Right Twice a Day: A Fair and Balanced Report


Aardvark is anything if not fair and balanced. And, in a fair and balanced mood, he would like to report that, like that famous brocken chronometer from a well-known European nation, Trump has actually been right about two things so far.

One, he has suggested that it would it would be a good idea to elect presidents by popular vote rather than continuing to use the eighteenth century Electoral College.

Two, he wants to “destroy” the provision of tax law that forbids preachers to endorse candidates and keep their tax exempt status. My reason for arguing that he is right? I think that that the Religious Right gets away with violating it all the time, while the Religious Left tries to obey it. Time to level the playing field, folks.


And from the Department of No Shit, Sherlock, comes this BREAKING NEWS tonight:

In a potential shift, Trump warns Israel that new settlements ‘may not help’ achieve Middle East peace


Six Blind Social Scientists Examine the Populist Elephant in Some Detail


This morning Thomas B. Edsall, opinion writer for the Washington Post and professor of journalism, calls our attention to a Harvard Kennedy School working paper by Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris, Trump Brexit, and the Rise of Populism: Economic Have-Nots and Cultural Backlash. The article, and the scholarly work it describes, complement and contrast with other recent efforts to get our arms around populism in Europe and the United States.

What I have to say is a second hand account of a second hand account, so please go read the original if the topic interests you.

The learned authors, it appears, label progressive thinking of the contemporary sort as “postmaterialism,” evidently because we contemporary progressive folk are said to be more co ncerned about cultural issues than about bread and butter issues.

 “Postmaterialism,” they write, “eventually became its own gravedigger.”

The rise of postmaterialism here and in Europe, Inglehart and Norris argue,

brought declining social class voting, undermining the working-class-oriented Left parties that had implemented redistributive policies for most of the 20th century. Moreover, the new non-economic issues introduced by Postmaterialists overshadowed the classic Left-Right economic issues, drawing attention away from redistribution to cultural issues, further paving the way for rising inequality.

Again, I don’t pretend to do the article full justice, but the essence appears to be that the Left took its eye off of economic inequality and the plight of those whose jobs were lost or threatened, causing the latter to manifest whatever racist, xenophobic, and cultural fears they already had in latent form.

Aardvark is confident that the documentation for all this is helpful, but from a bird’s eye level, it strikes me as the painful elucidation of the obvious.

What’s less obvious is how to fix it. Some seem to think it would help if Harvard professors go down and drink beer with the longshoremen. An even better approach would be to find a way meaningfully to address the valid economic concerns that many of the Trump supporters—a significant number of which, after all, voted for Obama in previous elections.

G’day Mate, and Fuck You Very Much


Having injured the president of Mexico in a phone call, Trump added insult to injury in his call with Australia’s prime minister.

Trump’s behavior suggests that he is capable of subjecting world leaders, including close allies, to a version of the vitriol he frequently employs against political adversaries and news organizations in speeches and on Twitter.

“This is the worst deal ever,” Trump fumed as Turnbull attempted to confirm that the United States would honor its pledge to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center.

Trump, who one day earlier had signed an executive order temporarily barring the admissions of refugees, complained that he was “going to get killed” politically and accused Australia of seeking to export the “next Boston bombers.”

U.S. officials said that Trump has behaved similarly in conversations with leaders of other countries, including Mexico. But his treatment of Turnbull was particularly striking because of the tight bond between the United States and Australia — countries that share intelligence, support one another diplomatically and have fought together in wars including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Plainly Trump needs help. A good source might be British Foreign Minsiter Boris Johnson, who pinned this ditty about the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan:

There was a young fellow from Ankara
Who was a terrific wankerer
Till he sowed his wild oats
With the help of a goat
But he didn’t even stop to thankera.

It is reported that some Britons have objected to this literary effort on the grounds that “wankerer” and “thankera” are not actual words.

Inspired by Trump and Johnson—two peas in a pod, if there ever were two peas in a pod—Aardvark offers this offering to President Trump, who is free to include it in his next diplomatic communication:

The big loser PM of Australia
Put on his finest regalia.
Said he, “I’m so proud,
Cause I’m not well endowed,
And it covers my small genitalia.”

No need to thank me, Donald. No need at all. Happy to help.

Poisonous Populism: How (and How Not) to Deal with It


Andrés Miguel Rondón, a Venezuelan economist, writes In Venezuela, we couldn’t stop Chávez. Don’t make the same mistakes we did. “The recipe for populism is universal,” he says:

Find a wound common to many, find someone to blame for it, and make up a good story to tell. Mix it all together. Tell the wounded you know how they feel. That you found the bad guys. Label them: the minorities, the politicians, the businessmen. Caricature them. As vermin, evil masterminds, haters and losers, you name it. Then paint yourself as the savior. Capture the people’s imagination. Forget about policies and plans, just enrapture them with a tale. One that starts with anger and ends in vengeance. A vengeance they can participate in.

That’s how it becomes a movement. There’s something soothing in all that anger. Populism is built on the irresistible allure of simplicity. The narcotic of the simple answer to an intractable question. The problem is now made simple.

The problem is you.

His counsel?

  1.  “Never forget that you’re that enemy. Trump needs you to be the enemy, just like all religions need a demon. A scapegoat. … What makes you the enemy? It’s very simple to a populist: If you’re not a victim, you’re a culprit.”
  2. Show no contempt. Leave “the theater of injured decency behind.”
  3. “A hissy fit is not a strategy.” Don’t try to force him out.
  4. Adopt a counterstrategy of proving “that you belong in the same tribe as them—that you are American in exactly the same way they are.” He continues,

Show concern, not contempt, for the wounds of those who brought him to power. By all means, be patient with democracy and struggle relentlessly to free yourself from the shackles of the caricature the populists have drawn of you.

It’s a tall order. But the alternative is worse. Trust me.

Meanwhile, Ross Douthat reacts to David Frum’s dystopian vision—and to everything else we have seen in the last two weeks, by presenting at some length a theatrical pageant of decency in which poisonous populism dooms itself through its lack of political skill, unpopularity, and the opposition of of the “deep state.”

So who’s right, Rondón or Frum? Will Trumpism fall of its own weight, or will the problem persist as long as we can’t get inside the heads of the Trumpistas?





Clash of Civilizations


David Ignatius writes this morning that For Bannon, the game has only just begun, but the column does not quite live up to the headline. It ends on the theme that Bannon’s false start may have jeopardized his long-term goal of fostering a clash of civilizations.

As with many revolutionaries, Bannon’s story is that of a wealthy man who came to see himself as a vanguard for the masses. He rose from a middle-class life in Richmond through an uneventful stint with the Navy; but his life changed after he enrolled at Harvard Business School, joined Goldman Sachs, founded an investment bank and made a fortune. He began directing conservative agitprop documentaries in 2004, but the 2008 financial crisis was a turning point. Bannon saw it as a betrayal of working people, and he embraced the tea party’s conservative revolt against Republican and Democratic elites. …

The rise of the Islamic State in 2014 gave Bannon a new rallying cry: “We are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism,” he told the Vatican audience. “I believe you should take a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam,” he said. …

Bannon undeniably has a powerful radical vision. But this time, he may have blundered. The travel ban has triggered a counterrevolt among millions of Americans who saw his target as the Statue of Liberty.

Although Ignatius didn’t tell us exactly what is coming next, this morning Bill de Blasio filled us in.