President Obama delivered a powerful commencement address at Rutgers University over the weekend, taking some time to celebrate knowledge and intellectual pursuits. “Facts, evidence, reason, logic, an understanding of science – these are good things,” the president said, implicitly reminding those who may have forgotten. “These are qualities you want in people making policy.”
He added, “Class of 2016, let me be as clear as I can be. In politics, and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not ‘keeping it real,’ or ‘telling it like it is.’ That’s not challenging ‘political correctness.’ That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about.”
Donald Trump heard this and apparently took it personally. The presumptive Republican nominee responded last night with arguably the most important tweet of the 2016 presidential campaign to date:
“ ‘In politics, and in life, ignorance is not a virtue.’ This is a primary reason that President Obama is the worst president in U.S. history!”
I assumed someone would eventually tell the GOP candidate why this was unintentionally hilarious, prompting him to take it down, but as of this morning, Trump’s message remains online.
In case it’s not blisteringly obvious, candidates for national office generally don’t argue publicly that ignorance is a virtue. But Donald Trump is a different kind of candidate, offering an enthusiastic, albeit unconventional, embrace of ignorance.
Don’t vote for Trump despite his obliviousness, support him because of it. The Know-Nothing Party may have faded into obscurity 150 years ago, but it’s apparently making a comeback with a new standard bearer.
There’s been a strain of anti-intellectualism in Republican politics for far too long, and it comes up far too often. House Speaker Paul Ryan last month dismissed the role of “experts” in policy debates; former President George W. Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have publicly mocked those who earn post-graduate degrees; Jeb Bush last year complained about Democrats using too many “big-syllable words.”
As a rule, prominent GOP voices prefer to exploit conservative skepticism about intellectual elites to advance their own agenda or ambitions. They don’t celebrate stupidity just for the sake of doing so; anti-intellectualism is generally seen as a tool to guide voters who don’t know better.
Trump, however, has come to embody an alarming attitude: ignorance is a virtue. If the president believes otherwise, it must be seen as proof of his awfulness. The Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee intends to lead a movement of those who revel in their lack of knowledge.
History will not be kind.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 17, 2016
At various points through the Republicans’ presidential primary process, various GOP leaders and candidates thought they could derail Donald Trump with one big speech. Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, and others stepped up to the plate, delivered carefully crafted remarks on the dangers Trump posed to the party and the country, and hoped the weight of their words would change the trajectory of the race.
Each, obviously, failed.
Among the most notable of these speeches, however, came by way of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who invited the press to a DC hotel near the White House last July to deliver an anti-Trump stem-winder.
“My fellow Republicans, beware of false prophets,” Perry said at the time. “Do not let itching ears be tickled by messengers who appeal to anger, division and resentment. I will not go quiet when this cancer on conservatism threatens to metastasize into a movement of mean-spirited politics that will send the Republican Party to the same place it sent the Whig Party in 1854: the graveyard.”
Perry went on to characterize Trump as “a barking carnival act” who offers a “toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.” Keep all of this in mind when considering what Perry said yesterday. TPM reported:
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) on Thursday endorsed Donald Trump and left the door open to becoming the Republican vice presidential nominee.
“He is not a perfect man. But what I do believe is that he loves this country and he will surround himself with capable, experienced people and he will listen to them,” Perry told CNN. “He wasn’t my first choice, wasn’t my second choice, but he is the people’s choice.” […]
“He is one of the most talented people who has ever run for the president I have ever seen,” Perry told CNN.
When the subject turned to a possible role as Trump’s running mate, the Texas Republican added, “I am going to be open to any way I can help. I am not going to say no.”
No, of course not. Why say no to partnering with “a barking carnival act” who represents a “cancer on conservatism,” who’s poised to send your party to the “graveyard”?
The drama surrounding the process of a presumptive nominee choosing the vice presidential contender is always fascinating. People who actually want the job are supposed to be subtle – those who are too eager tend to lose out – and aspirants are generally expected to feign disinterest.
Perry’s comments yesterday were ridiculous given what he said about Trump last summer, but as it relates to the VP process, the former governor ably put his name out there.
What makes 2016 so unusual – one of the many reasons, actually – is that under normal circumstances, serving as your party’s running mate is generally seen as a pretty sweet gig. If you lose, the campaign still raises your stature and visibility, opening the door to a brighter electoral future. If you win, you hold national office and you’re one heartbeat from the presidency.
But with Trump as the Republicans’ presumptive nominee, the usual dynamic doesn’t apply at all. Many in the party, who would otherwise make a sensible VP choice, are already rushing to withdraw their names from consideration, unwilling to be tied to Trump. As the New York Times reported earlier this week:
It’s a time-honored tradition for politicians to deny any interest in the vice presidency. But this year, with the possibility of Donald J. Trump as the Republican nominee, they really mean it.
“Never,” said Chris Schrimpf, a spokesman for Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who is still running against Mr. Trump. “No chance.”
“Hahahahahahahahaha,” wrote Sally Bradshaw, a senior adviser to Jeb Bush, when asked if he would consider it.
“Scott Walker has a visceral negative reaction to Trump’s character,” said Ed Goeas, a longtime adviser to the Wisconsin governor. […]
A remarkable range of leading Republicans, including Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, have been emphatic publicly or with their advisers and allies that they do not want to be considered as Mr. Trump’s running mate.
I suppose it’s possible that all of these folks are playing the game of appearing disinterested, while quietly hoping for a call from the candidate’s vetting team, though by all appearances, they’re quite sincere.
For his part, Trump said yesterday he intends to announce his running mate “at the convention,” which begins in Cleveland in mid-July.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 6, 2016
Racist political opportunist and billionaire businessman Donald Trump won the Indiana primary last night, effectively securing the Republican nomination despite near constant punditry predicting he would not. Meanwhile, Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, told party followers it was time to fold and help elect Trump to the White House.
— Reince Priebus (@Reince) May 4, 2016
He backed up his pronouncement today on cable news, even if it was lukewarm. “You know what, I think something different and something new is probably good for our party,” said Priebus on CNN, seemingly uncertain that Trump would result in anything other than catastrophic defeat. “Look, I don’t think anyone predicted what happened. So, look, we’re here. We’re going to get behind the presumptive nominee.”
The RNC chairman had previously struck a different tone prior to the current debacle unfolding inside the Republican Party. Just a week ago, he said that the party’s nominee needed to exceed the 1,237 delegate count, otherwise there would be a contested nomination. “You need a majority,” said Priebus. Referring to the congressional vote on the Affordable Care Act, which initially looked like it would fall short by a handful of votes, he said, “We didn’t say, ‘Oh he’s almost there, let’s give it to him.’ He had to get a majority.”
The current catastrophe facing Priebus and his party is one of his own making. When the nomination process first started, there were 17 candidates, many of whom had thrown themselves into the ring for several election cycles. After early polling showed a Trump surge, Priebus did nothing to “thin the herd,” as Scott Walker advocated when he suspended his campaign in September.
“Today I believe that I am being called to lead to help clear the field,” Walker said at the time. “With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately, and I encourage other presidential candidates to consider doing the same.”
Even after the Republican donor class began “encouraging” candidates to end their campaigns, Trump’s anti-establishment war continuously put Priebus (and the Republican Party) on the defensive, forcing him to fend off accusations of establishment meddling in the nomination process. “It’s a crooked deal,” said Trump following the Colorado primary, after the state’s 34 delegates went to Ted Cruz.
“Reince Priebus should be ashamed of himself,” he said to The Hill in an interview. “He should be ashamed of himself because he knows what’s going on.”
But Priebus didn’t push back at any point, instead delivering meek responses to all of Trump’s transgressions in the name of party unity, possibly out of fear that he would upset the ever-growing contingent of Trump supporters inside the Republican Party. “Given the year we have, you know, I honestly don’t take it all that personally,” he said to Politico shortly after Trump’s outburst about the delegate allocation process.
In a separate interview, he said, “This is going to blow over. I believe this is some frustration that has bubbled.” He even appeared on CNN to reassure the American public that he wasn’t at odds with Trump. “I don’t sit here and internalize the charge, because there’s nothing the RNC can do about it,” he said.
At the start of Trump’s campaign, before he amassed the following of disgruntled Republican voters he now commands, Priebus framed the interest Trump was generating as a good thing for the Republican Party.
“I think it’s a net positive for everybody and I think it’s an indicator that there’s a lot of folks out there who are sick and tired of Washington and Trump has tapped into that,” said Priebus on Milwaukee radio. “When you have 30 million people watching [the first GOP debate], not to mention the fact that we have 16 other incredible candidates out there, I think we are showing America that we are the young, diverse party, offering a whole slew of options for people and that’s a good thing.”
When Priebus did try to stop Trump, he was accused by Bruce Ash, chairman of the RNC Rules Committee, of having tried to prevent changes to the Republican convention rules that would make it harder to have a contested convention.
The final nail in the coffin of the old Republican Party was Priebus’s tweet last night. Until this morning, John Kasich had not announced that he would exit the race. The RNC chairman’s announcement that Trump was the presumptive nominee upended months of his own claims that the RNC was an impartial arbiter governing the party’s nomination process. if anyone believed that before, they surely don’t now.
There were numerous factors contributing to Trump’s rise that were outside of Priebus’s control. But Priebus had options, if he wanted to save his party: He could have reprimanded Trump for his repeated attacks on the institutions of the party he wanted to represent as the nominee, or for the wild rhetorical excesses that have become associated with his campaign. But Priebus decided not to.
By: Saif Alnuweiri, The National Memo, May 4, 2016
“Sanders And The Snapchat Liberals”: Why Progressive America Routinely Punches Below Its Weight On The National Stage
If the polls hold, scoring tickets to “Hamilton” will be as good as it’s going to get for Bernie Sanders in New York. But let us first linger in Wisconsin, where Democrats and independents gave Sanders what looked like a decisive win.
It seems that 15 percent of Sanders’ Wisconsin supporters voted only for Bernie, leaving the rest of the ballot blank. By contrast, only 4 percent of Hillary Clinton voters skipped the down-ballot races.
It happens that one of the down-ballot races was for Wisconsin Supreme Court justice. The progressive, JoAnne Kloppenburg, had a good chance of toppling Rebecca Bradley, a right-wing appointee of Gov. Scott Walker’s. But Kloppenburg lost, in part because of the laziness of Snapchat liberals.
Snapchat is a messaging app that makes photos and videos disappear after they are viewed. Its logo is a ghost. Snapshot liberals are similarly ephemeral. They regard their job as exulting in the hero of the moment. Once the job is done, they vanish.
(An interesting wrinkle is that 10 percent of Sanders’ voters checked the box for Bradley. This suggests that a good chunk of his win came not from fans but from conservatives seeking to frustrate the Clinton candidacy.)
Anyhow, three days later, a Wisconsin circuit court judge struck down an anti-union law backed by Walker. The law ended unions’ right to require that private-sector workers benefiting from their negotiations pay dues or an equivalent sum.
The ruling was hailed as a “victory for unions,” but that victory will almost certainly be short-lived because the matter now heads to a divided state Supreme Court. As a Supreme Court justice, Kloppenburg could have helped save it.
Sanders can’t directly take the rap for this. He, in fact, had endorsed Kloppenburg.
But the Sanders campaign rests on contempt for a Democratic establishment that backs people like Kloppenburg. It sees even the normal give-and-take of governing as thinly veiled corruption. Liberals involved in the necessary horse trading are dismissed as sullied beyond repair.
TV comedy news reinforces this cartoonish view of what governing entails. The entertainers deliver earnest but simple-minded sermons on how all but a chosen few folks in Washington are corrupt hypocrites. (I find their bleeped-out F-words so funny. Don’t you?)
Snapchat liberals tend to buy into the “great man” theory of history. So if change comes from electing a white knight on a white horse, why bother with the down-ballot races?
Hence the irritating pro-Sanders poster: “Finally a reason to vote.”
Oh? Weren’t there reasons to vote all these years as tea party activists stocked Congress with crazy people? Wasn’t giving President Obama a Congress he could work with a reason to vote? (The liberal savior in 2008, Obama saw his own Snapchat fan base evaporate come the midterms.)
When asked whether he’d raise money for other Democrats if he were to win the nomination, Sanders replied, “We’ll see.”
Bernie doesn’t do windows and toilets. That’s for establishment Democrats.
The difference between the pitchfork right and the Snapchat left is this: The right marches to the polls to vote the other side out. The left waits for saintly inspiration. If the rallies are euphoric and the Packers aren’t playing the Bears, they will deign to participate. Then they’re gone in a poof of righteous smoke.
It is a crashing irony that many liberals who condemn voter suppression by the right practice voter suppression on themselves. The liberal version doesn’t involve onerous ID requirements at the polls. It comes in the deadening message that few candidates are good enough to merit a vote.
And that’s why progressive America routinely punches below its weight on the national stage.
By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, April 12, 2016
“What Are You Waiting For, Democrats?”: Voter ID Laws Are Having Their Intended Effect. It’s Time To Do Something
The biggest news out of the Wisconsin primary isn’t about the horse race, which is largely unchanged. It’s about the election itself—about how the voting happened. As soon as polls opened in urban centers like Madison and Milwaukee, there were reports of long, almost intolerable waits. Students at universities around the state faced hourslong lines to cast a ballot. Others waited just as long for a chance to change their registration.
The proximate cause of these long lines in urban, student-heavy areas is the state’s new voter identification law backed by the Republican legislature and Gov. Scott Walker. It implements strict new requirements for valid identification that excludes most student IDs (in response, some Wisconsin schools have begun issuing separate identification cards for students to vote) and requires voters without official identification to go through a cumbersome process even if they’ve voted in the past. Writing for the Nation, Ari Berman describes elderly, longtime voters who were blocked from the polls for want of the right papers. “Others blocked from the polls include a man born in a concentration camp in Germany who lost his birth certificate in a fire; a woman who lost use of her hands but could not use her daughter as power of attorney at the DMV; and a 90-year-old veteran of Iwo Jima who could not vote with his veterans ID.”
But this was more than predictable—it was the point. “I think Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up,” said one Wisconsin Republican congressman, Rep. Glenn Grothman. “And now we have photo ID and I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.”
If the urgency of the issue wasn’t obvious, Grothman made it plain. Voter ID laws in Wisconsin and beyond are a direct attack on democracy, an attempt to rig the game by blocking whole groups of Americans from the polls. In what appears to be a strong cycle for their party, Democrats should take what happened in Wisconsin as a siren for action. Restoring democracy and protecting it from these attacks should be at the center of the party’s agenda.
The burden of voter ID laws falls hardest on the marginal members of society, who are predominately nonwhite, elderly, or both. In Wisconsin, 9 percent of registered voters (300,000 people) lack government-issued identification and fall disproportionately under those groups. And while Wisconsin provides voter ID at no cost through its Department of Motor Vehicles, the dirty secret is that this is a difficult and cumbersome process given the extremely limited hours for DMV offices. (Just 31 of Wisconsin’s 92 DMVs hold normal business hours and most are open just twice a week.) And worse, as Berman notes, Republican legislators in the state made no provision for voter education. They also shut down the state board that monitors elections.
Wisconsin isn’t the only place where voting has been hampered by voter identification laws. In Arizona, a similarly strict law—compounded by a Republican-led drive to close voting precincts in heavily populated areas—brought long waits for people who wanted to cast a ballot. As many as 20,000 Americans weren’t able to vote, many of them Latino.
Three years ago, the Supreme Court struck down the “preclearance” provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which required states with a history of discrimination to get the federal government’s permission before making any changes in how they run elections. Since then, Republican legislatures like those in Wisconsin and Arizona have adopted draconian identification laws that stand as meaningful barriers to the right to vote. They act as de facto poll taxes, forcing voters to spend time and money in order to exercise their constitutional rights. Thirty-three states will require voters to show identification at the polls this November, and the likely outcome will be long lines and complications for countless voters.
Beyond the sort of educational measures that Wisconsin didn’t bother with, it’s too late to do anything this year about the spread of voter ID and other barriers. But this should be a wake-up call for Democrats. Unless there’s pushback, these restrictions will become part of the firmament of our elections, effectively disenfranchising those on the margins of American life. For Democrats now and in the future, reversing those laws—and enhancing voter access—has to be a priority. On the national level, both Clinton and Bernie Sanders should tout their plans to restore the Voting Rights Act and build more voter protections. Below that, prospective Democratic governors and state lawmakers should place voter access at the top of their agendas, a first item for incoming administrations. Everything, from automatic registration and mail-in balloting to ending felon disenfranchisement, should be on the table.
This isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do. If Democrats believe that they benefit from more voters and larger electorates, then they would do well to mimic the Republican approach, but in reverse: Use their power to tilt the playing field toward more access, more participation, and more democracy.
By: Jamelle Bouie, Slate, April 6, 2016