As Hillary Clinton Accepts The Democratic Nomination, Donald Trump Leads The GOP To Its Armageddon

As Hillary Clinton accepts the Democratic Party’s nomination for president of the United States, the Republican Party stares oblivion in the face

It wasn’t the best acceptance speech at a Democratic Party national convention by a long shot, but Hillary Clinton’s historic speech got the job done.

Personally, I thought that it started off quite well before getting bogged down into the kind of grinding, laboured pedantry that is often the hallmark of a Hillary Clinton speech. One could almost hear Clinton’s brain checking off the various points she felt obligated to touch on (i.e. absolutely everything) as the speech ground onwards. But the moment Clinton accepted the nomination itself was effective:

And yes, love trumps hate.

That’s the country we’re fighting for. That’s the future we’re working toward.

And so it is with humility, determination, and boundless confidence in America’s promise that I accept your nomination for President of the United States!

And one did feel that slight sense of history in the making that we last felt when a much younger-looking Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party nomination eight years ago.

This section was powerful too, inasmuch as it sought to make a virtue of the way that Hillary Clinton grinds away behind the scenes, seeking to make incremental progress (an approach which clearly frustrates the millions of Democrats who preferred Senator Bernie Sanders as their nominee):

I remember meeting a young girl in a wheelchair on the small back porch of her house.

She told me how badly she wanted to go to school — it just didn’t seem possible.

And I couldn’t stop thinking of my mother and what she went through as a child.

It became clear to me that simply caring is not enough.

To drive real progress, you have to change both hearts and laws.

You need both understanding and action.

So we gathered facts. We built a coalition. And our work helped convince Congress to ensure access to education for all students with disabilities.

This blog hasn’t done a night-by-night analysis of the Democratic Convention as we did for the Republican Convention in Cleveland last week, but I have been watching closely – both the speeches, the mood of the hall and how it has all gone down in the American media. And right now, I think that the Republican Party should be feeling complete and utter stomach-churning, sweat-inducing dread. For all of the GOP’s political sins are about to catch up with them, and Republicans will be forced to pay for them in a hefty lump.

The Democratic convention was everything that the Republican convention was not, but normally is. Usually, one can expect the GOP to successfully co-opt and monopolise the flag, the military, the constitution and the founding fathers. But not this time. With Donald Trump as their standard bearer, de facto party leader and the ugly face of American conservatism (as far as most people are concerned), the Republicans have utterly ceded patriotic centre ground. Reagan’s “morning in America” has been replace by a darker, dystopian “midnight in America” in Republican rhetoric – a fact noted by Hillary Clinton in her speech. The sunny optimism and the shining city on a hill have been utterly banished, replaced by something insular, nativist, distrustful, selfish and wantonly cruel.

The Republicans used to be the Party of the Constitution (in rhetoric, if not always in practice). But one was hard stretched to hear any substantive mention of freedom, individual liberty and smaller government in Cleveland last week.

The Republicans used to be the Party of the Military. But now they are led by a thin-skinned, authoritarian, egotistical demagogue who has openly bragged that he intends to order the military to commit unconstitutional acts including torture, placing them in an impossible position. And so this week in Philadelphia, the retired four-star generals and distinguished veterans were on stage supporting Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

The Republicans used to be the Party of God, happy warriors for social conservatism. Now they are led by a twice-divorced adulterer who openly objectifies and belittles women, while the Democrats are led by a woman who (despite her many faults, and those of her husband) has kept her marriage together through thick and thin.

But more than anything else, the Republicans used to be a party of unabashed optimism and patriotism, always seeing the potential and the best in America and seeking to build on that progress in order to open the promise of America to more and more people. Now, they are led by a wannabe strongman who sees only the flaws in America, grotesquely exaggerating and distorting those faults for electoral gain while promising blunt and unsophisticated remedies without acknowledging the disruption and negative consequences of ripping up trade agreements and erecting protectionist and physical barriers against perceived threats. And now the Democrats are the ones with the positive, upbeat message.

Or as Clinton put it in her speech:

Our country’s motto is e pluribus unum: out of many, we are one.

Will we stay true to that motto?

Well, we heard Donald Trump’s answer last week at his convention.

He wants to divide us – from the rest of the world, and from each other.

He’s betting that the perils of today’s world will blind us to its unlimited promise.

He’s taken the Republican Party a long way, from “Morning in America” to “Midnight in America.”

He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.

Well, a great Democratic President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, came up with the perfect rebuke to Trump more than eighty years ago, during a much more perilous time.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

In nearly every category where the Republican Party once dominated the political landscape, they are now in retreat. Donald Trump clearly believes that the level of unregistered pain and dissatisfaction in the country is great enough that he can be swept to power purely on the back of an anti-establishment backlash. But my word, it’s an awfully big gamble to cheerfully abandon the constitution, the military, patriotism and fiscal conservatism and assume that this will bring in sufficient new voters, and that the party’s existing voters – who sincerely believe in those things – will stick around even as the Democrats aggressively pitch for their support.

That is not to say that a Trump victory is impossible – far from it. But look at the type of things which would have to happen to make President Trump a reality – more Islamist terror attacks on American soil, driving scared voters toward Trump’s authoritarian appeal, or a further deterioration of the fraught relationship between America’s police forces and the black communities they serve. Trump benefits from this chaos and division, but none of the policies he has offered would make America tangibly safer. You can be assured that Hillary Clinton will be pushing that message through the fall into the general election.

If things remain as they are; if there are no further large extraneous shocks to the economy, to politics or to national security (admittedly a big “if” when Islamist terror attacks in Europe seem to be running at one per week) then Republicans should be very worried indeed. In their embrace of Donald Trump – a man who could never have become their leader had congressional Republicans acted in a more responsible manner throughout the Obama presidency – they have utterly jettisoned their commitment to the constitution, to individual liberty and to small-c conservatism. They have lost the support of this blog and millions of other thinking conservatives, all in the hope of riding a populist wave to the White House, based on promises which they know are largely undeliverable.

And while Hillary Clinton is undoubtedly a flawed candidate offering a continuation of America’s current trajectory, in a binary choice between the status quo and the void, she has effectively positioned herself as the de facto choice for anybody who is serious about protecting the American republic from unpredictable and often irrational constitutional, economic and political vandalism by Donald Trump.

The Republican Party should be afraid. And chastened. And if the day finally comes when the fever breaks and they realise just what eight years of hysterical opposition to President Obama followed by the nomination of Donald Trump hath wrought, they will face an almighty uphill climb to earn back the respect of small-c, constitutional conservatives.

 

Hillary Clinton - DNC - Democratic National Convention - Acceptance Speech - 3

Hillary Clinton - DNC - Democratic National Convention - Acceptance Speech - 4

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Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton: A Nauseating Choice But An Easy Decision

Faced with a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, nobody will come away from this American presidential election looking very good. But there is still a right choice, and a wrong one

Faced with the choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I’m with her.

I do so with zero enthusiasm – certainly far less than Andrew Sullivan, once the most vocal of Clinton’s enemies, now seems to be displaying:

Some readers think I’ve been too negative, even cynical, tonight. Believe me, I am utterly uncynical about this election. I’m worried sick. We need to put behind us any lingering beefs, any grudges, any memories from the past – and you know how I feel about the Clintons’ past – in order to save liberal democracy. The only thing between him and us is her. So – against all my previous emphatic denials – I’m with her now. As passionately as I ever was with Obama. For his legacy is at stake as well.

I support Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump not in the expectation that a second Clinton family presidency will do anything to make America significantly better – she is nothing if not a continuity candidate, the living embodiment of a third (and quite possibly fourth) Obama term. I find myself supporting Clinton because the anti-establishment wave which helped deliver Brexit and the hope of return to self-government for Britain promises no equally great benefits for America so long as it is led by a charlatan like Trump.

However tawdry and oversimplified the mainstream Brexit campaign may have been, the dream of freeing Britain from a suffocating, steadily tightening political union with Europe was and remains a noble and vital goal. Trump’s goal for his own country consists of Making America Great Again (MAGA), which he plans to accomplish by building a massive wall and sending the bill to a country who will refuse to pay it, and by defeating the Islamic State and ending the scourge of Islamist terror attacks “very quickly” with a few harsh words from the Oval Office and no American boots on the ground.

Of course the United States has constitutional firewalls and checks & balances to prevent excessive overreach by the executive branch, but the man is just appalling – a shallow, vindictive egotist with almost zero attention span (as proved by his reputed offer to give John Kasich complete control of foreign and domestic policy, and nearly every speech he has ever given).

Many of Trump’s apologists in the Republican Party have been reduced to saying “oh, it’s just a persona” as if that somehow makes it better. Either he means what he says when he promises authoritarian, big government solutions or his populism is just a lie and he is going to massively let down his voters in office, creating an even more wild backlash which nobody will be able to control. Neither option bodes well for sensible conservative government.

And so while a Hillary Clinton presidency will be technocratic, soul-sappingly un-ideological, politically calculating and almost certainly stymied by furious GOP obstructionism, at least it buys time for the Republicans to wake up and try to engage with the public anger against the political elites in a more constructive way.

The Republicans have tried riding the Tea Party tiger, and were consumed by it. Now they have hitched their fortunes to Donald Trump, who will (barring further Islamist attacks or police shootings) lead them to defeat with dishonour. It is difficult to imagine a rock bottom lower than being led to defeat against Hillary Clinton by Donald Trump. Hopefully this is that rock bottom, and the party of Abraham Lincoln will rise from the ashes of defeat in 2016 chastened and renewed.

But even if none of this comes to pass, even if the GOP learns absolutely nothing and goes on to nominate Herman Cain or Sarah Palin in 2020, at least we have bought four more years of relative stability. If you take Donald Trump at his word, he is a dangerous demagogue. If you belong to the school of thought which says that it is all an act, then he is perpetrating a fraud on those millions of his supporters who take his public utterances seriously. Neither option is good. This is not somebody fit for the presidency.

Many of the scandals hanging over Hillary Clinton have substance, and she undoubtedly has been dishonest in her handling of the email scandal – she was wrong to conduct sensitive government business over a bootleg server installed in her home, and she was most definitely wrong to be so evasive and even downright false in her subsequent explanations of her behaviour. In any other circumstance – and I mean any other circumstance – this alone would disqualify Clinton from the presidency.

But these are extenuating circumstances. I’m sorry Trump supporters, but I have searched and searched and I cannot see in Donald Trump the principled, fearless happy warrior fighting the elite on behalf of ordinary Americans which you see. I see a shrewd, calculating and undeniably effective demagogue, one who understands better than any other recent insurgent politician how to command public attention, and who was aided in this tawdry work by a debased American media class whose great crime in giving undeserved oxygen to the Trump campaign in the hunt for ratings surpasses even their craven and servile attitude toward the Bush administration in the years after 9/11.

And in these exceptional times, the only responsible thing to do is to pick the lesser of two evils. Hillary Clinton continues the dubious tradition of American presidential dynasties. She has a perpetual cloud of scandal hanging over her head which cannot all be dismissed as the fact-free imaginings of Newt Gingrich. And she is a political weathervane with seemingly no fixed political convictions or guiding ideology. But even for all of these flaws, at least she is not Donald J Trump.

However, this blog is concerned that the current Hollywood celebrity love-fest taking place at the DNC convention in Philadelphia, while buoying the spirits of Hillary fans (and disappointed Bernie Sanders supporters) is actually feeding the Trump campaign’s effective – and partially true – message that the American cultural elite is bullying ordinary people into feeling ashamed of their often perfectly legitimate political concerns.

And never more so than on the topic of immigration, where whatever racism and xenophobia exists at the fringe of the Republican Party is more than cancelled out by the gleeful subversion of law and language encouraged by many mainstream Democrats, with their embrace of the exculpatory term “undocumented immigrants” and repeated, tawdry attempts to ennoble the idea of living in America illegally.

As Jeremy Carl fumes in the National Review:

Witness what we have just seen: One candidate for president has been the first-ever candidate for president endorsed by the union of Border Patrol agents. The other candidate proudly features, on the first night of her convention, illegal aliens up on the main stage, while Democrats nationwide cheer.

If you wanted to understand the hold that Donald Trump has on a large swathe of conservatives and even fed-up Democrats and independents, the Democratic convention is pretty much a living explanation.

At this point, we’ve become so accustomed to the Democrats’ immigration lawlessness that too many of us accept it. We think there is simply nothing strange about one of our two political parties happily parading lawbreakers in a forum where they are celebrated for their law-breaking.

As a future American citizen (proudly married to a Texan, with the ultimate intention of living back in the United States) who will one day gratefully join the back of the line and emigrate the lawful way, nothing enrages me more than this holding-hands-underneath-a-rainbow celebration of people who either snuck into America illegally or otherwise outstayed their visas. But the Clinton campaign’s emotion-based, identity politics-ridden position on “undocumenteds” (whoops, where did their documents go? Never mind, no point being a stickler for the rules) should not just be offensive to current and future legal immigrants who played by the rules. It should be offensive to every single person who places value in the rule of law.

And still Clinton is better than Trump. Some of Trump’s ideas on immigration – such as defunding “sanctuary cities” which refuse to cooperate with federal immigration rules and officials, and ending the anachronism of birthright citizenship – are entirely sensible. But the sanctions with which Trump intends to threaten Mexico in order to coerce payment for building his wall would greatly hamper cross border trade and actually put people out of work, as would many of his other protectionist policies.

Donald Trump has the greatest potential to harm America in the sphere of foreign policy. When it comes to domestic matters, the ability of the executive branch to take drastic or radical action is fairly well constraint by the checks and balances built into the American system of government. But in managing America’s relationship with other countries, President Donald Trump would have wide-ranging abilities to antagonise or alienate other countries in a way which the Constitution is not designed to constrain. Now, some of those countries may well deserve a tongue-lashing from Donald Trump – that is a large part of his appeal, the ability to come out strongly against the indefensible. But if Donald Trump has a coherent foreign policy, it is a closely guarded secret. There is certainly no mention on his campaign website. Therefore, there is no guarantee that Trump will antagonise only those countries which America can afford to alienate.

One may disagree with many of Hillary Clinton’s decisions while serving as Secretary of State, but at least she knows her way around foreign policy and will not need to keep Wikipedia to hand as she takes congratulatory calls from world leaders if she wins the election. That matters. Leadership matters, even if the direction of that leadership is sometimes less than optimal. While the American presidency always involves on-the-job training with incredibly high stakes, to bestow that office on somebody with no record of or interest in public service prior to this point would be reckless in the extreme.

Yet Hillary Clinton can easily lose this election. More to the point, her supporters can lose this election for her with their sanctimonious moral grandstanding, finger-wagging lectures to Middle America and constant diminution of the issues and concerns which motivate Trump supporters. In Britain we have already seen how endless celebrity interventions accusing Brexit supporters of racism and evil intent quite rightly provoked a backlash against the bien-pensant clerisy who haughtily preached that Britain is no good and that we could not survive without the EU’s antidemocratic supranational government. Piling up the celebrity endorsements could end up harming Hillary Clinton more than helping her.

And so the need now comes hardest upon the Clinton campaign manager, Robby Mook, to be a skilled and fearless strategist. Trump will not be beaten easily. The gaffes and missteps which harm normal political candidates only further cement his popularity among his most ardent supporters. And Hillary Clinton is a famously weak political candidate, less effective on the campaign trail than she is when in office.

This blog takes absolutely no delight in making its choice for the 2016 presidential race. I would have leapt at the chance to support a smart, sane conservative alternative to Democratic Party occupancy of the White House. But eight years of hysterical, hyperbolic opposition to Barack Obama effectively put rocket boosters on the GOP’s crazy wing, and now there is no smart, sane conservative left to support. In fact, there is no small-c conservative running in this presidential race at all.

That failure is not the fault of Barack Obama. He did not spike the juice of every Republican politician with crazy powder over the past seven years. This is an entirely self-inflicted wound struck by obstructionist conservative politicians who chose to make American politics this angry and volatile, aided by the conservative-industrial complex of media and punditry who cynically portrayed what has been a frustratingly uneven economic recovery and an overly timid and contradictory foreign policy as an unprecedented American decline brought about by Kenyan socialism.

In short, it is the fault of the political-media class, and the opportunistic Republican Party in particular, that Donald Trump was able to take over the GOP so easily. It is their fault that the only semi-responsible choice on the ballot paper will be for Hillary Clinton’s predictable, uninspiring centre-leftism.

And it is their fault that this blog is left with no choice but to follow my conscience and support Hillary Rodham Clinton for president – very much the lesser of two evils.

 

Hillary Clinton - Tim Kaine

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