Category Archives: Public opinion

A lot of Trump voters think he’s horrible, too

trump

Just a heads-up that you might want to read Chris Cillizza’s post, “The 13 most amazing findings in the 2016 exit poll.”

As I’m sure y’all realize, exit polls are the most valuable kind, in terms of explaining what the people who actually vote are thinking when they do so. Candidates like to make claims about what election results mean, but exit polls give you something solid to study.

I think that for me, the most fascinating of the 13 items was this one:

10. Trump’s personal image was and is horrible

Trump’s victory should be in no way interpreted as a vote of confidence in him or his capacity to do the job. Less than 4 in 10 voters (38 percent) had a favorable opinion of him. Only 1 in 3 said he was “honest and trustworthy.” Thirty-eight percent said he was “qualified” to be president. Thirty-five percent said he has the “temperament to serve effectively as president.”

How can a candidate win with numbers like these? Because the desire for change was so great that it overrode all of the doubts — or at least many of the doubts — people had about Trump….

But I urge you to go read the whole thing.

Trump’s huge, but not ‘massive,’ problem with Catholics

Catholics were the first to feel nativist hostility: Bill 'the Butcher' and his Know-Nothing pals in 'Gangs of New York'

Catholics were the first to feel nativist nastiness: Bill ‘the Butcher’ and his Know-Nothing pals in ‘Gangs of New York’

First, a bit of pedantry.

My first boss in the newspaper business after college, Reid Ashe, was an MIT-trained engineer, which affected his approach to newspaper editing. A pet peeve for him was the improper use of the word “massive.” Something could be big, and imposing, and extensive, and impressive, but if it did not have actual mass, it was not massive.

I’m sure he would have hated this hed in The Washington Post this morning: “Donald Trump has a massive Catholic problem.” Well, no, he doesn’t, Reid would say. It may be “yuge,” but it is lacking entirely in mass.

So. Moving on…

After that bad start, it’s a pretty interesting story. Obviously, I’m far from the only Catholic who can’t imagine how anyone can morally justify backing Trump. As far as I knew before reading this, it was just me and the Pope. And some friends and family members, of course. But if I’d thought about it, I’d have assumed there were a lot of us.

Which there are. An excerpt:

Yes, the man who once feuded with the pope (how soon we forget that actually happened) is cratering among Catholics.

Back in 2012, GOP nominee Mitt Romney lost the Catholic vote by just 2 points, 50 percent to 48 percent. And the GOP has actually won the Catholic vote as recently as 2004 and in 5 of the last 11 presidential elections.

But Trump trails among Catholics by a huge margin. A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute released this week shows him down 23 points, 55-32.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released earlier this month painted an even worse picture for Trump’s Catholic support. He was down by 27 points, 61-34.

If you compare the difference between Romney’s margin among Catholics in 2012 and Trump’s margin among Catholics this year, the 25-point difference is tied for the biggest shift of any demographic group in the Post-ABC poll….

This is significant because Catholics make up a quarter of the electorate.

A number of reasons are offered for this, including the Donald’s tiff with the Pope. But the most convincing is the most obvious: Catholics — particularly Irish and Italians — were the very first targets of the nasty nativism that forms the core of Trump’s appeal. And they (I use “they” instead of “we” because I’m a convert, so this narrative forms no part of my personal heritage) haven’t forgotten.

These lads are unlikely to back you, Donald.

These people’s descendants are unlikely to back you, Donald.

Do you think critics have been too rough on Trump voters?

trump_ghp_fayetteville_(1)

An image from the Trump campaign website of a rally in Fayetteville. Who’s to blame — Trump, or all those thousands cheering him?

William McGurn, writing in The Wall Street Journal today, thinks critics on the left and right have been excessively mean to “Trumpkins,” the people who have inflicted Donald Trump upon us.

Says he:

In the land of NeverTrump, it turns out one American is more reviled than Donald Trump. This would be the Donald Trump voter.

Lincoln famously described government as of, by, and for the people. Even so, the people are now getting a hard lesson about what happens when they reject the advice of their betters and go with a nominee of their own choosing. What happens is an outpouring of condescension and contempt….

Start with the fondness for the word “Trumpkin,” meant at once to describe and demean his supporters. Or consider an article fromNational Review, which describes a “vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles” and whose members find that “Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin.” Scarcely a day goes by without a fresh tweet or article taking the same tone, an echo of the old Washington Post slur against evangelicals as “largely poor, uneducated and easy to command.”…

Sure, plenty of dismissiveness has been directed at the Trump voter. Many a critic has written or said something along the lines of, “We blame Trump too much; we let those who voted for him off the hook.”

I’ve seen that; you’ve seen that.

But on the whole, those who say that are more in the right of it than Mr. McGurn, I think. Those of us who are appalled by Trump pile on him day in and day out. He’s a big guy, a billionaire tycoon; he can take it — right? (Except, of course, that he can’t — we may never have seen a more thin-skinned presidential nominee.)

And while there is the occasional slap at his supporters, by and large, we don’t seem to blame them as much as we have their candidate. There’s good reason for this — most of us have an aversion for going after “the people” themselves, even when we’re just talking about a minority subset of the people. In out secular religion, it seems impious to blame them. We’re supposed to mumble about their economic dislocation and other things that allegedly give them an excuse for what they’re doing.

Well, I don’t buy that. I’ve been more economically dislocated than most — the average Trump voter easily has a higher income than I currently do — yet I have not lost my freaking mind and joined a movement to elect a fascist blowhard to the highest office in the world.

So I really don’t buy the idea that Trump voters have it so hard that it’s worth doing something like this to the country. In fact, no amount of hardship is worth that. But that’s not really what it’s about, is it? It’s about the fact that a lot of people actually like the nasty, spiteful, ignorant, clueless things that he says.

And remember — without the people voting for him, and telling pollsters they’d do so again in November, Donald Trump would still be the joke he was a little over a year ago, and no kind of threat to our country.

So I appreciate that Mr. McGurn is taking a swipe at elitist snobbery and all that. I’m not for calling anyone names or otherwise hurling insults. But we should not for a moment regard Trump voters as blameless. They’re the reason we’re in this mess.

This year, individual SC votes will actually MATTER!

sticker

On that earlier post, I failed to point out the most remarkable thing about that PPP poll showing HIllary Clinton in a statistical dead heat with Donald Trump in South Carolina.

It’s a fairly obvious point, but I feel I should use this separate post to bring it up for your examination.

It is this:

For the first time in a long time — since well before I moved back to South Carolina in 1987 — how you and I and each individual South Carolinian votes will actually matter to the outcome of the presidential election.

Whether you vote for Trump or Clinton or someone else, or stay home and sit it out, could actually make the difference in whether South Carolina stays red or goes blue, in whether all 9 of our state’s electoral votes go to Donald or Hillary.

No more can Democrats complain despairingly that their votes don’t matter. And it’s different for Republicans, too — in previous elections, they could stay home if they liked, secure in the knowledge that the state would go Republican anyway. And the importance of each of us swing voters stands out more starkly than ever.

Heady stuff.

Of course, you could say that South Carolina going blue wouldn’t matter, because if THAT happens, it would already be a Clinton landslide. But you would be a real killjoy to say that.

Go ahead and savor your importance in this election, average South Carolinian. Who knows if you’ll every experience it again?

The really shocking part of PPP’s poll of South Carolina

A face in the crowd: Who knew, when she appeared here in May 2015, she'd be so close here now?

A face in the crowd: Who knew, when she appeared here in May 2015, she’d be so close here now?

Yes, it’s startling to see Public Policy Polling — an outfit that Nate Silver says skews slightly toward Republicans — showing South Carolina as in play in the presidential election. (See “Clinton/Trump Race Tight in South Carolina,” Aug. 10.)

Seeing Hillary Clinton only 2 percent behind Donald Trump — just within the 2.7 percent margin of error, making this a dead heat — is something most of us doubted we would see again in our lifetimes. (Jimmy Carter was the last Democrat to win here, in 1976.)

But what’s truly shocking, to me, is how much support Trump does have:

The closeness is a function of Democrats being a lot happier with their party’s candidate than Republicans are with theirs. Clinton is winning 84% of the Democratic vote, compared to Trump’s 77% of the Republican vote. Although neither candidate is well liked by voters in the state Trump’s favorability, at 38% positive and 56% negative, comes in slightly worse than Clinton’s at 38/55…

That’s right, 77 percent — an overwhelming supermajority — of Republicans are willing to vote for Trump. Only 4 percent of them — less than the percentage ready to throw away their vote on Gary Johnson — is willing to back Hillary.

Perhaps that doesn’t surprise you. If it doesn’t, I think that’s because you’re making the mistake of thinking of this as a normal election, just another standard-issue contest of Democrats vs. Republicans, in which Republicans should be expected to back their nominee as a matter of course.

To that I say, stop trying to normalize this election! There is nothing normal about it! There hasn’t been since a year ago, when Trump started outpolling actual, normal Republicans!

If an actual, sane Republican were the nominee — Bush, or Kasich, or maybe Christie before he sold out and backed Trump — then fine. I wouldn’t like that mindless, reflexive vote for the party any more than I usually do (regardless of the party), but at least it would be something we’ve come to expect as normal.

This is not. This is inexcusable, unthinkable. It is an abomination.

But you know what is worse? That Trump has a bigger lead over Hillary among those who are “independent or identifying with another party” than he does among the overall electorate!

I’m sure that doesn’t include any of you loyal UnPartisans, but still. It’s shocking…

PPP

Our distaste for both apparent nominees is THE story of the 2016 election

We’ve known this, and the story The Washington Post ran over the weekend just reiterated what we knew.

But it’s the one thing that sums up the way our presidential election process has failed us more clearly than any other, so it bears repeating: Never in our history, to the extent it has been measured, have the two parties nominated two people as unpopular as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

It makes you wonder what Budweiser thinks they are celebrating by calling their beer “America” through the election season. What do they think this is, 2008?

As the story says,

The coming presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump begins in a virtual dead heat, a competition between two candidates viewed unfavorably by a majority of the current electorate and with voters motivated as much by whom they don’t like as by whom they do, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Never in the history of the Post-ABC poll have the two major party nominees been viewed as harshly as Clinton and Trump.

Nearly 6 in 10 registered voters say they have negative impressions of both major candidates. Overall, Clinton’s net negative rating among registered voters is minus-16, while Trump’s is
minus-17, though Trump’s numbers have improved since March. Among all adults, Trump’s net negatives are significantly higher than those of Clinton….

If this is what this two-party system produces, we really need to have a long talk about reforming the system, don’t you think?

I hope the Post doesn't mind my sharing this image of their graphic. If they do, I'll take it down. In the meantime, I urge you to go their site, read their stories, subscribe and patronize their advertisers...

I hope the Post doesn’t mind my sharing this image of their graphic. If they do, I’ll take it down. In the meantime, I urge you to click on the image and go their site, read their stories, subscribe, and patronize their advertisers…

Alternative GOP universes: One with Kasich, one without

There are two non-overlapping universes out there among those who want to save the Republican Party from Donald Trump (and, if they truly care, from Ted Cruz).

The guy Republicans will nominate if they wan to win.

The guy Republicans will nominate if they wan to win.

In one, John Kasich — as the only other survivor of the original 17, and as the only candidate likely to beat Hillary Clinton in the fall — is the obvious alternative.

In the other universe, Kasich either doesn’t exist or exists only as an irritant who should go away, and quickly.

You know I live in the first universe, and praise its wise inhabitants on a regular basis.

Just yesterday, NPR was interviewing former RNC chair and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and he quite naturally mentioned Kasich as the one electable candidate out there:

BARBOUR: Well, I’m certainly a regular Republican. I’ve been a Republican since 1968. But people are looking at two things – electability – and today, in The Wall Street Journal, Clinton leads Trump by 11 points. Almost every poll shows Trump running under 40 in a general election. That’s very scary because if we have a presidential candidate that runs in the low 40s or below, then a lot of Republicans down the ticket are going to lose. They can’t overcome that.

SIEGEL: Does Cruz pose the same threat to the party as Trump?

BARBOUR: His numbers are not as bad today, but one has to worry about electability. And you look at Kasich – he leads Mrs. Clinton by six or seven points in the poll, not as well-known. But we have in Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton the two most unfavorably seen presidential candidates ever….

Which, you know, should be obvious to everyone. Like, you know, duh.

Then there’s the other universe, which all-too-often asserts itself. Today I was reading a piece by Jennifer Rubin, who often (but not always) makes a lot of sense, headlined “It’s nearly time for that white knight to show up.” The piece mentioned some really esoteric, out there possibilities for who that knight might be:

That, however, presupposes a candidate, one on which the #NeverTrump forces could agree upon as their white knight. There will be those principled conservatives who want a champion (e.g. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, former Texas governor Rick Perry, former Indiana govenor Mitch Daniels, current Indiana Gov. Mike Pence), those who think only a respected public person with impeccable national-security credentials has a shot (e.g. retired general James Mattis), Mitt Romney supporters who want one more go at the presidency and still others who think a moderate with appeal to Democrats (e.g. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty) is the only feasible option. Lacking the benefit of a party primary system or caucus, the third-candidate supporters would not have the benefit of testing how contenders do with actual voters. The risk obviously is coming up with someone real voters don’t find compelling….

Who? Sasse? Mattis? Really?

Bizarrely, the column does not even mention Kasich, the one sane alternative who has actually put himself out there, and who has survived the brutal culling process to date. You know, the guy who came in second in Trump’s big win in New York last night.

This is because, apparently, Ms. Rubin really does not like Kasich.

But you know, once you eliminate the two unthinkables and go looking for a knight, the most obvious choice is Sir John, the only guy out there who is already in his armor and mounted up, and who has continued faithfully on his quest lo these many months…

Young Icelanders seem confused about God and science

Sistine

Yet another story from The Washington Post that I meant to post about over the weekend…

I was intrigued by this headline:

In this country, literally no young Christians believe that God created the Earth

The story reports that “Exactly zero percent of respondents in a recent survey said they believe that God created the Earth.”

That apparently includes the 40 percent or so of younger people in the increasingly secular country who still consider themselves to be Christian.

I tried to find out how that could be, and the explanation was confusing:

Despite the trend, the Evangelical Lutheran Church is still the country’s declared state church. Solveig Anna Boasdottir, a professor at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Iceland, agreed that scientific progress had changed religious attitudes in the country. But she said that about 40 percent of the country’s younger generation still consider themselves Christian — but none of them believe that God created the Earth. “Theories of science are broadly accepted among both young and old. That does not necessarily affect people’s faith in God,” she said….

Yeah. Got that. I don’t see any reason why acceptance of science would diminish faith in God — I’ve always found that simplistic dichotomy (God on one side, science on the other) — to be rather absurd, with the battle over evolution being one of the more ridiculous manifestations.

But I don’t see how it would affect people’s belief that God made the world, either.

I’ve always thought evolution is exactly the way God would create people and other species — a majestically slow, dignified, enormously complex process, rather than some Cecil B. DeMille, abracadabra “poof!”

Same with the geological eons to create the world on which all these species live.

Yeah, I get it that some people are very literal-minded, and they think that if it didn’t happen in the six days set out in the Genesis allegory, then God must have had nothing to do with it.

So if this survey is right, every single person who lives in Iceland is that literal-minded.

Which surprises me…

So basically, these folks are the opposite of deists, who believed God did create the world, but then left it alone…

The story even acknowledges what seems obvious to me, which is that “some Christians believe both in the Big Bang theory and God’s role.” So… how does that lead to no one believing God created the world?

Maybe the story’s just not well-written…

Poll: Only half of voters would be embarrassed if Trump were president

Oddly, the news accounts I’ve seen leave out the “only.” Yet to me, the fact that no more than half would feel such mortification is the startling, and alarming, news in this report.

Meanwhile, a quarter say they’d be “proud.” To quote from the wisdom of Dave Barry, I am not making this up…

Polls: South Carolina, Trump, Republicans and Muslims

These three polls just in:

Bad News: Donald Trump favorite of SC Republicans — again — This is Winthop Poll. The only reassurance I can give you is that it was mostly taken before Trump spoke of banning Muslims from our shores.

Good News: Majority Opposes Trump Plan to Ban Muslims, Poll Finds — Unfortunately, the WSJ/NBC poll finds that Republicans are more evenly split on the matter.

Bad News: Trump’s Lead Solidifies in Poll, but Many Are Nervous — This one’s from the NYT and CBS. Again, this was largely taken before Trump’s latest bad craziness.

All of which leads to this story from The Washington Post:

As Trump surges, GOP prepares for a contested convention — Time to crank up the ol’ smoke-filled room, boys. Your phony-baloney party is on the line. Harrumph, harrumph, harrumph….

Let’s look at an excerpt from that:

Republican officials and leading figures in the party’s establishment are now preparing for the possibility of a brokered convention as Donald Trump continues sit atop the polls and the presidential race.

More than 20 of them convened Monday for a dinner held by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, where the prospect of Trump nearing next year’s nominating convention in Cleveland with a significant number of delegates dominated the discussion, according to five people familiar with the meeting.

Considering that scenario as Priebus and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) listened, several longtime power brokers argued that if the controversial billionaire storms through the primaries, the party’s establishment must lay the groundwork for a floor fight, in which the GOP’s mainstream wing could coalesce around an alternative, the people said….

May you live in interesting times, Reince Priebus…

The most amazing thing about Trump is that his supporters think he can WIN next fall

You may have seen that Donald Trump’s support in South Carolina has now reached the dizzying height of 40 percent of respondents who identify themselves as likely GOP primary voters.

No, the bubble hasn’t popped yet, even though everything we’ve seen in past elections would suggest it would have happened a couple of months back.

Do you wonder why? I certain do. Well, here’s why:

The conventional wisdom among Donald Trump’s detractors is that his current surge in the polls won’t last because as we get closer to actual voting, Republicans excited by his political incorrectness will start factoring in “electability.” When GOP voters realize that he can’t beat Hillary Clinton, the theory goes, they will switch their support to other more electable candidates.

One problem with that theory: Right now, GOP voters believe Trump is the most electable candidate.

A new Post/ABC News poll asked GOP-leaning voters which candidate “has the best chance of getting elected president in November 2016?” The winner was Trump by a landslide. An incredible 43 percent of GOP voters say that Trump is the most electable GOP candidate. In a distant second place, Ben Carson trails Trump on electability by 27 points, while Jeb Bush — whose entire rationale for his campaign is electability — trails Trump on electability by 30 points. Since the same poll found Trump with 32 percent support, that means even GOP voters who do not support Trump still believe he is most likely to beat the Democrats in 2016. A new Associated Press-GfK pollconfirms this, finding that “Seven in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning registered voters say they think Trump could win in November 2016 if he were nominated; that’s the most of any Republican candidate.”…

That may be the single most amazing thing that I’ve read or heard about the continuing popularity of this guy.

I suppose there’s a sort of cognitive block that prevents Trump supporters from imagining how non-Trump supporters see things. So they imagine a majority will agree with them.

I suppose all of us are susceptible to such lacks of insight. I, for one, find it very difficult to understand how anyone could imagine Donald Trump winning the presidency next November. This is perhaps a defense mechanism on my part: If I could imagine it, I wouldn’t sleep nights…

The disaffected vs. the professionals

I was amused by the way The Slatest described a contretemps between their guy Josh Voorhees and angry Bernie Sanders supporters:

On Tuesday night, Josh Voorhees wrote that Hillary Clinton won the first Democratic presidential debate. A number of Bernie Sanders supporters subsequently wrote to Josh to inform him that he was a stupid man with a stupid face and that Bernie, as confirmed by a number of online polls, was the obvious winner. Last night, the Voorhees struck back, informing those Sanders supporters that it was in fact their faces that were the stupid ones, that online polls are a bad way of deciding who did the best in a debate, and that by the way, HILLARY WON* (*from his subjective perspective).

After that, Voorhees’ actual piece was a disappointment as entertainment — low-key, professional. He didn’t call anybody’s face stupid. Although he well might have, given the emotional nonsense that he was up against:

Several were nuanced and well reasoned; others … less so. “Hey dumbass,” began the first, “You should be ashamed of yourself you hack!!!” The next was only slightly more measured with its criticism: “How much money were you paid … you either got big bucks to do this article or you have an intellectual issue,” it read. “Are you blind or just bought? Grow a pair and admit the truth,” read another. One industrious reader, meanwhile, sent eight different emails, most of which included graphic photos and all of which came with the prose that matched the tenor of the distinctly un-PC subject line they shared. I could go on, but you get the point.

Folks, if you’re a dispassionate observer (a creature the people who wrote to Voorhees probably find it difficult to imagine) who understands politics in general and the current situation in particular, Hillary Clinton won that debate, on so many levels. And no, you don’t have to be in the bag for Hillary to see that. I’m certainly not. I’m very concerned that her performance will keep Joe Biden out of the race, and I really wanted to see him run.

Charles Krauthammer is no shill for Hillary, and he went farther than anyone else I’ve seen, saying she essentially sewed up the nomination Tuesday night. His column saying so was headlined, “Game over.”

That’s the sort of conclusion one reaches when one is an informed, professional observer who does not have a dog in the Democratic fight.

But if one is an emotional participant who adores Bernie Sanders (who clearly came in second, but largely because the other three candidates were so awful) and doesn’t really fully understand the way polls and other such things of the political world work, you think you have absolute proof that the professionals are lying or crazy or corrupt:

You want to blame the media professionals for something unprofessional, even self-interested? Then blast them for posting those instant surveys on their websites without making it absolutely clear that such reader-participation games are most assuredly NOT polls, and should not be seen by anyone at any time as indicative of opinions of the general population.

News outlets provide those things because they are marvelous clickbait. To put it more politely, they drive reader engagement. They make people feel like they are participating in the story, and they don’t cost anybody anything. But they do not provide useful information. As Voorhees puts it, “they’re mostly for entertainment (for the reader) and traffic (for the outlet).” A low-key version of bread and circuses, you might say.

All of this said, the argument can be made quite strongly that we are at a point in time when professionalism — whether on the part of journalists, pollsters or for that matter political consultants — doesn’t count for much, because there are so many of the disaffected, emotional people who don’t understand what they’re looking at that they constitute a sufficient plurality to swing elections.

We saw it with the Tea Party uprising in 2010, we’ve seen it in the dysfunction of Congress exacerbated by that election. We saw South Carolina go for Newt Gingrich in 2012. We’re seeing Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Bernie Sanders.

Now, some of you will get indignant and say Bernie Sanders, for one, is tapping into genuine yearning for a society more like Denmark, and that his supporters know just what they are enthusiastic about.

I’m sure that’s quite true. (His dedicated followers are probably more like those of Ron Paul than of Donald Trump.) But I’m reacting to the subset that unloaded on Josh Voorhees, who are exemplars of the kind of proud, indignant ignorance that marks too much of political interaction these days.

And yes, my liberal friends — we see much more of this in the dysfunction of the Republican Party. Sanders’ supporters love his policies; Trump’s love his anger and contempt. In a column I’m grateful to Norm Ivey for bringing to my attention this week, David Brooks brilliantly described the sickness that pervades what was once the conservative party, but which is now overrun by clueless agents of destruction.

But foolishness is no respecter of political parties, and this surge of emotionalism against the professional consensus regarding Tuesday’s debate is but one small example of the tantrums one can find among the disaffected of the left.

SC public backs leaders’ decision to bring down Confederate flag

THE moment -- the flag starts coming down.

THE moment — the flag starts coming down.

In case you had a creeping feeling at the back of your mind that were it not for the fact that we are, thank God, a republic instead of a direct democracy, the Confederate flag would still be flying…

I offer this reassuring news:

Two-thirds of South Carolinians agreed with the General Assembly’s decision in removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds this summer after the Charleston church shootings, a Winthrop University poll released Wednesday found.

Less than a year ago, just one-third of South Carolinians thought the Civil War icon should come down after flying at the state’s most prominent public building for five decades.

That was before an African-American pastor, who also was a state senator, and eight of his parishioners were gunned down at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in June. Authorities brought hate crime charges against the accused killer, who is white.

Slightly more than half of white respondents thought lawmakers made the right decision in taking down the Confederate flag, the Winthrop survey found. More than nine in 10 African-Americans backed the decision….

At least, I find it reassuring to know that, while I still praise our elected officials (starting with Nikki Haley) for courage and leadership in bringing the flag down without waiting around for polls, even if they had, the result would have been the same.

So South Carolina really has grown up, finally, and put the flag behind it.

That is wonderful news.

Bloomberg Poll: 1 in 4 Democrats favor Biden

And the guy’s not even running — yet.

Here’s the news from Bloomberg:

One quarter of Americans who are registered Democrats or lean that way say Vice President Joe Biden is now their top choice for president. The findings of a national Bloomberg Politics poll released Wednesday represent a notable achievement for an as-yet undeclared candidate, suggest concerns about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, and raise the prospect of a competitive three-way race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Clinton, once the prohibitive front-runner, is now the top choice of 33 percent of registered Democrats and those who lean Democrat, the poll shows. Biden places second with 25 percent and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is at 24 percent. The other three Democratic candidates combined are the top choice for less than 4 percent of that base….

Not only that, but almost half of respondents say they think the veep should get into it. Sounds like some of those still with Hillary want a backup plan…

Why would anyone expect the Pope (or the Church) to be ‘in sync’ with the world?

pope background

In the days leading up to the Pope’s present trip, I’ve seen a number of things like this story from The Washington Post over the weekend:

Poll: Americans widely admire Pope Francis, but his church less so

Pope Francis is adored by American Catholics and non-Catholics, who have embraced his optimism, humility and more inclusive tone. But as the 78-year-old pontiff arrives in the United States for his first visit, the public’s view of the Catholic Church is not nearly as favorable, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

That gap will be masked by the huge throngs of Catholics greeting Francis in Washington, New York and Philadelphia. Many of them see him as an agent of change, with a majority of Catholics saying that the church is in touch with them — a reversal from two years ago, when 6 in 10 said the church was out of sync….

Things like this puzzle me.

Do people really think that the church, or the pope, is supposed to be “in touch” with views that are popularly held in the wider world? Why? (And if people don’t expect that, why am I always reading stories about whether the pope and the church are in touch and in sync? Why would it matter otherwise? And the implication is that it does matter. Otherwise, why keep bringing it up?)

Oh, I can list the reasons why — ours is a democratic country, where institutions are expected to reflect the views of a majority, or they lack legitimacy. A country where it would occur to someone to do a poll on what people think of the pope is a country that will talk about whether the pope or the church is “in sync” or “in touch” with prevailing views.

But it seems to me that anyone who is familiar with Christianity, or with the Judaism out of which it grew — and I’m talking basic cultural literacy here; I’m not expecting people to have doctorates in theology — would understand that there is a basic expectation that God’s will and the ways of the world are not the same thing, and are as often as not at odds.

I’m not arguing here, to a diverse audience, that you should accept that the church is right about everything. I’m saying that, if you understand what the church is supposed to be — an expression of God’s will in the world — you would not for a moment expect its teachings to line up with the results of polls.

That’s just not in any way a reasonable expectation.

And it was never thus. This isn’t about the church or the pope being at odds with modernity. Despite what many may think, this generation is no worse than those that went before it. Nor — and this is an important point that still others fail to understand — is it any better. I could quote from Ecclesiastes here, but I’ve always found that book confusing, so never mind.

The church, and the Temple before it, were always supposed to be at odds with the wicked world out there, as I was reminded by the first reading from this past Sunday, from the book of Wisdom (which, regrettably, some of my Protestant friends don’t have in their Bible):

The wicked say:
Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him.
For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him
and deliver him from the hand of his foes.
With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test
that we may have proof of his gentleness
and try his patience.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death;
for according to his own words, God will take care of him…

There are other passages, I’m sure (and some of my more evangelical friends out there probably know them by heart) that speak even more clearly to the divide that should exist between the church and what is popular, whether in the 1st century B.C., or in the present day.

Again, I’m not asking you, my nonCatholic friends, to believe that when the church is at odds with what is popular, the church is always right. You’re not going to believe that, so why waste my breath? I’m just saying that no sensible person should have an expectation that the church, when it is right, would be “in sync” or “in touch” with what is popular according to polls.

In fact, if the church were thus wedded to current views, that should make us suspicious.

So I guess I should be suspicious that at the moment, more people do say the pope and the church are in touch with them. But I chalk that up to the awesome job this pope is doing as a messenger. The church hasn’t changed any of its teachings under him; but he is much, much better than his predecessors at selling the more appealing things that the church is about (and supposed to be about).

A hypothetical church that was indeed completely “in sync” with God’s will would have a lot of “yes” in it, as well as a lot of “no.” Francis is way, way better than, say, Benedict, at expressing the “yes” so that people hear it.

And I honor him for that…

Has SC gone mad? Trump at 30 percent? Really?

For some time, I’ve been assuring people of what I regard as a verity: Yes, Donald Trump is leading in polls. But you can dominate a poll with 20 percent support when there are 16 or 17 candidates. When it gets down to two or three candidates, 20 percent isn’t so great. And surely, surely, surely 20 percent is Trump’s ceiling.

That 20-percent assumption would seem consistent, for instance, with this bit of data that George Will cited in his Sunday column headlined “Trump’s immigration plan could spell doom for the GOP:”

A substantial majority of Americans — majorities in all states — and, in some polls, a narrow majority of Republicans favor a path for illegal immigrants not just to legal status but to citizenship. Less than 20 percent of Americans favor comprehensive deportation….

Yep. Makes all the sense in the world, except for this:

The 2016 Donald Trump phenomenon is not going away.

The New York real estate mogul holds a commanding lead in a poll released Tuesday of likely S.C. GOP presidential primary voters.

Trump received 30 percent support — doubling the second-place contender, retired surgeon Ben Carson, according to the poll from Monmouth University in New Jersey.

They are followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 9 percent, former executive Carly Fiorina at 6 percent, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio at 6 percent and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 5 percent.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina each received 4 percent. The two had been vying for second place in spring polls….

Thirty percent. With 30 percent, Trump could still be in the running in a three-way race, much less with 17.

So, the question is: Has South Carolina gone mad? Was the fit of irrationality that led to Newt Gingrich winning the 2012 primary here more than a one-time thing?

This is a question with national implications. Already some of the gloss has worn off the reputation that the SC GOP had been earning for a generation, the one that has enabled Republican leaders to boast,: “We pick presidents (or at least, eventual nominees).”

Some in the national media have practically written off South Carolina as worth covering, based on that one slip…

Something like this latest poll showing Trump at 30 percent is not likely to restore our rep as a state that knows how to pick ’em…

Americans concerned about crime used to favor gun control. Not so much now…

People used to say "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword," Ned Stark being a case in point. Today, they seem to think that if you outlaw swords, only outlaws will have swords...

People used to say “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword,” Ned Stark being a case in point. Today, they seem to think that if you outlaw swords, only outlaws will have swords…

You know, today would be a good day to just let Bryan take over the blog, the way he did while I was out of the country. I’d suggest that, but I’ve been binge-watching “Game of Thrones” via HBO NOW, and if there’s anything to be learned from that, it’s that it can be dangerous to leave someone else in charge of your kingdom.

Here’s the second topic today suggested by Bryan. He alerted me to this report from the Pew Research Center, which is summed up in this lede:

For most of the 1990s and the subsequent decade, a substantial majority of Americans believed it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect gun owners’ rights. But in December 2014, the balance of opinion flipped: For the first time, more Americans say that protecting gun rights is more important than controlling gun ownership, 52% to 46%….

I think this is related to what’s been happening in the GOP the last few years.gun poll

Increasingly, “conservatism” is really libertarianism in disguise, and is related to anti-government feeling in the country. People who once upon a time would have wanted just the cops to have guns don’t trust cops that way any more. It’s a two-edged blade — distrust of government on one side, a libertarian view of the 2nd Amendment on the other.

Also, as the Pew report notes, people have an exaggerated sense of the prevalence of crime. They think the streets are more dangerous than they are, and since they don’t trust government to protect them from all that imagined mayhem, they want to pack heat….

Prediction: The president AFTER Obama will also be the most polarizing ever

So I saw this Tweet over the weekend:

… and I really didn’t need to follow the link.

Of course it’s not entirely his fault. Just as it wasn’t entirely George W. Bush’s fault that he was the most polarizing president before Obama was.

Basically, we’re on a downward trajectory in terms of unreasoning partisan polarization that first started showing up in the early ’80s (a spate of unusually negative ads across the country in the ’82 campaign, the rise of Lee Atwater), and really blossomed with the election of Bill Clinton 10 years later — the first sign, for me, was the “Don’t Blame Me; I voted Republican” bumper stickers that showed up after Election Day 1992 and before Clinton even took office.

From the start, from before the start, Republicans abandoned the “loyal opposition” stance and treated Clinton as illegitimate.

Things got worse all through the Clinton years. They got nastier through the Bush years (and were nasty, again, from the start, with a brief hiatus right after 9/11). And as Obama took office, they just kept getting nastier.

Which to meet argues that it’s something about the rest of the country and our dysfunctional politics, and the president is just an incidental target of the vitriol.

If present trends continue — which they will, barring some horrific event that pulls us back together as a country, or some other cause for a drastic change in our political attitudes — then the next president, regardless of who it is, will be the “most polarizing in history.”

I hope I’m wrong about that, but I doubt it.

Hillary Clinton holds record as most admired woman. But is ‘admired’ really the right word?

I sort of raised an eyebrow at this this morning:

And I puzzled more over it when I followed the link:

Hillary Clinton has been named the most admired woman in the world for the 13th straight year in a Gallup poll of Americans released Monday.

The results are an indication of how long the former secretary of State has been admired in the public sphere, as she heads toward a likely presidential campaign.

In addition to being the most admired for the last 13 years, Clinton also has held the title for 17 of the last 18 years, stretching back to her time as first lady. Her streak was interrupted only by first lady Laura Bush in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Clinton has been named most admired in the Gallup poll more times than anyone else. She beat Eleanor Roosevelt by six victories….

She beats Eleanor Roosevelt’s record? Wow…

If you’d like to read more about the “most admired” women and men (Barack Obama tops that list), here’s the original Gallup report.

I’m not surprised that she tops a list that measures one’s notoriety. But most “admired”? Really? Respect, yes. Appreciation of the role she has played in public policy in recent years? I can see that. But admired?

I mean, don’t most people know a woman they personally admire more than ex-Sec. Clinton? Or Oprah Winfrey, or Angelina Jolie (really? Did you seeSalt?” I was trapped on a plane back from England with it… the horror…). How about your mother, people? Or the widow down the street holding two jobs to feed her kids?

Yeah, the survey sort of implied that it wanted famous people, but it didn’t come right out and say that. (Actual wording: “What [woman/man] that you have heard or read about, living today in any part of the world, do you admire most? And who is your second choice?”)

Of course, it could be that a majority of respondents DID name their Moms, but individual mothers were never going to get as many votes as the celebs, given that there would always be a certain percentage of people who would only think of celebrities, because that’s the kind of culture we live in. Note that Hillary only got 12 percent of the vote (although that’s 50 percent more than Oprah got).

Still, I think people glossed over the word “admire,” and just went with name recognition. Yes, a couple of people on the list may actually be admired — Malala Yousafzai, and Pope Francis.

But most of the rest? I just don’t think “admired” is the word. Princess Kate? Nothing against the royals, but her one great accomplishment was to marry well. So unless you’re Elizabeth Bennet‘s mother, I doubt you “admire” her for it.

“Envy,” yes. But “admire” doesn’t sound right…