Republican Party Futurology: Another Whack at the Piñata

whacking the pinata

John V. Last, Identity Politics Conservatism: conservative elites trying to come up with the next stage of Trumpism are out of touch with what Republican voters actually want:

I keep telling people that Trump is forever and no one believes me.

I get that. I don’t want to believe me, either.

But there are two ways to view 2016.

The first is that Donald Trump broke apart the fusionist Republican coalition by discovering that GOP voters have different policy priorities than GOP elites.

The second is that Donald Trump broke apart the fusionist Republican coalition by discovering that some large core of GOP voters are motivated primarily by identity-grievance politics and, unlike GOP elites, have no policy priorities.

Mr. Last correctly ascribes the first view—the erroneous perception—to David Brooks.

No, allows Last:

Do these people want tariffs, or free trade? Do they hate socialism, or do they want the government picking winners and losers according to the national interest? Are they pro-life, or are the deaths of 160,000 people just something that “is what it is”?

The Identity Politics Conservatism theory would say that these people don’t care a whit about the policies—they care about who is doing the policymaking. …

The logic of Identity Politics Conservatism suggests that all of this think tanking and speechifying is—at best—tertiary to what these voters care about. They do not want a new strategy for bringing tech giants to heel.

They want Lafayette Park.

If I could distill the difference between the Conservative Reformation and the Identity Politics Conservatism viewpoints to a single sentence, it would be this:

One theory holds that voters responded to Trump despite the tweets; the other posits that voters responded to Trump because of the tweets.

Wrong Again

This afternoon, David Brooks sucks his thumb at almost interminable length on the topic of the future of the Republican Party. Will Trump stick around after he loses, bigly? No, David allows: “My guess it that if Trump gets crushed in the election, millions of Republicans will decide they never liked that loser and jerk anyway.”

Nope. Wrong guess.

Proceeding from that incorrect premise, Brooks reasons his way to the conclusion that the “ intellectual future of conservatism will be wrestled over at a series of forums at the Center for Social, Cultural and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.”

I kid you not.

David is a nice fellow. Dr. Aardvark and I look forward to his weekly appearance on the PBS Evening News.

He’s so nice, in fact, that I’m not even going to try to sell him the Brooklyn Bridge.

deed

A School of Fish, Seemingly Leaderless: Two Quotes for the Day

school of fish

Democrats are not just a party; they’re a community. In my years of covering politics I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like what happened in the 48 hours after South Carolina — millions of Democrats from all around the country, from many different demographics, turning as one and arriving at a common decision.

It was like watching a flock of geese or a school of fish, seemingly leaderless, sensing some shift in conditions, sensing each other’s intuitions, and smoothly shifting direction en masse. A community is more than the sum of its parts. It is a shared sensibility and a pattern of response. This is a core Democratic strength.

David Brooks

I was told at the beginning of this whole undertaking that there are two lanes: a progressive lane that Bernie Sanders is the incumbent for and a moderate lane that Joe Biden is the incumbent for and there is no room for anyone else in this. I thought it was possible that that wasn’t the case, that there was more room, and more room to run another kind of campaign. But evidently that wasn’t the case.

Elizabeth Warren

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

repentance

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.

trucknutz

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.

Blood and Soil

Blut

Do not miss David Brooks today:

[A]s Trump reshuffles his administration yet again, we see the remnants of the B and C teams replaced by members of the D team. Over the past few days, there’s been a lot of gossip over whether Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will keep his job. But it almost doesn’t matter, because from here on out, it’s Whitakers all the way down.

If conservatism is ever to recover it has to achieve two large tasks. First, it has to find a moral purpose large enough to displace the lure of blood-and-soil nationalism. Second, it has to restore standards of professional competence and reassert the importance of experience, integrity and political craftsmanship. When you take away excellence and integrity, loyalty to the great leader is the only currency that remains.

It will be recalled that Paul Krugman predicted this.

Screen Shot 2018-11-16 at 12.03.19 PM

Scare Tactics, Real and Phony; Ridicule as the Antidote for the Ridiculous

Ridicule

Scaring the Bejessus Out of Them

Health care is the top issue for American voters, and more people like the Affordable Care Act than dislike it. Immigration is an important issue, but health care significantly outranks immigration as a source of concern.

Meanwhile, David Brooks, cluelessly, thinks progressives should be preaching about the evils of Trumpism, not what voters actually care about: health care.

Bad idea. With each new outrage, Trump seems to solidify his support among his peeps. You aren’t going to talk themselves out of their lunacy with logic and facts.

Instead, you have to scare the bejeesus out of them. With actual facts, not stuff you just pulled out of your rear end. Like the fact that the Republicans want to rob them with their tax code and then kill them by taking their health away.

Ridiculing the Ridiculous

And when we’ve finished scaring them, let’s add some humor. The antidote to ridiculous claims is, I submit, ridicule.

Thus Dana Milbank helpfully explains All the reasons the migrant caravan is totally a national emergency. Inter alia,

The migrants in the caravan:

Have his tax returns and are planning to release them.

Are members of Nikki Haley’s presidential exploratory committee.

Have the Russian kompromat on Trump.

Are Russian colluders coming to turn themselves in to Robert Mueller.

Are climate-change scientists.

Have the n-word tape Omarosa claims to have heard.

Are Simon & Schuster employees carrying a reprinting of Bob Woodward’s “Fear.”

Are deported mothers coming to reclaim the detained children Trump lost.

Are accountants coming to put Trump’s businesses into a blind trust.

Are Saudi bankers coming to demand Trump repay their loans.

Pollyanna Despairs

Pollyanna

Some Republicans said reasonably appropriate things about Trump’s abandonment of the Western alliance and embrace of our enemy. That’s nice.

But there is good reason for despair. Take, for example, Rand Paul’s craven defense of Trump on PBS News this evening.

Robert Kagan persuasively tells us that Things will not be okay with the international order.

And then there’s David Brooks. We like David Brooks, but Good Lord in Heaven, he has often sounded a lot like Polyanna. But tonight David minces no words in The Murder-Suicide of the West.

I am sure these worthies know much more than I, but I haven’t quite given up hope.

The 42 percent who have stuck with Trump thus far have accepted or embraced racism.

Torturing children? No problema.

Taking a sledgehammer to NATO? Whatever.

Telling the FBI and the CIA to go to hell? Well, the deep state must have had it coming.

But hit them in the checkbook with a botched trade war? I don’t think so.

Remember that a goodly portion of Trump’s 41 percent are people who care only for wealth. In their New Testament, the love of money is the root of all that is good and beautiful.

So here’s where we seem to be tonight. If Trump does the sensible thing, pulls back on his trade war, declares victory, and awards himself a great bloody big gold medal, we may all be screwed. But if he continues to overplay his hand on international trade—if he digs the hole deeper, and then keep on digging—then some of those 41 percent are going to wake up and smell the coffee.

His hard core will be there, but give then enough economic pain, and the hard core will shrink and shrink. They will be reduced to the kernel of Roy Moore supporters, who can’t even carry Alabama. And God will truly bless America again.

**

Note: Apologies for three metaphors in one sentence. Greetings to my many readers in western Europe. And to my one reader in Russia. Probably the KGB. Hope y’all are havin’ a nice day.

Aardvark Receives Severe Scolding from David Brooks

life

In a column headed Donald Trump’s Magical Fantasy World, David Brooks takes severe issue with the whole thrust of trumpedprogressives.org, writing,

The dangerous thing about Trump’s fantasy world is not when it dissolves into nothing; it’s when he seduces the rest of us to move into it. It’s not when he ignores the facts; it’s when he replaces them by building an alternate virtual reality and suckering us into co-creating it. …

The first problem is you can’t beat Trump at his own fantasy game. As Daniel Boorstin understood back in 1962, you can’t refute an image with a fact. Every pseudo-event “becomes all the more interesting with our every effort to debunk it.” Trump gets to monopolize attention ever more comprehensively and deepen his credibility as anti-establishment hero.

The second problem is that when you agree to operate within his fantasy, even if you are motivated by the attraction of repulsion, you’ve given the man your brain. Sometimes my Trump-bashing friends and I seem like puppets on his string. …

I miss people thinking about the world outside the gravity field of Trumpian unreality, and about the world after Trump — the world we should be building.

We’re in the middle of some vast historical transition, and it’s very hard to know what to believe in. The more time we spend on the Trumpian soap opera, the less likely we are to know where we are or what we should do.

Aardvark’s Animadversions

First of all, David, you are a good man. And because you are such a good man, you have difficulty understanding humanity. I applaud you for trying, though—and I hope and expect that you will keep on trying, and helping to enlighten the rest of us as you journey on life’s highway.

But you remind me of another good person: the character Guido Orefice in Life is Beautiful “who employs his fertile imagination to shield his son from the horrors of internment in a Nazi concentration camp.” That was a noble thing for Guido to do, but it didn’t solve the problem that father and son were incarcerated in a concentration camp.

That’s my first point. Your noble instinct is just to ignore the madness. But ignoring it won’t make it go away.

My second point is that madmen we always have with us. Trump’s madness is unusual, but not especially interesting in itself, unless you are a student of abnormal psychology, which Aardvark is not. What is interesting is that so many people supported him. That is what we need to understand and address. And we had bloody well better keep on trying to understand and address it.

If this crisis ever passes, we can all get back to thinking happy thoughts, and life will indeed be beautiful once again.

David, David, David …

slavery

David Brooks, you are, at least as far as I can tell, a very nice man; you are intelligent; and you have lots of interesting things to say. Your knowledge of social science and political theory are to be commended. But your niceness can get in the way of your ability to see straight. This morning, in A Renaissance on the Right, you write,

The core problem today is not tribalism. It’s excessive individualism, which has eaten away at our uniting faith and damaged our relationships with one another. Excessive individualism has left us distrustful and alone — naked Lockeans. When people are naked and alone they revert to tribe. Tribalism is the end product of excessive individualism.

As it happens, over the last few days, my posse and I have been shaking our heads over the tribalistic, Trumpian nonsense spewed out on our high school facebook page by some of our benighted classmates from back in the sixties.

No, David, Billy Bob and Mollie May are not naked Lockeans. Billy Bob and Mollie May have never, in their entire lives, met a naked Lockean. Billy Bob and Molly May would not recognize a naked Lockean if he bit them on the ass. Nor do Billy Bob and Molly May  suffer from excessive individualism. What Billie Bob and Mollie May suffer from is the very same ruthless  tribalistic thinking that ruled their Scots-Irish, slave holding, Indian killing ancestors.

And, by the way, Happy 275th Birthday, Thomas Jefferson.

Six Fireflies Beeping Randomly

batshit

Even for those of us who hate and despise Trumpism, it is hard to admit to ourselves, or to bring ourselves to say, that our fellow citizens have elected a President who suffers from a serious mental disability.

But there it is.

Because he is delusional, he often cannot distinguish between reality and illusion.

Because he does not think like a normal person, he does not know how normal people think.

Not knowing how normal people think, he cannot reason through how they are likely to react to some action or utterance on his part.

He is a danger to himself and others.

David Brooks writes,

At base, Trump is an infantalist. There are three tasks that most mature adults have sort of figured out by the time they hit 25. Trump has mastered none of them. Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency, lack of self-control his leitmotif.

First, most adults have learned to sit still. But mentally, Trump is still a 7-year-old boy who is bouncing around the classroom. Trump’s answers in these interviews are not very long — 200 words at the high end — but he will typically flit through four or five topics before ending up with how unfair the press is to him.

His inability to focus his attention makes it hard for him to learn and master facts. He is ill informed about his own policies and tramples his own talking points. It makes it hard to control his mouth. …

Second, most people of drinking age have achieved some accurate sense of themselves, some internal criteria to measure their own merits and demerits. But Trump seems to need perpetual outside approval to stabilize his sense of self, so he is perpetually desperate for approval, telling heroic fabulist tales about himself. …

Third, by adulthood most people can perceive how others are thinking. For example, they learn subtle arts such as false modesty so they won’t be perceived as obnoxious.

But Trump seems to have not yet developed a theory of mind. Other people are black boxes that supply either affirmation or disapproval. As a result, he is weirdly transparent. He wants people to love him, so he is constantly telling interviewers that he is widely loved. …

We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.

“We badly want to understand Trump, to grasp him,” David Roberts writes in Vox. “It might give us some sense of control, or at least an ability to predict what he will do next. But what if there’s nothing to understand? What if there is no there there?”

And out of that void comes a carelessness that quite possibly betrayed an intelligence source, and endangered a country.

And when will Republican congressional leaders finally do an intervention?

Probably not until he gives a news conference in his pajamas and screams obscenities at the ghost of Rutherford B. Hayes.

That’s where we’re going folks.

Because it’s getting worse, fast.

And other than that, Aardvark hopes that you are enjoying the play.

Pass the Popcorn, Please. And Where’s the Bourbon?

bourbon

As we wait for the big vote, or not, this morning David Brooks writes,

I opposed Obamacare. I like health savings accounts, tax credits and competitive health care markets to drive down costs. But these free-market reforms have to be funded in a way to serve the least among us, not the most. This House Republican plan would increase suffering, morbidity and death among the middle class and poor in order to provide tax cuts to the rich.

It would cut Medicaid benefits by $880 billion between now and 2026. It would boost the after-tax income for those making more than $1 million a year by 14 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center. This bill takes the most vicious progressive stereotypes about conservatives and validates them.

It’s no wonder that according to the latest Quinnipiac poll this bill has just a 17 percent approval rating. It’s no wonder that this bill is already massively more unpopular that Hillarycare and Obamacare, two bills that ended up gutting congressional majorities.

If we’re going to have the rough edges of a populist revolt, you’d think that at least somebody would be interested in listening to the people. But with this bill the Republican leadership sets an all-time new land speed record for forgetting where you came from.

The core Republican problem is this: The Republicans can’t run policy-making from the White House because they have a marketing guy in charge of the factory. But they can’t run policy from Capitol Hill because it’s visionless and internally divided. So the Republicans have the politics driving the substance, not the other way around. The new elite is worse than the old elite — and certainly more vapid.

Five Must Reads This Morning

Yeah, I know, you make up your own mind about what you must read. And well you should. But please consider these.

Jeff Sessions, Patriot

The Washington Monthly answers, at least to its own satisfaction, the question, Why Did Sessions Pivot 180 Degrees in His Views on Russia? Massive intrigue. $11 billion deals. Intense skullduggery.

Why the Delay in the Revised Muslim Ban?

****Aardvark Confirmation Bias Alert****Because they ain’t got no stinkin’ evidence to support it.

Why “Obamacare Replacement” Won’t Pass

The picture is becoming clearer, as Josh Barro lucidly explains. And see 5 Points On The Tax Credit Debate Roiling The GOP’s Obamacare Repeal Effort.

To pass, it would have to strike some sort of balance between destroying health care for everybody, which the traditional conservatives/libertarians want, and keeping subsidies for lots of people, which the “moderates” want, so that it won’t be compared too unfavorably vis-à-vis Obamacare. But there aren’t enough votes for that kind of compromise.

The only way to steamroll all the Republican factious is bullying from Trump. Which he probably won’t do. Which might well not work if he tried it. And which, if it did work, would seriously undermine Trump with his base—when lots of them lose their health care.

Brooks On Trumpism

Many paragraphs. A deep thought in every one. Read it for yourself. Brooks concludes thusly,

Fourth, Trump’s speech on Tuesday offered those of us who want to replace him an occasion to ask the big question: How in the 21st century should government unleash initiative and dynamism while also preserving order? Trump’s answer: Nationalize intimidation but privatize compassion. Don’t look to government to offer a warm hand; look to it to confront your enemies with a hard fist.

Human development research offers a different formula: All of life is a series of daring adventures from a secure base. If government can create a framework in which people grow up amid healthy families, nurturing schools, thick communities and a secure safety net, then they will have the resources and audacity to thrive in a free global economy and a diversifying skills economy.

This is a response that is open to welfare state policies from the left and trade and macroeconomic policies from the free-market right — a single-payer health care system married to the flat tax.

The last thing Trump showed was this: We’re in a state of radical flux. Political parties can turn on a dime. At least that means it’s a time to think anew.

Myth and Countermyth

lcdome

Today David Brooks tells us about the American foundational myth depicted on the dome of the Library of Congress.

It starts with a figure representing Egypt (written records) and then continues through Judea (religion), Greece (philosophy), Islam (physics), Italy (the fine arts), Germany (printing), Spain (discovery), England (literature), France (emancipation) and it culminates with America (science).

In that story, America is placed at the vanguard of the great human march of progress. America is the grateful inheritor of other people’s gifts. It has a spiritual connection to all people in all places, but also an exceptional role. America culminates history. It advances a way of life and a democratic model that will provide people everywhere with dignity. The things Americans do are not for themselves only, but for all mankind.

“But now,” he continues,

the myth has been battered. It’s been bruised by an educational system that doesn’t teach civilizational history or real American history but instead a shapeless multiculturalism. It’s been bruised by an intellectual culture that can’t imagine providence. It’s been bruised by people on the left who are uncomfortable with patriotism and people on the right who are uncomfortable with the federal government that is necessary to lead our project.

The myth has been bruised, too, by the humiliations of Iraq and the financial crisis. By a cultural elite that ignored the plight of the working class and thus broke faith with the basic solidarity that binds a nation.

And so along come men like Donald Trump and Stephen Bannon with a countermyth. Their myth is an alien myth, frankly a Russian myth. It holds, as Russian reactionaries hold, that deep in the heartland are the pure folk who embody the pure soul of the country — who endure the suffering and make the bread. But the pure peasant soul is threatened. It is threatened by the cosmopolitan elites and by the corruption of foreign influence.

Brooks concludes with rhetorical flourish and rhetorical questions:

We can argue about immigration and trade and foreign policy, but nothing will be right until we restore and revive the meaning of America. Are we still the purpose-driven experiment Lincoln described and Emma Lazarus wrote about: assigned by providence to spread democracy and prosperity; to welcome the stranger; to be brother and sister to the whole human race; and to look after one another because we are all important in this common project?

Or are we just another nation, hunkered down in a fearful world?

These are good questions, to which Aardvark begs leave to respond.

When Aardvark was a child, he spake as a child, he understood has a child, he thought as a child: but when Aardvark became a man, he put away childish things.

Aardvark learned of the horrors of slavery, and of his ancestors’ part in that story over three centuries. He learned of his great-great-grandfather’s black half sister (as now revealed through genetic testing of him and his African-American relatives). He learned of the ethnic cleansing inflicted on his Cherokee ancestors by the man on the twenty dollar bill.

Aardvark learned that America’s story is profoundly ambiguous, grand and tragic at the same time.

Noble myths will not put Humpty Dumpty together again. Only amelioration of economic injustice and economic insecurity will drain the Bannon swamp. In the meantime, we need to understand the Trump base, which is not monolithic, and chip away at the looser parts of it. More on that in due course, probably tomorrow.