There’s a red cloud hanging over us

1 03 2017

I am once again yelling at the media.

Back in the day—waaaay back in the day—I used to regularly berate journalists, pundits, and politicians who happened across my t.v. screen or radio. I’d slap the newspaper or crunch it between my hands. I’d carry on arguments and yell rebuttals and gesticulate and swear and occasionally throw soft objects at whatever device was relaying the offending message.

I once smeared a butter pat on the t.v. in my dorm floor’s lounge (I cleaned it up).

It got to be a bit of joke among my friends, but it was never schtick to me: I’d honestly get pissed off and let loose. They might have thought it funny or stupid, but I was dead serious.

And then, at some point, I stopped.

I don’t know why. Maybe when I got rid of the t.v. and thus no longer watched the news I fell out of practice. Maybe I figured out that I was not required to listen to bullshit and thus turned off the radio/t.v. rather than get into a fight with the voices coming out of it. Maybe I just gave up.

Well, I’m back, and so is the yelling. Well, not yelling so much as muttering, and I’m not back to full-bore argumentation. No, I’m dropping such bon mots as “motherfucker” and “asshole” as I flick through my Twitter feed and suggesting “go fuck yourself” to whichever Trumpeter is weaseling on the radio.

I’m not proud of this, but I’m not quite chagrined, either. Swearing may not work to hold back the pile of radioactive horseshit Trump and his GOP enablers are shoveling at us, but it does remind me that I haven’t given up, that I shouldn’t give up.

I do think I’ll leave the butter be, however.

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When Johnny comes marching home again

11 10 2016

THE US IS NOT WEIMAR! I have shouted, hissed, flatlined, more than once.

And yet.

No, I’m not going back on that, but I wonder if a) the US was Weimar before Weimar was Weimar, and b) at least regarding the parties on the right, there isn’t something to the parallel.

B first: The Nationalist (DNVP, or German National People’s Party) was the main conservative party during the short-lived republic. It contained a mix of reactionaries and restorationists, militarists, aristocrats, and industrialists. It was anti-democratic, anti-Semitic, and rather constantly seeking to undermine whatever government (there were many)  was seated at the moment.

The old man, Hindenburg, won the presidency as an independent (but with the support of the old-line conservatives) in 1925 (thumping his former colleague Ludendorff, running as a Nazi) and beat Hitler for the job in 1932. When the Nazis won the most votes in the last free parliamentary elections in November of ’32, thereby paving the path to the chancellorship in January of 1933, Hindenburg crony (and Vice Chancellor) Franz von Papen famously told those worried about Hitler that ‘You are wrong. We’ve engaged him for ourselves.’ To another he said, ‘Within two months we will have pushed Hitler so far into a corner that he’ll squeak.’

Well, that didn’t work so well, not least for Papen: he and his wife were murdered during the Night of Long Knives in 1934. (Nope, wrong: Papen was only put under house arrest, served as an ambassador for Nazi Germany, was acquitted at Nuremberg, and only died in 1969. It was General Kurt von Schleicher and his wife who were cut down.)

Anyway, there are some rough parallels to be drawn, I think, between the Nationalists and establishment (such as it is) Republicans, and between the Nazis and anti-GOP Trump supporters.

Again, these parallels are rough: I don’t think Trump is Hitler or his more, ah, avid supporters Nazis, although there are certain shared enthusiasms across both sets of followers. And the GOP establishment cannot fairly be compared too closely to the Nationalists: while they certainly want to restrict voting and are less than fully committed to civil rights for all citizens, they’re not actively plotting coups or looking to eliminate the Constitution.

Caveats deployed, the energy and anger of the anti-GOP Trumpeters, their bitterness toward any Republicans not waving his flag does echo the melodramatic intensity of Nazis, with the more lukewarm GOPpers standing in for the old Nationalists.

And the hatred for Democrats and Clinton, the cries to make America great again, the sense that the country has been corrupted and must be cleansed? Well, yeah, that too.

Back to a.

My knowledge of American history isn’t great, so treat this comparison even more gingerly than the previous one:

Was the US, or, more specifically, the former Confederacy, during Reconstruction akin to Weimar? That is, a fragile republic, all-too-soon overthrown by forces which never accepted the legitimacy of the rule?

I’m not going to go on about this, because I know neither the history of Reconstruction and its dismemberment nor that of the imposition of Jim Crow, I don’t know how well the anti-republican (and -Republican) forces and the political cultures match up, and there are clearly major differences.

Still.

Still, the lines are there, aren’t they?





So what happens now?

11 03 2016

I’ve followed and enjoyed Jonathan Bernstein‘s disquisitions on American politics. I don’t always agree (his preference for the Madisonian presidential system, his views about money in politics), but he’s practical and open and good at linking to other political scientists.

He’s also been one of the leading proponents of The Party Decides thesis, which, to simplify matters immensely, argues that party insiders force discipline on the nominating process. I first reported on, then came to agree with, this notion, largely because what Bernstein wrote about it made sense.

Of course, “making sense” doesn’t equal “correct”, as we’re all seeing in the current contest, and which Bernstein admits:

bernstein tweet

So, this is a not-at-all-direct prelude to the question: why didn’t Bernstein or other political scientists (or I) see Trump coming?

Another piece: Bernstein has been arguing, for years, that the Republicans at the federal level have become dysfunctional and (institutionally) irresponsible. He’s noted their disinclination to negotiate on bills which relate to their priorities, their unwillingness to vote on nominees which they themselves support to bureaucratic positions, and their indulgence of fantastical rhetoric.

And ‘the party’ has either a) been fine with all of this or b) unable to do anything about it.

Given that, why would Trump be a surprise?

Bernstein has been hitting Trump hard on his ignorance of how government works (see, for example, here and here, as well as on Twitter), but given that Republicans in Congress don’t seem to care much about governance, is it really a shock that Republican voters would support a guy who doesn’t care either?

So, given that Republicans have been acting like/unable/unwilling to discipline the nutters for awhile, and that Donald Trump is not that much of an outlier in the party, is Trump’s rise indicative of a breakdown of the-party-decides model—because the party itself has broken down in some significant way—or, perhaps, that the party has decided he’ll do just fine?





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Do ya like it like that?

9 03 2016

Five and a-half years ago I worried about the color of the sky in Sarah Palin’s world; half a year ago I suggested that Trump would only triumph* were he to keep on keepin’ on banging his own weird can.

So, two things: One, Ezra Klein is among the latest commentators to note that “he lies constantly and fluently about what his policies actually are.” Klein thinks this is a problem, and it is—just not for Trump.

It doesn’t matter that he lies or that he lies about his lies.

And. . . I don’t really know how one counters that.

*Well, okay, not really: I did say that he’d ultimately lose.

~~~

Of course, one reason that lies don’t matter, is that all too often truth = agreement and lies = disagreement.

May I give you New Hampshire State Rep. Susan DeLemus (R):

“I believe Donald. I am telling you, he says what I am thinking,” DeLemus said during a CNN focus group of Trump supporters that aired Thursday morning.

“We’ve got people in positions of power who I know for a fact are liars, liars,” she continued. “My president comes on the TV and he lies to me. I know he is lying. He lies all the time.”

Now, the Honorable Representative DeLemus is inarguably a nutter, but she’s saying plainly what others will only politely (or not so politely) suggest.

~~~

What this (not so politely) suggests, then, is that attacking a liar for lying will do little to peel support away from him.

So he has to be attacked from another angle. Senators Cruz and Rubio have done a bit of this, going after Trump for his business failures, which does seem to get to His Greatness. I’d guess dismissing him or openly mocking him would also rattle his bones.

The real question, however, is whether a rattled Donald is a Donald who loses support or, as some tiny bit of me still believes might happen, flips the table and flounces away.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Damned I am

2 03 2016

I was wrong. Wroooooooooooongity wrong wrong WRONG.

I never thought Trump would get this far, or that the hated Ted Cruz would end up his main challenger.

I’ll hang on to my skepticism about him actually winning the nomination, but I must admit that the evidence is running ahead of my skepticism.

As to the general clusterfuck that is the GOP presidential process, I can only say: Y’all deserve this, every last bit of it.

And no, I ain’t helping you out, especially not with Dan Quayle lite.

As John Scalzi notes,

But somebody needs to do something! Well, yes. Those “somebodies” should have been the GOP, but it didn’t want to, and then when it wanted to it couldn’t, because it realized too late that its entire governing strategy for the last couple of decades, but especially since Obama came to office, has been designed to foster the emergence of a populist lectern-thumper like Trump. The GOP has made its electoral bones on low-information, high-anxiety white folks for years now, but has only ever looked at the next election, and not ever further down the road, or where that road would lead too. Well, it led to Trump.

And now the GOP wants a bailout, and people like Beinart and Strain are arguing we should give it to them, because the GOP is apparently too big to fail (and yes, this means that Trump is a festering ball of subprime loans in this scenario). And, well. …

… Saving the GOP from Trump doesn’t change the fact that the GOP is by conscious and intentional design primed to create more Trumps — more populist demagogues who will leverage the anxious discontent of scared and aging white people into electoral victories. That won’t be fixed. The GOP doesn’t want it fixed. It just wants the demagogue to be someone it can control.

Let it also be noted that Trump’s 1 1/2 main competitors hold terrible, terrible policy positions, so it’s not clear exactly why I should be worried that the hair-piece-of-racist-shit might beat the other two pieces-o’-shite. They’re all terrible.

No, my only interest is in beating whoever the GOP eventually barfs up, not in sticking my finger down my own throat.

h/t Shakezula, Lawyers, Guns & Money





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Wrecking ball

13 07 2015

No surprise, but the man who’s been befouling my home state has finally made it official:

Walker announcement

Gott im himmel, I’ve got to find some way to talk about this bastard without losing my mind. And if he actually gets the nomination*, I. . . I. . . fuck, I will either have to refrain from blogging altogether, or just go tits-out and plaster this joint with

NO!

*Which means I’ve got to hope—now there’s a word I don’t often use in conjunction with Republican politicians—some other GOPper palooka takes him out.





Circus Maximus MMXVI

18 03 2015

We have a winner!

As previously mentioned, “Bread and Circuses 2016” was in the lead as the theme name for the upcoming ongoing presidential campaign, but when I came across this phrase, I thought Yessss.

To inaugurate this chariot race, let’s (re) consider the contenders:

Republicans, short- to long-shots:
Jeb Bush
Scott Walker
.
.
Chris Christie
Marco Rubio
.
.
Legit politician, could affect debates/win a state or two, no chance:
Ted Cruz
Lindsay Graham
Mike Huckabee*
John Kasich
Rand Paul
Rick Perry
Rick Santorum*

The entertainment:
John Bolton
Ben Carson
Carly Fiorina
Bobby Jindal

Update: *Included in “legit” category only because have actually held office and have chance of affecting the chances of other candidates; otherwise would, like Jindal, be slotted as “entertainment”.

Democrats:
Hillary Clinton
.
.
.
.
.
Joe Biden
.
.
.
Martin O’Malley
Bernie Sanders
Jim Webb

Do note that this list is near-completely impressionistic, i.e., I did no additional work beyond the mostly-casual reading I’ve been doing of the race thus far. Jonathan Bernstein is a clear influence (even if I don’t always agree with him) in terms of the significance of the invisible primary, and I did look at Larry Sabato’s list in compiling this one—although, again, I don’t necessarily follow his line.

Look to the “Know Yer Politics” links to the right for more-than-just-horse (chariot?)-race coverage. In the meantime, get your togas cleaned and your sandals resoled: it’s gonna be loooong 20 months.