Guest Post by Experienced Washington Hand
Neil Offen would qualify as an “experienced Washington hand.” He was Secretary General of the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations and CEO of the Direct Selling Association until he retired in 2011. In those roles he looked after his members’ interests in Washington.
He now serves as a board member of Nu Skin Enterprises and Christel House International.
He has more than 40 years experience in Washington, which more than qualifies him to make the observations that he has kindly permitted me to share with you.
We have also been friends for several years. The rest of this article is his take on the coming election.
Many of you, especially those of you abroad, have asked me on a number of occasions for my assessment of the press coverage of the election and my prognostication for the results in November.
The following are my off the top of my head opinions.
- Traditionally, US presidential campaigns become the focus of the electorate after our Labor Day holiday, a day that signals the end of our summer vacation period. Folks, except for those of us who are political news junkies, are too busy with summertime activities and vacations to bother to focus on news, including political items…except for the convention shows, which reportedly draw 8%-10% of the population. Polls now are relevant primarily for fundraising and strategy purposes. For example, if they meant more than that at this stage both McCain and Romney would have been elected president.
- As to how people get their news, in these days of the 7/24 news cycles, most Americans gravitate to the news sources that reflect their predispositions, e.g., conservatives are drawn to Fox News, liberals to NBC and MSNBC. CNN is considered left of center in its orientation and coverage. On radio, the talk show jocks, who are mostly conservatives or worse, serve up opinions as news. NPR is considered left wing and for elitists.
- There are very few newspapers that do true, objective journalism and have reputations for it. Except for a few papers in major cities, local newspapers are generally an embarrassment, using the AP for a few national news stories. Nationally you have the Post, the Times (our national paper of substance) and then USAToday and the Wall Street Journal (an excellent national paper with the newsroom truly separated from its editorial staff).
- Most newspapers and news magazines are in financial distress. Even the flagships like the Washington Post (saved by Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame) and the New York Times are having financial difficulties. Advertising has been on the decline for years. The ability of newspapers to have sound staffs and resources to conduct in-depth research or investigative journalism has been eviscerated to a very shameful degree.
- Television news is still dominated from the number of viewers point of view by the four major broadcast networks with the big three nightly news shows of ABC, CBS and NBC, the major sources of information for the public. Not sure how Fox stacks up in the ratings.
- Twitter, social media and the other Internet communications vehicles are a bit unknown to me re their political impacts. My daughter is worried about Trump’s huge Twitter following, millions more than Hillary has. I responded to her asking aren’t these mostly young people and, if so, will they vote in November? Also, wouldn’t many of them be on his twitter network more for its entertainment value rather than for solid information? I just don’t know enough about this communications vehicle and it does concern me. I do know that young people have a bad record of voter turnout in this country but who can say this time around. I worry that Bernie’s people will sit out November 8, perhaps costing millions of votes that otherwise might have been Hillary’s.
- Finally, our president and vice president are elected by our Electoral College, which consists of the votes of our 50 states and the District of Columbia. There are 538 electors, based on the number of Representatives and Senators in Congress in each state plus three votes for D.C. With the exception of two states (Maine and Nebraska), it is winner take all in each state based on the popular vote. Having said that, most states are overwhelming red (Republican) or blue (Democratic) in every presidential election. Consequently, only a few states are normally in play (called battleground states) and are critical for a candidate to win. This election, I have grouped the states in play in the order of importance as I see it. They are Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia, followed by North Carolina, Michigan, Colorado and then Wisconsin and Nevada. Others perhaps in play might be Iowa and Minnesota. The candidates will be focused on the first four and the next three. The states not mentioned will be generally ignored, though Trump might try to steal NY from Democratic-Hillary grasp. I have trouble believing that Trump can win Florida, Virginia and Ohio (the latter being absolutely crucial for Trump to win).
As I have said numerous times, I believe Trump will self-destruct, which he now seems to be doing. I truly believe he has clinical mental problems. While I do not think many Republicans will vote for Hillary, I believe that some will vote Libertarian or not vote at all. I also fear that many, if not most, Bernie supporters will stay home and not vote. Latest talk in DC today is whether Trump might eventually drop out (unheard of but this is a unique campaign). Mainstream Republicans are beside themselves in frustration and anger. Mainstream news media outlets are all over the Donald. Republican Party leaders are beginning to condemn him. Veterans groups as well. Everyone has a theory as to how this could happen, none of which reflect kindly on the Republican Party.
Last thought: Dems take the Senate and some gains in the House but not enough to take back control (due to gerrymandering and campaign financing). In any event, Washington will continue to be fairly dysfunctional due to our system of checks and balances, which I sincerely thank our founding fathers for concocting!
Hope the above proved interesting. Got to get back to CNN and my political incoming emails.
Warm regards. Neil
Richard Meyer, August 06, 2016 at 7:40 pm said:
Very good analysis of the media and the campaign , and of Mr. Trump, our Berlusconi.
Haven Pell, August 08, 2016 at 7:11 pm said:
If clowns are paving the way imagine what the next wave of clowns will look like
Barrett Seaman, August 06, 2016 at 10:04 pm said:
A pretty good analysis, but one that in this volatile environment in which there is no definable news cycle and hundreds of thousands of committed believers operating in isolated silos, moods and pill numbers can change dramatically, I have to see this as a snapshot.
Haven Pell, August 08, 2016 at 7:10 pm said:
a snapshot it definitely is. Imelda Marcos is the only person who ever had enough shoes to drop in this election.
Dale Jenkins, August 06, 2016 at 10:17 pm said:
All this confirms my view that we are in the grip of the media. TV networks and cable are making a fortune on this campaign. How else can the anchors be paid $5 million, $10 million, $20 million a year? The only intelligent thing out of Donald Trump’s mouth in the last year was when he asked a debate sponsor to make a $5 million contribution to charity as a result of their increased advertising revenues generated by the ratings of the debates. Did that happen? Forget it. Presidential elections in the US are multi-billion dollar businesses, and there’s plenty of money sloshing around – you just have to be like a mosquito and get your proboscis into a fat artery to get your share. The English just changed prime ministers in a week – quietly and with dignity. No wonder they have lasted nearly a thousand years. Also,
And speaking of the others – what LibertyPell called the vertebrtes – the people who do their best to live decently and honestly – suppose one was a US intelligence agent operating in Russia, N. Korea, Iran or China doing his best in the service of the US. Then there was a knock on the door at 3:00 AM as a result of one of Hillary’s top-secret emails being hacked revealing the agent’s identity. What does she say when confronted with the news that the guy’s fingernails were pulled out with pliers? “Sorry about that.” We haven’t heard much about the content of the emails, have we?
Haven Pell, August 08, 2016 at 7:09 pm said:
Dale, the election industry has gotten far too little scrutiny perhaps because there are far too many interests involved.
Joe Brodecki, August 07, 2016 at 9:15 pm said:
What an election! On one hand the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t (though we are beginning to learn more about him). On the other hand, Einstein’s definition of insanity is a warning against electing the devil we know.
We are all looking for direction from ‘Liberty Pell’.
Haven Pell, August 08, 2016 at 7:07 pm said:
Johnson Weld. The question of whether then can win seems to dominate over the question of whether they should win. That seems sort of silly when they are on all of the state ballots and voters hate the other two candidates so much
Jim Schutze, August 08, 2016 at 10:32 am said:
I have been a local newspaper reporter all my life. I know that if an orange-faced crazy person ran for mayor and garnered impressive support in a primary, my basic story sense would be that orange person was not the story. The story would be the people who voted for the orange person. What’s going on in our city that makes so many voters like the idea of having an orange crazy person for mayor? Who are these people? What’s ticking there? There has to be a reason. And I don’t mean some stupid Jay Leno microphone in the face man-on-the-street mockery but a serious analysis of the underlying causes of the orange phenomenon. It really worries me that I see so little of that in anybody’s Trump coverage. I have my own uneducated ill-informed guesses about why. I think major media, stumbling for all the reasons cited above, are afraid that real in-depth coverage of the Trump vote would offend some significant share of the already waning audience. But I Think it’s positively scary that ae know so little about why Trump is happening.
Haven Pell, August 08, 2016 at 7:03 pm said:
Jim, This is not the answer to your question but it does contribute to an answer. http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/trump-us-politics-poor-whites/ Sadly, Trump is a poor champion for their cause, but he appears to be the best available champion at the moment. My guess is we should all read Hillbilly Elegy. Here is a quote from the author of the book. “I was speaking with a friend the other night, and I made the point that the meta-narrative of the 2016 election is learned helplessness as a political value. We’re no longer a country that believes in human agency, and as a formerly poor person, I find it incredibly insulting. To hear Trump or Clinton talk about the poor, one would draw the conclusion that they have no power to affect their own lives. Things have been done to them, from bad trade deals to Chinese labor competition, and they need help. And without that help, they’re doomed to lives of misery they didn’t choose.”
Jim Schutze, August 09, 2016 at 9:49 am said:
“Learned helplessness” is a scary concept, indeed.
Haven Pell, August 09, 2016 at 9:54 am said:
It sure bothers me and it definitely makes it harder for those who support programs that help people who genuinely need help.
beth, November 25, 2016 at 9:53 pm said:
Jim, I have been reading NakedCapitalism.com for the last 4 1/2 yrs and it has given me all the reasons that Trump won. It’s heads above the usual conversations on the net and is moderated w/i a set of rules. Everyone is not required to agree with the moderators but must support their positions with facts and links. Each day you can pick the links you are interested in since for most of us do not have time to read it all. One of the highest rated websites out there.
Haven Pell, November 26, 2016 at 6:30 pm said:
Excellent suggestion, Beth. Many thanks
Charles Atkinson, August 08, 2016 at 5:03 pm said:
I too see no option other than Johnson-Weld — knowing first hand as well other sociopathic personalities not even including Trump or the Clintons.
I think the Commerical Business Model of Trump with no “Moral Compass” and the Political Philanthropic Commercial Personal Business Model of the Clintons with a keen “Moral Compass” that is on the “Fritz” are so grotesque that we will all have to avoid hoping Trump will change or think that holding our noses for the Clintons is remotely a palatable solution.
Haven Pell, August 08, 2016 at 6:54 pm said:
Let’s help Johnson Weld get to the 15% that will put them in the debates