Saturday, August 20, 2016

Why Kellyanne Conway's Release of Trump 2.0 Will Likely Fail

You've likely heard the expression "you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig" used to convey the seemingly self-evident concept that changing the superficial appearance of something does not actually change whatever the thing is underneath.  Or as the great Jay-Z once put it "you can try to change but that's just the top layer; man you was who you was before you got here."    Well, this basic concept has apparently been lost on the Trump campaign.  This week Trump, who was already on campaign manager number 2 (Paul Manafort), replaced Manafort with political pollster Kellyanne Conway in his latest attempt to roll-out a new and improved Donald Trump to the general electorate. There's just one problem with that: the general electorate has already met Donald J. Trump, in all of his glory.

The polls in all 50 states have reflected an unmistakable reaction to the Republican standard bearer's off-putting and strangely self-centered campaign rhetoric for the past several weeks since the RNC and DNC conventions.  Every single poll that's out there has shown that Hillary Clinton has taken a significant post-convention uptick while Trump, conversely, has taken a drastic downward spiral.  And it's not so much that Hillary is winning as it is that Trump has been losing.  He's somehow managed to alienate immigrants, Muslims, minorities, women, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, military families, college-educated voters, non-college educated voters, babies, your pet dog, etc. Name just about any demographic and chances are Trump has found a way to make them do a face palm.

Enter Kellyanne Conway.

If you're not familiar with Kellyanne Conway (pictured right), she's the Republican pollster who has worked behind the scenes as a consultant to several prominent Republicans, including Newt Gingrich, Fred Thompson, Todd Akin, Mike Pence and, most recently, Ted Cruz.  She's made her rounds on all of the cable news shows over the years, hitting back against the media and against the GOP establishment on behalf of far-right leaning candidates.  One of the most notable examples was after Todd Akin's infamous "legitimate rape" gaff; Kellyanne made her rounds on cable news actually defending Akin's comments and analogizing his critics to the federal government in its attempt to smoke out Waco, Texas cult leader David Koresh.  After the announcement of Kellyanne Conway's appointment as Trump's campaign manager, Trump, reading from a teleprompter, gave a scripted reboot speech where he, undoubtedly at Conway's insistence, gave a quasi-apology to the public for his incendiary rhetoric, stating "Sometimes, in the heat of debate, and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that, and believe it or not I regret it.  I do regret it particularly where it may have caused personal pain."  Trump rarely apologizes for anything, so this statement signaled a clear departure from his usual antics of recklessly throwing red meat to the crowds for applause.

But is Conway's intervention into the Trump campaign too little too late?

Per the Daily Beast:
But even among Republicans who know and like Conway, the consensus seems to be that even she may be powerless to rescue Trump's campaign and rehab his toxic relationship with women, the very group Conway has built a career understanding and reaching.
“It's important to have a candidate that is interested in appealing to women voters  and to have women at the table who can deliver the candidate’s message to the women the GOP needs to attract,” Gage said.  “Trump is and does neither.”
Gage called Conway “a nice, smart, good person,” but added, “Her active defense of Todd Akin in 2012 showed a tin ear with regard to the kind of general election voters, especially women, that the GOP needs to appeal to in order to win a general election.”
And therein lies the problem.  Conway undoubtedly has a great understanding of polling and the mechanics of how to effectively communicate a coherent campaign message, but its the message itself that's the problem.  Stated differently, Conway is a true believer in far right-wing ideology.  Which is fine.  To each their own.  But the problem for her, and, by extension, for Trump, is that the general electorate is not on the far right.  The general electorate is in the center.

After the 2008 and 2012 losses to Barack Obama, Republicans made their rounds during the days after each election and, when asked about how the growing minority population in America contributed to Obama's victory, stated that the reason why they lost the minority vote (and, as a consequence, the election) was that the Republican Party failed to get its message out to Black and Latino voters.  Failed to get its message out?  No.  Not true at all.  The Republican Party's message was heard loud and clear by the Black and Latino communities.  It is essentially the same message that the Republican Party has communicated to minority voters since the late 1960's: anti-affirmative action, anti-immigration, anti-voting rights, anti-government assistance, anti-housing assistance, anti-education, anti-abortion and, loudest of all, anti-Obama who, in case you forgot, just so happens to be our first and only Black President.  In other words, the Republican platform has been communicated very clearly as basically being anti-everything that Black and Latino communities care about. Message received.

To think that the Republican Party lost the general election in 2008 and again in 2012 because they didn't communicate the above message to enough minority voters is to be tone deaf to the wants and needs of minority voters.  And to bring it back full circle to Kellyanne Conway, you can already see this tone deafness manifesting itself in her prepared remarks for Trump.  During a recent post-Conway speech, Trump made a bizarre plea to Black voters in a White suburb in Michigan in a room full of White people:
African American communities have suffered under Democratic control.  To those I say the following: What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump?  What do you have to lose?  I say it again -- what do you have to lose?  Look -- what do you have to lose? You're living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed -- what the hell do you have to lose?  And at the end of 4 years, I guarantee you that I will get over 95% of the African American vote. I promise you. 
This is classic Kellyanne Conway tone deafness here.  Assuming that she's trying to make an appeal to Black voters -- and not actually to assuage the conscience of White suburban voters who have been on the fence about supporting a man who is a perceived racist -- the message itself fails by insulting the very crowd that she's trying to appeal to and, more importantly, misses the broad side of the barn by trying to convince Black voters that voting for a man who has insulted Mexicans, Muslims and the first Black President of the United States (who 95% of the Black community voted for by the way), is somehow a vote in their own self-interests.  

Conway is right to go after the Black vote.  After all, lest we forget, it was the Black and Latino vote that pushed Obama to victory in 2008 and again in 2012.  Barack Obama lost the White vote in 2008 (43% to McCain's 55%) and he lost it again in 2012 by an even wider margin (39% to Romney's 59%).  Nevertheless, of the 16.8 million Blacks who voted in 2008, 15.9 million (95%) voted for Obama (he won by a similar margin in 2012). Similarly, of the 11.6 million Latinos who voted in 2008, 7.7 million (67%) voted for Obama (that percentage actually increased to 71% in 2012).

The aforementioned statistics notwithstanding, Trump's Michigan speech represents the same failed message that Republicans have been trying to communicate to the Black community for years: evil liberal policies have shackled the Black community to a dependency on government, therefore vote for the Party who calls you a racist whenever you attempt to suggest that racism still exists, blindly takes the position of the police officer in every police shooting of an unarmed Black youth, and spends an inordinate amount of time coming up with state voter ID laws to stop you from voting.  Sure, why not?  Of course, what is fatally absent from this message is the factual history -- known all too well by the Black community who has witnessed it with their own eyes -- that liberal policies have, in fact, been responsible for providing the Black community with opportunity in this country for decades through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, affirmative action, housing assistance, consumer protection, etc.  Indeed, it is a most specious argument that would try to convince the Black community that the very political party who made all of those things happen is the political party that they need to be voting against.

Nice try, Kellyanne, but no matter how much lipstick you put on this pig, at the end of the day it's still a pig.  

Your thoughts on the latest attempt by Trump to pivot?
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