Ms. Motivated Reasoning Might Have Some Good Points Today

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Jennifer Rubin used to be in the can for the Mittster. But she never jumped on the Trump Train. Today she writes, Maybe Trump’s incredible poll drop is real. Clearly the wish is father to the thought, both for Jennifer Rubin and for Arius Aardvark. But she makes some good points.

Last week, Washington Post/ABC: Trump approval dropped to 36 percent. And this week, from that bastion of socialism, Investor’s Business Daily: Trump’s Approval Number Nose-Dives, Dems’ Blue Wave Might Be Building: IBD/TIPP Poll. A few jewels from the latter poll:

  • one-month approval rating drop among Republicans, from 83 percent to 76 percent
  • one-month drop among men, from 49 percent to 40 percent
  • one-month drop among rural folk, from 60 percent to 45 percent

Drivin’ that wedge, baby. Drivin’ that wedge. Clear through the heart of the Republican Party. Getting down to the hard core white identity cultural resentment crowd. Creatin’ a HUUUUUUGE base of subscribers for the Trump Channel, following resignation or impeachment.

Meanwhile, the 25 percent of rabid Trump supporters will be revved up to a fare-the-well, and every single racist mother’s son and daughter will turn out in November. But it won’t be enough.

But what’s going on? The economy is booming. What gives? Jennifer identifies four Republican problems:

  1. If it’s this bad for Republicans when the economy is so good, imagine what will happen when a recession starts.
  2. Wage stagnation.
  3. Recovery has been underway for ten years, and voters take it for granted.
  4. Non-stop scandals.

**

Good day to readers in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam. Chào mừng.

blue wave

From Jennifer Rubin’s Lips to God’s Ears: “Americans May be Coming to their Senses”

 

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May it be so. Ms. Rubin opines,

The party that has shattered, or shrunk if you prefer, is the GOP — which now consists primarily of the non-college-educated, rural white male voter (and even some of those have left), and evangelicals who are willing to ignore Trump’s conduct, values and rhetoric. Throw in some of the super-rich who simply want to scoop and you have a very limited, Swiss-cheese base. They cannot be too educated, nonwhite, women, young, urban, suburban, believe in objective reality, get their news from some place other than Fox News, get queasy about actual corruption, etc. Separating upscale suburban voters (including those infamous country-club Republicans) from the Trumpized GOP has been an invaluable gift to Democrats.

In the Atlantic, Ron Brownstein writes, “On both the urban and suburban battlefields, the results in Ohio showed how Trump’s turbulent presidency is reconfiguring the landscape for the GOP: While [Republican Troy] Balderson largely re-created Trump’s percentages, [Democrat Danny] O’Connor combined Clinton’s support with the vote cast for third-party candidates in 2016.” …

Yes, reuniting America around shared values of tolerance, rationality, kindness and honesty may be the “backlash,” if you will, to Trump. Not in anger, but in disgust, Americans may be coming to their senses.

reality check

 

Picking the Wrong Target to Demean: Useful Idiot’s Idiocy Continues to Detract from his Utility

Jennifer Rubin writes, Trump has chosen the wrong women to demean:

Trump and his defenders make a grave error in making this a battle between Trump, who a large majority of Americans think is dishonest, and victimized women. His devoted cult may take his side, although judging from my interactions with Republican women loyalists, some are becoming more and more agitated and frustrated that their spinning isn’t working and that they are being placed in the position of defending the indefensible. (Tip: You put yourselves there. Stop doing it.) What Trump is doing is summoning once again an army of women and fighting against a cultural tide, far deeper and wider than a political “issue.”

Trump of all people should understand that nothing can compete with millions of people filled with rage who feel that they’ve been ignored. Feeding white grievance (built on the fundamentally false pretense that whites are treated worse than nonwhites) got him elected. Now, a larger group filled with righteous, justified anger is going to get its day at the polls in November.

Trump is not going to stop this cultural epiphany; he’s going to be dragged under by it.

From Thomas Frank’s Pen to Jennifer Rubin’s Lips to God’s Ears

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Conservatives generally regard class as an unacceptable topic when the subject is economics—trade, deregulation, shifting the tax burden, expressing worshipful awe for the microchip, etc. But define politics as culture, and class instantly becomes for them the very blood and bone of public discourse. Indeed, from George Wallace to George W. Bush, a class-based backlash against the perceived arrogance of liberalism has been one of their most powerful weapons. Workerist in its rhetoric but royalist in its economic effects, this backlash is in no way embarrassed by its contradictions. It understands itself as an uprising of the little people even when its leaders, in control of all three branches of government, cut taxes on stock dividends and turn the screws on the bankrupt. It mobilizes angry voters by the millions, despite the patent unwinnability of many of its crusades. And from the busing riots of the Seventies to the culture wars of our own time, the backlash has been ignored, downplayed, or misunderstood by liberals.

From Thomas Frank’s pen to Jennifer Rubin’s lips to God’s ears.

I wish to insist on the importance of the point made in the last sentence of the Thomas Frank quote: that progressives have “ignored, downplayed, or misunderstood” the significance of the “culture wars.”

We tend to have a sunny and optimistic view of human nature. We simply cannot fathom that so many of our fellow citizens have taken leave of their senses to support a politician so impaired that he gives a bad name to bigotry itself.

I don’t know how it is where you are, but here at Happy Acres my sense is that the Republicans who were embarrassed by Trump last year are still embarrassed, deep down. But they have been listening to Faux News day and night for the last year. And they are surly.

I’m all in favor of trying to get culture warriors to listen to reason and vote their pocketbooks. Doug Jones is giving it the old college try over in the Yellowhammer State.

But they are not going to listen to reason.

We will just have to outvote them. Or wait for the inevitable national tragedy that a deranged president will bring about—which might cause a portion of his supporters to rethink their views.

A Manchurian Candidate—or Just an Idiot?

ManchurianCandidate

Remember The Manchurian Candidate, a 1959 political thriller with a plot so improbable as to diminish its entertainment value? Bet you never thought you would be living in this plot.

David Frum, speech writer for George Bush the Younger, writes,

“Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that.”—Donald Trump on Vladimir Putin, en route to Hanoi, November 11, 2017.

So, to put it bluntly: At this point in the proceedings, there can be no innocent explanation for Donald Trump’s rejection of the truth about Russian meddling in last year’s elections. Earlier, it may have been suggested, sympathetically, that the case had not yet been proven. That Trump’s vanity blocked him from acknowledging embarrassing facts. Or—more hopefully—that he was inspired by some Kissingerian grand design for a diplomatic breakthrough. Or that he was lazy. Or stubborn. Or uninformed. Or something, anything, other than … complicit. Not anymore.

As yet, it remains unproven whether Trump himself was personally complicit in Putin’s attack on U.S. democracy as it happened during last year’s presidential campaign. What is becoming ever-more undeniable is Trump’s complicity in the attack after the fact—and his willingness to smash the intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies in order to protect Putin, Russia, and evidently himself. …

At any time, this situation would be dire and ominous. It’s graver still at a time when this president seems determined to lead the United States into a preventive war in the Korean peninsula. President Trump may soon demand that this country incur terrible risks and accept heavy sacrifices—even as he leaves Americans in darkening doubt over whose interests he is serving, and why.

Yes, indeed. But, all that said, I don’t believe that, in the book, the Manchurian candidate actually admitted that he was the Manchurian candidate—which is what Trump has essentially done.

A Russian agent who said, “Yup, I’m a Russian agent all right,” would be a piss poor Russian agent. This leads Jennifer Rubin to conclude that Trump is not a conscious agent of Russia, just highly gullible:

President Trump’s authoritarianism, narcissism and racism threaten our democracy, but his gullibility threatens our national security. A man so uneducated and incurious about the world is willing, like his followers, to buy any crackpot conspiracy theory that makes its way to him via the Infowars-“Fox & Friends” pipeline. On the world stage, that makes him a sitting duck for slick manipulators and experienced flatterers. …

Trump is very much like the devoted Fox viewer who sits mesmerized in front of the screen, searching for evidence to support his prejudices, baseless suspicions and grievances against elites. See, there’s another crime by an immigrant. See, they’re all murderers. See, Sean Hannity found someone to say the Democrats hacked themselves! See, the Russia investigation is a hoax. Soaking up the brew of innuendo, hoaxes, lies and paranoia, Trump and his followers come to believe it all — and disbelieve the facts under their noses.

David Atkins marshals the evidence in support of the view that Trump’s pro-Russian views arise from stupidity. As Sherlock Holmes put it so well, when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Atkins writes,

The most obvious answer is simply that Trump likes Vladimir Putin and doesn’t want to upset him, or that the Russian president has blackmail goods on Trump. But that would only explain soft-pedaling on Russia issues behind the scenes. Trump doesn’t need to publicly look like a credulous fool in front of world reporters to keep Putin happy.

The other frequent response to Trump’s bizarre behavior is that he is trying to please his base for domestic political reasons. But that doesn’t fly here, either. Trump has been shedding public approval over the Russia fiasco, and while his hardcore base may not care about the Russia story, they also (outside of a radical contingent) aren’t deeply invested in Putin.

The real answer seems to be that Donald Trump really is as naive as he appears to be. If Putin tells him he didn’t meddle, he believes him. If reporters ask him about it, he says what’s on his mind.

That shouldn’t make us feel any better about it. The President of the United States isn’t just a complicit tool of Russian plutocratic white supremacist influence. He’s an unwitting one as well.

Conclusion: we are all passengers in a jumbo jet being flown by someone who does not know how to fly a plane.

The Three Party System

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Last night on the PBS Newshour, smarmy jackass Matt Schlapp explained why the Alabama election went the way it did. The good folks in Alabama are really pissed off at Mitch McConnell, he allowed. And why, pray tell, are they so angry? They are angry because they are deeply disappointed that the Republican Establishment has not yet taken their health care away. And they are absolutely furious that Steve Mnuchin pays too much in taxes. They yearn for that deeply satisfying trickle down feeling that is sure to come when Steve rakes in yet more millions and, in consequence, they, the real Mericans, find a few extra kopeks trickling down into their wallets.

That trickle down feeling will be as welcome as a long hot shower after a hard day a-pickin’ cotton—a long, hot shower followed by a vigorous tryst with your inamorata, and a big shot of moonshine to cap off the day.

No, Mr. Schlapp, the Very Angry White People in Alabama are not Very Angry because Mitch McConnell couldn’t enact the legislative agenda of the National Chamber of Commerce and the Koch Brothers.

They are angry because of economic, cultural, and racial resentment. They are angry because the minions of the National Chamber of Commerce have been playing them like an accordion since the 1960s—and they are finally figuring out that they have been conned.

Steve Bannon has told them that they are the victims of McConnell’s economic hate crimes. See Fox News, Bannon rails against GOP ‘elites’ working against Trump in ‘Hannity’ interview.

As Erick Erickson—not a typical source of Aardvarkian wisdom—puts it so well, It’s time for Mitch McConnell to go.

Steve Kornacki provides valuable historical context in The Next Republican Uprising Is Underway. And, rising to the analytical heights to which he sometimes attains, Josh Marshall tells us what is really, really going on:

 Last spring I said the Trump phenomenon was a product of what I termed ‘nonsense debt‘. Republicans had spent years pumping their voters up on increasingly extreme and nonsensical claims and promises. This worked very well for winning elections. But it had also built up a debt that eventually had to be repaid. Concretely, they were making claims and promises that were either factually ridiculous, politically unviable or unacceptable to a broad swath of the voting public. Eventually, you get elected and need to produce. By definition that’s never really possible: both because the claims and promises are nonsensical and unviable but also because a politics based on reclamation, revenge, and impulse is almost impossible to satisfy through normal legislative politics. …

The essential dynamic of early 21st century conservatism [is] an infinite loop of inflammatory and engaging promises, claims and demands which are mostly entirely unrealizable, creating a permanent cycle of establishmentism and grassroots’ betrayal which continues spinning forward even as the players in each category change.

Some idiots  describe these events as a contest for the soul of the Republican Party. This is not right. It is not right because the Republican Party has no soul. The “Republican Party” is a brand and an institution. And what is going on is, among other things, a struggle for control of the brand and of the institution.

It is a fight to the death, and we know which side is going to win. It’s kind of like a fight between a cobra and a mongoose.

The Very Angry White People will win control of the Republican brand and the institution of the Republican Party, first of all, because they comprise the vast majority of people who vote Republican.

Jennifer Rubin, writing with typical restraint in Americans as a whole haven’t lost their minds, but the GOP has, lays it out for us:

There is only abysmal news for President Trump and Republicans in the latest Quinnipiac poll. Voters say Trump is not “fit to serve as president,” by a  56 to 42 percent margin. Voters disapprove (57 to 36 percent) of his performance (so 6 percent think he is fit, just not doing a good job). …

Americans are neither brain-dead nor moral vagrants. In voting for [Trump] many probably hated Hillary Clinton more, engaged in wishful thinking about Trump and/or figured incorrectly a rich guy and his friends must know how to do things. But they do not like him now, and that speaks very well of the American people.

The bad news is Republicans overwhelmingly like him, his policies, his distractions, his character, his racial appeals, etc. Among Republicans 79 percent approve of his performance, 79 percent think he is honest (!), 85 percent think he cares about ordinary Americans, 62 percent think he is level-headed (!!) and perhaps worst of all, 78 percent think he shares their values.

So, to boil it all down, about four fifths of Republican voters are Very Angry White People and one fifth embrace the aspirations of the National Chamber of Commerce.

The second reason why the Very Angry White People will inherit the husk of the Republican Party is that you can no longer buy elections in this country, if you ever could. Social media. Small contributions raised over the internet.

God knows the Republican Establishment tried to buy the election in Alabama by hurling vast sums of money, money in such abundance as to exceed the dreams of avarice. Didn’t work. Not going to work elsewhere.

The third reason is that the plutocrats and giant corporations that have been funding the Republican Party are going to realize that the jig is up and the long con is over.

Aardvark is not a plutocrats, but Aardvark knows plutocrats. Aardvark has walked among them. And here is what I know.

Some plutocrats are foolish, and some are ideologically fixated. But, for the most part they did not get to be plutocrats by throwing good money after bad. By digging deeper when they found themselves in a hole. By embracing bad ideas to the bitter end.

No, gentle reader, plutocrats are folks who, generally, know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.

Last, and most surely least, some of the plutocrats will walk away from the rotting shell of the Republican Party because they cannot stand the moral stench. But I wouldn’t count on that being a major factor. Most of them would be happy to embrace the racists and the know-nothings as long as the strategy keeps working. But most of them are smart enough to know when the game is over.

So what is going to happen? The Chamber of Commerce folks, finding themselves expelled from the Republican Party, are going to have to form a new party. It will have a really nice name. Rest assured, they will focus group that sucker to death. And it will be loudly trumpeted as “centrist.”

And the Chamber of Commerce folks will try to buy some politicians who currently have a D after their names. And some of the Ds will take the bait.

And that’s where we will be: an Angry White People’s Party labeled the Republican Party, a new “centrist” business party, and a Progressive Party still calling itself the Democratic Party.

Each will be a minority party. Each will have to find a coalition partner, if it wishes to advance its agenda.

 

Locating the Method in the Madness: The Fruitless Search Continues

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As our legislative solons, donning their deerstalker hats and holding magnifying glasses, continue their fruitless search for the Obamacare replacement bill, so also the pundits keep looking in vain for the method in Trump’s madness—which grows from strength to strength with each passing day.

Every day the voice of the Normality Bias whispering in our ear, “He’s not really nuts; he can’t be nuts; there must be some other explanation,” grows fainter and fainter.

Today, March 5, as I expect you know, Trump called on Congress to investigate his baseless claim of Watergate style wiretapping by Obama. As Karen Tumulty opines, “Donald Trump’s presidency has veered onto a road with no centerlines or guardrails.”

But why? What explanation can we give for this behavior? And, perhaps more to the point, what is the prognosis?

In Trump: Bonkers, paranoid or trapped? Jennifer Rubin steps up to the plate and takes a few swings. Her batting is workmanlike. Her piece is worth a read, but to summarize, maybe he’s out of touch with reality. Maybe he’s panicked, because of what he knows about what the intelligence community knows.

In Aardvark’s humble opinion, “bonkers” is the explanation that best fits the known facts. That’s because his rabid call for investigation of claims that, true or false, are closely related to the existing Russia/Trump investigations, only increases the salience of those investigations.

By contrast, a semi-rational strategy of distraction would have chosen an entirely unrelated topic as the focus of the distraction. Quoting Rubin again: “Trump inadvertently emphasized that at the core this is about whether the intelligence community has discovered the president of the United States is compromised.”

Covering much the same ground, at length and with interesting detail, the Economist compares Trump’s distractive behavior to a Chicago bar owner who, when questioned about mob associations, pulls the fire alarm and yells “Fire!” It adds,

[Some observers] see sincere rage, even paranoia. A conservative media boss and old friend of Mr Trump’s, Chris Ruddy, claims that the president believes his own allegations about wire-tapping with a fierce rage, telling him this weekend: “I will be proven right”.

Yup, he really believes in the five million illegal voters, and he really believes that he is and has been victimized by Obama.