Paul Krugman Reveals How Republicans Plan to Win in 2018 — Even While Voters Despise Their ‘Reverse Robin Hood Agenda’

“If they can’t win on the issues, they’ll try to win on something else.”

Source: AlterNet

Author: Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Link: https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/paul-krugman-reveals-how-republicans-plan-win-2018-even-while-voters-despise-their?src=newsletter1096537

Emphasis Mine

our long national nightmare begins…

Republican lawmakers around the country are making their pitch to the American voters that they should be re-elected to continue their control of the legislature  — but there’s a conspicuous absence in their messaging: any sign of a coherent agenda to make the country better.

The reason for this absence is simple. They don’t have one.

As Paul Krugman argued in a New York Times column Monday night, Republicans’ actual policy ideas are deeply unpopular with voters.

“In fact, Republican policies are so unpopular that the party’s candidates are barely trying to sell them. Instead, they’re pretending to stand for things they actually don’t — like protecting health coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions — or trying to distract voters with culture war and appeals to white racial identity,” he wrote. “The G.O.P. has become the party of no ideas.”

Meanwhile, the one legislative success of the party since the 2016 election was the major tax cut bill passed in 2017. Republicans aren’t running on that, though, because voters also hate it. The vast majority of voters recognize that the tax cuts were designed to benefit corporations and the wealthy while driving up the federal deficit — a deficit which the GOP is likely to use as an excuse to cut social programs.

President Donald Trump, the so-called populist, has forced the party into acquiescing into his adopting its one idiosyncratic economic policy preferences: tariffs galore. But as Krugman wrote:

And Trump’s tariffs suffer politically because some Americans are already being hurt, while the supposed beneficiaries have good reason to doubt whether they will be helped. In fact, even as Trump boasts that his steel tariffs have revived the industry, two major steelworker unions have voted to go on strike — because while corporate profits have surged, workers’ wages haven’t.

In short, the American public seems to have wised up; voters seem to have recognized the G.O.P.’s reverse Robin Hood agenda of taking from ordinary families and giving to the rich for what it is.

So what will be the GOP response to this dismal state of affairs? If you said “adopt more popular policy views,” guess again.

Instead, they seem, Krugman explained, to be doubling down on what made Trump a distinctly vile candidate: demonizing people of color.

“And it might work. After all, studies of the 2016 election clearly show tharacial resentment, not ‘economic anxiety,’ was what put Trump over the top,” Krugman said. “But if the G.O.P. does win, it will have won very, very ugly. And American politics will become even worse.”

 

 

What Donald Trump Taught Us Tonight

Source: NY Times.com

Author: Roxane Gay

Emphasis Mine

The more this debate continued, the more we saw how little Donald J. Trump knows. As he did in the first debate, he is never able to speak in specifics. He thinks that if he blurts out key words and insults, that will be enough to reach undecided voters. Instead, he is speaking only to his base, making them froth with even more hatred. A debate is designed to allow us to learn more about the candidates. Tonight we’ve learned or been reminded that Mr. Trump doesn’t know how American governance works — assuming that alone, as one senator, Hillary Clinton could impose her will upon the entire Congress and the Republican president at the time.

He is unfamiliar with where America’s tax rate stands in a global context. He has no understanding of what it would take to ensure that all Americans can receive health care without a federal mandate. He has no understanding of international relations and the travesty that is taking place in Syria or what the word “humanitarian” means. The list goes on, and on. It is crystal clear that a Trump presidency would lead both the United States and the rest of the world into a dystopia the likes of which even the darkest of novelists cannot fathom.

Hillary Clinton is dealing with a unique challenge — having to stay sharp with an incompetent opponent. She managed to remain on message throughout the debate. She offered several specifics while always clearly demarcating the difference between her and Mr. Trump. She demonstrated grace under pressure. And in the end, when asked to say something positive about her opponent, she reminded us of just how much she outclasses Mr. Trump as a political candidate. She complimented his children despite how easy and satisfying it would have been to say the truth — that no, there is nothing commendable about Donald Trump.

Roxane Gay is an associate professor at Purdue University, the author of “Bad Feminist” and the forthcoming “Hunger,” and a contributing opinion writer.

 

 

see: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/cp/opinion/clinton-trump-second-debate-election-2016/what-we-actually-learned-from-donald-trump

Republicans’ Benghazi goose chase comes up empty

Source: Washington Post

Author: Editorial Board

Emphasis Mine

ON THE night of Sept. 11 and morning of Sept. 12, 2012, U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers in Benghazi, Libya, came under attack by terrorists armed with automatic weapons, mortars and fuel to start fires. By the next morning, four brave Americans lay dead — Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens; his aide, Sean Smith; and two former Navy SEALs providing security, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty. It was a horrific crime whose perpetrators remain for the most part unidentified and unpunished — and a setback for U.S. foreign policy in the wider Middle East.

As if all of that weren’t bad enough, the Benghazi attacks mutated into yet another of the partisan dramas that U.S. politicians — in this case Republican politicians — generate in lieu of constructive policymaking. Unable to turn the events to their advantage when they occurred, during the 2012 election campaign, Republicans have persisted in attempting to milk the “scandal” for the past four years. They have done so even though repeated previous investigations — including by a GOP-led House intelligence panel — found nothing to contradict the Obama administration’s basic account. Diplomatic security, intelligence and other preparation were inadequate in hindsight; but the violence in Benghazi was over before any effective U.S. military intervention could have been organized. Government failures before, during and after the attacks, such as they were, resulted from a combination of understandable confusion and good-faith mistakesnot conspiracy, coverup, politics or deliberate “abandonment” of U.S. personnel, as the Republican right has so often and so feverishly insinuated.

And now, after two years and $7 million, comes Tuesday’s final report of a Republican-led House select committee, which adds exactly nothing substantial to the story. It’s true that the panel’s investigation did, along the way, help trigger the revelation of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server, which is a real issue. On the most sensitive point, however — Ms. Clinton’s personal culpability for what happened in Benghazi — the committee came up empty. Its report contains dozens of pages on the now-famous early statements from the administration implying the attacks were motivated by Arab-world reaction to an anti-Islamic video on the Internet. But even this exhaustive review produces no proof that this messaging resulted from a politically motivated attempt to play down terrorism, as opposed to a genuine factual dispute among State Department and CIA officials, compounded by faulty verbal formulations by then-Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and other hastily briefed administration spokesmen.

There’s much to be learned from the fiasco in Benghazi and from the wider breakdown in Libya that followed the U.S.-aided overthrow of Moammar Gaddafi in 2011. President Obama did contribute to this mess by his refusal to support the new post Gaddafi government’s attempt to build security; he and his administration, Ms. Clinton included, can rightly be held accountable for this mistaken policy. Yet for reasons best known only to themselves, Republicans have insisted on pursuing their own more inflammatory and conspiratorial version of events. Maybe someone should investigate that.

See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/republicans-benghazi-goose-chase-comes-up-empty/2016/06/28/b70addfc-3d5c-11e6-84e8-1580c7db5275_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

Danger on the right

Donald Trump is a distraction from the fact that the mainstream media has pretended the GOP is a normal party with values just to the right.

Source: AlterNet

Author:Neal Gabler/Moyers and Co

Emphasis Mine

As incendiary and dangerous as he is—and he is very dangerous—and as much of a main event as he has been in this election season, Donald Trump is largely a distraction from what really ails our political discourse. Long after he is gone from the scene, the Republican Party that engendered him, facilitated him, and now supports him—despite a severe case of buyer’s remorse—will no doubt still thrive, booting up for a future candidacy of Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan. And the media will still act as if Trump were an aberration, a departure from so-called “sensible” conservatism. If so, it will be yet another act of media dereliction.

In fact, worse than dereliction, because the Republican Party, with its history of dog-whistle racism, sexism, homophobia, nativism, and gun addiction, salted now by incipient fascism, has been legitimized by the mainstream media (MSM) for years. One could say that the GOP and MSM have operated in collusion to the great detriment of this country. One could say that and not even be a liberal, just a commonsensical American.

The MSM continue to treat the Republican Party as if it were just another constellation of ideology and policy—another way of governing the country, even though this campaign season, if not the last 30 years, should have disabused journalists of that notion. Today’s GOP is closer to a religious cult than a political institution. It operates on dogma, sees compromise as a moral failing, views enemies as pagans who must be vanquished, and considers every policy skirmish another Götterdämmerung.

That isn’t politics; it’s a modern version of the medieval Crusades, and as the ancient Crusades did to Europe, it has inflicted untold damage on our country. Because it is deep in the bones of the Republicans, it won’t end with Trump, who is a non-believer himself when it comes to conservative orthodoxy. It can only end with the extinction of the party itself as presently constituted—Cruz, Ryan, Rubio, McConnell, et al.—and the rise of a new conservative party, not a cult.

You won’t hear that in the MSM, in large part because, partisan organs like Fox News and MSNBC aside, it tries to maintain that deadly and deadening balance so often discussed and decried by media critics like me. This is a practice that requires a tit for every tat, so that blame can never be leveled against one party unless the media immediately level it against the other as well. Political equipoise, as it were.

Part of this is laziness. Part is fear. The press knows that if it were to come right out and criticize the GOP for its denial of climate change, its campaign to deny the LGBT community its civil rights, its efforts to strip food stamps from children and health insurance from the poor, its systematic attempts to suppress minority voters, its recent howl to protect the Second-Amendment rights of suspected terrorists while at the same time calling for greater surveillance of us all, there would be hell to pay from the right wing, which would invoke the mythical and dreaded “liberal media.” The historian and columnist Eric Alterman calls this “working the refs,” and the MSM fall for it every time.

But there is another reason why the MSM haven’t called out the Republican Party, despite its egregious behavior, and this one is especially relevant in this election: The media simply won’t discuss the Republican Party’s values, as values are the third rail of political journalism. You just don’t talk about values, because when you do so, you can’t fake balance. We all know that there is a big difference between Republicans and Democrats, and it isn’t just a matter of philosophy-cum-policy. It is a matter of what values underlie the parties’ philosophies. And, if I may be blunt, Republican values just aren’t very consistent with what most of us think when we think of good values.

So the GOP’s blatant contradictions, its hate disguised as individual rights and its disdain for the weakest among us, largely go unexamined. Indeed, our media state of affairs is so sad that it largely has fallen to comedians to be our primary truth tellers about what one of our two major parties really stands for—among them, Jon Stewart in his day, Stephen ColbertJohn Oliver, and Samantha Bee, whose recent broadcasts on Orlando and guns and on Republican racism have torn the so-called “principled ideological” veil off the GOP and exposed it for what it is: a cult of cranks.

By rousing the hatefulness within the GOP rank and file, Donald Trump has emboldened a few intrepid MSM journalists to rip off the veil, too—even journalists who treat Paul Ryan as if he were a first-rate intellect. Andrew Rosenthal, the departing editorial page editor atThe New York Times, wrote a blistering takedown of the GOP’s refusal to denounce Trump, and Times columnist and Iraq War apologist Thomas Friedman, the very definition of a cautious Big-Foot pundit who slavishly creates and follows the conventional wisdom, called for a reconstituted Republican Party on the basis of “moral bankruptcy.” It is a terrific column. Read it.

Of course, two larks don’t an exaltation make, and in any case, both Rosenthal and Friedman are primarily print journalists. Television news still has the longest national reach, and it will never call out the Republican Party no matter what it does, much less examine its values. Instead, we get endless horse-race coverage that turns the election into a long sporting event in which nothing seems to matter except who’s winning. We all know that now, and despite the yowls of protest, we also know that it is not likely to change. Political journalists are like sports writers, tracking a team’s game plans and checking the score—or, as we call it in politics, the polls.

But what we may fail to notice is that, with all its blather about what states are in play or whose field operation is better or which internecine battles presently engage the candidates’ staffs, this kind of coverage is not only a way to juice the political narrative; it’s also a way to avoid touching that third rail. So long as we are talking about strategy or who is winning, we don’t have to talk about policy (borrrrrrrring!!!) or about values.

Avoiding talking about values is one of the reasons we find ourselves in our current political situation. Doing so might have stopped the threat of Donald Trump. Thirty years ago, it might even have stopped the march of the current Republican Party; its values could have been exposed as indefensible, which could have shamed them (and us) into changing. There is a reason the Republicans contrived the slogan “compassionate conservatism.” It was because even they knew their compassion was dubious. It would have been nice to have the MSM examine that, though, of course, it would have required both the courage to buck the right-wing, who would howl, and the seriousness to discuss just how important values are in our politics. In some measure, because we never got that discussion, for three decades the GOP has gotten off scot-free.

Now the MSM routinely rebuke Trump, but that easy critique allows them not to have to rebuke the Republican Party itself, whose values, if not his often-changing policy pronouncements, are virtually identical with Trump’s, minus his oft-changing policy pronouncements. It is the politesse of a Paul Ryan that Trump lacks in expressing his hostility, and it is that politesse that has conned a gullible, frightened media.

When Trump’s candidacy first began taking hold, we were told in the media that Republicans had a Trump problem. As he rose to the top of the GOP presidential heap and rank-and-file Republicans supported him—because of his hateful rhetoric, and not in spite of it—we realized the Republicans had a Republican problem, though, again, the media dare not say it. Now that Trump is the party’s presumptive nominee and Republicans are falling into line just as conservatives did in Germany in 1933, we have come to a much graver realization: America has a Republican problem.

This isn’t about whom we elect as president. It goes much deeper. This is about who we want to be as a people. For three decades, the MSM have been collaborators with the GOP, pretending the cult is a normal party with values just to the right of center. The result is the proto-fascist Donald Trump and an institution that continues to legitimize what is worst in us.

Neal Gabler is the author of five books and the recipient of two LA TImes Book Prizes, Time magazine’s non-fiction book of the year, and USA Today’s biography of the year. He is a senior fellow at the Lear Center for the Study of Entertainment and Society.

See: http://www.alternet.org/right-wing/america-has-republican-problem-and-media-blame?akid=14377.123424.G1plnU&rd=1&src=newsletter1058867&t=8

November is fast becoming what the GOP fears: A referendum on Trump

Source: WashPo

Author: Dan Baltz

Emphasis Mine

The hole that Donald Trump has dug for himself keeps getting deeper. On nearly every front, his position continues to deteriorate. Unless he reverses course, Republicans are heading toward a wrenching week at their convention in Cleveland next month, and potentially worse in November.

National polls alone provide an incomplete picture of the current state of the presidential race, but the shifts over the past few weeks should make Republicans beyond nervous.

What looked like a tight contest between Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in late May has morphed into a Trump deficit that cannot be wished away.

The RealClearPolitics poll average now gives Clinton a lead of almost six percentage points over Trump, a marked shift from a month ago. Perhaps even more telling is that every poll on the RCP list that was conducted entirely in June showed Clinton leading. That’s a change from May, when several polls showed Trump leading narrowly.

Given the terrible two weeks Trump has gone through, it is no surprise that the trend line also indicates that Clinton’s lead is widening. The last four polls on the list — all completed in the past week — put her lead at 12, nine, five and six points. Four polls completed earlier in June showed her with leads of three, four, eight and three points. Clinton is not approaching 50 percent in any of these head-to-head polls. With one exception, she is below 45 percent, hardly impressive. But Trump has not broken 40 percent in any of the past seven polls listed on the RCP average. Overall, the average of the recent polls puts Clinton at 44 percent and Trump at 38 percent.

More and better polls from key states will help to clarify the depth of Trump’s problems. Viewed from the angle of the electoral map, the question is: Which states that Mitt Romney lost in 2012 can Trump actually win? And: Are there states Romney won that now could go to Clinton?

One caveat worth noting is that a significant percentage of the population remains undecided, or at least undeclared, in the current polls. A Washington Post-ABC News survey released last week pointed to the reasons. The survey measured only the favorability ratings for the two presumptive nominees, and it was another bleak indicator of the unhappy choice Americans see before them.

Clinton’s favorable rating was just 43 percent — about the same number she is drawing in a ballot test — while her unfavorable rating was 55 percent. Trump’s favorable rating was a crippling 29 percent, with 70 percent of the public saying they have an unfavorable view of him. A majority of adults — 56 percent — said they have a strongly unfavorable view of him, including one-fifth of Republicans.

When the electorate is divided into different population groups, it is even clearer how much trouble Trump has created for himself. Trump’s base during the primaries was among white, working-class voters. But it has become apparent that his real base is among white men. Among white men without a college degree, he’s in positive territory. Among white women without a college degree, he’s not.

Overlooked, perhaps, is Clinton’s image deficit among whites, particularly among white men. Just 23 percent of white men view her favorably, compared with 75 percent unfavorable. But she counters with strongly positive numbers among nonwhites, who are 2-to-1 positive about her.

All of this has put Republicans on edge about November. Trump is frustrated that leading Republicans have not all coalesced behind his candidacy, but without some change on his part, he could be an island of his own in November. Fear of a Clinton presidency remains the lone rationale for many Republicans who otherwise recoil from remarks Trump has made lately.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who has endorsed but not truly embraced Trump, now says this is a decision of conscience for Republican elected officials. That’s a green light to scatter. The Bush family remains on the sidelines. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who lost out to Trump for the GOP nomination, says he is not ready to endorse and might be a permanent holdout, even though he will be the host governor at the Cleveland convention. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said last week that he would not support Trump.

Some of Trump’s supporters have grown weary trying to defend him. Others who put Trump on notice after he attacked on racial grounds the federal judge overseeing the lawsuit against Trump University have found little since to convince them that the presumptive nominee will meet the standard they would like to see. In fact, after Trump’s attack on Muslims in the aftermath of last Sunday’s mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, he seems further than ever from meeting that test.

 

The GOP’s Senate majority is at risk. Republicans hope they can insulate vulnerable Senate incumbents from the Trump effect, but that is no easy task. Only a clean break with the presumptive nominee will give those senators the freedom to campaign on their own. Even the most tepid of endorsements would leave them answerable to everything he might say or do over the next four-plus months.

Despite the obvious weaknesses of Clinton as a candidate, her campaign operation is now far better prepared to wage a general-election campaign than is Trump’s. The New York billionaire is looking to outsource many of the mechanics of the campaign to the Republican National Committee. But the fundraising needed to underwrite those operations has been slow. State Republican parties could find themselves strapped for money in the fall.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has been urging holdouts to clamber aboard the Trump train, although he has had limited success in persuading Trump to change his ways. At some point, Priebus may be under pressure to cut loose the candidate at the top of the ticket to save others down the ballot, just as happened in the closing days of the 1996 campaign when the RNC jettisoned presidential nominee Robert Dole in a successful effort to preserve the GOP’s House and Senate majorities.

All of this awaits the two conventions in July. Trump will have the opportunity to stage a successful convention, and party leaders will hope to come out of that week more united than today and with a nominee who looks and sounds more presidential. But Trump prides himself on being politically incorrect and thinks, not without some merit, that he made the experts look foolish during the nominating contest and should continue to trust his instincts.

Under normal conditions, the general election would be a choice between the two major-party nominees — in this case two unpopular nominees. Instead, it looks increasingly as if it could become a referendum on Donald Trump, and right now, that’s the last thing Republicans want this fall.
Dan Balz is Chief Correspondent at The Washington Post. He has served as the paper’s National Editor, Political Editor, White House correspondent and Southwest correspondent.

See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/november-is-fast-becoming-what-the-gop-fears-a-referendum-on-trump/2016/06/18/f942ddd2-34dd-11e6-8758-d58e76e11b12_story.html?wpisrc=fl_election

Fears of a Riotous Democratic Convention Are Overblown: There Is Plenty of Time to Unify the Party

It’s understandable Dems are nervous about the convention, but treating Bernie with respect will quell tension.

Source: AlterNet

Author:Sean Illing/Salon

Emphasis Mine

Bernie Sanders’ aggressiveness in recent days is fueling concerns about a riotous convention in July. “A growing number of Democrats,” a Wall Street Journal reportsays, “are bracing for a divisive and disorderly July presidential convention in Philadelphia that could damage the party and expected nominee Hillary Clinton.” The panic springs, in part, from the news that various pro-Sanders groups are preparing protest events at the convention, which could certainly make things awkward.

Doug Schoen, a Democratic pollster, told the WSJ that divides within the party “appear to be widening, not narrowing, in ways that could be calamitous, particularly if there is ongoing chaos at the Democratic convention.” The unruliness in Nevada last week has surely added to fears of this sort.

As the Democrats muddle through their contested primary, the Republicans are obediently falling in line. The #NeverTrump movement died a quick death and was succeeded by a parade of once-principled Republicans pretending they didn’t spend the last several months arguing that Trump was dangerously unfit for office. “Now that he’s the nominee,” said one Republican donor, “there’s a gradual recognition and understanding that we’re going to be helpful to him.” Such is the posture taken by more and more Republicans these days. It seems a Clinton administration is more perilous than electing a hate-baiting reality TV man with zero political experience and even less composure.

But I digress.

Against the backdrop of a unified Republican front, it’s not surprising that Democrats are nervous about the convention. “It is time for the rhetoric to start to come together around helping our team win,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, “I think it was very plain after the results of this week that Hillary will pass the threshold, and likely by a lot.”

Much of the convention-related worries are misplaced, however. Intraparty squabbles are banal and part of the process. It’s possible that enough Sanders supporters could stay home in November to make things interesting (that’s a legitimate concern), but this notion that the convention will descend into chaos is silly. There will be protests outside and undoubtedly some disagreements about the platform. However, this is healthy and hardly a reason to panic.

As for Sanders himself, a report at BloomberPolitics suggests he’ll do what he said he’d do all along: support the party’s nominee and work to defeat Donald Trump. Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, admitted to receiving a call from Sanders this week, during which Sanders eased tensions about a possible revolt. “We talked about the demonstrations and such,” Durbin said. “I am convinced, as Bernie has said repeatedly, he is going to be on the team to defeat Donald Trump. I don’t have any questions in my mind.” After yesterday’s news that Sanders’s is increasingly frustrated over the DNC’s support of Clinton, this is a welcomed development.

According to The Washington Post, moreover, the Democratic National Committee is already planning to offer concessions to Sanders at the convention – seats on platform committees, for example. More will have to be done, but this is an important first step and an indication that the party understands the landscape.

There’s no question Sanders needs to pivot at some point. If he refuses to accept that he’s lost or decides to burn the party down on his way out, the Democrats will have a problem in the general election. But there’s plenty of time for reconciliation. And if the DNC treats Sanders with the respect he’s earned, as the above report suggests, the convention will be catastrophe-free.

 

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/fears-riotous-democratic-convention-are-overblown-there-plenty-time-unify-party?akid=14283.123424.Q-TRlj&rd=1&src=newsletter1056948&t=10

The Prophet and Trump

The unfathomable harbinger of doomsday? Or just a political blip?

Source: Tablet

Author:Paul Berman

Emphasis Mine

An old man banged a cane on the sidewalk and announced:

Donald Trump’s political successes reflect a cultural crisis, and nothing else. His successes do not reflect a crisis over immigration. There is no such crisis. Nor is there a crisis of unemployment. Among white Americans the unemployment rate is 4.3 percent. Nor is some kind of right-wing ideological triumph taking place. Nor do Trump’s successes reflect a political split in the Republican Party. Ted Cruz stood for something. Trump stands for himself. He proposes to be the savior of the nation. The nation does not need a savior.”

My face radiated skepticism. The old man, unfazed:

“Yes, a cultural crisis. Every serious journalist in America understands this crisis—understands it by personal experience. The disappearance of one newspaper after another, and the shrinking of the magazines, and the fact that news depends on fewer and fewer reporters—these are more than business facts. Here is the cultural collapse. Worse: The surviving newspapers and political magazines, understaffed and underfunded, have lost their professional edge, not in every respect but in many respects; and everybody knows it. Does the collapse of the book-review supplements and the slimming of the magazines seem to you meaningless? Maybe you figure that people never bothered with books, anyway. You are wrong. The supplements and magazines survived in the past, didn’t they?

Television news: another sad story. The decline of the trade unions: sadder yet. In days gone by, people used to get a political orientation from their unions, which was reality-based, too.

“Disembowelment by Internet—of course, that is the explanation. And yet the cultural collapse is also an event in the history of ideas. The collapse of music education and the symphony orchestras is part of it. The fate of humanities education, a larger part. The literature professors devote themselves to policing the literature of the past for its racist and imperialist political crimes, and the humanities students devote themselves to persecuting transgressors and promoting the higher cause of flaying the Zionists. But, I grant you, the universities are not the center of the problem. Nor is classical music the center.”

I said, “Where is the center, then?”

“Center? There is no center. The problem is somehow in the air. It is a cumulus cloud, in which the fog-puff cumulations are variously right-wing conspiracy theorists, left-wing theorists, old-school racists, populist anti-elitists who inveigh against highbrow culture, and highbrow professors who likewise inveigh against highbrow culture—the enemies of intellect, high and low, right and left. The effect is to leave huge portions of the population rudderless as to making political decisions—deprived of reliable political reporting, addicted to the cyber-hysterias of their electronic devices, deprived of leadership by institutional systems, deprived of a sense of history and of American political tradition, and incapable of judging any longer who is worthy of respect and who is not. People today are incapable even of identifying the simple quality that is known as presidential.”

I said, “Oh, none of this is new.”

It is new,” he said. “The first sign of it within the world of politics took place in 2008, which is practically yesterday. John McCain understood that Sarah Palin was unfit for high office. Palin was unable to tell Katie Couric what magazines she reads!

Everyone knew why: Sarah Palin does not read magazines. She was already the modern personality: a proud barbarian, confident in her illiteracy. But McCain understood that, in order to have any chance to win, he needed to motivate the party base, which he himself could never do, nor could any other leader of the Republican party. So, he gambled on barbarism’s appeal. It was unprincipled of him, it was scandalous, but it was a matter of political survival.

“In this way, McCain, who represents the best of the Republican party, paved the way for Trump, who is not even the worst of the Republican tradition but comes from outside of it. Trump: a figure without precedent in the Republican party. It is no small thing to consider that, from the days of John C. Frémont, Lincoln’s predecessor, until Mitt Romney, the Republicans never once awarded their presidential nomination to someone visibly unqualified. Sen. Joseph J. McCarthy was a drunkard and a liar, but, at least, in those days the Republican party preferred to nominate Dwight Eisenhower.”

I interjected: “Circumstances explain everything—isn’t that a law of politics?”

The old man:

“Trump’s triumph is terrifying because it resists explanation. No large or powerful group or faction is responsible for his successes. Bernie Sanders’ railings against Wall Street and banks and Citizens United tell us nothing about what has happened. And Trump’s success is terrifying because it is not obvious what can prevent similar developments from taking place in other versions.

“If masses of Republican voters have lost the ability to make the most obvious of judgments, why shouldn’t parallel developments take place among their Democratic counterparts? Democrats may be chortling right now, and yet one day they, too, may wake up to discover that entire blocs of voters in their party’s base, the young people whom everybody loves, have decided, on the basis of information gleaned from Twitter, to nominate a guitar hero or a talk-show star. And if this can happen to the world’s most venerable democracy, why not to the newer and shakier ones?

“Here is a crisis that absolutely no one anticipated. In this one respect, though not in any other respect (thank heaven!), the successes of Donald Trump share something with the rise of the Islamic State. These are outbreaks of Proudhon’s ‘fecundity of the unpredictable.’ A characteristic of a viral age.”

“No,” I said. “You are just another prophet of the decline of civilization. Something is indeed predictable, and it is the gloomy nattering of doomsayers like you.”

“ ‘Even paranoids have enemies,’ said Delmore Schwartz,” he replied. “Today we are learning that doomsayers have dooms.”

***

To read more of Paul Berman’s essays and criticism for Tablet magazine, click here.

 

See: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/200929/the-prophet-and-trump?utm_source=tabletmagazinelist&utm_campaign=292b2bc358-Sunday_May_15_20165_13_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c308bf8edb-292b2bc358-206691737