Will Trump’s Instincts Win Him a Second Term?
This week Trump officially announced his bid for re-election, and gave his assessment of the Democratic candidates. Are his instincts right, or is he just the right mascot for a larger movement?
This week Trump officially announced his bid for re-election, and gave his assessment of the Democratic candidates. Are his instincts right, or is he just the right mascot for a larger movement?
JACQUELINE LUQMAN Hi. I’m Jacqueline Luqman and this is The Real News Network. In a recent Time Magazine article, Trump assessed the Democratic field and how he thinks it will shake out in 2020 in a very interesting way. He said a progressive will probably win the primary. And he said that Joe Biden is not the same Biden. He also added about Kamala Harris, where’s the magic, and that she hasn’t surged. And he said that Bernie Sanders is going in the wrong direction, Elizabeth Warren’s doing pretty well, and he said that Pete Buttigieg never had a chance. Trump said further, you know, I just don’t feel the election shaking out any other way. Why? Because politics is all instinct. Is he right about any of that? Is politics all instinct.? Well here to talk about this and other issues are Anoa Changa. Anoa is an attorney and a director of political advocacy for Progressive Army and she’s also the host of the highly-recommended podcast, The Way with Anoa. Hi, Anoa.
ANOA CHANGA Hey.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN And joining me in the studio is Marc Steiner. Marc is a correspondent for The Real News here and is also with the Center for Emerging Media. Hi, Marc. Thanks for joining me.
MARC STEINER Jacqueline and Anoa.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN All right. So, you guys, is Trump right? Is politics all instinct? Anoa, I’m going to go to you first.
ANOA CHANGA No, you’re not right. [all laugh] Instinct did not—Trump is not president because of his instincts. He’s not president because any type of talent or knack on his part. Donald Trump is president between a series of misfortune events, to quote a famous children’s story. It’s absolutely absurd how much airtime he even receives and that it’s frustrating that we even have to respond to his nonsense because we do. Because if we allow mainstream media alone to respond and to clarify— because no context is ever provided to the things that he says and does— so it gives us the opportunity to insert that context in necessity, but he’s absolutely wrong. It has nothing to do with instinct. What’s happening right now, are people are reacting to fear. The fact that we have, you know, someone who is a longstanding friend of white supremacists and segregationist as so-called frontrunner of the Democratic Party, against this abomination that everyone claims Trump is, and which we are actually seeing in real time. This isn’t about instinct. This is about media-driven hysteria around who should lead the empire and that’s what we’re seeing right now. He’s allowed to say whatever he wants unchallenged by mainstream media and here we are to have this conversation.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN Marc?
MARC STEINER [laughs] You know, Trump talks about instinct. He thinks that’s how he—That’s his mythology of Trump, you know, that he built his empire on instinct and knowing how to negotiate a deal, and none of that stuff is true. You know, if my daddy gave me $14 million, I’d be doing okay myself. [laughs]
JACQUELINE LUQMAN A small loan of $14 million, right. [laughs]
MARC STEINER So his only instincts is how to be a misogynist and act as a racist and just be a buffoon. I’m sorry. I mean, just that’s so—But here’s the reality though. The danger is that if you look at the United States, and you look at what’s happening in Europe, what’s happening in India, what’s happening in parts of Asia as well, and in the mother continent of Africa, the populist nationalists are winning all over the place because this system cannot answer the questions of people’s needs, and people are terrified. And since the left that made a lot of accommodations with the capitalists early on couldn’t ultimately answer all the issues, then this, sort of, lead to this rise of populism— as did climate change to force all this mass immigration that fueled this kind of populist rhetoric. That’s the danger. That’s what they’re going to play upon. And I think the danger is that Trump could be re-elected if the Democrats are not inspired and don’t inspire the folks who did not vote to come out and vote, which is actually why Trump won in the first place. That’s where the danger lives because all the polls show that Trump is down with a majority of Americans. They don’t want him.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN So both of you brought up the point of empire in different contexts, but you brought up the point of empire in a global context and the resurgence of this far-right populist movement that’s going on around the world. And Anoa, you brought up the issue of empire here in this country, the domestic empire. So let’s say for the sake of argument that on some level, Trump is sort of right? I hate to give him that kind of credit, but what if his instincts was what led him to foresee—And maybe let’s not say it was his instincts, but let’s say it was the instincts of people who were surrounding him like Steve Bannon, who foresaw the rise of this populist movement, not just in this country but around the world because of the issues you raised, Marc. So on that regard, could Trump be sort of right? That maybe he is the perfect leader for the empire and in the context of empire that you guys brought up, maybe politics is about instincts.
MARC STEINER I think, first let me just say very quickly that I think empire is—Whatever we want to call this. Let’s use the word empire for a moment. I think that it’s not a simple, monolithic group. So Trump represents and the people around him represent the most right-wing and racist elements in that power, and the political views of people in power run the gamut, but what they have in common is they want to maintain their wealth and economic power. That’s what—
JACQUELINE LUQMAN Right.
MARC STEINER Right, but you hit the nail on the head. People like Steve Bannon understand how to manipulate that and do it very well. And so, Trump was elected because the plurality of Republicans who were tired of the system, voted him into office, and were tired of the old establishment Republicans doing blah, blah, blah. They would rather have this, kind of, clown up there because at least he says something different. So, you know, I think that they do have their finger on the pulse of something really, very dangerous.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN So, Anoa, what is your response to that? And then I’m going to ask you additionally, Trump’s comments about the Democratic field—Are his instincts right about them?
ANOA CHANGA Well, Jackie, I’m going to again say no. He doesn’t have instincts. He has opportunism. I mean, Trump is an opportunist. He does know how to exploit a situation that is available to him. I think even with folks like Bannon and other individuals, I think that if as the opposition party to the Republicans, the Democratic Party had not allowed for so many gaping holes to exist strategically, there wouldn’t have been, you know, even if they had an instinct to do certain things to use that word, there wouldn’t have been the ability to exploit it but for these gaping holes and mistakes. Even right now when we look at the conversations, you know, you have Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, saying that the issues of Joe Biden are not central to this election when that couldn’t be farther from the truth. We are talking right now about a threat, an existential threat to democracy. Rather, an existential threat that has been embedded and woven into the fabric of this so-called democracy since its inception called white supremacy, and that is rearing its ugly head in the Democratic Party right now in this race as well.
And the inability of leadership to actually have a real conversation about what’s happening, unfortunately lends a situation where Trump is allowed to step in and exploit and frame it. He may have a correct observation in the context of analysis, but he is not reaching that observation necessarily for the correct reasons, or with the correct analysis. I am reluctant to ever give him credit for anything he says or does, even this ultimate decision to not strike against Iran because it’s not happening for the right reasons, and the analysis and trajectory to get to those decisions are not happening for the right reasons. So it’s like, okay. Cool, but you’re still not doing it for the right reasons. You’re not reaching the right approach, so we shouldn’t—And this is, like I said, going back to the way media reports things about Trump. Everything that he says is not reported with the proper context and analysis so that we do have people—The same that’s being done with Joe Biden right now. We do have people who are saying, well see, it’s not that bad— because the whole context of conversation is not taking place, the analysis that’s necessary to engage in its political discourse is not taking place, and so here we are having this conversation.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN [laughs] I mean, I almost hate to devote a whole segment to this man’s re-election campaign that he kicked off in Orlando, Florida, but I think he raised issues that point to what you just mentioned, Anoa, about the Democrats’ gaping holes in the strategy of their campaigns. Interestingly enough, Brad Parscale— I think I’m pronouncing his name correctly— who is the campaign manager for Trump’s re-election campaign, said that people all think you have to change people’s minds. He said, but really, what you have to do is get people to show up that believe in you. To that point, Anoa and Marc, in that order, how have the Democrats responded to that? First of all, is that true. Is this an issue? Is this election an issue of turnout, turnout, turnout— which is what the Trump campaign says. And is it an issue of getting people to show up who already believe in you? It’s not about changing people’s minds? And how are the Democrats faring on that?
ANOA CHANGA [laughs] I do think that that is somewhat correct. Obviously, not necessarily for the right reasons, but I do think that is the correct assessment in terms of turnout and engagement. We’ve seen it obviously in the elections that happen in 2018. Just right here in my own state of Georgia we saw the importance of expanding the electorate and turning out the vote. However, the way in which the Republicans are doing that, is not in a way that is the same way when grassroots activists and organizers on the progressive side or left or Democrats, whatever people call themselves, are talking and envisioning it. But I think that Democrats are struggling. You have a party that is divided and fractured and it’s not necessarily a bad thing per se because I tend to think of it like coalition government-building in other countries. There is consensus that can be achieved in how to move forward, but unfortunately, we have an old guard and powers that be and funders. They just want folks to be silent and go quiet and just show up and do what they want, and that’s just not what’s happening.
People are not about to get out here and pound the pavement and break their backs to elect anyone who is not going to seriously move the needle on our issues. And even once they’re elected—I think Linda Sarsour had a good tweet the other day about this, when she said regardless of whether Sanders or Warren win, we’re still going to be on the opposition. And what she meant by that, she explained in the subsequent tweet, was that we’re still going to have to push them no matter what, and I think that’s a major lesson that people have learned from the Obama years. That, yes, we had this seemingly good candidate in a primary that was really dire for the country in 2008, hope and change, and massive, amazing organizing and turnout, and then people went home because they thought our job was over. We know now that no matter how great a candidate is, our job is not over once they’re elected. It’s a 365, 24/7 endeavor in terms of political engagement and opportunity to move the needle for our people and community’s issues we care about.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN Marc, what are your thoughts on that?
MARC STEINER Well, I think you have to start with— I think Trump’s base is solid behind Trump. I mean, they love Trump. They love him because they see him as an outsider. They see him as somebody who speaks to their gut and heart. And so, he has in his grasp at least a large plurality, a significant plurality of the white vote in the United States. And he starts there, and they’re not going anywhere. Some of them might go, if some of the Democratic candidates—They might drift over to Biden, some of them. They might drift over with Bernie Sanders perhaps. And if you look at those interesting people around the country that I’m really interested in seeing who they are and what they think, there’s this whole body of voters— and if this is too much of a digression, you could stop me, Jacqueline— but there’s this whole body of voters that I am really interested in who voted for Obama twice, voted for Trump, and then voted for the Democratic Party in the congressional elections. And they’re mostly white and they’re mostly working class. They’re the group in terms of their volatility in this election on the Trump side that could fall either way. That’s the group that I think is critical and really important that people have to understand.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN So, do you think that’s the root because now you’ve brought up the issue of Bernie Sanders’s town hall on Fox News?
MARC STEINER Oh, yeah. Yeah.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN Is that that so-called magic group that could be swayed by Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren— let’s say it’s her if she continues to surge— can be swayed by that kind of a message?
MARC STEINER Well, I mean, this is where I think the difficulty lies for Democrats because that’s one of the groups. The other group is, there’s another large group, and that’s the group if I have the numbers correct of sixteen million voters who voted in 2008 for Obama, who voted for nobody in 2016.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN Sixteen million?
MARC STEINER Yes. They are young. A percentage of them are not white, but a large percentage of them are. These are the people who wanted real change in America, and I think that they voted for Obama because they saw the embodiment of a new America in a black person, in a black man, and that even if it was unconscious, it was there. And so, those two groups that people don’t talk about very much, you have to do something that speaks to them that brings people out to bring them to that side to vote. Now if it’s Biden, could he do it? It depends. I’m not counting him out on that. I mean, I’m not a huge Biden fan. I mean, I’ve met Biden twice and he seems like a genuinely nice human being, but some of the crap he says and he just recently said, you know, it’s like, come on Joe. You talk about how you want to go have a beer with Eastland? Give me a break. The man runs around with lynch ropes in his pocket.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN Well, you know, Eastland didn’t call him a boy, so—
MARC STEINER He didn’t call him a boy. I guess not. He might have called Cory Booker a boy though. [laughs] So I think that this is going to be a really volatile election and people cannot just assume because Trump acts like a buffoon, that he will not win.
ANOA CHANGA Absolutely.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN You would absolutely agree with that, Anoa?
ANOA CHANGA With the last part, I definitely absolutely agree with that people cannot take Trump for granted because, I mean, think about it. This time and if I have the numbers, he was polling at only one or two percent this time in 2015. There was like no one in their right mind who was predicting anything, saw this surge that happened for Donald Trump. But I think that he’s also an incumbent, and an incumbent has not been unseated since the elder Bush. An incumbent has not been unseated since 1992, so that is something that also has to be considered. And if the right outreach, engagement, and support organizing is not happy at the base building, is not happening in the communities that we need to turn out. You know, I appreciate Marc referencing the two groups that he referenced. He also had a large segment of voters across the Midwest— black, working-class, other folks across the Midwest across the board who just did not vote, who had voted previously in 2016. You had folks in Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Florida. Even though people always harp on, you know, the margin that Trump won by in Green Party voters, you had a much larger voter population in Michigan who completely just blanked out and didn’t vote for anyone for president and voted the rest of the ticket down. So there are a lot of people for a lot of different reasons, that did not vote.
What I do believe is the common thread across all of those indicators and people, and there’s all the different ways you could do vote targeting and different things when you start doing your field operations and stuff, but I do believe that if we have someone who is strong on the issues that are mattering—And we’re talking about health care, we’re talking about, you know, real conversations around immigration, a real conversation around criminal justice— well, criminal injustice, the current legal system, however you want to frame it— education, jobs, right. We’re having real, honest conversations about these issues in a way that’s easy to understand and discernible to the people that we need to turn out. We’ll see these different groups because the rationale is: people voted for Obama, they voted for Trump because Trump promised, you know, something different and people were struggling economically. If that really is true, that hypothesis is true, then having a strong candidate that’s really speaking and talking to people about these particular issues, then they will vote for that person. Otherwise, it’s the other stuff about Trump that really actually, you know, piqued their fancy.
Racism is not some cut and dry thing that people who are racist—This notion that oh, they can’t really be racist because they voted for Obama. You know, that doesn’t really hold up because we understand the way in which even good white people, so-called good white people, are willing to go along with racist things if it meets their needs, as we’ve seen with the conversation that’s happened this week with Joe Biden. So I do agree though with Marc that we cannot underestimate Donald Trump at all, and penalizing or demonizing people who are nonvoters, I mean, a lot of people have a reason and have been awakened and inspired. I’ll share the story of my own, one of my younger brothers, who’s 30, who had voted for the first time in 2018 for Stacey Abrams here in Georgia. He’s never really seen a point in voting before, but really seeing this scourge and what was happening, he was like, we have to do something. I was like, yes and go spread the word with your friends. And there are people who are really, actually awakened and being engaged.
We also have the Gen Z’s in our generation. My daughter and her friends will be eligible to vote in this primary election coming up in 2020, and they have some real issues and concerns, and they are really fierce. That is the generation that was born either right around September 11th or right after September 11th, and they are fired up, and they are not happy with the way that people have been stewards of their future.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN There are so many different angles and aspects to this upcoming election in 2020, not just focusing on Trump and his ridiculousness and the buffoonery coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue right now because he’s in it and the people surrounding him, but also looking at the Democratic strategy going forward and their road to 2020. But unfortunately, we are out of time. We have to leave this conversation here, but believe me. We will continue looking at how 2020 plays out with the Trump campaign and with whomever is the Democratic presidential nominee. But thank you today to Anoa Changa and Marc Steiner for being with me.
MARC STEINER Pleasure that I could be here.
ANOA CHANGA Thank you.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN And thank you for watching. This is Jacqueline Luqman, and this is The Real News Network.