The Bottom Line, So to Speak

The one percenters haven’t given up on the Long Con—not yet. Here’s why the greedy are still trying to lead and bamboozle the uneducated, the gullible, and the people who value most their sacred freedom to be nasty to people they despise. Decency be damned. Sanity be damned. Truth be damned. The United States Constitution be damned.

Here’s What Executives Are Saying About Republican Tax Reform

I don’t know whether the Long Con will work one more time, and they will get their “reform.”

But if it doesn’t work, these CEOs aren’t going to want to keep on paying McConnell and Ryan and the whole cowardly lot of stuffed shirt politicians.

When your investment doesn’t pay off, you bail.

Don’t throw good money after bad.

Meanwhile, Bannon has the haters and know nothings coming after McConnell and Ryan with their torches and pitchforks.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

 

On the White House Menu this Evening: Rocky Mountain Oysters

castration

Some Republican Senators are now saying that Trump is a mentally unstable, dangerous demagogue.

If these claims are damnable lies, then your duty as a Republican senator would be to call them out as damnable lies, demand their immediate retraction, and call on those who make such claims immediately to slink out of Washington like the disgraced lying liars they are.

If, on the other hand, the assertion that Trump is a mentally unstable, dangerous demagogue is true, then your duty as a Republican senator is to take drastic action, immediately if not sooner.

If you do not immediately denounce Corker and Flake as damnable liars, then you are conceding that their claims are true.

If you concede that the Corker/Flake critique is valid but choose to do nothing about it, then you are letting Trump castrate you.

Trump is castrating you.

This evening’s White House menu features Rocky Mountain oysters.

Next year Trump and his rabid followers will eat the rest of you.

oysters

挂羊头卖狗肉—the End of the Long Con

A butcher returns change to a customer at a market in Beijing

If you are selling a product that people actually want to buy, then all you have to do is describe the product truthfully, and Bob’s your uncle: people will buy it.

If you are selling a product that few people want to buy, then you have to do what the Chinese idiom captures in an arresting word picture: gua yang tou, mai gou rou, hang up a sheep’s head while selling your dog meat.

There is pretty much zero constituency for principled conservatism. Here’s Charlie Sykes, repentant right-wing talk show host,  being interviewed by Jonathan Chait:

Sykes: Starting with Hayek, and extending to Milton Friedman, I think there was a principled critique of the limits of government knowledge and, hence, of the ability of the central state to run the economy. There was also an attempt to fuse together various branches of conservatism into the concept of ordered liberty. These thinkers (and I would include people like Jack Kemp later) genuinely thought that limited government, free markets, and economic freedom would provide the greatest scope and opportunities for Americans. But, as you suggest, these ideas were indeed hard to translate into policies that could win elections.

This brings us to the politicians. Richard Nixon, who embraced the most aggressive versions of the Southern Strategy, was not a conservative of this school, but I do think that there was a temptation among the political class to use both cultural and racial issues to substitute for other issues. Conservatives too often gave in to that temptation. Even those who did not turned a blind eye to the grievances among folks whose vote they needed.

Fast-forward to 2016. Trump deftly exploited those grievances, and continues to do so. Rather than talk about health care, he attacks the NFL. It’s very much the old pattern.But: This doesn’t mean that people whose views were shaped by Hayek, von Mises, or Friedman are therefore responsible for the alt-right.

In other words, there is a conservative tradition that is clearly separable and distinct from Trumpism.  But it is a tradition that clearly has been abandoned by much of the political class and GOP electorate.

In short, the principled conservatives were selling dog meat that no one wanted to buy, so they had to hang up a sheep head of racism and grievance to sell their product.

Josh Barro makes the same point, with specific reference to Jeff Flake, a rare principled conservative:

Flake is helpless because there’s no real constituency in America for what he favors: low taxes and spending, openness to immigration and trade, international collaboration where America honors its commitments, and polite public behavior.

There is one coalition of voters that favors a much larger and more active government than Flake wants. Many of these voters share a portion of Flake’s values (they may share his commitment to openness and politeness, for example) but they also oppose him on various social issues where he is conservative and they are liberal. Flake does not have a home in the Democratic Party with these voters.

The other coalition of voters is the one Flake relied on all along to get elected. But it turns out they don’t care very much about some of the policy ideas Flake thought were important. And they outright oppose him on others, like immigration. And many of these voters have come to view nastiness and crudity as virtues, since they think politeness norms have been weaponized by an establishment that wants to exclude them — or just because they are jerks.

It was essentially an accident that Flake and elected officials like him were able to harness the Republican electoral coalition for so long to back an agenda that excluded policies those voters cared about (like immigration restriction) and included ones they opposed (like cutting Medicare). Now that’s over, and he has nowhere to go. 

In sum, the few principled conservatives left in Republican public life are being chewed up and spit out. Here’s Barro again:

Flake should consider that ideas with no natural constituency might be bad ideas. If “traditional Republicans” could only ever be elected by people who didn’t care about their animating ideals, people who could be tempted to support a man like Trump, maybe those ideals were never any good to begin with.

And maybe the willingness of Republican voters to choose a president of such poor character and temperament suggests those voters have always had poor judgment — including when they elected Jeff Flake.

Meanwhile, other politicians are pushing forward with a program of Damn the Deficit, I Want my Tax Cut, and I Want it Now! It’s a different species of dog meat, but marketed under the same racist sheep head—what Sykes delicately calls using racial and cultural grievances to sell other issues. The “other issues” would be tax cuts for billionaires.

On this second front, things remain confused. The sockpuppets for billionaires crowd—let’s call ‘em the unprincipled pseudo-conservatives—think they still might pull it off. I don’t think so. I think Steve Bannon and his howling mobs are going to chew them up and spit them out, too.

Remember Big Luther?

Roy Moore is a-comin’ to town.

If and when the giant tax cut crashes and burns, a lot of plutocratic political dabblers are going to stop supporting the McConnell-Ryan crowd. They will take their gazillions and turn to new hobbies. Probably someone will think to found a new religion, teaching that  the degree of God’s favor varies directly with your net worth. I’m surprised they haven’t already thought of that.

Meanwhile, corporate America will wake up and smell the coffee, realize that the Long Con is over, and discover a new fondness for “moderation” in support of global capitalism. Susan Collins will be the founding member of the Moderation for America Party.

At Last, the Voice of Reason Speaks

palin

Jonathan Chait writes,

Last night, accepting an award from the National Constitution Center, John McCain denounced the Trump administration’s ideology in terms that sounded harsh, and that upon reflection were even harsher. Without naming Trump, but without needing to, the Arizona senator dismissed “some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems,” likening it to “any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.” Here McCain was comparing the worldview of a president of his own party to communism and fascism — a rebuke even deeper, in a way, than Senator Corker comparing him to a doddering half-wit. Corker attacked Trump’s competence. McCain attacked his intentions.