Posts Tagged ‘Trumpism’

Why Trumpism beats Democratic socialism

August 3, 2018

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary victory in a Queens congressional race has been taken to signal a revolution in American politics, the emergence of Democratic socialism as a serious political movement. But while that overstates things, her victory does say something about the two holes in American politics, holes where the votes are to be found.

The first hole concerns social welfare, where her policies aren’t as different from those of President Trump as you might think. The second hole is over nationalism, where she and Trump differ greatly.


How Republics End By Paul Krugman

December 19, 2016


Many people are reacting to the rise of Trumpism and nativist movements in Europe by reading history — specifically, the history of the 1930s. And they are right to do so. It takes willful blindness not to see the parallels between the rise of fascism and our current political nightmare.

But the ’30s isn’t the only era with lessons to teach us. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the ancient world. Initially, I have to admit, I was doing it for entertainment and as a refuge from news that gets worse with each passing day. But I couldn’t help noticing the contemporary resonances of some Roman history — specifically, the tale of how the Roman Republic fell.

Here’s what I learned: Republican institutions don’t protect against tyranny when powerful people start defying political norms. And tyranny, when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade.

On the first point: Roman politics involved fierce competition among ambitious men. But for centuries that competition was constrained by some seemingly unbreakable rules. Here’s what Adrian Goldsworthy’s “In the Name of Rome” says: “However important it was for an individual to win fame and add to his and his family’s reputation, this should always be subordinated to the good of the Republic … no disappointed Roman politician sought the aid of a foreign power.”

America used to be like that, with prominent senators declaring that we must stop “partisan politics at the water’s edge.” But now we have a president-elect who openly asked Russia to help smear his opponent, and all indications are that the bulk of his party was and is just fine with that. (A new poll shows that Republican approval of Vladimir Putin has surged even though — or, more likely, precisely because — it has become clear that Russian intervention played an important role in the U.S. election.) Winning domestic political struggles is all that matters, the good of the republic be damned.

And what happens to the republic as a result? Famously, on paper the transformation of Rome from republic to empire never happened. Officially, imperial Rome was still ruled by a Senate that just happened to defer to the emperor, whose title originally just meant “commander,” on everything that mattered. We may not go down exactly the same route — although are we even sure of that? — but the process of destroying democratic substance while preserving forms is already underway.

Consider what just happened in North Carolina. The voters made a clear choice, electing a Democratic governor. The Republican legislature didn’t openly overturn the result — not this time, anyway — but it effectively stripped the governor’s office of power, ensuring that the will of the voters wouldn’t actually matter.

Combine this sort of thing with continuing efforts to disenfranchise or at least discourage voting by minority groups, and you have the potential making of a de facto one-party state: one that maintains the fiction of democracy, but has rigged the game so that the other side can never win.

Why is this happening? I’m not asking why white working-class voters support politicians whose policies will hurt them — I’ll be coming back to that issue in future columns. My question, instead, is why one party’s politicians and officials no longer seem to care about what we used to think were essential American values. And let’s be clear: This is a Republican story, not a case of “both sides do it.”

So what’s driving this story? I don’t think it’s truly ideological. Supposedly free-market politicians are already discovering that crony capitalism is fine as long as it involves the right cronies. It does have to do with class warfare — redistribution from the poor and the middle class to the wealthy is a consistent theme of all modern Republican policies. But what directly drives the attack on democracy, I’d argue, is simple careerism on the part of people who are apparatchiks within a system insulated from outside pressures by gerrymandered districts, unshakable partisan loyalty, and lots and lots of plutocratic financial support.

For such people, toeing the party line and defending the party’s rule are all that matters. And if they sometimes seem consumed with rage at anyone who challenges their actions, well, that’s how hacks always respond when called on their hackery.

One thing all of this makes clear is that the sickness of American politics didn’t begin with Donald Trump, any more than the sickness of the Roman Republic began with Caesar. The erosion of democratic foundations has been underway for decades, and there’s no guarantee that we will ever be able to recover.

But if there is any hope of redemption, it will have to begin with a clear recognition of how bad things are. American democracy is very much on the edge.

Clinton: Trump campaign built on ‘prejudice and paranoia’

August 25, 2016

Clinton’s Alt-Right Speech Found the Perfect Frame for Trump’s Bigotry

August 25, 2016

By Isaac Chotiner


Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in Reno, Nevada, on Thursday.

Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton issued an extremely effective attack on Donald Trump on Thursday aimed at refocusing the campaign towards Trump’s racism and away from the ongoing “pivot” that he is attempting to execute. With its mix of anecdotes about Trump’s bigotry, and surprising doses of humor, the speech succeeded largely because she appeared so sincere in the utter contempt she displayed for the man she is running against. But the speech also did one other, very important thing.

Clinton’s address was billed as a speech about Trump’s prejudice and his mainstreaming of the “alt-right” voices that support—and now manage—Trump’s campaign. And, indeed, she brought up many of Trump’s racist actions, and commented upon the Breitbart-reading trolls who now feel empowered because of Trump’s political success. But she also kept bringing up another aspect of Trumpism: namely, the things that are simply outrageous, bizarre, paranoid, and strange. She didn’t just mention Trump’s racist birtherism; no, she also mentioned other, random Trump attacks on Obama, such as the one that he founded ISIS. She noted the misogyny of the alt-right, but she also talked about Trump’s attacks on her health. She mentioned Trump’s kind words about Alex Jones, the conspiracist and weirdo whose conspiracy theories and weirdness are often unrelated to race.

More importantly, Clinton directly linked all these things to the temperament of the person who wants to be commander-in-chief. Clinton didn’t present Trump’s racism as merely despicable, although she did do that. She also portrayed it as being part of a larger personality that often appears borderline unstable, and is in no way equipped to be chosen for the most important job on earth. The crucial section of the speech thus came near the end, when she brought these points together:

I’ve stood by President Obama’s side as he made the toughest decisions a Commander-in-Chief ever has to make. In times of crisis, our country depends on steady leadership… clear thinking… and calm judgment… because one wrong move can mean the difference between life and death. The last thing we need in the Situation Room is a loose cannon who can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction, and who buys so easily into racially-tinged rumors. Someone detached from reality should never be in charge of making decisions that are as real as they come. It’s another reason why Donald Trump is simply temperamentally unfit to be President of the United States.

The Clinton campaign has long been faced with the question of whether to portray Trump as a bigot or a madman, a genuine authoritarian or an unstable and ever-changing entertainer. This speech suggested that there is a way to do all of the above.

Isaac Chotiner is a Slate contributor.


Hillary Clinton Says ‘Radical Fringe’ Is Taking Over G.O.P. Under Donald Trump

RENO, Nev. — Hillary Clinton on Thursday delivered a blistering denunciation of Donald J. Trump, saying he had embraced the “alt-right” political philosophy and presenting his choice as an especially ominous turn in a presidential election full of them.

In her most direct critique yet connecting the Trump campaign to white nationalists and the conservative fringe, Mrs. Clinton is framing Mr. Trump’s run as unprecedented in modern politics.


Read the rest:

Charles Krathammer: The coming train wreck

April 8, 2016

By Charles Krauthammer


Yes, the big Wisconsin story is Ted Cruz’s crushing 13-point victory. And yes, it greatly improves his chances of denying Donald Trump a first-ballot convention victory, which may turn out to be Trump’s only path to the nomination.

Nonetheless, the most stunning result of Wisconsin is the solidity of Trump’s core constituency. Fundamentalist Trumpism remains resistant to every cosmic disturbance. He managed to get a full 35 percent in a state in which:

He was opposed by a very popular GOP governor (80 percent approval among Republicans) with a powerful state organization honed by winning three campaigns within four years (two gubernatorial, one recall).

● He was opposed by popular, local, well-informed radio talk show hosts whose tough interviews left him in shambles.

● Tons of money was dumped into negative ads not just from the Cruz campaign and the pro-Cruz super PACs but from two anti-Trump super PACs as well.

New Yorkers welcomed Ted Cruz this week….

And if that doesn’t leave a candidate flattened, consider that Trump was coming off two weeks of grievous self-inflicted wounds — and still got more than a third of the vote. Which definitively vindicated Trump’s boast that if he ever went out in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot someone (most likely because his Twitter went down — he’d be apprehended in his pajamas), he wouldn’t lose any voters.

The question for Trump has always been how far he could reach beyond his solid core. His problem is that those who reject him are equally immovable. In Wisconsin, 58 percent of Republican voters said that the prospect of a Trump presidency left them concerned or even scared.

Cruz scares a lot of people, too. But his fear number was 21 points lower. Moreover, 36 percent of Wisconsin Republicans, facing a general-election choice between Hillary Clinton and Trump, would either vote Clinton, go third party or stay home.

Trump did not exactly advance his needed outreach with his reaction to the Wisconsin result: a nuclear strike on “Lyin’ Ted,” as “a puppet” and “a Trojan horse” illegally coordinating with his super PACs (evidence?) “who totally control him.” Not quite the kind of thing that gets you from 35 percent to 50 percent.

Not needed, say the Trumpites. If we come to Cleveland with a mere plurality of delegates, fairness demands that our man be nominated.

This is nonsense. If you cannot command or cobble together a majority, you haven’t earned the party leadership.

John Kasich makes the opposite case. He’s hanging on in case a deadlocked convention eventually turns to him, possessor of the best polling numbers against Clinton. After all, didn’t Lincoln come to the 1860 convention trailing?

Yes, and so what? The post-1968 reforms abolished the system whereby governors, bosses and other party poo-bahs decided things. In the modern era, to reach down to the No. 3 candidate — a distant third who loses 55 of 56 contests — or to parachute in a party unicorn who never entered the race in the first place would be a radical affront to the democratic spirit of the contemporary nominating process.

A parachute maneuver might be legal, but it would be perceived as illegitimate and, coming amid the most intense anti-establishment sentiment in memory, imprudent to the point of suicide.

Yet even without this eventuality, party suicide is a very real possibility. The nominee will be either Trump or Cruz. How do they reconcile in the end?

It’s no longer business; it’s personal. Cruz has essentially declared that he couldn’t support someone who did what Trump did to Heidi Cruz. He might try to patch relations with some Trump supporters — is Chris Christie’s soul still for sale? — but how many could he peel away? Remember: Wisconsin has just demonstrated Trump’s unbreakable core.

And if Trump loses out, a split is guaranteed. In Trump’s mind, he is a winner. Always. If he loses, it can only be because he was cheated. Heconstantly contends that he’s being treated unfairly. He is certain to declare any convention process that leaves him without the nomination irredeemably unfair. No need to go third party. A simple walkout with perhaps a thousand followers behind will doom the party in November.

In a country where only 25 percent feel we’re on the right track and where the leading Democrat cannot shake the challenge of a once-obscure dairy-state socialist, you’d think the Republicans cannot lose.

You’d be underestimating how hard they are trying.

Will the true believer in American conservatism please stand up — Republicans in full-scale riot as Dems choose between popular Socialist, Hillary Clinton

January 29, 2016

By Charles Krauthammer

It’s hard to believe that the United States, having resisted the siren song of socialism during its entire 20th-century heyday (the only major democracy to do so), should suddenly succumb to its charms a generation after its intellectual demise. Indeed, the prospect of socialist Bernie Sanders, whatever his current momentum, winning the Democratic nomination remains far-fetched.

The Democrats would be risking a November electoral disaster of historic dimensions. Yet there is no denying how far Sanders has pulled his party to the left — and how hard the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton, has been racing to catch up.

The Republicans, on the other hand, are dealing with a full-scale riot. The temptation they face is trading in a century of conservatism for Trumpism.

The 2016 presidential race has turned into an epic contest between the ethno-nationalist populism of Donald Trump and traditional conservatism, though in two varieties: the scorched-earth fundamentalist version of Ted Cruz, and a reformist version represented by Marco Rubio (and several so-called establishment candidates) — and articulated most fully by non-candidate Paul Ryan and a cluster of highly productive thinkers and policy wonks dubbed “reformicons.”

Trump insists that he’s a conservative, but in his pronouncements and policies, conservatism seems more of a rental — a three-story penthouse rental with Central Park-view, to be sure — than an ideological home. Trump protests that Ronald Reagan, too, migrated from left to right. True, but Reagan’s transformation occurred in his 40s — not, as with Trump, in his 60s.

In radically different ways, Trump and Sanders are addressing the deep anxiety stemming from the secular stagnation in wages and living standards that has squeezed the middle and working classes for a generation. Sanders locates the villainy in a billionaire class that has rigged both the economic and political system. Trump blames foreigners, most prominently those cunning Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese and Saudis who’ve been taking merciless advantage of us, in concert with America’s own leaders who are, alternatively, stupid and incompetent or bought and corrupt.

Hence Trump’s most famous policy recommendations: anti-immigrant, including the forced deportation of 11 million people; anti-trade, with a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods and a 35 percent tariff on U.S. manufacturing moved to Mexico; and anti-Muslim, most notoriously a complete ban on entry into the United States. Temporarily only, we are assured, except that the ban applies “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on” — a standard so indeterminate as to be meaningless.

Trump has limited concern for the central tenet of American conservatism (and most especially of the tea party movement) — limited government. The most telling example is his wholehearted support for “eminent domain,” i.e. the forcible appropriation by government of private property. Trump called it “wonderful.”

Trump has not yet called Vladimir Putin wonderful but he has taken a shine to the swaggering mini-czar who seems to run his trains on time. When informed that Putin kills opponents and journalists, Trump’s initial reaction was, “Well, I think that our country does plenty of killing, also,” the kind of moronic what-about-the-Crusades moral equivalence that conservatives have railed against for decades. Although, to be fair, after some prompting, Trump did come out against the killing of journalists.

Cruz is often lumped with Trump in the “anti-establishment” camp. That suited Cruz tactically for a while, but it’s fairly meaningless, given that “establishment” can mean anything these days. And given the huge gulf between the political philosophies of the two men. Cruz is a genuine conservative — austere, indeed radical, so much so that he considers mainstream congressional conservatives apostates. And finds Trump not conservative at all, as he is now furiously, belatedly insisting.

My personal preference is for the third ideological alternative, the reform conservatism that locates the source of our problems not in heartless billionaires or crafty foreigners, but in our superannuated, increasingly sclerotic 20th-century welfare-state structures. Their desperate need for reform has been overshadowed by the new populism, but Speaker Ryan is determined to introduce a serious reform agenda in this year’s Congress — boring stuff like welfare reform, health-care reform, tax reform and institutional congressional reforms such as the return to “regular order.”

Paired with a president like Rubio (or Chris Christie or Carly Fiorina, to go long shot), such an agenda would give conservatism its best opportunity since Reagan to become the country’s governing philosophy.

Unless the GOP takes the populist leap. In which case, a conservative restoration will be a long time coming.

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