Friday, September 4, 2020

BTRTN: Trump’s Four Big Lies and His Theory of Relentless Repetition

Tom with the BTRTN August 2020 Month in Review.

With the turning of the calendar to September, we now sit at the dawn of the traditional campaign stretch drive, when even the politically indifferent begin to pay attention.  Though campaigns in these recent polarized times are focused less on “winning the middle” and more on “getting out the base,” the nature of campaign communication strategy remains a balancing act.  Though Trump’s instincts are to toss out the red meat to his base, at the GOP convention there were clear efforts to present whatever passes for his “human” side.  Biden is a centrist by nature, and these times are suited to his softer, more moderate notes, but he has reached out to the left with certain policy positions.
Printable August 2020 Calendar PDF-Template No.ip20m8 - Free Printable 2020  Calendar with Holidays 
In the month of August, headlined by unconventional conventions, both parties clarified the themes that will be carried forward in the fall.  Biden will be endlessly portrayed as an experienced and empathetic good guy, a steady hand, a comforting presence, the man who can restore our global prestige, tame the pandemic, rebuild the economy and serve as a bridge to our future.  He managed to bury the Sleepy Joe image with the speech of a lifetime, a vital, assertive bolt of light that exposed the darkness of the Trump Era.

Trump, for his part, unveiled the Four Big Lies that he has been testing and fine-tuning for months.  Get ready for them, because you will not escape them for 59 days, no matter where you hide.  Donald Trump resides in our heads these days, messing with our equilibrium.  It is hard to shut him out, which is precisely why Democrats will have to work so hard to shut him up and cast him aside, leaving him with only his Twitter platform and pathetic followers.  Trump’s main weapon is repetition, the belief that if you repeat something often enough, it takes on a truth of its own.   If Trump says it time and again, some people will actually believe it must be true, facts and common sense aside.

The Four Big Lies, and the facts that expose them, were on full display in August:  1) that Trump has successfully managed the coronavirus, 2) that the economy, under Trump’s leadership, is roaring back, 3) that mail-in voting is a fraud, and if Trump loses the election, it will have been a stolen outcome, and 4) that the Black Lives Matters movement represents the unleashing of the radical left to wreak havoc on our suburbs, and can only be met and countered by Trump’s “law and order” strategy.


Big Lie #1, COVID-19, “We’ve done very well” and “It is what it is.”

No, we have not done very well.  We have never been doing well, we are not doing well now, and we will not do well in the foreseeable future.  And 185,000 deaths are worth more than a shrug of the shoulders, especially when so much action could have been taken to save so many of those lives.

COVID-19 continues to rage, with another 1.8 million cases in August, the same as July, and another 30,000 deaths, 16% more than July, which in turn was 26% higher than June.  Trump’s repetitive droning begins with this statement that cannot be justified in light of those grim statistics:  “We are doing very well.”  We hardly need to review the Trump mantras, that the “China Virus” was China’s fault, aided and abetted by the WHO; that Trump’s swift action in shutting down flights from China early saved millions who would have died; that Trump marshalled the full resources of the Federal Government and partnered with the governors to guide first the shutdown and then the reopening; that cases are going up only because testing is on the rise; and that “we are the lowest in deaths.”

Of course the reality is so obviously otherwise, one is stupefied that so many people buy the Big Lie.  Trump did NOT shutdown China travel, just segments of it, and tens of thousands of people flew from China to the U.S. in February and March; he did NOT shutdown Europe for another six weeks, and when he did, he inexplicably left the U.K. off the list; he downplayed the virus in that timeframe, said it would go away, and failed to use the bully pulpit to exhort Americans to be safe, practice social distancing and wear face masks; having ignored the warnings about the magnitude of the potential impact, and silenced and sidelined those who voiced them, he failed to coordinate a national response to provide needed materials.  And then, after a half-hearted reality-check, he quickly pushed the governors to re-open their states long before they were ready, leading directly to a massive surge in new cases and deaths in the U.S.  Cases surged far faster than testing increases, because the percentage of positive tests rose.  We are actually 19th in tests per capita among countries of the world.  And deaths are going up, not down; we lead the world in deaths (4% of the global population, 22% of deaths) and are 10th in deaths per capita. 

Apart from the massive number of new cases and growing number of deaths, there was another manifestation of the virus in August, another casualty.  And that is the deep blow to the credibility of both the FDA and the CDC, felled by a series of self-inflicted wounds as the leadership succumbed to pressure from the Trump White House.  The FDA first issued an overly optimistic report on a plasma treatment, then the CDC followed with a perplexing rollback of quarantine standards. 

Trump’s bed is made on COVID, so expect more of the same defenses, and continued hype about the imminent arrival of a COVID vaccine.  After all, the CDC just commanded state departments of health to be ready to distribute such a vaccine, right at, you guessed it, the beginning of November.


Big Lie #2, the economy:   “The greatest in our history” and “You look at the V {shaped recovery}, now I think it’s a Super-V”

Trump has claimed credit for the strength of the US economy from the earliest days of his administration (actually, since Election Day 2016 itself), even though it is patently obvious that his run has simply been an extension of Obama’s long era of sustained growth coming out of the Great Recession.

 

The facts are straightforward, completely unambiguous and clear.  The economy, under Trump, even before COVID, had grown in the 2-3% range, about the same as in Obama’s presidency.  Trump has yet to surpass, in any quarter, the 5%+ level that Obama achieved twice.  And the US economy has had many, many periods that exceeded the rate of that of both Trump and Obama – in fact, in each of the past six decades have seen sustained stretches of greater GDP growth than that of the Trump era.

US Annual GDP:




The current economic environment speaks for itself:  unemployment is over 10% and the second quarter GDP was -10% (or -32% on an annualized basis).  These figures are not simply the unfortunate effect of the global pandemic – they are a direct result of willful decisions Trump made, and actions he refused to take, in response to COVID crisis.  Given the exponential nature of the virus’s impact, the initial anemic response clearly resulted in more cases and deaths, and the premature reopening fueled more of the same.  The lack of a national plan and the inconsistent communications have devastated national economic confidence.  It is hard to overestimate the impact of all of these missteps, but suffice to say, Trump owns the economic impact of COVID.

The relentless August messaging focused on the presumed shape of the recovery, comparing horrific recent numbers with the epically dreadful ones that immediately preceded them.  Only the Trump Administration could triumphantly extol the “creation” of 9 million jobs without mentioning the 22 million that were lost before it.  And as for that “Super-V”, the latest forecast is actually for the economy to next slide into a full-blown recession, with sustained and permanent job losses…not a recovery, not a “V” and surely not a “Super V.”

But you will hear endless repetition of Trump's economic stewardship, because his entire reelection strategy was based on it, and a global pandemic is not going to shake that message, no matter how absurd it may be.


Big Lie #3, Mail-in Ballots:  “The only way we are going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.”

Of all the baseless claims that Trump has made, this one is right up there with the claimed record size of the Trump Inaugural.  There is simply no evidence whatsoever that mail-in voting is rampant with fraud, or even touched by it in any material fashion.  This claim is so extravagant that Trump’s own advisors and GOP governors are begging him to tone it down, which led him to opine, publicly, that mail-in ballots are perfectly acceptable in states run by GOP governors, but otherwise not.  Given that mail-in voting is the norm in Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and New Jersey, this is an insane claim, and so baldly self-interested as to be farcical.

The August twist on the mail-in ballot claim came in the form of the actions of the new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, a Trump donor who, upon assuming office, promptly began, well, dismantling the postal system, ostensibly to reduce costs.  The actions he implemented included the removal of high-speed letter sorters and many of those ubiquitous blue collection boxes, plus cutting post office hours and reducing overtime.  He even issued a warning to election officials that mail-in ballots will no longer be moved as priority mail.  The net effect was an almost immediate delay in postal deliveries, raising the specter (that the USPS voiced to state election officials) that mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to meet state deadlines for counting them.  Under enormous pressure, DeJoy finally put a halt to further these steps until after the election, but made no effort to reverse steps already taken.

How all this will impact the election remains unclear. No academic study of mail-in ballots has ever concluded that they favor one party over the other – they’ve been inconclusive.  And none of those studies were conducted in the middle of the pandemic.  There are arguments as to why mail-in balloting might favor Democrats, and others for why the GOP might benefit.  But at this point, one has to keep in mind that for Trump, the issue is not really about what actually happens – it is about what he does if he loses.  He has lain the groundwork for challenging the result, and based on where he sits in the polls, he might very well believe that contesting the election is his best chance to stay in office.  He will try to force outcomes that go to the House (under one state, one vote rules in such a circumstance) or the conservative Supreme Court (as in 2000) for resolution.  You can expect to hear the fraud mantra right through the election season and on Election Day itself – and beyond as the votes are tallied.


Big Lie #4, Black Lives Matter/Law and Order:  “They’re going to destroy our suburbs”

Trump is having trouble defining Joe Biden.  First he tried to portray him as corrupt (through Hunter Biden’s Ukraine connections) and then as mentally incompetent.  Neither charge was credible, nor, more importantly, did either move the needle in the polls.  So Trump then moved on to a rather laughable attempt to link Biden to the “radical left wing” of the Democratic Party.  This is laughable because, apart from conservatives, the only segment of the population more averse to Joe Biden is the left wing of the Democratic Party.  Biden has been a moderate, pragmatic centrist for his entire career; the idea that he will suddenly pursue a radical agenda is simply absurd on the face of it.

But this quest to portray Biden as a tool of the left took on a new significance in August with the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin – seven shots fired into his back, captured on video, with no imminent threat that might remotely justify the use of deadly force.  As the protesters convened and the tension mounted, Trump was swift to lump Kenosha in with Portland, Oregon, another city torn by protests and violence, to advance his screed that under Biden, such violent scenes would become commonplace.  Trump moved on to create the perfect crisis for his “law and order” message, inciting Trump supporting gangs to go to these cities as militia forces, amping up the tension.  A 17-year old, Kyle Rittenhouse, killed two people in Kenosha – Trump defended him as a “patriot.”  Trump vans moved through Portland spraying paintballs and tear gas on protesters, and a Trump supporter was killed as well.

American presidents typically do their best to lessen the tension and soothe the wounds that caused them, but Trump made no effort.  Unlike with George Floyd, Trump made no mention of Blake, apart from revealing that he had talked to the Blake families’ pastor.  The Blake’s quickly responded that they do not have a “family pastor” and had no idea who Trump meant.  The new mantra that emerged was the assault on the suburbs, a theme that has dubious appeal to those suburbanites who elected Trump in 2016 but now appear ready to abandon him.  These dark, wild and baseless assertions do nothing to heal the wounds and ease the mounting tensions – quite the opposite, and by design.

It remains to be seen whether this “law and order” message gets any traction.  Biden has asked the obvious question:  if violent scenes like this are happening now in Trump’s first term, why would they stop in Trump’s second?

But the repetition will continue, the broken record of outright lies.


MONTHLY MADNESS

There are so many contenders for the monthly madness it is hard to sort them all out.

·        There was the entire Axios interview, which was lowlighted by Jonathan Swan asking Trump about whether he found John Lewis’s life to be impressive.  Here was Trump’s answer:  “He didn't come to my inauguration. He didn't come to my State of the Union speeches. And that's OK. That's his right. And, again, nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have.”

·        Perhaps it was the charge that Joe Biden, a lifelong Catholic and a man of deep faith, was “against God.”

·        Or maybe it was Trump’s blind acceptance of the uber-conspiracy theorists QAnon because “I understand they like me very much.”

But even with all that, we have to go with the Trump administration’s inquiry to the governor of South Dakota as to the process by which presidents get considered for addition to Mount Rushmore.   It is hard to determine what is stupider – the very notion that Trump believes he is worthy of a spot in the pantheon, or rather the incredible presumption that Mount Rushmore is not a memorial or a work of art, but more like a “Hall of Fame” that some committee in South Dakota manages. 


TRUMP APPROVAL RATING

Trump’s approval rating recovered from a modest June/July drop, settling at 43% for the month.  August marked the 32nd consecutive month that Trump’s approval rating fell in the 40-45% range.  This level does not bode well for his re-election prospects.  Only George W. Bush won re-election with less than a 50% approval rating – a figure Trump has yet to attain – and Bush’s was 48% (also a level Trump has yet to attain).  And with less than 100 days to go, it is a long way from 43% to 48%.

TRUMP APPROVAL RATING

2017
2018
2019
2020

1H
2H
1H
2H
1H
2H
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Approve
44
39
42
43
42
43
43
44
45
45
44
41
41
43
Disappr.
50
56
54
53
54
54
54
54
53
53
53
57
57
56
Net
-6
-17
-12
-10
-12
-11
-10
-11
-8
-8
-9
-15
-15
-13


TRUMP’S HANDLING OF THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS

After four months of decline, the rating of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus leveled off at 40%, just below his approval rating.

TRUMP HANDLING OF CORONAVIRUS

Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Approve
48
46
43
41
39
40
Disapprove
47
51
54
56
58
57
Net
1
-5
-11
-15
-19
-17


TRUMP VERSUS BIDEN HEAD-TO-HEAD

Joe Biden continues to hold a commanding lead over Trump in national head-to-head polls, now at +7 points.

TRUMP VS BIDEN HEAD-TO-HEAD NATIONAL POLLS

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Biden
50
50
50
48
48
50
49
49
Trump
45
46
43
42
43
41
41
42
Diff
5
4
7
6
5
8
8
7


Biden is also doing well in head-to-head polls in the 14 swing states, holding onto Clinton states, showing significant leads in five states Trump won in 2016, and in tight contests almost all of the others.

TRUMP VERSUS BIDEN SWING STATE POLLING
State
Electoral Votes
2016 Margin
Current Polling as of 9/3
Maine
2
Clinton + 3
Biden + 12
New Hampshire
4
Clinton + 0.3
Biden + 8
Minnesota
10
Clinton + 2
Biden + 3
Nevada
6
Clinton + 2
Biden + 4
Michigan
16
Trump + 0.2
Biden + 5
Pennsylvania
20
Trump + 1
Biden + 5
Wisconsin
10
Trump + 1
Biden + 6
Florida
29
Trump + 1
Biden + 4
Arizona
11
Trump + 4
Biden + 3
North Carolina
15
Trump + 4
Biden + 1
Georgia
16
Trump + 5
Trump + 2
Iowa
6
Trump + 9
Trump + 2
Ohio
18
Trump + 9
Biden + 2
Texas
38
Trump + 11
Trump + 7


GENERIC BALLOT

The Democrats continued to hold a healthy lead in the generic ballot, which is a very strong predictor of November performance.  If the Democrats still hold a 9-point lead come Election Day, they stand to pick up 15-25 more seats to add to their overwhelming majority in the House.

GENERIC BALLOT - LAST 12 MONTHS

2019
2020
S
O
N
D
J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
Dem
47
47
47
48
45
47
49
46
48
49
48
49
GOP
39
39
39
41
41
40
40
39
40
40
40
40
Net
8
7
8
7
4
7
9
7
8
9
8
9



TRUMPOMETER

The Trumpometer remained in historically disastrous territory in July at -343.  The -343 Trumpometer reading means that, on average, our five economic measures are an astounding 343% lower than they were at the time of Trump’s Inauguration, per the chart below (and with more explanation of methodology below). 

There was little change in the key drivers from July.  Consumer confidence dropped, the price of gas was flat, while the Dow increased and the unemployment rate dipped slightly.

The “Trumpometer” was designed to provide an objective answer to the legendary economically-driven question at the heart of the 1980 Reagan campaign:  “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  The Trumpometer now stands at -343, which of course means things are far worse than that, even worse than the -53 recorded at the end of George W. Bush’s time in office, in the midst of the Great Recession.


Presidents >>>
Clinton
Bush
Obama
Trump
Measures
End Clinton  1/20/2001
End Bush 1/20/2009
End Obama 1/20/2017 (Base = 0)
Trump 7/31/2020
Trump 8/31/2020
% Chg. Vs. 1/20/2017 Inaug.          (+ = Better)
Trumpometer >>>
25
-53
0
-347
-343
-343%







  Unemployment Rate
4.2
7.8
4.7
11.1
10.2
-117%
  Consumer Confidence
129
38
114
93
85
-25%
  Price of Gas
1.27
1.84
2.44
2.27
2.27
-7%
  Dow Jones
10,588
8,281
19,732
26,429
28,430
44%
  GDP
4.5
-6.2
2.1
-31.7
-31.7
-1610%



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Notes on methodology:

BTRTN calculates our monthly approval ratings using an average of the four pollsters who conduct daily or weekly approval rating polls: Gallup Rasmussen, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist. This provides consistent and accurate trending information and does not muddy the waters by including infrequent pollsters.  The outcome tends to mirror the RCP average but, we believe, our method gives more precise trending.

For the generic ballot (which is not polled in this post-election time period), we take an average of the only two pollsters who conduct weekly generic ballot polls, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist, again for trending consistency.

The Trumpometer aggregates a set of economic indicators and compares the resulting index to that same set of aggregated indicators at the time of the Trump Inaugural on January 20, 2017, on an average percentage change basis... The basic idea is to demonstrate whether the country is better off economically now versus when Trump took office.  The indicators are the unemployment rate, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, the Consumer Confidence Index, the price of gasoline, and the GDP. 





5 comments:

  1. The blog writer appears to be blinded about the present political reality. Trump is surging and the betting odds have this race at a toss up. Biden has been forced out of the closet and is lackluster at best. All indicators are now pointing to a Trump landslide. This is before the vaccine for COVID is announced and Attorney General Barr's report on the Obama administration corruption/Russian probe. All the fake news in the world is not going to help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jim, for the view from Moscow.

      Delete
    2. I'm a tad late to reply ... but PredictIt's current (as of Sunday morning, Sept. 6) prices for winning the Electoral College: Biden $0.59, Trump $0.45. That isn't a "toss up".

      I have no idea what "factors" point to a Trump landslide: it isn't polling (RCP has Biden +6.9 in a 4 way race, and an Electoral Map at 212 Biden, Toss Ups 211; Trump 115). It isn't expert opinion [Goddard's summary of Cook, Inside Elections, Enten, Sabato and Bitecofer ends up as Donald Trump: 125; Joe Biden: 320; Toss Up: 93].
      It isn't models - PollyVote's commpilation has Models as Biden 52.5; Trump 47.5.

      So if you are going to claim "Trump landslide," please show your work and give us a clue about what you are thinking of.

      Delete
  2. "Anonymous" commenter squeezing out the Fox News approved spin. You said it perfectly Tom, only the Trump Cult would celebrate 9 million more jobs from an original loss of close to 30 mill. Plus statistics like those are especially suspect when you don't know definitively if those "new jobs" were just people returning to jobs they had before being furloughed or laid off.

    The bottom line of this entire Trump Nightmare is that Republicans would've lost their minds if Obama did ANY of the horrendous things Trump has done or told one of nearly 20,000 false claims that have been documented! Because they think they're "winning" they allow him to do everything he pleases. Including, after months of decrying how evil voting fraud is, telling his MAGAts on two seperate occasions to vote twice!

    I always ask Republicans these two questions and have yet to receive an honest answer:

    a) Would you have supported Barack Obama for doing the same things that Trump has done?

    b) Why has he worked so hard to hide his tax returns and financial information? There are potential conflicts of interest that are present and his secrecy keeps every one of them wide open. What is he hiding?

    Just imagine Obama telling Dem's to vote twice. Or what if Hillary Clinton refused to turn over her finances & tax returns? You think they beat the email thing into the ground?! Imagine that.

    Hypocrisy is the life's blood of the GOP.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It was a very good post indeed. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it in my lunch time. Will surely come and visit this blog more often. Thanks for sharing. click here

    ReplyDelete

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