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“Jindal To GOP; I’ll Be Your Donald Trump!”: Racist Demagoguery Is Too Important A Task To Be Left To An ‘Egomaniacal Madman’

Well, this is going to be interesting. Donald Trump’s Twitter account has been silent most of the day, and so we haven’t seen any response to Bobby Jindal’s supreme act of provocation at the National Press Club. He is going to be on Greta van Susteran’s show tonight, so maybe he’s saving up some heat-seeking missiles to send Bobby’s way. Will he make exorcism jokes? Mention how reluctant Bobby is to spend time in the state he is supposedly governing, or how unpopular he is there? Mock Jindal’s campaign for resorting to attacks on Trump to get some attention? No telling.

But blowback aside, Jindal’s speech is pretty amazing. It very, very carefully distinguishes between Trump and Trumpism, holding up the latter even as it tears down the former:

I like the idea of a DC outsider.

I like that he doesn’t care about political correctness.

I like the fact that he says things people are thinking but are afraid to say.

I like that he uses Ronald Reagan’s theme of making America Great Again.

Trump’s diagnoses is correct — the professional political class in Washington, including the Republicans, is incompetent and full of nonsense. He is right. The political class in Washington has abandoned us. Trump has performed an important service by taking on the political class and exposing them for being completely full of nonsense.

But Trump doesn’t really believe this stuff, because he only believes in himself.

The message here seems to be that racist demagoguery is too important a task to be left to a “egomaniacal madman” like the guy who’s shown how popular racist demagoguery can be among the GOP rank-and-file.

So Bobby’s offering himself as the vehicle for Trumpism without Trump, or as he puts it, a “politically incorrect conservative revolution.”

I’m not sure what that would look like in practice, but in Bobby’s version it seems to begin with treating Trump the way Trump treats Mexicans: denouncing him in terms that burn any conceivable bridges to smithereens. Indeed, if I were advising Bobby, I’d be a bit worried that he won’t be able to sign the very “loyalty pledge” Trump has signed, which commits the candidate to support of the GOP nominee, even if it’s Trump.

I mean, seriously, listen to this:

Many say he’s dangerous because you wouldn’t want a hot head with his fingers on the nuclear codes. And while that’s true, that’s not the real danger here.

The real danger is that, ironically, Donald Trump could destroy America’s chance to be Great Again.

As conservatives, we have a golden opportunity in front of us. The Democrats have terribly screwed things up, and are basically giving us the next election.

If we blow this opportunity – we may never get it again, the stakes are incredibly high.

It’s true Trump might launch a nuclear war, says Bobby, but “that’s not the real danger here.” Hillary could win the election!

I really didn’t think my opinion of Bobby Jindal could get any lower, or my very low opinion of Donald Trump could get any higher. This continues to be a season of political wonders.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 9, 2015


September 11, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, Donald Trump, Racism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Economic Illiteracy: GOP Catering To Tea Party Ignorance On Debt Ceiling

What happens when you take the certainty of an ideologue, mix in an unhealthy dose of economic illiteracy, shameless demagoguery, and bring the combustible mix to a boil on the national stage? Quite possibly national default and a new recession.

The nature of this mix—and the corner into which GOP leaders have  painted themselves—is neatly illustrated in the latest poll numbers from The Washington Post and the Pew Research Center.

As the Post’s Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake note today:

The data suggests that those who identify as Republicans who are supportive of the tea party not only view themselves as far more educated than the average person on the current debt debate, but are also far more worried about the impact if the debt limit is increased.

More than eight in 10 tea party supporters (81 percent) said they understand “what would happen if the government does not raise the federal debt limit” — far more than the 55 percent of all respondents who said the same thing.

Three quarters of tea party supporters said that they were more concerned that raising the debt ceiling would “lead to higher government spending and make the national debt bigger,” while just 19 percent said they were more worried that “not raising the debt limit would force the government into default and hurt the nation’s economy.”

The message from the numbers? Tea party backers simply don’t believe that not raising the debt limit by Aug. 2 is all that big a deal — and they feel that way because they believe they understand the issue inside and out.

If a significant chunk of his House members don’t fear the consequences of a default, it’s very difficult for Boehner to make the case for the fierce urgency of now in the debt debate.

While the overwhelming number of economists—and even prominent non-economists like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, who have both stated that not raising the debt ceiling is unthinkable—say that failure to raise the debt ceiling could have a host of nasty consequences for the economy, like a global financial crisis, downgrading of the U.S. credit rating, and a second recession … the Tea Party crowd has anointed itself a group of experts who know better.

This is why Eric Cantor could with a (presumably) straight face argue yesterday that the GOP’s great concession in this debate was considering a debt ceiling increase at all. But sorry, our base is too wound up in its own misconceptions to allow us to do the slam dunk right thing for the county is the politics of cowardice. And it’s a brand that Cantor, who has referred to the debt ceiling crisis as a “leverage moment”—an opportunity for the GOP to extract concessions in order to be forced to do the right thing—has played with either cold cynicism or reckless stupidity.

Then there’s Boehner, who acknowledges the debt ceiling must be raised but cloaks it in the language of Obama getting “his” rise in the debt ceiling—as if keeping the country from an economic disaster is some parochial, partisan, hobby.

No less a publication than The Economist, hardly a hotbed of socialist foment, recently called the GOP position “economically illiterate and disgracefully cynical.” I think that’s about right.

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, July 12, 2011

July 12, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democracy, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mr. Gingrich’s Intolerant History: A Presidential Bid Built On Divisiveness And Name-Calling

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and latest entrant in the Republican presidential field, has money, experience and name recognition. His introductory videois all serenity and hope, a deceptively calm way for many voters to meet a splenetic politician with a long history of slashing divisiveness and intolerance.

He refers to himself as a historian, but apparently his personal study of history has primarily taught him about the effectiveness of demagogy. Donald Trump, fiddling with birth certificates, is an amateur compared with Mr. Gingrich at sliming the Obama administration — as well as Democrats, Muslims, blacks and gay men and lesbians.

The Democrats who won in 2008, including President Obama, are “left-wing radicals” who lead a “secular socialist machine,” he wrote in his 2010 book, “To Save America.” He accused them of producing “the greatest political corruption ever seen in modern America.” And then the inevitable historical coup de grâce: “The secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.”

The slurs don’t stop there. He compared the Muslims who wanted to open an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan to the German Reich, saying it “would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum.” He is promoting the fringe idea that “jihadis” are intent on imposing Islamic law on every American village and farm.

Last year, he called for a federal law to stop the (nonexistent) onslaught of Sharia on American jurisprudence and accused the left of refusing to acknowledge its “mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.” This nuanced grasp of world affairs was reinforced when he said that Mr. Obama displayed “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior.”

In his world, advocates for gay rights are imposing a “gay and secular fascism” using violence and harassment, blacks have little entrepreneurial tradition, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the Supreme Court is a “Latina woman racist.” (He kind of took back that last slur.)

Despite all this, not to mention the ethics violation when he was speaker, Mr. Gingrich’s real liability among the conservative and fundamentalist groups that dominate the Republican primaries is his personal history of infidelity that led to two sordid divorces. (Much of which took place while he was denouncing President Bill Clinton for moral transgressions.) That may explain his endless calls to restore Judeo-Christian values.

It is sometimes difficult to know what some Republican candidates stand for, as they pander to the far right without alienating the center. It is not difficult to know what Newt Gingrich stands for, and to find it repellent.

By: The New York Times, Editorial, May 12, 2011

May 12, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Conservatives, Elections, Exploratory Presidential Committees, GOP, Islam, Islamophobia, Muslims, Neo-Cons, Politics, President Obama, Racism, Republicans, Right Wing, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Donald Trump A Demagogue?: He Might Aspire To Be One—But He Doesn’t Have The Chops

Unless you live under a rock, you know Donald Trump is thinking about running for president. His sensational public endeavors—pushing the White House to release President Obama’s long-form birth certificate and, most recently, questioning the authenticity of the president’s academic record—have met with astonishment, outrage, and dismay. A recent Bloomberg BusinessWeek cover featured a photo of Trump in mid-rant with the one-word headline, “Seriously?” Journalists, commentators, and even Jerry Seinfeld (who recently canceled an appearance at a Trump fundraiser) have taken to calling Trump a demagogue.

In recent decades, this powerful term, traditionally a scalpel for taking apart dangerous leaders, has become blunt and ineffectual through overuse. I’ve been thinking and writing about demagogues for a decade. I’ve been watching with a mix of bemusement and concern as Trump strains to elevate himself into an actual political figure, rather than the ego tornado he’s been for decades. But one of the lessons of history is that, while it’s easy to underestimate demagogues, it’s also easy to overestimate them. For the time being, I’ve concluded that Trump is not a demagogue. He lacks both the common connection and the lawlessness of classic demagogues, whether Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez today or, in the past, figures ranging from Benito Mussolini to George Wallace to Joseph McCarthy. Instead, call him a quasi-demagogue: a political figure with the desire, but not the chops, to manipulate the masses.

Demagogues are part of the natural life cycle of democracy. So much so that the Founding Fathers designed our various checks and balances and circuit-breakers in part from their mortal terror that a predatory mass leader—a demagogue—would convert popular adulation into American tyranny. James Madison, for instance, explained that “provisions against the measures of an interested majority,”such as an independent judiciary, were required to control “the followers of different Demagogues.” This doesn’t mean, however, that demagogues haven’t popped up throughout the country’s history.

During my years studying and watching demagogues, the one lesson that has stuck with me is this: Many politicians could become demagogues if they wanted to. They could choose the gross emotional appeal, the naked ambition, and the cunning blend of vulgarity and artistry that is the true demagogue’s métier. They don’t because most of them are governed by an ethic of shame. Where others blush and quail, the demagogue happily blusters ahead—crossing boundaries, coloring outside lines, toppling walls.

Demagogues often look most ridiculous to the people they’re most uninterested in impressing. When the colorful, autocratic Louisiana Governor Huey Long was sworn into the U.S. Senate in 1931, it was precisely his clownishness that gave him such political amplitude. He prompted a firestorm of controversy when he met a German naval commander paying an official call in a pair of green silk pajamas and a bathrobe. One scholar writes, “[T]he lesson he learned from the incident was less the importance of diplomatic niceties than the value of buffoonery in winning national publicity.” With these techniques, Long soon attracted more attention from the press than his 99 Senatorial colleagues combined. He would have challenged FDR for president in 1936, had he not been assassinated by the son of a political opponent in 1935.

You might think that Trump’s own clownishness puts him in the class of a Huey Long. But let’s take a closer look. As I argued in my book Demagogue: The Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worst Enemies, a true demagogue meets four tests. First, he presents himself as a man of the people, rather than the elites. Second, he strikes a very strong, even overpowering emotional connection with the people. Third, he uses this connection for his own political benefit. Fourth, he threatens or breaks established rules of governance. This fourth test is the most important, distinguishing a demagogue like Huey Long (who routinely used the National Guard to intimidate or brutalize political opponents, for instance) from populists like William Jennings Bryan (who, as rambunctious as he may have been, tended to play by the rules).

For Trump, let’s take the four tests in turn. With his Theater of the Absurd hairdo and his massively knotted silk ties, his Manhattan address and his glitzy brand, Trump is hardly a man of the people. True, he’s employing incautious bluster as a proxy for common appeal. “Authenticity” has become the coin of today’s reality-television realm, and there is a mass appeal to his straight-talkin’ persona—this is why his recent use of the “f bomb” plays to his curious political strengths, even while appalling elites. But for Trump to swap his fancy persona for that of a commoner would require him to blow up the brand he’s spent decades building, a task for which he is probably not constitutionally capable.

Second, Trump does not have the broad emotional appeal to the masses that marks the classic demagogue. Over the last decades, Trump has enjoyed billions of dollars of both paid and earned media exposure. He couldn’t be better-known by the American people. Yet he is consistently polling under 20 percent right now among Republicans and right-leaning independents (a recent CNN poll has him at only 14 percent), giving him a base of well under one in ten among the general voting population. The emotional surge for Trump among the very hard-core Tea Party right should certainly be noted. But it’s more likely this brushfire halts at a particular firebreak: the general American public’s hostility and suspicion to the Tea Partiers.

On the third test, it’s very unclear whether Trump is interested in actual political power, or just in increasing his personal brand and wealth. Even now, we can’t tell whether he will run—and keep running, after the glitz of the initial launch wears off—for president. Even if he gets into the race, will he slog through the hard work of an 18-month campaign, including getting on the ballot in all 50 states, participating in debates, developing policy positions? And, if he drops out, will he really have an interest in putting his shoulder to a real political end? Time will tell, but the initial signs are that this is mostly about Trumpery rather than government.

The most important test is the fourth—that demagogues, unlike populists, bend or break the rules. Trump clearly has no inhibition about lying for political benefit. But real demagogues go much further. Look at Joseph McCarthy, who used his selected issue of anti-communism to demolish people’s personal and professional lives. It’s hard to imagine that Trump really wants to encourage threatening behavior. But, if he ever started to ask his followers to test boundaries of lawfulness, to “challenge authority,” our hackles should quickly rise.

None of this means Trump isn’t worth taking seriously. To the contrary: Where Trump is succeeding in his demagogic appeals, he’s also illuminating shadowy corners of the American public. And we have to take a hard look at how this is happening. Demagogues, like nightshade, have always flourished in dark places of extreme economic or social distress. The 1920s were the last great era of American demagoguery, when Huey Long and the Detroit “radio priest” Father Coughlin rallied millions of terrified Americans against elites. It’s been no surprise that the 2010s, a time of similar distress, have fostered divisive figures from Sarah Palin to Glenn Beck to Trump.

The lesson here is that today’s restless, upset public needs reassurance—and vigorous economic policy that addresses their concerns. But we also need the media to exercise some discretion. In today’s fragmented, 24-7 echo chamber, where 500,000 nightly viewers qualify you as a pundit and one persistent blogger can take over a news cycle, the media has more responsibility for steering the ship of state toward calmer waters. Trump—as quasi-demagogue—is a creation largely of the media. The real conspiracy isn’t Trump’s mania du jour; it’s hundreds of news editors, assignment editors, reporters, and bloggers whom he’s playing like fiddles.

More broadly, though, history shows that the only real antidote to demagogues is an alert, vigilant civic culture. The ancient Athenians, exhausted by a series of vicious demagogues, passed a law exiling anyone who “proposed a measure contrary to democratic principles.” We probably don’t need to go so far, though some watching Trump today doubtless wouldn’t mind moving him to Canada. America, after all, is the land of the civic mores the visiting Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville chronicled and admired. And we almost always eventually turn on demagogues. The stars of Father Coughlin, Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace, and David Duke all rose for a time, but, when they fell, they crashed hard.

We can never be complacent about our constitutionalism, and the Trump phenomenon bears careful watching, lest the little fires he’s clearly capable of starting spread into a larger conflagration. But, in general, Americans have shown they’ve got what it takes to nip even quasi-demagogues in the bud. Take note of Palin and Beck’s recent fates: Under heavy fire from the public for their own excesses (a persecution complex in Palin’s case, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in Beck’s), they both are retreating to the sidelines.

We’re early in Trump’s political career, so I offer these judgments cautiously, but my suspicion is that Trump, too, will burn out, like a hot fuse on a cold rocket. This may already have started. When President Obama took the stage last week in his stunner of a press conference to take on Trump’s birther attacks, he declared, “We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.” A hilarious tweet I received shortly after said that carnival barkers were protesting that the comparison with Trump was giving them a bad name. And, of course, the president easily made Trump look both inane and irrelevant when the coverage of Osama bin Laden’s death interrupted “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

There’s also a final thing Trump himself should remember, before he goes farther down what is likely a dead-end road to demagoguery: History remembers Joseph Welch’s famous question to McCarthy—“Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”—as well as it remembers McCarthy himself. Trump has shown he doesn’t take criticism well, sending an angry retort to Vanity Fair and appearing openly thin-skinned after jokes were made at his expense at the White House Correspondents Dinner. He will likely realize soon, if he hasn’t already, that his brand, not to mention his ego, will not sustain the sort of historical thrashing that will inevitably follow any furthering of his demagogic aspirations. Indeed, in the end, The Donald’s self-love might just be his own best friend.

By: Michael Signer, The New Republic, May 7, 2011

May 7, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Constitution, Democracy, Donald Trump, Economy, Elections, Ideologues, Ideology, Journalists, Politics, Populism, President Obama, Press, Public, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Tea Party, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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