Trump Talk

by Corey Robin on March 5, 2016

I’m writing a much longer piece on Trump. In the meantime, some clips from the cutting-room floor.

1. At last night’s debate, Trump said of Rubio, “And he referred to my hands—if they are small, something else must be small—I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee you.” Lest you think we’re tumbling down a new rabbit hole here, once upon a time, the king’s body and the body politic were thought to be, if not one and the same, then in some kind of alignment. Trump’s reference is as much pre-modern as it is post-modern. Ernst Kantorowicz’s classic book on the topic, The King’s Two Bodies, was subtitled “A Study in Medieval Political Theology.”

In any event, I’d rather hear Trump’s opinions about his penis than his views on Muslims and Mexicans.

2. You often hear that the rhetorical brutality of Trump is unprecedented. Never before have we seen a candidate so cruel. I’m not so sure.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 12.21.23 PM

You also hear that we’ve never had a leading politician who so shamelessly, if rhetorically, flirted with violence. Again, I’m not so sure.

As this ad from the 1964 presidential campaign suggests, this is hardly the first time a leading GOP candidate has freaked out the GOP establishment with his swaggering rhetoric and unsavory associations.

Here are some excerpts from the ad, which features a Republican voter saying he won’t cast a ballot for Goldwater in the election:

I certainly don’t feel guilty about being a Republican. I’ve always been a Republican. My father is, his father is, the whole family is a Republican family. I voted for Dwight Eisenhower the first time I ever voted, I voted for Nixon the last time. But when we come to Senator Goldwater, now it seems to me we’re up against a very different kind of a man. This man scares me. Now maybe I’m wrong. A friend of mine has said to me, listen, just because a man sounds a little irresponsible during a campaign doesn’t mean he’s going to act irresponsibly….

The hardest thing for me about this whole campaign is to sort out one Goldwater statement from another. A reporter will go to Senator Goldwater and he’ll say, Senator, on such and such a day, you said, and I quote, blah blah blah, whatever it is, end quote. And then Goldwater says, well, I wouldn’t put it that way. I can’t follow that. Was he serious when did put it that way? Is he serious when he says he wouldn’t put it that way? I just don’t get it….

When the head of the Klux Klux Klan, when all these weird groups come out in favor of the candidate of my party, either they’re not Republicans or I’m not.


3. Speaking of precedents, I don’t deny that there are differences between Trump and conservatives and Republicans past (I’ll be writing about those differences in my piece.) But the notion that you can tell a story of qualitative devolution, that you could look back upon the Golden Days of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan or Richard Nixon as some kind of sharp counterpoint to the brutality of the man and his movement today, seems overstated.

A few days ago, the Washington Post even pointed to Trump’s embrace of torture and dirty tricks as the mark of his especially dangerous candidacy:

Mr. Trump gives ample reason to fear that he would not respect traditional limits on executive authority. He promotes actions that would be illegal, such as torture. He intimates that he would use government to attack those who displease him.

Oddly, while the Post is interested in making comparisons between Trump and Putin and Chávez, it doesn’t mention the two presidents in recent memory who did torture and who did use government to attack those who displeased them.

Even if you’re only referring to the ambient thuggery that surrounds the man, it’s useful to remember that Reagan launched his 1980 presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the seat of Neshoba County, where Cheney, Goodman, and Schwerner were murdered in 1964. And that, when debating his Republican opponents, he was just as interested in establishing full spectrum dominance as Trump is.

All of which reminds me that in the waning days of George W. Bush’s regime, I mischievously predicted that some day, some establishment pundit like Brooks or Broder, who was alive then, would hold up W as a man of honor and integrity—in contrast to whatever future combination of clown and criminal happened to be ruling the day. The one prediction I’ve ever made—tongue-in-cheek no less—that has come true.

So now I’ll make another prediction, less tongue-in-cheek. If, God forbid, Trump is elected, some day, assuming we’re all still alive, some establishment pundit like Douthat or Dionne will look back fondly, as they survey the even more desultory state of contemporary political play, on the impish character of Donald Trump. As Andrew March said to me on Facebook, they’ll say something like: What a jokester he was. Didn’t mean it at all. But, boy, could he cut a deal.

4. Various Republicans and conservative elites and intellectuals (though not any of the remaining GOP candidates) have been saying that if Trump gets the nomination, they’ll not support him. If they keep their word, this election could look an awful lot like 1972, when a fair number of Democrats backed Nixon against McGovern. With perhaps similar results.

Here’s the classic ad (h/t William Adler) that Democrats for Nixon (a front group, Rick Perlstein informs me) ran.

Interestingly, today it’s national security types who are once again leading the fight against a candidate perceived to be too extreme for the party.

The only way this McGovern scenario actually works—Trump gets the nomination, leading GOP types abandon ship, and the party goes down to defeat in the general—is if Clinton gets the Democratic nomination. With Sanders, I’ve little doubt that every Republican and conservative would quickly—and happily—line up behind Trump. It’s only because Clinton does not pose a fundamental threat to core GOP commitments (not no threat, but a fundamental threat) that these apostates from Trump can even think about straying from the fold. In the same way that it was only because Nixon didn’t fundamentally threaten core New Deal commitments—for all the backlash he spawned, he wasn’t willing to fully repudiate the New Deal or the Great Society (indeed, he pushed for wage and price controls and created the EPA)—that he was able to attract Democratic crossover votes, neither does Clinton fundamentally threaten core Republican commitments about big government, military intervention, and the like. When she attacks Sanders for possibly increasing the size of government by 40%, she’s still reading from the Reagan playbook.

So, to play out the scenario: against Trump, Clinton gets elected, like Nixon got elected against McGovern in 1972. And we all know that ended.

5. When Hannah Arendt set out to understand fascism, she looked back to Europe’s history of continental racism and extra-continental imperialism. The working title of “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” in fact, was “Race Imperialism.” Today, journalists and pundits like to claim Trump is a fascist or flirts with fascism. But while commentators will talk about his connections to racism, nativism, and Islamophobia, they seldom mention how his campaign grows out of and reflects a revanchist American militarism. (Jamelle Bouie even claimed that George W. Bush, who more than anyone took American imperialism into the stratosphere, was just the kind of sober-minded establishment voice to put an end to Trump-ish exploits. Arendt would have had a field day with that one.) For these liberal-minded commentators, it’s easier to talk about red-blooded bigots in the sticks than blue bloods in the war machine.

Adam Smith said it best:

In countries where great crimes frequently pass unpunished, the most atrocious actions become almost familiar, and cease to impress the people with that horror which is universally felt in countries where an exact administration of justice takes place.

And then we get Donald Trump.

{ 112 comments }

1

Murc 03.05.16 at 5:10 am

You often hear that the rhetorical brutality of Trump is unprecedented.

It’s really not. Trump is actually relatively tame even by historical American standards. Like, have you seen political rhetoric from 19th century America? It is insane, brutal, the sort of thing you wouldn’t write into a fiction book because people would think it was cartoonish supervillainy. Trump has yet to accuse Hillary Clinton of pimping women to Vladimir Putin, an actual accusation leveled against John Quincy Adams with regard to Czar Alexander and tacitly if not outright condoned by Andy Jackson. And that was before the rise of newspapers; in the late 19th century you could found a rag for no other purpose but the dissemination of vile lies and accidentally find yourself helming a viable commercial enterprise.

Shit was crazy, is my point. We have, still, not yet descended to that level.

2

Meredith 03.05.16 at 6:27 am

Murc, of course. For instance (where I arrived via Charlie Pierce):
http://articles.philly.com/2012-08-25/news/33367841_1_jefferson-presidency-presidential-power-hideous-hermaphroditical-character

From which Charlie extracts:
[Jefferson’s] critique of President John Adams included the accusation that he was “a hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

A lot was different then. Like, the future of the world, from global warming to nuclear weapons, did not hang at all on U.S. imperium, as it does now. With increased responsibility should come increased maturity…. An old European trope about the U.S., of course.

I am interested in this: “In countries where great crimes frequently pass unpunished, the most atrocious actions become almost familiar, and cease to impress the people with that horror which is universally felt in countries where an exact administration of justice takes place.” What a strange country we U.S. Americans live in. The great crimes of taking (by whatever maneuvers) land from Indians and of developing it with African slaves pass, still, unpunished. At the same time, we are a country of exact administration of justice, from endless court wrangling in colonial MA and VA (say) to our constitutional impasse today re supreme court justice appointments.

3

Cry Shop 03.05.16 at 8:11 am

…and then there was LBJ.

4

John M. Burt 03.05.16 at 8:15 am

I have always presumed that a large part of Republican hatred for President Obama was because they have always regarded the President as a kind of Fisher King: if the President is healthy the country is healthy. If the President is dishonest, the country’s uprightness is tarnished. If the President is sexually indiscreet, the whole country is soiled by his Clenis.
Naturally, if the President is a black man . . . .

5

Rich Puchalsky 03.05.16 at 11:29 am

“But the notion that you can tell a story of qualitative devolution, that you could look back upon the Golden Days of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan or Richard Nixon as some kind of sharp counterpoint to the brutality of the man and his movement today, seems overstated.”

I tried to write this on another thread here recently, and promptly got shock and awe from the people who wanted to know whether I was excusing Trump. It’s quickly becoming an item that you have to repeat in order to be respectable that Trump is a unique new horror and that the history of the U.S. was basically better than this up until now.

6

Rich Puchalsky 03.05.16 at 11:55 am

“In the same way that it was only because Nixon didn’t fundamentally threaten core New Deal commitments—for all the backlash he spawned, he wasn’t willing to fully repudiate the New Deal or the Great Society (indeed, he pushed for wage and price controls and created the EPA)—that he was able to attract Democratic crossover votes, neither does Clinton fundamentally threaten core Republican commitments about big government, military intervention, and the like. “

Oh, and this one. Cue the announcements that you’re an impractical, purist idealist who has no appreciation for how bad Trump would be and that this is an expression of white male privilege.

7

Lee A. Arnold 03.05.16 at 11:58 am

Corey: “…against Trump, Clinton gets elected, like Nixon got elected against McGovern in 1972. And we all know that ended.”

Is this another prediction?

Because Hillary = Tricky Dick?

I don’t bother to defend the honor of politicians. It’s much easier to decry them, as another 500 comments of illusionary sermonizing (+ dumping on women) is likely to now demonstrate, once again. But this is a bit of a stretch.

8

Peter T 03.05.16 at 12:12 pm

“We have, still, not yet descended to that level”

And senators are not beating each other to death on the senate floor. But in the 19th century Washington was, if not precisely an irrelevance, at least not essential to the day-to-day running of society. A lot of history is working out how to run large groups to closer and closer tolerances of coordination and control. Which needs more top-level management (and more constructive government, to the distress of the right), and is correspondingly more vulnerable to mismanagement.

9

Rich Puchalsky 03.05.16 at 12:19 pm

“as another 500 comments of illusionary sermonizing (+ dumping on women) “

Wow, my prediction came true only one comment down!

10

Mike Schilling 03.05.16 at 12:26 pm

When she attacks Sanders for possibly increasing the size of government by 40%, she’s still reading from the Reagan playbook.

Because any skepticism about the size or efficacy of the federal government makes someone the enemy?

11

Lee A. Arnold 03.05.16 at 12:26 pm

Actually, my prediction had already come true, one comment UP.

12

Rich Puchalsky 03.05.16 at 12:41 pm

So my comment was “dumping on women”. Nice.

13

Lee A. Arnold 03.05.16 at 12:42 pm

Mike Schilling #10: “Because any skepticism about the size or efficacy of the federal government makes someone the enemy?”

Exactly, although Clinto is not stating two facts that she knows, and which makes Sanders correct, on the issue of healthcare:

1. The amount of healthcare taxes that you would pay, will be around 20% less than your healthcare premiums; and

2. basic healthcare is not a good/service that can be delivered efficiently or fairly by the market system, due to unusual characteristics on both the supply and demand sides. (And putting a private insurer in, as profit-taking intermediary, is just idiocy.)

14

Ze K 03.05.16 at 12:44 pm

But is is true (I have no idea) that the pretty-boy Rubio referred to his hands as “if they are small, something else must be small”? If so, how is that not illustration of pre-modern/post-modern low-class crass politics, while the response is?

15

JoB 03.05.16 at 12:54 pm

Probably you have all already seen this, if not: both entertaining and informative:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DnpO_RTSNmQ&feature=youtu.be

On the OP, thanks: Adam Smith is always a source of wisdom, in a better world he would be up for election and the idiocies of this campaign can indeed hardly be claimed to be of any innovative value (which makes it even more painful to have to go through it again). I will on the other hand always be happy if Cruz is out of the race. Drumpf is a nightmare – but even if he gets elected … not even Berlusconi succeeded in destroying everything that was built up before him and Italy had built up less consistency in its institutions.

16

Ronan(rf) 03.05.16 at 2:08 pm

(2) and (3) seem a bit of a straw man.
Who is arguing (2)? How prevalent is the claim that it’s “unprecedented”? I also don’t think selecting past examples to show he’s not qualitatively different necessarily disputes the claim that he quantitatively is.
On (3) fair enough , I guess, since there’s at least a reference to the point argued against. But again, most things I’m reading(which are hardly sophisticated or uncommon) are drawing on parallels between trump and past republicans (how could he not represent the context he developed in, the base he supports and the values of his milleux)? The norm seems to be towards teasing out how he is and isn’t different.
On (5) there might well be a connection to revanchist American militarism, but what exactly is it? (Or should I wait for the longer article)

17

Corey Robin 03.05.16 at 2:11 pm

Lee Arnold at 7: “Because Hillary = Tricky Dick?”

One could respond in multiple registers. Let me take the safest, most poli-sci-ish route. There’s a theory of the presidency, developed by Steve Skowronek at Yale, which I was thinking of. His theory is that presidencies are marked by the rise and fall of party regimes. From 1800 to 1828, it was the Jeffersonian Republican regime. From 1828 to 1860, it was the Jacksonian Democratic regime. From 1860 to 1932 it was the Lincoln Republican regime. From 1932 to 1980 it was the New Deal Democratic regime. From 1980 to today, it’s been the Reagan Republican regime. Even though there are presidents elected during these regimes who do not easily align with the regime’s commitments, the overall regime remains strong and structure’s even their (those specific, non-aligned presidents’) actions.

Given that, there are four types of presidencies. There are presidents who are happily aligned with the regime while the regime is strong. They are articulation presidents. Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush are classic examples. There are presidents who are unhappily aligned with the regime while the regime is weak, on its last legs. They are disjunctive presidents. Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter are classic examples. There are presidents who are happily opposed to the regime while the regime is weak. They are reconstructive presidents. These are the classic transformative presidencies: Lincoln, FDR, Reagan. Because the regime is weak, they can shatter it and overhaul the government structure.

Then there are presidents who are unhappily opposed to the regime while the regime is strong. They are preemptive presidents. These are the trickiest presidents of all. They are elected by their parties (or come to power representing parties) in the hope that they’ll oppose the regime, but the regime is very strong. Too strong for them to transform it. So they weave and bob, nip and tuck, push here, pull there. They compromise. They can’t do what articulation presidents do: i.e., extend the established regime’s commitments in a full throated way (again, Johnson and Bush; you could add James Knox Polk and Teddy Roosevelt, says Skowronek). They can’t do what reconstructive presidents do: the regime is too strong to oppose like that. So they are more Machiavellian. And for all that, they are massively distrusted by their own followers — and hated by the regime’s defenders as well. They’re the ones who are most accused of betrayal, and who often wind up impeached or with their presidency in total disarray and completely hijacked from them. Andrew Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and….

It’s poli sci, so take it for what it’s worth. But even if you have more benign impressions of Hillary Clinton than I do, there are some deep structural patterns to presidential history that are worth taking into consideration.

18

Barry 03.05.16 at 2:12 pm

“Interestingly, today it’s national security types who are once again leading the fight against a candidate perceived to be too extreme for the party.”

No, because if you read what they are writing, it pretty much comes down to (a) ‘he says he will do evil things, like the same sh*t I supported under Lord Bush II’, and (b) ‘he is an isolationist, meaning that he won’t act in the best interests of Likkud and the Saudi royal family’.

Every single one of these people was just fine with Bush II. They supported torture, the (Republican) President as king, wars of choice which were then botched – everything.

What they are doing now is proclaiming their loyalty to the GOP establishment.

19

Lee A. Arnold 03.05.16 at 3:05 pm

Corey @ 17: Then I have two questions about the last 8 years, before we get to Hillary Clinton: 1. Is the Reagan regime strong, or showing increasing disconnection from reality and cracking apart? 2. Is Barack Obama opposed to this regime in any way, or not?

20

novakant 03.05.16 at 3:19 pm

This is nonsense: compare Bush right after 9/11 on Islam / Muslim’s to Trump on the same subject. There has definitely been a coarsening of the discourse since then. Of course one could still be openly racist and a successful politician in the 60s and before, but it is generally assumed that we have made some progress since then.

21

Anarcissie 03.05.16 at 3:39 pm

Corey Robin 03.05.16 at 2:11 pm @ 17 —
I am curious as to where Mr. Skowronek locates his notion of ‘party regime’. To clarify: when I look at recent history, it appears to me that there is a ruling class and those who are ruled. (Yes, I oversimplify.) The ruling class appears to have worked out some way of achieving consensus, and to have usually controlled or persuaded both major political parties; hence the remarkable consistency and continuity of policy throughout most of the last century, especially on war, imperialism, and related matters regardless of which party is theoretically in power. The policies and performances of the Federal government have often run strongly athwart the desires and interests of the people in general, yet the governmental system has been manipulated so that although people vote, the candidates they find themselves permitted to vote for pursue the interests and desires of the ruling class. This is the normal state of affairs. But this ruling class, whoever they are, have been becoming more and more incompetent, as witness various disastrous wars and the financial breakdowns of 2006-2008, and in the case of Trump, they seem to have lost control of one of the major parties to a revolt of the miasmic Id of the folk (unless we’re just witnessing a new form of the old theater, Barnum/Hitler instead of something more elegant). Maybe the consensus has fallen apart? Or maybe our lords and masters have become too disconnected to do their customary thing?

Facilis decensus Averno.

22

Plume 03.05.16 at 4:56 pm

“Because any skepticism about the size or efficacy of the federal government makes someone the enemy?”

No. Because the claim of a 40% increase in size is ludicrous. And Hillary knows that.

The size of government has steadily fallen for the last 40 plus years — contrary to wails and ghashing of right-wing teeth. The federal government now has one million fewer employees than it had in 1962, even though we’ve added 150 million new citizens.

Both parties have downsized government, and privatized a great deal of the public sector — as was the case under Nazi Germany. Just because the size of the budget has grown doesn’t mean government has. That increased size largely goes to pay for privatization, and the trillions in government giveaways and bailouts to Big Business, to the Military Industrial Complex and the maintenance of the empire of Capital.

Want a smaller government? Get rid of capitalism. Right off the bat, we could slash it by 90%. And if we made the remainder all non-profit, without one iota of privatization, we’d save trillions. As in, we could do both. Radically shrink the actual size of government and its outlays.

But neither the center-left, nor the center, nor the center-right wants to do this. And the far right wants the impossible. It wants minarchy and capitalism. Can’t be done. Capitalism requires a massive state — connecting with other massive states — or it dies.

23

John M. Burt 03.05.16 at 5:01 pm

Anarcissie, the ruling class have always seen themselves as hyper-competent: that’s why they regard themselves as entitled to rule over the rest of us. Considering the world’s history of war and economic uncertainty, I doubt they were ever as competent as all that.

24

JoB 03.05.16 at 5:13 pm

21: “but it is generally assumed that we have made some progress since then”

Judging from this and like fora: maybe not that generally. On the side of “great again” not so much either. The dim view of progress unites many nowadays, as far as I can see.

25

Plarry 03.05.16 at 5:21 pm

Corey @ 17 –
This type of analysis doesn’t seem to be predictive at all. Could you tell, in 1980, or even in 1981, that the “Reagan regime” was about to begin? I doubt it. Likewise, it seems just at likely that 2016 might mark the beginning of a Hillary regime as be part of a Reagan regime.

26

dr ngo 03.05.16 at 5:25 pm

File under “phrases I never expected to see on Crooked Timber”: I’d rather hear Trump’s opinions about his penis.

27

jake the antisoshul soshulist 03.05.16 at 5:28 pm

Would Obama be considered a preempive or disjunctive president?
It seems to me that Obama and many of his supporters thought/hoped he
would be a transformative president, but the regime was still too strong.
Or the common criticism, Obama was too weak.

28

Plume 03.05.16 at 5:36 pm

Anarcissie @22,

The consistency is remarkable. And I think it points to the supreme use of fictions — necessary or not. Of imagined order, of imaginery orders. For me, Yuval Harari’s theory is like the Rosetta Stone for all of this.

Humans survived and thrived because they were able to create fictions — especially of imagined order — and agree with them beyond smaller kin-units, tribes and so on. Some biologists believe our natural limits of “empathy” and concern are stretched to the breaking point around 150 people . . . but the belief in fictions extends this, can extend this to millions.

Money, god, goddess, religion, nation-states, capitalism, liberalism, conservatism, natural rights . . . . etc. etc. . . . all of these are fictions we’ve invented, and when enough people agree to accept these as reality, they have a unifying, controlling, co-opting, Borgistic effect. The ruling class may or may not realize it’s all a fiction. But it doesn’t matter. Even if they’re co-opted too, they are able to use these imagined and imaginery orders to get millions of human beings to fall in line.

Nietzsche (and Wallace Stevens) thought many fictions were necessary. Joseph Campbell talked of myths we need to live by. The key is creating brand new, healthy, life-affirming, emancipatory fictions and imagined orders to replace the oppressive, repressive, or, at best, stifling fictions we accept today. Trump’s fiction is obviously just a continuation of previous oppressive fictional regimes, and parallel’s fascism all too closely. It must be rejected along with pretty much all the rest.

29

Plume 03.05.16 at 5:58 pm

Jake @28,

I had hoped, back in 2008, that he was going to be transformational. But, IMO — and this is just dime-store, amateur psychologizing — Obama’s fatal flaw is his desire to bring people together from diverse tribes, and he actually believed for a time he could. So, instead of transformational, we basically kept the status quo ante — barely. After tremendous rancor, kicking and screaming, etc. etc.

To me, he’s easily one of the least ideological presidents in generations — while being endlessly accused of being the most. I think it’s far more important to him to bridge differences, than worry about what they entail or what the final result may be. Negotiations and compromise are goals in and of themselves. Not “progressive” legislation, appointees, policy positions. But the activity of seeking compromise itself.

On a personal level, I really like the guy, and his family. But I think he’s ill-suited for being president in a time of passionate, tribal hatreds. He may not be suited to ever be prez, because he lacks the killer instinct, but this environment has to be among the worst possible for him. He needed an America that was far less angry, separatist, partisan and sectarian. He needed the world as it was in the movie, The Martian . . . . unified — at least for a time — in its pursuit of bringing Matt Damon back home to Baston.

30

Ze K 03.05.16 at 6:14 pm

@22
“unless we’re just witnessing a new form of the old theater, Barnum/Hitler instead of something more elegant”

But of course it’s all a sham. It wouldn’t surprise me if American president doesn’t even control what he (or she) will eat for dinner. He smiles or makes a sober grimace, and looks ‘presidential’. He reads bullshit texts given to him, and if he screws up the lines, they won’t serve him ice-cream for a week.

This empire, like any other empire, is controlled by a complex bureaucratic apparatus. Big decisions follow naturally from the series of small ones, from various compromises and empirical feedback. There is no place for voluntarism. Had it been any different, had elected circus clowns had any substantial influence, the system would’ve collapsed long time ago.

31

The Temporary Name 03.05.16 at 6:28 pm

But of course it’s all a sham. It wouldn’t surprise me if American president doesn’t even control what he (or she) will eat for dinner. He smiles or makes a sober grimace, and looks ‘presidential’. He reads bullshit texts given to him, and if he screws up the lines, they won’t serve him ice-cream for a week.

This is fairly stupid unless we’re talking about Marco Rubio.

32

Barry 03.05.16 at 6:48 pm

Brett: “In a time when we’re expected to treat the President’s political enemies being perpetually audited until the next administration as the new normal, Nixon counts as ‘recent’ memory? Seriously, that’s the most recent example you can think of? For either complaint??

Meanwhile, back in the real world, liberal organizations were audited more

33

js. 03.05.16 at 6:58 pm

Re RP @5 (and the quoted CR bit) — As I said in the previous thread, the real threat of violence—and the actual cases of violence—-feel qualitatively different this time than anything from the last 2-3 decades. That’s obviously not to deny continuities and parallels between Trump’s demagoguery and Republicans of the recent past.

34

Suzanne 03.06.16 at 12:43 am

“And for all that, they are massively distrusted by their own followers — and hated by the regime’s defenders as well. They’re the ones who are most accused of betrayal, and who often wind up impeached or with their presidency in total disarray and completely hijacked from them. Andrew Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and….”

Clinton was impeached on frivolous grounds by an implacable opposition, and although his presidency lost a year, no small thing, he and his administration did recover. Hillary Clinton is not “massively distrusted” by her own followers; in fact, she remains very popular with Democrats generally.

@14: Yes, that’s true. Rubio, or little Marco as Trump accurately refers to him, was the one who introduced dick jokes into the picture, with a view to fighting fire with fire. He doesn’t seem to have the knack, though. Whatever you think of Trump and his insults, he has a real instinct for his opponents’ weak spots.

35

Anarcissie 03.06.16 at 1:25 am

Ze K 03.05.16 at 6:14 pm @ 31 —
It seems to me that many who hold important offices on behalf of a ruling class might usually be in accord with the ruling class’s ideological framework and purposes. This situation might over time come to be the expected arrangement, theoretically enforced by the mainstream media and party organizations: no loose cannons allowed. However, it doesn’t seem impossible that a talented individual might be able to game the system, especially one where the r.c. had become inattentive and incompetent. Then the r.c. would have the choice of stopping him (or her) with extraordinary and extralegal means — a dangerous venture — or going along and hoping for the best.

36

anonymousse 03.06.16 at 1:38 am

“At last night’s debate, Trump said of Rubio, “And he referred to my hands—if they are small, something else must be small—I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee you.” Lest you think we’re tumbling down a new rabbit hole here, once upon a time, the king’s body and the body politic were thought to be, if not one and the same, then in some kind of alignment. “

“Boxers or briefs, Governor Clinton?” “giggle”

37

bob mcmanus 03.06.16 at 1:40 am

Obama’s fatal flaw is his desire to bring people together from diverse tribes

Whenever I hear the line: “My/his/her biggest flaw is being too nice/not standing up for myself/letting people walk all over me” I immediately look for the means this passive aggression and virtue of victimization is a method of covert control, usually in terms of “Let’s you and him fight…over me.”

38

someguy88 03.06.16 at 2:17 am

We have 241,000 more federal employees than in 1962.

https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/data-analysis-documentation/federal-employment-reports/historical-tables/total-government-employment-since-1962/

In his last full year in the Senate Obama had a 100% ADA rating. That is about as ideologically pure as you can get.

39

Plume 03.06.16 at 3:12 am

Someguy88 @39,

Last time I checked, 5,354,000 is a bigger number than 4,185,000. The former is 1962. The latter is 2014. And notice the numbers have gone down, every year from 2010 on. They went up via temp workers for the decennial census 2009/2010.

Notice also under Reagan that the totals climbed in 1981, 1983, 84, 85 and 1987 (from the previous year), and every one of his years were higher than Obama’s highest total (2010: 4,443,000).

40

Fuzzy Dunlop 03.06.16 at 3:15 am

Plume @30 I agree about Obama, I think the reading of his rhetoric & actions, that he either sincerely believed he could unite the country and heal the bitterness of the late Bush years or at least thought it was worth trying is very consistent with his trust in the basic institutions and structures/distrust of leftist radicalism. His (I suspect) underestimation of conservative racism was of a piece with his faith in capitalism as a way to improve the situation of the working class. And that racism and the failures of capitalism gave us birthers and Trump.

bob @38 If Trump an the Tea Party really do cause a catastrophe for the Repbulican Party this year, a lot of it will be both because the Democratic party really did kind of abandon the working class (especially earlier, in Obama’s first term) and b/c of the racist reactions to Obama’s having the nerve to be president while black.

41

Plume 03.06.16 at 3:27 am

Brett @37,

Speaking of bogus: Conservatives haven’t been correct on anything since political scientists first started separating the right from the left in the late 18th century. And they’ve been especially goofy and effed up in the 20th and 21st first centuries. You guys have zero credibility, with nearly two centuries of celebrating racism, homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny and red-baiting under your belt; from the Confederate states of America to neo-Confederates like Ron Paul; from the KKK to fascism, to nazism; from Mussolini, to Franco, Hitler and Pinochet; to the right’s love of the Birchers, and the Birthers and the Sandy Hook truthers; to the Bundy clan, to the belief that Climate Change is a hoax, to the fairy tales about the wonders of capitalism and tax cuts bringing in more revenue and that god is on your side and keeps asking Republicans to run for president . . . Sheesh, man, put a freakin’ cork in it.

No sane person believes a word the right says anymore. Not if they’ve paid any attention to history and current events. You guys have cried wolf about a billion times too many, with your phony IRS scandals, and fast and furious and Solyndra and all the things that were going to bring down every Democratic administration for the last few decades. You all think like creationists.

Please give your CPC a rest. Please stop with your Conservative Persecution Complex. It’s really, really ugly and childish and you should be embarrassed for ever suggesting that the oh so timid Dems are the big bullies, trying to shut you down. Give it a rest. The American establishment has always been conservative and has always catered to you idiots from Day One, and it’s always let you lie and talk shit as if you really had a legitimate brain to share among you.

And you don’t. You don’t understand science, or math, or physics, or the political spectrum. You don’t get economics, or civics or the Constitution. You don’t understand the difference between weather and climate, or assets and outlays. You. Don’t. Understand. Shit.

42

someguy88 03.06.16 at 3:36 am

Plume,

Beyond disgusting. Worse than a lie. Life is a reddit comment thread. I was so hopeful and yet I knew what you were going to come back with.

A reduction of million or so uniformed military personnel from 1962 to today doesn’t really count in the way you want it to.

The weird thing is that as a starting point, 241,000 extra federal employees vs the population growth from 1962 is a good honest starting point for a discussion.

But no. Instead the vicious lying stupidity that is a comment thread.

43

Plume 03.06.16 at 4:13 am

The military are a part of the federal workforce. They are “federal employees.” By definition. I told the truth. You lied.

44

Plume 03.06.16 at 4:24 am

But, someguy88, let’s play it your way. Let’s subtract the entire military workforce — and they are “federal employees.” But let’s subtract them anyway.

1962 totals: 2,515,000

52 years later, and 150 MILLION more citizens:

2014 totals: 2,726,000.

Think about it. Think about all of the caterwauling from the right and from conservatives in general about the supposed explosion in the size of government. Consider 52 years of this supposed massive growth in the Federal workforce, and you get a total of 211,000 more employees — again, if we don’t count a rather large part of the federal workforce, and the huge reduction in that sector.

No wonder we have endless backlogs and government doesn’t have the manpower to do what needs to be done.

Conservatives set out to make “government the problem” and have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, no doubt, by gutting it and making it virtually impossible to do the necessary work in the face of huge population growth. More than 150 MILLION new citizens, and just 211,000 new employees over the course of 52 years, to keep up with that addition.

45

js. 03.06.16 at 5:01 am

It’s only because Clinton does not pose a fundamental threat to core GOP commitments (not no threat, but a fundamental threat) that these apostates from Trump can even think about straying from the fold.

I really like the “theory of the presidency” outlined @17, but it does not work with this bit from the OP. At all. I can spell it out if anyone cares, but: how would anything from the @17 account change if Sanders were the nominee instead of Clinton? In other words, if Sanders vs. Clinton really matters, why does any of the theorizing in @17?

46

Ze K 03.06.16 at 8:59 am

Anarcissie @36: “It seems to me that many who hold important offices on behalf of a ruling class might usually be in accord with the ruling class’s ideological framework and purposes.”

Of course. But still, those who are elected or appointed by politicians (cabinet members) – they are not professionals. Or they may be professionals, but they have no significant experience for the role: agency/department heads don’t serve for more than a few years. Therefore their function is not to ‘lead’ but rather to be a cheerleader… I think…

“However, it doesn’t seem impossible that a talented individual might be able to game the system, especially one where the r.c. had become inattentive and incompetent.”

Like I said, I think it’d make sense, in this context, to talk about ‘bureaucratic apparatus’, not ‘ruling class’.

Of course they do mischief sometimes. Nixon. Kennedy probably, otherwise why kill him. I read somewhere (or was it a movie?), during the Caribbean crisis, he was sticking his nose everywhere (together with his brother) and thus earned deep resentment of the top brass military. Others are perfect, like Reagan (‘my heart tells me it’s the truth, even though the facts tell otherwise’).

47

Boconnor 03.06.16 at 9:41 am

Plume at 3.27 am at 42

That was the best put down of conservatives I’ve read in a long time. Outstanding sir.

48

Rich Puchalsky 03.06.16 at 12:47 pm

js: “I can spell it out if anyone cares, but: how would anything from the @17 account change if Sanders were the nominee instead of Clinton? In other words, if Sanders vs. Clinton really matters, why does any of the theorizing in @17?”

I can’t answer for Corey Robin, but the theory seems to me to work primarily retrospectively. You can tell beforehand more or less whether the incoming President is opposed to the regime or not, before they take office or soon after. But I don’t think you can tell beforehand how strong the regime is until it’s put to the test.

Then the question would be, is the President really going to try to challenge the regime. I think that everyone’s impression is that HRC is not. So she would be a preemptive President no matter how strong the regime is, or possibly a disjunctive one if she more or less decides to go along with it and the regime is as weak as some people suspect. Sanders would presumably try to shatter it. He’d either succeed or fail depending on how strong it is: therefore he’d be either a reconstructive President or a preemptive one if he can’t really do anything and turns to more and more tricky maneuvers around the margins as his supporters demand the action they’ve been promised — or possibly a disjunctive one if he tried and failed and decided to go along.

I’ve probably just mangled the theory, but the basic point is that the range of possible outcomes for Sanders is wider.

49

monad 03.06.16 at 3:31 pm

Federal employment, now in handy graph form.

Total Federal personnel – http://i.imgur.com/Eogu8MM.png
Uniformed military personnel – http://i.imgur.com/2LAcrsB.png
Legislative and judicial branch personnel (thousands) -http://i.imgur.com/EsnXhjR.png
Executive branch civilians – http://i.imgur.com/rYqUhDV.png

too long, didn’t look version:

* Uniformed military personnel — big spike during Vietnam War, modest increase during Reagan administration, small increase in the early Obama administration that quickly dropped away, otherwise a constant and large decreasing trend

* Executive branch civilians — nearly stable overall from 1962 -2012, with moderate increases during Vietnam and Reagan, and a small increase in the early Obama administration that quickly dropped away

* Legislative and judicial branch personnel — huge, constant increase over 1962 – 2012

50

js. 03.06.16 at 3:35 pm

Rich — That makes sense (not sure if I agree with it, but it does make sense). Thanks!

51

Metatone 03.06.16 at 3:36 pm

@monad – what comes under “judicial and legislative” ?

52

monad 03.06.16 at 3:42 pm

@metatone — who knows? 63,000 people working in that sector seems oddly large. But it’s also an almost imperceptibly small sliver in the graph of the total federal workforce. And the increase in the curve seems to have flatted out now anyway, starting in the late Bush 41/early Clinton years.

53

Plume 03.06.16 at 3:44 pm

Monad @50,

“* Legislative and judicial branch personnel — huge, constant increase over 1962 – 2012”

If your definition of “huge, constant increase” is barely a ripple, then, yeah. Sure.

It went from 30,000 in 1962 to 64,000 in 2012. So, in 50 years, they added 34,000 new employees, total. That’s an average of less than 700 new employees a year, during a time when the overall population nearly doubled. As in, more than 150 million new citizens added during that time, with just 34,000 new (legislative and judicial branch) personnel to keep up with them.

If a corporation added 150 million new customers, how many new employees would it likely add?

54

monad 03.06.16 at 4:07 pm

@Plume

Internet argument. Joy.

I posted absolute numbers. Doubling in size meets my definition of huge. Maybe it doesn’t meet yours?

In relation to the size of the population of the US, which basically doubled from 1962-2012, it’s not a huge increase, and rather is roughly growing in proportion to the total population (and anyway, that sector is so tiny as to be completely ignorable in this discussion) But that’s not the graph that I posted.

55

Plume 03.06.16 at 4:10 pm

@55,

Yes, absolute numbers. An addition of just 34,000 new employees over 50 years, while we added 150 million new citizens.

Again, in absolute numbers, that’s less than 700 new employees a year. Think about it.

In what universe is 700 new employees per year a “huge, constant increase over 1962 – 2012”?

56

monad 03.06.16 at 4:41 pm

@Plume: “Again, in absolute numbers, that’s less than 700 new employees a year. Think about it.”

Me:
“anyway, that sector is so tiny as to be completely ignorable in this discussion”
and
“it’s also an almost imperceptibly small sliver in the graph of the total federal workforce.”

Why are we arguing over the rate of growth of whatever this tiny number of people who are employed doing I have no idea what and who are nearly completely irrelevant to this discussion?

57

Plume 03.06.16 at 4:54 pm

Monad @57,

Because you said this:

“* Legislative and judicial branch personnel — huge, constant increase over 1962 – 2012

But, okay, let’s drop that part.

What is your overall point? Do you think the Federal workforce has grown too much in the last 50-60 years? Do you think it hasn’t grown enough to keep up with the massive increase in our population?

What is your view?

58

Corey Robin 03.06.16 at 4:58 pm

Rich at 49 has it basically right. One minor emendation: in the theory at least, b/c of the partisan alignments being as they are, any president from the opposition party (the party that was not part of the regime’s construction) is presumed to be if not opposed then at least not aligned with the regime. I know people will contest this notion, but the point would be that Clinton would, no matter what, have to be considered not aligned with the overall Republican regime. Obviously she’s not fundamentally opposed, but neither is she a custodian or caretaker of it, the way Bush was.

But the bigger point, which Rich gets right, is that this is not a predictive theory. The whole point is that presidents have agency, and the theory tries, while understanding the structural constraints and realities, to preserve that element of agency or what we normally call politics. That’s what makes it, whatever the limitations, so much more interesting and useful than a lot of poli sci theories, where the point is solely to say that what is present is past and future.

59

monad 03.06.16 at 5:06 pm

@Plume:
“What is your overall point?”

I thought it was obvious that the graphs I posted supported the point you were originally making. But I suppose not.

60

Plume 03.06.16 at 5:17 pm

Monad,

Thanks. They did. Which is why your last comment kinda threw me. Oh, well.

How about we forget all of the above and start fresh?

Btw (OT), are you a fan of Leibnitz? If so, you might like a recent book by Matthew Stewart. The Courier and the Heretic.

61

Glen Tomkins 03.06.16 at 6:23 pm

Trump is viewed with a special horror by commentators on the left and the right because he’s thrown away the dog whistle, and not because there’s anything especially horrible about the content.

It’s obvious why throwing away the dog whistle would horrify the rightwing commentariat. Their whole reason for being — for the professional among them, the reason someone pays them — is to make racism respectable. Their party wouldn’t have won an election in generations without the racist voters they took on when the Ds ceded the segregationist franchise to them in the 1960s, but it has been thought that they needed to gild that lily with a veneer of rationalizations, so as not to repel the non-racist folks who still vote for them. So they run a Willie Horton ad that gets the message over loud and clear to the segregationists, but the overt message is about law and order because overt racism would give the game away.

Their whole public position, on every issue really, is just the Willie Horton ad writ large and translated mutatis mutandum to fit the case at hand. Hatred and fear of some Other is always the actual appeal, but there has to be a veneer of rationalization to avoid confronting the haters and fearful with the lack of common sense and common decency inherent in the tribalistic reaction to the world. So we have a whole industry of office-holders and media alike whose job is to come up with theories justifying the tribalistic reaction to everything as actually justified by sound and noble principles.

That whole industry disappears if their side no longer needs a dog whistle. Of course the folks who face disintermediation are unhappy at that prospect.

The problem that throwing away the dog whistle has for us on the left is one step more complicated. People on our side who haven’t thought this through tend to be happy at the prospect of the other side losing that dog whistle, because we like to lean on the idea of its magic efficacy as an explanation for why our side ends up supporting the exact same racist public policy the other side pushes. Matching the other side’s imagined brilliance at dog-whistling racism as a legitimate cause such as, say, crime prevention, we imagine ourselves brilliantly evading the trap by supporting a War on Crime and Wars on Drug — promising to de even better at them than the Rs — despite the practical effect of these policies being savagely racist. We regret the fact that so many black males end up in prison, but we still vote for the programs that put them there,, telling ourselves that only by the ju-jitsu of supporting the rationalization, and not the underlying racist thought, we have outwitted the other side, because our politicos survive in office.

Throw away the dog whistle and our side is left without any excuse for supporting policy positions with racist effects. We can’t tell ourselves any more that we are, for now at least, powerless to reverse policies with racist effects because the other side has this magic dog whistle that allows them to force us to agree to these policies or face loss at the next election. We can’t say anymore that a fundamentally decent electorate is just gulled by the dog whistle, because The Donald is in the process of demonstrating that whatever the utility of the whistle 60 years ago, you don’t need to be coy about racism anymore.

Throwing away the dog whistle has commentators on both sides aghast, because neither side knows how to proceed in a world in which we don’t have to pretend anymore what our politics is about. The US right now is like a family in which the kids figured out years ago that Santa wasn’t real, and only the supposed adults still think that preserving the pretense of his existence is important. The low information voters haven’t needed a dog whistle for some time now, they’ve known exactly what the Rs are about, and it’s just been we supposed adults who have imagined that it’s still important to pretend that the Rs are really about some flavor of the week pseudo-ideology that their side plumps while our side picks holes in.

62

fs 03.06.16 at 6:44 pm

Isn’t it the case that US politics runs in 36 year cycles, and when that doesn’t work, the counter reaction is even stronger. Founsers 1788 to 1824, when J Q Adams should have lost to Jackson, 1824 to 1860, generally following Jackson, 1860 to 1896, Republican but marginally so between parties that where similar, Cleveland might as well have been Republican, 1896 to 1932, strongly Republican, 1932 to 1968 strongly Democratic, only a WW2 hero could win, 1968 to to 2004, disrupted bythe stolen election of 2000!

63

RNB 03.06.16 at 6:52 pm

Haven’t been reading the comments but thought I would share this link on understanding Trump in terms of the pressures being exerted on the US middle class by globalization and technological change.
http://qz.com/626076/the-hidden-economics-behind-the-rise-of-donald-trump/

64

TM 03.06.16 at 7:01 pm

RP 5: “It’s quickly becoming an item that you have to repeat in order to be respectable that Trump is a unique new horror and that the history of the U.S. was basically better than this up until now.”

RP the brave slayer of straw men. Are you unable to hold two thoughts in your mind simultaneously: that Trump is a dangerous fascist, and that U.S. history is already horrible enough?

65

stubydoo 03.06.16 at 7:12 pm

Brett Bellmore @37:

When I googled your phrase “Ideological Organizations Audit Project” I found plenty of solid evidence for such things happening for presidents up to and including Richard Nixon. For more recent vintage we have some much more flimsy stuff: that Obama IRS scandal which you profess is not what we’re talking about, and stuff like a spat between Dubya Bush and the NAACP where he according to some got the IRS involved over him not coming to address their convention – which sounds too dumb even for him.

Might I suggest that your “its expected these days” attitude belongs to the Nixon era and you just haven’t got around to updating due to new evidence.

66

Sebastian H 03.06.16 at 7:20 pm

“Trump is viewed with a special horror by commentators on the left and the right because he’s thrown away the dog whistle, and not because there’s anything especially horrible about the content.”

Ugh. This is classic lack of sympathy in trying to understand people who don’t agree with you. Maybe Trump is viewed as a special horror by those Republicans who aren’t racist and fascistic because he exposes (to them) that too many of their compatriots are more open to racism and fascism than they thought.

We are always nice to our own sides failing than we are to the other sides. Trump exposes that they were too nice to the failings of their own side. That doesn’t mean they secretly desired a racist candidate (though it does strongly suggest that they weren’t vigilant enough on their own side.)

For a similar dynamic on the left see recent discussions about Clinton’s ‘speaking fees’ while she was ‘not running for President’. Suddenly $10 million couldn’t possibly lend an appearance of corruption because ummmm reasons. At some point that will spiral out of control and lefties will be caught flatfooted about who they have been in bed with. This year it is the Republican’s turn on that. And good, we need to have a more honest appraisal about racism in the Republican Party.

(Note, this assumes that Trump loses. If he wins it is horrible).

67

TM 03.06.16 at 7:36 pm

RP 49: It amazes me how much these discussions even here on CT fall back on a narrative of politics as a contest between individuals (and it amazes me especially from the esteemed CR). I would argue that the strength of the progressive grassroots movements matters much more for the direction the “regime” will take than whether Clinton or Sanders will be President. Progressives like to accuse their politicians of betrayal (and lately the reactionaries have started playing the same game) but really neither Sanders nor Clinton or any other person have the power to get substantial concessions from the plutocracy without the backing of a movement of angry activists giving “the regime” the creeps. I don’t know how else political change has ever happened (maybe CR knows better and can enlighten me).

I wish we could reach for a more… dialectic level of understanding politics in this forum.

68

Rich Puchalsky 03.06.16 at 7:44 pm

TM, it’s a post about a Presidential candidate. Whether Presidents are nearly powerless or very powerful in comparison to larger forces, they do have some agency, and the post is concerned with that.

For what it’s worth, I think that you’re overestimating the effect of grassroots movements. In all of the historical turning points I can think of within American history, grassroots movements helped to set the stage for what outcomes were possible, but individual politicians often substantively determined how those choices came out. For instance, just to take one example, the New Deal was not a foregone result of the Depression and the powerful left of the time. Without FDR it could easily have gone in a number of other directions. Same with slavery and Lincoln, etc.

69

Barry 03.06.16 at 8:12 pm

fs 03.06.16 at 6:44 pm
“Isn’t it the case that US politics runs in 36 year cycles, and when that doesn’t work, the counter reaction is even stronger. Founsers 1788 to 1824, when J Q Adams should have lost to Jackson, 1824 to 1860, generally following Jackson, 1860 to 1896, Republican but marginally so between parties that where similar, Cleveland might as well have been Republican, 1896 to 1932, strongly Republican, 1932 to 1968 strongly Democratic, only a WW2 hero could win, 1968 to to 2004, disrupted bythe stolen election of 2000!”

When somebody is advocating a cyclic theory that explains away failure to abide by those same cycles, I don’t find it persuading.

70

js. 03.06.16 at 8:32 pm

CR @60 — Thanks, that’s helpful. Kind of curious though: Obama’s presidency counts as preemptive according to this taxonomy? That sounds… not totally convincing to me (esp. if we’re comparing him Andrew Johnson or Carter or even Bill Clinton).

71

Glen Tomkins 03.06.16 at 9:45 pm

“This is classic lack of sympathy in trying to understand people who don’t agree with you.”

What does sympathy have to do with it?

You could have all the sympathy in the world for the fear that people who listen to the Rs feel, but understanding why they have those fears involves unpacking the carefully cultivated belief system that fosters those fears. Sympathy is the exact wrong approach to this problem.

No one is born afraid of black people or Muslims or Socialists. That fear has to be cultivated, it has to be created by convincing people that certain theories about black people, or Muslims, or Socialist, are true. You don’t have to doubt at all the sincerity of those victims, the folks who wind up occupying a wildlife reserve because they are convinced that jackbooted govt thugs are coming for them, to understand the process of fear creation that pushed them to very real fears over very unreal nonsense.

What has the Right proposed in the last generation that served any purpose other than fear creation, that is not total nonsense if seen from any other perspective? I have no sympathy for the hate factory, you’re right about that.

72

Omega Centauri 03.07.16 at 12:17 am

When we talk about Trump (Drumpf), wouldn’t we replace the word Fascism, with authoritarianism. Fascism utilized authoritarianism as a mans of gaining power, but authoritarians are generally not strongly ideological. I think Drumpf won’t have much trouble deflecting the charge of being Fascist, as some of his views/statements will conflict with the specifics of well known historical fascists.

73

roger gathmann 03.07.16 at 12:25 am

Trump hysteria has revealed something new to me about the media. I assumed that all the false equivalence and all the holding up of the likes of Paul Ryan as moderates were, in fact, a rather cynical sop by journalists to complaints about the liberal press that the editors get from businessmen at their country clubs. But it appears that it actually expresses a belief. I mean, just a few days ago, the NYT ran an analysis of Trump that straightforwardly considered today’s GOP as one mainly reflecting the influences of Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Nelson Rockefeller. It is as if the journalist had simply leaped the years since 1960. Consider the year 2000, when Bush ran against first McCain then Gore. In the first race, Bush operatives gleefully spread rumors in South Carolina that McCain had fathered a black baby. In the second race, in Florida, during the recount days, Stormfront, a white racist group connected to the KKK, openly broke up demonstrations against Bush in Florida. And yet on no occasion that I know of was Bush ever called up, either to fess up to the situation in South Carolina or to disavow stormfront in Florida.
So much for the “center-right” in the GOP.
Trump has been an odd provacateur. In a sense, with Trump, perhaps we are coming to the end of the latest stage of America’s traditional oppression of African Americans. This stage is characterized by the new White Euphemism culture. If black people are eroding economically, if the infrastructure of black neighborhoods is piss poor, if, of the eleven million people cycled annually through local jails on small stints for this or that insane fine or breach of peace, at least, given the strong taboos of white euphemism culture, we can have long and truly radical discussions about t he appropriation by white rap artists of certain tones and gestures invented by black rap artists; we can rename things. And we can always find a pleasanter name. Out, say, with Indian and in with Native American, and this will do more for our collective virtue than,say, raising the standard of living at the Lakota reservation to put it on par with, say, that of a Mumbai slum. Sometimes the renaming is so funny you have to laugh: out goes racism, except for rednecks and those making below 50 thou per year, and in comes white privilege, which any son or daughter of Harvard can bashfully avow they still have some remnant of. Never that they’d be racist, of course! that’s so Daytona 500. Obviously this artificial paradise was going to collapse at some point. The horror of Trump is that he does make above 50 thou, but seems not to have got the message that you let other people do your “white privilege” dogwhistling for ya.

74

TM 03.07.16 at 10:26 am

RP 70: No disagreement. There’s a dialectic between if you will the bottom up and the top down in politics. That is also an argument against the claim that it doesn’t matter which party wins. What I was objecting to however was the way in you and CR phrased the issue as if it was a foregone conclusion that Sanders as president would “fundamentally threaten” the regime and Clinton wouldn’t. That I think is putting way too much weight on the “Great Men” narrative.

75

Anarcissie 03.07.16 at 3:52 pm

TM 03.07.16 at 10:26 am @ 76 —
I believe Sanders is supposed to lead his followers back into the Bismarckian fold after making some trouble about working conditions, whereas the (‘re’)election of Clinton would let the ruling class know that they could continue to to reform and rescind. Not really a lot of difference. There is no organized Left in a practical sense, so it is not a factor in the disquiet of the proles.

The problem with this happy picture is that Trump may be an exception — an unusual individual who can make a difference, because of the decay of the elites, already revealed in the strange robotic-paralytic behavior of the Republican Party in recent years. Trump does not have to be a great man to be a cutting edge.

76

milx 03.07.16 at 3:58 pm

Corey links to the Watergate scandal when discussing Nixon’s willingness to accept the New Deal status quo, but I don’t know what one has to the do with the other, or why Hillary getting elected in a Nixonian landslide would imply that she will soon be burgling her political opponent’s offices.

77

Banana Breakfast 03.07.16 at 5:38 pm

TM 76: I think we can leave issues of intent more or less out of it an get the same result. Whether we believe Clinton and Obama would have preferred to be something else, they continued and expanded the Reagan reforms (and Bush expansions of those reforms). In fact, you’d be hard pressed to cite any “progressive” legislation under Clinton at all that didn’t cede the terms of the argument to the Reaganite “small” government ideology (which has little to do with the size of the government and its expenditures and more to do with what the government does – small direct investment and small taxation are the name of the game). The best he managed were tax credits, a backdoor attempt to mitigate the damage of welfare reform, and an admittedly nice but half hearted expansion of research funding. As for Obama, a health-care reform plan not dissimilar to Nixon’s and the good fortune to have had the Supreme Court settle a major social rights issue for him stand as his chief accomplishments.

So why? If the president’s agency is relatively limited – and I think it is, despite the sweeping, almost dictatorial powers the office has accrued in the last half century – it’s because he has to get re-elected every four years, and a great deal of the electoral success of his party in the midterms hinges on public perception of the executive. The effect is somewhat tautological – we know, because Clinton/Obama did nothing to reverse Reaganism, that they either didn’t want to or didn’t have the support (and their respective losses of Congressional and State level power can be read as either reflecting that lack of support, or the dissatisfaction of a public betrayed by leaders unable or unwilling to follow through on their promises).

That’s a long way of getting around to saying that Sanders would fundamentally threaten the Reaganite program not because he is himself the embodiment of some powerful, Great Man of History force that can sweep it away by sheer will, but because he cannot possibly get elected unless there is an enormous public groundswell of disaffection with that program. The same is true, I think of Trump, who IS essentially fascist, in that he is calling for something of a class truce on nationalist grounds (wage flexibility, profit flexibility, and the priority of the interest of the folk by a strong executive), which for better or worse is quite different from neoliberal Reaganism.

78

Sebastian H 03.07.16 at 7:08 pm

“What does sympathy have to do with it?”

Sympathy is how we understand people who don’t think/feel exactly like we do. Projecting secret racist feelings on anti-Trump Republicans who are unhappy with his racism instead of understanding that they are waking up to a strong undercurrent (that yes it would have been nice if they had seen it before now) exhibits a lack of sympathy.

79

John Quiggin 03.07.16 at 10:41 pm

Slightly tangential: A lot of discussion of Trump is treating his success so far as suggesting he’s very different, in terms of appeal, to anything we’ve seen in the recent past, leading to the inference that he might do really well in the general election.

I don’t think this is right. In 2008, Palin got almost the same reaction on the Repub side, and was clearly a drag on McCain in the general. In 2012, there were a string of not-Romneys (Bachmann, Huckabee, McCain, Gingrich) with the same basic appeal as Trump. They all fell over for one reason or another, but had they not done so, the same would have been said about them. In 2016, Carson could have filled the Trump role, but he didn’t really want to and besides, he was obviously disqualified for a large bloc of Trump support.

What’s new this time isn’t Trump. It’s the fact that the Palin voters of 2008 and Gingrich voters of 2012) have become immune to the kinds of criticisms (absurd ignorance, absence of ethics, offensive rhetoric and so on) that previously led them to drop away. Even this isn’t 100 per cent clear: Trump is only now coming under sustained attack and may not survive it much better than his predecessors.

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PGD 03.07.16 at 11:19 pm

This statement by Corey in the OP seems too simple (although it isn’t explained much, so I could be reading too much in) — “But while commentators will talk about his connections to racism, nativism, and Islamophobia, they seldom mention how his campaign grows out of and reflects a revanchist American militarism.”

While Trump talks a lot about how awesome the military will be under him and how he will kick ass, he has also been systematically violating all the standard taboos of current American militarism militarism, from saying the Iraq War was idiotic, that our interventions in the ME have been a massive waste of money and have made things worse, calling GW Bush a liar straight out, refusing to demonize Putin/cooperate in the new Cold War, casually mentioning that he would try to be ‘neutral’ in negotiating between the Palestinians and the Israelis, etc.

Based on these kinds of statements, he’s been much less imperialist/militarist than certainly his R opponents, perhaps even Hillary. A lot of these statements really strike at the heart of the ideological edifice set up to justify post-9/11 militarism. All the big neoconservative honchos, from Cheney to Kagan, have come out against him vehemently, as have the little pilot fish like Max Boot. Hell, Netanyahu has come out against him. It seems clear that there is some kind of fear among the imperialist intellectual class that he could not be controlled.

Of course, at the same time running against this is his ‘barbarian king’ rhetoric — watch me torture my enemies, we’ll carpet bomb ISIS, etc. that are in their own way intensely militaristic, but in a quite different way than the structure of rationalizations/justifications set up for U.S. imperial expansionism post Cold War. That kind of imperialism actually cannot survive if use of the military is limited to self-defense narrowly construed, almost no matter how savage such self defense is.

As always with him, it’s hard to tell how the balance would actually work, what part is serious, what part is rhetoric, and what that distinction even is for Trump.

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roger gathmann 03.08.16 at 12:08 am

81 _ I have to disagree with the reason that trump may fail. It is not because of “absurd ignorance, absence of ethics, offensive rhetoric and so on.” If that were so, Kasich would be riding high, not Cruz. Trump’s weakness is that occasionally, he is actually not absurdly ignorant and not invested in offensive rhetoric. He is not invested in the rhetoric of thinking the uninsured should die on the street rather than have “somebody else pay for them.” He is not invested in the rhetoric that equates Planned Parenthood with the Nazis, and has gone out of his way to say they do good things. He is not even invested in the rhetoric that starts the Bush presidency on 9/12/2001. These are his weaknesses. His insults, his racism, his absurd ideas about the criminality of Mexicans and the undesirability of all Moslems are not and won’t be attacked by Cruz or Rubio. Is Rubio going to stand up for Moslems? Is Cruz going to rebuke the preacher who advocated executing gays, and who introduced him at a major evangelical confab? In no way. [Re, latter, here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michelangelo-signorile/post_10496_b_8544540.html%5D. The press has built up an image of “responsible” rightwingers who, backstage, say things like yeah, it is ignorant to be anti-Muslim. But what Trump has revealed, I think, is that the people being fooled were the press backstage, not the audience. Palin, I think, is an excellent instance of the class bias of the press – in actuality, she seems to me have had much more logical acuity, ethics, and offensive rhetoric than John McCain. John McCain! Mr. S and L, Mr. Bomb bomb bomb, Mr. I never saw a war I didn’t like McCain! The central skew in reporting about Trump is that he is atypical mainly for his sudden lapses into common sense rather than his outrageous stuff. Coming out for Planned Parenthood just might kill him. Not the rapist Mexican remark.

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John Quiggin 03.08.16 at 12:13 am

@83 I think we are in furious agreement.

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Anarcissie 03.08.16 at 12:52 am

PGD 03.07.16 at 11:19 pm @ 82 —
‘Based on these kinds of statements, he’s been much less imperialist/militarist than certainly his R opponents, perhaps even Hillary.’

‘Perhaps’? ‘Even’?

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PGD 03.08.16 at 2:27 am

Anarcissie @85 — lol, you’re right.

Donald Kagan gave Hillary a resounding endorsement over Trump, so that tells you what you need to know there…

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js. 03.08.16 at 2:32 am

Oh, look. Another bubbling Trump love-in!

86

The Temporary Name 03.08.16 at 2:51 am

Hitler liked candy! Everyone who likes candy is Hitler!

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The Temporary Name 03.08.16 at 2:55 am

The central skew in reporting about Trump is that he is atypical mainly for his sudden lapses into common sense rather than his outrageous stuff. Coming out for Planned Parenthood just might kill him. Not the rapist Mexican remark.

The outbreaks of common sense are probably the same flights of fancy that result in dreams of Mexican walls. He’s just winging it, and doesn’t really need to remember last week if crowds are cheering now.

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RNB 03.08.16 at 3:12 am

Let’s not underestimate the danger due to outbursts of apparent common sense (he wouldn’t allow Planned Parenthood to make the choice for an abortion available). The danger is real. All it requires is an massive terrible event (2008 downturn) or a conjunction of a horrible act like a terrorist act with a weakening economy. Then we have a jackass for a president braying for torture and whipping up exterminationist hatred whenever his poll numbers drop. This is a very dangerous situation.

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js. 03.08.16 at 3:37 am

TTN @88 — Not sure if that was directed at me. I’m just very tired of these insinuations — or flat out statements — that Clinton would be worse than Trump. And even though it would be healthier, I can’t seem to ignore them.

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The Temporary Name 03.08.16 at 3:38 am

No js. it was an agreement with you poorly stated. You write things I like.

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Bruce Wilder 03.08.16 at 3:42 am

Clinton, corrupt and bloodthirsty, would be bad, and has already been bad.

That you feel it necessary to bully and lie reflects shortcomings in your character.

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js. 03.08.16 at 3:50 am

TTN — cheers!

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The Temporary Name 03.08.16 at 3:56 am

Slightly tangential: A lot of discussion of Trump is treating his success so far as suggesting he’s very different, in terms of appeal, to anything we’ve seen in the recent past, leading to the inference that he might do really well in the general election.

I don’t think this is right. In 2008, Palin got almost the same reaction on the Repub side, and was clearly a drag on McCain in the general.

I don’t think there’s much evidence that Palin hurt McCain. She got lotsa laughs from folks who weren’t predisposed to vote for McCain in the first place, but she was superficially able to stick to the party line.

In 2012, there were a string of not-Romneys (Bachmann, Huckabee, McCain, Gingrich) with the same basic appeal as Trump. They all fell over for one reason or another, but had they not done so, the same would have been said about them.

None of those people had the appeal of Trump: none can improvise as he can, none would casually dismiss their opponents as stupid liars or cowards. Maybe apart from McCain (who was born into politics), all were devotees of a lockstep orthodoxy their party trapped them in (thanks Newt!). Now the party’s been painted into a corner, and Trump doesn’t give a shit about messing up the paint job.

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roger gathmann 03.08.16 at 4:43 am

89, I disagree. Trump reminds me of the South african amalgam of apartheid and the etat providence for whites. This is the m.o. of far right European parties. Not so surprising with Trump.

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ez 03.08.16 at 4:47 am

The Temporary Name @95…good at improv…
As the story goes, a young M Jordan is giving his 1st press conf as Coke spokesman
And a reporter says, which do you like, Coke Classic or new Coke ?
Jordan replies with out batting an eyelash, I like em both, they are both coke
and every PR or ad person in the room, their jeans got a little bit tighter at all the money to be made

Trump isn’t really worse then….
Great start as to why Google destroys memory
I mean, not one person Palmer raids ?

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The Temporary Name 03.08.16 at 4:57 am

Trump reminds me of the South african amalgam of apartheid and the etat providence for whites. This is the m.o. of far right European parties. Not so surprising with Trump.

That’s a reasonable enough template to see, though I don’t see anything so meticulous. I don’t think he’s following a playbook beyond picking on people. He’s obviously not familiar with the orthodoxies of his party; at least a nod to those would convince me that he’d planned some of this farce.

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Keith 03.08.16 at 4:58 am

“Now the party’s been painted into a corner, and Trump doesn’t give a shit about messing up the paint job.”

Amazing what you can achieve if your rich and egotistical enough to not give a shit. Poor Little Marco, no match for a big swinging penis. And he is more popular than the pope as well who he dismissed with a wave of his hand.

98

RNB 03.08.16 at 5:13 am

Krugman today:
“Five years ago the Trump complaint that Chinese currency manipulation was costing U.S. jobs had some validity — in fact, serious economists were making the same point. But these days China is in big trouble, and is trying to keep the value of its currency up, not down: foreign exchange reserves are plunging in the face of huge capital flight, to the tune of a trillion dollars over the past year.

Nor is China alone. All around the world, capital is fleeing troubled economies — including, by the way, the euro area, which these days tends to run bigger trade surpluses than China. And much of that flight capital is heading for the United States, pushing up the dollar and making our industries less competitive. It’s a real problem; U.S. economic fundamentals are fairly strong, but we risk, in effect, importing economic weakness from the rest of the world. But it’s not a problem we can address by lashing out at foreigners we falsely imagine are winning at our expense.

What can we do to fight imported economic weakness? That’s a big subject, but one thing is for sure: given the pressures from abroad, and the worrying strength of the dollar, the Federal Reserve really, really needs to hold off on raising interest rates. Did I mention that Mr. Trump wants to see rates rise?”

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Anarcissie 03.08.16 at 5:43 am

I don’t love Trump, but the facts are the facts, sad as they may be. I think we might as well face them squarely. But if people prefer fables, I’ll be the last to interfere.

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RNB 03.08.16 at 7:33 pm

I think the OP is wrong as has already been suggested above somewhere. What’s new about Trump is that he has already threatened a major regression from major strides we have been making towards our recognition of our mutual humanity. Or at the least people had come to increasingly expect that even if they did not prefer the new norms of mutual tolerance others would respect those norms, which in turn increased the probability that people in general would respect these new norms. Trump has already begun to undermine these mutual expectations, which has increased the likelihood of people lashing out at the vulnerable in our society. Again this is a very dangerous situation.

If that does not make sense (which was playing on Christina Bicchieri’s ideas about norms), just read this instead

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/the-trump-effect-is-contaminating-our-kids–and-could-resonate-for-years-to-come/2016/03/07/594a7f46-e47a-11e5-a6f3-21ccdbc5f74e_story.html?postshare=5961457451998951&tid=ss_tw

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RNB 03.08.16 at 7:49 pm

I’ll say it again it would nice if the CT collective included just one member who felt in her or his bones the threat Trump poses to minorities.

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Anarcissie 03.09.16 at 4:02 pm

RNB 03.08.16 at 7:49 pm @ 102, 103 —
On the other hand, the (re)election of Clinton will presumably lead to more of the same: more conservatism, more incompetence, more rescission of the social democracy, more plutocracy, more inequality, more imperialism, more war. These are the conditions which gave rise to Trump. The same social forces will be present even if Trump is defeated and can be expected to give rise to more like Trump and worse. Indeed, think of the children!

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RNB 03.09.16 at 4:07 pm

in response to 104. It is not the economy, stupid.
http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/03/americans-anxious-economy

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RNB 03.09.16 at 4:10 pm

@104 You know having been beat up as a kid by kids yelling anti-Latino epithets (yes, I am not Latino, but you get the point) I feel really comforted by your concern about what kids (like mine) could be or are being subjected to due to Trump attacking so called political correctness.

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Anarcissie 03.09.16 at 5:51 pm

So everything is hunky-dory except for racism — which arises mystically with no connection to anything else?

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RNB 03.09.16 at 5:53 pm

Racism can result from a loss of relative privilege recently bolstered by racism.

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RNB 03.09.16 at 5:56 pm

Racism can also be a “mystical” response to real difficulties. It’s called scapegoating, you know. So things like making people want to exterminate Muslims or at least ban them, deporting millions of people, encouraging your supporters to beat up black people. Things like that. No economic insecurity justifies that unless of course you are a racist.

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RNB 03.09.16 at 5:56 pm

What a swine pit, Crooked Timber is. Again other than js am I the only ethnic or racial minority who posts here?

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Ze K 03.09.16 at 6:05 pm

They sure exterminated a whole lot of Muslims in the last couple of decades. I believe I saw the figure of 7 million, in Counterpunch. And they keep exterminating. But hey, obviously saying nice things is what really matters.

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Anarcissie 03.09.16 at 6:06 pm

And what is privilege? Last time I looked it was having and getting more stuff, more power, more status than somebody else, especially if inherent to one’s social position. And that hooks us up to the political-economic system as a whole, and those ‘social forces’ I was predicting ill from above. As the conditions of life appear to deteriorate, a lot of people look for someone or something to blame and punish, like people who look different from one’s own group.

At least this is what they told me back in the day. I suppose it could be the Devil’s work.

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kidneystones 03.11.16 at 7:46 pm

Say hello to President Trump. Donald just won the WH. Bernie doesn’t dent Hillary’s support among African-American Christian conservatives. This guy does:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-fFTlup4P4

Carson’s endorsement gives African-Americans permission to vote Republican.

Trump takes the WH in the short-term. Long-term we way well see African-American conservatives move permanently to the conservative party.

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mclaren 03.12.16 at 6:42 am

Murc writes: It is insane, brutal, the sort of thing you wouldn’t write into a fiction book because people would think it was cartoonish supervillainy.

With respect, you have just described the entire George W. Bush administration.

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