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GOPocalypse, Part 1: On Contingency

The below post is the first in a five part series on the 2016 GOP campaign.

In the grand scheme of things, 5,000 years from now, the world will little note the presidency of either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. ((Unless Trump starts a nuclear war or destroys the country.)) The broad sweep of history will likely be unaltered by any actions they undertake. If humans still exist in 5,000 years, one suspects that this particular era will be deemed part of a broader “information age,” a phase of a continuous revolution in economics and technology that began to change the world in the 18th century. Trump and Clinton will be ciphers, discussed only, perhaps, in the context of the growing fusion of mass media, entertainment, and politics, and how those factors interacted in a geographically-expansive, diverse democracy.

Human history is lived in human lifetimes, though, and this presidential election is particularly significant because, for the first time in American history, a party with a chance at unified control of the government dramatically reduced their odds by selecting a ridiculous nominee. If you think, as I do, that Trump is likely to lose–and John Kasich or Marco Rubio were likely to win–then the Republican decision was deeply significant. Clinton being able to put a locked-in majority on the Court in favor of abortion rights and a pro-federal government view of the separate of powers will have consequences for decades. Not, perhaps, at a world historical level, but certainly consequences echoing decades into the future.

This, then, is our frame: history can be very contingent. If over the long-term humans are governed by forces beyond our control and understanding, over the short- and medium-terms, human actions–and the actions of specific, powerful humans–can have an enormous impact on lived experience. That is the contention of this piece: a few small changes here or there, a decision or two made in the interests of the public, and Trump would’ve lost. He would have an interesting curio from the silly season, and a bunch of chapters in the Mark Halperin book, and, for more perceptive analysts, a warning about the future of the Republican Party. (To wit, I would’ve ignored those people, chalking his support up to his celebrity, and low-information voters. There’s still something to that, but it’s undeniable that he has stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment and hatred.)

Indeed, the contention of this series is that, while the final responsibility for Trump lies with the voters, the four major Republican contenders in the end–John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz–all could have stopped Donald Trump from being the nominee with actions at multiple points in this process. True, all would have required a degree of selflessness, of noblesse oblige, or some other ethos of service that seems lacking in contemporary politics. Whether you blame these candidates for complicity is up to you. This is merely a narrative, an interpretation and organization of events that tell a particular story: that Trump’s success was contingent and very fragile.

One question deserves a response prior to this exercise: why not Chris Christie? After all, he was Trump’s highest-profile early endorser.

The idea of this exercise is essentially counterfactual. In other words, imagine that the candidate did something different, and try to figure out what would have happened. Christie could have endorsed someone else, or simply sat out, but it doesn’t seem likely that a mere endorsement from an unpopular governor and rounding-error candidate moved a ton of votes. It saved Trump from a bad news cycle, but Trump always seemed to find a way to do that on his own.

In other words, even his betrayal of himself and his party wasn’t all that relevant. Take a bow, Governor!

In addition, prior to beginning, I think it is necessary to offer an argument against a compelling critique. The GOP’s voters obviously want this: look how strongly they are backing Trump to the general. #NeverTrump is a cipher.

This is frankly accurate. It does not, however, account for how a large chunk of votes are cast.

Many voters are best described as “low-information voters.” To be a low-information voter is not a moral deficiency, it is essentially a rational choice. Individual votes don’t have an impact, and people have busy lives. There are costs to spending time focused intently on politics. Most of us get our basic political orientations from our personalities, our families, our friends, and the lived experiences in our late teenage years, rather than as the product of a rational calculation. (I am no different!)

These “lazy heuristics” work because by-and-large, our political system has produced acceptable candidates, where “acceptable” defines as “fully capable of executing the constitutional and administrative responsibilities of the office of the president.” Even unpopular presidents like Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush cleared this threshold without any challenge. Neither was overwhelmed by the office and its weighty responsibilities; they merely made decisions that didn’t work out.

Trump, of course, is the first candidate in modern history who is completely unacceptable, ideologically and temperamentally. It is not clear that he could handle the day-to-day tasks of the office: to pay the country’s bills, to run the executive branch, to be a steward of the military and global stability. An examination of his record suggests that there are no guarantees that he would execute these responsibilities.

But our popular politics does not account for this. Voters continue to use their heuristics because they’re not paying attention to the specifics. As Salena Zito aptly puts it, Trump’s voters “take him seriously, not literally.” That these voters are not receptive to what should be an incontrovertible message–that Trump cannot do the job–is a testament to the weaknesses of direct democracy. Evidence of racism, sexism, incompetence, erratic behavior, etc. is irrelevant. He’s the guy, so we should vote for him. The concept that “the guy” could be unacceptable is unimaginable.

All of this is to say that a substantial share of Trump’s voters–ones who are real people, not the real-life caricatures on social media–would vote for anyone using the lazy heuristics. This Patrick Ruffini piece from March nailed the dynamic:

We often understand primary elections on a one-dimensional ideological scale. But in reality, there’s (at least) a second dimension: the voter’s level of political engagement. “Low-information” voters often masquerade as moderate or somewhat conservative voters in polls, and as a result, we assume they have a substantive preference for more moderate, or electable candidates. But in reality, it’s a preference for the strongest horse, one that doesn’t demand that they first embrace a specific set of ideological precepts.

The untold story of this primary is how Donald Trump has incapacitated the Republican Party’s establishment wing by shearing off the kinds of rank-and-file, non-ideological voters they have always relied upon to muscle through conservative primary challenges. Trump’s apostasies don’t matter just as Romney and McCain’s (relatively tamer) apostasies didn’t matter. As a result, the “establishment” has been an army with officers but no enlisted men, unable to command more than 20% for support for its preferred candidate at any time in the process.

Trump had name recognition, visibility, and affect. That’s all it took to sway this type of voter and push Trump beyond his base of “deplorables.” But that could have changed. I aim to demonstrate how.


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Dan Scotto lives and works in Oregon. He has a master's degree in history, with a focus on the history of disease and the history of technology.

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205 thoughts on “GOPocalypse, Part 1: On Contingency

  1. I don’t know when you started writing this piece–talk about contingent–but with the developments of the last week, it’s hard to disagree that one of the other candidates could have stopped Trump.

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      • The thing is, five months ago Trump’s nomination was effectively a done deal. In the realm of political reporting, these stories five months ago didn’t have the immediacy of an impending election or the prurient interest of video. Hence their being ignored. Without the video they would still be ignored, as being old news that everyone has already moved on from.

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  2. Looking forward to complete series.

    So do you think Christie serving as Trump’s attack dog against Rubio even before Christie dropped out was trivial in the scheme of things?

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  3. I dissent from the thesis of this excellently written piece.

    Maybe it is my partisan to me but I see Trump and Trumpism as being the natural conclusion of talk radio and Fox News taking over the Republican Party. Possibly the natural conclusion of the far right push that emerged with Goldwater.

    Erik Erickson and Glenn Beck have reacted with horror about Trump. But Erick Erickson called Justice Souter a “goat fucking child molester” because Souter made a decision that Erickson did not like. Glenn Beck made his fortune as a kind of Alex Jones-lite.

    So how can you say Trump was no inevitable? Trump is the product of the GOP marching right for decades and believing that the opposition was always wrong and evil. Trump is the conclusion of McConnell’s total opposition strategy.

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    • I second this. The GOP base is who I thought they were. A combination of tribalism, distaste for liberals, and sadness that being white is no longer a guarantee of a comfortable life and racial superiority.

      I’ve enjoyed watching politicians who (may have) genuinely thought the party was about limited government learn who their voters are.

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      • I strongly agree that they who we thought they were, but I don’t think this could possibly be the only important going on, because they aren’t all that different from the Republican base that nominated Romney. I think there’s been a bit more retrospective rehabilitation of Romney and his campaign than is fair, but no matter how you slice it he wasn’t from the same universe as Trump.

        I mean, it’s not hard for me to list a number of other factors that lead to where we are now, one of which is Romney losing a perhaps winnable election that vast numbers of Republicans thought was a sure thing, but you can’t explain a variable with a constant.

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        • I suspect that Romney, the Governor of Massachusetts could have beat Obama in a Presidential election in some circumstances. Romney’s problem (IIRC) is that he was not able to run based on his record as governor of Massachusetts but was required to lurch further to the right to please the GOP base and the talk-radio front.

          That doesn’t change the fact that Erik Erickson is either a moron or a immoral hypocrite for being horrified by Trump and not having the ability to reflect that his own rhetoric helped give rise to him.

          Though Romney spent enough time as an elected politician and Republican to make him immunish to No True Scotsman arguments. Plus he picked Ryan as his veep.

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    • Trump’s success is a natural outcome of the Tea Party obstructionist policies splitting the GOP and diluting their ability to control candidate selection and basic messaging. Maybe next cycle we’ll see a true multi-party race.

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  4. If you think, as I do, that Trump is likely to lose–and John Kasich or Marco Rubio were likely to win–then the Republican decision was deeply significant.

    I think the decision was deeply significant, but not (necessarily) for the reason you state. I’m not sure that Kasich or Rubio would have been likely to win. Rubio strikes me as a light-weight, and with his own bounty of oppo-research fodder. He wouldn’t have stood up well to scrutiny. Kasich is a more interesting candidate. His accepting Medicaid funds on the grounds of Christianity pissed off the usual suspects, but attracted a lot of favorable notice from people not necessarily dedicated Republican voters. On the other hand, he is personally bland.

    People focus on Clinton’s negatives, but I agree with the position that everything is known about her. Trump wants to bring up stuff from twenty years ago? *yawn* Similarly, were it Rubio or Kasich bringing that stuff up. Oppo research on her is pretty much pointless, because it is already baked in.

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    • Replying to myself, I meant to add that I think the significance of the Trump candidacy is that it exposes the rift between elite conservatism–low taxes at the upper end and giving corporations free rein–and the Republican base. This rift isn’t new, but it in the past it was successfully papered over. This is no longer possible. How this plays out over the next few years will be fascinating.

      In the meantime, if we are going to have a quasi-fascist authoritarian candidate take advantage of the rift, it is probably fortunate that it is one who is overtly comically inept, with a long, well-documented history. A more competent version of Trump with less opportunity for oppo research would be far more dangerous.

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      • Rubio is more of a cypher. He’s probably weaker than Kasich in real life, this perhaps more susceptible to Democatic attacks.

        But Kasich would have never rallied the bases. He doesn’t belong to any of the three (four) stool legs. He’s not a Christianist Cruz, he’s not an Ayn Rand devotee Ryan, or a warmongering Rubio (not sure Rubio is, but he chose that stool leg), or a populist Buchanan/Trump.

        Why is Kasich even a Republican. What part of the Republican coalition does he represent? On the other hand, Kasich would have been an awesome Democratic candidate. He’s running in the wrong party.

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        • Kasich would have been fine as a Romney-style compromise candidate if he hadn’t gotten swamped by the Trumpocalypse. He certainly has much better conservative bona fides than Romney ever did.

          I think Rubio would have been a modest disaster in the general against Hillary; he just lacked the basic political instincts and abilities necessary to be a good candidate.

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            • Kasich didn’t have Romney’s history of apostasy on abortion, and just like the Santorum supporters ended up coming around for Romney after the convention, I suspect that social conservatives would have been more than willing to support Kasich in the general.

              He was never going to be the kind of candidate who really inspired the GOP by genuinely appealing to most or all of its factions, the way Reagan and GWB did.

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            • Yeah, you might be wrong. I would have preferred Cruz, but I wouldn’t have had any problem voting for Kasich, the record. Kasich, the candidate, positioned himself as an opponent of the right wing of the party, but still I would have been ok with him in the White House. Ditto any of the Republican candidates with experience.

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        • At the same time, Hillary is quite unpopular, even among Democrats. Rubio being a cypher is helpful in an election this year. The fundamentals lean slightly more pro-Republican this year. His Gang of Eight liability in the primary becomes a benefit in the general. Also, his “first Latino president” cancels out Hillary’s “first woman president” appeal. Though me saying this is more about Hillary’s weaknesses than Rubio’s strength. It should be noted that the Clinton camp was also most afraid of Rubio and Rand Paul.

          Kasich is fiscally conservative and somewhat socially conservative. He’s more conservative than Romney and, like him, has fewer rough edges.

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        • As commented below, Kasich isn’t really nearly as moderate as generally thought – that was just the role he was forced to play because Cruz and Trump and Carson were around.
          People who lived in Ohio during his era are pretty clear – he’s not foaming at the mouth to re-establish the caliphate or nuke Israel to bring about the Rapture, but his socon and religious credentials are impeccable.
          But a Kasich presidency wouldn’t be an existential threat like the abovementioned three would. It would hurt a lot of people, kill a few who otherwise wouldn’t die, and put a thumb on the wrong scale as far as the planet’s future is concerned – but that could be said for any Republican. Kasich would be ordinary.

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          • What’s the scandal there?

            Chelsea is concerned about reports that a company was trading on Bill’s name, and that it might harm the foundation. The guy running that company wrote a pissy email in the process of trying to resolve the concerns.

            Am I missing something?

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            • Chelsea raising concerns about conflicts of interest is part of a pattern of “pay to play” where people (or other entities) would donate to the Clinton Foundation in return for getting favors, either from the Secretary of State, or from the future President.

              You show me someplace that lets standards that lax reign (up to bill clinton himself?)…? I wonder what’s behind the smoke.

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              • Isn’t raising concerns good?

                Isn’t the concern that this non-Clinton person is suggesting that possibility to potential donors, which bothers Chelsea because it isn’t true?

                On the assumption that we have all of Podesta’s emails, or at least the bad ones, show me where the pay-for-play happens, not where the “Chelsea heard suggestions of third parties promising Bill Clinton access and freaked out because that isn’t the deal” happens.

                Or show me where someone else is actually doing something wrong. This “Clinton internal emails leaked -> ???? -> SCANDAL!!!!!11” Clinton-rules nonsense is exhausting. So far the closest thing I’ve seen is that some DNC staff proposed a mean attack about Bernie internally that never made it outside of the DNC staff circle. And Podesta wastes time cooking risotto.

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                • It’s Kim. She knows ‘pay to play’ happened because her friends told her so, but all the reporters trying to find ‘pay to play’ and failing are just stooges that Clinton threatened into silence.

                  There’s literally no point in talking to her once the topic hits Clinton, because there’s not enough tin-foil in the world for her on that topic.

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                  • I’m not saying boo about Benghazi. I’m not saying boo even, about the e-mail server (though we all agree it was profound negligence, if not instutitionalized stupidity).

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                    • Yes, Kim, you’ve moved to ANOTHER conspiracy theory.

                      I’m not sure why you think that’s some sort of good thing. You’ve flitted from CT to CT depending on whatever is blowing up one weird corner or reddit politics or another, and yet you still insist you’ve got some sort of good sources.

                      Sources that have claimed all sorts of dirt, consequences, and possibly arrests involving Clinton would happen — because she’s evil and corrupt — and when they don’t happen, it’s because she’s even MORE evil and corrupt.

                      Seriously, at what point do you think “Maybe I should stop taking as gospel truth the words of these people who have been wrong about everything so far” rather than doubling down on your insider insights?

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                      • Claimed dirt, yes. Claimed DNC complicity, yes.
                        Claimed consequences?
                        My dear, where the fuck did you get that?
                        What, the idea that clinton might get involved in a nuclear war (where some other president might not)? Okay, so that’s a consequence.

                        The Powers that Be are quite alright with Hillary bombing “places no one cares about.”

                        Arrests involving Clinton? No, no I haven’t claimed a single thing like that. (Did I call Bill a sexual predator? Yes, but I do mean that in a more broad sense than some people might use it.)

                        I haven’t really claimed that Clinton is evil, really. She’s certainly not evil like Nixon was evil. She’s vindictive, yes, and has an axe to grind against the left.

                        But that? That would be okay. Really.

                        Her going kinda off her rocker? That’s not okay. Particularly when it’s in a way that leaves her vulnerable to easily predictable circumstances (See China and Russia falling apart).

                        Corrupt? Yeah, she is. Ya notice that I’ve claimed that 2/3rds of congress is blackmailed, lately? Well, it’s still the truth same as it was last I said it.

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        • nevermoor:
          Which Podesta emails am I supposed to be concerned about?No one seems to have an answer that withstands even passing scrutiny.

          The risotto thing has been apparently debunked, but I’m still a believer in gradual additions of the stock.

          (should clarify – the risotto email hasn’t been debunked, just Podesta’s advice)

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  5. Further, but more basic than my response to Mo upthread.

    I think there is a more fundamental question that needs to be discussed

    What is the Republican Party? What do they want to accomplish? What characterizes a Republican? Are Republican bases and Republican leaders in the same page, or even in the same planet?

    Or is it just a vehicle for people that are against one or more of the Democratic platform elements? Is there anything more that “I want to stop Democrats from implementing [universal health care/antidiscrimination/higher minimum salaries/a secular pluri denominational society/abortion choice/a more progressive tax regime/environmental restrictions/base closures/etc.]”

    I’m fine (in principle, not in real life) with several versions of what a Republican Party could be, but in all of those alternate versions, a significant part of the coalition would have to be shed out. But right now the Party looks more like a conspiracy (I’ll help you stop gay marriage if you help me kill minimum salaries) but the conspirators ultimate goals are so disimilar that I cannot see any leg of the stool agreeing to go further in any direction beyond “let’s stop everything right now, so at least we are not worse of”

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    • “[Is the Republican Party] just a vehicle for people that are against one or more of the Democratic platform elements?”

      We’ve been hearing that since 2008. Now, with the nomination of Trump, we get to see what it looks like when The Party Of NO actually exists (versus just being a rhetorical stick to beat the opposition with.)

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    • This.

      “What is the Republican Party?” According to its currently-elected leaders (Ryan and McConnell), it stands for (a) much lower taxes on the wealthy, (b) much reduced regulation on various industries, (c) increased military spending and (d) **magic here** no impact on social programs.

      (e) It also stands in ferocious opposition to whatever the Democrats want to do. (f) And finally it has no coherent position on immigration.

      The problem is that the wealthy backers care only about (a)-(c) and the voting base only cares about (d) – (e). Money and votes want precisely the opposite results on immigration, thus leading to the party’s incoherency.

      Once Trump entered the race, as the successor to the Tea Party movement, he neatly drove a wedge straight between the money and the votes. It’s not like his character was any great mystery. People loved him anyway, and his challengers could not attack him on his policies because they needed those votes too.

      Kind of ironic that the first major casualty of Citizens United is the Republican nominee for President in 2016.

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      • The problem is that the wealthy backers care only about (a)-(c) and the voting base only cares about (d) – (e). Money and votes want precisely the opposite results on immigration, thus leading to the party’s incoherency.

        That’s not exactly right.

        It’s not *just* that the wealthy backer wanted that, it’s that they thought the *voters* wanted what they wanted.

        There were also positions g-h, social positions like anti-abortion and anti-gay-rights, that the the wealthy backers thought the voters wanted, and a lot of the voters *claimed* to want, and then, uh, it turns out no one really cares about.

        The problem is not that the money people and the voters wanted different things. That’s what *lying* is for.

        The problem was that the money people, and the establishment in general, had *no effing idea* what their voters cared about. (And neither did *anyone else*.)

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        • Hmm. I disagree about g-h. I think that the bigwigs thought that g-h would play to 40% of the base, or even more. Turns out that it was actually 10% who are so fanatical that they shout 4x louder than anyone else so they sound like 40%. And they sway the media narrative as if they were 40%, they just don’t vote like 40%.

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          • I….am not sure how that is disagreeing with me.

            In fact, to expand on that, I think that ‘10% pretending to be 40%’ probably applies to every leg of the Republican stool. They thought 40% were hardcore social conservatives, 40% were hardcore anti-big-government conservatives, and 40% were hardcore national defense people. (Yes, that’s 120%, but it’s perfectly reasonable to have overlap. And 40% is just a random estimation.)

            And it turns out that either each faction was only 10% and really loud (Like social conservatives), or that 10% of the base was really for the stated purpose of the faction, and the remaining 30% of the faction was *actually* using that position as an argument for some sort of white Christian rural identity politics, or some some combination thereof. (And I think social conservatives *used* to be that way, 40% were a white Christian patriarchal gender-conforming rural identity, and slowly just vanished as, well, society changed. But that faction remained just as vocal.)

            Which, I mean, everyone sorta knew, but what everyone *didn’t* know is that the fakers would abandon those supposed factions *immediately* if someone promoting something else came along. Like they would transfer from ‘strong national defense’ to ‘Build that wall’ in ten seconds flat, or from ‘Welfare queens buying steaks with food stamps’ to ‘Syria refugees with cell phones complaining about internet access’.

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  6. I’m going to second Saul. Trump is the logical conclusion of Republican electoral strategies that date back to Goldwater at least. During the Civil Rights era and subsequent years, many Republican political strategists saw the reaction against civil rights among White Americans as a key to electoral victory. They combined this reaction with fear of the crime waive and social change and dog whistled as much as they could. The dog whistles grew louder and more overt as the years past by and Trump’s full White nationalism and xenophobia is the natural conclusion because that is what a plurality of American voters want.

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  7. “Trump, of course, is the first candidate in modern history who is completely unacceptable, ideologically and temperamentally”. I find this statement hilarious. If this statement was true, he’d have no polling. He wouldn’t even be a contender. So obviously there’s a lot of people who disagree with this statement. We’ll find out how many come election day.

    “It is not clear that he could handle the day-to-day tasks of the office: to pay the country’s bills, to run the executive branch, to be a steward of the military and global stability. An examination of his record suggests that there are no guarantees that he would execute these responsibilities.” Frankly, I can’t recall a presidential candidate that has demonstrated this skill, in advance, when they are running. Even being Secretary of State or VP doesn’t necessarily mean you can handle the “big chair”.

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  8. Remember when we were writing essays about how Romney’s “Binders Full Of Women” was reminiscent of the misogyny that resulted in such things as Chinese foot binding?

    Good times.

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  9. Does Patrick Ruffini allege that there are no low-information liberal primary voters? Is he just talking about the Republican primaries? (Even then, I’d question that idea.)

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    • #NeverTrumpers would likely argue there’s no TV network and series of websites created to put forth the conspiracy theories, half true stories, and hardcore unelectable ideology on the Left. Even the editorial lean of DailyKos is very liberal, it’s “let’s pass universal health care and ban guns”, not “every single Democrat is conspiring to not pass _real_ liberal policies because they’re elitist who hate you.”

      I mean, I’ll put it this way – there is no member of the media or website that elected Democrats are afraid of the same way elected Republican’s are obviously afraid of getting attacked by Rush, Drudge, Sean Hannity, etc.

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    • I think it’s perfectly reasonable to assume the same dynamic works on both sides of the aisle. But it’s harder to spot the Democratic version because we don’t have a Trump.

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      • But it’s harder to spot the Democratic version because we don’t have a Trump.

        It is harder to spot the loons on the D side, but it’s certainly not hard to find low-information D voters.

        I hesitate to put a number on it, but the vast majority of voters are low information; that is, they are voting largely on political leanings and gut feelings about the candidate.

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        • There are probably just as many low-information Democratic voters as Republican *normally*, although I’m not sure Fox News hasn’t *changed* that, quite purposefully.

          More importantly, there are a lot of differences in their “lazy heuristics”, as the post puts it.

          The major difference I’m seeing right now is that a lot of low-information Republican voters seem to be a *lot* more malicious in their behavior, a lot *angrier*. Hence the ability of Trump to hijack them.

          Whereas the worse you can say about low-information Democratic voters is they’re often just…weirdly utopian, in either their policies, or the idea that we could all just get along. (Which is why the Democrats keep getting infested with centrists.) Or the idea that Democratic politicians can do anything. Or the idea that Democratic politicians will even *try* to fix specific things that they haven’t bothered to fix forever, or won’t sell them out.

          Or, to look at it another way:

          The low-information Democratic voters are sorta equally distributed across the Democratic spectrum.

          Whereas the low-information Republican voters have been, over the last decade, been lured slowly to the right, to the point of gibbering madness and Trumpism. (Or possibly *new* low-information voters have been created and ended up there.) Not *all* of them, there are plenty of people who are looking at Trump and their gut feelings are going ‘Holy shit, really? I wouldn’t loan this guy ten dollars.’, but enough of them.

          And, remember everyone: Trump is a conman. The *entire way* that conmen work is by making people rely on their guts instead of actual logical thought.

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          • David,
            Can we please remember that there IS a Democratic Machine, and that it is, by and large, corrupt (in that the people who vote for it, are, by in large, not getting much out of their votes?)?

            This is a large portion of the vote in a lot of states where Hillary took the whole pot.

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          • If you want angry right-wing conspiracy loons, listen to predominantly white talk radio stations. If you want angry left-wing conspiracy loons, listen to predominantly black talk radio stations.

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            • Assuming this is even true, the difference is there no black talk radio host who can make a national elected official come kiss their ring on air to survive a primary.

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              • I was responding to David’s idea that gibbering madness is strictly on the right. Black Lives Matter is more racist and violent than anything the Tea Party produced, and I don’t see a Democrat rejecting BLM and getting the nomination any more than a Republican rejecting the TP and getting the nomination.

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      • If both sides were the same, this would be Donald Trump versus Jill Stein.

        *shrug*. That’s the difference. The Democrats have long kept the crazies either corralled off, safely away from anything dangerous, or just straight off ignored them until they left in a huff to form their own party. (Which generally involved multiple rounds of kicking out the insufficiently pure. Everyone needs a hobby, and it beats letting them run things).

        The GOP has, unfortunately, lost control of their crazies and let them take over.

        Personally, I believe it’s because they fed the crazies, making them terrified and/or angry voters. Very reliable voters, due to the terror and anger.

        It started as a con (“rile up the rubes, get ’em to the polls”) and sort of got out of control as the GOP kept accidentally electing people who weren’t in on the con. They believed the con.

        Call it politics-as-mystery-cult. Except the outer members got together and voted all the inner members out, and the secrets got lost. You were left with a religion that took literally that which was supposed to be symbolic.

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        • If both sides were the same, this would be Donald Trump versus Jill Stein.

          Not even that.

          Jill Stein, while not someone who should be president, is no Donald Trump.

          Jill Stein is more a Rick Santorum, maybe combined with Ben Carson. Someone with wacked, somewhat fanatical beliefs, somewhat outside the norm, and maybe a bit dumb.

          Donald Trump, meanwhile, is someone who is unacceptable as president in half a dozen ways. (I said in an earlier post, he’s unacceptable based on his finances along.)

          I’m not even sure who could possibly compare to Donald Trump on the left.

          Running Malcolm X for president?

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          • Well, it’d probably be some head or former head of one of the more pointlessly self-defeating animal or environmental rights groups.

            You know, someone who thinks we can all go back to subsistence farming or something.

            Clearly used to people listening to them, agreeing to the dumbest things, and trivially shown to be completely impossible in reality.

            Ah! Jenny McCarthy.

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            • I was *this* close to suggesting Jenny McCarthy.

              The problem is, she’s not *angry* enough to be Trump.

              I also was considering Charlie Sheen, except he’s apparently a Republican. (Although at least an anti-Trump one.)

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  10. It is not clear that he could handle the day-to-day tasks of the office: to pay the country’s bills, to run the executive branch, to be a steward of the military and global stability. An examination of his record suggests that there are no guarantees that he would execute these responsibilities.

    That’s not all.

    As I ended up explaining to someone in real life the other day: Let’s imagine that Trump is a nice person who hasn’t done horrible things, and let’s imagine that Trump doesn’t have horrible policies. Let’s assume he’s a 100% bog-standard Republican, or even slightly more to the center.

    He *still* is not an acceptable choice for president because of his *finances*.

    I mean, let’s say Elon Musk decided to run for president. (Ignoring the fact he wasn’t born in America so cannot.) Elon Musk is a large shareholder of many publicly traded company, and he’s the corporate president/officer of some of them, but he could divest himself of his stock, resign, and put his money in blind trusts rather easily. It’s the same with Bill Gates, or most other billionaires.

    Donald Trump’s ’empire’, meanwhile, is a bunch of privately held corporations, some just owned by him, others, like development projects, as partnerships with other corporations and people. Some of them literally cannot be transferred in any way, and the rest would require all sorts of weirdness to sell. He is permanently entangled with most of his companies, and cannot possible put them in any sort of blind trust. Hell, we’ve repeatedly seen how he doesn’t seem to understand the difference between him, his corporations, and his charities.

    A good portion of this empire are *licensing rights*, which, even ignoring the ‘cannot put in blind trust’, is not something we should be letting our *president* do. I mean, hell, we all agreed that Arnold couldn’t be in movies while governor, it wasn’t even something we had to have a debate about that. Do we want our president *selling his name* to put on the sides of buildings? What does that say about this country?

    And, additionally, he owes a *hell* of a lot of money to foreign sources. He owes money to Deutsche Bank, which not only is being hit with massive fines from the SEC (Aka, the executive branch, aka, the branch president is in charge of), but is probably going to end up being owned by the German government. That’s right, our president will owe over $50 million (at minimum) to a foreign government. And it’s not like he can just transfer that loan to a different bank…American banks have *blacklisted* him.

    And that’s just the documented, above board loans. There’s also the Russian loans, which we know very little about.

    teal deer: Even if Trump was a 100% squeaky clean person with the personal history of a *saint*, someone with his finances cannot be president, period.

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  11. Trump is not the logical conclusion of 52 years of Republican ideology and campaigning. Trump is a parasitical infection of a host whose main disease is post-W identity crisis.

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    • Exactly. Taking certain (definitely not all) Republican issues, policies, or talking points, and then dialing them to 11 is not the logical conclusion of Republican ideology.

      A different analogy. The post-W identity crisis was like the stress and lack of sleep that made Republicans increasingly susceptible to the cancerous right wing media/entertainment complex. That infection festered for a while before it in turn metastasized into a near fatal case of the Trump.

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      • I agree. And he hasn’t even taken ever Republican thingamagig o 11. His *issue*, aside from the seething ball of white hot rage, is Anti Free Trade – which is the complete opposite of the post WW2 GOP thinky talky.

        He also ‘pro’ LGBT issues, in that he doesn’t give a darn at all about those issues, and won’t support so called bathroom bills.

        Even his stance on abortion during the campaign reveals he doesn’t give a darn about that issues, just telling people what he thinks his stance should be – and then drawing conclusions based on what logically follows from what he thinks that stance should be.

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    • Agreed. The political environment Trump invaded and flourished in like invasive kudzu is the logical conclusion of 52 years of GOP ideology and campaigning; Trump himself is kind of random.

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      • Speaking of Limbaugh:

        You know what the magic word, the only thing that matters in American sexual mores today is? One thing. You can do anything, the left will promote and understand and tolerate anything, as long as there is one element. Do you know what it is? Consent. If there is consent on both or all three or all four, however many are involved in the sex act, it’s perfectly fine. Whatever it is. But if the left ever senses and smells that there’s no consent in part of the equation then here come the rape police. But consent is the magic key to the left.

        That’s a good start. I just wonder where the argument goes from there. Can’t find it in the tubes…

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      • For what it’s worth, I was there during part of the Ron Paul r3VOLution and they hated non-mainstream candidates. *HATED*.

        At the time that I was banned from there, they had a policy that, in order to be a front pager, you *HAD* to be pro-life. I pissed off a number of folks by arguing that they should have had a similar rule for the bailouts (a number of front pagers defended McCain’s voting for them).

        The Theocons aren’t the ones that gave rise to Trump.

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      • I do think Erickson personally and the stuff he’s been a leader in have a great deal to answer for in the rise of Trump. Plus, as Schilling & others say, Limbaugh and the rest of the talk radio crowd. (but this is also a function of singing one tune before either 2006 or 2008, and singing a completely different tune since then) (except for Savage, who has always sung his own discordant tune). Fox News and Drudge are a bit more complicated (who knew that Andrew Breitbart was actually a somewhat moderating influence on things, on net?)

        Regardless, the various chaos creators, opportunists, and outright grifters that the GOP has used as a golem (with the appropriate blowback happening now) is still not the trendline of conservative ideology that coalesced in post World War 2 America. *That* trendline created Reagan and Bush Jr. Trump is a reaction to perceived (and actual) failure of the Bush jr administration, after the perceived (and actual) successes of the Reagan administration with both admins having pretty much the same ideology.

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        • I have no idea why you think tracking conservative ideology back to *WWII* is a reasonable thing to do. There has been at least one *extremely* large paradigm shift since then, and I’d argue another.

          It’s sorta like talking about the trendline of British foreign policy since 1400. Huh? What is that line measuring, and what direction does it go in?

          The modern conservative ideology arguably didn’t even exist until Barry Goldwater, which reached a sort of platonic ideal under Ronald Reagan.

          And there was some sort of unnoticed change that I think started mid-Bill-Clinton and reappeared mid-Bush, when the movement realized a lot of people saw the party as a bunch of incompetent losers, despite them winning elections. They got really angry about that, and transitioned into some sort of anger-based party of yelling really loudly.

          But this second paradigm shift is, obviously, a lot more debatable, although it’s pretty hard to explain Trump otherwise. But the first shift *isn’t* really debatable, even the movement *itself* says it happened.(1) The conservative movement in 1984 (To pick a random date) didn’t look like any sort of logical outcome of the conservative movement in 1948.

          1) Although when *they* say Barry Goldwater, they mean ‘Guy who argued for smaller government and state’s rights, and everyone else agreed, thus creating the modern conservative movement.’, whereas when *I* say Barry Goldwater, I mean ‘Guy who argued for smaller government and state’s rights, and everyone else read that as code for pro-segregation, thus creating the modern conservative movement.’

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  12. A few random thoughts:

    – I agree that there is nothing inevitable about Trump. If a shed full of old newspapers and oily rags catches fire, we are not surprised. But it is certainly not inevitable either. There are any number of alternate timelines in which the GOP either pulls back from its flirtations with white nationalism before we get a Trump or simply continues to keep those flirtations from bubbling to the surface.

    A lot of folks on the left want to convince themselves of this talking point that there is no such thing as principled conservatism, only white nationalism and economic greed. If that’s what people need to tell themselves to maintain the illusion that they are on the one true, righteous side, great, but it just doesn’t jive with the actual history of the post-war conservative movement, which, for those who want to get familiar with it, is actually very interesting in its own right.

    – I lay the blame for the rise of Trump squarely on the shoulders of the conservative movement’s drift away from staking out viable policy positions to being primarily organized around BS social issues and blanket opposition to anything happening on the left. That said, things never have just one cause. Butterflies flap their wings and all that.

    Part of the fertilizer that let Trump’s message take root and grow is the fact that politics is moving towards the all-encompassing battle of identity. When there is a whole industry of mainstream media outlets that devote much of their energy to giving their relatively well-off, fuzzy left-of-center coastal audience a steady diet of smug condescension to try to on why they are right about everything, then it shouldn’t surprise you when some of those people on the outside of that bubble find their hero in a guy who is going to tell them that they’re not so bad after all. An no, that is not an excuse for actually being so bad after all. There is causality and there is culpability and they ain’t always the same thing.

    – I do not want to see Donald Trump in the White House (I’d be happy to never see Donald Trump again, period), but I’m not now, nor have I ever been afraid of a Trump presidency. Talk about being qualified to be, or disqualified from, being president has no real meaning. Other than the Constitutional qualifications of being a natural born citizen and over thirty-five, the only meaningful qualification for being president is that you win the majority of votes in the electoral college. And I don’t mean that in a purely tautological way.

    The closest thing to being POTUS is being a major party candidate for POTUS. If you can do that successfully, you’re qualified to be president. Right now, Trump doesn’t seem to be doing that so well, which likely means that he won’t end up as president. That’s a good thing. However, had Trump been able to run a successful campaign, I would have been reasonably assured that the planet would still be here in four years and looking much the same as it does now. What that would say about our collective decision-making ability is a whole other matter.

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    • When there is a whole industry of mainstream media outlets that devote much of their energy to giving their relatively well-off, fuzzy left-of-center coastal audience a steady diet of smug condescension to try to on why they are right about everything

      Likewise, right-wing talk radio, Fox News, Breitbart, and Drudge, which devote all their energy to telling their audience “You’re the only real Americans — the other side are left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers” led the Democrats to nominate Keith Olbermann.

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      • I guess you glossed over the part where I said, “I lay the blame for the rise of Trump squarely on the shoulders of the conservative movement…”

        Things that happen, tend to happen for more than only one reason.

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          • It does fit squarely into the victimhood model that’s recently being passed around. The GOP is racist because of mean liberals calling them racist, so why shouldn’t they become white nationalists?

            So clearly the GOP became what it is because Jon Stewart was mean to them.

            Conservatism can never fail! It can only be failed, or defeated by Comedy Central.

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              • But conservatives aren’t making that argument, ergo, they aren’t the ones in this case playing the identity-based victim card.

                Also, I agree with your cosigning of j r’s views on the role identity plays in our politics, with one caveat: identity politics has always been with us (from our great country’s inception..), but it’s only recently that identity-based challenges to that historical status quo have gained any political traction, hence, the contemporary reduction of perceived oppression within complex social dynamics to identity-based ideological frameworks.

                Adding: In a weird way, I think American culture’s internalization of (capital I) Individualism fosters more radical conceptions of, and reliance on, identity-based ideological frameworks within our politics.

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                • What? Conservatives have been making that argument repeatedly and with great gusto for ages, and some #NeverTrump conservatives have made exactly the argument that explicitly disclaimed: that liberals are to blame for Trump because they’re just so damn mean to conservatives.

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                  • But Trump supporters aren’t making that argument. Not-Trumpers (liberals, Dems, NeverTrumpers) do. Ergo!, Trumpers aren’t playing the victim card.

                    Same with Morat’s specific claim: The GOP is racist because of mean liberals calling them racist, so why shouldn’t they become white nationalists?

                    No GOPer is making that claim since it amounts to them expressing, insofar as the speaker identifies as a member of the GOP, that liberals have caused him/her to be racist. Now, maybe they’re saying that mean liberals have caused meaner racists to invade their party, but that’s a different claim, seems to me.

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                    • What? Trump and his supporters make endless, repeated claims to victimhood. Just a couple of days ago, he said this in a speech:

                      “There is nothing the political establishment will not do, no lie that they won’t tell to hold their prestige and power at your expense,” Trump said early in the rally. “And that’s what has been happening. The Washington establishment, and the financial and media corporations that fund it, exist for only one reason, to protect and enrich itself. The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election.”

                      Pretty much the entirety of the alt-right shtick is an appeal to alleged victimhood of white, straight, Christian men: not just any sort of victimhood, but actually being the target of genocide. Of course, #WhiteGenocide generally means something like, “White people have to actually see people who aren’t white sometimes.”

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                      • Yes, of course. Trump said about GropeGate! that he’s the real victim. And liberals are the real racists. And so on. But no GOPers is saying

                        The GOP is racist because of mean liberals calling them racist, so why shouldn’t they become white nationalists?

                        It’s only liberals who attribute this sort of thinking to GOPers. So it’s a meta-game, one divorced from any (as far as I can see) real evidence and relying on identity-based priors to make any sense.

                        But look, I’ve been a harsh critic of the national level GOP for my entire history here at the League/OT. So it’s not like I’m being an apologist for them. If that means anything at this point. (I get the feeling we view politics from different angles…)

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                          • Nowhere in that article did I read that Alt-righters attribute the view in question to the GOP (Ie., that the GOP blames mean liberals for meaner racists taking over their party). I did read this, tho:

                            What they do see are the devastating consequences of leftist identity politics upon society and individuals.

                            Which brings us back to my original comment on this subthread, and the part we haven’t talked about yet, except tangentially. Identity politics.

                            Now they’re playing that game too.

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                            • The Daily Caller isn’t an alt-right website; it’s a partisan GOP website that was started by Tucker Carlson, who has a long history of being a Republican hack. There’s a #NeverTrump GOP contingent that rejects the alt-right, but the bulk of the party has welcomed them with open arms and comes up with endless excuses for them, because they’re a key part of Trump’s base.

                              As for identity politics, the right always played the game. The idea that identity politics was invented by the left is silly. I’ve been hearing about how white men (especially Christian ones) are being oppressed from partisan Republican sources for as long as I’ve been aware that partisan Republican sources were a thing, more than 20 years ago.

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                              • Can you remind me what we’re arguing about at this point? Is it that conservatives totally suck, or that conservatives blame other people for sucking as bad as they do?

                                I really don’t know at this point. Like I said, I think we view politics very differently.

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                                • It’s that one thing that unites a lot of pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces on the right is that they all subscribe to the theory that Trump’s success is at least partly a reaction to left-wing identity politics. If you want to read that in terms of “conservatives blam[ing] other people for suck[ing]”, well, perhaps that’s fair, but that’s not really how I’m thinking about it. It’s more that…

                                  I really don’t know at this point. Like I said, I think we view politics very differently.

                                  …I refuse to be held responsible for Trump, and I’m tired of being scolded for enjoying John Oliver and Jon Stewart, let alone for thinking that being an overt racist is a massive character flaw.

                                  Which may mean that we do view politics very differently.

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                                  • Hey, I love John Oliver and Colbert and Samantha Bee taking Trump down. And I’ll concede that I love Michelle Obama (the coolest woman in politics…) doing the same.

                                    But I also see something that you apparently don’t: that Trump isn’t disease, he’s a symptom of a disease. It’s not fatal, I don’t think, but it ain’t going away simply by calling him and his supporters Racists! or Misogynists! In my view it goes a lot deeper than that. Lots of people are pissed off – hell, the black community is pissed off and they shrugged of Bernie (and his explicit call for criminal justice reform) like he was a Grand Dragon – and they’re not racists except in the contemporary, conventionally defined political sense (“Oh, you don’t agree with Hillary’s liberal mainstream ideas about race issues in the US? You’re obviously a racist!”) On the other hand, there are lots of racists on our side of the aisle as well, pillsy.

                                    Beyond that, as j r likes to remind us, we live in a complex society governed by democratic principles, and we have to find a way to live together. Personally, I think demonizing 40% of the population as irredeemable racists (or whatever your thoughts on that topic are) isn’t conducive to figuring out how to better live together.

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                                    • But I also see something that you apparently don’t: that Trump isn’t disease, he’s a symptom of a disease. It’s not fatal, I don’t think, but it ain’t going away simply by calling him and his supporters Racists! or Misogynists!

                                      I don’t think it’s going to simply go away if we call him and his supporters racists and misogynists, but the argument that we should refrain from doing so just because it doesn’t solve the problem is… unpersuasive. I mean, Trump himself has, I think, proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is a racist and a misogynist, and no small number of his supporters have done the same.

                                      And I hear you and agree about the fact that not everyone who’s pissed off is a racist… but at the same time, there’s a real cottage industry built around insisting blatantly racist things aren’t racist, and I see a lot more demands that I pretend blatantly racist things aren’t racist (in the name of “honesty”, usually) than I do clearly unfair charges of racism.

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      • C’mon. Limbaugh had no influence on right-wing politics. Leykis had no influence on nascent MRAs.
        In the 1990s, only the liberals were evil, and it was them who set up the media narrative we’re dealing with now.
        Must have been Howard Stern.

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    • I agree with the point that many liberals and leftists believe that there is no such thing as principled conservatism or libertarianism but this is true of any ideology. Many conservatives make similar arguments about liberalism, that there isn’t anybody who is a principled liberal or socialist and its only about Bohemian egg-heads trying to disrupt the natural order of things. For instance, many White Americans believed that the Civil Rights movement was a Communist/Jewish plot and that African-Americans would be totally fine with their second-class citizen status without Communists/Jews. J. Edgar Hoover was a prominent example of this.

      American conservatism is different than European conservatism for many reasons and was probably always going to adopt a very oppositional tone the social changes in the mid-20th century. Its not like that European conservatives were particularly happy with feminism, the Sexual Revolution, LGBT rights, or the diversifying of Europe through immigration but they seemed to have understood that they couldn’t completely go against these changes unless they were Franco, Salazar, or an Eastern Bloc communist prude. American conservatives did believe that the social changes of the mid-20th century could be halted or even undone because a lot of it is based on some very strict Protestant morality. When you believe that God wants the world to be a certain way, your going to do everything in your power to impose changes.

      American conservatism is also much more anti-statist and anti-welfare than the European equivalent. In many European countries, it was the conservatives like the Christian Democrats in German and Italy that implemented welfare state legislation rather than the leftists.

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      • “When you believe that God wants the world to be a certain way, your going to do everything in your power to impose changes”

        One of the many reasons I got issues with religion.

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    • A lot of folks on the left want to convince themselves of this talking point that there is no such thing as principled conservatism, only white nationalism and economic greed.

      As someone who is saying that…that’s not what we’re saying.

      There is, indeed, such a thing as principled conservatism, and people who believe it.

      We’re just pointing out instead of that being driving force of the majority of Republicans (Plus, presumably, some centrists who lean Republican.), it turns out the vast majority of Republicans appear to be driven by either a white identity concept or some sort of overriding party loyalty.

      And the attacks by Trump supporters on *Republican* leaders that are distancing themselves from Trump is making that second idea unworkable. They had an out of ‘I am still 100% behind the party, but the party is not 100% sure of its choice this election’, and didn’t take it.

      Oddly enough, economic greed doesn’t actually seem to be a part of this either. I’ve literally never heard a Trump supporter mention his tax plan, and I’m suspecting the development of that was just an attempt to get other Republican politicians on his side.

      Part of the fertilizer that let Trump’s message take root and grow is the fact that politics is moving towards the all-encompassing battle of identity. When there is a whole industry of mainstream media outlets that devote much of their energy to giving their relatively well-off, fuzzy left-of-center coastal audience a steady diet of smug condescension to try to on why they are right about everything, then it shouldn’t surprise you when some of those people on the outside of that bubble find their hero in a guy who is going to tell them that they’re not so bad after all.

      As someone who lives in a rural, conservative area, I would presumably be able to *see* this ‘industry of mainstream media outlets that devote much of their energy to giving their relatively well-off, fuzzy left-of-center coastal audience a steady diet of smug condescension’, but I don’t. In fact, I still have no idea what this supposed to be. From where? The local news? Fox news? What media outlets are people getting this condescension from? Can anyone point to a single example of it? Why would they keep watching and reading media outlets that provide it?

      That sort of stuff might happen in real life, aka, like Dand says it happens to him, but Dand is a) living in a liberal place, and b) forced to interact with upper-class liberals as part of his job, so that at least is plausible. Are conservatives in rural areas somehow forced to watch MSNBC? Except I’ve actually watched MSNBC, and it doesn’t actually seem very ‘condescending’!

      I don’t see any ‘a steady diet of smug condescension’, but I sure as hell keep hearing about how it exists. I have to suggest, at some point, we all start admitting this grievance is *almost entirely imaginary*. It’s all part of the grievance politics the right now operates on.

      The worse thing the left does to rural areas is *completely ignore* them.

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      • As someone who lives in a rural, conservative area, I would presumably be able to *see* this ‘industry of mainstream media outlets that devote much of their energy to giving their relatively well-off, fuzzy left-of-center coastal audience a steady diet of smug condescension’, but I don’t. In fact, I still have no idea what this supposed to be.

        If this comment had a title, it would be, “The One Where DavidTC Tries to Pretend that Comedy Central Doesn’t Exist.”

        On the first point, I suggest that you take the one sentence that you quoted and put it back in the context in which I wrote it. And then tell me with what exactly you are disagreeing.

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        • So….just to be clear, Comedy Central is your go-to example here? Comedy Central.

          So not CNN, or MSNBC, or NBC or CBS or any network news, cable news channel, or broadcast setup — but CC, because (presumably) they aired an hour of week of the Daily Show?

          You’re gonna have to dig a pit to set the bar that low.

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            • Well the object was “industry of mainstream media outlets that devote much of their energy to giving their relatively well-off, fuzzy left-of-center coastal audience a steady diet of smug condescension” and the response was “Comedy Central”.

              Now I might have read you wrong, and if so I apologize, but that appears to be you saying that a solid example of this mainstream media outlets devoting so much energy to feeding coastal elites smug condescension” was “Comedy Central”.

              The problem with that should be really, really clear. And such, if that is your example, then the bar for being a “mainstream media outlet doing blah-blah-blah” is incredibly low, in that “Comedy Central” met the threshold.

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              • I’m still not clear. Is you objection that I called Comedy Central a “mainstream media outlet?” If so, which of those three words is inaccurate?

                Or is your objection that I cite comedy central as a source of smug condescension? If it’s the latter, I don’t really know what to say. If you start a conversation about political smugness with people, the names that are going to come up most are John Stewart and Stephan Colbert and John Oliver and Samantha Bee, et al. Heck, if you do an image search for “liberal smugness,” John Stewart shows up in three of the first ten hits.

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                • I literally cannot fathom the magic powers you think the two hours a week of fake news from CC has over the world.

                  So yes, it’s called “Comedy Central” a “mainstream media outlet” that’s laughable.

                  I’m sure the cutting media power of Saturday Night Life is really rocking the body politic too.

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                  • So yes, it’s called “Comedy Central” a “mainstream media outlet” that’s laughable.

                    Which of those three words is inaccurate? Is Comedy Central not mainstream or is it not a media outlet?

                    By the way, it is becoming pretty obvious that you either did not read my original comment or just chose to believe that I was saying something quite different than what I did say.

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                    • By “media” do you mean “news media” or just like “media, as in a method of conveying information”.

                      Because “news media” was the only one that made sense.

                      And CC has no news shows. They have a fake one, however. It’s hosted by comedians.

                      Pretending it’s real news is like treating the Onion like it’s the NYT.

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        • If this comment had a title, it would be, “The One Where DavidTC Tries to Pretend that Comedy Central Doesn’t Exist.”

          *Comedy Center* is a ‘whole industry of mainstream media outlets’?!

          Assuming you’re talking about the fake *news* shows, they were not producing a ‘steady diet of smug condescension’, even if that’s what the grievance-creation experts on the right were trying to make them out to be.

          On the first point, I suggest that you take the one sentence that you quoted and put it back in the context in which I wrote it. And then tell me with what exactly you are disagreeing.

          The…context? Huh? Okay, here’s the context:

          I agree that there is nothing inevitable about Trump. If a shed full of old newspapers and oily rags catches fire, we are not surprised. But it is certainly not inevitable either. There are any number of alternate timelines in which the GOP either pulls back from its flirtations with white nationalism before we get a Trump or simply continues to keep those flirtations from bubbling to the surface.

          A lot of folks on the left want to convince themselves of this talking point that there is no such thing as principled conservatism, only white nationalism and economic greed. If that’s what people need to tell themselves to maintain the illusion that they are on the one true, righteous side, great, but it just doesn’t jive with the actual history of the post-war conservative movement, which, for those who want to get familiar with it, is actually very interesting in its own right.

          The context appears to be…two things. One, you say that Trump didn’t have to happen, which…doesn’t really have much to do with what I said. Then you said the statement about what folks on the left thought, and the added context is…you disagreed with those folks, which was not something anyone was confused about.

          What lack of context are you complaining about?

          My point is that you said something about what ‘a lot of folks on the left’ thought. I, as someone *on* the left who thought something *very much like* that, but not exactly, clarified what I, and other people like me, were actually trying to say. Not sure why you have an issue with that, or, again, what lack of context you’re talking about.

          And two points:

          One, you are the *second* person in this discussion talking about the post-WWII history of the conservative movement, although you at least are just talking about it in the context of it being ‘historically interesting’. Which is fine, but do you really think pre-Barry Goldwater (Which, let’s remind ourselves, was over 50 years ago.) is relevant to understanding the modern conservative movement?

          And the second point: Saying the Republican party has ‘flirtations’ with white nationalism and could have ‘backed off’ is, itself, completely ignoring the actual history of the Republican party. Not since WWII, but since *Goldwater*. The modern conservative movement basically *started* with white nationalism disguised as limited government (Goldwater), and then moved on to white nationalism disguised as complaining about welfare (Reagan), and then after a span where it didn’t do much at all, returned as while nationalism complaining about taxes (The Tea Party.), and then…Trump.

          They’re not flirting with each other, they fell in love at first sign. And white nationalism has openly been in love with the Republicans for 50 years, and the Republicans have clearly been in love back but unable to spit out, and every couple of years they sneak into broom closets to make out, before Republicans back off, swear off a relationship forever, and date other people…over and over again. And those two wacky kids just ended up finally answering ‘Will they or won’t they?’ for all the white nationalism/Republican shippers out there, probably because this is the final season of their TV show. (They were about to be canceled for demographic reasons.)

          It’s a little past *flirtation*, and, no, it really wasn’t going to end any other ways.

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          • The modern conservative movement basically *started* with white nationalism disguised as limited government (Goldwater), and then moved on to white nationalism disguised as complaining about welfare (Reagan), and then after a span where it didn’t do much at all, returned as while nationalism complaining about taxes (The Tea Party.), and then…Trump.

            Like I said, if believing that helps keep you more secure in your own beliefs and convinced that you are on the side of the angels, then more power to you. It’s not particularly historically accurate, but you can have that. I’m not here to have nonsense conversations about which side has been more in the thrall of white supremacy when it’s pretty obvious to anyone who takes the time to study history that white supremacy has been weaved into the fiber of American politics, left, right and center.

            Also, I am pretty big believer in limited government and not a very big fan of welfare as it existed in the 1970s, but maybe I’m just a white nationalist in disguise.

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              • I can guarantee you that American history, the history of white supremacy, and the history of the civil rights movement is far from a mystery to me.

                But when you study these things with the goal of gaining an objective understanding of how things work rather than with the goal of trying to prove which group of white people is the most virtuous you come away with a different understanding.

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                  • Of course white supremacy has shaped the modern GOP, as the modern GOP exists with the context of the United States of America.

                    What I am struggling with is your attempt to argue that the rest of the political spectrum has somehow been immune to it.

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                    • Of course not. White supremacists were everywhere for a very long time. I mean, we had a whole civil war, then there was Jim Crow, etc.

                      The US was built by white men for white men. It was a rather epic struggle to let women own property and vote, and of course there was that whole “Civil War’ thing over whether non-whites were people or property, and then there was Jim Crow.

                      And of course, a lot of the problems we’re facing right now with policing stem from generations of using the police to ensure the proper order was obeyed, even as we spoke of equality under law.

                      Politically, in the modern era, it’s pretty clear where the racists concentrate. And for quite obvious and fairly recent historical reasons (the CRA). Obviously, as Atwater said, you can’t really run a campaign on “For Whites!” or “Against Blacks!” so you talk around it.

                      Which led to the fun last few decades, in which the GOP claimed it had left behind those racially charged dogwhistles (while simultaneously claiming they never existed anyways, and that also Democrats were the real racists because Republicans can’t even SEE skin color, and also affirmative action was basically slavery) and got very, very unhappy whenever anyone referenced them.

                      And then Donald Trump won the primary. And it all spilled out into the open.

                      And the saddest part is — how many Republicans really believed their party was post-racial, that they had left behind the party of Atwater, of segregation, of thinly veiled racial animus.

                      In short, the number of outright racists and xenophobes was undoubtedly a shock to many conservatives. As was the realization that their fellows never really cared about top marginal rates or foreign policy, but remained the party of Atwater.

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                      • So the tl:dr version of that is:

                        There are plenty of conservatives who aren’t racists. Who thought their party, and it’s voters, stood for lots of non-racists things. That racists were a dying legacy of older days.

                        Unfortunately, it appears they had it wrong. The racists are running the show now, and all that shiny ideology got tossed to the curb in favor of building walls and bombing darkies.

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                        • There are plenty of conservatives who aren’t racists. Who thought their party, and it’s voters, stood for lots of non-racists things. That racists were a dying legacy of older days.

                          It wasn’t just conservatives that thought that about the Republican party. *I* thought that about the Republican party.

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                          • I was more cynical, but then….I’m from Texas.

                            I got a rude awakening on THAT issue when I was about 25, when I realized that a whole bunch of people I knew fairly well were, in fact, astoundingly racist. In a strangely casual way. (There was, as usual, alcohol involved in learning this.)

                            And it never occurred to them that I did not, in fact, think the same way they did.

                            The thing about Obama getting elected, and now Trump — is it brought all this stuff out in the open. Electing a black president just brought it all out, and following him with Clinton is just….

                            It’s a metaphorical kick to the nuts.

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            • Where’s the historical inaccuracy?

              It seems like a defensible description of what happened with Goldwater, where just as the left and center were slowly and painfully disentangling themselves from overt support for white supremacy, he swept in to provide ideological cover for continuing it in the guise of “limited government”. This continued a trend where influential conservatives in the previous decade (like Buckley et al. at National Review) would go to bat for white supremacists in various ways while deploring the disruption and agitation of the Civil Rights movement.

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              • Let me ask you this: do you believe that everyone who professes support for limited government is just doing so out of a thinly veiled support for the ability of private power structures to continue to oppress the powerless? Or do you accept that there are people who support limited government precisely because they fear that the power of government will invariably be used by private power structures to continue to oppress the powerless?

                I’m not asking you if you accept either position, only if you think that there are other people who do.

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                • j r: Or do you accept that there are people who support limited government precisely because they fear that the power of government will invariably be used by private power structures to continue to oppress the powerless?

                  I do, but I don’t think they’ve ever been a particularly important or influential part of the conservative movement that took identifiable form a half-century ago.

                  On the other hand, the folks who have been using “limited government” as an excuse to support private power structures continuing to oppress the powerless have been tremendously influential in that movement, much more so than among liberal activists or centrists.

                  No group is perfect, but no group shares every failing equally, and I think it’s hard to deny that the “limited government as a stalking horse for white nationalism” crowd isn’t a major force, and perhaps the dominant force, in the contemporary conservative movement.

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                • Frankly, , I think the Republican primary has shown that the actual support for limited government on purely that is a relative tiny part limited to upper middle class people and some random libertarians on the Internet.

                  The Republican Base is perectly OK with welfare, as long as the welfare goes to the “right people.”

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                • There was a time I believed that jury nullification was a real thing – for example, the people could show that drug laws were wrong, and we could make a difference.
                  In actual reality, they exist so that on the rare occasions that dudes who instigated a lynching are brought up on charges, their cohorts can make sure no one is convicted.

                  Support for limited government is a good thing. Government should never be bigger than it has to in order to accomplish what it must. But on certain issues, “limited government” is no such thing.

                  It may not be fair that you have to dig out of that hole, but it was dug before I was born.

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                • j r,

                  The problem with the concept of “limited government” is that it lacks specificity. I can agree with it in the abstract — I certainly don’t want to live under a totalitarian state! — but in actual practice it’s only ever pulled out of the drawer in service to opposition of some policy or proposal that the speaker personally opposes and conveniently ignored otherwise.

                  It’s not used so much as a principle as it is a cudgel in most cases

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                  • I tend to find most people arguing for limited government are basically doing the equivalent of arguing we don’t want to burn the house down with fascism (Which seems a reasonable statement)…so we can’t turn the central heating up, despite the fact some rooms in the house have people who are literally freezing to death.

                    Meanwhile, they seem to have unwavering support to the police and scream any time anyone criticizes them for *shooting people*, which is somewhat akin to operating a wood burning stove and yelling about how people complain the door keeps getting let open and sparks fly out and burn the carpet and random passerbys. Uh, if the house is going to burn down, it’s going to involve *that*, not the goddamn air conditioning unit that is being used to keep some rooms livable.

                    Or, to unmetaphor that, the right often seems to be *extremely* concerned about the ‘size of the government’ coiuld lead to bad things…when talking about things that are not ‘risky’ in any manner, and seems to have *no cares at all* about actual oppression by the police, or things that seem to be high risk *for* oppression, like a large standing military.

                    Of course, they do sometimes wander off into FEMA conspiracy theories, at which point I’m like ‘Oh, *now* you’re worried about that sort of thing…and you’ve decided to make it about a fictional conspiracy theory instead of the actual problem of how police like to round up protesters on pretense charges and then let them all go later, how nice.’.

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              • It seems like a defensible description of what happened with Goldwater, where just as the left and center were slowly and painfully disentangling themselves from overt support for white supremacy, he swept in to provide ideological cover for continuing it in the guise of “limited government”.

                That’s a bit unfair to Goldwater, who *actually did* believe what he was saying.

                Basically, my premise is that there are a bunch of political philosophies that come and go randomly, both inside and outside existing parties.

                Goldwater was entirely a true believer, but Goldwater-ism was one of those philosophies that would have vanished shortly, or just been a distinctly minority position, probably getting morphed into something else eventually.

                *However*, it turns out it was extremely useful to racists, especially ones who didn’t want to be overt racists. And hence it became one of the stools of conservativism.(1)

                And a lot of conservatives pols *believe* in it. Actually, really believe in it. seems to think I’m accusing all conservatives of being dishonest about why they like it. I am not.

                There are a lot of principled people who have done a lot of philosophical work on limited government. There are a lot of actual True Believers now in office, doing stupid shit like almost causing the government to default. That’s not due to racism, that’s due to complete dedication to a somewhat goofy political philosophy.(2)

                The problem is, the Republican base *couldn’t possibly care less* about that stuff. The base understands limited government as a way to stop ‘those people’ from being helped by the government. That’s it. That’s what *they* think it’s for, that’s why they’re behind it. They don’t want the government helping *those people*.

                This should not be surprising, because, like I said, racism is the reason they got on board with that in the *first* place. And it shouldn’t be surprising because *every time* limited government comes as an actual issue and the Republican base actually get impassioned about it, it has been combined with dog whistles!

                Of course, I say it shouldn’t be surprising, but *I* actually was pretty startled to realize that a couple of months ago. I had basically bought the lie also.

                1) The same thing sorta, but not quite, happened with abortion, but that was a *deliberate* attempt to build a voting base out of the religious.

                2) Seriously, there is a whole *different* rant I could be having (and, in fact, have had here!) about how spending and government oppression are not the same thing, that the government could spend a trillion dollars opening libraries everywhere, or a few million operating a secret police torture squad. A lot of where the ‘limited government’ people are coming, a lot of the logic they use is wrong, in my book.

                But the thing is, that isn’t actually relevant at this point, because it’s pretty clear the *actual* ‘limited government’ people are, like, a tiny fraction of the Republican voters (A lot of them have just given up on the Republicans at this point.), and the rest just use that phrase to complain about black people getting Obama phones. (But they’ve managed to *elect* some people who actually do believe that.)

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                • I understand that Goldwater was a true believer, but he was also entirely willing to welcome Jim Crow dead-enders into his coalition, and his campaign played to them on more than a few instances. To quote a particularly relevant lyric from They Might be Giants, you can’t shake the Devil’s hand and say you’re only kidding.

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                    • No, but they remained an important and powerful part of a greater coalition from ’64 on, and it’s hardly as if there weren’t movement leaders and activists who worked hard (and with quite a bit of success) to extend the GOP’s appeal to racists outside of the South as well.

                      It’s not like racism or white supremacy has ever been a uniquely Southern problem.

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      • +1

        There is a lot of justified anger behind Trump’s support – as much as 25% of it are people who have really been screwed over by policies coming out of DC that sacrificed their well-being to (possibly) drive the recovery that everyone else has seen.

        As far as smug condescension, both sides are actively doing it. Join me in my workplace and listen to the dudebro Trumpistas hold forth on liberals…

        Hell, I’m not exactly pushing an aggressively leftist agenda, and I’m not exactly happy about how left-unfriendly the mainstream media is.

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        • There is a lot of justified anger behind Trump’s support – as much as 25% of it are people who have really been screwed over by policies coming out of DC that sacrificed their well-being to (possibly) drive the recovery that everyone else has seen.

          That’s what I kept saying, also. But I’m starting to realize I’m sorta wrong there:

          http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/10/15/13286498/donald-trump-voters-race-economic-anxiety

          It’s very easy to justify that Trump voters were angry, and have good reasons to be angry. I’ve explicitly said that before. I’ve said we need to understand their anger.

          But the problem is, it really seems we’re just *making a lot of that up* to try to keep from telling *ourselves* that, uh, it really was just mostly racism. Trump primary voters had absolutely no *real* reason to be angry. They’re better off than most people!

          The simple fact is that Donald Trump won the Republican primary because a significant faction of the Republican voting base are, in fact, racist. Not ‘angry’, not ‘economically threatened’, just racist.

          Now, to be fair to his *current* supporters in the general, a good portion of them are capital-R Republicans and have gotten behind Trump *at this point* because he’s the Republican nominee. Those people identify as Republicans, they’ve been Republicans for 20 years, they’ll support the Republican nominee, maybe even defend what they see as unfair charges against him. (Aka, the fundamental attribution error, where every mistake ‘your guy’ has a good and logical reason, but every mistake ‘their guy’ does is an indication of their character.)

          Or they might think he’ll sign good legislation or nominate good judges because he’ll show no interest in actually governing and will be controllable.

          Why people are supporting Trump in the *general election* can come down to all sorts of reasons. I’m not speculating on that.

          But why people supported Trump in the *primary* was, basically, racism. Possible there was some tiny amount of bomb throwing, also, trying to burn the system down…but that wasn’t by ‘angry’ people, that was probably mostly motivated by racism, also, with a bit of asshole trolling.

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  13. When people say that there is an “industry of mainstream media outlets that devote much of their energy to giving their relatively well-off, fuzzy left-of-center coastal audience a steady diet of smug condescension” I think they are thinking of Friends, or Girls, or Modern Family, or -in a serious vein- Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert.

    What they really resent is that the culture does not reflect their values -which is objectively true, irrespective of the cause. They pine for sitcoms where being Christian is depicted positively (*), and where being rural is something to be admired.

    There are many reasons why a sitcom that emphasized the Christianity of the characters, or the virtuous attributes of a wholesome rural life, would be walking the fine line between terribly boring and obnoxiously offensive. Hence, that sitcom is not filmed.

    Mind you, it’s not the general virtuosity of the characters what they want to see. They want to see specifically their Calvinistic/Jansenist Christianity. The Good Place, for instance, does a very good work of putting moral issues front and center, while being nice to all the characters, and, at the same time, remaining hilarious. But in The Good Place people can be Buddhist, Muslin/Hindu (is not clear what Tahani’s background is) or agnostic, gay or straight, and still get -via Works alone- into The Good Place. This Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is anathema to social conservatives, who see MTD as a treat to small o-orthodoxy even greater that atheism.

    They want to see television that looks, not even like them, but what they think they look themselves. Absent that, it’s all a vast conspiracy.

    (*) as opposed to emphasizing belonging to a minority religion, like Ross and Hanukka in Friends.

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    • Also, the media follows the money. It’s not because they get warm fuzzies about ignoring that programming — it doesn’t sell eyeballs, especially in the 14-39 male demographic.

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    • What they really resent is that the culture does not reflect their values -which is objectively true, irrespective of the cause. They pine for sitcoms where being Christian is depicted positively (*), and where being rural is something to be admired.

      There are many reasons why a sitcom that emphasized the Christianity of the characters, or the virtuous attributes of a wholesome rural life, would be walking the fine line between terribly boring and obnoxiously offensive. Hence, that sitcom is not filmed.

      The entire premise of a sitcom is that the people in it are either asses or idiots, and get themselves into stupid situations. There are almost no virtuous people on sitcoms at all, and no virtuous main characters.

      If you want a show where things are depicted positively, and being rural is something to be admired, those things are called *dramas*.

      And there are a hell of a lot of them set in rural areas that depict people positively. Hell, a while back here I explicitly defined the two sorts of WB. (Now CW programming) Well, the sort that *isn’t* ‘fighting the supernatural’ is ‘quirky intelligent and caring people in small town filled with mostly nice people’.

      Mind you, it’s not the general virtuosity of the characters what they want to see. They want to see specifically their Calvinistic/Jansenist Christianity.

      No. They don’t want to *see* Christians being virtuous. They want to see Christians *being told that their Christianity is explicitly correct* and non-Christians being punished, and anything else is worth complaining about.

      Apparently. I mean, I know that sounds horrible, but that is the conclusion I have to come to.

      Actually, the conclusion I *really* come to is that a bunch of conservatives *say* they’re sick and tired of what the media produces, but they say that because they have *been told* that it’s some sort of liberal conspiracy, and in *actuality*, they go home and watch Bones and the Chicago shows and Law and Order and The Big Bang Theory and Scandal, and it never once twigs that all those shows are set in cities and supposedly the stuff that is supposed to be making them angry.

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  14. watch Bones and the Chicago shows and Law and Order and The Big Bang Theory and Scandal, and it never once twigs that all those shows are set in cities and supposedly the stuff that is supposed to be making them angry.

    The Neilson Ratings have an anti-Christian agenda. :)

    Seriously, the media makes the entertainment that’s popular. Unless the entertainment industry is running as some sort of non-profit all of a sudden.

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  15. for the first time in American history, a party with a chance at unified control of the government dramatically reduced their odds by selecting a ridiculous nominee.

    Dashing down here to say:
    Remember 1912. I’ll allow that your statement is true, but it squeaks through on the word “ridiculous”. Nomination fights have screwed over otherwise-favored political parties before.

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  16. Ironically, I’d say the Comedy Central vs. Fox News comparison is apt – conservative politicians are scared the left wing media might make them a joke. Liberal politicians are scared the right wing media might make them a target.

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  17. To be a low-information voter is not a moral deficiency, it is essentially a rational choice.

    Not to make an assertion about the morality of low information voting here, but the former does not follow from the latter. In fact many morally questionable acts are rational ones (at least relative to some domain of facts).

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