TJ | 12th May, 2016


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Back in the days of long ago when my son played what is known here as traveling basketball, there was a team he played against that carried the nickname “Chopkins.” Virtually every team that played them referred to them that way because they seemed to be deliberately coached to foul constantly. Any guard bringing up the ball could expect to be hacked, bumped, tripped, elbowed and kneed in an attempt to steal the ball. They were particularly adept at a move akin to a karate chop liberally applied to a player’s dribbling hand. Hence the nickname. The strategy was crude, but effective. If they fouled all the time it put the referees in the position of either constantly blowing the whistle or ignoring the chops. What they usually settled for was to call some fouls, but not all. It made coaching and playing against them a nightmare.

Donald Trump is the “Chopkins” of Presidential candidates. Call his strategy Trumpkins. He lies so often and so outrageously that correcting all his “chops” would fill an entire news broadcast or the whole page of a newspaper. So like the refs who had to call games against Chopkins, reporters have chosen to correct some misstatements, but not others. Do a search for Trump and Pinocchio and it will keep you busy for an entire evening or two.

Trump was especially effective at employing the Trumpkins strategy as he laid to waste the weakest field of Presidential contenders in a long time. Forced to deal with Trump’s hacking away at them, his opponents often found themselves using their time to rebut ridiculous lies rather than outline their own agendas. Jeb Bush, in particular, was totally befuddled by the Trumpkins directed at him. Like the basketball players forced to contend with Chopkins, he fumbled the ball a lot.

Now the Trumpkins strategy is about to be directed at Hillary Clinton, who is the presumptive Democratic nominee. If Clinton had trouble with Bernie Sanders, imagine how she will respond to a nonstop deluge of Trump chops and hacks. For those who buy the current poll numbers (which I don’t–but that is food for another essay), think about the impact of Trumpkins. Start with Clinton herself. She has always come off best when she can tell her story; she has traditionally had problems with candidates who engage in personal attacks.

Just as he did in the primaries Trump will campaign under the assumption he is not going to change the minds of hardcore supporters, so why try. That leaves independents. The conventional press wisdom at the beginning of this campaign was that Trumpkins would not work because people would dismiss him as a jerk or a lightweight.

They were wrong, in part because they fell for the strategy just like those youth basketball referees. Like Chopkins, Trumpkins is based on the simple, but effective proposition that sooner or later you will steal the ball. Throw up enough lies and some of them will stick, especially if they go unanswered or the answers sound like technicalities. Enough people believed the lier was someone who “tells it like it is” that they were able to give Trump a string of unexpected victories.

Trumpkins is made for today’s climate when most of the public believes the media and politicians are liars or shills for particular interest groups. In a room full of liars it is often the biggest liar or the one who tells the most lies who wins.

For many of us watching this spectacle, we either conclude Trump is a pathological lier and just turn him off or get angry at the media for letting him get away with it. But there is another group where Trumpkins works. All of us see the world through glasses colored by various ideological and social perceptions. All Trump has to do is to connect with a few of those and we find ourselves saying, “Maybe this guy is on to something.”

If we go back to the sports analogy, Chopkins was a game of averages. If the refs let 25% of the fouls go and a percentage of those uncalled fouls created turnovers, that gave Chopkins anywhere from ten points on up that they did not deserve. With Trumpkins, if 25% of the lies go unchallenged and a percentage of those resonate with undecided voters, that gives him bonus points in the polls.

Add to this what systems thinkers call the infection effect. There is a small model of the dynamics of rumors that I have used to demonstrate how this works. If one Trumpkin tells ten people and the probability of “infecting” a person with the rumor is 10%, then one out of ten becomes a new Trumpkin. Multiply that by a thousand Trumpkins and the number increases dramatically.

Trumpkins is a test of our new social media world in which we listen only to voices like ours and the responsible mainstream media is handcuffed by is own commitment to covering both sides of an issue. That is how Trumpkins performed what people thought could not be done: he turned Faux News audience against its own network. Think about that if you believe Hillary Clinton will walk all over Trump.

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TJ | 1st Feb, 2016

Iowa: The Last Minute

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Although I do not have access to the data and sources I had in predicting Iowa in 2012, I am going to make a few totally off the top of my head predictions based on Iowans I know and have informally polled.

First, Trump will not win and could come in as low as third. Why? The debate boycott hurt. If Trump is afraid to get into the ring with Megyn Kelly, what does that say about his potential to be Commander-in-Chief? How will he handle Angela Merkel or what happens when Putin puts him in a bad light? Iowans like people with grit, people who have the courage to go into the lion’s den, not those who pick and choose their battles. Ratings show the non-Trump debate got the second highest total of all the debates contrary to the Donald’s claim if he did not show the ratings would tank.

Trump does not have the support of Evangelicals who make up a big part of those who turn out on the Republican side. There is no question Trump is a sinner in their eyes, but he has not truly repented. The Falwell endorsement hurt Falwell more than it helped Trump. If you remember 2012 Iowa vaulted Rick Santorum into the picture. Santorum is running again and I expect him to pick up a lot more delegates than is predicted. He will get more than Jeb Bush.

Finally Trump has not visited Iowa that much. From watching the media you would think he has been there all the time, but Iowans know better. His refusal to tour the state widely will be seen as the arrogance that it is.

Second, Hillary Clinton will win, but it will be very close. She could finish with less than a majority of the delegates if the O’Malley people remain viable enough to pull 2% or more of the vote. The telling moment for me with Clinton came in a recent report about her visit to a local bowling alley/cafe. When urged to roll one down the lane Clinton refused. The explanation is she did not want to look stupid. Please…Who out there is afraid to throw a bowling ball? Her bowling ball gaffe is like Trump wimping out of the debate.

Clinton has run her campaign like a basketball team that has a lead in the fourth quarter and starts slowing the game down. Pretty soon the other team makes a run and all of a sudden it’s a game. A last minute spurt or the equivalent of a lucky shot could show that was a bad strategy.

Three Things to Watch:

1. THE STUDENTS: The word is they are largely Sanders supporters, so will they have the grit to stick out a caucus that could drag on for hours especially with the O’Malley supporters trying to stay viable? In the past they have shown they can–in 2008 for Obama and 2004 for Howard Dean. The keys are the college towns like Ames, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids. Sanders need to poll big in these towns. The Clinton people are saying they will send extra voters to the O’Malley groups to make them viable, but I am not sure they will have that luxury.

2. NORTHWEST IOWA: This is probably the most conservative part of the state. Watch both the Trump and Sanders votes here. if the conservative Democrats of this region give Sanders a significant percentage Clinton is in trouble. Trump could fall to third or worse here.

3. DES MOINES AND SUBURBS: This is the biggest, most diverse city in the state. Suburbs like West Des Moines have the highest average income in the state. Clinton will need both the city and the burbs if is she is to win. Both will also be a test for Trump. Where will what amounts to the old Republican establishment go? If Jeb Bush can’t pull double digits here he is done. O’Malley could be a sleeper here, picking up what he has hoped for all along: the anti-Clinton vote that finds Sanders too radical. If O’Malley can pull above 4% here it could throw a wrench into the works no one had expected.





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TJ | 9th Oct, 2015

The Party’s Over

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Right now the problem in this country is not an excess of partisanship but a lack of it.  That is what has the Republican Party looking like a dog chasing its tail in a tragi-comic search to find a replacement for John Boehner. That is what prompted the media to canonize Boehner the same week the Pope addressed Congress. Boehner’s resignation prompted an outpouring of hand wringing by people who should know better. Quick, no peeking, can anyone tell me of one significant piece of legislation associated with his name?

Boehner could not lead his party because there is no party to lead. As I have been saying for two years the GOP is a political party in name only. Just witness the debates with candidates arrayed across the stage like people standing outside a crowded restroom. None of these would-be Presidents appears to know what their Party stands for or seems to even care. They like to invoke the name of Ronald Reagan, but they don’t have a clue about how he governed. Two years ago I wrote the Republicans had become a Balkanized collection of independent factions each beholden to the American equivalent of Somalian war lords.

Boehner had held a finger in the badly leaking dyke that is the Republican Party, but you only have so many fingers. This dyke had too many holes. Ironically when they killed Citizens’ United they committed political suicide because that decision gave the war lords even more power. The GOP does not have enough funds to buy the loyalty of senators and representatives in a game where money is everything. Now the war lords can give far more to a campaign than the Party.

Democrats should not be so smug, because they have the opposite problem. The Clinton New Democrats have driven the old New Deal Democrats from the field. When Bill Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall it was not merely the death of one of crown jewels of the New Deal. It signified the end of principles that had guided the Democratic Party since the 1896 election. Chief among these was the belief expressed by William Jennings Bryan in his 1896 Cross of Gold speech:

There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.

The Clinton New Democrats believed such ideas had brought their party the shellacking Ronald Reagan gave Walter Mondale. They believed that rather than government act as referee of a level playing field, its role was to facilitate strategic alliances with businesses, particularly the big banks. In return the big banks have given the Clinton Foundation and the New Democrats massive sums of money.  In a table prepared by the Center for Responsive Politics, four out of the top five contributors to Hillary Clinton in her career have been big banks:


Using every tool at their disposal the Clintonites have purged the Democratic Party of any dissenters to the New Democratic philosophy. As a result we now have turned the clock back to the late nineteenth century when both Parties supported laissez faire capitalism.


Which leads me to make a bold prediction: in the coming Presidential election there will be at least one third party candidate. That candidate could be someone like Donald Trump who has the money and the ego of a Ross Perot. That candidate could be someone like Bernie Sanders who has the ideological commitment of a Ralph Nader. That candidate could be someone like Ben Carson or Ted Cruz who has the support of a movement like Strom Thurmond’s Dixiecrats.

Cue up the late Don Meredith, the  former quarterback from Texas who used to sing a Willie Nelson tune on the old Monday Night Football, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over


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