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“This GOP Civil War Is So Much Fun!”: Donald Trump Has Ripped The Conservative Coalition Asunder

Whom to root for when the Dallas Cowboys play the New England Patriots? The most obnoxious franchise in all of American professional sports versus the most rancidly cheatingest (and I mean really—read this; if this is all true, they should have their franchise license revoked and Belichick should be thrown out of the game). As the old joke has it, you root for a plane crash (relax, it’s a joke).

This is kind of where I am as I watch this blood feud erupt between the National Review Online and the Trump loyalists who started the #NRORevolt hashtag over the weekend. If you missed it, here’s the sitch. Last Friday, subscribers to Jonah Goldberg’s NR newsletter, the G-file, found his latest in their in-boxes, a protracted jeremiad that ran under the title “No Movement That Embraces Trump Can Call Itself Conservative.”

“If this is the conservative movement now,” he wrote, “I guess you’re going to have to count me out.”

So Trump partisans started doing exactly that, and in droves. Commenters on the article were venomous: Go ahead, you RINO-quisling-sellout (or, occasionally, you dastardly Jew), who needs you anyway? This comment was representative, and even a little quasi-poetic: “So Blow and Rage, Jonah, Blow into the winter night, strut and fret your rabid slobber onto the stage, idiot-like until you are flattened by the Trump steamroller—of course we will be forced to hear more of your shout and flabberting, but it won’t mean a thing. I hope the Republican Party collapses so we can get on with partnering with something that is not so diseased that its internal organs are melting into a pus-fulled [sic] syrup that is oozing out of every…whatever.”

In short order, the now-famous hashtag arose as a venue for kindred sentiments. It seems safe to say that not many National Review subscribers are probably involved in this effort. As near as these things can be determined, it may have been launched by a guy named Ricky Vaughn, who describes himself on Twitter as a “right-wing nativist.” You see the word “cuckservative” tossed around a lot in these tweets, a word that the Southern Poverty Law Center says has roots in white nationalist and anti-Semitic circles. And of course the word sounds the way it sounds for a reason, evoking both “cock” and “suck” in a way that is definitely not intended as a compliment.

Well, for people like me, this is definitely pass-the-popcorn time. What better entertainment could there possibly be than watching American conservatism being wrecked by a bunch of white nationalists?

American conservatism has spent decades winking at these kinds of groups and voters—denouncing them very occasionally when caught red-handed playing in the same sandbox, as when a white Southern Republican is forced to explain that gosh, he didn’t know the local citizens’ council was a white supremacist group; but for the most part courting these voters and stoking their anxieties through means sometimes subtle, sometimes not. So, let them tear each other apart.

The amusing thing is, Goldberg actually makes some good points in his newsletter piece, mainly that Trump isn’t much of a conservative on a number of issues. About that, he is correct.

But if he can’t instantly grasp how modern conservatism made Trump—and not only Trump, but even more important, the people who are now his rabid supporters—then I doubt it can be explained at a level of remediation that will sink in. But it’s pretty simple. When Steve King jokes about people crossing the border with their cantaloupe-sized calves full of bags of weed, he’s creating Trump and Trump’s backers. And multiply that times 300 for every crazy-borderline racist comment in recent years by Michele Bachmann and Rush Limbaugh and all the rest of them, and you get a party and a movement whose nudges at that kind of thing have done far more to create Trump and his supporters than the occasional faux-solemn and perfunctory denunciations have done to thwart them. So this problem of white nationalism bubbling uncomfortably close to the surface is one the Republican Party and the conservative movement have deserved to have for a long time now.

Mind you I don’t think liberals should be gloating too much about this yet. It’s way too hard to predict what all this will mean for the election. In all likelihood, Trump won’t have the votes to win the nomination, John Kasich or Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush will, and the Trump voters will mostly start getting themselves worked up about the looming menace of President Hillary and come out and vote for the sellout RINOs they’re now repudiating at #NRORevolt.

But let’s say that at some point, we do see a real civil war in the Republican Party over all this, and the time comes when GOP leaders need to own up to a Joe McCarthy kind of moment—that is, a moment when they are finally forced to step forward and say, Donald, we don’t want you or your more extreme supporters. The National Review itself did a version of this, of course, back in the old days under Bill Buckley, when it said much the same to John Birch Society types.

But the Review was just a magazine. It lost some subscribers, I’m sure, but not the White House. For a political party the stakes are a little higher, and I don’t think today’s GOP would have the stones to do it. The party is stuck with Trump and his backers. It created them.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 9, 2015

September 10, 2015 Posted by | Conservatism, Donald Trump, GOP | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“CVS, Smokes And Liberal Fascism”: Fox News Turns Up The Stupidity

In Fox News Land, no one does anything in the public interest. It’s just Obama’s commie thugs bullying a corporate giant to do what the president thinks is ‘good for you.’

Bravo, CVS. That’s a bold and even historic move, banning cigarettes. It’s true it isn’t costing the company much—the sticks accounted for just $2 billion of its $123 billion in revenue last year, according to The New York Times. But even so, it’s a decision by an American mega-corporation that was made in… sit down and steady yourself… the public interest! Everyone’s for that, right? Right? Wait, what’s that rumble I hear over the gloaming?…

Why, it’s Fox News! And they aren’t happy. Yes—you read that right. On Fox News, CVS’s decision not to sell an addictive product that kills hundreds of thousands of Americans prematurely every year stinks of a big commie plot. Daytime host Gretchen Carlson said something idiotic Wednesday even by daytime Fox News’s idiotic standards. From Media Matters:

“Is it OK legally… to restrict tobacco availability in a private store like this?” She questioned her guests as to whether they would continue shopping at CVS and observed that, “For people who smoke, you know, they have a right to buy cigarettes. It’s not illegal.”

Is it legal?! Good God. Quintuple bacon cheeseburgers are legal. And yet, some restaurants choose not to offer them! Lawbreakers! Pinkos!

Yes, pinkos, see, because they’re becoming part of, you guessed it, the Obama agenda. That was the worry of Neil Cavuto, who wondered if CVS was “getting scaredy cat” since “with the health-care law and the changes and everything else,” selling tobacco products “didn’t look good.” And to round things out, Dana Perino, who actually used to stand at a podium to convey to the American people the substance of their government’s positions and policies, asked on the show called The Five: “Is this President Obama now saying that corporations are allowed to have values and express them? Because if that’s the case, maybe corporations then don’t have to provide contraceptive care to their employees or their health plans.”

See the thread there? It’s Obama’s fault. A corporation makes a decision of its own volition, on the highly logical grounds that if it purports to be in the health business it shouldn’t also be in the cigarette business, and it’s Obama’s fault. If he weren’t out there making people buy insurance, and if that nettlesome wife of his weren’t forcing all these poor children to grow all that awful kale, if they weren’t trying to make America… healthy (!), CVS never would have done this.

Perino turns up the stupid by dragging in the Hobby Lobby case. Private corporations in the United States can do a lot of things. If that Chick-Fil-A guy wants to close on Sundays to honor Jesus? Fine, let him. But there are things corporations can’t do—there are laws and regulations they have to follow. And they have never claimed a right to the free exercise of their religion. That’s because corporations aren’t people, my friend. They don’t have a religion. They have Catholic and Methodist and Jewish and Hindu and Muslim and Jainist and atheist and all kinds of employees. The idea that a corporation has a religious “value” is preposterous, although with this Supreme Court, admittedly anything is possible.

But that’s a side point. What Fox News is really unhappy about, of course, is what it likes to call “liberal fascism,” as defined by the concept’s savant, Jonah Goldberg. As I slogged my way through Goldberg’s tedious book on the subject a few years back (producing this rather amusing review), I noticed that as he plowed through history, liberal fascism started out as, oh, the Civilian Conservation Corps, which I recall him comparing to the Hitler Youth. After all, both were in the 1930s, both involved kids wearing uniforms, both movements professed the goal of social uplift. One was dedicated to the greater glory of one man; the other to flood control and forest protection—but OK, Jonah, whatever.

Once he got to our time, Goldberg was reduced to arguing that the liberal-fascist tendency was alive and well in Whole Foods. Because Whole Foods purveys salubrious items, wants you to have things that are “good for you,” and that sounded to him suspiciously like things Hillary Clinton wants, and she’s the biggest liberal fascist of all. Or was until Obama. Who is—until he leaves the White House and Hillary moves back in when she’ll take back over.

So now, anything a corporation does that smacks of being in the public interest will reek of liberal fascism and will thus be met with resistance in Ailes-land. Car companies pursuing improved gas mileage, introducing more hybrids? Manufacturers using sustainable materials and processes? Junk-food makers cutting back on the sugar and salt? They’re not trying to do anything good for the world. They can’t be doing that. Normal, good, red-blooded, private-sector Americans don’t do that. There must be a reason, and in Foxland, it’s that these folks are ninnies who are just preemptively kowtowing to the thugs Obama keeps on the payroll to dream up new rules Americans should have to live by.

The silver lining here is that they’re on the losing side of history. One imagines that in due course, Rite Aid will follow, and Walgreens, and Duane Reade, and in a few years’ time cigarettes will be out of all drugstores. And then the convenience stores will start to tumble, and the vast majority of Americas will agree that this is fine. And the Fox News demographic will start aging into the grave, and Gretchen Carlson can go on fuming to a smaller and smaller audience, and the rest of us will be able to say to them, in the words of Stevie Winwood: Light up and leave us alone.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, February 7, 2014

February 8, 2014 Posted by | Fox News, Public Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Many Rivers To Cross”: What To Get Rush Limbaugh And Other Racism Deniers For Christmas

Oh, hey, Jonah Goldberg and Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Rush Limbaugh, and all you right-wingers trying to whitesplain racism to Oprah Winfrey: The finale of “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross” is on PBS tonight and I’m sure you won’t want to miss it.

You guys know the guy behind it, Henry Louis Gates Jr. Well, OK, you probably only know one thing about him: that he was the Harvard professor arrested by a Cambridge cop in 2009 after having trouble getting into his own house — arrested even after he’d proven he lived there. It took a beer summit with President Obama and Vice President Biden to make things sort of OK.

I wrote at the time about how Obama’s wading into the Gates controversy – he simply told the truth, that the police had acted “stupidly” in detaining and booking the Harvard professor in his own home –  had “blackened” him for many white people. It coincided with a sudden plunge in the president’s approval rating among white voters, from the 60s down to the 40s, and he never really recovered.

Yet Gates was a terrible choice to play Angry Black Man, because he’s always been someone who’s treated white people as though they deserve the benefit of the doubt. Melissa Harris-Perry argued in the Nation at the time, “Gates is invested in black life, black history, black art, and black literature, but he has managed to achieve a largely post-political and even substantially post-racial existence.” Which is what made his arrest so shocking.

“Many Rivers to Cross” seems the ideal way for whites, even conservatives, to cross over to understand the enduring legacy of slavery (even you, Sarah Palin) and Jim Crow and the persistence of racism in the age of Obama. Gates doesn’t interview Oprah, but in the finale he does talk to the most illustrious black Republican of our time, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who gets teary talking about Obama’s victory. “I cried,” Powell confesses to Gates, and Gates gets choked up too.

Oh, I forgot: Colin Powell used to prove the Republican Party wasn’t racist; then he endorsed Barack Obama, and now you guys hate Colin Powell, and think he’s a racist.

Still, Gates does a lot of sly things to make everyone comfortable crossing these rivers with him. He’s kind of literally company, as we see him walk on a cane down roads and riverbeds where unspeakable racial tragedies took place. You’d be safe with him, Jonah Goldberg, strolling down a path that led to the savage quelling of a slave rebellion or a bridge where a Detroit race riot erupted.  He admits his own fears. Gates walks Ruby Bridges back to the elementary school she integrated. “Ruby, were you scared?” he asks. “I would have been terrified.”

Yet he also shows how African-American achievement has always coexisted with African-American oppression, which would be a bracing corrective to the ignorance of insisting the ascendance of Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey mean racism is behind us. Oprah even has an American capitalist antecedent in Sarah Breedlove/Madame C.J. Walker, who was the first African-American millionaire, male or female (though Walker got rich marketing to black women where Oprah ministers to all of us).

Gates introduces us to black strivers and titans and culture heroes, from Walker to Don Cornelius to Vernon Jordan to Questlove; black meccas from St. Augustine, Fla., to Tulsa, Okla., to Detroit, all while telling the story of how far we still have to travel to equality. He shows how white Americans have always been able to love (and appropriate) black culture without giving up their racism. I’m not saying nothing has changed, nor is Gates, but the notion that Oprah’s own popularity disproves her charge of racism is itself disproven by American history.

I probably know more than the average white person about African-American history, which only ensures that I know less than I think I do. And I learned so much from “Many Rivers,” I am sorry to see it end. One thing I haven’t seen anyone say about it: There’s a gender balance that’s rare in history documentaries that aren’t about women’s history. I watched Episode 4 online back to back with “Lincoln at Gettysburg,” which I loved, but which only featured one female scholar, the great Melissa Harris-Perry.

Gates features dozens, from Annette Gordon-Reed and Thavolia Glymph to Michelle Alexander and Isabel Wilkerson. And he focused on the transformative stories and ideas of black women, from Walker to Rosa Parks, Ella Baker, Diane Nash, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Grace Lee Boggs (including my friend and mentor Angela Glover Blackwell of PolicyLink, where I’m on the board — but I was writing this piece already before I learned that).

I know Goldberg and Limbaugh and Hasselbeck and the other racism deniers aren’t likely to watch “Many Rivers.” And I know it’s simplistic to think a documentary, however artful, can change the minds of partisans who make a good living denying our history, but I can dream. I’d still try to sneak the whole series into the Christmas stocking of your racism-denying but “cultured” relatives this holiday season.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, November 26, 2013

November 27, 2013 Posted by | Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Liberal Fascism” And Other Rightist Deceptions: The Republican Tyranny Of Cliches

It turns out that for $50 and the time it takes to fill out an application you too can be a Pulitzer Prize Award nominee. Well, actually, you can’t. All you really get for your 50 bucks is the right to call yourself a Pulitzer Prize “entrant.”

But that hasn’t stopped conservative blogger and book author Jonah Goldberg (last year’s #7 on Alex Pareene’s popular Salon “Hack List”) from falsely claiming on the dust jackets of his last two books that he’d “twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize” — until his faux honorific was exposed as (to use Pareene’s words) the “utter bullshit” it was.

According to Bill Dedman who writes for msnbc.com, when Goldberg’s “résumé inflation” was first pointed out to him, Goldberg claimed he hadn’t meant to mislead anyone and later had it removed from his National Review Online bio.

Goldberg’s publisher, Penguin Group (USA), said the error was unintentional and promised to also remove the Pulitzer reference from future reprints just as it would “any other innocent mistake brought to our attention,” reports Dedman.

I know a Pulitzer Prize winner. I work with a Pulitzer Prize winner. A Pulitzer Prize winner is a friend of mine. And you, Jonah Goldberg, are no Pulitzer Prize winner — nor even a “nominated finalist,” only three of whom are chosen in each category by Pulitzer juries out of the thousands of wanabees just like you.

But I am not surprised Goldberg would twist the meaning of words to artificially enhance his standing or the interests of those he serves since twisting words and ideas is what Goldberg does for a living. It’s why he has a job at all in the conservative movement.

Pareene calls Goldberg “a uniquely pathetic figure in contemporary conservative thought,” who wants to be taken seriously as an intellectual but is “the world’s laziest thinker.”

But to me, the National Review Online editor-at-large is a reverse barometer of everything that makes right wing conservatives most nervous about themselves.

Four years ago, when charges of actual fascism against conservatives were hitting just a little too close to home as Tea Party Republicans were veering sharply to the far right, Goldberg achieved bestseller status while throwing pursuers off the scent with his laughable, if lucrative, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. It’s a book that left many puzzled reviewers wondering: “Secret History? Why secret?”

So, to judge by Goldberg’s most recent literary effort — A Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas – conservatives must be worried Americans are starting to take to heart what scholars Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein recently said about them: “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.”

We’re likely to see much more of this sort of thing moving forward as conservatives commission people like Goldberg to attack liberals for whatever is worst in themselves in a classic expression of “I am rubber and you are glue” projection.

But the hard truth is that liberals who believe in democracy will always be at a disadvantage against conservatives who don’t because, while respect for opponents and openness to their dissenting points of view is a defining quality of the liberal worldview, conformity to orthodoxy is at the core of the conservative one. And the strangulating rigidity only gets worse the further conservatives move to the right.

What makes neo-conservatives in particular such formidable opponents is that most of their intellectual (and genetic) forbearers began their political careers on the totalitarian left and never really abandoned its thuggish, anything goes ways in pursuit of a one-party monopoly of power — even when the one-party state they hoped to create was a rightist one.

And one of the worst offenders is the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer.

Take Krauthammer’s column just this week in which he calls President Obama a “divider-in-chief” running a “slice-and-dice” campaign.

Kruathammer’s specific complaint is the fear-mongering he accuses the President of waging whenever Obama charges Paul Ryan of wanting to cut Pell Grants by $1,000 per student, which the Ayn Rand devotee does in a House budget he calls “Pathway to Prosperity.”

The President arrived at the $1,000 figure by taking Ryan’s total non-defense discretionary cuts and applying them evenly across the board to all existing programs. Ryan says that’s not true but refuses to say why or specify how much he does intend to cut individual programs.

While Ryan keeps those cuts close to the vest so he doesn’t have to pay the political price of defending them, Krauthammer helpfully steps in to call Obama a liar for attacks against Ryan that Krauthammer says are a dishonest “fabrication” meant to be nothing more than “a great applause line.”

But as Greg Sargent points out, the White House has openly admitted it is making assumptions about Ryan’s budget in the absence of details Ryan won’t provide himself.

“Ryan wins conservative adulation from the likes of Krauthammer for his pose as a deficit scourge, even though he isn’t detailing the actual consequences of his proposed deficit reduction policies in any meaningful way,” says Sargent. “And anyone who even tries to game out the consequences of Ryan’s plan gets attacked for inventing them out of thin air. Neat trick, eh?”

There’s a reason for all this secrecy, says Sargent. “If Ryan were to spell out the consequences of his vision in any meaningful detail, it would be deeply unpopular. Similarly, any reasonable assumptions about what his vision would mean in the real world also risk making it deeply unpopular. So they must be attacked as fabrications. This is worse than a shell game. It’s a shell game without the pea.”

The Ryan Budget is a variation of the supply-side “voodoo” economics that Republicans sold to a gullible public 30 years ago. Back then, the idea that tax cuts for the rich paid for themselves allowed Republicans to cut those taxes without facing political heat from liberals for cutting popular programs or incurring the ire of traditional, green eye-shade conservatives like David Stockman, who worship God, Country and Balanced Budgets in that order.

Conservatives always knew supply-side economics was a hoax and said so privately to one another. But they understood the political value of painless tax cuts a generation ago just as today Paul Ryan understands the value of massive budget cuts to popular programs — with details To Be Named Later.

Going further, Krauthammer says Obama’s criticism of Ryan’s dishonest budget “makes a mockery” of the President’s “pose as the great transcender, uniter, healer of divisions.”

It’s touching that Krauthammer cares so much about unity considering that the Republican Party he defends is the most conservative it’s been in a century. And as Robert Draper points out in his new book on the Tea Party Republican House, conservatives were meeting the very day Barack Obama put his hand on the Bible to become America’s 44th President in order to plot not only how Republicans could win back political power but also how they could put a grinding halt to the entire Obama legislative agenda before it even got off the ground.

For the minority Republican Party that had lost the two previous national elections, “bipartisanship” meant a liberal Democratic President governing as a right wing Republican — or not at all.

“If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority,” Draper quotes one Republican Congressman saying at that first strategy meeting on Inauguration Day 2009. “We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”

As Jamelle Bouie at American Prospect explains: “In other words, there was nothing President Obama could have done to build common ground with Republicans. From the beginning, the plan was to relentlessly obstruct Obama, regardless of whether that was good for the country. The GOP’s high-minded rhetoric of compromise and bipartisanship was bunk.”

Krauthammer uses words like “divider” and “divisive” cynically like the Bolshevik-style propagandist that he is in order to score a few cheap political points not illuminate a political truth.

For the true-believing right winger, “divisiveness” on the part of adversaries is merely the mirror image of the rigid “conformity” to conservative orthodoxy which the right wing worldview demands.

And isn’t that what Krauthammer really means when he accuses Obama of hypocrisy in not finding greater unity with a party for whom the only possible unity is the one that demands abject capitulation and unconditional surrender from all those outside the Republican Party itself?

 

By: Ted Frier, Open Salon, Salon.com, May 11, 2012

May 12, 2012 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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