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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Republican Convention - Final Thoughts

Now that the Republican convention has wrapped up, Trump-Pence and launch its General Election swing.

Overall, I found the convention rather confused and disjointed.  As noted in my last post, many of the speakers seemed entirely out of touch with reality.

Day One

The theme for day one was "Make America Safe Again."  The Obama Administration is still having trouble wrapping up the Bush wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but that does not seem to be what the Republicans meant.  Rather, most of the speakers who spoke on theme that night at lest implied that the US should get more involved in mid-East wars.  Somehow that would put an end to the few random attacks by US citizens that foreign terrorist groups have been able to inspire in the US.

Crime was also a big issue.  Crime rates overall continue to fall during this administration.  Murder rates are at a decades long low.  Republicans seem to want to cherry pick a few statistics, such as murder rates higher in Chicago this year, and add in a few anecdotal incidents to imply that the US is in great peril from crime.  The reality is that crime is lower.  Despite the Donald's promise that on January 20th "peace will be restored" they did not offer much detail on what that meant or how it would happen.  If it happens on January 20th the day he takes office, I assume that he must be crediting President Obama's work in restoring safety to the country.  In truth, if Trump was elected, America might feel safer because the Republicans would change their tone, regardless of any underlying statistics, and would stop trying to raise a panic.

Day Two

The theme of Day 2 was "Make America Work Again."  Presumably this means they are promising to reduce unemployment and put people back to work.  In 2009, the year Obama took office, unemployment hit 10%.  Today it is 4.9%.  The average unemployment rate over the last 50 years is around 6.2%, so we are actually doing pretty well right now.  But you would not guess that from the Republican speeches.  Perhaps they have a plan to reduce unemployment further by cutting taxes and regulations or through Trump's negotiation of phenomenal new trade deals, but I don't see it.  Tax cuts can create temporary job stimulation, but little else.  Trade deals that enforce a protectionist policy to bring jobs home will only create massive inflation as costs to produce the goods we consume will become much more expensive.  Maybe the Republicans can make this work.  But I remember the two disasters of the last two Republican Presidencies and the great cleanup work done by the last two Democratic Presidencies.  I personally don't trust the Republicans with the economy.

Day Three

The theme of Day three was "Make America First Again".  I'm not sure exactly what this was supposed to mean.  Maybe it means that the government will put US interests ahead of those of other countries, something Trump has accused Obama of doing.  Maybe it means that they would make America number 1 again.  The US is number one by many measures, although we now have the second largest economy, after China. Maybe Trump plans to change that.

It's hard to say though, because the night's speakers really made no attempt to discuss the theme.  Many of the speakers were former Trump opponents: Rubio, Walker, and Cruz.  None seemed particularly convincing in their support of Trump. Cruz, as widely noted refused to endorse Trump and was booed as a result.  The Hosting State Governor and Trump opponent Kasich did not speak and is among the many prominent Republicans not attending the Convention.

VP nominee Mike Pence also spoke on Wednesday, giving his introductory speech.  He gave a good forgettable speech, which is what you usually want from a VP.  It does not distract from the Presidential candidate's message and moved things along.  Pence's speech says that we can do better that the current administration.  He said a Clinton Administration would be a third Obama Administration.  Maybe he meant that she would also be able to cut the unemployment rate in half  or that she would also reduce the deficit by more than two-thirds, or that she would continue to reduce the crime rate, but he probably did not mean those things.  My cynicism aside, I think it was a good speech: red meat for the convention, a broad discussion of general Republican principles on issues such as crime, jobs, education, military, etc.  I suppose that will make America First again if they could really pull it off.

Day Four

The final night's theme was, apparently, not ironically, "Make American One Again".  Supposedly making the point that President Trump will unify the country.  In that Candidate Trump cannot even unify the Republican Party, I'll have to remain skeptical on that one.

Ivanka Trump gave the introductory address.  I was honestly surprised by the content of her speech. It was not simply a sop to a wonderful father.  She touched on some very real policy issues, and some rather controversial ones in the Republican Party.  She began by saying honestly that she was not a solid Republican supporter and tended to vote for candidates of both parties based on issues.  She talked about the problem of continuing pay disparities for women, and pointed out that the largest disparities were primarily for women with children.  She then talked about how her father's administration would do more to end that disparity by providing better child care services for working mothers.  It was something that I would have expected to hear from the Democrats. Yet she received applause for it.  It could be that she was laying the groundwork for a pivot in the general election to her father's more liberal positions. It was an interesting speech.

Donald Trump's main speech, however, was not as ambitious.  Although he gave the longest acceptance speech in modern history, he said almost nothing of substance.  He gave a great many cherry picked statistics to show what a disaster the country was right now.  Mostly the speech was critical of the Obama Administration and Clinton's role in that administration.  Normally, one would expect the VP to handle that attack dog role, so the Presidential candidate can be more positive.  But Trump is strong on attack and weak on a positive vision.  Sure, he can tell us in vague terms that things will be just great in his administration, but not why they will be great or what policies will make them great.  We just have to trust him on those details.

Convention Results

Despite the absence of a great many prominent Republicans from the Convention, and a few minor plagiarism squabbles, the Convention seemed to cause little controversy and gave America a week to focus on the Republicans.  Typically, a Party will see a polling bump after its convention.  While polls have not been taken everywhere since the Convention finished, we have seen that Florida has gone from a fraction of a percentage in the lead for Hillary to a fraction of a percentage point in favor of Trump.  That is actually within the polling margin of error, but for now puts Florida in the Trump column.  Even so, based on current polls, if the election were held today, Clinton would win easily   Here is what the electoral map would look like:

As  you can see, even giving Florida to Trump gives Clinton a big win.  Even though post convention is often a high water make for a candidate, that may not be the case this year.  Trump is an effective campaigner, and there are also big questions on demographic turnout that could swing a number of States.  Since many people tend to be voting against a candidate this year rather then for one, Candidate coverage may actually hurt a campaign.

If Trump could also win North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, all of which are very close right now, he would have an electoral majority.  It will be interesting to see some polls after the Democrats complete their convention next week.

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