Category: U.S. Politics (Page 1 of 16)

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Going forward, conservatives must not bow to Trump

January 20 we’ll all watch as Donald Trump is sworn into office, a spectacle most of us never thought would happen. For over a year we repeated the mantra of “keep calm, it won’t be Trump,” but that didn’t play out as we expected, obviously. In the midst of our astonishment we’ve been called to question much of what we’ve believed for so long, and, without doubt, I’ve had someone ask me a variation of the following at least once a day:
“I mean, didn’t we technically win? What do we do now as a movement? Should we give him a chance before judging his presidency? How will you handle things going forward?”

In reply I’ve given a slew of answers, from ideas on building a new party, to helping middle ground Democrats who are willing to meet us half-way. Maybe we stay on the right side of the aisle and be a voice of reason, or maybe we traipse over to the left and forge a new alliance. The options are endless, and everyone is walking around those options on eggshells, pondering the vast number of possibilities, and worried that they’ll choose the wrong one. However, regardless of how difficult the choice is, for so many it seems a choice must be made. They’re not content in the wilderness, and they desperately want to be a member of the tribe again.

I’ve listened to people say that, despite their refusal to vote for Trump, they must now join in the thunderous applause – “albeit reluctantly,” they’ll proclaim – of a Republican sweep until their fears are confirmed, because that’s what a good team player does. I’ve watched them cheer on Sessions, Tillerson, and Carson, despite obvious issues, simply because that’s what people on the right are doing.

As though getting behind the schoolyard bully is the only logical option, because while he’s shaken down all of the defenseless kids on the playground, it’s only reasonable to stand beside him until he shakes down the next, and then the next, and so on and so forth. They’re willing to wash, rinse, and repeat until there’s nothing left of their principles but a shell that barely tells the story of what they once were.

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Does President Trump deserve the respect of liberals?

Respect must be earned.

Two of the reasons Trump supporters are outraged this month are that Democratic Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis called Trump an illegitimate president, and actress Meryl Streep criticized Trump in her speech at the Golden Globe awards. Trump is being disrespected in a way that no other modern president has been, we are told by Republicans and Trump supporters.

That may be. Conservative activists did begin holding Tea Party protests shortly into the first year of Obama’s term, and Rush Limbaugh did say that he hoped Obama failed, but Republican legislators didn’t begin making such attacks on the president until nine to twenty two months into his term. Joe Wilson Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced his goal of making Obama a one-term president in October 2010, and Rep. Joe Wilson interrupted Obama at his State of the Union speech to shout, “You lie!”

So it may be true that the Democrats are getting their unprecedented campaign of opposition to the new president started sooner than did the Republicans began unprecedentedly opposing Obama, but it’s also true that Obama and Trump are different people who got elected under different circumstances. By comparing Republican response to Obama to Democratic response to Trump, Republicans are implying that Obama and Trump are equal and should be treated equally. For a party that traditionally supports relatively unbridled capitalism, that’s a strange position to take. If everyone were equal in everything, shouldn’t everyone demand equal pay as each other?

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Trump: Neither isolationist nor interventionist

At China.org.cn, I analyze Trump’s foreign policy and why it doesn’t fit into traditional frames of reference:

The discourse over whether Donald Trump is “anti-interventionist” or a militant warmonger is misguided. Trump is neither, and yet he’s also both. Indeed, he has put forward arguments — contradictory as this may sound — for both ways of thinking.

The media and ideological analysts like narratives, and this has led them to seek to place Trump in one or other ideological camp. For instance, after he made noises that suggested he favored isolationism, many Americans on that side of the political spectrum considered Trump as one of their own.

A cohort of academics involved in international relations studies, including Professor Daniel Drezner of Tufts University, argued that Trump’s self-proclaimed anti-interventionism should be understood as “realism;” meanwhile, most respected realist scholars, such as Harvard’s Steven Walt, argued Trump wasn’t a realist at all.

The latest shot in the academic debate comes from George Washington University professor Henry Nau, who argued in The American Interest, just in time for Trump’s inauguration, that his traditional nationalism represents a dire threat to the longstanding American policy of “nationalism of internationalism,” which Nau defines as “intervention abroad to defend democratic allies, defeat terrorism, and trade freely.”

Embedded in his argument, however, some assumptions, derived from the view that Trump is an isolationist, simply don’t stand up to scrutiny. America will fall apart, Nau argues, if it reverts to “fighting terrorism at home because the United States is no longer willing to fight it on the ground abroad.” (“Fighting terrorism abroad” so Americans don’t have to face it at home is a neo-conservative argument for sending troops to Iraq or Afghanistan to fight ISIS, al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups).

It’s a misnomer, however, that Trump doesn’t want to send American troops abroad to fight terrorist and insurgent groups. After all, he’s repeatedly said he wants to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS in Syria. In March, he even paid lip-service to the need to send in up to 30,000 ground troops.

Read my full article: Trump: Neither isolationist nor interventionist

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A tale of two scandals

Investigations were being conducted into both of America’s two major party nominees by the FBI during the 2016 election. One was being looked at for her use of a private email server, the other for his alleged relations with Russia. The FBI director only gave a speech tearing into one and only released a letter 11 days before the election commenting publicly on one of the investigations.

Co-editor Sumantra Maitra wrote an article for Quillette about how Buzzfeed’s publication of the full document on Trump was irresponsible and causes trust in institutions to die. I recommend you read it. Sumantra is absolutely right.

But it’s not only trust in the press that is dying, trust in all institutions is threatened, including the FBI. One reason for that was FBI Director James Comey’s actions during the election, the double standard he applied to FBI investigations of Clinton versus those of Trump.

First, to make one thing clear: I don’t know whether most or some of the allegations in the report prepared as opposition research by a former British intel officer are true or not. Some of them appear highly unbelievable. Some of them have apparently already been disproven. But if one allegation is disproven that doesn’t mean all of them all. What we do know is that the FBI is investigating. The only fair thing we can say with certainty now is that we don’t know whether some portion of it is true or not.

The argument I present in this article is rather about the FBI and James Comey and how they influenced public discourse over the unverified report.

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Trump’s tabloid crony and his “Muslim spies”

The National Enquirer is the magazine Americans ordinarily look at in the checkout line for some light humor about how Bill Cosby had his son murdered or how the people in Hollywood you already knew were gay are gay, but this year the rack-filler really went all in for Trump.

During the GOP primary, it attacked all of Trump’s rivals, publishing Trump opposition research, publishing pictures of Bush’s daughter, accusing Ted Cruz of having multiple affairs (in a story that has since then never been picked up by journalists), and even randomly linking Cruz’s father to JFK’s assassination in a defamation that Trump repeated on the campaign trail.

We also learned that in 2015 Hillary only had six months to live and that she was going to jail.

But now that David Pecker’s long-time friend is elected, it’s not time to stop. No, National Enquirer must publish an article written by McCarthy’s ghost accusing “55” CIA employees of being “Muslims Spies in Obama’s CIA.”

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Obama goes all anti-PC

So, when does the left start calling Obama racist, sexist and misogynist?

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Heat StreetObama Slams Political Correctness, Says Stop Going Around ‘Looking for Insults’

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VoxObama on liberal college students who want to be “coddled”: “That’s not the way we learn”

 

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Taiwanese are becoming more pro-independence–with or without Trump’s call

Having analyzed the dynamics of how the precedent-breaking phone call between Donald Trump and Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen played out between the U.S. and China, I now place my gaze on Taiwan itself.

In my observations visiting the island during the cross-straits meeting in 2015 and interviewing academics, I found Taiwanese youth especially likely to be pro-independent, and moreover the ethnolinguistic divides that used to animate their parents’ politics in the aftermath of the Chinese Civil War are becoming less intense.

I wrote about it in detail for Red Alert Politics:

For all the focus on how Donald Trump’s phone call with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen has outraged China, the point of view of the country whose leader was on the other side of the phone has been neglected.

The Taiwanese people have lived for centuries in the shadows of foreign powers, having faced colonialism, invasion, and martial law, before winning democracy. Now, they face missiles pointed at them from an ascendant Communist state intent on eventually conquering them.

For Taiwan and its new pro-independence president, speaking directly to America’s incoming leader was a bold display of its autonomy in the face of Chinese threats.

It wasn’t an overnight shift in Taiwanese policy, but rather the culmination of a trend that has been underway for years. And Taiwanese millennials have played a significant role in that change.

Millennials helped propel Tsai to a resounding 25 percent victory in January’s general election and gave her Democratic Progressive Party its first legislative majority in history.

Read the rest: What Trump’s call meant to Taiwan’s “strawberry generation”

Flashback to 2008: Republicans and Joe the Plumber

Chuck Jones’ sin was pointing out that Trump lied about how many jobs the Carrier deal actually saved, tried to take credit for 33% more than the reality.

Now flashback to 2008 and the news sensation over Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher. How did conservative news outlets cover it?

Fox News (Hannity & Colmes): Why Are Democrats Attacking Joe the Plumber?

HANNITY: Why can’t you as a Democrat say you know what? Leave Joe, the plumber alone. He’s out there swinging a wrench for 12 hours a day, probably six or seven days a week. Do you think it’s unfair what’s happening to him?

Newsmax: Joe the Plumber Angered: ‘I’m Just a Private Citizen’

“I’m just a private citizen … That scares me just for the simple fact other people might hesitate on questioning our elected officials and that worries me greatly for America.”

American Thinker: Thugocaracy attacks Joe the Plumber’s Audacity

Michael Barone coined a word in his National Review article, dated October 11, 2008, entitled “The Coming Obama Thugocracy,” and subtitled “Attempts to shut down political speech have become routine for liberals.” Thugocracy: the rule of thugs.

Mr. Wurzelbacher was minding his own business when he had the audacity — Barack Obama’s favorite word after “taxes” — to question Senator Obama’s intention to “spread the wealth around.”

They’re out to destroy a simple American citizen who was made into a public figure by the people now out to smear him.

Townhall: The Obama Thugocracy Goes After Joe the Plumber

Jim Wickre: Attacks on ‘Joe the Plumber.”

The media and the Obama campaign will attack and attempt to destroy any one who stands in the way of Obama’s election as President.

Also in the Newsmax article, Joe said: “But to sit there and say that Barack Obama was directly responsible for such a thing–no, I’m not going to say something like that.”

That can’t be said about Donald Trump.

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Trump economics and the crisis of fake conservative populism

Trump is trying to stimulate the economy when the economy is booming.

Noah Rothman writes at Commentary that Trump’s economic proposals are “Keynesianism without a crisis.” The economy is chugging along, growing at 3.2 percent in the third quarter, and unemployment is below 5 percent. The U.S. has outperformed its peer competitors in Europe and North America over the past 4 years, topping France and Germany in GDP growth every year since 2012 and growing faster than Canada and the UK in 2015. This is important to note, because as economic critics point to 3% and 4% growth in the 1970’s and 80’s, they neglect to point out that the entire developed world has been growing slower since then. It’s harder to keep up a high percentage rate of growth on a bigger total.

But an even more important point of dispatch is that conservative critics and “populists” base their view on faulty emotional assumptions and incorrect data. Trump, for instance, said to Time that, the government needs to “prime the pump” “in order to get jobs going and the country going, because, look, we’re at 1% growth.”

In fact, the GDP has grown at 2.4% for each of the past two years. The slowest it grew since 2008 was 1.5% in 2013, still considerably faster than France and Germany. Moreover, quarterly economic GDP growth has never grown slower than 1% for the past three years. Trump is doing what he is so good at: making shit up.

But it’s not just Trump who is the problem. For most of Obama’s term, Republican and conservative “populists” have resorted to counter-factual appeals to the pain of the working class and consumers no matter what the economic conditions.

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The question of the Electoral College

Since Donald Trump won a majority of electors on election day while losing the popular vote by over 2.5 million, there has been a movement afoot by a small number of electors, activists, and intellectuals to try to block Trump at the Electoral College.

A group of eight Democratic electors has gotten together to try to persuade other Democrats to support a rational Republican, a Republican elector resigned rather than vote for Trump, and on December 5, the first Republican elector who pledged to vote against Trump came public in a New York Times op-ed.

The argument that the “Hamilton Electors” and a number of intellectuals and lawyers have made in op-ed pages is that the Electoral College was conceived as a check on the passions of the public were they to elect a demagogue or someone totally unqualified.

A few examples:
The electoral college should be unfaithful – Kathleen Parker
The Constitution lets the electoral college choose the winner. They should choose Clinton. – Lawrence Lessig
8 New Reasons The Electoral College Shouldn’t Vote For Trump – David Halperin

As Parker said in her column yesterday:

The Founding Fathers didn’t fully trust democracy, fearing mob rule, and so created a republic. They correctly worried that a pure democracy could result in the election of a demagogue (ahem), or a charismatic autocrat (ahem), or someone under foreign influence (ditto), hence the rule that a president must have been born in the United States. We know how seriously Trump takes the latter.

Most important among the founders’ criteria for a president was that he (or now she) be qualified. Thus, the electoral college was created as a braking system that would, if necessary, save the country from an individual such as, frankly, Trump.

Where have readers of Bombs + Dollars heard this argument before?

The founders of the United States had these questions about democracy in mind when they wrote the Constitution. They knew that many voters were uninformed, so they put in systems to deal with that, like the election of the president by the Electoral College and the election of Senators by state legislatures. Progressives and populists have steadily taken away those safeguards for reasons that were lauded as pro-democratic.

The Seventeenth Amendment, passed in 1912, turned Senate elections to popular vote. Steadily laws have been passed in many states binding Electoral College electors to the results of a state’s president elections, and in most other states, the culture surrounding voting is such that there could be mass unrest if a state’s electors voted for someone other than the person who won their state’s election.

In my article on October 30, considering the problems democracies are facing around the world, I returned to the one of the original reasons why the Electoral College was conceived. Is now the time to use the Electoral College as originally intended? Trump’s unsuitability for office is clear.

To give but a few examples,

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