Still trying to figure all this out. Tyler Cowen pointed me towards this piece, and it helps.
As an academic, I can definitely talk the talk of liberals/progressives, but my family and geographical background, and economics profession, pretty much keep me from walking the walk.
I see and hear quite a bit of this from students and faculty, even in a business school in deeply red rural Utah:
… Near-unanimous incomprehension of, and contempt for, the democracy movement that just said “Enough!” to the politics of recent decades. In an election that Democrats lost at virtually every level … [emphasis added]
A colleague I respect couldn’t even talk about the election for several days afterwards. And I’m pretty sure he’s more conservative than I am.
When I note the following, I start to wonder if there weren’t that many people that voted for Obama rather than against Republicans:
… the “rest” of the country has become invisible, indecipherable, foreign.
And the rest of the country belongs to Trump. … Trump even won a third of the counties that voted for Barack Obama twice. [emphasis added]
I don’t have the figures, but that’s got to be really something, since I’d guess that (at most) 30% of the counties in the country voted for Obama twice.
I’ve been keeping an eye on this. It makes me uncomfortable, and I don’t much like polls, but it’s there:
Once Trump had won, and it was no longer embarrassing or socially dangerous to declare one’s support, his approval began to drift towards its natural level—from 38% on Election Day …
I don’t much like Piers Morgan either, but his comments over the last month make me think he may be the only reporter that’s true to their profession these days.
I watch the idiocy of some of the things that come out of the Trump administration, and then part of me starts to wonder if they’re playing street ball against a fading champion. Street ballers do dumb stuff all the time, but they’re still overwhelming unless you’re disciplined and conditioned. Trump can keep this up. Can Democrats? Can the media? I’m pretty sure the voting public cannot (even if he never wins them over).
I like the money quote here:
Trump understood something no Republican had understood in decades. The partisan division in the United States was less about ideology than about sociology. Ideology was there, of course, but it arose from the sociology: you look at life differently when you write the rules than when you have to submit to them.
I like that insight. It makes me think that what’s going on is that the teenagers just locked the parents in the basement. So the approach of all the other Republican candidates for president — “Republicans were auditioning for a role as the second-best civil rights party” — was never going to work.
I think the Democrats of the last several years should be applauded for doing something rather striking (I don’t like it, but I have respect for the accomplishment):
The important cultural innovations of the Obama Administration can fairly be said to have been introduced without debate, or at least in disregard of what debate had been going on. … We will never know, because for many years Americans have felt unable to talk about such things in public at all.
You just couldn’t talk about these things. You still can’t on some subjects: did you notice for all the talk about Trump’s bravado that he’s firing less missiles than Obama did? Just. Don’t. Mention. That.
The morning after the election, President Obama said to Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner, “The most important thing that I’m focused on is how we create a common set of facts.” That was the problem of his whole presidency. Political rhetoric doesn’t create facts.
I actually agree with Obama’s sentiment. I don’t know if he believed it. I assert that a lot of people in his administration did not: for them, the rhetoric was the only fact.
The example that always struck me the most was the whole gay wedding/bakery imbroglio. Has it occurred to no one that it is OK for a person to refuse to make a cake for anyone they please, but that our approach to this case was that it was different as soon as you got a license? I could care less about the bakers — I wouldn’t honor them with my business either — but no one asked whether this is what licenses and businesses are actually for? In what sort of world does no one even ask that question? Really now … were there liberal/progressive parents telling their kids to start lemonade stands so that they can learn that if they have the barest amount of official success they get held to a different standard? Or that the different standard does not count as discrimination in this case, because … it just doesn’t … and people we like make the rules?
The next is an important point that I had not gotten yet:
Hillary Clinton’s remark, at a gay-rights fundraiser, that half of Trump voters were a “basket of deplorables” has been understood as one of the major blunders of the campaign. That is clear only in retrospect. [double emphasis added] It’s not as if Clinton was appearing on Candid Camera. She herself had opened the event to the press. It is likely she was trying to shame a public that was proving reluctant to vote for her, to show them that if they persisted in backing Trump they would be laughed at by their social betters.
The author supports their position (I’m not sure I do, but I found these selections interesting) with these tidbits:
A headline from Dana Milbank of the Washington Post in late October read: “Trump can’t just be defeated. He must be humiliated.” Another, ten days later, over an article by Dean Obeidallah of the Daily Beast, read: “Donald Trump Can’t Merely Be Defeated—He and His Deplorables Must Be Crushed.” After the election, Jamelle Bouie of Slate was undaunted: “There’s No Such Thing as a Good Trump Voter,” the headline ran.
What I make of this is that Democrats are way too quick to use very temporally constrained hindsight to explain why they lost. They are blaming statements like this, which did not help, because they’re still missing the big picture.
I’ll readily admit that big picture has been tough to see the last ten years or so. I liked Bush II, but not very much, yet I can still remember around 2005 wondering what it was the Democrats actually were. Flash forward to 2012, when Obama, even though he won, was the first incumbent to win with fewer electoral votes than the first time around since … wait for it … wait for it … that other leftist snob Woodrow Wilson. So, Clinton was succeeding the weakest second termer in a century, or alternatively she was only in that position because Obama was a hair better than Jimmy Carter. Expecting her to be a shoo-in was idiocy from anyone whose hindsight extends back further than 8 years. But perhaps the appearance that it may not is what the Trump phenomenon is about too?
My Republicanism fades; it peaked out about the time they started to devour their top prospects in the late 90’s :
Over the past generation, while Republicans have been dreaming their dreams of pure free markets, more and more of the American economy has been regulated into conformity with government administrators’ wishes. A lot of this process has been driven by the very corporations Republicans champion. It is extraordinary how much liberty has been extinguished since Republicans brought the libertarians to Washington.
Trump saw Republicans not as Democrats’ foes but as their sidekicks and enablers. … Mitt Romney could not conceive of such a thing.
Republicans like Romney have traditionally warned that the government was being run by incompetents. Trump did something different. He implied the government is being run by crooks. The New York Times was puzzled by Trump’s cabinet picks, looking at them in terms of policy subtleties, and finding that “a picture is emerging of an administration with little ideological cohesion and no single animating purpose.” In fact there has never been a cabinet picked on simpler or more coherent grounds. Namely, that the agencies as they are now constituted are terminally corrupt. “Drain the swamp,” as much as any policy suggestion about trade or immigration, appears to be the message at the core of the early Trump presidency. Almost all his nominees are skeptics or opponents of the agencies they have been brought in to run.
Do we have any more doubts of this after the Flynn leaks? I thought Flynn was a wingnut. But you simply do not use the apparatus of domestic surveillance to go after people on our side. And how you label them … Does. Not. Matter.
F**K. If someone had told you 20 years ago that the U.S. would have an “apparatus of domestic surveillance” you would not have believed it. Now it is here, and being abused.
Many people have been suspicious of the growing surveillance state, both in the U.S. and in other countries. This is the reason for that.
If, as is becoming clearer, this behavior came out of the Department of Justice, I personally am in favor of firing (not letting resign, firing) dozens if not a few hundred people. Flynn was a problem; those folks are a criminal racket that needs to be broken up. This is Reagan and the air traffic controllers times ten.
Let me repeat, I am no fan of Trump. But Trump and his followers made very clear that they thought liberals/progressives would behave this way. Stop proving them right.
Increasingly dire warnings appeared of a “rift” between Trump and his intelligence agencies. “Donald Trump Fuels Rift With CIA Over Russian Hack,” headlined the Wall Street Journal. The strange and erroneous implication was that there is something improper about such a rift, some looming constitutional crisis, as if the administrative state were a fourth co-equal branch of government, rather than a part of the executive. [I added the bold, the italics are original]
I do not have to like the boss to be clear headed about rifts. It’s fine and proper for the staff to point out their disagreements with the boss. But a “rift” implies the staff thinks they are on the same level as the boss. That’s improper … and it’s happening when we’re not quite sure anyone should like the boss at all. Guess what? It’s too late for that if you work in the executive branch. Us out here in the public can still mull this over and change our minds. Executive branch employees need to suck it up and take one for the team. That can mean fighting back, and getting yourself fired, but it does not imply that a rift is a reasonable outcome.
I am such a nerd. Would you believe I used the word semiotics in a class with sophomores the other day?
The ruling classes claim a monopoly … on the language in which such matters are discussed. Elites have full-spectrum dominance of a whole semiotic system. What has just happened in American politics is outside of the system of meanings elites usually rely upon. … They are reaching for their old prerogatives in much the way that recent amputees are said to feel an urge to scratch itches on limbs that are no longer there. Their instincts tell them to disbelieve what they rationally know.
Think about this my liberal/progressive friends:
Barack Obama was first nominated by his party in the boom days before the financial crash—he is a figure of the old regime. … [Trump’s] scope for action will depend on just what reassessments Americans have made in their own minds over eight years … we don’t know what these reassessments are. But we are about to find out.