Donald Trump Is Rick Santorum 2.0 – Less Social Conservatism, But Economic Populism On Steroids

Former Republican presidential primary candidate Rick Santorum, siren of the white working classes back in 2012, ran a campaign which laid the groundwork for Donald Trump’s insurgency in 2016, and ultimately prophesied his victory

For several months now I have been waiting for somebody to make the connection between Rick Santorum‘s strong running in the 2012 Republican primaries and the playbook which took Donald Trump all the way to the White House.

Way back during the 2012 campaign, I noted that Santorum was singing a siren song to the “white working classes” of rust belt America, responding to their very real and valid concerns with reassuring but unrealistic promises that the tide of globalisation could (and should) be turned back, thus sparing them the need to adapt to the new America.

Back then I labelled Rick Santorum the “Pied Piper of Pennsylvania“, a reference to the way in which the former Pennsylvania senator accumulated a large, trusting and often sympathetic audience of followers, but whom he would ultimately lead off the edge of an economic cliff:

Barring certain specific exceptions, the manufacturing jobs that America has lost will simply never return.

And perhaps among all of the things that Rick Santorum says that rile me up, this one makes me the most angry. He is peddling a Pleasantville-style, black and white, 1950s vision of a country where once again it is possible to live a comfortable middle class lifestyle with a decent sized family home and a couple of cars, paid for by the wages earned from assembling televisions, or refrigerators, or cars. And Republican primary voters, many of whom are in the squeezed middle class and have been let down by successive administrations, are listening to Santorum’s claims and gaining hope, and voting for him, even though he cannot in actual fact turn the clock back fifty years, even if he does actually want to.

Whether he wins or loses the Republican primary and the general election, the persistence of this argument – and the belief that a few tweaks to the tax code and the drilling of a few more oil wells will spur a resurgence in unskilled and semiskilled manufacturing – simply dooms another generation of people to a life of stagnating or falling living standards.

People trust Santorum because, unlike the other main Republican candidates, he is so genuine. Why would he advocate policies that would hurt them, when he was one of them? And yet the policies that he proposes would either do little to bring back more unskilled or semiskilled manufacturing jobs, or would make the US population even less qualified to perform those jobs which already exist. And all the time that people hold out hope that a Rick Santorum or another politician like him can work this magic, it is time that they are not spending going back into training, or into college or university, and reskilling themselves for the jobs of tomorrow’s economy.

Rick Santorum says all of the things that the Republican Party’s blue collar base want to hear, but in many ways he is just a modern day Pied Piper, promising them a brighter future while marching them off a cliff.

Globalisation cannot be rolled back, nor should it be. The challenge – which falls hardest upon Republicans and small government, small-c conservatives like myself, who generally do not foresee an active role for central government in the lives of citizens – is to find a way of reaping the fruits of globalisation while bringing these disrupted communities with us instead of callously leaving them behind.

And we should be honest: conservatives are at a disadvantage here. Leftists have the luxury of simply waving their hands and promising new government programmes for the mass retraining of millions of people in new, higher value-added jobs and careers. But no matter how costly or inefficient those schemes may prove, those on the right have an even harder job persuading voters, and no one party or politician on either side of the Atlantic has yet arrived at a fully convincing solution.

The inability to satisfactorily answer these questions and convince enough people of his ability to deliver the fruits of globalisation with none of the adverse consequences -together with the establishment reluctantly falling firmly behind Mitt Romney – ultimately saw Rick Santorum fall by the wayside back in 2012. But four years later, Donald Trump came charging along with almost the exact same message, and stormed all the way to the White House. And during this extraordinary journey, none of his supporters seemed to realise or care that Trump has been every bit as unable as Rick Santorum was to answer the question of “how?”, beyond his usual barnstorming bluster and well-worn pledge to Make America Great Again.

Now Bill Powell from Newsweek magazine has also picked up on the similarity between the two men, with a new piece entitled “How Rick Santorum helped Donald Trump win the White House” in which he argues that to a large extent, Donald Trump merely honed and executed a playbook originally written by Santorum.

Powell writes:

In the spring of 2015, [Trump] was talking to a few family members and confidantes about running for president. And he wanted to get in touch with a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, who had served two terms before losing big in 2006. In 2012, he was the runner-up to Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential primaries. Ensconced since then in a Washington, D.C., law firm, Santorum had written a book that attracted little attention: Blue Collar Conservatives, Recommitting to an America That Works. But Trump had read the book, very carefully, in fact, and was intrigued. He called Santorum and asked if he would come to Trump Tower for a visit. Santorum was a bit surprised by the invitation but said yes.

Santorum didn’t know what to expect. He had never met Trump and, like millions of Americans, knew of him only from his long-running NBC reality show, The Apprentice. Trump got right to the point. He had loved Santorum’s book and believed it could unlock the White House for a GOP candidate who ran a campaign based on reaching the working-class voters throughout the industrial Midwest that, Trump said, Democrats take for granted.

Santorum agreed, of course—he was thinking of making another run at the White House, using that playbook. (He did, but got bum-rushed early in the primaries.) Trump then surprised Santorum even more by questioning him on details of his book and economic policy in general. What could be done with trade policy to help the working class? Was there any way to turn around the massive bilateral trade imbalance with Beijing? Could the White House be used as a bully pulpit to pressure American companies to stop sending manufacturing offshore? On and on they went, and Santorum left the meeting wondering what might happen if you mixed the power of celebrity with a blue-collar tent revival.

We now know the answer. Trump’s improbable run to the presidency—which was nearly derailed on several occasions by his lack of discipline—was guided by a conviction that he could, as political consultant and longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone said last year, “rewrite the [electoral] map” by smashing the “great blue wall” of Midwestern Democratic states. And smash it he did.

Something happened (or continued to happen) between 2012 and 2016 which made more people receptive to the Santorum message of economic populism and protectionism, and the failure of the Obama administration to change the economic trajectory of those people already  suffering the fallout from globalisation (or nervously waiting for it to impact their industry and their jobs) clearly played a large part.

But even then, Trump’s victory could probably have been prevented had prominent Democrats like Hillary Clinton and President Obama not been so blasé about the economic challenge facing millions of Americans while they were campaigning. Hillary Clinton in particular took every opportunity to criticise Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, neglecting to consider that from many people’s perspective, America is only as great as their own present circumstances. But while sanctimoniously lecturing Donald Trump and his supporters that “America is already great” may have been factually true, it also felt a lot like the establishment dismissing the legitimate concerns of suffering people.

Sure, America is pretty darn awesome if you are one of the Wall Street bankers to whom Hillary Clinton loved to give speeches, one of the celebrities attending her fundraisers or just a prosperous coastal professional whose job and career is not about to be eradicated through automation or outsourcing. But if you do not fall into one of these categories, America can feel a lot more precarious than great. And having the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee continually insisting that everything is wonderful and that anyone with concerns or complaints is somehow “deplorable” was about the most stupid and politically tone-deaf way for a candidate to behave.

And of course we all know the outcome:

The Trump high-command members knew then they had an opening. The crowds Trump was drawing were enormous, and even before [FBI director James] Comey’s announcement [about the reopening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server], their internal polls said the race was tightening, but not enough to make many of them believe he would win. Now, though, they thought they had a shot. Trump remained focused, and the campaign laid on rally after rally—up to five per day in the last days of the race. Trump went back to Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin again and again. He even made a trip to Minnesota, the bluest of blue states, because—stunningly—polling had him drawing close even there. The Santorum strategy was playing out just as Trump had bet it would so many months before.

[..] “Those states—Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin—were the targets,” [Trump campaign manager Kellyanne] Conway would later say. “[Trump] had a `theory of the race,’ and when it became clear that he had tapped into something very big, he rode it. And that is what good candidates do.”

Bill Powell is right – to a large extent, Donald Trump picked up the mantle from Rick Santorum, amending it by ditching some of the niche social conservatism (an integral part of Santorum’s Catholic traditionalism) and ramping up the economic populism even further.

While Santorum spoke of the pain of those whose manufacturing jobs were disappearing and promised help through the corporate tax code, Donald Trump identified a specific bogeyman in the form of China and other countries who supposedly always get the better of America, and then promised to confront these foreign economic enemies. While Rick Santorum railed against the coastal intellectual elites and dismissed aspiring to go to college as “snobbery”, Donald Trump insulted and belittled those Ivy League experts and elites day after day.

In many ways, watching Donald Trump on the campaign trail was like watching an incredibly vulgar, amoral and less eloquent version of Rick Santorum, with the brightness and volume dial turned up to max. And it worked. The economic message that Santorum road-tested in his 2012 campaign and in “Blue Collar Conservatives” was a beguiling one, as I acknowledged four years ago. But when it was hitched to a television celebrity phenomenon and fuelled by a combustible blend of identity politics backlash and the Democratic Party’s seeming disdain for middle America, it became immensely powerful.

Of course, this leaves President-elect Trump in a far worse place than Rick Santorum. Santorum was able to rack up Republican primary votes and victories against Mitt Romney, but his ultimate defeat saved him from having to make good on his campaign rhetoric and unrealistic promises to insulate middle America from the negative consequences of globalisation. Donald Trump has made it all the way to the White House, and the people who put him there will now expect him to deliver.

Which means that it falls to Donald Trump – of all the unlikely people – to do something that no right-wing politician anywhere in the world has successfully achieved: find a way to reap the benefits of globalisation while mitigating the negative side effects.

My gut feeling: assuming that Trump even tries to address this challenge, it will only be by enacting economically ruinous levels of protectionism or by abandoning any pretence of conservatism and embracing some kind of mass worker retraining program, either in a massive expansion of the federal government or else delivered by the states through federal block grants. And given the dynamics in Congress, it is by no means certain that any such measure would pass.

Make America Great Again – so easy to say, so hard to deliver for millions of struggling Americans.

 

Rick Santorum

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Live Blog: Donald Trump Victory Reax

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Live Blog: Donald Trump Victory Reaction & Analysis

Contact: semipartisansam@gmail.com

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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The Real Deplorables

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We must not judge all Donald Trump supporters by the actions of his most obnoxious social media cheerleaders

With polls showing that Donald Trump would be cruising to likely victory in November’s presidential election if only men (with whom Trump leads in the polls) were allowed to cast a vote, a depressing new hashtag – #Repealthe19 – has started trending on Twitter, advocating for the repeal of the Nineteenth Amendment granting women’s suffrage.

Deplorable? Of course. But it is also likely the handiwork of a few bored Trump-supporting trolls, and hardly representative of the millions of women and men who choose to support Donald Trump’s candidacy. Yet this will not stop commentators on the Left, politically and emotionally invested in a Hillary Clinton victory, from portraying this juvenile and offensive stunt as being part of a broader Trumpist attack on women, and extrapolating the actions of a few immature idiots to smear the character and motivations of other, innocent Americans.

As it applies to Donald Trump’s own personal behaviour, such criticism is entirely justified – by bragging that his celebrity entitles him to “grab [women] by the pussy” Trump has further highlighted an especially unsavoury aspect of his character which we should all have already been aware, and not soon forget. But while criticism of the man himself is entirely valid and even essential, we must be careful to avoid falling into the comforting trap of assuming that the many people who support Donald Trump share the same retrograde views of the candidate and/or his troll army.

In the ongoing aftermath of Hillary Clinton’s recorded comments stating that “you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables“, journalist Michael Tracey warns political pundits against making the mistake of tarring all Trump supporters with the same brush.

Writing in The American Conservative, Tracey warns:

To broaden their horizons, such pundits might consider visiting some places in so-called “swing states” where Trump support is widespread, rather than just bloviating from behind their computer screens. Traversing these areas, one can’t help but bristle at Hillary’s “deplorables” theory as not only politically counterproductive, but seriously foul. She—like the pundits promoting her—has gotten the analysis totally inverted.

The real “deplorables” generally aren’t the people whom Hillary denounced as wholly “irredeemable,” or at whom economically secure commentators fulminate on a regular basis. More obviously “deplorable” are Hillary’s fellow financial, political, economic, and military elites who wrecked the economy, got us mired in endless unwinnable foreign wars, and erected a virtually impenetrable cultural barrier between everyday Americans trying to live fruitful lives and their pretentious, well-heeled superiors ensconced in select coastal enclaves. It is thanks to the actions ofthis “basket of deplorables” that we’re in the situation we’re in, where an oaf like Trump is perilously close to seizing the presidency.

At a recent Trump rally in Lancaster County, Pa., I was bemused to encounter a coterie of local Amish people who’d traveled there together by bus. Asked why they backed Trump, the overwhelming response was that Amish folks just wanted to preserve their traditional way of life (which they saw as under siege) and perceived Trump as enabling them to carry on with it. Some told me they supported Trump not because of some overweening disdain for their nation’s fellowmen, or immigrants, or even coastal liberals, but because they felt that the federal government was intruding on their ability to properly run their small farms.

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This also holds true in Lewiston, Maine, where Trump is favored to win the 2nd Congressional District and therefore at least one (potentially crucial) electoral vote. (Maine and Nebraska allocate their electoral votes by congressional district.) Lots of Franco-Americans populate this area, and many old-timers still speak French with a distinctive Central Mainer dialect. (Often it comes out when folks get inebriated at the bars in town.) When I visited recently, everyone basically had the same story: mills use to be the lifeblood of the local economy and by extension its civic institutions. Once the mills inexplicably shuttered, these workers lost their sense of location and community. Social-club memberships dwindled; parades and marches down the main thoroughfare became less of an attraction. There’s just not a hell of a lot going on nowadays, except Patriots games on TV, drinking, and drugs. Anybody with the means usually either bolts for relatively more prosperous Bangor to the north, or south to Boston and beyond.

Are the people who live in Lewiston really “deplorables”? Most of them like Trump, but they’re not the ones who crashed the economy or agitated to invade Iraq, as Hillary did.

Again: perhaps the true deplorables are the unaccountable elites whose decisions directly worsened life for millions of Americans. Oddly, you never hear Hillary running around to high-roller fundraisers condemning Goldman Sachs for their deplorable conduct; maybe that’s because they’ve directly given her and Bill hundreds of thousands of dollars for “speeches,” excerpts of which finally came out last Friday and are just as degenerate as you’d expect. (Goldman banned partners from giving money to Trump’s campaign, but handing over cash to Hillary is still perfectly fine.)

Tracey concludes:

Maybe the Amish of southeast Pennsylvania or the Franco-Americans of central Maine don’t use the correct Twitter hashtags or subscribe to Lena Dunham’s newsletter, but they’re still good people with normal ambitions for a happy, secure life. Screeching “deplorable!” at them is itself deplorable, especially because it lets the elites who bungled the country’s affairs off the hook.

This is my assessment too. There is a world of difference between some of Donald Trump’s most prolific (and obnoxious) social media supporters and the quiet men and women of middle America who see him as preferable to a President Hillary Clinton. You can argue (as this blog does) that these people are wrong, and that they are attaching their hopes and dreams to the wrong champion in supporting an egotistical authoritarian like Donald Trump. But they in no way, shape or form can they be described as “deplorable”.

Many of these people work hard, for stagnating pay which dooms them to falling living standards scarcely comprehended by the coastal journalists who scorn them. They raise families, attend church, give to charity, serve in the military. Sure, they might not be steeped in the latest fastidious trends of social justice or identity politics, but very few of them could be described as being full of hate.

Last Christmas, while we were back Stateside with my wife’s family in McAllen, Texas, I was perusing the shelves at Costco or Sam’s Club when I noticed Donald Trump’s new book “Crippled America: How To Make America Great Again” staring up at me from the bargain bin. Noticing me notice the book was a kindly-looking old man who wandered over, pointed at the volume in my hand and said, without a note of hesitation in his voice, “that man will save America”.

I had the briefest of conversations with him. Was this man an overt racist, sexist or homophobe? It certainly didn’t appear so, as far as I could tell. The baseball cap he was wearing suggested that he was a veteran, while his general appearance suggested that perhaps he was not brimming over with disposable income. And oh yes – like many people in that part of the country, he was Hispanic. Maybe that accounts for the strength of Clinton’s seething contempt toward members of her taken-for-granted minority constituencies who refuse to “see the light” and support her.

You can call this man deplorable if you will. Hillary Clinton has already preemptively labelled him so. Perhaps he is not quite “irredeemable“, though. Perhaps, like the African American protester she had thrown out of her rally the other day, by virtue of being a minority he might get away with merely being followed home and re-educated to better appreciate everything that Clinton is doing for him.

But the Hillary Clinton campaign and the American political elite in general are making a grave mistake if they assume that Donald Trump’s noisiest and most obnoxious cheerleaders on social media are representative of that beleaguered rump of Middle Americans who see him as their only route of escape from a status quo which has profoundly failed them.

Clinton has suggested that Trump supporters who repeat the “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan are somehow being unpatriotic for effectively suggesting that America is not already great. And if you are a typical Clinton supporter, perhaps your America is unquestionably great, delivering bountiful career opportunities and a consistently rising standard of living for you and everyone you know. But many others are less fortunate. In fact, the version of America which confronts many Trump supporters each and every day is significantly less “great” in nearly all of the ways which matter most to someone struggling to get by.

And these people deserve better than to be scorned and preemptively written off by the likely next president of the United States.

 

Donald Trump Protesters - St Louis

Top Image: Pixabay

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