mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“The Irony Of Celebrity Populism”: The Demolition Of The Line Between Celebrity And Political Achievement

“When you become famous,” the famous political consultant James Carville once said, “being famous becomes your profession.”

It’s a sign of the stunning success of Donald Trump’s crossover act that we no longer even think about this campaign’s most revolutionary effect on our politics: the demolition of the line between celebrity and political achievement.

Of course, success in politics can itself breed celebrity. Carville earned his by combining his eccentric sense of humor with actual skill in helping Bill Clinton become president in 1992. The weird interaction between glitz and government reflected at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner suggests how much the borderland between the two has shrunk.

But celebrity has never before been a sufficient qualification for the nation’s highest office. Consider John McCain’s signature attack on Barack Obama in 2008 in a commercial that began with the words: “He’s the biggest celebrity in the world.” The ad’s next line captured the old war hero’s disdain for his opponent and his fame: “But is he ready to lead?”

In light of this year’s campaign, there is something touching about McCain’s protest. He reasoned that sober voters would reject the idea of electing someone merely because of his celebrity.

If the ad misunderstood the sources of Obama’s political strength, it did speak to a nation that still respected experience in government. Trump has now far surpassed Obama in converting fame directly into electoral currency, moving from celebrity to front-runner status without going through the messy, time-consuming work of being a state legislator and U.S. senator. Ronald Reagan, given his Hollywood standing, may be the closest historical analogue to Trump. But Trump did not spend eight years as governor of a large state. There is a perverse purity to Trump’s great leap.

Trump also uses celebrity allies he accumulated in the course of his career as a fame-monger to validate his quest. Facing a decisive challenge in Tuesday’s Indiana primary, Trump hauled out an endorsement from Bobby Knight, a state icon from his successful if controversial run as Indiana University’s basketball coach. Trump may dominate CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, but Knight has ESPN, generally a much bigger draw — except, of course, when Trump has been on a debate stage.

Trump represents the triumph in politics of what the scholars of postmodernism call “transgressive” art, which violates boundaries, including moral strictures, and commands attention through its shock value. Trump is now the transgressor in chief.

We need to think hard about the multiple weaknesses Trump is exposing in our politics. How has he been able to convert fame and outrage into votes without even a moment of apprenticeship in public service?

One reason is the anger in a large segment of the Republican Party that has been stoked by its leaders. You might say they have now lost control of the beast they were feeding. There is also the utter contempt toward government that their ideology encouraged. Trump has played on the fragility of our media system, which, in its search for ratings, can’t get enough of him, and on a pervasive pain among the many who have been cast aside by our economy. They had been ignored by elites of all kinds.

Trump is what passes for “populism” now, but celebrity populism is a strange creature. Consider the case of Tom Brady, the masterly quarterback of my beloved New England Patriots and another sports celebrity who has spoken kindly of Trump.

In a court ruling against him in the “Deflategate” case, Brady learned that neither wealth nor celebrity nor talent protects him in a National Football League system that, in the view of two of three Court of Appeals judges, confers almost unlimited power to management over labor.

Yes, at that moment, Brady learned he was labor. “Welcome to the working class, Tom,” wrote Boston Herald sports columnist Ron Borges.

I don’t know if this controversy will alter Brady’s politics. But it was a reminder of how structural realities that rarely get much television time — collective bargaining agreements, judicial decisions, ownership rights and the raw distribution of power — will not be swept away simply because a man who has mastered old and new media alike has succeeded so brilliantly in casting himself as the avenger for the dispossessed.

Still, a phony celebrity populism plays well on television at a time when politics and governing are regularly trashed by those who claim both as their calling. Politicians who don’t want to play their assigned roles make it easy for a role-player to look like the real thing and for a billionaire who flies around on his own plane to look like a populist.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 1, 2016

May 2, 2016 Posted by | Celebrity, Donald Trump, Politics, Populism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The ‘Sandernistas’ Brand New Congress Initiative”: The Bernie Camp’s Really Bad Idea of A ‘Tea Party Of The Left’

From a great distance, the news that volunteers associated with Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign are turning their attentions to the herculean task of organizing progressives for midterm elections would seem to be exciting news for all Democrats. Without question, the close alignment of the two parties with groups of voters who do (older white people) and don’t (younger and minority people) participate in non-presidential elections has been a big part — along with the normal backlash against the party controlling the White House — of the massive Republican gains of 2010 and 2014. The prospect of heightened midterm turnout from under-30 voters alone could be a big and important deal for the Donkey Party.

But the closer you get to the Sandernistas’ Brand New Congress initiative — the new project by recently laid-off Bernie staffers to create a revolution in Congress beginning with the 2018 elections — the less it looks like the instrument for a difficult but achievable task and the more it looks like the product of a very strange set of beliefs about American politics. It’s not focused on boosting progressive turnout in general elections, but on recruiting and running candidates in Republican as well as Democratic primaries who meet a rigid set of policy litmus tests. The idea is very explicitly that people alive with the Bern can literally elect a “brand-new Congress” in one election cycle to turn public policy 180 degrees. Or so says key organizer Zack Exley:

“We want a supermajority in Congress that is fighting for jobs, criminal justice reform and the environment,” Exley said. “Most Americans actually want that, and I think we get it by running Dems in blue areas, Republicans in deep red areas, and by running independents wherever we didn’t defeat incumbents.”

Republicans, too?

Corbin Trent, another former Sanders staffer, said bringing Republicans on board is “the key to it being a successful idea” and there’s enough overlap between Sanders’ platform and tea party conservatives to make the PAC’s goals feasible.

Reality television star Donald Trump’s current status as the Republican front-runner demonstrates that GOP voters are eager for candidates who, like Trump, criticize the corrupting influence of money in politics and the impact of free trade deals on American workers, Trent said.

“This will allow Republicans to say ‘Yeah, I’m a Republican, but I believe climate change is real and I don’t believe all Muslims are terrorists,” he said. “It will allow people to think differently in the Republican Party if they want to pull away from the hate-based ideology.”

Yes, that was what I feared: The discredited notion that lefties and the tea party can make common cause in something other than hating on the Clintons and Barack Obama is back with a vengeance. And worse yet, Donald Trump — Donald Trump — is being touted as an example of a Republican capable of progressive impulses because he shares the old right-wing mercantilist hostility to free trade and has enough money to scorn lobbyists. Does your average Trump supporter really “believe climate change is real” and disbelieve that “all Muslims are terrorists”? Do Obamacare-hating tea-partiers secretly favor single-payer health care? Do the people in tricorn hats who favor elimination of labor unions deep down want a national $15-an-hour minimum wage? And do the very activists who brought the Citizens United case and think it’s central to the preservation of the First Amendment actually want to overturn it?

It’s this last delusion that’s the most remarkable. If there is any one belief held most vociferously by tea-party activists, it’s that anything vaguely approaching campaign-finance reform is a socialist, perhaps even a satanic, conspiracy. These are the people who don’t think donors to their political activities should be disclosed because Lois Lerner will use that information to launch income-tax audits and persecute Christians. The tea folk are much closer to the Koch brothers in their basic attitudes toward politics than they are to conventional Republicans.

But there persists a sort of “tea envy” in progressive circles. Here’s Salon staff writer Sean Illing in a piece celebrating Brand New Congress:

Real change in this country will require a sustained national mobilization, what I’ve called a counter-Tea Party movement. While their agenda was nihilistic and obstructionist, the Tea Party was a massive success by any measure. And they succeeded because they systematically altered the Congressional landscape.

Well, you could say that, or you could say the tea party’s excesses cost Republicans control of the Senate in 2012, and produced an environment that’s made Donald Trump and Ted Cruz the GOP’s only two options for this year’s presidential nomination. Indeed, you can probably thank the tea party for the likelihood of a very good Democratic general election this November.

But that will again produce excellent conditions for another Republican-dominated midterm in 2018. It sure would make sense for progressives to  focus on how to minimize the damage in the next midterm and begin to change adverse long-term turnout patterns. Expending time, money, and energy on scouring the earth looking for Republican primary candidates willing to run on a democratic-socialist agenda will not be helpful.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 29, 2016

May 2, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Progressives, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Losing The Biggest Game Of His Life—To A Woman”: How Winning The Nomination Could Be Trump’s Worst Nightmare

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a news conference Tuesday, April 26.

We had been promised something of a new candidate, one more “presidential” in demeanor than we’re accustomed to seeing in the ostentatious settings at which he stages his post-primary speeches. But when Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential frontrunner, stepped up to the mic in Manhattan’s Trump Tower to celebrate his epic sweep of Tuesday night’s GOP nominating contests in all five of the states in play, what we saw was a Trump more subdued in tone but as misogynist in substance as ever.

After declaring himself to be “like, a very smart person,” Trump made an astonishing claim: If Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton—who won four of Tuesday’s five Democratic primaries—were a man, he said, “she’d be at 5 percent” in the polls. As if being a woman granted the female politician some great advantage. Were that the case, each chamber of Congress, one might assume, would be a body in which women represented 80 percent of the membership, rather than the other way around. Surely, given such great gender privilege, the 50 states might muster more than a grand total of six female governors among them.

Trump appeared to be grasping at some explanation for why, in general election match-up polls, he trails behind a woman. (It must be because she’s a woman! The system is rigged!)

“I’ve always been very good at math,” Trump told us, though apparently that prowess ended before the probability exam began.

The only thing that Clinton had going for her, Trump said, was “the women’s card,” perhaps failing to notice that in the 2012 presidential election, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, 71.4 percent of women reported voting, while only 61.6 percent of men did. Add in the fact that there are more eligible female voters than male voters, one might see that very card maligned by Trump as something of a trump in and of itself.

“Women don’t like her,” Trump said of Clinton, apparently not aware of the fact that in all but three states since the beginning of the presidential campaign season, Clinton has won the majority of the women’s vote. Meanwhile, Gallup reports, 7 in 10 women have an unfavorable view of Trump.

The ancient Greek philosophers saw misogyny as evidence of fear of women. Whatever the original roots of the showman’s misogyny, the polls would indicate he has good reason to fear women in November—those, at least, who turn up at the voting booth. Which may explain Trump’s urging, in his latest victory speech, of Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s flagging Democratic challenger, to run as an independent in the general election. An independent progressive would presumably peel off votes that would have otherwise gone to the Democrat.

But then Trump went on to echo Sanders’s allegation that Clinton is “unqualified” for the presidency, an attack that many women, including this writer, heard as distinctly gendered in nature. (Sanders has since walked back that claim, which he said was based on the fact that, while serving in the Senate, Clinton had voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq during the presidency of George W. Bush.) But given Trump’s free-associative invocation of that particular Sanders attack on Clinton, coupled with the Bernie Bro phenomenon and Sanders’s dismissal of Planned Parenthood as an “establishment” organization, one could wonder whether an independent Sanders candidacy might just peel off misogynist voters from Trump.

Before the night’s end, the Sanders campaign issued a statement that suggested the U.S. senator from Vermont was no longer in it to win it, but would instead stay in the contest in the hope of injecting his campaign’s driving issues—income inequality and the break-up of big banks—into the Democratic Party platform at the national convention in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, pundits were once again using such words as “unstoppable” to describe Trump’s march to his party’s nomination, what with the establishment types who had once seemed so vehemently opposed to him on moral ground now submitting, between sighs, to what suddenly seemed inevitable. (Both U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich fared poorly in Tuesday’s contests—in the Eastern states of Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Maryland—and the non-aggression pact they had forged for next week’s contests unraveled soon after it was announced.)

As Clinton’s nomination became all but sealed on Tuesday night, the pundits barely seemed to register the historic nature of it. For the first time, a woman was almost certain to be the standard-bearer of one of the two major political parties in a presidential election. But Donald Trump surely noticed.

With his male challengers falling away, Trump is now faced with two outcomes he likely once deemed improbable, if not impossible: that he could win the nomination of the Party of Lincoln, and that he could lose the biggest game of his life—to a woman.

 

By: Adele M. Stan, The American Prospect, April 27, 2016

May 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Misogyny, War On Women | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Exercise In Projected Self-Righteousness”: Does Bernie Sanders Really Deserve Any Concessions From Hillary Clinton?

“What Bernie Sanders Wants” is the headline of a Politico article on the extensive concessions the presidential candidate expects from Hillary Clinton if he loses to her in Philadelphia. A similar Time article is slightly more precise: “Bernie Sanders Will Support Hillary Clinton But He’s Sticking to Some Key Demands.”

As it happens, I’ve written myself about how HRC would be wise to offer Team Sanders the fool’s gold of platform concessions and maybe the promise of a look at primary laws and procedures. And I’ve also talked about why Sanders, as the leader of an ideological initiative to move the Democratic Party to the left, can’t be expected to go quietly like Clinton did in 2008.

But none of these practical considerations can quite explain the expectation in Bernieland, and beyond it in the political commentariat, that of course Sanders has the high moral ground and he’s the one who should be dictating terms to his vanquisher.

Yes, there’s no question many Sanders supporters (and probably the candidate himself) believe they represent “true” progressivism and even (despite his decades-long reluctance to call himself a Democrat) the “real” soul of the “real” Democratic Party. This authenticity, moreover, is frequently contrasted with the hollow, compromised, and numb “centrism” that Hillary Clinton is supposed to represent, attributable to corruption or timidity. But isn’t the very purpose of party primaries to air such differences and find out what actual partisans (supplemented in some though not all places by independents leaning toward that party) think about them? And if so, why is it the (apparent) loser who is claiming the spoils, and the right to shape the party’s future? It doesn’t make a great deal of sense except as an exercise in projected self-righteousness.

There is a different and more calculated rationale for a Sanders platform challenge: that Hillary Clinton’s own supporters, who mainly prefer her on non-ideological grounds, agree more with Bernie on the issues that separate them than with their own candidate. That may even be true with respect to single-payer health care, though polling on the subject has been more than a bit suspect (the usual simplistic monniker of “Medicare for All” isn’t terribly descriptive of a system that might extract lifelong payroll taxes and premiums from some people and nothing from others for the same benefits).

If the Sanders campaign really does purport to speak for all Democrats on key issues, it would make far more sense for Sanders to call on Clinton to allow delegates a free and open vote on various platform planks than to demand that she abandon her own positions for his. She could then always rationalize any differences as a matter of delegates articulating ultimate progressive goals while she promotes feasible means for accomplishing them in the here and now.

What that approach would exclude, however, is the high dramatics of demands, concessions, surrender, and conquest that Sanders’s current trajectory suggests — not to mention the certainty of a divisive convention and the possibility of serious damage to the Democratic ticket.  If, however, the real goal of Sandernistas is to humiliate Hillary Clinton even as she assumes the official mantle of party leadership, then they should not be surprised if she fights back.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 29, 2016

May 2, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Will He Stay Or Will He Go?”: In The Minds Of The Least Intelligent Among Us, George Will Is Now A Liberal

Congratulations, George Will: you’ve just been kicked out of the conservative movement.

You just knew there was going to be a profoundly negative reaction from the wingnuts to his latest syndicated column advising conservatives and Republicans to vote for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton with an eye towards throwing her out of office in 2020 rather than voting for presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. HotAir.com’s Jazz Shaw is leading the charge to have Will declared persona non grata on the right:

Will’s final argument, however, is where we come to the most bloated fly in the ointment. The original plan of defeating Trump in the primary was fully within the bounds of normal political play. True, I’ve personally chosen to try to help Ted Cruz win rather than attempting to destroy one of his opponents at every turn and view Trump losing as the be all and end all. This is because Trump has long seemed to be at least plausibly, if not probably the eventual winner and I’d prefer our nominee to go into the general election with as few battle scars from the primary as possible. But George Will pulls the mask away entirely and [declares] that the party as a whole should be working to defeat the GOP nominee in November…

This is a disingenuous argument on two fronts. First, Will himself [observes] earlier [in the column] that less than six percent of voters traditionally split tickets. Yet he turns around in his conclusion and states that this should be the strategy which Republican voters adopt. But much more to the point, he dismisses the idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency as a mere four years of comparatively mild discomfort which will somehow be wiped away when Ben Sasse miraculously wins the White House in 2020. This argument is delivered, apparently with a straight face, after an earlier paragraph in the same column where he points out how a Clinton victory will ensure Merrick Garland a seat on the Supreme Court and the uncomfortable fact that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer will be 83, 80 and 78, respectively.

And none of this touches on the fact that each and every Republican and conservative reading his advice will have to walk into a voting booth on November 8th, close the curtains, stand alone in the darkness and… vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

As for me, I prefer to win, or at least go down swinging. Surrendering the battle for the White House uncontested is the business of cowards and I want no part of it.

Remember, right-wingers barely tolerate Will because he was presumably cordial to Barack Obama at the then President-elect’s January 2009 confab with conservative pundits (which was actually held at Will’s house). Urging conservatives and Republicans to vote for Clinton is akin to sleeping with the enemy in their minds; expect an organized right-wing effort to have Will’s column removed from many of the nation’s major newspapers, and to have him fired by Fox.

One man’s principle is another man’s career suicide, and Will’s contempt for Trump may have brought a premature end to his comfortable career as a right-wing pundit. Is Will ready to deal with the waves of hate that will flow his way from the bigoted billionaire’s boosters?

From a certain perspective, it’s odd that Will has had such a negative reaction to Trump: after all, as Rachel Maddow has noted, Trump is basically copying Ronald Reagan’s racist act from the 1980 presidential campaign–a campaign whose final debate Will infamously coached Reagan for. Unless Will feels some vestiges of guilt for his role in helping the racially divisive Reagan become the 40th president, it’s curious that he feels so chagrined by the triumph of Trump.

Let’s just take a moment to smile at this situation. In the minds of the least intelligent among us, George Will is now a liberal. Can this year get any funnier?

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 1, 2016

May 2, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, George Will, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | Leave a comment

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: