GELFAND’S WORLD--When Donald Trump argued that the only way he could lose Pennsylvania was by being cheated out of it, he was essentially conceding defeat in the presidential election. Competitive candidates try to turn the tide. Losers make excuses. It's not even a good excuse. We are barely into the middle of August, and Trump is already explaining away his eventual loss.
Trump has been building the excuse for the past couple of weeks. Think of all the whiney statements he has been making about the election being rigged. This is a substantial reversal from when he bragged incessantly about how well he was going to do (remember even 3 months ago?).
Usually, the candidate who goes into the middle of August down by 7 points is introduced at his rallies as "the next president of the United States." Leaders in the polls and second placers alike are supposed to keep up a brave front, particularly because there are occasional turnarounds. But Trump doesn't seem to understand either history or how to play the game.
When it looks like you're about to lose in historic proportions, likely giving up Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida -- a solid bloc of once-confederate states -- it must really smart. Over the past 16 presidential elections (starting with 1952) Florida voted for the Republican 11 times, taking time off to vote against Goldwater and to vote for Bill Clinton's reelection before the modern realignment as a swing state. Virginia has a similar history. and North Carolina has voted for the Republican candidate 10 times out of the past 12 elections.
The post-convention polling must have been devastating to The Donald. He gave a flamboyant speech at the RNC that has been compared to some of Mussolini's best efforts, and he even got to celebrate a short bounce in the polls. But two weeks later, his lead in the polls evaporated, and suddenly Hillary Clinton is leading by historic percentages.
It must be frustrating beyond belief to Trump that his message is not only being ignored, it is being laughed at.
The part that I find interesting is that Trump has become boring. Like really, really boring.
Trump made his mark by taking a series of outrageous positions. He started his campaign by challenging the president's birthplace. It was a shameful display of racism, but it got him recognized. He continued with his attacks on immigrants, Moslems, and all of his primary opponents. His approach was fairly unique in our modern presidential history. Most candidates try to create at least an image of adulthood, but Trump turned it all over by throwing infantile tantrums.
The more outrageous he got, the more attention he drew. But neither Trump nor the media seemed to sense that eventually this approach would get old.
Perhaps it's the fact that Trump is using his patented approach of calling names (crooked Hillary) but didn't see that when the victim is not on stage with him, the name calling falls flat.
Perhaps it's the fact that in the post-convention period, the press finally has time to practice the craft of the high school essay: compare and contrast. They have a lot of material and the comparison has become easy.
But did we predict that the press and most voters would suddenly get bored with Trump? If the rest of the reporters haven't yet caught on, allow me to state the obvious fact.
A few days ago, an increasingly desperate Trump accused the president of founding Isis. You know, Isis, the terrorist organization that took over a large part of Iraq? It's interesting to look at the media's reactions. Yes, there were the obligatory attempts to ask if Trump meant something else, and there were the now reflexive attempts by his staff and supporters to make his statement into something else. In response to the question -- "Did you mean that?" -- Trump said Yes, then he said No (it was sarcasm) and then he went back to a qualified Yes.
The press and the public just yawned.
It wasn't new and entertaining anymore. Everyone was wondering what Trump would come up with next. The reaction was, in essence, Is that all you've got?
At this point, Trump has become predictable. Oh so predictable. We've come to understand that he will make up just about anything. We're not sure whether it's carefully crafted deception by a master of the craft, or whether it's done on the fly. But the notable point is that the press and the public don't buy into the game anymore. We're not paying much attention because it's been sooooo overdone.
"Hey, did you hear what Trump did today?"
"No (stifling yawning noises). "What did he do this time?
While Trump was in the ascendancy during the primaries, he was considered to be an object of fascination by political scientists and reporters alike. It was a truly unexpected win streak. But now that his numbers are falling and Hillary Clinton has been pronounced 89% likely to win the presidency, he is just one more loser. Reporters and editors are a lot less likely to get all worked up about the desperate gyrations of the guy coming in second.
Short Takes -Is it the end of a sporting era? Women's Soccer became an Olympic sport in 1996. The U.S. women's team finished second in 2000, and took the gold every other time. That's four golds out of five Olympics. This year's team came into the Olympics as Women's World Cup champions. And then the floor collapsed under them. It's true that they won their opening two games in the group round, but showed worrisome instability in the final group game against Colombia. The two-time loser Colombia managed to tie the game in what was literally the last second. Then the U.S. went to the knockout round and lost in the quarterfinals to Sweden. Sweden is good, but the U.S. is supposed to defeat them when it counts.
After the game, the American goalie Hope Solo created a small international incident when she referred to the Swedish strategy as cowardly, referring to the Swede's tactics of playing defense well. Nobody took it too seriously, but one wonders whether Solo is on the downswing of a once spectacular career.
It was certainly the end of the Michael Phelps era in swimming, unless it isn't. He says he's retiring (skipping out with a mere 23 gold medals?).
The U.S. men's rugby team beat Brazil and Spain in the Olympics, while suffering close losses to Argentina and to eventual Olympic champion Fiji (by a score of 24-19). Think of rugby scores as fairly analogous to scores in American football. In the championship game, Fiji beat Great Britain by 43-7. With its 9th place finish, the U.S. team showed that it can play world-class rugby, but not necessarily championship level rugby.
Save the Olympics-- Kevin Drum has been floating a pretty good idea for saving the Olympics. Why do they need saving? Because most modern Olympic games have been budget busters for the host countries. Greece and Brazil are particularly good examples of the bad effects of hosting the games.
Some people have suggested that there be a permanent site for the games in Greece, the country of their origin. Drum took the idea and changed Greece to Los Angeles. It makes sense in a way, because Los Angeles has hosted the games twice and avoided bankruptcy. Most of the facilities are in place. I suspect that the one negative would be air quality, but we've survived it before. Drum points out that he didn't get a lot of support for making Los Angeles the permanent home (I think it's still a reasonable idea) and now suggests that the games could be spread among several countries in each Olympics.
May I suggest that Drum combine the two suggestions to include Los Angeles as the main host with negotiated subordinate hosts for various sports. How about Chicago or Boston for basketball, England for rugby, and India for cricket?
NCEPA--The neighborhood council emergency preparedness alliance (NCEPA): The group has been meeting and has developed a committee structure to recommend communications methodology (this refers to the use of radios in emergency situations rather than putting out a newsletter), outreach, and an overall plan. We will keep everyone in the loop using City Watch.
What's with Scott Adams?--Adams is the creator of the Dilbert cartoons, author of lots of books, and self-proclaimed expert on what motivates people. He also writes a blog. At the start of the presidential campaign season, he talked about Trump as the master persuader. In recent months, he predicted that Trump would win the presidency in a landslide. His argument seems to come down to the assertion that people make decisions based less on reason, and more on emotion. OK so far, but it is a bit presumptuous to think that the majority of voters share the same emotions as Trump voters.
More recently, he stated that he was endorsing Hillary Clinton, but not because he supports either candidate; rather, he says he is making the endorsement because in Northern California, where he lives, it would be personally dangerous to do otherwise. Ignoring the huge insult to the people in his region, this is also one of the stupidest arguments I've heard in a long time. Perhaps this is Adams' attempt to make himself into a real-life version of a Dilbert cartoon, or perhaps his lampoon of Trump himself.
Whatever the reality, people seem to be noticing the Adams touch and becoming irritated. Recently, Adams is hedging his bets by arguing that Hillary has learned to use Trump's own measures against him.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for City Watch. He can be reached at email@example.com)