Saturday, November 19, 2016

Election Post Mortem With Leadfoot, Bella, L.A.’s Handsome Mayor and Some Other Smart People

Photo from the Los Angeles Times Essential PoliticsPost Election Symposium

By Leadfoot

Last night, Bella and I had the privilege (see what I did there?) of attending the Los Angeles Times Essential PoliticsPost Election Symposium. I got an email inviting all subscribers to attend, and immediately ordered tickets. It was good I acted quickly, because the event was sold out within 5 minutes. Apparently we all need post election therapy here in L.A.

So I busted Bella out of school early, and we drove downtown. She missed last period, which is social studies. I figured this event would be more educational anyway.

First up was Jill Darling, survey director of the Center for Economic and Social Research at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. That is a very long title that just means she conducted the poll that the LA Times printed before the election – the only major newspaper poll that predicted a Trump win.

Since the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Presidential Election Daybreak Poll debuted in July, people on social media had asked “what is up with that LA Times poll though?” because it predicted Trump winning the election by 3 points. It was so different from the other polls, that observers thought the LA Times had to be wrong. Now the pollsters look like geniuses. So how did they do it? Darling said they “caught the wave of secret Trump voters” by not using the telephone. They went into communities in the swing states and set up panels, which they used to get to know people. They formed relationships and built trust, meeting face to face with the same people each week. While respondents might lie to a faceless pollster on the phone, they tell the truth to someone they know and trust.

Darling was asked why the rest of us were so duped. She responded that “people were looking at predictor models, not scientifically sound poll results.” Everyone was looking at sites such as the New York Times and Nate Silver’s, which told us the percentage chance that Hillary would win, so we felt confident. For example, Nate Silver showed Trump had a 30% chance of winning, so we all thought that meant he would lose. But if someone told us we had a 30% chance of having a major earthquake, we would take that much more seriously. That still means that 3 times out of 10, there is a path to victory (or your house falling down). The lesson is – do not rely so heavily on the predictor model.

Next up was a panel of political strategists, including:

n      Bill Burton, deputy White House Press Secretary during President Obama’s first term
n      Bill Carrick, a Democratic consultant who previously worked for Diane Feinstein and advised Loretta Sanchez’s Senate campaign
n      Tim Clark, Republican consultant and the Trump campaign’s California director
n      Sean Clegg, former deputy mayor of LA, and consultant for Senator-elect Kamala Harris
n      Mickey Kantor, a former Commerce secretary under President Bill Clinton
n      Rob Stutzman, who used to work in former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration, on the Romney campaign, and was a loud voice in the Never Trump movement

First, they were asked why everyone in the world of politics and the media predicted the outcome so incorrectly.

Tim Clark said that “people started to believe the media line that Trump didn’t have a ground game. We knew we were going to win. We knew we had North Carolina and Florida won. Our campaign was built on metrics, data and a strong ground game. The press corps and the Clinton campaign began to believe the media hype.” The Trump campaign decided to just keep quiet and not tip their hand.

Protests in Los Angeles against Donald Trump

Next they were asked if a different Democratic candidate would have changed the outcome.

Bill Burton responded, “There was a lot of anger out there. I don’t know that some other candidate could have won this race on the democratic side. Trump just did too good of a job appealing to the angry white people without college degrees in the rust belt. The Dems needed more white people (to vote) and I don’t think any candidate would have attracted them.”

Other panelists noted that “Make America Great Again” was an economic message, and “Stronger Together” was not. Americans wanted an economic message during this election cycle. Instead, the Clinton team made their campaign about Trump -- his failures as a human, and as a candidate. They needed to focus much more on how to improve the lives of people feeling economic pain. “We need an economic message that appeals to people who make between $50,000 and $100,000 a year. We completely missed that group of voters,” said Mickey Kantor.

Loretta Gonzalez from the AFL-CIO chimed in to note, “We overlooked why Bernie appealed to people in the Rust Belt. He had a great message on trade and unions that appealed to those in the blue collar labor force. The DNC cast his messages aside, and that was a mistake.

The Sanders movement was real! Those were passionate supporters. In retrospect, Hillary should have made him the VP candidate. And his message must not be ignored going forward. The youth has a very strong BS meter and they didn’t trust Hillary. They thought Democrats should never support trade agreements that don’t protect the workers.”

Kantor agreed and said that “Michael Dukakis carried Iowa by 12 points in 1988 and Hillary lost it! She just did not appeal to rural communities at all.”  The Clinton campaign spent more money in OH and PA than any presidential candidate in history. It simply didn’t matter. The message was wrong.

Trump spent far less money than any candidate in recent history, and that fact appealed to his base. He was the first truly independent candidate to ever win the presidency.

That said, if you look at the Senate candidates’ vote counts, people who voted for the GOP Senate candidates outweighed those who voted for Trump in FL, NC and OH. So the Republican voters weren’t entirely buying what Trump was selling. Many didn’t vote for him, but did vote for Portman, Rubio, etc. He is still the least popular candidate to ever win the presidency.

Photo from the Los Angeles Times Essential PoliticsPost Election Symposium

Clark implored the audience to understand that “We need true leadership – someone who talks to the American people in plain language and walks them through the plans in a way they can understand. They need to hear specifically how we are going to improve education, and how we are going to create jobs.” The crowd grew restless and it was clear that most disagreed that Trump had walked them through anything specific. But the point was taken that Hillary’s message went over most voters’ heads.

Rob Stutsman did not vote for Trump because he “had grave concerns about a campaign that was run on denigrating women, minorities and the disabled.”

When asked if Trump will abandon the inflammatory rhetoric of the campaign once in office, even the two Republicans on the panel admitted that “Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions are a bad sign.” Kantor said “Bannon is not a person who is worthy of working in the West Wing.”

Kantor also said that Trump gave so many mixed messages that nobody has any idea what is actually going to happen. “Buy your popcorn and get in the seats, because this is going to be a wild show!”

At one point Clark said that when his wife gets together with her “lady friends” -- and all the women in the room started booing, and he didn’t even get to finish the sentence. Apparently misogyny is contagious among GOP officials.

Once he was allowed to speak again, Clark said the GOP was united, and is always united. They get together to support their candidate. He doesn’t know which way the Dems will go moving forward. “Will the Progressives or the Centrists lead the party in the next 4 years? And how do they get them all to come together and support the same candidate?” he asked. It was a rhetorical question, or at least one that nobody had the answer to, so we moved on.

Finally, the panel discussed California. One strategist said that “California is now the center of the Progressive universe. We have a unified Progressive government that is committed to protecting Californians from anything Trump might do.”

The issue is that our values here in California are at odds with fiscal responsibility. For example, we support immigrant rights, but that position is very expensive to us. We have to come to terms with that reality at some point. “That’s one of the reasons we put marijuana on the ballot. We want those tax dollars!” exclaimed Gonzales.

Photo from the Los Angeles Times Essential PoliticsPost Election Symposium

The strategist panel was excused and the mayoral panel was brought out. Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, kind of made me fall in love with him. He spoke with enthusiasm and passion (after just getting off a 16-hour flight from Qatar, where he was discussing the city’s Olympic bid), had on a very hip suit and shoes, and his answers were inspiring! He’s pretty easy on the eyes too. Remember his name. He has a future in the Democratic party! The other mayor was Kevin Faulconer, mayor of San Diego, who is a Republican.

The first question was about Trump’s promise to cut off funding to sanctuary cities.

Mayor Garcetti responded, “The LAPD’s job is to keep citizens safe and to solve crimes. We are going to focus on that great responsibility. We cannot solve murders and rapes and other serious crimes if we are enforcing immigration law. We are not a city that will ever stop people and ask them to show us their papers. It’s just not ever going to happen here.”

Mayor Faulconer answered, “In San Diego, we are building bridges with Mexico, not walls. Literally. We just opened a pedestrian bridge that crosses the border. We already have a fence in San Diego, we don’t need a wall. We aren’t focusing on any of that. We are focusing on how to build a mutually beneficial relationship with Tijuana and on creating jobs on both sides of the border.” Hmmmm, he sure doesn’t sound like a Republican. 

Garcetti went on to say that “sanctuary cities” aren’t even a real thing. There is no definition anywhere in any charter or legislation. Los Angeles does not consider itself as a sanctuary city, so we don’t know how a Trump administration will affect us yet, but we don’t think we should lose any federal funding. We will push back against any attempt to cut us off. “Pico Union isn’t filled with terrorists, it is filled with hard working people.” The crowd went wild. My heart was aflutter.

Faulconer admitted he opposed Trump and wrote in Paul Ryan for president. He did back Trump on some policy issues though. “We would like to partner with the new administration on infrastructure. We agree that improvements are needed. We need better water infrastructure, to plan for autonomous vehicles, etc. However, we will fight the administration on climate change. We passed an aggressive climate change bill in San Diego, which focuses primarily on water recycling. In CA, climate change means wildfires and mudslides. It is a big deal to us and we will continue to fund programs to combat it.” 

Garcetti has reached out to president elect Trump to try to arrange a meeting. “I want to let him know that values are important and we will never compromise on that. I left him a message to tell him I will call him out if he says something un-American, but otherwise, let’s get to work!” Do you think he will fit in my bag? I want to take him home. No? Ok, well at least I have never been so proud to be an Angeleno.

Asked if Trump’s presidency could affect LA’s bid for the Olympics, Garcetti said, “Our diversity is our greatest strength. Los Angeles is a reflection of the world. We have the people, and the experience. So nothing should derail our bid.” (I mean, ladies, am I right?!)

Asked about Calexit, both mayors said it is a bad idea. Garcetti answered, “I love this country and I want to make its political winds blow from the west.” And with that, I officially dropped my support of Calexit.

Next up was a panel of LA Times political reporters. Their most interesting comment was that they were shocked by people’s reactions to Trump all over the country. They witnessed first-hand the power of celebrity and showmanship. People reacted to him like he was a rock star. Women tried to touch him. They screamed and fainted. Everyone took selfies. Even the men. Trump also resembled a stand up comedian. People were laughing as much as they were cheering. He hooked them by entertaining them. They felt that they already knew him because he was a universal TV celebrity, so they were comfortable with him. They liked the way he spoke to them as much as the things he said.

On top of that, the reporters said that many men they talked to “voted with their middle finger.” They resent college educated liberals, whom they thing look down on them. “So many people we talked to, didn’t care whether Trump was qualified. They just wanted to stick it to the liberals.”

Finally, it was time for the question and answer session. We had to write our questions on cards, and pass them to the front. I submitted 4. Bella submitted one.

One of my questions was read first: “Do you see any of the electors refusing to cast votes for Trump?” The political reporters said no. “I will never say never, but I don’t see this going anywhere. There is no incentive for other states to do it.”

Bella’s question was read next, and the moderator said the question was from a 13-year-old (we wrote that on the card.) She asked “Why do you think so many women voted for Trump after he showed women such disrespect?”

The LA Times political reporters said that women, like every other group, are not one issue voters. No female candidate ever gets 100% of her gender to vote for her. Women, all along, had negative views about Hillary. They were willing to overlook things that Trump said because Hillary was paid $250,000 a pop for giving speeches to Goldman Sachs, and that turned them off more than Trump did. His female supporters were mostly voting against her, instead of for him.

Bella was not at all satisfied with that answer. As we walked out of the auditorium, several people stopped to ask her if she was the famous 13-year-old (the crowd was mostly north of 50. Bella and I were easily the youngest people in attendance). She said yes, and then talked to strangers about how that answer didn’t sit well with her. “Women should frown upon anyone who disrespects other women. Even if they didn’t like Hillary, they could have still not voted for Trump. It’s possible to leave the President part blank!”

I beamed with pride as I scanned the room for mayor Garcetti, but he had already left. Oh well, all in all, it was well worth cutting school to attend the event. We both learned a lot, and felt motivated to write letters to reporters, call our congress people, and maybe even run for office one day. 


Note by Patrick:

Great post, Leadfoot, many thanks! 

Also, that's how children receive "real" education. I see a bright future ahead for Bella.

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