The Republican Future (If Any): Jennifer Rubin Weighs In

Portrait Of Mysterious Fortune Teller Gesturing At Crystal Ball

Jennifer Rubin, Do we even need the Republican Party?

In my opinion, Ms. Rubin writes too many columns, often repeats herself, and frequently fails to add value. I say that even though I often agree with her—after she got over her 2012 love affair with Mitt Romney, and embraced the truth about Donald Trump.

That said, in my opinion, her observations on the possible future of the Republican Party will repay the reading. She writes, among other things,

A Republican Party that does not depend on White grievance and cultural resentment (leading to incessant whining that its members are victims of everything from Facebook to climate scientists to immigrants) and does not depend on what Brooks aptly describes as “an anti-government zombie Reaganism long after Reagan was dead and even though the nation’s problems were utterly different from what they were when he was alive” would frankly not have much to say. After you strip away those two failed themes, what’s left? …

The issue post-Trump then is twofold: What respectable ideology could the Republican Party adopt, if it wanted to? And, if a think tank could concoct an acceptable center-right ideology, what constituency could it possibly attract? …

We need a two-party system, but we do not have a two-ideology political culture if the price of admission is a reality-based, decent, inclusive and constitutionally respectful ideology. If there is to be, as I hope, a grand coalition from center right to center left that generally defends constitutional government, curbs on the excesses of the free market, globalization with a safety net, responsible international leadership and a determination to root out systemic racism, I am not certain what that leaves to the opposition. On the left, it might be Sanders-style socialism. But on the right?

Trump cultists and the proponents of zombie-libertarianism continue to drive the party into the ground, relegating it to a regional party of dead-enders. Maybe the real question is not what the Republican Party will believe and who will support it, but whether we need it at all. Perhaps there is no morally, politically and intellectually decent party of the right to be had.

Some Observations by One Without a Dog in this Fight

I am not, and never have been, a Never Trump Republican, or any kind of Republican at all. That is why I say I have no dog in this fight. If the Republican National Committee folds up shop, and the National Review goes the way of the dodo, it will be no nevermind to me. That is why I say I have no dog in the fight over the future of Republicanism.

From that perspective, I have four points to make here.

One. Whatever it is or isn’t that folks like Jennifer Rubin and David Brooks “need” by way of political branding is a subject of very tepid interest and importance. The issue of importance is what the plutocrats will think they need—and what they will think they can get away with.

Two. To date, the Republican party has been a coalition of plutocrats and of uneducated Whites with racial, cultural, and religious grievances. But, as each day passes, it is becoming clearer that this coalition is no longer a viable enterprise—and least insofar as “viability” means having a plausible chance of winning the presidency and control of the Congress.

Three. The white grievance folks, who make up between a quarter and a third of our population, will just have to marinate for a while in their own rancidness. While they sit there a-maranatin’, the plutocrats will have to decide what they are going to do—because recreating a winning coalition of the filthy rich and the uneducated grievance folk just is not a viable option.

Four. Ms. Rubin argues (implicitly) that the plutocrats might just be content to join a grand coalition for a while—seeing how many nominal Democrats they can coopt and buy off.

That may well turn out to be what happens. At least for a season.

Yes, They’re Hanging Upside Down, Caught in a Very Uncomfortable Place

squirrel balls

Shrinking violet Rahm Emanuel explains How impeachment could flip the Senate. Fun Fact: “Some 63 percent of voters in [swing states] Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina look unfavorably on the Senate’s decision to date to disallow witnesses and hide documents.”

Irrelevant elderly curmudgeon George Will muses on the theme, There is more utility than futility in the impeachment trial. Along the way, he observes,

The 20 Republican senators seeking reelection this November (incumbents from Kansas, Tennessee and Wyoming are retiring) will face voters after explaining why they voted as they did concerning trial witnesses, and for or against acquittal. Intelligent, public-spirited senators can reasonably disagree about the necessity (or, given the ocean of information that is public and undisputed, the redundancy) of witnesses. And they can differ about the applicability of the two impeachment articles. It will, however, be useful, and probably entertaining, to hear Republican senators’ reasoning.

Meanwhile, former President of the Mitt Romney Fan Club, Jennifer Rubin, sticks her neck out:

Nothing should be taken for granted but Bolton in all likelihood will make an appearance. Whether McConnell will force individual senators to walk the plank to vote against the president’s wishes or whether Republicans will simply agree by acclamation to protect vulnerable members of the herd remains uncertain. Equally uncertain is whether there are 51 votes for witnesses beyond Bolton. Democrats would like to hear from acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Mike Duffey from the Office of Management and Budget and White House aide Robert B. Blair. However, those witnesses may uncover the identities of further witnesses. Most important, with witnesses will come documents Trump had ordered withheld from Congress.

Republicans have no witnesses who can corroborate their thin arguments, none of which really contradict the House’s case. They keep threatening to call former vice president Joe Biden, but given how he is lapping up the admissions from Republicans that this is all about smearing him, Republicans might want to reconsider. Biden even made an ad out of one senator’s confession that Republicans were hoping the trial damaged Biden.

Just a Couple ‘o Thoughts

I have no idea whether Ms. Rubin’s cheerful prognostications will come to pass. This morning the talking heads on the teevee were saying that Moscow Mitch has something up his sleeve when he claims that he doesn’t yet have the votes to block witnesses and summarily acquit. But if he’s lying, they didn’t explain why, at this particular time, he’s telling that particular lie.

Assuming it is a lie, and not the literal truth.

Sometimes, as Freud may or may not have said, a cigar is only a cigar.

Sometimes, when you think you’re seeing a squirrel with his nuts caught in a garden pole, what you are in fact seeing is a squirrel with his nuts caught in a garden pole.

Zombies

zombies

With public impeachment hearings yet to come, according to the Washington Post this morning, Americans sharply divided over whether to impeach and remove Trump from office, Post-ABC poll finds:

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I wish to draw your attention to the percentage who think “Trump did nothing wrong.” That would be 35 percent. Not 43 percent. Not 40 or 41 percent.

It’s 35 percent who still buy into Trump’s alternate universe.

35 percent, or something close to it, could well be Trump’s floor of support. Or the floor could be just a little lower than that. I don’t think it matters.

You will also note that 55 percent say he did something wrong, but some of them say it wasn’t that serious.

And ten percent of our population are out to lunch.

Ask yourself two questions. Are public hearings likely feature anything, anything at all, that will move the numbers in Trump’s favor? And are public hearings likely to provide information tending to make Trump’s position worse, in the public mind?

Meanwhile—even before public hearings, 18 percent of self-declared Republicans have concluded that Trump ought to be impeached and removed from office:

ss2

In Poll warning for Trump and Republicans: Danger ahead, Jennifer Rubin provides commentary and additional detail. She observes,

If they drill down on Trump’s approval numbers, Republicans might go into full panic mode. His approval numbers are atrocious among women (31/64), white college graduates (38/61), women college graduates (32/67), suburban dwellers (41/56) and independents (38/57). Among suburban women he trails 33 to 63 percent. He is surviving almost entirely on white evangelicals (74/23). …

All in all, if Republicans ever break free of their irrational fear of Trump and his base …, they might recognize that saving him is becoming incompatible with saving themselves.

Aardvark’s Animadversion

True. How very true. But what Ms. Rubin does not wish to point out—because Ms. Rubin is about as tendentious as a pundit can be—is that, as long as a very large portion of their constituency still lives in Neverneverland, deep-sixing Trump is also “incompatible with saving themselves.”

As I have said before, they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. They are the walking dead.

Sargent Weighs In

In The GOP defense of Trump is getting more corrupt. Here’s what’s next, Greg Sargent lets us know “What Trump wants from the Republicans”:

But the ultimate complication for the GOP might come from Trump himself. I submit that when Trump rage-tweets that we should “READ THE TRANSCRIPT!” and threatens to read it aloud on television, it signals where he’d really like this to end up: With Republicans unabashedly defending what he actually did do.

In other words, Trump wants Republicans to say: Trump was damn right to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden, because Biden is corrupt. Trump himself has at times unabashedly told reporters that, yes, Ukraine should investigate Biden.

Trump has toggled between that and hiding behind his generic “corruption” claim, probably because his advisers told him the latter is safer. But I guarantee you his instinct is to go all the way.

Trump regularly calls on Republicans to fight to “win.” He wants them to throw aside any squeamishness about using all the tools at their disposal — including over the manipulation of our foreign policy and large swaths of the federal government — toward that end. Everybody is corrupt; it goes without saying that Biden and Democrats are; all that matters is who manipulates the rules more skillfully, and as a result, triumphs.

I don’t know whether Trump will end up going quite this far. But as more corruption is documented, Republicans will find it harder and harder to explain away — even as Trump’s demands that they go all-in behind that worsening picture of corruption grow louder and more insistent.

Aardvark’s Animadversion

Like I said, folks.

Dead men walking.

A Slogan for the Democrats?

in your guts

Once upon a time, Jennifer Rubin spent her days licking Mitt Romney’s boots. Today, she has gifted Democrats with three similar slogans: “Stop the Craziness,” or, if you want it a little succincter, “Stop the Crazy” or “End the Crazy.” The latter two, she observes, could fit on a hat.

Nine paragraphs into her post, Ms. Rubin arrives at the nub of the matter. I agree with her—and I think the vital point she makes needs to be more at the top of our minds. She writes,

This is crucial: It’s one thing to be mean and corrupt.  His defenders say lots of politicians are. It is quite another to say he’s so erratic, so unhinged, so crazy that he sends the economy into a tailspin and risks international conflict (or capitulation to enemies  such as Kim Jong Un, who Trump — crazily — believes likes him). Tying Trump’s unfitness to dangers to the country and to voters’ personal safety and prosperity should be a key objective for the eventual nominee. Unlike in 2016, “Crazy Trump” doesn’t make a moral judgment. It’s a statement of fact, a highly inconvenient fact for his apologists.

Some days ago, I saw a post by someone else entitled “Why Evangelicals Like the Worst Things about Trump,” or something like that. I thought then, and I think now, that the headline was based on an incorrect premise. Trump’s corruption, racism, and vulgarity are very bad things. And these are the things that some people who believe themselves to be Christian like about Trump. But they are not the very worst thing about Trump. The very worst thing about Trump is that he is a lunatic—a toddler playing with matches down in the basement of a wooden building.

You may think a corrupt, racist bully is someone who is “strong” and is going to “protect” you. You are less likely to think that of someone who is just batshit crazy. You can keep your racism, and you can still get an organism as you fondle your assault rifle, but still recognize that batshit craziness is not an appropriation for the leader of your tribe.

All that said, I am not much enamored of Ms. Rubin’s specific slogan suggestions. I think we can do a little better. Right this minute, the best hat I can think of would say “Had enough?” and have an appropriate picture. But I will continue to think about the issue of Democratsc slogans in my spare time. And I encourage you to do the same.

had enough

The Chosen One

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Through the thick fog that perennially engulfs his frontal lobe, Rich Lowry has perceived a vague glimmer that people are getting sick and tired of Trump’s horseshit. This a matter of some concern to Mr. Lowry, because it poses a threat to the plutocratic agenda.

Jennifer Rubin is concerned that the President of the United States is batshit crazy, and is getting crazier by the day.

And, by the way, Trump is coming for the Jews. They are disloyal.

One is Simply Wrong; the Other, Complexly Wrong

wrong way

Simply Wrong

Jennifer Rubin, Here’s how staunch progressives can win the hearts of Never Trumpers

Her answer to the question she posed? Endorse 14 procedural ideas. E. g., “Report to the House and Senate intelligence committees deviations from the normal security-clearance process on behalf of senior officials.” And “Repudiate use of executive orders designed to sidestep or avoid court rulings.”

Just do this sort of thing, and the Never Trumpers will cheerfully vote for a progressive Democrat.

Silly, silly column. But I suppose everyone is entitled to an off day.

Complexly Wrong

Harry Olsen, Yes, Trump’s tweets are offensive. But there’s one big reason Republicans stand behind him.

And that reason is … Drumroll …

Trump’s primary appeal to millions of people is that he protects them from something much worse. So long as that perception exists, those people will back him no matter how offensively he behaves.

He could lose that support, but only if he betrays that core appeal. If Trump started to appoint liberal judges or took positions that threatened what evangelicals perceive as religious liberty, many would start to rethink their backing for him. If he were to turn on a dime and undo many of his tax cuts, many fiscal conservatives would rethink their support. But so long as he keeps his deals, the alternatives are so unpalatable that Trump looks fine by comparison.

Those who want to defeat Trump should read the ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu. He said that a general should leave a route free when an enemy is surrounded. “Do not press a desperate foe too hard,” he wrote, knowing that a cornered person will fight to the death. The more people who feel cornered, the more people will disregard Trump’s statements and character to defend what they hold most dear. Until Trump’s opponents grasp this fact, nothing Trump says will do anything to weaken his support.

Thank you, Mr. Olsen, for sharing your views with us.

And now let me tell you a few things. First off, your claim that Trump is actually “protecting” anyone from anything is highly problematic, on multiple levels. But let me just, for the sake of the discussion, accept your premise.

There appear to be about 42 percent of our population who feel an intense need to be protected from the views and policy objectives of about 52 percent of the population. As long as the 42 percent haven’t found a way to establish a Dictatorship of the Culturally Aggrieved, they need to outvote the 52 percent. Can’t do it no other way.

How do 42 percent outvote 52 percent? Obviously, by somehow depressing the enthusiasm and the turnout of the 52 percent, while getting everybody on their own side really riled up.

If Trump the Protector grasped that basic point, he probably could find some effective ways to implement the strategy.

But no, he’s not doing that. Instead, what he’s doing is riling up his own base, and, at the same time, doing things that (a) peel away some of his remaining marginal supporters and (b) royally piss off the 52 percent side.

We see it in tonight’s House vote on the racist tweets resolution. Sure, the majority stayed with him—and a minority of Republicans vigorously endorsed the racist tweets. But some had had enough. If you’re in the minority, you really cannot afford to lose the marginal supporters and the reluctant fellow travelers.

So, Mr. Olsen, whatever it is you think Trump is protecting you from, he’s doing a piss-poor job of it.

And, by the way, Mr. Olsen, to win, our side has to gin up our own base, and then outvote you at the polls. And that, sir, is exactly what our side is by way of doing.

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Just Bonkers

crazy like a fox

Jennifer Rubin, William Barr and his horrible hearing:

So far, Attorney General William P. Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee has done himself and the administration no favors. To the contrary, former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal observes, “Barr has been evasive and misleading from the first paragraph. It’s conduct totally unbecoming of an attorney general. He’s not even very good at misleading.”

Fordham law professor Jed Shugerman were more blunt. “This is nuts . . . just bonkers, ” he told me mid-morning. …

The attorney general seems determined to incinerate his professional reputation. Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti says, “Barr is deliberately misleading the U.S. Senate by making statements that are highly deceptive but technically accurate.

Putting Barr’s Testimony in Context

As Freud may or may not have said, sometimes a pencil is just a pencil. Sometimes bonkers behavior is just bonkers behavior.

But Barr comes out of a “BigLaw” and big business environment where people often deceive others about their true motivations. A fair share are crazy—or become crazy with time. Some are crazy like a fox. Some THINK they can act crazy like a fox, and achieve some hidden objective.

So, I’m tellin’ you, whether you believe me or not, something other than simple bonkers behavior is going on here. If Barr “seems determined to incinerate his professional reputation”—and that’s a very fair summary of the situation—then it’s a conscious decision, and there’s a reason behind it. Maybe not a good reason. Maybe not a reason that you or I would approve. But there is a reason.

So High You Can’t Get Over It, So Low You Can’t Get Under It, So Wide You Can’t Get Around It

Today, Jennifer Rubin tells us that we’re Learning to Ignore Trump. I think she’s about right.

So keep your blood pressure low this afternoon, and enjoy the twitterings below and the ironically chosen music above.

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There Must Be an End to Understanding

One may be credulous, but when the facts are bad enough, there will come an end to credulity. (The song makes the point nicely, but I wish I could have shared Patsy Cline’s rendition. I couldn’t find it, so I had to settle for Willie Nelson.)

In a way, I hate to keep referencing Jennifer Rubin. Back in the day, the mere thought of Mitt Romney was enough send her into an orgasmic swoon. It was a sentiment to which Aardvark could not relate. But lately she has come to her senses.

This afternoon, she writes, Americans have had enough:

What in the past worked to delight [Trump’s] audience and throw mainstream media off balance (e.g., a new scandal to replace an old one, vicious personal attacks on opponents and the press, new stock market highs) no longer works to keep his leaky ship of state afloat. Shutting down the government, rewarding Russia and Iran in the Middle East, losing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and sending the markets reeling may have moved us to a tipping point, the moment when lawmakers and voters decide Trump is far more trouble than he’s worth.

Well said—except that that last sentence has a highly salient omission. The important thing is not that “lawmakers” are fed up. It’s not that voters are fed up. It’s that the plutocrats are fed up.

But I digress.

Ms. Rubin goes on to put two and two together:

Let me suggest the American public is moving toward two disturbing conclusions: The president is a menace, and the president likely broke the law. What’s the implication of all that? First, his chances of reelection are sinking fast. It’s one thing to resist impeachment; it’s another to sign up for four more years of turmoil with a liar and miscreant. Republicans had better start looking for options for 2020. Second, the public, I’d suggest, is far more likely to accept at face value special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report findings. If they already suspect Trump ordered illegal payments or obstructed justice, Mueller’s report will likely solidify that view beyond the confines of the Trump cult (which shrinks as his performance worsens). Third, impeachment becomes less akin to a risky option and more like a constitutional obligation compelled by events. Fourth, watching the turn in public opinion and the meltdown in the executive branch (especially the loss of the only trustworthy national security adviser), more senators will begin to consider seriously removing Trump from office. And finally, as we have previously discussed, the option of indicting him and/or his business organization becomes only a question of timing (now or after he leaves office).

In sum, the ground shifted substantially over the last week or so. The cracks in his Republican wall of support are widening as actual fear grips Republican officeholders; the public becomes far more willing — anxious even — to see him go. Whether all that will result in his departure from office before 2020 is unknown, but it no longer seems like a pipe dream.

It’s sort of like how most of us die. One organ fails, that leads to another failure, that leads to another, and the whole thing just shuts down.

The Cat That Ate the Canary

the cat that ate the canary

The Mother of All Straw Men

Speaking of William Barr’s infamous legal memo on presidential power, Jennifer Rubin—who is beginning to get a corner of the puzzle—writes,

Barr set up the mother of all strawmen. If you wanted to preen and audition for the AG job, you’d write a memo based on a narrow set of hypothetical facts that bore no resemblance to the facts at issue and could be distinguished from the actual fact pattern. If the investigation was not premised on Comey’s firing alone but on an entire fact pattern, including witness-tampering and lying to investigators, hypothetically, Mueller wouldn’t be relying on the facts and theory Barr set out. Barr could grandstand and audition for the job, without actually tying his hands.

William P. Barr, Esquire, along with his handlers and confederates think they are being very clever. Indeed, they are. Too clever by half.

As I said before, just exactly the sort of thing you would expect from the folks at Kirkland & Ellis, who are convinced they are cuter than Bambi.

I believe Ms. Rubin has accurately reverse engineered Barr’s Machiavellian strategy for attaining the office of Attorney General. She does not address why Barr might want to occupy that office, at this perilous time. But, as I have said, I believe I have figured it out.

Jennifer Nostradamus Speaks

Nostradamus

Jennifer Rubin, Republicans’ misogyny will come back to haunt them:

Republicans … could win this fight for the swing Supreme Court seat, but they cannot bestow legitimacy upon Kavanaugh or erase their record of weaponized misogyny. Progressives will seek his recusal in every case of political significance. Every 5-4 decision in which Kavanaugh is the deciding vote will be denounced as illegitimate, the work of a partisan judge elevated to the court by nefarious means. The decision will be respected legally in the short term, but in the future, it will be argued, the decision should carry zero precedential weight. Those he once accused of participating in a left-wing cabal will seek to vacate cases they lose in which Kavanaugh was the deciding vote. In future cases, they will urge  justices and lower court judges to downgrade the importance of these decisions, in effect treating them as unpublished opinions that should not impact future cases.

Democrats will ferret out the witnesses whom the FBI ignored and subpoena FBI officials to testify. They will leak the full FBI report at some point and disclose any communications between the FBI and White House that reveal efforts to curb the FBI investigation. They will seek Kavanaugh’s removal, and maybe even his disbarment.

When a Democratic president eventually wins the White House with a Democratic Senate majority, you can count on a court-packing scheme. Most critically, any decision Kavanaugh renders in Trump’s favor on the Russia probe might ignite a constitutional conflagration in which the majority of the country sees an illegitimate justice protect a president illegitimately elected with the assistance of the United States’ foe, Russia.

None of this is desirable, nor would it have been conceivable had Trump picked another justice. However, in producing a worthless investigation and declaring open season on sex-crimes victims, Republicans push women out of the party and onto political war-footing. If power politics is what the Republicans want, women and others in the anti-Republican coalition (male and female Democrats, independents and ex-Republicans) will learn to play just as fiercely.

Emphasis added.

There is, of course, a logical counter prediction: that lots of women thought protecting fetuses was the be-all-and-end-all in 2016: if they swallowed Trump’s misogyny and crime for the sake of the Court, then surely they will not be concerned about a long-ago attempted rape by God’s anointed servant, one destined to complete the holy mission of overturning Roe.

Certainly, there are some women of that view. But there will be others who will have had one misogynistic rant too many from the Trumpster.

However that works out, we cannot let this go. We have to keep asking the Republican pols how much attempted rape they think is tolerable, and at what age. And, by the way, how much perjury is just enough perjury in a Senate confirmation hearing?

Questions of this ilk will really piss them off. When they act all angry and hurt, just ask ‘em again—in a sweet and reasonable tone of voice: when your teenage daughter is assaulted, should she automatically be disbelieved unless she can present eyewitnesses?

Ms. Motivated Reasoning Might Have Some Good Points Today

motivated

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”

 

godsears

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

godsears

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.

Goldman Sachs Has an Epiphany

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Goldman Has Grim Prognosis for Tax Reform Amid Obamacare Debate

 Investors counting on major U.S. tax reform in 2017 are going to be disappointed, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

The problem is that lawmakers and Donald Trump’s administration are going to be so caught up figuring out how to repeal Obamacare that coming up with a new corporate tax system will get pushed to the side, economists at the bank led by Alec Phillips wrote in a note Wednesday.

“This process is likely to take longer than expected, which is likely to delay the upcoming debate over tax reform,” they said. “The difficulty the Republican majority is having addressing a key political priority suggests that lawmakers might ultimately need to scale back their ambitions in other areas as well, such as tax reform.” …

A delay to tax reform has been cited as a risk by other banks as well, which have warned it could spell trouble for a stock market that has priced in Trump’s pledges for a “phenomenal tax plan,” as well as scaled-back regulation and a boost in fiscal spending. Goldman itself says that the prospects of tax cuts have played a huge role in the 10 percent rally the S&P 500 Index has seen since Nov. 8, but that the risks are continuing to rise.

Aardvark is fond of the term “priced in”—it’s something that we savvy financial types might say. But it appears that, while the market priced in big tax decreases, it didn’t price in the Republican’s inability to make coherent policy. It didn’t price in White House’s inability to find its ass with both hands. It didn’t price in the objection of the great unwashed to having their health care yanked away.

Jonathan Chait nicely explains the policy dilemmas, but ends of predicting that Ryan and company will just replicate the Bush 2001 tax cuts. Jennifer Rubin predicts abject failure.

Trump and arrogant lawmakers can swear up and down that protesters in their districts are paid phonies. What they cannot ignore are the legions of small businesses, importers, retailers and consumers who will surely conclude that they’ll be worse off than they are now with the border adjustment tax. It is the sort of issue (tax cuts for the rich! price hikes at Walmart!) that can set off a wave election.

Ryan might persist with the border tax adjustment gimmick, but it likely will mean the end of his tax reform effort. That would be some economic karma if a non-conservative, distortional tax grab knocked the legs out from under a GOP that has decided to discard its fiscally responsible free-market positions.

Aardvark confidently predicts a continuing clusterfuck.

Well, This Is Sort of Reassuring, I Guess

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In McMaster will be a good teammate as national security advisor, Jennifer Rubin writes,

Without his own axes to grind and with good working relations with Mattis, [McMaster] has the opportunity to be an effective conduit between the president and the various foreign policy agencies and departments. If the strategy for surviving the Trump years and quarantining Stephen K. Bannon is to provide coherent, unified and persuasive advice without political interference, you’d want someone like McMaster, a no-nonsense manager who can create whenever possible a united front with Mattis, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, director of national intelligence nominee Dan Coats, CIA director Mike Pompeo and others. That still leaves the problem of Trump’s judgment, conflicts of interest, honesty and impulsivity, but at least the foreign policy apparatus won’t be a cause of his failures.