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“Not The Worldview Of Most Americans”: Donald Trump Ushers In A New Era Of Pitchfork Populism

Donald Trump became the driving force in U.S. politics by giving voice to anger, fear and resentment that were already there, just below the surface, waiting for their moment and messenger.

At present, Trump’s target is any believer in Islam who seeks to enter the United States. Back in June, he launched his campaign with invective toward any Latino immigrant living in this country without documents. He attacks President Obama less for his policies than for his identity — not for what the president does but for who he is. Trump has made himself the champion of a fading, embattled “us” in a life-or-death struggle against a swarming, threatening “them.”

The blustery billionaire’s “us” is nowhere near a majority of the U.S. electorate, but it might be enough to win him the Republican nomination for president. And even if he falls short, the forces he has loosed will not easily be tamped down.

Trump’s rally Monday in Mount Pleasant, S.C., was a lesson in what his campaign is really about. Just hours earlier, he had issued a statement saying all Muslims should be barred entry to the United States in light of the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist rampage. The subtext was clear: All Muslims are potential terrorists. We have to keep them out.

Some commentators pronounced, for the umpteenth time, that “Trump has finally gone too far.” But the Mount Pleasant crowd apparently thought otherwise.

“I wrote something today that I think is very very salient, very important and probably not politically correct, but I don’t care,” Trump said. Then he read his no-Muslims statement and the crowd responded with a huge, raucous ovation.

And Muslims were not his only target at that rally. He railed at the journalists covering the event, pointing them out at the back of the room and calling them “scum” for supposedly never showing how big his crowds are. He also focused the crowd’s attention on Black Lives Matter protesters in the back of the room, declaring that they should be ejected but treated gently.

Trump’s audience in Mount Pleasant appeared to be overwhelmingly white. If it mirrored his support base in the polls, it was also older and less educated than the Republican electorate as a whole. A vastly wealthy tycoon who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and lives in a Manhattan penthouse has somehow become the unlikely spokesman for a segment of voters who feel most threatened by what the nation has become.

Demographic change means that whites will no longer be the majority by the middle of the century. When you call the electric company to pay a bill, you’re asked to push as a button “ para continuar en español .” Incomes are stagnant except for those at the very top; manufacturing jobs are gone; and if you don’t have a college degree, you’re trapped on the wrong side of the wall between middle-class comfort and lower-class misery.

To add insult to injury, serving his second term as president is a black man who was educated at Ivy League schools and whose father was a Muslim. For Trump’s supporters, it is hard to imagine a more perfect target for fear and loathing.

The people at Trump’s rallies do not necessarily believe he will do all the things he promises. Is it really possible to round up and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants? Will Mexico really pay for building an impenetrable wall along the border? Is it legally or practically feasible to identify and turn back every Muslim seeking entry to the country? Is a pledge to “bomb the s—” out of the Islamic State any different from what Obama is already doing or any more likely to prevent another terrorist attack?

It’s not that Trump will do the impossible, it’s that he might do something .

Trump gives unfiltered voice to the anger and frustration some Americans feel. When he says he refuses to be “politically correct,” what he means is that he rejects the traditional constraints of public discourse. He doesn’t chastise his supporters for racism, nativism or religious bigotry; instead, he validates such views, bringing them out of the closet where they had been hiding.

Whatever happens to Trump’s candidacy, he has exposed a kind of rage that we haven’t seen in many years. His pitchfork populism is not the worldview of most Americans, to be sure. But it is likely to remain a significant political force — even if the Republican establishment somehow quashes the Trump rebellion.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 10, 2015

December 14, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fearmongering, GOP Voters, Muslims | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Familiar Premise Of Free-Market Conservatism”: Iowa’s Radical Privatization Of Medicaid Is Already Struggling

On Jan. 1, 31 days before Iowa caucus-goers cast the first votes of the 2016 presidential race, the state will gain another national distinction, but of a dubious variety: It plans to launch the most sweeping and radical privatization of Medicaid ever attempted.

In an extraordinary social policy experiment, Iowa’s Gov. Terry Branstad (R) is kicking about 560,000 of the state’s poorest residents out of the traditional Medicaid health-care program for the poor and forcing virtually all of them to sign up with private insurers. The trend toward managed care for Medicaid has been underway for decades and some 39 states do it to some extent. But experts inside and outside government say no state has tried to make such a wholesale change so quickly — in Iowa’s case, launching the program fewer than 90 days after signing contracts with private health-care companies.

Iowa is conducting an extreme test of a familiar premise of free-market conservatism: that the private sector is more efficient at management and service delivery than government. But the results so far should give pause to those who automatically make such assumptions. The transition of Iowa’s $4.2 billion Medicaid program has made the rollout of look orderly.

An Iowa administrative law judge late last month recommended that Iowa throw out the contract it awarded to WellCare, one of the four companies hired to manage the new program, noting that the company failed to disclose details of its “integrity agreement” with the federal government after the 2014 convictions of three former executives involving the misuse of Medicaid money. In addition, WellCare had paid $138 million to resolve claims that it overbilled Medicare and Medicaid, and the firm had also hired two former Iowa legislators, who improperly communicated with the Branstad administration during the bidding process.

The Des Moines Register has reported that the four companies selected to operate the Iowa program have had more than 1,500 regulatory sanctions combined and have paid $10.2 million in fines over the past five years. These involved canceled appointments, privacy breaches, untimely processing and failure to obtain informed consent.

The Iowa rollout has been hampered by delays, and some beneficiaries of the program are only now getting their enrollment packets, though the deadline for signing up is Dec. 17. Health-care providers complain that they are being forced to sign incomplete contracts or face a penalty, and they complain that some contracts don’t cover services that had been covered under the existing Medicaid program.

Branstad’s administration has answered critics by saying the new program will save $51 million in its first six months. But he has been unable to come up with documentation to justify the cost savings for Iowa, which already has a low-cost Medicaid system.

Branstad had the authority to implement the new program without input from the state legislature. But officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) were in Iowa this week and will make a ruling next week on whether the plan can proceed.

“The rollout has been an absolute unmitigated disaster,” said Democratic Sen. Joe Bolkcom, the Iowa chamber’s majority whip. “CMS and the Obama administration need to protect vulnerable Iowans from this train wreck.”

Branstad has implicitly acknowledged some difficulty. This week he extended until April the “safe harbor” in which Medicaid providers will receive 100 percent reimbursement regardless of managed-care network.

In response to my inquiry, Branstad’s office sent me to the state’s Department of Human Services, where a spokeswoman, Amy Lorentzen McCoy, said all is well. The state, which now has 12 percent of Medicaid recipients in managed care, would have gone this way anyway, she said, but the urgency increased with the recent Medicaid expansion. (Branstad was one of the few Republican governors to accept the Obamacare expansion of the program.)

Now, as the nation’s attention turns to the Iowa caucuses, Iowans will likely be witnessing either a fight between Branstad and President Obama (if the federal government forces a delay in the Iowa program) or chaos (if the program is allowed to proceed). Other states, such as Kansas and Kentucky, have tried similar experiments, but they either moved more deliberately or didn’t extend the private program to vulnerable populations such as the disabled.

“A lot of issues have been raised with the pace of the rollout” in Iowa, said Julia Paradise, a Medicaid expert with the Kaiser Family Foundation. “The provider networks for the plans have not yet been established. There’s a lot of confusion among beneficiaries.”

Branstad could recognize this, and slow things down. In failing to do so, he’s relying more on dogma — faith that the private sector always does things better — than reality.


By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 11, 2015

December 14, 2015 Posted by | Free Markets, Medicaid Privatization, Terry Branstad | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Middle Ground”: It’s Not Just Donald Trump’s Popularity, But Cruz’s And Carson’s Too That Endanger The GOP

The Republican Party has a problem. And it’s not just about Donald Trump.

But first, let’s talk about Trump. The billionaire candidate is certainly a thorn in the side of the GOP. He’s sucked all the oxygen out of the room in the presidential primaries, and his inflammatory statements are increasingly giving his party a bad reputation. Although prominent Republicans have taken steps to distance themselves from Trump, the party faces increasing criticism for his antics.

But Republicans can’t just shut him out of the race because of the threat of a third-party Trump candidacy. If Trump feels mistreated by the party and ends up running as an independent, the votes he could siphon off from the Republican nominee might lead to a Democratic victory. It’s a conundrum.

There is, though, a bigger problem. According to recent polling, nationwide, Trump’s lead among Republican presidential candidates is 35 percent. His next closest competitor is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose support stands at 16 percent. Third in line is Ben Carson, polling at 13 percent. None of those individuals is generally considered a feasible candidate for a general election. Their positions are so far to the right that if they were to become the Republican nominee, the party would risk alienating the moderate voters needed to win. Unfortunately for the party, their best general election candidates are polling toward the bottom of the pack. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is performing the best at 9 percent, but all the other candidates are at or below 4 percent.

There are some who feel that Trump’s poll numbers don’t tell the whole story and that his lead may be falsely inflated. If that’s true, does that theory also help explain the popularity of the other far right candidates at the top of the polls? Or has the party as a whole moved to the right? If you add up the support for Trump, Cruz and Carson, the numbers seem to indicate that 64 percent of Republicans polled are supporting the most extreme candidates. Even if the rest of the field consolidated, would any of the other candidates be able to garner enough support for the Republican Party to put its most viable candidate forward for the general election?

Whether Trump is the cause or a symptom of the challenges facing the Republican Party is a matter for another day. However, if current poll numbers are to be believed, there doesn’t seem to be much appetite among the party’s base for selecting a nominee that could capture the moderate middle necessary to win an election. That is a bigger problem for the party than Trump could ever be.


By: Cary Gibson, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, December 11, 2015

December 14, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Ted Cruz | , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Imposter Syndrome”: The Profound Insecurity Of Donald Trump

It is a mistake of historians and biographers to ascribe to a person one particular motive force, and then attribute every subsequent action of theirs to that personality trait. In politics, we compound this error by insisting that politicians act only or primarily because they want to get re-elected.

But boy, if persistent and deep insecurity doesn’t push Donald Trump towards those microphones, I don’t know what does. I don’t think it’s narcissism.

Now, of course we all suffer from imposter syndrome, which is the fear that our true level of capability will be exposed and our ability to BS our way out of tough situations will only get us so far.

But Trump has got it really bad.

1. He regularly and repeatedly insists that he is the most brilliant person, has the best memory, the greatest ideas; people who are relatively secure do not need to tell others that they are great, but people who are not secure have to cover a 10-foot gap with a 100-foot bridge, so afraid are they that what they actually have to say is exposing some fundamental flaw. Trump’s use of superlatives belies a rather profound sadness. He desperately NEEDS you to know that he is right.

2. Forget about the financial braggadocio; Trump insists he’s smart because he went to Wharton. He says this whenever someone questions his judgment. “I went to the Wharton School of Business. I’m, like, a really smart person,” is one common formulation.

It’s an axiom: When you have to cite your credentials, you’re afraid that people are discounting them. Wharton is an Ivy; Trump earned his way into the school, at least partly; if he was truly stupid, even his father’s reputation wouldn’t have gotten him in all the way. So getting into Wharton represents something real that Trump accomplished (more or less) by himself. That’s his first line of defense, mind you, when someone questions his ideas.

3. Sudden bursts of brashness. I get that Trump likes attention — we all do — and wants to be the loudest voice in the room — again, that’s not abnormal — and that he understands how to manipulate news cycles. But there’s a deeper reason for his instant recipe policies: He needs the approval of his crowds. It fortifies him against charges that he is empty, dumb, lucky, or a daddy’s boy.

Very fortunately for Trump, a large number of his supporters validate him because they are hypersensitive to sleights against their own status and position in society right now. They’re Christians under attack from secularists; Americans under attack from Muslims; conservatives under attack from their leadership in Congress; white people under attack from minorities; middle-class people under attack from poor people who are slurping up government services at their expense. Like Richard Nixon’s “bundle of resentments” (Rick Perlstein’s phrase), Trump’s bundle of insecurities serve the interests of his potential voters right now.

These are just the macronutrients in Trump’s brew. His penchant for insults — particularly physical insults — is not something that secure people do. Even mean, secure people do not gratuitously insult someone’s appearance because they disagree with them. Mean, insecure people do because they instinctively know how powerful those insults can be, and how they can deflect attention from the flaws of the person who makes them.

Let me list a few other traits of powerful, insecure people:

1. They blurt out things told in confidence.

2. They constantly complain about being treated fairly.

3. They cannot account for anyone else’s successes.

4. They surround themselves with sycophants who pantomime their method of relating to other people.

Donald Trump is just not very comfortable with being Donald Trump. His insecurity is not universal; he does not seem to be terribly obsessed with his hair, or his looks; he doesn’t seem to care about being labeled a bigot or a racist. What he cares about is being seen as smart enough, as someone who worked hard to make it where he has made it.

And hey — he did go to Wharton.


By: Marc Ambinder, The Week, December 11, 2015

December 14, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Wharton School of Business, White Middle Class, White Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trump Is Latest Version Of Long-Held Republican Strategy”: Trumpism Is Embedded In The Republican Party’s DNA

Is Donald Trump so different from Ted Cruz? From Ben Carson?

The Republican establishment is in a panic over the billionaire real estate mogul, whose poll numbers continue to rise despite (or because of) his racist and Islamophobic rhetoric, his lack of interest in the workings of government and his disdain for the boundaries of normal political discourse. Prominent Republicans are said to be mulling whether and when to try to trip Trump, opening a path for a different candidate.

Given the outlines of the GOP presidential contest so far, that would leave either Cruz, the senator from Texas, or Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, to take the lead. (Or perhaps Marco Rubio could edge in as the front-runner.) Currently, according to a Real Clear Politics average of polls, Trump has the allegiance of 30 percent of Republican voters, while Cruz draws 15.6 and Carson and Rubio are tied at 13.6.

Still, is Cruz so much more acceptable? The senator would trample the Constitution to end birthright citizenship and has insisted that Sharia law, a system of Islamic codes, is an “enormous problem” in the United States. Carson, for his part, has ruled Muslims unfit for the Oval Office, in blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution.

That means at least 59 percent of Republicans support a candidate who bitterly disparages President Obama, who would trample the Constitution to discriminate against minority groups and who indulges birtherism — as Trump, Carson and Cruz have done. That’s what the GOP establishment ought to be worried about: its voters.

Of course, prominent Republican figures have pandered to and nurtured those racially tinged grievances in working-class white voters for more than half a century. It’s disingenuous of them to now pretend shock — horreur! — at Trump, who simply refuses to speak the coded language that party elders prefer. His racism and xenophobia are unvarnished, unsophisticated, unveiled.

But Trumpism is embedded in the Republican Party’s DNA, the cornerstone of its modern structure. Desperate to peel working-class whites away from their allegiance to the Democratic Party, associated since Franklin Roosevelt with the interests of the common man, the GOP played to the social and cultural fears and prejudices of less-educated whites with a Southern strategy honed by the late Lee Atwater, once a prominent Republican operative.

As Atwater put it: “By 1968 you can’t say (N-word) –that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites. … ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than (N-word, N-word.)”

Over the years, the Republican Party has refined and broadened that strategy. And it has been used by every Republican presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater, from Richard Nixon (“law and order”) to the sainted Ronald Reagan (states’ rights) to even the genteel George H.W. Bush (Willie Horton), cultivating the loyalty of working-class whites while simultaneously alienating black and brown voters. With the rise of a gay rights movement, homophobia has also become an honored tenet of that strategy.

When the nation elected its first black president in 2008, disaffected working-class whites became ever more resentful, many of them channeling their rage into a tea party movement that pledged to “take back” the country. How did the Republican establishment respond to that? By running from immigration reform, by indulging the birther movement, by disparaging Obama at every turn as a radical who would ruin the country and a weak-kneed coward who would give in to terrorists.

It worked. While a whopping 66 percent of Trump’s supporters believe Obama is a Muslim, a solid 54 percent of Republicans overall think the same thing, polls show. And 54 percent of Republicans also believe no Muslim should be elected president.

So the establishment wants to get rid of Trump? He may leave the race, but Trumpism is likely to linger for a long time.


By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, December 12, 2015

December 14, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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