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Trump and the Conservative Disposition

Being a Donald Trump surrogate must be a testing job. While not as overwhelming as a potential nuclear disaster, those 3 AM phone calls trying to explain away his most recent blunder must be ceaseless and exhausting. When one considers the political gaffes of the last 16 years (Howard Dean’s “YAAAHH!” and Romney’s “47 percent” comments come to mind), these shallow mistakes feel tame in comparison to what the American public has witnessed this year. Those aforementioned candidate-ending statements appear like Universal horror films from the 30s to modern thrill-seekers: quaint and tepid compared to their modern counterparts.

As I have gotten older and entered the family stage of my life, I have noted a conservative inclination budding. Mind you, I continue to see social democracy as a preferred economic model and rarely find myself in a religious institution. Most of my favorite records and films remain far outside the realm of family entertainment and I have great difficulty watching Fox News or listening to right-wing talk radio. With all that in mind, how then can I consider categorizing myself as a conservative?

For some years, I have clung to Leszek Kolakowski description of being a conservative/liberal/socialist. This short excerpt from his 1990 book Modernity on Endless Trial is one many here at Ordinary Times will likely find agreement with.

The reality is that conservatism is not a political ideology, rather a temperament. Writing for National Affairs in 2014, Philip Wallach and Justus Myers did a commendable job defining American conservatism. They wrote:

As the right has formed into a relatively disciplined political coalition over the last half-century, philosophical conservatism in America has never managed to synthesize a single theory that unites its disparate strands. The lack of such a synthesis is unsurprising in part because of the nature of conservative ideas. Indeed, philosophical conservatives have in different times and places defended a variety of conflicting ideas and institutions, including, in the words of intellectual historian Jerry Muller, “royal power, constitutional monarchy, aristocratic prerogative, representative democracy, and presidential dictatorship; high tariffs and free trade; nationalism and internationalism; centralism and federalism; a society of inherited estates, a capitalist, market society, and one or another version of the welfare state.” Contemporary observers obviously and justifiably recoil at many of these ideas, particularly the illiberal ones. Thus, a coherent conservatism for the present cannot be derived from a catalogue of the institutions that self-described conservatives have defended in the past.

If there is a conservatism that can be profitably employed in American politics today, it is not to be found in a timeless set of positions, but rather in a disposition. In Peter Viereck’s words, conservatism is “an implicit temperament, less an articulate philosophy than the other famous isms.” Likewise, political scientist Samuel Huntington described conservatism as a situational and thus positional ideology, a response to a “distinct but recurring type of historical situation in which a fundamental challenge is directed at established institutions and in which the supporters of those institutions employ the conservative ideology in their defense.

I agree whole-heartedly with Wallach and Myers’ description of a conservative temperament. Where I find fault with their larger argument is in their attempt to define the political objectives of American conservatism. As they rightly noted, conservatism does not have an ideological perspective: one may be a committed monarchist, a Christian anarchist and soviet-era communist and still be a conservative. American conservatives may generally support free markets, civility and religious communal life, but this election has demonstrated just how few in the “conservative” movement hold those as their principles.

Enter Trump’s recent comments. Liberals may be right to note that those Republicans now fleeing the candidate had no problem endorsing him when he made other ugly proclamations over the course of last year. This is fair, but it also fails to recognize the core element of the conservative temperament: politeness in the public sphere.

What separates a conservative from his philosophical brethren is less about what he advocates and rather how he acts. In my radical youth, I felt a need to challenge the norms of debate set by adults in my community. Like many youngsters of the left, we wanted to define ourselves by not being our frumpy elders who seemed endlessly concerned with how they were viewed in the eyes of others. We rejected these norms overtly by wearing Crass t-shirts and patches demanding we “Smash Capitalism.” Yet, some of us still piloted our social interactions in conservative ways. We treated our teachers with respect, never cursed at or even near our parents and believed we could change people’s minds about the need to overthrow the state by speaking in calm, rational tones. While some of my comrades destroyed American flags or desecrated Christian religious images, I could never do such a thing even when I was publicly advocating similar “revolutionary” actions.

Trump, and the alt-right that has come to prominence under his candidacy, is the very antithesis of the conservatism noted above. Trump’s entire eminent rise has been at the expense of cordial debate. From taking half-considered racist positions on immigrants or birth certificates to publicly belittling and bullying other candidates on the debate stage, Trump surged as he tossed the assumed rules of conduct within conservative circles out the window. The quiet and clear spoken were smeared as “low energy” by the entertainer-in-chief, and the Republican electorate couldn’t get enough.

The trolls of the alt-right have made a name for themselves being the worst form of Internet microbes, untethered to the social norms of deliberation and dialog. No argument is too ghastly to be discredited; a carnival of the basest is celebrated. It’s not surprising that many of these Twitter handles rushed to Trump’s defense, deriding his critics as “cucks” and “pussies” who feel inferior in the presence of a true alpha male.

I found myself laughing at these poorly concocted defenses. The right has now abandoned chivalry and decency believing such things are the tools of liberals and globalists. This is a 80s frat masquerading as a political ideology. I imagine many ran to their copies of On The Genealogy of Morality looking for solace in these dark times for their candidate, but they should have spent a little more time reading Machiavelli’s The Prince. In it, he argued:

A leader doesn’t have to possess all the virtuous qualities…but it’s absolutely imperative that he seem to possess them.

Part of being a conservative is grasping the way in which we speak differs by audience and environment. I tell lewd jokes with my friends in the company of other men that I would never say in front of my grandmother. I address colleagues and students in a manner far different from how I discuss issues with my wife and children. Men, when within our own company, will speak more bluntly (perhaps more obnoxiously) than when participating in broader communal life. I assume women do the same, but having not been invited to those events, I can only guess.

I do not believe there is anything wrong with noting and accepting this social reality. Part of the reason I do not want to see the end of gender specific organizations is the cumulative trend towards a single, monolithic culture that fails to accept the dualities of our being.

Where I have a serious problem with Trump’s statements is the implied abuse towards women as a result of his financial and social status. I can say with authority that I have never had a conversation with male comrades that would even orbit Trump’s asides. I say this not to virtue signal but to demonstrate just how far he is from the conservatism many of us adhere to on a daily basis. Good God, it was only two weeks ago that candidate Trump (not his 2005 entertainer persona) was publicly slandering a Ms. America contestant in a way wholly unbecoming of the highest office! This is a man and a movement that cannot separate the public from the private, and thus, is inherently anti-conservative in nature.

Conservatism, if it means anything at all, is to uphold the morals embedded in respectful communal conduct. If the Republican Party wishes to stand for civility and honor in the public sphere, it must reject the alpha male allure. Sadly, this election has demonstrated that those moral proclamations have always been mask to hide their actual objectives that brought to light under Trump.

(Image: Jacques Autreau – Les Buveurs de vin)


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Roland Dodds is an educator, researcher and father just north of San Francisco who writes about politics, culture and education. He spent his formative years in radical left wing politics, but now prefers the company of contrarians of all political stripes (assuming they aren't teetotalers). He is a regular contributor at Harry's Place and Ordinary Times.

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174 thoughts on “Trump and the Conservative Disposition

  1. Meh so what. I’m sure Jack, teddy or Bobby Kennedy never said anything derrogatory about women. Yet they were fit to be president.

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    • The Kennedy’s may very well have said such things, but they knew better than to say such things on the public stage, or where there might be a hot mic (granted, in their time, the possibility they were being recorded unawares by people not on their payroll was pretty slim).

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      • The press wouldn’t have even reported on it if they’d heard it. That was back in the day when the press considered that part of the politician’s private life, and they’d probably have deep six’d it anyway given they were generally supported of Kennedy.

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        • Exactly, Oscar is naive if he doesn’t think that the press covered for pols back in that day to protect their private life and secondly, there wasn’t the proliferation of recording devices that we now have today. Heck Teddy was able to put a blond in the pond without much upset.

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  2. “Conservatism, if it means anything at all, is to uphold the morals imbedded in respectful communal conduct.”

    When and where has this ever been the case? And why does conservatism continue to get a pass for Trump as if he is somehow not its platonic ideal?

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      • So I’m getting thrown off by the beginning of the sentence then, maybe, although I’d still like to know about this “respectful communal conduct” stuff in regard to specific examples of conservative activism. This seems like a very manicured way of letting conservatism only be responsible for all of the good, while off-putting all of the bad onto Conservatism, as if they’re somehow not in a symbiotic relationship with one another.

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        • Ok. You think of “conservatism” as identical to The Conservative Movement. I don’t.

          I think of myself as a left-conservative. I’m not in a hurry to change things, but I think stuff like The New Deal, Social Security, Medicare, and even Obamacare are pretty good ideas. Even abortion rights have been established for 40 plus years, and advocating for them isn’t radicalism, it’s pretty much status-quo. (Yes, I’m in favor). I don’t think there’s a perfect out there, but I think we should keep trying to make things better, but at a deliberate pace, and that manners and decorum matter.

          I try very hard not to be rude or othering solely on the basis of differences in policy.

          So, to me, that’s small-“c” conservatism – temperament, not policy.

          The Conservative Movement wants to roll back policies that are 50 to 100 years old. They want to enact laws that have never been the law of the land – for instance, “life begins at conception”. That’s never been anyone’s law until recently. It embodies radicalism, not conservatism.

          My position has been poisoned, though, by politicians who adopt it as cover for never doing anything. So, that’s probably where your skepticism comes from.

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    • I agree with this. This is only aspect of conservatism but conservatism also had its libertine and bin vivant adherents since the United Kingdom in the 18th century. This tendency increased after liberalism split into classic and modern factions. Classic liberals were not into the moralism of conservatives even though they joined their faction.

      It’s hard to define what liberalism or conservatism stand for at this point. Both have adopted many reactionary and radical ideas through political osmosis and compression. In the Democratic Party, you have committed free marketers and pronounced anti-capitalists. You have people who love and hate identity politics. The ideologies are more about tribes than principle at this point.

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    • Trump is not the ideal of conservatism, by any definition of the word. Let’s look at it temperamentally, philosophically, and politically. Actually, I think that Roland laid out the temperamental aspect nicely, so let’s skip to the other two.

      Trump isn’t philosophically a conservative, since he may be the only adult I’ve ever seen who has no philosophy. Philosophy implies a level of intellectual development, Trump seems to lack a portion of the intellect that would lead someone to think about what matters.

      And what does Trump endorse that’s politically conservative? That’s a toughie because, on anything that might make that list, he’s also proclaimed the opposite. Abortion, military strength, military involvement, taxes, pretty much everything. His signature issues are a Gephardtian opposition to trade, and immigration, both of which every conservative in the race challenged him on, and which attracted people from outside the party. He is Clintonian on health care, infrastructure, guns, and maternity leave. And to top it off: his whole adult life he’s been a Democrat who opposed Republicans and conservatives.

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      • I think this comes down to the conservatism-as-elite-idea vs. conservatism-as-GOP-voting-base difference.

        Obviously the former isn’t well defined as “an ideology defined by love of whoever is most aggressively punching hippies,” the latter, however, sure seems to be. And Trump is absolutely the platonic ideal of the latter.

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      • Ah yes, the famous, “Just because he’s running as the presidential candidate for the most conservative major party in American politics, and just because he has been endorsed by almost every imaginable individual within that party’s infrastructure, and just because he enjoys the backing of states which traditionally vote for conservative candidates, and just because he beat all of the other conservative candidates, and just because he enjoys the financial support of that party, does not mean he’s actually conservative!” defense.

        Come on.

        Trump is what conservatism is: outright and aggressive hostility toward anybody who isn’t an adherent.

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        • Ah, so you’re doing the whole ignore what political conservatism really says, ignore the rupture in the Republican Party over Trump, and define the most liberal candidate in GOP history as if he’s conservative by saying that conservatism is bad, and Trump’s very bad, therefore he’s very conservative thing? I’m sure that will persuade anyone who already agrees with you, and everyone else will see the merits of your argument for what they are.

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          • He’s the headliner of the US’s “conservative party”. Trying to claim he’s not conservative is, frankly, a real uphill battle.

            Because “Okay, the duly elected leader of the conservative party, chosen by it’s members, isn’t conservative” is pretty nonsensical.

            You’re stuck trying to claim the conservative party isn’t conservative (which was the thing you’re currently arguing against), or you’re trying to claim the conservative party elected someone who wasn’t conservative (why? Why did they do this?) or that the voters of the conservative party aren’t conservative (then how is it a conservative party) — it’s all special pleading, trying to get away from a simple fact.

            The GOP claims to be the party of “conservatism”. And then the went and nominated Donald Trump for President. Of their own free will.

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          • Sorry, you can’t call Trump “liberal”. He’s racist, misogynist, a religious bigot, anti-immigrant, anti-free-speech, and a would-be dictator. And it isn’t liberals who’ve nominated him or will be voting for him in November.

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          • As always, I am much more focused on what political conservatism actually does, rather than what it says about itself.

            As for the rupture: it only exists because Trump might lose. If he was up by ten points, none of the people currently losing their minds would be saying a thing.

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            • @Pinky As always, I am much more focused on what political conservatism actually does, rather than what it says about itself.

              I have a hard time accepting that you are focused on outcomes when, as Pinky points out, you are defining these groups in an almost purely tautological manner.

              Just a few comments up, you called Damon wrong for saying that the left can be racist and anti-free speech (I’ll leave out the misandry claim, because I honestly don’t know what the heck that is). We don’t need to do much digging to show that racism and censorship are trends that show up all across the political spectrum.

              If you want to argue that the contemporary left is, overall, better on these issues than the right, fine; that is a defensible position. But if you’re going to try to whitewash the history of the American left, then I think there is something more going on here than a focus on outcomes.

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              • The “misandry” claim is the idea that the Left hates men, which puts it right in line with the claims of “racist” and being “anti free speech.” In each case, the idea is that if white men are treated like everybody else, the world is an unjust, unfair place.

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                • I know what the definition of misandry is. I chose to ignore that point, because I think it’s BS. And I’m not talking about white men. I’m talking about white supremacy and I’m talking about censorship. And we can throw in a bit of misogyny as well.

                  If you want to claim that the left is better on these issues, fine. I agree a little and I disagree a little. But the idea that the left has been or is immune to these things is dar fetched, to say the least.

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                • So speaks someone who doesn’t understand that certain first world countries have laws saying that if you say something about certain people, they have the right to imprison you (regardless of whether you were on their soil when you said it). Say the same thing about white guys, and nobody gives a fuck.

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                • My question was really more rhetorical than anything. I expected you to read it and realize the contradiction in your thinking. I wasn’t expecting a reply, much less a reply of “yes”.

                  I’d say that no political movement can be defined as you suggested. That’s the point. It’s not a political agenda to oppose people who disagree with your political agenda. To say that is to say nothing. To say that, and to say they do it aggressively, is to say nothing and that you think they’re jerks.

                  No one, not even fascists, can be defined by their aggressive opposition to their opposition. They’re opposed to certain types of people. It’s opposition to members of a community, not thinkers of a certain thought qua thinkers of a certain thought. And the fascists are the most extreme example of aggressive opposition. Everyone else is less so. To define anyone as purely aggressive opposition is, I have to go back to it, patently self-contradictory.

                  What defines American early 21st-century political conservatism? I’d say life, liberty, and property. The majority of those who call themselves political conservatives here and now would be reluctant to go against any element of life, liberty, and/or property unless one or more of the others were at stake. I can break that argument into greater detail indefinitely, but I think it’s a good place to start for someone who doesn’t have any better understanding.

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                  • Is there anybody that is against life, liberty, and property? Are they like people in favor of more inflation, or more poverty?

                    If being in favor of life, liberty and property is what makes a conservative, then like 99% of the people are indeed conservatives.

                    The question I had, and have seen no takers, is what makes a Republican. So far, apparently a Republican stands against anything a Democrat proposes: “My opponent is for lower inflation. Lower inflation is for losers. I will bring forward yuuuuge inflation, the best inflation ever”.

                    And there’s plenty of members of the Republican coalition that stand against aspects of life, liberty or property, insofar as it being other people’s life, liberty or property. Gay marriage, for instance, is an extension of liberty to a small minority. The Republican platform still includes language against it. Health care is needed to protect life at all ages, so Republicans oppose the ACa, or SChip, or Food Stamps (food so your family can stay alive) but strongly support the death penalty.

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  3. I have been wondering if there isn’t an opportunity embedded in this election cycle – it reminds me of the film Crash, which posits that it takes a car crash to get people actually talking to one another, rather than uttering platitudes or talking past one another.

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  4. As a variety of people on the left and maybe not left (Tod Kelly?) have noted for the past few years, the GOP has ceased to be a conservative party in many ways and has become a radical party. The Democratic Party fights tooth and nail to keep decades old programs from Social Security to Medicare from destruction while also fighting for expansions to the welfare state and social liberty in the range of LBGT rights to parental leave to more access to healthcare to higher minimum wages, etc.

    Meanwhile, the GOP seems to be torn between going full ethnonationalist in the views of Trump, LePage, and Tom Cotton (who is scarier than Trump and LePage because he is more disciplined and understands how to run a political campaign. LePage and Trump benefited from divided fields and oppositions.) Or even if abhoring ethnonationalism, they are still willing to toy with dog whistles and not learn from policy mistakes. Sam Brownback’s Kansas disaster is a perfect example of “conservatism can’t fail. It can only be failed.”

    While Trump goes down in defeat, I suspect it is going to be a while (if not forever) before the GOP learns to reform itself and becomes something new. Yes they have a largely aging and dying electoral base but they also have a lot of relatively young guns like Ryan and Walker who will be around for decades. I find Walker loathsome. I think Ryan is a somewhat decent if somewhat cowardly guy who tries to have it both ways (like most humans) and whose policies I severely disagree with. The best hope for the GOP is probably if Ryan and Nikki Haley manage to be the public faces.

    Over the past few years, the conclusion I have come to is that the hardest aspects of democratic republics to maintain is respect for people with different ideologies. Democracy requires compromise especially in the Presidential system. There needs to be a way to teach the ideas of respect and reasonable people can disagree on policy positions.

    But the GOP and farther-right has turned themselves into a party of ideological fervor and purity. There is no dissent allowed from their positions and they seem willing to do anything to get victory even if it means destroying all democratic norms. Now others have correctly noted that their tactics are constitutionally permitted hardball. There is nothing illegal about ignoring democratic norms but that doesn’t mean ignoring democratic norms is dangerous. Lee would say this is the “illiberal” problem of democracy. Democracies don’t know how to respond to people who do not respect the norms of democracy.

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    • “You’re a conservative, this has been around for a while, therefore you should support it!”

      “I opposed it back then, and I still oppose it.”

      “Oh, you conservatives, always still trying to fight battles you lost forty yeags ago.”

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    • I largely agree with you that, for whatever reason, the Democrats have become more small c conservative while the Conservative Movement has radicalized. There is certainly an illiberal Left out there but I don’t think it has much influence outside of college campuses and parts of the new media. What I find most frustrating about the nomination of HRC is that she is one of the least credible people for pushing back on Trumpism, including the tiny kernels of truth in some of the things he says/sentiments he represents.

      I see Trump’s recently discovered statements as quite unsurprising given his persona. He’s the jackass that I’m sure most of us have rolled our eyes at while he spins bullshit after a beer or 10 at the local watering hole. However, it’s hard for me to take the outrage seriously when most of the people who are opposing Trump are about to vote for the return of a notorious hound dog to the White House as first husband, and who argued that this kind of thing wasn’t relevant back in the 90s (a point I agreed with). See also notme’s comment above.

      Maybe I expect too much of the Democrats, but seeing as how they’re the only bulwark against the type of nihilism Trump represents I can’t help but wish they’d be a little less cautious and a little more principled.

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      • HRC (by resume standards) is one of the most qualified people to ever receive a nomination from President from a major party. She was a twice-elected Senator from NY, a popular secretary of state, and you can also include 8 years of being involved in policy during her stint as First Lady.

        The Democratic Party also seems to have a thing for party loyalty and I think a lot of people disliked Sanders “Johhnie come lately” joining of the Party.

        FWIW, I don’t think Sanders would be crushing Trump in the polls. His political career was spent in an unrepresentative state. He is intriguing to people because of the unknowns but that could also be his downfall. He is still a self-described Democratic socialist from Vermont and even though I thrill as a Jewish-American at the idea of a Jewish President. I suspect the GOP would have no problem playing the Jewish card against Sanders just like they played the Catholic card against Al Smith in 1928.

        I don’t think Sanders would be as appealing to Republican-leaning women who are turned off by Trump because his politics are farther to the left and he does talk about raising taxes on those voters who are well off but not super-elite.

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        • I suspect the GOP would have no problem playing the Jewish card against Sanders just like they played the Catholic card against Al Smith in 1928.

          Shit, their nominee and some of his most important media backers are playing it against Hillary Clinton.

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        • what I think you’re missing is that the resume card is meaningless for people not committed to or frustrated by tribalism and the status quo. For a lot of people (myself included), her resume is her biggest flaw, namely because it’s a record of her support for many of the most disastrous tendencies of our political establishment, from foreign policy to criminal justice to big finance. References to it arent a counter argument, they’re an attempt to change the subject.

          Your point about Sanders can neither be confirmed nor denied. I’m not a Democrat so I didn’t vote for him. I can’t say that he personally would’ve been transformational towards the change Id like to see, or what the polls would look like had he been nominated. I can say I respect him for at least trying to force a conversation, which as far as I can tell the party leadership, political establishment (including HRC), and MSM would prefer never occurs.

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          • Your argument might be more against primaries.

            The Democratic and Republican Party faithful pick their nominees via primary for better or for worse. The GOP elite would have gone with Jeb or Kaisch. Sanders would not have a chance without primaries. Neither would Obama.

            HRC seems to be more popular in positions of power than when campaigning and your politics seem well out of the American norm.

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            • My politics I don’t think are too weird. Maybe I’m a bit more of a civil libertarian than average but I’m quite comfortable with liberal democracy and a republican form of government. I don’t even mind some socialism when necessary to keep the boats afloat.

              What I’m not comfortable with is the type of authoritarianism and elitism our particular system has started to produce. There’s nothing abnormal about that. If there was we wouldn’t have one major party overrun by populism (albeit an ugly and nationalistic variety that I reject) and another party whose adherents are increasingly defensive about its capture by elitist interests.

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      • What I find most frustrating about the nomination of HRC is that she is one of the least credible people for pushing back on Trumpism, including the tiny kernels of truth in some of the things he says/sentiments he represents.

        And yet, Trump is *so* bad, he’s still somehow going to lose really badly.

        It’s actually rather amazing. The Republicans have spent literally decades trying destroy Hillary Clinton, *and*, on top of that, she was a moderate Dem in a time we no longer wanted moderate Dems, so she just changed her positions.

        In any other version of 2016, the Democrats clearing the way for her could have been a *disaster*. 2008, yes, she could have worked, but not after 8 years of incredibly slow economic recovery and Republican attacks, we weren’t going for a moderate to work with Republicans. She was, at least, willing to *move*, but that opens her up to attacks for her changing position.

        And, on top of that, all the bullshit that the Republicans have carefully crafted to get her, including a bunch of recent stuff.

        You put us in any other universe, Hillary Clinton is a really, really dangerous nominee for the Democrats to run. I’m not sure she would lose, but it might be close. And note ‘being close’ is something the presidential elections *shouldn’t be* anymore…the Democrats hold a moderate structural advantage, so if the parties are *close*, opinion has swayed against the Democrats vs. where it started.

        And then it turns out that none of that actually matter if the Republicans run a reality TV star and professional con man for president against her. Just one of the *many* ways that his nomination was the Republicans shooting themselves in the foot. (Other ways, of the top of my head: Accelerating the GOP civil war. Muddling half their positions. Forever losing any perceived moral high ground.)

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        • Hillary Clinton, it turns out, is a very dangerous person to nominate. Because if she doesn’t win, she dies (bit of an explanation there, no? Promises are a bitch if you can’t keep ’em). So, um, she’s willing to do substantially more to win than… pretty much anyone in history.

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        • Ignoring the Looney Tunes below. There is a school of thought that HRC is stronger because of how often she has been subject to attack. Sanders is too untested here.

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        • People always say that Hillary Clinton was a dangerous choice for the Democratic Party to run in 2016 but they never can put their finger on who would be a safe choice. Hillary Clinton was popular with the middle aged white women and people of color that form the back bone of the Democratic Party. Sanders had his fans among the young but they couldn’t out vote Clinton’s supporters. Nearly everybody else was a non-entity in the early primaries and backed out fast.

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          • Biden’s safe. Hell, at this point, Franken would be safe. Feingold.
            Or Webb, or Blanche, or even Clarke.

            Just because everyone got drummed out of the race, by design, by a sitting president of the united states, doesn’t mean that they weren’t there.

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              • @inmd

                But Biden did not run and any “draft Biden” movement seems to have gone nowhere.

                Why Biden did not run is anybody’s guess. Maybe he wants to retire (he is older than Clinton and Trump), maybe his wife wants him out of politics, maybe he is still mourning for the death of his son.

                There were three serious contenders for the Democratic nomination. Maybe five if you include Chaffee and Webb whose announcements were met with shrugs of indifference. Sanders stayed in the longest. O’Malvery never really had a chance because of his perceived indifference to blacks when he was mayor of Baltimore in favor of white suburbanites.

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            • Erm, no.

              The weakness of Hillary Clinton in 2016 was almost entirely her moderate positions, plus her *husband’s* previous almost centrist positions, which meant she had to move *left* to win the nomination, and then barely towards the center at all.

              Someone who started when she *ended up* would have been better off, not someone who started more conservative!

              And Jim Webb and Blanche Lincoln are two of the most conservative Democrats there are! (No one actually knows what Clarke would do, which is one of the reasons we shouldn’t elect someone with no legislative or executive experience.)

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              • David,
                Clarke’s got plenty of executive experience, being a general’s good for that.

                Webb’s a barnburner of a conservative Democrat. I think he could pull it off. Wouldn’t be saying the same things about gun control, that’s for sure.

                Put it simple for ya: Any democrat could win (possibly excepting Blanche Lincoln — she’s only on there because of agriculture and populism) if the economy doesn’t go up in flames.

                If the economy goes up in flames, it is game on.

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                • Okay, now I see what’s going on.

                  You are talking about *this election*, the election with Trump in it.

                  A wind-up clapping monkey could win against *Trump*. And we don’t need to figure out a *better* Democratic choice…the current one is going to win in a blowout.

                  I was talking about a better Democratic choice in a *normal* 2016 election, against Cruz or Kasich, where Hillary Clinton would probably be behind.

                  And she’d be behind because she would have to move left to win the Dem nomination, and it would be unconvincing to both the left and the general population.

                  Meanwhile, the hypothetical Republican would dress up the Republican brand in populist terms, claiming what the country needs is lower taxes and less regulation, and also maybe finally making the Republican pivot on homosexuality by just saying it’s the ‘law of the land’ and saying it’s out of his hands now.(1) The Republicans have decades of experience of claiming their economic nonsense is populism.

                  So with Hillary Clinton in there, a *normal* Republican could have been a real threat, because the Clintons are almost the definition of center-of-road politics-as-usual, (Despite the fact that was a) her husband, and b) almost 20 years ago.) and that was exactly what the American people *didn’t* want. So she has to move *somewhere*, and to win the Democratic nomination that has to be to the left. Moving is weakening.

                  Luckily for Democrats and Hillary Clinton, the Republicans didn’t nominate a normal Republican.

                  1) Despite the fact that it is still entirely legal to discriminate against gay people.

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                  • “I was talking about a better Democratic choice in a *normal* 2016 election, against Cruz or Kasich, where Hillary Clinton would probably be behind.”

                    Generic Republican is always topping the polls. The problem is that apparently “generic” or “normal” Republican does not exist. Even within the Republican Party, a lot of people, including a lot of the base, go from distrustful of to hating Cruz. And Kasich probably fares worse. Perhaps less hated, but definitely more distrusted.

                    IRepublicans are, we are told, a coalition of three different groups (perhaps we need to add a fourth: white nativists), and the only thing that clearly the three groups share is they all viscerally dislike Democrats (even though, when you take the sticker out of Democratic policies, they like a lot of them).

                    Generic Republican is able to cater to all the different groups desires, whiteout crossing any of the lines: (educe taxes and reduce the deficit and preserve SS/Medicare and bring jobs back and bring prices down and ban abortion and and and….

                    But real candidate can’t, because Real Candidate comes from only one of the legs, and does not share the other legs priorities. He might fake them, but the mistrust will always be there. At the end of the day we will find out that Real Candidate was never a True Conservative, and that’s why he lost (*)

                    (*) Military Hawk McCain was not a TC, Money Guy Romney was not a TC, Nativist Trump is not a TC…..

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          • Nearly everybody else was a non-entity in the early primaries and backed out fast.

            Yes, because most of the party agreed it was Clinton’s turn to run, and didn’t want to go up against her. They either didn’t get in the way to start with, or they got out of her way fast.

            I’m not actually criticizing the party here. That’s basically how politics works. Sometimes a choice comes around on the rotation, it’s their ‘turn’, and the party is just going to go along with it. See also: John McCain.

            But this time, hilariously, the Republicans made a completely insane choice.

            Sanders had his fans among the young but they couldn’t out vote Clinton’s supporters.

            Sanders never had a real chance. I knew it, and I voted for the guy!

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            • “That’s basically how politics works”

              Far be it to have candidates within a party EARN the right to be the party’s nominee, it falls to “it’s x’s turn”. Yeah, that’s how the best candidate will be selected.

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              • It’s X turn is because X has earned the right, in the opinion of those that actually do the party’s work. Is not as if if was Hillary’s turn because they are following agnatic primogeniture.

                Primary voters might be the party’s shareholders (I disagree, but let’s say it’s true). But contrary to fairy tales, atomized shareholders do not run organizations. Management does. When you get those proxies to vote for in companies your 401k has shares (you know, the ones that end in the recycle bin), the names you read have been selected by management. Those candidates devoted years of internal work to prove to management that they are capable of running the corporation,

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                • “It’s X turn is because X has “earned” the right, in the opinion of those that actually do the party’s work.

                  I suppose it depends upon the definition of “earned”. If I bought enough influence, consistently voted the party line, got enough donations for the party, networked with party officials, help place members of the party in admin and elected positions, I’d “earn” the opportunity too yes? “Cause all that’s more important than actually, you know, doing hard legislative / committee / admin stuff.

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    • This segment from the Wallach/Myers piece is pretty dead-on and related to your point :

      We must put aside the cynicism about politics that is behind these rejections of representative democracy. Many on the right feel the urge to scoff at the idea of constructive deliberation, but this impulse is profoundly anti-conservative, especially as we live under a 225-year-old representative government. Americans must find a way to send representatives of good faith to Washington to argue about the ends and means of government, and these debates must yield compromises with broad political legitimacy among the electorate. If one cannot muster any hopefulness about our continued ability to achieve a healthy system of representation and debate, then the gratitude and confidence of dispositional conservatism are surely misplaced.

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  5. I’ve said this before about evangelicals but they know what they want and what evangelicals seemingly want above all is conservative Justices on the Supreme Court and conservative judges in the rest of the federal bench. Trump is their best hope at the chance of a Scalia or Thomas 2.0 and they are willing to make themselves look bad to get it.

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        • Sure, but first it seems important to note that “evangelicals” is a large and pretty diverse umbrella. A lot of younger evangelical churches, for example, are pro-gay marriage.

          But the strain of evangelical that I believe you are referring to is the one most non-evangelicals associate with the term: the rich, tv-ministry, steeped-in-politics, moral majority strain. And historically, that group hasn’t really had much of a problem with the kinds of things Trump says and represents. Historically, it fought that men killing un faithful wives being a prosecutable crime (but not vice-versa), spousal rape being a crime, and men having legal financial obligations to children born out of wedlock or abandoned through divorce. Even this morning, Pat Robertson was calling Trump’s remarks “macho.” And then there’s the way this strain of evangelicals has rewarded powerful men within its own ranks who have seduced their own partitioners.

          So while it’s important not to paint all evangelicals with a broad brush, the one’s you’re talking about when you talk about the Dobsons, Reeds, and the Falwells have never really had a problem with men behaving like Trump. There scorn has always been saved for the women on the other end of those gropes.

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          • So while it’s important not to paint all evangelicals with a broad brush, the one’s you’re talking about when you talk about the Dobsons, Reeds, and the Falwells have never really had a problem with men behaving like Trump.

            Well, except for the fact the comments were about *someone else’s wife*. Someone who had already refused him.

            The problem is that that fact is not getting a lot of airplay, and it needs to.

            And, yes, we all know it *shouldn’t* matter that the woman he was talking about was married, but we all also know it probably *does* matter to a certain group of misogynist men.

            So the question is: How would you feel if Trump did that to your *entirely faithful* wife or mother or married daughter, just jammed his tongue in her mouth against her wishes? Do you think she’d tell her husband, or do you think she’d be too ashamed? (Yes, I am aware that is misogynist framing. That is the point.)

            Although a much funnier thing to ask misogynist men is how those men would feel if Trump had just come up to them and kissed *them*. It’s always amazing fun, the responses you get. I recommend everyone try that question at least once on someone who doesn’t think that Trump said isn’t a big deal.

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  6. When I went off to college, I viewed myself as quite the liberal, but over time realized I was more conservative than I had thought. I retained my political liberalism, and am probably more liberal today than back then, but I live my life in a fairly conservative manner. I don’t participate in the back and forth name calling that passes for an argument on Facebook simply because it feels wrong to make assumptions about a person’s motivations and values based solely on one idea or statement. I am sorely tested sometimes when I read comments that really cause a “but, but, but…!” reaction in my head, but the reality is it won’t change anyone’s mind and being right isn’t always all it is cracked up to be. Civility matters to me and I think it matters to a lot of people. I was turned off of by the total incivility of many Bernie Sanders supporters, even though I like Sanders. I am often turned off by the incivility of the right when I hear whole segments of American society dismissed as not “real” Americans.

    The problem is that I think some people think civility is inauthentic and thus not worth aspiring to. I remember in Obama’s first term how some on the left were disappointed that Obama didn’t “call out” congressional Republicans on their intransigence and loose relationship with facts. It would have done nothing to solve the problem, it would simply have made his base feel better. That is not how you govern, nor is it how you go through day to day life. If all you want from your chosen politicians is to feel better about your own biases, then you really don’t want to participate in your own governance. And it allows us to ignore the critiques that would otherwise be useful for us to hear. Obama is not perfect, but the criticisms that would have been most valuable for us to hear were lost in the noise of bullsh*t and incivility. Conversely, those who cannot let go of the idea that Trump is better than Clinton are missing the big picture for a sense of gratification when he “shuts Hillary down”.

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    • Yeah, good comment.

      I find myself thinking that I’m a conservative in some ways but a technocratic progressive in others and a #BTFSTTG reactionary in yet others.

      It has to do with what I want conserved, what I want more of, and what I think has pushed us in very bad directions (down paths that we will very much regret having started down).

      There are some things that are very, very important for a culture that has high trust and high collaboration. I think we need more of these things (or, at least, stop weakening the ones we have). I think we need to stop doing things that reduce societal trust/collaboration.

      The weaknesses in our system are shored up by our massive wealth… specifically, we have leisure to jockey for positional goods instead of actual low-level Maslow needs. The second we have to start fighting for actual low-level Maslow needs (heaven forbid!), we’re going to look back at some of the positional goods we were fighting over and boggle.

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    • “Civility matters to me and I think it matters to a lot of people.”

      Hm.

      “I hate Sanders supporters, they’re so incivil!”

      “have you talked with any of them?”

      “Well I see them quote on TV…and people retweet things they saw that a Sanders supporter tweeted…”

      “Isn’t the tolerant intellectual non-reactionary ideal that we should all get to know people and experience empathy for them before we judge their behavior, rather than relying on cherrypicked reporting, and telephone-game Look What He Said quoting, and Everyone Knows What THOSE PEOPLE Are Like stereotypes?”

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    • I retained my political liberalism, and am probably more liberal today than back then, but I live my life in a fairly conservative manner.

      Same here. I’m actually pretty conservative in how I think society should operate. I think there are a lot of social norms that we *should* be following, even if I don’t quite want them to be *laws*. (I really only throw bombs at social norms that are part of societal *inbalance*.)

      And what has constantly amazed me, for decades, is how the Republican party often picks *exactly the wrong things* to ‘conserve’.

      The most obvious example to me, one I’ve said before, is opposition to gay marriage. See, I believe in the important of marriage. Republicans…do not.

      There were two paths at the start of the gay marriage question. Path one was to extend marriage to them. And then continue to emphasis marriage, make sure everyone still agreed that the ultimate goal of couples was marriage. Path two was to refuse marriage to them, resulting in all the people who agree that gay people actually exist having to make accommodations for unmarried permanent gay couples…which expanded more to allowing that for straight couples.

      And now we talk about people’s partners instead of their *spouses*. Good job, Republicans. I’m not going to claim that delaying gay marriage did *all* the weakening of marriage, but it sure as hell didn’t *help*.

      And *other* dumbass stances did the same thing. Do you know the reason that divorce is so high in red states? Because people get married too soon, sometimes before they have sex, and sometimes just before living together. Both those are pretty useful compatibility checks before marriage, but will Republicans accept them, or will Republicans fight them *tooth and nail* and demand people get married before those things. I think we all know how that played out. (This is what happens when you mix religion into politics.)

      Likewise…uh, guys, if you want everything to be like the 50s (And we’ll assume that black people and gay people are now included.), you, uh, NEED A MIDDLE CLASS. Which means you need policies that allow the middle class to exist.

      Republicans just keep screwing everything they touch up like that. They don’t seem to have any idea what they are actually trying to preserve, or for what reason, or how such preservation would work!

      This is on top of their total refusal to notice when the norm has changed, and that they aren’t trying to ‘conserve’ anything anymore, but to alter something back that the majority of society is happy with. That is, my complaint isn’t that they want to change something, my complaint is that they don’t seem to understand that is what they want to *is* changing it, and they still think everyone is on board with the old thing.

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    • If all you want from your chosen politicians is to feel better about your own biases, then you really don’t want to participate in your own governance.

      This, so very much.

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  7. This is an interesting essay for me, in that I am approaching midlife conservatism from an entirely different trajectory.
    I grew up in So Cal in the 70’s, when the status quo was the soft mellow liberalism of Jerry Brown and Linda Ronstadt.

    I became enamored of Reagan conservatism precisely because it was a radical re-ordering of the social order. I was a milder version of a self radicalized Western Muslim latching onto a mythical caliphate as the antidote to disaffection.

    Yet as I matured, of course my view of the world became more nuanced, and my conservative disposition began to see the wisdom and value in things like Social Security, the welfare state, boundaries and controls and regulation of freedom.

    Part of the nuance also is seeing that there are boundaries to boundaries, to see that order and communal norms can also hide tremendous suffocating cruelty and injustice, and line-crossing transgression is sometimes needed to make this injustice apparent.

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  8. Great piece, Roland.

    Where I have a serious problem with Trump’s statements is the implied abuse towards women as a result of his financial and social status. I can say with authority that I have never had a conversation with male comrades that would even orbit Trump’s asides. I say this not to virtue signal but to demonstrate just how far he is from the conservatism many of us adhere to on a daily basis.

    Here’s a thing I haven’t heard anyone mention over the weekend. Everyone I know is saying, like you, that they never really come across that kind of talk. But FWIW, I’ve heard a lot of talk like this. And it’s all been on PUA, MRA, another “man-o-sphere” sites. What Trump is describing in his Access Hollywood tape is a sort of distillation of the “game theory” theories of social evolution that PUAs tell each other over and over.

    It’s weird the degree to which the Trump universe overlaps the on-line alt-right universe (of which the “man-o-sphere” is inexorably tied). I can’t believe he spends any time at all on those sites. I’m pretty sure he’d find them all “losers.” (Excepting when they were praising him, of course.) So I really am curious as to how that intersection happens.

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    • BSpencer over at LGM had a good quip to the effect of “show me a Venn Diagram of racism and misogny, and I will show you a circle.”

      That, combined with Corey Robin’s theory that conservatism is really about protecting the private sphere of power, and I can see where it all hangs together, the jealous guarding of the privilege of men over women, Us over Them.

      I’ve read bits and snippets of meoirs from 60’s radicals exposing the ugliness contained in some fo the more out there black liberation groups, and the misogyny seemed to go in tandem with the familiar attitudes of self-aggrandization of Afro-centrism, of not so much wanting to destroy racism as much as to make it work in their favor.

      The alt-right sounds a lot like that, where even as they spew leftist buzzwords about elites and oligarchy, they really yearn for a world of hierarchy and privilege, with themselves at the apex.

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    • ” I can’t believe he spends any time at all on those sites. I’m pretty sure he’d find them all “losers.” ”

      I think it’s more likely that they’re both drinking from the same intellectual well, which has a deep and disgusting history.

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    • “I can say with authority that I have never had a conversation with male comrades that would even orbit Trump’s asides. ”

      I sure as hell have. In locker rooms and in some personal convos. I once was talking to my ex brother in law about dating (we were both divorced and dating at the time) and he relayed some detailed comments equivalent to “yeah I hit that thang” in a TMI level of detail. Meh, I don’t brag about my conquests to other men.

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            • 1) I couldn’t say since I don’t know any true libertarians. (I generally don’t discuss politics with people since they are all liberals/leftist where I live and I know what they think.

              2) Actually, although I wouldn’t’ call it “hate”, most people I’ve run into have no reverence / respect for democracy-at least how it’s supposed to function in a political entity like the US. They want what they want and screw anyone who disagrees. When they get what they want it’s a triumph of democracy and a travesty when they don’t.

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              • Damon,
                man, you want people to have respect for democracy?
                Folks I run with ain’t even got respect for the Holocaust.
                (Of course, they also wound up being strongarmed into signing a “I will not interfere with local elections” contract. )

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      • You’re still missing what people are upset at – it’s not the claim of all the women he slept with.

        It’s the part where he said he could do whatever he want because of who he is. Go look up Kelly Oxford on Twitter and the responses to her post asking women when was the 1st time they were sexually assaulted.

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        • “You’re still missing what people are upset at – it’s not the claim of all the women he slept with.”

          Actually, I’m NOT addressing Trump’s actions or statements. I’m responding to Roland’s OP.

          “It’s the part where he said he could do whatever he want because of who he is.” But hey, if you want to go there….in large part, this IS true. How many examples do you need of behavior that people get away with because they are powerful, privileged, have connections, etc.?

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          • I think is right. I get that the comments are crude, but I’m really not seeing the outrage as particularly principled. I keep asking myself, if a recording of Bill Clinton surfaced making comments to a friend that all he had to do to get an intern to have sex with him was demand it, how would people react? My guess is that most of the people most outraged by Trump would be downplaying it, or saying that comments behind closed doors don’t reflect on his ability to do the job.

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          • Exactly, I can only guess how many women Bill Clinton assualted because he knew he would be protected as governor and then President. Yet he was fit to be pres and dems consider him to be a credit to the party. Therfore, I laugh at the NYT or other liberals’ bs when they say this makes trump unfit.

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              • He also had a wife that backed him up and disparaged his accusers.

                People keep saying that, but the only instance I am aware of of Hillary saying anything at all about his accusers is a single private email exchange, and even then it wasn’t very ‘disparaging’.

                If there *were* quotes of her attacking any of those women, you’d think Trump’s campaign would *be quoting that* right now. The fact they are not indicates that Hillary wasn’t.

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                • The Atlantic might beg to differ.

                  Maybe not recorded quotes…but still…

                  http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/02/why-hillary-clinton-wont-pay-for-disparaging-her-husbands-accusers/283801/

                  “After the Gennifer Flowers story came out during her husband’s ’92 presidential run, her response, according to Carl Bernstein, was to throw herself into efforts to discredit Flowers and to try to persuade horrified campaign aides to bring out rumors that Poppy Bush had not always been faithful to Barbara.”

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                  • Discredit and disparage are not exactly the same thing.

                    More to the point, I agree everyone *claims* she said bad things about all Bill’s accusers…the problem is *no one seems to know what those things were or have any record of them*.

                    And the talk about Gennifer Flowers (Which is indeed the sole insult Hillary seems to have made about any of the women involved in any of this, which was in a *personal email written to a friend* uncovered years later.) isn’t an example of that!

                    Flowers does not even slightly claim to be any sort of victim of Bill Clinton, so the story ‘Hillary went after her husband’s attackers’ does not work with her example!

                    Flowers claims she carried on a 12 year affair with Bill Clinton. (He says it was a single incident.) There are no allegations of illegal behavior or even civil sexual harassment.

                    Saying someone who had a consensual affair with your husband is ‘trailer trash’ to someone in private != Trying to discredit the alleged *victims* of the sexual misconduct of your husband

                    And even if Hillary *did* try to discredit Flowers, even that would be fine. The ‘non-feminist’ thing would be to try to discredit the testimony of *sexual assault*, not ‘She is exaggerating a consensual affair she had with my husband’.

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                      • It’s a fine line your slicing with disparage / discredit.

                        Which wasn’t my point, my point it that she attacked the credibility of a woman who *had a consensual affair* with her husband, not an alleged victim of sexual assault or even sexual harassment.

                        “bimbo eruption” ring a bell? I’d argue that fits the description of “disparage”.

                        It would indeed…if anyone could find evidence of *her* using that phrase to describe Bill’s *alleged victims*.

                        Likewise, the idea of ‘bimbo eruptions’ was about various women (Some of which were lying, some possibly not) claiming to have sex with Bill Clinton. *Sex*. Not that he committed any sort of assault or harassment against them.

                        That last little bit is the problem. Hillary *supposedly* said some pretty rude things about *Flowers* specifically, calling her a bimbo and trailer trash in private. (There’s almost no documentation of this except for that one email, but others have claimed she said it.)

                        And Hillary did, a few times, straight up accuse Flowers of lying about having a 12 year affair. And, in fact, it actually *does* seem Flowers was lying about the extent of the affair, although it probably wasn’t the single incident that Bill claims either. Of course, being an *affair*, it’s not something that involves the courts in any manner, so we’ll never know.

                        But *Flowers*, again, is not any sort of alleged victim of Bill, so the entire thing utterly fails from the start.

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                          • Heh, you should find that quote.

                            Tracking down that sort of thing would be interesting. We know that Trump and the Clintons used to be friend-ish, and we know Trump has a habit of weighing in on the guilt or innocence…

                            …holy crap. Hey, does anyone know anyone at the Clinton campaign? Now that Trump has opened the door, you know who the Clinton campaign should give a press conference with and try to bring to the debate?

                            THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE. Holding up copies of Trump’s ad.

                            …wait, no that only makes sense in an alternate universe where minority voters were going to vote for Trump in the first place. Knowing his supporters, he might even come out ahead.

                            Anyway, yeah, it wouldn’t surprise me if Trump weighed in on Bill’s alleged victims.

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            • Conservatives biggest problem with the big dawg is he does not need force or coercion to get women to sleep with him. Bill’s pretty damn charming. 90’s bill is still on my five gay cheat card.

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              • rmass,
                People mistake what rape’s all about all the time, my dear.
                If we’re going to define rape as “fucking people who don’t want to have sex” — yeah, Clinton’s got the charisma to pull it off. The man’s a sexual predator — plenty of them are civilized enough to “make sure the woman has a good time” (enough so that he doesn’t get reported).

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  9. “Conservatism, if it means anything at all, is to uphold the morals imbedded in respectful communal conduct. If the Republican Party wishes to stand for civility and honor in the public sphere, it must reject the alpha male allure. Sadly, this election has demonstrated that those moral proclamations have always been mask to hide their actual objectives that brought to light under Trump.”

    I am not going to speak for conservatives, as I am not one. But, one of the central problems with this is that it might be a great idea on paper, but not in the real world. If the, for lack of a better term, enemies of conservatism have no compunction to use these ideas and issues against them, then, much like the left using PAC’s in furtherance of a politician or movement, they might need to use them to get to what they believe in. Its the Real vs. Ideal writ large.

    Others have often talked about the so called death of the Republican party, but when you really dig into what they are saying you find that what they want is a party that gracefully loses. Well, no one wants to be invited to that party. And, if they have to put someone up who they might find odious but gets the job done, then the only recourse is the voting public. And if the voting public rewards them with a majority of statehouses, governorships, etc*, they will keep going.

    One of the issues here is that Trump isn’t running for sainthood, nor is he qualified to be one. But he is running for the same job that Clinton did, that Kennedy did. With many of the same issues.

    *Or, on the other side, the presidency.

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    • Others have often talked about the so called death of the Republican party, but when you really dig into what they are saying you find that what they want is a party that gracefully loses. Well, no one wants to be invited to that party.

      This comment isn’t really true.

      Democrats actually *do* want their side to gracefully lose if their side loses. Plenty of Republicans and former Republicans do too.

      Although, there are two different ways to ‘lose’ in politics. But the Republicans are failing at being graceful about either of them.

      The first way, the way that everyone in recent memory used to be graceful losers at, is *elections*. Your guy loses, you deal with it.

      But compare the 2000 and 2008 elections, and the losing side’s behavior. The Democrats lost in 2000 via a really close election followed by a *dubious* court proceeding divided entirely along party lines, and yet all of them accepted that Bush was actually president. The Republicans lost in 2008, and it wasn’t even close…and they continued wandering in conspiracy theories that meant Obama wasn’t really president.

      The Democrats were graceful losers. The Republicans were not.

      The *second*, more complicated way of being a graceful loser is to know when to give up on a specific political position. This gets into all sorts of subjective things, and it’s really hard to *prove* the Republicans are worse at this…but they seem to be to me.

      Democrats meet large resistance to stuff and they…stop. Often they seem to stop *too soon*. Witness how they behave towards gun control. Repeatedly they’d say ‘We should have gun control’ and Republicans would say ‘No.’, and that was it, for some reason. Exactly how many shootings did it take for them to even write any legislation and *try* to get it passed?

      Meanwhile, Republicans repealing Obamacare. Just absolute craziness. They lost that battle, and are completely unwilling to admit it. Not admitting they lost doesn’t mean they can’t still *attack* it, and maybe a symbolic vote would be useful politically, but exactly *how many* symbolic votes have they taken? What the hell are they doing?

      I dunno, maybe it’s possible to argue they haven’t actually ‘lost’ that battle yet, that it could still actually be repealed under the next president. (Pretending that the next president would be Republican, which she won’t be.) But multiple repeal votes under Obama is not going to result in that, unless they’ve secretly collected a veto override from Democrats, which they had not.

      Granted, at some point I’m unsure how much of this is ‘failure to lose gracefully’, and how much of it is that the Republicans appear to believe that Congress exists to posture about positions, instead of actually passing (or repealing) legislation. They’re not fighting battles over and over against even after losing, they’re not even there to fight battles, they’d prefer there were no battles at all.

      And there’s a lot of other things. The current Republicans have actually managed to snatch total defeat out of the jaws of 80% of victory several times. *That* is mostly due to newer Republicans (and Ted Cruz) being undisciplined little shits, but it looks a lot like ‘failure to lose (in the *tiniest* sense of ‘lose’) gracefully’. Republicans keep hitting triples and then getting thrown out of the ballgame because they got in a fight with the ref about how it should be a home run.

      And, as I said, this is rather subjective. Part of it my perception of this might be due to the fact that Republicans more often end up on the losing side of history, so automatically end up trying to refight battles long after the other side was victorious and moved on.

      But, anyway, my point is that, yes, people obviously want their political party to win, but if they *do* lose, they’d rather them lose gracefully than was whiny petulant idiots who keep complaining about how they were cheated for the next decade. And they’d also rather have people who can take *most* a victory and walk away with it, instead of having morons sabotage that so they get nothing. (And Obamacare, from the POV of the Democrats, is a good example of *that* not happening. If everything was exactly backwards and that had been Republicans, Ted Cruz would have made a ‘principled stand’ on demanding single payer and blown up the entire thing.)

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      • Another example is that Democrats absolutely despised George W. Bush. During the Bush years, Dems would come up with a list of charges not so different in tone and severity from those leveled by Republicans at Barack Obama, in terms of him undermining the constitution, overreaching his authority, dispensing with civil liberties, executing the duties of his in a feckless manner, and pushing a radical, extremist agenda [1]. Bush made Democrats really, really, really angry.

        We responded by nominating Barack Obama. Now, whatever you think about Obama, good or bad, he’s surely a pretty curious vessel for rage. Obama narrowly beat out Hillary Clinton, who has been routinely excoriated during the current election–from both the left and the right–as a too-moderate, too-cautious, tool of the establishment.

        I’ll stipulate that from the Republicans’ point of view, Obama was terrible in the way Democrats thought Bush was terrible. But how did they react to eight years of him?

        By nominating Donald J. Trump.

        The two reactions are not symmetrical.

        [1] You can disagree with the extent to which these charges actually applied in either case, of course, but they surely were leveled.

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        • Another example is that Democrats absolutely despised George W. Bush. During the Bush years, Dems would come up with a list of charges not so different in tone and severity from those leveled by Republicans at Barack Obama

          I agree with what you said about their two responses to presidents they don’t like. Democrats just tried again with a normal candidate. Republicans decided on Trump.

          But I have to argue the charges *did* differ in *tone*. Yes, there were political complaints aimed at Obama that didn’t sound too different than what was aimed at Bush…but there were also attacks on Obama that were vastly more personal, and racist, and all sorts of very nasty things.

          The worse personal attack Democrats made about Bush is saying he was stupid, or other things that boiled down to ‘not very bright’. In my mind, that is an entirely…well, not *reasonable* insult, but it’s at the normal *level* of complaints about the other guy. It’s like calling Clinton a horndog. Whatever. And it’s a far cry from Obama being a gay-married radical Islamist satanist married to a man. (Not the man he is gay-married to, BTW. That’s a *different* man from Michelle.)

          Now, I think you’re trying to make the distinction between ‘legitimate(-sounding) political claims’, and personal attacks, and the political claims had the same ‘tone’, but the problem is, all that personal stuff really does tint the political stuff.

          And there is a marked difference saying that Bush planned to go into Iraq for petty reason, and saying that Obama’s decision to [insert any action here] was because he is secretly on the side of terrorists and wants to destroy this country and hand it over to ISIS.

          But, anyway, I am not sure if the *tone* stuff has anything to do with the Republicans not being graceful losers. I’m pretty sure it’s just them being *assholes* and thinking it will get them votes.

          I mean, they did the exact same sort of crap to *Hillary* as Sec of State, and Hillary hasn’t beaten any of them, except I guess for Senate, but that’s exactly when they weren’t attacking her. And they ever started their attacks on the Clintons *well before* they completely failed at being graceful losers(1), at least in my book. (Bill Clinton might have constantly been under attack, but I don’t think it was because he beat Bush I.)

          1) My theory is basically that Republicans started having trouble coping with losing thanks to Bush II and the fact no one respected him.

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          • For me, the connection is that, after 6-8 years of feeling like they were losing to a President who was undermining and threatening the Constitutional order and wellbeing of the republic, Democrats did not decide that they were going to burn this mother down. They had a Congressional majority in both houses (just like the GOP does now) and they decided to choose a very electable, conciliatory candidate to get them over the finish line.

            The Republicans, at least the rank-and-file base of the party which has turned out to call the shots, while facing less of a sure thing in the Electoral College [1] decided that those sort of losses sustained during the Obama years completely delegitimized pretty much everything that could be delegitimized.

            No rematch. Just taking their ball and going home.

            [1] Which strengthens the case for a conciliatory candidate.

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  10. Let me quote Robert A. Heinlein,

    Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untravelled, the naive, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as “empty,” “meaningless,” or “dishonest,” and scorn to use them. No matter how “pure” their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.

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    • The Japanese say the same. They will tell you than, living in such a crowded society, only politeness stops people from killing each other.

      And even after being polite, they were very good at killing each other

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  11. I disagree completely with Roland’s premise about what conservatism is and is not

    To me, a conservative disposition gives precedence to the authority, ingroup (loyalty), and purity/sanctity moral foundations. A liberal disposition gives precedence to the harm/care and the justice/fairness foundations.

    That’s how you can be, as Muller points out, a conservative and be in favor of: “royal power, constitutional monarchy, aristocratic prerogative, representative democracy, and presidential dictatorship; high tariffs and free trade; nationalism and internationalism; centralism and federalism; a society of inherited estates, a capitalist, market society, and one or another version of the welfare state.”

    What all these conservatives have in common are the concepts of authority, hierarchy, and the difference between ingroups and outgroups. So, for example, the welfare state is good and dandy, but it’s benefits must be reserved only for those belonging to the ingroup (our race, our gender, our religion, our social class, our state, our country, etc.).

    Conversely, it is the duty of the outgroup to accept their (lower) position in the hierarchy, and respect the authority of those above. Of course you can belong to different groups at the same time, and the combination of your different groups will result in who you are, what’s your position in society, and how much authority you are supposed to exert as a result of thT position. Thus: white is better than not white, man is better than woman, Protestant is better than Catholic, which is better than Muslim, straight is better than gay, Rich is better than poor and so on.

    The liberal disposition is not concerned about the in/out group disposition. Instead they give preference to fairness (all groups are in principle the same, and is up to the individual to create its own social position), and to the avoidance of harm (for instance, there’s a minimum living standard below which no one should be; people should be given a level play field to develop themselves and there should be no hindrance that stop people from raising up in the social/power ladder)

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    • Because of my movement across the political landscape, I am cautious about making definitions that put the thumb on the scale and cast one philosophy as inherently good.

      Its more that I can see how things that within limits are a good and beneficial thing )like respect for pre-existing norms) can become toxic and unjust when the context changes, or when they are carried beyond useful limits.

      There’s useful data, personal memoirs and experiences of people who have been excluded from the traditional norms and mores, the stories we are familiar with of gay people, black people, women.

      But there are also empirical recollections of transgressive movements like the Hippies and Weathermen, Occupy and others, where the casting off of norms gave permission for all sorts of behavior that was every bit as unjust as what came before.

      I guess that’s where I am, where I see the value and benefits of traditions, the strength of shared norms and culture, and with every bit as much clarity, see how occasionally they need to be challenged, and justify themselves by transgressors. Who themselves need to justify their existence and purpose.

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      • I don’t see anything in what you said here that I disagree with.

        In particular I fully agree and support the following:

        “I guess that’s where I am, where I see the value and benefits of traditions, the strength of shared norms and culture, and with every bit as much clarity, see how occasionally they need to be challenged, and justify themselves by transgressors. Who themselves need to justify their existence and purpose.”

        Traditions emerge because they represent solutions to existing problems, and these solutions (like “stop eating unreftrigerated pork”) in general reduce harm to the community. Feudalism emerged as a mechanism to protect small isolated communities from marauding men-at-arms. A thousand years later, feudalism was a nobility gambling away peasants by the thousands in the card tables of Saint Petersburg. At some point in between harm/care had been thrown out the window, and replaced with Authority.

        Further:

        “But there are also empirical recollections of transgressive movements like the Hippies and Weathermen, Occupy and others, where the casting off of norms gave permission for all sorts of behavior that was every bit as unjust as what came before.”

        You say it yourself “every bit as unjust as” is not, in my book, a liberal disposition. Liberalism, as I understand it, is not anti Authority or anti Tradition (at best, you can call that “Anticonservatism”. Liberalism is about fairness/justice and care/harm. Whatever promotes fairness and/or care, like VIII Century feudalism, is of a liberal disposition. Whatever promotes injustice, even if it calls itself “against conservatism and anti bad people” is not liberalism.

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  12. Conservatism is an attitude. It used to be the attitude “Screw foreigners, immigrants, racial minorities, poor whites, women’s rights, gay rights. Continue their oppression. And benefit the white, the wealthy, the professionals, the managerial class, the native born, the men.”

    Now it’s a totally different attitude. Totally. It’s just different.

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    • The problem with threads like these is that there isn’t a “conservative” attitude. There are at least three. As a number of people upthread have said, it’s quite possible to be conservative!1 philosophically while holding typical progressive political views. While people who are conservative!2 are not progressive, but don’t hold much truck with the “I opposed it when it was unproven, and now that 40 years have passed, it works, and society has moved on, I still oppose it” crowd.
      And many people in Conservative parties aren’t conservative!1, conservative!2, or conservative!3, or any type of conservative you could name.
      Then someone makes a comment talking about their experiences with conservatism, as a conservative!2, and someone follows up to whom the term can only refer to conservatism!3, or, god help us, Conservatism, and the original poster reponds, and like always we end up with me googling “The Gossage—Vardebedian Papers” by Woody Allen to describe the situation.

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      • The conservative attitude is whatever we need it to be to show that our opponents are horrible wrong people whose ideas we don’t even need to consider to recognize their inherent invalidity.

        Like, you’re a racist! Clearly you’re wrong when you suggest that a failed military invention risks encouraging other nations to take belligerent postures as they judge the American strategic deterrence force by that measure.

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  13. I am comfortable saying that encouraging, adhering to, and supporting traditional ideas of decorum is a conservative value insofar as you are encouraging, adhering to, and supporting traditional ideas… i.e., the status quo.

    I am not comfortable saying this is necessarily a good thing. Once upon a time, traditional ideas of decorum demanded that people of lower status bow towards people of higher status.

    And I will steadfastly reject that this form of conservatism has anything to do with contemporary American political conservatism.

    ETA: Basically, this is the difference between being “old school” and an American Conservative.

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  14. Not (surprisingly enough) having read the previous entries…

    However one wishes to label the sort of disposition you describe, I definitely share it. Even as a revolutionary communist, I’m not at all happy about the idea of revolution; it is a position of necessity, not of choice, to be taken with the utmost care, and only when all other reasonable avenues have been exhausted.

    But precisely because I do share this disposition, I must object to your labeling it as “conservative”. If the disposition is indeed not fundamentally political, then it is at best an abuse of language to attach an overtly political label to it; at worst, it is propaganda.

    As Marx noted, “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force” (The German Ideology, Part I, Section B). It is a habit of any people to not only attribute virtue to the particular characteristics of the ruling class but also to attribute any idea conceived of as virtuous to the ruling class, even if that class — as you note in your post — demonstrably does not uphold that virtue, even hypocritically.

    Although less common, as all virtues are thus “necessarily” those of the ruling class, there is the occasional naive Raskolnikovian revolutionary who will abjure all virtue to signal their opposition to the ruling class, abjuring even those virtues not actually upheld. (“No, Donny, these men are nihilists. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”) If kindness, sympathy, a genuine concern for others as individuals are virtuous, then they are, paradoxically, the virtues of a selfish and unfeeling ruling class, and must be abandoned along with opera and caviar. Such folk are relatively rare in my experience, but they naturally get a lot of press.

    I think the disposition you describe is best labeled as “decency”. It is neither “conservative” (in the sense of upholding the ruling class du jour), “liberal”, or even “revolutionary”. Decency is difficult enough without attaching political labels and agendas to it.

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  15. and others:

    Let’s consider an old chestnut of a George Bernard Shaw quote:

    “Morals are for the Middle Classes. The poor can’t afford them and the rich don’t need them.”

    What if this election partially or largely based on this old quote’s observation. Roland and I and many posters here are solidly middle-class. We have something to lose by being crass and rude and confrontational in the way that Roland decries in this article. We can lose our jobs, our friends, our status, our homes, etc. The middle-class needs to maintain respectability to maintain their livelihoods.

    Trump’s supporters seem to be on the other ends of the spectrum. They are either like Jim Cooley and Melanie Austin (featured in Washington Post articles) and are so far on the down and out that they have very little left to lose (if anything) or they are very wealthy (Roger Allies, Steve Bannon, etc.) and have too much money for any lasting damage to be done.

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    • The average Trump supporter isn’t from the ultra-wealthy or the ultra-poor whites. A typical Trump supporter has long been determined to earn around $70,000 a year and is doing well even if not spectacular. This means that they have something to lose to.

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      • Loss aversion seems to be a very common theme in all of those news stories that are written to scold people who think that Trump supporters are bigots by demonstrating that they’re just too stupid to know what they’re doing.

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  16. The trolls of the alt-right have made a name for themselves being the worst form of Internet microbes, untethered to the social norms of deliberation and dialog. No argument is too ghastly to be discredited; a carnival of the basest is celebrated. It’s not surprising that many of these Twitter handles rushed to Trump’s defense, deriding his critics as “cucks” and “pussies” who feel inferior in the presence of a true alpha male.

    This is … bad. I don’t know. I don’t quite have the words for it. You aren’t a major politician, so it’s not “47%” or “basket of deplorables” or “bitter clingers” levels of bad, but it’s bad. It’s like a weird funhouse-mirror version of people using the ill-thought-out statements of idiotic college administrators to condemn the notion of seeking consent for sex. Or – here’s a better analogy. It’s like people using badly written diversity porn to condemn any sort of attempt at writing stories that involve people who aren’t white, male, economically comfortable, or some combination of the three.

    Not in terms of dismissing good ideas (in fact, I think it’s the surfeit of bad ideas that makes it possible), but in that you have clearly failed to understand your opponents, and because of that, you will never reach them. If they do happen to have good ideas sometimes, (or, maybe, reasonable perspectives that you should account for) you’ll never see those ideas. And if they don’t, you won’t be able to stop them, because you won’t be able to reach them with arguments that actually work.

    Trump is an asshole and plainly incompetent to be president. This is obvious to everyone the first time they look at him. The people who wind up actually supporting him (as opposed to rooting against his opponent) divide into three groups.

    The first group consists of people who think (correctly or otherwise) that they have been shoved out of politics long enough that an outsider, any outsider, is their natural ally. Whether or not you think they are justified in either of those beliefs, you need to be able to explain them without resorting to an “evil mutant” theory of reasoning, otherwise you will lose to people who are able to convince them that their concerns will be addressed by said people and not you. Like it or not, “people who think they have been kicked out of politics by liberals” are at least as large a group as “people who think they have been kicked out of politics by conservatives (or Conservatives, if you prefer)”. If you want to succeed, you must convince them otherwise, and that means knowing what they think and why.

    The second group consists of people who think Trump is playing some sort of 18th-dimensional chess strategy that involves pretending to be an idiot while actually being extremely competent. This group doesn’t matter. It’s small and doesn’t actually constitute a part of anyone’s base. However, you do yourself no help by confusing them with the other two.

    The third group has deliberately selected the least competent candidate they can find, because they believe that the system is breaking or broken, and they want to break it faster so that it can be fixed. It’s hard to convince this group otherwise; fixing the system is a coordination problem of epic proportions and there’s not a lot a single person can do about it. You can, however, not deliberately insult them, which will if nothing else show that you aren’t opposed in principle to the idea that something at least might be very fundamentally wrong here.

    Bottom line, though: if it’s bad to call your opponents “cucks” and “pussies”, it’s also bad to call your opponents “the worst sort of internet microbes”. Don’t do it if you want your call for civility to be taken seriously.

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