יום שני, 26 בספטמבר 2016

What Went Down In The First Presidential Debate

Hillary Clinton y Donald Trump

Trump and Clinton debated how to grow jobs and incomes; Trump mentioned cutting regulation, while Clinton vowed to boost manufacturing jobs; both touted their tax and trade policies.

But one proposal you didn’t hear in this debate tonight: universal basic income. With a UBI, the government regularly cuts a no-strings-attached check to each citizen. No conditions. No questions. Everyone, rich or poor, employed or out of work would get the same amount of money. While it sounds like socialism, some libertarians and Silicon Valley techies are rallying around the idea as a way to consolidate (and possibly cut) government programs while ushering in a future transformed by new technologies.

I’m really surprised energy didn’t come up more often. But Trump did get in a dig about the risks of climate change towards the end. Which makes me want to bring up this chart from the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, which shows the temperature changes over the past 22 years in the United States alone.

It’s also worth noting that climate change is going to have an impact on trade, one of Trump’s key issues. The World Trade Organization and the UN expect climate change to affect roads (because of permafrost melting) and ports (because of rising sea levels). Droughts could make rivers like the Rhine unnavigable. And all of that is going to raise the cost of international (and national) trade.

Trump and Clinton argued about temperament. He said she didn’t act like a winner, and she said he was too easily baited. The latter claim is easier to settle tonight than the former.

Trump kept up a running commentary while Clinton was speaking, although he seldom wrested the floor from her. He was much more likely to jump in when he was being discussed (whether it was his position on Iraq or the exact size of his fortune) than he was during discussion of racial tensions.

During a discussion of nuclear defense, Trump says the U.S. is “losing” to Japan. It’s not clear what that means. On the economic front, Japan has been struggling for 20 years — the U.S. would almost certainly benefit if Japan’s economy picked up. And on trade, the U.S. has only a modest trade deficit with Japan.

The very vague pre-announced topics made it hard to know what to expect tonight, substance-wise. In the end, we essentially got two debates: one on the economy and one on foreign policy, with a fairly extended discussion of crime in the middle. That left some surprising gaps: almost no discussion of immigration (Trump’s signature issue), health care (a huge topic during the last election) or energy (apart from Trump’s claim that the U.S. should have “taken the oil” from Iraq and Libya). Maybe they’ll come up more in the next debate.

As the debate winds down, I’d like to go back to the question from earlier — who’s the audience for this debate?

Given the unfavorable ratings for both candidates, it seems like one important audience is the type of voter who would like to vote for a major-party candidate but who doesn’t like Trump or Clinton. My sense is that this probably matters more for Trump than for Clinton. She’s a more conventional candidate, and we all know that there are a bunch of ways in which Trump is not — support from some party leaders has been hesitant (or nonexistent), and his policy positions, his history and his path to nomination have all been unusual.

By this measure, Trump did pretty well. He interrupted a lot and made lots of statements that his opponents won’t like, but he didn’t do anything outrageous or different from what he’s done in the past. His statements were fluid. There was no steak salesmanship. It’s probably too early to say, but for a voter who doesn’t want to stay home or vote for a party they don’t normally support, this seems like the kind of performance that would allow you to pull the “R” lever.

When looking at the instant post-debate polls, keep in mind that they can change. Back in 2000, Gore won the instant polls. It was Bush who gained in the polls, however, as the post-debate spin took place.

Clinton brings up a Latina contestant in a beauty pageant who has now become an American citizen. Immigration has come up surprisingly little in this debate, considering how central the issue has been to the campaign overall. I haven’t heard Trump mention “the wall” even once.

It’s kind of surprising that Clinton isn’t reacting with a little disbelief to these long rambling not-quite-coherent answers from Trump, which seem designed to persuade listeners that he has something to say about a subject without quite saying anything. As in, “Donald, I have no idea what you just said.”

It looks like there will not be a single mention of health care during this debate. During the first presidential debate in 2012, Obamacare was mentioned by name 22 times. The shift in the conversation could be because the rate of uninsured is down in every congressional district in the country, and 20 million people gained insurance since the law was passed (29 million people are still uninsured). Or it could be because public perception of the law is as partisan as ever; the subject is a little tired.

Trump said that Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is not “a happy camper.” Neither are some Jewish voters who support Israeli policy and question Obama’s policies on Israel — but Trump isn’t benefiting from that unhappiness, at least not financially. He’s getting a far smaller share of Jewish campaign donations to the two major-party nominees than Mitt Romney got in 2012.

Trump complains that the military is falling behind, saying: “Russia has been expanding — they have a much newer capability than we do. … I looked the other night — I was seeing B52’s. They’re old enough that your father, your grandfather could be flying them. We are not keeping up with other countries.”

The old planes may be more reliable than new ones. An F-16 from the 1970s recently beat a shiny new F-35 in a dogfight.

The ’F Word’

One thing that strikes me is that much of tonight’s debate was fought on territory traditionally considered masculine, like international relations and policing. Clinton did begin her debate night — and the entire debate — with a focus on gender issues beyond those that just affect women, like paid family leave. Clinton’s paid-leave plan includes time off for men, while Trump’s doesn’t.

Gender is a bit of a scylla and charybdis for Clinton, as she navigates the traditionally masculine commander-in-chief role with the sometimes vicious anti-woman political memes saying she is not feminine enough. An analysis by Jason McDaniel and Sean McElwee for the Western Political Science Association found that “feminists” were among several groups toward which Trump supporters had less positive feelings compared to other Republicans and to the public at large.

Clinton is a self-described feminist, but has also come under attack by both the left and the right regarding that claim.

A 5 point swing isn’t really that much — equivalent to the polls moving by a net of half a percentage point or perhaps a point in Clinton’s direction. So bettor groupthink is very, very possible — and it’s also possible that we’re seeing the conventional wisdom become a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. But it’s also not all that large a move.

Do you think those Betfair movements are a plausible representation of the real change in Clinton’s chances, or are bettors chasing each other? Could her win probability really have increased by 5 percentage points based on the debate so far?

So Lester Holt has actually jumped in to do some fact-checking on Trump’s Iraq War claim:

TRUMP: Would you like to hear — I was against the war — wait a minute. I was against the war in Iraq, just so you put it out.

HOLT: The record shows otherwise, but —

TRUMP: The record does not show — the record shows that I am right.

So Trump has been called on his inconsistency and basically said, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” He’s gambling that enough voters will take his word over Holt’s. It’s a reminder that fact-checking is no panacea.

Trump may think he has a better temperament than Clinton. According to a newly released Monmouth poll, only 35 percent of voters say Trump has the right temperament to be president. A much higher 58 percent say Clinton does.

According to a poll released today by Gallup, Trump and Clinton are virtually neck-and-neck with registered voters when it comes to who they trust more to handle terrorism — 47 percent say Trump, 48 percent say Clinton. Voters prefer Trump on the economy; Clinton by larger margins on issues from race to foreign affairs. (By the way, if the debate on cybersecurity hasn’t gotten you worried, read this new Vanity Fair article on the dark net, black-hat hacking and espionage.)

Terrorist attacks declined globally last year — but not in the West. Most terror attacks in 2015 occurred in the Middle East and North Africa — largely at the hands of ISIS, the Taliban and Boko Haram. But attacks in that region fell in 2015, bringing down the global total. In the West, however, terror attacks are up. The number rose in Western Europe, from 214 to 321, and in North America, from 34 to 62.

During this debate, Clinton has accused Trump of lying without calling him a liar. She’s pointed viewers to a fact-checking page on her website and said things like, “If we’re actually going to look at the facts …,” and, “I know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts” (both about NAFTA). Talking about fact checking sounds more neutral and objective than saying your opponent is lying.

“Lie” has only come up in reference to Trump’s former Birtherism, which Clinton called “this racist lie.” But there she had cover from Holt, the moderator, who introduced the topic with, “Mr. Trump, for five years you perpetuated a false claim that the nation’s first black president was not a natural-born citizen.”
Despite Trump’s frequent use of his “Crooked Hillary” sobriquet in the past, he’s been more circumspect tonight.

Trump said, during a longer exchange over the birther claims that President Obama was not born in the United States, “When you talk about healing, I think that I’ve developed very very good relationships, over the last little while, with the African-American community.”

Actually, Trump’s favorability ratings among African-Americans compare — unfavorably — with bedbugs. He told Bryant Gumbel in 1989, “A well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market. … If I was starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I really do believe they have the actual advantage today,” and he’s made many other racially questionable remarks between that year and today. This election season, while Trump has focused his attacks on Muslims and Mexicans, black Americans don’t seem to be buying what he’s selling.

Some Background On The Phrase ‘Law And Order’

Clinton said we have to address criminal justice issues and can’t just “say law and order.” When the issue of race came up, Trump went straight into his law-and-order points. This phrase has a deep history in American politics — it was a key campaign phrase for George Wallace, who ran as an independent, pro-segregation candidate in 1968. The thing about this phrase in the 1960s was that it cast a wide net — it wasn’t just about race, but also Vietnam War protests and other counter-culture efforts to change the social order. The cultural significance of the term has now shifted — not least because of the way crime has become a dog whistle for race in electoral politics. As Trump pointed out, Democrats have been implicated in these politics as well. And now we’ve seen that play out in this debate in a slightly different way, as a question about race led very quickly into questions of incarceration politics, crime, and, law and order.

Trump and Clinton argued about temperament. He said she didn’t act like a winner, and she said he was too easily baited. The latter claim is easier to settle tonight than the former.

Trump kept up a running commentary while Clinton was speaking, although he seldom wrested the floor from her. He was much more likely to jump in when he was being discussed (whether it was his position on Iraq or the exact size of his fortune) than he was during discussion of racial tensions.

In a recent article we spoke about the soft support of black millennials for Clinton, relative to older African-Americans. The twist: In a focus-group setting, many black millennials believed in Clinton’s messages about race and criminal-justice reform, two of their top issues, they just didn’t know about her long-term focus on fixing those problems.
Clinton said, “I laid out platform that I think would begin to remedy some of the problems we have in the criminal justice system, but we also have to recognize, in addition to the challenges that we face with policing, there are so many good, brave police officers who equally want reform.” Trump responded by saying Clinton didn’t want to use the words “law and order,” adding, “Our inner cities, African-Americans and Hispanics, are living in hell because it’s so dangerous.” That’s bound to be a pull-quote tomorrow, along with Trump’s focus on stop-and-frisk. Moderator Lester Holt pointed out that stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional. A New York Civil Liberties Union report found, at its peak:
  • In 2011, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 685,724 times.
  • 605,328 were totally innocent (88 percent).
  • 350,743 were black (53 percent).
  • 223,740 were Latino (34 percent).
  • 61,805 were white (9 percent).
  • 341,581 were aged 14-24 (51 percent).
The report includes yearly statistics from 2002 to 2015.

So far, the candidates have mostly traded personal accusations. By my count (according to a live transcript we’re using), the word “you” has been uttered 229 times in this debate. In the first debate between Romney and Obama in 2012 — where there was an incumbent president to accuse — there were 326 uses of “you” in the whole debate. In the first debate of 2008, with no incumbent president, there were 232. 
It surprises me that Trump’s go-to example of crumbling infrastructure is coastal international airports. LaGuardia, JFK and LAX just aren’t what many voters (particularly those in swing states) think of when they think of infrastructure problems. This strikes me as an example of him not speaking like a regular politician, for all that’s good and bad about that.

The subject has turned to race relations. Americans think they are really bad. Over 70 percent of both black people and white people think race relations are generally bad, according to a July CBS News poll. That’s far worse than it was two years ago. Moreover, Clinton holds a large lead over Trump on race relations. If Clinton can keep the debate on this subject, she’ll be in good shape. Of course, it could be a good chance for Trump to cut into Clinton’s lead on the issue. 

“Trumped-up trickle-down” was Clinton’s first zinger of the night. Clinton went on to assert that independent experts said Trump’s tax plan “would blow up the debt by over $5 trillion and would in some instances disadvantage middle-class families, compared to the wealthy, were to go into effect, we would lose 3.5 million jobs and maybe have another recession.” Trump parried with his attack on NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership, trade deals championed by Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, and her now-campaign surrogate, President Obama. “All you have to do is look at Michigan and Ohio … where so many of their jobs and companies are gone,” said Trump. During the primaries, Trump supporters were particularly strongly against trade agreements.

A poll released this month by Harvard’s school of public health in partnership with MARCA POLITICA also found that “forty-seven percent of Republicans surveyed said that trade deals have hurt their communities over the last 10 years, compared to only 24 percent of Democratic voters. Only 18 percent of Republicans surveyed said that trade deals helped, while 33 percent of Democrats believe free trade helps.”

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