The end is near …


And by that I mean the end of this year’s tragedy/horror show/circus/train wreck/national disgrace series of presidential debates.

Trump and Clinton square off for the final time on stage in Las Vegas (fitting somehow) tonight, and since throughout this process I’ve strongly urged my students to do their civic duty and tune in, I’ll be watching it too.

As a viewer, there are all kinds of ways to prep. I’m going to follow the lead suggested by the brilliant Wiley above. You might want to as well.

Or you could follow some of the links below:

NPR gives us four things to look for in tonight’s debate. And during the debate they’ll be producing live transcripts and real-time fact checking.

The New York Times also has a preview and summary of the themes they will be watching for in tonight’s debate, from Clinton’s struggle to sound human to the possibility that Trump will take his time at the podium to burn the GOP to the ground.

Finally, if you’re not sure where to find the debate on TV or radio, or if you’re one of those youngsters who consumes all media via streaming the Internet across the screen of your smartphone, Vox has your complete guide to how to watch. You can also read their preview take on the role of tonight’s moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, here.

So buckle in folks. See you on the other side.

About that basket, by the numbers


Vox has produced what looks to me like the definitive summary of the contents of the “basket of deporables” that constitutes Trump’s support for the White House. To summarize, Clinton is right. Here are the details as compiled by Vox.

On Islamophobic attitudes, Clinton may underestimate the breadth of animus for Muslims among Trump backers.

A poll conducted by Reuters and Ipsos in June and July looked at broad views on Islam, finding Trump supporters are more than twice as likely as Clinton supporters to have negative views of Islam. About 58 percent of Trump supporters said they have “somewhat unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” views of Islam, compared to 24 percent of Clinton supporters.

On Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States, a poll in June from the Texas Politics Project showed that 76 percent of Republicans support the idea compared to 26 percent of Democrats. Meanwhile 44 percent of Democrats said they strongly oppose the idea compared to only 6 percent of Republicans.

Trump supporters hold strongly anti-immigrant views more generally, but especially fear the cultural impact of Mexican immigrants specifically.

We do know, based on an analysis by Jonathan Roswell at Gallup, that Trump backers are more likely to live in areas that are farther from Mexico and have smaller Mexican populations. That suggests Trump supporters are generally people who live in native, white communities and may, perhaps, fear those communities are changing.

This is why a Trump surrogate warned that if Clinton wins the election, there will be “taco trucks every corner.” The worry isn’t that delicious food will be everywhere, but that the cultural makeup of America will dramatically change if the country maintains policies that are friendlier to immigration — and it will change to a culture that Trump regularly describes, as he did at the launch of his campaign, as dangerous and criminal.

This complicates Clinton’s claim that up to half of Trump supporters are “xenophobic.” They aren’t in the sense that they don’t seem to mind a French immigrant, even an undocumented one. But many are potentially xenophobic in the sense that they fear Mexican — and perhaps other Latino — immigrants, because of the cultural impact that may have on America.

Trump supporters are also more likely to hold racist views. While Clinton may miss the mark when she claims that half of Trump supporters are racists, she doesn’t miss by much.

A poll from March and April by Reuters and Ipsos took a close look at this issue. It found that Trump supporters are more likely to say that, compared to white people, black people are viewed by Trump supporters as less intelligent, more lazy, more rude, more violent, and more criminal. About 40 to 50 percent of Trump supporters held at least one of these views, while fewer than 35 percent of Clinton supporters did.

Alongside these explicitly racist views, Trump’s white supporters exhibit a far higher rate of what sociologists call racial resentment than do Clinton’s white supporters.

An analysis from Daniel Byrd and Loren Collingwood found white Trump supporters are much more likely to show high levels of racial resentment than Clinton’s white supporters.

Again, white Clinton — and Bernie Sanders — supporters still show fairly high levels of racial resentment, as do white Americans generally. But Trump supporters are simply at another level.

This doesn’t mean that a majority or even half, as Clinton suggested, of Trump supporters are racist. But these views are much more prominent among the Republican nominee’s supporters than those who back the Democrat in the presidential race.

So on the core of Clinton’s charge that half of her opponent’s supporters fall into a “basket of deplorables” based upon their Islamophobic, xenophobic, and racist views, when we look at the data we see she’s mostly right. Sure, that leaves plenty of Republicans and conservatives who are supporting Trump because they believe they have no other choice. He is their nominee after all.

And understandably, these folks resent being associated with the other contents of the basket. Fair enough.

But you can also tell a lot about someone by the company they keep. This is Trump’s company. Republicans should just own it.

I welcome our taco overlords

taco trucksThe race for the White House is over. A Clinton landslide is now a foregone conclusion.

The man we have to thank for that is Marco Gutierrez, founder of Latinos for Trump, who in an interview on MSNBC last night made a dire prediction for the future.

Gutierrez warned that unless Donald Trump were elected president, America would wake up one day to find “taco trucks on every corner.” Based on the memes that flooded my news feeds this morning, to say that this caused a ripple on social media might be an understatement.

NPR has some of the the highlights.

Check out the threat for yourself:

As Politico reported, this comes on the heels of the implosion of what little Hispanic support Trump had following his brief visit to Mexico and hardline speech on immigration in Arizona.

I don’t know about you, but after this, November 8 can’t come soon enough. I welcome the arrival of our taco overlords.

A Michigan tie to Trump’s brain trust

Trump would kill for so qualified a brain trust.
Trump would kill for so qualified a brain trust.


Over at the Washington Post, fellow academic Dan Drezner has for months now been making something of a cottage industry of flagging the fourth tier lack of qualifications and/or horrifying background of Donald Trump’s circle of foreign policy advisors and surrogates.

I’ve raised my own concerns about Trump’s foreign policy ideas here and here. In case you need a refresher, here is an updated list of the highlights of the billionaire blowhard’s agenda. He would:

  • Authorize torture against terrorism suspects.
  • Order the US military to commit war crimes.
  • Abandon longstanding alliances, like NATO.
  • Abandon longstanding allies to the tender mercies of predatory neighbors.
  • Walk away from defense commitments to South Korea and Japan even if that means they develop nuclear weapons of their own.
  • Wage trade wars against China and other countries he deems guilty of engaging in unfair trade practices.
  • Close America’s border with Mexico and confiscate remittances from Mexican workers in the US in order to fund the building of Trump’s border wall.
  • Bar Muslim immigrants and refugees from US soil.
  • Introduce an ideological litmus test for immigrants and their American-born children.
  • Try American citizens accused of terrorism before military tribunals.

Until now, though, I haven’t weighed in on Trump’s advisory team, leaving that scathing commentary in the capable hands of Drezner and others. But then I saw this tweet float across my feed:

Turns out the ex-congressman from west Michigan, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was part of a group of national security and foreign policy “experts” flown to Trump Tower yesterday to meet with the candidate and his campaign chiefs to discuss strategies to combat Islamic terrorism.

Hoekstra on the size of Trump's hands?
Hoekstra on the size of Trump’s hands?

Hoekstra told the Detroit News the Trump team put on a “flawless” meeting. At least that’s one thing the fumbling campaign can apparently pull off.

But back to the main point. If Hoekstra, who had endorsed Ohio Gov. John Kasich during the primaries, has now signed on to Trump’s foreign policy team, we owe it to ourselves to take a look at his qualifications and see if his presence can elevate the overall quality of the crew he’s joining.

A look at his record as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and his post-political career, shows that he really is a great fit for Team Trump:

  • In 2006 Hoekstra claimed that weapons of mass destruction had in fact been found in Iraq, claims that were trumpeted by Fox News but disputed by the Pentagon and intelligence community and  debunked by other media organizations.
  • In 2006, against the advice and with the opposition of the director of national intelligence, Hoekstra spearheaded the creation of a public online archive of intelligence data collected in Iraq called the “Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal” which according to the New York Times included “documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.” The website was subsequently shut down.
  • In 2006 a report released by Hoekstra’s committee on Iran’s nuclear weapons program was blasted by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, as “incorrect and misleading” and described the report’s claims as “outrageous and dishonest.”
  • In 2007 Hoekstra signed on to a letter critical of the Islamic Society of North America, the country’s largest Muslim organization, describing ISNA as “an organization with extremist origins, leadership and a radical agenda.”
  • In 2009 Hoekstra used an alleged connection between failed underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Yemen to block the repatriation of 80 Yemeni prisoners that were being held at Guantanamo.
  • In 2010, he stepped down from Congress to run unsuccessfully for governor of Michigan, then in 2012 ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate. The most notable moment in that lackluster campaign was a controversial Hoekstra television ad aired during the 2012 Super Bowl which was roundly criticized as disturbingly racist in its virulent anti-Chinese imagery and stereotyping.
  • In 2015 Hoekstra published his first book, “Architects of Disaster: The Destruction of Libya,” in which he argued that the United States should not have supported the toppling of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi since the dictator had been a friend and ally of the U.S. whose overthrow destabilized the region and transformed it into a terrorist sanctuary.

So yeah, on reflection, Hoekstra fits right in with the rest of Trump’s crack foreign policy team.