Who Is To Blame For Donald Trump?

A problem of American conservatism’s own making

In a recent show, Bill Maher took American conservatives to task for daring to suggest that responsibility for the rise Donald Trump rests with liberals.

Money quote:

Is political correctness out of control? Of course it is. I think I might have done some sort of show about that once [Maher was host of “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher”]. I’ve been telling liberals when they had spinach on their teeth since 1993. I’ve ridiculed them for everything from offensive Halloween costumes to Islamophobia, from the self esteem movement to college campuses forgetting what free speech is. But none of that justifies embracing a dangerous buffoon, simply because his lack of political correctness is cathartic.

Trump is your problem. But somehow the party of personal responsibility doesn’t want to take responsibility for this one. Somewhere along the way, the slogan went from “Make America great again!” to “Look what you made me do!”

Amen to all of this. American leftists do indeed have much to answer for, but the rise of Donald Trump is not a problem primarily of their making.

It was the tri-cornered hat brigade whose admirable devotion to fiscal responsibility only materialised once Barack Obama took office, and then failed to force any meaningful change in Washington despite many of their number being elected to Congress in the 2010 midterms which, who have a case to answer. They were the Great White Hope whose inevitable failure formed the third strike against the political class.

It was not the Democratic Party which fanned the flames of birtherism (and then considered a nominee for president who was born in Canada) and refused to stand up to angry constituents demanding to see a birth certificate. That was all on the Republicans. Donald Trump led that effort, and nearly the entire GOP sat back with a tub of popcorn, thinking that the circus would benefit them politically. And so it did, until their attack dog finally broke the leash and turned on its handlers.

Has Barack Obama been a decidedly left-wing and in some (though by no means all) ways unimpressive president? Yes, he has. But is he a closet Communist, a secret Muslim planning to enforce hardline Islamism on America or a hopelessly incompetent buffoon? Absolutely not. He is a centre-left politician with undeniable skills, twice elected on a centre-left platform and governing according to a centre-left approach. But in their greed to quickly win back power without doing the hard work of making their own pitch to the voters more appealing, too many Republicans were willing to tolerate and sometimes actively participate in the anti-Obama hysteria for short term political gain.

If Democrats shoulder any responsibility for the danger that Donald Trump could soon be elected US president, it is only because they are now on the verge of nominating Hillary Clinton as their favoured successor – again, a highly competent technocrat and somebody with undeniable experience of executive power at the highest levels, but also somebody with no discernible core beliefs or values beyond the “bridges, not walls” buzzwords du jour.

Clinton’s political judgement has at times been…questionable. And she is dogged by a legitimate and troubling email scandal that cannot be dismissed as a mere partisan attack – to the extent that she is currently under investigation by the FBI. And that is to say nothing of the fact that the American political party supposedly the most committed to equal opportunity and social mobility is complicit in making the presidency a family affair. But none of this is remotely comparable to the danger which the Republican Party has unleashed on the country.

The warning signs were all there four years ago – a GOP primary debate stage filled with candidates like Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann, and whose few quasi intellectuals (like Newt Gingrich) were burdened with so much personal baggage that they were non-starters. Mitt Romney was the GOP’s best bet, but as their chosen candidate he was prone to gaffes and clangers (like the 47% remark) which helped ensure he would never reach the Oval Office. But did this generate any serious introspection as the GOP picked through the wreckage of the 2012 presidential election? No.

2015/16 saw a new slate of Republican candidates ranging from the well-meaning but vaguely ridiculous (Ben Carson) to the gormlessly patrician (Jeb Bush) to the empathy-devoid social conservative (Ted Cruz) to the not-quite-ready (Marco Rubio). No Paul Ryan. No promising new blood. The only candidate who fit the typical mould of a viable centre-right Republican candidate (John Kasich) never stood a chance, because he stubbornly refused to deal out sufficient quantities of crazy every time he opened his mouth.

Yes, the Democrats peddle in identity politics and often come down on the wrong side when it comes to favouring political correctness over freedom of speech, religion and behaviour. But it was the Republicans who opted to whip up (and profit from) blind fury about the state of the country instead of articulating a serious, coherent alternative. And in the end they were beaten at their own game. Why vote for the politician who smirks or winks when someone else is making ignorant, bigoted remarks when now you can vote for the real deal?

None of this means that the Democrats are not firmly capable of pushing Trump over the finishing line in November – as this blog has made clear. If their flawed presidential nominee doesn’t self-destruct on the launch pad before election day, the Left’s unbearable condescension toward those who disagree with them (you’ll see it earlier in the Bill Maher video, where he gloats about being the sole custodian of facts and truth) could well do the job.

But the Democrats and other American liberals did not cause this mess. Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president because there is a gaping void where serious, credible conservative policies which speak to Americans from every social strata (and which do not reek so strongly of elitist self interest) should be.

Or as Bill Maher puts it:

The Tea Party is named after a tax revolt. And TEA stands for Taxed Enough Already. And yet two years after Obama lowered taxes on 95 percent of Americans, 90 percent of tea people believed he’d raised them.

So if you don’t know the first thing about the thing you claim is the most important thing to you, are you bright? And is it my fault for pointing out “No”?

And through that gaping void of ignorance rode the host of The Apprentice, a man with no ideology, no policies and no impulse control, a man who gets into Twitter feuds with D-list celebrities and believes that the globalisation of trade can be reduced to a zero-sum game in which America always “wins”.

Oh, there is lots of blame to be appointed for how we arrived in this position. But as Bill Maher says, the party of personal responsibility should stop behaving like a petulant child – an innocent victim on whom Donald Trump was arbitrarily and unfairly inflicted – and take the lion’s share of responsibility themselves.

 

Donald Trump - school

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The Daily Smackdown: Labour’s Pitch For Power Is A Child’s Temper Tantrum

Labour - Save Our NHS

Thus far, Jeremy Corbyn’s elevator pitch for power would be more at home in the school playground than the adult political debate

When your core political argument and pitch to the electorate can be easily summed up in crayon by a seven year old girl, it’s time to develop a more robust vision for government.

A first good step for Labour to take would be to stop fomenting or tacitly condoning behaviours like these, from activists and supposed supporters:

Shouting “Tory Scum” at opponents

Vandalising war memorials

Shrieking about nonexistent human rights abuses

Physically threatening MPs

Being insufferable online

Pretending that there will be no offsetting behavioural consequences to dramatic tax hikes

Stubbornly believing in the magic money tree

I’ve written before about how, in their incoherent rage at the supposed transgressions of the Evil Tories, the Left are in great danger of becoming the British left wing equivalent of the American Tea Party – morally certain, impervious to facts, intolerant of the slightest internal dissent and quick to anger when contradicted by outsiders.

Where the Tea Party blindly venerate the US constitution (though they read it selectively, and from a highly originalist perspective) and would see the federal government shrunk back to its nineteenth century bare bones, the Corbynite Left venerate “our NHS” (genuflect) and the other monolithic edifices of the welfare state stemming from the socialist post-war consensus.

Neither seem very comfortable living in the present. And the worst excesses of both would be more at home stapled to the wall of a primary school classroom than reported and printed as serious ideas in the pages of a national newspaper.

Tory Protests

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Westminster Must Brace Itself For The Arrival Of The Tartan Tea Party

2- SNP - Scottish National Party - General Election 2015 - Tartan Tea Party - Nicola Sturgeon

 

When parliament reconvenes, an astonishing fifty-six Scottish National Party MPs will take their seats in the House of Commons.

Despite having gained their 56 MPs on a vanishingly small 4.7 per cent of the national vote (as compared to UKIP, who achieved 12.6 per cent of the national vote but only 1 MP), Nicola Sturgeon is claiming some kind of mandate to influence government and oppose Evil Tory austerity.

This is mostly hubris. The SNP will be sitting on the opposition benches, which means that they actually get to sit things out for the next five years, spectating rather than playing some kind of deep and meaningful role in government – that particular dream died the moment that Ed Miliband’s Labour Party self destructed north and south of the border.

But though the SNP landslide is largely thanks to irrational voting by Scotland – a collective hissy fit from a nation who increasingly consider themselves more enlightened and progressive than their southern neighbours, demanding higher government spending paid for by anyone but themselves – there will naturally be an impact on the way that Westminster operates.

In terms of accepting the new reality, this piece from Alex Massie in The Spectator is right on the money:

The referendum taught us that Scotland is a place beginning to dream bigger things; yesterday’s results confirmed that. The SNP’s victory is a reminder that trust is the most valuable commodity in politics. Because the SNP are trusted – rightly or not – to put Scotland’s interests first they are forgiven their sins, contradictions and inconsistencies. They are held – fairly or not – to a different standard than that applied to other parties. There is little point in whining about this; it is just the way it is.

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Why Republicans Will Keep Losing

Because of shenanigans like this:

 

A normal, rational response when a constituent asks a question about how to stop the “foreign born, America-hating communist despot” illegally occupying the White House might be to correct him on the basic factual errors in his statement, and to move on to a saner question.

But not if you are US Representative Martha Roby from Alabama (where else). She thanks the gentleman for his question, makes a light-hearted joke about the volume at which he made his point…and then pivots and actually responds to his question, emphasising how important the congressional oversight aspect of her job is when it comes to keeping Obama’s evil Marxist plans in check.

Omar Rivero, writing at occupydemocrats, notes:

This is a big part of the reason why Pres. Obama trounced Mitt Romney in 2012, and why the Republican Party continues to push away moderates, minorities, young Americans, students, and the like. Instead of shining a spotlight on the ugliest and most extreme elements lurking and growing within their party, they are happy to look the other way as bigotry and xenophobia slowly capture their base.

It seems like anything is fair game as long as it is directed at Pres. Obama. The Republican Party has worked night and day to cleverly define him as the “other”, and their chickens have come home to roost.

Their shameless and opportunistically ploy to arouse suspicion of Pres. Obama’s goals and policies has backfired, creating an increasingly paranoid and bigoted base.

Absolutely right. You can’t be a serious national party and keep close ties to people like the town hall questioner in this video. While many Americans may disapprove of President Obama’s policies, a majority do understand that he was American-born and legally elected, and regard this fringe right-wing hysteria as silly, if not downright contemptible. And we see this time and again, with deranged anti-Obama loons asking their Republican representatives questions dripping with ignorance, racism or both, only to have those same representatives take the question and run with it rather than correcting the record.

Until the Republican Party grows a pair and stops being fearful of alienating these fringe lunatics by publicly correcting them and disassociating themselves from some of the more hyperbolic Tea Party nonsense, they won’t be taken seriously by enough Americans to win another national election. And as long as they tacitly endorse the idea – or rely on the support of those who believe – that the president of the United States secretly hates the country that he leads, they will continue to be a laughing stock and a source of shame to anyone with an average or higher IQ.

Romney’s huge, resounding, calamitous election defeat will soon be one year in the past. Time to grow up, now.

The GOP’s Immigration Reform Game Theory Dilemma

My Nemesis

When I was in primary school, at about the age of eight, we had a class assignment to make our own abacuses out of wood. We lovingly spent ages glueing them together and painting them with bright colours – to this day, I am still quite proud of that piece of craftsmanship.

The next day, we were due to use our homemade abacuses in class as part of the maths lesson, and it was then that I brought disaster upon myself and earned the wrath of my entire class. There was a girl who had been sick at home the previous day when we were engaged in our arts & crafts, and who consequently didn’t have an abacus of her own to use when the time came. Our teacher approached my desk, where I sat with my best friend Scott, and asked us if we could lend one of our abacuses to the girl so that she could participate in the lesson.

Uh-oh. I looked at Scott. He looked at me. I didn’t want to let me new abacus out of my sight – it was brand new and I hadn’t had a chance to use it yet. Scott clearly felt the same way, even though his model was crooked, garishly painted and looked as though someone had taken an axe to it. I broke the silence first: “Scott, do you want to…?” but he countered “Sam, do you want to…?” (originality was never his strong point).

The teacher became impatient and told us to make up our minds who would lend out their abacus, or the lesson would go ahead sans abacuses for everyone in the class. And still we prevaricated. Even though both Scott and I knew that everyone else in the class was getting increasingly pissed off with us, and that we were in grave danger of ruining the fun lesson for everyone, we couldn’t compromise. So the lesson was cancelled, and Scott and I sat alone at lunch that day.

I recall this long-winded story because the Republican Party is currently making the exact same error that I made when I was eight years old and in primary school, with respect to their stance on immigration reform. Only they have infinitely less excuse, because they are not eight years old (perhaps in mental age) and are paid handsome federal salaries to produce legislation to solve problems.

The Huffington Post reports:

Many House Republicans are chilly or openly hostile to the bipartisan bill before the Senate, embraced by President Barack Obama. Even substantial changes to the bill may do little to placate these lawmakers, who demand strict crackdowns on unlawful border crossings and no “amnesty” for people here illegally.

These Republicans don’t deny that weak support from Hispanic voters is hurting GOP presidential nominees. And they concede the problem may worsen if Latinos think Republicans are blocking “immigration reform.”

These House members, however, worry much more about their own constituents’ opposition to the proposed changes. And they fear a challenge in the next Republican primary if they ignore those concerns.

“It’s hard to argue with the polling they’ve been getting from the national level,” said Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Texas, referring to signs of serious problems for Republican presidential candidates if immigration laws aren’t rewritten. “I just don’t experience it locally.”

Even the house members themselves admit this gap between the interests of the national party and their local districts. The article goes on to explain the reasoning behind House Republicans’ stances in more detail:

House Republicans, however, spend far more time talking and worrying about their own election prospects, not the next presidential nominee’s.

“It’s a classic challenge when the best interests of the party are at odds with the best interests of the majority of the members individually,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. He is close to Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders who want a major immigration bill to pass.

“What it takes to get a deal with a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president makes it extraordinarily difficult for a lot of (House) members,” Cole said, “because it can cause you a big problem in your primary.”

Ah yes, the much-feared Tea Party challenge from the right. That nagging fear in the back of the minds of all Republican congressmen and women in this age of the Unreasonable GOP. The fear that leads to gems like this:

Rep. Paul Broun, also seeking Georgia’s Senate nomination, said any immigration deal “must make English the official language of the country.” The U.S.-Mexican border, he said, must be secured “totally, whatever it takes. A double fence high enough to make sure it’s secure.”

Some Republicans wince at talk of massive double fences and making English the official language. They say it fuels arguments that the GOP is unwelcoming to all Hispanics, legal or not.

Hispanic voters are not a homogeneous block, and it would be patronising in the extreme to assume (as many do) that Hispanic disenchantment with the GOP is exclusively due to their policy on immigration reform and what to do with illegal immigrants already settled in the country. Hispanics, like every other voter block, have a whole web of different voting priorities. But with language like this from Rep. Paul Broun (incidentally nominated as America’s Craziest Congressman by Bill Maher), it is not hard to understand how the Republicans managed to lose the Hispanic vote 27-71% in 2012.

I generally don’t like to write articles about process, i.e. the mechanics of how a particular bill gets passed, or the ways in which parties and politicians manoeuvre for advantage. That stuff is usually personality-based gossip of secondary importance, and is covered more than enough by the likes of Politico. But in this case, the process is genuinely interesting and has ramifications that go way beyond who wins the news cycle on a given day, and therefore I decided that it is worthy of comment and discussion.

At some point the Republicans are going to have to make a choice. They cannot claim to be a national party with aspirations of winning future presidential elections without addressing the fact that they overwhelmingly lost the Black, Hispanic, Asian and Female vote in 2012. Yes, in the immediate aftermath of Mitt Romney’s implosion there was a little bit of hand-wringing and soul-searching, but we are now very much back to business-as-usual.

Scarcely a week passes without some new Republican (male) politician deciding to hold forth on the topic of rape in front of a live microphone, or accuse American Muslims of being complicit in terrorist attacks when they don’t denounce them as loudly as is apparently required, or talking about the superiority of a “man’s brain” when it comes to analysing the implications of laws such as ObamaCare.

These cheap, nasty little stunts might play very well back home in their heavily gerrymandered conservative districts, but they will be fatal for the Republicans in 2016. But right now, the party that likes to campaign under slogans such as “Country First” is fragmented, self-serving and unable to step back and solve any problem bigger than avoiding a Tea Party primary challenge.