Transactional Trumpism

by John Quiggin on April 21, 2019

The idea that Trump voters were former Democrats driven by economic anxiety, seems finally to have died. As was clear immediately after the election, most Trump voters had previously voted for Romney, and most of the rest were classic swinging voters who had voted for Republicans as well as Democrats in the past. The remnant of the remnant reflected the drift from Democrats to Republicans of less educated whites that long predated Trump (though it may have helped him win the Republican nomination).

Solving that puzzle, though raises another one. Why were so few traditional Republicans repelled by Trump to the extent that they would vote for Clinton, or else abstain. And why does Trump continue to attract such strong Republican support.

One answer is what might be called “transactional Trumpism“. This is the idea that a large group of Republicans dislike Trump’s racism and misogyny, but support him because of his success in delivering a traditional Republican agenda. The problem I have with this explanation is: what success?

The standard items on the list are: Supreme Court appointments, tax cuts and deregulation. But
(1) these things are the absolute minimum that would be expected from any Republican president
(2) Trump has made a mess of all them

On the first point, it’s clear that any of Trump’s rivals for the nomination would have backed all of these items, and, given control of Congress, pushed them through. Perhaps some Republicans feared that Trump wouldn’t deliver on tax cuts and deregulation, and were reconciled to him when he did, but there was no obvious basis for such fears.

What’s striking on the list is what’s missing, notably Obamacare, equal marriage and climate change. Obamacare is more entrenched than ever, both in public opinion and in policy changes like the expansion of Medicaid. The same is true of equal marriage, where attempts to carve out a broad “religious freedom” exemption to discriminate have gone nowhere. (There are still some free speech cases going on, regarding the right of calligraphers, cake decorators and others not to be involved in the production messages with which they disagree, but these are marginal). As for climate change, Trump hasn’t been able to stop action at the state level or the inexorable decline of coal.

Now look at the successes. The appointment of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh required the end of the 60-vote requirement and the rejection of the #MeToo movement. Both of these got the enthusiastic support of the Trumpist base, but represented a further step in delegitimising the Roberts Court. It’s pretty clear now that the power of the 5-4 majority will be tightly constrained if the Democrats win Presidency and the Congress in 2020. Thanks to Trump (and McConnell), expansion of the court is now a live option.

The tax cut was pushed through but remains highly unpopular. In fact, although most people got a temporary tax cut, the reduction in refunds, combined with the obviously regressive nature of the package as a whole, means that many of them don’t believe it. If you can’t win votes while giving money away, your communication skills are seriously lacking.

As regards regulatory change, the US system is full of checks and balances to make this difficult. So, it’s unsurprising that Trump has been constrained. But that’s not enough to account for his high failure rate (90 per cent, by one estimate). The crucial issue is that this is a process that requires competence, a commodity that is almost completely absent in the Trump White House.

To sum up, the idea of “transactional Trumpism” doesn’t make much sense. To the extent that it means anything, it reduces to unconditional support for Republicans over Democrats, however corrupt, unappealing or ineffective the Republican may be. The truth, I think, is much simpler: most Republican voters were Trumpists before Trump, and most of the rest have converted since 2016.

I planned to write something about implications for political strategy, but I’ll leave that to commenters.

{ 102 comments }

1

Chetan Murthy 04.21.19 at 5:41 am

John, I did a double-take when you wrote “most Republicans were Trumpists before Trump”, until I concluded that you’re discussing Republican voters; at that point, it all made sense. Hope I read that right, and figured I’d comment on it, just so it’d be documented for other readers.

2

ccc 04.21.19 at 5:58 am

“One answer is what might be called “transactional Trumpism”. This is the idea that a large group of Republicans dislike Trump’s racism and misogyny, but support him because of his success in delivering a traditional Republican agenda.”

Are there any empirical studies on if Trump voters *think* that Trump has had success in delivering a traditional Republican agenda?

If they do think that then that can help support the transactional Trumpism thesis, even if there is in fact no or only little such success.

3

John Quiggin 04.21.19 at 7:06 am

Chet @1, Fixed, thanks

ccc @2 Unsurprisingly, most Republicans think Trump has been highly successful. But the issues they nominate as successes (at least according to the sample of polls I’ve seen) are immigration (meaning, I think, Trumpist toughness rather than actual outcomes) and “the economy”, which I interpret to mean the general state of the economy (steady growth attributed to the incumbent) rather than (for example) tax cuts for big business. Both for self-described Trump republicans and self-described traditionalists, immigration restriction is the top priority, which suggests that the “traditionalists” are deceiving themselves.

4

Sonny Jim 04.21.19 at 7:32 am

There is one thing that’s missing in this analysis, and that’s Republicans’ attitudes to the opposition. In a highly polarised political system, to what extent is it possible to focus on one pole only, without taking into account the extent to which the polar relationship is created and sustained by a repulsion against the other side?

If the argument set forth in the OP holds true, and Trump voters do not include large numbers of former Democrats, then it’s worth asking how the D opposition looks to them from their perspective, and whether Trump’s obvious ability to rile up and outright troll that opposition into displays of spluttering indignation, plays a significant role in maintaining his support base. It must be clear to many who voted for Trump that he has not been an effective president in traditional terms. But in culture-war terms—his ability to embody opposition to the other pole—might there be something else to this, another form of transaction based on representation and group identity? As I look at the US from the outside, I simply don’t see how it’s possible to take hatred for the other side out of the equation.

5

Patrick 04.21.19 at 7:36 am

Taking this just as political analysis, I think it’s weak.

What timeframes are you considering?

If you’re addressing the present time while Trump is in office, neither of your numbered points are relevant because there’s no Republican better option for transactional Trump Republicans to support instead.

If you mean during the election, same thing.

If you mean during the primary, I think transactional conservatives mostly didn’t support him.

Theoretically people could try to split the babyvabdbarguebthat they like Trump transactionally but still want him replaced. But that’s not a politically viable plan so not a lot of people are arguing for it.

6

Gabriel 04.21.19 at 9:53 am

On first glance, this strikes me as partaking of the standard centre-left flaw when analyzing Republicans: assuming that they have ideological stances at all. They do not. They are tribalists, and one should mistake the standard shibboleths as anything but, well, shibboleths.

Anything Repubicans do is good and noble and necessary. Trump is now the leader of the party. Ergo, the things he does are ‘us things’. It matters not one whit how consistent those are with Republican actions past and future, nor even how consistent they are with Trump’s own actions, just so long as Trump furthers tribal identity and tribal warfare. And Trump does this better than any Republican president in our lifetime.

This is very hard for people who value logic and reason and ideological integrity to understand, but it’s vital that they do so, so the left can formulate strategies to counter it. These strategies cannot involve ‘explaining to those other people how wrong they are’ or ‘ showing them the truth’.

7

John Quiggin 04.21.19 at 10:14 am

@4 and @6 We are in furious agreement, so I obviously haven’t been clear enough. Trumpism is all about promoting white Christian/Republican identity and triggering the libs. My point was to refute the claim that there is an important non-Trumpist group among Republicans, who are reluctantly willing to accept Trump because he does a good job delivering the policy outcomes associated with terms like “traditional Republican”. He doesn’t.

@5 Obviously, traditional Republicans have the option of breaking with Trump and either abstaining or voting against him. If that’s not considered as an option, then my last para applies.

8

Faustusnotes 04.21.19 at 10:23 am

All the Nixon era arseholes have come crawling out of the woodwork, along with the new era scumbags from the Clinton impeachment. It’s rrally obvious that they’re deeply misogynist, as are much of his base. That’s enough to explain why the mainstream republicans support him and also don’t shift to Clinton.

I don’t think you can underestimate the racism either. Camp of the saints is banning favorite book and it got glowing reviews from the mainstream republican press in the 1990s. These people are fascists and once you accept that everything else makes sense.

9

nastywoman 04.21.19 at 10:56 am

– and about ”implications for political strategy”.

– there are still a lot of unhappy Americans are out there…

A lot of Americans who can’t afford to live in their homeland anymore – and anybody who will promise them that ”it will change” – will get their vote in the next election –
and these voters might -(again) – give the ”crucial votes” – to have any type of (unpolitical?) candidate – who promises – in their eyes – believable enough –
erected?

10

Paul 04.21.19 at 11:45 am

Many of his supporters buy into his anti immigrant rhetoric and adore his allowing Pence to push his Anti-Islam, anti gay, anti abortion, special rights for Christians agenda.

All issues that Trump doesn’t give a damn about.

11

Rapier 04.21.19 at 11:45 am

Trump gave white voters permission to be “politically incorrect”. Once large crowds turned up to hear and wildly cheer his racist and fascist rants it became OK to join in. What had become shameful after the civil rights era had become OK again. It was powerfully liberating for them. The genie is out of the bottle.

The Lee Atwater formulation that you can’t say “nigger” anymore still holds but just barely. The code having herded the racist rhetoric down to “affirmative action” was frustrating conservative voters.

Ultimately at least half of American whites political feelings are entwined with blood/soil/Jesus. Our analog of the classic volk of Nazi Germany. Truth be told that formulation in the modern era arose in the US because of it’s racial history that resulted from the influx of black slaves and all that went with it, and then the backlash against integrating them into our society and culture. Hitler admired the Jim Crow race laws of America. Enlisting the force of law to decree who is a full citizen based on ‘race’ was a unique phenomena and a powerful one. Institutionalizing and legitimizing discrimination by government in the name of unifying and purifying the Nation was a unique and powerful concept. One that will always have adherents in democratic nations as we are seeing now.

The Hitler just went too far idea was always alive and well in America. Because he went so far however for 70 years only the crude and stupid would say it but half of American whites believed it. Now they are in the process of deciding how far is too far.

12

Louis N. Proyect 04.21.19 at 12:15 pm

The answer is racism. The hatred of African-Americans, Spanish-speaking immigrants, Muslims runs deep in his base. My friend Anthony DiMaggio wrote a good analysis here:

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/06/16/93450/

13

Mike Huben 04.21.19 at 1:16 pm

I think that what makes Trump attractive to his voters is that he can spew a Gish-Gallop of lies threats and smugness supporting traditional Republican hobbyhorses without consequence. No other Republican candidates showed this. It’s very simply the best authority they could can have, and I mean it in several senses of the word authority. They do not care if some of their own are hurt, as long as the opposition is hurt worse. And the entertainment value is on the order of pro-wrestling, which in part inspired Trump’s style.

14

Lee A. Arnold 04.21.19 at 1:27 pm

As spoken by TV’s talking heads, “transactionalism” did not originally refer to the voters’ willingness to hold their noses and vote for a turd. It referred to Trump’s personal style of throwing out protocol (and even good manners) in favor of an individualized, egotistical “escalation dominance” when dealing with other human beings. (The phrase comes from outgoing French ambassador Gérard Araud in two remarkable interviews he has just given, printed in the current issues of Foreign Policy and The Atlantic. Highly recommended.)

There are analytical dangers in looking for a singular reason for Trump’s support both before and after the election, and there are dangers in positing a coherence and competency among US citizens. National campaign technologies have the voters analyzed down to a household-by-household basis in order to craft the message. Accordingly, Trump wove together the different strands required to win — the strands of racism, misogyny, Christo-nationalism, calling Hillary a crook, vaunting his personal “transactionalism” (for those against “business as usual” in Washington) …and yes, non-racist economic anxiety to bring over some blue collar Democrats in the “battleground” states. (I know this happened: I live in a rustbelt minipocket, in a small sea of them.)

We now read that Trump’s campaign manager (Manafort) gave campaign data to a Russian spy and specifically discussed the battleground states. Mueller couldn’t find enough evidence to charge “criminal conspiracy” because — why? — the phone messages were encrypted & the spy can’t be interviewed. But it sure looks like they colluded.

Traditional Republicans who didn’t know Trump personally went along with the campaign message because these strands are extensions of raucous rhetoric from the GOP past. Perhaps they figured Trump would straighten up and fly right, if he won. He won but he didn’t straighten up, as people who had dealt with him personally said he would not: He truly is the grifter, liar and shortsighted egotist that he posed himself to be for dramatic laughs on the campaign trail.

There were a very few conservative Republicans who opposed him from the beginning because they already knew who this guy was. Their number has grown very slowly until now because although his real achievement of GOP aims is spotty, and his behavior is boorish, there isn’t an official process to challenge him from the GOP side other than the primaries which look formidable.

One new message that may be getting through to serious conservatives is that Trump is weakening the US’s long-term position in the world, perhaps irrevocably. (Among many other things, yesterday Malaysia — a TPP partner — did a deal with Huawei that will begin to shut US companies out of the 5G market in southeast Asia, and which also poses a big problem for future US military intelligence capabilities in that area. Trump should have stayed in TPP, and modified it — as he should have stayed in the Iran Deal, as he should have expressed more support for NATO, etc. etc. Escalation dominance is a bad way to manage your position in a multilateral world.)

But most Trump supporters will never understand the details and they are not going to read the Mueller report (although the televised reiteration of its many facts in the dramatic setting of an impeachment trial could make slight dents in their crania?) They are into tribal groupthink, on the well-known cognitive principle that even false beliefs reduce your short-term risks by attracting fellow commiserators.

15

Gabriel 04.21.19 at 2:16 pm

That’s fair, John, and I was probably reading too quickly and mistook ‘there is no group with x trait in y’ as ‘you think there’s group x in y but they are actually z’. Just normal internet things.

Your point about Trump’s ineptitude at delivering on, well, anything is well taken.

16

JimV 04.21.19 at 2:31 pm

When my staunch-Republican (as most of my relatives) nephew said he was considering voting for Hilary instead of Trump, my nice, 80-y0 sister-in-law furrowed her brow in puzzlement. Hilary? The arch-demoness?

In the end he couldn’t do it, and wrote in a friend’s name instead. He is a fairly-reasonable medical doctor who spends two-three weeks in South America every year doing pro-bono medical work, having learned some Spanish for the endeavor, who, like most Republicans, has been told over and over by the books and press that they read and hear, and the pulpit, that the Clintons are evil. I don’t know, but suppose some of my relatives voted for Trump as the lesser evil.

I have to say, the way most main-stream Democrat politicians go along with Republicans (e.g., on Iraq, and caving on a public-option for health insurance in return for zero Republican support) does little to make them seem principled alternatives. Meanwhile one can find many articles in the NY Times, the Wall St Journal, and of course all Fox media, which strengthen the views of life-long Republicans.

If there were principled Democrats whom the mainstream media supported against smear efforts (strongly enough to get through the noise), without any hint of atheism or pro-abortionism, would my evangelical relatives vote for them? I think so.

Of course this is all anecdotal, but then I don’t completely trust polls over lived experience on complex issues. I have stopped answering polls and surveys myself since I rarely feel comfortable that the available range of answers includes my actual position. And I don’t like the feeling they give that whatever positions are the most popular as polled will be the ones they (the Democrat organizations who send me surveys in response to my donations) will then support. I sent one back with just the words DO THE RIGHT THING across it. Which was a waste of time, and I should be more mature.

17

Anarcissie 04.21.19 at 2:33 pm

There is not much on the mainstream, established-order, status-quo Democratic side to attract any variety of non-Trumpists or swing voters I can think of, except its Left, which is in the process of being suppressed by the party leadership and its obedient media. Idpol and fables about Russian devils are not attractive enough to overcome background racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, plus an apparently strong economy. It’s not that there aren’t people who voted for Trump who might be persuaded to jump; it’s that there is nothing out there to attract them.

18

Brian 04.21.19 at 2:43 pm

I think the real question is not whether Trump is successful or not. That question is a red herring in American politics today. The real question is whether or not the Democratic “leadership” can allow nomination of a candidate that the Democrat rank and file want. Bernie Sanders should have won the nomination last time. But the superdelegate system gives a literal handful of mandarins the ability to fake the primary process. (I say that as someone who has significant issues with some of Sanders positions.)

Trump won because Hillary was a horrific candidate. Voters stayed home, disgusted. Trump won because the Obama administration didn’t deliver hope nor change. He delivered a government of the corporate criminal bankers for them. Middle and working class America got screwed. Black people got screwed worst. Trump won because the utter corruption at the heart of the DNC was exposed for all to see in the emails. Trump win because of the Obama administration making a trade deal top secret classified and trying to force a vote through congress. Not seeing any point in voting, Democrats didnt.

All the evidence since shows the DNC leadership didn’t learn anything. They are just as contemptuous of voters, just as manipulative with their window dressing as ever. The Democratic party is the party of endless war even more than the Republicans. It’s a party that stopped every effort by Trump to wind down or end war posture with Russia and North Korea. There’s now 2 parties in Netanyahu’s pocket implementing Likuds insane middle east ideas. Put some solar energy and LGBTQ butter on it with a side of women’s rights bullshit and it’s “Democrat”. But the politicians are just as venal. The legislature just as wildly right wing war mongering.

The 1960’s is long over. The Democratic party hasn’t seen a new idea since and has converted to govern to the right of Nixon. Way to Nixon’s right. The Democratic party is the tool of the Uber-ization of not just America, but the whole world. Flour and break the law to pauperize the working class, and suck money to a few in the SF Bay Area. That’s policy now.

You can see it already. Sanders is ahead. But Buttigieg is being anointed. He’s the perfect candidate. He’s gay! He’s out of the closet! And he’s a corporate tool who can talk smoothly without speaking a clear word. Best of all, he has ZERO foreign policy experience or positions. So he’ll be putty in the hands of the corporations that want endless war for profits. Wall Street wants him. And the street owns the Democratic party. Will he give a flying f*@k about the middle and working class? Will he be anything but another neo-liberal who can be differentiated from a neo-conservative only by mild difference in racism? (Overt vs.covert)

At least Buttigieg isn’t Beto O’Rourke, the most completely empty skin in Congress. There’s that.

All the evidence I see is no. The Democrat “leadership” don’t understand. I predict a Trump win, or else a squeaker election that barely scrapes by with a win.

No matter what, the idiot Democrats won’t get it. Pelosi will do her best to cast the Republicans anti-tax anti-government (federal) government culture war in concrete with balanced budget horse manure. The Democrats will continue to force a new cold war on Russia. They will keep backing companies that steal from the middle and working class. (Yes, Uber and Lyft are massive theft operations. They implemented taxi service without licenses. Those licenses cost a lot of money to those who bought them. They put the public at risk causing multiple deaths and assaults from unlicensed taxi drivers.)

Trump’s appeal is that he at least talks a game of “f*@k you”. Domestically it’s all lies on all sides. He lies to everyone. But at least he doesn’t lie smoothly like the “good Democrat” candidates do.

19

Geo 04.21.19 at 2:58 pm

Trump held the promise of a better standard of living for non-college educated whites and of being (more than any alternative candidate) meaner to immigrants and minorities. I make the distinction between immigration control and meanness for the sake of meanness. Here, he has delivered, and alas this is important to his base. Recent wage and employment gains HAVE reached down to non-college whites. This has little to do with any of Trump’s policies, but he is getting credit for it. Also, angering and upsetting liberals, women, minorities, and the LGBT community, is an end in itself. Some people derive utility from the discomfort of others, even without any direct personal gain. I was at a conference the day after the 2016 election and there were several midle aged men literally gloating about the fact that their daughters were distraught and no longer speaking to them.

20

nastywoman 04.21.19 at 3:00 pm

– So the ”political strategy” will be to promise the American people –
healthcare they can pay –
shelter they can pay –
jobs they like –
with wages they like –
and free education for ”the kids”
and – vacations –
the type of vacation ”them Europeans have” –

– and anybody who promises all of the above – with another YUUUGE promise that the promise will come true will win the next election.

For sure!

And there is NO better ”political” strategy!

21

steven t johnson 04.21.19 at 3:34 pm

I’m still confused as to what the problem to be solved is. Republicans who didn’t like Trump are only going to go over to the Democratic Party if the Democratic Party offers them something they want. The Democratic Party largely insists on criticizing Trump from the right, as a traitor in cahoots with foreigners. This is no more going to get traction from the opposition party than the same claims about Clinton (emails, Benghazi and Clinton Foundation were all right wing insinuations of treason.)

It strikes me as too soon to say Obamacare, abortion and gay marriage are not going anywhere. But Trump is promising and the Democrats aren’t, so why switch? Anti-immigration seems to me to be going about as well as its proponents could have reasonably expected. Kidnapping children doesn’t count as a success for them? And lastly, climate change, no one is planning on any significant action on climate change, anywhere. In particular, the notion that Trump actually meant to save coal, as opposed to helping cut costs and increase coal operators profits, strikes me as quite gullible. I mean, that’s like thinking Trump actually means to reindustrialize the US economy.

In particular, the tacit presumption seems to be to explain away the masses who went over to Trump. But I think it was the rich people who have gone over to Trumpism, which if I had to reduce it to one sentence would be: Nixon was right, it’s time to trash the old politics so the politicians can’t screw us owners with their stinking mandates. It even seems to premise that Trump actually won the election, rather than the Electoral College.

22

Kenneth J. Silver 04.21.19 at 4:22 pm

Faustnotes—

Actually, this repulsive tome has been mastubatory fodder for US fascists since the 1970s:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Camp_of_the_Saints

23

Chetan Murthy 04.21.19 at 5:07 pm

Remember this oldie-but-goodie? “He’s not hurting the people he needs to be”: a Trump voter says the quiet part out loud

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/1/8/18173678/trump-shutdown-voter-florida

@nastywoman:

A lot of Americans who can’t afford to live in their homeland anymore – and anybody who will promise them that ”it will change” – will get their vote in the next election

I feel like you’re only stating half the story. Yes, there is downward mobility. But those Americans are *still* doing better than the people of color who vote Democratic (this is a fact found by exit polls) and what they believe is that those dusky-hued folks are getting stuff that belongs to whites …. and they want Trump to go get it back for them. Preferably with violence, of course.

What I’m saying is, it’s not *merely* that things are getting worse, but that they believe *undeserving* others are benefiting, and need to be punished. That second part, is really, really important to Trump’s base.

24

Jim Harrison 04.21.19 at 5:17 pm

Obviously everybody’s motives are mixed. The same guys who are calculating the economic advantages of supporting Trump are likely to be cultural nativists too. That said, I think a lot of the traditional Republicans who have come around to heartfelt Trumpism supported him once he got the nomination for rational (zweckrational) reasons. A moderate Democrat like Clinton might not seem like much of a threat, but the era of triangulation is coming to an end no matter who’s in charge. The imperative problems of the times—drastic inequality, economic stagnation, a train wreck of a health care system, climate change—will have to be faced with measures deeply threatening to the existing order of things, especially since sheer demography is undermining the white Christian base of right-wing politics. Under the circumstances, the only way to defend privilege is to embrace some kind of craziness. The incompetence of the administration and the decline of American power and prestige that goes with it are a trade-off. In any case, though Trump may be worse than necessary, any conservative government will necessarily oversee the debasement of the country in the name of race and religion. As Molly Bloom once murmured, “as well him as another.”

25

eg 04.21.19 at 5:30 pm

I don’t believe a whole lot of thought goes into, “I’m for Team Coke because it’s not Team Pepsi”

So put me down for #4 and #6 above

26

Orange Watch 04.21.19 at 5:31 pm

Why were so few traditional Republicans repelled by Trump to the extent that they would vote for Clinton, or else abstain. And why does Trump continue to attract such strong Republican support.

[…]

The standard items on the list are: Supreme Court appointments, tax cuts and deregulation. But
(1) these things are the absolute minimum that would be expected from any Republican president
(2) Trump has made a mess of all them

This post is odd, as is the idea that support for Trump couldn’t have been – let alone still is – transactional. Assuming that Trump being loathed meant that voters would have voted for Clinton instead is bizarre, and seems like a centrist delusion. Clinton was and is hated on the right with such visceral passion that abstention would be the most one could hope for, and even that would look distasteful to many. The traditional Republicans weren’t asked to vote against or abstain from supporting Trump in a vacuum; Clinton and an inflated slate of judicial vacancies loomed large. When Trump captured the split field in the primary, he was what they were stuck with – the alternative was worse. He picked an acceptably traditionalist VP, and gave assurances he’d offer up nominees of acceptable bone fides, so he was not offering a radical departure from the Republican program on fiscal and political measures. Culturally and personally? He had something new, with the former being relatively welcome to many because of how offensive it was to teh libs.

As to his delivery on the three minimums, first off the courts one is misstated. It wasn’t just SCOTUS, nor was it assumed to be. McConnell held open ~100 seats, and Trump has been pushing Federalist Society nominees into them at a breathtaking pace. He absolutely has not made a mess of this; Bart was a trainwreck of a nomination, but he’s seated more judges in his first 2 years than any President in history. The people I personally knew who loathed Trump but voted for him anyway did so very explicitly on this point, and he has delivered exactly what he promised. And this makes sense: Trump might be vile to them, but he’ll be vile for 4-8y and then vanish, while McConnell’s efforts to stack the courts will last for a generation or more.

As for the other two, Trump has made good-faith efforts to deliver on them, and to the degree that he’s been stymied it’s been in a way that blame can be foisted off on Congress, specifically Congressional Democrats. Trump has done well enough – not least because he can act as a figurehead and lightning rod whose job was merely to enable Congress, the Courts, and the Cabinet to do the actual work – and at that point he’s shown his loyalty to the tribe and deserves its protection. Repudiating him would weaken the tribe, and threaten its goals. So he’s good enough to merit closing ranks around, and his glaring flaws can be framed as virtues or endearing shortcomings in culture war terms.

From where I stand, transactional loyalty still seems very plausible.

27

Orange Watch 04.21.19 at 5:37 pm

(In case it needs stated explicitly, I think Trump is a vile toad who has been a disaster for the US. The above comment was stated from the perspective of a hypothetical transactional Trumpist. I know a few people who profess to be such, albeit not in so many words.)

28

alfredlordbleep 04.21.19 at 5:38 pm

A note on court packing. It’s a live issue is right (left and every which way)

Maureen Dowd’s NYT’s OpEd gives both sides of Don McGahn—
The closest we get to a hero in the sordid report — as opposed to Kenneth Starr’s lurid report — is the former White House counsel Don McGahn.
She helpfully goes on to remind readers that flushing the Federalist pipeline of far right judges onto upper reaches of the judiciary was his White House assignment. Mission Accomplished.

It should be noted that Wm Barr is a hardcore Federalist Society member (source: Law professor spotted two nights ago in discussion on the Mueller Report). Packing the courts from here to infinity is all you need to know about the risk to Barr’s reputation. . . and would-be legacy.

29

politicalfootball 04.21.19 at 5:43 pm

As far as political implications go, my guess is that they are limited. The real transactional Republicans aren’t the National Review-type Never Trumpers who support him in all but name, but the regular folks who are happy to be indulged in their indifference to policy matters — and their (sometimes fairly mild) racism and sexism — as long as the economy is rolling along.

If the economy turns, Trump is in trouble. If it doesn’t, he’s got a decent shot at reelection.

30

Kurt Schuler 04.21.19 at 5:54 pm

Here is list of achievements claimed for the Trump administration:
https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/washington-secrets/trumps-list-289-accomplishments-in-just-20-months-relentless-promise-keeping

There are some significant differences with what other Republicans would have done. Trump was by far the most critical of illegal immigration (some of the other candidates tried to catch up when they saw it was a popular issue, but Jeb Bush famously excused it as an “act of love”). Many Republicans have talked about moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, but it has been mere talk. Similarly, the number of rules and pages published in the Federal Register, a crude gauge of regulation, are lower than they have been since the Reagan presidency. Many other Republican candidates would have talked about doing this, but the experience of the two previous Republican administrations suggests that most would not have done it.

I’m not saying you have to like these policies, but if you want to talk acccurately about them you have to leave your own echo chamber … and venture into the other side’s echo chamber.

31

Paul 04.21.19 at 6:23 pm

It’s just sad that contemporary human beings seem to be caught in a collective bind. On the one hand, we have all this recorded history and data to draw conclusions from, as well as a constant stream of real-time data. On the other hand, many of us seem incapable of living in a world with so much variety and depth. Too much information, too many different people, too much change, too many unexpected things keep popping up. When the amount of information is so overwhelming, it becomes difficult to make decisions about one’s own behavior, which creates anxiety. People have a hard time figuring out what is the “right” thing to do, because their isn’t a consistency that they can latch on to.

I don’t want to write a long comment here, so I will simply say that I believe that American marketing culture (which is not a left or right thing, but a “nothing-at-all” thing) is fundamentally our shared flaw. Whether that’s racketeers like Donald Trump or Pat Robertson opportunistically twisting cultural tropes, or any number of “lifestyle brands” that essentially do the same thing but with a different set of tropes. We are very good at commodifying each other, mentally segregating people into value propositions, and strategizing how to profit from other people’s life essences … like a culture of vampires.

32

BenK 04.21.19 at 6:28 pm

‘absolute minimum that would be expected from any Republican president’

Based on observations, most voting Republicans think that the other potential nominees, had they been elected, would have recoiled so strongly from the mud that is being slung, the investigations, etc, that the nominee, once President, wouldn’t have dared to nominate Republican Supreme Court justices. Instead, it would have been a RINO at best, or worse, frankly, just to get the harassment to end. In short, that anyone who wasn’t [almost] pathologically thick-skinned would have been steamrolled.

Has this been disproven?

So, that gets us to a place where voting Republicans were always ‘trumpist’ because they believed they need a champion who will champion them.

Now Cory Booker is run out of town for suggesting … anything less than open warfare. https://www.politico.com/story/2019/04/20/cory-booker-love-campaign-1282647

This guy proposed reparations. He’s apparently not enough of a fighter?

33

Cranky Observer 04.21.19 at 7:06 pm

JQ’s analysis is similar to, although more thorough than, Nancy LeTorneau’s over at The Washington Monthly in concluding that Trump is not accomplishing many of the Republican Party’s goals or his own. My perspective is a bit different: having worked in two attempted turnarounds of failing businesses, and having read in the popular and academic literature on that topic, I have come to believe it is nearly impossible to save a large structured entity once it has suffered significant damage and entered a death spiral. Even Cheney/Bush [1] for all their faults attempted execute their starving of the US Government beast via the traditional and Constitution routes. Trump and his cronies have simply taken meat-axe, bulldozer, and flamethrower to wide swaths of the federal entity and combined with the budget-killing tax cuts have done damage to the US Government that is probably not repairable. If that was the primary goal, and I suspect it was, they have succeeded far beyond Grover Norquist’s dreams.

[1] Noting for the record that I believe the US was in not-horrible shape with a reasonable future until Cheney and his henchmen sucked out the soul. There was still some hope after that if strong measures had been taken immediately, but Obama did not take those measures and Trump is now committing arson on the shuttered buildings. The fundamental evil however belongs to Cheney & Rove.

34

nastywoman 04.21.19 at 7:52 pm

@20
”I feel like you’re only stating half the story”.

– but I didn’t want to tell any ”story” – as there are plenty of ”stories” around – and as there was this question ”about implications for political strategy – left to commenters – and I think (hopefully?) everybody here wants to see Von Clownstick gone at the next election – I just laid out the ”political” – or should we just say a GREAT strategy to get rid of him.

And now – please – instead of rehashing – and rehashing… ”whatever” – wouldn’t it babe a lot… more CT-wise to help to imply ”the winning strategy”?

35

nastywoman 04.21.19 at 8:02 pm

– or – wait – I have a ”story” nobody on this thread has told (yet)
I (ME) have found out that my fellow American really don’t like ”politicians” AND most of them also don’t like our ”government” – and so a lot of them tried to punish ”the gubernment” and ”politicians” at the last election by voting for a complete idiot and moron.

BUT as a lot of them now have noticed that the main effect of this ”punishment” – was kind of ”self-defeating” and a lot of loss of face -(as a stereotypical Japanese would say) – the face-losing slowly really gets on their nerve and they are sick and tired of hearing what idiots they were in erecting such a dumbdumbidiot.

Do you guys like this story?
”face-losing” for our GREAT country

36

Howard B 04.21.19 at 9:52 pm

Perhaps Trump’s charisma (for some people at least) explains why some people view him a big success. They believe the “man” because they are entranced by his “charisma” and adjust reality, by some strange kind of cognitive dissonance, to view everything he touches to be gold.
There is something religious about their devotion to the “man” that goes beyond and transcends specific policies.
It would take a lot for the lot of them to abandon the “man” and there is sociology behind this.
They would rationalize all his failures and believe all his rationalizations for failure because they are in love with the “man” and that is how charisma works
I’m sorry, he’s not defying gravity, in the sense of doing impossible things. Perhaps the case of Reagan is an instructive contrast, but they’re in love with Trump.
He says and does things they wish they could, and when he shouts “USA! USA!” they know he’s one of them

37

Barry 04.21.19 at 10:03 pm

JimV: “If there were principled Democrats whom the mainstream media supported against smear efforts (strongly enough to get through the noise), without any hint of atheism or pro-abortionism, would my evangelical relatives vote for them? I think so.”

I disagree:

1) The MSM (those liberals!) will sh*t on any Dem candidate.
2) Right-wing evangelicals don’t believe that there is anybody left of them who’s not an atheist.
3) ‘Pro-abortionism’ would include any position short of overturning Roe v. Wade and banning most birth control.

38

Chetan Murthy 04.21.19 at 11:03 pm

BenK@32:

This guy proposed reparations. He’s apparently not enough of a fighter?

Well, the first is not equivalent to the second. Sure, issues of racial justice and such are important. But if you believe (as I do) that our Republic is in danger, that the GrOPer party is fascist, that Shitler is a fascist, then there can be no “can’t we all get along”. Because that just means they’ll try again, and next time they’ll know better, for having failed this time [assuming they do fail.] There needs to be sufficient punishment for traitors, that they don’t consider doing it next time.

This is orthogonal to all the economic, social justice, etc issues that unite Democrats: we love our country, and our democracy, and we want to see it protected.

39

Bruce E. Woych 04.21.19 at 11:58 pm

Let’s not confuse transaction with transgression and transgressive politics as a form of vulgar realism and reactionary fervor. Trump sold his brand to a blind market of opportunists at many levels and with mixed emotionally evoked responses. Every president since Kennedy has provoked interest in some formula or change (even conservatives that pervert reform platforms as corrective ‘change’ back against liberal interests). Trump pushed radical change and transgression as independent defiance. In that regard, the Republicans have been promoting angry reform minded conservatism now for decades, and Trump (ironically and tragically) actually fulfilled what had been political rhetoric until his cult of personality leadership made these promotions possible. Creative destruction is the dark side of his “success” and there are plenty of opportunists that are striving to capitalize on his self destructive run.
Trying to apply text book political science is a waste of time. Trump is not a transactionalist, he is a thief in Republican clothing that has captured office for purposes of his own design. It just happens to work for the moment to facilitate profiteering and a fascist urge in our money driven real politik of “true believers.”

40

Patrick 04.22.19 at 12:50 am

@5 Obviously, traditional Republicans have the option of breaking with Trump and either abstaining or voting against him. If that’s not considered as an option, then my last para applies.

This is not an answer.

You wrote, “One answer is what might be called “transactional Trumpism“. This is the idea that a large group of Republicans dislike Trump’s racism and misogyny, but support him because of his success in delivering a traditional Republican agenda.”

Ok, so we have a concept. And we’re going to ask whether that concept explains what we see in real life. To answer that question you write,

“The problem I have with this explanation is: what success? …The standard items on the list are: Supreme Court appointments, tax cuts and deregulation. But
(1) these things are the absolute minimum that would be expected from any Republican president
(2) Trump has made a mess of all them”

These don’t undercut the transactionalism explanation at all.

1. During the primary (2) was irrelevant because it hadn’t happened yet. (1) was relevant, but Trump was unpopular with policy oriented establishment conservatives, and ultimately won with about 45% of the primary vote. This seems compatible with the existence of a meaningful number of transactional minded Republicans.

2. During the general election (1) was irrelevant because there were no other viable conservative options once the primary ended, and (2) hadn’t happened yet.

3. Once Trump won the election, (1) was irrelevant because there were no other viable conservative options, and while (2) happened, that can’t be expected to move transactional minded Republicans away from Trump without another option being available.

The relevant question you should be asking, if you want to think about transactional political support, is what percentage of Republicans would drop Trump in a heartbeat (or just retroactively disclaim him) if they had another viable option. Unfortunately that’s hard to measure. My instinct is to say that among policy minded conservatives the percentage is incredibly high, because my impression of the conservative movement is that it is an old school union of corporatism and populism, in which the corporatists feed the populists populism to get them to the polls, then provide them only symbolic populist rewards for the trouble while passing meaningful corporatist legislation. That’s straight forwardly transactional. I view Trump as a result of having done this so long that the populists are becoming too numerous to control. But that doesn’t change anything about the transactional perspective of those who empower populists in order to get what they want out of the deal.

41

Alan White 04.22.19 at 3:15 am

To embody broken-record syndrome, I have argued on CT many times before that Trump stumbled on the pragmatic efficacy of emotivism to garner the loyalty of his base and keep them there. He only needs to achieve agreement in attitude with enough voters to keep stumbling forward to his ultimate goal of being sufficiently worshiped by Fox and friends, etc. to keep his empire intact enough until he draws his past pitiful breath. He gets at some non-intellectual gut level that emotion drives the lives of most people, and apparently Putin gets that as well with his manipulation of the power of social media. Truth doesn’t matter, facts are irrelevant. But rallies, whether in person or the audience of Fox or Facebook or Instagram, now that counts. I’m not alone on this–I’ve been contacted by others who have seen my posts that are more formally arguing that at least on a theoretical level, emotivism explains Trump’s success better than any alternative. That emotivism scenario also explains the contrasting rise of Beto and Buttigieg–they are more about invoking emotional agreement than anything. We need to see that this manipulation of emotional attitude in politics is triumphant these days–and try to get hold of some effective way to defuse it or use it to more meta-wise advantage by playing the same game to achieve a higher purpose.

42

Jerry Vinokurov 04.22.19 at 3:59 am

Orange Watch correctly identifies the transactional element in play: the federal judiciary. Of course, any Republican would have done the same, and if you’re a savvy politics-knower then you’re probably more likely to attribute this success to Mitch McConnell, but for the rank-and-file, it’s enough to see that the FedSoc clones now occupy a position of real power across an entire branch of government. Even those who don’t like Trump absolutely love this, and they’ll vote for literally anyone who promises them the same.

Based on observations, most voting Republicans think that the other potential nominees, had they been elected, would have recoiled so strongly from the mud that is being slung, the investigations, etc, that the nominee, once President, wouldn’t have dared to nominate Republican Supreme Court justices. Instead, it would have been a RINO at best, or worse, frankly, just to get the harassment to end. In short, that anyone who wasn’t [almost] pathologically thick-skinned would have been steamrolled.

Has this been disproven?

Most voting Republicans have brain worms, so I’m not sure why disproving what they do or do not think is in any way relevant. It’s such an absurd and insane idea that it disproves itself by mere utterance to anyone who knows anything at all about American politics.

Now Cory Booker is run out of town for suggesting … anything less than open warfare. https://www.politico.com/story/2019/04/20/cory-booker-love-campaign-1282647

Good, Cory Booker sucks.

43

Patrick 04.22.19 at 5:55 am

Chetan Murphy wrote at 47: “There needs to be sufficient punishment for traitors, that they don’t consider doing it next time.”

Ok, but, posit for a moment that you don’t have the power to do that, and nothing you can plausibly do or say will get you that power. What do we do then?

That’s where I am.

Politics right now feels like Lucy inviting Charlie Brown to kick the football. On one hand, she’s almost 100% going to pull it away. She always has in the past. On the other, if you don’t take a run at kicking the ball, you can’t kick the ball. Its fine to demonize Lucy, I guess. She probably deserves it. But the ball ain’t gonna hold itself, and the ultimate goal here is to kick it. So what do we do?

44

nastywoman 04.22.19 at 6:06 am

– and about the idea ”that a large group of Republicans dislike Trump’s racism and misogyny, but support him because of his success in delivering a traditional Republican agenda”.
The problem I have with this explanation is:
What does a large group of ”Republicans” see as ”success”?

A large group of ”Republicans” see as success anything what ”Democrats” see as defeat – but that won’t decide the next election – or as another commenter already has stated the economical situation of the people –
(like in the last election – and all of the US election before) will decide the election.

And in the last election too many Americans were very unhappy with their economical situation and even as it (supposedly) has improved a bit – now there are these two… (three?) economical facts who will decide the next election.

1. Too many Americans can’t afford shelter anymore.

2. Too many Americans can’t afford decent Health Care -(without all these crazy deductibles)

3. Too many Americans can’t afford any decent education for their children.
– while some ”very sophisticated” Americans -(and Australians and French and Germans and Japanese) like to discuss on blogs like CT all kind of ”sophisticated political questions” – possibly overlooking ”Whassup” – just like at the last election?

45

L. F. File 04.22.19 at 6:20 am

Most Republican notionally anti-Trump voters are trapped. Anti-tax, anti-choice, anti-gun voters will vote and will never vote Democratic. They know this and they know that a tribal core of Trump supporters will never support anyone else and no other candidate can win without them.

46

bad Jim 04.22.19 at 7:35 am

Is President Donald really that much more embarrassing than President Ronald?

There is always an existential threat. Now it’s the nonsense over the border and immigration, but before that it was Islamic terrorism, and before that it was communism. Old fears never go away, but at any given time some are more marketable than others. Anti-semitism is doing well, and the bikinis worn by racism get skimpier every year.

We liberals keep making ourselves a bigger target, trying to save the world and make life better for everyone. Truth to tell, we wouldn’t have fewer enemies if we gave up on teaching evolution, allowing abortion, sanctioning gay marriage, or ending the burning of fossil fuels, or, even worse, offering universal health care. Even raising taxes on the wealthy polls well. It doesn’t matter.

It’s strictly red versus blue, winning or losing.

(UK electoral maps are always confusing, because red=Labor and blue=Tory, the reverse of the current US convention, which is at least consistent with the Civil War blue/gray distinction)

47

SusanC 04.22.19 at 8:12 am

Current politics in both the US and the UK seems to be driven more by questions of identity than pragmatic economics. Politicians make gestures against groups they consider to be “other”, though which group is the outgroup varies.

Common targets include:
Transgender people (see change to rules in transgender people in the military)
Muslims
Palestinians, specifically (e.g. Support for Israel against the Palestinians)
Jews (typically, the anti-semites are not the same people making gestures against the Palestinians; Trump is possibly on the other side on this one. Trump supporters, your milegage nay vary. See, for example, the pro Trump anti-semitic conspiracy theory web sites)
Mexicams (e.g. Proposals for a border wall)
Etc.

So yes, I think a good many voters are Trumpists

48

nastywoman 04.22.19 at 9:46 am

– and after slowly rereading the comments on this threat the first prize goes to –

Tatütata:
Lee A. Arnold’s
”There are analytical dangers in looking for a singular reason for Trump’s support both before and after the election, and there are dangers in positing a coherence and competency among US citizens”.

Mr. Arnold you have won the rest of the Schokoladen Easter Bunny my American-Australian-Chinese guest didn’t eat yesterday and I gladly send it to you if you would release your address?

As the American-Australian-Chinese gusts just yesterday discussed how beautiful simple Americans can be – like (my currently favourite story) – where a so called US President ask’s one of his friends -(an unemployed ”Lebowski”) to go and deliver a message to some
General-lawyer-dude – and to tell him if he doesn’t accept the message the Lebowski dude should tell the ”General-dude” that he is ”fired”.

And all of this is ‘#dictated” BE-cause if it wouldn’t have been dictated it already would have been completely forgotten as at the end of this month WE -(the American people) have a rent or mortgage payment coming up.

And how do we pay that?

Can anybody on here tell ”the people” how they ”transactional” pay that??!

49

Lee A. Arnold 04.22.19 at 10:35 am

nastywoman #48″ “…Schokoladen Easter Bunny my American-Australian-Chinese guest didn’t eat yesterday and I gladly send it to you…”

Thank you I usually don’t give in to my sweet tooth except in cases of extreme emergency so I will keep your offer in mind.

50

nastywoman 04.22.19 at 10:58 am

– and the last place goes to:

”Truth to tell, we wouldn’t have fewer enemies if we gave up on teaching evolution, allowing abortion, sanctioning gay marriage, or ending the burning of fossil fuels, or, even worse, offering universal health care”

”WE” would have a lot more enemies if ”we gave up on teaching evolution, allowing abortion, sanctioning gay marriage, or ending the burning of fossil fuels, or offering universal health care.”

But WE are (still) pretty young and mainly hang with ”WE’S” who have seen ”The Grand Lebowski” numerous times and have learned from it – that nobody p… on a rug without consequences.

51

nastywoman 04.22.19 at 11:10 am

– and nothing – NOTHING! is more ”transactional” than watching The Big Levandowski – playing Trump in Italian.

Here is the scene:

https://youtu.be/26UE_swk-zY

That’s THE (only) way to come up with a political strategy to get Von Clownstick OFF the bowling hall!

52

Lee A. Arnold 04.22.19 at 11:24 am

Geo #19: “Some people derive utility from the discomfort of others, even without any direct personal gain. …there were several middle aged men literally gloating about the fact that their daughters were distraught and no longer speaking to them.”

This is another kink in the conservative psyche to which Trump played, well enough: the idea that all some people need is a good spanking on the bottom.

It is a chime to certain ears and played in many keys. It links into the received wisdom concerning the continuous labor market discipline that makes the world of capitalism go ’round. It links to the lie that progressives want other people to pay for things. It links to “big stick” foreign policy.

Trump’s frequent forays into retributive rhetoric (“knock the crap out of them [protestors]”, “lock her up”, “maybe he [a protestor] should have been roughed up”, “I’d like to punch him in the face”, etc.) composed a ringing antiphon for this conservative fetish ritual.

53

Lee A. Arnold 04.22.19 at 1:22 pm

jim harrison #24: “Under the circumstances, the only way to defend privilege is to embrace some kind of craziness. The incompetence of the administration and the decline of American power and prestige that goes with it are a trade-off.”

I think you’ve put it in a nutshell. But the recognition of this particular thought is prevented in the minds of conservatives, both upper and lower class, by an opposing thought. The conservative logic is that defending privilege is scientifically proper. It is to defend the material hierarchy in which you, yourself, may ascend on your own merits as a productive successful individual. Privilege is not simply “I got mine, so you get yours”: it is conservatives’ presumed key to capitalism’s overall success, thus to defend privilege is to defend the US’s status as the world’s strongest, most vibrant economy.

There are several reasons why this law of the jungle may no longer remain operational in the US, and they started before Trump ‘s hastening of US decline. If these reasons ever dawn upon the lower-class conservatives, that awakening may not come yet for 10 or 20 years as the unavoidable bills become due and global financial markets begin to divest from the US as if it were a money-loser. In the meantime the upper class will have taken its money offshore, as foreign economies grow and liberalize investment. Thus it is that neoliberals (in Quinn Slobodian’s particular description, of a free-floating globalized financial class that manipulates local national policies) can cut themselves free of the US as it descends further into stratified poverty and brutality. The elites, simply by following the financial markets, will gut the US.

Your quote describes a trade-off that is a vicious circle. It looks impossible to break unless there is a generally agreed-upon rewrite of political economy. I repeat “generally agreed-upon”, because the real need is to change a big social preference, and as economists say,”preferences are exogenous”, meaning they are prior to the application of the toolkit of modern economics. The US was the first large advanced capitalist country, and it may become the first large advanced democratic socialist country if it is to avoid fascism.

54

Uncle Jeffy 04.22.19 at 2:05 pm

Happy Charles Krauthammer Day!

In Memoriam, of course. But his brilliant insight (that there were WMDs in Iraq, and all we needed was a little more time to find them) will live on forever…..

55

J-D 04.22.19 at 2:15 pm

bad Jim

(UK electoral maps are always confusing, because red=Labor and blue=Tory, the reverse of the current US convention, which is at least consistent with the Civil War blue/gray distinction)

Isn’t it weird how the UK convention is out of step with the American Civil War? Oh, and also Spain, where red=PSOE and blue=PP. And Canada, where red=Liberal and blue=Tory. And Sweden, where red=Social Democrats and blue=Moderates. In fact, come to think of it there’s a whole series of countries where everybody’s out of step. It must be so weird for you Americans being the solitary ones keeping step.

56

Glen Tomkins 04.22.19 at 2:22 pm

Perhaps in the long history of Homo politicus there have been epochs and localities when and where there were reasonably clear connections between at least some politicians and at least some public policy. I don’t know about that. I suspect that if any epoch and locale in history seems to us today to have met that condition, the clarity is mostly retrospective, and that the people there and then were as much in the stew with their politics as we are today with ours.

You can’t really criticize people for failure to realize their transactional goals in supporting one politician vs another, unless we do have some sort of reasonable clarity on the connection between what the politicians say and what they will do in power. Instead of that clarity, what we have is Plato’s Cave. We see the shadows cast by a gemisch of real and unreal objects paraded behind us, cast by an unclear mixture of reflected real light and wholly false lights. Maybe if Plato had lived in the age of Trump, he would have added an extra layer of remove from reality in his description, but that’s probably because we don’t know just how bad Hyperbolus really was.

I always vote, and always vote D. Not that the Ds stand for anything in particular, or that I expect them to actually do much of anything, but they do seem less avidly vicious and stupid than the Rs, so there’s that. But they aren’t really even very good at being anti-Rs, so I am at least as foolish transactionally as these Trump-supporting Rs. It may in fact be that supporting a party that has as its sole political strategy always choosing to present itself as stupid-and-vicious-lite, the lesser of two evils, is going to look, in historical retrospect, as the political position that ended up making the epochal catastrophe inevitable. Most Ds seem to have convinced themselves, to take an example, that the US electorate is hopelessly racist, and by our continuing coddling of racism-lite in response, our clumsily obvious attempts to obfuscate the issue by never failing to support “securing our borders”, we have pretty much conceded that, of course, racist immigration policy is the only way to go. Maybe if one party had decided to run some short-term risks by saying that there is an alternative to that view, we wouldn’t be headed to the crisis of ethnic cleansing that we seem headed towards.

We’ll perhaps get our moment of clarity at the catastrophe, if it comes to that, but by then it will be too late to prevent the catastrophe.

57

Matt L 04.22.19 at 5:09 pm

“I was at a conference the day after the 2016 election and there were several middle aged men literally gloating about the fact that their daughters were distraught and no longer speaking to them.”

God, that is pathetic. There is no way any Democratic candidate would reach this type of person.

58

Dipper 04.22.19 at 5:21 pm

@ SusanC “Current politics in both the US and the UK seems to be driven more by questions of identity than pragmatic economics”

well, yes. And who is doing that?

Martin Luther King said “”I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”” That’s a quote that really stands out in todays politics in the UK. We seem to be going full speed in the opposite direction, where an individuals place in society depends first and foremost on their given identity, where governments and large organisations seem happy to announce that they have targets for recruitment based on identities. How on earth did we get from Marin Luther King’s dreams to here?

59

likbez 04.22.19 at 8:27 pm

@John Quiggin 04.21.19 at 10:14 am

My point was to refute the claim that there is an important non-Trumpist group among Republicans, who are reluctantly willing to accept Trump

I think such voting block used to exist in 2016: anti-war republicans (includes Ron Paul supporters, etc)

This voting block now will probably vote for Tulsi. if given a chance. They will never vote to Trump again.

60

nastywoman 04.22.19 at 9:08 pm

-@
”There is no way any Democratic candidate would reach this type of person”.

What’s about a Democratic Candidate who proposes to eliminate the student loan debts of millions of daughters of those ”Middle Aged” American Men -(as they know that otherwise they finally will have to help their daughters out of student loan debt?)
And what about a Democratic candidate who suggests
”making all public colleges tuition-free and forgiving $50,000 in student loans for Americans in households earning less than $100,000 a year. That would provide immediate relief to more than 95% of the 45 million Americans with student debt.

AND what’s about an additional “Universal Free College” plan making public college free for everyone, regardless of their finances?
It could ”touch even the younger than middle aged mens lives” –

Men who come up in tears talking about their student loan debt?

61

Orange Watch 04.22.19 at 9:23 pm

Lee A. Arnold@53:

Re: your second paragraph, the recent post on meritocracy is highly relevant, particularly the discussion of why some people become existentially threatened by the idea that the US isn’t meritocratic. Of course, when you’re at the bottom of a hierarchy it may seem odd for you to stubbornly buy into meritocracy… but it’s a whole lot easier if there’s lazy socialists trying to tear down the meritocracy by imposing equal outcomes instead of equal opportunities, or racists using affirmative action and other anti-meritocratic schemes to deny you the place in the hierarchy you’d clearly achieve if the playing field was level like it’s supposed to be…

62

John Quiggin 04.22.19 at 10:19 pm

Dipper @58
“@ SusanC “Current politics in both the US and the UK seems to be driven more by questions of identity than pragmatic economics”

well, yes. And who is doing that?”

That’s a tricky one. One side of politics draws supporters from all races, natives and immigrants, all religions and none, straight and gay. Its supporters are debating expansion of public health, taxation, macroeconomic policy and other issues.

The other is almost uniformly white, overwhelmingly Christian and driven mainly by antipathy to one or all elements of the opposing coalition. Its only economic policy is tax cuts for the rich people who fund it.

I’ll have to think more about this.

63

Jay 04.22.19 at 11:43 pm

…or maybe they weren’t eager for World War 3 with Russia over Syria or the Ukraine?

I voted for Trump after previously voting for Ralph Nader. And Obama proved beyond a doubt that Nader was right. Meanwhile Trump has done exactly what I hoped he would do; he has shown that our entire election system is rigged by the CIA (obviously not very thoroughly rigged). Like or hate Trump, only a traitor would not be concerned that the CIA is giving marching order to the media and colluding to derail candidates it does not approve of.

Unless a “democrat” stands up who is willing to talk about unconstitutional wars, unconstitutional bailouts, unconstitutional surveillance and unconstitutional rigging of the two major parties, Trump is far better because he is forcing the public to see how corrupt DC is. We have been in a constitutional crisis since at least the 1990’s. Of course if you are too weak and stupid to handle any of that discussion, just bury your head and pretend that “racism” is the only reason Trump won.

64

bruce wilder 04.23.19 at 12:21 am

Reading the post and comments, I can help but feel the entire agenda is about feeling good about one’s own political fecklessness. The abject moral and economic failures of left-neoliberalism / lesser evilism Democratic Party politics are staring at you. And, you are projecting that outward as if Trump is a failure of the Republican Party and its politics!

65

J-D 04.23.19 at 1:00 am

Glen Tomkins

I always vote, and always vote D. Not that the Ds stand for anything in particular, or that I expect them to actually do much of anything, but they do seem less avidly vicious and stupid than the Rs, so there’s that. But they aren’t really even very good at being anti-Rs, so I am at least as foolish transactionally as these Trump-supporting Rs. It may in fact be that supporting a party that has as its sole political strategy always choosing to present itself as stupid-and-vicious-lite, the lesser of two evils, is going to look, in historical retrospect, as the political position that ended up making the epochal catastrophe inevitable.

There are many American voters who are adamantly opposed to the Republican Party; they have good reason to feel that way; if I were an American voter I’d be one of them myself. Among those people there are many (although far from all of them) who find the Democrats fall far short of what they would prefer, and who find themselves to regularly disappointed by Democrats (both seeking office and in office) that they have come to expect it. Again, they have good reason to feel that way, and if I were an American voter I might feel that way myself. As a result, there are many Americans who vote Democrat again and again and yet can find no reason to give themselves for what they are doing except that the Democrats are ‘the lesser of two evils’, and then they repeat this to themselves, to each other, and to others.

If you tell me that’s your reason for voting Democrat and that poor as it seems to you you have no better reason, then I have no reason to doubt your word. But if you tell me that offering voters that reason is the only strategy of the Democratic Party, then I have every reason to doubt your word. I’ve heard that story before, many times, including (I think) here at Crooked Timber, but it’s not true; it’s probably a product of people projecting their own feelings; it is, in any case, a delusion, a fabrication, or a fraud.

Here is the most recent item posted as news on the website of Nancy Pelosi:
https://pelosi.house.gov/news/press-releases/pelosi-remarks-at-press-conference-at-democratic-issues-conference
It’s a press release for the opening of something called a ‘Democratic Issues Conference’, and it isn’t being used to say ‘Vote for us because we’re the lesser evil’, it’s being used to say ‘Vote for us because of our “For the People” agenda’. That’s a Democratic Party strategy. If you tell me you don’t think that appeal is sincere, or that you have no faith in the Democratic Party’s commitment to the stated agenda, I have no reason to doubt that you’re being sincere about what you believe, and it’s possible, as far as anything I know goes, that your doubts are justified; but none of that changes the facts about what appeal the Democratic Party is voicing.

I chose Nancy Pelosi’s website to look at because she is currently the most senior Democratic elected official at the national level, but if you looked at the website of other Democrats in Congress, whether elected as recently as Jacky Rosen or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or as far back as Dianne Feinstein or Steny Hoyer, I am confident you would find all of them making a strategic presentation of a positive agenda and none of them saying ‘Vote Democrat because we’re the lesser of two evils’, or anything resembling that. I don’t know which Congressional District you’re in, but whoever your Democratic candidate was in 2018, I bet if you looked at the campaign website, or talked to the candidate or campaign workers or volunteers, you would not be given any message approximating ‘Vote Democrat because we’re the lesser of two evils’. That may be your only reason for voting Democrat, but not because that’s the reason the Democrats choose to offer you.

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arcseconds 04.23.19 at 1:25 am

I’m broadly in agreement with #4, #6, #11, John’s actual views, etc. With one caveat: if we’re aiming to understand Trump’s base we have to be careful not to paint with too broad a brush. They’re not ideologically identical to one another. And even though the various groups can mostly be seen as different flavours of ‘conservativism’ (or ‘the right’), and we might not have much sympathy for any of them, it’s still inaccurate and (in an analytic context, at least) lazy to pretend they’re all cookie-cutter the same. (By the way, if anyone knows of other studies of this kind, I’d be grateful for citations. I’d be particularly interested in something similar about Brexit voters…)

But let’s explore the notion of a ‘transactional’ Trump voter a little more.

Let’s suppose I’m a relatively well-off white male American of a libertarian bent, although not very interested or engaged in politics. I principally want to be left alone by the State. While I’ve got a significantly above average income, and have a high standarded of living, I percieve myself as struggling a bit. I’ve got a lot of debt, things were a bit tough for me in the economic downturn, etc. It wouldn’t take a lot for my life to become very difficult. The obvious significant outcome that I don’t derive any direct benefit from is tax, so it’s easy to blame them as being too high and seeing them as the thing that’s stopping me from feeling ‘comfortably well off’. On the other hand, I do see myself as kind of succeeding at life (although perhaps not as much as I expected), and I see this as being the result of my hard work and effort.

I don’t really care about Trump personally, I think he’s a bit of an idiot and I sneer at his populism. If a better candidate came along I’d shift the small amount of “at least they don’t ___” kind of alleigance I have to any politician to them in a heartbeat.

But why would I vote for Clinton, or the Democrats? Sure, she might be more competent than Trump, but she seems to be taking a dangerously left-wing turn, with talk of expansion of state-funded education and health care. I hear that and hear “higher taxes, inefficient public service”. And even if I was tempted to hold my nose and vote for Clinton instead of Trump, and risk higher taxes for a more competent administrator with a more civil ‘tone’, there’s clearly more of that kind of thing waiting in the wings, and I just don’t want to get it a toehold.

Even though he hasn’t achieved much, I still get a bit of a tax cut rather than a hike, which is all I really care about. It doesn’t concern me that genuinely rich people got more. I might have had background worries about chaos, but they haven’t eventuated (as far as I’m concerned), but risking some chaos for a presidential term is better than going down the path of long-term public service bloat, poor economic performance, and burdensome taxes.

When I get polled, I say I approve of Trump, not because I have a deep and abiding admiration for the guy, but because I’m basically getting a bit of what I want, and saying otherwise seems like signalling I’d prefer someone else, and of the options available (Pence? Nancy Pelosi?) I really don’t.

While this might not be the plurality Trump supporter, I suspect there are probably quite a lot of people roughly like this (they’d fall under the Free Marketeers of the study I linked, which comprises 25% of Trump’s voters. I’d imagine they’re more likely than other groups to ‘disapprove’ of Trump now, but he didn’t lose 25% of his support, so there must be a lot that still ‘approve’, and I’ve suggested a reason why).

Note that the picture doesn’t require overt bigotry (a certain amount of callousness and ignorance, yes — my motivation isn’t to hurt people, but it’s not that important to me to avoid it), nor a strong motiviation for ‘pwning the libs’ or anything. These kinds of attitudes are also in keeping with the Free Marketeers of the study.

You don’t need to add too much to this picture to turn it into someone who’s less lukewarm. Just a bit of confabulation and doubling-down on past decisions as being right ones, and seeing someone I’ve decided to support in a positive, rather than negative, light (to avoid cognitive dissonance).

What could we add to move such a figure to vote for Clinton? As far as I can see, they’d need to care significantly about something other than their own immediate concerns and the economy at large, and be prepared to make what they perceive to be a massive compromise to promote the former over the later. People in general don’t really like doing that.

(An enlightened self-interested plutocrat, mind, should have probably voted for Clinton and try to turn back the clock on the Republican party: it’s in their long-term interests to have a slightly-tempered capitalism: populism is risky in itself, and the risk of Trumpism discrediting one party and allowing the other party to move as left as it likes (perhaps motivated in part by a backlash) is high)

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arcseconds 04.23.19 at 1:37 am

Glen Tomkins #56:

If the only political act that you have on your table is voting, aren’t you in fact pursuing the best option? Nicer in the meantime is stil nicer in the meantime. Shit for breakfast is still better than shit with broken glass in it for breakfast. No-one pays any attention to absenters (not in a way that makes any political difference).

(If you don’t like the options, then the thing to do is to accept the least-worst option now and try to do something to alter the options down the track, which is difficult of course and I can’t fault anyone for not bothering, as I don’t really bother myself. Laziness and/or preferring one’s job and one’s household to a career as an activist don’t somehow mean that it’s better to not choose the least worst option when it’s presented to you on a plate.)

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Faustusnotes 04.23.19 at 3:28 am

Dipper, Martin Luther king was American. Why does his dream relate to the uk? Also are you familiar with the chant “the Jews will not replace us”? Can you say which side of politics was singing that song, and who they were singing about?

Really, it’s astounding that people still spout this nonsense.

Glen tomkin presents a vision of wrongness that explains why so much of the American political debate is so distressing to those of us outside your failing and increasingly chaotic country. Apparently politicians never do what they promise and the dems are just republican lite. Those two ideas are themselves responsible for so much stupid and destructive wrong in this world … and yet they seem to be increasingly popular among the American left – or at least, the white men of the American left. It would be hilarious if the entire world weren’t depending on you getting your shit together …

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Chetan Murthy 04.23.19 at 3:38 am

Dipper,

How on earth did we get from Marin Luther King’s dreams to here?

How did it happen? Well, over time, minorities and women (and LBGTQ folks) stopped cowering (so much) when they got shit on by white men. One day, a black man became President. And the next day, all *hell* broke loose amongst white men. Because a ni-CLANG in Their House? That shall not stand, amirite?

“Current politics in both the US and the UK seems to be driven more by questions of identity than pragmatic economics”

People (like that oaf Mark Lilla) keep on bringing up “identity politics”. What they don’t understand, is that amongst progressives and people of color, by and large “identity politics” doesn’t divide us from each other. Instead, it unites us against white supremacy

Also, last: I’m gonna say this ONE TIME, because really, you should be ashamed to not already know it: MANY, MANY people of color are as lily-white “on the inside” as you could possibly ask for; we’ve spent our entire lives trying to “be the best white people we could possibly be”. Until, one day, we learned that, no, it wasn’t enough, and it never would be enough, because of the color of our skin.

Maybe, someday, someday, you’ll understand this basic fact about the lives of people of color. I doubt it, but who knows — Lee Atwater finally recanted; George Wallace did too.

70

William Berry 04.23.19 at 4:02 am

@Bruce Wilder #64:

ISTR that in the past I described your commenting style as “lugubrious” (yeah, I know; who really cares what I think about anything?).

That might have been generous. I am wondering now if you are actually as cynical and despairing as you always sound.

I mean, my Dog, man; I really hope not.

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William Berry 04.23.19 at 4:08 am

Also, too:

What JD said @65

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J-D 04.23.19 at 4:25 am

Jay

Trump has done exactly what I hoped he would do; he has shown that our entire election system is rigged by the CIA (obviously not very thoroughly rigged).

If you mean that (as a result of Trump’s election) most people in the US now believe that that your entire election system is rigged by the CIA, then you’re wrong: most people in the US do not believe that your entire election system is rigged by the CIA. On the other hand, you can’t mean that as a result of Trump’s election you now believe that to be true, because (on your own say-so) you already believed it to be true before Trump’s election.

If you mean that as a result of Trump’s election you feel justified in priding yourself on having superior insight to the poor dupes who still believe in the system, then I would believe that’s how you feel; but perhaps that’s not what you mean. I hope that’s not what you mean.

Trump is far better because he is forcing the public to see how corrupt DC is

No, the number of people who did not believe that DC was corrupt before Trump but who have come to believe that it is corrupt because of Trump is so small as to be insignificant.

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nastywoman 04.23.19 at 5:38 am

@
”Meanwhile Trump has done exactly what I hoped he would do; he has shown that our entire election system is rigged by the CIA”

But meanwhile it was Easter and we ate all of these these chocolate Bunnies and Trump has done exactly what I hoped he would do; he has shown (AGAIN) that we just can’t do any type of ”political” or ”philosophical analyse” of Von Clownstick.

-(and him being ”TEH Prez” – which actually makes even the CIA look so much better – NOT anymore like some ”deep-state-evil-dudes” – but some helpful Kindergardencops who have to take care of somebody who is even too… babylish for Kindergarten?)

So how in this world can you guys – over and over again – try do do such ”deep philosophical analyses” for such a silly… thing?

74

likbez 04.23.19 at 5:58 am

@Brian 04.21.19 at 2:43 pm ( 18)

First of all think you for your post. You insights are much appreciated. Some comments:

The real question is whether or not the Democratic “leadership” can allow nomination of a candidate that the Democrat rank and file want.

In reality intelligence agencies control the nomination. And Democratic leadership mainly consists of "CIA-democrats"

Trump won because Hillary was a horrific candidate. Voters stayed home, disgusted. Trump won because the Obama administration didn’t deliver hope nor change. He delivered a government of the corporate criminal bankers for them. Middle and working class America got screwed. Black people got screwed worst. Trump won because the utter corruption at the heart of the DNC was exposed for all to see in the emails.

This is a very apt description of reasons for which Trump had won, but anti-war sentiments played also important role and probably should be added to the list. People with neocon foreign policy platform might face hard wing in 2020 as well too. That does not means that voters will not be betrayed again like in case of Trump and Obama, but still…

The Democratic party is the party of endless war even more than the Republicans. It’s a party that stopped every effort by Trump to wind down or end war posture with Russia and North Korea. There’s now 2 parties in Netanyahu’s pocket implementing Likuds insane middle east ideas. Put some solar energy and LGBTQ butter on it with a side of women’s rights bullshit and it’s “Democrat”. But the politicians are just as venal. The legislature just as wildly right wing war mongering.

True. But in 2020 that might be their undoing. That’s why this corrupt gang is more afraid of Tulsi more then of Trump.

In general the level of crisis of neoliberalism will play important role in 2002 elections, especially if the economy slows down in 2020. Wheels might start coming off the neoliberal cart in 2020; that's why Russiagate hysteria serves as an “insurance policy”. It helps to cement the cracks in the neoliberal façade, or at least to attribute them to the chosen scapegoat.

One good thing that Trump has done (beside criminal justice reform) is that he helped to discredit neoliberal media. That effort should be applauded. He really turned the Twitter into a razor to slash neoliberal MSMs.

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nastywoman 04.23.19 at 6:38 am

– and about this funny idea that Trump ”is forcing the public to see how corrupt DC” and the CIA – is.

Some of these CIA and FBI-dudes suddenly look like they are the only ones – who haven’t completely lost their minds?

And I can’t remember – when the so called MSM -and Americas Comedians) – looked better in toying with all of the FFaces insanity?

Like Rachel Maddow doing ”the BIG Levandowski” –

Wonderful!!

76

Orange Watch 04.23.19 at 6:38 am

arcsecond@66:

Let’s suppose I’m a relatively well-off white male American of a libertarian bent, although not very interested or engaged in politics. I principally want to be left alone by the State.
[…]
Even though he hasn’t achieved much, I still get a bit of a tax cut rather than a hike, which is all I really care about.

If we’re talking about the transactionalism of a hypothetical well-off white American male of a libertarian bent, even an apolitical and not particularly religious one, we still need mention of the courts. The judges Trump has appointed can be relied on to keep the government’s hands off his guns and to keep the government from meddling in the affairs of the captains of industry who carry the economy on their creative, dedicated, burdened shoulders. Even if the hypo-liber himself may not own guns and may be a (skilled) employee rather than management, these still fit very nicely into an apolitical libertarian-leaning mindset. And in this regard, Trump has protected the great American masses from Politicized Courts whose black-robed tyrants legislate from the bench. Because as we all know, that’s what meddlesome liberal judges do; originalists, strict constructionists, and such just want to preserve the Constitution and the glorious rugged individualistic free-market capitalist Republic it was built to protect.

Being able to tell yourself that the courts can and will be apolitical is a key part of being an apolitical market conservative voter just as much as telling yourself Congress is a bunch of ineffectual crooks who are at their absolute best when gridlocked and thus doing no further harm.

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arcseconds 04.23.19 at 6:49 am

@Faustusnotes #68:

For anyone of a social democratic (or lefter) persuasion, and/or see war as something that should only be used as an absolute last resort (due to it invariably being a moral horror), then the Democrats have indeed been the lesser of two evils, and Republican-lite.

Take Obama for instance. He ran a cleverly ambiguous campaign where he sounded to many as being progessive and left, a breath of fresh air, something finally that would put a stop to limitless capitalism and unwind the Bush era. But in fact he’s a ‘centrist’, which really means thoroughly neoliberal. He’s prepared to file some of the sharp edges off capitalism, but he neither promised nor offered a genuine alternative to a lightly regulated free market.

I mean, look at his most famous legacy: the health care reforms. This is a thoroughly market-based solution that leaves the marketplace largely as it was. Nationalization was nowhere in sight. And the policy was based on one his elecotoral opponent enacted when he was governing Massachusetts! It is literally the case that voting in Democrats at the national level gets you the policy of Republican presidential candidates.

Also, he’s quite happy to unilaterally blow up stuff, including innocent people, in other countries, in order to crush his enemies and to look good domestically. We have no problems in calling this ‘evil’ when our enemies do anything like this.

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nastywoman 04.23.19 at 6:55 am

BUT on the other hand? –
Isn’t it kind of a ”sad” day – when the CIA looks so… so tremendously reasonable? and even somebody like ”the Great Greenwald” finally goes completely over the cliff?
-(They had put him on a diet already at the Intercept – but now he might be one of the ”saddest symbols” for our self-deconstruction)

Whatever happened to US – as it’s… all in undistinguishable pieces?

Slays Me –
but I probably will eat it anyway -(and Mr. Arnold didn’t want it) BE-cause there is nothing more delicious than Schweizer Schokolade!

79

reason 04.23.19 at 8:03 am

Patrick
” But the ball ain’t gonna hold itself, and the ultimate goal here is to kick it. So what do we do?”

Logically the correct answer is to kick Lucy.

80

Cretins Bezoar 04.23.19 at 11:41 am

Norm MacDonald quote “My theory is this: People hated Hillary Clinton so much that they voted for someone they hated more than Hillary Clinton in order to rub it in.”

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Barry 04.23.19 at 2:06 pm

Dipper: Martin Luther King said “”I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.””

Ah, yes – the only sentence from the only speech the man ever gave.

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Barry 04.23.19 at 2:08 pm

bruce wilder:
“Reading the post and comments, I can help but feel the entire agenda is about feeling good about one’s own political fecklessness. The abject moral and economic failures of left-neoliberalism / lesser evilism Democratic Party politics are staring at you. And, you are projecting that outward as if Trump is a failure of the Republican Party and its politics!”

I swear, some people would be breathing in Zyklon B – sorry, ‘Freedom Perfume’, in a GOP concentration camp gas chamber, and their last words would be to curse the Clintons.

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Jerry Vinokurov 04.23.19 at 2:12 pm

I voted for Trump after previously voting for Ralph Nader. And Obama proved beyond a doubt that Nader was right. Meanwhile Trump has done exactly what I hoped he would do; he has shown that our entire election system is rigged by the CIA (obviously not very thoroughly rigged). Like or hate Trump, only a traitor would not be concerned that the CIA is giving marching order to the media and colluding to derail candidates it does not approve of.

I’m sorry about your psychosis. You should have that checked out.

Reading the post and comments, I can help but feel the entire agenda is about feeling good about one’s own political fecklessness. The abject moral and economic failures of left-neoliberalism / lesser evilism Democratic Party politics are staring at you. And, you are projecting that outward as if Trump is a failure of the Republican Party and its politics!

It’s not often you find a post that is reflexive to such a degree, so I can only say that I admire the achievement tremendously.

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soru 04.23.19 at 10:22 pm

> as they know that otherwise they finally will have to help their daughters out of student loan debt?

You are proposing to remove the leverage they have over their daughters, and you think they will _thank_ you?

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J-D 04.24.19 at 5:00 am

Dipper

@ SusanC “Current politics in both the US and the UK seems to be driven more by questions of identity than pragmatic economics”

well, yes. And who is doing that?

Is there any chance that it’s the people who choose the description ‘identitarian’ for themselves?

(Perhaps you’re not aware of the people who choose that description for themselves?)

Martin Luther King said “”I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”” That’s a quote that really stands out in todays politics in the UK. We seem to be going full speed in the opposite direction, where an individuals place in society depends first and foremost on their given identity, where governments and large organisations seem happy to announce that they have targets for recruitment based on identities. How on earth did we get from Marin Luther King’s dreams to here?

Some orchestras, I have learned, have taken to auditioning performers without seeing them because, apparently, they know they can’t trust themselves to be unaffected by factors of appearance (including gender) even though they know those factors should be irrelevant to achieving their own desired goal of selecting the best musicians. I remember seeing a Youtube clip in which a musician explained how he’d set out to recruit a team for a project he had in mind and how, if he’d gone with his default choices, he would have ended up with an all-male team: he had to consciously turn his mind to selecting a gender-balanced team because he didn’t want an all-male team, and because the team he assembled when he deliberately paid attention to gender when selecting was a better team than the all-male team he could have assembled by default. I remember reading somebody’s account of how his company had established a systemic incentive to encourage departments to recruit women and minority group members for internships, how a colleague had complained to him about being unable to select the best candidate because of gender, and how on going through the applications a second time the colleague discovered a female applicant who was on merit not merely equal but superior (on the colleague’s own admission) to the male applicant he’d preferred on his first pass. I suspect that kind of thing is extremely common. I am mildly ashamed to think that I’ve probably been affected myself. It turns out that if you genuinely desire to judge people on the content of their characters (or, what comes to the same, their deeds) and not arbitrarily by the colour of their skin or other irrelevant characteristics such as ancestry or gender or sexuality, then a sincere resolution to do so is insufficient: systemic modification of behaviour is required.

86

nastywoman 04.24.19 at 6:10 am

@
”You are proposing to remove the leverage they have over their daughters”,

As ”they” had said that their daughters didn’t speak to them anymore –
(not unlike every daughter who (still) speaks lovingly to her dad BE-cause he didn’t vote for Trump) – ”they” have very little leverage over their daughters – and ”they” ALWAYS thank you if one saves them money –
for whatever…

87

Alex 04.24.19 at 11:10 am

What’s striking on the list is what’s missing, notably Obamacare, equal marriage and climate change. Obamacare is more entrenched than ever, both in public opinion and in policy changes like the expansion of Medicaid. The same is true of equal marriage, where attempts to carve out a broad “religious freedom” exemption to discriminate have gone nowhere. (There are still some free speech cases going on, regarding the right of calligraphers, cake decorators and others not to be involved in the production messages with which they disagree, but these are marginal). As for climate change, Trump hasn’t been able to stop action at the state level or the inexorable decline of coal.

Isn’t a possible answer here that this is pretty much what they wanted? It is notoriously the case that nobody actually likes US healthcare and large majorities of Americans express support for root and branch change. Similarly, it’s been widely observed that gay marriage has been accepted astonishingly quickly and comprehensively everywhere it exists. And I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to suggest a lot of Rs aren’t especially motivated by climate denial except as an aspect of federal D vs R politics (the celebrated “Kentucky Farmer” paper refers).

Pre-Trump, though, you couldn’t get the tax breaks and strident nationalism without also having to put up with a bunch of tiresome sermons and nutty libertarianism. Trump disaggregated the bundle and discovered that the Rs were a racist party that was just pretending to be a religious one, and once the burden of pretence was shrugged off, the sky was the limit.

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arcseconds 04.25.19 at 9:09 am

@Orange Watch #76

Interesting point. My impression of people who aren’t politically engaged is that they’re also not very interested in the courts, and would rather just avoid the whole subject. But now you mention it “apolitical market conservative voters” (great phrase) can be found railing against ‘activist judges’.

(My personal go-to example doesn’t seem terribly interested in the courts, but was very happy with his tax cut – it was more than he ever got from Obama!)

89

ozajh 04.25.19 at 12:03 pm

Brian @18,

Trump won because Hillary was a horrific candidate. Voters stayed home, disgusted.

I thought Mrs Clinton actually obtained the highest ever number of votes nationwide, several million more than Mr Trump.

90

John Quiggin 04.25.19 at 7:42 pm

@87 That’s pretty much the point of the post.

91

Faustusnotes 04.25.19 at 10:55 pm

Arcseconds@77, the largest single component of the ACA, whichnwould have seen every American covered, was the Medicaid expansion. That is not a market based policy, and it’s not neoliberal.

It’s a complete waste of time talking to someone about what kind of politician Obama was if you don’t know the first thing about his policies.

92

Tabasco 04.25.19 at 11:54 pm

Ojajh @89

Voters stayed home in the states that mattered in the electoral college (Ohio, Wisconsin etc)

93

J-D 04.26.19 at 12:20 am

likbez

In reality intelligence agencies control the nomination.

Pics or it didn’t happen.

arcseconds

He’s prepared to file some of the sharp edges off capitalism …

There’s no good argument against filing off some of the sharp edges.

94

SusanC 04.26.19 at 8:28 am

As a comparison point: in the UK enough Tories are repelled by the Brexiters that it’s causing the parties to spilt, in both directions. E.g. Heidi Allen to the Tiggers, Anne Widdecombe to the new Brexit Party. And of course thete’s the famous David Cameron quote where he calls UKIP “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”.

The puzzle of this thread is that the US has not seen a similar level of split between Trumpist and non-Trumpist Republicans.

First past the post voting systems and the “lesser evil argument” have the effect that there’s a really high threshold before people quit the part in disgust, of course.

95

Faustusnotes 04.26.19 at 11:03 am

Today we learn that in their investigation of trump the FBI discovered at least one voting booth in Florida was hacked by the Russians. Rick Scott is demanding information from the FBI today. This is probably why Rick Scott panicked when the recount was called – because he knew.

This is why they won’t split from trump – because they’re traitors and criminals and they need a traitor criminal at the top to protect them. But by all means, keep blathering on about how Clinton lost a fair election because she was too neoliberal. It’s really going to get us to the heart of the challenges we face!

96

Barry 04.26.19 at 4:35 pm

SusanC: “The puzzle of this thread is that the US has not seen a similar level of split between Trumpist and non-Trumpist Republicans.”

I believe that there is, but that it occurs decades ago. Trump is running 80-90% among Republicans. Non-Trumpist Republicans turned out to be a tiny fringe minority. They didn’t think so, because most Trumpists were not open, hiding behind euphemisms.

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Paul Meyer 04.26.19 at 7:59 pm

But is that the relevant discussion? It is not the performance (or existence) of the Trump base which is relevant to the question of economic anxiety but rather its application to the part of the DP coalition that didn’t show up on election day? I’ve seen this argument before and taken it (though not in JQ’s hands) as an attempt to steer the DP agenda back to the center.

98

alfredlordbleep 04.26.19 at 8:11 pm

An attempt at a Venn diagram of the Republican party should be attempted.
It should show factions such as White Christians, the pro-Netanyahu* whispering gallery, Might-Makes-Right, Asset inflation complements Wage repression, selective free speech* movement, . . . and on it goes
—with completion (Union) in the Republican Party.

*see Greenwald today in The Intercept
(now have a comfort chocolate)

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likbez 04.27.19 at 5:21 am

In reality intelligence agencies control the nomination.

Pics or it didn’t happen.

I am very sorry and sincerely apologize. Please view this as a plausible hypothesis ;-)

Some considerations (neoliberals and neocons usually interpret those facts differently so this is a view from paleoconservative universe; you are warned):

1. Exoneration of Hillary deprived Sanders of chances to lead Democratic ticket in 2016. This is as close to the proven fact as we can get.

2. Russiagate and the DNC hacking scandal were the attempts to reverse the presidential election. Essentially Russiagate was created to tame Trump, although I am not sure that such drastic measures were needed and I might be wrong. He betrayed his election promises with such an ease that Russiagate now looks like a paranoid overreaction of the USA intelligence agencies (and former FBI director Mueller of 9/11 and anthrax investigation fame) Which figuratively speaking moved tanks to capture the unnamed native village.

3. JFK and then Robert Kennedy assassination. The key role of the CIA in the JFK assassination now is broadly accepted in the USA.

3. Obama connection to CIA was subject of many articles, especially in the alt-right press. He definitely was raised in a family of CIA operatives.

4. Brennan spied on Congress and was not fired, which means that the CIA hieratically is above the Congress. Proven fact.

In short, nothing in the power structure of democratic societies prevents intelligence agencies from becoming key political actors, the Pretorian guard which selects the Presidents by keeping dirt on politicians and controls the press (see Church commission). They have both motivation (preservation and enhancement of their status as any large bureaucracy), means (weakly controlled, oversized budget; access to shadow funds from arms and narcotics trading) and skills (covert operations, disinformation, sabotage. This triad is inherent in their status as the legalized mafia which operates above the law. As Pompeo recently said in a recent speech at Texas A&M University CIA operatives lie and cheat and steal.

When intelligence agencies control MSM that alone gives them considerable power to influence the political process. For example, in the case of Russiagate, we saw well organized and timed series of leaks. So, in fact, they can be viewed as the “Inner Party” in terms of Orwell dystopia 1984.

And the fact of media control is a proven fact. And not only via Church commission. Dr. Ulfkotte went on public television stating that he was forced to publish the works of intelligence agents under his own name, also adding that noncompliance with these orders would result in him losing his job.

Due to the nature of intelligence agencies work and the aura of secrecy control of intelligence agencies in democratic societies is a difficult undertaking as the entity you want to control is in many ways more politically powerful and more ruthless in keeping its privileges then controllers. And if the society preaches militarism it is outright impossible: any politician deviation from militaristic policies will be met with the counterattack of intelligence agencies which are intimately interested in maintaining the status quo.

In any case, the problem of “the tail wagging the dog” is a problem for any country, not only for the USA. The fact that both Brennan and Clapper become ‘talking heads’ after retirement tells something about the trend. Such things would be impossible 20 years ago.

Some insights into the problem can be obtained by reading the article about the politicization of intelligence agencies in other countries. For example:

https://carnegieendowment.org/2015/12/18/challenges-of-civilian-control-over-intelligence-agencies-in-pakistan-pub-62278

Ultimately, making the intelligence agencies accountable amounts to a broader reevaluation of the larger framework of civil-military relations. As a result, not only is intelligence reform an almost intractable political issue, but it also requires a complete change of mentality for the actors involved. Reigning in the intelligence agencies is a problem of a deeper political culture, one that requires a systemic change in the psychology of the organizations.

…the lack of civilian oversight of intelligence agencies is a byproduct of the political imbalance between civilian and military actors, a power structure that favors the latter.

…As long as the military can get its way through seemingly constitutional means, the importance of the intelligence agencies will remain relatively limited. Their role, however, becomes essential whenever the military meets some resistance

…the military’s domestic political power “has always derived from [its] ability to mediate confrontations among feuding political leaders, parties or state institutions, invariably presented as threats to the political order and stability. The military [is] of course the only institution empowered to judge whether such threats existed based on the assumption that a polity in turmoil cannot sustain a professional military” (Rizvi 1998: 100). Yet whenever necessary, the military has not hesitated to generate problems itself if it believes its institutional interests would be better served by a weak and divided polity. This is where the intelligence agencies come into play.

…the link between journalists and the intelligence agencies is a complex one, and cannot be reduced to a simple power dynamic in which the journalists are merely the victim. Journalists need information, and thus have an interest in maintaining a good relationship with intelligence agencies. In return, journalists are often asked to provide information themselves to intelligence agencies.

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J-D 04.27.19 at 12:47 pm

likbez

I am very sorry and sincerely apologize. Please view this as a plausible hypothesis ;-)

I read your comment but fear I failed to extract from it anything of value to me.

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nastywoman 04.27.19 at 9:04 pm

@likbez
”In reality intelligence agencies control the nomination” –
and all of these ”great points” you make are so…
how did you write? – ”facts”.
And I totally absolutely love ”facts” too –
and I also know… some really ”great facts” – and did you ever think about who controls the intelligence agencies???!

Hah!!

You didn’t?

And see…! now I have… ”caught” you BE-cause you just didn’t think deep enough!

Yes! and this is a fact – as I got it from my grandfather -(who was a member of the ”Bohemian-thing” in SF where there were only men – BE-cause they didn’t want to see the womens – seeing them peeing behind bushes) and so my grandfather told me that ”Ronny” -(a Golf-buddy of his) – who also once was ”Prez” – controlled the intelligence agencies via the Boemian and LA Country Club and that’s a fact too –
and you have noooo idea – as Kirsten Whig probably would have said if she ever would have read what you have written -(especially about Obama) – as I know from another friend that – for sure – absolutely FOR SURE – Obama wasn’t raised ”in a family of CIA operatives”. He was raised in a family of US womens -(and that’s something completely else.

BUT about this Russiangate-thingy – you couldn’t be more righ – AS
”2. Russiagate and the DNC hacking scandal were the attempts to reverse the presidential erection”.

And do you know how -(supossedly) painful such a long ”erection” can be?
One of my best friends is a (female) doctor – and she told me she never ever has seen such a painful one as the one of Von Clownstick – and that’s a fact too.

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nastywoman 04.27.19 at 9:20 pm

– and about –
*see Greenwald today in The Intercept
(now have a comfort chocolate”) and about some… hints that it is some ”Israeli” -(or jewish dudes) who does the controlling…?

I am in Prag right now – and I can tell you guys – you better don’t come to Prag with such funny ideas – as O listened to a group of American tourists today and a dude from Indiana told a woman with a really cute Tirolean hat – that Trump made him in the last 6 month about 240000 dollars – and that’s why he could afford to stay in the Four Seasons -(with the view of the ”Karlsbrücke”) – BUT WE stay in a much much more ”cooler apartment” – (Glenn Greenwald never ever would be allowed to occupy with his… dogs) – and WE vote straight ”US democrats” and take that and I won’t offer YOU chocolate at all!

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