Category Archives: Politics

Four-party system

Arnold Kling: The US today is divided into four political parties, in two uneasy and fragmented coalitions.

Kling sees the distinctions as:

  • “hard left,” which is positive about socialism, negative about capitalism, and fine with refusing to allow conservatives to speak in public;

  • the “bobo center,” which strongly favors immigration leniency, is liberal on social policy, “generally content with the status quo on most economic issues, but worried about inequality;”

  • the “anti-Bobo heartland,” essentially Trump country, strongly favoring restrictive immigration, “America first” foreign and trade policy, and very suspicious of the other three parties;

  • and “conservatarians, meaning conservative-flavored libertarians or libertarian-flavored conservatives,” who “worry about unsustainable fiscal policy, the power of the regulatory state, and the loss of key values, such as individual responsibility and respect for freedom of speech.”

I’m in the Bobo center, as Kling describes it. It’s not a perfect fit. I’m not “generally content with the status quo on most economic issues.” Fixing inequality will require fundamental fixes to the economic system. But all political categorization is imprecise, and Kling’s is the best I’ve seen recently.

Kling also says: “There is a good chance that the Democratic nominee in 2020 will cater to the hard left. If so, then this will give the Bobo center the sort of discomfort that the conservatarians feel with the Trump phenomenon.”

My “discomfort” with Trump is based more on the man than on his politics. I’d oppose any Republican candidate, but Trump is incompetent, an egomaniac, and if he’s not a white supremacist himself he’s perfectly fine with allying with them and pandering to them. I like to think these qualities in Trump would be repellent even to people who would enthusiastically support a Republican conservative. And, indeed, we did see some Republican champions defecting to the “hold your nose and vote for Hillary” camp.


Taking Trump voters’ concerns seriously means listening to what they’re actually saying

Dylan Matthews, Vox: Trumpism isn’t about economic anxiety. It’s about racism. Contrary to popular belief among journalists — and political watchers like myself — Trump supporters are generally more affluent than the general population. The actual profile of Trump supporters: Racists, and people who always vote Republican (two separate, but overlapping groups).


Even if Trump loses big, the anger will remain. Here’s how the left can address it

E.J. Dionne Jr. at the Washington Post:

The urgent task of progressives in this election is to defeat Donald Trump. But even if we succeed, we have a long-term responsibility: to understand why Trump happened and to face up to how failures on the left and center-left have contributed to the flourishing of a new far right, not only in the United States but also across Europe.

The left, you might fairly protest, has enough problems without being blamed for the rise of a dangerous figure who is, first and foremost, a creation of the conservative movement’s radicalization and the Republican leadership’s pandering to extreme views over many years. When I watch GOP leaders bemoaning their party’s fate under Trump (or belatedly jumping off his ship), I am reminded of John F. Kennedy’s warning that “those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.”

The left’s first instincts with regard to Trump is correct: Economic fears — realistic economic fears — are the engine driving his support. Bigotry is the fuel. But when economic times are good, bigotry is content to sit on the barstool and spout nonsense.

All sorts of good insights in this article about how the left has failed the white working class.


October 14, 2016

Why are the Donald Trump sexual assault allegations gaining traction now, after a year of Trump making statements that were far more deplorable than what he said about women in the tape released Friday?

One reason is that it’s not just talk. We’re seeing women coming forward saying Trump didn’t just say those things. He did them. Time and time again. It was habit with him.

But that’s only a small part of it.

Recall Karl Rove’s 2004 election strategy: Don’t hit your opponent where they’re weakest. Hit them where they’re strongest. If your candidate is a war shirker and the opponent served courageously, hit your opponent on his service record.

Fast-forward to 2016. Donald Trump is perceived as a strong man. An alpha male. He gets things done.

You know what alpha males don’t do? They don’t grope women. They don’t have to. Women THROW themselves at the alpha male. James Bond never has to grope.

These latest allegations make Trump look weak. He looks like a pathetic older rich man with a bad haircut and whose suits don’t fit, and who corners women and gets grabby with them.

And that is why these particular allegations are hurting Trump where previous incidents did not. The alpha male can be a racist, he can be a bully, he can be a misogynist, he can be rude. But the one thing he can’t be is pathetic.


October 14, 2016

Sure, there’s a lot of bigotry and hate among Donald Trump supporters.

But there are also a lot of people seeing their way of life dying out — the only way of life they’ve known — with no welcoming future ahead. These people are quite reasonably desperate. You would be too in their position. It is our responsibility to help these people find their way forward, because they are our fellow Americans and it is our duty of care.

That’s in the long run, over the next few years.

In the short run, I’m seeing it as increasingly likely we’re going to see rioting by Trump supporters after the election, which might involve some parts of the military and police. It might even rise to the level of insurrection. It won’t lead anywhere, but it’ll take bullets and blood to put down.

Trump himself has the power to stop all this by simply following the tradition of losing Presidential candidates: He gives a gracious concession speech, wishes President Clinton well, and then leaves the public eye for a few months to a year at least. I don’t see that as likely.


In a new era of politics, looking back at the restraint of George H. W. Bush

The Presidential podcast, with Lillian Cunningham:

The more the American political climate today resembles a personality-driven reality show, the more the country’s nostalgia seems to grow for restrained elder statesmen like George H. W. Bush. “There’s clearly a new appreciation of his grace, of his dignity,” biographer Jon Meacham says.

“But we miss the point of Bush if we simply focus on his good manners and neglect the genuine historical legacy that he’s left us,” according to Meacham. “There are sound historical, intellectual, philosophical reasons to appreciate with high regard the presidency of George H. W. Bush.”

In this week’s episode of the Presidential podcast, Meacham and fellow historian Jeffrey Engel discuss President Bush’s unique form of political leadership—a vintage combination of public service, conservatism and emotional restraint—and examine why his legacy has grown more positive over time.

Bush was a man who’d enjoyed great success at the head of American society, and saw at as his duty to protect and extend that society into the future. He didn’t think America was broken and so saw no need to fix it.


“How half of America lost its f**king mind.”

David Wong, on Cracked, explains Trump’s appeal.

It’s not about red and blue states — it’s about the country vs. the city.

Rural America has been left behind by the economic recovery. Its people struggle with poverty, drug addiction, and suicide. Its institutions, such as the church, are eroding. Urban and suburban America is apathetic about rural American problems and and treats rural Americans with contempt. Rural Americans are angry, and they have a right to be.

Donald Trump is a brick chucked through the window of the elites. “Are you assholes listening now?

Sure, Trump is an asshole. So is Tony “Iron Man” Stark. People love to root for an asshole if they think that asshole is powerful, gets results, and is their asshole.

Got to cut back on politics every once in a while or it will make you nuts

I’ve been feeling depressed and stressed all weekend. It’s no big deal. I wrestle with moderate depression and this was one of the bad times.

This morning, I went out walking with Minnie first thing to beat the heat. I don’t like exercising first thing in the morning but it’s necessary when it’s hot out, particularly with Minnie. And I do like being done with exercising first thing.

I got back home showered, got my and Minnie’s breakfast together, and hit my desk to read the news. I read a couple of articles about the election and lifted my hands to blog about them–

— and then I said screw it, the world can do without my election insights today.

And suddenly my mood lightened.

Disclosure: I did end up doing one political post today, and a comment on someone else’s political post. But too much thinking about politics just grinds you down. And it alienates you from people you might otherwise like just fine.

P.S. Lately, Minnie is in the habit of picking up trash on the way back and carrying it in her mouth, often the whole way home. Today’s treasure was a transparent Starbucks cold drinks cup. She got it about three houses down from home and then put it down, and couldn’t seem to figure out a good way to pick it up again, even though she’d already done it twice. I picked it up and carried it home and deposited it in our trash. My thumb rule is that if she gets trash back to our street it is my responsibility, but until then if she drops it I just leave it where it is, figuring it was ALREADY litter before she picked it up.


A professor is under fire after saying Black Lives Matter is racist like the KKK

Douglas Muir wrote in response to a message in support of Black Lives Matter: “Black lives matter is the biggest rasist organisation since the clan. Are you kidding me. Disgusting!!!”

Putting aside the guy’s politics, how does a semi-literate like Douglas Muir get a job as a professor at a university? I count six errors of spelling and punctuation in sixteen words.

(Kristine Guerra, The Washington Post)


This iconic sailor-kissing-girl photo captures a sexual assault in progress

A person on Google+ takes issue with my description of Donald Trump’s behavior as sexual assault, pointing to this historical photo of a man who grabbed a woman and kissed her.

My first reaction: No, that’s not sexual assault because she gave permission. The permission was given after the fact, but that’s how it works. I remembered reading interviews with the couple in question, and she said she was into it, even though she didn’t expect it. So: Not sexual assault.

Then I went to this article. Turns out she wasn’t into it. She didn’t like it at all.

So, yup, that’s sexual assault all right.

(Maureen Callahan, The New York Post)