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“Trump Upends Coalition”: How The Bathroom Controversy Exposes Rifts In The Increasingly Fragile Republican Coalition

It wouldn’t be an election without a good dose of culture-war sexual politics, and now Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are arguing about bathrooms. Specifically, the question of the law that North Carolina passed — mandating that transgender people use not the bathroom of their identity but of the sex written on their birth certificate — is now a part of the presidential campaign. When Trump was asked about it yesterday, he gave a perfectly sensible answer — but it was the wrong one. And in doing so, he highlighted just how fragile his impending nomination makes the complicated Republican coalition.

Here’s how it went down:

Trump said there was little controversy before the law was passed, and the measure has done nothing but hurt North Carolina economically. Businesses including American Airlines, Facebook and Google have condemned the measure, and the National Basketball Association hinted it might relocate next year’s all-star game from Charlotte.

“You leave it the way it is. There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble,” Trump said on NBC’s “Today” show Thursday. “And the problem with what happened in North Carolina is the strife and the economic. … I mean, the economic punishment they’re taking.”

Trump’s comments were met with fierce opposition from Cruz, who defended the law last week.

Cruz seems positively giddy to be able to talk about this issue. He describes the idea of transgender women using women’s rooms as, “Men should be able to go into the girls’ bathroom if they want to.” You’ll notice the contrast of “men” and “girls,” used so that you’ll think this is some sort of issue about pedophiles preying on children. To emphasize the point, he concludes, “Grown adult men — strangers — should not be alone in a bathroom with little girls.”

I won’t even bother refuting that rancid fear-mongering, except to say that the legislators in North Carolina were unable to cite a single case where a transgender woman assaulted someone in a bathroom in North Carolina, let alone any “little girls.”

But now Trump is gingerly walking back his statement, saying that the question should be decided at the local level, which is the best he can do to make Republican culture warriors less suspicious of him. And that’s where we get to the nature of the GOP coalition, which Trump doesn’t quite seem to grasp.

There was always an implicit bargain within that coalition, one that said that even if various kinds of conservatives had different priorities, they would sign on to each other’s agendas. The supply-siders would say that unfettered gun rights are deeply important, even if most of them don’t actually own guns. The antiabortion crusaders would say that military spending should always be increased. The neoconservatives would praise tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s a circle of interdependence and common cause, and to a great degree, they all came to believe in each other’s positions, even if they didn’t agree on what the top priority for the party should be.

But Trump has upended this bargain, partly because he has nothing resembling a coherent ideology, but also because he doesn’t appreciate the need to keep the coalition together. There are some issues, such as guns, where Trump has adopted the standard Republican position (without a trace of evident sincerity). But on others, he has been willing to anger parts of the Republican coalition. Perhaps it’s because of a careful calculation about what will play well in the general election, but I suspect it’s more impulsive — since Trump didn’t rise through Republican politics, he doesn’t have an intuitive sense of what’s important to which conservatives and what will make them angry.

So when a question he hasn’t thought about comes up, he just gives an answer that seems right for him at that moment. Then what often happens is that people who understand what Republicans think about that issue — reporters and Republicans themselves — say, “What?!?,” somebody clues Trump in to why his allies are mad, and within a day or two he comes back and clarifies what he meant to say, which winds up being something more palatable to the party. This has happened multiple times.

On issues that touch on sex, Trump’s impulses often seem basically libertarian (there are those New York values!), and as he tries to shift them so they can work within the GOP, he winds up ticking people off and going through multiple iterations before he can come up with the appropriate answer. So he says the wrong thing on transgender people, and he says that women should be punished for having abortions (which runs counter to the “We’re taking away your reproductive rights for your own good because you just don’t know any better” stance of the pro-life movement) but also says that there should be exceptions for rape and incest, which the hard-core pro-lifers don’t like either.

The bathroom issue highlights how Red America and Blue America are moving farther and farther apart. If you live in a state controlled by Republicans, your state legislature and your governor will ensure that gay people aren’t protected from discrimination, make abortions almost impossible to obtain, slash social services, undermine unions, make sure you can take your gun to church and generally do what they can to turn your state into a paradise of “traditional” values and right-wing economics. If you live in a Democratic state, your representatives are probably busy raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, expanding government-provided health care and child care, protecting people from discrimination and generally doing all the things the people in red states find horrifying.

Presidential candidates from either party can come from either kind of state, but if you cross over — if you’re a blue-state Republican or a red-state Democrat — you have to assure your voters that you believe deep in your heart that their kind of state embodies all the proper values. Trump doesn’t do that, or at least he doesn’t do it often enough.

For those who are already behind him, it doesn’t really matter. His supporters don’t have specific issues that are absolute deal-breakers, in large part because his campaign is built on personality. Cruz, on the other hand, has a campaign built on ideology. And when there’s a chance to pick up a culture-war baton like this one, he isn’t going to let it pass.

Does that mean that once Trump is the nominee, the social conservatives who really care about the culture war aren’t going to vote for him? Might they just sit the election out? We don’t know yet. What we do know is that they’re the ones who are most likely to get the short end of the stick from the GOP nominee, even as Republicans at the state level work like mad to advance the right’s social agenda.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, April 22, 2016

April 26, 2016 Posted by | Culture Wars, Donald Trump, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“This ‘Intellectual Defense’ Of Trump Is So Bad It’s Good”: To Support Trump, Conservatives Must Abandon Their Principles

Donald Trump and his candidacy are basically the living embodiment of liberals’ worst caricature of conservatism: bigoted, contemptuous, heartless, proudly stupid, apocalyptic, mean. Conservatives have had basically two reactions: recoil in horror or embrace the caricature.

Perhaps one of the saddest examples of the latest tendency comes from Mytheos Holt, a contributor to the online conservative magazine The Federalist, who penned a two-part “intellectual case for Trump.” It is… not good.

The first part is perhaps the oddest. After running us through his resume (“I am young, financially secure, and graduated from one of America’s elite liberal arts colleges” — good for you!), the author runs us through his OkCupid history, telling us about the time when he had long conversations with a young, white supremacist girl.

And the summation of the first part of the intellectual case for Trump is: White supremacists are people too! Many white supremacists believe their horrible views because they come from marginalized circumstances. And many of them are overreacting to the media elite’s disdain for traditional culture. And so (therefore?) we shouldn’t hold Trump’s white supremacist support against him.

First of all, isn’t it progressives who usually explain away extremist views with references to social circumstances, ignoring the power of ideas? And secondly — um, what?

The reason why many conservatives disdain Trump is not because white supremacists support him, per se, it’s because he positively welcomes and panders to their support. And in doing so, he is steering the GOP further down the path of being the party of white identity politics, which is both immoral and politically suicidal.

It’s true that whites who have seen their status downgraded by recent shifts — including globalization, the transition to a gig economy, lifestyle liberalism and, yes, cosmopolitanism — have been among the most ignored constituencies by either party. And yes, a healthy polity should speak to them. But one of the reasons it must is because otherwise they will turn to someone like Trump. That is, someone who will exploit their grievances for political gain and do absolutely nothing about them.

What’s the second part of the “intellectual case for Trump”? Well, it’s basically this: Trump is the right guy to win the culture war for the right, so long as conservatives accept defeat on the issues they’re fighting a culture war over.

I’m only being slightly unfair by representing Holt’s argument this way. The author launches into a long reprise of a famous National Review piece written by former Nixon speechwriter tut-tutting the “young fogies” on the right: 19 year olds Mormon-like in dress and even more uptight than the stereotype.

(One pictures the author at a D.C. bar, slurringly explaining to a young blonde frantically looking for a socially-acceptable exit that he’s a conservative but “not a young fogey, if you know what I mean.”)

If only conservatives give up their retrograde views about sex, they’ll be able to embrace Trump and use his amazing skills at working the media to win the culture war. First, how, exactly, are you going to win a culture war by adopting as your standard bearer someone with the worst favorability ratings in modern presidential politics?

Secondly, what, pray tell, is there to “win” in such a “culture war”? #GamerGate? It’s telling that nowhere in a very wordy piece on the culture wars does the word “abortion” — an issue on which Trump is absolutely awful — appear.

It happens to be the most important issue in the culture wars, since it concerns the deaths of millions of people, and it also happens to be the only one where conservatives are, at least, not losing.

But, you know, many conservatives also believe that, for example, things like hookup culture and no-fault divorce are morally, socially and spiritually corrosive. If that makes us young fogeys, that’s fine with me.

At least Holt’s piece was clarifying. Even on the best spin, for conservatives to support Trump involves abandoning their principles. Even if Trump had a chance of winning, that wouldn’t be a good idea.

 

By: Pascal-Emmanuel Goby, The Week, April 25, 2016

April 26, 2016 Posted by | Conservatism, Conservatives, Donald Trump | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP’s Dirty Little ‘Post Truth’ Secrets”: Trump Forces Questions Republicans Don’t Want To Answer

During the 2012 GOP presidential primary, Newt Gingrich got in a lot of trouble with Republican base voters for saying that we should allow some undocumented immigrants to stay in this country and go through a process of legalization. Mitt Romney’s position was ridiculous – proposing actions that would lead to “self deportation.” All of that was a cover for a messy reality among Republicans: their position on immigration was to “seal the border” (which is not a reality) and avoid talking about the 11 million undocumented people who are currently in the country.

If you want to know just how uncomfortable they were talking about that question, take a look at the lengths to which Rep. Tim Huelskamp went to dodge it. Then along came Donald Trump with his “deport ‘em all” position and all of the 2016 candidates had to take it on. For example, here is Ted Cruz being asked the question directly because of Trump’s proposal.

Last week in an interview with Chris Matthews, Donald Trump unearthed another dirty little secret the GOP has been trying to keep under wraps for a long time. We all know that they want to make abortion illegal and that the case they make is that it kills an unborn child. If, as they believe, it is such a serious crime, who gets punished for it if it is banned? That is the very real outcome of their policy that they wanted to avoid.

Along comes Donald Trump with the response initially to Chris Matthews that women should be punished and then a later correction saying that it should be the doctor who performs the abortion. That blew the lid off the GOP’s cover. And this weekend, John Kasich was put on the spot (very uncomfortably) about it.

Obviously Kasich didn’t want to answer the question. We’re left to wonder what kind of process governors like him would work out with state legislatures on this one if Roe v Wade was ever overturned. That has traditionally been the Republican response to questions like this…keep people in the dark about the consequences of their position because it leads to places that most people don’t want to go. It’s what David Roberts called “post-truth politics.”

One way to understand what is happening with these issues is to see it as the result of Donald Trump’s rejection of political correctness. He often uses that word to describe the position of Democrats. But a post-truth party is filled with questions they don’t want to talk about. Trump is doing a good job of exposing all of them.

But lest we get tempted to give Trump credit for that, it is important to keep in mind that on most of these issues, he embraces the retrograde policies. The difference is that he just comes right out and says so. That is an improvement in honesty but not so much when it comes to decency.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 4, 2016

April 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Undocumented Immigrants | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“First They Must Take A Stand”: Who Can Save The GOP From Trump? Women

Donald Trump is the kind of man women are taught to avoid.

He’s arrogant. He blusters about physical violence. Listening is not really his thing, because his mouth is usually running full steam. And, worst of all, he has a special loathing for women who are intelligent, accomplished and not deferential to him. When challenged on this, he veers to smarmy protestations that he loves women.

These are the attributes of a toxic male acquaintance, boss or leader (not to mention husband or boyfriend).

This is not to knock his current wife, Melania Trump. She is everything that Trump wants women to be: unquestioningly devoted, strikingly gorgeous and willing to have sex with him.

Unfortunately for Trump, women who do not share this profile comprise virtually the entire female electorate. And that, in turn, is a problem for the Republican Party. Women are 53 percent of all voters, and Trump has a 73 percent negative rating among those who are registered.

Two questions present themselves: How much damage is the GOP willing to let Trump do to the party’s image with women? And what can it do to stand up to him on this issue?

This week, there was a sign that Trump has reached the limit of tolerance within his party. A recent convert to the pro-life point of view, Trump made a gaffe that embarrassed the entire movement when he busted out the idea that women who have an abortion should be punished if the procedure is ever outlawed.

No, no, no, Donald. One doesn’t say such things in public. Uncharacteristically, he retracted his remarks. Even he sensed it was a blunder on the order of the musings on rape and pregnancy that sank Republican frontrunners in two 2012 Senate races.

Add that screed to The Donald’s on-going attacks on Megyn Kelly, the putdowns of Carly Fiorina and so many other women who have dared to displease him, and it is easy to imagine a cumulative effect that spells crushing defeat in the general election if he is the nominee.

So far, the men of the GOP have been subdued in their response. Note the vile scuffle between Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz over their wives. It wasn’t until Heidi Cruz was personally attacked that her husband reacted strongly and defended her, as he should.

One would imagine that at some point a cohort of leading Republican women would take a principled stand, calling out Trump for betraying the party’s supposed commitment to gender equality. But, alas, they’ve been eerily silent, apparently too fearful of crossing their party’s likely nominee.

Some, like Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia, are in re-election campaigns and may fear losing support from Trump voters. (Comstock at least had the good sense to re-gift a $3,000 Trump donation to her campaign, buying a little bit of distance from him.) What a lost opportunity to stand up to sexism!

The Democrats will not waste the opportunity.

Recall the politically charged Senate judiciary hearings in 1991 to consider the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nomination was controversial from the start, owing to Thomas’ positions on a range of issues. But when testimony was reopened — and televised — after disclosure of Thomas’ alleged history of sexual harassment, things exploded.

The hearings turned to belittling questions and overt displays of sexism by the panel of male senators, as they grilled Anita Hill, Thomas’ accuser, about her allegations.

Women were outraged by what they witnessed. As a direct result, they became politically motivated to increase their numbers in the Senate. The following year, four women — all Democrats — were elected to the Senate, tripling female representation in the chamber.

Women in Congress remain overwhelmingly Democrats. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, the U.S. Congress is about 19 percent female. Of the 104 women, 76 are Democrats and only 28 are Republicans. Moreover, the women in Congress who have been given plum committee posts tend to be Democrats. In the U.S. Senate, there are only six Republican women, compared to 14 Democrats.

And although Republican women tend to fare well in state politics, their more moderate voices haven’t been able to make it through the increasingly conservative primary process to reach national office.

There couldn’t be a better time for women to demand a greater role — and be the voice of reason — in the GOP. They have a compelling pretext to halt a candidate who almost certainly will damage their party. And even if they cannot derail him on his path to the nomination, they may be able to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the election.

But first they must take a stand.

 

By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; The National Memo, April 1, 2016

April 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Women | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Here’s How The Media Should Fight Trump (It’s Easy!)”: Ask Him Questions Presidents Need To Know How To Answer

This week we’ve seen a flurry of media activity that, up until the start of this election, wouldn’t have been noteworthy at all. Three days in a row, the likely Republican presidential nominee was… challenged by a journalist.

Yep, that’s it. Welcome to 2016.

On Monday, #NeverTrump-er and conservative Wisconsin radio host Charlie Sykes held Trump’s feet to the fire on his bullying and complete lack of policy knowledge.

On Tuesday, Anderson Cooper challenged Donald Trump to defend the hallmark of his campaign, acting like a semi-matured toddler on Twitter, and then didn’t let up when Trump tried to dodge it.

On Wednesday, Chris Matthews wouldn’t let Trump snake out of a question about punishing women for having abortions, even though it was clear mid-interrogation that Trump didn’t know what the hell he was talking about.

Good. These aren’t “gotcha” questions. They’re questions. Anyone who wants to lead the free world should have to answer them.

I’m not asking for much. All I want is for the national media, rather than asking Donald Trump about the controversies he purposefully creates to divert their attention, to ask him about him. Ask him questions he hasn’t heard before. Ask him policy questions to which you know he doesn’t know the answer, but that you would expect any other presidential candidate to answer easily.

It’s no secret why this hasn’t happened: Donald Trump is a money machine for media outlets. Personalities like the Morning Joe bunch don’t want to lose access to Trump’s campaign, so they let him call in to their show, or lob him softball questions at a specially-programmed town hall.

Or they simply let him have the floor, like when Fox and Friends asked, “Were you right?” in response to the Brussels bombings. Trump had previously called Brussels a “disaster.”

Donald Trump calls everything a disaster.

If there’s a single quote that explains this entire election cycle, it’s from CBS Chairman Les Moonves, about all of the free media his company gave Donald Trump:

“It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

The news networks can hide behind a false sense of neutrality — Look at how many millions of his supporters agree with building an impossible wall— but to do so ignores their responsibility to report for the sake of the public good, instead of just for the… public.

When you really listen to them, it’s crystal clear: If Trump goes down, so does our bottom line.

Enough is enough. The overlap between “Questions presidents need to know how to answer” and “Questions we haven’t asked Donald Trump” is incredibly large, and perhaps larger for Trump than any major candidate in recent history. We need to ask them — and demand a straight answer.

Better to ask those questions now than find out how Trump answers them with his finger on the gold-plated nuclear button. It’s a beautiful button, really. The best.

 

By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, March 31, 2016

April 1, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Press, Donald Trump, Media | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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