Saturday, August 06, 2016

Master of Disaster

Michael Bay, get a cold drink. Steven Soderbergh, take the day off. Roland Emmerich, head to the beach. You guys think you've pushed the envelope to the limit, that there's no one better at creating angst for humanity. But in spite of your collective body of work, from "Armageddon" to "Contagion" to "The Day After Tomorrow," you don't hold a candle to what has to be the best practitioner of the disaster genre wherein mankind is about to be obliterated.

That's because the scenarios represented in those films are just a few ants at a picnic compared to the tale being spun in my inbox. The subject lines tell the story, always in breathless all caps: "ALL HOPE IS LOST." "WORSE POSSIBLE NEWS." "TRAGIC LOSS." If I'm smart, I'll take my lead from Lars von Trier and his apocalyptic film "Melancholia." Not to give away the story if you haven't seen it, but with the end of the world approaching Kirsten Dunce decides the best way to greet it is to have a picnic with her nephew. Thankfully, our nephew is a chef, so I'll ask him to cater a party on the evening of November 8. For that's the night the world will come to an end, or at least that's what will happen if I don't give a dollar to the Democratic Campaign Committee.

Let me say this very clearly: I'm not here to debate politics. For sure, I have a point of view, and indeed, most of those I talk with do as well. Nor am I talking about the systems in place. Let the party loyalists on both sides decide if things worked as they were supposed to, or it all reared up to bite them in the ass. But while the outcome may have been more unexpected on the Republican side than on the Democratic, events actually followed procedures put in place years ago. One by one, Clinton and Trump triumphed in certain individual state contests, amassed more votes and delegates than any other contender, and were awarded their respective winner's cups. When you strip it down to that essence, both went the way they were supposed to go regardless of your perception of the victors.

What I'm talking about is the money race. At least up to this cycle, cash has always been as important as policies, and maybe more so. You can deride the impact of dollars on the political process, but it's utilitarian nature is undeniable. It determines where and when a candidate can communicate with voters, hold rallies and print signs. More money simply means more exposure. And so candidates and their surrogates spend as least as much time raising funds as they do developing position papers and maybe more.

In that light, if cash is king, Hillary is emperor. While he has nearly caught up in the most recent period, reports to the Federal Election Commission detail that through the end of June she raised $386 million as opposed to $94 million for Trump, a differential of more than 4 to 1. And yet Trump rendered that mostly moot. Through his command of social media, and his ability to attract the more traditional type, he dominated the discussion. He garnered untold amounts of free airtime, enabling him to spread his words at a fraction of the cost vs. any other candidate. You can argue with his message, deride his simplistic slogans, scoff at his lack of detailed plans, but you can't dispute the effectiveness with which he was able to disseminate all of them for a relative pittance.

Hillary's campaign, by contrast, is a more traditional model, albeit one outfitted with modern trappings. That means huge amounts of cash for the media buys and associated costs. And so while Trump's campaigning style is "any way any time" in the most over the top fashion, Hillary's fund raising uses that same approach. During the two weeks when the conventions were going on, I got a relative few from Trump. I got 5 fund requests a day from the Democrats, sometimes more. And hyperbole was the operating motif.

Again, political outlook aside, there are plenty of underlying possible reasons: his lack of operation or her institutional support, his unusual campaign or her grassroots organization. But whatever it is, it seems I've finally stumbled upon an area where, at least compared to the competition, the Donald is demure.


Marc Wollin of Bedford is as distressed as many about the state of political affairs. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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