The jaded and cynical Nathaniel asked (Gospel of John 1:46) “can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Jaded and cynical people in 2017 America wondered, can any good thing come out of Alabama? Sure can! I was surely apprehensive that Alabama might send Roy Moore to the Senate, but it sent Doug Jones instead, and great credit goes to him for running an excellent campaign. Last year in Massachusetts, 91 out of the 351 towns and cities in Massachusetts gave more votes to Trump than Clinton. So maybe Malcolm X was not so off-base when said that if you are south of the Canadian border, you’re South–but thank goodness the elections of 2017 have shown surprising signs of Democratic and progressive renewal all over the United States. Not in the way that Roy Moore figured, Alabama today has become, so to speak, a light and a witness to the nations (see Isaiah 49:6). I expect Alabama’s election of Doug Jones will inspire hundreds and maybe thousands of Democrats and progressives to get over the wailing and gnashing of teeth and prepare for political battle in 2018 in all 50 states. (Or sooner, if Trump manages to fire Mueller and/or the GOP passes their tax cut for corporations and pass-throughs/healthcare sabotage bill.) The GOP and Trump still have the power, if unified, to initiate giveaways to the robber barons of the 21st century, install horridly unqualified judges, and maybe worse. But the wind is not at their back right now, and Democrats can and should press their advantages, looking toward next November’s elections. Trump may tweet “I was right” (but of course) and blame everybody else about what happened last night, but he has suffered multiple political bubble punctures now, and everybody knows it. Doug Jones said today that Alabama’s issues are the same as the issues across the country, jobs, education, health care–and he is really right.
Hat tip to Charles P. Pierce for his comment the other day that while he doesn’t want to sanitize history, he would like to fumigate it. Our Sanitizer-in-Chief, in spite of himself, may help us fumigate our history and reconsider our memories. He said today it is “sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson–who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! The beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”
The President is not a trained professional historian and should not be judged as such. He has, however, insisted that he comprehends very well and he is right in this case. He displayed considerable familiarity with the talking points of 21st-century white nationalism and neo-Confederate ideology. For example, he repeated their assertion of the moral equivalence of Washington with Lee and Stonewall Jackson at least in part to deflect attention from his indefensible comments Tuesday excusing the neo-Nazi torchbearing marchers. Trump (perhaps guided by a poll-reading Bannon) attacked those who propose removing monuments to Confederate war heroes. “Where does it stop?” asks Trump. I would say that “it” doesn’t stop, if “it” is the struggle over how to remember, venerate, honor, or dishonor leading figures from our past. Washington, Jefferson, and several other Founders were born into slaveowning societies; some of them eventually freed some of their slaves, while others did not. Other Founders were not slaveholders, but for the sake of ratifying a national Constitution accommodated the slaveholding societies of the Southern states (not forgetting Northern profiteering off the slave trade, as well as slaveholding in the North itself; Connecticut did not abolish slavery until 1848). Perhaps all the Founders were hypocrites in La Rochefoucauld’s sense of vice paying tribute to virtue. We do not, however, have monuments to national traitors such as Benedict Arnold. Trump equated nation-builders with would-be nation-destroyers. Maybe Trump’s “where does it stop?” Is an aggressive way of letting his “forgotten men” and “deplorables” know that the respectable elites can’t handle the whole sordid truth, and that if he (Trump) is going down he will take all his complacent enemies with him.
When monuments to Confederate generals were put up, usually by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, decades after the Civil War the intent may well have been, in part, to celebrate Southern “heritage” and history. But many if not most such memorials, as well as many of the reunions decades after the Civil War between Grey and Blue, were done with the intent of solidifying white supremacy and the same-as-it-ever-was subjugation of black Americans, thereby erasing the abomination of Reconstruction. Historian Eric Foner described the post-Civil War collision between two ways of remembering that war: the “reconciliationist” memory that “emphasized what the two sides shared in common, particularly the valor of individual soldiers, and suppressed thoughts of the war’s causes and the unfinished legacy of emancipation,” versus the “emancipationist” vision of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, with its “new birth of freedom.” Within a dozen years after the Civil War, “reconciliation” between North and South meant the end of Reconstruction and the end of restraints on white supremacist terrorism in the South. Slavery was no longer legal, but the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal citizenship for all had become a dead letter and the Fifteenth Amendment guarantee of the voting rights was ignored in the former Confederate States. The emancipationist vision waited almost a hundred years for a Second Reconstruction. Ken Burns’s Civil War TV series, which has become the canonical story for many millions of us in the early 21st century, does not suppress either of these ways of remembering. (For example, at risk of oversimplifying their views, the final “Was It Not Real” segment includes Barbara Fields as well as Shelby Foote.) But there was, I feel, a reconciliationist gauziness in the way the reunions of aged Civil War veterans brought the curtain down on the show. For white Americans north and south in the days of Donald Trump’s–and Hillary Clinton’s–youth, the reconciliationist version of remembering the Civil War dominated. Some rememberings were gauzier than others and some were indifferent toward black Americans while others were actively hostile. And in last fall’s presidential campaign, Trump was unfortunately not the only candidate to buy into a version of Reconstruction in which black Southern political participation after the War was marred by “barbarous” freedmen and the end of Northern efforts to impose on white Southerners was thus a blessing (See Ta-Neheisi Coates’s article in The Atlantic, January 26, 2016 on Hillary Clinton and the Dunning School).
So when Donald Trump says “you can’t change history,” he is right in a narrow sense, but he is perhaps clever enough to know or feel that that is not really what is at stake. It’s not just a matter of what the traces in archives will disclose to conscientious researchers. It’s a question of what we the people want and need to remember and memorialize and venerate. And of whose memories and feelings get to count, and whether we have the gumption to undergo the process of “truth and reconciliation,” as the post-apartheid commission in South Africa put it. I wonder if President Trump could acknowledge that what he is really saying could be “I am not happy that my childhood prejudices and presumptions are being challenged. Never mind that I am 71 years old, I demand to hold on to what I learned was true in 1953 or 1954.” And what Trump, and many of us who get the benefit of the doubt while others don’t, really want to hold onto is the comfort and privilege of willful blindness to the claims of people who have suffered subjugation.
Trump senses the power of monuments and memorials, which are liable to activate our nostalgia and freeze out any critical reassessment of our past. British historian John Lukacs wrote that the “remembered past is a much larger category than the recorded past.” We are about to experience a total eclipse next week all across the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina. I hope that we are also in for an experience (that lasts longer than two minutes) of reckoning with the light and shadow of memory and forgetting that does not end in forced amnesia, but with a thorough airing out of our history and culture, We need to consider changing and enlarging the scope of some of our memories.
Well, I am very concerned. It is a distraction. The President would probably be well advised to refrain from shooting frogs. At least in daylight. But at the end of the day, it is what it is, and it’s just Trump being Trump. Plus the President said many people told him Pepe was transgender, so there’s that. And what about the time Obama and Hillary fecklessly…
If the president of the United States is about to go down, I hope that we, the people, do not lose track of our role in enabling him. The English and New English Puritans may have overdone the hair shirt sometimes, but this is a moment when the Puritan custom of days of fasting, prayer, and humiliation might well be good for us. Some of us might wish to skip straight to the Day of Rejoicing over the downfall of Trump, but today should not yet be that day.
Maybe a few of us are not to blame for the low-rent mobster government that is now in place. But many if not most of us did too little to protect American democracy and our constitutional republic. That goes especially for the Republican Party, which suffered a hostile takeover and an astonishing loss of dignity. But the Democratic Party and the apathetic nonvoters and the many millions of political independents–can we really say we are not at least partly to blame for the Wrestlemania presidency? Are we embarrassed? Do we want to look away? Yes, but we also need, for our own sake, to reckon with our own failure to do enough to promote and defend civilization and culture and decency.
P.S. I am not saying that those who voted for Trump are necessarily more blameworthy than those who voted for Clinton or someone else or no one at all. Trump was garish and bombastic and offensive to many Trump voters, who nevertheless believed him the lesser evil. That was then, Hillary is not the issue anymore. She is not next in line if and when Trump goes down. That would be Pence. I only hope he turns out to be no worse than a conventional rightist meathead. And some victims of Trump’s seduction may not yet or ever be penitent. But we as a people (or we as an electoral college) might all do well to consider ourselves penitent victims of seduction, as we try to rehabilitate our democratic constitutional republic.
If Donald Trump acts like a president of all the people, more power to him. If he acts like a vindictive tyrant, I only hope Americans cross divides, put country first, and resist. His first public words as President-elect seemed nonthreatening and positive. I think he showed some self-awareness of his past by suggesting a while back that becoming president and succeeding was the only way he could make it into heaven. But he has also said, “I’m all about the hunt and the chase…then I lose interest.” If he is able to concentrate on American “forgotten men and women” in a much more inclusive sense (think FDR rather than William G. Sumner) than I expect, maybe he will make it to heaven. As Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama said today, gotta give him his chance. That’s in spite of James Comey, Wikileaks, Russian interference, and Hillary’s lead in the national popular vote, bitter pills all.
P.S. Hat tip to Beverly Gage’s piece in the NYT, “Just Who Is the ‘Forgotten Man,'” in which she contrasts William Graham Sumner’s 1880s essay, “What the Social Classes Owe Each Other” (not much of anything) with FDR’s 1932 evocation of the “forgotten man” as “a reason to rebuild the economy from the bottom up.” Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Moore, and others have already put Trump on notice that their cooperation can be his if he truly wants to rebuild the U.S. economy on a more equitable basis than neoliberal technocrats and the big banks are expecting.
For a long while I used to feel I didn’t have enough money that voting Republican could possibly make any sense. Now, though not much wealthier or poorer, I feel I have just enough to lose that the very idea of voting Republican makes zero sense. Is that sensible? I sure hope that enough voters feel they have enough to lose that we can keep a choleric, petulant, hormonal man like Trump off Air Force One.
An economy with slow and unequal growth is not fun for people whose futures feel stagnant or precarious. Thus Trump has tried to make loss aversion work for him by claiming only he can set things right, “drain the swamp,” and restore the glory days. It’s no accident that Trump has tried to demoralize African-Americans by yelling at them that they have nothing to lose, implying at the same time to white voters that old hierarchies will be put back in place.
Despite the perhaps uncharismatic and uninspiring alternative to Trump, do we really feel safe taking what we have for granted? Do we really have so little to lose, are we so oblivious to risk, and so unable to value our own freedom that we would let ourselves be ruled by a guy who combines in himself the worst of Biff Tannen, Gordon Gekko, Captain King Kong, and Stalin’s “useful idiot”? Did I mention Alcibiades and Elagabulus? Quite a ruler, that Elagabulus! Think you have little to lose–search for Elagabulus and imagine President Donald E for Elagabulus Trump. (Hat tip to Ross Cardinal Douthat of the NYT)
Some say Hillary Clinton is already our next President, though opinion is divided on whether she will have the authority to appoint Supreme Court justices. Therefore many worriers have moved on to the ugly possibility that Trump’s ugliness was no aberration, just part of our glide path down to lower circles of uncivil purgatory. Could 2016 turn out to be our green and innocent salad days? Could Donald Trump soon be judged as no more than “foul precursor of the fiend,” as Shakespeare put it in “The Phoenix and the Turtle”? And hello there Mitch McConnell–do you miss Jon Stewart’s imitations of you as a turtle yet? Are you going to pretend you don’t even notice Supreme Court Justices die off one by one as you while away your turtle years as Senate Majority Leader? And why are swing voters and even Democratic voters apparently not focused on the Supreme Court? As the executive and legislative branches check each other, judges become the deciders and rulemakers more and more. If Hillary Clinton wins college-educated white voters for the first time in forever, how many of these voters fancy that they can split their tickets to preserve their high-mindedness without paying the costs of gridlock in the judicial branch? And then what incentive will the Republican candidates next time around have to acknowledge that their party went off the rails in 2016? Will we get a Republican nominee smoother than Trump (low bar I know) or Pence, more clever and disciplined, who will persuade voters with his (or maybe her) vision of freedom and liberty (a potentially winning theme almost ignored by both Trump and Clinton this year)? Will President Hillary Clinton be wise enough to heed those latecomer supporters (Elizabeth Warren et al) who are not Clinton lifers but who can give Hillary cover if she is willing to go down the non-triangulation, outside-comfort-zone route of post-Occupy, post-Obergefell progressivism? Hillary’s Methodistic goal of doing “all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the ways we can,” to succeed, will require lots and lots on non-apologetic Apologetics. As well as attention to the legitimate grievances (and maybe even some dubious ones) of the many millions of pro-Trump and never-Hillary citizens. And probably elimination of the filibuster for all judicial nominations.
P.S. When my (passionate pilgrim) Trump swears that he is made of truth, I do not believe him, because I have found that he lies.
Democrats have seized quite a lot of moral high ground this year. But they could set a higher bar for themselves in the home stretch. This year is an unusually opportune moment to seize back the high ground from Republicans on liberty and freedom. The GOP has owned this issue for too long, and this year’s Republican presidential nominee does not show any sign of caring a fig for freedom–on the contrary, “I alone can fix it.” So much for limited government and ordered liberty!
Khizr Khan’s speech at the Democratic convention this summer, for example, was all about ordered liberty, but the freedom theme got submerged (for both pro-Hillary and pro-Trump people) in the back-and-forth about whether or not he should or shouldn’t be immune from criticism because Mr. Khan and his wife are Gold Star parents. There is a strong case that Trump was a fool, politically, to attack the Khans, but the substance of Mr. Khan’s message in defense of constitutional freedoms could and should be lifted up more by Democrats.
Democrats could and should say more about freedom as equal opportunity, equal economic opportunity, as described by FDR in his “Second Bill of Rights” speech of 1944. The freedom to be left alone is part of freedom, but not all of it by any means. Most of us are not living on the open range, however powerful the fantasy may be. Most of us really do not want government to mess with our Social Security and Medicare benefits–which nobody has a right to look down on as “entitlements” when we spent decades paying in. Allowing Paul Ryan or the so-called Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget to get away with entitlement-shaming is political malpractice, not to mention wrong.
This year is a golden opportunity to reframe and reimagine freedom in ways that actually reflect our experience now. Not sure how many undecided voters are really left (or needed) in this year’s presidential election, but seizing the high ground on freedom will have far-reaching, long-lasting positive effects. As FDR said, “necessitous men are not free.” Lifting up that theme is the royal road to reaching swing voters–and beyond.
In a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi today, President Obama replied to a question about Middle Eastern refugees in Europe by speaking of the “distorting effects” on European politics of the crisis. He came as a mandarin and he leaves as a mandarin. By that I mean that Obama’s mindset is to posit a normative non-messy world. As head man of the men of the sacred bone, Obama has interpreted his mandate as maintenance and restoration of propriety and order. Not an easy job in the midst of so many unruly Americans.
Our next president may or may not share the mandarin/yangban mindset. Hillary Clinton’s actual starting point on foreign policy, as well as domestic policy, is still pretty much a black box to me. Maybe I am just not paying close enough attention, or maybe she is staying vague on purpose–and why not? She is non-Trump, in any case. Can anyone imagine Trump even thinking, let alone saying, what Obama said today? Trump speaking about the “distorting effects” of any messy situation anywhere in the world is impossible to conceive. If you think I am starting to make a pro-Trump argument here, well, no. Trump’s MO seems worse than that of Mayor Daley’s Chicago police; that is, Trump creates and preserves disorder. We survived eight years of mandarin rule, and we will, I hope, make it through the next four or eight, with or without a mandarin ruler. The risk-averse choice, though, is clearly the youngest woman ever, not the oldest and crybaby-est man ever.
P.S. President Obama’s reported plan to focus on the National Democratic Redistricting Committee to overcome Republican gerrymandering sounds like a potentially worthy act of political penance.
Even if I believed that Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted for…whatever, I would still be inclined to vote for her. Here is why: I prefer to live in a democracy, though flawed, rather than a dictatorship. I would rather live in a country with limited government rather than personalized tyranny, which is what Trump promises us when he says “I am your voice…I alone will…restore law and order.”
It might well be, though I do not feel confident either way, that Hillary’s deletion of emails crossed into criminal behavior. It might very well be that Donald Trump has committed sexual assault and should be imprisoned for it. That we have two very flawed candidates is unsettling and sometimes depressing. But only one candidate, Trump, has shown absolute disrespect for the bedrock of American democracy, which is peaceful transfer of power after elections. The last president who systematically corrupted the federal legal and surveillance apparatus was Richard Nixon, who was reelected in a landslide but two years later resigned in disgrace. Nixon remains the only president ever to be forced out of office. Trump is more frightening than Richard Nixon, which is saying something. Nixon was brought down, and it looks as if Trump has disgusted enough voters that he will not get close to wielding executive power. It is disturbing, though, that if not for a video that revealed Trump’s casual abusiveness vividly enough to shake some undecideds, Trump might now have a 40 or 50 percent shot at the presidency. It may not be so viscerally disgusting as the “Days of Our Lives” video, but Trump’s threat to imprison his political opponent seems to me even more dangerous to our fragile experiment in representative democracy. As Ben Franklin said, “a republic, if you can keep it.”
Update 10/10: in a pitch aimed straight at moderate suburban undecided voters, Maine Governor Paul Le Page said this morning that this country needs a “slimeball” (his word, not mine) to wield “authoritarian power” (CNN, via WVOM radio)
Update #2: Glenn Beck called Hillary Clinton a “moral, ethical choice” for President. One response: “ice cream now being served in hell.”
Today’s Quinnipiac national poll shows Clinton way ahead with 18-34 and 35-49 cohorts; even with Trump among 65+ voters, but Trump ahead by 5 with 50-64 year olds.
Please accept my apology, millennials–just keep eating your fruits and vegetables and thinking what you’re thinking. And good morning, my fellow 50-64 year olds! What kind of boneheads are we? Of course in a better world we would have better choices this year. But grow up! Trump showed that he was a clear and present danger the minute he disrespected John McCain last year. Yeah, four years of Hillary on our TVs or VR headsets or whatever may not be inspiring, but how are we going to explain the damage Trump does to our grandchildren and our assisted-living neighbors? Do you think Trump will improve your retirement account? Really? You think a jackass reality-TV guy with zero attention span is going to reassure investors around the world that the U.S. dollar is a safe haven reserve currency? You think Trump is going to get rid of the estate tax when he needs your tax dollars to buy more gold-plated toilets in the White House? And get real, you are not going to win the Powerball and have to pay estate tax, anyway. Try betting the short odds for a change! Do you realize the downside of living in a giant banana republic with thousands of nuclear warheads a fingersnap away from psychologically damaged goods like Trump?
Ammon Bundy, who probably has a bright political future after he gets out of federal prison, finished testifying yesterday in Oregon. He said at one point that “the only thing worse than tyranny is anarchy. We want to be in the middle.” And that’s where we would be with President Trump: a big side order of anarchy to go along with the main course of tyranny.
Update: Since this post, Danielle Allen published a piece in the Washington Post on Trump as a classic tyrannical soul.
There are four presidential candidates this year.
Voting for Hillary Clinton is necessary. Of course is not necessarily sufficient. But we can start discussing “sufficient” right after November 8, and we should keep on talking about what is sufficient for at least the next four years, and organizing and protesting and voting in midterm elections to get it.
Some election seasons, staying woke does not include utopian dreams. This is one of those years.
Staying woke sometimes means playing defense and voting against a nightmare candidate. Staying woke sometimes means voting for the lesser (this year, much lesser) evil. And then following up to make the best of the situation next winter and spring. It sometimes means not being hypnotized by the mainstream media’s hardcore addiction to false equivalence that is designed to narcotize you.
Charles Blow laid it all out in his op-ed on “The Folly of the Protest Vote” today. In sum–don’t mix up casting a ballot with endorsing a candidate’s shortcomings. Don’t pretend somebody other than Clinton or Trump will be President next year. Don’t forget that federal courts are “where police tactics are challenged and where precedent is set.” Don’t march for Eric Garner or Trayvon Martin or Sandra Bland or Tamir Rice and yet do nothing to keep Trump from picking the next attorney general. Don’t let the man who attacked the Flint pastor who interrupted him pick the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
For young people this year, a protest vote does not make you a better person than any of the impure candidates. It just makes you somebody who just set his or her own rump on fire.
Yet another worry lately for folks sickened by Trump and either pro-Hillary or hold-nose-and-vote Hillary is the possibility that millennials will insult the legacy of Barack Obama and vote for Johnson or Stein. The upside of this is asserting one’s moral purity. The downside is President Trump. Rallying behind the Libertarians or the Greens gives the feeling of political herd immunity–but not the reality. The real vaccine is to take your castor oil and vote for the least destructive option. Too young to vote for the lesser evil, you say? You need to be inspired, you say? Breaking news courtesy of President Obama: don’t boo, vote! Hillary, trust me, will subsidize your adult coloring books next year.
Purportedly undecided suburban white registered voters were able to cry unashamed tears of joy for a brief while today that they could now officially vote for an officially nonracist Trump, after Trump officially ended all race-based doubts about President Barack Obama’s birthplace by making it crystal clear that Obama was in fact a natural-born American citizen. Trump’s false claim that Hillary started it and that “I know you are but what am I?” do not count as racist lies for the simple reason that Hillary Clinton is a white woman. Trump’s boastful claim that he, High Sheriff Donald J. Trump, “ended it” is also not a racist lie because we are all obligated to move on now to making America strong and great again. Any quibblers? … oopsie, hold up, he seems to have lost his teleprompter script again… A retired “birther” lieutenant general introducing him (wink) today? And now Hillary was the founder of birtherism? Really? And, again, her Secret Service detail should let her and themselves get shot at?
Hat tip to Gaye Brown of Portland, Maine (NYT letter today) for the title. Yes, Hillary Clinton has real and serious flaws–but we voters often have to choose the lesser evil, just as we do in daily decisionmaking. Nothing to complain about.
But just in case we do, heaven forbid, commit national suicide by politician, here’s my investment tip: go long on the Russian ruble and your November 9 may well be a little less deplorable. See today’s Newsweek story by Kurt Eichenwald on Trump’s foreign business entanglements. How many millions does Trump personally owe Putin? Who knows?
Trump is a big strong man who is also begging Vladimir Putin to help him beat Hillary Clinton. Republicans from Mike Pence to Speaker Paul Ryan have responded to Trump’s remarks today by condemning Putin. We know plenty about Putin already. Could you brave defenders of freedom show some courage and say Trump’s words amount to treason? If Hillary Clinton asked for political help from Russian military intelligence, how long would it take for Republicans to call for her imprisonment–oh, they did that already, eh?
Not strong at all. I thought it was a sign of weakness and derangement when Trump disrespected John McCain for becoming a war prisoner. I expected stronger pushback from actual conservative Republicans running against him over Trump’s ignorance of the Constitution and complete lack of interest in liberty or freedom or limited government. That was then. Now Trump has gone full “Siberian candidate,” (hat tip Paul Krugman) and Hillary Clinton is the only obstacle left to a Trump presidency. There are no Republican elites with enough national constituency or credibility to oppose Trump. That leaves the donor class and the owners of Fox, CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, the AP and NYT to get over their bothsiderism and show some news judgment about where the threat to democracy lies.
Even the birthers are likely to miss Barack Obama by this time next year, in part because we are unlikely to have a president capable of masterly inactivity. Obama’s motto, “don’t do stupid s–t” is a vulgar way of expressing the modus operandi. Masterly inactivity can certainly be overrated and fetishized (as J. Peter Scoblic points out in a recent Washington Post opinion piece on Trump’s incapacity for inaction). Examples of this include Obama’s Syria flipflops, and perhaps Abraham Lincoln’s almost complete silence for months in 1860 and early 1861, wishing to keep his options open and not to inflame tensions–see Harold Holzer’s “The Sound of Lincoln’s Silence,” NYT Disunion blog, 11/23/2010, and his 2010 book Lincoln: President-Elect, which explores in depth the pros and cons of Lincoln’s refusal to “open his mouth, save only to eat,” as one of his political allies put it. But there is some real danger, I believe, that a President Hillary Clinton will feel compelled to prove her toughness in ways that won’t serve the nation well. The much greater danger is that we could easily, out of a misplaced faith in his “law and order” rhetoric, elect Trump, who seems utterly incapable of inaction, even when it’s most called for. “Watchful waiting” is a critically important capability of 21st-century presidents, and it is about the last thing that I associate with “Trump.” Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy in the mid-20th century were capable of watchful waiting. I hope our next president will study their example.
Freedom and liberty may not mean enough to Hillary Clinton, but they mean diddley squat to Donald Trump.
Until we understand what the hell is going on with Donald Trump running off to Scotland, we have no choice but to vote for Hillary Clinton. We simply cannot take a chance that Trump is applying for Scottish citizenship right now. We cannot take a chance that we have an agent of a foreign power running our country and especially our borders. Not if we want our country to start winning again. I do not know for a fact that Trump is eligible for German citizenship either, but he sure looks and sounds like one of them, and I love bratwurst but we cannot take a chance on a President Brat Wurst. That would be sad! We are not going to be great again that way. We won’t have tremendous winning success if we don’t figure out why Trump said “Scotland is going wild over the vote” to “take their country back” when Scotland actually just voted huge to stay in the EU and and voted two years ago to stay part of the United Kingdom. I don’t know whether Trump is really German instead of Scottish, but there’s something going on with him. I wish we could be politically correct and say that it doesn’t matter if Trump is taking orders from Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, but we have no choice, we just don’t have a choice any more.
I was starting to be skeptical that greatness was really bulging out of the Mannish-Boy’s wherever, so much greatness that…but now it does not even matter, with the fantastic game-changing news that Hillary, unlike the usurper alien president who thought it was just a joke, is totally a UFO person (according to the NY Times), or more properly UAP person (new nomenclature, got it). I can now vote happily.
And I thought they were sorta special and maybe even unique. But now it seems that forty-odd years after President Richard Nixon said “we are all Keynesians now,” we are all becoming paranoid libertarians. Cass Sunstein’s column last week in Bloomberg View (glossing on a piece by Sean Wilentz in The New Republic) tells us “How to Spot a Paranoid Libertarian.” Sunstein used to be a well-respected U. of Chicago professor researching nudges, that is, behavioral economics and law . Then he became President Obama’s chief regulatory officer during the first term–so from the paranoid libertarian (henceforth PL, whenever I feel like abbreviating) point of view you could call him the principal deputy antichrist (especially if you were Thomas Perkins in San Francisco and were trying to follow up on your tantrum about a “progressive Kristallnacht”). Sunstein’s top tips on PL-spotting: look for presumption of bad faith on the part of government officials, a love of slippery-slope arguments, a sense of victimization, and indifference to trade-offs between liberty and any other values.
Sunstein seems dismissive of anyone more paranoid about government intrusions than he is (which in 2014 is most people, I think), and says Wilentz has performed a “valuable public service by pointing to the libertarian manifestation of Hofstadter’s “paranoid style in American politics.” Sunstein does not specifically endorse Wilentz’s insinuation that the views of Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange are unsavory. But frankly, it is not and never has been all about Snowden. I could care less whether he was freaked out by how many Muslims there are in London (or whether Greenwald could be kinder and gentler). The issue is about 300 million Americans and even more people worldwide whose lives are likely to be affected by out-of-control surveillance regimes–not the personal weaknesses of the leakers.
Libertarianism, both economic and social, is in a waxing phase, to the point where we might even get a quasi-libertarian president next time–by “quasi” I mean legal pot yes, legal heroin no. PL seems to many to be the last refuge of political sincerity in an era of self-conscious frivolousness. And “keep your government hands off my Medicare,” often derided as know-nothingism, could be seen as just a reflection of the sea in which we swim–a turbulent mixture of (at least half-hearted) Keynesian policy and dog-whistle-enabled paranoid libertarianism.
As I said, some of my best friends are, or were, paranoid libertarians. I kind of like them better when they stick with their flamboyant “out” (so to speak) selves, and don’t try too hard for respectability. It is a little dismaying, for example, to see a column by ultimate libertarian Richard Epstein of NYU Law School (not actually someone I have met, though I knew some of his U. Chicago colleagues) on “My Rand Paul Problem,” distancing himself from “hard-line libertarianism.” Epstein always seemed to me a pretty extreme exemplar of anti-government theory, and why he would claim to have stopped drooling and foaming at the mouth against statism now, at his advanced age, is beyond me. Speaking of staying true to one’s flamboyant self, watch out for Joe Biden trying out paranoid libertarianism on Democratic primary voters next time! He might take PL out for a spin in New Hampshire and Iowa–watch out Hillary!
Hillary Clinton, along with inventor of the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, primatologist Jane Goodall, and physicist Sir Peter Higgs (Higgs boson Higgs, absent due to illness), among others, accepted an honorary doctorate from the University of St. Andrews Friday. She claimed that there was a Scottish Enlightenment in the 18th century–who knew? I thought they hadn’t taken off the war paint yet. But I digress, because giving the graduation address for the 600th anniversary of St. Andrews is a sure sign that Hillary Clinton is fully engaged in the 2016 battle. By the end of this month she will have the election locked up. Really? Well, after she locks up the golf vote this weekend by shooting a hole-in-one on the Old Course, she is due to chug a stein of Spaten Brau in Munich, clinching the critical upper and lower Midwestern Teutonic vote. Then on to Rome to personally receive a cold call from the Pope, in whose 1984 Renault she will drive around the countryside near Castel Gandolfo, wearing a mantilla, thus putting away the Roman Catholic swing voters. Game over.