“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
For a presidential candidate who’s often preoccupied with his youth and reputation for looking forward, Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) policy vision can be strikingly regressive.
Marriage equality, for example, is already the law of the land in the United States, but Right Wing Watch flagged Rubio’s new interview with Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, where the senator made clear he’s not done fighting against equal marriage rights, calling the status quo “current law,” but “not settled law.”
“If you live in a society where the government creates an avenue and a way for you to peacefully change the law, then you’re called on to participate in that process to try to change it – not ignoring it, but trying to change the law.
“And that’s what we’re endeavoring to do here. I continue to believe that marriage law should be between one man and one woman.”
For most of the country, there’s a realization that there is no credible proposal to turn back the clock. Rubio didn’t elaborate on how, exactly, he wants to “change the law” to prevent same-sex couples from getting married, and if he tried, he’d likely fail.
But the key here is understanding just how far the Florida senator is willing to go with the culture war. For Rubio, it’s still not too late to bring back discriminatory marriage laws.
And then, of course, there are reproductive rights, where Rubio still intends to be the most far-right major-party presidential nominee of the modern era.
As regular readers know, Rubio’s position on abortion is that it must be outlawed – without exception. If a woman is impregnated by a rapist, for example, Rubio believes the government has the authority to force that woman to take that pregnancy to term, whether she wants to or not.
This came up in a recent interview with the New Yorker.
On several issues, Rubio has taken a position that suits the faithful in the primaries but is guaranteed to repel voters in a general election. His most obvious vulnerability is on abortion. In the first Republican debate, Rubio said that his opposition to abortion extends to cases of rape or incest – a position at odds with that of more than three-quarters of Americans. [Democratic strategist David] Axelrod told me, “No exceptions is a position so extreme that no Republican candidate has ever held it. Presidential races are defined by moments. Maybe he will try to amend that position, but in the age of video it’s hard to extinguish a declarative statement like that.”
When I asked Rubio about it, he said, somewhat confusingly, “Look, I personally believe that all life is worthy of protection, and therefore I don’t ever require, nor have I ever advocated, that I won’t support a law unless it has exceptions.” After some more twists and turns, I sensed that we had reached the line he plans to use in a general election: “My goal is to save as many lives as possible, and I’ll support anything that does that. Even if it has exceptions.”
This led to some confusion, prompting Rubio to clarify matters in an interview yesterday with the Associated Press. “I, as president, will sign a bill that has exceptions,” he said. “I’ve supported bills that have exceptions.” The senator added, “I do not personally require a bill to have exceptions – other than life of the mother – in order for me to support it. But I will sign a bill as president that has exceptions.”
Here’s the bottom line: if a Republican Congress sends President Rubio an anti-abortion bill, he’ll sign it, even if it includes some exceptions he personally disagrees with. When it comes to abortion restrictions, he’ll take what he can get and then fight for more.
But as far as what Rubio actually, personally wants U.S. policy to be, he’s opposed to exceptions, even in cases of rape and incest – a position further to the right than any Republican nominee since Roe was decided more than 40 years ago.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 25, 2015
“Enshrining Discrimination In Constitutional Stone”: Cruz Leads The Race To The Bottom On Marriage Equality
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) attended an event in Manhattan this week, though the venue was a little surprising: the reception for the Texas Republican was held at the apartment of “two prominent gay hoteliers. At the gathering, Cruz reportedly said he would love his children regardless of their sexual orientation, and according to the event’s moderator, the far-right senator “told the group that marriage should be left up to the states.” As best as I can tell, there was no recording of the event, at least not one that’s available to the public, so it’s hard to know exactly what he said.
But before there’s speculation about whether Cruz’s conservative backers will revolt over the senator’s tone, consider the Texas lawmaker’s latest legislative push. Bloomberg Politics reported late yesterday:
Days before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on same-sex marriage, Senator Ted Cruz has filed two bills to protect states that bar gay couples from marrying.
Cruz’s legislation would establish a constitutional amendment shielding states that define marriage as between one woman and one man from legal action, according to bill language obtained by Bloomberg News. A second bill would bar federal courts from further weighing in on the marriage issue until such an amendment is adopted.
To be sure, this doesn’t come as too big a surprise. Cruz has been threatening to pursue an anti-gay constitutional amendment for quite a while, and he started telegraphing his “court-stripping” effort soon after launching his presidential campaign.
For that matter, it’s also not too surprising that Cruz would use his Senate office to push doomed proposals intended to boost his national candidacy.
But beware of the race to the bottom.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) yesterday made a small public splash, trying to position himself as the GOP field’s far-right leader on the culture war. It seems very likely that Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, and others will all make similar claims.
It’s against this backdrop that Cruz not only wants to enshrine discrimination in constitutional stone, he wants to prevent federal courts from even hearing cases related to marriage equality.
In other words, as the race for the Republicans’ presidential nomination continues to unfold, we’re confronted with a very real possibility of seeing one candidate say, “I’m the most anti-gay candidate and I’m going to prove it,” only to soon after hear another respond, “No, I’m the most anti-gay candidate and I’m going to prove it.”
The race to the bottom may impress far-right social conservatives, but it will push the GOP even further from the American mainstream.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 25, 2015
Meg Greenfield, the late Post editorial page editor, counseled against writing in “High C” all the time. By this she meant that an editorialist or columnist who expressed equally noisy levels of indignation about everything would lack credibility when something truly outrageous came along that merited a well-crafted high-pitched scream.
We now seem to be living in the Age of High C, a period when every fight is Armageddon, every foe is a monster, and every issue is either the key to national survival or the doorway to ruin.
This habit seems especially pronounced in the way President Obama’s adversaries treat him. It’s odd that so many continue to see Obama as a radical and a socialist even as the Dow hits record levels and the wealthy continue to do very nicely. If he is a socialist, he is surely the most incompetent practitioner in the history of Marxism.
The reaction to Obama is part of a larger difficulty that involves pretending we are philosophically far more divided than we are. In all of the well-off democracies, even people who call themselves socialists no longer claim to have an alternative to the market as the primary creator and distributor of goods and services. The boundaries on the left end of what’s permissible in the public debate have been pushed well toward the center. This makes the hysteria and hyperbole all the more incomprehensible.
But let’s dream a little and assume that the American left signed on to the proposals put forward by Lane Kenworthy of the University of California-San Diego in his challenging (and, by the way, very pro-market) book “Social Democratic America,” published this year. Kenworthy’s argument is that we can “successfully embrace both flexibility and security, both competition and social justice.”
His wish list is a straightforward set of progressive initiatives. A few of them: universal health insurance and early education, extensive new help on job searches and training, a year of paid parental leave, an increased minimum wage indexed to prices, expansions of efforts that supplement wages such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the government as an employer of last resort.
His program, he says, would cost around 10 percent of our gross domestic product. Now that’s a lot of money, and the debate about whether we should spend it would be anything but phony. Yet would such a level of expenditure signal the death of our constitutional system? Would it make us like, say, Cuba? No and no. It might make us a little more like Germany, the Netherlands or the Scandinavian countries. We can argue if we want to do this, but these market democracies happen to share with us an affection for freedom and enterprise.
And when it comes to High C, there’s nothing quite like our culture wars, in which disagreements about social issues are seen as battles between libertines and bigots. When I look around, I see a lot of liberals who live quite traditional family lives and even go regularly to churches, synagogues and mosques. I see a lot of conservatives who are feminists when it comes to their daughters’ opportunities and who oppose bigotry against gays and lesbians.
The ideological resolution I’d suggest for the new year is that all sides stop fighting and pool their energies to easing the marriage and family crisis that is engulfing working-class Americans.
This would require liberals to acknowledge what the vast majority of them already practice in their own lives: that, all things being equal, kids are better off with two loving and engaged parents. It would require conservatives to acknowledge that many of the pressures on families are economic and that the decline of well-paying blue-collar work is causing huge disruptions in family formation. I’d make a case that Kenworthy’s ideas for a more social democratic America would be good for families, but let’s argue it out in the spirit of a shared quest for remedies.
Maybe it’s asking too much, but might social conservatives also consider my friend Jonathan Rauch’s idea that they abandon their campaign against gay marriage in favor of a new campaign on behalf of the value of committed relationships for all of us?
Disagreement is one of the joys of freedom, so I am all for boisterous debate and tough political and philosophical competition. It’s how I make my living. But our democratic system would be healthier if it followed the Greenfield rule and reserved the harshest invective for things that are genuinely monstrous.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 28, 2014
This is not, I readily confess, the development that will dominate the headlines on November 5, but I couldn’t help but notice recently that there is a sporting chance that, after this election, my old home state might no longer be represented by a single Democrat in the United States House of Representatives. So what, you say—it’s just West Virginia. Okay, maybe. But trust me: This idea would have been beyond inconceivable only a decade or so ago, and there’s an interesting and much broader story behind the change that has to do with deep cultural and economic anxieties, and I can’t help but wonder whether the Democrats can tap into them and attempt to ameliorate their effects.
First the facts. West Virginia has three congressional districts. The first, which contains the northern panhandle and my home town of Morgantown, is represented by Republican David McKinley, who first won in 2010 (by less than 1 percent) and was the first Republican to represent most of those areas since I was playing Little League. He is strongly favored to be reelected. The second district is an open seat, vacated by Republican Shelley Moore Capito to run for Senate. Tea Party Republican Alex Mooney is facing Democrat Nick Casey. They are basically tied (Casey’s in the hunt in part because Mooney is actually from Maryland; it’s complicated), but Mooney is getting lots of national money. In the third district, longtime Democratic incumbent Nick Joe Rahall, one of the few Lebanese-Americans roaming the halls of Congress, is facing a stiff challenge from a state senator named Evan Jenkins, who switched from D to R last year and can boast two important endorsements, from the Coal Association and the state’s right-to-life group, that don’t usually land in a non-incumbent’s lap.
Now, two of those races are close, and if the Democrats win them, the party would actually pick up a seat, so there goes my alarmism. But still, it could well be a GOP sweep, which is especially jarring when you throw in Capito, the Republican who’ll be taking over Jay Rockefeller’s seat (the state hasn’t had a Republican senator since 1958). That would leave Joe Manchin as the state’s only Democrat in Washington, and of course, on the coasts, lots of Democrats don’t think he’s much of a Democrat.
It’s really a stunning transformation. People don’t pay much attention to the state, but if they did, they’d know that West Virginia is the only—yes, only—state in the union that has gone in this century from deep blue to rock-ribbed red.
So what’s happened? No, it’s not as simple as the president is b-l-a-c-k. It’s the decline in union membership (a handful of men can now mine as much coal as hundreds used to). It’s the organizing strength of the NRA. It’s the less-discussed-but-pivotal inroads the Southern Baptist Convention has made into the state since the 1980s. It’s the fact that there are no real cities to speak of, not many people of color, only one large university, no hipsters (well, a few; I know some of them). I watched the transformation only as an occasional interloper on trips back home to see my folks, but even from that vantage point, things were pretty clear—the increasing proliferation of NASCAR paraphernalia in the stores next to the Mountaineer swag, the appearance in Morgantown of a Christian high school, and of course presidential vote totals (although Obama did carry my home county in 2008). We smart people in the big cities all agree that the right has lost the culture war. That may be so nationally. But West Virginia is the one place where the right won the culture war.
And so it’s a place of profound anxieties, cultural and economic. Being from Morgantown doesn’t give me much of a window on them. Morgantown is one of the nicest small cities in America (no, really) and has a diverse economy and diverse (by West Virginia standards) population.
The southern part of the state, which is really what outlanders think of when they bother to think of West Virginia, is where the anxieties run deeper. It’s a place in real trouble, and the people know it. Culturally, America has changed on them. The state is now issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Let’s just say that in some of those counties down there, I wouldn’t want to be the first guy to apply for one. And fossil fuels probably aren’t long for this world—there is still plenty of coal in them thar hills, as they say, but in 20 or 30 years, the way energy technologies are transforming, the world may not want it anymore.
I, you’ll be un-shocked to hear, do not think the Republican Party has any real answers for these people. The GOP will fight for coal, but at the same time its broader policies are all harmful to the state (aren’t many 2 percenters in West Virginia). What the state really needs is to figure out how to elbow its way into the tech economy. That requires investments, in schools and in infrastructure of both the physical and telecom varieties. And it means, yep, taxes.
I suppose there’s a chance that Hillary Clinton could win West Virginia, if Bill spends a lot of time there. But why would they bother? She won’t need its five measly electoral votes. I think it would be a grand thing if President Clinton, among her first acts, proposed something big and meaningful for precisely the people who didn’t vote for her (a Republican president should do the same). But that just isn’t likely, the way things are today. Politics is too expensive, and a new president has people to pay back.
No, we’re not sure it’s going to be President Clinton, but we are sure that the GOP is up against both the electoral college and demographic walls in a big way, and it may not win a presidential election for some time. Poor West Virginia: It stayed true to Democratic losers like Walter Mondale and Mike Dukakis but is completing its insistent makeover to red just as the Republicans are in danger of being a quasi-permanent out party.
There’s a great scene in the lovely film October Sky where the residents of Coalwood gather to watch Sputnik race by in the sky. One person speculates about the Russians dropping a bomb on the town. Another retorts: “I own’t know why anybody’d drop a bomb on ’is place. Be a waste of a perfectly good bomb.” It captured a worldview and fate that I hope the people from the poorer parts of the state can one day escape.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 10, 2014