Michelle, Ma Belle

Nothing surprising here, but Michelle Goldberg sums it up really, really well:

People voted for Trump for reasons besides racism. There was also sexism. Some voters were just partisan Republicans, or thought that reality TV is real and that Trump was as successful as “The Apprentice” made him seem. I once met a young man at a Trump rally who’d voted for Obama but was worried about the taxes he’d pay when he inherited his family’s car dealership.

Trump, however, seems to grasp that racism is what put him over the top. It’s what made his campaign seem wild and transgressive and hard to look away from.

Now Trump’s poll numbers are cratering, we have double-digit unemployment and our pandemic-ravaged nation has been rendered an international pariah. America is faring exactly as well under Trump’s leadership as his casinos, airline and scam university did. It’s not surprising that he’s returning to what he knows, and what seemed to work for him before.

In fact, Trump appears to think his problem is that he hasn’t been racist enough. On Wednesday, Axios’s Jonathan Swan reported that Trump regrets listening to his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s “woke” ideas — as a source put it — including on criminal justice reform. Instead, he wants to double down on law and order. “He truly believes there is a silent majority out there that’s going to come out in droves in November,” a source told Swan.

And so last week, as if to prod that silent majority, Trump tweeted out videos of Black people assaulting white people. (“Where are the protesters?” he asked.) He has made a point of calling the coronavirus the “kung flu.” At a time when even Mississippi is removing Confederate imagery from its state flag, Trump has thrown himself into the protection of what he calls “our heritage.”

He signed an executive order directing federal law enforcement to prosecute people who damage federal monuments — threatening them with up to 10 years in prison — and withholding funds from municipalities that don’t protect statues. (Whether this latter provision is enforceable is unclear.) He said he’d veto a $741 billion defense bill over a provision, written by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, requiring that military bases honoring Confederates be renamed. Apoplectic over New York City’s plans to paint the words “Black Lives Matter” on Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower, he called the slogan “a symbol of hate.”

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that he was considering scrapping an Obama-era housing regulation that required localities to address illegal patterns of residential segregation. He claimed that the initiative, which his administration had already put in limbo, was having a “devastating impact on these once thriving Suburban areas.”

The message to his white supporters seemed clear enough: Trump is going to fight to stop people of color from coming to your neighborhood.

The Times reported on the president’s rationale: “Mr. Trump and his campaign team, already concerned about his weakness in battleground states, have become increasingly alarmed by internal polling showing a softening of support among suburban voters.” Trump sees clearly — more clearly than most of his party — that racism is the main thing he has to offer.

There’s good reason to think that he’s misjudging these suburban voters. Polls show that a growing number of them, particularly women, are repelled by Trump’s race-baiting and divisiveness. But Republicans who complain that the president is undisciplined, that he can’t adhere to a strategy, miss the point: Bigotry has always been the strategy.

The Republicans who support him are yoked to that strategy. Their real frustration isn’t that it’s ugly but that it’s no longer working.

Michelle Goldberg on Fingergate

explaining

Michelle Goldberg, Democrats, Tara Reade and the #MeToo Trap: Don’t compare the case against Joe Biden to the one against Brett Kavanaugh

Ms. Goldberg is not well served by her headline writer, because the whole point of the piece is precisely to compare and contrast Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations against Brett Kavanaugh with Tara Reade’s accusations against Joe Biden.

Ms. Reade does not come off looking good.

On the other hand, I remain of the view that Joe Biden, the Democratic National Committee, and Democrats generally would be best served by an investigation conducted on behalf of the DNC by a reputable law firm. The alternative they are now pursuing is to leave the investigating to investigative journalists. That leaves the Democratic leadership open to a claim of “hypocrisy” and “disparate treatment.”

As Ms. Goldberg carefully explains, that charge of hypocrisy may not be valid. But her reasoning is complex.

And when you are offering a complex explanation, you may be losing an argument that you deserve to win.

I May Have Been Unfair to our 46th President

From the European member of Aardvark’s posse comes this comparison of Pence paean to Stalin’s Cult of Personality:

Thank you, Stalin. Thank you because I am joyful. Thank you because I am well. No matter how old I become, I shall never forget how we received Stalin two days ago. Centuries will pass, and the generations still to come will regard us as the happiest of mortals, as the most fortunate of men, because we lived in the century of centuries, because we were privileged to see Stalin, our inspired leader … Everything belongs to thee, chief of our great country. And when the woman I love presents me with a child the first word it shall utter will be: Stalin.

In Fifth Shades of Orange, Michelle Goldberg argues that Pence’s humiliating song of praise to Trump may not be the insincere mountain of bullshit that it appears to be.

It was a neat summation of where the Republican Party is at the end of the first year of Trump. There’s been a synthesis, in which Trump and establishment Republicans adopt one another’s worst qualities. Trump, who campaigned as a putative economic populist — even calling for higher taxes on the rich — will soon sign into law the tax plan of the House speaker Paul Ryan’s Ayn Randian dreams. The majority of elected Republicans, in turn, are assuming a posture of slavish submission to Trump, worshiping their dear leader and collaborating in the maintenance of his alternative reality.

Some of this might be strategic; everyone knows Trump is susceptible to flattery. But in many cases — certainly with Pence — it seems sincere. In a recent Atlantic profile of the vice president, McKay Coppins wrote that Pence’s faith mandates obedience to temporal as well as heavenly authority. When he accepted the vice-presidential nomination, Coppins wrote, “he believed he was committing to humbly submit to the will of Donald Trump.” From a secular perspective, Pence, like many other Republicans, appears to be a person inclined to authoritarianism. …

For the past year, a lot of us have assumed that Republicans are putting up with Trump out of fear of their base or lust for tax cuts. We’ve imagined that beneath our mutual partisan loathing lies some remaining shared commitment to liberal democracy. Maybe that’s true, and Republicans will display new independence once tax reform is signed, particularly if support for the president keeps dwindling.

But there’s another possibility, which is that a critical mass of Republicans like being in thrall to a man who seems strong enough to will his own reality, and bold enough to voice their atavistic hatreds. Maybe Trump is changing Republicans, or maybe he’s just giving men like Pence permission to be who they already were.