The Erosion of Political Norms (Part 1 in a Series)

local sceneThis is the first in a series about the erosion of local political norms. In a recent essay on national politics, E.J. Dionne Jr., Norm Ornstein, and Thomas E. Mann write of How the GOP Prompted the Decay of Political Norms (adapted from their book One Nation After Trump):

President Trump’s approach to governance is unlike that of his recent predecessors, but it is also not without antecedents. The groundwork for some of this dysfunction was laid in the decades before Trump’s emergence as a political figure. Nowhere is that more true than in the disappearance of the norms of American politics.

Norms are defined as “a standard or pattern, especially of social behavior, that is typical or expected of a group.” They are how a person is supposed to behave in a given social setting. We don’t fully appreciate the power of norms until they are violated on a regular? basis. And the breaching of norms often produces a cascading effect: As one person breaks with tradition? and expectation, behavior previously considered inappropriate is normalized and taken up by others. Donald Trump is the Normless President, and his ascendancy threatens to inspire a new wave of norm-breaking.

This would be bad enough if he were entirely a one-off, an amoral figure who suddenly burst onto the scene and took advantage of widespread discontent and an electoral system that tilts outcomes in the direction of his politics. But Trumpism has long been in gestation. His own party, sometimes consciously, sometimes not, has been undercutting the norms of American politics for decades. As the traditionalist conservative Rod Dreher has written, “Trump didn’t come from nowhere. George W. Bush, the Republican Party, and movement conservatism bulldozed the field for Trump without even knowing what they were doing.”

(Needless to say, this excerpt leaves aside the particular – and particularly destructive – role that Russia has played in undermining American norms.)

There’s more – and so worse – even than what Messrs. Dionne, Ornstein, and Mann see nationally: a rot of local norms in towns and cities across this country, sometimes conservative, but more often nonpartisan. A decline in local standards (of insightful analysis, accurate data, honest presentations, and open government) has afflicted  communities like Whitewater.  See That Which Paved the Way and Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 13: That Which Paved the Way).

No one contributes to a decline while declaring that he does.  Instead, those responsible declare that their (actually) lower standards are what it means to be a ‘Whitewater Advocate,’ community booster, etc. In this way, they elevate what’s base, and make base what should be elevated.

Tomorrow: An Unanswered Local Concern About Conflicts.

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4 years ago

The wilding of the Republican party continues unabated. It is truly astonishing to watch:
• Roy Moore wins the AL primary. That is in itself is not all that surprising. He will be replacing, if he does not completely implode, JeffBo Sessions, perhaps the most moss-backed old-school southern racist left in the Senate. Trump and Yertle got their asses handed to them, although Moore is much closer to Trump than Strange is. AL is an astonishingly fked up state. They just recently got over assassinating and lynching black people. Moore was thrown off the AL Supreme Court twice for refusing to obey the SCotUS. He showed up for his last campaign rally on a horse, looking like a bleached version of MKE’s (formerly own) Sheriff Clarke, and whipped out a chrome-plated revolver and brandished it on the podium. Strange had his own problems relating to how he got to be a Senator in the first place, but corrupt politics is the norm in AL. Perhaps Moore will lose, particularly if the 800,000 black folks in AL get out and vote, but I am not counting on it. Moore is the pluperfect candidate for the most unreconstructed holdout of the old confederacy. He will cause nothing but trouble for the Republicans. Luther Strange is the latest victim of Joe’s First Law of Trump. He got too close to Trump and now is covered in a thick, yet pungent, layer of shit.
• Yertle is in a bit of a slump. He got smoked, once again, by the unlikely coalition of two sane and one insane (Paul) R-Teamers, on Trumpcare. Yertle may have a secret smile, as if Trumpcare passed, with its 20% approval rating among the general electorate, it would have been an unvarnished disaster for the R-Team. He got saved from that downstream problem. Trump reacted predictably by trashing a man with terminal brain cancer for voting to provide others with the care they need for similar conditions. McCain is clearly having a Lee-Atwater-style deathbed-conversion. He is a free man. There is nothing that Yertle or Trump can do to him, now. He is rapidly making amends for foisting the bunion known as Sarah Palin on the body politic.
• Bob Corker, a semi-sane R-Teamer, just bailed on Yertle. That opens up a seat. TN does not always vote Republican (remember Al Gore??). Corker dropped hints that he was fed up a few weeks ago when he clubbered on Trump for being “unstable”.
• Trump once again has demonstrated his deep racist roots by ignoring Puerto Rico getting flattened. I doubt that he would have been so blasé if the island was populated by lily-white Aryans speaking only in high-German. He really does hate brown, Spanish-speaking people. He does not even try to hide it. His tweets justifying PR getting reduced to rubble, because they have a lot of debt and a decaying electrical system, are breathtaking for their lack of any scintilla of human empathy. That Trump is still supported by 80% of the Republican electorate is horrifying. Jesus would weep…

Mueller is closing in rapidly on Trump. It is going to get really ugly before long. Trump badly needs a distraction, and the low-hanging-fruit du jour is North Korea. He is already laying the groundwork by standing up on the UN podium, like an angel in a shaft of light, and calling Kim out as “Little Rocket Man” and threatening total destruction of N. Korea. Make no mistake about it: He is ginning up a war. It’s all he has left…

Kim does get big snark-kudos. His calling out Trump as a “dotard” was both surgically accurate and most excellent invective. It was bigly! It sent me to my O.E.D.! I bow to the west…