Everything you really need to know about American politics in one post

No, not this one, but I’d argue that for reading just one thing to understate the state of contemporary American politics you could do a lot worse than reading this Vox interview with Norm Ornstein (one of the few political scientists to get Trump right).  Here’s some highlights, but really read it all:

But if you forced me to pick one factor explaining what’s happened, I would say this is a self-inflicted wound by Republican leaders.

Over many years, they’ve adopted strategies that have trivialized and delegitimized government. They were willing to play to a nativist element. And they tried to use, instead of stand up to, the apocalyptic visions and extremism of some cable television, talk radio, and other media outlets on the right… [emphases mine]

And add to that, they’ve delegitimized President Obama, but they’ve failed to succeed with any of the promises they’ve made to their rank and file voters, or Tea Party adherents. So when I looked at that, my view was, “what makes you think, after all of these failures, that you’re going to have a group of compliant people who are just going to fall in line behind an establishment figure?”

Trump clearly had a brilliant capacity to channel that discontent among Republican voters — to figure out the issues that’ll work, like immigration, and the ways in which populist anger and partisan tribalism can be exploited. So of course, to me, he became a logical contender…

Back in 1978, when I first came to AEI, Tom Mann and I set up a series of small, off the record dinners with some new members of Congress. And one of them, Newt Gingrich, stood out right away. As a brand new member of the House, he had a full-blown theory of how Republicans could break out of their seemingly permanent minority, and build a majority.

And over the next 16 years, he put that plan into action. He delegitimized the Congress and the Democratic leadership, convincing people that they were arrogant and corrupt and that the process was so bad that anything would be better than this. He tribalized the political process. He went out and recruited the candidates, and gave them the language to use about how disgusting and despicable and horrible and immoral and unpatriotic the Democrats were. That swept in the Republican majority in 1994.

The problem is that all the people he recruited to come in really believed that shit. They all came in believing that Washington was a cesspool. So what followed has been a very deliberate attempt to blow up and delegitimize government, not just the president but the actions of government itself in Washington.

I can’t remember if I said here, I give Trump a 20% chance.  Well, so does Ornstein, so that must be right:

I think if we’re laying the odds here, I still think it is more like 80/20 that he loses. There are a lot of reasons to think that he is not gonna be able to expand this message to a much larger group of people once you move beyond trying to impress a Republican Party audience.

Anyway, lots of really good stuff here.

Oh no, the polls!

Is it time to worry that Trump is going to get the whole Republican Party behind him and win this thing?  Maybe, suggests the Atlantic’s David Graham in a rundown:

The swing-state surveys from Quinnipiac University and a national snapshot from Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning firm, show a surprisingly close general-election race. The PPP survey found Clinton leading Trump by just four points nationally, 42 percent to 38 percent, while Quinnipiac found the two essentially tied in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Trump edged Clinton by four points in the Buckeye State, and Clinton led him by a point in Florida and Pennsylvania. As with any poll taken six months before the election, these require a couple grains of salt, and in the case of Quinnipiac, perhaps a few more. Other political forecasters pointed out that its sample of voters in the three states was more white than in 2012 exit polls, while the electorate is expected to be similar in 2016 if not more diverse than four years ago. A sample with more white voters would favor Republicans.

Okay, not worried.  I’m pretty skeptical of the overly-white sample.  The chances that the electorate will be more white in 2016 than 2012 are slim to none.

Still, that PPP poll is pretty close.  And damn, horrible human being and threat to democracy or not, Republicans certainly are falling in line behind Trump:

Clinton leads Trump 78-9 among Democrats in the full field at this point, while Trump leads Clinton 78-7 among Republicans. Although much has been made of disunity in the GOP, it is actually just as unified behind Trump as the Democrats are behind Clinton. 72% of Republicans now say they’re comfortable with Trump as their nominee to only 21% who they aren’t. Those numbers are little different from the ones among Democrats that find 75% of them would be comfortable with Clinton as their nominee to 21% who say they would not be.

Ultimately, I would expect 85%+ of Democrats to end up supporting Clinton and a lower percentage of Republicans to support Trump.  To a degree, Hillary still has a Bernie problem (currently hiding in the undecided number):

The undecideds in a Clinton-Trump match up right now support Sanders 41-8 in a match up with Trump

Short version, the undecideds in this poll are hugely in Clinton’s favor.  When push comes to shove in November, most of them will decide, and most will decide for Hillary.

So, takeaways… The country is so damn polarized that a Clinton landslide seems quite unlikely despite how horrible Donald Trump is.  And second, even though these look pretty close, I’d say you still have to very much conclude, advantage Hillary.

Photo of the day

Sam B. suggested this interesting gallery of Houston’s new underground cistern for photo of the day.  Just so you know, I love to take photo suggestions from my regulars.

From 2012: Landscape architect Kevin Shanley (president and CEO of the SWA Group) was one of the consultants stunned by the underground reservoir's beauty. He was the one who dubbed it "the Cistern." It reminded him of the ancient Roman cisterns under Istanbul. Photo: Mayra Beltran / © 2012 Houston Chronicle

Photo: Mayra Beltran

From 2012: Landscape architect Kevin Shanley (president and CEO of the SWA Group) was one of the consultants stunned by the underground reservoir’s beauty. He was the one who dubbed it “the Cistern.” It reminded him of the ancient Roman cisterns under Istanbul.

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