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“Please Don’t Mainstream Trump”: The Risks Of Declaring Trump A Morally Acceptable Leader For Our Country Are High

Donald Trump’s Republican primary triumph means that this cannot be a normal election. Americans who see our country as a model of tolerance, inclusion, rationality and liberty must come together across party lines to defeat him decisively.

Many forces will be at work in the coming weeks to normalize Trump — and, yes, the media will play a big role in this. On both the right and the left, there will be strong temptations to go along.

Refusing to fall in line behind Trump will ask more of conservatives. Beating Trump means electing Hillary Clinton, the last thing most conservatives want to do. It would likely lead to a liberal majority on the Supreme Court and the ratification of the achievements of President Obama’s administration, including the Affordable Care Act. Conservative opposition could deepen a popular revulsion against Trump that in turn could help Democrats take over the Senate and gain House seats.

But the risks of declaring Trump a morally acceptable leader for our country are higher still, and shrewd Trump opponents on the right are already trying to disentangle the presidential race from contests lower on the ballot.

Three streams of Republicans are likely to oppose Trump: those to his right on trade and government spending; neoconservatives who oppose his “America First” noninterventionist foreign policy; and the remaining moderates and others in the party alarmed over his outbursts on, among other things, torture, immigration, race, women, Latinos, Muslims, Vladimir Putin and, lest we forget, Obama’s birthplace, Ted Cruz’s father and John McCain’s military service. These honorable and brave conservatives should not lose their nerve under pressure from conventional politicians or the very lobbyists and big donors Trump likes to denounce.

The fact that Trump draws opposition from the most ideological parts of the Republican Party heightens the temptation on the left to cheer his apparent victory. As someone who has argued that the right has long been on the wrong path, I understand this urge.

It’s certainly true that his feat vindicates much of what progressives have said about the conservative movement. Republican leaders have a lot to answer for, and not only the incompetence and timidity of their stop-Trump efforts.

They have spent years stoking the resentment and anger on the right end of their party that fueled Trump’s movement. They ignored the material interests of their struggling white working-class base and also popular exhaustion with foreign commitments fed by interventionist misadventures. Along with many Democrats, they underestimated the anger over trade agreements that accelerated the economic dislocation of the less well-off.

After this election, the GOP will need an extended period of self-examination. But no one on the left should applaud the rise of Trump as representing a friendly form of “populism” — let alone view him as the leader of a mass movement of the working class. He is no such thing. He is channeling the European far right, mixing intolerance, resentment and nationalism.

There will be much commentary on Trump’s political brilliance. But this should not blind us to the degree that Trumpism is very much a minority movement in our country. He has won some 10.6 million votes, but this amounts to less than a quarter of the votes cast in the primaries this year. It’s fewer than Clinton’s 12.4 million votes and not many more than the 9.3 million Bernie Sanders has received.

But never again will I underestimate Trump, having done this a month ago, rashly predicting he would lose the Republican nomination. I clearly had an excess of confidence that Cruz could rally anti-Trump voters and thought a series of wildly outrageous Trump statements would do more harm to his candidacy than they did.

I was dead wrong as a pundit, allowing myself to get carried away by my confidence that, at the end of it all, Americans would see through Trump. I still devoutly believe they will do so, once the campaign moves out of the Republican primaries, but I now know how urgent it is to resist capitulation to every attempt to move Trump into the political mainstream.

My friend, the writer Leon Wieseltier, suggested a slogan that embodies the appropriate response to Trump’s ascent: “Preserve the Shock.”

“The only proper response to his success is shame, anger and resistance,” Wieseltier said. “We must not accustom ourselves to this. . . . Trump is not a ‘new normal.’ No amount of economic injustice, no grievance, justifies the resort to his ugliness.”

Staying shocked for six months is hard. It is also absolutely necessary.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 4, 2016

May 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, Media, National Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Perfect Echo Chamber”: Why Is Matt Drudge Boosting Donald Trump?

Who’s responsible for Donald Trump? The establishment honchos of the Republican Party first and foremost, for not having the stones to stand up and stop the crazy in their party over the last seven years when Steve King and Louis Gohmert and Michele Bachmann and all the others said the unhinged things they said. The cable networks, for covering his every utterance and letting him play them like a fiddle.

A less discussed culprit: Matt Drudge. He may not get the headlines he got 15 years ago, so if you don’t read his site you might think he’s kinda gone away. Well, he has not. The Drudge Report is as huge as ever: Around 700 million visitors a month.

And what they’ve been getting for the last six months is a steady stream of pro-Trump agitprop. Drudge’s own weird, quasi-libertarian, crypto-racialist-populist political views have found their perfect echo in Trump’s campaign. If you’ve read the Drudge site over the years, you know how expert the site has always been at finding and promoting news stories that aren’t capital-P political on their face but whose political moral, and the reason Drudge highlights them, is obvious.

A preposterous-sounding grievance from a minority group member; a left-wing academic making some nutty claim or another; some new manifestation of political correctness afoot. These stories are the mother’s milk of the site, and they create the same paranoia that Trump is creating, and among the same audience.

And the audience is gobbling it up—and regurgitating it in the hoped-for way. As Republican-turned-independent (and now Hillary Clinton supporter) Jimmy LaSalvia noted at Salon recently, after every GOP debate, the Drudge site polls its readers on who won. And every time, Trump has won, usually big.

It’s no wonder. The Drudge site is (gulp) its readers’ most trusted news source, and nearly every day it’s playing a pro-Trump piece high up. As I write this, Tuesday the 29th, the story is “New poll shows Trump strong among minorities.” The link is to a story on World Net Daily, a far-right site whose stock in trade is headlines like “Democrats Think Christians Bigger Threat Than Muslims,” and it’s to a poll commissioned by…World Net Daily! It finds that “40 percent of blacks are lining up behind Trump, as are 45 percent of Hispanics, and even nearly 19 percent of Asians.” Right.

Now, if you’re reacting to this by thinking so what, tell me something new, my answer is that I am telling you something new. In 2012, Drudge generally backed not Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul or Rick Santorum or Herman Cain, but Mr. Establishment himself, Mitt Romney! You can go back and Google it and find loads of stories from that cycle about how Drudge highlighted pro-Romney stories and how the other GOP contenders groused that Drudge was helping Mittens.

Why the change? I’m not exactly a Drudge world insider. The public evidence we have is the big and very rare interview Drudge gave back in October to wingnut radio host Alex Jones, where he delivered gems like this one: “You’ve got to be the greatest you can be now—now. Before this country is so completely altered and we’re left with Hillary’s brain in the Oval Office in a jar. Cuz that’s what we’re getting. She is old and she’s sick. She is not a contender. They’re making her a contender with these propped up Saturday Night Live things; it’s like a head on a stick. And then on the Today show with [Savannah Guthrie]—a head on a stick. She is not a viable, vibrant leader for this country of 300—including the illegals, 380 million—Americans. So the media is trying to put us to sleep.”

Eighty million illegals. And you thought it was 11.5 million. See how the corporate media have been lying to you? For what it’s worth, Drudge has been a major promoter of Jones’ conspiracy-mongering websites, often giving them prominent links.

So now we’re getting to crunch time. How much juice does Drudge still have with GOP primary voters, especially in the key states? Probably a lot is my guess. It’s obviously impossible to say how much Drudge has helped Trump thus far. Trump probably didn’t need a push from Drudge to get where he is. But look at it from the reverse point of view: If Drudge had been anti-Trump these last six months, Trump very well might not be where he is right now.

The more serious question is how much juice Drudge might have in a general election contest. He will want to destroy Hillary Clinton, there’s no doubt about that. If Trump is actually the Republican nominee, Drudge will have his dream match-up: the right-wing nativist fuck-the-establishment candidate versus a Clinton. Destroying, or trying to destroy, a Clinton (Bill) is what made Drudge world famous in the first place, back in 1998. But that didn’t work out for him. And promoting the candidate that half the Republican Party would run away from holding its nose doesn’t seem like the best way to stop this Clinton.

Maybe deep down on some level even they only dimly grasp, all these people want her to be the president. She’s great for ratings and page views, and everything they don’t like about a changing country that they no longer speak to or for can be immediately blamed on her. Only a Clinton victory would support their idea of America as a place where the corporate media are brainwashing people to become diversity-worshipping automatons, and conservative media will be there to ride the decline.

And that’s what Drudge’s move from Romney to Trump proves: On the radical right, it’s not about stopping liberalism anymore. It’s about demolishing conservatism.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, December 30, 2015

January 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Matt Drudge | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Privileged Motion To Vacate The Speakership”: If Paul Ryan Thinks His Demands Will Control Right-Wingers, He’s Fooling Himself

Paul Ryan won’t agree to be the next speaker of the House of Representatives unless the reactionary conservatives who comprise the House Freedom Caucus agree to meet his terms, most of which are agreeable or vague enough to pose no serious problems. He wants to avoid the dull but exhausting fundraising responsibilities that come with the job, so he can enjoy weekends with his family, and make his speakership more ideological than managerial.

But one condition is meant to bring the rowdy caucus that deposed John Boehner to heel. This is the sticking point that could put an end to the Ryan-for-speaker clamor. And the irony is that, though this central demand is extraordinary, it’s probably also inadequate to the task of isolating and neutralizing the members making the Republican Party ungovernable.

Before he’ll agree to enter the race, Ryan wants the rule that made the coup threats against Boehner credible to be changed. Right now any member can introduce a privileged motion to vacate the speakership. If you know you can deny the current speaker the 218 votes he needs to keep his job, you can control him. Ryan wants to erect unspecified obstacles to effectively deweaponize the motion.

The existence of this arcane maneuver is the source of most of the Freedom Caucus’ power. Under the status quo, any Republican speaker who crosses the Freedom Caucus is in jeopardy. That’s why Boehner was never able to control his conference or lead House Republicans in a unified front of opposition. It’s also why members of the Freedom Caucus are reluctant to accept Ryan’s terms.

The nature of these terms suggests Ryan sees this single, far-reaching one as a panacea, or if not that, then the only thing that’ll allow him to run the House successfully, without sacrificing the conservative bona fides he’ll need to win a future GOP presidential primary. This thinking is probably incorrect.

Assuming conservatives are willing to bite—an unsafe assumption—the Freedom Caucus’ leverage won’t disappear. It’ll shrink, yes, but then it’ll migrate to other avenues of mischief. If they continue banding together, conservatives would still be able to spoil the party’s legislative agenda. This alone would damage Ryan’s longer-term prospects, by forcing him into regular governing coalitions with Democrats. Unable to depose the speaker, they could take aim at other powerful Republicans (like, perhaps, those on the rules committee who will enable Ryan and help him advance legislation), becoming more like a third party than they already are. New opportunities for troublemaking would spring up everywhere, overlooked in the past because they weren’t necessary.

Late Tuesday, several Republicans speculated that Ryan intentionally devised his demands to be rejected, so that he could escape the onus of the speakership, and blame the Freedom Caucus for driving him away. If that’s his endgame, he’d better hope conservatives don’t call his bluff.

 

By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor at The New Republic, October 21, 2015

October 21, 2015 Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Sedition In The Name Of Patriotism”: Cynical Opportunists In League With Sectarian Fanatics

On many occasions during the last few years, as I heard talk of secession and nullification, and of defiance of the courts, and of duly enacted statutes representing slavery and tyranny, and of Higher Laws and a Right to Revolution, and most recently, of allegiance to a foreign government–all more or less countenanced by one of our two major political parties–I’ve thought of a historical parallel, as described in one of my favorite books, George Dangerfield’s The Strange Death of Liberal England.

The period in question was just prior to World War I when a Liberal majority government committed by mandate and party alliance to Home Rule for Ireland was obstructed by a Tory minority in alliance with Ulster Unionists which explicitly and implicitly threatened civil war. Here’s how Dangerfield describes a crucial lurch into sedition, when Tory leader Bonar Law traveled to Belfast to pledge allegiance to Ulster and its political leader, Sir Edward Carson, at a huge rally:

At this historical gathering the sedition being preached by Mr. Bonar Law, who led off with a scholarly appeal to Ulster’s worst fighting instincts, was nearly surpassed by Mr. Walter Long. “If they put Lord Londonderry and Sir Edward Carson in the dock,” roared Mr. Long, “they will have to find one large enough for the whole Unionist Party.” Whereat Mr. Bonar Law and Sir Edward Carson turned toward each other, clasped hands, and maintained this affecting attitude long enough for the whole assembly to realize that they were doing their level best to look like generals on the eve of battle. And then, while everyone stood with bared heads, Sir Edward released Mr. Law, and strode to the front of the speakers’ stand. “Raise you hands,” he shouted. “Repeat after me–never under any circumstances will we submit to Home Rule.” In the centre of the show grounds there was a signalling tower, with a flagstaff ninety feet tall, and while the audience, and the Marquess of Londonderry, and the Protestant Primate, and the Presbyterian Moderator, with obedient thunder intoned those words after Sir Edward, a Union Jack was broken from the flagstaff. It measured forty-eight feet by twenty-five. It was the largest ever woven. Patriotism could do no more.

Sedition in the name of patriotism should sound familiar today. Just over a century ago in England, the seditionists–aptly described by Dangerfield as cynical opportunists in league with sectarian fanatics–won. The country recovered, but was never quite the same. Are we headed in that same direction?

You have to wonder, as does Paul Waldman today at the Plum Line:

The American political system runs according to a whole series of norms, many of which we don’t notice until they’re violated. For instance, the Speaker of the House can invite a foreign leader to address Congress for the sole purpose of criticizing the administration, and he can even do it without letting the White House know in advance. There’s no law against it. But doing so violates a norm not only of simple respect and courtesy, but one that says that the exercise of foreign policy belongs to the administration. Congress can advise, criticize, and legislate to shape it, but if they simply take it upon themselves to make their own foreign policy, they’ve gone too far.

But as has happened so many times before, Republicans seem to have concluded that there is one set of rules and norms that apply in ordinary times, and an entirely different set that applies when Barack Obama is the president. You no longer need to show the president even a modicum of respect. You can tell states to ignore the law. You can sabotage delicate negotiations with a hostile foreign power by communicating directly with that power.

I wonder what they’d say if you asked them whether it would be acceptable for Democrats to treat the next Republican president that way. My guess is that the question wouldn’t even make sense to them. After all, that person would be a Republican. So how could anyone even think of such a thing?

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 10, 2015

March 10, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Republicans, Sedition | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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