American Ideals?

Some thoughts about why the president's remarks on immigration are so problematic.

Donald Trump Shrug

As I try and process not only Donald Trump’s “shithole” comment, as well as many attempts to defend it, my mind goes to the following:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Now, before I proceed, I will acknowledge the following:

  1. These words were penned by a slave-owner, to found a country that would legally allow slavery for almost a century.
  2. That the words were penned by a person who would not have accepted the equality of males and females

Those two facts could lead us to dismiss the words as having a meaning that was bound to their time and place (as Justice Taney did in the Dred Scott decision, and hence use them as proof that slaves could not be citizens).  If, of course, that is the way we wish to understand these words, they do not deserve veneration.

Rather, I prefer (and is apropos, given that tomorrow is MLK Day) to take the words the way King did in his “I Have  Dream” speech:

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

If we take these words to have aspirational meaning as a founding credo (as a “promissory note”), then we have to take them into account as we address racism in our politics and society and yes, when we set immigration policy.

If we take those words seriously, then they behoove us to think about individual human beings as having inherent value and in a way that should influence how we talk and think about them, and the decisions that are made which will affect real lives.  I am not suggesting open borders, as I understand not only the practically of controlling international boundaries as well as the complexities associated with flows of persons across those borders.

However, I am suggesting that disparaging language, which reflects disparaging attitudes towards millions of people, is inappropriate, but more importantly is the wrong way (both practically and morally) to try and determine policy.  Of the many problems with the “shithole” comment is the fact that it poorly reflects on Trump’s inner thoughts on the subject.  To acknowledge that Haiti (to pick one of the targets of his statement) is poor and underdeveloped is one thing, as it a discussion of empirical reality.  To use derogatory language, however, is to make a judgement that is cruel and unfair, especially in a policy discussion.

To digress along these lines:  I have been an educator for roughly a quarter of a century.  I have had many students make poor grades, if not fail, my classes.  To state that X students failed a class in one thing, to call them all shitheads, however, would very much be another–especially if I did in a meeting to discuss what can be done to help those students in the future.  Students fail classes fail for a variety of reasons, some of which that can be rectified in the future; a bunch of shithead, however, are probably irredeemable.  In other words, when a person make blanket derogatory statements, especially in a professional context linked to policy, they are not just being vulgar, they are exposing inner attitudes and thoughts to the wider world.  Perhaps because so much of Trump’s support comes from the Evangelical community, a Bible verse comes to mind:  ”A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).  (And before someone tries again:  the point is not the vulgarity itself, it is about what the word reflects in terms of inner attitude).

The inherent value of people should matter, for example, in regards to a long-term policy decisions, such as DACA and on TPS (Temporary Protected Status).

In regards to TPS, for example, Trump Administration Says That Nearly 200,000 Salvadorans Must Leave:

Nearly 200,000 people from El Salvador who have been allowed to live in the United States for more than a decade must leave the country, government officials announced Monday. It is the Trump administration’s latest reversal of years of immigration policies and one of the most consequential to date.

Homeland security officials said that they were ending a humanitarian program, known as Temporary Protected Status, for Salvadorans who have been allowed to live and work legally in the United States since a pair of devastating earthquakes struck their country in 2001.

Salvadorans were by far the largest group of foreigners benefiting from temporary protected status, which shielded them from deportation if they had arrived in the United States illegally. The decision came just weeks after more than 45,000 Haitians lost protections granted after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, and it suggested that others in the program, namely Hondurans, may soon lose them as well. Nicaraguans lost their protections last year.

Notice the ~245,000 person from the “shithole” category being affected here, if one does not think that the attitudes of the president don’t matter. Indeed, consider the 10 (all non-Norwegian) countries covered by the TPS program:

The program covers 10 countries: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen (Source).

Some of the persons under this program have been in the US for close to 30 years.  The ~200,000 Salvadorans have been here for about 17 years.  Now, one can rightly point out, that “temporary means temporary” but the reality is, these are human beings who have been allowed to build lives here and that should be taken into account into decisions over what to do next.  The only policy option available isn’t deportation.  And, I would stress, these are people who are here legally and who have limited options vis-a-vis permanent status due to the way TPS works.  Indeed, as with most things related to immigration, congressional failure to act is a major problem here.

Knowing that Trump thinks El Salvador is a place worthy of derision, populated by people who don’t deserve to come to the US certainly helps understand how he can make cavalier decisions about these people. So, the move on TPS is clearly far more driven by anti-immigrant sentiment than any concern over legality.  This interpretation is bolstered by the “shithole countries” assessment and the stated preference for immigrants of a lighter hue.  I am also reminded of this from Stephen Miller from his Jake Tapper interview last weekend:

Not a lot of hours of coverage on this TV talking about the working- class construction workers who have lost their jobs to foreign labor. There’s not a lot of coverage on this TV about the people getting slaughtered in sanctuary cities.

This is anti-immigrant fear-mongering, plain and simple.  And this from a person who advises the president on immigration and was a key actor in the design of the Muslim ban.

It is inhumane to simply tell someone that their lives are now to be upended in the way this administration is more than happy to do.  And it is worse when the decision is clearly influenced by a way of thinking that denies the basic humanity of the persons in question because of where they come from.  Indeed, in the case of the Salvadorans under TPS, the president and his coterie of sycophants, are essentially blaming the Salvadorans in the US for the conditions in El Salvador.  And to add insult to injury, there is no acknowledgement of the way in which the US War on Drugs, and the US’s appetite for drugs as a market, is what is fueling much of the crime in places like San Salvador (not to mention US policy towards Central America for decades).

Even the origins of one of the administration’s great boogeymen, the MS-13, has been aided by US policies (e.g., the drug war, as well as the deportation of arrested gang members back to El Salvadors in the 1990s and 2000s, which helped facilitate the transnational nature of the organization).  Note the following from Insight Crime’s profile of the group:

By the end of the 1990s, the United States tried to tackle what they were starting to recognize was a significant criminal threat. Partly as a way to deal with the MS13, and partly as a product of the get-tough immigration push toward the end of the Clinton presidency, the government began a program of deportation of foreign-born residents convicted of a wide range of crimes. This enhanced deportation policy, in turn, vastly increased the number of gang members being sent home to El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and elsewhere. According to one estimate, 20,000 criminals returned to Central American between 2000 and 2004. That trend continues. One US law enforcement official told InSight that the United States sends 100 ex-convicts back per week just to El Salvador.

Central American governments, some of the poorest and most ineffective in the Western Hemisphere, were not capable of dealing with the criminal influx, nor were they properly forewarned by US authorities. The convicts, who often had only the scarcest connection to their countries of birth, had little chance of integrating into legitimate society. They often turned to what they knew best: gang life. In this way, the decision to use immigration policy as an anti-gang tool spawned the virulent growth of the gang in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

So, on the one hand, yes, MS-13 was a gang that grew out of Salvadoran refugee communities in Los Angeles in the 1980s (which fits the administration’s narrative about immigrants).  But, why were they refugees in the first place?  Partly because the US was helping fund a civil war in El Salvador (and it was also funding a counter-insurgency in Nicaragua and a drug war in the region, among other actions).  From there, the drug market helped gang activity, and then the massive deportation of MS-13 members to the region helped further destabilize that region.  Am I saying that the US is solely responsible?  No.  But, what I am saying is that uninformed, simple-minded dismissal of complicated circumstances as just the product of a place being a “shithole” is wrong and leads to terrible policy decisions, and ones that directly impact real human beings.  There is also the inconvenient truth that not all Salvadoran migrants became part of MS-13 (see, e.g., the ~200,000 under TPS).

Oh, and then there are those founding ideals that we supposedly take seriously about ourselves.  Do we really take them seriously?  Setting aside the debate over specific policies regarding immigration, what do our alleged ideals dictate should be our attitude toward a clearly racist president making policy based on racist attitudes?

Or, do we really not take these ideals seriously (or worse, do we really take the Taney interpretation after all?).

And yes, by the way, I understand and acknowledge (before it is brought up in the comments) that US history is replete with racism and denial of the aspirational interpretation of Jefferson’s words.  Regardless, we are very much at a moment in which we need to assess how seriously we take that aspiration.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Matt Bernius says:

    As part of research for a project, I’ve been tracking debates about Trump within the commenting threads of different populist conservative websites. And it seems like the key divide between Never- and Pro- Trump supporters can seen as ideology versus action.

    Most “Never Trumpers” see him as lacking any core ideology and ultimately a false standard bearer for conservative values.

    Trump supporters typically frame their arguments in terms of “the enemy of my enemy is my ally.” All that appears to matters to them (based on their comments) is that he’s producing the results that they want — ideological purity be damned.

    The thing is, remove Trump and both sides seem to be in general agreement about overall goals. Most Never Trump people acknowledge that the immediate results of many of Trump’s policies are not too far off from their own desires.

    And it’s clear that most Never Trumpers would prefer Pence as President. There’s little to suggest Pence’s immigration policies (for example) would be all that much different than Trumps. It’s just that Pence would frame them from a more ideologically “pure” conservative position.

    That’s what I struggle with — where do ideals fit in you if end up with more or less the same end policy without direct/transparent appeals or foundation in racism?

  2. michael reynolds says:

    It is almost pointless asking whether the American people truly believe in traditional American ideals because the vast majority of them don’t have a clue what those ideals are. Poll after poll shows that Americans have no clue what’s in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights or the Declaration.

    We’ve done perhaps too good a job of deconstructing American mythology. Mea culpa on this because I reflexively come down on the side of telling the truth, damn the consequences. But I am slowly coming to recognize that an honest, nuanced view of history is well beyond the practical grasp of most people. The famous quote from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance comes to mind: “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

    That’s a bit of a non sequitur but it gets at something I suspect is true: some people, perhaps most, require myth not because it is capital T true, but because myth represents the limits of what they are able to internalize. Homer didn’t wander Greece talking about how Achilles had bad breath or Agamemnon had an unhealthy interest in sheep. He recited tales of heroism tinged with human frailty but without subverting the core message of Greek identity and unity. And Homer caused immoral or foolish deeds to lead to unfortunate results, reinforcing an underlying moral code. Greeks today are still living in the shadow of Homer’s myth-making, as are we all to some extent.

    Americans are still quite religious, but were you to poll them on their denominations’ theology you’d get much the same blank ignorance you get from polls of Americans on values. People need their fairy stories. They need myth. They need pat, simplistic answers because they may be simply not smart for anything more, or too insecure to endure life filled with the doubt engendered by nuance, or too intellectually lazy or smug to absorb anything which is not part of a pre-existing internalized narrative.

    And this is not just a right-wing phenomenon. I’ve had many fights with people in kidlit over the very question of American values – fights over ‘political correctness’, ‘cultural appropriation’, and ‘own voices,’ for which I’ve been labeled a ‘bad literary citizen’ and denied some opportunities. My arguments against the aforementioned have always come back to core American beliefs: freedom of speech and expression, equality under the law, due process. And these are arguments with people whose educational attainments are all north of a B.A., not stupid, not incapable of nuance, but so poisoned by their own smugness and conformity that they lose all capacity for skepticism or reason.

    Americans right and left have not a clue about American values, they know fwck-all about history, with the Left insisting that we are evil incarnate and the Right insisting that we are blameless in all things. What all these people – the stupid, the insecure, the intolerant, the smug – have in common is that most have been educated in the last thirty years or so during which period of time we have moved dramatically away from teaching the legends, the unifying myths. The Left’s deconstruction of American history and our surprisingly successful subversion of religion left younger people confused and clueless and older people reacting to what seems to be an assault on their own sense of virtue.

    I have never met an icon I won’t oclast, but I’m starting to see that it was the myths that united us as a people, just as Christians are united not by an understanding of theology, but by the uncritical acceptance of fairy tales involving magic fish and holy zombies. That’s disappointing to me, but my own oft-professed devotion to truth as the essential value requires me to try and see what’s there, not what I wish were there.

  3. @michael reynolds: I will say this: I consider myself largely a positivist/empiricist in terms of my academic work, but over the last 15ish years I have increasingly become sympathetic to the postmodern notion that we perceive politics based on the stories we tell ourselves, rather than through objective reality.

  4. Matt Bernius says:

    Oops, looks like a comment edit didn’t take. 🙁

    Steven, I think this question you ask is an important one:

    [T]here are those founding ideals that we supposedly take seriously about ourselves. Do we really take them seriously? Setting aside the debate over specific policies regarding immigration, what do our alleged ideals dictate should be our attitude toward a clearly racist president making policy based on racist attitudes?

    I think this is incredibly important moral question to ask. And hopefully it allows us a chance to pause and step away from a ledge.

    That said, what does it mean when you end up with more or less the same policies without the “clearly racist president making policy based on racist attitudes”? I guess the hope that the difference will express itself in the details.

  5. Matt Bernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    over the last 15ish years I have increasingly become sympathetic to the postmodern notion that we perceive politics based on the stories we tell ourselves, rather than through objective reality.

    Those 15 years have also seen an unprecedented rise in communication tools and media platforms that enable people to chose the “objective realities” that best support the stories that they tell themselves.

  6. @Matt Bernius:

    And it’s clear that most Never Trumpers would prefer Pence as President. There’s little to suggest Pence’s immigration policies (for example) would be all that much different than Trumps. It’s just that Pence would frame them from a more ideologically “pure” conservative position.

    I am not a Pence fan, but I would prefer Pence over Trump. If anything, because I think Pence would better understand the decorum of the office, would not insult our allies, and would refrain from many of the institution damaging that Trump is pursuing. I don’t think he would attack the free press, for example. I also think he would appoint adequately competent people to populate government.

  7. @Matt Bernius:

    That said, what does it mean when you end up with more or less the same policies without the “clearly racist president making policy based on racist attitudes”? I guess the hope that the difference will express itself in the details.

    Well, I am not sure that we would have the repeal of TPS for 200,000 Salvadorans under any of the other GOP possibilities, so I am not sure that your proposition is accurate.

    Having said that, we clearly can see a large percentage of the population is more comfortable with racist rhetoric and policy than I would like to be the case.

  8. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds: Does England have myths that stretch into the present day? Sure, they have King Arthur, but does that inform the present day?

    America is a very young country. Our myths don’t take place that long ago, and they are effectively revisionist history. And our myths are taught *as* history in most schools.

    We are apparently a Christian nation where the writer of the Declaration of Independence rewrote the Bible to remove the divinity of Christ. So, we ignore the latter, and gloss over the fact that the definition of Christianity was radically different then from colony to colony.

    To tie this back to the post, we don’t teach the failures of our founding fathers. We don’t take the time to look at “all men are created equal” and look at the lives of the writers, and debate whether those words have meaning beyond the white men that the writer probably meant, and whether our story is one of exclusion, or aspirations of inclusion.

  9. @Gustopher: Myths aren’t grandiose like Arthur or the Founders. They can just be stories about being “a man” is or “American” or “British.”

  10. Matt Bernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    In general, I agree that Pence would be a better to Trump. Without a doubt he’d conduct himself with more decorum. I think he could help reverse some of the damage to places like the State Department.

    When it comes to the EPA and a number of other regulatory agencies, I’m honestly not as sure there would be much daylight between the two.

    Well, I am not sure that we would have the repeal of TPS for 200,000 Salvadorans under any of the other GOP possibilities, so I am not sure that your proposition is accurate.

    You are right that the repeal of TPS for the Salvadorans probably would not have happened. Likewise, the Muslim travel ban probably would not have happened under Pence.

    However, do you think DACA would have survived under a Pence Presidency? I realize that it’s pure speculation, but it feels unlikely to me that Pence would have continued to support an Obama era executive action that was widely disliked by his party. Perhaps there would be a better plan in place to phase it out.

    That could however be the very point of difference between the two approaches guiding policy decisions. Trumps proclivities and biases (hell lets call it what it is, racism) lead to less constrained policies.

    Having said that, we clearly can see a large percentage of the population is more comfortable with racist rhetoric and policy than I would like to be the case.

    On that we are in full agreement. Sadly, I suspect that most of those people have developed extensive coping mechanisms that prevent them from consciously acknowledging said policy or rhetoric is racist. Right wing media, for example, has been inoculating many against that for years.

  11. @Matt Bernius:

    Those 15 years have also seen an unprecedented rise in communication tools and media platforms that enable people to chose the “objective realities” that best support the stories that they tell themselves.

    True, I think that is part of it, although the ability to carve out a preferred reality is pretty old.

    Speaking for myself, those 15 years also correspond to my blogging life, which has made me more carefully examine my own views. It also corresponds to what I deem to have been the failure of conservatives, when in government, to both adhere to their own ideals as well as to successfully demonstrate the efficacy of their policy ideas.

  12. @Matt Bernius:

    However, do you think DACA would have survived under a Pence Presidency? I realize that it’s pure speculation, but it feels unlikely to me that Pence would have continued to support an Obama era executive action that was widely disliked by his party. Perhaps there would be a better plan in place to phase it out.

    Pure speculation, but since it took an active decision to rescind the order on Trump’s part, I could have seen Pence at least holding DACA as a bargaining chip, as to opposed to the way Trump handled it.

    Sadly, I suspect that most of those people have developed extensive coping mechanisms that prevent them from consciously acknowledging said policy or rhetoric is racist. Right wing media, for example, has been inoculating many against that for years.

    Sadly, yes.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Speaking for myself, those 15 years also correspond to my blogging life, which has made me more carefully examine my own views.

    This is why I come here, as a sort of Red Team exercise: I want push-back. The first step to deciding whether or not I’m right about something is whether the idea survives an encounter with intelligent questioning. One of the sad aspects of the Trump era is that no one on that side of the table can offer a coherent argument, so ‘debate’ becomes entirely one-sided. Gibberish is not a counter to a hypothesis, it’s just noise.

  14. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    One of the sad aspects of the Trump era is that no one on that side of the table can offer a coherent argument, so ‘debate’ becomes entirely one-sided.

    Sadly true. I’ve commented before that Democrats lie a lot less than Republicans, not because they’re better people, but because they don’t have to lie as much. One can defend Obamacare on its merits, one cannot defend Ryan and McConnell’s tax cuts without lying.

    There are, maybe, a few honest intellectual Conservatives. Certainly not Will, Brooks, Krauthammer. Certainly Bruce Bartlett. Maybe Douthat, Ponnuru, and a few others. I used to try to read them, but I realized they are irrelevant to modern Republicanism. I still sometimes read Douthat and Brooks, but it falls under the heading of not being able to avert your eyes from a train wreck. I’d count it as a favor if anyone can point out a modern conservative worth reading.

    Trump’s “populist” supporters cannot honestly make a case without getting into explicit racism. The Republican establishment cannot honestly make a case without admitting they are serving only the greed of their sponsors.

  15. charon says:

    Collectively and statistically, immigrants from Africa and Haiti are better educated than Americans. Norwegians tend towards strong disinterest in America as a place to settle.

  16. CSK says:

    When I glance at Lucianne.com, a major gathering place for ardent Trumpkins, I’m struck by the number of posters who gleefully exclaim that they love Trump because “he makes libturd heads
    explode.”

    This really isn’t about ideology; it’s about appealing to the worst instincts of under-informed angry people who feel they’ve been screwed by life and need to blame that on African-Americans, Mexicans, women, gays–pick your villain of choice.

    They not only love Trump because he’s a crude, stupid dullard misogynist/bigot–they identify with him. That’s what being a real American is.

  17. Teve tory says:

    Wow. Apparently all 55 countries in Africa are demanding an apology from Trump.

  18. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: So Trump GOP policies expressed more politely are good enough? I’m sorry to hear that because I think the Salvadorans et al are equally gone either way. MA G WA

  19. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @gVOR08:

    I’d count it as a favor if anyone can point out a modern conservative worth reading.

    So would I. My take is that the term “honest intellectual conservative” is self-contradicting now.

  20. KM says:

    @CSK:

    EXACTLY.

    Trump’s enduring popularity with his supporters is because they like him.They like what he says and does, how he phrases things and how he thinks about the world. He’s THEM but having actual achieved something in life. He reinforces for them that the problem clearly isn’t them since look, the President does it and he’s President so it can’t be bad! It’s not because they’re puerile, ignorant, intellectually-lazy, hateful or just generally people you don’t want to hire. Nope, it’s the damn PC and libs keeping them down – one day they’ll be great just like Donald!!

    The sad thing is the validation they feel is real. Even if Trump were to go away today, ten of thousands of people or more have just have all the horrible impulses reaffirmed as valid by POTUS’ casual demonstration of them. There’ll be no reason to self-improve and their lives will continue to suck because the flaws will still be glaringly present.

  21. Matt Bernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    True, I think that is part of it, although the ability to carve out a preferred reality is pretty old.

    Without a doubt.

    Historically speaking, partisan press like Fox News is a more traditional form of American Journalism than the so-called “objective press.” And that’s before we get to fringe pamphleteers.

    That said, the explosion in alternative media sources along with their national reach, and direct commenting in multiple forms (in particular call-in and internet commenting) profoundly changes the environment and ultimately strengthens concepts like “the silent majority.” That mixed with our particular cultural and political institutions (as you’ve really helped me to see) leads to the strange situation we find ourselves in today.

    Speaking for myself, those 15 years also correspond to my blogging life, which has made me more carefully examine my own views.

    I agree with that as well. And that’s an often (profoundly) uncomfortable process.

    Unfortunately, for many, the media that many people consume is more or less designed to protect them from examining their views. Perhaps even more disturbing, the entire profit structure of said media is to protect people from any form of deep self examination.

    Again, that isn’t anything new either, but it definitely is more accelerated and the process (combined with the media landscape) has been refined to be far more addicting.

  22. MarkedMan says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: FWIW, I read Dreher a couple of times a week, over at the American Conservative. I disagree with him about almost everything, but he is intellectually honest. His obsession with gays is off-putting though, especially his “America is Doomed Because Businesses Have to Serve Gays” schtick. I don’t know any of the other columnists well enough to recommend them in toto, but there are often interesting reads. Of course, skip anything by Pat Buchanan, who is a disgusting racist* although meticulous about not using any bad words.

    *25-30 years ago, before the web, White Nationalists and racist militia members used shortwave radio shows as a means to reach sympathetic ears with their vile spew. I was living overseas and attempting to tune in the BBC and Voice of America and would occasionally stumble on one of these clowns. Once, I came upon an interview with Pat Buchanan. The host was a moronic thug who ranted on about Mud People and how race mixing was soiling the white gene pool. Buchanan never said the crudest words but rather said essentially the same things with more erudite language.

  23. charon says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    Jen Rubin at Washington Post is pretty perceptive about the current GOP.

    Daniel Larison at American Conservative is good for foreign policy and militarization.

  24. charon says:

    @KM:

    Trump’s enduring popularity with his supporters is because they like him.They like what he says and does, how he phrases things and how he thinks about the world. He’s THEM but having actual achieved something in life. He reinforces for them that the problem clearly isn’t them since look, the President does it and he’s President so it can’t be bad!

    I think you are overgeneralizing, possibly a bit true for some, that’s all. I think there are a variety of reasons for his support, and not all of his supporters like him or see him as a role model.

    A lot of it is just that he is entertaining, good copy for people who see politics as entertainment. A lot is just misogyny and sexism that makes him preferable as a “strong man” to the old harpy. A lot is just being too stupid to get that he is conning them with lies and promises he will never keep. like all the great stuff that will happen on “day one,” the wall Mexico will pay for etc.

  25. @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: Please be fair–that isn’t what I said.

  26. Matt Bernius says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I don’t know any of the other columnists well enough to recommend them in toto, but there are often interesting reads.

    If you are remotely interested in foreign policy, Daniel Larison is a MUST read! Seriously.

    Noah Millman’s culture columns are likewise always good (i.e. thought provoking). Likewise Alan Jacobs (who writes there occasionally) is another great read.

    What’s interesting about Buchanan is how generally out of step he is with most of the regular contributors to AC.

    And yeah, I think Dreher is definitely consistent. And his writings on Religion are thought provoking. But the moment he goes anywhere near Gay issues or Campus Liberals he just goes off the rails to the degree that there’s nothing to be gained by reading him. Or what ever there is to be gained simply isn’t worth the effort.

  27. @charon:

    I think you are overgeneralizing, possibly a bit true for some, that’s all. I think there are a variety of reasons for his support, and not all of his supporters like him or see him as a role model.

    This is correct. Political support is complicated–and not all supporters really pay attention.

    Having said that, there is clearly a segment of the GOP voter base that very much likes this stuff and is motivated by racial politics.

  28. charon says:

    Having said that, there is clearly a segment of the GOP voter base that very much likes this stuff and is motivated by racial politics.

    My emphasis added.

    A lot of Trump voters are inattentive voters who often do not vote (plus a few swing voters) who were energized largely by Trump’s racist and sexist appeal, apart from those were were mainly just conned. By definition occasional or swing voters are not the base.

    The base are people who always vote because they are Republicans. These people are Republicans first and Trumpists second. A lot of them are the type who would really prefer Mike Pence or Ted Cruz.

    The GOP is a largely Southern/Midwestern party heavily reliant on the Christian Right who are reliable voters who are usually pretty racist/sexist/xenophobic/homophobic. There is a lot of Venn diagram overlap of Christian Right/reliable voter/various bigotries.

    See Southern strategy/Bob Jones University etc. The history of the Southern strategy links religion to racism. Again, these people are Republicans first who support Trump because he is their useful idiot.

    For general elections the GOP needs the occasional voters Trump brought out, but for primaries they need The Base. And yet, bringing out the Trump voters for the general is at the cost of energizing a lot of Trump opponents. The GOP has a tough needle to thread.

  29. @charon: Even “the base” is a coalition of actors, from business types to Evangelicals to whomever and even all of those folks aren’t going to have voted for Trump for the same reason.

    The bottom line is, as I like to point out, our electoral system essentially forces a binary choice. We choose one of two and then typically spend a lot of time rationalizing our choice.

  30. charon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Perhaps punitively taxing the blue states will drive off a lot of those business types. The GOP is already not doing so hot with more educated voters.

  31. charon says:

    @charon:

    I’ll just add, perceptions of unfairness are a very strong driver of human behavior. These people are really playing with fire with their tax bill.

  32. MarkedMan says:

    @Matt Bernius: I agree with you about Dreher going off the rails about gays. In fact, he works it into so many columns I have a tendency to stop reading whenever he brings them up.

  33. gVOR08 says:

    @charon: I read Rubin occasionally, but her turn to anti-Trump has not changed my longstanding view that she’s not terribly bright and definitely innumerate. I read Larison occasionally at TAC. I read TAC less lately. I agree with @MarkedMan: but Dreher has gotten so tedious and I haven’t seen a Bruce Bartlett piece there for a long time. But I appreciate the suggestions.

  34. charon says:

    @gVOR08:

    Rubin is still a Conservative – she has some weird third-wayish notion that a new centrist party would be a good idea – so she is unrealistic in that way, I find it hard to picture that ever happening.

    But – she really has the current nature of the GOP pegged. She pops up a lot as a guest on MSNBC..

  35. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I’m relieved that it’s not what you intended, but it is what I heard, sorry.

  36. @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: All well and good, and one can always be clearer, but I was pretty specific in what I said.

  37. teve tory says:

    Anytime somebody starts talking Third Party w/r/t the American system, I just mentally hit the Ejection Seat.

  38. gVOR08 says:

    @teve tory: Yeah. There is some possibility of a major shift allowing a new party to displace one of the major parties, but they always seem to mean a third party with Republican econ but without the embarrassing cultural stuff. They never seem to realize that with Republican econ policies the only way they can get elected is with the cultural stuff.

  39. grumpy realist says:

    @Gustopher: Actually, how much of our American mythology has been formed by Hollywood? (Ironically, a lot of the directors who created the myths were immigrants or Jewish (which at the time I’m thinking of were treated as “not to be let into our club.”) Stories created by outsiders looking for a way to belong. And said stories took over as reality–for a while.

    And now we have the internet, where each of us can go looking for bubbles mirroring back our own views at us. Although before blaming the internet, I’d probably blame the post-modernists and similar philosophers who claim that everyone can make up his own reality. But then–what do I know–I’m just a grumpy physicist.

  40. @grumpy realist:

    Although before blaming the internet, I’d probably blame the post-modernists and similar philosophers who claim that everyone can make up his own reality

    While I am not a post-modernist, I would note that the claim is not that they give people permission to make up their own realities, but rather that people’s realities consists of various, conflicting narratives.

    Ironically, that claim may be empirically true.

  41. Matt Bernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    While I am not a post-modernist, I would note that the claim is not that they give people permission to make up their own realities, but rather that people’s realities consists of various, conflicting narratives.

    Well said Steven. To build on that, its really a persons interpretation of reality.

    The argument is that none of us experience reality in an unmediated way. We have all these signals coming in to us and we have to process that information through a range of biological, technical, social, and psychological filters. None of those filters is perfect (and most if not all have unintentional and intentional biases built into them). Hence while there is theoretically, this thing called “reality,” none of us have a clear and consistent view into it.

    Ironically, that claim may be empirically true.

    As an anthropologist with a science and technology studies background, I definitely fall into the it’s empirically true camp.

  42. MarkedMan says:

    @gVOR08: It is instructive of human nature that Dreher can be so blind to his own obsession. (It makes me wonder what my blind spots are…) He talks about all kinds of things leading to the destruction of a religious society but in end it all comes down to business not being allowed to discriminate against gays. Every time. In fact, almost anything he starts talking about ends up there. Playing the amateur psychologist, I think he is most distressed that people who discriminate against gays are not considered moral by the majority but instead as bigots. It kills him, as I believe he works hard at leading a moral life and would hope that others recognize that. This exchange spurred me to go check out his latest and sure enough there was yet another post about the issue. At least in this one he seemed to be wrestling with the impact of the impact of the rulings against, for example, Bob Jones University and its tax exempt status re: its prohibition of interracial dating. It’s pretty clear though that he is moving towards seeing that as a mistake because it has led inevitably to *shudder* gay stuff.

    In fairness, he also posted a pretty good and thoughtful piece about Trump’s comments.