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“A Tale Of Two Parties”: Only One Party’s Establishment Was Already Dead Inside

Do you remember what happened when the Berlin Wall fell? Until that moment, nobody realized just how decadent Communism had become. It had tanks, guns, and nukes, but nobody really believed in its ideology anymore; its officials and enforcers were mere careerists, who folded at the first shock.

It seems to me that you need to think about what happened to the G.O.P. this election cycle the same way.

The Republican establishment was easily overthrown because it was already hollow at the core. Donald Trump’s taunts about “low-energy” Jeb Bush and “little Marco” Rubio worked because they contained a large element of truth. When Mr. Bush and Mr. Rubio dutifully repeated the usual conservative clichés, you could see that there was no sense of conviction behind their recitations. All it took was the huffing and puffing of a loud-mouthed showman to blow their houses down.

But as Mr. Trump is finding out, the Democratic establishment is different.

As some political scientists are now acknowledging, America’s two major parties are not at all symmetric. The G.O.P. is, or was until Mr. Trump arrived, a top-down hierarchical structure enforcing a strict, ideologically pure party line. The Democrats, by contrast, are a “coalition of social groups,” from teachers’ unions to Planned Parenthood, seeking specific benefits from government action.

This diversity of interests sometimes reduces Democrats’ effectiveness: the old Will Rogers joke, “I am not a member of any organized political party — I’m a Democrat” still rings true. But it also means that the Democratic establishment, such as it is, is resilient against Trump-style coups.

But wait: Didn’t Hillary Clinton face her own insurgency in the person of Bernie Sanders, which she barely turned back? Actually, no.

For one thing, it wasn’t all that close. Mrs. Clinton won pledged delegates by almost four times Barack Obama’s margin in 2008; she won the popular vote by double digits.

Nor did she win by burying her rival in cash. In fact, Mr. Sanders outspent her all the way, spending twice on much as she did on ads in New York, which she won by 16 percentage points.

Also, Mrs. Clinton faced immense, bizarre hostility from the news media. Last week Harvard’s Shorenstein Center released a report on media treatment of the candidates during 2015, showing that Mrs. Clinton received by far the most unfavorable coverage. Even when reports focused on issues rather than alleged scandals, 84 percent of her coverage was negative — twice as high as for Mr. Trump. As the report notes, “Clinton’s negative coverage can be equated to millions of dollars in attack ads, with her on the receiving end.”

And yet she won, fairly easily, because she had the solid support of key elements of the Democratic coalition, especially nonwhite voters.

But will this resilience persist in the general election? Early indications are that it will. Mr. Trump briefly pulled close in the polls after he clinched the Republican nomination, but he has been plunging ever since. And that’s despite the refusal of Mr. Sanders to concede or endorse the presumptive nominee, with at least some Bernie or Busters still telling pollsters that they won’t back her.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump is flailing. He’s tried all the tactics that worked for him in the Republican contest — insults, derisive nicknames, boasts — but none of it is sticking. Conventional wisdom said that he would be helped by a terrorist attack, but the atrocity in Orlando seems to have hurt him instead: Mrs. Clinton’s response looked presidential, his didn’t.

Worse yet from his point of view, there’s a concerted effort by Democrats — Mrs. Clinton herself, Elizabeth Warren, President Obama, and more — to make the great ridiculer look ridiculous (which he is). And it seems to be working.

Why is Mrs. Clinton holding up so well against Mr. Trump, when establishment Republicans were so hapless? Partly it’s because America as a whole, unlike the Republican base, isn’t dominated by angry white men; partly it’s because, as anyone watching the Benghazi hearing realized, Mrs. Clinton herself is a lot tougher than anyone on the other side.

But a big factor, I’d argue, is that the Democratic establishment in general is fairly robust. I’m not saying that its members are angels, which they aren’t. Some, no doubt, are personally corrupt. But the various groups making up the party’s coalition really care about and believe in their positions — they’re not just saying what the Koch brothers pay them to say.

So pay no attention to anyone claiming that Trumpism reflects either the magical powers of the candidate or some broad, bipartisan upsurge of rage against the establishment. What worked in the primary won’t work in the general election, because only one party’s establishment was already dead inside.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, June 20, 2016

June 26, 2016 Posted by | Democratic Establishment, Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Analogy Offered With A Nudge And A Wink”: Is Bernie Sanders A Nazi? On Our Epidemic Of Bad Analogies

The internet rewards hyperbole. Maybe that’s why bad — incendiary, wildly inaccurate — analogies seem to be spreading throughout the media landscape, and especially on the right.

Analogies are an indispensable tool of reasoning and rhetoric, highlighting similarities between two or more things, people, or events. But deploying analogies can be complicated, since the things, people, or events being compared are invariably dissimilar in a multitude of ways. The trick in deploying an analogy effectively is to highlight a similarity that reveals something important and underappreciated about the main thing, person, or event. The key to making a mess of an analogy is drawing a comparison in which the dissimilarities are so vast that they overshadow and even undermine the comparison altogether.

Consider Kevin Williamson’s much-discussed article from National Review calling Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders a Nazi. Now, Williamson doesn’t actually use the term Nazi. But he does say that Sanders “is, in fact, leading a national-socialist movement.” Just in case readers failed to make the link to the National Socialist movement led by Adolf Hitler, Williamson immediately concedes that it’s “uncomfortable” to draw such a comparison about “a man who is the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and whose family was murdered in the Holocaust.” Still, Williamson insists, “there is no other way to describe his view and his politics.”

It turns out, though, that what Williamson really means is not that Sanders dreams of world military conquest and the extermination of Jews and other inferior races in the name of Aryan purity — you know, like an actual National Socialist. What Williamson really means is that Sanders is both a socialist and a nationalist. Which makes him “a national socialist in the mode of Hugo Chávez.”

Oh, that kind of national socialist.

By the time we come to this big reveal toward the end of Williamson’s article, it’s impossible not to feel manipulated, even duped, by the “national socialist” analogy that forms the backbone of the story — because the author utterly failed, and never even really intended, to demonstrate a relevant similarity between Sanders’ campaign and the fascist political movement that swept Germany in the 1930s and went by the name of National Socialism.

The Williamson article is somewhat unusual in that its core analogy is offered with a nudge and a wink. Other conservatives draw their inflammatory comparisons with complete sincerity.

Perhaps no recent event has inspired more spurious analogies than the Supreme Court’s defense of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges. The decision has inspired some defenders of traditional marriage to call Obergefell the Dred Scott decision of our time (because, like Dred Scott, Obergefell was supposedly an act of lawless judicial usurpation that subverted the democratic will of the people).

Others have likened Obergefell to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that declared a constitutional right to abortion and ended up conjuring the national pro-life movement into existence. Still others have described a future in which the “Gestapo” will begin knocking on the doors of those who oppose same-sex marriage, or compared life for conservative Christians post-Obergefell to life under “the lie” of communist totalitarianism.

Let’s take these one at a time:

Unlike Dred Scott, Obergefell and same-sex marriage enslave no one. Moreover, whereas upholding the rights of slave owners led to immediate and total loss of liberty for large numbers of human beings, opponents of same-sex marriage have had a difficult time demonstrating to courts that granting the right to marry to the nation’s tiny population of homosexuals, in itself, does any measurable harm at all to those who define a marriage in traditional terms. (As for the harms to the exercise of religious freedom that may well follow from Obergefell, they are not a direct consequence of same-sex marriage itself but are rather a product of an anticipated expansion of the nation’s anti-discrimination laws to cover gay marriage. This complication is obviously something obscured by the Dred Scott analogy, as is the likely prospect of legislating carve-outs from anti-discrimination laws for religious organizations.)

Unlike with the consequences of Roe, no one can plausibly claim that a person is killed as a result of exercising the right proclaimed by Obergefell. That would seem to render the comparison somewhat lacking in cogency. (It also points to why the constitutional triumph of same-sex marriage is exceedingly unlikely to spark powerful, enduring grassroots opposition like the pro-life movement.)

The Gestapo? You’ve got to be kidding. Let me know when the secret police begins pounding on your door, and I will pledge my life, fortune, and sacred honor to prevent you from being sent to a concentration camp for your traditionalist Christian beliefs. But until that time, please get a grip. Outbursts like that only make you look paranoid, self-pitying, and bizarrely out of touch with both present American reality and the bloody history of real political oppression.

As for the analogy to communism, the same admonition applies. Even in the realistically worst-case scenario predicted by opponents of same-sex marriage — the forced compliance of religious schools and other church-affiliated institutions with anti-discrimination laws protecting gay marriage; the loss of tax-exempt status for churches — the United States would resemble contemporary France far more than the Soviet Union. The advent of French-style ideological secularism (laïcité) in the U.S. would mark a significant (and in my view unwelcome) change, including a significant constriction of religious freedom from historic American norms. But that’s a far cry from totalitarianism. (Last time I checked, France was a liberal democracy, albeit one with a somewhat different understanding of the proper relation between church and state.)

I could go on, pointing to other false comparisons deployed by the right. (Keeping up with neoconservative invocations of Munich, 1938 could be a full-time job all on its own.) But it would be a mistake to think that liberals never make unconvincing analogies. As far as many conservative Christians are concerned, the entire effort to portray opposition to same-sex marriage as equivalent to opposing interracial marriage is profoundly misleading. And they have a point. (Allowing people of the same sex to marry is a much more radical change to the institution than opening marriage to men and women of different races — and the sexual morality wrapped up with male-female marriage is far more deeply intertwined with the theological traditions of Western Christianity than racialized theories of matrimony ever were.)

The point is that politicians and commentators on both sides of the aisle do themselves no favors by drawing false analogies. It’s a form of hype — sloganeering used in place of reason. Sometimes, as with the purported parallel between interracial and same-sex marriage, a weak analogy succeeds as propaganda. But more often, the analogy persuades no one who wasn’t already convinced.

In such cases, argument and evidence will always have a greater likelihood of prevailing. Accept no substitutes.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, July 23, 2015

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, July 23, 2015

July 27, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Media, Nazis, Socialism | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Self-Styled Super-Patriots”: Loving An Imaginary America, Hating The Real One

Leave it to Matt Taibbi in a return to the pages of Rolling Stone to come up with a unique perspective on Rudy Giuliani’s rants about Obama not loving America: it reminds Taibbi of communist bitter-enders in post-Soviet Russia:

Rudy Giuliani is giving me Soviet flashbacks…..

Not to go too far down memory lane, but in 1990, I went to Leningrad to study. The Soviet empire was in its death throes and most people there, particularly the younger ones, knew it.

But some hadn’t gotten the memo yet, and those folks, usually nice enough, often older — university administrators, check-room attendants, security guards, parents of some of my classmates, others — were constantly challenging me and other exchange students to East-versus-West debates, usually with the aim of proving that “their” way of life was better.

By the time I left Russia a dozen years and a couple of career changes later, a lot of those people still hadn’t gotten the memo. They were deep in denial about the passing of the USSR and spent a lot of time volubly claiming ownership of words like we and our and us in a way that quickly became a running joke in modernizing Russia.

U Nas Lusche — roughly, Ours is Better or It’s Better Here — was the unofficial slogan of the pining-for-the-old-days crowd in post-communist Russia….

[T]he Soviets also had a strong sense of exceptionalism. It was something that was carefully nurtured and encouraged by The Party and had been spread successfully from the Kremlin to the remotest drunk-tank in Kamchatka.

But the problem with exceptionalism is that it can turn unintentionally comic with the drop of a hat. You’re made to believe you’re at the center of an envious universe, but then the world changes just enough and suddenly you’re a punchline clinging to a lot of incoherent emotions. I watched this happen with my own eyes to a lot of people in the former Soviet Union.

And I feel like it’s happening here now, with Rudy and the rest of the exceptionalist die-hards. They’re hanging on to a conception of us that doesn’t really exist anymore, not realizing that “America” is now a deeply varied, rapidly-changing place, one incidentally that they spend a lot of their public lives declaring they can’t stand.

And that’s the real irony and outrage: self-styled super-patriots who make it more apparent every day that they don’t much like, much less love, their country.

The Giuliani crack-up started up a long-overdue discussion about what exactly it means when patrician pols like Rudy accuse others of not “loving America” enough.

After all, which America do they mean? The one that will be majority nonwhite by 2042? The one that twice elected Barack Obama president? The one that now produces more porn than steel? The one that has one of the world’s lowest fertility rates and one of the highest immigration rates? That America?

Are they big fans of South Park maybe? The Wu-Tang Clan? Looking? Because it’s ironic: The heavy industry and manufacturing might that was a key source of American power in the days of Giuliani’s youth is now in serious decline, but Hollywood (and American pop culture generally) is a bigger, more hegemonic world power than ever.

Yet the current batch of exceptionalists mostly despises Hollywood, one of our few still-exceptionally-performing industries. They liked it better in the days when John Wayne was the leading man, Rock Hudson was in the closet and nobody made movies about copulating cowboys or Che’s motorcycle trips.

And here’s the classic Taibbi-esque coup de grace:

Conservative politicians like Rudy are a bizarre combination of constant, withering, redundant whining about Actual Current America, mixed with endless demands that we all stand up and profess our love for some other America, one that apparently doesn’t include a lot of the rest of us or the things about this country we like.

I feel sorry for Rudy that he can’t love this country the way it is. I love America even with assholes like him living in it.

Kinda the way I feel about Erick Erickson insisting that Barack Obama and I can’t possibly be Christians.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 23, 2015

February 24, 2015 Posted by | American Exceptionalism, Patriotism, Republicans, Rudy Giuliani | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Forced To Take A Position”: On Cuba, GOP Presidential Hopefuls Trapped By Older Voters And The Past

For a guy who was supposed to be mired in unpopularity and bored with his job, Barack Obama is sure making life hard for Republicans, not to mention complicating their task in winning the White House in 2016. The Republican reaction to his decision to normalize relations with Cuba may have been exactly what everyone expected, but it shows just how trapped those who want to get the GOP presidential nomination are. They’re snared by the past, by the need to oppose everything that Obama does, and by what we might consider the base of their base — older voters for whom Cold War antagonisms still feel fresh, even as the rest of the country is leaving them behind.

Every Republican contender who found himself facing a microphone yesterday condemned the decision to normalize relations, none more so than Marco Rubio, who appeared on over a dozen TV programs to condemn it. While there’s no doubt that Rubio’s position is sincere (he’s the child of Cuban immigrants), consider what position you’d be in if you were a GOP contender who actually thought this move was overdue. While both parties have supported the embargo and a policy of unceasing antagonism toward the Castro regime for decades, your party held that belief particularly close to its heart. In order to win the nomination, you’re going to need the support of lots of older voters. For them, the Cold War defined their political coming-of-age and most of their lives. Vigorous anti-communism was at the core of what it meant to be a conservative, along with support for low taxes, small government, and traditional social values. Their kids and grandkids may see opposition to communism as an issue that’s in the past, but it’s still important to the way those older voters think about the world.

This means that while some Republican politicians (like Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona) may support normalizing relations, if you want to get the GOP presidential nomination, it just isn’t an option. And that’s despite the fact that not only is normalization supported by a majority of Americans, but also in some polls even a majority of Republicans support it, or if not a majority then nearly so. For instance, in this 2009 Gallup poll (they haven’t asked recently), 42 percent of Republicans supported re-establishing diplomatic relations, 44 percent supported ending the trade embargo, and 57 percent supported ending travel restrictions. Or look at this poll from the bipartisan Atlantic Council earlier this year:

As on many other issues, the passage of time and the change of generations make a move away from the traditional Republican position all but inevitable. Even a majority of Cuban-Americans in Florida now support ending the embargo. In the time period in which so many Republicans still live psychologically — the 1980s, when Reagan was president, we knew who our enemies were, and everything was going great — such a thing would have been inconceivable. It’s happening because the children and grandchildren of those who fled Castro’s regime don’t have the same intense feelings that the immigrant generation had, and they don’t see what continuing Cuba’s isolation will accomplish.

Despite these changes in the broader population and among Republican voters in particular, a candidate seeking the presidential nomination can’t take the risk of alienating the older voters who will play such a key role in the GOP primaries. And by bringing the issue to the front pages and the top of the policy agenda, Barack Obama has forced them to loudly take a position that will hurt whoever the nominee is in the general election. Not bad for a lame duck.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, December 18, 2014

December 19, 2014 Posted by | Cuba, GOP Presidential Candidates, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Common Murderer, Ordinary Thug”: Putin Is Trying To Reconstruct The Russian Empire

After the bloody suppression of a patriotic demonstration in Warsaw in 1861, Alexander Herzen wrote to Tsar Alexander II: “You have become a common murderer, an ordinary thug.” He also described the Russian press as “shameless” and “unscrupulous.”

Today, we should repeat the words of this great Russian, and direct them at Vladimir Putin and Russian propaganda-men who are lying ceaselessly and insolently. A while ago, we heard that Poland trained Ukrainian fascist squads that terrorized the Maidan; next we learned that Putinist conquerors of the Crimea bought their weapons and uniforms in stores and that the Kremlin had nothing to do with it. Now we are once again hearing about the Ukrainian state’s responsibility.

The 298 wretched victims of the crash of the Malaysia Air flight are a result of Putin’s ruthless and cynical policies. It was his decision to arm the so-called separatists who in reality are the Kremlin’s spy network and fifth column in the Donbass region. They were armed with Putin’s knowledge and approval. And these people are the ones who killed random, innocent individuals.

Putinwith his KGB lieutenant-colonel mentalitydoes not want to let Ukraine follow its own path toward democracy and Europe. He wants to reconstruct the empire. Inciting and upholding ethnic conflicts in Latvia and Estonia serves this aim, as does the creeping dismantling of Moldova, and maintenance of conflicts around Upper Karabakh. Indeedthis great power, great Russian chauvinism is the final and highest stage of communism. And Putin understands progress as gradual annexation of successive states.

The European Unionaccustomed to peace and quiethas neither determination nor an understanding of the growing threat. The clichéd faith in the possibility of placating the beast is replaying over and over again. The blindness and loyalty of European political and business elites gives reason for concern. But there is nothing that releases usintellectuals active in culture, scholarship, and mediafrom the duty to say clearly, stubbornly, and emphatically: This is very dangerous. We are not allowed to repeat the naiveté once displayed by intellectual elites toward Hitler and Stalin. And back then we were not allowed to close our eyes to the annexation of Austria, Czechoslovakia, and the Baltic States.

My friend from Moscow says that there are two scenarios in which the Russian army will leave Ukraine: One realistic and the other miraculous. In the realistic scenario, Saint George will ride in on a dragon and use his fiery sword to chase this band of scoundrels away. That’s the realistic scenario. And the miraculous one? They’ll just up and leave on their own.

The policy of successive concessions leads nowhere. Putin is not a European-style politician; he’s a politician of permanent belligerence. Much seems to suggest that he has already let the genie out of the bottlecrowds of mercenaries are moving from Russia to Ukraine, crowds of sentimental monarchists, Orthodox fascists, National-Bolsheviks, and the like. Arming these bandits with first-class weapons is simply criminal. It is a good thing that Poland’s current government has taken an honest and judicious stanceit’s not flexing its muscles but it’s also not succumbing to illusions or hypocrisy.

 

By: Adam Michnik, Editor-in-Chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, where this piece originally appeared; The Huffington Post, July 21, 2014

July 22, 2014 Posted by | Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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