Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Return of “Street Corner”—Jacksonian—“Conservatism.” By Matthew Continetti.

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Tucson, AZ, on Saturday, March 19, 2016. AP/Ross D. Franklin.

The Return of “Street Corner Conservatism.” By Matthew Continetti. Washington Free Beacon, December 23, 2016. Also at National Review Online.


Donald Trump and the Jacksonian political philosophy of the Deplorables.

Richard Nixon was plotting his 1968 presidential campaign when he received a letter from a high-school English teacher in Pennsylvania. The correspondent, a young man named William F. Gavin, wasn’t certain Nixon would run. But he sure wanted him to. “You can win,” Gavin wrote. “Nothing can happen to you, politically speaking, that is worse than what has happened to you.”

Gavin cited Ortega y Gasset to explain why Nixon was uniquely suited to lead during the violence and uncertainty of the late 1960s. “You are,” he went on, “the only political figure with the vision to see things the way they are and not as Leftist and Rightist kooks would have them.”

The forceful and eloquent style of Gavin’s prose impressed top Nixon aide Patrick J. Buchanan. Gavin soon joined the nascent campaign, beginning a career writing speeches for the 37th president, for Senator Jim Buckley of New York, for Ronald Reagan, and for congressman Bob Michel, as well as composing novels, nonfiction books, and journalism. Gavin understood well the political realignment that brought city- and suburban-dwelling white working-class ethnics — Irish, Italians, Greeks, Pols, and Slavs — rather tentatively into the Republican camp. “The Nixon aide who understood the Catholic opportunity best,” Buchanan wrote later, “was Bill Gavin, who had grown up Catholic and conservative, his views and values shaped by family, faith, and friends.”

I have been thinking about Gavin lately because his life and thought so perfectly capture the conservatism of Donald Trump. When you read Gavin, you begin to understand that the idea of Trump as a conservative is not oxymoronic. Trump is a conservative — of a particular type that is rare in intellectual circles. His conservatism is ignored or dismissed or opposed because, while it often reaches the same conclusions as more prevalent versions of conservatism, its impulses, emphases, and forms are different from those of traditionalism, anti-Communism, classical liberalism, Leo Strauss conservatism in its East and West Coast varieties, the neoconservatism of Irving Kristol as well as the neoconservatism of William Kristol, religious conservatism, paleo-conservatism, compassionate conservatism, constitutional conservatism, and all the other shaggy inhabitants of the conservative zoo.

Trump has always been careful to distinguish himself from what he calls “normal conservative.” He has defined a conservative as a person who “doesn’t want to take risks,” who wants to balance budgets, who “feels strongly about the military.” It is for these reasons, he said during the campaign, that he opposed the Iraq war: The 2003 invasion was certainly risky, it was costly, and it put the troops in a dangerous position, defending a suspicious and resentful population amid IEDs and sniper attacks. The Iraq war, in this view, is an example of conservative writers and thinkers and politicians following trains of logic or desire to un-conservative conclusions.

Nor is it the only example. Fealty to econometric models, Trump says, has led many conservatives as well as liberals to embrace a “dumb market” that gives mercantilist powers in Asia advantages over U.S. industry and labor. The rush to pass comprehensive immigration reform as a result of the elite consensus that immigration is an unmitigated good set the Republican-party leadership against its own voters. The desire to restrain entitlement spending through cuts rather than prolonging the lifespan of these programs through economic growth demoralizes Republican voters who count on their checks to arrive each month.

Indeed, Trump was so at variance with the mainstream of the intellectual conservative movement on these issues that he modified his political identity. “I really am a conservative,” he said last February. “But I’m also a commonsense person. I’m a commonsense conservative. We have to be commonsense conservatives. We have to be smart.” Common sense in this understanding is opposed to the theoretical and academic analysis that has led conservatives to nonsensical and unpopular positions because they are beholden to speculative conclusions or to creedal dogma.

Trump’s politics are grounded not in metaphysics but in what he understands to be the linguistic root of the term conservative. “I view the word conservative as a derivative of the word conserve,” he has said. “We want to conserve our money. We want to conserve our wealth. We want to conserve. We want to be smart. We want to be smart where we go, where we spend, how we spend. We want to conserve our country. We want to save our country.”

The conservatism of Donald Trump is not the conservatism of ideas but of things. His politics do not derive from the works of Burke or Disraeli or Newman, nor is he a follower of Mill or Berlin or Moynihan. There is no theory of natural rights or small government or international relations that claims his loyalty. When he says he wants to “conserve our country,” he does not mean conserve the idea of countries, or a league of countries, or the slogans of democracy or equality or freedom, but this country, right now, as it exists in the real world of space and time. Trump’s relation to the intellectual community of both parties is fraught because his visceral, dispositional conservatism leads him to judgments based on specific details, depending on changing circumstances, relative to who is gaining and who is losing in a given moment.

His is a blunt and instinctive and demotic approach arrived at after decades in the zero-sum world of real-estate and entertainment-contract negotiations. His are sentiments honed by immediate, knee-jerk, and sometimes inelegant reactions to events and personalities observed on Twitter or on “the shows.” And the goal of his particular conservatism is not adherence to an ideological program so much as it is to prevent the loss of specific goods: money, soldiers, guns, jobs, borders, national cohesion.

This is the conservatism of Bill Gavin who, in his 1975 book Street Corner Conservative, gave voice to the instinctual conservatism of the men and women who populated the Jersey City neighborhoods in which he was raised. “They do not want to overthrow the system,” Gavin wrote. “But they are not quite satisfied with the system either. They supported the United States efforts in Vietnam, but at the same time deplored the strategy of piecemeal escalation that led to such a disastrous state of affairs. They are sick unto death with the follies and the arrogance of liberal Democrats, but they have not quite snuggled up to the Republican Party.”

The Queens-born Trump, like other street-corner conservatives, has never quite felt at home in either political party. And while he went to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate, he, like other street-corner conservatives, lacks the graduate degrees and credentials that establish oneself in society as a professional or as an originator and exponent of ideas. “We were all, I am convinced, conservatives,” Gavin wrote of his family and friends. “We never intellectually knew that we were, but instinctively, it seems, we knew that certain people and institutions and places have claims upon our loyalties.”

It is this specificity of attachment rather than adherence to a program that explains the divide between street-corner conservatives and their political brethren. Many of the conservatives in Washington, D.C., myself included, arrived at their politics through study or experience at university, by encountering a great text, the coherence of natural law, the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, or the economics of Smith, Ricardo, Friedman, and Tullock. That is not the case for the street-corner conservatives. Their stance, Gavin says, “isn’t dependent on arguments from free enterprise, although most street corner conservatives embrace free enterprise. . . . Neither is it dependent on aristocratic tradition . . . nor a particular intellectual viewpoint.” Nor is it “based on nostalgia for some long-gone golden age nor on some reactionary aesthetic idea.”

It is the gut conservatism of someone who does not want to be cheated, who wants to live according to traditional notions of family, community, vocation, and faith, and who reacts negatively when these notions are toyed with from above. It is the politics of a construction worker, a contractor, a technician, a waiter or waitress, a taxi or Uber driver, of someone who is patriotic but skeptical of non-retaliatory and mismanaged foreign interventions, who gives precedence to the practical over the theoretical, the tangible over the conceptual, the concrete over the abstract. Street-corner or commonsense conservatism is more than the set of attitudes, inclinations, reactions, and habits of Bill Gavin or Donald Trump. It is nothing less than the political philosophy of the Deplorables.

Street-corner conservatism is most distinctive when set against the conservatism of the Beltway. Economists, for example, can explain in minute detail the efficiencies gained when the supply of labor is global and therefore limitless. They can point to highly sophisticated quantitative models that describe how consumers benefit from the global supply chain and from the off-shoring of low-wage employment. It all works so well in theory. What the economists are too quick to dismiss, however, is the first word in the old subject of political economy. They prefer not to recognize — or, in some cases, they celebrate outright — the erosion of nationhood by lax enforcement of border controls and immigration policy.

Unilateral disarmament in the face of trading partners that manipulate their currencies and maintain tariffs against U.S. products not only diminishes objective measures of national community and sovereignty, but also carries a human cost in workers displaced, factories moved, communities warped, livelihoods and vocations disappeared. A street-corner conservative responds to these dislocations with a sense of outrage, with a desire to rectify injustices that benefit an affluent and aloof elite, and with frustration when his sentiments and wishes and bonds are not recognized by either Republicans or Democrats.

When Donald Trump and Mike Pence arranged for Carrier to retain some of the jobs it had previously announced would move to Mexico, adherents to free-market ideology roundly criticized the move as cronyism. But, as has so often been the case this year, these thinkers lacked a constituency. They found themselves defending the economic basis of Walmart rather than the livelihoods of the people who shop there. The Carrier deal was popular not only with Carrier employees but also with voters. It was a textbook example of street-corner conservatism: deviation from principle in the pursuit of tangible goods. Arguments from theory or economic calculation had no purchase because the street-corner conservative thinks not in terms of producers and consumers but in terms of citizens and foreigners.

There is a similar practicality in Trump’s stated opposition to reform of Social Security and Medicare. The street-corner conservative sees these programs not as entitlements but as deserved benefits. He paid premiums in the form of payroll taxes and expects a return. He believes Social Security and Medicare aren’t undeserved welfare transfers that feed dependency and anomie but universal programs that benefit citizens equally. And the street-corner conservative knows that, since the Republican party has become the party of the poor and lower middle class, cutting Social Security and Medicare today to make actuarial tables work years from now is an attack on the GOP grassroots.

Street-corner conservatism informs Trump’s foreign-policy instincts as well. “In our nation’s relations with other countries we want: enough military strength to prevent war; a rational ‘America First’ attitude avoiding the extremes of expansionist jingoism on one hand and isolation on the other; and a cool but correct attitude toward totalitarian dictatorships that have the potential to destroy our nation,” wrote Gavin. The street-corner conservative is intensely patriotic — to use Trump’s word, “militaristic” — and recoils at the humiliation of his nation at foreign hands. For the street-corner conservative, the words America First summon thoughts not of Charles Lindbergh but of the pursuit of concrete and visible American interests rather than the expansive defense of the amorphous concept of “liberal world order.” He supports overseas interventions in response to attack or, as it initially seemed in Iraq, in the face of grave threat. But when the rationale for intervention changes to the maintenance of the “liberal international system” or the promotion of airy concepts such as “human rights” and “democracy promotion” and the “responsibility to protect,” he is far more skeptical. So is Trump.

If street-corner conservatism is a recurrent temper in our public life, it is also a volatile and easily frustrated one. It found expression in the majoritarian theories of William F. Buckley Jr.’s mentor Wilmoore Kendall; the populist and anti-establishment rhetoric of Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace, Ross Perot, and Pat Buchanan; the social conservatism of the suburban warriors who fought liberal social policies such as the Equal Rights Amendment, busing, abortion, and the therapeutic approach to crime, and who played such an important role in the Reagan Revolution. Street-corner conservatism has waxed and waned, risen and fallen, a periodic response to social disorder, economic stagnation, and elites who forget that America is not to be ruled from above but driven from below. Street-corner conservatism can bring you to office, but it also can turn on you easily when it is depressed or disillusioned or, conversely, enriched and pleased with the state of society.

Politicians who listen to them flourish. “What is it we want?” asked Gavin.

We want a strong country, the strongest in the world because we aren’t going to rely on mutual manifestations of good will to keep this country free. It is a tough world. The liberals think anyone who says that is practicing a false, twisted masculinity. So be it. We have been called everything else by liberals; we might as well be called sexual psychopaths. But at the same time, let’s demand that our nation be so strong that no nation or group of nations will ever dare attack us — or even think of attacking us. . . .

We believe this is a good country. We believe that our way of life, our values, our adherence to formal religion, to the family, to what Chesterton called the “decencies and charities of Christendom” have for too long been abused or ignored or threatened by left-liberalism. Left-liberalism is intellectually, morally, and spiritually bankrupt. We don’t want it to be replaced by radicalism of the left or right. We want our kids to grow up knowing not only their prayers but their philosophy, our philosophy.

What is it that we want?

I’ll tell you.

We want America.

Bill Gavin died of cancer last year at the age of 80.

One week later, Donald Trump announced that a street-corner conservative was running for president.

Walter Russell Mead Discusses Jacksonianism and American Elites with Ben Domenech at The Federalist.

Walter Russell Mead on Jacksonianism, Foreign Policy, and American Elites. Audio. Interviewed by Ben Domenech. The Federalist, December 22, 2016. Soundcloud.

Summary at The Federalist:

Walter Russell Mead, editor of The American Interest and fellow at the Hudson Institute, joins Ben Domenech in studio to discuss foreign policy schools of thought, Jacksonianism, and the future of education and religion in America.

Mead labels the type of people who voted for Donald Trump in key Democratic states as Jacksonians, Mead said. “Jacksonians are often, in foreign policy and domestic policy, they are often more motivated by threat than by opportunity,” he said. “They’re often surprisingly unmotivated by stories of political corruption, but perversion of government is a different thing and that reaches them on a different level.”

Mead discusses how Trump’s cabinet and national security advisors view America’s role in the world, and how their views will overlap or collide. “Tillerson and Trump will both face the problem that government isn’t the same as corporate governance,” he said. “When you bring Jacksonians into government, they generally have less experience with government, less understanding of the people around them.”

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Peloton TV Commercial: “This Is Peloton.”

Peloton TV Commercial: “This Is Peloton.” Video., May 18, 2016. YouTube. Starring Jill de Jong. Website.

Description on iSpot:

A woman wakes up and begins an exercise routine with her instructor Robin on the Peloton indoor cycle. She attacks the hill, crushes the flats and fights her way through the pack. And she does it all from the comfort of her home before breakfast time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ralph Peters: Russia Will Never Be America’s Friend.

Ralph Peters: Russia Will Never Be America’s Friend. Video. Washington Free Beacon, December 12, 2016. YouTube.

Ralph Peters: Rex Tillerson would be a “terrible” choice for Secretary of State. By AllahPundit. Hot Air, December 12, 2016.

Ralph Peters Slams Rex Tillerson as Possible Secretary of State Because of Ties to Putin. By Cameron Cawthorne. Washington Free Beacon, December 12, 2016.

Vladimir Putin will always be America’s enemy. By Ralph Peters. New York Post, December 11, 2016.


Vladimir Putin is our enemy. Not because we want him to be, but because resentment and hatred of the United States is central to his being. Russia’s president yearns to do us harm.

He blames us for the Soviet Union’s self-wrought collapse. He blames us for Russian stagnation. He blames us for the derelict lot of his drunken, diseased country. And he wants revenge.

Putin has five strategic goals: He wants international sanctions lifted, Europe divided and NATO destroyed. He seeks to restore the empire of the czars. And he wants to humiliate the United States.

Americans and Europeans are targets of a ruthless, audacious and skillful disinformation campaign portraying Russia as a victim, not an aggressor. Not since the heyday of the Soviet-sponsored Ban-the-Bomb movement in the 1950s has Kremlin propaganda thrived so broadly.

We naively insist the truth will prevail. That’s nonsense. Putin knows that big lies work, if repeated until absorbed. And he’s aided by Western stooges who, for money or malice or moral malfeasance, abet Putin in deluding our populations.

The current pro-Putin narrative holds that Russia’s a martyr to Western aggression, that we’ve abused Russia since the USSR dissolved and that NATO’s eastward expansion equals aggression. Then there are the preposterous claims that Russia’s battling Islamist terrorists on behalf of civilization, even as Russian bombs butcher civilians by the thousands.

We can’t polygraph all the pro-Putin voices (although I’d love to, publicly), so let’s look at the facts of what Putin has done.

He interfered with our presidential election via computer hacking, the use of front organizations and fake news (Kremlin-gate may prove our worst political scandal). His military challenges us in the skies and at sea. In Afghanistan, his agents assist the Taliban. In Syria, his jets target Syrian hospitals, clinics and civilians in a literal “Slaughter of the Innocents” at Christmastide.

He invaded Georgia and Ukraine (the latter twice). He threatens the NATO-member Baltic states and subsidizes Europe’s extremist political parties to radicalize electorates, undercut democracy and realign ­nations with Russia.

At home, he suffocated Russia’s nascent democracy, crushed the free press, jailed and murdered his opposition, cheated foreign investors and turned Russia into a gangster state where the czar is the only law.

What of his claim of a vast Western conspiracy to harm Russia?

I served in Washington (traveling often to Moscow) as the Soviet Union died of organ failure. Far from attempting to punish the “new” Russia, we and our European allies fell all over ourselves to indulge Moscow’s whims and encourage investment. Our State Department’s infatuation with the “new” Russia was embarrassingly extreme.

Nor did our goodwill end with the Clinton administration’s witless indulgence. President George W. Bush insisted he’d seen into ­Putin’s soul and that we could be partners. Putin then embarrassed Bush with glee. Next, President Obama fooled himself into believing he could deal constructively with Putin behind the backs of American voters. He wound up shocked and humiliated.

Putin would be delighted to chump another US president.

Russia’s problems are made in Russia. We’ve tried to help, not harm. But Russians refuse to help themselves, preferring brutality, squalor and hostility to the rule of law and civilization.

As for the upside-down charge that NATO’s eastward expansion signaled aggression against Russia, look at how ­Putin has treated non-NATO-member Ukraine and you’ll understand why the newly free states of eastern Europe cling to history’s greatest peacetime alliance.

Putin suggests a Russian right to the Baltics and Ukraine, as well as to hegemony in Eastern Europe. Russia has no such rights. Ukraine has not “always” been part of Russia. It was conquered in the 18th century and, ever since, Moscow has tried to crush Ukrainian identity, from czarist-era bans on the Ukrainian language to Stalin’s horrific man-made famine that killed at least 10 million.

Is it any wonder Ukraine doesn’t want the bear back? Or that Ukrainian (and Baltic) partisans continued to fight the Red Army and its commissars after World War II?

As for the Baltic states, when they gained independence after World War I, they went through an incredible cultural flowering — only to be invaded by the Red Army, the Nazis and the Red Army again. Now they want to live in peace and freedom, as part of the West to which their cultures belong. How is that aggressive? Is little Latvia going to march on Moscow?

The east-European states — above all, Poland — know too well how savage Russian mastery can be. The key event in modern Polish-Russian relations remains the mass murder in the Katyn Forest of 15,000 Polish-officer POWs by Stalin’s secret police. The nightmare of Soviet domination followed. Is Poland wrong to fear Russia?

Should those who suffered under Moscow’s tyranny forget the slaughter of workers in Berlin in 1953? The bloodbath in Hungary in ’56? Soviet tanks rolling into Prague in ’68? Or the millions who disappeared into the Gulag?

Russia’s victims scream warnings from the grave.

In today’s age of cyber-assaults, Russian subversion and Putin’s ­naked aggression, fear is back. We must decide what we value, either freedom and decency, or foolhardy efforts to make friends of monsters.

To align ourselves with Putin in 2017 would be the equivalent of ­allying with Hitler in 1937.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Real Time with Bill Maher, November 11, 2016

Real Time with Bill Maher, November 11, 2016. Video. HBO. YouTube.

Walter Russell Mead on U.S. Foreign Policy Under President Trump.

Walter Russell Mead on U.S. Foreign Policy Under President Trump. Video. PolicyExchangeUK, November 11, 2016. YouTube. Also at The American Interest.

Donald Trump’s Jacksonian Revolt. By Walter Russell Mead.

Andrew Jackson with the Tennessee Forces on the Hickory Grounds, 1814. Library of Congress.

Donald Trump’s Jacksonian Revolt. By Walter Russell Mead. Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2016.


Andrew Jackson’s brand of populism—nationalist, egalitarian, individualistic—remains one of the most powerful forces in American politics.

The election of Donald Trump was a surprise and an upset, but the movement that he rode to the presidency has deep roots in American history. Mr. Trump’s strongest supporters are the 21st-century heirs of a political tendency that coalesced in the early 1820s around Andrew Jackson.

Old Hickory has been the despair of well-bred and well-educated Americans ever since he defeated the supremely gifted John Quincy Adams in the 1828 presidential election. Jackson’s brand of populism—nationalist, egalitarian, individualistic—remains one of the most powerful forces in American politics. The Republican Party’s extraordinary dominance in this election demonstrates just how costly the Democrats’ scornful rejection of “hillbilly populism” has been.

Jacksonian culture can be traced to the 18th-century migration of Scots-Irish settlers to the colonial backwoods and hill country. Some Jacksonians have long been Democrats; some have long been Republicans. They are not a well-organized political force, and their influence on American politics, while profound, is often diffuse.

The folk ideology of Jacksonian America does not line up well with either liberal or conservative dogma. Jacksonians have never been deficit hawks when it comes to government spending on the middle class. In the 19th century, they enthusiastically supported populist land policies culminating in the Homestead Act, which gave out western farm land for free. Today, Jacksonians support middle-class entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, even as they remain suspicious of policies and benefits seen as supporting the poor. They do not, on the whole, approve of free trade.

Jacksonians are often libertarian when it comes to everyday life. While many of them support tough drug laws, some are recreational drug users. Jacksonian farmers participated in the Whiskey Rebellion against federal excise taxes on alcohol in the 18th century, and Jacksonians today still view tax collectors and federal agents with skepticism and hostility. One issue that largely unites Jacksonian opinion is gun control. Jacksonians often view the Second Amendment as the foundation of American liberty, ensuring the rights of a free people against overreaching government.

On race, Jacksonians have been slow to accept change. Their conception of America’s folk community has not historically included African-Americans. While a small fringe of violent racists and “white nationalists” seeks to revive old Jacksonian racist attitudes, Jacksonian America today is much more open to nonwhite and non-Anglo cultures.

Now their bitterness is directed primarily against illegal immigration and Islam, which they see as culturally and politically incompatible with their conception of American values. Jacksonians have come a long way from Jim Crow, but they still resent their tax money being spent to help the urban poor, and they overwhelming support both the death penalty and tough police tactics against violent criminals.

As for foreign policy, Jacksonians are motivated by threats. When other countries are not threatening the U.S., Jacksonians prefer a course of “live and let live.” They believe in honoring alliance commitments but are not looking for opportunities for military interventions overseas and do not favor grandiose plans for nation-building and global transformation.

In war, the fiery patriotism of Jacksonians has been America’s secret weapon. After Pearl Harbor, Jacksonian America roused to fight the Nazis and Japan. After 9/11, Jacksonians were eager to do the same in the Middle East, particularly after they were told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. When Iraq turned out not to be such a threat, Jacksonians felt betrayed.

Many of them voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 out of disillusion with the neoconservative agenda of war and democracy activism. Mr. Trump’s criticisms of the Iraq war and President George W. Bush struck a chord in Jacksonian America.

When war does come, Jacksonians believe in victory at any and all costs. Jacksonian opinion has never regretted the atomic attacks against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In a war of self-defense, Jacksonian opinion recognizes no limits on the proper use of force by the U.S.

Social scientists and urban intellectuals have been predicting the death of Jacksonian America since the turn of the 20th century. Urbanization and immigration were the forces that observers like Woodrow Wilson and Walter Lippmann hoped would transform American popular culture into something less antagonistic to the rule of technocratic intellectuals ensconced in a powerful federal bureaucracy. This did not work out as planned.

It is too simple to say that economic discontent was responsible for the political insurrection that over the past year has upended the Bush and Clinton dynasties as well as the Republican establishment and Democratic electoral hopes. When liberal politicians talk eagerly about a future where whites will no longer be the majority in the U.S., Jacksonians hear a declaration of war, a plan to deprive them of power in their own country. Democratic support for identity politics among every group in the country except for heterosexual white males has strengthened a sense among Jacksonians, both male and female, that their values and their identity are under determined attack.

How President-elect Trump will channel Jacksonian frustrations into policies remains unclear. Whatever happens, though, Mr. Trump’s election sends a signal that leaders and citizens at home and abroad cannot ignore: Andrew Jackson is still the most important figure in American politics, and any political party that pours contempt on Jacksonian values risks a shocking rebuke at the hands of the voters.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Trump, Clinton, and the Culture of Deference. By Shelby Steele.

Trump, Clinton, and the Culture of Deference. By Shelby Steele. Wall Street Journal, November 7, 2016.


Political correctness functions like a despotic regime. We resent it but we tolerate it.

The current election—regardless of its outcome—reveals something tragic in the way modern conservatism sits in American life. As an ideology—and certainly as a political identity—conservatism is less popular than the very principles and values it stands for. There is a presumption in the culture that heartlessness and bigotry are somehow endemic to conservatism, that the rigors of freedom and capitalism literally require exploitation and inequality—this despite the fact that so many liberal policies since the 1960s have only worsened the inequalities they sought to overcome.

In the broader American culture—the mainstream media, the world of the arts and entertainment, the high-tech world, and the entire enterprise of public and private education—conservatism suffers a decided ill repute. Why?

The answer begins in a certain fact of American life. As the late writer William Styron once put it, slavery was “the great transforming circumstance of American history.” Slavery, and also the diminishment of women and all minorities, was especially tragic because America was otherwise the most enlightened nation in the world. Here, in this instance of profound hypocrisy, began the idea of America as a victimizing nation. And then came the inevitable corollary: the nation’s moral indebtedness to its former victims: blacks especially but all other put-upon peoples as well.

This indebtedness became a cultural imperative, what Styron might call a “transforming circumstance.” Today America must honor this indebtedness or lose much of its moral authority and legitimacy as a democracy. America must show itself redeemed of its oppressive past.

How to do this? In a word: deference. Since the 1960s, when America finally became fully accountable for its past, deference toward all groups with any claim to past or present victimization became mandatory. The Great Society and the War on Poverty were some of the first truly deferential policies. Since then deference has become an almost universal marker of simple human decency that asserts one’s innocence of the American past. Deference is, above all else, an apology.

One thing this means is that deference toward victimization has evolved into a means to power. As deference acknowledges America’s indebtedness, it seems to redeem the nation and to validate its exceptional status in the world. This brings real power—the kind of power that puts people into office and that gives a special shine to commercial ventures it attaches to.

Since the ’60s the Democratic Party, and liberalism generally, have thrived on the power of deference. When Hillary Clinton speaks of a “basket of deplorables,“ she follows with a basket of isms and phobias—racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and Islamaphobia. Each ism and phobia is an opportunity for her to show deference toward a victimized group and to cast herself as America’s redeemer. And, by implication, conservatism is bereft of deference. Donald Trump supporters are cast as small grudging people, as haters who blindly love America and long for its exclusionary past. Against this she is the very archetype of American redemption. The term “progressive” is code for redemption from a hate-driven America.

So deference is a power to muscle with. And it works by stigmatization, by threatening to label people as regressive bigots. Mrs. Clinton, Democrats and liberals generally practice combat by stigma. And they have been fairly successful in this so that many conservatives are at least a little embarrassed to “come out” as it were. Conservatism is an insurgent point of view, while liberalism is mainstream. And this is oppressive for conservatives because it puts them in the position of being a bit embarrassed by who they really are and what they really believe.

Deference has been codified in American life as political correctness. And political correctness functions like a despotic regime. It is an oppressiveness that spreads its edicts further and further into the crevices of everyday life. We resent it, yet for the most part we at least tolerate its demands. But it means that we live in a society that is ever willing to cast judgment on us, to shame us in the name of a politics we don’t really believe in. It means our decency requires a degree of self-betrayal.

And into all this steps Mr. Trump, a fundamentally limited man but a man with overwhelming charisma, a man impossible to ignore. The moment he entered the presidential contest America’s long simmering culture war rose to full boil. Mr. Trump was a non-deferential candidate. He seemed at odds with every code of decency. He invoked every possible stigma, and screechingly argued against them all. He did much of the dirty work that millions of Americans wanted to do but lacked the platform to do.

Thus Mr. Trump’s extraordinary charisma has been far more about what he represents than what he might actually do as the president. He stands to alter the culture of deference itself. After all, the problem with deference is that it is never more than superficial. We are polite. We don’t offend. But we don’t ever transform people either. Out of deference we refuse to ask those we seek to help to be primarily responsible for their own advancement. Yet only this level of responsibility transforms people, no matter past or even present injustice. Some 3,000 shootings in Chicago this year alone is the result of deference camouflaging a lapse of personal responsibility with empty claims of systemic racism.

As a society we are so captive to our historical shame that we thoughtlessly rush to deference simply to relieve the pressure. And yet every deferential gesture—the war on poverty, affirmative action, ObamaCare, every kind of “diversity” scheme—only weakens those who still suffer the legacy of our shameful history. Deference is now the great enemy of those toward whom it gushes compassion.

Societies, like individuals, have intuitions. Donald Trump is an intuition. At least on the level of symbol, maybe he would push back against the hegemony of deference—if not as a liberator then possibly as a reformer. Possibly he could lift the word responsibility out of its somnambulant stigmatization as a judgmental and bigoted request to make of people. This, added to a fundamental respect for the capacity of people to lift themselves up, could go a long way toward a fairer and better America.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Andrew Sullivan Calls Trump “Fascist,” But Predicts He’ll Win.

Andrew Sullivan Calls Trump “Fascist,” But Predicts He’ll Win. By Mark Finkelstein. Video and transcript. Legal Insurrection, November 4, 2016. YouTube.

America and the Abyss. By Andrew Sullivan. New York Magazine, November 3, 2016.


ANDREW SULLIVAN: The fundamental truth about this election in my opinion is that it’s marking the moment when America becomes a majority/minority country.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: And it’s a reaction to that?

SULLIVAN: It is a reaction to this across the Western world. We’re in a fascist moment here, and that is the huge force behind this campaign.

MATTHEWS: Why would whites, as they become an actual arithmetic minority, why would they become fascist?

SULLIVAN: Because they’re defending what they think — first of all, they don’t believe they had any choice in this. That the massive demographic shift, which is not actually about African-Americans, it’s mainly about Latinos —

MATTHEWS: I know it is. The African-American percentage in this culture is about where it’s been since we were born. It hasn’t changed much.

SULLIVAN: Yeah, and, but we have had a massive demographic change in terms of brown people and black people and the future. And that’s happening also in Europe. And the reaction is, we don’t want this country and we didn’t choose it. This is why immigration is so central. Because they believe, “Adios America,” to use the other fascist Ann Coulter’s term. They believe this America is ending, their identity is ending. And that is why Trump is going to win this election, because there are many, many people —

. . .

SULLIVAN: And Islam is the other critical factor that has galvanized this. It’s the gasoline on the fire. The fear that aliens are coming into our country and Trump has deliberately fostered in a way that only the fascists of the ’30s have fostered the notion that these people are a potential fifth column coming to kill you and attack you and rape you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pussy Riot Dedicates Its New Music Video About Female Private Parts to Trump. By Ishaan Tharoor.

Pussy Riot dedicates its new music video about female private parts to Trump. By Ishaan Tharoor. Washington Post, October 26, 2016.

Pussy Riot celebrate the vagina in lyrical riposte to Trump. By Luke Harding. The Guardian, October 25, 2016.


Russian punk band Pussy Riot has come a long way since it first entered the global imagination four years ago. In February 2012, five of its members performed a rebellious stunt at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior that eventually landed two of them in prison and turned the group into the unlikely poster child for dissent in President Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Now, its most recognizable members are global celebrities. Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina appeared on an episode of Netflix’s “House of Cards” last year. Alyokhina is touring the world with a theater company. And Tolokonnikova just put out a music video that’s being framed as an intervention into the U.S. presidential election campaign.

“Straight Outta Vagina,” which you can watch above, was shot earlier this year in Los Angeles. It stars Tolokonnikova in white clerical robes and trademark pastel ski mask singing in English about the power of the vagina.

The lyrics can get confusing — “Vagina is gonna win the race,” Tolokonnikova sings. “Vagina gonna play in space.” — including the chorus: “Don’t play stupid, don’t play dumb, vagina’s where you’re really from.” There's also a scene in which a young girl in a Pussy Riot mask lip-syncs a rap verse in a men’s bathroom.

In an interview with the Guardian, Tolokonnikova explained that she wanted to “write a song that celebrates” the female anatomy. She also considered it a riposte to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, whose comments about women — notably a remark that he “grabs them by the p----” — have shadowed the election campaign.

“This song could be considered an answer to Trump,” she told the Guardian. “But I believe the idea of powerful female sexuality is much bigger than any populist megalomaniac man … Vagina is bigger than Trump.”

She went on to denounce Trump’s reportedly sympathetic relationship with Putin and his embrace of an avowedly tough, perhaps chauvinistic, political style. “Politicians are praising ‘strong leadership,’” she said. “Trump openly supports the authoritarian methods of Vladimir Putin. And it’s scary. It’s not the world in which I want to live.”

Michael Moore: A Trump Victory Would Be “the Biggest ‘F**k You’ Recorded In Human History.”

Michael Moore: A Trump Victory Would Be “the Biggest ‘F**k You’ Recorded In Human History.” By Tim Haines. Video and transcript. Real Clear Politics, October 26, 2016. YouTube.

See also: Salon.

RCP Transcript:

MICHAEL MOORE: I know a lot of people in Michigan that are planning to vote for Trump and they don’t necessarily like him that much, and they don’t necessarily agree with him. They’re not racist or rednecks, they’re actually pretty decent people, and so after talking to a number of them I wanted to write this:

Donald Trump came to the Detroit Economic Club and stood there in front of Ford Motor executives and said, “if you close these factories as you're planning to do in Detroit and build them in Mexico, I’m going to put a 35% tariff on those cars when you send them back and nobody's going to buy them.”

It was an amazing thing to see. No politician, Republican or Democrat, had ever said anything like that to these executives, and it was music to the ears of people in Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – the “Brexit” states.

You live here in Ohio, you know what I’m talking about. Whether Trump means it or not, is kind of irrelevant because he’s saying the things to people who are hurting, and that’s why every beaten-down, nameless, forgotten working stiff who used to be part of what was called the middle class loves Trump. He is the human Molotov cocktail that they’ve been waiting for. The human hand grenade that they can legally throw into the system that stole their lives from them.

And on November 8, Election Day, although they lost their jobs, although they’ve been foreclosed on by the bank, and next came the divorce and now the wife and kids are gone, the car’s been repoed, they haven’t had a real vacation in years, they’re stuck with the shitty Obamacare Bronze Plan where you can’t even get a fucking Percocet. They’ve essentially lost everything they had, except one thing – the one thing that doesn’t cost them a cent, and is guaranteed to them by the American Constitution: the right to vote.

They might be penniless, they might be homeless, they might be f**ked over and f**ked up, it doesn’t matter, because it’s equalized on that day – a millionaire has the same number of votes as the person without a job: one.

And there’s more of the former middle class than there are in the millionaire class.

So on November 8, the dispossessed will walk into the voting booth, be handed a ballot, close the curtain, and take that lever or felt pen or touchscreen and put a big fucking X in the box by the name of the man who has threatened to upend and overturn the very system that has ruined their lives: Donald J. Trump.

They see that the elite who ruined their lives hate Trump. Corporate America hates Trump. Wall Street hates Trump. The career politicians hate Trump. The media hates Trump, after they loved him and created him, and now hate.

Thank you media: the enemy of my enemy is who I’m voting for on November 8.

Yes, on November 8, you Joe Blow, Steve Blow, Bob Blow, Billy Blow, all the Blows get to go and blow up the whole goddamn system because it’s your right. Trump’s election is going to be the biggest f**k ever recorded in human history and it will feel good.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Bill Maher: “There Are a Lot of Vulgar, Tacky, Racist People in This Country.”

Bill Maher on “basket of deplorables.” Fareed Zakaria GPS. CNN, Oct 14, 2016. Full GPS interview with Maher at YouTube, YouTube.

See also: Inquisitr, Mediaite, Raw Story, The Hill, AlterNet, NewsBusters.

GPS Transcript:

ZAKARIA: I spent some time this week in Los Angeles. And while I was there, I had the opportunity to sit down for a conversation with a man who is unabashedly off the left and also, I think, one of the most astute political observers of our time. Not a columnist, not an academic, but a man who apply his trait as a comedian, Bill Maher. He is, of course, the host of HBO’s “Real Time.” And HBO and CNN are both owned by Time Warner. We met on his “Real Time” set and things got real, well, really quickly.

Bill Maher, a pleasure to have you on.

MAHER: Pleasure to be here.

ZAKARIA: Whatever happens with this election, the big question I think we all are still trying to puzzle is, how Trump, why Trump? What is your explanation as to why Donald Trump erupted onto the political scene the way he did?

MAHER: Well, we have to look at the people who voted for him. I mean, it’s depressing to think that you share the country with so many people who you share nothing with.

You know, Donald Trump is a reflection. And what we learned is that there’s a lot of vulgar, tacky, racist people in this country, more than I thought; I knew there were some. But it’s the proverbial lifting up of a rock and what we found when we lifted it up was the basket of deplorables. And I know they hate that term, but if the basket fits, and it does.

ZAKARIA: There are a lot of people who talk about the economic anxiety, the dislocation, the pain. In your last monologue, you don't buy that.

MAHER: Well, I mean, we found that it was a myth. I mean, the typical Trump voter in the primaries made, I think, $72,000 and not hurting economically like they’ve said they are. No more likely to be hurt by trade or immigration. No more likely to be out of work.

You know, the base problem is that they live in this fact-free bubble. I mean, if you’ve ever seen one of his rallies, it’s just a completely fact-free assessment of this country, the problems facing it and his always constitutionally impossible solutions.

It’s funny the internet was supposed to make us smarter but it just served as a seal for knowledge to get in.

ZAKARIA: The perfect example of that is he keeps citing these on-line non-polls as polls.

MAHER: Right. Yes.

ZAKARIA: It’s like we won all the polls.

MAHER: He said this week that ISIS wasn’t only going to take over their part of the world but take over America. You know, back in the day, if you’re in the John Burke society, you have to go door to door with pamphlets and you have to talk to people or whatever. Now, they’re right in a chat room. You can just spew your nonsense and there’s lots of people who – that’s what they want to hear and they want to believe, and so they do.

So we live in this element where it’s not even a race between ideologies anymore, it’s not Republican and Democrat or conservative and liberal. It’s reality versus alternative reality. This reality of their own choosing. And to make it even worse, they don’t care about lying – lying, bold-faced, caught on tape lying is no longer a deal-breaker at all. They don’t care – they don’t care. They know or they don’t know, it doesn’t matter to them. He’s their guy.

ZAKARIA: How much of Trump’s success is that he comes from this much larger world than the political world, the world of celebrity. I remember reading this thing by Josh Ramo who said if you had said to somebody two years ago, this is one candidate who’s got two presidents in his family, and he’s got an amazing Rolodex, he will raise $50 million in the first month or two and there’s this other guy who’s got 10 million Twitter followers, who’s going to win? And it was the guy with the Twitter followers.

MAHER: Right. Well, celebrity is everything in this country. It’s funny, somebody ought to write a book or maybe somebody already did about the history of fame and celebrity because it sure has changed. I mean, I think, 100 years ago, being mobbed, being famous was considered rather gauche, right?

I mean in Shakespeare’s day, actors were like the lowest form of life. And now being a celebrity is everything. I mean, you see it in kids’ reactions. What do you want to be? It’s usually a model, a rapper, an athlete, a singer, you know. I mean, there’s a lot of talk in this country from people about you can always live your dream, kids. And what is the dream? It’s usually to be a singer, you know, “American Idol.”

Let’s get to the part where I’m an idol. Not a lot of Doctors Without Borders. I mean, some, but there’s way too much emphasis on that. And so, they think as celebrity is the best thing you can be. Certainly not held against Donald Trump by his fans.

ZAKARIA: And there’s no distinction between fame, notoriety and celebrity, it’s all the same, the famous.

MAHER: Yes, fame is the best thing.

ZAKARIA: All right. You have five, six million Twitter followers.


ZAKARIA: When we come back, I'm going to ask Bill Maher if he might run for office.


ZAKARIA: And we are back with Bill Maher talking all things Trump and some other things as well. So I was saying, I mean, the power of celebrity is extraordinary. He has this ability to bypass conventional media. He’s got between Facebook and Twitter. He claims 25 million – I haven’t checked it – followers.

I mean, I am serious. You are sort of have, in that same world, yo’'ve got five, six million Twitter followers. Have you ever thought about the fact that you could probably run? You have more name recognition than any politician.

MAHER: I know, but it’s my views. Interesting, I could run more reasonably than I could ten years ago. But my standard answer to that was always I think religion is bad and drugs are good. And that is not a slogan that will probably get you a lot of votes in America. People are rather conservative when they go in the voting booth.

Even liberals. I mean, not necessarily ideologically but they want someone stable. I mean, we will see. If Trump gets elected, this goes out the window. But just being an atheist, I mean, right there, that's like the ultimate deal-breaker. There’s polling on this in America. They will vote for anybody before an atheist. I’m talking about the categories that have never been elected, a Jew, homosexual, vegetarian – they hate vegetarians and they will even vote a vegetarian before an atheist. That’s rock bottom. So, yes and nor would I ever want to.

Oh, my gosh, I mean, to be restricted in the ways you have to be? I have to get up in the morning. Right there is a deal-breaker.

ZAKARIA: What does Trump do, in your view, after his probable defeat?

MAHER: Not good things. I worry about that. I think a lot of people do. Because, first of all, he’s got his knuckle-draggers all riled up about the fact that this is a rigged election. I think I read 65 percent of his followers already believed it is a rigged election and talked about Hillary, putting her in jail.

This is dangerous talk. We saw that woman at the Mike Pence rally this week. I mean, first of all, they live in this, again, alternative reality where country is hanging by a thread and if she is elected, it’s this existential threat to our way of life on earth, it’s just insane. But if you have that mindset and then he loses, what happens? I don’t think he goes away.

You know, this is a Caesar crossing the Rubicon moment; he’s got an army. What’s he going to do with that army? I think he will be – people say he might started his own Fox News-type station, I don’t know. But I don’t think it’s going to be good. I think he’s going to be the Che Guevara of deplorables. I think he’s going to a revolutionary out there and he’s going to be a martyr to this loss, and I hope loss. And I don’t know what they’re prepared to do. They already talk about things like Second Amendment solutions. That phrase becomes a lot more acceptable.

ZAKARIA: Do you think he believes any of this? I mean, he was a Democrat pro-choice, praised the Clintons, smeared Clinton's accusers and now he’s this.

MAHER: I don’t know. I think he always was a racist because he adores his father and that’s baked into the cake with him from way back, the housing stuff. He went after those five who were acquitted of the rape. And even after they were acquitted, he still – I think he’s truly a racist. So he started with that, the Birther stuff. And that’s where they should’ve stopped him, by the way. That was where you stop this maniac but they didn’t.

After that, once he got in front of his rallies, those crowds, I think he let them dictate where he went. He feeds off the love of those people. We know this about him. Putin says he likes him. Putin is a great guy. Someone criticizes him, that’s a horrible person. If he ever got elected, it would just be government by snit, not about ideology, really.

You’re right, he’s all over the map. It doesn’t matter. It’s whether you like him or you don’t. If you praise him, you’re great. If you don’t, you’re awful. So he gets up in the front of those people and he finds out as the campaign went on. I say this and they cheer and they love it.

ZAKARIA: He’s like a salesman. He’s sensing the crowd.

MAHER: Yes, absolutely. Yes, sensing the crowd. So I think that is what has shaped his ideology as far as it goes.

ZAKARIA: You know, one of the things that we’ve all grappled with, which has been very tough is how do you cover this race? And how do you cover Trump, particularly, when, you know, what he says things that are just not true?

So for instance, I even watched him this last debate and Anderson Cooper said to him, do you think you have the discipline to be president? For example, you tweet late at night and you ask us to watch a sex tape, which by the way didn’t exist. And he says, I didn’t. What do you supposed to do with that point when, you know, he did tweeted and how many times do you do that?

MAHER: Well, I think the media, you know, has been going downhill for a long time with notable exceptions. But I think one of their big problems is that they confuse fair and balanced with false equivalency. You know, he’s not the same as Hillary Clinton. I mean, Politico did a study of this of how much they lie. She lies about 28 percent of the time somewhat or fully, which is about pretty good for politicians.

ZAKARIA: It's about the average.

MAHER: He lies like 80 percent of the time. Like she lies less than most politicians, he lies more than anybody we’ve ever seen. He just says whatever comes into his head. I think it’s the media's job to point that out. I know he’s going to stammer and yell, and he does; I saw it at the last debate. He's like a five-year-old.

I mean, he kept saying to the moderator, she got more time. This is what my sister and I used to do when we were literally toddlers. She could to do anything she wants and I can’t watch any of my shows. The idea that this is somebody who they are seriously considering electing? Even if he loses, that is a depressing thought. But yes, I do think the media has to do a much better job of that.

ZAKARIA: But again, his supporters and all the people on Fox News, they buy this all. They like it.

MAHER: I know but the media has to understand that, again, fair and balanced. They got that in their head, which they think means, well, I say this to this guy and I said exactly in the other guy. But if one person is saying that the earth doesn’t revolve around the sun, you know, the answer is not to give that person equal weight with that. And also – I mean, come on, the media is rooting for a close race. It’s better for them.

I mean, Hillary is way up now but I don’t think that’s what the media wants. And they’re going to take these nothing e-mails that are in the Wikipedia leaks – I mean, the WikiLeaks, and they’re going to find something in there and they’re going to dwell on it, and people out there who don’t know much about anything in politics are going to go, it’s a wash, you know. That’s it.

Well, you know, he did the 8,000 horrific things, but what about the e-mails? You know, the e-mails, big nothing burger. The Clinton Foundation, nothing there. God forbid, they get caught helping people overcome diseases as supposed to Donald Trump’s charity which, you know, was basically a slush fund that benefited one orphan, Donald Trump. And people think all these things are a wash. The media has to take some responsibility for that.

ZAKARIA: All right. When we come back, I’m going to ask Bill Maher whether it is possible to be a comedian with Hillary Clinton as president.


MAHER: Hillary, I love her, but she’s not good at this. I mean, in 2008, she lost to a black man with a Muslim name. Now she’s losing to a 74-year-old Jewish socialist. I mean, Hillary, we’re making this as easy as we can for you, but you’re going to have to help a little.

ZAKARIA: That was Bill Maher on his HBO show “Real Time” talking about Hillary Clinton in February. Have his views changed? Listen in.

So who is Hillary Clinton, really? I mean, one of the this people wonder about is, who is that person behind this what seems like a programmed facade?

MAHER: I don’t find her to be this mystery to people. I mean, she's been out there for this long. Look, she is certainly shell-shocked from 30 years of being attacked. I don’t think there’s anyone who’s ever been more scrutinized, over-scrutinized. I always say she’s like a black driver in a white neighborhood and the police are the Republicans. They keep pulling her over and they keep having to let her go.

So, obviously, she’s guarded. Maybe she’s that way from the beginning, from her upbringing, but she’s – I can’t blame her. And, I mean, we’re starting to read all the e-mails. There’s nothing in there.

You know, they reveal what she is, a government nerd who never stops working. The kind of person who knows details, who believes government can do good, and I just think that’s exactly who she is. She’s someone who wants to roll up her sleeves and make a problem better, like Bill Clinton said at the convention. I don’t think there’s much more to it than that. I don’t see – I certainly don’t see a scary person. She’s a centrist.

The idea in their minds that she’s going to change the country very much is crazy. Bernie has moved her to the left to a degree, that’s good. But she’s not going to rock the boat. And what’s so ironic is that he’s the big businessman. They love him because he’s rich. And of course, if you’re rich, anything you say is brilliant.

But he’s the one that’s going to lose everybody their money. I’ve been saying this for a long time and now I see business people are saying it too. The market will tank before he’s even taken the oath of office because the market is very nervous, hates volatility, they pretend they hated Obama as the stock market went from 6900 to 18,000 but they’ve loved him, really, because he’s calm. He doesn’t rock the boat. He’s steady. And the market loves that. And Donald Trump is just the poster boy for volatility.

ZAKARIA: And if Hillary Clinton is as dull and intense as you say –

MAHER: Yes, it will be tough.

ZAKARIA:  –  how are you going to make the jokes?

MAHER: I mean, we always could make jokes every time there’s a passing of the guard. I remember when Bush left office, all the media called, all the comedians have said, will there ever be anybody as fun – well, of course, you know, the Republicans, first of all, will be who we make fun of mostly, even though they’re not the president as they haven’t been, somebody always steps up.

I mean, if George Bush goes down and a Sarah Palin steps up. And then a Ted Cruz, a John Boehner, I mean, Donald Trump. I mean, these people are the evolutionary chart in reverse. It just always gets worse. And I have no doubt that there are people who will step up for the Republican Party who will make my job easier if I’m here when I’m 110, which I hope to be.

ZAKARIA: Bill Maher, pleasure to have you on, as always.

MAHER: Pleasure to be here as always. Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Thank you so much.