Morning Ed: Politics {2017.01.16.M}

Aren’t pigouvian taxes supposed to increase prices? To be fair, if I recall Philadelphia was unusually blunt in saying “Actually, this is really about the money; we need the money.”

The DC school board apparently has a Republican on it.

Kenton Tilford looks at where independent candidates did well, and where they didn’t.

Russell Dalton explains what the lay of the electoral land in the world of reliable and blind partisanship.

Boo. Hiss.

Republicans who’ve been passed over for cabinet spots this election are hoping for quick turnover. They’ll probably get it.

Ned Resnikoff argues that the fall of the center has given rise to white nationalism. Though I find “The center is dead, so you’re either with us or with them” to be a dynamic that is convenient for the person saying it, I find (fear?) there is a lot of truth in the work in the overall.

What we can learn about Trump support from Juggalos. {via Greginak}


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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107 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Politics {2017.01.16.M}

  1. The thing about the “white identity” debate is simply this: yes, America is really this racist (and sexist and homophobic). This is not new. It’s been obvious since forever.

    Except we had Obama and dreams of “postracialism” by “good white liberals’ who care a lot. Which, it was a nice story. I wish it had been true. But no, it was an illusion, a veneer. The rise of “birtherism” was a clue.

    The thing about “idpol” is simply, those of us with an “identity” did not invent the bigotry against us. That we choose a kind of “strength in numbers” approach is not an eager choice. Instead, it is a survival mechanism.

    To say otherwise is the mantra of the abuser. It is the violent boyfriend who says, “If you didn’t speak back to me I wouldn’t have to hit you.” Of course I center my transness, because whether or not I make that choice, the world around me will center it all the time —

    — not literally all the time, but sadly most of the time. That is the thing. Spaces where I can let go of that are actually rare.

    The median Trump voter was not a poor struggling working class guy. He was a well-off white jackass from the exurbs. His is a cultural response, a snakepit of mostly white (and significantly male) anxiety. Like Trump himself, he is a sad, petty creature who blames the world outside himself for his failures of spirit. Resist him.

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    • Yeah, those “good white liberals” who refused to live alongside anyone who aren’t similar to them, either in income, education, demographics, etc.? Those guys? The ones who “support” you but then go back to their gated communities. That’s some rock solid “support”.

      I’m not and wasn’t a Trump voter. But I am a well off white guy who’s a bit of a jackass, and live in the suburbs. You know what? I don’t have anxiety about gays or trannies. They are not even on my radar screen as a “problem”. I recently went to a Xmas party where the attendees were all liberal, 90% gay, and 90% male. You know what i was worried about? How I was going to get more of the champagne that was being served before it ran out. Not that i was going to get hit on, which, should it have happened, would have been a funny anecdote to tell folks at work. Ad you know what, there’s a lot of us around. Methinks V, you project a bit too much.

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        • This is like asking why an upper middle class suburban black person might start to wonder about the underlying attitudes/ideology of his white neighbor who makes broad, negative generalizations about inner city black people. No liberal would think to dismiss that. I know I wouldnt. ‘Don’t worry it’s only those other black people who dont live in cul-de-sacs and drive nice cars that he doesn’t like!’ Yet this is the weird place identity politics uber alles takes us. Assuming it’s all in good faith and not just tribal signaling that is.

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          • — Yes, but there is a difference from being a target of racism (the “what do you call a black doctor?” joke) and being a comfortable white guy.

            The point is, white/male fragility is not the outcome of identity politics. Instead, it is a reflection of the underlying sickness in our bigoted culture.

            These things are not symmetrical.

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            • fair enough if that’s the argument, but the way it’s being made in light of Trump’s victory looks to a lot of people like a hysterical combination of sour grapes and crying wolf, especially given the particulars of this election. I mean, a woman with a lot of heavy political baggage (some warranted, some not) won the popular vote and the crucial swing in the Midwest was among a bunch of white people who twice voted for a black president. Yet the way the intersectionalist left talks you’d think that the country and the culture have barely budged since Reconstruction.

              There’s a reason that the non-tribal among us hear a lot of this as a very convenient excuse for a movement that is reluctant to engage in self-examination.

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              • Well, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. There’s been a lot of superheated, apocalyptic rhetoric from the right over the last 8 years. In fact, the guy who spearheaded a movement saying that the President was illegitimate because he wasn’t actually a native born citizen now sits in the White House.

                I’m all for calmer, more reasoned debate. I’m all for assuming good faith. That’s why I hang out here. I do not support unilateral disarmament, however.

                If you sow a storm, you will reap the whirlwind.

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              • Intersectionality strikes me as something that could be morally correct but electorally dumb. Racism, sexism, and homophobia have deep roots in American culture, society, and politics. Whites are also the biggest electoral group in the United States and will be so for a long time, especially since people of color tend to turn up at the polls less for a variety of reasons. A political strategy based on calling out White America does not seem that optimized for actually winning elections.

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                • The difficult nature of the conversation on racism/sexism is only hampered by our social media culture, where the most condescending/angry/hypocritical advocates can easily become the face of the movement (It also doesn’t help that there are quite a few of them and they are usually the loudest voices in the room).

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                • Regarding intersectionality I don’t think it’s totally without insight. We’d all benefit by trying to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, and considering how our own advantages in life might color our views about politics and policy. It’s the religious aspect with all the incoherent dogmas and purification rituals that I find intellectually weak and potentially disastrous from an electoral perspective.

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                  • I agree with you about where intersectionality has its weak points but the people really into intersectionality really believe in the incoherent dogmas and purification rituals. They see it as essential. Any critique of identity politics on LGM will always elicit the response that all politics are identity politics. This strikes me as not true. I can think of several areas where identity documents do not or at least should not be in a part of. The traditional high politics of foreign affairs and national security along with mundane everyday issues like transportation and infrastructure.

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                    • LeeEsq: The traditional high politics of foreign affairs

                      Monroe doctrine, Manifest Destiny, Spanish American war, Yellow Peril, anglo affinity that got the US into WW1, the raw racism of the Pacific Theater in WW2, Patton going on about the Slavic hordes (which, to be fair, he got fired for), the ongoing affinity towards Israel and against Palestinians, “energy independence” to ‘free us from Arab oil’, the Global War on (Muslim) Terror

                      All these have a strong identity politics component or are entirely identity politics.

                      (one of the beefs in the Declaration of Independence was that the King was letting the French Canadians continue to be all Frenchy and stuff, even though they had been conquered)

                      mundane everyday issues like transportation and infrastructure.

                      schools, boundaries, busing, blockbusting, highway construction, mass transit planning, differences in the quality of water systems, environmental justice, and above all else, NIMBYs

                      All these have a strong identity politics component or are entirely identity politics.

                      (the widespread wealth and ‘equality’ of the 50s that so many people want to go back to – on the left – were built on the foundation of the massive construction & manufacturing of highways, greenfield developments, and automobiles that allowed white America to literally bypass not white America.)

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              • ” the crucial swing in the Midwest was among a bunch of white people who twice voted for a black president.”

                The theory is, I think, that they voted for a black president because that let them tell themselves that they weren’t racist. But Trump made it OK to be openly racist, so they could go ahead and not vote for the…white person? (I’ll admit that the reasoning kind of breaks down at the end there, but it’s not my reasoning, I’m only passing it on.)

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                • I don’t it needs to be more complicated than Obama being a guy that midwestern whites by and large found easy to like, regardless of skin colour while H. Clinton is a lot harder to be positively disposed to. H. Clinton is someone you can like if you convince yourself that you should, not someone you like by gut reaction.

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                    • That’s fair. I don’t hold to the Indelibly Racist White theory as the driver of electoral results.

                      Not that I don’t think there is a measureable and obvious amount of racism in America, I just don’t think it explains the recent election (I also don’t hold truck with the idea that H. Clinton lost because she was a woman either, that doesn’t disprove mysogeny in America, just isnt the driver of election results). To the extent sexism and racism driving voting, I think they were already backed in to the cake of existing voting patterns and didn’t cause a pro-Trump swing.

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            • That hilarious, as the left has been preaching identity politics to their side for near on 25 years. Now that white people may be doing the same thing, we all racist and sexist homophobes. If it’s good for them it’s good for us.

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              • Which came first, minorities engaging in identity politics, or the established voting public engaging in it.

                Once upon time, black people couldn’t vote. That did not stop white people from engaging in identity politics to pass laws and perpetuate attitudes against black people.

                When you engage the political system in order to help or harm a specific group with a shared identity (such as former slaves and their descendants), you are engaging in identity politics.

                In short, white racists started it, and no one should be surprised that it still has political utility.

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        • Because people who voted for HRC automatically conclude (at least in my area) that if you didn’t vote for HER, you’re a Trump supporter and I fit the pretty damn close to the demo description your provided. Simply pointing out that not everyone is against you.

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      • You appear to be making the following argument: I don’t have bias, I don’t discriminate against homosexuals or trans people, therefore nobody does.

        I think you can see how that argument is fallacious.

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  2. Soda Tax: If it really WAS about the money, you’d think the Mayor would have owned up to it. Err wait. Politicians made a habit of avoiding negative consequences. Must be the evil Teamsters and the Soda industry. Right. This guy probably believes that there is some mythical “money tree” that can be constantly harvested.

    DC Schoolboard: How DARE there be a republican in any gov’t organization in DC! The nerve!

    Parade Announcer: A 89 year old alleging ageism for a 58 year old replacement? Cheeky. Really, I’m wondering why anything thinks this is a big deal.

    Legal Seafood: Yawn. Maybe Trump doesn’t like chowdaa. Or maybe he’s vindictive and won’t have it for the reasons suggested. Again, wondering why this is even worth the digital ink it’s printed on.

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    • Do you have any compassion at all for anyone or do you continuously live to prove how callous and mean-spirited you are?

      The announcer story matters because the old guy is 89 and his wife died. Announcing the inauguration is one thing he had to help him through severe grief. Yet Trump canned him because Trump can’t stand anything that he has to share with his predecessors especially Obama.

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      • In college football, there is a certain breed of coach. He comes into a program and fires everybody (or almost everybody). Bringing in your own people is common when it comes to assistant coaches and a personal secretary, but not the whole office staff.

        They talk about “a new era” and so on, but the thing about these coaches is that they are usually gone within a couple of years. Off to the next opportunity. It’s rarely about the program, and more typically about the ego.

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  3. I found the Think Progress piece to be rather frustrating because it had a lot of good points but also wanted to go very essy on the shortcomings of neo-liberalism and third-wayism.

    The author correctly noted that the neo-liberalism that dominated from the 1990s until now was largely more about elite consensus and indifference from the rest. Yet he seems unable to get rid of it even as he acknowledges failures in jobs and material gain for many.

    Pundit writers are the most likely to be safe from outsourcing and seem to lack any awareness on this fact.

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    • Lawyers are still the most immune group to outsourcing because of the Bar requirements. Especially if the lawyer has to appear in court. Pundit writer immunity is puzzling because all you need is an ability to write in a particular language and set of facts but I guess being home grown gives pundit writers a source of authenticity that somebody in another country would lack.

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      • Pundits always fascinate me. Some of them are so bad at it, and yet widely read.

        It’s like economists who predict hyper-inflation is around the corner every three months for a decade. I mean perhaps they’ll eventually be right, but only by luck. Yet they still show up on my TV, making the same prediction with the same sober seriousness every three months, year after year after year, and rarely does anyone say “Well, you’ve been saying that for 15 years now and it hasn’t happened, what’s up with that?” much less stop having them on the show.

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          • Or with about equal accuracy, one could say that economists predicted none of the last three recessions. Queen Elizabeth famously asked a group of economists at the London School “Why did no one see it coming?” with regard to the crash in 2007.

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          • I’ll never forget Alan Greenspan’s reaction during the first months of the Great Recession. He’s more or less disappeared from public eye, but you could see the face of a man who had everything he believed in come crashing down on top of him.

            This was a man who was pimping ARM’s just a few months prior, and when it all came crashing down — it seemed like his entire worldview just shattered.

            While the New Keynesians are pretty comfortable saying “Yeah, totally predictable” I’m not sure a few of the other schools have finished changing reality to fit their models….

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            • This was a man who was pimping ARM’s just a few months prior, and when it all came crashing down — it seemed like his entire worldview just shattered.

              That’s something that I find admirable and rare. The typical reaction when a real-world experiment destroys your model of how the world works is to blink a few times and go back to exactly what you were doing as if it never happened.

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              • Oh, Greenspan was in denial for at least a year, possibly two or three.

                But when the crash came, it was…undeniable.

                He ignored the obvious (and not “obvious in hindsight”) for months or years, because his models and his economic viewpoints said it couldn’t possibly happen.

                The Great Recession was not something you could ignore as a member of the Federal Reserve, when the entire banking system locked up.

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        • I suspect the punditry thing is where Will’s point on the high-low axis in politics comes in.

          The folks at LGM have a love-hate relationship with the NY Times. They love the big investigative reporting stories but also feel like the Times played hard into “emailz!!!” They love Krugman but hate David Brooks, Maureen Dowd, and Ross D. They hate the Sunday Styles and fancy real estate sections for economic-cultural lefty reasons.

          I get the hatred to Brooks and Ross D. But on the other hand, you have my mother, who only voted Republican once in her life (for the judge that married her) and loathes Donald Trump on a comparable level as LGM. Yet she loves David Brooks and Maureen Dowd. I guess Brooks seems like a nice, Jewish boy to her and a reminder of how Republicans used to be before they went over the deep end.

          My mom thinks that Dowd is a reliable liberal who really sticks it to the Republicans. She will often call a Dowd column great when it gets loathed on LGM. I can often see a post bashing Dowd on LGM and then get a call from my mom asking if I saw the same column and how it really punched up the Republicans.

          I am not sure what to make of the split between my mom and LGM on Dowd especially because LGM is strong on Democratic voting if only for tactical reasons.

          The whole hating the Sunday Styles and fancy Real Estate sections always perplexed me because it seems like a waste of time and energy. I can only conclude that the LGM folks hate that the light Sunday Styles section pays for the Investigative reporting and wish it wasn’t so. I admit to being bougie and liking photoshoots of fancy NYC apartments and townhouses.

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      • Yes and no. A lot of lawyer stuff can be sourced out. Not necessarily to foreign countries but to lower cost states like document review and even routine legal research, drafting memos, etc.

        Plus a lot of recent lawyers might argue that they are not feeling so immune.

        Medicine is also theoretically hard to outsource but the real growth in medicine seems to be in low-wage and no benefit positions like home health aide or senior living careperson roles.

        Both law and medicine do have tasks that can be automized though and have been. Think of how many associates used to spend their days in a law library looking things up. Now you can find all the cases from a Westlaw search and some decent googling skills.

        I think your observation on being homegrown is a good point plus a lot of pundits are connected to various elite positions and can act in a way that seems like patronage. Goldman Sachs basically funds Vox. How is this different than the Medicis hiring a poet to sing their praises?

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  4. The Pigouvian tax story was interesting as I’d become skeptical of the concept, particularly since I didn’t think that it was politically feasible to tax something at levels that would change consumption behaviors; also they tend to be regressive. Here, we have a city that has imposed a 96% tax on sweetened drinks, apparently political fallout has ensued. I’m not opposed to sin taxes in principle, just their likely effecticity.

    Also interesting, the retailer says the markup on his fountain drinks is 33.3%. I’ve always thought the markup must be high and paying for a lot of overhead. And it is probably already set close to the point of diminishing sales.

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  5. For the taxes: Retailers in California have always put a separate line item on the bill for the bottle/can deposit. Also every gas pump has a statement about how much of each gallon’s price is paid in taxes. We seem to do OK.

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  6. I don’t find the conclusions in Resnikoff’s Thinkprogress piece all that far off, I do find it analytically lazy, with unnecessary flourishes, and missing, perhaps deliberately, some facets that he needs to include, and then refute to prove his point.

    Like, take the beginning

    Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, the first Democratic president elected after the Cold War,

    Bill Clinton was the first President elected after the Cold War *period*, whether you define the end of the Cold War as the fall of the Berlin Wall or the counter-coup that ended the USSR.

    There’s a lot of stuff on Corybn, but is there any evidence that Corbyn is an avatar for any particular movement, and not someone that simply not very good at his job? I’d say his counterparts on this side of the Atlantic are Elizabeth Warren and Bill De Blasio, who are reasonably effective at their jobs (or at least, you know exactly where they are coming from and where they are going to go)

    He mentions Manchin, but not the Democratic governor that also got elected in the same election as Trump. He talks about North Carolina, but what’s going on there is a bit orthogonal to white supremacy – it’s just the people in power trying to hold on tenaciously to what power they think they have (which doesn’t make it right, but also doesn’t make it racist).

    And then in the ‘third way’ there’s still people like Kamala Harris. Even though she had a intraparty challenger from her right in the primary (who went on to become the general election challenger), Harris has established a reputation as a reliable progressive on economic issues, but also maintaining a ‘tough on crime’ stance – somewhat to the dismay of many civil libertarians.

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    • “it’s just the people in power trying to hold on tenaciously to what power they think they have (which doesn’t make it right, but also doesn’t make it racist). ”

      White people are doing it, dude, that makes it racist! Do I have to draw you a diagram?

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  7. In short, white racists started it, and no one should be surprised that it still has political utility.

    That is BS. Sorry, white folks didn’t start it. Every group that has voted or had power, has voted or used their power for their for their own interests.

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    • There is a profound difference in using power to extract some rents or capture, and using it to target and harm a specific subgroup with a common, immutable identity.

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      • There is a profound difference in using power to extract some rents or capture, and using it to target and harm a specific subgroup with a common, immutable identity.

        And your contention is that white racists started this practice? Come on.

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              • Started it in this country? Yes. Or was the franchise not limited to white males.

                That isn’t what Oscar said, he just said white racists started it period. We both know that isn’t right. But if you want to change the question,sure we can go there. To be accurate (if you really care), those white males were also wanted to keep poor white males from voting as well, so it wasn’t just about race or sex.

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                • So, we are all in agreement on the point that in America, identity politics was first practiced by white racists, who also used economic class as a form of identity.

                  In other nations, identity politics was practiced differently.

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                • I read his comment and took it to be discussing identity politics in our country. I just went and reread it. I think I read it correctly, though Oscar can correct me if I misread him.

                  Your second point just seems to be that white racists were also classist and engaged in identity politics on both issues. Which . . . is just further evidence that they started it?

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                  • It depends on whether one is using the word “started” to mean “invented” or “practiced it first”. Certainly rich white males were the first with power in the English colonies and used their power to maintain their place in the social structure. People in power usually want to stay in power no matter what group they belong to.

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            • So we have Jim Crow laws as a clear example of American identity politics in action, as practiced by racists at the time. That is my evidence.

              If you have an example of a previous iteration of American identity politics at play, I’d be happy to hear about it.

              Still, my assertion is that the identity politics the left often practices is a direct response to the identity politics that others practice as a targeted means of keeping minorities and LGBTQ populations down in some fashion or another. If racists and homophobes weren’t crafting laws specifically to target certain groups with shared, immutable identities, then there would be no need to push leftist identity politics as a tool to fight against those efforts.

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              • Before Jim Crow came the Peculiar Institution itself, and the most important issue in nation al politics being the desire to preserve and extend it. The most important victory for identity politics was the Dred Scott decision, which enshrined identity politics as absolute: a person with the wrong identity was not legally a person.

                But that pales compared to letting someone use the bathroom they’re most comfortable in.

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  8. The Boston Review on how Reagan and Jesse Helms cynically used MLK.

    This relates a bit to the intersectionality debate we have above. Many liberals are aghast at how MLK or the broader Civil Rights movement have been adopted into popular consciousness. They seem to believe that if an accurate version of civil rights history is taught than Americans will start to see things correctly regarding racial issues. Like , I find that this is more than a little religious. People tend to prefer simple narrative history where good triumphs than more complicated and nuanced versions of history. The liberal version can also tend towards some dualistic thinking to despite liberal protestations to the contrary.

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  9. The Atlantic falls for royalist propaganda. There are simply too many Americans who fall for what amounts to royalist and aristocratic propaganda from British media even though they should know better. Much of this propaganda is aimed at women because of princess culture. When your told your life to imagine yourself as a princess or that your daddy’s princess than it becomes easier to associate yourself with historical royal figures.

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    • I wonder if princess culture is a more recent thing, or if I was just an oddball. When I was a kid I found the whole “princess” idea incredibly boring – your job was to look pretty, marry well, and produce heirs. Ugh. I preferred going out and catching frogs and getting muddy. Fortunately my parents were scientists so they were okay with that.

      I think I would have made a better warrior princess than plain princess. (I joke now that I am a “worrier princess,” which is closer to the truth)

      That said, Queen Victoria is probably one of the more interesting British monarchs, in an historical sense. Still, I don’t think I have the time to sit through the hours of a PBS docudrama.

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      • Its a straight historical drama and not a document drama. Princess culture always existed but it evolved to meet changing times. Before feminism, princess culture was all about looking pretty and marrying a handsome prince because that is what princesses did in fairy tales and real life, although genetics caused attractiveness to be more of a variable in real life princes and princesses. Go Hapsburg jaw.

        Feminism necessitated changes. The basic element stayed the same because that was where the marketing potential was but princesses needed to be more active to meet the demands of a changing society. So you get your tomboy princess and your warrior princess or scholarly mage princess but the princess parts are still constant.

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        • When discussing “princess culture”, are you referring to the lifestyle — real or perceived — of actual monarchs? Or pop culture representations of princesses aimed at children (i.e., Disney)?

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          • I would imagine the latter.

            I’m not really sure how much of the former you see in America. Even in TV, the “real or perceived lives of monarchs” is often filtered through a Disney lens.

            Then again, we don’t have a lot of actual royalty running around being inbred and snobbish and entitled to spoil the “noble” part.

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          • The latter, this can range from having parents refer to their daughters as princesses to the entire Disney business model and associated products. A lot of the protagonists of media aimed at girls seem to be princesses or pseudo-princesses. It seems contrary to small-r republican ideals and leads to some very strange destinations.

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            • Something important to remember is that a major draw for young children to princesses is a developmental curiosity and exploration of power. This is also why children are drawn to super heroes and dinosaurs and other large, powerful beings that answer to no one.

              Now, we can look at princess culture — especially older forms — and say, “They lack agency!” and “That was sexual assault!” and we’re not necessarily wrong. But the children simply aren’t seeing that. Princesses are perceived by children as very powerful beings.

              That doesn’t make the issues surrounding princess culture (and other forms of mass media for young kids) any less problematic, but it challenges adult-oriented assumptions about the draw.

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            • Yeah, the whole referring to your daughter as a “princess” things seems just weird to me. Maybe I came from a more bohemian/egalitarian family, I don’t know. My parents would never have called me “Princess.”

              Then again, I was kind of a tomboy/nerd so maybe I didn’t seem like the princess type. (Boring fact: I am more girly as an adult than I was as a child)

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    • Some actual proof might help, if you actually care about that sort of thing. Frankly, if our NATO allies won’t spend the amount they committed to spend on there own defense why should we cover them? They are rich enough to pay for it so why should we subsidize them?

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      • There never is proof, ever, in matters of intelligence and espionage.

        But everything Trump has done is perfectly consistent with the accusation. There isn’t much evidence or action that would suggest otherwise.

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      • I certainly agree with that principle–I think far too much of our defense spending is done simply because our allies and other potentially good actors don’t do enough.

        But that’s also something you’d normally bring up in private, given that the whole point of the exercise is deterring Russia by making them believe we’d go to war with them over, say, Slovenia’s territorial integrity. Announcing that you might not have a NATO member’s back in public sort of defeats the purpose.

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        • If Russia decided tomorrow to annex Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, can anyone here say with assurance which side Trump would pick?

          I would say with a high degree of certainty that he would find a reason why they were properly Russian territory.
          And with only slightly less degree of certainty, that a majority of GOP voters/ pundits/ officeholders would follow suit.

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          • I find it deeply ironic that the GOP might finally get that impeachment they’ve been dreaming of since Nixon, and it’s another Republican.

            I also find it deeply ironic that after decades of insinuation and rumor-mongering aimed at Democrats, it appears the “foreign appeaser/sympathizer” will ALSO be a Republican.

            They’ve turned projection into an art form.

            Man, assuming we have any after Trump’s out of office, historians are going to be living on this stuff for ages. Maybe psychiatrists too.

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            • There’s a fun AH short story where it turns out Bill Clinton really was turned by the Soviets back in the 70s and has been biding his time, working his way up the ladder, and now has the ultimate prize in his grasp.
              He radios his contact from a private spot in the White House and asks for instructions.
              Turns out the Soviet Union fell in the meantime and the guy who picks up isn’t connected to the old spy apparatus and has no idea what to do. So he tells Clinton “We seem to be trying capitalism out since we heard it was a good thing. You could try that…”

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            • While I still have some faint hope that there are some GOP foreign policy hawks, the massive man-love shown to Putin by the right wing, and the abject surrender of the Never Trump faction is depressing.

              I’m honestly having a hard time imagining anything that Putin could demand from America that would cause the Trumpistas to balk.

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          • As a practical matter, if Russia invaded Estonia, what would President Obama do? Or Hillary?

            I think Trump’s comments are bad multiple ways*, but it also comes across in a “called bluff” sort of way.

            * – Most particularly, because basically announcing inaction is worse than leaving at least a little doubt.

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            • The whole point of NATO has been to make Russia uncertain about aggression even against non-NATO states, on the grounds that any European aggression would provoke states like Germany which are much more sensitive to the Baltic states than America.

              When we have an American President telling Moscow we don’t give a flip about Europe, they see the writing on the wall.

              The downfall of Communism and the dissolution of the USSR didn’t turn the Russians into pacifist lovers of democracy.
              I assert that the Russian government hasn’t changed their foreign policy stance very much at all since 1987 and Putin seems very determined to recapture lost territory.

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              • I think Putin wants to expand. Not sure how far. I don’t know how much of a deterrent NATO really is, though, under any president. Not only did we respond to Crimea minimally, but I’m not sure what else I would have had us do. So I’m not remotely sure it’s NATO or the US holding him back.

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                • There’s more to the American alliance with the European nations than NATO though.
                  And Russian has always had more interests than merely capturing land.

                  The European nations are vulnerable to Russian pressure on economic matters, such as gas and oil supplies, naval routes to warm water ports and so on.

                  Part of what makes Trumps puppet dance alarming is how perfectly his circle of advisors and Cabinet fit with Russian interests.

                  For instance, the relationship of Exxon-Mobil and Russia in Arctic drilling. Where is America’s interest here, and who is advancing it?

                  When Europe loses their American partner, they are vulnerable to a creeping Finlandization even if the tanks don’t roll.

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                  • Chip Daniels: The European nations are vulnerable to Russian pressure on economic matters, such as gas and oil supplies, naval routes to warm water ports and so on.

                    The smart European nations have been weening themselves off of oil and gas, or so all the people that tell me that say the Europeans are so much better and more advanced than the USA.

                    And you’re reversed on the naval thing – the rest of Europe is better situated at exercising sea control over the paths the Russians need to egress and ingress their own shores on the way to the rest of the world. Russia hasn’t had the capacity to substantially intefere with anyone else’s maritime dominance in 25 years, and still won’t be able to for another decade if they decided to put their minds to it right now.

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                    • “Weening themselves” is doing a lot of work here, since most of the gas to Europe still comes from Russia, and having a client state with a warm water port has long been a Russian dream, made easier with a fractured Europe.

                      The larger point being, the interface between an hostile Russian dictatorship and Europe ends badly for Europe without an American counterweight.

                      And the even larger point that I started with, Russia appears to have a very eager and pliable American puppet, which I find really alarming.

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                      • Chip Daniels: And the even larger point that I started with, Russia appears to have a very eager and pliable American puppet, which I find really alarming

                        Yeah, it’s a pretty crappy thing when one’s warnings about existential threats from Russia are dismissed, and even aggressively mocked.

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                    • Thats good, so far.

                      But when the man at the top is parroting lines from Putin almost verbatim, I doubt that the opinions from Mattis and Pompeo will matter much.
                      Their opinions about NATO, the EU and Brexit didn’t seem to matter much to Trump.

                      Again, Trump may just be coincidentally aligning himself with Putin.
                      But so far, the puppet charge seems like the most reasonable explanation.

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                      • I think calling him a “puppet” puts the emphasis on the wrong syllable, so to speak. From a policy pov, the substantive worry should be whether his policies align with or promote Russian interests and the extent to which those policies compromise American interests or those of our economic and military allies. The specific motivation – blackmail, ignorance, tiger blood, whatever – drops out as sorta irrelevant.

                        Alternatively, if he IS a puppet, then that’s a firing squad offense, seems to me. But one with a pretty high burden of proof to meet before any triggers are pulled.

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                        • I agree, and noted that his motivations are irrelevant.

                          However, I think it is highly relevant to note that he is not aligning his policies with Russia out of loyalty to some idea or principle.

                          I honestly believe that he is aligning his policies out of loyalty to Vladimir Putin, placing that allegiance above loyalty to the American people.

                          It is shocking, really, to have to say this, but I’m not seeing any evidence that would suggest otherwise.

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                • A big thing NATO has had in its favour since the mid 80s or so is that the balance of power is such that the Atlantic alliance probably wins a purely conventional war against Moscow. This is a result of the superiority of Western technology enhanced firepower and a big reason the Soviets realised they were in a very bad spot in the late 80. Previous Soviet cold-war strategy leaned hard on their superior ability to put a mechanised offense through W. Europe as one of their trump cards.

                  That’s what makes the guarentee of the Baltic states viable. This isn’t to say that the Baltics themselves are conventionally defensible, a Russian armoured column goes through them just like its 1940. If America was defending Riga with a nuclear bluff, that bluff wouldn’t be that credible, unlike a nuclear bluff defending a region of such geostrategic importance as the Rhine valley.

                  The conventional forces bluff in the Baltics though is a lot more sensitive to political and military conditions in Europe though and is correspondingly less stable. A good deal of its long-term viablity comes from the Baltics internal culture, which makes them about as willing to go down swinging in a losing fight with Russians as anyone on earth. The lesson of 1940 for Russia is they could overrun the Baltics easily, the lesson for the Baltics was that if this happens the Russians won’t leave so going down in glory is about as about as good as it gets. Thus they are the perfect countries to be the West’s tripwires against Russian expansion.

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              • Chip Daniels: The whole point of NATO has been to make Russia uncertain about aggression even against non-NATO states

                This is simply ridiculous, in that that ‘uncertainty’ was laid to rest in Georgia with Bush II calling the shots, then again in Ukraine with Obama calling them.

                (And that’s putting aside their now free hand in Syria, and the potshots Russia is taking at Turkey and vice versa)

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        • First, I’m fairly sure that the Obama admin has already expressed this privately with no result. Second I’m fairly sure the Trump admin would honor our NATO commitments if it actually came to that. Maybe saying so publicly isn’t nice but some folks need a kick in the ass.

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          • I’m glad you’re certain about that and I hope that Russia feels the same way. Given that there’s some evidence that Iraq invaded Kuwait partially because the US accidentally indicated that it wouldn’t respond, increasing uncertainty about whether or not a country known to invade its neighbors can get away with an invasion seems more “unwise” than “not nice.”

            If I remember correctly, you rightly called out the Obama Administration for its idiotic bright line bluff in Syra, so I’m not sure why you think weakening our stance here is sensible. Maybe Obama’s blunder undercut our credibility so much that nobody believes we’ll do anything anyway, so it doesn’t matter what the POTUS says.

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            • If I remember correctly, you rightly called out the Obama Administration for its idiotic bright line bluff in Syra, so I’m not sure why you think weakening our stance here is sensible.

              Because a stopped clock is right twice a day.

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  10. And in a reminder that there are politics outside the US and Russia, Theresa May will reportedly announce on Tuesday that Britain will leave the single market. Not necessarily related, Northern Ireland today announced snap elections to be held March 2. Haven’t seen any news from Scotland today.

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