Lauren Duca humbly presents…

Chris Cillizza, formerly of the Washington Post, presently of CNN, eternally a buffoon, wrote today that he thought Trump’s United Nations address was “much more poetic” than Trump’s prior speeches. From this, one can say that CNN wastes at least as much money as Cillizza’s salary & benefits.

(There are, probably, vile limericks that are more poetic than anything Trump has said. There are, with an equal chance, scribblings on bathroom walls more elegantly composed than anything thirty-something operative Stephen Miller has drafted for Trump.)

Lauren Duca, who would like more young women to write about politics, sees Cillizza’s remarks as an oppotunity to encourage others. Although I’m not much for the term idiot, in her observation about Cillizza, Duca’s on the mark…

Truths About Trump

For supporters and those in thrall:

For those of us who are opponents and of the resistance:

Opponents can first hold fast against Trump, and then at suitable moments push against him forcefully, compelling his retreat. Those who band together as powerful counter-parties can overwhelm Trump and his ilk.

The Premature Question

Over at the Daily Beast, Joy Reid asks What’s Going to Happen When the Trumpists Realize the America They Yearn for Is Gone?

It’s an interesting question, perhaps, but more importantly it’s a premature one. We’ve a long road ahead before Trumpism is finished, and you’ll excuse me if the time for pondering life after our present conflict is nowhere near. (Between now and then, the circumstances that planning will take into account will, no doubt, be changed, anyway.)

Concern over how that time will look matters far less than working for its arrival, however near or far that arrival may be.

For now, there’s no reason to relent or pause, no time to ponder the time after this time. We’ll have that occasion when success draws nearer.

Until then, we’ve an obligation to diligence, each day beginning again with the distance and detachment so useful for a long & demanding conflict.

Trump’s Stifling Techniques

Consider three basic rhetorical techniques that Trump (borrowing from the Soviets and Putin) so often uses (blatant lies, whataboutism, and that a given contention is obvious) and one finds that each technique is designed to avoid discussion, to avoid inquiry, to end debate.

He aims to stifle.

1. Blatant falsehoods. Trump lies or makes false statements repeatedly, now numbering in the hundreds just since January 20th. Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star has a running tally of Trump’s lies, from small to big. Often, these lies are also absurdities, simply nutty & false.

Example: Trump claims “As you know, Mexico has a tremendous crime problem – tremendous – one of the number two or three in the world.” Fact: “According to United Nations homicide-rate figures, Mexico is not even in the 15 deadliest countries in the world. Trump appeared to be referring to a study he previously shared on Twitter, which concluded that Mexico had the second-most “armed conflict fatalities” in the world in 2016. But its methodology and conclusion were widely questioned, and the organization behind the study, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, later acknowledged it had made an error. “We accept there was a methodological flaw in our calculation of estimated conflict fatalities that requires revision. Our researchers are working to rectify this and we will share the results in due course,” the organization said in a statement in June.”

Trump’s goal: Persuade low-information, gullible followers to accept what he says at face value. He typically throws a bogus or distorted ranking into his claim (e.g., “number two or three in the world”) to make his statement seem considered, measured, accurate. His hope is that dupes won’t research his contentions. They’re designed to be accepted initially, immediately, and unquestioningly.

2. Whataboutism. This is a Soviet-era technique that Trump and Putin now use frequently. When confronted with an accusation of misconduct or wrong-doing, the user quickly tries to shift the focus to another subject rather than his or her own misconduct.

Examples: If someone questioned Soviet human rights conduct at the time, the Soviets would ask “what about Indian reservations in America?” If someone rightly questions Trump’s many conflicts of interest, he’ll try to divert attention to Hillary Clinton’s emails, the Clinton Foundation, etc.

Needless to say, past or concurrent injustices elsewhere do not exonerate a wrongdoer for his own, immediate misdeeds. That tribes were mistreated, or that Clinton had problems with an email server, would not justify Soviet brutality of Trump family self-dealing.

Trump’s goal: Stop consideration of his own misconduct, there and then, by blaming someone else for something, anything. Point to an unconnected out-group to divert attention from his own in-group conduct.

3. Obviousness. Simply declare something a matter of common sense, merely insist it’s obvious. Deny that there might be a relevant and material objection to what’s being said. David Graham discusses this at length in Why Trump Invokes ‘Common Sense’ (“It serves as a justification for his policies and as an antidote to expert opinion.”)

Example: Here’s an example, that Graham uses in his essay:

It is common sense [to Trump] that the only way to keep people and drugs from crossing the Mexican border is to build a wall from ocean to gulf. But experts reject that, noting the physical impossibility of sealing some parts of the border and pointing out that unauthorized immigrants and illegal drugs get through the border by various measures—semi truck, for example. (Ironically, border crossings have declined sharply since Trump’s inauguration, offering evidence against the notion that illegal immigration can be controlled only with a wall.)

Aside: Graham notes that Thomas Paine, in Common Sense, used the term knowingly, in a way more insightful than Trump ever has: “The title of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense appealed to the wisdom of people in governing themselves, but it cracked an implicit joke, too: The idea of democratic governance was decidedly not commonsensical for the era.” In any event, Paine didn’t merely offer a contention – he produced a reasoned, lengthy argument in support of it. Trumpism, like Putinism, is the opposite: it seeks to inhibit debate in favor of servile, unthinking, immediate acceptance.

Trump’s goal: Swallow what he says without question. Don’t look to studies or inquiries. Take his world for it.

By each of these three techniques, Trump aims to stifle relevant debate. He seeks only one-round of statements – his own – and then only enthusiastic applause (or silent acceptance) in reply.

What’s Left

It was Secretary Clinton who, during the campaign, controversially but memorably asserted that “[t]o just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables,'” Hillary Clinton said at a New York fundraiser on Sept. 9. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that, and he has lifted them up.”

This August, conservative Jennifer Rubin considered Clinton’s assertion, in a post entitled About the ‘deplorables’…

….there is no non-deplorable rationale for continuing to defend this president, his rhetoric and his moral obtuseness. No one is asked to confess error in voting for him (although some self-scrutiny would be appreciated). Nevertheless, continuing to deny he is unfit for office and to make excuses for his verbiage makes one complicit in his racial divisiveness and his determination to provide aid and comfort to neo-Nazis and white nationalists.

Some delude themselves by thinking that Trump can show “greater moral clarity” (!) (as the Republican Jewish Coalition preposterously did) or that staying in the administration prevents damage to the country (as Gary Cohn, John F. Kelly and others apparently do) or that the 2016 voters’ verdict cannot be upset with no regard for subsequent events (as Republican lawmakers insist). Let’s be blunt, these are rationalizations for continued support for an unfit, racist president. It does in fact make one deplorable.

Indeed. What’s left of Trump’s support is deplorable, and those who continue to look away are enablers of the deplorable.

Trump is manifestly unfit & those who actively continue to support him are the defenders of unfitness. In another, meaningful way, the national, state, and local politicians who are  publicly silent in the face of Trump’s daily abuses manifest a profound unfitness all their own.

For them, it’s a wager, perhaps: that in time, the rest of us will forgive or forget.

No: the future will write the history of the present, and will record Trump, his remaining supporters, and those officeholders who stayed silent, each in his or her own way, as deplorable.

Trump’s the Failure We Always Knew He Would Be

local scene Writing in the Journal Sentinel, Craig Gilbert finds that Donald Trump has squandered chance to broaden base, increase popularity, polls show:

“He’s done nothing to expand his base and, if anything, he’s sort of where he was, or experiencing greater erosion,” says Lee Miringoff, who conducted polls this month for NBC/Marist in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that showed Trump with a job approval rating in the mid-30s….

But here are some findings from the NBC/Marist survey of 910 Wisconsin adults, taken Aug. 13-17:

Trump has a negative approval rating from blue-collar whites, a group that is widely perceived as his demographic base, represents about half the vote in Wisconsin and favored Trump by nearly 30 percentage points last fall over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Among whites without a college degree, 38% approve of Trump and 47% disapprove. Democrat Barack Obama is today significantly more popular with these blue-collar voters in Wisconsin than Trump is. Obama is viewed favorably by 52%, Trump by 36%.

Trump’s standing with college grads, women and younger voters — three groups he struggled with in the campaign — is catastrophic. Only 24% of college grads in Wisconsin approve of his performance. Only 29% of voters under 45 do. Only 25% of women do, while 63% disapprove. It’s pretty extraordinary to see presidential numbers that lopsided from groups that represent broad demographic categories. Women make up over half the electorate. If you’re at negative 38 percentage points with an entire gender (25% approval minus 63% disapproval), it’s hard to overcome.

A significant minority of conservatives and Republicans express doubts, fears or disapproval of Trump. This is a polarized age. Modern presidents can expect almost unanimous opposition from voters in the other party, so they depend on nearly unanimous support from voters in their own party. But in the NBC/Marist Wisconsin poll, 19% of Republicans disapprove of Trump, 24% view him negatively, 25% think America’s role on the world stage has been weakened by his decisions, 31% feel embarrassed by his conduct as president, and 37% think he’s done more to divide the party than unite it.

There’s a telling aspect to political life in a rural small town, even if the town (like Whitewater) went for Hillary Clinton. While there’s no significant political cost to criticizing liberals (calling them weak, snowflakes, social justice warriors) or defaming former Pres. Obama (doubting his own religious identification, absurdly insisting he’s not American), there is a huge fear of upsetting diehard Trump supporters.

All these lifelong, proud middle class GOP town notables – so sure and smug – become shaking kittens when a Trumpist walks into the room. Even before Trump, this trend was pronounced.

(Funny story from two years ago. At a public meeting, a slovenly, brash woman asked some candidates if, after “all the money had been spent on special needs students and minorities,” what they would do for “normal people.” Obvious point, in Whitewater or other small towns: only a tiny fraction of any public money allocated goes to either minority or special needs residents. If one listens to talk radio or Fox News all day, however, one might falsely believe that most public expenditures go toward buying McMansions for Obama supporters or Special Olympians.)

For it all, it’s clear that Trump’s base is smaller than he ceaselessly claims, and that even among white working class voters who are supposedly his core constituency, he’s unpopular.

Those who’ve decided that local politics is only possible if they refrain from alienating Trump’s deplorable base are both weak in the face of that band and unnecessarily worried over its size. As it is, Trump doesn’t have a majority, and doesn’t even have a majority from a working class demographic, behind him. This makes sense: a majority overall and majorities within different groups now see well that Trump is an autocratic, bigoted confidence man.

Even if Trump had all the world behind him, opposition would be worth and necessary. It’s useful to remind oneself, however, that Trump never had and never will have all the world behind him. He doesn’t even have the formidable base he claims he has.

Sec. of State Tillerson Distances America from Trump

I’m no fan of Rex Tillerson, an American Secretary of State who is a recipient — from dictator Vladimir Putin — of the Russian Order of Friendship,  but even Tillerson had the sense to disclaim the stain that Trump has spread over this country.

In the clip below, on Fox News, Tillerson makes clear that Trump speaks not for our people but only himself when he defends bigotry. That’s true, of course – we are a better people than Trump is a man. It’s not even close – he’s markedly below the ethical and moral standards of America’s just and worthy people.

(How long Tillerson, such as even he is, will last in this administration one can’t say.)

H/t to Kyle Griffin, a producer at MSNBC, who remarks that the clip is “Must-watch. Wallace asks Tillerson if Trump speaks for American values: “The President speaks for himself.” (Note Wallace’s reaction.)”

‘Enough is enough’

The Los Angeles Times editorial board plainly states the truth about these times:

These are not normal times.

The man in the White House is reckless and unmanageable, a danger to the Constitution, a threat to our democratic institutions.

Last week some of his worst qualities were on display: his moral vacuity and his disregard for the truth, as well as his stubborn resistance to sensible advice. As ever, he lashed out at imaginary enemies and scapegoated others for his own failings. Most important, his reluctance to offer a simple and decisive condemnation of racism and Nazism astounded and appalled observers around the world.

With such a glaring failure of moral leadership at the top, it is desperately important that others stand up and speak out to defend American principles and values. This is no time for neutrality, equivocation or silence. Leaders across America — and especially those in the president’s own party — must summon their reserves of political courage to challenge President Trump publicly, loudly and unambiguously.

Enough is enough….

Via Enough is Enough.

And yet, and yet, look around: how many officials in cities and towns – so quick to proclaim themselves proud Americans, influencers, notables, movers-and-shakers – now have nothing to say about the most important political question of our time?

Years of glad-handing, business cards, expectations of special treatment, self-promotion at every opportunity, lapping praise and ladling puffery, and in the end, each of them shown as nothing more than lions that meow.

Don’t Be a Sucker

In 1943, in the middle of the Second World War, the United States Government, fighting on both sides of the world, commissioned a short film about fascism entitled Don’t Be a Sucker. The film describes the fight in which America was embroiled in the style and vernacular of that time; it’s even more compelling to me for its simple presentation.

Americans’ lives were not then without deep contradictions, but the plain, direct defense of American liberty & equality that the film advances is morally superior to anything Trump or his ilk have never said, even these decades later. Indeed, that 1943 defense is a worthy reply to the bigotry Trump’s vanguard (Bannon, Miller, Gorka, Anton) daily foments.

Via Why an Anti-Fascist Short Film Is Going Viral @ The Atlantic.

Molly Ball on ‘The Trump Show’

Covering Trump’s recent appearance in West Virginia, Molly Ball writes that

“HUNTINGTON, W.V.—Every day brings new drama, but the Trump Show’s themes remain the same. He’s come to tell his people that everyone else is wrong and they are right….

They have come here, more or less, to be lied to: Trump, in his speech, will say, “We are building a wall on the Southern border,” which is not actually happening, though some preexisting fencing is being repaired. He will also claim that thousands more people were turned away outside, which isn’t true, and that coal jobs are “coming back strong,” though only about 1,000 coal jobs have been created during his tenure—a decrease from the previous administration’s pace….

“The news pisses me off,” says Jerry Pullen, a 45-year-old local who’s sitting at the end of a row of wheelchairs and motorized scooters. He’s tired of the phony statistics, the negative tone. “I don’t think they should keep letting people into America when I’m unemployed,” he says. Raised a Democrat, Pullen dislikes both parties now; he only likes Trump.

I ask Pullen what Trump needs to accomplish to satisfy him, and he says, “Quit letting the Mexicans and Muslims in here. All the other foreign people, too. They’re terrorists. There’s too many people in this country—we’re overpopulated.” When he’s out on the street, he says, he can tell certain people are looking at him with contempt. “They hate me because I’m a white guy,” he says. “I can feel it.”

See The Trump Show Never Ends (“This is what’s going to happen, day in and day out—an endless loop of shock and fury…”).

Pullen and his ilk dubiously claim to be victims while simultaneously calling for the victimization of others.

Before Trump, before the Russians who leash him like an organ grinder’s monkey, before white nationalism became the alt-right, before Fox spent years flacking birtherism and then Putinism, there were many in cities and towns across America who tolerated, excused, and overlooked the worst.

Fallacious arguments, dodgy data, puffery, Babbittry, and buffoonery: we grew complacent, in reasoning and diligence, and in came those who thrive on such weakness. If we had done more – if we had been even more diligent in our opposition – we might have prevented much of this.

Trumpism and Putinism (they’re related, to be sure) have this in common: they thrive in places lacking sound principles and practices.

We have allowed ourselves, in towns across America, to become other such people and places. When we have reclaimed our just & proper tradition, we’ll need to keep our own negligence in mind.

Too Little, Too Late

Brian Beutler writes that Jeff Flake’s Ridiculous, Fake Anti-Trump Rebellion Should Terrify Republicans:

[U.S. Senator from Arizona Jeff] Flake now professes alarm about Trump’s “affection for strongmen and authoritarians,” yet has done next to nothing with his extraordinary power—including a seat on the Foreign Relations Committee—to stop Trump from presiding over a pro-authoritarian administration.

Only a handful of Republicans can boast of having taken meaningful action to contain Trump. That may be changing now that it’s too late. Nearly all of them convinced themselves to hope for the best if Trump won, without expecting or preparing for the worst. They made their peace with a president they, like Flake, knew wasn’t good enough for America, which leaves them enormously exposed if the very things they agreed to overlook destroy his presidency and plunge the country into bitter chaos.

Trump will retain, to be sure, a core of support even if some Republican incumbents inch away. One should be clear, however, that many GOP officeholders either wanted Trump or tolerated him for the sake of a hard-right agenda. Very few opposed Trumpism all the way along – on the contrary, they went along.

Trump’s base of dead-enders won’t yield, but then they never were and never will be the principal focus of opposition and resistance. That principal focus remains Trump, His Inner Circle, Principal Surrogates, and Media Defenders (“If Trump should meet his ruin (and he will), it will come from a relentless case against his mediocrity, lies, bigotry, character disorders, and authoritarianism. One needn’t ask why people support him now; it’s enough to show him again and again as unworthy of support.”)

Applying effort mostly toward the top will settle the matter of Trumpism. (Once Union victory was assured, it didn’t matter how assiduously the Copperheads had sought appeasement to secession; their efforts brought nothing. Destroying the Confederacy left the Copperheads with no secessionists to appease.)

When Trump meets his political end, the terms of Republicans’ political rehabilitation, if there should be any, will come not from Republicans themselves but instead with those who were at the forefront of opposition and resistance to Trumpism.

(This will be true across the country, locally, too: the reputations of local officials will be in the hands of those who prevail, of those who will have declared firmly against Trump. The future will write the history of this present conflict.)

“The Leader is the Party and the Party is the Leader”

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Trumpist Kayleigh McEnany has left CNN (where she appeared as a Trump surrogate), for both Trump TV and the Republican National Committee as the RNC spokesperson.

Evan McMullin, a conservative opponent of Trumpism, rightly (but too optimistically, I think) observes that “[i]nstead of doubling down on Trumpism, GOP leadership would be well served by rededicating the party to our nation’s founding principles.”

Of course the GOP should abandon Trumpism, but then they are now crossing that autocratic threshold where for Trump “der führer ist die partei und die partei ist der führer.”

When Lions Meow

No one is obligated to think about politics, let alone write about politics. (Indeed, in a more libertarian world, for example, the state would be smaller, and there would be fewer political matters of which to speak and write.)

In Whitewater and cities nearby, however, there are more than a few who have public, political careers. Some hold full-time office (elected or administrative), others sit on major boards or commissions, some are publishers for who politics matters greatly, and a number beyond are occupied with influencing public policy as activists or lobbyists. They freely chose these occupations.

Of those who are politicians or hold major public positions, how many have taken a clear public stand on Trump? (Here one means any clear stand, favorable or unfavorable, to his administration.)

One can hardly find anyone who has done so: not among politicians, not among those in prominent public offices, not among publications otherwise professing a political bent while ‘serving’ their cities (Gazette, Daily Union, Register, Banner). These men are self-professed lions, ambling about, glad-handing, passing out business cards, asking if others know who they are, if others understand how important they are, etc.

A child, asked what sound a lion makes, would probably say that lions roar. This would be the right answer, in almost all places. Lions would sound like the MGM lion:

In Whitewater and nearby cities, however, our local lions do not roar at all. Our local lions sound like the MTM tabby:

Unlike real lions, our local counterfeit ones squeak and mew when the topic arises, lest they alienate some fraction of their Trumpist readership by roaring honestly about Trump, or alienate some fraction of their reasonable readership by roaring against Trump’s lies.

On the most important political topic of our time, these local political lions are mere tabbies.

Anti-Immigration Measures, Wrong Yet Again

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An anti-immigration position is for economics something like a flat-earth position would be for natural science: one may hold it only through either ignorance or disorder. (The ignorance would have  to be profound, as even the weakest grasp of economics would incline a rational person to acknowledge the benefits of a free, transnational  labor market; the disorder would have to be grave, as only obstinacy or prejudice would long resist a reasoned explanation.)

In this free, commercial republic, there are still some who are merely ignorant on immigration, but one has reason to believe that Trump pushes his line to fill empty vessels not merely with weak economics but with strong prejudices.

There are officials both in and outside the city who would bring Arizona-style ‘show us your papers’ laws to Wisconsin. They are wrong on economics, wrong on liberty, but at least they have this going for them: each and every one of these politicians (or the out-of-area mouthpieces on whom they rely) is an easily-identifiable troll for either ignorance or lumpen prejudices.

A quick note to the local officials of the city, school district, and university who are in the habit of inviting these anti-immigration politicians to public events: you debase the American tradition, and turn away from sound reasoning and thorough study, when you bring these few to your events. No supposed political necessity will justify their presence. One cannot profess a worthy education proudly and honestly while simultaneously offering a platform to the ignorant or biased. 

Just a bit of light reading in this regard —

Heather Long, It’s a ‘grave mistake’ for Trump to cut legal immigration in half:

President Trump endorsed a steep cut in legal immigration on Wednesday. Economists say that’s a “grave mistake.”

A Washington Post survey of 18 economists in July found that 89 percent believe it’s a terrible idea for Trump to curb immigration to the United States. Experts overwhelmingly predict it would slow growth — the exact opposite of what Trump wants to do with “MAGAnomics.”

“Restricting immigration will only condemn us to chronically low rates of economic growth,” said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. “It also increases the risk of a recession”….

Jeremy Robbins, Trump says the proposed immigration bill will raise wages for Americans. It won’t.:

But while moving to a merit-based immigration system, Cotton and Perdue also propose reducing the number of legal immigrants admitted into the United States every year by half — from about 1 million to about 500,000. They argue that having fewer immigrants will leave more jobs available for American workers.

But the economy simply doesn’t work that way.

Economists who study immigration overwhelmingly agree that immigration is an economic boon to our country. Indeed, nearly 1,500 Republican, Democratic and independent economists — including six Nobel laureates — recently released a letter stressing the “near universal agreement” among economists of all stripes on “the broad economic benefit that immigrants to this country bring.”

To that consensus, Cotton responds: “Only an intellectual could believe something so stupid.” He instead points to Canada and Australia as models for limited legal immigration. However, while it’s true that Canada and Australia admit far more high-skilled immigrants, they also admit more family-based immigrants. In fact, on a per capita basis, they admit 2.4?and 3.5 times as many immigrants, respectively, as the United States does….

Jennifer Rubin, A crass play to xenophobes will go nowhere:

Because the bill went nowhere in April and will not make it onto the Senate calendar for the rest of the year, it’s an obvious, typical play to Donald Trump’s base, once more using immigrants as scapegoats and distractions. (“Trump’s appearance with the senators came as the White House moved to elevate immigration back to the political forefront after the president suffered a major defeat when the Senate narrowly rejected his push to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” The Post reported. “The president made a speech last Friday on Long Island in which he pushed Congress to devote more resources to fighting illegal immigration, including transnational gangs.”)

When introduced in April the bill was roundly criticized by more than 1,000 economists. There is near-uniformity among respected economists that immigrants do not “steal” jobs from native-born Americans (in part because they have different skill sets and in part because they make the economy bigger), have almost no impact on domestic wages (except for non-high school graduates, where the impact is less than 2 percent) and are essential to keep the economy growing. By reducing the number of immigrants by a half a million, the bill would shrink the U.S. economy and exacerbate the problem of an aging workforce (immigrants statistically are younger than the native-born population).

Nevertheless, for anti-immigrant groups who often insist they oppose only illegal immigration, it’s a revealing moment. They cheer the idea that we should take fewer hard-working, pro-American immigrants through legal avenues. (Trump, by the way, continues to hire substantial numbers of foreign workers at his resort in Florida.) No, the anti-immigrant forces simply want to keep people unlike themselves out of the United States. Their economic arguments are tired, wrong and a pretext for xenophobia.

The notion that immigration restriction raises wages has been disproved by past experience. (Canceling the 1960s Bracero program, akin to the Cotton-Perdue plan for lowering immigrant numbers, had “little measurable effect on wages.”) A slew of conservative think tankers and former officials condemn immigration restrictionism as rotten for the U.S. economy. The plan was swiftly criticized by Democrats, pro-immigration activists and economically literate Republicans.  Trump’s promise of 3 percent annual growth was far-fetched; with a proposed reduction of 500,000 people, it becomes impossible.

This is a confidence game from Trump: the bill is for suckers who think Trump will actually get something passed, and it wouldn’t lift wages as promised even if it should pass.

Amy Siskind’s Weekly Authoritarianism List

Amy Siskind, president and co-founder of The New Agenda, keeps The Weekly Authoritarianism List. She does so because, as she rightly observes, “experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.” (The list has been nominated for permanent keeping with the Library of Congress.)

There are just desserts even now: Trump has a dim view of women, but when this dark time passes, I think we’ll look back, notably, with gratitude toward those women who held fast in the face of Trumpism. I believe that, among dedicated Americans, Jennifer Rubin, Sarah Kendzior, and Amy Siskind will easily merit our obligation. (Like many others, each day their work proves Trump’s biases false.)

I don’t offer this observation as pedestal praise; it simply seems right to acknowledge those at the forefront of opposition and resistance.

The Limits of Cultural Shelter

In difficult times, some will retreat to apolitical, cultural matters.

An apolitical approach is not one that I would take, but for others perhaps it seems the best that one can do. Indeed, in Whitewater, I’ve advocated that approach for those who would not take an overt stand on the principal political question of our time (where one stands on Trump). See An Oasis Strategy.

Two key points:

1. Although one should support a diverse society, with many cultural opportunities, that hardly means that all subcultures are equally beneficial to society. Subcultures that espouse racism & bigotry (e.g., white nationalists, neo-confederates), or reject basic principles of reasoning and economics (e.g., Russian-style propaganda & lies, anti-market economic fallacies) don’t deserve support.

White nationalism is a subculture, to be sure, but it’s a lumpen, inferior one. It deserves only obloquy.

A cultural oasis as a refuge from political strife will not be found with those who have, themselves, embraced the very subcultures that advocate the degradation of the constitutional order. 

2. Keeping in mind the maxim that ‘one war at a time is enough’, it’s still worth remembering that when Trumpism meets its political ruin – and it will – the subcultures that sustained it will thereafter meet their social ruin. This was true of the Klan and the Bund. So it will be true of those who, while professing a merely cultural position, in fact supported Trumpism’s political one.

That’s a battle for another time, but a time that will nevertheless will follow in due course.

For now, it seems both right and inevitable that our children and grandchildren will ask us where we stood on the matter of Trump.

There will be only one worthy answer: resolutely committed to the American constitutional order, and so necessarily & resolutely opposed to Trump.

‘Trump is a dumb person’s idea of a smart person’

Jennifer Rubin writes that “Trump is a dumb person’s idea of a smart person,” and expands on that description today in the Post:

In many ways, President Trump behaves just how poor people imagine rich people do — with garish, ostentatious displays of wealth, imperiousness toward the common folk and disregard for the rules others must follow. He and his staff also act how dumb people imagine smart people behave. Trump talks in circles, repeating stock phrases so as to deflect any questions that might reveal his ignorance. (Heaven forbid someone should ask him what was in the House health-care bill). He says he has a very good brain, something people with very good brains never say….

Speaking of comical dunces, Anthony Scaramucci seems to have styled himself as a character out of “Goodfellas.” (Sweetheart, Sarah, fix the makeup. Love you press guys — bye bye!) He’s an imitation of a tough guy. (Goin’ whack those leakers — them or me.)

….This clownish performance is now a familiar one in Trump’s administration — arrogant man, well out of his depth, whose hunger for the limelight exposes his own stunning lack of judgment and gravitas.

Via The gang that couldn’t shoot straight @ Washington Post.

I believe that most people are sharp (and that there are very few dull people), but Rubin has this right: Trump must be how dumb imagines smart, how ignorant imagines knowledgeable, and how vulgar imagines tasteful.

On Transgender Americans

One could write about the recent Twitter statement from Trump that “[a]fter consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” but there’s a broader question than military service. To be sure, I believe that transgendered soldiers should be permitted to serve, that their service would have no meaningful costs (it’s false to say as Trump has said that their service would be burdensome or disruptive), and that there are meritorious legal arguments in favor of transgendered soldiers’ continued service & against Trump’s rash declaration.

(It’s also worth noting that the president cannot unilaterally change military policy via a tweet, no matter how much he might like to do so.)

But it would be evasive, I think, to couch one’s position so narrowly (on matters of military service alone, however important that service is).

I’ve no claim to understanding the particular experiences of the LGBT community, but then one needn’t have such familiarity to see that there are political, ethical, and (indeed) religious arguments firmly supporting equal treatment for LGBT Americans. (On this latter point, there are those, for example, like Fr. James Martin, S.J., who are working to advance a more inclusive view.)

A well-ordered society is one in which all people have equal, fundamental rights at law, and where those fundamental rights are respected and protected.

These are not merely national matters.

It was only four years ago that a politician in this city, when writing about a Wisconsin supreme court race, highlighted (unfavorably, to be sure) the support one candidate had among two small LGBT groups. Nearby, more recently, one can find a trolling reactionary sure to complain about the LGBT community one way or another, all the better to endear himself to those whose only problems are fabricated cultural ones.

One would have hoped that Trump would not have opened yet another battle against another minority group, but then the more one sees of Trump, the worse one expects from him. There’s so very much to despise about Trump — after today, there’s even more.

More important, however, is a firm acknowledgment that many of us in this small community welcome all people, of any race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or orientation, as our friends and neighbors.

Comms are secondary (at best)

In the video above, the Daily Show compares Trump’s gestures with those of new Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. The latter seems an impersonator of the former. (Imagine being so eager for power that one would impersonate Trump; it’s like wanting a banana so much that one would act like a chimpanzee.)

Michael Gerson, meanwhile, observes Why Anthony Scaramucci won’t make a dent in Trump’s problems:

Who can look at the wreck of the White House — bitterly divided, dysfunctional and hemorrhaging leaks — and think a better communications approach is the answer? Who can look at the wreck of Trump’s agenda — stymied in spite of Republican control of the House and Senate — and think the real problem is insufficient credit-taking on television? I could name half a dozen White House jobs that more urgently needed new blood — including the chief of staff — than communications director. Jobs in the press department are what the press and the president mainly see. But obvious problems are not always the most urgent….

Trump’s greatest need is not someone who will defend him on cable television. It is an administration capable of even the baby steps of governing — defining a positive, realistic agenda and selling it to Congress, starting with one’s own party. Trump does not have a communications problem; he has a leadership problem.

That’s true of most places: an exhortation that one should communicate, communicate, communicate.

And yet, and yet, these questions await: communicate about what, to whom, and to what end?

Sessions Will Try to Stay (It’s the Safest Place for Him)

In the clip above, Attorney General Jeff Sessions makes clear that he doesn’t plan to resign. There’s been talk that after Trump’s criticism of Sessions in a New York Times interview, Sessions would feel compelled to walk.

Unforced resignation seems improbable; it’s neither want Sessions wants (as he makes clear in his remarks) nor what would serve his interests.

Two quick points:

1. I agree with Sarah Kendzior that Trump’s complaining about Sessions may be something like a ‘fake feud.’ From a more serious man, remarks about Sessions like those Trump offered to the Times would, of course, be seriously meant. For Trump, a frivolous man, it’s harder to make that contention. (Furthermore, as Kenzior rightly observes, earlier critical remarks from Trump haven’t displaced Steve Bannon, for example.)

2. Sessions – a dodgy character from the get go – should want to stay in office, and hold power for as long as possible: he’s better able to protect himself against a collusion or obstruction investigation while serving as attorney general than as just another bigoted private citizen with retrograde views.

Everyone close around Trump has the problem that members of organized crime face: when you’re out, you’re really out. In one way of looking at this, there’s really no out at all. (Michael Flynn is out, of course, but only if one understands out as a synonym for slowly putrefying.)

This works two ways.

Sessions is safer inside, both for his own self-interest and for the self-interest of others he might implicate if he should be cast aside. If he should someday be out, then the prospects for all concerned – both Sessions and the Trump Admin – would be grave indeed.