Public Service In The Age Of Trump

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Achieving good outcomes is rightly the key barometer of success in government, but it is not everything – selflessly serving the public with honour and dedication matters too

Today I had the pleasure of attending a London Film Festival screening of “The Final Year”, a documentary by Greg Barker focusing on the last year of President Obama’s administration with a specific focus on foreign policy.

Regular readers will know that foreign policy is not my area of expertise, and rarely discussed on this blog. I only know enough to recognise that I am not qualified to pass blanket judgment on diplomatic and foreign policy issues which are fiendishly complex, rely on tremendously detailed knowledge of foreign cultures and regimes, and often require unbearably difficult decisions to be made in fraught circumstances with competing political demands, imperfect information and no crystal ball to see the future.

But it was difficult to watch the documentary and fail to conclude that the main protagonists – former Secretary of State John Kerry, United States ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes – discharged their duties diligently and with honour. One may not have agreed with all that these individuals did or the political outlook which guided their actions while serving in the Obama administration, but if so these were mere policy differences, not alleged deficiencies of character or behaviour.

It was also difficult to view the documentary and not feel a pang of shame at the composition and antics of the present administration, which even at its dubious best never seemed as functional as its predecessor, and which will certainly now struggle to attract talented, conscientious public servants given the scandals and negative publicity constantly roiling the White House.

Human beings have a tendency to impugn motives and presume character defects in people in public life based on our political differences with them. If we disagreed with the policies of Barack Obama then he also conveniently happened to be a dangerous socialist interloper who simply doesn’t love America the way that you or I love America. And if we disagreed with Mitt Romney or John McCain it was because they were heartless, selfish individuals devoid of charity or empathy, not due to the fact that these conservatives simply saw a different pathway to achieving a just and prosperous society.

This is not a new phenomenon. Republicans questioned the motives and character of Democrats in the Clinton administration; Democrats questioned the motives and character of Republicans in the Bush administration; Republicans had a very lucrative turn questioning the motives and character of Democrats in the Obama administration, and now everybody but the most partisan loyalists can be found expressing grave doubts about the motives character of many of those serving in the Trump administration.

And historically speaking, many of these negative judgments have been unfair. Most staffers in any administration serve out of a sense of public duty with real respect for the offices which they hold, and to impugn their motives at a time in their lives when they are trying to do good is churlish, particularly when there is no evidence of malfeasance.

But this time it feels different. Be it known or suspected acts of misconduct in office or the very public and unatoned-for personal failings of senior officials, the things we already know about less than nine months into the Trump administration should give us grave concern about the calibre of leadership in Washington, regardless of whether or not we agree with the general thrust of policy.

A few weeks ago, the masterful Peggy Noonan (speechwriter to President Ronald Reagan and a personal hero of mine) wrote a particularly moving column for the Wall Street Journal. In it, she conjured a moment of pure escapist fantasy, an alternate reality where all of the dreadful things we know to be true about people in the Trump administration – from the president on downwards – turned out to be nothing more than silly misunderstandings.

Noonan wrote:

I saw this: The exhausted woman on the shelter cot was surrounded by stressed children when Melania came over, bent down and asked, “How are you doing?” The woman said “Well—hurricane.” She realized who she was talking to and got flustered. “Those are nice shoes,” she said. They were flat ankle-boots, the kind you wear on the street or the park, only of the finest leather. “Thank you,” said Melania. She saw the woman’s soggy sneakers. “What size do you wear?” she asked, “Oh, 9,” said the woman. “They got bigger with the kids.”

Melania took off her boots and put them on the woman’s feet. She did this in a way that was turned away from the press, so they wouldn’t see. The woman’s daughter said, “Mommy, they’re nice.” Melania took from her bag a pair of white sneakers, put them on, and said, “Oh good, these are so comfortable.” They talked some more and Melania left and the mother looked to her kids and said, softly, “These are the first lady’s shoes.”

[..] This happened just before the Mnuchin story got cleared up. The Treasury secretary had not asked for a government plane to take him on his honeymoon. His request got all bollixed up in transmission, but there was a paper trail. It turned out he was waiting at the airport with his new wife when he saw a guy in Army fatigues comforting a young woman in a white and yellow dress. She was crying. Mr. Mnuchin sent over an aide to find out what’s wrong.

The guy in fatigues had literally just flown in from Kabul. He and the woman had just married, in a chapel down the street. They’d been bumped from their honeymoon flight to Bermuda. Mr. Mnuchin said: “Give them my plane. Louise—we’re flying commercial.” They booked seats on the next flight to France and went to duty free, where they bought the best champagne and placed it in her Hermès bag. They wrote a note: “Every soldier on leave deserves a honeymoon, every bride deserves champagne.” The couple discovered the bag on the plush leather seat just as the pilot was saying: “Please be seated and buckle up, we’ve got special clearance.”

The column continued in the same hopeful vein – Trump was shown to be unexpectedly humble and empathetic beneath his braggadocious facade, and at one point Hillary Clinton’s post-election book “What Happened” turned out not to be a self-indulgent, self-exculpatory exercise in blame-shifting but rather a sincere and thoughtful atonement for the collective sins of the American political establishment.

But of course, none of these positive, hopeful things actually happened. In all cases, the facts as first reported by the media turned out to be the depressing truth. Noonan said of her reverie:

It made me feel proud, like there’s hope for our political class.

That is what I saw this week.

I should note—this part is true—that I saw much of it while anesthetized for a minor surgical procedure. For an hour afterward, even knowing it was either a fantasy or a dream, I felt so . . . hopeful. Cheerful. Proud. I give it to you.

It is impossible to read Peggy Noonan’s column without aching for a time when public service was a calling reserved for people of character and principle, even if that time exists only in our imaginations, false memories or old episodes of The West Wing.

This is not to say that the Obama administration represented some high watermark of moral behaviour in office. Former Attorney General Eric Holder was less than truthful more than once in his testimony to Congress, while the IRS under senior executive Lois Lerner was found to be singling out conservative organisations for additional tax scrutiny and harassment. But even adjusting for anti-conservative bias in the media, the Obama administration comported itself with considerably more dignity than has thus far been shown by the constantly rotating cast of Trump officials. And it would take a significant change of trajectory, bordering on the miraculous, for this assessment to change.

Is it really possible that in four or eight years’ time we will look back on the people who serve in the present administration, who now represent the federal government to its citizens and the United States of America to the world, and think of them as sincere, hardworking and well-intentioned (if sometimes flawed and mistaken) public servants?

Is Rex Tillerson – a man who showed little interest in foreign policy beyond its applicability to the oil industry prior to his nomination as Secretary of State – presently losing sleep at night trying to implement a foreign policy vision that he sincerely believes will make America and the world safer and more prosperous, as John Kerry did? Are Trump’s other cabinet secretaries maintaining the dignity of their offices and the commitment to fiscal rectitude which is supposed to be a fundamental Republican selling point, or are they all behaving like former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and current Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, abusing their offices and the public trust by showering themselves with unnecessary perks on the public dime?

And even if Trump apologists, knowing the administration to be deficient in these areas, are willing to sacrifice these qualities for the greater good of bringing down an establishment which ironically seems to be strangely ascendant within the current White House, are the benefits of this governmental shock therapy really worth the side-effects of employing such a motley group of charlatans and opportunists to follow in the footsteps of better men and women?

Watching “The Final Year” at the Odeon Leicester Square today, I could certainly understand how people might feel sceptical or even angry about some of John Kerry’s priorities as Secretary of State and those of his former boss, or be rubbed up the wrong way by the opinionated Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power. Theirs is a specific worldview with which not everybody agrees. But it is also evident that they are patriots one and all, serving the country that they love to the best of their abilities and in line with the values which they believe were twice vindicated by the election of Barack Obama as president. Based on what we know, it would certainly be very difficult to accuse any of these Obama administration alumni of being self-serving, superficial or corrupt in their duties.

I hope that when the time comes to look back on the current presidency, we will be able to say the same of all those who presently serve in the Trump administration.

I sincerely hope so, but I am not optimistic.

 

The Final Year will be released in cinemas in the US & UK in January 2018.

       

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After Brexit, A Swift US-UK Free Trade Agreement Will Be Economically And Diplomatically Beneficial

The National Review might not be down on all the fine details of Brexit*, and quite possibly put too much faith in the elimination of tariffs as a means of spurring trade, given the modern shift toward non-tariff barriers, but their forthright and optimistic call for a swift US-UK trade agreement is most welcome nonetheless.

(*In which they are hardly alone, joined by most of the UK media and many elected British politicians, who unlike the National Review have no excuse for their ignorance)

Stephen Meyer writes:

First, a free-trade agreement between the U.S. and U.K. would foster trade and growth in both countries without subjecting either to the onerous external regulation and loss of democratic control that Britain has experienced in the European Union. Until now, the exclusive nature of the EU prevented Britain from establishing a free-trade pact with America, its most lucrative trading partner, to the detriment of tariff-paying businesses in both countries.

Nevertheless, under treaties governing EU membership, the U.K. cannot make free trade deals with non-EU partners. It must apply the growth-suppressing common EU external tariff, an average of 4.5 percent, to all imports. Once Britain legally extricates itself from the EU, that can change — and should. An agreement between the world’s largest and fifth-largest economies will create a huge free trade zone, benefiting businesses and spurring growth on both sides of the Atlantic.

Second, an agreement that focuses on eliminating tariffs, but not creating supranational oversight bodies, will protect both countries from the loss of sovereignty that British voters rejected with Brexit and that Mr. Trump has criticized. Such a simplified deal would require U.S. companies operating in (or exporting to) the U.K. to accept U.K. law, and U.K. companies operating in the U.S. to do the same. Since U.K. and U.S. law is so similar and both countries have so many lawyers versed in the commercial law of the other, international oversight would prove largely unnecessary. In a bilateral treaty, significant disputes or grievances can simply trigger provisions to renegotiate terms — or to accept arbitration in limited cases before mutually agreed tribunals.

This, of course, serves to underscore the importance of freeing ourselves from the customs union as part of any interim and permanent Brexit deal. To do otherwise would truly be an act of self-harm, constraining Britain’s ability to negotiate freely with other countries just so that bitter Remainers can cling slightly closer to the vestiges of their European dream, with no commensurate benefit whatsoever.

But as Meyer notes, a US-UK trade deal would matter symbolically and diplomatically just as much as economically:

A free trade offer will also help repair the U.S.-U.K. special relationship after eight years of intentional neglect and decades of slow erosion as the result of Britain’s gradual absorption into the EU. Strengthening the alliance with Britain will promote U.S. national security because it will free the U.K. to act decisively as a bilateral partner when the strategic interests of our two countries align — as they often have.

The Obama years have witnessed a dramatic weakening in the strategic position of the United States and the West, as well as a diminution of U.S. military power. In addition to rebuilding military capacity, as Trump has promised, the United States now badly needs genuine allies with shared interests who have demonstrated the will and capability to stand alongside America in times of international crisis. More than any other ally, Great Britain has consistently demonstrated that proclivity and capability: Apart from France, only the U.K. among U.S. allies maintains an independent nuclear deterrent and the capacity to project significant naval power. Among NATO allies, only the U.K. keeps its treaty commitment to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense.

Whatever else one may think of Donald Trump – and this blog is not a fan – it is at least heartening to hear some vaguely warm sentiments being spoken about Britain again from soon-to-be White House aides.

This blog has generally admired Barack Obama’s temperament (if not his policies), but his thinly-disguised disdain for Britain and the transatlantic alliance will not be missed. President Obama can be as chummy as he likes with Chancellor Merkel, but when the going gets tough, it is the UK with our nuclear deterrent, blue water navy, deployable armed forces and positive disposition toward America upon which the United States will immediately rely. America’s natural closest allies have not always felt the warmth they might have reasonably expected from the Obama White House. Hopefully this will soon change.

Meyer concludes:

Offering the right kind of trade deal to the British — as they negotiate the return of their own national sovereignty — will decisively advance that goal.

A pragmatic assessment of the mutual shared interests of two great powers and firm allies. Now, doesn’t that sound an awful lot better than Barack Obama’s rigid and unimaginative defence of the failing European supranational project, and his haughty insistence that Britain would go to the “back of the queue” in America’s estimation?

 

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Sorry, President-Elect Trump, But You Don’t Get To Choose Britain’s Ambassador To The United States

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It was wrong when President Obama sought to interfere in Britain’s EU referendum debate earlier this year, and it is wrong now when President-elect Trump tries to undermine the UK government and install his pal Nigel Farage as a replacement British ambassador

When Barack Obama saw fit to fly to London, stand next to David Cameron at a joint press conference and lecture/threaten the British people that voting to leave the EU would incur not only his personal wrath but also America’s cold shoulder, his behaviour was rightly denounced as an act of arrogant bullying and coercion.

This blog wasted no time in taking President Obama to task for his ignorance and presumption in daring to interfere with our domestic affairs. And UKIP leader and referendum-maker Nigel Farage was also quick to criticise Obama, noting “last time we followed foreign policy advice from a US President was when we went to war in Iraq. We should be wary“, and negatively comparing the American president to Vladimir Putin.

Unfortunately, Nigel Farage does not seem to be consistent when it comes to the principle of staying out of the internal affairs of other countries. Because now his good friend and campaign trail buddy, US president-elect Donald Trump, has made the highly irregular move of suggesting that Farage should become the UK’s ambassador to the United States – even though we currently have an ambassador in place (albeit not a very good one):

The Guardian reports:

The US president-elect, Donald Trump, has suggested that the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, should be the UK’s ambassador to the US.

“Many people would like to see [@Nigel_Farage] represent Great Britain as their Ambassador to the United States,” Trump tweeted on Monday evening. “He would do a great job!”

In a brief call with BBC Breakfast, Farage said he had been awake since 2am UK time when the tweet was first posted.

The Ukip leader said he was flattered by the tweet, calling it “a bolt from the blue” and said he did not see himself as a typical diplomatic figure “but this is not the normal course of events”.

But a Downing Street spokesman said: “There is no vacancy. We already have an excellent ambassador to the US.”

Now Donald Trump is known to tweet strange and provocative things as and when they drift into his head, but the probability of him having penned this particular tweet without having first at least run it past Nigel Farage (and more likely Trump was acting on a specific request as a favour to Farage) is close to zero. So there goes Farage’s principled opposition to meddling in the affairs of a sovereign nation – he likely encouraged the president-elect of the United States to do what he criticised Barack Obama for back in April.

The Telegraph’s Michael Deacon also spots the hypocrisy:

When Barack Obama said he hoped Britain would stay in the EU, Nigel Farage was appalled. An American president, he said, had no right to meddle in British affairs. Britain was quite capable of making her own decisions, thank you very much. The president, in short, should “butt out”.

Today, however, Mr Farage appears rather more relaxed about political interference from across the pond. When Donald Trump told Britain she should make the on-off Ukip leader her ambassador to the US – even though she already has one – Mr Farage was not appalled. He did not say Mr Trump had “behaved disgracefully”, he did not order him to “butt out”, he did not remind him that the British don’t take kindly to being told “what we should do” by foreign powers.

On the contrary, he welcomed Mr Trump’s intervention. “I would do anything,” he said nobly, “to help our national interest.”

Taking back control from Brussels. And then handing it to Washington.

This episode also shows seriously bad judgement on the part of Donald Trump, though this of course is much less surprising. If offending the UK foreign office by airily suggesting on Twitter that the British ambassador should be replaced is the biggest diplomatic howler committed by the incoming Trump administration then we will be able to count ourselves extraordinarily lucky. Even assuming that Trump assembles a moderately experienced team around him by the end of the transition, the incoming president’s penchant for going off-script and acting unilaterally at 2AM is likely to lead to all manner of gaffes and calamities. But still – offending the government of your closest ally by publicly scorning their present ambassador is arrogant and foolish.

Adam Barnett at Left Foot Forward also has a crack at explaining why Nigel Farage becoming Britain’s ambassador to the United States would be a terrible idea:

Nigel Farage would make a great British ambassador to the US, according to Donald Trump, who will make a terrible President of the United States.

As Downing Street helpfully points out, the position is already filled, though they should have added it’s not Trump’s job to appoint foreign diplomats.

Unfortunately, not one of the reasons that Barnett then goes on to list has anything remotely to do with Nigel Farage’s competence or potential suitability for the role of ambassador. Rather, each is a finger-wagging, morally censorious (and often inaccurate) judgement and demand for Farage’s excommunication from any role in public life, the kind of thoughtless attack sadly now typical fare from the authoritarian, illiberal left.

The Spectator’s James Forsyth does a better job of explaining why Nigel Farage should be nobody’s choice for the role of ambassador, and suggests a better way for the British government to leverage Farage’s close relationship with Trump:

Now, obviously, Farage shouldn’t be the UK’s man in Washington. As Farage has admitted, he’s not a natural diplomat and it is hard to imagine Theresa May trusting him in that role. But it would be foolish of the Foreign Office not to pump Farage for information on Trump and his circle. Whatever information Farage has about who actually has influence with the president-elect would be useful for Britain.

The sensible thing to do would be to have Boris Johnson invite Farage down to Chevening for the weekend and over dinner try and talk out of the Ukip leader everything he knows about Trump world. I suspect that Farage would be both sufficiently flattered by the invitation and keen enough to help, that he would happily reveal all he knows about Trump and the people around him.

This sounds a lot more sensible. Nigel Farage should not become our ambassador, not least because he has no discernable diplomatic skills, nor any specific interest in that role (besides a desire to remain in the limelight and close to power). But the British government would be foolish to squander the relationship he has built with the new president-elect altogether.

After all, who is best placed to nurture that relationship? A bunch of effete, elitist UK civil servants and career diplomats like our current ambassador Sir Kim Darroch, who were all doubtless super-confident “Never Trump” people (as indeed I was) and therefore failed to build any meaningful relationships with the Trump team, or somebody whom the new president considers to be an ideological and perhaps even temperamental soulmate?

In other words, why reinvent the wheel? Why pour time and effort into leveraging a new relationship from scratch when Trump and Farage are clearly already friends and allies? Britain should not waste time emulating this relationship – we should appropriate it and use it for our own ends. Love him or loathe him, Nigel Farage happens to speak Trumpian with a natural accent at a time when we have few other native linguists. That isn’t an advantage you throw away just to express general disapproval of the man.

Now, of course Nigel Frage is a flawed individual – and one can argue about the precise way in which the government puts him to use. Rather than making him ambassador, I would forge a new role, perhaps investigating the possibility of formally seconding Farage to the Trump administration as a gesture of trust and goodwill. Not only would this give Britain valuable eyes and ears in Washington DC, it could greatly aid the future negotiation of a future US-UK free trade agreement.

The details can be worked out later, but one thing is crystal clear for now – Donald Trump has no business interfering in the diplomatic staffing decisions of the British government. The ambassadors we send to Washington D.C. should be chosen by the British government alone, not foisted upon us by an inexperienced not-quite-president.

Donald Trump claims to have great affection for Britain, which is good. But he needs to learn that the best way to display that affection is to respect British sovereignty. If the president-elect insists on appointing his kids as White House advisers and can find his way around the federal anti-nepotism rules, that’s one thing. But we can pick our own ambassadors, thank you, Mr. President-elect.

 

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Donald Trump Victory Reaction: Clutching At Normality In The Age of Trump

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Using positive reinforcement to steer Donald Trump in a better direction might just work, but only if we stop the blanket hysteria

It is fair to say that the New York Times – which, it always pleases me to remember, not so long ago showed such fawning deference to executive power that they forced their journalists to warp the English language, describing the same actions as “torture” when committed by swarthy foreigners but merely “enhanced interrogation” when conducted by Our Boys – has not taken well to the election of Donald Trump as 45th president of the United States.

But the preface to today’s Opinion Report from the Times, written by David Leonhardt, strikes the right tone and gives some sound advice:

If you opposed Donald Trump’s candidacy, it’s easy to be angry about almost everything he now says or does. When he does something outrageous — like appoint a promoter of racism to a top job — it confirms your fears. And when he does something reasonable — like say he wants to improve the lives of all Americans — it feels hypocritical.

Yet I would still urge people to welcome any step he takes toward democratic normalcy, including those that feel hypocritical.

Trump ran a campaign that was opposed in important respects to American democratic values — and he won. The question that now confronts us is whether our values will change or whether Trump will begin to change.

One of the main reasons that President Obama and Hillary Clinton have reacted to his victory as positively as they have is their desire to move the country back toward democratic normalcy. It’s the right instinct.

I think this is good advice. The endless catastrophisation of Donald Trump’s victory – extending well beyond those areas where we have good reason to fear a Trump presidency toward those where there are no suggestions he intends to make backward steps – is now in danger of doing real harm, not only to the reputations of some of Trump’s most hysterical critics (those who railed against Trump for not committing to accept the election result, and are themselves now refusing to accept the election result) but more importantly to Americans’ faith in their own democracy and electoral system.

During the press pool at their first White House meeting, one could sense the look on Donald Trump’s face that the realisation of what he has wrought is now finally starting to hit. The man who probably didn’t seriously believe he would be in this position, either on the day he announced his candidacy or the day before the election, is rapidly coming to terms with the vast amount of institutional and bureaucratic machinery which he must master, and which will inevitably constrain whatever plans made during the campaign he was serious about enacting.

The mere fact that President Obama spent 90 rather than 15 minutes in that initial meeting walking Donald Trump through the basics (oh to have been a fly on the wall during that American Government 101 session) and plans to hold many more such remedial governance classes with an apparently grateful Trump suggests that the president-elect is finally beginning to accept that there are many things he does not know, and many areas where his administration will need to be guided by the advice and precedent left by history.

And as a reader of this blog pointed out, Americans (and the world) have thrown themselves into a panic before about incoming Republican administrations – with similar accusations of naivety, ignorance and incompetence – only to later have to grudgingly concede that the resulting presidencies were quite good, even historic.

Now, to be clear: I have no such expectations of Donald Trump, who is a tiny fraction of the man that Ronald Reagan was, and certainly nowhere near as faithful a friend to conservatism or the cause of liberty. Real, visceral concern about Trump’s presidency is entirely warranted, especially where it can be eloquently articulated (as opposed to inchoate paranoia) and particularly where its expression closes off doors to some of the more obviously dangerous Trumpian flights of fancy. And of course public protest has an important place in expression opposition to the Trump agenda. But let’s spare the sackcloth and ashes, particularly those of us with public platforms either large or small.

If the goal (for everybody) is to survive the next four years intact and to make Donald Trump’s presidency a successful one for America in spite of the man himself, then we need to ask whether mass hysteria, Trump catastrophisation and total implacable opposition to everything the new administration tries to do is really the best approach, or whether it might be better to provide affirmation and support where Trump does something right combined with forceful dissent and opposition where he or his team stray from an acceptable path, in the hope of teaching the new president some boundaries.

It is quite clear to this blog which is the better option. Keep screaming that everything Trump now does is tantamount to fascism will be like crying “wolf!”, causing the president-elect himself to block out the just criticism along with the superficial, and his supporters to harden in their support for him. We saw just how well that approach worked during the election campaign. Let’s not now make the same mistake during the transition and on into the new administration.

Where Trump does the right thing – even if it means walking back on previous, extreme campaign positions – it wouldn’t hurt to try giving credit where credit is due, at least for a trial period. If we know anything of Donald Trump’s character, it is that while he will take any publicity, good or bad, he much prefers people to think well of him.

And while the Democratic Party and intra-GOP opposition take their time to get organised, Donald Trump’s desire to be admired and respected may turn out to be a very useful constraining factor on his behaviour on office.

Those of us with real concerns about Donald Trump’s presidency should not throw away that potentially vital lever of control in our haste to criticise absolutely everything about the incoming president.

 

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Live Blog: Donald Trump Victory Reax

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Live Blog: Donald Trump Victory Reaction & Analysis

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10 November – 7:00AM Washington D.C. / 12:00PM London

Aaron Sorkin to the rescue

In a masterful piece of virtue signalling, befitting somebody who made their name and career writing for television and Hollywood, Aaron Sorkin (creator of The West Wing, The Newsroom and Facebook movie The Social Network) has written an open letter to his wife and daughter – less for their own benefit, of course, and more to show off his impeccably progressive, anti-Trump credentials to the world.

Unfortunately, Sorkin appears not to have dedicated the same time to this sanctimonious little letter as he would have given to the script for an episode of The West Wing, and his clumsy attempt at virtue-signalling reveals his Hollywood liberal cynicism in all its ugly glory.

Aaron Sorkin writes (my emphasis in bold):

Sorkin Girls,

Well the world changed late last night in a way I couldn’t protect us from. That’s a terrible feeling for a father. I won’t sugarcoat it—this is truly horrible. It’s hardly the first time my candidate didn’t win (in fact it’s the sixth time) but it is the first time that a thoroughly incompetent pig with dangerous ideas, a serious psychiatric disorder, no knowledge of the world and no curiosity to learn has.

And it wasn’t just Donald Trump who won last night—it was his supporters too. The Klan won last night. White nationalists. Sexists, racists and buffoons. Angry young white men who think rap music and Cinco de Mayo are a threat to their way of life (or are the reason for their way of life) have been given cause to celebrate. Men who have no right to call themselves that and who think that women who aspire to more than looking hot are shrill, ugly, and otherwise worthy of our scorn rather than our admiration struck a blow for misogynistic shitheads everywhere. Hate was given hope. Abject dumbness was glamorized as being “the fresh voice of an outsider” who’s going to “shake things up.” (Did anyone bother to ask how? Is he going to re-arrange the chairs in the Roosevelt Room?) For the next four years, the President of the United States, the same office held by Washington and Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, F.D.R., J.F.K. and Barack Obama, will be held by a man-boy who’ll spend his hours exacting Twitter vengeance against all who criticize him (and those numbers will be legion). We’ve embarrassed ourselves in front of our children and the world.

Oh I’m sorry, I thought that we were supposed to have moved past dated and oppressive gender stereotypes, like the idea that the Big Strong Man is supposed to defend the helpless women in his life from Bad Things? Yet Aaron Sorkin seems to believe that it was his duty as a man to protect and defend his wife and daughter from the outcome of a presidential election in which his wife was also able to take full part, as though neither woman had any agency of their own.

And “Sorkin girls” – really?

But then we should not be surprised by any of this. This is a man whose television shows (The West Wing is one of my all time favourites, and doubtless will now be so again for many a dejected Democrat in the Age of Trump) have long been renowned for their continual mockery, downplaying and diminution of women.

Besides Abigail Bartlet, Nancy McNally or Amy Gardner (and even she is doubtful sometimes), name a strong female character in The West Wing. Seriously, I’m waiting. The female characters with the most airtime, like Donna Moss or Ainsley Hayes, are little more than comic relief, particularly in the early seasons before Sorkin got booted off his own show.

The same goes for Sorkin’s more recent show, The Newsroom, but to an even greater degree. Every female character save Leona Lansing (played by Jane Fonda), no matter how senior they happen to be, is portrayed as a bumbling, gaffe-prone fool, flapping around helplessly as the men in their lives chuckle and give wry smiles at their foolish antics. But sure, Donald Trump is the man with an unprecedentedly unenlightened view towards women.

Oh, and let’s not forget that great America-bashing monologue which Aaron Sorkin wrote to open The Newsroom, in which he has lead character Will McAvoy say:

We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, and we acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered.

My emphasis in bold. And no, I’m not quoting selectively. The balancing paragraph lauding the achievements of great American women never comes, because Sorkin probably didn’t give a moment’s thought to the accomplishments of women when he wrote the scene. And yet now he is a brave, anti-Trump feminist who despises the new president-elect’s unreconstructed view toward the fairer sex while displaying many of those same condescensions himself, albeit in slightly less vulgar form.

But surely Sorkin is on safe ground when he adversely compares Donald Trump to previous American presidents, all of whom had supremely progressive and enlightened attitudes towards women and were paragons of virtue. Presidents like John F. Kenne — oh, wait. At least Sorkin is smart enough not to mention Bill Clinton.

Sorkin continues with some good old homespun, patriarchal, husbandly / fatherly advice:

So what do we do?

First of all, we remember that we’re not alone. A hundred million people in America and a billion more around the world feel exactly the same way we do.

Second, we get out of bed. The Trumpsters want to see people like us (Jewish, “coastal elites,” educated, socially progressive, Hollywood…) sobbing and wailing and talking about moving to Canada. I won’t give them that and neither will you. Here’s what we’ll do…

Because there’s nothing more mature than throwing baseless charges of anti-Semitism at the nearly half of voting Americans who chose Donald Trump. Because I’m sure Aaron Sorkin would be happy to be associated with the craziest and most unpleasant fan of his own fans, just as he seems happy to slander Trump and his many supporters with their most disreputable endorsements.

More:

…we’ll fucking fight. (Roxy, there’s a time for this kind of language and it’s now.) We’re not powerless and we’re not voiceless. We don’t have majorities in the House or Senate but we do have representatives there. It’s also good to remember that most members of Trump’s own party feel exactly the same way about him that we do. We make sure that the people we sent to Washington—including Kamala Harris—take our strength with them and never take a day off.

We get involved. We do what we can to fight injustice anywhere we see it—whether it’s writing a check or rolling up our sleeves. Our family is fairly insulated from the effects of a Trump presidency so we fight for the families that aren’t. We fight for a woman to keep her right to choose. We fight for the First Amendment and we fight mostly for equality—not for a guarantee of equal outcomes but for equal opportunities. We stand up.

My oh my, this is starting to get awfully problematic. Isn’t it a bit, um, oppressive and gender stereotypical for a white male like Aaron Sorkin to presume to give the women in his life permission to use bad language, as he seems to do in his letter?

More:

Roxy, I know my predictions have let you down in the past, but personally, I don’t think this guy can make it a year without committing an impeachable crime. If he does manage to be a douche nozzle without breaking the law for four years, we’ll make it through those four years. And three years from now we’ll fight like hell for our candidate and we’ll win and they’ll lose and this time they’ll lose for good. Honey, it’ll be your first vote.

The battle isn’t over, it’s just begun. Grandpa fought in World War II and when he came home this country handed him an opportunity to make a great life for his family. I will not hand his granddaughter a country shaped by hateful and stupid men. Your tears last night woke me up, and I’ll never go to sleep on you again.

Love,

Dad

Seriously, Aaron, you fell asleep on your daughter as she was crying in reaction to Donald Trump’s victory? Do you not care about making your house a safe space for marginalised and oppressed groups like the women in your life? Did a privileged white male like yourself really shun his duty to create a “place of comfort and home” for those who suffer oppression, or who will surely do so under Donald Trump’s tyrannical reign?

Everyone knows that when good Social Justice Warriors see oppression taking place they fight tirelessly to shame it on Twitter – they don’t fall asleep in front of the TV with the remote control resting on their belly. What kind of person are you?

There’s nothing else for it, I’m afraid. I hereby call a universal boycott of every single Aaron Sorkin television show or movie ever made in the past, as well as all of those yet to be made in the future, until he writes a new open letter to his wife and daughter. In this letter, Sorkin should apologise to them (and to the American people) for his outsized role in furthering the interests of the patriarchy through his work, pledge to immediately attend an Avoiding Common Microaggressions re-education camp for people of privilege, tithe at least 50 percent of his future income to EMILY’s List and promise henceforce to only produce work which conforms with the catechism of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics.*

* To be judged by an artistic censorship committee comprising Jerelyn Luther, Bonita Tindle, Jonathan Butler, Fran “Holier than Peter Tatchell” Cowling and other prominent SJWs.

If Sorkin does all of this *and* manages to single-handedly bring down the Trump presidency then he may – just may – be able to atone for harm done to women and girls everywhere by his oppressive, patriarchal letter.

But until then, you are on notice, Mr. Male Hero Feminist Champion Man. Nobody is buying your schtick.

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10 November – 4:45AM Washington D.C. / 9:45AM London

Owen Jones doesn’t get it

The leftist boy wonder has had a good long think about the implications of Donald Trump’s election victory, and has come to the airy conclusion that the Left needs a “new populism” of its own.

From his latest Guardian opinion piece:

Trump’s victory is one of the biggest calamities to befall the west and the effect is that every racist, woman-hater, homophobe and rightwing authoritarian feels vindicated. This rightwing populism can no longer be dismissed as a blip. Indeed, without an urgent change in strategy, the left – perhaps all progressive opinion – will be marginalised to the point of irrelevance. Our crisis is existential.

Multiple factors explain this calamity. First: racism. The legacy of slavery means racism is written into the DNA of US society. The determined efforts by African Americans to claim their civil rights has been met with a vicious backlash. The exit polls suggest that Trump won a landslide among both male and female white non-graduates: only white women with degrees produced a majority for Hillary Clinton.

Second: misogyny. Trump – who brags of sexually assaulting his victims – ran a campaign defined by hatred of women. Clinton was self-evidently an establishment candidate, but a male candidate of the establishment would have been treated differently. Some American men feel emasculated by two factors: the demise of skilled secure jobs that gave them a sense of pride and status, and the rise of women’s and LGBT movements, which some men feel undermine their rightful dominance.

But there is a factor that cannot be ignored. Centrism, the ideology of self-styled moderates, is in a state of collapse. In the 1990s, the third way project championed by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair could claim political dominance in much of the US and Europe. It has shrivelled in the face of challenges from the resurgent populist right and new movements of the left.

Yes, political centrism is dying, or at least under grave threat. And this is a good thing. It brought us nothing but dull, remote managerialism and technocracy, and enabled the elitist gravy train which so greatly enriched those with access to power while punishing those without. We should all be looking forward to dancing on centrism’s grave.

But sadly, Jones couldn’t leave it there. He continues:

Whenever the economic insecurities that fuelled Trumpism are mentioned, several objections are raised. It’s an explanation, some say, that fails to account for the large majority of working-class Americans from minority backgrounds who vote Democrat. Then there is the issue of culpability. Many insist that working-class Republican voters must take responsibility for electing a racist, misogynist candidate. True, some will be racists and misogynists beyond redemption but others have the potential to be peeled away if the lure is attractive enough.

Owen just doesn’t get it. Keep peddling in identity politics, keep making identity politics the battleground on which issues are debated and elections fought, and the white working class will organise and begin acting like a cohesive minority group themselves – because it is rapidly becoming clear to everybody that so long as the Left persists with its “divide, stoke resentment and conquer” approach, emulating their tactics is the only way for opponents to prosper and defend their own interests.

Note the sheer condescension of Jones’s arrogant claim that some Trump voters may, just may have the “potential” to be redeemed, as though voting for Trump was an endorsement of the worst allegations levelled against him rather than a self-interested choice between two candidates. The equivalent would be to claim that Democratic Party voters were endorsing secretive email practices, closeness to Wall Street, dubious charitable practices and shady financial dealings with their vote for Hillary Clinton. This is ludicrous on its face – and so it is to accuse most Trump voters of making their selection based on the worst utterances of Donald Trump himself.

Owen Jones has clearly learned nothing. He has marinated and festered in toxic identity politics for so long that he knows no other way of thinking. And the new “left wing populism” he seeks to create will never come to pass because by definition it will always exclude and be violently antagonistic towards the white working class, the very people the Left needs to pull it out of terminal decline.

10 November – 4:00AM Washington D.C. / 9:00AM London

Matthew Parris doesn’t get it

The outcome of a democratic election in the greatest democracy on earth has caused Matthew Parris to lose faith in democracy itself. Go figure.

Self-confessed elitist Parris has a piece in The Spectator today in which he makes it clear just how very disappointed he is in We the People (now apparently downgraded in his estimation from being a “crowd” to a “mob”) following the EU referendum result in Britain and now the election of Donald Trump in America:

The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States may have signalled the death of the closest thing we have to a religion in politics. On both sides of the Atlantic, democracy risks being knocked from the high altar as an unmitigated and unquestioned good.

The man’s obviously a fool and a nasty fool too. The contest should have been a walkover for Hillary Clinton. But it wasn’t. What happened? Can we be sure any longer that democracy works? Is it really the reliable bulwark against political madness that we always supposed?

Without hesitation I plead guilty to the obvious charge: Trump supporters could level it at me, enthusiasts for Brexit do. Spanish enthusiasts for the left-wing populist party of protest, Podemos, and French supporters of Marine Le Pen would tell me the same and they’d be right. The reason I am beginning to question democracy is that it is producing results I profoundly dislike.

Already it should be clear that this is leading nowhere good. More:

But why now? When Richard Nixon was re-elected, did we who had preferred George McGovern despair of democracy? When British Conservative governments fell and socialist governments were elected, did Liberal or Tory democrats develop doubts about democracy itself? Why did we trust the people then, even though they had given the ‘wrong’ answer — but not now? What was it that people like me did believe, when we said we believed in democracy?

Someone urgently needs to introduce Matthew Parris to the concept of the Overton Window.

The reason nobody much cared when “conservative” British governments were voted out and replaced by “socialist” ones in the 50s, 60s and 70s is that they were actually all largely socialist anyway. Party labels at that time were more or less a nostalgic and almost entirely cosmetic sticker slapped on to differentiate two political parties which had both equally swallowed the dogmas of the post-war consensus and the supposed need for a planned, “mixed” economy (in reality an economy in which the government owned and ran vast swathes of industry, from mining, utilities, transport, telecoms and even restaurants and betting shops).

The reason that nobody in Britain “lost faith in democracy” when either shade of socialist Red got itself elected is because it hardly made a difference to their lives. The all-important (and foolish) decision to embrace rather than oppose socialism had been made in smoky back rooms by dusty, frightened old men (and some callow but zealous younger ones). Giving socialism the heave-ho was never on the ballot paper. The only question was whether one preferred Labour or the Conservatives to preside over our national decline.

When the Overton Window of a country’s politics – the range of political viewpoints considered mainstream, acceptable or permissible – is as desperately narrow as it was in Britain until Thatcher came and rescued us from self-inflicted socialist suicide, people like Matthew Parris would have no cause to lose faith in democracy because it continually serves up the kind of muddled, un-ambitious centre-leftism that they like (whether they admit it or not), and because elections therefore essentially do not matter.

The reason that Matthew Parris is now upset, first with the Brexit vote in the EU referendum and now with Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election, is that both of these plebiscites actually mattered – because two markedly different potential outcomes were riding on the result. Or to put it even more bluntly: because the Overton Window has been expanded, and people like Matthew Parris are losing the ability to fix the policy outcome regardless of who wins an election.

The kind of “democracy” that Matthew Parris likes is one in which he and other people like him get together beforehand and decide the future direction of the country in advance, hashing out a deal between themselves before allowing the political parties to tinker around the edges and squabble over branding. Parris doesn’t trust the people to weigh up the important decisions themselves because he can barely tolerate most of the country, as he has himself previously admitted.

So spare a thought for poor Matthew Parris today. Soon Britain will be leaving the European Union, and the range of possible choices – on taxation, social matters, foreign policy, trade and more – over which the British government has greater or total autonomy will increase beyond the ideological guard rails currently imposed by our EU membership.

Worse, with the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, the British public have a real choice between Corbynite post-war consensus socialism and vaguely enthusiastic capitalism for the first time since 1983. And now, with the election of Donald Trump in America, the Overton Window of American politics has expanded so that the old (and often failed) consensus position on a whole range of issues is no longer the only choice available.

And Matthew Parris hates hates hates all of this. Because not-so-secretly, Matthew Parris hates most of us.

10 November – 3:30AM Washington D.C. / 8:30AM London

Trump Victory Catastrophisation Watch, Part 4

Laurie Penny is leading British SJWs to their safe space in the aftermath of Trump’s victory:

No Laurie, you wrote this – as always – for the primary cause of self-aggrandisement and promotion. But that’s fine. Your audience is primarily a group of infantilised permanent victims who like to be told that an external authority figure is going to care for them, so you will be doing yourself no harm with the old readership.

Penny writes:

The people have spoken. That does not mean all the other people have to shut up.

No, it doesn’t. But when the whiny, petulant tone of the “other people” (together with their hair trigger sensitivity to often non-existent oppression) is what partially feeds phenomena like the election of Donald Trump then it might not be such a terrible idea to pipe down for a few days and engage in some genuine introspection. And I do mean real introspection, not just obsessing about their “pain” and exalting in their “vulnerability”.

More:

Today, all over America, black, brown and Muslim children are too frightened to go to school.

And whose fault is that? Who took Donald Trump’s careless and often offensive statements and whipped them up in the public imagination to make it seem as though he were the devil himself, that black or brown kids are somehow under imminent threat, not only when he is president but even now when he is president-elect? Who made people so frightened?

Trump didn’t do that. His supporters didn’t do that. Hysterical leftist SJWs did that, because they thought that it would motivate their base. If they have now traumatised themselves (and their children) through swallowing their own propaganda then really they have only themselves to blame.

More:

When they told liberals and journalists and policymakers and anyone with the cheek to suggest that maybe immigrants weren’t the problem that we weren’t listening to “ordinary people”, they meant we weren’t listening to white people.

No, stop it, Laurie. This is that insidious little trick that leftists always play, and which enrages and pushes away centrist and right-wing voters even more. Nobody but genuine racists (of which there are thankfully few) object to immigrants. But many people object to uncontrolled immigration. In their quest to undermine national borders and the nation state, the Left have for a long time conflated these two things, the better to shame and silence people who dare to stand up for enforcing immigration law. And until recently it has worked.

But as with all cheap con tricks, eventually the luck runs out. And so it has in Britain with the Brexit vote, and seemingly in America, with the Trump vote. People with legitimate concerns about immigration (not immigrants) are not racist, and are sick to the back teeth of being told by privileged, coddled leftist agitators that they are ignorant, hate-filled xenophobes.

More:

The time for complacency is long gone. So too is the time for cowing to the hurt feelings of those who were willing to fire at the elite directly through the stomachs of their neighbours. Every effort has been made to sympathise with their distress at perceived loss of privilege that is felt, wrongly, as prejudice.

Every effort? Really? Laurie Penny has clearly blinded herself to the number of rants about the “dumb hicks” and “white trash” who supported and voted for Trump, now and before the election. And all of those SJW campus protests she supports are hardly brimming over with sympathy for the white working classes, that’s for sure.

Today, hundreds of millions of people in America and around the world have woken up afraid — for themselves, for their children, for the future of a planet where an authoritarian psychopath has his hands on the nuclear codes and the fate of a burning world waiting on his pleasure. Those people are being told that they are sore losers. That they should shut up and accept it. That their fear is somehow funny. Laughing at the pain of the most vulnerable. Squealing with glee when the bully lands a blow. That’s the world millions of notionally decent human beings voted for, and don’t tell me for a second they didn’t know what they were buying.

You know what, I’m going to come out and say it. When grown adults have been infantilised to the extent that they host “cry ins” at their university campuses or post weepy video tantrums online, then yes, it is a little bit funny. Nobody (that I am aware of) is laughing at the legitimate fears of, say, American Muslims who are rightly alarmed at the intemperate language and unconstitutional proposals raised by candidate Donald Trump. But when privileged university students suddenly start acting as though they are being hunted down by death squads simply because an election goes against them then they do open themselves to some degree of ridicule.

More:

Fighting for tolerance, justice and dignity for women, queer people and people of colour is not frivolous and or vain. Who decided that it was?

Who decided that only those who place fear over faith in their fellow human beings are real, legitimate citizens whose voices matter? That’s not a rhetorical question. I want to know. Give me names.

Nobody. Nobody decided that. Fighting for egalitarianism is a noble thing to do. Wallowing in victimhood culture, continually emphasising one’s vulnerability over one’s strength and seeking to police the language and public discourse to actively shame anybody who questions the latest dogma, on the other hand, is every bit as authoritarian (or “fascistic”, to use Penny’s hyperbolic language) as anything that Donald Trump has ever said.

More:

I am done listening to my liberal friends contort themselves to take into account the notional opinions of the “white working class”. What does that even mean? How did we come to the craven consensus that the “white working class” is a homogenous mass of blustering bigots who must be pandered to as one might pander to a toddler having a tantrum at the edge of a cliff? A great many white people who are far from wealthy take issue with that particular patronising strain of self-scourgery on the left. A great many non-wealthy white people manage not to blame all their problems on feminazis, immigrants and their black and brown neighbours. Those people are real Americans, too.

So, no more of this nonsense. I’m done. I am done pretending that the good intentions of white patriarchy are more important than the consequences enacted on the bodies of others. Good intentions aren’t the issue here.

But of course Laurie Penny is never done. She would have no career if she were to actually stop giving her hysterical, preening, finger-wagging lectures to the rest of us, flaunting her conspicuous compassion before the world to earn social currency with with her fellow identity politics cultists.

And that’s the real rub here. The Left have practised and weaponised identity politics as a vote-winning tool (as well as a tool of censorship) for years. At some point it was inevitable that the white working class (and if Laurie Penny feels entitled to speak on behalf of “people of colour” as an homogeneous bloc then she can have no complaints about discussing the “white working class”) would start to adopt the same techniques, as a matter of political survival, in order to try to ensure the continued representation of their interests.

Laurie Penny and her fellow SJWs literally wrote the blueprint which Trump supporters followed to get their man into the White House. And still she does not see it. Still she rages at the white working class, howls at their “ignorance” and “bigotry”, seeks to invalidate them altogether (to use a beloved SJW term) and does everything in her power to make them feel under siege and justified in their decision to vote for Trump. Truly, the intellect is not very strong with this one.

More:

I know I do, although I haven’t yet. But be ready to reach out to them tomorrow, because the fight against despair continues, and alliances matter, and so does basic self-care. We need to be serious. I need to be serious, and I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry that the time for witty barbs about the President Elect, his hands, his hair and the howling ideological void of opportunistic narcissism behind his megalomaniac clown-mask is over, because inappropriate as those witty barbs are right now, they will probably be actively illegal before long.

I’m sorry, which group of people is it that tries to suppress free speech and make the giving of offence a disciplinary matter at universities and a “hate crime” in the real world? Because it’s not the Trumpists, that’s for sure.

And as for basic self care? Yes, please do keep on showering. I know that SJWs think that Hitler has just been elected US president, but we should all strive not to let ourselves go completely.

9 November – 7:20PM Washington D.C. / 10 November – 12:20AM London

Trump Victory Catastrophisation Watch, Part 3

Rod Dreher at The American Conservative has been cataloguing some of the most hysterical and overwrought responses to Donald Trump’s election victory witnessed on American university campuses, and the results are depressing, but entirely predictable.

Dreher, quoting several emails, memos or letters sent by paternalistic, overbearing university administrations to their snowflake student bodies, writes:

Oh for heaven’s sake … really? These snowflakes wanted classes cancelled because the wrong guy won the presidential election? These grown men and women need counseling to face the headlines? Are the SJWs and their coddlers trying to make me happy that Trump won, or what?

One of the emails, sent to students of Muhlenberg College, reads:

To the Muhlenberg Campus Community:

While the final results of the national election are not yet finally in, it is clear this is one of the most historic elections in our nation’s history.  Many members of my senior staff and I have received several emails from students requesting that we cancel classes today, Nov. 9.  We have also received emails from other students urging that we not cancel classes.

I am sensitive to the arguments of these students, both pro and con, on this issue.  As Muhlenberg is, at our core, an educational institution, I am persuaded we should not cancel classes; at least not today, in the immediate wake of this election.  Rather, I encourage our faculty to hold classes as scheduled but to be sensitive to the understandable feelings many members of our community — particularly our students — will be feeling in the wake of this historic election.

In the days ahead, we need to make space for reflection, discussion and consideration of what has happened and the variety of thoughts and feelings that this election will have stimulated in our community, in various communities throughout our nation and, indeed, in communities around the world.

There is already a session scheduled at 12:30pm in Seegers 111-112, with a faculty panel planning to discuss what happened in this election and why.  We will explore with the faculty organizers how we might open this meeting up to the entire campus and/or hold other meetings in the days ahead.

I encourage students who feel the need for support and counsel regarding the election to avail themselves of our counseling center, who will make room in their busy schedule to accommodate such sessions.  Also, our chaplain will be available in Egner Chapel for the bulk of the day for students who want to reflect in that space and/or seek her counsel.  I’m sure Rabbi Simon will also be available to our students.

We are a strong and mutually-supportive community.  We need to support one another in every way possible, and address our future in the most thoughtful and constructive ways possible.

Thanks to all members of our community for the support we will provide one another in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Dreher’s emphasis in bold.

And from the University of Michigan:

Our responsibility is to remain committed to education, discovery and intellectual honesty – and to diversity, equity and inclusion. We are at our best when we come together to engage respectfully across our ideological differences; to support ALL who feel marginalized, threatened or unwelcome; and to pursue knowledge and understanding, as we always have, as the students, faculty and staff of the University of Michigan.

There are reports of members of our community offering support to one another. Students are planning a vigil tonight on the Diag at 6 p.m. Our Center for Research on Teaching and Learning also has numerous resources available for faculty seeking help in cultivating classroom environments that are responsive to national issues.

Dreher provides a litany of examples of universities falling over themselves to play surrogate parent to adult students who have apparently been so infantilised that they now need to be treated as though they are toddlers when faced with an unwelcome election result. One can hardly imagine the university bending over backwards to provide emotional support to Trump-supporting students (those few who dared to declare their political views).

Look: it’s fine to be displeased and upset with the election result. This blog did not want Donald Trump to win the election or become president, not by a long shot. But to prance around acting as though fascism has suddenly come to America or that anybody is now in grave and immediate physical jeopardy is more than self-indulgent, it is corrosive to the political discourse, not to mention the already limited mental resilience of those who make and repeat such claims.

Are there many signs for hope that the incoming Trump administration will do great things for America? No. But America has withstood difficult times before, and (by comparison with today) largely done so without an infantilised population making the election result All About Them or unduly catastrophising the outcome.

And America can do so again, if only the Identity Politics Left could look beyond themselves for a moment and recognise the harm that they are actively inflicting on the country right now.

9 November – 7:13PM Washington D.C. / 10 November – 12:13AM London

Trump Victory Catastrophisation Watch, Part 2

Mother Jones magazine sends this urgent missive to its readers, entitled “how are you holding up?”:

This is a tough day. A lot has happened, and none of us can claim to fully understand it yet. As MoJo‘s Washington bureau chief, David Corn, put it in his piece on election night, “the forces of animus have taken control of this country. And there’s no telling what comes next.”

But one thing we know: This is the first day of a lot of work that needs to be done. And the work that MoJo does, the work of telling the truth without fear, is more essential than ever.

One of the things we learned about journalism during this campaign was that to pussyfoot around—refusing to call a lie a lie, or racism racism—is to enable liars or racists. That will be important in the months and years ahead. There will be a lot of pressure, some of it self-inflicted, for the press to “normalize” Trump and treat him like any other politician. We will need reporting that doesn’t do that. And we’ll need reporting that listens to the grassroots—that understands both where a movement like Trump’s comes from, and where the countervailing forces (and there are many) originate and gather strength.

We’re thinking about all of this today among the team, and surely so are all of you. Our editor-in-chief, Clara Jeffery, wrote an essay last night (because none of us could sleep anyway). She explained:

“Trump appealed to America’s worst impulses. Now it’s on the rest of us to show, to prove, that this is not all that America is. This is a time when we’re called on to do things we may not have done before. To face down bigotry and hate, and to reach beyond our Facebook feeds in trying to do so.

Ah yes, because Mother Jones and other anti-Trump forces were scrupulously honest and fearless arbiters of truth, while anybody with the slightest doubt that Hillary Clinton should be president automatically gave their blessing to the worst of Trump’s statements and behaviours.

Well, at least in speaking of the need to “reach beyond our Facebook feeds” they realise that they were trapped in an ideological bubble of their own making – a self sustained bubble which has now wrought profound and possibly very damaging consequences for the country.

We saw this same regression into childish vulnerability among the British Left after David Cameron’s 2015 general election victory, of course:

Laurie Penny - General Election 2015 - Partisan - Labour Party

9 November – 6:40PM Washington D.C. / 11:40PM London

Trump Victory Catastrophisation Watch, Part 1

As the election results began to turn against Donald Trump last night and supreme confidence gave way to unbridled panic, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow – an articulate host who I generally admire, despite our clear political differences – gave viewers a meltdown for the ages:

 

Sighing deeply, Maddow says:

You’re awake, by the way. You’re not having a terrible, terrible dream. Also, you’re not dead and you haven’t gone to hell. This is your life now. This is our election now. This is us. This is our country. It’s real.

Well, at least they don’t have “fair and balanced” as their slogan…

9 November – 6:35PM Washington D.C. / 11:35PM London

Semi-Partisan coverage resumes

Welcome back! This new live blog will run for a day or two, and will give my unfolding reaction to the developing story, showcase the best hot takes on Donald Trump’s remarkable election victory and the ensuing political earthquake, and call attention to some of the more extreme hyperbole we are now witnessing on both sides.

Clearly this was not the result that Semi-Partisan Politics wanted. Though this blog had zero enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton, she seemed to me to be a better temporary custodian of the American Republic than Donald Trump will make, given his character and known policy positions. That being said – we are where we are, and must make the best of it. I for one do not particularly welcome our new orange overlord, but the majority of those who voted for Donald Trump did so in good faith and out of a genuine desire to improve America. They must be respected and heard. The establishment must stop trying to “manage” the people, for once in their wretched lives, and actually try listening and responding to them instead.

However, it is clear that efforts are being made to quickly establish and entrench narratives about why and how Donald Trump achieved this victory. Both Democrats hoping for future party renewal and those on the right worried  about the future of American conservatism in the Age of Trump need to think long and hard about the messages they send out at this emotionally charged time. A lot of reputations are being tarnished and permanently diminished on Twitter right now. And throughout the media there is an awful lot of highly charged and ill-considered rhetoric being bandied about, most of which is probably not helpful to anybody.

Do please feel free to chime in with comments, questions or criticism, as always.

Yesterday’s election day (and night) live blog here.

 

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