Archive for Republicans
Nothing like nearly 90 minutes of red-faced anger to build confidence in a confidence man who has no idea what he’s doing and no experience doing it. But like the American tourist who acts as though some foreigner will understand English if he simply raises his voice, Donald Trump is at least loud. Give him that.
Trump’s acceptance of the Republican nomination for president last night in Cleveland ran long, as Trump speeches tend to. It was an unsettling speech by an unsettled man. Apocalyptic, really. Pro tip: When telling a Republican audience how much the country you love sucks, make sure to tell them how exceptionally it sucks. Trump did. He said, “This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism and weakness.” Yes, weakness, because flaccid, limp, and spent are a little too blunt even for Trump.
Watching felt like being inside a familiar movie:
Tonight, I give you my most solemn vow: that justice will be swift, it will be righteous, and it will be without mercy.
— Chancellor Adam Sutler from V for Vendetta
Soon after Republicans nominated reality TV star Donald J. Trump for president last night, New Jersey governor and failed Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie conducted a reality show trial for Hillary Clinton in prime time. It might have been less creepy if some faux cardinals burst onto the stage armed with soft cushions. But no, there was only one, soft Chris Christie repeating debunked allegations against Cinton and asking the mob(?) in the coliseum, “Guilty or not guilty?”
The theme for last night was Make America Work Again. Nobody seemed to speak to it. They were too busy attacking Hillary Clinton.
George Saunders has a lengthy piece in the New Yorker based on months of up-close observation of the Trump phenomenon. Rally after rally of interviewing Trump supporters and Trump protesters. It’s a fascinating series of vignettes telling a tale of the simmering anger gripping much of America:
Where is all this anger coming from? It’s viral, and Trump is Typhoid Mary. Intellectually and emotionally weakened by years of steadily degraded public discourse, we are now two separate ideological countries, LeftLand and RightLand, speaking different languages, the lines between us down. Not only do our two subcountries reason differently; they draw upon non-intersecting data sets and access entirely different mythological systems. You and I approach a castle. One of us has watched only “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the other only “Game of Thrones.” What is the meaning, to the collective “we,” of yon castle? We have no common basis from which to discuss it. You, the other knight, strike me as bafflingly ignorant, a little unmoored. In the old days, a liberal and a conservative (a “dove” and a “hawk,” say) got their data from one of three nightly news programs, a local paper, and a handful of national magazines, and were thus starting with the same basic facts (even if those facts were questionable, limited, or erroneous). Now each of us constructs a custom informational universe, wittingly (we choose to go to the sources that uphold our existing beliefs and thus flatter us) or unwittingly (our app algorithms do the driving for us). The data we get this way, pre-imprinted with spin and mythos, are intensely one-dimensional. (As a proud knight of LeftLand, I was interested to find that, in RightLand, Vince Foster has still been murdered, Dick Morris is a reliable source, kids are brainwashed “way to the left” by going to college, and Obama may yet be Muslim. I expect that my interviewees found some of my core beliefs equally jaw-dropping.)
Saunders documents the rallies he attended so we didn’t have to. Out of this, a fuller picture emerges of Trump supporters:
It’s a joke. All of it: his candidacy, the apparatus of propaganda and grift surrounding it, the failures of governance and education and culture that have brought us to this place. What disturbs me most is the prospect that Donald Trump is what a very large number of Republican voters want: not a wonk, not an orator, not a statesman, not even a leader, really, if by leader you mean someone who persuades and inspires and manages a team to pursue a common good. They just want a man who vents their anger at targets above and below their status.
The Brookings Institution’s Robert Kagan examines the Donald Trump phenomenon. “It has nothing to do with the Republican Party … except in its historic role as incubator of this singular threat to our democracy.” In the Washington Post, Kagan writes:
And the source of allegiance? We’re supposed to believe that Trump’s support stems from economic stagnation or dislocation. Maybe some of it does. But what Trump offers his followers are not economic remedies — his proposals change daily. What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger. His public discourse consists of attacking or ridiculing a wide range of “others” — Muslims, Hispanics, women, Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, Arabs, immigrants, refugees — whom he depicts either as threats or as objects of derision. His program, such as it is, consists chiefly of promises to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion. He will deport them, bar them, get them to knuckle under, make them pay up or make them shut up.
“Incubator” is perhaps the right metaphor for where Trump developed. Unless it was a Petri dish. But I too am not sure it was the Republican Party proper. Certain influential players, sure. Senator Joseph McCarthy, Senator Barry Goldwater, Lee Atwater, and Roger Ailes. Rush Limbaugh and a host of imitators for sure. I recall how creepy the appearance of Rush Rooms at restaurants was in the early 1990s. People could eat their lunches and not miss out on their daily Two Minutes Hate. They could share an experience validated by others. Only the Hate ran three hours a day. Would you like some ketchup with your Orwell?
Just weeks before North Carolina Republicans enacted their insta-infamous HB2 transgender discrimination law, I wrote that the M.O. of the extremist Republican Party is this: find the lines, cross them, dare people to push them back. Yesterday the U.S. Department of Justice pushed back:
RALEIGH — U.S. Justice Department officials repudiated North Carolina’s House Bill 2 on Wednesday, telling Gov. Pat McCrory that the law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act and Title IX – a finding that could jeopardize billions in federal education funding.
The department gave state officials until Monday to respond “by confirming that the State will not comply with or implement HB2.”
This was not unexpected. When Republican legislators placed an anti-marriage equality amendment to the North Carolina state constitution on the 2012 primary ballot, then N.C. House Speaker (now U.S. Senator) Thom Tillis told the NCSU newspaper, “If it passes, I think it will be repealed within 20 years.” That assessment did not stop them. Amendment 1 did pass. A federal court declared it unconstitutional in two.
HB2 has been in place less than two months.
Donald Trump all but officially clinched the 2016 Republican nomination for president when Sen. Ted Cruz bowed out last night after a crushing loss in the Indiana primary. Bernie Sanders upset Hillary Clinton to keep his campaign alive, but because Democrats assign delegates proportionally, he gained little ground in the delegate chase.
Politico reports that Sen. Elizabeth Warren wasted no time in launching an assault on the presumptive Republican nominee, “hitting him with a blistering late-night tweetstorm in which she cast the presumptive Republican nominee as a racist with a dangerous authoritarian streak.” She defined the challenge ahead both for herself and the country:
What happens next will test the character for all of us – Republican, Democrat, and Independent.
— Elizabeth Warren (@elizabethforma) May 4, 2016
Pretty soon Republicans won’t need to insist voters present photo identity cards at the polls. The will have trained “wrong thinking people” not to try. The New York Times reported on studies indicating how that works: people confused about how the ID laws work simply stay home:
“What voters hear is that you need to have an ID,” said Mark P. Jones of the Baker Institute, an author of the study. “But they don’t get the second part that says if you have one of these types of IDs, you’re O.K.”
Representative Pete Gallego, a Texas Democrat, lost his 2014 reelection bid by just 2,422 votes. This year he is asking voters if they have a driver’s license.
After Mr. Gallego’s narrow loss in 2014, researchers from the Baker Institute and the University of Houston’s Hobby Center for Public Policy polled 400 registered voters in the district who sat out the election. All were asked why they did not vote, rating on a scale of 1 to 5 from a list of seven explanations — being ill, having transportation problems, being too busy, being out of town, lacking interest, disliking the candidates and lacking a required photo identification.
Nearly 26 percent said the main reason was that they were too busy. At the other end, 5.8 percent said the main reason was lacking a proper photo ID, with another 7 percent citing it as one reason. Most surprising, however, was what researchers found when they double-checked that response: The vast majority of those who claimed not to have voted because they lacked a proper ID actually possessed one, but did not know it.
This was at the top of my news feed when I got home. Borrowing this wholesale from a Facebook post by Rick Perlstein:
One of the letters Senator Thomas McIntyre got in 1978 after voting for the Panama Canal treaties: “Quisling Traitor Senator McIntyre: Conservative Republicans have added your despicable name to the list of TRAITORS in our stench-producing Senate tainted by those on the Radical Left and representing your ilk. Your refusal to be swayed by either reason or eloquence indicates your leftist orientation…An awesomely large mass of information can be mobilized to invalidate your fuzzy left-wing thinking. Traitors of your gutter orientation abound in our corrupt Senate dominated by the scum and vermin of the Marxist Democrats/ Rest assured, Commissar McIntyre, that you will be classified as insidious and corrupt. Americans who care t stand u in your Marxist behalf are to be sledge-hammered as QUISLINGS and odious incendiaries. We will concentrate on your vicious leftist VOTING RECORD and your excessive loyalty to the liberal pig in the tainted WHITE HOUSE. My qualifications: Washington Unviversity postgraduate and honor student. You are unquestionably one of the most DISHONEST AND VICIOUSLY CORRUPT hucksters and charlatans in our thieving Senate controleld by vermin of your Far Left views. We will work assiduously to damn you in scathing terms. YOU ARE AIDING AND ABETTING your beloved communist cause. conservatives ARE BEING ENLISTED TO STOMP OUR WAY THORUGH OUR COMMUNIZING SENATE WHIHC DARES TO STAND UP TO ITS conservative betters. Rest assured that we deem you to be on THE same plane as the COMMUNISTS. You are vermin.”
Currently seeing similar sentiments (only with better spelling) among local T-party types over this:
Not that long ago, campaigns here fretted that black voters did not take advantage of early voting. With the exception of Sunday voting (souls to the polls), seeing neighbors at the polls on Election Day was a kind of communal celebration. Responding in the New York Times to Monday’s federal court ruling upholding North Carolina’s 2013 voting restrictions, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P., notes how dramatically that changed:
The law eliminated voting rules that had enabled North Carolina to have the fourth best per capita voter turnout in the country. In 2012, 70 percent of black voters used early voting — and cast ballots at a slightly higher percentage than whites. Although black voters made up about 20 percent of the electorate, they made up 41 percent of voters who used same-day registration.
The North Carolina Legislature set out to change those figures and suppress minority votes. Its many impediments to voting all disproportionately affect African-American and Latino voters. None of their attacks would have survived pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. A Republican official defended the law this way: “If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.”