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Major American political party nominates woman for president

[ 132 ] July 27, 2016 |


Gallup has been asking people since 1937, with some variations in wording, whether they would cast their presidential vote for an otherwise well-qualified candidate who was a [ ].

For “woman” the percentages of Americans who said yes they would:

1937: 33%

1958: 54%

1978: 76%

1999: 92%

2007: 88%

2015: 92%

Jennifer Rubin thinks Hillary Clinton’s nomination isn’t particularly notable, because gender is not as important as race in contemporary America:

[G]ender simply is not as big a deal in 21st-century America as race still is. We’ve had women in high places for decades, and we do not have a divide between the sexes (thank goodness) to the degree that we still have along racial lines. We fought a civil war and a brutal battle to do away with Jim Crow. I could go on, but most would agree that this is not as big a deal as nominating or electing the first African American.

We probably need Camille Paglia’s take on this question before we can make generalizations about what most people think about it.


No brain toilers for Trump

[ 122 ] July 26, 2016 |

holy trinity

Updated below

Holy Trinity Church is an 1892 SCOTUS case, mildly famous among lawyers, which is often cited to support the doctrine that legislative intention can trump statutory plain meaning. The case involved the apparent violation of one of the earliest federal immigration laws, when a New York church paid to bring an English pastor to America, to become the church’s minister. The statute forbade employers from paying to bring foreigners into the country, subject to exceptions that didn’t seem to apply to the pastor’s case. The Court got around that by citing legislative history for the proposition that Congress hadn’t intended to stanch the flow of “brain toilers,” as opposed to manual laborers, across our teeming shores:

It appears also from the petitions and in the testimony presented before the committees of Congress that it was this cheap, unskilled labor which was making the trouble, and the influx of which Congress sought to prevent. It was never suggested that we had in this country a surplus of brain toilers, and least of all that the market for the services of Christian ministers was depressed by foreign competition.

The opinion is chock full of nativist paranoia, that makes for amusing reading in these more enlightened times:

“[The act] seeks to restrain and prohibit the immigration or importation of laborers who would have never seen our shores but for the inducements and allurements of men whose only object is to obtain labor at the lowest possible rate, regardless of the social and material wellbeing of our own citizens, and regardless of the evil consequences which result to American laborers from such immigration. This class of immigrants care nothing about our institutions, and in many instances never even heard of them. They are men whose passage is paid by the importers. They come here under contract to labor for a certain number of years. They are ignorant of our social condition, and, that they may remain so, they are isolated and prevented from coming into contact with Americans. They are generally from the lowest social stratum, and live upon the coarsest food, and in hovels of a character before unknown to American workmen. They, as a rule, do not become citizens, and are certainly not a desirable acquisition to the body politic. The inevitable tendency of their presence among us is to degrade American labor and to reduce it to the level of the imported pauper labor.” (Quoting the House committee report).

Anyway, it’s in my view a shame that MR. JUSTICE BREWER’S verbal conceptualization of a laboring “class whose toil is of the brain” never caught on, and we are stuck with the word “intellectual,” which is admittedly a much narrower concept, and also a term which basically can’t be used without irony or sarcasm (indeed you are almost required to add the sneering modifier “so-called” whenever describing anyone as such).

Which brings me at last to my point, which perhaps surprisingly does not involve remarks on the wearing of onions on belts in bygone days: there are almost no intellectuals anywhere on the political spectrum who are actually supporting Donald Trump’s candidacy. At most on the right you can find a few Victor Davis Hanson types who will make a lesser of two evils argument, but the heavy lifters of right-wing brain toiling — your Brooks’s and Douthats and Kristols and Wills et. al., — remain vehemently opposed to him, even now, after all hope has been lost of stopping him from being the GOP candidate.

Of course anybody to the brain toiling left of these gentlemen recoils in unmitigated horror from the prospect of a Trump presidency, with the rare exception of the very occasional apparently brain-damaged not a dime’s worth of difference Princeton professor.

What’s interesting about this I suppose is that it’s some evidence of the shall we say limited influence of intellectuals of any type on either public opinion or the shape of national politics. Basically no thinking person, loosely speaking, is willing to admit to even moderate enthusiasm for the potential reign of Herr Trump, and yet here we are.

Update: Thanks to Newish Lawyer for flagging this very interesting Vox interview with Avik Roy:

The available evidence compiled by historians and political scientists suggests that 1964 really was a pivotal political moment, in exactly the way Roy describes.

Yet Republican intellectuals have long denied this, fabricating a revisionist history in which Republicans were and always have been the party of civil rights. In 2012, National Review ran a lengthy cover story arguing that the standard history recounted by Roy was “popular but indefensible.”

This revisionism, according to Roy, points to a much bigger conservative delusion: They cannot admit that their party’s voters are motivated far more by white identity politics than by conservative ideals.

“Conservative intellectuals, and conservative politicians, have been in kind of a bubble,” Roy says. “We’ve had this view that the voters were with us on conservatism — philosophical, economic conservatism. In reality, the gravitational center of the Republican Party is white nationalism.” . . .

Conservative intellectuals, for the most part, are horrified by racism. When they talk about believing in individual rights and equality, they really mean it. Because the Republican Party is the vehicle through which their ideas can be implemented, they need to believe that the party isn’t racist.

So they deny the party’s racist history, that its post-1964 success was a direct result of attracting whites disillusioned by the Democrats’ embrace of civil rights. And they deny that to this day, Republican voters are driven more by white resentment than by a principled commitment to the free market and individual liberty.

“It’s the power of wishful thinking. None of us want to accept that opposition to civil rights is the legacy that we’ve inherited,” Roy says.

He expands on this idea: “It’s a common observation on the left, but it’s an observation that a lot of us on the right genuinely believed wasn’t true — which is that conservatism has become, and has been for some time, much more about white identity politics than it has been about conservative political philosophy. I think today, even now, a lot of conservatives have not come to terms with that problem.”

This, Roy believes, is where the conservative intellectual class went astray. By refusing to admit the truth about their own party, they were powerless to stop the forces that led to Donald Trump’s rise. They told themselves, over and over again, that Goldwater’s victory was a triumph.

But in reality, it created the conditions under which Trump could thrive. Trump’s politics of aggrieved white nationalism — labeling black people criminals, Latinos rapists, and Muslims terrorists — succeeded because the party’s voting base was made up of the people who once opposed civil rights.

“[Trump] tapped into something that was latent in the Republican Party and conservative movement — but a lot of people in the conservative movement didn’t notice,” Roy concludes, glumly.

What are the sources of Trump’s support?

[ 169 ] July 25, 2016 |

h and t

I agree with Scott that polls taken a couple of days after a convention mean almost nothing in regard to predicting who will win an election that’s still more than three months away. I also agree with him that Clinton should still be considered a solid to heavy favorite because Trump appears to be both a uniquely awful and incompetent candidate (he still has nothing resembling a normal campaign organization, nor is there any evidence that he’s raising real money).

Still, we now have several recent polls which show Clinton and Trump essentially tied in regard to the national popular vote. And although this fact has in itself very little predictive significance, it’s still plenty depressing for other reasons.

There’s a famous garbled anecdote, misused by right wing pundits as a supposed example of out of touch left wing intellectuals failing to predict elections, regarding how Pauline Kael said she couldn’t understand how Nixon beat McGovern when everybody she knew voted for McGovern. OK, but . . . Donald Trump??? How is it possible that he’s polling even with Clinton at present? Potential explanations, from least to most disturbing:

(1) A general anti-establishment mood in the electorate, that’s hurting uber-establishment candidate HRC. To the extent this explains Trump’s popularity, then it’s like that somebody like Warren would be killing him.

(2) Low information partisan responses. Relative to the average person who posts or comments on political blogs, most people pay essentially no attention to the details of day to day politics, or the actual positions espoused by particular candidates. On this account, Trump’s support has little to do with anything about him other than that he’s not the Democrat Party’s candidate.

(3) Hatred of Clinton specifically. Part of this is a product of 25 years of GOP hysteria with its endless fake scandals, etc. Part of it is no doubt old fashioned misogyny. Part of it is that Clinton has shown poor judgment/a political tin ear on a number of issues, such as taking millions of dollars from banksters for giving a few speeches on the eve of her presidential run. I think one reason people swooned for Kaine so much on Saturday was simply that he wasn’t Clinton, and a lot of people are suffering from Clinton fatigue, for both bad and good reasons.

(4) Ethno-nationalist nativism, soft version. “I’m not a racist but . . .” (I hate PC, immigrants are taking our jobs, I hate the bilingual signs at Home Depot, yeah Trump says some bad things but Hillary” etc etc).

(5) Ethno-nationalist nativism, hard version. “I believe in white supremacy. If that makes me a racist then I guess I’m a racist.”

Obviously all these things are factors in the astonishing fact that at the moment nearly half the American electorate (and fully half of the electorate once you toss out votes for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein) is made up of people who say they’re going to vote for Trump. The extent to which the factors at the top of the list predominate determine whether something other than deep pessimism about the overall political situation is warranted. What that extent actually is I have no idea.

Grading on a curve

[ 136 ] July 22, 2016 |


Donald Trump hasn’t lowered the bar in regard to political discourse in America: he’s drilled a hole halfway to the center of the Earth and thrown that bar down it.

So last night, when he didn’t call Obama the N word, or grab the ass of his daughter who he has more than once said he would like to have sex with (he just came awfully close), or suggest rounding up American Muslims and deporting them to Madagascar, he got a kind of credit for showing some restraint.

Although pretty much everybody agreed that as delivered the speech was interminable and boring and way too shouty, plenty of not-stupid people also described it as “powerful,” at least in its paper form.

This is grading on the Trump curve. Here’s a characteristic passage:

Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally, some have even been its victims. I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon, and I mean very soon, come to an end. Beginning on January 20, 2017, safety will be restored.

This is pure cult of personality stuff. Besides relying on an exact inversion of the truth (violent crime in America is at historically low levels), it also indulges in unabashed magical thinking: the speech did not include any indication of how this miraculous overnight transformation of the world’s third-largest country was going to be achieved.

The whole thing was like that. The speech’s only message was: you are scared children, I am your stern but lovable daddy, and I will make it all better, don’t ask me how. Authoritarianism for Dummies, in other words.

The big speech

[ 175 ] July 21, 2016 |

There’s a draft of Trump’s speech making the rounds, and according to both Chris Hayes and Ross Douthat it’s something of a straight reboot of Pat Buchanan’s infamous “cultural war” speech from the 1992 convention:

Trump speech tonight is the *full* Buchanan. Very very dark, dystopic. Straight up nationalism no chaser.

Ross Douthat ‏@DouthatNYT 34m34 minutes ago
If the draft I’m seeing is right, the speech is basically Buchananism without religion.

A couple of thoughts:

I’m actually surprised by this. What I expected was for at least Trump’s script to be somewhat toned down, so that whoever is currently playing David Broder in this bad political novel we’re now living in could burble about DJT’s new mature and statesman-like approach, his timely pivot toward the center, and so forth. Whether he would stick to that script during the speech would be another matter, as Trump obviously has trouble doing so — he gets bored very easily, he wants nothing less than pure adulation from his most rabid admirers, he loves to ad-lib etc.

But apparently even the prepared script is pretty hair-raising. If that’s correct, it would be irresponsible not to speculate regarding what’s really going on. I’m just throwing this out there: Could Trump be trying to extort the GOP powers that be to get him quit the race for the right price? If he gives a speech that makes it perfectly obvious that he’s not going to even try to pursue an electoral strategy that will be anything less than a full-on disaster, could this be interpreted as a kind of opening bid?

The reason I don’t think this is impossible is that I think there’s a non-trivial chance that Trump doesn’t even really want to be POTUS when you get right down to it (It is a real job after all, which requires sitting in meetings all day and other things he has no patience for).

Of course there are lots of alternative explanations, such as that Trump is stupid and vain enough to think that what works with the most unhinged elements of the GOP base will work well in the general. Or maybe it’s all a bait and switch and the “real” speech will be all semi-moderate and stuff, after he has caused a panic with a fake leaked document. Really anything is possible with this guy, so who knows? But everybody will be watching, which at bottom is no doubt ultimately what this has always been about.

You give *one* Nazi salute to a national television audience and the PC crowd is all over you

[ 139 ] July 21, 2016 |


I mean come on, it’s not like she explicitly called for the extermination of the untermenschen. (I didn’t see the speech but I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt).

BTW it turns out the Nazis more or less lifted that concept from this guy, immortalized in The Great Gatsby:

“Civilization’s going to pieces,” broke out Tom violently. “I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read ‘The Rise of the Colored Empires’ by this man Goddard?”

“Why, no,” I answered, rather surprised by his tone.

“Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be — will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.”

“Tom’s getting very profound,” said Daisy, with an expression of unthoughtful sadness. “He reads deep books with long words in them. What was that word we ——”

“Well, these books are all scientific,” insisted Tom, glancing at her impatiently. “This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.”

“We’ve got to beat them down,” whispered Daisy, winking ferociously toward the fervent sun.

“You ought to live in California —” began Miss Baker, but Tom interrupted her by shifting heavily in his chair.

“This idea is that we’re Nordics. I am, and you are, and you are, and ——” After an infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a slight nod, and she winked at me again. “— And we’ve produced all the things that go to make civilization — oh, science and art, and all that. Do you see?”

There was something pathetic in his concentration, as if his complacency, more acute than of old, was not enough to him any more.

The emperor of the world

[ 217 ] July 21, 2016 |


Jane Mayer’s portrait of Donald Trump via an in-depth interview with Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal, is must reading. What emerges is a genuinely terrifying picture of a narcissistic sociopath with severe attention deficit issues to boot:

“Trump has been written about a thousand ways from Sunday, but this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood,” Schwartz told me. “It’s implicit in a lot of what people write, but it’s never explicit—or, at least, I haven’t seen it. And that is that it’s impossible to keep him focussed on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then . . . ” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said.

Schwartz sees Trump’s presidential run as the logical endpoint of the junkie’s search for ever-higher doses for his fix:

Schwartz reminded himself that he was being paid to tell Trump’s story, not his own, but the more he worked on the project the more disturbing he found it. In his journal, he describes the hours he spent with Trump as “draining” and “deadening.” Schwartz told me that Trump’s need for attention is “completely compulsive,” and that his bid for the Presidency is part of a continuum. “He’s managed to keep increasing the dose for forty years,” Schwartz said. After he’d spent decades as a tabloid titan, “the only thing left was running for President. If he could run for emperor of the world, he would.”

Trump emerges as a compulsive liar and an ignorant, utterly out of control narcissist, who reads nothing but his own press clippings (it’s doubtful that he’s ever read a book as an adult). He does watch a lot of TV though.

In a perfect denouement to Mayer’s story, Trump took the time in the midst of the convention that is crowning him king of the Republican party to order one of his lawyers fire off a ludicrous cease and desist letter to Schwartz. In his typical fashion, Trump had his mouthpiece bluster about Schwartz’s supposedly defamatory statements, without bothering to specify any, while making farcical demands that the lawyer, assuming he has a triple digit IQ, is well aware are both legally frivolous and have zero chance of drawing any response other than derision.

As a few Russian novelists have observed, people can get used to anything with time, but we shouldn’t get inured to the astounding fact that this disgraceful joke of a human being is now the Republican candidate for president of the United States, and therefore has a non-trivial chance of becoming the most powerful man in world.

Mystery science theater 2016

[ 49 ] July 20, 2016 |

cheshire cat

After reading Shakezula’s post regarding Meredith McIver’s self-defenestration in re Melania Trump’s speech I was curious about what sort of person would be employed to “write” this sort of text. I don’t claim to have ninja-like Google skills but . . . does Meredith McIver actually, you know, exist? I can’t find any real evidence that she does. Perhaps others can.

Does the party of Trump have a future?

[ 229 ] July 20, 2016 |


Jeet Heer points out that the GOP is now the party of Trump:

Trump likes to claim that his campaign isn’t just about himself, but is now a “movement” beyond his control. This is accurate. While Trump has displayed remarkable political instincts in figuring out what GOP voters wanted in their heart of hearts, he hasn’t created those voters. To borrow a distinction from the philosopher Sidney Hook, Trump is not an event-making man so much an eventful one: a man who caught the rising tide of a moment.

The rising tide that Trump caught was a wave of anger within a GOP base that is infuriated by the direction America is heading in and by the way party elites promise to reverse trends like Obamacare, but never do. Among these angry GOP voters, it’s an article of faith that Democratic presidents have no legitimacy, that the Clintons are corrupt and Obama is a foreigner. What makes the base implacably petulant is the fact that these illegitimate politicians keep winning elections. And the best explanation for why they win is that the GOP elite is craven, that they were unwilling to challenge Obama on his supposed foreign birth or to jail the Clintons for their corruption. . .

Trump’s approach to politics has become squarely mainstream in his party. The Trumpification of the GOP is not likely to go away soon. It’s rooted in some fundamental demographic facts that the party has been struggling with for decades: that it’s increasingly a party of old white people in a nation that is becoming more diverse. Even if Trump loses by a blowout in November, the party is likely to become even more Trumpified because the #NeverTrump people will have left the party—or at least become inactive—while the politicians and activists who are most responsive to his message will have stayed on. That’s how Barry Goldwater conservatism continued to be a force after his epic defeat of 1964, and it’s likely to replicate itself with Trumpism. Like it or not, the GOP will be the Party of Trump for many years to come.

This seems to me correct: the National Review types who view Trump as some sort of momentary cultural aberration — a product of a nation perversely besotted by reality TV celebrities or what have you — are delusional. Indeed, Trump’s takeover of the GOP is overwhelmingly ideological, rather than a product of slick marketing and/or personal charisma. Trump himself is a horrible politician in every technical sense of the word, as illustrated by the farcical mess in Cleveland this week. He is an amateurish buffoon, a walking series of punch lines, an ignoramus of staggering proportions — it’s doubtful he could pass a high school civics exam — and so obviously unqualified by any conceivable metric for the presidency that his nomination continues to feel like a surreal joke.

But for the moment the joke’s on America. Which leads to the question of where all this is going, historically speaking

In this regard, it’s important not to over-emphasize what happens in November. Whether Trump gets blown out, loses a reasonably close election, or actually wins will be in large part a product of idiosyncratic factors such as the identity of his opponent, salient current events, etc., that won’t be repeated in future presidential elections, let alone in other national and local contests. Heer’s allusion to Goldwater in 1964 is a reminder that a blowout presidential loss provides an opportunity to draw exactly the wrong conclusion about the long term significance of a single presidential election.

So, does a movement that at the moment is largely driven by resentful old white people have a long term electoral future? The relevant demographics would suggest that it doesn’t, at least not in regard to presidential politics.

There is, however, a very big on the other hand, which is precisely that Trump has gotten this far despite being by all conventional measures a complete joke of a candidate. What happens when a real politician decides to try to step into the Donald’s oversized clown shoes?

Now the counter to this I suppose is that a large part of Trump’s appeal may be related to the fact that he’s not a politician at all. So perhaps Paul Ryan et. al. can’t just hijack Trump’s remarkably successful exploitation of ethno-nationalist rage and fear, while adding conventional features such as a campaign infrastructure and a candidate who knows what an administrative agency is. But it’s still a disturbing possibility that Trumpism without Trump himself could be considerably more dangerous to the country.

So the Republican party is now the party of Trump, but does that party have a real future in presidential and/or national politics? Or will the GOP go the way of the Whigs before some other rough beast slouches toward Washington to be born?

The theme of tonight’s festivities is “Make America Work Again”

[ 93 ] July 19, 2016 |


And that’s an order. Headlining the all-star roster of speakers:

Tiffany Trump

Kerry Woolard

Donald Trump Jr.

Dr. Ben Carson

Shelley Moore Capito

Kimberlin Brown

Consider this an open thread.

This is actually happening

[ 142 ] July 19, 2016 |

Plagiarism? What about Rick Rolling???

Sure, Melania did not follow up with “he will never run around or desert you,” but if the allusion to Rick Astley’s classic “Never Gonna Give You Up” was accidental, that’s one hell of a coincidence.

The most symptomatic feature of all this is the sheer laziness involved. It’s like the “team of speechwriters” — probably one pretty drunk guy at 11:45 Sunday night — realized at the last second that the paper was due and he hadn’t written a word. So he literally googled “first lady speeches,” and threw some 80s MTV heavy rotation lyrics in for filler when he needed to punch things up a little.

Also, Chris Christie:

“You heard the speech from Melania Trump and you heard portions and remember portions of Michelle Obama‘s speech from 2008. You’re a former prosecutor, could you make the case for plagiarism?” asked Today show host Matt Lauer

Not when 93% of the speech is completely different than Michelle Obama’s speech, and they expressed some common thoughts,” Christie argued.

OK they’re definitely throwing this thing.

Some LGMers under oh I don’t know 50 might not remember Scott Baio

[ 224 ] July 18, 2016 |

scott baio

Those of us on the wrong side of that number might recall him as the star of the Happy Days spinoff, Joanie Loves Chachi, although I confess I never saw that show myself, to the best of my recollection, as they used to say at the HUAC hearings. I do have a (extremely fuzzy) memory of seeing this however:

And if you’re wondering how that happened, you might want to review this text:

Anyway I don’t know about you but I’m going to watch this, or at least DVR it. I suspect Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair may turn out to be the Gettysburg Address by comparison, but it could be great in its own special way.

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