Friday, February 26, 2016

The Jacksonian Temptation: Trump vs. Cruz. By Jarrett Stepman.

The Jacksonian Temptation: Trump vs. Cruz. By Jarrett Stepman. Breitbart, February 24, 2016.


Trump’s Jacksonian Nationalism Is Corrosive and Dangerous. By Michael Gerson.

Trump’s nationalism is corrosive and dangerous. By Michael Gerson. Washington Post, February 25, 2016. Also at Real Clear Politics.


The main focus of Donald Trump’s media coverage has been his populist disdain for elites. But his main focus has often been a strident version of American nationalism.

Trump has offered this explanation of his own ambitions: “The reason I’m thinking about [running for office],” he told the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2011, “is that the United States has become a whipping post for the rest of the world. ... I deal with people from China, I deal with people from Mexico. They cannot believe what theyre getting away with.”

It is difficult to discern a foreign policy in Trump’s oeuvre of rambling, extemporaneous speechmaking and Twitter pronouncements. He usually communicates without a hint of actual argument. But there is some consistency to his various statements.

Trump believes that U.S. allies in Europe and Asia have become free riders that should defend themselves and pay their own way. He calls the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty unfair. In exchange for the protection of South Korea, he argues, “we get practically nothing.” Mexico is “ripping us off” and purposely sending us criminals. It must be compelled to pay for a continent-wide wall. Trump proposes to “tax China for each bad act” and has raised the possibility of a 45 percent tariff. Vladimir Putin, in contrast, should be given a free hand in the Middle East to go after Sunni radicals and other opponents of the Syrian regime. And the United States should focus on killing terrorists as well as targeting their families for murder, apparently on the theory that war crimes are a demonstration of super-duper toughness.

As Trump’s political prospects have improved, we are required to give these foreign policy views more serious analysis, which is more than Trump himself has done. When pressed on such issues in debates and interviews, he is utterly incoherent. A man who confuses the Kurds with the Quds Force (Iran’s expeditionary military force) hasn’t the slightest familiarity with current events in the Middle East. And it feels like we have, so far, explored only the fringes of his ignorance.

But it is the theory behind Trump’s threats that is particularly dangerous. He is not an isolationist, in the Rand Paul sense. He is more of a Jacksonian (in Walter Russell Mead’s typology) — preferring a strong America that is occasionally roused to kill its enemies but then returns home and avoids entangling international commitments. The United States, in this view, should vigorously pursue narrow national interests and seek to be feared rather than loved.

This conception of America’s international role was common, before America had a serious international role. A Gallup poll from 1937 showed that 70 percent of Americans thought U.S. intervention in World War I had been a mistake. In early 1940, as German intentions of conquest were clear, less than 10 percent thought the United States should send its military abroad.

But this view of America is as relevant to current affairs as political events in ancient Rome. “The great need today isn’t to ‘beat’ core allies such as Mexico and Japan, while working with Vladimir Putin,” George Mason University’s Colin Dueck explains diplomatically. “On the contrary, the urgent need is to constrain aggressors such as Putin while supporting core U.S. allies like Mexico and Japan.”

Less gently put, Trump would be a president who could not reliably tell America’s enemies from its friends. He contemplates actions such as weakening U.S. security assurances to South Korea that might invite war. (Recall the outcome in 1950 of Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s implication that South Korea was outside America’s “defensive perimeter.”) Trump promises actions — like forcing the Mexican government to fund the great wall of Trump — that are, in the formal language of international relations, loony, unhinged, bonkers. His move to impose massive tariffs against China would earn derisive laughter at the World Trade Organization; if he persisted anyway, it might blow up the global trading order and dramatically increase tensions in Asia.

A Jacksonian role for the United States is positively dangerous in a world where many threats — terrorism, pandemic disease, refugee flows, drug cartels — emerge in failed states and hopeless places. It has never been more evident that the success of America depends on an expanding system of free trade, free markets, democratic governance and strong alliances — upheld, in Asia, Europe and elsewhere, by American security guarantees.

Trump’s version of American nationalism without reference to American principles is Putinism by another name. And it is just one more way that Trump would sully the spirit of the nation he seeks to lead.

Trump and the Rise of the Unprotected. By Peggy Noonan.

Trump and the Rise of the Unprotected. By Peggy Noonan. Wall Street Journal, February 25, 2016.


Why political professionals are struggling to make sense of the world they created.

We’re in a funny moment. Those who do politics for a living, some of them quite brilliant, are struggling to comprehend the central fact Republican primary race, while regular people have already absorbed what has happened and is happening. Journalists and politicos have been sharing schemes for how Marco parlays a victory out of winning nowhere, or Ted roars back, or Kasich has to finish second in Ohio. But in my experience any nonpolitical person on the street, when asked who will win, not only knows but gets a look as if you’re teasing him. Trump, they say.

I had such a conversation again Tuesday with a friend who repairs shoes in a shop on Lexington Avenue. Jimmy asked me, conversationally, what was going to happen. I deflected and asked who he thinks is going to win. “Troomp!” He’s a very nice man, an elderly, old-school Italian-American, but I saw impatience flick across his face: Aren’t you supposed to know these things?

In America now only normal people are capable of seeing the obvious.

But actually that’s been true for a while, and is how we got in the position we’re in.

Last October I wrote of the five stages of Trump, based on the Kübler-Ross stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Most of the professionals I know are stuck somewhere between four and five.

But I keep thinking of how Donald Trump got to be the very likely Republican nominee. There are many answers and reasons, but my thoughts keep revolving around the idea of protection. It is a theme that has been something of a preoccupation in this space over the years, but I think I am seeing it now grow into an overall political dynamic throughout the West.

There are the protected and the unprotected. The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully.

The protected are the accomplished, the secure, the successful—those who have power or access to it. They are protected from much of the roughness of the world. More to the point, they are protected from the world they have created. Again, they make public policy and have for some time.

I want to call them the elite to load the rhetorical dice, but let’s stick with the protected.

They are figures in government, politics and media. They live in nice neighborhoods, safe ones. Their families function, their kids go to good schools, they’ve got some money. All of these things tend to isolate them, or provide buffers. Some of them—in Washington it is important officials in the executive branch or on the Hill; in Brussels, significant figures in the European Union—literally have their own security details.

Because they are protected they feel they can do pretty much anything, impose any reality. They’re insulated from many of the effects of their own decisions.

One issue obviously roiling the U.S. and western Europe is immigration. It is THE issue of the moment, a real and concrete one but also a symbolic one: It stands for all the distance between governments and their citizens.

It is of course the issue that made Donald Trump.

Britain will probably leave the European Union over it. In truth immigration is one front in that battle, but it is the most salient because of the European refugee crisis and the failure of the protected class to address it realistically and in a way that offers safety to the unprotected.

If you are an unprotected American—one with limited resources and negligible access to power—you have absorbed some lessons from the past 20 years’ experience of illegal immigration. You know the Democrats won’t protect you and the Republicans won’t help you. Both parties refused to control the border. The Republicans were afraid of being called illiberal, racist, of losing a demographic for a generation. The Democrats wanted to keep the issue alive to use it as a wedge against the Republicans and to establish themselves as owners of the Hispanic vote.

Many Americans suffered from illegal immigration—its impact on labor markets, financial costs, crime, the sense that the rule of law was collapsing. But the protected did fine—more workers at lower wages. No effect of illegal immigration was likely to hurt them personally.

It was good for the protected. But the unprotected watched and saw. They realized the protected were not looking out for them, and they inferred that they were not looking out for the country, either.

The unprotected came to think they owed the establishment—another word for the protected—nothing, no particular loyalty, no old allegiance.

Mr. Trump came from that.

Similarly in Europe, citizens on the ground in member nations came to see the EU apparatus as a racket—an elite that operated in splendid isolation, looking after its own while looking down on the people.

In Germany the incident that tipped public opinion against the Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal refugee policy happened on New Year’s Eve in the public square of Cologne. Packs of men said to be recent migrants groped and molested groups of young women. It was called a clash of cultures, and it was that, but it was also wholly predictable if any policy maker had cared to think about it. And it was not the protected who were the victims—not a daughter of EU officials or members of the Bundestag. It was middle- and working-class girls—the unprotected, who didn’t even immediately protest what had happened to them. They must have understood that in the general scheme of things they’re nobodies.

What marks this political moment, in Europe and the U.S., is the rise of the unprotected. It is the rise of people who don’t have all that much against those who’ve been given many blessings and seem to believe they have them not because they’re fortunate but because they’re better.

You see the dynamic in many spheres. In Hollywood, as we still call it, where they make our rough culture, they are careful to protect their own children from its ill effects. In places with failing schools, they choose not to help them through the school liberation movement—charter schools, choice, etc.—because they fear to go up against the most reactionary professional group in America, the teachers unions. They let the public schools flounder. But their children go to the best private schools.

This is a terrible feature of our age—that we are governed by protected people who don’t seem to care that much about their unprotected fellow citizens.

And a country really can’t continue this way.

In wise governments the top is attentive to the realities of the lives of normal people, and careful about their anxieties. That’s more or less how America used to be. There didn’t seem to be so much distance between the top and the bottom.

Now is seems the attitude of the top half is: You’re on your own. Get with the program, little racist.

Social philosophers are always saying the underclass must re-moralize. Maybe it is the overclass that must re-moralize.

I don’t know if the protected see how serious this moment is, or their role in it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Trumpkins’ Lament. By Bret Stephens.

The Trumpkins’ Lament. By Bret Stephens. Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2016.

Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh might be human garbage, but conservatives are wrong to blame them for the disturbing rise of Trump. By Amanda Marcotte. Salon, February 23, 2016.


Where was Mark Levin when Trump was still a big bubble waiting to be popped?

In the 1980s, Eddie Murphy had a hilarious skit in which he explained how it was that Jesse Jackson, then running for president, had a plausible shot at winning the Democratic nomination. The gag involved two white guys voting for Mr. Jackson “as a goof.”

“They get drunk . . . and go like: ‘Let’s vote for Jesse Jackson!’”

“‘I just voted for Jesse Jackson!’”

“And the next day would be like this: ‘He [bleeping] won?’”

I thought of Mr. Murphy’s make-believe drunks while listening to Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin inveigh against Donald Trump following the Republican debate in South Carolina. The Donald had yet again noted that 9/11 had happened on George W. Bush’s watch, adding for good measure that the 43rd president had lied America into war with Iraq.

Donald Trump “sounded like any average host on MSNBC,” marveled Mr. Limbaugh, who was equally aghast that Mr. Trump had defended “Planned Parenthood in language used by the left.”

Mr. Levin was even blunter: “He sounds like a radical kook,” the radio host thundered to his seven million listeners. “To have the leading Republican nominee for president of the United States to make these kinds of statements—and he’s been praised by Code Pink. He should be praised by Code Pink and every left-wing kook organization that hates America. To have him praised for what he said? Terrible. Absolutely terrible.”

It is terrible. So where were Messrs. Limbaugh and Levin last summer, when the Trump candidacy was still a big soap bubble, waiting to be popped by the likes of them?

In July, Mr. Trump said of John McCain, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” The Donald’s trademark insult—coyly calibrated to appeal to voters who lack the brains or the decency to be appalled—should have been the tombstone of his campaign. But it wasn’t, thanks not least to a loud assist from Mr. Limbaugh.

“Trump can survive this. Trump is surviving this,” Mr. Limbaugh exulted. “The American people haven’t seen something like this in a long time. They have not seen an embattled public figure stand up for himself, double down and tell everybody to go to hell.”

In fact, Americans have often seen such figures: Marcus Garvey, Henry Wallace, Joe McCarthy, Lyndon LaRouche. We just used to have the good sense to dismiss them as eccentrics, lowlifes or clowns. What we haven’t seen are the modern-day keepers of mainstream conservatism developing schoolgirl crushes on the bad boy of the GOP class. “The Republicans are impotent!” swooned Mr. Levin in one September broadcast. “And now this guy [Mr. Trump], who may not be a down-the-line conservative, is standing up to them. And he’s kicking them all over the place.”

Mr. Levin has since become more critical of Mr. Trump, though Mr. Limbaugh seems to be hedging his bets. But both men provided Mr. Trump with the margin of respectability he needed in the early months to make his campaign credible with Republican voters.

So Mr. Trump had once supported socialized medicine? That didn’t matter, said Mr. Levin, because the candidate opposed ObamaCare now. So Mr. Trump was conspicuously ignorant about major foreign-policy issues? Who cares, since he was passionate about the “invasion,” as Mr. Limbaugh calls it, of Latin American migrants. So Mr. Trump wants to ban Muslim immigration? Well, Mr. Levin says, at least “Trump has opened the way” to a “national discussion.”

Above all, the Trump candidacy was supposed to serve its purpose as a truck bomb against the “GOP Establishment”—namely, Republicans in Congress who don’t think repeatedly shutting down the government is a smart political tactic; editorial pages, this one especially, that believe in immigration reform and think the GOP can only win as a party of aspiration and inclusion, not fences and deportation; and anyone else who thinks it’s enough to fault Barack Obama for being a lousy president without also accusing him of being a sworn enemy of the United States.

Well, congratulations, fellas. If your avowed purpose was to knock Jeb Bush out of the race, you’ve won. It must feel great.

Then again, it’s looking less great for Ted Cruz, your preferred candidate, who could only manage a third-place finish in a very red state. And it’s looking even worse for the Republican Party, which shows every sign of wanting to give its presidential nomination to an unelectable buffoon who would lose in a rout—to Bernie Sanders.

It’s a lucky thing for conservatives that the likeliest alternative to Mr. Trump for the nomination is the very “establishment Republican” Marco Rubio, the non-jerk of the season who could actually win in November. Too bad his task will be that much harder thanks to the ideological drunks who, when they knew better, cheered the Donald on.

Male Sexual Nature and the Left’s Culture of Denial. By Dennis Prager.

Male Sexual Nature and the Left’s Culture of Denial. By Dennis Prager. National Review Online, February 23, 2016.


How the Working Class Can Regain Its Dignity. By Rachel Lu.

How the Working Class Can Regain Its Dignity. By Rachel Lu. The Federalist, February 23, 2016.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Left’s Problem with Jews Has a Long and Miserable History. By Simon Schama.

The left’s problem with Jews has a long and miserable history. By Simon Schama. Financial Times, February 19, 2016.


Anti-Israel demonstrations are in danger of morphing into anti-Semitism, writes Simon Schama.

Much of the student left has “some kind of problem with Jews”, said the bravely decent Alex Chalmers last week in his resignation statement as co-chair of the Oxford University Labour Club following a vote in favour of Israeli Apartheid Week.

Labour’s national student organisation is launching an inquiry but the “the problem with Jews” on the left is not going away. In January a meeting of the Kings College London Israel Society, gathered to hear from Ami Ayalon, a former head of Shin Bet, the Israeli domestic intelligence service, who now champions a two-state solution, was violently interrupted by a chair-hurling, window-smashing crowd.

Last summer the Guardian columnist Owen Jones made a courageous plea for the left to confront this demon head on. Since then, however, criticism of Israeli government policies has mutated into a rejection of Israel’s right to exist; the Fatah position replaced by Hamas and Hizbollah eliminationism. More darkly, support in the diaspora for Israel’s right to survive is seen by the likes of Labour’s Gerald Kaufman, who accused the government of being influenced in its Middle Eastern policy by “Jewish money”, as some sort of Jewish conspiracy.

The charge that anti-Zionism is morphing into anti-Semitism is met with the retort that the former is being disingenuously conflated with the latter. But when George Galloway (in August 2014 during the last Gaza war) declared Bradford “an Israel-free zone”; when French Jews are unable to wear a yarmulke in public lest that invite assault, when Holocaust Memorial day posters are defaced, it is evident that what we are dealing with is, in Professor Alan Johnson’s accurate coinage, “anti-semitic anti-Zionism”.

The fact is that the terrorists who slaughtered customers at the kosher supermarket in Paris did not ask their victims whether they were Israelis, much less supporters of Israeli government policies. They were murdered as Jews because in the attackers’ poisoned minds all Jews are indivisibly incriminated as persecutors of the Palestinians and thus fair game for murder.

When the international Boycott,Divestment and Sanctions movement singles out Israel as the perpetrator of the world’s worst iniquities, notwithstanding its right of self defence, it is legitimate to ask why the left’s wrath does not extend, for example, to Russia which rains down destruction on civilian populations in Syria?

Why is it somehow proper to boycott Israeli academics and cultural institutions, many of which are critical of government policy, but to remain passive in the face of Saudi Arabia’s brutal punishment of anyone whose exercise of freedom of conscience can be judged sacrilegious? Why is the rage so conspicuously selective? Or, to put it another way, why is it so much easier to hate the Jews?

Growing up in London in the shadow of world war two my pals and I talked about who might be the bad guys, should evil come our way. We agreed the Jew-haters would not wear brown shirts and jackboots but would probably be like people on the bus. It is not the golf club nose-holders we have to worry about now; it is those who, in their indignation at the sufferings visited on the Palestinians, and their indifference to almost-daily stabbings in the streets of Israel, have discovered the excitement of saying the unspeakable, making hay with history, so Israel is the new reich, and a military attack on Gaza indistinguishable from the industrially processed incineration of millions.

Enter the historian. And history says this: anti-Semitism has not been caused by Zionism; it is precisely the other way round. Israel was caused by the centuries-long dehumanisation of the Jews. The blood libel which accused Jews of murdering Christian children in order to drain their blood for the baking of Passover matzo began in medieval England but never went away, reviving in 16th century Italy, 18th century Poland, 19th century Syria and Bohemia, and 20th century Russia.

In 1980s Syria, Mustafa Tlass, Hafez al-Assad’s minister of defence, made his contribution with The Matzo of Zion, and last year the Israeli-Palestinian Islamist Raed Salah, once invited to parliament by Jeremy Corbyn as an “honoured citizen”, declared that Jews used blood for the dough of their “bread”.

In the 19th century virtual vampirism was added to the antisemitic canon. And the left made its contribution to this refreshment of old poison. Demonstrating that you do not have to be gentile to be an anti-Semite, Karl Marx characterised Judaism as nothing more than the cult of Mammon, and declared that the world needed emancipating from the Jews. Others on the left — the social philosophers Bruno Bauer, Charles Fourier and Pierre Prudhon and the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin — echoed the message: blood sucking, whether the physical or the economic kind, was what Jews did.

For the Jews, the modern world turned out to be a lose-lose proposition. Once reviled for obstinate traditionalism; their insistence on keeping walled off from the rest (notwithstanding that it had been Christians who had done the walling) they were now attacked for integrating too well, speaking, dressing and working no differently but always with the aim of global domination.

What was a Jew to do? The communist Moses Hess, who had been Marx’s editor and friend, became persuaded, all too presciently, that the socialist revolution would do nothing to normalise Jewish existence, not least because so many socialists declared that emancipating the Jews had been a terrible mistake. Hess concluded that only self-determination could protect the Jews from the phobias of right and left alike. He became the first socialist Zionist.

But that was to inflict an entirely colonial and alien enterprise upon a Palestinian population, so the hostile narrative goes, who were penalised for the sins of Europe. That the Palestinians did become tragic casualties of a Judeo-Arab civil war over the country is indisputable, just as the 700,000 Jews who were violently uprooted from their homes in the Islamic world is equally undeniable. But to characterise the country in which the language, the religion and the cultural identity of the Jews was formed as purely a colonial anomaly is the product of the kind of historical innocence which is oblivious of, say, Jewish kabbalistic communities in Galilee in the 16th century or the substantial native Jewish majority in Jerusalem in the late 19th century.

None of this unbroken history of Jews and Judaism in Palestine is likely to do much to cool the heat of the anti-colonial narrative of the alien intruder, especially on the left. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the retreat of Marxist socialism around the world, militant energies have needed somewhere to go.

The battle against inequalities under liberal capitalism has mobilised some of that passion, but postcolonial guilt has fired up the war against its prize whipping boy, Zionism, like no other cause. Every such crusade needs a villain along with its banners and I wonder who that could possibly be?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Trump’s America. By Charles Murray.

Trump’s America. By Charles Murray. Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2016.


There’s nothing irrational about Donald Trump’s appeal to the white working class, writes Charles Murray: they have every reason to be angry.

If you are dismayed by Trumpism, don’t kid yourself that it will fade away if Donald Trump fails to win the Republican nomination. Trumpism is an expression of the legitimate anger that many Americans feel about the course that the country has taken, and its appearance was predictable. It is the endgame of a process that has been going on for a half-century: America’s divestment of its historic national identity.

For the eminent political scientist Samuel Huntington, writing in his last book, “Who Are We?” (2004), two components of that national identity stand out. One is our Anglo-Protestant heritage, which has inevitably faded in an America that is now home to many cultural and religious traditions. The other is the very idea of America, something unique to us. As the historian Richard Hofstadter once said, “It has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies but to be one.”

What does this ideology—Huntington called it the “American creed”—consist of? Its three core values may be summarized as egalitarianism, liberty and individualism. From these flow other familiar aspects of the national creed that observers have long identified: equality before the law, equality of opportunity, freedom of speech and association, self-reliance, limited government, free-market economics, decentralized and devolved political authority.

As recently as 1960, the creed was our national consensus. Running that year for the Democratic nomination, candidates like John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Hubert Humphrey genuinely embraced the creed, differing from Republicans only in how its elements should be realized.

Today, the creed has lost its authority and its substance. What happened? Many of the dynamics of the reversal can be found in developments across the whole of American society: in the emergence of a new upper class and a new lower class, and in the plight of the working class caught in between.

In my 2012 book “Coming Apart,” I discussed these new classes at length. The new upper class consists of the people who shape the country’s economy, politics and culture. The new lower class consists of people who have dropped out of some of the most basic institutions of American civic culture, especially work and marriage. Both of these new classes have repudiated the American creed in practice, whatever lip service they may still pay to it. Trumpism is the voice of a beleaguered working class telling us that it too is falling away.

Historically, one of the most widely acknowledged aspects of American exceptionalism was our lack of class consciousness. Even Marx and Engels recognized it. This was egalitarianism American style. Yes, America had rich people and poor people, but that didn’t mean that the rich were better than anyone else.

Successful Americans stubbornly refused to accept the mantle of an upper class, typically presenting themselves to their fellow countrymen as regular guys. And they usually were, in the sense that most of them had grown up in modest circumstances, or even in poverty, and carried the habits and standards of their youths into their successful later lives.

America also retained a high degree of social and cultural heterogeneity in its communities. Tocqueville wrote of America in the 1830s as a place where “the more opulent citizens take great care not to stand aloof from the people.” That continued well into the 20th century, even in America’s elite neighborhoods. In the 1960 census, the median income along Philadelphia’s Main Line was just $90,000 in today’s dollars. In Boston’s Brookline, it was $75,000; on New York’s Upper East Side, just $60,000. At a typical dinner party in those neighborhoods, many guests would have had no more than a high-school diploma.

In the years since, the new upper class has evolved a distinctive culture. For a half-century, America’s elite universities have drawn the most talented people from all over the country, socialized them and often married them off to each other. Brains have become radically more valuable in the marketplace. In 2016, a dinner party in those same elite neighborhoods consists almost wholly of people with college degrees, even advanced degrees. They are much more uniformly affluent. The current median family incomes for the Main Line, Brookline and the Upper East Side are about $150,000, $151,000 and $203,000, respectively.

And the conversation at that dinner party is likely to be completely unlike the conversations at get-togethers in mainstream America. The members of the new upper class are seldom attracted to the films, TV shows and music that are most popular in mainstream America. They have a distinctive culture in the food they eat, the way they take care of their health, their child-rearing practices, the vacations they take, the books they read, the websites they visit and their taste in beer. You name it, the new upper class has its own way of doing it.

Another characteristic of the new upper class—and something new under the American sun—is their easy acceptance of being members of an upper class and their condescension toward ordinary Americans. Try using “redneck” in a conversation with your highly educated friends and see if it triggers any of the nervousness that accompanies other ethnic slurs. Refer to “flyover country” and consider the implications when no one asks, “What does that mean?” Or I can send you to chat with a friend in Washington, D.C., who bought a weekend place in West Virginia. He will tell you about the contempt for his new neighbors that he has encountered in the elite precincts of the nation’s capital.

For its part, mainstream America is fully aware of this condescension and contempt and is understandably irritated by it. American egalitarianism is on its last legs.

While the new upper class was seceding from the mainstream, a new lower class was emerging from within the white working class, and it has played a key role in creating the environment in which Trumpism has flourished.

Work and marriage have been central to American civic culture since the founding, and this held true for the white working class into the 1960s. Almost all of the adult men were working or looking for work, and almost all of them were married.

Then things started to change. For white working-class men in their 30s and 40s—what should be the prime decades for working and raising a family—participation in the labor force dropped from 96% in 1968 to 79% in 2015. Over that same period, the portion of these men who were married dropped from 86% to 52%. (The numbers for nonwhite working-class males show declines as well, though not as steep and not as continuous.)

These are stunning changes, and they are visible across the country. In today’s average white working-class neighborhood, about one out of five men in the prime of life isn’t even looking for work; they are living off girlfriends, siblings or parents, on disability, or else subsisting on off-the-books or criminal income. Almost half aren’t married, with all the collateral social problems that go with large numbers of unattached males.

In these communities, about half the children are born to unmarried women, with all the problems that go with growing up without fathers, especially for boys. Drugs also have become a major problem, in small towns as well as in urban areas.

Consider how these trends have affected life in working-class communities for everyone, including those who are still playing by the old rules. They find themselves working and raising their families in neighborhoods where the old civic culture is gone—neighborhoods that are no longer friendly or pleasant or even safe.

These major changes in American class structure were taking place alongside another sea change: large-scale ideological defection from the principles of liberty and individualism, two of the pillars of the American creed. This came about in large measure because of the civil rights and feminist movements, both of which began as classic invocations of the creed, rightly demanding that America make good on its ideals for blacks and women.

But the success of both movements soon produced policies that directly contradicted the creed. Affirmative action demanded that people be treated as groups. Equality of outcome trumped equality before the law. Group-based policies continued to multiply, with ever more policies embracing ever more groups.

By the beginning of the 1980s, Democratic elites overwhelmingly subscribed to an ideology in open conflict with liberty and individualism as traditionally understood. This consolidated the Democratic Party’s longtime popularity with ethnic minorities, single women and low-income women, but it alienated another key Democratic constituency: the white working class.

White working-class males were the archetypal “Reagan Democrats” in the early 1980s and are often described as the core of support for Mr. Trump. But the grievances of this group are often misunderstood. It is a mistake to suggest that they are lashing out irrationally against people who don’t look like themselves. There are certainly elements of racism and xenophobia in Trumpism, as I myself have discovered on Twitter and Facebook after writing critically about Mr. Trump.

But the central truth of Trumpism as a phenomenon is that the entire American working class has legitimate reasons to be angry at the ruling class. During the past half-century of economic growth, virtually none of the rewards have gone to the working class. The economists can supply caveats and refinements to that statement, but the bottom line is stark: The real family income of people in the bottom half of the income distribution hasn’t increased since the late 1960s.

During the same half-century, American corporations exported millions of manufacturing jobs, which were among the best-paying working-class jobs. They were and are predominantly men’s jobs. In both 1968 and 2015, 70% of manufacturing jobs were held by males.

During the same half-century, the federal government allowed the immigration, legal and illegal, of tens of millions of competitors for the remaining working-class jobs. Apart from agriculture, many of those jobs involve the construction trades or crafts. They too were and are predominantly men’s jobs: 77% in 1968 and 84% in 2015.

Economists still argue about the net effect of these events on the American job market. But for someone living in a town where the big company has shut the factory and moved the jobs to China, or for a roofer who has watched a contractor hire illegal immigrants because they are cheaper, anger and frustration are rational.

Add to this the fact that white working-class men are looked down upon by the elites and get little validation in their own communities for being good providers, fathers and spouses—and that life in their communities is falling apart. To top it off, the party they have voted for in recent decades, the Republicans, hasn’t done a damn thing to help them. Who wouldn’t be angry?

There is nothing conservative about how they want to fix things. They want a now indifferent government to act on their behalf, big time. If Bernie Sanders were passionate about immigration, the rest of his ideology would have a lot more in common with Trumpism than conservatism does.

As a political matter, it is not a problem that Mr. Sanders doesn’t share the traditional American meanings of liberty and individualism. Neither does Mr. Trump. Neither, any longer, do many in the white working class. They have joined the other defectors from the American creed.

Who continues to embrace this creed in its entirety? Large portions of the middle class and upper middle class (especially those who run small businesses), many people in the corporate and financial worlds and much of the senior leadership of the Republican Party. They remain principled upholders of the ideals of egalitarianism, liberty and individualism.

And let’s not forget moderate Democrats, the spiritual legatees of the New Deal. They may advocate social democracy, but they are also unhappy about policies that treat Americans as members of groups and staunch in their support of freedom of speech, individual moral responsibility and the kind of egalitarianism that Tocqueville was talking about. They still exist in large numbers, though mostly in the political closet.

But these are fragments of the population, not the national consensus that bound the U.S. together for the first 175 years of the nation’s existence. And just as support for the American creed has shrunk, so has its correspondence to daily life. Our vaunted liberty is now constrained by thousands of petty restrictions that touch almost anything we want to do, individualism is routinely ignored in favor of group rights, and we have acquired an arrogant upper class. Operationally as well as ideologically, the American creed is shattered.

Our national identity is not altogether lost. Americans still have a vivid, distinctive national character in the eyes of the world. Historically, America has done a far better job than any other country of socializing people of many different ethnicities into displaying our national character. We will still be identifiably American for some time to come.

There’s irony in that. Much of the passion of Trumpism is directed against the threat to America’s national identity from an influx of immigrants. But the immigrants I actually encounter, of all ethnicities, typically come across as classically American—cheerful, hardworking, optimistic, ambitious. Keeping our national character seems to be the least of our problems.

Still, even that character is ultimately rooted in the American creed. When faith in that secular religion is held only by fragments of the American people, we will soon be just another nation—a very powerful one, a very rich one, still called the United States of America. But we will have detached ourselves from the bedrock that has made us unique in the history of the world.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Why I Am a Member of Peace When. By Richard Landes.

Why I am a member of Peace When. By Richard Landes. The Augean Stables, February 2, 2016.


Two State Solution, yes, just not now; or, Why I am a member of Peace When.

Almost everyone in the positive-sum world of “getting to win-win” agrees that the most equitable resolution to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, is a two-state solution. Land for peace, reciprocal compromise, give a little, get a lot. This positive-sum thinking lies at the heart of what makes modern democracy possible, and has enabled the Europeans to replace millennia of wars between tribes and nations (in medieval times, an annual activity) with a cooperative and productive Union. To progressives, it’s so obvious that, as one BBC analyst put it: you could work it out with an email.

And yet, the conflict has proven amazingly enduring, and resistant to the best intentioned efforts of Western outsiders for the last twenty years. Indeed, not only did it ruin the final year of Bill Clinton’s presidency, but it made fools of both of Obama’s Secretaries of State, who confidently predicted that they would resolve this in less than a year(!). Like a Sisyphus with Alzheimers, doomed to repeat the same motions without registering the repetition, Western “conflict resolution” experts repeatedly attempt to implement the same “positive-sum” solutions, with predictably the same results: not just no success, but actual failure. The situation is worse after than before.

What escapes many who, like me, accept the idea of a two state solution, is the unmentioned now that accompanies all current efforts. This notion that this solution can and should be implemented right away, has good reasons behind it. In addition to its concern for a putting an end to the suffering caused by the conflict as soon as possible, the haste acknowledges the demographic problems in the next generation: can Israel be both Jewish and democratic?

Both are good reasons to want to move quickly, but not good reasons to ignore the obstacles in the way. The reality on the ground, the combination of “strong horse” political culture, and tribal, apocalyptic Jihadi religious culture, makes it impossible to close one’s eyes and hope that both sides are ready for it, and it’s just a matter of finding the right formula of compromise to hit the jackpot.

The majority of voices in the public sphere blame the lack of progress on the Israelis. This is a main theme of European diplomacy and post-colonial scholarship since the mid-1970s, Western mainstream news media (BBC and NYT leading the charge) especially since 2000, and has now moved into policy circles even in the US. This tendency makes sense only in that the Israelis, being at once more flexible and more self-critical, are easier to blame, even when it’s not their fault. How much the easier to take this path when, on the one hand, the Palestinians greet criticism with great hostility, and on the other hand, one finds strong support from self-critical Israelis and Jews.

These “Jews against themselves” provide the arguments for politicians and pundits, not particularly eager to criticize the Palestinians or actually make demands on them, to redouble the load on the Israelis. After all, there are few Palestinians clamoring for criticism and harsh denunciations of their people the way there are Jews and Israelis whod so. On the contrary, there are no Palestinian mainstream journalists, no policy-makers, no politicians ready to take any responsibility for any error, fault, or misstep on their side. It is an object of faith among them, which, increasingly, many in the West share: Israel is to blame; the Palestinians are innocent victims.

And yet, if we look at what Palestinian leaders say in Arabic to their people, we find an entire culture of intransigence, irredentism, and incitement. Here is a zero-sum culture, not only in its attitude towards its neighbor Israel – From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free – but towards its own people. Like the elite in every other Arab country, the Palestinian leadership, whether religious (Hamas) or “secular” (PLO), lives in luxury while its people live in misery.

If one takes Dennis Ross’ mordant reflections on why Oslo failed as a guide, the PA continues to replicate Arafat’s “one greatest failing”: not preparing their people for peace. On the contrary, it continuously and systematically brainwashes them with war propaganda. Indeed, the very insistence that Israel is entirely to blame is part of that war propaganda. It identifies the problem: they are not looking for compromise, which involves recognizing at least some of the other side’s complaints, they are looking for the zero-sum solution. Israel is to blame and must pay, so that Palestinians win big and Israel loses big.

The most moderate position one finds in the Arabic discourse of the Palestinians, is the notion not of a two-state solution (which only appears in Western op-ed pages), but the two stage solution, namely take what the Israelis offer and use it as a staging area for further attacks, until Israel is destroyed. And even that appears to be too great a compromise with Arab honor, because even when offered large tracts of land, including Jerusalem, the “moderates” consistently say no.

Despite the reluctance of the media to cover it at the time, we now know that in 2007, Abbas turned down Olmert’s offer, the most generous so far. Today, even Gershon Baskin, one of the most determined and dedicated advocates of peace now, someone who has in the past always insisted that the Palestinian leadership has and is willing to make the necessary compromises for peace, has given up on the current (“moderate”) Palestinian leadership .

Europeans have systematically avoided paying attention to this “internal” Palestinian discourse. Either desperate to believe that peace is possible now, or eager to blame Israel for Palestinian intransigence, they prefer the version of events in which Israel is the obstacle to peace, and continue to believe that pushing Israel to make further concessions is the fastest way to get there. Today, France makes the ludicrously self-fulfilling threat that if peace negotiations fail, they will recognize a Palestinian State: who could ask for better motivation for the Palestinians to have the talks fail?

Were they correct in their assessment – Palestinians are ready for compromise, Israelis not – then pressuring Israel might work. Of course it hasn’t, doesn’t, and won’t, because the assessment is based on an inversion of the actual situation here. Instead of moving towards the positive-sum goal that benefits “both sides”, it just pushes Israel towards greater vulnerability, and the Palestinians towards greater intransigence.

The latest threat by French Foreign Minister Fabius that if the next round of talks fail, France will unilaterally recognize Palestine illustrates the folly perfectly: It tells the Palestinians that if they remain intransigent they’ll win, and threatens the Israelis with sanctions for refusing to commit suicide. And the French side boosts Palestinian Jihadis even as they know not what to do with their own. The more Palestinians resist making compromises, the more support they get, the more outsiders adopt their belligerent narrative: Eliminate Israel for World Peace.

Trafalgar Square, London, August 21, 2011.

Nor is this a simple matter of Palestinian political will (what the West thought Arafat had during Oslo), but rather a cultural problem about which most of us do not want to think. Some political scientists speculate that Palestinians are one of the more likely Arab nations to become a democracy (often explained by their proximity to Israeli democracy). But from both the behavior of the elites (Strong Horse politics) and the patriarchal males (shame-murders), suggests the Palestinians are far from the kind of institutional and social commitments necessary for launching and sustaining that experiment in freedom.

The existence of these cultural blocks to peace on the Palestinian side, places liberal Jews and Israelis, committed to the compromises they feel are worth making to achieve a two-state solution (including dividing Jerusalem), in great difficulty. On the one hand, bringing up these issues explicitly will predictably elicit offense among Palestinians and their supporters (like Saïd). On the other hand, by pressing Israel to push forward with a two-state solution now, they actually, if unintentionally, weaken Israel and strengthen the enemies of peace, especially among the Palestinians. Every failure of peace now, based on positive-sum resolutions, weakens the positive-sum players and strengthens the zero-sum players on both sides. In this dynamic, that means reinforcing political players among Palestinians whose attitudes towards Israel share a great deal with those of apocalyptic Jihadis.

This dilemma becomes more toxic when a sense of urgency leads well-meaning Jews to grow impatient with Israeli reluctance to make moves that its electorate, up close with incitement-fueled, Palestinian violence, considers suicidal. It’s so much easier for liberals to denounce Netanuyahu as a right-winger, intransigent and unyielding, and praise Abbas as a moderate, ready to make peace. But if it turns out it’s the opposite (which it is), then every move the peace camp pushes for leads to war; and the harder they push, the worse the war they unwittingly prepare.

On the other hand, if the problem is Palestinian resistance, and the radical unreadiness of Palestinian political culture for peace with Israel, then a rather different set of policies are likely to improve the prospects for the eventual, but not imminent, two-state solution. Here, instead of the (easy but unproductive) pressure on Israelis for more concessions, we find the (difficult but much more productive) pressure on Palestinians to do what Dennis Ross faulted Arafat for not doing, “prepare their people for peace.”

The attitude of Palestinian power holders towards Israel currently reveals the gamut of Palestinian intolerance: no Jews living in a Palestinian state, no Jews among any foreign force stationed in Palestine. Not even Palestinian refugees from camps around the Arab world in the Palestinian state (they have to go to Israel). This of course is what one calls ethnic cleansing, and is the kind of thing that belligerent, authoritarian regimes do as a matter of course.

It’s what the Ottomans did in the 1910s and 20s, to both the Armenians and the Greeks, whom they massacred and expelled. There is no perceptible difference between Ottoman political and religious culture, and the kind operating among Palestinian elites (“secular” and religious). Indeed, today’s Palestinians are a definite regression from Ataturk’s magnanimity towards the Greeks.

And yet the very same people who rejoice in accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing (despite her 20% Arab population who enjoy freedoms and privileges they have nowhere else in the Middle East), seem to have no objection (or knowledge of) this Palestinian, openly intended, ethnic cleansing, often accompanied by the kind of genocidal incitement that, under the right circumstances, can produce the terrible deed. A sober observer (i.e., one not besotted by Saïd, or worried about offending Muslim honor), would note plainly: Palestinians have yet to undergo the kind of moral revolution in their “honor group” that permits greater tolerance of the “other,” and thus lays the grounds for both democracy and peaceful relations with “others.” And until they have, any concessions made to them constitute a recipe for war.

Peace When.

The two-state solution is indeed the most equitable resolution to this tragic fight between two peoples who could well be productive friends. But in order to reach that kind of justice, it will take some time before Palestinian culture has developed the ability to move from the zero-sum world of dispute settlement through violence (upon which, despite always losing so far, Palestinian leaders insist) to dispute settlement through a discourse of fairness that includes reciprocity. Until then, pushing Israel to make concessions to players who reject reciprocity and view concessions as signs of weakness, merely plays to the hand of war.

All of the following suggestions are demands that are perfectly reasonable if the Palestinians are planning to make peace with Israel; they’re unacceptable if the Palestinians are planning to destroy Israel. Seems like the least that well-intentioned outsiders, who say they believe in a two-state solution now, could ask from the Palestinian leadership:
·         Show of good faith about compromising on the refugees by beginning to move refugees out of camps and into decent, permanent housing.
·         Show of respect for women, by seriously tackling the problem of honor-killings, including cases where father or brother raped the victim.
·         Stop persecuting Palestinians who get along with Israelis for being spies and traitors.

These items are chosen because they attack the cultural issues making peace so hard. Obviously any effort for peace would also include asking that the Palestinian officials stop broadcasting the ugliest kind of war propaganda: incitement to genocide, irredentist claims and promises, glorification of people who kill innocent civilians. But that’s almost too obvious to mention… or is it?