Three Questions about “Doing Democracy”

Kathleen Parker, Progressives’ shaming of Trump supporters won’t work

There are three related questions on the table. Toward the end of the episode last Friday, David Brooks asked a good question, which I’ll paraphrase: Given that democracy requires civility and a working hypothesis that even your political enemies are mostly motivated by good intent, how do we “do democracy” between now and the 2020 election, given that the President is a depraved individual, and vast numbers of his supporters continue to enable his depravity?

Kathleen Parker, by contrast, poses what seems to me an inane question. She assumes that progressives are going about deliberately “shaming” Trump supporters, asks whether that tactic is likely to work, and declares that it will not.

Well, here’s the question I want to ask: Are we to refrain from pointing out that Trump is a deranged, narcissistic simpleton, bent on using white supremacy to win reelection, because telling the truth about who Trump implies that we think poorly of those who support Trump, which will make them feel defensive, which will in turn encourage them to go out and vote for him again in 2020?

In short, to keep Trump supporters from being riled up, should we pretend that Trump is someone other than who he is?

I will answer my own question. No. We should not pull our punches about Trump because telling the truth about Trump will make his supporters angry.

Nor, I believe, is it advisable to place special emphasis on what we think of Trump’s supporters as fine specimens of the human race. On that latter topic, I would advise we keep our bottom line views largely to ourselves.

If pressed by a Trump supporter on the matter, here is how I would respond.

First, it’s not up to me to make a final judgment on who is a good person and who is a bad person.

Two, it’s also not very useful to have a semantic debate about who is and isn’t a “racist,” because that word is used in many different ways.

All that said, three, your continued support of Trump is evidence that that your values are very different from my values.

And, four, in my opinion, your continued support of Trump indicates poor judgment on your part. Trump is such a doofus that he gives white supremacy a bad name. Wouldn’t your own goals—much as I object to them—be better advanced by a leader who is not a narcissistic jerk?

Now, Trump and politics aside, the world is full of people whose values are different from mine. And the world is full of people who exhibit bad judgment.

And, as a lawyer I say, thank God that the world is absolutely chock full of folks with poor judgment.

Your Daily Dose of Optimism

optimist cat

David Brooks, Your Daily Dose of Optimism!

Very good piece. Please read it for yourself to learn why you should be optimistic this morning.

Nadler: Hope Hicks testimony is huge gift in legal battle with Trump

My sense is that “huge” is a little too strong—and that Jerry is having a go at messing with Trump’s mind.

All that said, it’s also true that Trump is pressing the principle of “executive privilege” way past any reasonable limits, based on existing case law. And it’s true that it’s generally a good thing when your adversary overplays his hand.

The Monmouth University Poll

“Fewer than 4-in-10 registered voters (37%) say that Trump should be reelected in 2020. A majority of 59% say it is time to have someone new in the Oval Office.”

My comment: a while back, I (along with lots of others) figured out that a majority of Trump supporters are cultists, but a significant minority of them are people who are happy that the cultists are being fooled into voting for the plutocratic agenda. Based on that insight, the key strategic question then became, how to peel off the cynics from the cultists?

By this point, it’s becoming clearer every day that the best progressive tactic to reach this strategic goal is to do nothing at all. Just let Trump be Trump. Let him keep on riling up the third of the country who love him—by doing and saying things that royally piss off the other two thirds.

David’s Repentance Detector


I like David Brooks, but damn if he can’t be annoying. Four months ago, he was sure as shootin’ that Michael Cohen’s professed resentence was phony. Today, he’s certain that Kyle Kashuv’s repentance is the real McCoy. (Kushuv’s the kid whose Harvard admission was rescinded because of racist comments he made at the age of sixteen.)

When I was young, I was pretty certain about a lot of moral questions, too. I had great skill in detecting whose behavior was reprehensible and whose reprehensible behavior was nevertheless understandable.

By the time I had reached the age of 58, that skill had largely vanished.

Grow up, David.


Greetings to today’s readers in Zimbabwe and Kenya. Don’t believe you have visited before, so welcome. And I seem to have some regular readers in India; welcome back.

No Balls at All

No, Charles Blow, Democrats are not “bringing their letter openers to a gunfight.” And in no way, shape, or form are they “scared witless.”

Democrats face an unprecedented and challenging situation. It shows neither lack of wit nor shrunken cojones to proceed cautiously and think carefully about how to play the cards they have.

Jerry Nadler is a mensch. And so is Nancy Pelosi.

Mr. Blow’s colleague David Brooks makes the opposite mistake: accusing Nadler of declaring a bogus constitutional crisis.

Jonathan Chait roasts Brooks on a spit and eats him for lunch.

Em … em … good.

We do have a constitutional crisis on our hands. Crises are not handled well by folks who stick their heads in the sand. Nor is JUST DO SOMETHING!!! likely to lead to an optimal outcome. Cojones are wonderful, but you need to think with your frontal lobe.

Get a grip, people.


Joe Biden as Rorschach Test

rorschachI haven’t reached a fully considered opinion about Joe Biden as a presidential candidate. But here are two people who have done so—and come out in very different ways:

Paul Waldman, Why Joe Biden can’t escape controversies over his past

David Brooks, Your Average American Joe

But as a start toward a more fully considered opinion, I recall to mind a fundamental axiom from 35 years as a professional advocate: Don’t Tell ‘Em. Show ‘Em.

Biden has begun his current presidential quest by telling people to vote for him because he is not Donald Trump.

I, for one, find that quite a compelling argument. And so, apparently, does David Brooks.

But I surely to shit would not rely on that argument to carry me over the finish line. Because I think my fellow Mericans, as a whole, care a great deal more about health care and inequality than they care about Donald Trump’s many failings.


Greetings to readers today in India, Italy, and the United States. I feel your pain at the political dysfunction in your countries, and hope you feel mine.


The Thugs for Trump Club

David Brooks writes,

Cohen has left the Thugs for Trump club and passed that baton to certain House Republicans. I would have loved to have been in the strategy session when the House Republicans decided to be incurious about Trump’s sins and crimes but to rip the skin off Cohen.

Normal people have moral sentiments. Normal people are repulsed when the president of their own nation lies, cheats, practices bigotry, allegedly pays off porn star mistresses.

Were Republican House members enthusiastic or morose as they decided to turn off their own moral circuits, when they decided to be monumentally unconcerned by the fact that their leader may be a moral cretin?

Do they think that having anesthetized their moral sense in this case they will simply turn it on again down the road? Having turned off their soul at work, do they think they will be able to turn it on again when they go home to the spouse and kids?

This is how moral corrosion happens. Supporting Trump requires daily acts of moral distancing, a process that means that after a few months you are tolerant of any corruption. You are morally numb to everything. You end up where Representative Jim Jordan blandly ended up Wednesday, in referring to the hush-money scheme: “I think it’s news we knew about.”

I’ve heard the rationalizations. This is gang warfare. We have to do everything we can to defend our team. The other team leaves us no choice. Those are the sorts of things people say to give themselves permission to yield to their venal ambitions. Those are the sorts of things rookies and amateurs say.