitive liberal would likely support a lecherous Bill Clinton over a virtuous Republican nominee. Because state power is the virtue. So spare us.

It’s been something to watch the media engage in this smug, self-satisfying, feigned outrage — much of it aimed at real Trump scandals, and plenty of it hyper-parsing and overreactions — after giving him nearly unlimited and uncritical airtime during the primaries to ensure his nomination for the ratings and to help Hillary.

It’s hard to disagree with some of this. While Donald Trump fully deserves enormous criticism for his behaviour any many of his ill-considered policies, much of the media’s excessive pearl-clutching has been more than a little cynical and contrived.

5:59PM Las Vegas / 1:59AM London

Chris Wallace admonishing his audience not to “hoot and holler” as the candidates debate. It will be interesting to see if he enforces this rule across the board, or if he criticises Trump supporters for cheering while letting Clinton supporters scream to their hearts’ content.

5:56PM Las Vegas / 1:56AM London

We’re about to get underway. The warm-up act is regaling the audience with a riff about how great an opportunity this debate is for the students at the University of Nevada, many of whom are helping out with logistics. Unless this debate is much better than the previous two, I think that this “opportunity” is a decidedly mixed blessing.

My wife and I are due to spend a few days in Las Vegas with family after Christmas – hopefully this debate will not reduce the city to a smoking crater in the ground.

5:48PM Las Vegas / 1:48AM London

Is this the launch of Trump News Network?

This blog has recently speculated that Donald Trump’s intentions may have either shifted away from winning the presidency towards stoking up his supporters enough to turn them into loyal viewers of a future Trump cable news network.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds:

As a serious attempt to build an election-winning coalition of voters or persuade a majority to abandon their doubts and embrace his “ideology”, Trump’s continued behaviour has been entirely counterproductive. But as a strategy to enthuse his most ardent supporters and drive a further wedge between them and all mainstream sources of news (even including Fox News) it has been a masterpiece. Journalists are now routinely booed at Trump rallies, while the candidate himself accuses the media of being part of an organised establishment plot to swing the election for Hillary Clinton.

Currently these voters are served only by the more fringe conservative media – sites such as World Net Daily, Breitbart, InfoWars and alt-right personalities like Paul Joseph Watson and Mike Cernovich. And while many of these outlets are professionalising their operations, there probably still exists a gap in the market for a well-funded, professional-looking television news network that looks like CNN but talks like Alex Jones.

And now there are further intriguing signs that the grounds may be being prepared for a move into the news media:

If you don’t like the coverage you are receiving from existing networks, just create your own. Putin and Berlusconi would be proud.

5:42PM Las Vegas / 1:42AM London

And we’re back. Apologies for the pause. Semi-Partisan Politics is operating using rather ancient computing power, and things crawled to such a halt that an emergency reboot was necessary. Perhaps this is not a bad time to mention that if you find this blog’s coverage useful and entertaining, donations large and small are most welcome.

 

 

High on the list of upcoming necessary purchases is a laptop which doesn’t die when you try to open more than five tabs, and which doesn’t give off the heat of a nuclear reactor.

5:03PM Las Vegas / 1:03AM London

Donald Trump’s debate prep guru has apparently thrown in the towel and given up trying to teach Trump the Unteachable.

In advance of the debate, The Hill reports:

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and former Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes are reportedly no longer speaking.

New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman revealed that “Ailes’s camp said Ailes learned that Trump couldn’t focus—surprise, surprise—and that advising him was a waste of time.”

“These debate prep sessions weren’t going anywhere,” Sherman added during the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit on Tuesday.

Quite why it took Roger Ailes this long to realise that Donald Trump is a dud candidate is anybody’s guess – perhaps the man who taught George H. W. Bush to swagger is finally losing his touch, what with also having been drummed out of Fox News.

4:57PM Las Vegas / 12:57AM London

When Rudy Giuliani has to act as your chief character witness, you know you’re in trouble:

4:55PM Las Vegas / 12:55AM London

Fiscal conservatives will appreciate this one:

4:35PM Las Vegas / 12:35AM London

CNN continue to promote the presidential debate as though it were a heavyweight boxing match:

4:18PM Las Vegas / 12:18AM London

What would it take for Trump to win the election?

The National Review paints a stark picture of the uphill battle faced by Donald Trump to win critical bellwether swing states like Ohio:

If Trump does win Ohio, he will achieve something many thought was impossible, winning a hard-fought swing state without any long-standing major campaign get-out-the-vote operation. It will obliterate everything every campaign professional has ever taught or learned about the importance of preparation.

On the plus side: Trump’s biggest fans would seemingly walk through fire for him, with an army (of indeterminate size) of volunteers willing to give up their own time and money to get people to the polls in an impromptu, uncoordinated get-out-the-vote operation. And while all comparisons between the UK’s vote for Brexit and the Donald Trump campaign are vastly overblown and often offensive, one common feature is that both anti-establishment insurgencies are buoyed by people whose political engagement seems to have gone from near zero to off-the-charts.

On the negative side (for Trump): Hillary Clinton has been waiting for this moment her entire life, and her professionalised get-out-the-vote operation will build on all of the success of the previous George W. Bush and Barack Obama political operations. Hillary Clinton has had political operatives laying the crucial groundwork in states since well before Donald Trump even threw his hat into the ring.

4:10PM Las Vegas / 12:10AM London

Yes, the Clinton email scandal matters

In the wake of further Wikileaks email revelations from the hacked account of Clinton campaign apparatchik John Podesta, the National Review reminds us exactly why Clinton’s decision to use a private email server while serving as Secretary of State – and her subsequent evasiveness and liberty with the truth when held to account for her actions – is an entirely legitimate point of criticism.

Their editorial states:

Although it was ostensibly investigating Clinton and her State Department staff (many of whom had become her campaign staff), the Justice Department kept campaign officials in the loop about developments in Freedom of Information Act cases related to Clinton’s e-mails, and about administration efforts to delay and minimize disclosures. The DOJ worked with the Clinton team’s defense lawyers to restrict the FBI’s ability to ask key questions and examine critical evidence. It also declined to present the case to a grand jury, which the DOJ must do in order to subpoena critical evidence and indict culpable suspects. Instead, it gave the suspects immunity from prosecution and made other gratuitous concessions in order to acquire evidence the production of which could have been compelled.

Meanwhile, as the former secretary’s claims about never having sent or received classified information were exposed as lies — in fact, some of her e-mails contained information classified at the very highest levels of secrecy — the State Department colluded with Clinton aides to control the fallout. Newly disclosed FBI documents suggest that high-ranking State Department official Patrick Kennedy leaned on the FBI, and perhaps other agencies, to downgrade classification of Clinton’s e-mails (which might bolster her false denial of transmitting classified information) and to exploit Freedom of Information Act exemptions (which would allow the State Department to withhold disclosure of e-mails that would be politically harmful). This news should come as no surprise. FBI reports had previously indicated that State Department brass were pressuring career officials to change designations to minimize Clinton’s apparent misconduct.

While Kennedy and others were applying pressure from Foggy Bottom, Podesta sought help from a different source. Months ago, the State Department grudgingly acknowledged that Clinton and President Obama had exchanged at least 18 e-mails over Clinton’s private account, and FBI reports obtained by Congress revealed that Obama used an alias on those occasions. Prior to that revelation, Podesta suggested to Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s top aide at State and a key campaign adviser, that the White House invoke executive privilege to shield those exchanges from a congressional subpoena.

This isn’t partisan point-scoring. This is really bad. And while it may not have the telegenic allure of a good old fashioned sex scandal, it speaks to character every bit as much – and it probably speaks to Hillary Clinton’s likely governing style as president even more strongly.

In any other presidential election, Hillary Clinton’s actions with regard to her email would be immediately disqualifying. The fact that she remains preferable to a potential Donald Trump in this dismal election cycle is a reflection on just how bad of a candidate (and a person) he is, and is certainly not a reflection of any virtue or worthiness on Hillary Clinton’s part.

3:56PM Las Vegas / 11:56PM London

Left-wing anxiety about the “Fox News debate”

The New York Times is paranoid that the final presidential debate, moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News, will fail in his duty of impartiality:

A major topic at tonight’s presidential debate — maybe the first topic — will be “debt and entitlements,” according to Chris Wallace, the Fox News host who is moderating the debate.

I encourage you to watch for whether Wallace bases his questions on budget reality. Much of the public discussion of the national debt isn’t based on reality. It instead relies on facts that are badly outdated.

[..] Reasonable people can disagree about how much to emphasize the decline in the projected debt versus how much to emphasize the debt itself. But it’s simply irresponsible to talk about the debt while ignoring the enormous change.

Wallace has a reputation as a serious journalist, not a Fox News partisan like Sean Hannity, and I hope Wallace lives up to that reputation.

A reasonable concern? I suppose so. But Chris Wallace, like Shep Smith, is one of the good guys at Fox News, and I have no reason to doubt that he will chair the debate in a professional manner.

Besides, for impartiality to come into question would require the debate to actually focus on the detail of fiscal policy rather than devolving into glib soundbites and insults, a level of discourse which neither of the first two debates managed to reach.

3:45PM Las Vegas / 11:45PM London

What to expect from this final presidential debate? Who knows. Read ten different press previews and you’ll get ten different answers. But one thing is clear enough – if Donald Trump really wants to turn his campaign around and actually make a Hail Mary pass for victory rather than simply continuing to stoke the resentments of his supporters, he needs to do something extraordinary.

What precisely that “something extraordinary” looks like is difficult to say. He could try going after Hillary Clinton even harder – really hammering her on things like the email scandal and her relationship with Wall Street. But attacking harder is likely to just make him look deranged to more moderate voters, people who don’t necessarily buy the Hillary Is Satan schtick that his hardcore supporters love. The only way that attacking harder might benefit Trump is if he actually manages to achieve a moment of combustion and really make Clinton lose her temper or composure. And even then, it’s hard to see how Clinton injures her own prospects more than Trump.

As for Hillary Clinton, I fully expect her to spend most of the debate in cautious, defensive “home stretch” mode. Sure, we might see the odd flash of steel as she tears into Donald Trump’s character, particularly around the new sexual assault allegations (which conveniently emerged not when Trump was being a reality TV star, not when he was being a birther, not when he was fighting for the GOP nomination but only in the final month before the presidential election. I’m not saying the allegations are false, but I am saying that their convenient timing doesn’t do anything to allay Trump supporters’ paranoia that the whole thing is rigged against them).

But aside from a few more cheesy, canned one-liners and a few telegenic “shame on you” moments (which, don’t get me wrong, Trump fully deserves), I expect we will see Hillary Clinton behaving like the England football team protecting a one goal lead against Slovakia with 45 minutes left to play. Dull, uninspiring, and acceptable only if she doesn’t self-destruct and concede a last-minute equaliser.

3:00PM Las Vegas / 11:00PM London

Yes, I’m blogging the final Trump v Clinton 2016 presidential debate. I’m doing it again. Goodness knows why – it’s certainly not for the benefit of my mental health or circadian rhythm. But it seems right and proper to see this thing through to the bitter end.

As always, I welcome your feedback and company as we watch along together. Please feel free to use the Comments feature, or contact/troll me on Twitter or by email.

You can read my live-blog of the first debate here and the second debate here. New readers – welcome, see my About page here for a brief bio.

 

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Top Image: Joe Raedle/Getty, Rolling Stone

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Hacked Clinton Campaign Emails Reveal What The Political Class Really Think Of Ordinary Americans

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Hacked emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign are unlikely to provide “smoking gun” evidence which might derail her candidacy, but they do paint a very depressing picture of exactly how the American political class view the people they supposedly serve

With each new release of hacked Clinton campaign emails released by Wikileaks, reporters have tended to swarm over the documents looking for a “smoking gun” of some kind – hard and fast evidence that Hillary Clinton may have engaged in illegal or clearly unethical acts. Such bombshell revelations are unlikely to emerge.

Why? Well, as Jonah Goldberg points out, we are dealing with an extraordinarily astute political operator here. Whether it is the work of the Clinton Foundation or her off-the-books correspondence as Secretary of State, shamefully kept on a bootleg server installed in her home, if Hillary Clinton wanted to commit any serious wrongdoing it would not have been committed to black and white in the first place, however well hidden and guarded.

Besides which, the definition of “smoking gun” has continuously evolved to ensure that Hillary Clinton remains on the safe side of it. Jonah Goldberg made this very point awhile ago:

But it’s really as if people don’t understand that a smoking gun is a very high evidentiary bar that most prosecutors — or journalists — never have to meet. Imagine a cop answers a call and comes to a bar where a guy named Jack Butler is caked in the blood of a dozen victims. One of the victims actually wrote, in his own blood, “Butler did it,” which was ironic because the victim was also a big fan of 1930s detective novels. A waitress who hid behind the juke box points at Butler and says, “He did it!” Butler himself says, “You got me.”

But the cop, going by the standards of Beltway clichés says, “Damn, there’s nothing I can do. I don’t see any smoke coming out of his gun.”

So quests to find smoking gun evidence in the hacked emails already released or those to come are likely to end in disappointment.

But far more interesting than any smoking gun evidence is the insight that these emails provide into the way that America’s ruling class thinks about the people. Typically, on election night, politicians and pundits alike pause hostilities to proclaim the beauty of democracy and laud the deep and abiding wisdom of the American people. You hear a hundred variations on this theme every election day as cable news anchors scramble to fill the unforgiving silence before the exit polls and results start to come in.

But the tone and content of these emails between Clinton staffers, discussing strategy and various ways to limit the damage from tawdry things that their candidate has done, reveals what the political elite really think of the people. And none more so than this email sent to John Podesta, chairman of the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign, by Bill Ivey, a longtime Clinton supporter and former Bill Clinton political appointee.

Some context: the two men are kicking back and forth ways that Hillary Clinton can cut through Donald Trump’s “entertainment” appeal to better get her message out to people who really don’t want to hear it.

Ivey writes to Podesta:

Well, we all thought the big problem for our US democracy was Citizens United/Koch Brothers big money in politics. Silly us; turns out that money isn’t all that important if you can conflate entertainment with the electoral process. Trump masters TV, TV so-called news picks up and repeats and repeats to death this opinionated blowhard and his hairbrained ideas, free-floating discontent attaches to a seeming strongman and we’re off and running. JFK, Jr would be delighted by all this as his “George” magazine saw celebrity politics coming. The magazine struggled as it was ahead of its time but now looks prescient. George, of course, played the development pretty lightly, basically for charm and gossip, like People, but what we are dealing with now is dead serious. How does this get handled in the general? Secretary Clinton is not an entertainer, and not a celebrity in the Trump, Kardashian mold; what can she do to offset this? I’m certain the poll-directed insiders are sure things will default to policy as soon as the conventions are over, but I think not. And as I’ve mentioned, we’ve all been quite content to demean government, drop civics and in general conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry. The unawareness remains strong but compliance is obviously fading rapidly. This problem demands some serious, serious thinking – and not just poll driven, demographically-inspired messaging.

My emphasis in bold.

Now, it might not come as a surprise that senior politicians and their aides are complicit in deliberately trying to keep people ill-informed and docile. But in our more optimistic moments we might like to believe that this is merely an unfortunate side effect of politics rather than one of its central aims. Yet here we are, with two Clinton confidantes casually discussing that political operatives are fully aware and “quite content” to behave in this way.

What’s more, these people actively celebrate a docile and ignorant population, because when gerrymandered districts means that very few House and district races are actually competitive, it makes life easier for everyone if political parties can simply take for granted whole swathes of the population while focusing their efforts on a few narrowly defined demographics and swing states. In other words, it is to everyone’s advantage that Americans are neatly pigeonholed into ideological bubbles and prodded to action once every two years rather than becoming more thoughtful and genuinely engaged citizens. And these two Clinton operatives talk about this as though it is the most normal thing in the world.

Indeed, their only cause for alarm seems to be that while the ignorance remains strong, the people’s willingness to obey instructions is rapidly fading. And of course Clinton’s aides would be worried – their boss needed the underhand intervention of the Democratic National Committee simply to prevail over Bernie Sanders, an ornery old socialist, in her primary race. The Republican Party lost control of their uncompliant base completely, which is why they are now saddled with Donald Trump as their nominee rather than somebody who is, you know, an actual conservative.

But in neither case (for this is a problem of the political class in general, and not confined to one or other party) is there any sense of shame or introspection at having patronised and manipulated their party bases for so long that people rebelled in search of genuine authenticity. They don’t think they did anything wrong. They simply acknowledge that they now have a problem to solve, because the people’s “compliance is obviously fading rapidly”. They want to find a way to return their supporters to their rightful stupor as quickly as possible, so that they can go on governing as they see fit without having to respond to popular pressure to do things differently.

And in a way, that is more damning than any “smoking gun” email showing that Hillary Clinton broke the law or wielded inappropriate evidence ever could be. Because it shows that even when this election is over and one or other candidate fades to become a footnote in history, these parasitic  political operatives and bag carriers will still be there, waiting to serve their next master by keeping the population as dumb and compliant as possible.

And if that doesn’t depress you, you’re made of sterner stuff than I.

 

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Live Blog: Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton, Second Presidential Debate

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Live Blog: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton face off in the second of three high-stakes live televised debates

Debate Time: 8PM US Central Time / 2AM UK Time

Watch Online: Live Stream Here

Contact: semipartisansam@gmail.com

 

9:43PM St. Louis / 03:43AM London

Initial post-debate reaction

Well, how to respond to all of that? Donald Trump clearly had the harder task going into this debate, having to defend his indefensible historic statements about women and try to staunch the bleeding of endorsements from prominent Republicans.

Trump certainly came out swinging, remaining combative throughout rather than flaming out in the second half as he did during the first debate. Donald Trump didn’t have the kind of breakout moment that he probably needed to really alter the trajectory of his campaign, but he probably succeeded in steadying the ship.

And in a way, that probably makes it harder for establishment Republicans trying to decide their next move. If Donald Trump had imploded, the momentum towards disowning Trump or even replacing him at the top of the presidential ticket would have gained traction. As it stands, they are probably stuck with him.

My initial assessment: if you disregard actual facts (as we now seem to do), Donald Trump probably had the better of this debate. He went on the (nuclear) attack, hit Hillary Clinton hard, gave his supporter base something to cheer about and managed to do enough incendiary things to bump the Trump Tapes story fallout down the news agenda. Hillary Clinton didn’t commit any significant gaffes and was more poised, but again there was nothing tremendously inspiring about her sales pitch for the presidency.

And as for the overall impression:

Yeah, that just about sums it up.

9:38PM St. Louis / 03:38AM London

And that’s it, until 19th October at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, when the final presidential debate will take place.

9:36PM St. Louis / 03:36AM London

Rod Dreher is looking ahead, and having declared a Donald Trump victory thinks that it will be very difficult for uneasy GOP elites to now disown their presidential candidate or continue rescinding endorsements:

9:34PM St. Louis / 03:34AM London

Oh, what’s the point of that last question? Getting each of the candidates to choke out something positive about the other when they clearly loathe one another adds nothing to our understanding of the issues.

9:32PM St. Louis / 03:32AM London

A lot of conservative discontent (naturally) with Hillary Clinton’s remarks on the Supreme Court:

9:29PM St. Louis / 03:29AM London

For a supposedly Town Hall-style debate, there have been remarkably few questions from the audience, with most of the time given over to the two candidates railing at one another.

9:27PM St. Louis / 03:27AM London

Hillary Clinton wants new Supreme Court justices to have more “life experiences”. Sounds good as a glib soundbite, but is she right? Surely a good potential justice should understand and revere the constitution, and seek to be as neutral and fearless arbiter of constitutional questions as possible. The only reason one would want someone to bring their “life experience” to bear is if someone wants to usher in much more judicial activism, and have Supreme Court justices who bend their interpretations to fulfil a progressive ideological bias.

Donald Trump says that he favours candidates who “respect the Constitution”, which is the much better answer, even if his own constitutional literacy is near zero.

I don’t normally quote Michelle Malkin, but she’s not wrong in her observation here:

9:23PM St. Louis / 03:23AM London

To be fair, there has been a lot of pacing as well as lurking. Trump has certainly been more energetic in this debate, addressing one of the key criticisms of his debate in the first debate:

9:21PM St. Louis / 03:21AM London

Dreher thinks that Donald Trump’s continued skirmishing with the debate moderators will actually do him good:

9:20PM St. Louis / 03:20AM London

Hillary Clinton put on the spot about her “deplorables” insult of Donald Trump’s supporters. She doesn’t seem very contrite.

9:18PM St. Louis / 03:18AM London

It’s amazing how quickly we normalise all of the unprecedented things which have happened in these presidential debates, and indeed the campaign in general. One candidate standing mere feet from the other, pointing at them and declaring them a liar – even that they should be sent to jail.

Hillary Clinton seems unable to believe her luck at times – the broad smile on her face is reminiscent of the recent SNL skit, in which a jubilant Clinton (played by Kate McKinnon) keeps breaking out in smug laughter:

9:14PM St. Louis / 03:14AM London

Trump’s whining about Hillary Clinton supposedly being allowed extra time to speak by the moderators is really starting to grate. Even if true, he should adopt the pose of a happy warrior, fighting under the circumstances in which he finds himself rather than railing against them. But of course that would require Trump to be something other than a thin-skinned sore loser.

9:13PM St. Louis / 03:13AM London

Donald Trump loves to bring up ISIS at every turn, yet has remained curiously vague about his Secret Plan to tackle the terrorist quasi-state:

9:10PM St. Louis / 03:10AM London

And Bill Kristol weighs in:

Well, at least he isn’t a trigger-happy neocon itching to wage war with everyone…

9:05PM St. Louis / 03:05AM London

Rod Dreher concurs with Tim Stanley. Interesting:

And Rich Lowry:

9:04PM St. Louis / 03:04AM London

Tim Stanley thinks that Donald Trump is having a better debate than Clinton:

I would concede that Trump has been more combative and made some genuinely newsworthy attacks on Clinton. That will probably fire up his base, some of whom will have become dispirited after recent polls and the Trump Tapes revelation. It may rally the faithful, but will it turn the needle on Trump’s poll ratings and trajectory? I remain doubtful.

9:01PM St. Louis / 03:01AM London

Hillary Clinton takes the opportunity to talk about her 30 years in politics, and hopefully set a rather more positive spin on it than Donald Trump has been doing.

8:59PM St. Louis / 02:59AM London

Anderson Cooper gets an honest answer out of Donald Trump – that yes, he used his near $1bn loss in 1995 to offset his future federal income tax. To which the correct response is “so what?”. Trump followed the tax code. If deductions and loopholes exist, nobody should be rending their garments in horror when they are used.

8:57PM St. Louis / 02:57AM London

Hillary Clinton: “Everything you’ve just heard from Donald Trump is not true. I’m sorry to have to keep saying this, but he does seem to live in an alternate reality”.

Clinton has been cool and competent for much of the debate thus far, even when under quite sensational and withering fire from Donald Trump. She has perfected the resigned, bemused but entertained smile as Trump rails on. Donald Trump, by contrast, is now gripping the chair in front of him and staring fixedly ahead – has he hit the wall again?

8:55PM St. Louis / 02:55AM London

Donald Trump is comparing the GDP growth of China (a developing nation) with the United States (an advanced nation). Economically illiterate.

8:54PM St. Louis / 02:54AM London

Donald Trump is now referring to himself in the third person.

Rather more successfully (from his perspective) he is making the point that somebody marinated in DC political culture for 30 plus years can scarcely claim to be an agent of change with any plausibility.

8:53PM St. Louis / 02:53AM London

You can release your tax returns even if you are under audit by the IRS! Will nobody ever ask a determined follow-up question when Trump makes his now-standard evasion?

8:52PM St. Louis / 02:52AM London

“I have no knowledge of Russia, I don’t know about the inner workings of Russia”, says Donald Trump. Reassuring, from someone who wants to be Commander in Chief.

8:51PM St. Louis / 02:51AM London

Aaaand Donald Trump seizes on the opportunity to draw a contrast between Hillary Clinton and President Lincoln.

Trump, of course, claims to have “the best words”, so he would doubtless get on like a house on fire with the author of the Gettysburg Address.

8:49PM St. Louis / 02:49AM London

And Hillary Clinton’s speeches come up – regarding her statements about financial regulation. A questioner asks “is it okay for politicians to be two-faced?”

Hillary Clinton evokes Abraham Lincoln’s dealings with Congress trying to pass the Thirteenth Amendment (abolishing slavery). Nice try, attempting to cloak her own political dealings with Lincolnian nobility. Not sure it will pass muster, though.

https://twitter.com/matthew_sitman/status/785296411697016837

8:46PM St. Louis / 02:46AM London

Clinton hammering Trump on his plan to freeze Muslim immigration, rightly noting that it violates the Constitutional right to freedom of religion.

8:45PM St. Louis / 02:45AM London

Not everyone in Europe is in a retreat to their safe space in response to Donald Trump’s words:

8:43PM St. Louis / 02:43AM London

And Martha Raddatz brings up Donald Trump’s planned “total shutdown” on Muslim immigration. Was that panicked policy announcement wise, and does he rescind it, goes the question.

Trump tries to wriggle away, Raddatz admirably holds him to the question. Trump now talking about “extreme vetting”, whatever that might involve.

8:40PM St. Louis / 02:40AM London

Andrew Sullivan notes:

Trump is now hovering over her in the background, looming like a predator. Her response on Obamacare was pretty good – although her proposals to fix it weren’t actually honest or relevant.

How have we come to the position where “yeah, she’s obviously lying but at least she isn’t Trump” is the best reason to vote for a candidate?

8:38PM St. Louis / 02:38AM London

I’d be remiss if I didn’t flag my blogging hero Andrew Sullivan’s excellent live blog of this debate. Check it out – but don’t forget me!

8:37PM St. Louis / 02:37AM London

It’s not good when NBC’s Chuck Todd runs out of words to describe this debate:

8:35PM St. Louis / 02:35AM London

“If we were to start again, we might come up with a different system. But we have an employer-based system of health insurance” says Clinton, nicely summing up her political philosophy of late. Namely: don’t attempt anything ambitious, focus on grinding out incremental improvements.

The question of this debate: will the American people accept the promise of incremental progress this electoral cycle?

8:33PM St. Louis / 02:33AM London

Some people seem to be prematurely predicting a Trump victory in this debate – not very wise, given the way that Trump lost energy and began flailing as the first debate dragged on:

8:32PM St. Louis / 02:32AM London

Finally we are actually talking about policy – specifically the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare. Hillary Clinton details her assessment of the law’s flaws and a plan to address some of them, scorning Donald Trump’s plan to simply repeal the bill.

Trump, predictably, spends most of his time talking about how “disastrous” ObamaCare is, without detailing any policy prescriptions beyond its repeal.

8:29PM St. Louis / 02:29AM London

Trump being more combative, openly mocking Clinton’s answers and pretty much calling her a criminal. He doesn’t have much to lose, so why the hell not?

And he takes a swipe at Anderson Cooper for not spending long enough on the subject of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Lobotomised Trump didn’t gain any traction, let’s see what flame-throwing Trump can do.

8:27PM St. Louis / 02:27AM London

“There is no evidence that any classified information ended up in the wrong hands” – a classic Clintonian non-denial.

8:26PM St. Louis / 02:26AM London

If Trump knows what is good for him, he needs to not let Hillary Clinton wriggle off the hook on the question of her homebrew email server and continued evasions / changed stories about that howler of a security lapse. At the first debate he barely pressed the issue. He needs to go for the kill this time – though perhaps not by openly threatening to send her to jail…

8:25PM St. Louis / 02:25AM London

Wait, did Donald Trump literally just say that Hillary Clinton should be in jail?

8:24PM St. Louis / 02:24AM London

Hillary Clinton directs people to the fact-checker on her website again, saying that she cannot possibly refute all of Trump’s falsehoods in real time.

8:24PM St. Louis / 02:24AM London

Trump needs a game-changer in this debate, something that might actually somehow draw a line under the unmitigated disaster (though entirely predictable revelation) which was the Trump tapes. And so far we aren’t seeing it.

8:21PM St. Louis / 02:21AM London

And Trump calls into question the legitimacy of Hillary Clinton’s victory in the Democratic primary, with the benefit of the Wikileaks email release. A fair point. It would be helpful to be whiter than white when going up against Trump. Sadly, Hillary Clinton is decidedly grey.

8:20PM St. Louis / 02:20AM London

And Clinton gets in her crowd-pleasing line: “When you go low, I go high”.

The moderators, who admonished Trump’s supporters for cheering, allow Hillary Clinton’s supporters to cheer without comment.

8:19PM St. Louis / 02:19AM London

Donald Trump asked by a questioner on social media whether he is still the same man from 10 years ago who made the derogatory remarks in the Trump Tapes, or whether the campaign has indeed “changed him” as he claims. Again, he apologises for the locker room talk, clearly hating every moment.

And then Trump hits back, talking about a rape victim whose alleged attacker was successfully defended in court by a young Hillary Clinton. Trump contrasts his words with Clinton’s supposed action – and the audience applauds. Could this be the gloves coming off?

8:16PM St. Louis / 02:16AM London

Is anyone else getting tired of the wheedling, finickity “but he/she interrupted me!” complaints?

8:14PM St. Louis / 02:14AM London

Hillary Clinton calls for America to signal its virtue to the world by rejecting Donald Trump. Finally an instance of virtue signalling which this blog does not automatically reject out of hand.

8:13PM St. Louis / 02:13AM London

Now Hillary Clinton gets to weigh in on the Trump tapes.

“I never questioned their fitness to serve” says Clinton of past GOP presidential nominees, but not this time.

“He has said the video doesn’t represent who he is. But it is clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is. Because we have seen throughout this campaign him insult women, rate women … embarrass women. We saw him, after the first debate, spending nearly a week denigrating a former Miss Universe in the most harsh terms. So yes, this is exactly who Donald Trump is”.

Ouch.

8:11PM St. Louis / 02:11AM London

And Anderson Cooper goes in for the kill, pointing out that Donald Trump’s “locker room talk” amounts to an admission of sexual assault. Somehow, twenty seconds later Donald Trump is talking about wars and trade. Anyone looking for an expression of genuine contrition will be disappointed.

Cooper: “Did you kiss women without their consent?”

Trump: “I have great respect for women” – and then pivots back to making America safe again.

8:09PM St. Louis / 02:09AM London

Trump doing his usual masterful job describing, restating and restating again the problems which supposedly ail America. And as usual, his solutions consist of “doing things that haven’t been done” – with the juicy detail missing.

8:07PM St. Louis / 02:07AM London

Bright start from Clinton, pivoting quickly away from question about the vulgar tone of the campaign to talk about her policies. A potential punch pulled by Clinton?

8:06PM St. Louis / 02:06AM London

Ooh, no handshake as the candidates take the stage. That will get the cable news channels aflutter, saves them from having to analyse boring points of policy.

8:05PM St. Louis / 02:05AM London

As the debate gets underway, Martha Raddatz reminds us that all of the audience members at this town hall debate are currently undecided voters from the St. Louis area. One wonders how anyone can possibly be undecided in this election campaign – rather calls to mind this blog’s take on undecided voters.

8:04PM St. Louis / 02:04AM London

The republic may be crumbling, but that’s no reason we can’t all have a laugh as the debate unfolds:

8:02PM St. Louis / 02:02AM London

Would Trump be the first immensely vulgar president? No. Does dismal historical precedent make his words any more acceptable? Also no.

https://twitter.com/LouiseMensch/status/785279395233730560

8:00PM St. Louis / 02:00AM London

Yes, there is something very artificial about the pre and post-debate handshakes and smiles:

7:58PM St. Louis / 01:58AM London

And the moderators, Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz, have taken the stage. We’re about to kick off.

7:55PM St. Louis / 01:55AM London

I know Washington University in St. Louis, have spent a significant amount of time on the campus and even sat in on some of the classes. It is a great institution. However, the president of the WashU Students Union, now citing Lincoln as he tries to set an appropriate tone for the coming debate, is quite probably setting our hopes too high with his ringing paean to American democracy.

There is nothing poetic or praiseworthy about the example America is setting to the world in this presidential election campaign.

7:49PM St. Louis / 01:49AM London

Newsweek gives us a reminder of where things stand in the polls as the second presidential debate is about to get underway:

As it stands, current polls are in favor of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, even before #TrumpTapes roiled the Republican party. The New York Times election forecast has Clinton ahead of Trump by 4 percentage points, at 45 percent versus 41 percent, with an 82 percent chance of her winning the presidency.FiveThirtyEight’s forecast also indicates the Democratic nominee has an 82 percent chance of winning, with Clinton commanding 329.6 electoral votes to Trump’s 208.3, as well as 48.8 percent of the popular vote versus Trump’s 43.2 percent.

So rather less close than the polls stood ahead of the first presidential debate…

7:47PM St. Louis / 01:47AM London

I’m not going to go on a massive Social Justice tangent here, but it is telling that self-identified progressives love to support every victim group under the sun, unless they happen to support or benefit a conservative cause, in which case they are either evil or being used as pawns:

7:43PM St. Louis / 01:43AM London

The fact that we are even talking about the possibility of one of the two major party presidential nominees dropping out less than a month before the election is testament to the recklessness and democratic self harm of nominating somebody like Donald Trump:

Of course, if the Clinton email scandal had ignited a bit more we could well be making the same point about the Democratic Party nominee.

7:26PM St. Louis / 01:26AM London

Chris Matthews on MSNBC just compared Donald Trump’s likely approach to this debate to a suicide bomber strapping on an explosive vest and preparing to bring the whole building down on everyone – a rather crass comparison, even if it is evocative of the desperation of a man with his political back against the wall.

If Trump does go nuclear, will we see an “at long last, have you left no sense of decency” response from Clinton, the moderator or an audience member?

7:26PM St. Louis / 01:26AM London

Watching along online

As well as the BBC feed, I will be watching along on MSNBC here (for more partisan pro-Clinton coverage) as well as CNN. MSNBC have veteran Clinton political operative James Carville on as a guest, which should be entertaining if nothing else.

7:20PM St. Louis / 01:20AM London

Donald Trump, unable to resist hitting back and fighting fire with fire when provoked, has decided to make sexual assault a theme of this utterly depressing presidential election. And in the hour before the debate is due to begin at Washington University in St. Louis, Trump decided to hold a press conference with four women – including Juanita Broaddrick – who accuse Bill Clinton of sexual violence.

From Politico:

In a dramatic move less than 90 minutes before the second presidential debate on Sunday night, Trump made a surprise move in St. Louis in a desperate attempt to shift the focus from his own bragging of sexually aggressive behavior by appearing with four women who have alleged they were victimized by Bill and Hillary Clinton.

It was the first shot in an increasingly ugly battle expected to play out on national television later in the evening before tens of millions of Americans.

Trump, flanked by the four women, ignored shouted questions by a small group of reporters ushered in for the photo-op, as he introduced them. “These four very courageous women have asked to be here and it was our honor to help them,” Trump said, “and I think they’re each going to make an individual short statement.”

And so they did. Whether this indirect nuclear attack on Hillary Clinton pays off for Donald Trump remains to be seen.

7:17PM St. Louis / 01:17AM London

Rod Dreher makes the important point that to fully-committed Trump supporters, these revelations will not be a deal-breaker. They will support their man regardless of the Trump Tapes or any future revelations, no matter how scandalous:

6:45PM St. Louis / 00:45AM London

The “watch Donald Trump squirm” debate

This debate of course takes place in the aftermath of shocking, unexpected and totally out of character revelations that the Republican presidential nominee is not the humble, politely-spoken, women-respecting saint of a man we all unanimously believed him to be prior to the release of certain audio recordings from 2005.

Amid all of the media outrage (much of which is justifiable) there are a couple of nagging questions – like whether Trump’s words, however coarse and unbecoming to someone seeking high public office, are really worse than known physical transgressions by presidents past (Kennedy and Clinton come to mind) who retain the respect of the establishment. Expect to see Donald Trump use some variant of this discussion as he tries to wriggle off the hook during what will undoubtedly be a barrage of hostile questions from the Town Hall debate audience and attacks from Hillary Clinton

Received wisdom seems to be that Trump will try to paint a false equivalence and suggest that Hillary Clinton was somehow complicit in the supposed sex crimes of her husband. It won’t work as a tactic, and if Trump tries it then he will only succeed in making this presidential election campaign even more tawdry, shameful and sensationalist than it already is. Far better from a purely tactical standpoint that he tries to choke out the words “I apologise” early on, and then try to keep his head in the game for more than the first 45 minutes of this debate.

Of far more interest to this blog has been watching the reaction of big-name Republicans who previously endorsed Donald Trump, either enthusiastically (Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie) or through gritted teeth (John McCain, Ted Cruz). To some extent, this blog appreciates the difficult situation in which Republicans find themselves, confronted with a candidate overwhelmingly chosen by their party base but anathema to their own values. And when covering British politics, this blog has firmly taken the side of the Labour Party base over the centrist interloper MPs in the parliamentary party.

But this situation is different. Semi-Partisan Politics supports Jeremy Corbyn and his left-wing takeover of Labour because no matter how outdated their vision, it is they who more closely resemble anything like the socialist principles on which the Labour Party was founded. The centrists – as two leadership elections in the space of a year have plainly revealed to us – stand for absolutely nothing beyond winning and holding power.

However, in the case of American conservatism it is Donald Trump and his Republican grassroots supporters who have drifted away from core Conservative principle, replacing it with their own zesty blend of authoritarianism, protectionism and proud ignorance. To be sure, the GOP elite and mainstream conservatives brought this fate on themselves by governing in a self-interested way and continually betraying those voters who have defected to Trump in sheer exasperation (or despair for their futures). But nonetheless, if one holds that the Republican Party is supposed to be the small-c conservative party of American politics then supporting Trump is indefensible.

And yet many household name Republicans have willingly thrown their arms around Trump, despite knowing who and what he is. The revelations from the Trump Tapes are hardly surprising – anybody who was genuinely shocked that Trump holds demeaning and unreconstructed attitudes towards women is so naive that they probably belong in an institution of some kind. And while some braver Republicans have withdrawn their foolish endorsements of Trump, far more have shamefully fudged the issue and hunkered down until the media storm passes, hoping to then be able to continue cheerleading for Trump without being sullied by charges of sexism.

To this blog, that is an unforgivable cop-out. Either defend the man you endorsed (maybe condemning his comments but going on record that you don’t think that such character flaws disqualify him from the presidency) or rescind the endorsement. Trying to keep a low profile in order to benefit from any eventual outcome is cowardly.

And as the Washington Post notes, the stain of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy will prove impossible to wash out in any case:

Trump’s turbulent campaign, on display here at Sunday night’s second presidential debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, has damaged far more than his own White House prospects. It threatens to diminish an entire generation of Republican leaders who stood by him and excused his behavior after attacks against women, the disabled, Latino immigrants, Muslim Americans, Syrian refugees, prisoners of war, Gold Star parents and others.

“There is nobody who holds any position of responsibility who in private conversations views Donald Trump as equipped mentally, morally and intellectually to be the president of the United States,” said Steve Schmidt, a veteran GOP strategist. “But scores of Republican leaders have failed a fundamental test of moral courage and political leadership in not speaking truth to the American people about what is so obvious.”

[..] “Everything Trump touches dies,” said Republican consultant Rick Wilson, who is advising independent candidate Evan McMullin.

[..] Wilson fears that the legacy of Trump’s campaign could haunt Republican candidates for many election cycles to come, just as Democrats in the 1980s and 1990s were hurt by their ties to former president Jimmy Carter and iconic liberals like Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.).

“This is going to last forever,” Wilson said. “For years now, Democrats will be able to roll out TV ads and say, ‘When John Smith says today he’s for a brighter future, remember who he stood by: Donald Trump. He stood by Donald Trump’s misogyny, racism, sexism and stupidity.’ ”

The mere fact this debate is going to focus in large part on Donald Trump’s decade-old X-rated language (and long standing, long-excused character flaws) is depressing enough. But given that he begins with such a handicap it is difficult to predict anything other than a second Hillary Clinton victory, this time on public perception as well as technical points.

4:55PM St. Louis / 10:55PM London

Welcome to the Semi-Partisan Politics live blog of the second 2016 presidential debate between Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and Donald Trump (Republican).

Yes, I’m braving the insomnia and doing it all over again.

I’m out of Red Bull but I have a constant stream of coffee brewing, and will be glad of your company as I live-blog the second debate. Please feel free to use the Comments, or contact/troll me on Twitter or by email.

Read my live-blog of the first debate here. New readers – welcome, see my About page here for a brief bio.

 

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Top Image: RTE

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