The last Trump …

by John Q on September 24, 2015

… has blown for any notion of “sane Republicans”. Comment seems superfluous, but I will repost some older pieces, going back to 2004, which I think stand up pretty well

Science versus the Republicans
Ignorance is strength
Has vaccination become a partisan issue?



Warren Terra 09.24.15 at 9:25 am


Sancho 09.24.15 at 9:33 am

Chuckled at the mention of Willie Soon in the first piece, from 2004.

Soon has since, of course, been revealed as a paid employee of Koch and Exxon.


Lee A. Arnold 09.24.15 at 12:31 pm

As long as we’re boasting about our own perspicacities, let me point out that I too, called it 10 years ago, in many comments at Brad DeLong’s, and then in many comments over here. Here is one:

and I fingered Trump to be a goofy populist demagogue who could step into the vacuum, 4 years ago in a comment under one of Henry Farrell’s posts:

After that, we get down to details — and neither I (nor the Pope) are as infallible as Trump, of course. I was wrong in predicting that Scott Walker would be the 2016 GOP frontrunner. Now I guess it could be Kasich, because he’s probably the only one who can hold Ohio against Hillary, and I still think that Trump in his self-contradictions will run afoul of listeners’ eventual emotional fatigue. (Right now, Trump’s response to difficult questions has moved to, “I don’t talk about that, anymore.” See Colbert’s interview. But this isn’t going to work, either.) But so far, Kasich is just terrible on camera.

Fiorina? Too much twisting of facts; too easy to refute.

Rubio? It’s possible that more plutocrats will line up behind him, and he could win Florida. (It’s also possible that Trump will offer him the VP slot.) I think he would be smarter to sit this one out, because he looks great for 2020 or 2024.

Anyway, I wish to continue boasting that my underlying general thesis remains sound, even though commenters here have derided it for years. Ahem! Indeed, it appears that every op-ed pundit in the mainstream media has finally come around to realizing it:

Thesis. The US Republicans have entered an historical cul de sac, and it may be terminal. Reagan himself unknowingly programmed this mess. Reagan taught: small government, low taxes, deregulation. Unfortunately this must collide with Reality: government is going to get a little bigger, before leveling off. In the meantime, the Republicans have developed two basic factions (as Thomas Frank pointed out in his book, What’s the Matter with Kansas?) which are now at war with each other: the Country-Club businesspeople and what is now called the Tea Party. The Country Club sells Reaganomic slogans and social conservatism to the Tea Party, and the Country Club benefits from low taxes and deregulation, but the Country Club is willing to compromise on details, and keep it quiet, to continue their predations elsewhere. Not so, the Tea Party: they are Eric Hoffer-style True Believers, and moreover they also have gotten themselves elected, and have checkmated the Country Club in the US House of Representatives.

The Democrats have been very good at driving wedges into this division, and they should continue to do so.

There’s also been lots of contingent factors: the rise of a rightwing propaganda arm called Fox News; Bush v. Gore abrogated a clearly laid-out electoral process in the Constitution; the lies of the Iraq War; the Democrats finally came to their senses (with a little push from We, the Internet) and repudiated the hitherto bipartisan attempt to privatize Social Security; the despicable failure of the Reagan-admiring economics community (which is all but a few of them) to predict the financial crisis and to provide the intellectual support for a proper fiscal response; and the demographic trends (youth, Latinos) which favor the Democrats.

Through it all, however, stands the growing intellectual disaster of the Republican Party, baked-in since Reagan. It no longer comports with reality, scientifically, economically. They are going down.

Now steps up the new contingent factor, and it looks like he’s accelerating this process: a massive egotist who wants to buy the Presidency with his own money; who decides to capitalize on the misdirected frustrations about the issue of illegal immigration (a problem which, by the way, has been abating) and insists he will build a 1000-2000-mile-long wall; who wants to leave Social Security alone and raise taxes on the rich; who pulls the Overton window to the left on other issues too; and who doesn’t even make the pretense of intellectual coherence! And, the Tea Party loves him!

What’s the Country Club GOP to do?! The anti-Trump blowback from Fox is telling. Trump might tear the Republicans apart on the way to his own implosion, or, if he makes it to the nomination, on the way to his loss in the general election.

Well, it couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch of corrupt knuckleheads. Except that the Democrats are the next most deserving bunch, so let’s all make sure that it happens to them, next.


Roger Gathman 09.24.15 at 4:26 pm

I don’t understand why Trump in particular shows the looniness of the GOP. It seems to me Jeb Bush and before that his brother were much more loony, though they were loony in a way the political establishment approved of. As loony as Trump’s promise to deport all illegal immigrants – which is a promise that even in the unlikely event he was elected prez he’d forget about – I think the looniest comment during the second debate was Jeb’s comment that his brother kept us safe. But I notice that this was hardly challenged at all in the press, which still holds to the disconnect between Bush’s evident incompetence and 9.11. That is what I mean by being acceptable to the establishment – it would be utterly unacceptable to the establishment for a candidate to say something like, well, 9 11 could have easily been prevented by a competent president. The press would come down on that like they come down on any insult to McCain’s military record. Trump is, to my mind, a more dialectically interesting phenom than just a symptom of GOP looniness. Frank Rich is right about this.


John Quiggin 09.24.15 at 8:22 pm

@Roger It’s not Trump himself, but the fact that he has normalized positions on anti-vaxerism, birtherism and so on that were previously unacceptable, even for Repubs.


Sancho 09.24.15 at 9:53 pm

The Simpsons didn’t slouch in predicting a trump presidency, either.

Another contributing factor is the five-decade millennialist strategy of populating local and state political offices with true believers. Historically the country clubbers could throw the base a few culture war bones then dictate the policy that matters, but now they have to seek consent from an army of minor officials who think Louis Gohmert is a genius.


maidhc 09.25.15 at 10:08 am

The other day some of my friends were wondering what a Trump presidency would really be like. I suggested that it could be a lot like Reagan. He would just wander around ranting crazy stuff, and there would be a whole army of people following him and saying “No no, what he really meant to say was this …”


dsquared 09.25.15 at 3:20 pm

If this:

He’s just expressing views that were already normal among the general population, but which the political class have rejected. His success is a symptom of the growing disconnect between elite and general opinion on many issues.

is meant to be euphemistic for “everyone knows that about 20% of the electorate, and therefore as much as 25% of the Republican selectorate, are more or less racist, and that they will therefore vote for a candidate who insults nonwhite people if they can”, then I agree.


Layman 09.25.15 at 3:53 pm

“You decide to exclude widespread viewpoints from political representation, don’t be surprised if demogogues show up to represent them.”

This is really a kind of mythology. Anti-immigration views are not excluded from political representation; on the contrary, they dominate it. A majority in the House are opposed to immigration; they’re there because they were elected, at least in part as an expression of anti-immigration views, expressed through a ballot. The current crop of Republican candidates for President this cycle are anti-immigration. At last one of the last two Republican tickets (McCain/Palin) ran on an anti-immigration platform, affording those with anti-immigration views to express their viewpoint. These election cycles come with ample opportunity for direct expression, through rallies, protests, campaign events, contributions, etc.

How exactly are these views being excluded? Who does the excluding, and what can’t immigration opponents do or say?


Warren Terra 09.25.15 at 7:08 pm

In assessing the following:

Brett Bellmore 09.25.15 at 1:16 pm

“but the fact that he has normalized positions on anti-vaxerism, birtherism and so on that were previously unacceptable, even for Repubs.”

I think you’re fundamentally mistaking why Trump is doing so well. He hasn’t normalized anything.

He’s just expressing views that were already normal among the general population

It should be kept in mind that Bellmore was also a birther for just about exactly as long as Trump (openly) was one. Bellmore went to the extent of esentially denying the existence of the universe in order to back up his claim Obama wasn’t necessarily born in Hawai’i, coming awfully close to the argument that the only thing in the universe capable of being proved was his own existence.


Warren Terra 09.25.15 at 7:10 pm

Dammit, (1) no preview function; (2) no edit function; and (3) really, really dumb blockquote code, where in an empty line terminates the blockquote. Bad blog, no biscuit!

Shoulda been:
In assessing the following:

Brett Bellmore 09.25.15 at 1:16 pm

“but the fact that he has normalized positions on anti-vaxerism, birtherism and so on that were previously unacceptable, even for Repubs.”

I think you’re fundamentally mistaking why Trump is doing so well. He hasn’t normalized anything.
He’s just expressing views that were already normal among the general population

It should be kept in mind that Bellmore was also a birther for just about exactly as long as Trump (openly) was one. Bellmore went to the extent of esentially denying the existence of the universe in order to back up his claim Obama wasn’t necessarily born in Hawai’i, coming awfully close to the argument that the only thing in the universe capable of being proved was his own existence.


Warren Terra 09.25.15 at 7:10 pm

Ah, forget it. This blog just doesn’t allow nested blockquotes at all.


The Temporary Name 09.25.15 at 7:17 pm






It only wants to evaluate single lines as HTML so you have to break things up with the <p> or maybe the <br> (haven’t tried that) and AVOID adding your own line breaks. Yes, it sucks.


The Temporary Name 09.25.15 at 7:19 pm

Oh dear, the terminating blockquote tag messes things up even more.


The Temporary Name 09.25.15 at 7:35 pm

If only you could get as pissed off at Hillary for starting the rumor in the first place.

Brett, invoking deference to facts and dropping that turd is an embarrassment.


The Temporary Name 09.25.15 at 7:57 pm

Now, you’re free to believe that she didn’t personally start it. That’s quite possible. Campaigns delegate a lot of work, the candidate doesn’t have time to do everything herself.

Brett, your opinions are so loopy you’ve got to have dealt with Free Republic at some point. He was getting called muslim by the freepers way before some nitwit Hillary campaigners were fired for doing the same.


The Temporary Name 09.25.15 at 8:11 pm

And a lot of people held these views

Yeah yeah Brett, just feel free to admit you were wrong on the facts when you were trying to call someone out for being wrong on the facts.


Layman 09.25.15 at 8:43 pm

“Someone who thinks the claim that Obama was born outside the US should have been disproven in a court of law, not on the editorial pages of the NYT.”

This seems a remarkably unworkable view of the correct way to address wild claims. First of all, does this approach always apply? Any claim by anyone about any candidate requires the candidate to disprove the claim in a court of law? Or is it just some claims, about some candidates?


js. 09.25.15 at 9:02 pm

It works fine.


Now let’s see if it really does! (I did that without any line breaks.)


Warren Terra 09.25.15 at 9:42 pm

As The Temporary Name discovered, you can nest blockquotes, but only in one direction. You can’t relax the nesting one level at a time.

Obama also never had to prove in a court of law that he was a human being, nor that he was thirty five years or older. Not every dumb question deserves an elaborate and formal answer, especially as the state of Hawai’i had long verified his birth.

And as to whether you choose to call yourself a birther: well, everyone who read your arguments calls you one. And let me repeat: you literally defended your refusal to accept that Obama was born human in Hawai’i by arguing that all aspects of the reality of the universe defy attempts at proof.


dn 09.25.15 at 9:55 pm

A quarter of the world is dedicated to the idea he’s a Muslim

Citation needed. Or do you also think every Catholic in the world agrees with every word of official Catholic doctrine? (Which, incidentally, is much easier to pin down than “Islamic doctrine” anyway; there is no Islamic pope and no single body of Islamic doctrine beyond the basic pillars of the faith.)

Oh, and I notice you now think birtherism is “crazy”. But not so crazy as to be dismissed as frivolous, apparently. I wonder how crazy would be crazy enough.


Asteele 09.25.15 at 11:52 pm

I don’t think anyone will be shocked to know that Brett doesn’t know what he’s talking about WRT Islamic doctrine.


js. 09.26.15 at 12:25 am

First blockquote begin.

Second blockquote begin and end.

Second blockquote end.

This might not work, but I had to check.


js. 09.26.15 at 12:30 am

Wait, it totally works like normal html tags:

Corner bracket, then text. Then hit return a couple of times. Then, corner bracket, then more text, then backslash corner bracket. Then, hit return a couple of times, then more text, and finally backslash corner bracket.


js. 09.26.15 at 12:33 am

And of course I introduced a typo! @28 “Second blockquote end” should read “First blockquote end”. Hope that was obvious.

(Sorry for the meta/OT, but given that a previously banned commenter is holding court, this can hardly be the worst.)


John Quiggin 09.26.15 at 2:53 am

Brett Bellmore was banned some ago. Since his contributions here are a stunning demonstration of how right we were to ban him, and the deeply delusional nature of the Republican base, I’ll leave them in place. But anything more from him will be deleted.

If other commenters could turn their attention from Brett to the key issues facing the Republican Party, such as comment indentation, that would be great.

PS: I just noticed js making this same point.


js. 09.26.15 at 3:22 am

I feel like I owe the thread a semi on-topic comment…

I don’t exactly get what’s being disputed in the thread (birther derail aside). I think “normalize”, as used by JQ @5, is exactly right. But it’s also true that large parts of the Republican base already believed the things that Trump is normalizing. Surely, “normalize” or “make acceptable” doesn’t mean change people’s minds. Right? I take the point to be that Trump is making beliefs already held by the base (a) sayable in (certain sections of) elite discourse, and (b) more openly sayable for for non-elite people who already held the beliefs, at least kinda-sorta. Am I misreading?


John Quiggin 09.26.15 at 4:14 am

That’s right, particularly on (a). Bachmann’s nod to anti-vax was seen as instant disqualification in 2012, but now it’s as Republican as climate denial. Trump got qualified support from Carson and Paul, and (AFAICT) no real pushback from any of the other candidates.

Birtherism is pretty much universal among the base (unless you regard the view that Obama is the Antichrist as inconsistent with it), but again Trump has made it OK for elites to say, and arguably dangerous for them to deny. Bush gave a straightforward statement that Obama is an American-born Christian, but I think he was alone in doing so.


Warren Terra 09.26.15 at 4:42 am

Heck, even though his tentative support for a wall between the US and Canada made Scott Walker a national laughingstock (granted, the nation in question was Canada; Americans likely didn’t notice), poll results released earlier today seemed to show that Americans who support a border wall with Mexico (a key part of Trump’s platform, and backed by the Republicans generally) equally support a border wall with Canada.

This is of course a nonsensical, satirical idea. Leaving aside Alaska, and the Great Lakes, we have a 4000 mile border with Canada, often over difficult terrain, they (mostly) speak the same language as us, they’re as wealthy and as educated as we are, they’re our main trading partner, and we’ve been at peace with them (the Pig War excepted) for 200 years. But almost half of respondents – likely a majority of Republicans – don’t automatically reject it as absurd. As with vaccinations, evolution, birtherism, and frankly arithmetic, these people have become unmoored from reality.

(A slight disclaimer: if you look at the poll, they asked how many people supported a wall with Mexico; 41% did. They then asked if a wall with Canada made as much sense as a wall with Mexico; 41% agreed to that, too. Technically, it might not be the same 41%, some could be rejecting the Mexico wall and then sarcastically saying a wall with Canada made as much sense. I don’t know what the crosstabs are like. But knowing my fellow citizens, I fully expect 40% of them think that to keep out undocumented immigrants we must wall off 4000 miles of Canadian border – much more if you add Alaska and the Great Lakes.)


JanieM 09.26.15 at 5:02 am

Having grown up in a town on the shores of Lake Erie, with relatives still living nearby who like to sail over to Canada sometimes, I just can’t wait to see how that wall is going to work. Do the people who support building it think it will follow the border across the middle of the lakes? Or are we going to wall off the entire “north coast” and cede our half of the lakes to the Canadians? People in my home town are surely going to miss watching the sun set over the water.

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