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Don’t Look At Us, We Didn’t Do It!

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Megan McArdle proposes that the Donald Trump taking over the Republican Party was an amazing coincidence the previous actions of party elites had nothing to do with. Jonathan Bernstein disposes:

Republicans had encouraged, or at least tolerated, schoolyard taunts and far-fetched conspiracy talk long before Trump’s campaign. He started out in Republican presidential politics by accusing the president of not being a U.S citizen, a slur that had been bandied about by many highly visible Republicans. He has now moved on to recycling conspiracy theories from 20 years ago about Hillary Clinton that were promoted at the time by talk-show hosts and Republican members of Congress.

The fact that Donald Trump rose to prominence within the Republican Party by promoting birtherism while Republican elites first looked the other way and then eagerly sought his support is indeed crucial.

Another part is how Republicans lowered the standards for their politicians. Normally voters might oppose Trump as flat-out unqualified for the job, both by lack of relevant experience and lack of knowledge of government and public affairs. But by giving a megaphone to people like Pat Robertson, Herman Cain, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, Republicans showed their voters what counts as a “normal” Republican presidential candidate — and it isn’t all that different from Donald Trump. Republican voters had many well-qualified candidates in 2016, but they had been taught by their party to ignore normal qualifications, and they did so.

Jonathan is actually leaving out the best example here: Sarah Palin. John McCain — at the urging of party elites — selected her to be second in line to the presidency with no input from the voters, and party elites and conservative pundits* strongly defended the choice contemporaneously. It’s pretty hard to convincingly claim that an ignorant buffoon like Donald Trump isn’t a serious candidate for president when you’ve put an ignorant buffoon on a presidential ticket. (And while George W. Bush was not as unqualified as Palin, the proudly ill-informed anti-intellectualism that was central to his shtick was not incidental to the rise of figures like Trump.)

That same observation can be made about how Republicans have tolerated and promoted bigotry, forging a path for Trump to go even further. McArdle is wrong to say that the Republicans’ “Southern strategy” of the Richard Nixon era was only incidentally pitched to bigots. In 1968, Nixon was clearly and deliberately going after pro-segregation voters abandoned by the Democratic Party, a strategy continued (for example) by Lee Atwater in the 1988 presidential race on behalf of George H.W. Bush.

Right, the southern strategy had nothing to do with racism. When, say, Richard Nixon worked with the not-at-all-racist Strom Thurmond’s top political advisor to try to gut the Voting Rights Act, that had nothing to do with race.

The idea that the Republican Party doesn’t own Trump is simply absurd.

*Guess which conservative pundit said the following things when McCain selected Palin:

This woman is an Obama-level political natural. She is a ferociously good speaker, and almost preternaturally composed.

The Democrats are, as my colleague Clive Crooks notes, in trouble. Whatever you think of her as a potential president, she is a politically brilliant choice, and Democrats are going to have a very hard time finding traction to attack her.

I have no reason to think that she would be a particularly bad president. Obama hasn’t any more relevant experience than she has; he’s simply been coaching for the thing longer.

The fact that Republican voters took Donald Trump seriously is truly mysterious.

…much more here.

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  • howard

    if pundits ever felt shame, mcardle would surrender her keyboard for typing such stupidity in september, 2008: wow!

    • brad

      I can think of half a dozen worse things she wrote before that.
      If pundits felt shame McMegan would have an aneurysm, along with dozens of others.

      • Warren Terra

        I can think of half a dozen worse things she wrote before that.

        Not to mention after that. As I said at the time, her basic message was to remind us that from time to time the Tree Of Libertary must be watered with the blood of teachers and schoolchildren.

        • Anna in PDX

          Oh geez. Hard to believe anyone could have written that.

          • Bitter Scribe

            When I’m in an evil mood, I sometimes find myself wishing that she, Ben Carson, John Derbyshire and Mark Steyn* would find themselves in a mass-shooting situation and take their own advice.

            *Steyn called the victims of another mass shooting cowards for not doing so, IIRC.

            • Anna in PDX

              Because of his resemblance to a hobbit, I call Steyn “Sandyman” in my head.

    • howard

      and i agree with both of you that mcardle has a terrific track record of wrongness, but even so, the spectacular degree to which she was wrong about palin stands out.

      • Dilan Esper

        The thing is Scott’s right- she wasn’t any more wrong than anyone else on the right.

        Sarah Palin was the answer to a problem- that a lot of women hate Republicans because of the party’s opposition to women’s rights and reproductive freedom. Yes, there are other successful Republican politicians, but most of them are pro-choice.

        The Republican establishment wanted her to succeed so badly that they ignored all the obvious warning signs.

    • McArdle is paid to not understand things and she is very good at it.

      • Boots Day

        She also managed to get the name of her colleague Clive Crook wrong.

        • kped

          I’m laughing at my desk right now…these two comments are perfect!

    • Davis

      Among the many hilarious things in that article, I like this the best:

      “Being a parent is hard and important, but it is no more a good qualification for higher office than is being a journalist, which is also hard and important.”

      Maybe, for an actual journalist.

    • royko

      Her assessment of Palin wasn’t wrong, it was just a hypothetical which turned out not to be true.

    • DrDick

      If she were even capable of shame, McAddlepate would have committed seppuku immediately after her first piece ever was published.

  • All An awful lot (really a lot) of the stuff people are freely saying about Trump’s narcissism involves behavior that Republicans defended when it was Palin. I think that’s mainly because she was only a VP pick, and also when she said it, it sounded like the self-hyping of someone interviewing for a mid-level job. It sounds scarier when it’s for a position with responsibility.

    “I can do anything” is the attitude of a contestant on “The Apprentice.” Maybe people thought this was the correct attitude for an underling who will get the job done for his/her boss, and assumed the boss will always be a sober, clear thinker.

    • royko

      I think that’s mainly because she was only a VP pick, and also when she said it, it sounded like the self-hyping of someone interviewing for a mid-level job. It sounds scarier when it’s for a position with responsibility.

      It’s true, the Veep has very little responsibility — with rare notable exceptions.

    • NonyNony

      I think if you look back you’ll see that they largely initially thought of her as a Dan Quayle type figure – someone who would fire up the base during the campaign and could be groomed to be their useful idiot in the event that something happened to McCain.

      By the time they realized that Palin had duped them about her political savvy, it was too late. They were all-in and had to defend her to the death because admitting mistakes is death in the conservative punditry biz. The difference with Trump is that he had a long ramp-up period where pundits could stake out an opinion that he was unfit for office before it was obvious that he was going to be the nominee and they were going to have to lump it.

      • Brad Nailer

        I think a pretty face, an up-do, and fuck-me pumps also had a not-insignificant thing to do with it. As with her political pseudo-chops, those other qualities didn’t wear well either.

  • DilbertSucks

    Pop quiz time: who said the following?

    I’m not a member of the permanent political establishment. And I’ve learned quickly these past few days that if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington elite then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone.

    I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion.

    I’m certainly a Washington outsider, and I’m proud of that, because I think that that is what we need.

    We’ve got to remember what the desire is in this nation at this time. It is for no more politics as usual, and somebody’s big fat resume, maybe, that shows decades and decades in the Washington establishment . . . Americans are getting sick and tired of that self-dealing, and kind of that closed-door, good-ol’-boy network that has been the Washington elite.

    The answer, already intimated by Scott’s post, is here: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/10/27/the-insiders

    • Since the “Washington outsider” language isn’t focused on overcoming partisanship, it’s not Obama.

      Since it wasn’t about overcoming gridlock, it couldn’t be Bill Clinton in 1992.

      The unnecessary “maybe” and other linguistic tics indicate Palin. Really, absent those, it could have been any number of candidates, since running against “Washington insiders” is pretty much a constant in national politics.

    • Fozzz

      If Trump is anything, he’s not “politics as usual.”

    • CP

      “Big fat resume” is what sold it as Palin for me.

      • Anna in PDX

        Americans are getting sick and tired… Was what marked it as Palin for me. I could just hear her grating voice saying that.

        • CP

          Yeah, but it’s still something that I could imagine a lot of politicians with a veneer of seriousness saying. “Big fat resume” is such a juvenile turn of phrase that it just had to be her.

        • Hogan

          I think all right-thinking people in this country are sick and tired of being told that ordinary, decent people are fed up in this country with being sick and tired. I’m certainly not! And I’m sick and tired of being told that I am.

          • wjts

            Well, I meet a lot of people and I’m convinced that the vast majority of wrong-thinking people are right.

            • Bruce B.

              I’d like to ask the panel what changes they would make if they were Hitler.

  • In short, Republican elite creates monster, acts surprised when monster eats it.

  • Charlie S

    Hosea 8:7

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Thou shalt not take… moochers into thy… hut?

    • Joe_JP

      “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. The stalk has no head; it will produce no flour. Were it to yield grain, foreigners would swallow it up.”

  • Bitter Scribe

    My favorite line from McArdle’s column:

    Were [Republicans] supposed to abandon the policy positions because racists also liked them?

    She is among the many right-wing pundits who simply can’t understand that those racists were indifferent at best to those “policy positions,” and tolerated them simply because their racism was being catered to at the same time. Now Trump is catering to that racism more loudly and boldly than anyone else was willing to, which is why he can oppose free trade, pledge to protect Social Security and take three different positions on abortion in two days, and none of it matters.

    • CP

      Were [Republicans] supposed to abandon the policy positions because racists also liked them?

      1) No, you were supposed to abandon the policy positions because they are racist. Underfunding the inner city to death while continuing the cash flow to white people in the red states is racist. A war on drugs that was explicitly (according to Nixon’s aides’ later statements) meant to give them a tool to jail black people and disrupt their civil society is racist. Defending cops and vigilantes when they shoot black people without provocation is racist. Demanding that immigration be restricted based on people’s ethnic or sectarian identity is racist. Gutting the Voting Rights Act and trying to gut the Civil Rights Act is racist. Demanding that our educational textbooks downplay America’s crimes against nonwhites and obfuscate the motivations of violent white supremacist separatists is racist.

      2) I love the implication that Republicans have always stuck to the policy positions they have now, and at some point this horde of racists they’d never met before wandered over from the Democratic Party, and they were slightly uncomfortable but kept doing the same things because it was what they’ve always done. The Republican Party has given itself a complete top-to-bottom makeover over the last fifty years, and it’s done so in order to appeal to racists and other bigots. These policies aren’t something that was somehow adopted independently of their attempts to appeal to racists.

      What you say is also true, of course. The bigots never really cared much for the nitty-gritty details of policy. Racism with a side of New Deal economic populism was cool back in the day, racism with a side of Reaganite social darwinism has been cool for the last few decades, racism with a side of whatever the hell Trump is going for is cool now.

      • Davis

        From the Southern Strategy to Trump is a pretty direct line.

        • Colin Day

          Except that a line requires two distinct points.

      • LeeEsq

        1, well here is where it gets tricky. Some policy choices are racist on their face, others are not racist on their face but were adopted for racist reasons like the drug war, and others are just debatable depending on how you see the world or combination of all three. If a person really believes that drugs are bad and shouldn’t be used, the drug war is not necessarily a racist policy even if minorities fight feel the sting more. That would just be something to work out. I think automatically assuming everything we disagree with is for racist motives really gets us no where politically. These things need to be closely examined.

        • Colin Day

          If a person really believes that drugs are bad and shouldn’t be used, the drug war is not necessarily a racist policy even if minorities fight feel the sting more.

          There might be a possible non-racist War on Drugs. We haven’t tried hard to fight it. Blacks and whites use marijuana roughly equally, but who gets more jail time?

        • ColBatGuano

          I think automatically assuming everything we disagree with is for racist motives really gets us no where politically.

          I think the evidence on the racist nature of the drug war is pretty convincing.

          • The Dark God of Time

            Yah think?

            The drug war has produced profoundly unequal outcomes across racial groups, manifested through racial discrimination by law enforcement and disproportionate drug war misery suffered by communities of color.

            Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial lines, people of color are far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for drug law violations than are whites.

            Higher arrest and incarceration rates for African Americans and Latinos are not reflective of increased prevalence of drug use or sales in these communities, but rather of a law enforcement focus on urban areas, on lower-income communities and on communities of color as well as inequitable treatment by the criminal justice system. We believe that the mass criminalization of people of color, particularly young African American men, is as profound a system of racial control as the Jim Crow laws were in this country until the mid-1960s.

            The Drug Policy Alliance is committed to exposing disproportionate arrest rates and the systems that perpetuate them. We work to eliminate policies that result in disproportionate incarceration rates by rolling back harsh mandatory minimum sentences that unfairly affect urban populations and by repealing sentencing disparities.

            Crack cocaine sentencing presents a particularly egregious case. Since the 1980s, federal penalties for crack were 100 times harsher than those for powder cocaine, with African Americans disproportionately sentenced to much lengthier terms. But, in 2010, DPA played a key role in reducing the crack/powder sentencing disparity from 100:1 to 18:1, and we are committed to passing legislation that would eliminate the disparity entirely.

        • djw

          If a person really believes that drugs are bad and shouldn’t be used, the drug war is not necessarily a racist policy even if minorities fight feel the sting more.

          The word “necessarily” is doing an awful lot of heavy lifting here. Sure, there’s some conceptually possible alternative universe where the drug war might not be a racist policy, but so what?

    • Hogan
  • GWB was every bit as poorly equipped to be President as Palin, and the results of his tenure speak for themselves. Would Trump be worse? I suppose that’s theoretically possible, but it is hard to picture. A more likely scenario in my mind is that he would find that he doesn’t care for the job, and either checks out for the most part, leaving the hard stuff to the Best People (much as Bush did), or quits outright.

    • addicted44

      Would Trump be worse?

      Trump:

      Challenge Accepted.

    • TribalistMeathead

      Would Trump be worse?

      At most, marginally (not that I long for a presidency that’s only marginally worse than W’s).

      The thing I really fear is how Trump’s supporters are going to react when, 2-3 years into Trump’s presidency, we haven’t built a wall on the US-Mexico border, we haven’t banned Muslims from entering the US, we haven’t established a database that tracks Muslims, Apple isn’t manufacturing all of its products within the US using domestically-produced components, etc.

      • DilbertSucks

        They’re already threatening to form militias if Trump loses.

        In case that doesn’t worry you, recall how Trump reacted on Twitter when Romney lost in 2012:

        http://mashable.com/2012/11/06/trump-reacts-to-election//#3jiqYFMq5iqF

        Now imagine how Trump would react if he lost, and remember the lasting damage that the Dolchstoßlegende did to Germany democracy.

        • sharculese

          See also, a disgusted Brian Williams having to report on it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQAy6xWtgI4

        • Gee Suss

          This. Any other Republican candidate would have been terrible but within the system. Trump brings with him the distinct possibilities of a cult of personality and a legion of brownshirts.

    • DilbertSucks

      Would Trump be worse?

      Of course.

    • “For the most part” is a big area. Checks out unless something catches his attention, and then micromanages to within an inch of everybody else’s lives could be pretty bad. Hiring the way W. did (IIRC) could be pretty bad, too.

    • brad

      Yep, he’d be worse at least for the US, Iraq and a few other nations might have cause to argue otherwise. GW was incompetent and Cheney was evil, but they weren’t white supremacists and openly pathologically misogynistic.
      I’m not disputing that these were still elements of their base, or making any defense of probably the worst Admin in US history, but Trump either winks at or simply embraces these elements. The Cheney Admin had specific policy goals. They were evil and we’ll be paying for their successes for generations to come, but they were coherent. Trump just wants power and glory and not to have to look inwards at what a shallow, empty, tiny man he really is. The rest is all just him pandering to rubes and/or himself.

      • JustRuss

        Yeah. For all W’s many, many flaws, he at least tried to tamp down the Muslim-hate after 911. I shudder to think what Pres. Trump would do in response to any sort of terrorist attack.

        • kped

          Exactly. Bush at least didn’t outright hate in public, he was a standard politician (note how well he did with Hispanics compared to everyone since…). Trump is worse just by virtue of his bluster. It normalizes some pretty awful behavior.

    • twbb

      Bush’s “Best People” were pretty bad; basically the second- and third-stringers from the 70’s-90’s GOP establishment (and the first-stringers were no prizes themselves). I’m guessing that Trump’s Best People could be even worse, though. I mean his campaign manager has been caught on camera attacking women and children.

      • Lev

        That’s true. It’s amazing to me that two Chiefs of Staff of one of the most forgettable/lackluster presidencies ever in history managed to wield so much power for so long.

      • Trump’s “Best People” will be yes-men. Anything he gets in his head, they’ll tell him he’s brilliant. At least Shrub would get some pushback on his ideas every once in a while…

    • NonyNony

      He’d be worse for the message he sends to the rest of the world. W’s election told the world that Americans were voting for someone who would continue America’s business as usual on the international scene. His father had previously been president, and he surrounded himself with long-time political players whose previous actions gave them a track record. It turns out that they were wrong, but then so were a lot of people who actually voted for W.

      Putting Trump into office basically tells the world that a majority of the country is either ready to burn the place to the ground or so apathetic that they’re willing to let an arsonist just take power. There really can’t be a question of intent here – W voters may not have realized they were voting for a man who would kick the current international status quo in the nads, but there’s no question about what they’re doing when it comes to Trump.

      And as far as Trump’s actual policies go? I wouldn’t want to be anything other than a white dude if he gets into power. Trump’s racist supporters are going to be feeling pretty emboldened by his victory. W actually tried to clamp down on the racists – Hispanic voters were a large part of his coalition to get elected, and after 9/11 he spoke out openly about how the enemy was overseas and not American Muslims. Trump would again burn all that to the ground.

      So in conclusion – Trump would be worse than any Republican candidate that ran this year except possibly Cruz, who would have been equally bad for entirely different reasons.

    • Alex.S

      Yes.

      I think you can just take every scandal of the W. Bush era and just increase it.

      Attorney Generals being fired for not going after political opponents? Trump will use the entire federal government to attack his enemies.

      Michael Brown doing a “Heck of a job”? Trump will fill every role in the executive branch with loyalty to Trump being the only criteria.

      Iraq War? Trump wants to invade everywhere, but that doesn’t count as a war since it will be so easy for America to win that they’ll just take whatever they want and leave.

      Plus, the normalization of racism.

    • humanoid.panda

      Bush did a lot of things wrong, and was a war criminal to boot. However,off the top of my hat, I can name 2 huge things he did right, and Trump would get catastrophically wrong.

      1. Days after 9/11, he went to a mosque, and broadcast a strong message that not all Muslims were terrorists.
      2. When the Russians dismantled Saakashvili, the last remaining member of Bush’s fan club, he avoided saber rattling and acknowledged reality.

      I can’t even start imagining how Trump would react in similar situations.

      • Rob in CT

        RE: #2: for anyone who was still confused about the quality of John McCain’s judgment, that episode was instructive.

        • humanoid.panda

          And you know what? As loathsome as he was, I’m pretty sure that if he were president, his wouldn’t have said what he said. With Trump, I don’t have that confidence.

  • Boots Day

    Jonathan is actually leaving out the best example here: Sarah Palin.

    Another example is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had exactly zero qualifications for public office aside from his celebrity, but the GOP decided he deserved to be governor of the nation’s largest state anyway. Arnie seems to be smarter than Trump, but it’s awfully hard to see an argument why Schwarzenegger is qualified (and there was a decent amount of support for him as president as well, despite that pesky constitution) and Trump is not.

    • Lev

      Sort of similar, but also a little different as well. The 2003 CA recall had no primaries and dozens of candidates were all listed on the same ballot, and this is not a red state so a lot of non-Republicans voted for him as well. You can’t hang him entirely on Republicans is all I’m saying. FWIW the Republican base never wanted Ahnuld and hated him from almost the start, and never stopped doing so. They wanted McClintock. The whole thing is still bizarre to think about. Honestly, though, Schwarzenegger actually didn’t do a bad job, in the window between when he abandoned any recognizable conservative ideas and when he palpably lost interest in the job. Wasn’t that long a window, but it did include passing a cap-and-trade bill.

  • slothrop1

    Whatever. She’s an idiot.

    A little more interesting is the increasing evidence that however much LGM has decided that Hillary is A-OK, the polling looks really really bad.

    • Rob in CT

      I will start to worry if the polling doesn’t improve significantly after Bernie concedes.

      • Scott Lemieux

        The polling situation is fine for Clinton.

        • Rob in CT

          That’s what I’m getting at. Trump is getting a GOP consolidation bounce (which, to be fair, I held out some slim hope he wouldn’t get). Clinton will too, it’s just going to take a few more weeks b/c Bernie hasn’t given up yet.

          • humanoid.panda

            And his bounce is not that big- currently, Pollster has him at 39.2%, while his lowest point was 37% (The Realclearpolitics, which weeds out online polls has him at 42%, from a low point of 39%). In other words, his “bounce” is almost entirely product of the Democratic race turning nasty after New York.

            I am utterly shocked that the media totally ignored the historical insignificance of his bounce..

            • Rob in CT

              Yeah. I still hope for a significant bounce, because obviously we not only want HRC to become POTUS, we want the Senate. I figure the House is a pipedream (a nice one, though), so I won’t go there. If we were actually running Obama… sigh.

              • humanoid.panda

                Honestly, given partisanship being what it is, I strongly suspect that as long as the party is unified,* the difference between HRC and Obama running against Trump is the difference between, say, 54-45, and 53-46.

                * Which is my money is on Wareen as VP, with all the downsides.

                • Rob in CT

                  No, no, no, NO. We need the Senate to get anything at all done. MA has a Republican governor. Gah.

                • humanoid.panda

                  As I said, I consider the downsides. Here is my counter argument though.
                  1. Warren can resign her seat once named, and have a November election to replace her.
                  2. Her on the ticket might give a turnout boost that can turn other seats Democratic.
                  3. I fundamentally think that cowering in fear over a special election in MA, just because we lost there once is very weak.

                  But beyond all that : if Hillary’s data shows that the Sanders rift is real and lasting, than getting Warren on the ticket might be a matter of national security and the good of humanity, because Trump having a real shot at winning this thing is an unacceptable risk.

                • Rob in CT

                  Hmm, agree to disagree – that’s not a bad argument.

            • Bill Murray

              In other words, his “bounce” is almost entirely product of the Democratic race turning nasty after New York.

              This does not follow from your previous statement

        • kped

          Also…a lot of the recent “close” polls have been train wreck awful. The Demographics they assume are just pulled out of the pollsters white male ass.

        • slothrop1

          I don’t understand the view that polling is worthless right now. Why? This looks terrible for her. She definitely needs us Berniebros.

          Bernie is a better bet. HRC is just awful, good God. If she loses, which is a real possibility, Farley needs to spend several months flagellating with pine boughs.

          • Rob in CT

            It’s not “worthless.” It’s just not very good at this point, compared to say polling in August. See here:

            http://election.princeton.edu/2016/05/22/february-national-polls-are-the-best-you-get-until-august/

            Again: there is a plausible story here: Trump got a bounce because the GOP is falling in line. Clinton hasn’t because the Dem primary is still being contested. Once that is no longer so, we should see a bump for Clinton. If we don’t, yeah, that’s a problem.

            She definitely needs us Berniebros

            Sure. And she’ll get most of us.

            Bernie is a better bet.

            Maybe, maybe not. This has been argued back and forth for a while now so I won’t get into it. I could argue either side of it.

            HRC is just awful, good God

            Says you. I think she’s kind of ok. Most Democrats agree.

            If she loses, which is a real possibility, Farley needs to spend several months flagellating with pine boughs.

            Huh, why?

            • Scott Lemieux

              Slothrop’s rigorous methodology of “Hillary Clinton is the SUXXOR plus nobody listens to Prince” is surely more convincing than anything Sam Wang has to offer.

          • Pseudonym

            I’ve been thinking recently that the one thing LGM needs more of is comment threads about the Democratic presidential primary.

          • solidcitizen

            You set the filters to Likely White Women and that shows Hillary behind by 5 points. Take out the filters and she’s up by 5 points. She’s up by 5% for Likely. She’s up by 10% for Likely Women.

            Unless your point was that only white women count, I’m not sure what your point is.

            Looks like she needs non-white voters a hell of a lot more than Berniebros. Which is good, because she has huge percentages of those.

            • humanoid.panda

              Also worth noting: Romney won white women by 14% in 2012, McCain by 7 in 2008. Winning them by 5% is an apocalyptically bad result for a republican candidate.

    • Hells Littlest Angel

      “Really really”?

      Is that you, Donald?

    • brad

      What’s it matter if there’s no difference between Hillary and the Donald?

      • tsam

        It matters because Democratic primary voters are so stupid that they’ve now missed the opportunity of the millennium, to elect a real, live unicorn that will recreate the US in their own image. Bernie would have ushered in a golden age of socialism. Hillary will be worse than Hitler. At least Donald is honest.

  • Joe_JP

    It’s nice — really since he is worse than the normal Republican (this is not high praise) — that a limited number of Republicans (e.g., Orin Kerr, who was an advisor to Sen. John Cornyn etc.) are in the NeverTrump camp. But, you reap what you sow.

  • Fighting Words

    Donald Trump is just a Frankenstein’s Monster of Republican politics:

    – The “government is the problem” attitude of Ronald Reagan;
    – The anti-intellectualism of George W. Bush;
    – The pettiness and thin-skinned temperament of Richard Nixon;
    – The racism and race-baiting of Lee Atwater;
    – The bluster and sabre-rattling (without anything to back it up) of Dick Cheney;
    – The faux populism of Sarah Palin;
    – The “empathy” of Mitt Romney.

    I’m surprised Donald Trump wasn’t nominated sooner.

    On an un-related note, and because this is a Lemieux post, Congratulations on the San Jose Sharks for making it to the Stanley Cup Finals. I am just a casual hockey fan, but I know so many hard core Sharks fans and I am just ecstatic for them right now.

    Now, the Golden State Warriors just need to make their improbable comeback…

    • Fozzz

      Newt also played a big role in this, making his eventual selection as Trump’s VP all the more delicious.

      From the day he arrived in Washington following his election to the House in 1978, Newt Gingrich had a strategy to create a Republican majority in the House—something that had not happened since 1954. His strategy eventually worked. Unfortunately, it also wrought immense collateral damage. Newt worked to nationalize congressional elections to reduce the advantage enjoyed by individual incumbents—and to create a climate in which Americans would be so disgusted with Congress that they would say, collectively, “Anything would be better than this.” He wanted them to throw the In Party out and bring the Out Party in.

      That meant a long campaign to delegitimize Congress, politics, and politicians, and to provoke the Democratic majority to overreact, thereby alienating even moderate Republicans in Congress and uniting them against the evil Democrats. A series of scandals, real and not-so-real, including the House Bank and post office, helped. His campaign included using ethics charges as a political weapon, resulting in the resignation of Speaker Jim Wright, reinforcing the image of a scandal-ridden, insular and out-of-touch majority.

      http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/01/the-eight-causes-of-trumpism/422427/

      • howard

        my money has been on newt for the veep for a few weeks now: it would be perfection.

      • Lev

        Yeah, Gingrich likes to claim Wright’s scalp, but anyone who knows anything about it knows Wright destroyed himself, and Gingrich’s role was peripheral at best. He ran the House so aggressively that he left himself no allies when the going got rough and his finances got scrutinized. Someone with more friends could have survived what came up. Wright didn’t. All of the ethics charges Gingrich brought were dismissed out of hand.

        Shame, too, because unlike Foley he was a competent operator, and unlike O’Neill he was willing to fight Reagan (and won a few battles).

      • Aexia

        Newt is the Republican Moses, and hopefully, he’ll be back to lead his party in circles in the desert for 40 years.

    • so-in-so

      You left out “Everything should be run like, if not by, a for-profit business”.

      Works really great in health care, I still remember Gingrich (I think) talking about how much less costly and more efficient that would be once those pesky not-for-profit providers were eliminated.

  • Rob in CT

    Ah yes, Jane Galt, who cannot add.

    • rea

      I remember, a long time ago, her attempting to explain to me that she hadn’t understood how big a 2 X 4 was.

      • Murc

        There is no standard size for a 2 x 4, is there? Because those aren’t the two relevant numbers; it’s the third, usually unstated, measurement. I see 2 x 4 x 48 a lot, but also 2 x 4 x 96.

        • rea

          Her point, such as it was, was that she hadn’t understood the potential effects of hitting an anti-war protestor over the head with one. Not sure if the third dimension is relevant in that context

          • so-in-so

            leverage… and weight.

            Of course all the lumberyard has are “nominal 2 X 4s”, but I don’t think she was quibbling over the fractions of an inch.

          • Murc

            Her point, such as it was, was that she hadn’t understood the potential effects of hitting an anti-war protestor over the head with one. Not sure if the third dimension is relevant in that context

            … oh. Well, I hadn’t known that part of the story.

        • royko

          Have to be an awfully short 2×4 to think hitting someone with it wouldn’t be violent or painful.

        • MacK

          1¾” x 3½” x 96” – carpenters use this to distinguish those who know carpentry from those who don’t. In other countries timber is in fact the size it says it is.

          The history is long and complicated

          I worked as a carpenter at one point.

          • muddy

            If your house is old they are full sized. This makes it really fun when you are fixing things with modern materials.

            • Rob in CT

              For certain values of “fun” I imagine…

              • muddy

                You have correctly spelled “fun”.

            • MacK

              Done that.

        • ColBatGuano

          I don’t know, 2×4 does describe the thickness quite well and it shouldn’t take much understanding that any length sufficient to swing at a protester’s head would do a lot of damage.

          • muddy

            I bet I could do a pretty good job with a piece only an inch long.

          • Bill Murray

            maybe she was working in metric — 2 mm x 4 mm wouldn’t hurt much. Of course this is better than any of her actual excuses

  • Murc

    You know, I’m having trouble remembering if Palin was such an obviously bad choice at her time of selection.

    I mean. It became very obvious very quickly just what we were dealing with. But my memory of early 2008 was that Palin, to the extent she was on the national radar at all, was considered a rising Republican star; she was an immensely popular Governor and had displayed a real talent for political infighting, at least in the specific context of state-level politics in Alaska in the early aughts.

    That seems like a reasonable VP pick. It just turns out she… wasn’t.

    But I don’t recall much of her before her jaw-dropping performance on the campaign trail revealed her as the know-nothing grifter she actually is.

    • Rob in CT

      I think the idea is that party insiders should have known more than normal people (or even abnormal political junkies like us) and, failing that, picked up on her issues quickly enough to steer clear.

      But they basically loved her for the very reasons she shouldn’t have been selected, which is the point.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Given how comprehensive her ignorance was, if Republican elites didn’t know ex ante it’s because they didn’t want to know.

      • Murc

        That’s true, but I’ve also heard that John McCain was really, really pissed off he didn’t get to pick his best buddy Joey Joe-Joe to be his running mate and simply picked the most minimally acceptable alternative he could in a deliberate effort to anger people.

        So it’s questionable just how much influence Republican elites had on her selection, because on paper, at the time, she looks at least okay, doesn’t she?

        … I can’t believe I’m defending Palin in any capacity.

        • sibusisodan

          I’m sure ive seen some video of Palin pre-selection where she’s calm and considered in arguing her viewpoints, although I think these were Daily Show clips,so that may not be representative of anything.

          I imagine she could have turned out less of a self-parody if she’d hung with a different crowd. Possibly.

          • twbb

            Pre-2008 Palin was no Cicero, but she was coherent and came off fairly informed, at least on local Alaskan issues. Based on that I don’t think it was a particularly inept decision to pick her as a running mate.

            • Ahenobarbus

              She definitely got worse and it became her schtick. Not saying it’s all (or mostly) an act, but the more incoherent she became, the more money she made for herself.

            • royko

              The vetting process should have shown she wasn’t at all ready for the national stage.

        • Scott Lemieux

          I’ll also note that McArdle’s defense implicitly concedes that Palin knows nothing about national political issues but seems to assume that you can pick it all up in a couple of weeks.

          • Tony Pius

            She has to, though, since that’s Trump’s position: he’s a quick study, so he’ll just read up on things in between November and January.

            I have found this assertion less than convincing. This guy is going to figure out how to run a country in two months? He’s been wearing a tie every day for decades and still doesn’t know how to tie one properly.

          • sharculese

            We’re talking about McCardle, who almost certainly has more than once gone into an issue with zero knowledge and then decided she was an expert by reading Wikipedia.

        • Crusty

          If the movie Game Change was accurate, I got the sense that McCain was kind of hands off in the running of his campaign, with the pretense that he was busy thinking about bigger issues, but was really just thinking about what he’d be having for lunch and when he’d get to take a nap.

          • so-in-so

            Why not, worked for Ronnie as President?

            Don’t forget Kristol was big in pushing Palin.

        • ColBatGuano

          Palin was the creation of folks like Bill Kristol, who thought she would minimize the gender gap so there was at least some influence of the Republican “elite”. On paper, her qualifications were: female and had held public office for a minimal amount of time. Under those conditions, more vetting than McCain did was required, but he couldn’t be bothered.

          • Lev

            It’s easy for us lefties to forget just how much Republicans, including the elite think tank ones, just loved George W. Bush. We mercilessly mocked his “Mission Accomplished” swagger and cutting brush and all that shit, but those folks just ate it up. Palin was basically Bush with inferior bullshitting skills. Picking her was (in their minds) a middle finger to all those liberals who criticized him.

        • Dilan Esper

          Stopping McCain from picking Leiberman was one of the dumbest things the Republican establishment ever did.

          A whole bunch of that party’s problems start and end with their unpopular opposition to Roe v. Wade.

          • Lev

            Lieberman was quite unpopular by 2008, and wouldn’t have helped McCain win anywhere. He would only have served to make Iraq and Bush’s foreign policy more of an issue in the election, which was not the smart move.

            In essence, I don’t think any veep candidate would have been able to turn around a 7-point popular vote general election loss. Picking Tim Pawlenty or Tom Ridge could have maybe made it a 5-point loss at most, but that’s it.

            • sharculese

              Also, enough of the base was already far enough at that point that McCain was already edging into RINO territory. Picking an actual Democrat as his running mate would have confirmed everything they already suspected about him.

            • NonyNony

              Under the general rule that VP picks don’t really help presidents pick up votes, Lieberman would still have been a better pick. Palin’s effect could very well have been a net negative for McCain – he may have actually lost votes because of that choice. At least Lieberman would have looked like a choice being made by a “serious” person – and it would have looked “bipartisan” to boot, which would have actually given him something to help undercut Obama’s message a bit.

              I don’t think he could have possibly won it even with Lieberman as a pick, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out he could have made it a bit closer with Lieberman tied around his neck instead of Palin.

            • ColBatGuano

              It’s thinking back to 2008 that has me most worried about this year. The idea that a Republican ticket headed by the biggest war monger holding high office after 8 years of W and with the least qualified VP choice since Agnew could still get 45% of the vote means Trump’s floor is about 43%.

              • BubbaDave

                Yeah, but that war monger had also been fellated by the Very Serious Media for years as a Mavericky Man of Maverick War Hero Maverick Principle. Trump is getting the more typical he said/she said treatment (when he should be mocked constantly, but that’s our Very Serious Media for you).

        • Breadbaker

          When I first heard her name being bandied about, I did some research and discovered that Troopergate was already pretty big in Alaska. I thought McCain would clearly drop her because of its baggage, but of course that was to assume (a) his vetters even knew about it; and (b) would care. Those turned out to be remarkably bad assumptions.

      • Tom Till

        “The Truman comparison seems especially to rankle Mrs. Palin’s critics, perhaps because in many respects it rings true.”
        -Bret Stephens, 2008

        “If by now you don’t find Donald Trump appalling, you’re appalling.”
        -Bret Stephens, 2015

        Give that man a Pulitzer Prize!

    • CP

      I don’t think a lot of thought went into the Palin pick.

      • rachelmap

        She looked good on paper; which, coincidentally, was about the depth the McCain Campaign’s initial vetting of her.

        (I feel a little sorry for her when I consider that political professionals decided she was ready for the microscope she’d be put under, and that her life has been slowly sliding into the crapper because she chose to trust these dopes. Only a little sorry, mind.)

    • Crusty

      I recall things similarly- on paper she was a popular governor and McCain and Steve Schmidt simply underestimated how dumb and horrible a sitting governor could be. It quickly became apparent that that was a terrible choice, and people like Steve Schmidt and Nicole Wallace have been kind of apologetic about that. John McCain, not so much. Not that that makes it ok, but I don’t think their intent from the get go was to unleash the female Trump on the American public.

      • BigHank53

        A lot of people–even ones from DC whose job it is to know better– also don’t understand exactly how much of a bumper-car state Alaska is. There’s no income tax and the population is still under three-quarters of a million people. There are lots and lots of mayors and county executives that a damn sight more hands-on governing experience than a governor from Alaska.

    • I could not believe how few people thought the Couric interview was as bad as I thought it was.

      • Crusty

        Which people thought the Couric interview was bad?

        All of them.

    • Aexia

      A lot of it was a function of her being Governor of Alaska. It’s just really really far removed from usual American day to day stuff. (Hawaii even more so.)

      The locals had her number but no one outside the state did and they figured if there was anything really bad, they’d have heard about it. But you wouldn’t really.

      Combine that with the shallow decision process (she’s a woman so women will vote for her) and copious amounts of projection and you have a disaster.

    • MacK

      Apparently they did essentially zero due diligence – Bill Kristol announced she was brilliant http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2008/10/sarah_palin_overheated_conserv.html

      http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/10/27/the-insiders

      Kristol has always been known for his good judgment.

      • rachelmap

        You would think that given Bill Kristol’s track record by 2008, even Republican operatives would have known better than to follow his advice.

        • Tony Pius

          Worth a follow: History with Bill Kristol!
          https://twitter.com/kristol_history

          Today’s entry: “MAY 27, 1937: Is it just me, or is this new bridge across the San Francisco Bay the most ridiculous-looking thing you’ve ever seen?”

    • tsam

      They knew exactly how stupid she was. They just wildly overestimated their ability to control her.

  • This woman is an Obama-level political natural. She is a ferociously good speaker, and almost preternaturally composed.

    Hahahahahahahhaahahahahahahahahahahahah!

    Ha ha ha ha ha.

    Ok, I’ve know I’ve seen more wrong statements, but I can’t think of any at the moment!

    • libarbarian

      almost preternaturally composed.

      Sarah Palin: “Why does Megan McArdle think I write music for ghosts?”

      • so-in-so

        Presumes wit not in evidence…

  • libarbarian

    I’m a Fox and not a Hedgehog, so I prefer empirical Rules-Of-Thumb to grand Theoretical Assertions.

    A good Rule-ofThumb that will rarely fail you is that Megan McArdle is ALWAYS Wrong.

    Seriously. If Vegas took bets on Megan McArdle being wrong, you would do well to always bet on “Yes”.

    • Davis

      Remember how she defended Carley Fiorina? Decisions that turn out badly were not necessarily bad when they were made. At Least Fiorina got canned (I know, with a 40 million parting gift) .Like Bill Kristol, McArdle never has to be held accountable for being wrong.

    • rachelmap

      She’s sometimes right about kitchen toys. Outside of that, though…

  • Sebastian_h

    I often don’t agree with you Scott, but you’re right on about how cultivating Trump’s birtherism was a key failure of Republican Party leadership that led to this mess.

    In the comments re Schwarzenegger, he actually isn’t a great example of pre-trump except in the celebrity sense. He came in at a time when California democrats really weren’t dealing with their overspending and took the flack which was coming for whomever made the needed cuts. Now in theory an ideal Democrat would have been better at choosing the cuts, but the Democratic Party very noticeably did not put up such a person. The tech bubble did a lot of damage to CA finances because the legislature commuted to spending like the very peak was normal and refused to deal with it when it wasn’t. Schwartzenager did a serviceable job that ‘qualified’ Democrats chose not to. I don’t see any evidence that Trump is going that direction.

    • Murc

      The Democrats were prevented from dealing from California’s budget issues by Republican obstructionists.

      This is very, very different from not dealing with it.

      Magically, once they achieved sufficient legislative strength to actually pass budgets, things improved!

      • Aexia

        It’s amazing how the budget situation improves once you stop allowing a small minority of fanatics to hold the process hostage every year.

    • Lev

      Yeah, this is wrong. The 2003 recall was more focused around energy than budget, and that was more the hangover of Wilson-era policies and corruption than anything Davis did. Granted, he was utterly incompetent at addressing the problem or messaging it effectively, but the idea that the California public ejected Davis for spending too much is self-serving conservative fantasy.

      • BigHank53

        Also notable that the energy market fiasco was an attempt to impose a competitive free-market model* on a physical system that was not at all congruent. The fudge-factors that were designed to compensate for the discontinuities left the “market” open to manipulation by electricity suppliers…which they promptly engaged in.

        *Thanks, glibertarians!

  • Republican elites simply cannot admit that the driving factor of Trump’s appeal to their base is overt racism, for one obvious and one not-as-obvious reason.

    The obvious reason is that it would be an admission that, yeah, a substantial portion of their base is racist and they’ve been reliably getting those racists to pull the lever for 50 years by coyly and not-so-coyly pandering to the racism.

    The less obvious reason is that it would essentially be an admission that their “conservative principles” DIDN’T FUCKING WORK, and the only thing left to unite the party after two generations of redistributing wealth upwards was overt, unapologetic racism.

  • D.N. Nation

    Megan McArdle is a moron.

  • politicalfootball

    If I were to try to identify one root cause for Trump, it’s the Republican Establishment’s deep contempt for its own electorate, which McArdle demonstrates in spades here.

    Question: What caused Trump? Actual answer: The Republican Party and other conservative elements in society, full stop. Any other answer is gibberish. The only way McArdle can get around that obvious fact is to deny the idea of causation itself: What caused Trump?

    I tend to think that’s a bad question.

    To her, Trump is the Causeless Cause. He Is Who Is.

    Yeah, the leaders of her party pander to the ignorant and racist, but if they didn’t, they wouldn’t get those votes. So it’s not their fault. Fox News’ anti-reality efforts aren’t very influential, McArdle argues, so they aren’t at fault even for the little bit of influence McArdle concedes. There are no consequences to conservative promotion of birtherism, etc., because a lot of conservative birthers preferred Ted Cruz (!!!!).

    She really captures Republican nihilism: Nothing we do matters, so all we can do is look out for our own interests and shirk responsibility when that approach blows up in our faces.

  • swkellogg

    The ass on this dead horse has been thoroughly flogged and flayed.

    Yet the know-nothings are, and shall remain, unmoved.

    It’s in the charter.

  • Joshua

    The Republican electorate does not believe in the legitimacy of the Democratic Party. They want Trump because they believe he will brush the opposition off and do whatever he and his party – the only legitimate governing institution in the US to them – wants. They basically want a one party state.

    We can argue forever whether it was the chicken or the egg, but the GOP leadership actively enabled this and pushed it along by refusing to work with Dems (including Obama) in at least a cursory way, painted them as terrorists and enablers after 9/11, enacted phony voter ID laws, didn’t speak up against birtherism, and so forth. The GOP leadership gave this idea legitimacy.

    • JustRuss

      Very good point. Delegitimizing Democrats has been Republican policy since the Gingrich memo.

  • Lev

    For a second I thought that was going to be Ross Douthat, since I mouseovered the link and saw The Atlantic and 2008 and a vigorously pro-Palin message. Looks like they’ve both kept up their impeccable political judgment ever since.

  • muddy

    What’s Romney smiling about, Trump is is totally dominating him in that handshake.

  • Ahenobarbus

    Give McArdle a little credit for this:

    As a person I like her. Politically, I dislike what she represents: populism, culture warmongering, and especially, the notion that if a woman is to hold power, she has to make herself non-threatening by emphasizing her domesticity and fertility. [Huh?]

    But then there’s this:

    Obama is already having HUGE trouble with the union rank and file in the old guard unions.I don’t know what’s happening in up-and-coming unions like the SEIU, but in traditional unions like the Laborers, leadership endorsement has failed to translate into support from the membership. The fact that Todd Palin was a steelworker is probably going to pull more of those people into the Republican camp

    • Rob Patterson

      Dem % of vote of individuals in union households:

      1992 55%
      1996 60%
      2000 59%
      2004 59%
      2008 59%
      2012 58%

      The Todd Palin effect.

  • Warren Terra

    Speaking of jawdropping stupidity:

    Trump: If I’m Elected, GOP Will Become A ‘Worker’s Party’

    Or maybe not stupid … maybe trolling. Surely even Trump isn’t so ignorant he won’t see the resonance involved in calling your organization a “worker’s party”. There’s a reason the WFP sticks “family” in there, among other obvious examples.

    • so-in-so

      A: Trump has already shown he can say pretty much anything and get away with it.

      B: At that moment in time, his mind said “appeal to the lower classes”. Who knows, maybe it is a good strategy. I’m not sure the typical Trump supporter will go “oh know, he’s now gone Commie!”. More likely “Wow – I’m worker, that’s GREAT!”

      C: By November this will be forgotten. Heck, by next week he’ll deny he ever said it. Few in the press and zero of his supporters will point out the discrepancy.

      • Rob in CT

        This is him making another fake toward “populism” that [White] Hard Hats for Hate (and those who think they’re The Unicorn that must be chased) get the warm fuzzies for.

    • sharculese

      When Trump was being asked about the KKK thing, his response was literally “I know nothing.” I’m pretty sure he’s doing this on purpose.

    • Bill Murray

      The Nazis were a worker’s party according to the A in NSDAP

  • DrDick

    If qualifications and knowing anything about what you are doing had any relationship to success in life, Trump would be panhandling on street corners and living under a bridge.

    • so-in-so

      Apparently applies to Megan as well.

  • Rob Patterson

    One of your all-time bad reviews of the briar patch:

    “Many Democratic bloggers are itching to go after this woman for all of her perceived flaws. I understand why, but if they do so, they are very likely to get McCain elected. If I were a Democratic strategist right now, I would be telling the campaign to pretend she doesn’t exist.”

  • kped

    Her comparison of CNN and MSNBC to Fox, saying its like watching Venezuelan state TV is absurd. Do conservatives think if they say this loud enough people will actually buy it.

    Not to say either are good news networks, but for the most part, they are miles more credible than Fox.

    I cannot take the McCardle’s of the world seriously in any way.

  • Roger Ailes

    McArdle is to intelligence as Mickey Kaus is to human beings.

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