Home / General / Trump as moderate: yes, and that doesn’t make him any less appalling

Trump as moderate: yes, and that doesn’t make him any less appalling

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Doug Ahler and David Broockman make the case at the Monkey Cage. This seems largely correct to me, but I’m seeing a number of people treating it as objectionable. Thoughts:

1) We define moderate as “agrees with Ds and Rs some of the time,” regardless of the moderation or lack thereof with any specific view, which is arguably incoherent, but it’s still the everyday meaning of the term in American politics.

2) Elite moderates and moderates in public opinion don’t actually resemble each other at all, and (some) elite moderates seem to be in some very deep denial about this (Thomas Friedman’s habit of placing his own views in the mouths of hypothetical everyman figures like cab drivers is a paradigmatic case). In broad strokes, elite moderates are pro-immigration, pro-globalization, socially liberal, and strongly in favor of ‘entitlement reform’; the moderates in the actual public aren’t likely to support any of these positions. This adds to the confusion already produced by the lack of analytic precision in (1).

3) This is only offensive if we treat moderation as a political virtue worthy of praise. This is often assumed in American political discourse, but I think it’s worth rejecting quite strongly (this is particularly the case given (1) above). Whether moderation should considered a virtue or vice is entirely situational.

4) Efforts to map ideology on two dimensions aren’t always completely worthless, but it’s a project with very limited informational value. The authors are absolutely correct to observe “ideological moderation just doesn’t mean much.”

…LeeEsq and Rob in CT observe that another source of confusion here is whether the term is characterizing his views or the manner in which he expresses them. This is a good point, and I think relates to (3) above. If moderation is treated implicitly as a virtue, Trump’s nasty demagoguery appears as evidence against his moderation.

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  • J. Otto Pohl

    1. Makes no sense since on a number of issues there has been in fact considerable overlap between the two parties. I am not seeing HRC as being the polar opposite of the Republican Party. On foreign policy and even some domestic issues there is some agreement. It is not as if the two party system in the US consists of a National Socialist Party called the Republicans and a Communist Party called the Democrats. The amount of agreement and bipartiship has been pretty significant at least since the end of WW II.

    • djw

      To state the obvious, nothing about my characterization of what ‘moderate’ means in American politics logically implies or empirically suggests that there are zero issues the two major political parties agree on.

      • Bill Murray

        but the definition used combined with J. Otto’s point means that anyone that holds the party view on the issues of party overlap is a moderate which strips the term of any meaning, except agrees with elite party opinion

      • Ronan

        A good bit off topic, but have you read/heard about Samuel Moyn’s new book ‘Christian Human Rights’*, where (afaict) he traces the successful post ww2 development of human rights discourse and activism to Christianity (particularly to Christian institutions such as European Christian Social Democrat Parties and the Catholic Church) I seem to recall you writing about his last book (?) and you write a bit about religion, so Id be interested to know what you thought of it. (Ive only read the first chapter online so havent read it yet)

        * also his claim that without Christianity ‘our commitment to the moral equality of human beings was unlikely to come about’

        • djw

          No, I haven’t. That sounds like it’s more than a little bit at odds with his previous revisionist take on the history of human rights, which amounted to “human rights were invented in the 70’s” more or less. I found that effort fairly underwhelming; he’s going after some just-so history that deserves some scrutiny, but like many revisionists he wildly over-corrects.

        • sonamib

          This seems like a very strange hypothesis, given that the avant-garde of human rights in France was ideologically opposed to the Church hierarchy. I mean, Revolutionary France dabbled in nationalizing the clergy! As in, priests became quasi-government employees*. How much more anti-clerical can you get?

          It might be true that the Church in Europe eventually adapted to the new order of things but Moyn’s thesis appears to get the causation backwards.

          *Like in that good old fun game Tropico. But this didn’t last long in France.

          • Ronan

            As djw implies above (i havent read all his first book but am vaguely aware of the argument) Moyn claims Human Rights rhetoric and support got going a lot later than is conventionally thought, he traces its meaningful emergence to the 1970s(or to the post ww2 era anyway), and tends to write off anything prior to that as limited and largely unimportant.
            This seems to be his new argument

            http://www.thenation.com/article/dignitys-due/

            In this the 70s is still the time when Human rights gets a ‘secular edge’, but the groundwork was done (by this claim anyway) by post war conservative Christian democrats looking to develop an alternative to liberalism, fascism and communism.

            (bear in mind Im very sketchy an all of this)

            • sonamib

              So liberalism and human rights are alternatives now? That might explain why everything that comes before the 1970s doesn’t count. But that seems very wrong to me. I’ll have to read up on the argument.

              Btw, it’s always nice to talk to you, Ronan. It’s a shame we didn’t have more time on the Saint-Denis thread.

              • Ronan

                I was going to try and answer:

                “So liberalism and human rights are alternatives now?”

                and your question to djw below:

                “Interesting. Is the “rights of man” criticism about exclusion of women? Or is it something else?”

                But would have just muddied the waters. This might help clarify:

                “The Last Utopia is particularly scathing about attempts to recruit the ‘Rights of Man’ proclaimed by American and French revolutionaries as precursors of human rights: the former were aimed at state construction, while the specifically modern discourse of ‘human rights’ is a critique of state repression—‘another conception altogether’. As Moyn puts it: ‘Of all the glaring confusions in the search for “precursors” of human rights, one must have pride of place. Far from being sources of appeal that transcended state and nation, the rights asserted in early-modern revolutions and championed thereafter were central to the construction of state and nation, and led nowhere beyond until very recently.’ It is anachronistic, he argues, to attribute modern notions of ‘human rights’ to anyone in the 18th century, even when we find the term—which is not that often. The more common expression was ‘rights of man’ or occasionally ‘rights of humanity’ (the latter notably occurs in the opening pages of Lawrence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy). In the case of the American Declaration of Independence, for example, the claim is for the right to self-determination of a whole people and not for individual rights, except in so far as the latter arose in the context of founding a new state. (This helps to explain both how slaveholders could appeal to ‘unalienable rights’ and why there were such modest anti-slavery results—and such blatant disregard for the native peoples—from the leaders of the Independence struggle.)”

                And the whole interview:

                https://newleftreview.org/II/69/robin-blackburn-reclaiming-human-rights

                (as to your question to djw about reading recs, Blackburn’s – the reviewer at the link – newest book on slavery is meant to be good, and more than tangentially related to human rights development historically, rather than philosophically. Though, I havent read it)

                http://www.versobooks.com/books/1440-the-american-crucible

                Always good seeing you around here aswell, sonamib. By the time I got back to the St Denis thread it had petered out, and although I had written up something it was so speculative that I decided to leave it off. I think it’s an interesting topic though and your claims about integregation being harder, especially for non whites, in Europe (particularly continental) than the Americas definitely strikes me as largely correct.

                • Ahuitzotl

                  so he conflates the american & french revolution, dismisses the american revolution, and completely ignores all the growth of human rights in the french one (stuff that was quite specificallya bout the repression by the state). Is he always so intellectually dishonest?

                • Ronan

                  No, his point is that *universal* rights are a modern conception, and that historically they were concieved as primarily local/national and contextually contingent.

              • Ronan

                It might be worth adding that, afaik, Moyn doesnt see the development of human rights ‘discourse’ as an unmitigated good,but (like a number on the left) that it undermines more radical collective transformtive political goals, and so is in a lot of ways quite conservative.

          • djw

            This seems like a very strange hypothesis, given that the avant-garde of human rights in France was ideologically opposed to the Church hierarchy. I mean, Revolutionary France dabbled in nationalizing the clergy!

            On Moyn’s telling, the late 18th century rights discourse was all about the “rights of man” not “human rights”. It’s not a historically evolving concept, but an entirely distinct one.

            (Like I said, there’s room for some correction of the standard, seemless, teleology-inflected history of human rights, but Moyn wildly overcorrects)

            • sonamib

              Interesting. Is the “rights of man” criticism about exclusion of women? Or is it something else?

              Anyway, I’m interested about corrections of the usual history of human rights. I’m mostly relying on my high school indoctrination here. Excluding Wikipedia, I haven’t read anything on the subject since then. Do you have any good references?

            • Roberta

              This makes no sense to me, not only because of the conceptual and historical links between the “rights of man” and human rights, but also because of Christianity’s entrenched opposition to most human rights advances. Including in the post WW2-1970s era.

              The Nation article by Moyn that Ronan links above seems to credit Catholicism and Christianity with using human dignity post-WWII, until very recently. Not human rights, but human dignity, which is an important but much fuzzier term. And Christian conservatives use it in opposition to human rights–just take a look at what the Catholic Church says about human dignity and abortion. Or human dignity and contraception, or human dignity and queer rights. All of these things are apparently gross violations of human dignity. So is sex outside marriage, according to conservative philosophers. So is any family arrangement other than the heteronormative two-parent family. Christians really did start getting in a tizzy about these violations of human dignity in the face of new ideologies like communism, socialism, and sometimes fascism.

              I’d be willing to buy that human dignity is a concept mostly advanced by post-WWII Christians, though I’m somewhat skeptical of even that. But not human rights. Moyn’s argument for the latter seems to be that human rights theorists have appropriated human dignity from Christians (like I said: not convinced about this) to bolster the human rights cause, but that’s a far cry from saying Christians did the groundwork for human rights.

  • Srsly Dad Y

    There was a spectacularly wrong post at the Washington Monthly site a week or two ago that was built upon errors 1-3. It argued that because a lot of voters “self-identify as moderate,” the “moderate” Dems in the DC power structure should be able to win their support. TBF I think the post was by a try-out blogger or an intern, WashMo isn’t usually that deluded.

    • random

      It argued that because a lot of voters “self-identify as moderate,” the “moderate” Dems in the DC power structure should be able to win their support.

      The Democrats have dominated among self-identified ‘moderate’ voters for decades. So seems like a safe bet.

      • catclub

        Moderate usually turns out to be Democrat.
        Independent is very often Republican who cannot stand to be called Republican. But sure votes that way.

        • postmodulator

          An American independent prides him or herself on considering both sides of the story before voting Republican.

          • tsam

            I thought that was the “undecided”. The independent doesn’t like talking about being a Republican and always has a cool story about being socially liberal and fiscally conservative

            • patrick II

              Clearly you can’t be both. If you are really socially liberal that would mean tax dollars for things like child care and school lunch programs and food stamps. Fiscally conservative but socially liberal means you don’t want to spend money on any of those things — but you kinda feel bad about it.

              • NonyNony

                If you are really socially liberal that would mean tax dollars for things like child care and school lunch programs and food stamps.

                I mean, you’d think so, but “socially liberal” seems to mean “I’m not a racist, I don’t hate gays, and I’m okay with having a woman for a boss” to a whole swath of guys (always guys) who use that socially liberal/economically conservative description for themselves.

              • tsam

                Right–that’s what goes through my head when I hear people say that, but I hear it all the time.

                Actually, what goes through my head is “not much of a thinker, are ya?”

            • postmodulator

              I thought that was the “undecided”.

              From what I can tell of the “undecided” voters we hear from every Presidential election, they’re barely aware of what country they live in, what the two parties are called, the names of people running, etc.

              • tsam

                But they like all the attention they get from the media, despite being really terrible at faking the ability to process any information that doesn’t have commercials for beer in it.

              • Hogan
                • tsam

                  This was great.

                  “What IS oil? What is it used for?”

        • Manny Kant

          It is rather inevitable that self-identified moderates would lean Democratic, given that the parties have roughly equal support, and there’s way more self-identified conservatives than self-identified liberals.

          • Srsly Dad Y

            Dead thread, but yes, Manny has it right. It is a statistical truth that Democrats get most of the “self-identified moderates” in general election years. But those people are not centrists awaiting the clarion call of Mark Warner or Claire McCaskill. If you don’t get this, you might want to read the Monkey Cage post again. Voters “who appear ‘moderate’ on a left-right ideological spectrum often have extreme views on individual issues.” As a WashMo commenter wrote, most people who call themselves moderates in polls “just have one or two maverick policy views (or simply imagine that they do, because they don’t know what the parties stand for).”

            DC centrists like Third Way imagine that you can “win the moderates” and “win the independents” by tacking to the center, but the point is, they are not there.

  • Rob in CT

    The way I’ve put it is this:

    On policy substance – to the extent Trump has any policy substance – Trump is a relative moderate in the GOP field. His temperament isn’t moderate at all, and the fact that people look at this buffoon and think “yeah, rockon!” is terrible. The idea of this man being Commander in Chief of the US armed forces is pretty scary.

    But sure, he isn’t in favor of gutting social security, so “moderate.”

    I used to think moderate basically meant good. I’ve… revised those views.

    • random

      But sure, he isn’t in favor of gutting social security, so “moderate.”

      Republican Presidential candidates never run on ‘gutting Social Security’. Even Bush kept a lid on his privatization plan until after he was elected.

      • mds

        Jeb! wants to raise the retirement age. Rubio and Paul are in favor of increasing to the retirement age, and of means-testing benefits. Cruz wants to raise the retirement age and cap COLA adjustments. It’s not yet been determined if Carson knows what Social Security is, but he’s mentioned raising the retirement age. Kasich is on the record that Social Security as we know it is dooooomed. Trump opposes raising the retirement age and opposes any cuts to benefits.

        One of those candidates’ position is not like the others. One of them is much closer to the Democratic position to the others. A “moderate” view on the program, one might even say.

        • ColBatGuano

          Yeah, the third rail doesn’t have any electricity running through these days apparently.

        • random

          Trump has definitely stated that the program was doomed as well. His proposals for fixing it have ranged from privatizing the whole thing to kicking about 10% of the recipients off of it because they are moochers and fakers.

          So, not really all that different from the others. He identified back in 2013 that you couldn’t win elections running against it, so likely he doesn’t care one way or the other about the program and will say anything he thinks will win voters.

        • Warren Terra

          The thing about “raising the retirement age” is that the campaign messages are filtered through reporters and especially anchors, people whose jobs aren’t physically demanding and who don’t expect or want to retire at 65, or at 67. These people don’t necessarily understand how bitterly raising the retirement age would strike the people most dependent on social security, and they likely don’t know any people from that social class. Of course they see this as a sensible and moderate idea, and don’t get people worked up about it.

  • CrunchyFrog

    3) This is only offensive if we treat moderation as a political virtue worthy of praise. This is often assumed in American political discourse, but I think it’s worth rejecting quite strongly (this is particularly the case given (1) above). Whether moderation should considered a virtue or vice is entirely situational.

    This is a key point, especially in the political era we’ve been in since the fairness doctrine was killed and right wing media took off. I mean, when a prominent Republican says that the US should nuke Mecca and Medina (as happened during Cheney’s first term), is the moderate position to say that maybe we should split the difference and nuke only one of them? When GOP presidential candidates say that the earth is only 10k years old while Democratic candidates say that it’s 5 billion, is the moderate position to say that it’s probably 2.5 billion years old? When Republicans want to turn Medicare into a voucher system that partially covers health care for seniors and makes those with terminal or chronic conditions uninsurable, what is the moderate position?

    Sometimes one side of a debate is just wrong. And in those situations the so-called moderates serve to enable the side that’s wrong.

    • UserGoogol

      Blaming the collapse of the fairness doctrine seems to be missing the point. The fairness doctrine explicitly encourages “Democrats say the world is round, Republicans disagree” style journalism. The mainstream media picked up that habit during the fairness doctrine era (although why they adopted that pose is more complicated than just it being FCC policy) and conservatives have merely taken things to a point where “Democrats say X, Republicans say Y” is less reasonable, for a lot of reasons connected to but not exclusively because of the rise of explicitly conservative media.

      (And anyway, the fairness doctrine never applied to print journalism.)

      • CrunchyFrog

        The fairness doctrine prevented radio shows like Rush Limbaugh’s. You could have talk shows, but you had to offer equal time. In addition, while editorials were permitted they could be only a limited portion of the overall broadcast.

        At the same time as the fairness doctrine was killed Congress also passed billed allowing for great consolidation of news media. Throw in cable, which wasn’t subject to the same restrictions, and it was open season on fair media.

    • The moderate position in 1930’s Germany was to only gas 3 million Jews.

      • heckblazer

        The Nazis wanted to get rid of the Jews, but their platform also demanded land reform and an expansion of old age pensions, so clearly they were moderates.

      • Ahuitzotl

        No, no, the moderate position was to gas all the Jews, but not all the way dead

  • LeeEsq

    Yglesias made the case that Trumpism would make a great ideology for a third party in the United States because it reflects a lot of policy preferences that many Americans like but are not popular at the elite level. The opposite ideology, which Yglesias called Bloombergism or as you refer to it elite moderation, is a terrible ideology for a third party because it doesn’t have wide-spread support in the populace.

    The reason why Trump doesn’t register as a moderate to people is his personality. Most people think that moderates should have a non-bombastic personality for some reason. Trump’s passion makes him appear non-moderate to people.

    • elm

      I think personality is one reason people don’t think Trump is moderate, but another (equally important if not more important) is that on those issues he’s been most vocal about (immigration and ISIS, mostly) he’s extraordinarily radical.

      If you were to treat all of his policy positions as equally important, he seems like a moderate with a few extreme views. But if you weight the importance of his positions based on the amount he focuses on them, he’s an extremist with a few heterodox positions.

      • LeeEsq

        Trump’s fierce nativism and anti-Muslim bigotry aren’t exactly novel positions. The novelty is that Trump is using language previously only seen among people you know agree with you in a wider audience.

        • I think what elm is getting at, beyond what djw mentions in the update, is that “moderate” suggests a willingness to compromise in pursuit of ideals. Absolutism is by definition not moderate. It’s a quantitative, not qualitative, matter. That is how I’ve understood the word to be used until about 10 years ago.

          • tsam

            suggests a willingness to compromise in pursuit of ideals.

            As it pertains to governance, I see it as willing to compromise to get the job of governance done. It can actually be frustrating to watch (Obama is good about compromise where it makes sense to do so), even if we all know it’s the only way to get anything done.

      • tsam

        he’s extraordinarily radical. reactionary

        Have to be pedantic here.

    • JustRuss

      I thought the fact that Trump would like to deport all undocumented aliens and imprison American Muslims is what makes him non-moderate. Of course, that’s just me.

      • NewishLawyer

        These are not moderate positions. OTOH

        1. Trump does not talk about gutting Obamacare, privatizing Social Security, ending Medicare as we know it and replacing it with block grants.

        2. Give false promises about SCOTUS reversing on culture war issues.

        Trump is playing as a lay-person populist/moderate and a big part of this is that the economic wishes of the GOP elite (and DLC elite) and their more conservative and liberal bases do not mash up respectively. More so for the GOP and their WWC base.

        • random

          Trump does not talk about gutting Obamacare, privatizing Social Security, ending Medicare as we know it and replacing it with block grants.

          Nope, Trump has endorsed all 3 of those positions.

          • Duvall

            Trump has also endorsed the worst excesses of the worst Supreme Court Justices.

      • Ronan

        Yeah, i mean FFS we really are into political science la la land here where historical or contemporary context counts for nothing and the only value is given to aggregated elite policy preferences + rough and ready models of medium voters preferences. “I want to nuke Timbuktu and deport all slovakians , yet my other policy proposals are much more amenable to the medium voter , therefore I am all but indistinguishable from ten term Oregon senator and ww2 vet and all round man of the people bob malarkey ”
        FFS + Jesus Christ almighty

        • Malaclypse

          Homer: [looks at ballot information] Hmm…I don’t agree with his Bart-killing policy, but I do approve of his Selma-killing policy. [votes for Bob]

          Krusty: Well, he framed me for armed robbery, but man, I’m aching for that upper-class tax cut. [votes for Bob]

          • postmodulator

            I’m so old I remember when that was satirical. That was before the spectacle in the 2014 election of Kansas voters who were being strangled by Sam Brownback in the election booth using their last ounce of strength to vote for Sam Brownback for governor.

            • tsam

              Well, it didn’t become satire in a vacuum. I think that was inspired by the Gingrich era.

            • Robert M.

              I mean… it wasn’t exactly a landslide. Running against an incumbent Republican in a state Obama lost by 22 points, Davis picked up 46% of the vote.

              I have a lot to say about the 50% who voted to keep Brownback, but lately I seem to be lumped in with them a lot, and it’s irksome.

              • postmodulator

                Horseshoes and hand grenades, dude. Sorry.

          • Ronan

            I’m just waitin for someone’s counterintuitive modelling of the soviet nazi pact to show why it was actually the result of hitler/Stalin policy crossover on school milk vouchers and agricultural subsidies

            • postmodulator

              Jonah Goldberg, a nation turns its queasy eyes to you.

            • cpinva

              Molotov & Ribbentrop were considered the “squishy” moderates of their day.

              a “moderate” republican wants to bar any more immigration, and round up/deport any immigrants already here. a “conservative/radical” wants to round up and shoot all undocumented immigrants already here.

              • twbb

                Most “moderate” republicans are more focused on illegal immigration than barring any immigration at all; very few people argue for no immigration at all.

              • Ahuitzotl

                a “moderate” republican wants to bar any more immigration, and round up/deport any immigrants already here. a “conservative/radical” wants to round up and shoot all undocumented nonwhite immigrants already here.

        • random

          I would argue that it’s not even in political science land. Trump’s actual positions on the issues are much more consistent with ideological conservativism than with the above-defined ideological moderatism.

          • so-in-so

            I really think he as shifted right on a lot of them over time. Just feeling the pulse of his support, I suppose, and changing marketing plans to match.

    • Quite Likely

      The difficult for Trumpism as a third party ideology is that there isn’t any money behind it. That’s what makes Trump a big deal: he doesn’t need anybody’s money because of his celebrity, and in theory his wealth if he decides to use it. You need a lot of money to make a political party viable in the current environment, and there just isn’t much of a donor base behind available. The current political parties are dominated by rich people who care more about their money on the right, and rich people who care more about tolerance and social issues generally on the left. Neither of these groups is going to give money to a racist that wants to raise their taxes.

      • xq

        This is a decent point, but lack of money hasn’t stopped similar parties from rising in other countries. The real difficulty for Trumpism as a third party in the US is the same as for any third party in the US.

        • Ahuitzotl

          Other countries dont make their electoral cycle so heavily dependant on privately sourced money.

          Not do they permit blatant and overt corruption, oh sorry, ‘lobbying’.

      • catclub

        The difficulty for Trumpism as a third party ideology is that there isn’t any money behind it

        1. Robert Reich book I did not finish has a president who runs on protectionism, anti-immigration, and protecting SS and Medicare.
        There are a lot of people who would back that, and very little elite support==money for it.

      • cpinva

        Trump is Ross Perot, neither (so far) reliant on outside donor support. how much of an actual (vs loud) base Mr. Trump has remains to be seen. my guess is that his doesn’t even equal that of Perot’s.

        • Warren Terra

          Perot got 20% of the vote, after going insane in full public view towards the end of the campaign, so saying “not even equal” to that is a bit odd.

    • sleepyirv

      I’m not the biggest fan of Yglesias, but I think he has this dead-to-rights. I would argue the traditional to differentiate Trumpism and Bloombergism was to call the former “populists” while the latter got to be called “moderates.” A lot of people in the political science field seem to think “populists” should have a very specific meaning, so Trumpism isn’t covered by it and therefore needed its own name.

  • The “left-right” spectrum is of course actually one dimensional. Two-dimensional ideological modeling of American politics typically treats “social” and “economic” issues as the axes, and then you have the simplifying argument that plutocrats use the social axis to manipulate people into favoring plutocratic interest on the economic axis. But of course that largely ignores foreign policy and there are at least two kinds of social issues as well — religio-moral and other categories of liberty/privacy. The latter, however, gets confounded by racism and now terrorism paranoia, in other words people want the cops to leave them alone but not “those people.” Racism somewhat messes up the economic axis as well, of course. Trump is probably just being opportunistic about abortion — I’m sure he’s no social conservative at heart. His main message is racism and xenophobia, along with a kind of macho and anti-intellectual style. I don’t think the rest of it matters much in explaining his appeal.

    • Matt McIrvin

      Indeed, the old era of across-the-aisle bipartisan horse-trading that elite political writers often express nostalgia for existed mostly because the issue of race/civil rights cut across party lines: both parties had an overtly racist faction and a civil-rights faction. Post-Nixon and Reagan, it’s realigned itself to be closer to the party divide.

  • wengler

    The problem with the term ‘moderate’ in American politics is that it is not equivalent to the word ‘sensible’.

    Look at the ‘moderate’ position on ‘fighting terrorism’. Draft a kill list. Approve the kill list on Tuesday. Send out your killer drones to countries all over the world as long as they have some tangential connection to your kill list. And it doesn’t end there. Develop a ‘signature strike’ policy where if your drones that are flying overhead 24/7 in some of these places sees something that looks like something them terraists do, then incinerate them. You may get a couple wedding parties and grandmas outside their homes along the way, but the intention is good and moderate.

    The US Federal Reserve very moderately increased interest rates yesterday just because they felt like it was a good moderate time to do it. Gotta keep out that non-existent inflation.

    Policies enacted by ‘moderates'(Clinton third way types plus all Republicans) have created an economy where the surplus goes exclusively to the top. Trump’s plans won’t change those, so truly he is just another moderate.

    • rea

      Draft a kill list. Approve the kill list on Tuesday. Send out your killer drones to countries all over the world as long as they have some tangential connection to your kill list. And it doesn’t end there. Develop a ‘signature strike’ policy where if your drones that are flying overhead 24/7 in some of these places sees something that looks like something them terraists do, then incinerate them. You may get a couple wedding parties and grandmas outside their homes along the way, but the intention is good and moderate

      It gets tiresome to have to keep pointing out that this is the drone policy in your head–it’s not one that anyone, certainly not the Obama Administration, advocates or follows.

      • Ahuitzotl

        given he’s just stipulated all republicans are moderates:

        y ‘moderates'(Clinton third way types plus all Republicans)

        I think his disconnect from reality is pretty nearly complete

  • LeeEsq

    Thanks for the mention.

  • Joe_JP

    Trump seems to care only about a few things. On those things, I’m not sure if he is ‘moderate’ — such as immigration. As noted at the link:

    people who appear “moderate” on a left-right ideological spectrum often have extreme views on individual issues.

    So, he can call the Iraq War a mistake, in some fashion support social spending etc., and thus be labeled a “moderate” while still be an “extremist” on certain issues. And, this includes his basic sentiments on executive power as a whole, which is a pretty big thing.

    I’m not sure how useful this is a marker of “moderate” — it is sort of an average approach where he can have some blatantly bad positions on key matters but the rest rounds things off to a nice “C” or something.

    To me, “moderate” is more an across board deal, especially when he is extremist on key things.

  • NonyNony

    I think that where there may be hangups, they are definitional ones. Ahler and Brockman are using this definition of a moderate:

    Trump has the exact “moderate” qualities that many pundits and political reformers yearn for in politicians: Many of Trump’s positions spurn party orthodoxy, yet are popular among voters.

    Which I agree is what pundits and elite political reformers claim to mean when they talk about “moderates”. The problem is that they don’t mean it. The definition that Ahler and Brockman boil it down to is essentially a populist candidate, and most populist movements are not really what people think of when they think of the dictionary definition of “moderate”.

    The definition that pundits and elite reformers actually mean when they talk about “moderates” is more like “someone who spurns party orthodoxy but takes positions that are good for the voters whether the voters like it or not“. Where “good” is defined as “what the pundit thinks is good”. So the typical “moderate” is someone pushing for lower taxes, cuts in services and gay rights – because those are the positions that the pundit thinks are “good” for the voters and they should shut up and eat their peas.

    The whole idea of the mythical “moderate” who is going to split the baby between Democrats and Republicans is annoying. But if one exists, his positions are going to look a lot more like Donald Trump than Michael Bloomberg.

    • JKTH

      I’d actually go a bit further and say that pundits and elites especially like moderate positions that are unpopular because it heightens their Seriousness. Things like cutting Social Security/Medicare, cutting veterans’ benefits, trade agreements are particularly moderate because nobody likes them, but hey the voters are all just dumb rubes who don’t get it anyways.

  • LFC

    Just glanced at the Monkey Cage piece. This wd appear to be a key passage:

    as Trump shows, holding ideologically mixed positions across issues, which political scientists call “ideological moderation,” doesn’t guarantee that those individual policy views are moderate at all. Donald Trump — and, we will show, his supporters — thus illustrates an important lesson: We should not confuse moderation in the general ideological sense with moderation on actual issues.

    So the authors acknowledge that on some or many actual issues, as commenters above have noted, Trump is not moderate. He may be “ideologically moderate” as (some) pol. scientists define the term, but so what? Anyone who wants to prevent all Muslims from entering the country until “we figure out what’s going on” is not usefully labeled a ‘moderate’, imo.

    But this is what The Monkey Cage does: it brings the insights, supposed or real, of political scientists to the public. Even when those insights may confuse and obscure more than they reveal.

    The other thing, of course, is that a lot of what T. says is flat-out false.

    • Ronan

      I agree. The monkey cage has pretty much become slate with statistics. I think their stated aims of educating the layman is actually just confusing everyone at this stage

      • random

        In this case they’re actually miseducating the laymen.

    • dl

      When PSR made this mistake, fine, but I hold LGM to a higher standard. The point of the Broockman post (and associated paper) is that the political science definition of moderate is defective, not that “Trump is a moderate.”

      • Ronan

        Well, I’ll offer a mea culpa after my comments sbive. In my defence (which isn’t much of a defence) I hadn’t bothered reading the post

      • random

        The point of the Broockman post (and associated paper) is that the political science definition of moderate is defective

        The problem is that isn’t ‘the political science definition of moderate’ in the first place.

        The term ‘ideological moderation’ is not predominantly used or understood by political scientists in the manner that the Monkey Cage article states it is. It’s generally used in a sense much closer to the average person’s understanding of ‘moderate’.

      • djw

        Well, yes; I don’t see how you can get past my first two observations and not conclude that the concept of moderation is pretty useless.

        My post wasn’t particularly clear, so let me try again:

        1. If we retain the basic approach to determining moderation, but strip it of its beltway/elite bias, Trump isn’t too far from being a moderate.

        2. The concept–particularly the normativized version, isn’t meaningful, useful, or coherent.

  • tsam

    1–nobody who floats an updated version of the “Jewish Problem” is in any way moderate. There’s no shortage of historical precedent to leave any doubt about where this sort of shit leads.

    2–Separating areas of policy (foreign/domestic/etc) isn’t necessarily a useless exercise, but point 1 in this comment tips his hand. He’s an authoritarian scumbag bigot who is wholly unqualified for office.

    The term moderate is useless as it pertains to Trump because he’s entirely devoid of the requisite knowledge to form an informed and coherent policy.

    ETA: Given Trump’s background as a bigshot developer, I’m not buying his phony moderation on the social safety net for a second. Rich elitist bigots want that money for themselves and consider it stealing from them personally.

    • so-in-so

      His initial comments on tax policy sounded moderate, his later policy statements on it showed it was pretty much the same as any other GOP pol.

      Eventually, you can end up claiming the Nazi’s were moderate because they didn’t want to kill everyone who didn’t support them.

      • tsam

        Right–and this leaves the electorate (the ones that aren’t hopelessly stupid and/or evil) wondering if he’s starting moderate and working his way toward an authoritarian tyrant (fascist isn’t really hyperbolic when you consider that he really does want to round up a few million people and deport them), or if he’s just a half-witted moron who is parroting stupid and/or evil talking points back at the stupid and/or evil shitbags who like him. I’m guessing it’s the latter, but how the hell would I know?

        • so-in-so

          Or a pretty smart guy who figures parroting stupid/evil talking points is what it takes to get where he wants to be…

          • tsam

            He can’t be too damn smart if he thinks that the consequences of his words and actions don’t hurt real people. Or maybe he doesn’t fucking care–certainly a plausible argument.

            • Doesn’t know or care.

              • BiloSagdiyev

                Not caring is the first step in not knowing things.

                Ignorant assholes, how do they work?

                • tsam

                  Like a charm in conservative politics.

            • so-in-so

              This the election cycle after the crowd at a GOP debate yelled “let him die” in response to a question about someone without health coverage. Hurting real people – so long as it’s the right people – is a political plus for that part of the base. Trump may well not care, or may think he will do something else to mitigate their plight. Heck, for all we know he wouldn’t do ANY of the extreme things he has claimed (if he even WANTS to actually be elected).

              • tsam

                True story. I’m not sure if that’s comforting or intensifies my wariness of that scumbag asshole. Well, I am sure it’s the latter.

      • cpinva

        “Eventually, you can end up claiming the Nazi’s were moderate because they didn’t want to kill everyone who didn’t support them.”

        yes, they did. that was the whole point of the SS & gestapo, the camps and the destruction of the peoples/property the army left behind them intact, on their way to/from Moscow/Leningrad/Stalingrad. they ruthlessly hunted down and murdered any partisans & jews, in every country they invaded. towards the end of the war, allied POW’s were given the same treatment.

        • so-in-so

          Oppose by becoming a partisan isn’t the same as not being a party member, but please realize that it was a reductio ad absurdum, not a claim that Nazis should fit any description of “moderate”.

    • djw

      It seems to me you’re making the move I’m talking about in (3) above–treating ‘moderation’ as a normative accomplishment. I mean, of course Donald Trump is a “an authoritarian scumbag bigot who is wholly unqualified for office”–I can’t imagine anyone here would argue with that. That’s not inconsistent with being a moderate.

      • random

        “an authoritarian scumbag bigot who is wholly unqualified for office”–I can’t imagine anyone here would argue with that. That’s not inconsistent with being a moderate.

        In the sense that the term is used either by laymen or political scientists, it pretty much is. The Monkey Cage article’s definition of ‘moderate’ is not one that is commonly used in the academic sphere either.

        • djw

          This is admittedly contesting some aspects of the ordinary usage of ‘moderate’, but rightly so. Two facts about the dominant discourse surrounding moderates:

          1. Moderate views are situated between the two political parties, but the ways in which elites tend to situate themselves gets treated as the content of moderation.

          2. Moderation is treated as a virtue and normative accomplishment.

          So the upshot is the standard approach to moderation is less about accurately describing the terrain of political views, and more about flattering Tom Friedman. This is worth contesting. A closer look at actual public opinion suggests that in a number of ways Trump is closer to “moderate” positions than Friedman (using the method described in 1 above). That moderation as a set of policy positions and moderation as a reasonable, compromising disposition are conflated is just another way in which the current approach functions more as flattering a certain category of elites than anything else.

          Insofar as people find the suggestion that Trump represents a kind of moderate political position upsetting, it seems to be because they’ve internalized the notion that moderation is a virtue, which is well worth abandoning for a number of reasons.

          • tsam

            Insofar as people find the suggestion that Trump represents a kind of moderate political position upsetting, it seems to be because they’ve internalized the notion that moderation is a virtue, which is well worth abandoning for a number of reasons.

            Very good point. Guilty as charged.

          • LFC

            @djw
            Seems to me you haven’t really addressed ‘random’s point, which is that what the Monkey Cage piece claims is the political-science definition of ‘moderate’ is actually not. I don’t know whether random is correct on this or not.

            But the point is it’s not so much the internalization of the notion that ‘moderation’ is a virtue that’s in question. It’s how it makes sense to use the word.

            You seem to think this is all about placing a positive valence on the word “moderation”. It’s not. It’s about which uses of the word make sense and which don’t.

            And it does not make sense to call a candidate moderate when his positions on certain key issues are not moderate.

            • djw

              Seems to me you haven’t really addressed ‘random’s point, which is that what the Monkey Cage piece claims is the political-science definition of ‘moderate’ is actually not. I don’t know whether random is correct on this or not.

              I don’t know either, because he hasn’t identified what he thinks the standard political science use of the term is, and how it differs from the Broockman/Ahler usage, so I’m not sure what he’s talking about. (Perhaps he’s focused more on voters who self-identify as moderate, rather than moderate as an ideological designation?) He could well have a better handle on this than I do. The use of the term identified in the post and paper seem common and familiar enough to me, but maybe the authors and I are confused in similar ways.

              • random

                The use of the term identified in the post and paper seem common and familiar enough to me, but maybe the authors and I are confused in similar ways.

                Only because we’re all Americans living in 2015. You can throw the name of any religion in front of the word ‘moderate’ and it’s politically meaningful, and there’s likely a group of people out there at some point in history that embodied it.

                Schwendler 2006 explicitly defines ‘ideological moderation’ in the context of Islamist political parties trying to convince secularists they aren’t crazy, here’s a paper that uses that sense of the word: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4129147?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.

                The secular sense of the word generally means ‘reflexively seeking the median voter’s political position’, which is not even what Trump is doing:

                https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227673627_Are_Moderate_Parties_Rewarded_in_Multiparty_Systems_A_Pooled_Analysis_of_Western_European_Elections

                Most of the Democratic Party’s voters have consistently self-identified as ‘moderate’ for decades now. They mostly don’t cross parties all that much and Donald Trump isn’t popular with them. So in that sense he’s also not very exemplary of a ‘moderate’ in the United States.

                Even the American sense of the word that Monkey Cage is claiming is the ‘textbook’ definition, I have always taken it to mean ‘eschewing extreme positions’ and that this approach ends up generally meaning ‘somewhere between the only two political parties in the country’ seems to me to be an artifact of only having two political parties. If Tim McVeigh believed in strengthening Social Security and didn’t want the government regulating abortion that wouldn’t make him a “moderate” in any meaningful sense of the word.

          • random

            Moderate views are situated between the two political parties

            This assumes a colloquial sense of the word ‘moderate’ that exists only in the US. Even then ‘political independent’ is a more accurate term.

            The technical sense of the word ‘moderate’ and ‘ideological moderation’ as generally used by political scientists really is much closer in meaning to ‘not fucking crazy’ and is applicable to entire political parties (in the sense that you’re using the term, a political party can’t be ‘moderate’) as well as individuals. But not really a good descriptor for Donald Trump.

            Insofar as people find the suggestion that Trump represents a kind of moderate political position upsetting, it seems to be because they’ve internalized the notion that moderation is a virtue, which is well worth abandoning for a number of reasons.

            I find it upsetting because the definition of ‘moderate’ necessary to turn Trump into a ‘moderate’ requires embracing a very precise sense of the word that neither average people or political scientists generally use.

            I understand the argument that the former Reform Party candidate can be construed over the entirety of his career as having a platform that is more independent of the general consensus in either party. I just don’t think ‘moderate’ is a very good word to describe political independence.

      • tsam

        Oh I totally am. No disputing that.

        Whether moderation should considered a virtue or vice is entirely situational.

        This sums it up nicely, since my definition of moderate is the willingness and ability to compromise in the name of governance–(with limits on what they’re willing to accept in violation of their values, of course.)

  • Steve LaBonne

    “Moderate” and faux-populist positions on some economic and social issues combined with extreme xenophobia and belligerent nationalism- that was kind of a popular combination in Europe between the World Wars, no? I don’t see this as anything novel. Unfortunately.

  • Gwen

    This is one of the reasons why I think the correct analogy for Trump is not late german fascism, but rather George Wallace.

    Consider, these were part of George Wallace’s 1968 platform:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/wallace/filmmore/reference/primary/68platform.html

    – – – – – – – – – – – –

    1. Peace abroad and domestic tranquility at home.

    2. An enlightened and advancing educational program, assisted but not controlled by the federal government.

    3. Job training and opportunity for all Americans willing and able to seek and bold gainful employment.

    4. An alliance and partnership with the private sector of our economy seeking an end to poverty among our people.

    . . .

    10. An insistence that the laboring man and woman be given his fair share of responsibility and reward for the development of the mighty potential of this nation.

    . . .

    “We pledge to restore the Social Security Trust Fund to a sound financial basis and by responsible fiscal policies to insure the following:

    1. An immediate increase in Social Security payments with a goal of a 60% increase in benefits.”

    . . .

    “In this land of plenty, no one should be denied adequate medical care because of his financial condition.”

    – – – – – – – – – – – –

    There were many areas where George Wallace was in line with the Democrats and even to the left of the Democrats. It might be a bridge too far (given the paeans to the free market and anti-regulatory sentiment) to call it “Socialism for White People,” but *only barely*. Remember — even Bernie Sanders thinks free enterprise is the bees knees.

    • Steve LaBonne

      Well, we can call it social democracy for white people. Classic Southern populism, in other words.

    • Just like Manju says!

    • ChrisTS

      Remember — even Bernie Sanders thinks free enterprise is the bees knees.

      I honestly don’t understand why Sanders gets the ‘socialist’ label in any meaningful (non-dumb U.S.) sense. I guess a national health program, if that’s what he proposes, is socialized medicine, but he really doesn’t seem interested in nationalizing much of anything else.

      • tsam

        He gave it to himself, really. Sort of like Obama owning the term “Obamacare” even though he didn’t actually write the law.

        • Matt McIrvin

          Yeah, it’s because he calls himself one. To my mind he’s a social democrat, not a democratic socialist, but the distinction may be too fine for American politics.

          • tsam

            I think he’s reminiscent of the New Dealers. They had no intention of doing away with capitalism, they just endeavored to put a floor on how destitute a person can be in this nation.

            • Matt McIrvin

              And they were social democrats too, though people called them socialists.

              It might be a clever preemption maneuver, actually. You can’t smear Bernie Sanders by calling him a socialist, because he already reclaimed that label and bears it proudly. People try calling him a commie or even a Nazi (because they were national socialists, get it?) but these charges don’t stick very well.

          • ChrisTS

            Most distinctions are too subtle for American politics, really.

            • tsam

              That’s because you’re the real racist.

              • ChrisTS

                Hah! Thanks for the late night/insomnia morning laugh.

            • BiloSagdiyev

              ELITEST! I’m a workin’ man! I can’t afford no fancy distinction-maker!

              • ChrisTS

                Oh, come on, You can get a Made-in-China cheapo version at Walmart.

      • Murc

        There are a lot of kinds of socialism. Our own Dr. Dick is a syndicalist, for example, and syndicalists are all about private enterprise.

        • tsam

          Maybe that’s what I am. I don’t give a rat’s ass how much money tycoons make as long as everyone in the nation has food, shelter, a first rate education, higher education without debt, and health care without debt. Not sure it’s necessary to nationalize everything to get that done–though nationalizing things has a permanence that regulation doesn’t (typically), so maybe I am a socialist.

          What the hell am I?

          • Matt McIrvin

            I guess I’d feel the same way, except that money imbalances create power imbalances that ultimately make things absolutely worse for the people on the bottom and in the middle.

            For a long time there was a popular line that great inequality was the price we paid for everyone being better off. It made sense as long as your only basis for comparison was something like the US vs. the Soviet Union circa 1985. I think part of what’s happening right now is that even people nominally on the right are disabusing themselves of this notion and getting mad as a result.

            • tsam

              except that money imbalances create power imbalances that ultimately make things absolutely worse for the people on the bottom and in the middle.

              Absolutely. So I let the rule stand on its own: Do what you like, but these criteria shall be met. The inequality problem takes care of itself when we set up systems to prevent deprivation of basic needs.

              • Rob in CT

                I’m not sure that’s quite right. Maybe I’ve moved left of you.

                I’m generally in favor of “markets” but firmly believe in regulation (and other ways to keep corps relatively honest).

                I’ve become increasingly dubious of what I used to think was the answer: let capitalism red in tooth and claw do its thing, and then redistribute liberally. Turns out that while I’m totally fine with that plan, most people do not want to accept that THEIR MONEY wasn’t 100% earned by them and them alone (this is not just a 1%+ response).

                So now I’m thinking that what we need is better predistribution, which means messing around with trade and labor policies to tighten up the labor market and empower workers. Because (too many) people just plain balk at redistribution, or at least the level of redistribution I think is right (i.e., significantly more than we do now). Policies that produce a tighter distribution of incomes, however, would fly under most people’s radar.

                And that, in turn, means I’m not the free market liberal I once was. Not entirely, anyway.

                • Matt McIrvin

                  I’m not so sure about flying under the radar. The same people who have these strong feelings about THEIR MONEY have also been conditioned to believe that it’s illegitimate and absurd for unions to restrict what you can do just for the sake of their workers. If a corporation delivers socially suboptimal outcomes to preserve their profits, it might be unfortunate but what are you gonna do, that’s just the way it works. But a union does the same thing to keep wages up or keep somebody employed, and suddenly we’re at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, governed by absurd rules driven by greed.

        • ChrisTS

          True, and I realized even as I was writing that I was being a bit vague. But, what makes him any kind of socialist?

          • Hogan

            I’m a democratic socialist. I believe in economic democracy. Having economic sectors nationalized by an undemocratic or (in our case) suboptimally democratic government doesn’t create economic democracy.

            • ChrisTS

              See, that position makes sense to me as a political philosopher. But, as a word-botherer, I don’t know what ‘socialist’ adds.

            • N__B

              I’m a democratic socialist.

              I’m a social democrat.

              Pistols at dawn, sir!

      • djw

        I honestly don’t understand why Sanders gets the ‘socialist’ label in any meaningful (non-dumb U.S.) sense.

        The answer lies in the minutiae of Vermont politics in the 1970’s. The label worked for him, he liked it, he kept it. It’s both interesting and somewhat heartening that he seems to have found a way to deploy it that doesn’t really seem all that susceptible to red-baiting, but beyond that it doesn’t actually mean much of anything. As a legislator, he occupies the left edge of the Democratic party, where he’s not notably different from other similarly situated Democratic legislators.

        • ChrisTS

          Ah, thanks to you et al.

    • slothrop

      This! This is why he peels off center-liberal squishes and independents – Lots of baby boomers who don’t like Mexicans, but concerned about adequate healthcare. If Trump can get his act together with an actual option to ACA, like Medicare for all, this is a big winner.

      Also, if he sticks with his recent debate points about avoiding trillion-dollar wars and spending the money on “infrastructure,” another winner.

  • AMK

    The word we all seem to be looking for is “Independent” not “moderate”….and the problem is that we treat them as synonyms when in fact they are different.

    Trump is an “independent” because he favors some core Dem ideas (social security, infrastructure spending) and some core GOP ideas (tax cuts) and some non-conventional ideas (heavily restricted immigrantion, which some in the GOP use for votes but the party establishment doesn’t want in practice). Trump also exists independently of the formal party structure; “Republican” is just a flag of convenience for him. The same things could be said of someone like Bloomberg, who pairs liberal Dem ideas on social & environmental issues with establishment GOP ideas on economics, and likewise has little use for the party structure. Unlike Trump, Bloomberg’s overall policy platform, combined with his background and personality lend themselves to the “moderate” label much more easily. The counterpoint to that is Sanders, who is also an “independent” running on a party platform out of neccesity, but whose broadly socialist policies are not “moderate” and are never described as such,

    By contrast, “moderate” refers to specific positions on issues along a spectrum….it only has relevance to other positions on the same issue. So Trump is a “moderate” on spending but an extreme social conservative on
    Immigration….and an independent regardless.

    • tsam

      Trump is an “independent” because he favors some core Dem ideas (social security, infrastructure spending)

      In trying to look at Trump through the lens of his background as a spoiled brat rich kid developer, I can buy the infrastructure spending as a way of passing the impacts of his developments on to the larger community where he builds, but I’m not buying the idea that he favors the safety net. These bigoted rich assholes think that anything that helps the poor is a resource that’s been stolen from them personally.

    • random

      The word we all seem to be looking for is “Independent” not “moderate”….and the problem is that we treat them as synonyms when in fact they are different.

      ‘Independent’ is a much much better descriptor for him than ‘moderate’. He isn’t a moderate in any sense.

      Trump is an “independent” because he favors some core Dem ideas (social security, infrastructure spending)

      He said he wants to privatize Social Security, convert Medicare into spending accounts, and replace Obamacare with a different to-be-announced program.

      • AMK

        Others times, he’s said he won’t touch social Security, and that he favors single-payer instead of Obamacare.

        • random

          His current position is complete repeal and replacement by an as-yet-to-be-determined alternative. Identical to every other Republican.

          Saying he won’t touch Social Security but thinks the system is in dire trouble if changes aren’t made and people should have private spending accounts is also very consistent with standard GOP ideological orthodoxy.

          • rea

            There are lots of issues on which he’s said a bunch of contradictory things.

            Also, remember the context of a Trump presidency. There would be Republican leaders of both houses, and Trump would sign whatever nonsense they put in front of them. Seriously, does anyone really imagine President Trump vetoing a Republican “Social Security Reform” bill? Will he show us how presidential Green Lantern-like willpower suffices to get single payer health care through a Republican Congress?

  • Jake the antisoshul soshulist

    We all know that the left/right axis is useless as well as being nonsense.
    I would say that there are multiple axes(sp?). Authotitarian/libertarian is reasonable, though the poles would more properly be anarchist and tolitarian.
    Take gun control. The left/liberal/ progessive position would be more authoritarian than the right’s more libertarian anti control position.
    On abortion, the right would be much more authoritarian the the left.
    You could label some of the other spectrums under adaptability, traditionalism,

    • joe from Lowell

      Take gun control. The left/liberal/ progessive position would be more authoritarian than the right’s more libertarian anti control position.

      That’s only if you only consider government in your consideration.

      The “come and take it” arsenal-buyers are opposed to government power in a certain sphere, but they’re also asserting power over others though that same action.

      • random

        I was gonna say….any definition of ‘authoritarian’ that holds that the brownshirts were anti-authoritarian is bullshit and wrong.

      • Rob in CT

        To me, the obvious subtext of “an armed society is a polite society” is that certain currently overly uppity people will show proper deference to their betters because they will (correctly) worry that otherwise they might be shot.

        • Matt McIrvin

          Arms for me, politeness from thee.

        • tsam

          Secondary subtext “I dont no nuthin bout histery and human nacher”

      • so-in-so

        Not to mention the localities (cough, Texas, cough) that try to pass laws requiring everyone to own guns or, less wildly, not allowing private entities to bar open carry on their premises.

        • Jake the antisoshul soshulist

          Those were just a couple of examples.
          Plus there is the source of authority. In many issues, government is not a legitimate source of authority for the right. But, the deity would be the ultimate source of authority for many. Except for issues of security, government is rarely the legitimate authority.
          Some libertarians might have issues with government overreach in the name of security. But for them, one of
          the few legitimate functions of government is protecting property rights.
          Except for those cases where gun rights trump property rights. Then government should protect gun rights.

  • ChrisTS

    So, I would like to bring up a term used by several, here, as being at least as problematic as ‘moderate’: ‘populism.’

    As an ism, it ought to be easier to pin down than the modifier ‘moderate.’ But, it isn’t. It is not a label for a set of policies or beliefs. It simply designates politicians trying to appeal to the populace and, perhaps, a loose grouping of positions that appeal to some folks.

    But even then, as a descriptor, it is historically inaccurate. How many so-called populist movements in this nation have appealed to more than a sub-set of the populace? Wallace, Bryant…?

    As far as I can tell, looking at U.S. ‘populist’ movements, they are all just grab-bags of views that don’t fit any party platforms of their time and have appeal to odd bedfellow fringe groups. Which would seem to make Trump a populist.

    • Hogan

      And with both moderation and populism, style and substance get weirdly mixed and confused.

      • ChrisTS

        YES!

        ETA: Sorry: it’s late & I cannot think of anything more substantive to add.

  • random

    We define moderate as “agrees with Ds and Rs some of the time,” regardless of the moderation or lack thereof with any specific view, which is arguably incoherent, but it’s still the everyday meaning of the term in American politics.

    This isn’t the everyday meaning of the term in American politics as most people understand it. But it’s also not all that consistent with how the word is used in more technical settings either.

    This is before we get into consideration of Trump’s actual politics (as much as we can say he has politics) being pretty consistent with standard GOP orthodoxy.

  • Matt McIrvin

    I think what’s really happening here is that the standard list of pet conservative issues that’s held since the Reagan era is mutating again, to something more like a racist-populist configuration similar to what we see in European far-right parties. Christianism and corporate deregulation are getting less important, overt xenophobia, racism and terrorism-fear more important. Trump is the vanguard.

    There’s something of a struggle going on between more neocon/Bushist and paleocon/Trumpist factions over foreign policy: one side wants to bomb the world, the other prefers relative isolationism and general intolerance for immigrants and Muslims; neither is too keen on civil liberties. I’m not sure which will prevail; maybe the worst of both.

    • Rob in CT

      maybe the worst of both

      A ray of fuckin’ sunshine, you are.

      ;)

  • OT, but in this article about Ted Cruz he was quoted:

    “If I am elected president, we will defeat radical Islamic terror,” he said to applause. “We will carpet-bomb them into oblivion.” Cruz paused, lips pursed. “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.”

    I have trouble reading this as anything but an allusion to using nuclear weapons. Isn’t “glowing in the dark” something that radiation does in the popular imagination? Am I crazy, or has Ted Cruz actually implied he’d nuke the Middle East without any notable reaction?

    • Hogan

      I think the original is “nuke ’em till they glow, then shoot ’em in the dark.”

  • MDrew

    Trump is moderate on some issues and extremely immoderate on others and the others are what get noticed until some political scientist decides to look at the whole and ends up with, “Hey, where’d the immoderation go?” It’s where it always was – on some issues.

    Whether a given figure overall is “a moderate” seems to be something we do by feel/ad hoc. That’s why just about any time you look closely at someone described as a moderate or as the opposite, exceptions within the characterization are so common. There’s nothing systematic holding it all together to begin with, so of course there are inconsistencies. “This moderate has some crazy positions!” is only a surprise if you put any stock in the rough average that produced the characterization of ‘moderate’ to begin with; “Actually, if you average out this crazy ideologue’s positions he comes out to being kind of a moderate!” (the Trump case) is unsurprising for the same reason.

    Of course, some crazy ideologues are crazy all in one direction, so there’s no confusion; they’re not “moderates.”

    • Matt McIrvin

      Part of it is that Trump is not really ideological at all and his positions even on a single issue are not internally coherent. He’s sounding moderate now for saying the Iraq War was a mistake, which could also sound like he’s more Buchananite-paleocon like I said above, but he’s also said he admires John Bolton on foreign policy, which is about as aggressively neocon as you can get. It simply doesn’t make sense, and casting about for some kind of sense will yield all kinds of results as to where Trump stands.

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