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Camille Paglia is Trump-curious

[ 111 ] March 10, 2016 |

sinatra gardener

This is pretty shocking stuff (by which I mean the most predictable thing ever):

Trump’s fearless candor and brash energy feel like a great gust of fresh air, sweeping the tedious clichés and constant guilt-tripping of political correctness out to sea. Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose every word and policy statement on the campaign trail are spoon-fed to her by a giant paid staff and army of shadowy advisors, Trump is his own man, with a steely “damn the torpedoes” attitude. He has a swaggering retro machismo that will give hives to the Steinem cabal. He lives large, with the urban flash and bling of a Frank Sinatra. But Trump is a workaholic who doesn’t drink and who has an interesting penchant for sophisticated, strong-willed European women. As for a debasement of the presidency by Trump’s slanging matches about penis size, that sorry process was initiated by a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who chatted about his underwear on TV, let Hollywood pals jump up and down on the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom, and played lewd cigar games with an intern in the White House offices.

Primary voters nationwide are clearly responding to Trump’s brand of classic can-do American moxie. There has been a sense of weary paralysis in our increasingly Byzantine and monstrously wasteful government bureaucracies. Putting a bottom-line businessman with executive experience into the White House has probably been long overdue. If Mitt Romney had boldly talked business more (and chosen a woman VP), he would have won the last election. Although the rampant Hitler and Mussolini analogies to Trump are wildly exaggerated–he has no organized fascist brigades at his beck and call—there is reason for worry about his impatient authoritarian tendencies. We have had more than enough of Obama’s constitutionally questionable executive orders. It remains to be seen whether Trump’s mastery of a hyper-personalized art of the deal will work in the sluggish, murky, incestuously intertwined power realms of Washington.

These two were made for each other. (While Paglia merely trolls the internet, Trump manfully trolls an entire nation.) Perhaps he will name her Minister of Kulturkampf.

*There are also some very fresh mangoes toward the bottom of the piece involving Paglia’s assessment of the relative erotic charms of Lena Dunham and Suzanne Pleshette, although I do not, needless to say, actually recommend getting out of the boat.


John Gutfreund

[ 16 ] March 9, 2016 |

liar's poker


You can’t really tell someone that you asked him to lunch to let him know that you don’t think of him as evil. Nor can you tell him that you asked him to lunch because you thought that you could trace the biggest financial crisis in the history of the world back to a decision he had made. John Gutfreund did violence to the Wall Street social order—and got himself dubbed the King of Wall Street—when he turned Salomon Brothers from a private partnership into Wall Street’s first public corporation. He ignored the outrage of Salomon’s retired partners. (“I was disgusted by his materialism,” William Salomon, the son of the firm’s founder, who had made Gutfreund C.E.O. only after he’d promised never to sell the firm, had told me.) He lifted a giant middle finger at the moral disapproval of his fellow Wall Street C.E.O.’s. And he seized the day. He and the other partners not only made a quick killing; they transferred the ultimate financial risk from themselves to their shareholders. It didn’t, in the end, make a great deal of sense for the shareholders. (A share of Salomon Brothers purchased when I arrived on the trading floor, in 1986, at a then market price of $42, would be worth 2.26 shares of Citigroup today—market value: $27.) But it made fantastic sense for the investment bankers.

From that moment, though, the Wall Street firm became a black box. The shareholders who financed the risks had no real understanding of what the risk takers were doing, and as the risk-taking grew ever more complex, their understanding diminished. The moment Salomon Brothers demonstrated the potential gains to be had by the investment bank as public corporation, the psychological foundations of Wall Street shifted from trust to blind faith.

No investment bank owned by its employees would have levered itself 35 to 1 or bought and held $50 billion in mezzanine C.D.O.’s. I doubt any partnership would have sought to game the rating agencies or leap into bed with loan sharks or even allow mezzanine C.D.O.’s to be sold to its customers. The hoped-for short-term gain would not have justified the long-term hit.

No partnership, for that matter, would have hired me or anyone remotely like me. Was there ever any correlation between the ability to get in and out of Princeton and a talent for taking financial risk?

Now I asked Gutfreund about his biggest decision. “Yes,” he said. “They—the heads of the other Wall Street firms—all said what an awful thing it was to go public and how could you do such a thing. But when the temptation arose, they all gave in to it.” He agreed that the main effect of turning a partnership into a corporation was to transfer the financial risk to the shareholders. “When things go wrong, it’s their problem,” he said—and obviously not theirs alone. When a Wall Street investment bank screwed up badly enough, its risks became the problem of the U.S. government. “It’s laissez-faire until you get in deep shit,” he said, with a half chuckle. He was out of the game.

It was now all someone else’s fault.

He watched me curiously as I scribbled down his words. “What’s this for?” he asked.

I told him I thought it might be worth revisiting the world I’d described in Liar’s Poker, now that it was finally dying. Maybe bring out a 20th-anniversary edition.

“That’s nauseating,” he said.

Hard as it was for him to enjoy my company, it was harder for me not to enjoy his. He was still tough, as straight and blunt as a butcher. He’d helped create a monster, but he still had in him a lot of the old Wall Street, where people said things like “A man’s word is his bond.” On that Wall Street, people didn’t walk out of their firms and cause trouble for their former bosses by writing books about them. “No,” he said, “I think we can agree about this: Your fucking book destroyed my career, and it made yours.” With that, the former king of a former Wall Street lifted the plate that held his appetizer and asked sweetly, “Would you like a deviled egg?”

Until that moment, I hadn’t paid much attention to what he’d been eating. Now I saw he’d ordered the best thing in the house, this gorgeous frothy confection of an earlier age. Who ever dreamed up the deviled egg? Who knew that a simple egg could be made so complicated and yet so appealing? I reached over and took one. Something for nothing. It never loses its charm.

How do you fact-check whether you fabricated parts of your own book?

[ 21 ] March 9, 2016 |


Updated below

That’s the question Jesse Singal inadvertently poses to Matthew Desmond, while interviewing Desmond about his new book Evicted (which looks very interesting).

Singal’s question arises in the context of his strange ongoing defense of Alice Goffman’s On the Run:

Singal: Your book is going to draw comparisons to Alice Goffman’s On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, since both books involve a white ethnographer “embedding” with poor black people, though in your book about half of your subjects were white. I’m curious if, when you saw that book’s reception and some of the controversies that popped up around it, that had any effect on you and your work on Evicted.

Desmond: I think one of the things we’ve learned from the reception of that book is how deeply people care about our methods, you know, and our claims, and how we know what we know. The truth is absolutely paramount, it’s so paramount, and we have to be dogged about it and transparent and accountable to those claims. And I think that’s something that’s come out from the conversation around that book.

I was doing fieldwork long before that book was published, so it didn’t affect the work in and of itself. I think that one thing is that I had always thought about hiring a fact-checker for this book, and I did in the end. I think I probably would have done that regardless, but I think that the reception of that book influenced that decision, too.

Singal: You and Goffman have pretty different views of the fact-checking process. I interviewed her, and she said that if one of her subjects said, “I went to court facing this charge,” that would go in the book, and she thought her subjects’ understanding of their situation mattered a great deal, regardless — to a certain extent, at least — of whether it matched up with the legal reality. So some of the differences between how your book and hers approached fact-checking are a bit philosophical. But it is a resource thing, too, right? It took you a lot of money, and money in the form of time, to fact-check everything in Evicted.

Desmond: It takes a lot of time. It takes an enormous amount of time.

Singal: So it’s not crazy to say that, materially, fact-checking was quote-unquote “easier” for you, as someone further along in his career and who had access to more resources, right?

Desmond: I think there are ways that graduate students can fact-check their work. I think there are ways that we can do this that don’t require massive amounts of resources. So let’s say you and I were in grad school together and I was doing an ethnography — I could give you my fieldnotes and you could do the same for me, and we could fact-check [each other’s] claims, and we could write that in our publication so that we hold each other accountable for that. That could be rather costless. It does take time — it does take time. But again, like, I think we have to be obsessive about the truth and go to whatever lengths we can to get it.

Singal here is giving a fundamentally misleading account of the criticisms I and Steve Lubet have made of On the Run.

Those criticisms have nothing whatsoever to do with matters of fact-checking, any more than criticisms of Michael LaCour were based on claims of inadequate fact-checking.

How was Goffman supposed to “fact-check” whether she fabricated several incidents in On the Run — incidents regarding which she provides compelling first-person accounts? I believe it’s now clear beyond a reasonable doubt that she did exactly that. Singal’s attempt to re-frame the controversy as some sort of methodological squabble over how a researcher is supposed to go about confirming and/or presenting things she has been told by her informants seems flatly dishonest incomplete to the point of disingenuousness (ETA: On reflection, “flatly dishonest” is too harsh. I agree with a commenter that he should have mentioned that many of the criticisms of Goffman have nothing to do with fact-checking, but rather with fraud).

. . . On the other hand, another commenter points out that Singal led off his take on Gideon Lewis-Kraus’s NYT puff piece with the question, “What is the right way to respond to a witch hunt?” In that regard, “flatly dishonest” is right on the money.

Update:Steve Lubet’s comments.

Cruz the radical

[ 63 ] March 9, 2016 |

cruz trump

I have a piece on how the rise of Trump has obscured what a radical candidate the only other remaining GOP contender really is:

Last year analyzed the voting records, public policy statements, and fundraising sources of 32 major Republican presidential candidates, going all the way back to Barry Goldwater, and concluded that Cruz was the most right-wing candidate out of this entire group.

Per this analysis, Cruz is far more right-wing than such relatively “liberal” figures — all from that distant era before the Republican Party was taken over by hard-right ideologues — as Richard Nixon, Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush. He is also much more right-wing than Mitt Romney and John McCain. But that isn’t the half of it: based on their respective political records, Ted Cruz makes Newt Gingrich, Ronald Reagan and the current Tea Party-dominated Republican Congress look liberal by comparison.

Here’s a good way to appreciate just how far right you have to go to get to Ted Cruz territory: imagine how left-wing a Democratic presidential candidate would have to be to be Cruz’s mirror image. Such a candidate would have to make George McGovern and the 1970s Congress, dominated by liberal Democrats, look conservative.

To get that far left, we would have to be talking about someone who, for example, would be pushing for eliminating private healthcare, outlawing handgun ownership, guaranteeing a minimum personal income, putting a $5 per gallon tax on gasoline, and imposing a 100 percent estate tax.

And to make the analogy complete, the Democratic candidate’s father would be an unapologetic Maoist, who thought the Cultural Revolution was a great idea, and who advocated limiting political power to avowed atheists, while the candidate was sending his father to campaign events to represent him.

Over the past half-century, the GOP has gradually transformed itself from a moderately conservative institution into a hard right social movement. And Ted Cruz represents the far right wing of a party that has gotten so radicalized that it would be barely recognizable to Dwight Eisenhower.

This November Americans will likely face the choice of voting for either, on the one hand, the contemporary equivalent of Eisenhower, and on the other, either a quasi-fascist at the head of a bargain basement cult of personality, or someone who thinks Barry Goldwater was too liberal.

What the very smart people at missed, in other words, is that the GOP has been taken over by the most radical forces in an already-radicalized party. No wonder that, in the space of a few months, the almost inconceivable has become the all-but inevitable.

Tonight’s primaries

[ 190 ] March 8, 2016 |

Great result for Sanders in Michigan so far. He won 64% of the vote in Dearborn, which has the highest percentage of Arab-Americans of any city in the country. He also took more than a third of the African American vote, which is a big improvement. He’s still a very long shot, but he’s alive.

The same can’t be said for Marco Rubio, who isn’t within miles of the 15% threshold to pick up any delegates in either Michigan or Mississippi. If this were a normal year he would drop out now, but the GOP powers that be hate Cruz so much that they’ll probably want him to stay in just to make it harder for either Trump or Cruz to get a majority.

Kasich is basically tied with Cruz in Michigan for second, and that was probably his second-best opportunity to pick up some delegates, so any thought of him replacing Rubio as the establishment pick is very unrealistic. He too can only play the role of denying Trump or Cruz a majority.

The Iowa markets now have Trump at 66%, Cruz at 17%, Rubio at 4%, and the field (Mitt!!) at 12%.

Rubiobot ordered to self-destruct

[ 73 ] March 8, 2016 |


A battle is being waged within Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign about whether he should even remain in the Republican presidential race ahead of his home state primary on March 15, sources say.

Rubio himself is “bullish” on his odds of winning the critical primary, despite some advisers who are less hopeful and believe a loss there would damage him politically in both the short- and long-term.

Publicly, the campaign is maintaining they are still a contender in this race, touting a Sunday win in Puerto Rico’s primary that delivered Rubio 23 delegates. But privately, the campaign is having a debate about whether he should remain in the mix — even for his home state of Florida’s primary.

“He doesn’t want to get killed in his home state,” one source familiar with the discussions said, noting “a poor showing would be a risk and hurt his political future.”

Apparently pulling out days before his home-state primary in order to save face (this morning’s SurveyUSA poll has him down by 20 points to Trump, and barely ahead of Cruz) is supposed to help his political future, at least according to some of the masterminds running this train wreck.

Question of the night

[ 220 ] March 5, 2016 |

After Cruz’s surprisingly strong second-place showings in LA and KY, to go along with wins in Kansas and Maine, is there any prospect that The Party starts pressuring Rubio to drop out? It’s obvious now that Rubio has no shot whatever of getting anywhere close to a plurality of delegates going into the convention, so if he stays in he’s just likely to ensure that Trump ends up with a solid plurality if not an outright majority.

Of course the problem here is that it’s far from clear whether The Party hates Trump more than Cruz, or believes that Cruz would have a better shot in the general. The other is that The Party is just a metaphor for a lot of divergent groups.

So my guess would be no, there’s no real chance of that happening.

You get what you pay for

[ 422 ] March 5, 2016 |

gilded age

March 19, 2015 American Camping Association Atlantic City, NJ $260,000.00
March 11, 2015 eBay Inc. San Jose, CA $315,000.00
February 24, 2015 Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women Santa Clara, CA $225,500.00
January 22, 2015 Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Whistler, Canada $150,000.00
January 21, 2015 tinePublic Inc. Winnipeg, Canada $262,000.00
January 21, 2015 tinePublic Inc. Saskatoon, Canada $262,500.00
December 4, 2014 Massachusetts Conference for Women Boston, MA $205,500.00
October 14, 2014 San Francisco, CA $225,500.00
October 14, 2014 Qualcomm Incorporated San Diego, CA $335,000.00
October 13, 2014 Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers Colorado Springs, CO $225,500.00
October 8, 2014 Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) Chicago, IL $265,000.00
October 7, 2014 Deutsche Bank AG New York, NY $280,000.00
October 6, 2014 Canada 2020 Ottawa, Canada $215,500.00
October 2, 2014 Commercial Real Estate Women Network Miami Beach, FL $225,500.00
September 15, 2014 Cardiovascular Research Foundation Washington, DC $275,000.00
September 4, 2014 Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, LLP San Diego, CA $225,500.00
August 28, 2014 Nexenta System, Inc. San Francisco, CA $300,000.00
August 28, 2014 Cisco Las Vegas, NV $325,000.00
July 29, 2014 Corning, Inc. Corning, NY $225,500.00
July 26, 2014 Ameriprise Boston, MA $225,500.00
July 22, 2014 Knewton, Inc. San Francisco, CA $225,500.00
June 26, 2014 GTCR Chicago, IL $280,000.00
June 25, 2014 Biotechnology Industry Organization San Diego, CA $335,000.00
June 25, 2014 Innovation Arts and Entertainment San Francisco, CA $150,000.00
June 20, 2014 Innovation Arts and Entertainment Austin, TX $150,000.00
June 18, 2014 tinePublic Inc. Toronto, Canada $150,000.00
June 18, 2014 tinePublic Inc. Edmonton, Canada $100,000.00
June 10, 2014 United Fresh Produce Association Chicago, IL $225,000.00
June 2, 2014 International Deli-Dairy-Bakery Association Denver, CO $225,500.00
June 2, 2014 Let’s Talk Entertainment Denver, CO $265,000.00
May 6, 2014 National Council for Behavorial Healthcare Washington, DC $225,500.00
April 11, 2014 California Medical Association (via Satellite) San Diego, CA $100,000.00
April 10, 2014 Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. Las Vegas, NV $225,500.00
April 10, 2014 Let’s Talk Entertainment San Jose, CA $265,000.00
April 8, 2014 Marketo, Inc. San Francisco, CA $225,500.00
April 8, 2014 World Affairs Council Portland, OR $250,500.00
March 24, 2014 Academic Partnerships Dallas, TX $225,500.00
March 18, 2014 Xerox Corporation New York, NY $225,000.00
March 18, 2014 Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal Montreal, Canada $275,000.00
March 13, 2014 Pharmaceutical Care Management Association Orlando, FL $225,500.00
March 13, 2014 Drug Chemical and Associated Technologies New York, NY $250,000.00
March 6, 2014 tinePublic Inc. Calgary, Canada $225,500.00
March 5, 2014 The Vancouver Board of Trade Vancouver, Canada $275,500.00
March 4, 2014 Association of Corporate Counsel – Southern California Los Angeles, CA $225,500.00
February 27, 2014 A&E Television Networks New York, NY $280,000.00
February 26, 2014 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Orlando, FL $225,500.00
February 17, 2014 Novo Nordisk A/S Mexico City, Mexico $125,000.00
February 6, 2014 Las Vegas, NV $225,500.00
January 27, 2014 National Automobile Dealers Association New Orleans, LA $325,500.00
January 27, 2014 Premier Health Alliance Miami, FL $225,500.00
January 6, 2014 GE Boca Raton, FL $225,500.00
November 21, 2013 U.S. Green Building Council Philadelphia, PA $225,000.00
November 18, 2013 CME Group Naples, FL $225,000.00
November 18, 2013 Press Ganey Orlando, FL $225,000.00
November 14, 2013 CB Richard Ellis, Inc. New York, NY $250,000.00
November 13, 2013 Mediacorp Canada, Inc. Toronto, Canada $225,000.00
November 9, 2013 National Association of Realtors San Francisco, CA $225,000.00
November 7, 2013 Golden Tree Asset Management New York, NY $275,000.00
November 6, 2013 Beaumont Health System Troy, MI $305,000.00
November 4, 2013 Mase Productions, Inc. Orlando, FL $225,000.00
November 4, 2013 London Drugs, Ltd. Mississauga, ON $225,000.00
October 29, 2013 The Goldman Sachs Group Tuscon, AZ $225,000.00
October 28, 2013 Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago $400,000.00
October 27, 2013 Beth El Synagogue Minneapolis, MN $225,000.00
October 24, 2013 Accenture New York, NY $225,000.00
October 24, 2013 The Goldman Sachs Group New York, NY $225,000.00
October 23, 2013 SAP Global Marketing, Inc. New York, NY $225,000.00
October 15, 2013 National Association of Convenience Stores Atlanta, GA $265,000.00
October 4, 2013 Long Island Association Long Island, NY $225,000.00
September 19, 2013 American Society of Travel Agents, Inc. Miami, FL $225,000.00
September 18, 2013 American Society for Clinical Pathology Chicago, IL $225,000.00
August 12, 2013 National Association of Chain Drug Stores Las Vegas, NV $225,000.00
August 7, 2013 Global Business Travel Association San Diego, CA $225,000.00
July 11, 2013 UBS Wealth Management New York, NY $225,000.00
June 24, 2013 American Jewish University University City, CA $225,000.00
June 24, 2013 Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Company, LP Palos Verdes, CA $225,000.00
June 20, 2013 Boston Consulting Group, Inc. Boston, MA $225,000.00
June 20, 2013 Let’s Talk Entertainment, Inc. Toronto, Canada $250,000.00
June 17, 2013 Economic Club of Grand Rapids Grand Rapids, MI $225,000.00
June 16, 2013 Society for Human Resource Management Chicago, IL $285,000.00
June 6, 2013 Spencer Stuart New York, NY $225,000.00
June 4, 2013 The Goldman Sachs Group Palmetto Bluffs, SC $225,000.00
May 29, 2013 Sanford C. Bernstein and Co., LLC New York, NY $225,000.00
May 21, 2013 Verizon Communications, Inc. Washington, DC $225,000.00
May 16, 2013 Itau BBA USA Securities New York, NY $225,000.00
May 14, 2013 Apollo Management Holdings, LP New York, NY $225,000.00
May 8, 2013 Gap, Inc. San Francisco, CA $225,000.00
April 30, 2013 Fidelity Investments Naples, FL $225,000.00
April 24, 2013 Deutsche Bank Washington, DC $225,000.00
April 24, 2013 National Multi Housing Council Dallas, TX $225,000.00
April 18, 2013 Morgan Stanley Washington, DC $225,000.00



(1) This is disgusting.

(2) Hillary Clinton, like so many other members of the elites, must live in an almost perfectly sealed social bubble. How could someone who knew she was running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 — that is, in the immediate wake of Occupy Wall Street, concurrent with the publication of Capital in the 21st Century, etc. etc., and who was already rich almost beyond the comprehension of ordinary people, think that it was good idea to spend the two years before the official start of her campaign in this way?

Peggy Noonan has a theory

[ 148 ] March 4, 2016 |

noonan reagan

Well it’s not really a theory yet, but it’s trending in that direction:

Last October I wrote of the five stages of Trump, based on the Kübler-Ross stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Most of the professionals I know are stuck somewhere between four and five.

But I keep thinking of how Donald Trump got to be the very likely Republican nominee. There are many answers and reasons, but my thoughts keep revolving around the idea of protection. It is a theme that has been something of a preoccupation in this space over the years, but I think I am seeing it now grow into an overall political dynamic throughout the West.

There are the protected and the unprotected. The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully.

The protected are the accomplished, the secure, the successful—those who have power or access to it. They are protected from much of the roughness of the world. More to the point, they are protected from the world they have created. Again, they make public policy and have for some time.

I want to call them the elite to load the rhetorical dice, but let’s stick with the protected.

They are figures in government, politics and media. They live in nice neighborhoods, safe ones. Their families function, their kids go to good schools, they’ve got some money. All of these things tend to isolate them, or provide buffers. Some of them—in Washington it is important officials in the executive branch or on the Hill; in Brussels, significant figures in the European Union—literally have their own security details.

Because they are protected they feel they can do pretty much anything, impose any reality. They’re insulated from many of the effects of their own decisions.

Why it’s almost as if society were divided into different hierarchically-stratified groups (if we could just come up with a better name for these types of groups that would be super helpful) that have fundamentally conflicting interests.

Take a look at these hands

[ 211 ] March 4, 2016 |


Actual headline on CNN, the most trusted name in “news,” summing up last night’s “debate.”


I guess this is why they call it American exceptionalism.

Seriously we’re now making banana republics blush.

(I remember the very first time I heard of the store Banana Republic. It must have been around 1980 or so, when a catalog showed up. This was one of first times — maybe the first time — I remember having a conscious feeling of defensiveness as a Hispanic American. I was like, you can’t call a store that. I mean I know those countries are screwed up in a lot of ways but come on.)

The paranoid style, part infinity

[ 176 ] March 3, 2016 |


Randy Barnett is a Georgetown University law professor, who is well known for both his libertarian views and his insider status among DC conservatives (he was the academic point man in the battle to interpret the Affordable Care Act out of existence). He is currently one of many people on the right trying to come up with a way to stop Donald Trump. In the course of describing his plan to the National Review’s readership, he had this to say about Marco Rubio:

I have never met Marco Rubio, but shortly after he was elected to the Senate, I was lecturing in Germany to a group of European liberal students. (In Europe, “liberal” means libertarian.) I played for them a YouTube clip of Senator Rubio making a seven-minute floor speech extolling the exceptionalism of the United States as a land of opportunity. I used the clip to make two points. First, the fact that they had never heard of Rubio showed that they live in a left-wing media cocoon. Unless they cultivated reliable online sources, they would never have a complete picture about the American political scene.

It’s of course a central tenet of contemporary conservative faith that the dreaded Mainstream Media is hopelessly biased in its coverage of American politics. Still this is a bit much, given that this is somebody who is supposed to be the epitome of a Thoughtful Conservative, as opposed to say a random caller to a right-wing talk radio show.

Think about who Marco Rubio was “shortly after he was elected to the Senate,” i.e. five years ago. At that point it’s safe to say he wouldn’t have made anybody’s list of the 100 most prominent politicians in America. Heck, he might not have cracked the top 500 then. He was a 40-year-old freshman senator that nobody outside of Florida had ever heard of: I certainly couldn’t have told you who he was at that time (although I suppose I’m helping in my own small way to help spin the very left-wing media cocoon that envelops me, so res ipsa loquitur I guess.).

Nevertheless, the fact that a bunch of German college students hadn’t heard of this guy is supposed to be evidence of the perfidy of the MSM! For comparison’s sake, here’s the complete list of contemporary German politicians I can name:

Angela Merkel
Helmut Kohl

That’s it, and I wouldn’t want to bet that Kohl is actually still alive or anything.

Would Trump as president be significantly worse than Cruz or Rubio?

[ 259 ] March 3, 2016 |

living colour

I’m leaning toward “yes he would.”

To get a couple things out of the way first, it should go without saying that any of these outcomes would be a serious disaster, so this is roughly analogous to trying to figure out if you’d rather try to live through a major hurricane or a massive earthquake.

Also, nothing in what follows takes into account or is otherwise based on which of these candidates would be more likely to actually win. This is of course a legitimate factor in shaping one’s hopes and fears in regard to the outcome of the GOP nomination process, but I’m excluding it here.

That said, I think a Trump presidency has a significantly greater potential to be a genuine national catastrophe. This is the case even though I agree with Scott that there is likely to be little substantive difference in the sorts of bills that get signed or vetoed in any of the three hypothetical administrations, and with Rob that there’s something more than a little absurd about Max Boot et. al., wringing their hands about the prospect of a bellicose and blustery foreign policy under Trump.

Indeed, at least in regard to domestic policy, there’s certainly an argument to be made that Trump wouldn’t be as bad Cruz or Rubio, since perhaps he would actually do something to advance some elements of the economic populism he’s been touting, and he would probably be less inclined to try to gut what remains of the welfare state (ie Social Security and Medicare), since he understands such a policy is only popular with the GOP money men who fear and despise him, rather than with the people who are voting for him.

Nevertheless, a Trump presidency presents two huge risks:

(1) The social costs incurred by putting someone who campaigns as an open racist in the White House. I don’t know whether or to what extent Trump is “really” racist, but that is basically irrelevant to calculating those costs. Air raid siren racism is worse than dog whistle racism, for the same reason that open corruption is worse than the covert kind. It’s actually an important social advance that, relative to a a couple of three decades ago, covert racists now feel the need to disguise their racism, because when they don’t feel that way racism becomes more socially acceptable, just as when open bribery becomes a feature of public life its very openness makes it more socially acceptable, and therefore more common than it would otherwise be.

(2) Trump is not merely a narcissistic megalomaniac of an extreme kind: he’s a narcissistic megalomaniac who isn’t constrained by any political institutions, as even an “anti-establishment” conventional presidential candidate like Cruz or Sanders would be. He’s a true political outsider, and as such he’s much more unpredictable. Institutional socialization, and the constraints it builds up, are real. Trump presents a non-trivial risk of being the sort of politician who would actually do the sorts of things that conspiracy nuts of the Alex Jones type are always fantasizing normal politicians are about to do: declare martial law, suspend elections, seize major media outlets etc. Trump really might turn into an American version of Vladamir Putin or perhaps Juan Peron.

As dire as a Cruz or Rubio presidency might be, that’s not going to happen under them. Trump, in my view, does actually present a non-trivial existential threat to American democracy.

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