Monday, May 16, 2016

What You See

(Soundbite of TV show, "Good Morning America")

George Stephanopoulos: What is your tax rate?

Donald Trump: It's none of your business. You'll see it when I release, but I fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible.

Renee Montagne: OK. Well, go ahead. Will Donald Trump's supporters care about his taxes?

Cokie Roberts: His supporters probably don't, but other people do. Look, this idea that it's none of your business is really not something that a presidential candidate can say. Everything is our business when somebody is running for president. What we know about the vote for president is that it is for the person, not for the policies.
This Week In Politics: Another Round Of Primaries
The degree to which any aspect of a candidate's life is the public's business is directly proportional to the degree that the "wrong" answer to a question results in more votes than simply not answering the question. Despite Ms. Roberts contention that members of the public "need to know everything about that person," when someone is running for President, the fact of the matter remains that this is only relevant when answering questions is the best way to win the race.

Donald Trump will be running for President of the United States in such a polarized atmosphere that it's unlikely that people will be making a choice between him and Hillary Clinton based on who has the best tax returns. By the same token people who are really invested in having a Republican President (or simply not having a Democratic one) are unlikely to "stay home" simply because Donald Trump refused to answer, one, the other, or even a dozen questions put to them by members the media - especially if they understand "the media" to be part of a hateful liberal cabal that looks down upon them.

Politicians tend to answer questions when it helps them - when the answers bolster their following by giving their supporters the feeling that they've made the correct choice or help them to feel better about themselves. And they tend to stay silent for the same reasons. And Donald Trump, having quite a bit of experience being a media personality, likely understands this very well. And he also likely understands the best answers to give - and the best non-answers. Sure, he has made some mistakes, but I would wager that his answer to George Stephanopoulos was calculated. Time will tell if his math is better than Ms. Roberts. And I don't mean whether or not he wins, but how well he does overall, and the reasons people give for their own votes for and against him. While it's unlikely that a lot of exit polls will ask about tax returns specifically, and so there will be a lot of guesswork involved, there should be some indication as to whether or not people think they understand Donald Trump well enough that he doesn't need to show more of himself.

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