Trump and Thinking Dirty


July 12, 2018

Trump and Thinking Dirty

by Mike Minehan

 

The best show in town these days is the President Trump Circus. Full of tantrums, tirades and a trashy sort of political reality TV show.

But maybe the worst thing about this is that it’s encouraging others to do the same. Or even worse.

This was the idea behind a recent aticle in Politico magazine about Democrats being encouraged to think dirty because there are ‘no longer any unwritten rules in American politics’.

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The trigger for this is Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court of the USA. This nomination comes after Republicans blocked President Obama’s nomination of the Chief US Circuit Judge Merrick Garland for the vacancy that existed in the last six months of Obama’s office. The Republicans then rushed Justice Gorsuch into this position as soon as Trump became President, and now Trump is getting another early pick after the resignation of Justice Kennedy.

Concern amongst Democrats is that the Supreme Court, with a majority of Republican nominees, will now swing towards conservative decisions that will support pro-life (anti-abortion), the gun-rights lobby and, dare we mention it, will refuse to support a subpoena of President Trump or follow through an impeachement process. There’s also the question of whether or not Trump can pardon himself and whether he is above the law.

Trump’s voting base, Christian Evangelicals and the white working classes in the ‘Rust Belt’ are now, no doubt, a-hollerin’ and a-hootin’ their delight.

Although America’s late night talk show hosts are also having their say:

But back to this thing about thinking dirty.

According to the Politico article, Democrats should now fight fire with fire. Amongst the suggestions:

Grant statehood to D.C., break California in seven, with the goal of adding 16 Democrats to the Senate, expand the Supreme Court and the federal courts, packing them with liberal judges, and, grant citizenship to millions of undocumented immigrants, creating a host of new Democratic-leaning voters.

This last one is because “Republicans have always feared that immigration would change the character of American society. Democrats should reward them with their very worst nightmare.”

Wow. The Democrats will probably gain control of Congress after the coming mid-term elections. Will they be able to restrain themselves?

Trump’s Psychopathology Is Getting Worse


July 4, 2018

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Happy Fourth of July 2018 to all American Friends, Associates and Readers of this blog–Don’t let President Donald J. Trump spoil your day. America is still the beacon of Peace and Hope for the world today–Din Merican

Trump’s Psychopathology Is Getting Worse

by 

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Most pundits interpret the US president’s outbursts as playing to his political base, or preening for the cameras, or blustering for the sake of striking future deals. In fact, Trump suffers from several psychological pathologies that render him a clear and present danger to the world.

NEW YORK – Seemingly every day now, US President Donald Trump escalates his policy and personal attacks against other countries and their heads of state, the poor and the weak, and migrant families. Most recently, Trump has championed the heartless separation of migrant children from their parents. Though public outrage may have forced him to retreat, his disposition to attack will soon make itself felt elsewhere.

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“Trump’s paranoia is translating into heightened geopolitical tensions. Traditional allies, not accustomed to dealing with US leaders with severe mental defects, are clearly shaken, while adversaries appear to be taking advantage. Many of Trump’s supporters seem to interpret his shameless lying as bold truth-telling, and pundits and foreign leaders tend to believe that his bizarre lashing out reflects a political strategy: — and 

Most pundits interpret Trump’s outbursts as playing to his political base, or preening for the cameras, or blustering for the sake of striking future deals. We take a different view. In line with many of America’s renowned mental-health experts, we believe that Trump suffers from several psychological pathologies that render him a clear and present danger to the world.

Trump shows signs of at least three dangerous traits: paranoia, lack of empathy, and sadism. Paranoia is a form of detachment from reality in which an individual perceives threats that do not exist. The paranoid individual can create dangers for others in the course of fighting against imaginary threats. Lack of empathy can derive from an individual’s preoccupation with the self and a view of others as mere tools. Harming others causes no remorse when it serves one’s own purposes. Sadism means finding pleasure in inflicting pain or humiliating others, especially those who represent a perceived threat or a reminder of one’s weaknesses.

We believe that Trump has these traits. We base our conclusion on observations of his actions, his known life history, and many reports by others, rather than as the finding of an independent psychiatric examination, which we have previously called for, and call for again. But we do not need a complete picture to recognize that Trump is already a growing danger to the world. Psychological expertise tells us that such traits tend to worsen in individuals who gain power over others.

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To justify his belligerent actions, Trump lies relentlessly and remorselessly. In fact, according to a Washington Post analysis, Trump has made over 3,000 false or misleading claims since taking office. And, the Post notes, his lying seems to have escalated in recent weeks. Moreover, Trump’s confidants describe him as increasingly likely to ignore any moderating advice offered by those around him. There are no “grownups in the room” who can stop him as he surrounds himself with corrupt and bellicose cronies prepared to do his bidding – all of which is entirely predictable from his psychology.

Trump’s wild exaggerations in recent weeks reveal the increasing severity of his symptoms. Consider, for example, his repeated claims that the vague outcome of his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un constitutes an end to the nuclear threat posed by Kim’s regime, or his blatant lie that Democrats, rather than his own policies, caused the forced separation of migrant children from their parents at the southern border with Mexico. The Post recently counted 29 false or misleading statements in a mere one-hour rally. Whether intentional or delusional, this level of persistent lying is pathological.

Since Trump actually lacks the ability to impose his will on others, his approach guarantees an endless cycle of threats, counter-threats, and escalation. He follows any tactical retreat with renewed aggression. Such is the case with the spiraling tit-for-tat trade war now underway between Trump and a widening circle of countries and economies, including Canada, Mexico, China, and the European Union. The same is true of Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from a growing number of international agreements and bodies, including the Paris climate agreement, the Iran nuclear deal, and, most recently, the United Nations Human Rights Council, after it criticized US policies towards the poor.

Trump’s paranoia is translating into heightened geopolitical tensions. Traditional allies, not accustomed to dealing with US leaders with severe mental defects, are clearly shaken, while adversaries appear to be taking advantage. Many of Trump’s supporters seem to interpret his shameless lying as bold truth-telling, and pundits and foreign leaders tend to believe that his bizarre lashing out reflects a political strategy. Yet this is a misunderstanding. Trump’s actions are being “explained” as rational and even bold, whereas they more likely are manifestations of severe psychological problems.

History abounds with mentally impaired individuals who have gained vast power as would-be saviors, only to become despots who gravely damage their societies and others. Their strength of will and promises of national greatness entice a public following; but if there is one lesson of this kind of pathology in power, it is that the long-term results are inescapably catastrophic for all.

We should not remain immobilized by fear of a future disaster. A leader with dangerous signs of paranoia, lack of empathy, and sadism should not remain in the presidency, lest he commit devastating damage. Any appropriate measure to remove the danger – the ballot box, impeachment, or invocation of the US Constitution’s 25th Amendment – would help restore our safety.

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What the Founding Fathers Would Have Thought of Donald Trump


June 29, 2018

IDEAS

What the Founding Fathers Would Have Thought of Donald Trump

By Steven Pincus

http://time.com/4476276/founding-fathers-donald-trump/

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Steven Pincus is a Professor of History at Yale University and the author of   The Heart of the Declaration: The Founders’ Case for an Activist Government

What would those who wrote, signed and fought for the Declaration of Independence have thought of this year’s presidential election? While one the candidates, Donald Trump, makes frequent allusions to America’s founding document, his key policy proposals run counter to the principles found in that text.

There are surprising parallels between the 1770s and today. Governments throughout the world were reacting to a debt crisis. Politicians, then as now, disagreed about how best to respond to the crisis. Some argued for shrinking government, erecting tariff barriers to protect domestic industries and radically restricting immigration. Others, as now, maintained that state stimulus, freer trade and new immigrants were the best options for paying down the debt.

Americans have always taken the Declaration to be the touchstone of their politics. In 1782, John Adams announced to the government of the Dutch Republic that “the immortal Declaration” “has been held sacred to this day by every state.” Abraham Lincoln said that he “never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence.” This year’s Republican platform proclaims that the Declaration “sets forth the fundamental precepts of American Government.” And the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee Tim Kaine lauded the Declaration in his speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Economic Policy

But what exactly were the principles embodied in the Declaration? Above all, the Second Continental Congress affirmed its commitment to equality. Here’s what the Founding Fathers thought about economic policy, trade policy and immigration.

In Britain, the ministers who came to power in the 1760s and 1770s overwhelmingly believed, as do many politicians today, that the only option out of debt was to pursue austerity measures. They were happy to shift the tax burden onto those who had the least political capacity to resist it, which meant taxing the underrepresented manufacturing districts of England, and above all taxing the unrepresented North Americans.

 

The patriots who opposed the British governments of the 1760s and 1770s on both sides of the Atlantic offered a different economic vision. They believed that the key to paying down that debt was government stimulus of the economy. British and American patriots pointed out that the colonies were the most dynamic sector of Britain’s imperial economy. The more the colonies grew in population and wealth, the more British manufactured goods their populations would consume. Because British manufacturers paid taxes on the goods they sold to the colonists, American consumer demand generated revenue for the British government.

In the past few weeks, Trump has outlined views on government spending and taxation that resemble those pursued by George III’s ministers. Instead of advocating government expenditures to support development in the civilian sector, Trump, like Lord North before him, called for increased spending on the military while simultaneously making “government leaner.” Trump’s tax plan, his economic adviser Stephen Moore suggested in August, would offer “a tax break” to “a lot of high-income people” who “are small-business owners.”

Trade Policy

When Americans declared independence in July 1776 , they demanded a state that would promote the free movement of goods and peoples. Those who drew up the Declaration of Independence condemned Britain’s monarch, George III, for “cutting off our trade with all parts of the world.” The British government had long maintained tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade with the French and Spanish colonies in the Caribbean and South America. By doing so, it deprived Americans of a vital outlet for their products and access to hard currency. This was why, in 1775, Benjamin Franklin had called for Britain to “allow us a free commerce with all the rest of the world.” And why Thomas Jefferson called on the British imperial government not “to exclude us from going to other markets.” Freedom of commerce, accompanied by state support for the development of new industries, was a central tenet of America’s founding document.

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The Founders’ commitment to free trade stands in stark contrast with Trump’s recent declaration of “American Economic Independence.” Trump insists that his economic program echoes the wishes of the Founding Fathers, who “understood trade.” But Trump’s economic agenda is the reverse of that advocated by the authors of the Declaration. Like the British government of the 1760s, Trump focuses narrowly on America’s role as a “dominant producer.” He is right to say that the Founders encouraged manufacturing. But they did so by simultaneously supporting government subsidies for new American manufactures and by advocating free trade agreements, like the Model Treaty adopted by Congress in 1776 that sought to establish bilateral free trade. This was a far cry from Trump’s call for new tariffs.

Immigration

The authors of the Declaration also condemned George III for his misguided restrictions on immigration. Well-designed states, patriots believed, should promote immigration. They denounced George III for endeavoring to “prevent the population of these states.” The King, the American Patriots pointed out, had reversed generations of imperial policy by “refusing to pass” laws “to encourage … migrations hither.”

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Patriots, by contrast, welcomed new immigrants. Immigrants brought with them new skills to enhance production, and they immediately proved to be good consumers. “New settlers to America,” Benjamin Franklin maintained, when they cleared new farms and built new villages and towns, created “a growing demand for our merchandise to the greater employment of our manufacturers.”

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READ THIS: https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/162886

Nothing could be further from the principles of the Declaration of Independence than Donald Trump’s assertion that independence requires reasserting control “over our borders.” With his call to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, Trump’s policies come much closer to the views of George III than to the principles of America’s Founders.

In July 1776, America’s Founders affirmed their commitment to an activist government that would restore economic equality to North America. The Founders would have agreed with Trump’s recent speech in Des Moines, Iowa, advocating for “big ideas designed to help everyday people.” But unlike Trump, the Patriots who declared independence from Britain did so to create a more active government that would shift the tax burden onto the rich, work to open markets and welcome immigrants. It was these commitments that made the Declaration “immortal.”

The New Yorker: The Rise of McPolitics in America


June 27, 2018

The Rise of McPolitics

Democrats and Republicans belong to increasingly homogeneous parties. Can we survive the loss of local politics?

For the first five days after Kennedy was shot, a mourning nation wondered whether his agenda could possibly outlast him. Even key members of the Cabinet doubted whether Johnson, hastily sworn in as the thirty-sixth President of the United States aboard the airplane on which his predecessor had landed in Dallas three hours earlier, would follow through on civil-rights legislation. But when Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress on November 27, 1963, he threw down the gauntlet to Southern Democrats. “No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy’s memory,” he said, to their horror, “than the earliest possible passage of the civil-rights bill for which he fought so long.”

In the ensuing years, Jim Crow finally came to an end—and so did the highly local party system that had prevailed, in one form or another, since the Civil War. Segregationists in the South no longer saw the Democratic Party as their natural home. In 1968, many of them supported the third-party candidacy of George Wallace, formerly the Democratic governor of Alabama. During the following decades, conservative Democrats slowly gravitated toward the Republican Party, and the Democratic Party, for the first time in its history, became liberal on both social and economic issues: across the nation, Democrats now stood for at least some modicum of wealth redistribution and racial integration.

Republicans underwent a similar transformation, adopting a militant preference for free markets and low taxes while opposing abortion and gay rights. At the same time, they set out to capitalize on the electoral opportunity presented by the schism in the Democratic Party. Starting with Richard Nixon, every Republican candidate who took the White House employed some form of what had been named, in a deceptively genteel turn of phrase, the Southern Strategy.

As the ambitious civil-rights legislation of the nineteen-sixties realigned America’s political parties, a host of deeper structural changes redirected citizens’ attention toward the capital. Thanks to the postwar boom, public jobs came to look less attractive than private ones, weakening the power wielded by local party bosses. More recent changes in the media have also played an important role. Local papers and radio stations, once the country’s dominant sources of information, brought together national, state, and municipal news; as a result, Americans who were primarily interested in what was going on in Washington still learned a lot about their home towns. Today, voters increasingly get their news from broadcast networks and cable channels, or from social-media sites and online publications, which are less likely to require them to pay attention to their city hall or state capitol.

As early as the nineteen-eighties, political scientists were noting that the nature of American politics was changing in fundamental ways. The power of the Presidency had greatly expanded. The national parties had gained vastly more control over state and local subdivisions. “In the sense that Paris is the capital of France,” the political scientist William M. Lunch observed in 1987, “Washington is becoming the capital of the United States.”

In the decades since, what Lunch dubbed the “nationalization of American politics” has only intensified. As Hopkins shows, voters recognize that state and local politics can have a big impact on their lives, determining, for example, how much property tax they have to pay or how good their children’s school is likely to be. And yet they now devote very little attention to politics below the national level.

This transformation can explain many features of contemporary politics that would otherwise be deeply puzzling. How, for instance, could governors in Florida, Texas, and elsewhere refuse to allow the expansion of Medicaid to poor adults in their states, even though the federal government would (at least at first) have footed the entire bill? Hopkins provides an answer that is both simple and convincing: voters, donors, and activists are much more likely to judge elected officials on whether they pass an ideological purity test than on whether they bring tangible benefits to their districts.

In the past few decades, Hopkins shows, Americans have grown less able to name their governor and less likely to vote in local elections. Conversely, they now have much stronger feelings about national figures, like senators or Presidential candidates. If they could choose whether their party got to occupy the White House or the governor’s mansion, most would pick the former. Even the attention of the donor class has nationalized. From 1998 to 2012, the amount of money poured into an average Senate race doubled; the cost of governors’ races barely budged.

Once upon a time, every community in America had its own store with its own local products. Today, chains like Walmart and Home Depot offer the same wares all over the country. The parties, Hopkins believes, have undergone a similar process of homogenization: “Just as an Egg McMuffin is the same in every McDonald’s, America’s two major political parties are increasingly perceived to offer the same choices throughout the country.”

Americans aren’t just less interested in local politics than they once were; their voting behavior is also much less determined by their place of residence or by the attributes of a particular candidate. It’s true that a voter’s home town or home state can help predict which party she supports. But, as Hopkins explains, party affiliation is influenced more by factors like race and religion than by local interests or political traditions. Once we know a voter’s demographic information, finding out where she lives helps little to predict her political behavior. A white, evangelical, middle-aged woman who earns fifty thousand dollars a year and has two children is scarcely more likely to vote Republican today if she lives in Springfield, Missouri, than if she lives in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Hopkins is a sure-footed guide to the twilight of local politics, and he’s aware of the risks that these developments may pose. Voters’ focus on national issues, he points out, is likely to “crowd out more local concerns.” And since most Americans pay little attention to local politics and are likely to vote for just about any candidate who shares their party affiliation, mayors and governors no longer have as much reason to place the needs of their constituents over those of special-interest groups: “Their actions in office might well reflect the wishes of the people most likely to advance their careers, whether they are activists, donors, or fellow partisans from other states.”

But Hopkins fails to ponder the most important implications of his own findings. Anybody who has looked on as Donald Trump accused the opposition of “treason” and denigrated the press as “the enemy of the American people” might find the title of Hopkins’s book perplexing. Yet “The Increasingly United States” has surprisingly little to say about the way in which the growing focus on national politics and the deepening partisan divide could undermine the stability of our political system.

 

When the Founding Fathers set out to design the institutions that still structure our national life, they had every reason to fear that their enterprise would end in failure. By the late eighteenth century, monarchy had conquered most of the Western world. The last republics to survive the early modern era, like the Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia, were engulfed in strife at home and imperiled by powerful competition from abroad. Institutions that aimed at collective self-government had all but vanished. So the drafters of the Constitution, as they set out to defy the odds, naturally asked themselves what went wrong for the many republics that had come—and gone—before them.

The diagnosis they arrived at was simple: those predecessors—Athens and Rome, Florence and Siena—had been undone by “the violence of faction.” As James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers:

The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice. . . . The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished.

Madison’s solution to the problem of what we might call partisanship fundamentally shaped America. Many polities, he pointed out, had simply tried to remove its cause—either through the destruction of liberty, a remedy he termed “worse than the disease,” or through an attempt to give every man the same opinions, an undertaking he thought futile “as long as the reason of man continues fallible.” In a piece of madcap logic that has come to set the tone for the country’s freewheeling cultural and political life, Madison instead insisted that America should resolve the problem of factions by multiplying their number: the more factions there are, he argued, the less likely that any one of them can attain dominance.

Although Madison failed to anticipate the rise of modern parties, the country’s politics followed something like the model he had envisaged until late into the twentieth century. At the time of Kennedy’s election, Southern Democrats intent on perpetuating segregation clashed with Northern Democrats focussed on the economic conditions of the working class, Northern Democrats clashed with country-club Republicans focussed on the interests of business, country-club Republicans clashed with socially conservative Republicans opposed to the evils of modern life, and so on. Even the things that politicians from different parts of the country did have in common—self-interest and a taste for patronage—reliably turned them into competitors on the national scene. (As Lunch put it, “Mayor Daley did not care very much what the president did in foreign policy, but he wanted assurances that when federal funds were divided, Chicago would receive its share.”)

Today, this messy process of brokering flawed compromises among a large number of factions and interest groups has mostly given way to a stark conflict between two opposing camps. According to a recent study by the political scientists Shanto Iyengar and Sean Westwood, Americans may now be more likely to discriminate on the basis of party than on the basis of race: asked to choose between equally qualified scholarship applicants, Democratic and Republican participants alike heavily favored applicants who were identified as belonging to the same political party they did. White participants in the study were much less likely to penalize an applicant for being black than participants of one party were to penalize applicants of the other.

As Lilliana Mason argues in a sobering new book, “Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity” (Chicago), factors such as class, race, religion, gender, and sexuality used to cut across one another to a significant extent. In an earlier age, a voter might have identified herself as both a conservative and a Presbyterian. Each of these identities predisposed her to have a negative opinion of people who did not belong to the same group. But since there were plenty of non-Presbyterian conservatives, as well as plenty of non-conservative Presbyterians, each of these “cleavages” held the other one in check.

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In the past decades, though, “partisan, ideological, religious, and racial identities have . . . moved into strong alignment,” Mason writes. Religious communities, for example, are far less politically diverse than they once were: “A single vote can now indicate a person’s partisan preference as well as his or her religion, race, ethnicity, gender, neighborhood and favorite grocery store.” As a result, Mason argues, all those factions have fused into two new mega-identities: Democrat and Republican.

 

A few months after the American Political Science Association called on Democrats and Republicans to transform themselves into truly national, ideologically cohesive parties, Arthur Schlesinger published an impassioned retort:

Is not the fact that each party has a liberal and conservative wing a genuine source of national strength and cohesion? . . . The result is, of course, that no group can have the desperate feeling that all options are foreclosed, all access to power barred, by the victory of the opposition: there will always be somebody in a Democratic administration on whose shoulders business can weep, and even a Republican administration will have somewhere a refuge for labor. If the party division were strictly ideological, each presidential election would subject national unity to a fearful test. We must remember that the one election when our parties stood irrevocably on questions of principle was the election of 1860.

Schlesinger’s words have proved prophetic. The conviction that a victory by Hillary Clinton would permanently bar conservatives from power was a core theme among some of the loudest advocates of the movement’s accommodation with Trumpism. Michael Anton, in his Claremont Review essay “The Flight 93 Election,” saw “the ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty” as an imminent threat to the survival of the American republic. With his team’s total and permanent defeat supposedly on the horizon, Anton advocated the kind of high-stakes gamble taken by passengers on the airliner that crashed into a field in Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, on 9/11:

Charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees. Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain.

Liberals, though appalled by Anton’s race-tinged rhetoric, often share his assessment of the situation: they, too, believe that democracy’s fate now hinges on the next election. This is worrying: you can reject the idea that Democrats and Republicans are equally to blame for the breakdown of civility in American politics—or that Hillary Clinton posed as much of a threat to the rules and norms of liberal democracy as Donald Trump does—and still recognize that a situation in which partisans on both sides think that they face existential stakes every four years is not sustainable for very long.

As Robert A. Dahl argued, developing democracies in their early years often avoid ferocious factionalism by restricting participation in their political institutions to a comparatively small set of people. But, over time, one excluded group after another can win inclusion in those same institutions—like poor white men, former slaves, and women, in the United States. Not for the first time, that greater inclusion, personified by President Barack Obama, has now bred a potent backlash.

It is tempting to take this as evidence in support of a deeply pessimistic interpretation of the country’s past and its likely future: any robust attempt to remedy social injustice will inevitably lead those who have immense privileges to reverse the tide of progress or even to jettison their commitment to shared political institutions. But past periods of majoritarian backlash haven’t fully turned back the clock. The resistance to Reconstruction gave this country the intolerable reality of segregation—but it did not reintroduce chattel slavery. The resistance to the civil-rights agenda of the nineteen-sixties perpetuated forms of both economic and political discrimination—but it did not reëstablish segregation. In the same way, resistance to the full participation of women, immigrants, sexual minorities, and African-Americans in the nation’s public life may have helped give rise to Trump—but it is very unlikely to undo the vast changes of the past fifty years.

As politics has become more national, it has overcome many of the problems that political scientists bemoaned in the early nineteen-fifties. People now cast their votes to advance their political ideology, not to get a public job. They can rest assured that their support for a liberal Presidential candidate will not elect a conservative Vice-President (or vice versa). But so long as all politics was local, as Tip O’Neill famously insisted, it also performed an important service to the republic. Fights over property taxes and subway lines gave rise to competing interests and idiosyncratic alliances, helping to turn Madison’s logic of defeating factionalism through the proliferation of factions into daily political reality. The true danger of Americans’ fading interest in local politics is not, as Hopkins would have it, that weighty matters like roads or schools will go ignored. It is that a politics in which all Americans fancy themselves bit actors in the same great drama of state, cheering or jeering an identical cast of heroes and villains, is much more likely to split the country into two mutually hostile tribes.

The nationalization of American politics has led to the rise of two political mega-identities. But it does not foreordain that they will be incapable of finding common ground, or that the current period of intense partisanship will go on forever. In the past, times of heightened animosity have often been followed by periods of unexpected calm. Ordinary citizens are less polarized in their opinions than the political parties in Washington; many long for moderation. And, despite the central role that attacks on minorities played in Trump’s campaign, most Americans have grown more, not less, tolerant of compatriots who do not share their ethnicity, their religion, or their sexual orientation.

In ways that Schlesinger anticipated, the deep divide between supporters and opponents of President Trump is subjecting national unity to a fearful test. The danger that a highly nationalized and deeply partisan politics poses to American institutions is undoubtedly real. But, just as it would be naïve to pretend that a happy ending is assured because our political institutions have managed to incorporate new groups in the past, so, too, would it be cynical to conclude that America is too riven with conflict—or too rotten with injustice—to be redeemed. ♦

 

This article appears in the print edition of the July 2, 2018, issue, with the headline “McPolitics.”

Trump–The Demolition Man and an Upscale Archie Bunker


June 12, 2018

Trump–The Demolition Man and an Upscale Archie Bunker

by John Cassidy@www.newyorker.com

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Donald Trump hasn’t changed. The many biases and misconceptions that he has about the United States and its place in the world go back as far as 1990, when an interviewer from Playboy asked him about the first thing he would do if he were elected President. “Many things,” Trump replied. “A toughness of attitude would prevail. I’d throw a tax on every Mercedes-Benz rolling into this country and on all Japanese products, and we’d have wonderful allies again.” A President Trump, he went on, “wouldn’t trust our allies; he’d have a huge military arsenal, perfect it, understand it. Part of the problem is that we’re defending some of the wealthiest countries in the world for nothing . . . . We’re being laughed at around the world.”

This clearly wasn’t a man who had studied much history, beyond perhaps the volume of Hitler’s speeches that his former wife Ivana once claimed that he kept by his bed. He seemed blissfully unaware of how, after the Second World War, the U.S. used its military and economic power to create an open international economic system in which American multinational companies such as Ford, General Motors, and I.B.M. were guaranteed a growing and prosperous market. And he seemed similarly clueless about the role that multilateral institutions like NATO, the G-7, and the International Monetary Fund played in extending and perpetuating American power.

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If Trump’s worldview has any consistency, it is as the ideology of a certain type of parochial, embittered, outer-borough New Yorker, an upscale Archie Bunker. The first great misfortune that befell the U.S. and its allies came in November of 2016, when this small-minded parvenu was elected President. The second came earlier this year, when Trump belatedly realized that he didn’t have to surround himself with wiser and more knowledgeable people who could restrain his impulses. He replaced H. R. McMaster, the national-security adviser, and Gary Cohn, the head of the National Economic Council, with John Bolton and Larry Kudlow, two wizened conservative talking heads who both know their role, which is to parrot whatever nonsense Trump comes up with on any given day.

On Saturday, Trump once again made a stunning display of his ignorance. Before departing early from the G-7 summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, to fly to Singapore, he issued a preposterous threat to cut off all U.S.-Canadian trade if the Canadians responded to his imposition of tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum goods entering the United States by levying similar duties on some American goods entering Canada. At a press conference that Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, held to close the summit, he was inevitably asked whether his government would go ahead with the retaliatory tariffs despite Trump’s barking. “I have made it very clear to the President that it is not something we relish doing, but it is something that we absolutely will do,” Trudeau said. “Because Canadians, we’re polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around.”

In diplomatese, Trudeau’s statement was polite but firm. (He also said that he stood ready to resolve the trade dispute in consultation with Trump.) But when Trump watched, or got wind of, the press conference on Air Force One as he flew to Singapore, he flipped out and fired up his Twitter account, describing Trudeau as, “Very dishonest & weak,” and adding, “Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!” He also said that he had ordered the U.S. representatives on the ground to not endorse the G-7 communique that they had previously agreed on.

Far from trying to talk Trump around, or clear up the mess that the President had created, Bolton and Kudlow made matters worse. On Saturday afternoon, Bolton tweeted out the most talked-about image from the G-7 meeting, in which a seated Trump is being confronted by Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, and Emmanuel Macron, the President of France. “Just another #G7 where other countries expect America will always be their bank. The President made it clear today. No more,” he wrote.

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On Sunday, Kudlow said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trudeau “kind of stabbed us in the back,” and added, “It was a betrayal.” Another Trump aide, Peter Navarro, who is a self-styled trade hawk, told Fox News, “There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.”

The invocation of Weimaresque rhetoric to describe a trade dispute with America’s closest neighbor was something to behold. But in geopolitical terms, it wasn’t even the most provocative thing that Team Trump did over the weekend. Before, during, and after the G-7 summit, the U.S. President called for Vladimir Putin’s Russia to be allowed to rejoin the group, and sought to downplay the reason that the country got kicked out in the first place—Putin’s decision, in 2014, to invade Crimea and destabilize eastern Ukraine.

“Something happened a while ago where Russia is no longer in,” Trump said, at a press conference on Saturday. “I think it would be an asset to have Russia back in.” He didn’t dwell on Putin’s aggression further, other than to say that questions about it should be addressed to Barack Obama, who “allowed Russia to take Crimea. I may have a much different attitude.”

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Really? At this stage, Trump’s bromance with Putin is so obvious that it has turned into something of a joke. Guy Verhofstadt, the former Prime Minister of Belgium who is now a powerbroker in the European Parliament, tweeted out the viral G-7 photo, and suggested a caption for what Merkel was saying to Trump: “Just tell us what Vladimir has on you. Maybe we can help.” Putin, for his part, said he would welcome a summit meeting with Trump in the Oval Office.

It is possible, of course, that Putin doesn’t have anything on Trump, and that Trump has simply had a lifelong affection for ruthless, authoritarian figures that overwhelms any actual knowledge he may have picked up in the past seventeen months about the benefits of Atlanticism, a liberal trading order, or anything else. Back in that 1990 Playboy interview, in addition to expressing his protectionist beliefs about the economy, he criticized Mikhail Gorbachev for allowing the Soviet Union to break up and praised the leaders of China for putting down the Tiananmen Square demonstrations “with strength.”

This side of Trump—the wannabe strongman—has always been there. But the truly alarming thing is how few restraining influences it now faces. Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has maintained a steadfast support for NATO and the Atlantic alliance more generally, appears to be about the only one left. The Vice-President, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of the Treasury are all Trump toadies. John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, seems to be a busted flush. The Republican leadership on Capitol Hill is AWOL. And Fox News, which is Trump’s main source of information, is a Trump echo chamber.

And so we go to Sentosa Island, in Singapore, where the North Korean boy autocrat awaits. After Trump’s behavior in the past few days, the world will be watching nervously.

  • John Cassidy has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1995. He also writes a column about politics, economics, and more for newyorker.com.

  • Here’s a who’s who of the people pictured (pic above), and where they stand on the trade row that defined the summit.

    1. Donald Trump, US President

    Mr Trump shocked America’s allies – namely the EU, Mexico and Canada – when he recently announced a 25% tariff on imports of steel and 10% on aluminium from these countries. They are all threatening retaliatory measures and the rift overshadowed the summit, leaving the American president isolated at times. Mr Trump departed before the other leaders, and complained that America was “like the piggy bank that everybody is robbing”.

    He then tore into Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a pair of tweets, calling him “very dishonest and weak” and attacking his “false statements” after Mr Trudeau reasserted his strong opposition to the US tariffs in a news conference.

    2. John Bolton, US National Security Adviser

    It’s been just three months since he was appointed President Trump’s top security adviser but John Bolton has already made an impact. One of the President’s arguments for the tariffs is on “national security grounds” – a view Mr Bolton has stridently backed.

    3. Kazuyuki Yamazaki, Japanese Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs

    Promoted to the post in July 2017, he recently led a Japanese delegation to Pakistan and took part in joint talks between Japan, China and South Korea in Seoul about a proposed free trade agreement.

  • 4. Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister

    He has come under increased pressure to join retaliatory measures against America’s tariffs. This puts him in a difficult position – he has tried hard to cultivate a warm relationship with President Trump and the two are said to have met at least 10 times since he was elected to the White House.

    5. Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary

    The MP from Japan’s governing party once worked in the ministry of international trade and industry.

    6. Angela Merkel, German Chancellor

    She has been at the forefront of talks to try to resolve differences at the summit, as is clear in this photo. Mrs Merkel apparently floated an idea to set up a mechanism to resolve trade disputes between the US and its allies on Friday. Asked during the summit about her relationship with President Trump, Mrs Merkel said the two leaders did not always agree but could talk to each other: “I can say that I maintain a very open and direct relationship with the American president.”

    7. Emmanuel Macron, French President

    He engaged in a Twitter spat with President Trump over the tariffs hours before the summit – leading some to question whether the blossoming “bromance” between the two was over. Despite this, they were seen to be on good terms, and President Macron’s team said his talks with Trump were “frank and robust”. However, following Mr Trump’s online outburst against Mr Trudeau, the French president issued a statement that “international co-operation cannot be dictated by fits of anger and throwaway remarks”.

    8. Theresa May, UK Prime Minister

    In a telephone call last week, she told President Trump she found the US tariffs “unjustified and deeply disappointing”. But she also struck a more conciliatory tone at the summit, urging fellow leaders to step back from the brink of a possible trade war.

    9. Larry Kudlow, Director of the US National Economic Council

    Mr Trump’s top economic adviser has defended the new tariffs and said his boss should not be blamed for trade tensions. After the summit, Mr Kudlow told CNN that the president and his team had gone to the summit “in good faith” but that Mr Trudeau had “stabbed us in the back” in his news conference.

 

 

 

For Democrats, the tide is still against them


June 11, 2018

For Democrats, the tide is still against them

by Dr, Fareed Zakaria

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2018/6/8/for-democrats-the-tide-is-still-against-them

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What’s Happening, Nancy–Less Talk, More Action Please

With their successes this week in the California primaries, Democrats are increasingly optimistic about their prospects for the midterm elections. But they should take note of the bigger picture when it comes to left-right politics these days. Over the past decade, the center-left has been devastated electorally across the West. Unless Democrats face up to this reality and devise a strategy to reverse this tidal wave of defeat, they might find themselves surprised one more time this November.

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When you tally their representation in Congress, state legislatures and governorships, the Democrats are nearly at their lowest point in 100 years. But they are not alone. David Miliband (pic above), Britain’s former Foreign Secretary, observed in 2011 that the year before, the Labour Party had received its second-worst electoral result in nearly a century. In Sweden during the same year, Miliband noted, the Social Democrats fared worse than they had since 1911. In Germany, in 2009, the once-dominant Social Democrats had their worst showing since the Federal Republic was created in 1949. In France, for the establishment left, recent results had been worse than any time since 1969. Things have changed a bit since 2011, though mostly for the worse.

The situation is even more puzzling when you consider the backdrop. Ten years after the beginning of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression — a global financial crisis caused in large part by the recklessness of the private sector — the parties that have been punished are largely on the left, and those rewarded are largely on the right. Why?

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Professor Sheri Berman at Bernard College

To answer this question, a group of scholars published an excellent book last fall titled, “Why the Left Loses: The Decline of the Centre-Left in Comparative Perspective.” In her foreword, Sheri Berman, a professor at Barnard College, points out that the answers cluster around three factors.

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“Personalities matter in politics.”–Dr. Fareed Zakaria

The first is leaders. Personalities matter in politics. Think of the differences between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in their abilities to inspire followers and communicate effectively. Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, recently pointed out to me that the only center-left leader of a major Western country is Canada’s Justin Trudeau. It’s not an accident that Trudeau is charismatic and stirred voters with his “sunny ways” message. French President Emmanuel Macron, who might be considered center-left, has demonstrated similar talents. Consider, by contrast, Britain’s Labour Party, which has been led now for two cycles by men utterly unappealing to mainstream Britons.

But leadership cannot be the main explanation, because the phenomenon of left-wing defeat is too widespread. It can’t be that the left everywhere simultaneously found itself led by bad politicians. Berman’s second factor is the nature of the economic systems of the post-World War II era, with large unionized workforces, manufacturing sectors, regulated economies and safety nets. This social market economy — prevalent even in the United States — was largely created by the left. (The right went along with programs like Social Security and Medicare, but only grudgingly and after the fact.) Thus, Berman argues, when this whole system found itself threatened by globalization and information technology, and then cracked by the financial crisis, it was the left that found itself most at a loss as to how to respond politically. (In the United States, at least the right could disingenuously and somewhat illogically claim that if only pure free markets had been in place, the crisis would never have happened.) Leftists damaged themselves further, in my view, by immediately turning on themselves, with many claiming they should never have embraced markets in the first place. It is worth noting that the so-called neoliberals — free traders such as Bill Clinton, Blair and Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder — actually won election after election, and it is their left-wing successors who keep losing.

Berman’s third factor is more directly ideological. And here, I think, the left confronts its greatest challenge. Throughout the world, politics has shifted from core issues of economics to those of identity. Perhaps this is because of the rise of a mass middle class. Perhaps it is because the left and right do not have dramatically different programs — certainly compared with 50 years ago, when many on the left wanted to nationalize industry and many on the right wanted no social safety net at all. But for whatever reason, people today are moved by issues of race, religion, ethnicity, gender and identity. And on those issues, the left faces a dilemma. It cannot celebrate identity and diversity without triggering a backlash among the older, whiter population.

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Berman summed up the challenge to me in a conversation. “The left has always been about a hopeful vision of the future, one in which everyone prospers.” But when a large part of the public is fearful and pessimistic — and nostalgic for a world gone by — offering hope becomes a hard sell.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group