Carnage

Donald Trump - American Carnage - first inaugural address

Abandon all hope?

Rudyard Kipling once wrote:

“If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken
And stoop and build ’em up with worn out tools…”

Well, I can’t quite say that I have given my life to the causes for which this blog stands – particularly as I only started blogging after the 2010 general election, and my views on some issues have matured and evolved over that time – but I have been doing this for over five years now, sometimes publishing multiple times a day, and I think that I hold my own when it comes to putting my time, money and effort into being an engaged citizen.

And so I think I certainly know what Kipling was driving at when he alluded to the disappointment of seeing a long-cherished and hard-sought goal turn to dust in one’s hand the moment it is finally reached. That feeling pervades politics right now, at least for pro-Brexit, pro-nation state conservatarians such as myself.

2016-2017 has been a period of one step forward, two steps back in many regards. The British people voted for Brexit and freedom from that decaying, antidemocratic political conglomerate known as the European Union, but they did so on the back of a tawdry and deceitful campaign led by proud ignoramuses who wore their lack of a Brexit plan as a badge of honour – and now the hubris of the Westminster Brexit aristocracy threatens to ruin the entire endeavour.

Meanwhile, the Coke Zero Conservative Party managed by a whisper to keep Jeremy Corbyn’s marauding socialists out of office, but only at the expense of turning themselves into a limp, centre-left version of the Labour Party themselves. And now conservatives face the dual indignities of being accused of being heartless haters of the poor and persecutors of the weak despite having ceded most of the intellectual arguments to the Left, and being completely unable to move the needle of British politics in a remotely satisfactorily right-wing direction.

If I’m going to be accused of callously taking a jackhammer to the welfare state I at least want to see a little bit of rubble as my reward. But there is no rubble, only the stench of craven capitulation to the leftist forces of perpetual dependency.

And things are little better across the Atlantic. Whatever pleasure one may have otherwise taken from the humbling of Hillary Clinton in her second presidential campaign – and there were many reasons to want to see a borderline corrupt establishment candidate in hoc to global elites punished at the ballot box – any such joy quickly turned to ashes when faced with the alternative of President Donald J. Trump, who vastly matches and exceeds Clinton’s flaws in every conceivable way.

The real tragedy of the Trump presidency – at least in my view, as I previously discussed on this blog – is that even those few policies and initiatives of the Trump administration which are positive and laudable are actively being rendered toxic and untenable by their association with a man so patently unfit to serve in the highest civilian office.

As with Brexit and the limping British conservative government, I fear that the Trump presidency will shift the Overton window of American politics further and further to the Left the longer it persists – either because Trump himself embraces many protectionist and left-wing ideas, because the Republican Party’s brand is being tarnished through their utter inability to transition from a party of strident protest to a party of responsible government, or because the American Left has been driven to such blind, seething fury at Trump’s personal flaws that any daft socialist or redistributive policy starts to seem appealing to people simply because it is a rebuke to the president.

Almost across the board, applying the normal metrics, this should be a time for celebration. But instead, each victory appears increasingly Pyrrhic. To defend Brexit now is to open oneself to ceaseless mockery and hatred by a cast of bien-pensant know-nothings who think that taking their opinions from the Guardian website makes them high-information voters when in fact they are some of the very, very lowest in the land.

And now even those of us who had nothing to do with the major Brexit campaigns – the increasingly ridiculous Leave.EU or the establishment Vote Leave – are accused of unleashing a tide of hatred and xenophobia, and of “dividing the country”. Of course, our accusers didn’t mind when the country was equally divided prior to the referendum, because the people who disagreed with them were not given a proper voice in power. Only when the machinery of state finally swung into action on behalf of the majority did these pant-wetting histrionics about “divisiveness” begin.

And that is to say nothing of the fact that our political class are mismanaging Brexit to such a jaw-droppingly colossal extent that many Remainers are effectively being proved correct, a fact which they do not hesitate to crow about on television, in the newspapers and in social media. Of course, this is why Brexit needed to happen in the first place – our ability to self-govern has atrophied over decades of relentless integration with a remote and unaccountable supranational government in Brussels.

Bringing power back closer to the people and undoing 40 years of political integration was always going to be an Hurculean, traumatic process (not a singular event), but even if the most dire Brexit predictions come true it is surely better to go through the painful correction rather than simply throw our hands up in the air, admit that we are not able to govern ourselves adequately as a people, and submit permanently to remote technocracy.

But it is increasingly clear that the promise of Brexit will not be realised, at least not by the current crop of politicians, or realistically within at least a couple of decades. Brexit was always going to be a process, not an event. And Brexit itself was never the thing that would deliver the beneficial payload in terms of bringing power and accountability closer to the British people. Brexit merely makes these things remotely possible, by extricating us from treaties and frameworks which give us no opt-out or right of reservation if a particular policy, regulation or initiative is against our national interest.

But our political class are so superficial and intellectually uncurious, and the quality of our political discourse so weak, that this richer conversation has played out only on the independent blogosphere, while prestige news outlets, journalists and politicians present Brexit as a zero-sum game in which – depending on their perspective – either buccaneering Britain defeats the evil continentals, or the Virtuous Europeans give us the “punishment beating” we were so richly warned about during the referendum.

Perhaps we should have seen it coming. Effectively overruling the establishment’s carefully laid out plan for our lives was always going to generate a huge backlash, from powerful and well-connected people with the ability to make traditional grassroots anti-establishment backlashes look like a cake sale at the Women’s Institute. Perhaps we forgot this fact because we Brexiteers and defenders of nation state democracy were so used to being part of a backlash ourselves – the backlash against the establishment – that we didn’t give enough credence to the fact that globalists, disinterested “citizens of the world” and other assorted types are equally as invested in their worldview as we are in ours, and in a far stronger position to defend it from attack.

And now that they have experienced repudiation at the ballot box, the establishment’s ability to turn howls of outrage into a full-on filibuster of democratically-made decisions is stronger than many of us planned for. We have Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and the like jabbering away like idiots, totally unmoored from reality, tarnishing the dream of Brexit with every garbled statement. Meanwhile, they – the pro-EU establishment – still control the bulk of the machinery of state, dominate Parliament, the worlds of art, science and commerce. And they would rather see Britain fail so that they can scream an hysterical “I told you so!” at the 52% than muck in and help to amplify the voices of sane Brexiteers (they happy few) who understand what they are talking about.

Neither is the concept of the nation state faring much better in America, where Donald Trump’s presidency has caused American leftists to increasingly embrace a position in which no illegal immigrant should face deportation, or even the slightest hindrance as they attempt to subvert the law and settle in the United States without permission. Never mind that a nation which cannot control its own borders can hardly still count itself a nation – to even question the idea of mass amnesty, sanctuary cities and a fully open door is to be racist towards “undocumented” people, for whom our hearts should brim over with sympathy, while hardening against America’s native-born huddled masses.

But to support the nation state, or its greatest expression through Western Civilization, is becoming increasingly gauche and passe for many in the political elite. Donald Trump recently visited Warsaw and made what was actually a rather decent speech (obviously not of his own creation) about defending Western values from military, terrorism and cultural threats. But of course Donald Trump was the worst possible person to make such a speech, and so now even more hearts will be turned against the idea of taking pride in liberal Western values. The president of the United States actively sets back the causes which he (or the people in his administration who pull the strings) seek to promote, purely by virtue of his ignorance and inestimably deficient personality.

One Australian news anchor put it rather well, remarking that “there’s a tendency among some hopeful souls to confuse the speeches written for Trump with the thoughts of the man himself”. A dangerous tendency indeed. Even when Trump says something broadly positive – such as about supporting the nation state and defending Western values – one cannot rejoice, first because the man who delivers the words renders them toxic and consequently less likely to happen, but also because there will likely be no attempted follow-through anyway. These are just words put into his mouth by a speechwriter or an administration ideologue like Steve Bannon.

The Trump-Bannon or Trump-Miller partnerships are not remotely like that between John F. Kennedy and his brilliant speechwriter Ted Sorensen, where the wise counsellor Sorensen merely refined JFK’s own fairly sophisticated thoughts and words. No, the incumbent of the Oval Office is a shallow, egotistical and unlettered man who just wants to be seen to be winning, and who can be manipulated into doing pretty much anything so long as it makes for a good TV visual.

That’s why one can’t even rejoice when Trump says something vaguely encouraging in a speech – because at the best of times, Trump is effectively little more than a sock puppet for the cleverer, more manipulative people jostling for influence within his administration.

The future of conservatism also presently hangs in the balance, on both sides of the Atlantic. In America, the Republican Party – having sold their soul to Donald Trump – seems determined to prove that they cannot be trusted as a responsible party of government. If you want angry tri-cornered hatted protests about freedom and liberty, the GOP is probably still just about the party for you. But if you expect mature governance and the diligent application of conservative policies in government then look elsewhere.

Eight years of whining about the evils of ObamaCare and the Republicans have no realistic plan for repeal. All of their proposals get dreadful scores from the Congressional Budget Office because they are forecasted to simultaneously throw people back onto the uninsured scrapheap while simultaneously costing more money. “Repeal and replace” is rapidly becoming the Republican Party’s version of Vote Leave’s “£350 million for the NHS” pledge. And if the GOP cannot deliver some kind of conservative reform that meaningfully benefits people’s lives by the time of the 2018 midterms, they will be punished far worse than Theresa May’s limp Tories.

Speaking of which, British conservatism is in complete and utter crisis. As I have extensively written on this blog over several years now, failing to robustly defend small-government conservative values comes with a price attached. And now we know what that price is – Jeremy Corbyn on the verge of entering 10 Downing Street as prime minister, all because Theresa May’s cowardly and incompetent election campaign failed to make a bold and compelling case for conservative solutions.

But truthfully this is not all Theresa May’s fault. The rot goes deep, even back beyond the Cameron and Osborne years. If you do not defend conservative principles as an inherently good thing rather than a necessary virtue, eventually you will lose. And for years now the British public has been fed a poisonous diet of the idea that the only “good” conservatism is that sop to the Left known as “compassionate conservatism”, while any attempt to preach the virtues of self-reliance, individualism and civil society over the state is seen as somehow evil.

Then look at the remorseless advances made by the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, who have broken free from the university campus and started to inflict their dogmatic regressive illiberalism across whole swathes of society. At one point I attempted to document daily occurrences of overreach and infringement on civil liberties by the social justice brigade – my “Tales from the Safe Space” series – but by about the sixtieth entry it started getting a little bit repetitive basically issuing the same dire warning week after week.

If the warning was heard, it certainly has not been heeded. Political leaders, corporations, media outlets, journalists, commentators and virtue-signalling private citizens have all been falling over themselves to jump on the social justice bandwagon.

Even once-venerable institutions like America’s Southern Poverty Law Centre would rather spend their time hounding brave reformist Muslims and ex-Muslims who speak out against extremism, accusing people like Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali of being Islamophobic extremists themselves, than stick to their core mission of shining a spotlight on genuine racism and discrimination, particularly in the Islamic world. The ACLU has additionally given itself over completely to punishing anybody who doesn’t buy into radical new gender theory, while the UK’s Liberty organisation has long favoured leftist agitation over the single-minded defence of true civil liberties.

In short, there is little to celebrate and even less to give cause for hope. Having snatched power, those few forces which could have potentially been an agent for change have instead been stymied by their own incompetence, while the forces of the globalist Left fortify themselves in temporary opposition.

I wish it were otherwise, but at present I do not see how. Compare these two extracts from the Obama second inaugural speech in 2013 and Trump’s first (and hopefully last) inaugural in 2017. First the Obama:

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. (Applause.) An economic recovery has begun. (Applause.) America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together. (Applause.)

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. (Applause.) We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own. (Applause.)

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.

And then the Trump:

The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

Everyone is listening to you now.

You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before.

At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.

Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves.

These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public.

But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

The two speeches are truly not that different, in basic message if not in style. Or at least, the difference lies in what is not said rather than in what is said.

Both make the same essential (and valid) point – that there is an “American Carnage” or Western Carnage in progress. But while former President Obama did little to arrest this trend and is now happy to go off yachting with Tom Hanks and Bruce Springsteen in his retirement, current President Trump would rather rage against his critics at 5AM on Twitter than do anything about it.

And waiting eagerly in the wings, like hungry jackals, are the same cast of incompetent, self-serving clowns who gave us Donald Trump and Theresa May in the first place.

For conservatives and supporters of the nation state as the greatest bulwark against threats to our liberty, optimism is vanishingly hard to find in politics right now. And there it is.

 

Apologies for the recent lack of blogging, due to health issues. Hopefully normal service will commence soon.

 

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Donald Trump’s Inexcusable Loyalists Deserve To Be Betrayed As He Chooses His Cabinet

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Donald Trump loyalists betrayed conservatism by supporting the president-elect during the campaign; if they are now betrayed by Trump and frozen out of his administration it will be sweet justice

As Donald Trump’s cabinet takes shape, some of those who sacrificed the most reputationally and ideologically to get on board the Trump train are angry that the president-elect is giving consideration to other people who refused to campaign with him, even those who may not have voted for him.

Sarah Palin (who, to be fair, didn’t have much of a reputation to sacrifice) has now belatedly rediscovered her commitment to small government after apparently finding out that there will be no place for her in the Trump administration. In response to this slight, Palin took to the newspapers accusing Donald Trump of promoting “crony capitalism” for offering incentives to business to keep production in the United States.

That’s not quite what she was saying a month ago when she was praising and supporting Trump, and it is slightly jarring to see her pivot effortlessly back to Tea Party talking points having previously embraced Trump so strongly.

But nothing has made the Trump loyalists as angry as the gnawing possibility that Donald Trump might pick Mitt Romney to be his Secretary of State over his dedicated henchman Rudy Giuliani, one of the only people to publicly defend Trump after the leaked ‘p*ssygate’ recordings made the news. Why should Rudy be overlooked, the thinking goes, when he did everything for Trump while Mitt Romney looked on distastefully from the sidelines?

The Trump loyalists deserve absolutely no sympathy in this regard – though Jonah Goldberg does an excellent job of summarising their predicament in this week’s G-file:

Consider the following thought experiment. A very rich guy makes you an offer: “If you eat this bowl of sh**, I will grant you a wish.” You think about it for a minute or two, and then you grab a wooden spoon and start to dig in, when the rich guy says, “Hold on. You’ve got to do it publicly.”

Well, you figure, “What’s the difference? Once I get my wish it will be worth it.” So, you head on over to a television studio with your plastic bib and your spoon, and you tuck into the steaming bowl like Mikey in the old Life cereal commercials.

Then the rich guy says, “Sorry, one more thing: I can only give you a coupon for your wish. But, I promise to honor it once I get the job of genie. Just keep eating.”

What to do? You’ve already acquired a reputation for coprophagia and no one else is offering wish-coupons, so you stick it out. Besides, you’re not alone. A bunch of other folks have been promised similar coupons and you’ve formed a tightknit group. You spend a lot of time talking about how smart you are for agreeing to this arrangement. You fantasize about what you’ll do with your wishes and how sorry the naysayers will be.

Then, the rich guy gets the job of genie. Woo-hoo!

Naturally, you want to redeem your coupon. But all of a sudden, the rich guy starts playing coy. He’s honoring the coupon for some people, but not you. That would be fine — one coupon at a time and all. But then you learn that the genie-elect is giving out coupons to people who didn’t partake of the fecal feast. Uh oh.

And then you see news reports that the big man is not only giving out wishes to people who never earned a coupon, but he’s considering granting a wish to the foremost guy who criticized the big man and tried to keep him from being able to grant wishes at all!

Okay, this getting belabored. But you get the point. If Trump remains the loyalist, Gingrich, Huckabee et al. have golden tickets. The last thing they want is Willie Wonka Trump letting just anybody into the chocolate factory.

This blog finds it very hard to generate sympathy for those big-name American conservatives who so comprehensively sold out their own ideology and their own party to Donald Trump.

If the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin now find themselves betrayed and left out of the Trump administration they helped to inflict on America, it is still nothing compared to the betrayal of conservatism that they committed by throwing the principles of freedom and small government out the window to worship at the feet of a thin-skinned, constitutionally illiterate big government authoritarian.

May their time in the wilderness be long and full of regrets.

 

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After Hillary Clinton’s Defeat, The Battle For The Democratic Party’s Soul Begins

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Wealthy Liberal donors to the Democratic Party are debating whether to double down on their identity politics and victimhood culture-based strategy or to attempt meaningful outreach to the white working classes whom they so conspicuously cut adrift in 2016

And so the post-election autopsy begins, as analysts slice open the carcass of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign and methodically pick through the vital organs to determine what possible failure allowed a well-funded presidential campaign that has effectively been running for over a decade to go down in flaming defeat at the hands of Donald Trump.

Politico reports that the hilariously named Democracy Alliance (a group of mega-rich Democratic Party donors using their wealth to tilt the scales of genuine democracy every bit as much as the “evil” Koch brothers) is holding an emergency meeting at the Washington DC Mandarin Oriental hotel to thrash out the issues:

George Soros and other rich liberals who spent tens of millions of dollars trying to elect Hillary Clinton are gathering in Washington for a three-day, closed door meeting to retool the big-money left to fight back against Donald Trump.

The conference, which kicked off Sunday night at Washington’s pricey Mandarin Oriental hotel, is sponsored by the influential Democracy Alliance donor club, and will include appearances by leaders of most leading unions and liberal groups, as well as darlings of the left such as House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman Keith Ellison, according to an agenda and other documents obtained by POLITICO.

The meeting is the first major gathering of the institutional left since Trump’s shocking victory over Hillary Clinton in last week’s presidential election, and, if the agenda is any indication, liberals plan full-on trench warfare against Trump from Day One. Some sessions deal with gearing up for 2017 and 2018 elections, while others focus on thwarting President-elect Trump’s 100-day plan, which the agenda calls “a terrifying assault on President Obama’s achievements — and our progressive vision for an equitable and just nation.”

However, there are now murmurings of discontent among some of the Democrats present, who claim that persisting with the same tired, clapped out old ideas and electoral strategies will not reverse their sliding fortunes:

Yet the meeting also comes as many liberals are reassessing their approach to politics — and the role of the Democracy Alliance, or DA, as the club is known in Democratic finance circles. The DA, its donors and beneficiary groups over the last decade have had a major hand in shaping the institutions of the left, including by orienting some of its key organizations around Clinton, and by basing their strategy around the idea that minorities and women constituted a so-called “rising American electorate” that could tip elections to Democrats.

That didn’t happen in the presidential election, where Trump won largely on the strength of his support from working-class whites. Additionally, exit polls suggested that issues like fighting climate change and the role of money in politics — which the DA’s beneficiary groups have used to try to turn out voters — didn’t resonate as much with the voters who carried Trump to victory.

“The DA itself should be called into question,” said one Democratic strategist who has been active in the group and is attending the meeting. “You can make a very good case it’s nothing more than a social club for a handful wealthy white donors and labor union officials to drink wine and read memos, as the Democratic Party burns down around them.”

This blog (and many others) have already written extensively that the cynical decision by the Democrats and the American Left in general to wage a relentless identity politics war against the Right is not only misguided, but actively polarising the country, as continued efforts to label working class white people as privileged “oppressors” will only further encourage them to form into a cohesive identity group of their own – the very one which elected Donald Trump as the next president.

Obsessing endlessly about the politics of race, gender and sexuality at a time when many Americans are either suffering economically or teetering on the brink of real economic insecurity is a privilege only available to the type of people who meet at the Mandarin Oriental to naively ask one another how anybody could possibly not have wanted Hillary Clinton to be the next president. To anybody else, the narrow interests and shrill, hectoring tone of the Democratic Party are an irrelevance at best and a source of supreme annoyance and alienation at worst.

People living in towns decimated by the loss of skilled manufacturing don’t want to be told that it is actually a good thing that their air pollution-causing factory closed down and took their job with it, or that they are borderline racists and bigots for not immediately adopting the latest social justice buzzwords spewing out of the university system. Yet the Democrats had little of value to say to the white working classes, the candidate herself clearly much more at home among the Wall Street and progressive celebrity class, spending the night before the election partying with the likes of Beyoncé rather than showing any empathy for struggling voters in the so-called rust belt.

Unfortunately, other delegates seem so wedded to the present profile of the Democratic Party that they believe that change is neither necessary nor desirable.

The Politico report continues:

“We should not learn the wrong lesson from this election,” said the operative, pointing out that Clinton is on track to win the popular vote and that Trump got fewer votes than the last GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. “We need our people to vote in greater numbers. For that to happen, we need candidates who inspire them to go to the polls on Election Day.”

In other words – keep pursuing the SJW vote, even though many of these people have proven that the limit of their political activism is sharing a smug little meme on social media rather than taking the trouble to actually walk to their local polling place and participate in democracy.

This is abysmal advice, not only because it places the future hopes of the Democrats on the shoulders of people who have never once come through for the party, while many of those young people who were politically engaged are probably still smarting from the party’s frantic efforts to thwart Bernie Sanders and allow the coronation of Hillary Clinton as the eventual presidential candidate. That’s one very valid reason, but the other reason is that no party should actively seek to write off the votes of such a large constituency as the white working class. Even if the Democrats could win without the core of America, what does it say about the party that they don’t even bother with meaningful outreach?

Of course, one could level exactly the same criticism at the Republican Party, who for too long have been more than happy to cede the black and growing Hispanic vote largely to the Democrats rather than highlighting the many ways that conservative policy actually often meshes far more closely with some of their concerns (e.g. the Hispanic focus on the family). Indeed, the 2012 Growth & Opportunity Project report outlined a path toward better engagement with these communities and might have started to pay dividends in 2016 had the party not decided to tear it up and focus on complete obstructionism toward Barack Obama instead.

But while it is undeniable that the Republican Party has serious issues of its own – not only relating to minority outreach, but also a more fundamental question of how much to accommodate or push back against president-elect Trump’s authoritarian, big government instincts – it is the Democrats who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and who twice in two decades managed to lose a presidential election despite winning the national popular vote. The onus is on the Democrats first and foremost to work out what they stand for in 2016.

More encouraging than the billionaire talking shop underway at the Mandarin Oriental – a sign of just how disconnected the modern Democratic Party has become from its former roots – is defeated primary candidate Bernie Sanders’ efforts to wrest control of the party away from the dull, visionless centrists who have nothing to offer once you strip away the thin veneer of jealous identity politics.

In another Politico piece entitled “Bernie’s Empire Strikes Back“, we learn:

Supporters of Bernie Sanders’ failed presidential bid are seizing on Democratic disarray at the national level to launch a wave of challenges to Democratic Party leaders in the states.

The goal is to replace party officials in states where Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton during the acrimonious Democratic primary with more progressive leadership. But the challenges also represent a reckoning for state party leaders who, in many cases, tacitly supported Clinton’s bid.

“I think the Bernie people feel very strongly that they were abused, somehow neglected during the primary process and the conventions,” said Severin Beliveau, a former Maine Democratic Party chairman who supported Sanders in the primary. “In Maine, for instance, where Bernie got 70 percent of the caucus vote, they are emboldened and in effect want to try to replace [Maine Democratic Party chairman] Phil Bartlett, who supported Clinton.”

[..] The movement outside Washington to install new leadership — especially new leaders whose progressive credentials include support for Sanders’ presidential bid — mirrors the battle in the nation’s capital for the Democratic National Committee chairmanship in the wake of the devastating Clinton defeat and congressional elections where Democrats failed to win back either the House or the Senate. Sanders has endorsed Rep. Keith Ellison, leading House progressive and a prominent backer of his presidential campaign, to be the next permanent DNC chairman.

While this blog disagrees with Bernie Sanders on nearly everything, Hillary Clinton’s defeated primary opponent does at least correctly identify many of modern America’s ailments and propose more authentically (if flawed) left-wing solutions to them. And one can plausibly argue that Sanders has a greater ability to reach out to unionised or working class America than Clinton displayed (though one can only wistfully imagine how much better Joe Biden would have been in this role).

Better still, Bernie Sanders seemed to have comparatively little time for peddling in divisive identity politics. Rather than seeking to fracture America into a thousand competing victimhood groups, each one jealously guarding its own unique set of grievances against the common oppressor, Sanders has consistently more interested in the wealth divisions in society. And while playing rich and poor off against one another in quite such an overt way as the openly socialist Sanders comes with its own set of problems, on balance it is probably much less harmful to the fabric of America than seeking to divide and stoke up fear based on race, gender or sexuality.

Indeed, the fact that Bernie Sanders frequently found himself on the wrong side of Black Lives Matter and the gun control lobby only proves his resonance with the great core of working class America rather than the ultra-progressives. If only Sanders didn’t hug the S-word (socialism) quite so tightly in a country where people are (rightly, in this blog’s view) raised to be automatically suspicious of it, he might have prevailed over Clinton in the primary and taken the fight to Donald Trump on a number of very different fronts.

In short, as during the primary season, none of the options facing the Democratic Party are greatly appealing. Having taken conspicuously little interest in white working class concerns throughout the 2016 presidential election cycle, any efforts to restart outreach will be met with scepticism at first, and take time to pay dividends.

But for their own sake, the Democrats must persist. The alternative – doubling down on their toxic identity politics strategy and continuing to carve America up into competing victim groups and seeking to make them all fear the Evil Republicans – will only inspire an equal and opposite reaction among America’s largest minority group, the white working class.

In 2016, this strategy brought us president-elect Donald Trump. Do the Democrats really want to roll the dice and bet that the same inputs will deliver a better outcome in 2020?

 

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Reluctant Conservatives For Hillary

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Conservatives who feel forced to vote for Hillary Clinton are not “With Her”. They are putting country before party, and ahead of their own political preferences

I don’t always agree with David Frum, but his latest piece in The Atlantic, advancing the conservative case for choosing Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in this most depressing of presidential elections, is well worth a read.

Frum is under no illusions that a Clinton presidency will do anything to promote or further conservative ideals. He is wide eyed in his acknowledgement of Clinton’s character flaws and ethical shortcomings. But he recognises that by voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016, we stand the best chance of ensuring that the Republic does not become immeasurably worse off before conservatives have an opportunity to regain the White House in 2020. In other words, he believes that Clinton will do little good, but Trump could do existential harm.

Frum’s conclusion is worth quoting at length:

I have no illusions about Hillary Clinton. I expect policies that will seem to me at best counter-productive, at worst actively harmful. America needs more private-market competition in healthcare, not less; lighter regulation of enterprise, not heavier; reduced immigration, not expanded; lower taxes, not higher. On almost every domestic issue, I stand on one side; she stands on the other. I do not imagine that she will meet me, or those who think like me, anywhere within a country mile of half-way.

But she is a patriot. She will uphold the sovereignty and independence of the United States. She will defend allies. She will execute the laws with reasonable impartiality. She may bend some rules for her own and her supporters’ advantage. She will not outright defy legality altogether. Above all, she can govern herself; the first indispensable qualification for governing others.

So I will vote for the candidate who rejects my preferences and offends my opinions. (In fact, I already have voted for her.) Previous generations accepted infinitely heavier sacrifices and more dangerous duties to defend democracy. I’ll miss the tax cut I’d get from united Republican government. But there will be other elections, other chances to vote for what I regard as more sensible policies. My party will recover to counter her agenda in Congress, moderate her nominations to the courts, and defeat her bid for re-election in 2020. I look forward to supporting Republican recovery and renewal.

This November, however, I am voting not to advance my wish-list on taxes, entitlements, regulation, and judicial appointments. I am voting to defend Americans’ profoundest shared commitment: a commitment to norms and rules that today protect my rights under a president I don’t favor, and that will tomorrow do the same service for you.

Vote the wrong way in November, and those norms and rules will shudder and shake in a way unequaled since the Union won the Civil War.

I appreciate that Donald Trump is too slovenly and incompetent to qualify as a true dictator. This country is not so broken as to allow a President Trump to arrest opponents or silence the media. Trump is a man without political ideas. Trump’s main interest has been and will continue to be self-enrichment by any means, no matter how crooked. His next interest after that is never to be criticized by anybody for any reason, no matter how justified—maybe most especially when justified. Yet Trump does not need to achieve a dictatorship to subvert democracy. This is the age of “illiberal democracy,” as Fareed Zakaria calls it, and across the world we’ve seen formally elected leaders corrode democratic systems from within. Surely the American system of government is more robust than the Turkish or Hungarian or Polish or Malaysian or Italian systems. But that is not automatically true. It is true because of the active vigilance of freedom-loving citizens who put country first, party second. Not in many decades has that vigilance been required as it is required now.

Your hand may hesitate to put a mark beside the name, Hillary Clinton. You’re not doing it for her. The vote you cast is for the republic and the Constitution.

That is precisely where I find myself (though not quite yet a US citizen, so spared from the pain of having to personally make that call – roll on 2020). I don’t believe that Hillary Clinton stands for any real, fixed political values and I have grave concerns about aspects of her judgement and ethical compass – and so did many Democrats, until the DNC furtively helped to push Clinton over the line in her unnecessarily tough primary battle.

But these concerns pale in comparison to the danger presented by Donald Trump, whose supposed miraculous Damascene conversion to conservatism I do not believe for one moment, whose appalling personal behaviour is the subject of hard evidence rather than partly-conspiratorial conjecture (as it is with Clinton) and whose temperament makes him the absolute worst person to assume the role of Commander in Chief and Chief National Voodoo Doll, a focus for the endless complaints of an entire nation.

Like him or not, Barack Obama has served his terms of office with grace and dignity, even when under withering personal attack. This will not be so under Trump. As comedian Louis CK said in his endorsement of Clinton on the Conan O’Brien show, when Donald Trump is personally attacked everything stops so that Trump can punch back. That is simply not a luxury which the President can afford.

In sizing up Trump’s support, Frum also makes a devastating indictment of modern America:

The lesson Trump has taught is not only that certain Republican dogmas have passed out of date, but that American democracy itself is much more vulnerable than anyone would have believed only 24 months ago. Incredibly, a country that—through wars and depression—so magnificently resisted the authoritarian temptations of the mid-20th century has half-yielded to a more farcical version of that same threat without any of the same excuse. The hungry and houseless Americans of the Great Depression sustained a constitutional republic. How shameful that the Americans of today—so vastly better off in so many ways, despite their undoubted problems—have done so much less well.

How true this is. Now, this blog has every sympathy for many of Donald Trump’s supporters, who feel utterly let down by an American political class which has alternately pandered to them before betraying them, ignored them or held them in open contempt. And while this blog is very much pro free trade and managed immigration, the fact that Americans have not even had a choice when it comes to these issues based on the position of the two main parties is sufficient reason alone for the rise of a populist like Trump, albeit not necessarily a candidate with Donald Trump’s gargantuan personal flaws.

So yes, things are bad, and yes, the political class has not been responsive. But America managed to survive world war and economic depression in the twentieth century without coming this close to electing a dangerous authoritarian. Whatever afflictions the struggling “left behind” class said to make up much of Trump’s support may now be experiencing is nothing compared to the suffering of, say, the Dust Bowl. To react to these present circumstances by reaching for Donald Trump when their ancestors typically bore their tribulations far more stoically is in some way a reflection of American moral decline, which is very worrying indeed.

This blog would have loved to have seen a radical right-wing candidate willing to question failing old mantras about immigration and trade deals and other issues. I may be a #NeverTrump person, but I acknowledge that Trump often raises valid problems which have received scant attention from other politicians. The only miracle is that Trump manages to betray those causes by somehow managing to be an even more imperfect vehicle for his policies than Hillary Clinton is for hers.

There is no sugar-coating that the next four years are going to be depressing and barren of achievements for American conservatives. But as Frum rightly points out, sometimes there are more important things than getting one’s own way in a traditional left-right political dispute. Sometimes the cost of letting the nation drift a little further to the left is less than the cost of handing it over to somebody as unstable as Donald Trump.

After all, Republicans screamed for eight years that President Obama would turn America into a socialist hellhole and usher in the end of the Republic, and it didn’t happen. Hillary Clinton is no more left-wing than Obama, though a cannier and more ruthless political operator, but if America didn’t turn into North Korea on Obama’s watch it is unlikely to do so in four years of a Hillary Clinton presidency.

The people who will vote for Donald Trump on November 8th deserve to have their political views represented by someone better than the thin-skinned egomaniac who gets into Twitter wars with D-list celebrities in the early hours of the morning. Even if one agreed with all of Trump’s policies – many of which are actually profoundly un-conservative and much closer to being nakedly authoritarian – that would be no excuse for electing a man with such huge and concerning personality flaws.

David Frum did the right thing. This most eye-catching of elections has been the most depressing presidential campaign in my lifetime, but at least if Clinton wins we will have a shot at making 2020’s campaign a bit more inspiring, substantive, policy-based and (hopefully) less existentially threatening.

 

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Donald Trump, World’s Best Christian

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If you seriously believe that Donald Trump understands the Christian faith, has read the Bible or would choose the defence of religious values and freedom over some other passing whim while serving as president, then I have a bridge across the River Thames to sell you

Eric Zorn has a great column in the Chicago Tribune in which he systematically takes apart Donald Trump’s pretence that he is a Serious Christian and the default choice for those voting with their Christian faith foremost in their minds.

Zorn writes:

Nothing illustrates what a flim-flam man Donald Trump is better than his frequent and oily allusions to the Bible.

It is his favorite book, he tells the credulous masses at his rallies. Nobody reads it more than he does.

But a review of the record suggests he may not have read it at all.

During a televised interview with John Heilemann and Mark Halperin of Bloomberg Politics in August 2015, Halperin noted Trump’s frequent professions of fondness for Judeo-Christian scripture and said, “I’m wondering what one or two of your most favorite Bible verses are and why.”

“I wouldn’t want to get into it,” Trump said, “because to me that’s very personal. You know, when I talk about the Bible it’s very personal so I don’t want to get into verses. The Bible means a lot to me but I don’t want to get into specifics.”

“Are you an Old Testament guy or a New Testament guy?” Heilemann asked.

“Probably equal,” Trump said. “I think it’s just incredible, the whole Bible is incredible.”

How utterly convincing. Zorn continues:

That unfamiliarity showed up again in April when host Bob Lonsberry of WHAM-AM in Rochester, N.Y., broached the subject in a phone interview: “Is there a favorite Bible verse or Bible story that has informed your thinking or your character through life, sir?”

“Well, I think many,” answered the would-be exegete-in-chief. “I mean, you know, when we get into the Bible, I think many, so many. And I tell people, look, ‘An eye for an eye,’ you can almost say that.”

You can, sure.

But not only is “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” an Old Testament verse that condones barbaric vengeance (“… hand for hand, foot for foot,” it goes on, “burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise”) it was also expressly repudiated by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:38-39).

I get it. Actually making time to sit down and read the Bible every day while trying to internalise parts of it is tough. Particularly, I imagine, when you are rich and famous and your free time is largely given over to grabbing women “by the pussy”. Personally, I have only read the entire Bible cover-to-cover once, when I was eighteen and preparing for my adult confirmation into the Roman Catholic church after converting from Anglicanism. More than a decade later I am now finally trying to do so again, with the help of a great online Bible app which comes with a manageable “Bible in a year” reading plan.

The point of which being that it is fairly easy to spot someone who has actually attempted the feat and possesses a genuine (if still somewhat patchy, like mine) familiarity with the Bible, and somebody who is just putting on an act, attempting to fake religious observance as a kind of cultural marker. And Trump clearly falls into the latter category.

Eric Zorn concludes:

Is Trump the first politician to exaggerate his piety in order to win favor with the American public, 70 percent of which identifies as Christian and 6 percent of which identifies as belonging to another faith tradition?

No, but he’s the worst at it — the most transparent — that we’ve ever seen on the national stage.

It’s not just that he’s a brazen Bible huckster, it’s that he’s really bad at it.

Those who put their faith in him should prepare to have it shattered.

This is depressing for all those Christians who have been taken in by Donald Trump’s false displays of piety, as well as those resigned Christians who recognise that Trump is a charlatan but feel that Trump represents a better bulwark against attacks on their values and way of life than Hillary Clinton.

But it is also darkly amusing. Because for eight years it has been the habit of more than a few Republican Party politicians to insinuate that President Barack Obama is somehow not a Christian, or even that he is a closet Muslim, despite endless evidence of the Obama family attending church and Obama himself being capable of speaking about his faith without getting completely tongue-tied or reporting to bland banalities. Some Republicans stood up to the “Obama is a Muslim” hysteria – notably John McCain at a town hall meeting during the 2008 presidential campaign. But many others remained cynically silent, allowing prejudice and misinformation to take hold, thinking that it would advantage them politically.

And now it is the GOP’s turn to field a presidential candidate who doesn’t merely “exaggerate his piety” but effectively invents it from thin air to get himself out of a tight spot in a TV interview. Of course, the Democrats are in absolutely no position to take advantage of this fact – Hillary Clinton is a Christian, like Obama, but has chosen to downplay her faith in this election because many of her supporters place more faith in the god of Social Justice and Identity Politics than the God of the Old and New Testaments.

As Ben Wolfgang notes in the Washington Times:

Hillary Clinton’s Christianity, which she wielded as a political weapon in her 2008 Democratic presidential primary campaign, largely has been missing in this year’s election.

She hasn’t hidden her Methodist upbringing, but scholars say it’s not front and center. And where in the past she used it as a window into her character, this year she’s deployed it as a debate tactic to push criminal justice reform and other policy goals.

Church attendance also has been all but absent from Mrs. Clinton’s schedule, except when she’s turned up behind a pulpit to stump for votes, particularly in predominantly black churches, where her appearances focus largely on how she intends to work with religious leaders to accomplish shared political objectives.

Since 2008 she’s also abandoned traditional Christian positions on issues such as same-sex marriage, coming in favor of the practice in 2013 after years of opposing it.

The reason for the shift, analysts say, is twofold. Mrs. Clinton is taking on an opponent, Republican Donald Trump, who is seen as one of the most nonreligious presidential candidates in modern history. Pew polling from earlier this year found that just 30 percent of American voters say they consider Mr. Trump religious, while 48 percent said the same about Mrs. Clinton.

Perhaps more importantly, she now leads a party that, among its white base, if not its core black and Hispanic members, has become an increasingly secular institution. Recent polling shows the Democratic Party includes in its ranks nearly four times as many atheists and agnostics as the GOP.

Ultimately, the “Donald Trump is a better Christian than Hillary Clinton” argument comes to the two candidates’ respective positions on abortion. And if abortion is a deal-breaker for you then yes, Trump’s currently stated position on abortion (which has certainly changed since his liberal days of a few years back, as well as during this campaign, both without satisfactory explanation) is more in line with Church teaching about the sanctity of life.

But as with all of Donald Trump’s other stated policy positions, there is absolutely nothing to give confidence that his current position either represents his true beliefs on the subject, or that he would not flip-flop on the issue without a second thought if he saw political value in doing so.

Christians – particularly Evangelicals – should really be used by now to cynical Republican politicians who have trained themselves to speak the language, say the right things and push all the right buttons on social issues in pursuit of the evangelical vote, only to sell out the movement once safely ensconced in power. George W. Bush won a tough 2004 re-election campaign against John Kerry in spite of his disastrous mismanagement of the Iraq invasion and its aftermath largely by switching the focus to social issues, namely gay marriage, in order to motivate his base. And in nearly every election before and since, evangelicals have been flattered, threatened and otherwise called upon to support the Republican candidate only to have their causes betrayed or ignored after election day once their usefulness was over.

Donald Trump is doing exactly the same thing all over again. But he is so inept and transparent in his attempt to feign Christian piety that a fool should be able to see through his cynical machinations. And yet many bright and decent people are taken in by Trump’s amateur act.

Don’t get me wrong – Hillary Clinton, largely beholden to the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, will be no great defender of religious freedom or interests. But Donald Trump will be little better, as Christians should realise from bitter past experience and Trump’s unique untrustworthiness when it comes to holding true to his stated beliefs on fundamental issues.

Neither candidate, in office, would be a great friend of religion, though Donald Trump would likely continue to pay more lip service to Christian priorities thanks to the composition of the Republican Party. But both options are pretty bleak, and Christians seeking to vote based on their faith would actually be well advised to admit defeat and make their choice based on some other criteria.

Whoever wins this election, it looks quite safe to say that Christianity will lose.

 

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