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“The GOP Owns This Phenomenon”: Donald Trump Is Merely The Symptom. The Republican Party Itself Is The Disease

We no longer have to speculate whether fascism, in Sinclair Lewis’ famous words, would come to America wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. We already know what its beginnings look like in the form of Trump rallies, which are carrying an increasingly violent, overtly racist, authoritarian aura strongly reminiscent of the 1930s in Germany or Italy.

Those comparisons were once the province of liberal activists or traffic-seeking headline writers. No longer. The incipient racist violence has reached such a fever pitch that a Trump rally in Chicago had to be canceled entirely. It’s one thing to talk in theoretical or strictly political terms about Trump’s authoritarian behavior, his effect on the Republican Party generally or the potential feasibility of Trump’s policy proposals. But the influence of Trumpism on the country is already so obviously toxic and dangerous that it must be called out and mitigated before people start getting seriously hurt or killed.

That’s just the basic decency aspect. Politically, the Republican Party knows that it has to do something to separate itself from the wildfire of racially charged violence or else lose the votes of every minority constituency for a generation. It’s not just for temporary personal advantage that the other GOP presidential candidates are calling on Trump to act to mitigate the rabid passions of his flock. Those who still have careers to make in Republican politics know that this a point of no return for the entire party and every connected to it.

But try as they might, they will not be able to escape from Trumpism. Even if the Republican establishment does somehow manage to subdue Trump, another will likely come to take his place later on. The genie is out of the bottle, and hucksters of all kinds now realize that the populist GOP base can easily be cleaved from its corporatist handlers with enough brash promises of independence and open bigotry under the guise of truth-telling.

That’s not the fault of Donald Trump. It’s the fault of the GOP itself, for three main reasons.

First, the Republican Party abandoned the notion of shared truths and shared reality. They set up an alternative media empire and convinced their voters that every set of authorities from journalists to scientists were eggheaded liberals not to be trusted. They peddled conspiracy theories and contrafactual dogmas of all stripes–from the notion that climate scientists were all lying about global warming in order to get more grant money, to the notion that tax cuts for the rich grow the economy and pay for themselves. Their base became convinced that no one could be trusted except for the loudest and angriest voices who told them exactly what they wanted to hear. Fox News, talk radio and the Drudge Report became the only trusted media sources. But at a certain point those outlets stopped becoming the media arm of the Republican Party; instead, the Republican Party became the legislative arm of those media outlets. It should come as no surprise that when the Republican establishment seemed unable to deliver on its promises to their voters, conspiracy theory peddlers new and old from Breitbart to Drudge would turn on the establishment and convince the GOP masses that Fox News was the new CNN, just another liberal arm of the media not to be trusted.

Second is, of course, the Southern Strategy of exploiting racial resentment. That worked just fine for Republicans while whites were the dominant majority under no particular threat. It was a great way to win elections in much of the country while discounting voters who couldn’t do them much damage. As long as the rhetoric remained, in Lee Atwater’s words, “abstract” enough, the tensions created wouldn’t boil over into anything much more damaging than the slow, quiet destruction of generations of minority communities via legislatively enforced instituional racism. But as whites have become a smaller and smaller part of the electorate, that Southern Strategy has not only cost the GOP elections by throwing away the minority vote; it has also heightened the fears and tensions of the formerly dominant white voters it courts. What was once quiet and comfortable racism has become a loud and violent cry of angst. That, again, isn’t Donald Trump’s fault. It’s the Republican Party’s.

Third and most important is the effect of conservative economics. For decades laissez-faire objectivism has hurt mostly the poorest and least educated communities in America. Due mostly to institutional racism, those have tended in the past to be communities of color. The deregulated economy simply didn’t need their labor so it tossed them aside, leaving squalor and a host of social problems in its wake. This was convenient for those peddling racist theories, as it laid the blame for drug and family problems in those communities directly on the individuals involved–and by extension on their racial background.

But now a combination of globalization and automation, buoyed by intentional deregulatory corporatist policies, have rendered large swaths of white America also useless to the capitalist economic machine. And lo and behold, drug use, suicide and other social problems have followed in tow. Huge numbers of white Americans now find themselves trapped in a cycle of poverty and despair once reserved for the minorities they despised, without even the psychic wage of perceived racial superiority to maintain their dignity. That, too, is a recipe for violent tension.

Don’t blame Donald Trump for any of this. He’s merely the symptom, not the disease. The Republican Party owns this phenomenon. Its media, economic and political strategies guaranteed Donald Trump’s rise. And they guarantee that regardless of Trump’s electoral success or failure, Trumpism will continue to dominate among their voters.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 12, 2016

March 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fascism, GOP, Institutional Racism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What Are Trump Fans Really ‘Afraid’ To Say?”: Trump Supporters Are Leading Him As Much As Following Him

Rhinestones twinkling around the perimeter of her shades, cornsilk curls undaunted by the Pensacola sun, Elizabeth Kemper, a supporter of Donald J. Trump, is all certainty. She is fed up. “You know, this country is so dang political correct,” she tells a CNN reporter. “I’m afraid to say what I really feel, you know?”

On her shirt, a silhouette of Mr. Trump’s head nestles in the protective crook of the state of Florida, his face turned stalwartly eastward, away from Mexico, his Mordor.

Ms. Kemper is blazing, passionate, incredulous. “I think this country better go back to some of those values. Some of the values my parents grew up with, my grandparents grew up with,” she says. “Whatever was wrong, they could point it out and tell you.”

The notion that Mr. Trump voices ideas that his supporters are “afraid” to express, vital truths lost to the scourge of political correctness, has been a rhetorical through-line of his campaign. Mr. Trump says exactly what he thinks, his fans gush — about immigrants, about Muslims, about women — a bygone pleasure now denied most Americans.

It’s an odd construction. Once you say, “He says what I’m afraid to say,” and point to a man who is essentially a 24/7 fire hose of unequivocal bigotry, you’ve said what you’re afraid to say, so how afraid could you have been in the first place? The phrase is a dodge, a way to acknowledge that you’re aware it’s a little naughty to be a misogynist xenophobe in 2016, while letting like-minded people know, with a conspiratorial wink, that you’re only pretending to care. It’s a wild grab for plausible deniability — how can I be a white supremacist when I’m just your nice grandpa? — an artifact of a culture in which some people believe that it’s worse to be called racist than to be racist.

Trump fans are flattering themselves if they think that, say, declining to shout slurs at black people or sexually harass female co-workers is some form of noble restraint. Not only is that a pathetically low bar, many do not seem to be clearing it. Video of a Trump rally in Kentucky on Super Tuesday shows a student named Shiya Nwanguma being shoved and jostled. She reported being called a racial epithet as well as an abusive term for the female anatomy. Video from a North Carolina rally on Wednesday shows a white Trump supporter punching a black protester in the face. One glance at your worst relative’s Facebook page, one toe dipped into the toxic sludge-fire that is pro-Trump Twitter, and it’s abundantly obvious that no one is holding much back.

It’s tempting to declare that the Internet isn’t real life, that online hate isn’t a credible barometer for offline behavior. But human beings built the Internet, we populate it, we set its tone, and collectively we’ve designated it a major engine of discourse. It’s been my experience that anonymity makes people more honest, more themselves. If you applaud the sentiment that “when Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” and “they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists,” from the mouth of a presidential candidate, why should I believe you aren’t saying worse in the privacy of your home?

Mr. Trump isn’t saying anything that his supporters wouldn’t. He hasn’t let an explicit racial slur slip on the campaign trail. It’s the other way around. They’re laying bare the subtext of his speech and policies, revealing how they appear to angry white people primed and frustrated by the past century of Republican dog-whistling. They’re saying what Mr. Trump can’t.

Regardless, even if Trump supporters were managing to toe some politically correct line with their words, they speak as clear as day with their votes.

A voter whose preferred immigration policy involves “a wall” and “a list” makes it clear where he stands on the humanity of refugees. A voter who thinks it’s perfectly reasonable not to immediately disavow the support of a white nationalist makes it clear where she stands on the Black Lives Matter movement. A voter who feels well represented by a candidate who has called women “fat pigs” and “dogs” makes it clear he is not to be trusted when it comes to women’s health.

It doesn’t take clairvoyance, or even tremendous mental dexterity, to see what Mr. Trump means by “make America great again.” It just takes a history book. Many of us remember what America used to be like, and don’t care to go back.

Some of Mr. Trump’s loudest critics come from the groups he’s built his campaign on demonizing — black people, Latinos, Muslims, women — historically marginalized groups whose voices are reaching wider audiences thanks to the democratizing power of the Internet. Political correctness is construed, deliberately and effectively, by its opponents as an attack on fun, but it’s really an attack on the status quo that made Mr. Trump both very wealthy and a viable presidential candidate.

We cannot ignore the fact that the populist sensation of this election hasn’t been Bernie Sanders. It’s been a racist, nationalist demagogue-for-hire with no sincere ideology beyond his own vanity. Mr. Trump is a cipher; his voters love him because he does nothing but hold up a mirror to their basest prejudices and bask in the feedback loop of narcissism. They’re not “afraid”; they’re leading Mr. Trump as much as following him. They called him into being, not the other way around.

 

By: Lindy West, Columnist with The Guardian; Opinion Pages, The New York Times, March 11, 2016

March 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Political Correctness, Trumpeteers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trade And Tribulation”: Protectionists Almost Always Exaggerate The Adverse Effects Of Trade Liberalization

Why did Bernie Sanders win a narrow victory in Michigan, when polls showed Hillary Clinton with a huge lead? Nobody really knows, but there’s a lot of speculation that Mr. Sanders may have gained traction by hammering on the evils of trade agreements. Meanwhile, Donald Trump, while directing most of his fire against immigrants, has also been bashing the supposedly unfair trading practices of China and other nations.

So, has the protectionist moment finally arrived? Maybe, maybe not: There are other possible explanations for Michigan, and free-traders have repeatedly cried wolf about protectionist waves that never materialized. Still, this time could be different. And if protectionism really is becoming an important political force, how should reasonable people — economists and others — respond?

To make sense of the debate over trade, there are three things you need to know.

The first is that we have gotten to where we are — a largely free-trade world — through a generations-long process of international diplomacy, going all the way back to F.D.R. This process combines a series of quid pro quos — I’ll open my markets if you open yours — with rules to prevent backsliding.

The second is that protectionists almost always exaggerate the adverse effects of trade liberalization. Globalization is only one of several factors behind rising income inequality, and trade agreements are, in turn, only one factor in globalization. Trade deficits have been an important cause of the decline in U.S. manufacturing employment since 2000, but that decline began much earlier. And even our trade deficits are mainly a result of factors other than trade policy, like a strong dollar buoyed by global capital looking for a safe haven.

And yes, Mr. Sanders is demagoguing the issue, for example with a Twitter post linking the decline of Detroit, which began in the 1960s and has had very little to do with trade liberalization, to “Hillary Clinton’s free-trade policies.”

That said, not all free-trade advocates are paragons of intellectual honesty. In fact, the elite case for ever-freer trade, the one that the public hears, is largely a scam. That’s true even if you exclude the most egregious nonsense, like Mitt Romney’s claim that protectionism causes recessions. What you hear, all too often, are claims that trade is an engine of job creation, that trade agreements will have big payoffs in terms of economic growth and that they are good for everyone.

Yet what the models of international trade used by real experts say is that, in general, agreements that lead to more trade neither create nor destroy jobs; that they usually make countries more efficient and richer, but that the numbers aren’t huge; and that they can easily produce losers as well as winners. In principle the overall gains mean that the winners could compensate the losers, so that everyone gains. In practice, especially given the scorched-earth obstructionism of the G.O.P., that’s not going to happen.

Why, then, did we ever pursue these agreements? A large part of the answer is foreign policy: Global trade agreements from the 1940s to the 1980s were used to bind democratic nations together during the Cold War, Nafta was used to reward and encourage Mexican reformers, and so on.

And anyone ragging on about those past deals, like Mr. Trump or Mr. Sanders, should be asked what, exactly, he proposes doing now. Are they saying that we should rip up America’s international agreements? Have they thought about what that would do to our credibility and standing in the world?

What I find myself thinking about, in particular, is climate change — an all-important issue we can’t confront effectively unless all major nations participate in a joint effort, with last year’s Paris agreement just the beginning. How is that going to work if America shows itself to be a nation that reneges on its deals?

The most a progressive can responsibly call for, I’d argue, is a standstill on further deals, or at least a presumption that proposed deals are guilty unless proved innocent.

The hard question to deal with here is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the Obama administration has negotiated but Congress hasn’t yet approved. (I consider myself a soft opponent: It’s not the devil’s work, but I really wish President Obama hadn’t gone there.) People I respect in the administration say that it should be considered an existing deal that should stand; I’d argue that there’s a lot less U.S. credibility at stake than they claim.

The larger point in this election season is, however, that politicians should be honest and realistic about trade, rather than taking cheap shots. Striking poses is easy; figuring out what we can and should do is a lot harder. But you know, that’s a would-be president’s job.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 11, 2016

March 13, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Protectionism, Trade Agreements, Trans Pacific Partnership | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Can Donald Trump Do An Extreme General Election Makeover?”: The Entire Country Will Have To Get Amnesia

Donald Trump may not be the Republican nominee yet, but he’s already started to pivot toward the general election. This is of course what many conservatives fear about Trump: that because he seems to have no real ideological beliefs, he’ll be happy to turn his back on them, both as a candidate and as a president.

But can Trump really cast off the very things that have brought him such improbable success in the Republican primaries when the time comes to appeal to a broader electorate that finds the Trump they’re seeing now utterly repellent? That may turn out to be the most important question of the general election.

It’s one of the wonders of Trump’s candidacy that where other politicians imply things, he just says them plainly so there’s no mistaking what he means. Others might try to convince you that they’re smart, but Trump will just say, “I’m, like, a really smart person.” And while others might begin to adjust their rhetoric in subtle ways as they prepare to appeal to a wider electorate, Trump just comes out and says that he’ll become a completely different person when the political situation demands it. Here’s what he told Sean Hannity last night:

“At the right time, I will be so presidential that you’ll call me and you’ll say, ‘Donald, you have to stop that, it’s too much.’ But you know what? It is true, and I think you understand: When they attack me, I have to attack back. I’m a counter-puncher. When they attack me, if I don’t attack back — You know, the press could say, ‘Oh, he should act more presidential.’ And then like a couple of days ago, I gave a speech, they said, ‘That was so presidential.’ I can be presidential.”

Who is the “they” he’s talking about? He doesn’t say, but I’m fairly certain no one has ever watched one of Trump’s stream-of-consciousness speeches and thought, “that was so presidential.” But as often happens, Trump just makes up something and attributes it to an undefined “they.” (Maybe “they” are the people chowing down on an imaginary Trump Steak while they read the latest copy of the non-existent Trump Magazine, both of which Trump insists do in fact exist.)

This isn’t the first time Trump has said something like this. “As I get closer and closer to the goal, it’s gonna get different,” he told Greta Van Susteren a month ago. “I will be changing very rapidly. I’m very capable of changing to anything I want to change to.” Or as he said in another interview yesterday: “In order to be victorious, frankly, I had to be very tough and I had to be very sharp and smart and nasty. I can see women not liking that. That will change once this is all over.”

Trump probably could change — within limits. He isn’t going to become conversant with policy issues or demonstrate that he has the faintest idea how government works, but he will almost certainly be changing his focus once he has to appeal to a different audience. He’ll talk about his devotion to protecting Social Security and Medicare, and don’t be surprised if he starts to shuffle back to the center on issues like abortion, gay marriage, and guns. Most of all, he’s likely to downplay the nativist anger that has propelled his campaign, and focus more on the idea that he’s a can-do manager who will whip government into shape and get America winning again.

But that will only work if everyone forgets the Donald Trump they’ve seen since he announced his candidacy nine months ago. And that’s going to be an awfully tall order.

Right now, Trump is poised to be the most disliked party nominee in recent history. Polls routinely show two-thirds of the public saying they have a negative opinion of him. In the Post’s most recent poll, seven out of ten Americans said he isn’t honest and trustworthy, doesn’t understand the problems of people like them, and has neither the right experience nor the right temperament to be president. He seems to think that being “presidential” consists of refraining from calling his opponents names, but it’s going to take a lot more than that.

As just one example, consider the Latino vote. When the Post polled Latinos a couple of weeks ago, eight in ten had a negative opinion of him, and Hillary Clinton won a trial heat against him by 73-16. Many analysts think that if the GOP nominee doesn’t substantially improve on Mitt Romney’s 27 percent support among Latinos in 2012 — and get it up near 40 percent — then he can’t win. If you think Latino voters are going to forget everything Trump has said and done until now once he starts talking nice, I’ve got a bridge you might be interested in buying. (And if you’re thinking Trump will run up such huge numbers among working-class whites that he’ll overcome his weakness with minorities, that isn’t going to happen either.)

Then there’s the question of what happens to the Trump voters who are now so attracted to him precisely because he’s vulgar and angry. There’s an atmosphere of thuggery that surrounds Trump, with  his rallies regularly featuring violence directed by his supporters at the protesters who often appear. Trump has held on to that core of Republican voters because of his current persona. That group — a plurality of Republicans, which is miles from being a majority of the entire electorate — might not be so excited about Trump if he stops being the person he is now.

Maybe Trump will surprise us all, and in the general election he’ll be, as he says, “more presidential than anybody other than the great Abe Lincoln.” But in order for that to work, the entire country is going to have to get amnesia.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, March 10, 2016

March 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, GOP Primaries, Governing | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Worst Has Yet To Come”: Scrambling To Clean Up A Failed Republican Governor’s Mess

In November, Louisiana’s John Bel Edwards received some great news: by a wide margin, the Democrat had been elected governor. At the same time, however, he also received some rather dreadful news: Edwards was now the governor of Louisiana, responsible for cleaning up a catastrophic mess left by Republican Bobby Jindal.

As the New York Times reported yesterday, Pelican State policymakers – a Democratic governor’s office working with a Republican-led legislature – are moving forward with a plan to undo some of what Jindal did, at least temporarily.

Facing the threat of layoffs, cancellation of university classes and a suspension of health care services, state lawmakers avoided more than $900 million in budget cuts by passing a package of tax increases and spending reductions Wednesday in the closing moments of a special session.

But large shortfalls still plague the state and will continue to play out as a regular session convenes on Monday.

The package includes restructuring the state sales tax – removing exemptions and increasing it a penny – but at Republicans’ insistence, the increases are temporary. The New York Times article added that the new agreement also includes “higher taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, car rentals, cellphones, landlines and short-term rooms booked through websites.” Policymakers also “rolled back a tax credit enjoyed by the insurance industry, and they approved a framework for collecting sales taxes from online retailers.”

Despite this, the package didn’t close all of the state’s massive budget shortfall, and more cuts are on the way.

Bobby Jindal’s failures were just that bad. The Washington Post added last week:

Already, the state of Louisiana had gutted university spending and depleted its rainy-day funds. It had cut 30,000 employees and furloughed others. It had slashed the number of child services staffers, including those devoted to foster family recruitment, and young abuse victims for the first time were spending nights at government offices.

And then, the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards (D), came on TV and said the worst was yet to come.

The source of the crisis is hardly a mystery. As the Post reported, experts have found that Louisiana’s structural budget deficit “emerged and then grew under former governor Bobby Jindal, who, during his eight years in office, reduced the state’s revenue by offering tax breaks to the middle class and wealthy. He also created new subsidies aimed at luring and keeping businesses. Those policies, state data show, didn’t deliver the desired economic growth.”

In other words, a right-wing governor, working with a Republican legislature, tried to implement a conservative governing agenda. The result is a disaster Louisiana is going to struggle for years to clean up.

If you missed Rachel’s segment last week on states damaged by Republican governance, it’s worth revisiting – especially for its focus on Louisiana.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 11, 2016

March 13, 2016 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, Louisiana, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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