Is Trump not that Bad?

It is a fair question. But judging the Trump administration on tax cuts, Gorsuch, and the DJIA is to ignore a lot of profound problems.

At The Independent, Matt Gillow writes:  Whisper it, but maybe Trump isn’t that bad after all.

But during a recent, daily grumble about The Donald, I got thinking; if you look past the ridiculous Twitter pronouncements, and the President’s general veneer – what has he actually done? How bad has the 45th President of the United States actually been for the country?

The reality is:  that is a fair question.  Given that any president receives a fair amount of over-the-top partisan criticism (Bushitler, anyone?) how much of the critiques of Trump are just this sort of thing?  Maybe his problems are just about style.

If we set aside, for a moment, the specific criticisms about the following, and consider them good outcomes, especially from a partisan Republican point-of-view, what does that say about the Trump presidency at this stage of the game?  A combo of Gillow’s list and usual defenses of the Trump administration as follows:

  • Gorsuch appointment (as well as other judicial appointments).
  • Tax cuts.
  • Executive orders on regulations.
  • Repeal of the individual mandate under Obamacare.
  • DJIA up.
  • Unemployment rate is low.
  • ISIS is in retreat.

What strikes me about this list (and I would be curious as what other “successes” are missing) is that most, if not all, could have been accomplished by any GOP president who has GOP control of Congress.  There is nothing about Trump, per se, uniquely contributes to these outcomes.

I would further note that some of these outcomes are the direct result of being in a good economy, especially the DJIA and unemployment. These are all trends that started before Trump and have continued.

Gillow notes, also, Trump’s willingness to talk gun control but, to me, that has been a confusing hash and therefore not worth putting on any lists.  He also asserts “On foreign policy, he’s been brash and unpredictable, but successful” which I find a perplexing statement.  I honestly cannot think of a clear success in US foreign policy linked to Trump policies. On balance, US relations globally are either worse than they were prior to his coming into office, or they are about the same (unless you count being nice to people like President Duterte of the Philippines).

In regards to the DJIA, I will confess that I expected Trump’s chaotic approach to politics to create anxiety in the markets and so was surprised, at first, by the continued upward climb. So, I was wrong about that, but it is worth noting that the market wasn’t too thrilled about tariffs and trade wars, so we shall see how things proceed if Trump gets his way in these areas.

From a Republican point-of-view, it is interesting to note these three accomplishments (so to speak) of the Trump presidency:

  • He is moving he party away from free trade as a preferred policy position.
  • He has moved the party away from the perspective that personal morality matters for politicians.
  • He has increased the importance of white nationalism within the party. (At a minimum, one has to acknowledge the increased xenophobic rhetoric, starting the day he announced for office, as well as the general increased in crude nationalism, e.g., “America first,” MAGA, military parades, the wall, tariffs, etc.).

These are interesting from the perspective of the Republican who wants to tell themselves that ‘Trump is okay if you ignore the tweets.”  Such a person either has to a) deny that these are true (which I think is empirically difficult to do), b) discount these as unimportant (which strikes me as a difficult argument), or c) be on board with these developments (which is its own set of normative problems).

From a general point of view, one cannot ignore Trump’s anti-democratic (note the small “d”) attitudes and rhetoric:

  • He regularly attacks the press.
  • He is regularly dishonest in public (which undercuts trust in institutions in an era in which that is already a problem).
  • He asserts that policy solutions are easy (when they clearly are not) and blames his opponents or the “Deep State” for getting in the way of these solutions (which further undercuts confidence in institutions).
  • He regularly attacks key institutions, such as the DoJ and the FBI (and the federal bureaucracy in general) if it fits his own personal needs (which undercuts confidence in institutions–noting a pattern, anyone?).
  • He is often highly disrespectful of political opponents (in fact, he is rarely respectful of anyone, although see the next point).
  • He frequently praised authoritarians around the world, but frequently criticizes long-term democratic allies.

There is also the problem of longer-term issues:

  • We currently lack a fully functional State Department.  The long-term effects of this are not immediately obvious, but they are real.
  • Withdrawal from global agreements, especially the TPP, will have long-term consequences for US leadership and influence globally.
  • For the US to have elected a nationalist, populist, wanna-be mercantilist helps to embolden such politics globally.
  • Successful Russia interference with our political campaigns simply strengthens the authoritarian regime in Russia.

All of these points actually help contribute to the current moment in time which contains growing nationalist and anti-democratic movements.  These are factors that are concerning from a historical point of view as such movements increase the chances of global economic downturns and wars, especially major wars.

No doubt some readers will find some of these lists problematic in some way, but I would counter that one simply cannot assess the Trump presidency soley from the perspective of tax cuts and judicial nominations.  One has to look at the type of politics he represents, the way he shapes the Republican Party going forward (and domestic politics more generally), and how his administration can have long-term, global consequences.

These are things I continually think about, as I have seen pieces like Gillow’s before, and have heard Trump supports make similar arguments.  But I do think these lists, which are basically off the top of my head and could all be expanded and deepened, need to be taken seriously.  Set aside some basic policy achievements that any Republican might have delivered and think about what Trump is either doing to (or reflecting about) the current Republican Party, what he is doing to (or reflecting) about US domestic politics, and what he is either doing to (or reflecting about) global politics and there are some very serious issues that need discussion, reflection, and reaction.  If we just say “ignore the Tweets and pass the tax cuts” we are missing some very, very important things are happening right in front of us.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Donald Trump, Politicians, 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. “Is Trump not that Bad?”

    He’s worse. Much, much worse.




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  2. Mike Schilling says:

    Unfunded tax cuts that are going to balloon the debt, justified with hand-waving about growth paying for them? He’s Ronald Reagan come back to us.




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  3. @Mike Schilling: But that is just standard policy debate stuff. It is very important, don’t get me wrong, but for reasons very different than the kind of politics he engages in, represents, and helps foster.




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  4. Moosebreath says:

    On your list of anti-democratic conduct, I would add:
    a. frequently indicating he would like to be an autocrat (e.g., the statement from a couple of weeks ago that China now has a President for life and we should consider it as well);
    b. suggesting political opponents (especially Hillary) should be put into jail; and
    c. attacking courts when convenient (which may fit into your attacking key institutions category).




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  5. Gustopher says:

    Donald Trump is his own worst enemy. He’s not good at this job. His own incompetence prevents him from being particularly effective, or even as effective as a generic Republican.

    If this is it… then yes, he is less worse than he could be. White Supremacists are taking off their sheets, and we’ve consigned ourselves to massive deficits, the environment is going to suffer, and the middle of America is being petted but not having their needs met.

    We’re only a year in though, and his incompetence could still have disasterous consequences. For instance, I’m pretty sure we didn’t invade Iraq in the first year of the George W. Bush administration.

    Maybe he won’t create a new war that drags on for twenty years and kills hundreds of thousands of people, or which stops abruptly when we are vaporized. We can hope.




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  6. Scott says:

    Shouldn’t cutting regulations come with the same cost-benefit analysis as making regulation? Just today read about cutting safety regs on drilling platforms. Didn’t read about the increase in probable deaths.




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  7. Sleeping Dog says:

    Well a stopped clock is right twice a day, so depending on your view of a particular action you can declare that Trump has had some successes. But if Gillow’s list indicates that he views that Trump can be considered “not bad,” his expectations couldn’t have been very high and were biased to a particular political view point.




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  8. teve tory says:

    Scott says:
    Sunday, March 11, 2018 at 15:21
    Shouldn’t cutting regulations come with the same cost-benefit analysis as making regulation?

    Intelligent people weigh the costs and the benefits whether it’s cutting taxes or reducing regulations, or vice versa. Really stupid people, on the other hand, know that tax cuts are always good, and regulations are always bad. At the moment, the second group is behind the wheel.




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  9. Kathy says:

    @Moosebreath: d. seeing a country divided along partisan lines, he’s going well out go his way to deepen the divisions (though his supporters are a great help in that).




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  10. gVOR08 says:

    I’ve worked for a couple of really bad bosses. Every now and again they’d do something right and I would question my assessment of them. They would quickly disabuse me of any notion they weren’t as bad as I had thought.

    I was a little surprised about the DOW staying up. There was no big change in economic conditions until the tariff thing. But more importantly, I keep forgetting my own rule that conservatives believe their own BS. Keynes was right that “animal spirits” drive the markets and a lot of country club conservatives actually believe tax cuts and reduced regulation are the key to growing the economy.




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  11. MBunge says:

    The problems with Trump are not just about style. However…

    1. Even if one grants that many of Trump’s positive accomplishments so far would have been achieved by any GOP President, it remains a fact that NeverTrumpers were absolutely sure he would never accomplish them. That demonstrates the NeverTrumpers were fundamentally wrong about both Trump and the country as a whole. And yes, that matters.

    2. It is dumb to gloss over the different impacts on global relations from Trump being a braying ass and Trump directly addressing serious issues that the foreign policy establishment (GOP and Democratic) has steadfastly ignored for years and decades.

    3. The problem of white nationalism does not come from Donald Trump. It comes from the mainstream abandoning nationalism to the white nationalists.

    4. A great many of our institutions need to be attacked. I’m not sure there are any better examples of that blithely invoking “anti-democratic” movements while American elites have been engaged in a determined effort to undermine and delegitimize the elected President of the United States, and simplemindedly blaming nationalism for wars and global economic downturns when globalism has brought us both in spades over the last quarter-century.

    It is certainly welcome that at least some are becoming slightly less deranged on the subject of Donald Trump. The next step is recognition that Trump is not a freak blizzard in July. Stop deluding yourself that everything was okay before we got Trump. Everything was not okay and that’s how we got Trump.

    Mike




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  12. teve tory says:

    Trump, as the ne plus ultra of modern conservatism, is that bad, and worse.

    Living in the Deep South, I see a disconnect between the atavistic, racist, stupid, shitty fact on the ground of conservatism, and the lofty Burkean jibberish that fancy DC/NYC magazines tell me conservatism is really about. So I was pleasantly surprised when David Roberts laid it bare this afternoon on Twitter.

    David Roberts

    Verified account

    1. All right, this controversy over conservative columnists in @nytopinion is bugging me. Everyone is dancing around the central point! (The same central point everyone dances around in *numerous* contemporary controversies.) So I’ma lay it out.

    2. Here’s the main point: the contemporary right-wing in the US has become, in Lionel Trilling’s immortal words, a bundle of “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.” It’s just a tangle of resentments & bigotries, driven by the erosion of white privilege.

    3. There’s always been that element, but for decades it was overlain by a class of DC conservatives who code switched, spoke the Very Serious language of ideas & policies. This is the conservatism that white moderate libs still imagine: an actual ideology, with arguments.

    4. Trump’s rise has shown that purported principles of conservative ideology meant virtually NOTHING to the conservative masses. Trump abandoned the Very Serious script & the RW base didn’t care, at all. He voiced their anger & resentments. That’s all the RW base is any more.

    5. Trump has swerved this way and that on immigration, taxes, healthcare, guns … and the base doesn’t care. They follow him this way, they follow him that way. It is the resentment, the aggrieved sense of persecution, that they respond to. That’s what US conservatism IS now.

    6. So @nytopinion faces a dilemma. It claims to want to expose its readers to the perspectives of the conservative masses. It claims to want to connect liberals to the heartland. But there’s a problem.

    7. If NYT printed the *actual, real-life* sentiments of today’s conservative masses, it would print a bunch of paranoid, Fox-generated fairy tales and belligerent expressions of xenophobia, misogyny, racism, and proud, anti-intellectual ignorance.

    8. The people who work at NYT & the vast majority of its readers would find those sentiments … what’s the word? oh, yes … deplorable. They would recoil. The truth of what’s going on on the right today is worse than virtually anyone in the political mainstream acknowledges.

    9. The NYT’s commitment to “intellectual diversity” doesn’t go THAT far — not far enough to expose its readers to that reality. It is too invested in America’s own Noble Savage myth, the idea that conservative Heartland Americans are more authentic & in touch w/ simple virtues.

    10. So NYT needs “a voice from the right,” but not a voice from the ACTUAL right (which is oriented around white resentment, not any discernible governing philosophy). They need a voice from the Conservatism of the Mind, the noble, principles-base conservatism they imagine.

    11. That’s what conservative columnists on mainstream opinion pages have been for years now: voices who will present conservatism as a coherent intellectual argument, what liberals desperately want it to be.

    12. It is no coincidence that these guys – Gerson, Douthat, Brooks, Stephens – have little voice or influence inside actual conservatism, or that they’re all anti-Trump (unlike 95+% of Republicans). They are anomalies, idiosyncrasies, not representative of anything broader.

    13. And notice, even those invested in pretending that contemporary conservatism is a governing philosophy have thrown up their hands lately. Claim something for conservatism today & Trump could disavow it in a tweet tomorrow. It’s become impossible to even maintain the pretense.

    14. And so what do the mainstream “voices of conservatism” have left? Wan, half-ass whataboutism. “Sure Trump & the GOP are terrible but whatabout that time that one person on the left said that one bad thing?”

    15. That explains why everyone on the right has suddenly fixated on Farrakhan. It explains why every conservative columnist is writing (again and again) about campus speech intolerance. It’s not much, but it’s *all they have left*. There’s nowhere left to go, intellectually.

    16. Stephens et al are just playing their role in a very old parlor game, where Serious Conservatives tell liberals they are bad and wrong (that’s what “intellectual diversity” means to elite center-lefties) and liberals proceed to engage in self-loathing hand-wringing about it.

    17. It’s got very little to do with real intellectual diversity (has Stephens expressed a single surprising opinion?) and it’s got NOTHING to do with exposing NYT readers to the real state of thinking on the right. It’s a Village game, by and for Villagers.

    18. In the name of “exposing readers to diverse viewpoints,” NYT is, in practice, obscuring the true nature of today’s right. Virtually the entire political elite & most NYT readers are in denial about what the right has become & that denial is increasingly dangerous.

    19. Forget the self-regarding onanism of Stephens types. If NYT really wants to expose its readers to the right, it should give Dinesh D’Souza, Dana Loesch, or Ben Shapiro a column. Let readers see, up close & personal, the crude tribalism & resentment that animate the RW base.

    20. In conclusion, yes, everyone in mainstream politics, everyone who lives outside the Fox/Breitbart bubble, NEEDS exposure to the actually existing US conservative movement. @NYTopinion isn’t helping.

    /fin




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  13. @MBunge:

    A great many of our institutions need to be attacked

    I would state that many of our institutions need to be critiqued and reformed. I have certainly had my own criticisms, and will continue to have them. There is a very important difference, however, between serious critique and simplistic attack. The way these things are addressed matters. Worse: Trump makes it sound like the solutions are easy or, worse, that he is the solution. That is dangerous.

    In general his attacks tear down and that is all they do. This is neither useful nor healthy.

    blaming nationalism for wars and global economic downturns when globalism has brought us both in spades over the last quarter-century.

    That’s not entirely unfair, so I want to acknowledge the point. There is more to say on this, but I will say that in terms of war, the threat of truly system-level war, or even major sub-system war, has been diminished since the mid-20th century and that is due in large measure to globalization. Likewise, the threat of widespread nuclear war has reduced as well with more global integration. These are not small things.

    Stop deluding yourself that everything was okay before we got Trump. Everything was not okay and that’s how we got Trump.

    I would note that I did, in several places, note that the problem is beyond just Trump. I have never said it all about Trump and only Trump.

    I will say this, for who knows how many times now: I do not understand where you are coming from because you seem to simultaneously acknowledge that Trump is a problem, while at the same time praising and defending him. You have never explained yourself in regards to that.




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  14. DrDaveT says:

    Somewhere on the list you need to include what might as well be systematically trashing our relationships with our allies, to the extent that they now all view the US as their wealthy Alzheimer-victim racist uncle with the objectionable personal morals and hygiene. Some of those relationships may not be reparable in the near- or medium-term.




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  15. @Steven L. Taylor:

    There is more to say on this, but I will say that in terms of war, the threat of truly system war, or even major sub-system war, has been diminished since the mid-20th century

    A quick example: economic and other nationalisms, and the Great Depression, helped combine to create WWII.

    In the current era, while globalization clearly helped foster the Great Recession, but while the aftermath of the Great Recession has helped bring us to this place of increased nationalism, it did not spark military actions. If, however, we turn the current moment into one of entrenched nationalism, what happens at the next major global economic downturn?




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  16. Kylopod says:

    @MBunge:

    The problem of white nationalism does not come from Donald Trump. It comes from the mainstream abandoning nationalism to the white nationalists.

    That’s a pretty myopic way of looking at what’s happened in the past few years. You’re talking about a candidate who (a) began his career in GOP politics becoming the best-known advocate of the “birther” theory (b) launched his presidential campaign describing Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals (c) retweeted from white nationalist groups with names like WhiteGenocide, including a phony stat about African American crime and an anti-Semitic graphic about Hillary Clinton (d) saw his candidacy provoke a wave of support from white nationalists and neo-Nazis who claimed loudly that Trump was their man (e) refused initially to disavow David Duke’s endorsement until finally, after being raked over the coals by the press for a couple of days, issued a vague, anodyne disavowal (f) selected as one of his top advisors a man who proudly referred to his own website as a “platform for the alt right” (g) described a clash between neo-Nazis and their opponents that led to a young woman’s death by saying there were “fine people” on “both sides.”

    And on and on and on… (Did I leave anything out? Probably.)

    Was Trump the first to bring white-nationalist elements to the GOP? Hardly. But who, may I ask, ever claimed he was? If your beef is solely with “NeverTrump” conservatives, you may have a point. Many of them do act as though Trump is some kind of aberration to the GOP (but not all–Avik Roy, for one, has been pretty forthright that Trump is a culmination of something that’s been going on since the days of Goldwater). But the liberals here have talked incessantly about the Southern Strategy and racial dogwhistles since long before Trump. The overwhelming consensus here is that Trump’s contribution was to make explicit what has long been under the surface.

    In any event, it’s undeniable that there’s been a massive upsurge in white-nationalist groups since Trump’s rise, something you have to be blind to believe would have happened under a President John Kasich.




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  17. Hal_10000 says:

    @Mike Schilling:

    He’s Ronald Reagan come back to us.

    Except Reagan raised taxes. Multiple times. And so did Bush. D’Souza, before he went completely mental, wrote about this in his Reagan biography. In the earl 80’s, Reagan felt that tax cuts and stimulating the economy were more important than debt, since he couldn’t get tax cuts out of Congress. Once the economy recovered, he became concerned about the debt and agreed to tax hikes.

    As for Trump, I’m reminded of a comment from Bill James that I’ve probably repeated before. He said he knew a guy in high school who drank like a fish and drove like a maniac. Everyone was sure he’d kill himself in a car accident before he was 30. Boy, were they wrong. He didn’t ill himself in a car accident until he was almost 40.

    Right now, things are functional because Trump came into a reasonably good situation. But he has laid the groundwork for things to get very bad very fast. We are running a trillion dollar deficit with a healthy economy. We have ISIS on the run because of functional international relations. Things could unravel very fast.




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  18. R.Dave says:

    What strikes me about this list (and I would be curious as what other “successes” are missing) is that most, if not all, could have been accomplished by any GOP president who has GOP control of Congress. There is nothing about Trump, per se, uniquely contributes to these outcomes.

    I think the main counter that reluctant Trump supporters (as opposed to his hardcore base) would make is that all the generic/mainstream GOP alternatives to Trump would have lost the election. In their view, it took Trump’s willingness to disrupt the normal discourse to draw new voters to the polls and deliver a winning Republican coalition. From that perspective, the policy outcomes you listed were uniquely attributable to Trump, because without him, we’d have ended up with another 4 years of Democratic control of the White House.




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  19. @Hal_10000:

    Right now, things are functional because Trump came into a reasonably good situation

    There is a lot to this. Indeed, that is part of my point about employment and the DJIA–the trends were favorable to Trump. But, history tells us that those trends are not sustainable. I very much worry what happens when Trump tries to manage a real crisis.




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  20. @R.Dave: I take the point, but such defenders would still have to take the blame for all the the problems that came with Trump.

    Tax cuts and a SCOTUS seat aren’t worth all the damage.




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  21. michael reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I very much worry what happens when Trump tries to manage a real crisis.

    Trump is the crisis and he’s managing it miserably. How well is he managing his Mueller problem? How well is he managing his Jared problem? His Kelly and McMaster problems? His Stormy Daniels problem?

    Trump is not a stick-and-fight guy, he’s a cut your losses and move on, kind of guy. In a crisis Trump will look out for himself, his money and possibly Ivanka, not the country. Count on it. A man who refuses to pay small contractors and peddles bogus degrees is not a man holding himself to any standard but naked self-interest.




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  22. Kylopod says:

    @R.Dave:

    I think the main counter that reluctant Trump supporters (as opposed to his hardcore base) would make is that all the generic/mainstream GOP alternatives to Trump would have lost the election. In their view, it took Trump’s willingness to disrupt the normal discourse to draw new voters to the polls and deliver a winning Republican coalition.

    It’s kind of ironic they’d make that argument, given that one of the main factors motivating the NeverTrump Republicans to oppose Trump’s nomination so vociferously is that they believed he’d be crushed by Hillary Clinton in the general election. His campaign operation was a mess, and practically every time he opened his mouth (or tweeted something), he made most of the country collectively barf. He had the worst favorability ratings on record for a presidential nominee of either party. The only reason he was able to win with such dreadful ratings is that Hillary’s ratings were almost as bad. One of the most revealing of CNN’s exit polls found that, among voters who claimed to have a negative opinion of both candidates, Trump beat Clinton 47-30. In Wisconsin, it was 60-23.

    Throughout 2016, practically every time Trump became the center of attention over some controversy–the “Mexican” judge, the Gold Star family, the Access Hollywood tape–his poll numbers would take a nosedive. But then as he would recede from headlines as the focus would turn to Hillary Clinton–her emails, her fainting, the Comey Letter–he would begin to recover, which is just what happened to occur in the final week of the campaign.

    Now imagine if the GOP nomination had gone to a Rubio or Bush or Kasich. Hillary would still have been unpopular–her ratings had already tanked long before Trump secured the GOP nomination. She still would have been under FBI investigation. She still would have come down with pneumonia. The usual suspects would still have been smearing her, only it would have operated more like the Swift Boat attacks against Kerry in 2004, where the GOP nominee would have acted above the fray and professional while his goons did the dirty work–which, truth be told, would probably have been more effective than Trump’s style of lobbing grade-school insults at every turn.

    In this situation, it’s very likely the Republican nominee would have started out the race being recognized as the overwhelming favorite, and from there it would have been a snowball effect leading to a solid popular and electoral victory.

    Keep in mind that most political scientists considered 2016 to be either a toss-up or lean-Republican year based simply on the fact that Dems had been in power for two straight terms and economic growth had been slowing down since 2015. Alan Abramowitz’s model pointed to a Republican victory, but Abramowitz predicted his model would fail because of Trump’s weaknesses. The fact that his weaknesses ended up not being quite sufficient to cause him to lose doesn’t prove that he was a strong candidate.

    It’s simply amazing to me that people can convince themselves that the most unpopular Democrat ever nominated, running for her party’s third straight term in office, was unbeatable to anyone but Trump–or that his just barely beating her (while losing the national popular vote) was proof that he was some kind of political mastermind. It’s like the old story where someone after the 1960 election told Bobby Kennedy he was a genius, and he replied “Change 60,000 votes and I’m a bum.”




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  23. @michael reynolds:

    Trump is the crisis and he’s managing it miserably.

    I get that, but I meant an external crisis: military confrontation, major terrorist attack, significant global economic event, etc.




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  24. grumpy realist says:

    @MBunge: You say that Trump isn’t responsible for white nationalism. Well, aside from the man’s documented racism, he’s certainly not tried to squelch the more disgusting parts of the alt-right psyche and continually throws out dogwhistles to the crazier chunk of the American populace.

    So yeah, I hold him responsible. Why in the hell do you want to be POTUS with all that power of the bully pulpit without using it to advance the US? Trump looks upon the entire voyage as an opportunity to get plaudits for his ego and couldn’t care less whether the stresses he’s encouraging inside the US will pull the whole thing apart. All that worries him is how adored and talked about he is. As a TV show presenter it’s a great schtick–as someone who actually has to run something like the United States of America he’s a jerk and an absolute failure who never holds himself to any ethical standard.

    That’s the problem, you see. You can screw around and betray the people who have innocently signed contracts with you and get away with things–but only until your reputation gets around. And then good luck finding anyone else to sign up for your scams except the gullibles.




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  25. michael reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Oh, we’re fucked if it’s anything that requires more than a Yes or No from Trump, which is to say Fox and Friends. Trump in the Cuban missile crisis? Managed by Steve Doocy? I wouldn’t be writing about dystopia, I’d be living it.




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  26. Kathy says:

    What I find even worse than Trump are his base, or followers, or supporters, or apologists, or whatever you want to call them.

    I mean the people who will defend anything Trump says or does, no matter how inherently indefensible, even when it contradicts other things he’s said or done, or when it goes against the beliefs professed by these people.

    Further, they also interpret any criticism of their leader as an attack. And not just a normal political attack, but a vicious, false, mean-spirited one.

    We are so lucky Trump is so incompetent.




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  27. Franklin says:

    It’s sort of like the Stockholm Syndrome for Presidents who have kidnapped the country. Oh, he might ban bump stocks, maybe I’ll just forget the long, long list of hideous things he has said and done.




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  28. Gustopher says:

    @Kylopod:

    In any event, it’s undeniable that there’s been a massive upsurge in white-nationalist groups since Trump’s rise, something you have to be blind to believe would have happened under a President John Kasich.

    Under Kasich it would be a modest rise of white-nationalists and a whole lot of “serious conservatives” talking about the need to reform entitlements, protect voting rolls from dark forces, and wring their hands about inner-city problems. We are a Judeo-Christian nation don’t you know! With traditional values, like hating gays, hating brown people, hating Muslims and hating welfare queens.

    Trump didn’t cause an increase in white-nationalism. Trump let the white-nationalists take their sheets off. It’s ugly, but they will be easier to track in the future.




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  29. Kylopod says:

    @Gustopher:

    Under Kasich it would be a modest rise of white-nationalists

    Maybe there would have been a growth in WN groups, maybe not. But one thing for sure is that WN groups would not have embraced Kasich, claiming him as their savior.

    and a whole lot of “serious conservatives” talking about the need to reform entitlements, protect voting rolls from dark forces, and wring their hands about inner-city problems.

    Of course. As I said, “Trump’s contribution was to make explicit what has long been under the surface.” Even so, violent WN groups have never made a point of rallying around Serious Conservatives who stroke their chins about the need for entitlement reform.

    Trump didn’t cause an increase in white-nationalism.

    The facts suggest otherwise.

    The SPLC’s Year in Hate and Extremism report identifies 954 hate groups – an increase of 4 percent from 2016. The rise was driven in part by a backlash from the Nation of Islam and other fringe black nationalist groups…. Even with the growth, black nationalist groups lagged far behind the more than 600 hate groups that adhere to some form of white supremacist ideology… Within the white supremacist movement, neo-Nazi groups saw the greatest growth – from 99 groups to 121. Anti-Muslim groups rose for a third straight year. They increased from 101 chapters to 114 in 2017 – growth that comes after the groups tripled in number a year earlier…. The overall number of hate groups likely understates the real level of hate in America, because a growing number of extremists, particularly those who identify with the alt-right, operate mainly online and may not be formally affiliated with a hate group…. A separate SPLC investigation, released earlier this month, found that 43 people were killed and 67 wounded by young men associated with the alt-right over the past four years. Seventeen of the deaths came in 2017.




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  30. gVOR08 says:

    @teve tory: That twitter thread is a good statement of why Bennet’s approach at NYT is wrong. And it introduced me to David Roberts. Thank you.

    I glance at VOX occasionally I I really like Sean Illing’s interviews, but had not really noticed David Roberts. Off topic here, but apropos elsewhere, when I looked for his stuff I found he has a really good piece on Why mass shootings don’t convince gun owners to support gun control.

    This betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the cognitive and emotional dynamics at work. It presumes that mass shootings constitute an argument against guns, to be weighed against arguments in their favor. But to gun enthusiasts, mass shootings are not arguments against guns but for them. The rise in mass shootings is only convincing both sides that they’re right, causing them to dig in further.




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  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kylopod: @Gustopher:

    In any conversation of white nationalists it is rather myopic to speak of it “increasing under trump” as tho before trump it was just kind of there when we all know it exploded under Obama.

    from the SPLC:

    The number of hate and antigovernment ‘Patriot’ groups grew last year, and terrorist attacks and radical plots proliferated.
    Charleston. Chattanooga. Colorado Springs. In these towns and dozens of other communities around the nation, 2015 was a year marked by extraordinary violence from domestic extremists — a year of living dangerously.

    The problem with trump is that he legitimized WN.




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  32. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    My bad, 3 links.
    @Kylopod: @Gustopher:

    In any conversation of white nationalists it is rather myopic to speak of it “increasing under trump” as tho before trump it was just kind of there when we all know it exploded under Obama.

    from the SPLC:

    The number of hate and antigovernment ‘Patriot’ groups grew last year, and terrorist attacks and radical plots proliferated.
    Charleston. Chattanooga. Colorado Springs. In these towns and dozens of other communities around the nation, 2015 was a year marked by extraordinary violence from domestic extremists — a year of living dangerously.

    The problem with trump is that he legitimized WN.




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  33. george says:

    @grumpy realist:

    So yeah, I hold him responsible.

    Trump is a disaster. But neither he, nor any other President, has the power or influence to be held responsible for white nationalism.

    I hold him responsible for his own actions – fanning hatred. But unless he has a time machine hidden away somewhere, and some pretty impressive telepathic powers, he’s a very small player in a very old and very strong current in American history. Magnifying Trump’s influence (and without influence there’s no responsibility) is glorifying him and making him seem more powerful than he is.

    Beyond that, Trump probably doesn’t a fig about white nationalism except in so far as it aids his one true aim – make life better for himself. He’d throw the white nationalists under a bus in an instant if it were advantageous to do so. And then pick them up again an instant later if that became advantageous. He sees (probably instinctively, I doubt he thinks these things through) an opportunity in them, and is happy to use it. But they’re not his creation, and he doesn’t care any more about their goals than he cares about the goals of anyone not named Donald Trump.

    Obama, a very good President, found out exactly how limited the Presidency actually is, economically of course, but also culturally. Trump runs into the same limitations.




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  34. al-Ameda says:

    @MBunge:

    … while American elites have been engaged in a determined effort to undermine and delegitimize the elected President of the United States,

    Okay …
    (1) Which ‘American elite’ spent 8 years trying to de-legitimize the presidency of Barack Obama?
    (2) Which current president headed up the (yes, it was racist) Birther movement which was a centerpiece of the overall Republican effort to de-legitimize the presidency of Barack Obama?




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  35. Facebones says:

    @george:

    Trump is a disaster. But neither he, nor any other President, has the power or influence to be held responsible for white nationalism.

    True enough, but how much moral courage does it require to say “I disavow the KKK?” Trump couldn’t even do that when David Duke endorsed him.

    So I hold him responsible for legitimizing them. He retweets them. He says there are bad folks on both sides – nazis and nazi-protesters alike. The alt-right knows that he’s just saying token condemnations of racists for the mainstream media.




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  36. grumpy realist says:

    @george: Well, we had another explosion in Austin. Suspicion is veering around to these attacks being in general directed towards black people because all the targets so far have been black.




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  37. teve tory says:

    I was teaching high school math in BFE South Georgia when Obama was elected. The general opinion of the local White Trash community was, “Well now the black are gonna be Totally outta control. They’ll think they can get away with anything.”

    The surge in White Supremacist violence since Trump got elected would appear to be a kind of flip side.




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  38. Kylopod says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    In any conversation of white nationalists it is rather myopic to speak of it “increasing under trump” as tho before trump it was just kind of there when we all know it exploded under Obama.

    That’s a good point, but it did increase dramatically under Trump from where it had been previously. Moreover, it had different motivations. Under Obama, it was a counterreaction against the first black president. Under Trump, WN groups increased out of support for Trump and what they believed he stood for.

    The reason I chose John Kasich as my example and not, say, Marco Rubio, is because Kasich is pure white-bread. I wasn’t sure a President Rubio (or even President Jeb, whose wife is Mexican-American) wouldn’t have inspired a rise in WN groups similar to what we saw under Obama.




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  39. Kylopod says:

    @Facebones:

    The alt-right knows that he’s just saying token condemnations of racists for the mainstream media.

    Indeed. There was a lengthy and fascinating Politico article in Oct. 2016 about WN’s evolving relationship with Trump. Originally, before his rise in GOP politics, many of them thought of him as a secret Jew or someone too closely associated with Jews for their tastes. Ivanka’s conversion and marriage to Jared really did bother them initially, as did his deep ties in the New York business community. As the 2016 campaign commenced, however, they increasingly put their earlier reservations aside and began to embrace him as their candidate. The David Duke incident helped cement the deal.

    Trump soon disavowed Duke. But by that point, his white nationalist supporters didn’t much care. In fact, the CNN interview put to rest virtually all meaningful objections to Trump within the white nationalist community, except for the most-hardened and extreme adherents. Some white nationalists were initially confused by Trump’s professions of ignorance about the KKK, but many more believed his refusal to disavow Duke on air was the natural culmination of what Anglin had called the “wink wink wink” strategy, or what mainstream commenters call dog-whistling.

    “In my 40+ years, that was the best political thing I have seen in my life, and nothing even comes close,” wrote one Stormfront poster, in one of thousands of posts about the interview across white nationalist sites and platforms.

    With a long and persistent series of racial cues, Trump had won the benefit of the doubt from the white nationalist community. In the wake of the CNN interview, a new consensus emerged in that community: Trump was secretly sympathetic to white nationalism, to a greater or lesser degree, and anything he said that contradicted the goals of the movement could be dismissed as an expediency, necessary to get elected. Many white nationalists commenting online thought he actually needed to be more careful about concealing his supposed beliefs in order to advance through the election.

    “He’s getting really ballsy and unapologetic about what he does,” a Stormfront user wrote. “That’s exactly what we need in a leader but he has to be careful and not push it too far.”

    “I adore the Donald so far but he has to be more careful because he is walking a very fine line here. He can’t be so extreme… yet,” wrote another.

    Duke himself articulated this idea almost immediately after the Tapper interview. “If he disavows me, fine. Let him do whatever he thinks he needs to do to become president of the United States,” Duke told The Daily Beast. “It’s good for him to be judicious.”




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  40. george says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Do I think racism is alive and well? Absolutely. But if you think Trump is responsible for it than you haven’t been paying attention to what’s happened in America in the centuries before 2015 when Trump’s political career started to rise.

    In fact, Trump isn’t even close to being the worst President in terms of racist issues. Take a look at all the treaties broken, land stolen, and people murdered – again long before Trump. What does it say that many people consider Trump to be a worse President than Andrew Jackson – Trump flames racist tendencies by individuals, he’s a disaster, but his tweets pale in comparison to Jackson’s activities, personal and as government. Read up on the “Indian Removal Act” for a start – what has Trump done that’s within a couple orders of magnitude of that for pure evil?

    Racism has been going on for a very long time, and to hold Trump responsible for it is simply historical nonsense. He’s an awful person and an awful President, but holding him responsible for racism is like holding him responsible for earthquakes.




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  41. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @teve tory: Oh the irony that America’s noveau n!&&3Rs (white rural america) are so drawn to its first actual black president in practice–a certain Donald Trump. They should get off meth, marry their baby momma, get jobs, and raise their kids. Freeloaders

    Reality is better than fiction.




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  42. Kylopod says:

    @george:

    Do I think racism is alive and well? Absolutely. But if you think Trump is responsible for it than you haven’t been paying attention to what’s happened in America in the centuries before 2015 when Trump’s political career started to rise.

    Nobody here was arguing that Trump’s racism was on par with that of 19th-century presidents like Jackson. When several of the commenters in this thread talked about Trump being “responsible” for white nationalism, we weren’t suggesting he invented American racism. (That’s frankly a pretty bizarre interpretation of our comments.) We were addressing the specific context that there has been a dramatic growth in white-nationalist groups in the past few years, that these groups have generally been highly supportive of Trump, and that Trump has repeatedly expressed tacit support for them, through barely disguised wink-wink-nod-nod tactics. And this is not just a matter of words: there’s been an upsurge in violence by white nationalists, which Trump virtually ignores, while screaming his head off at every attack by Islamists, using it to justify his travel ban and other discriminatory measures–even though WN attacks in the US are in fact significantly more frequent than Islamist attacks.

    Does this mean Trump has inflicted as much evil on minorities as some presidents of the past? No–but nobody here suggested he had. Indeed, we’ve talked at length about Jackson here, including Trump’s open admiration for him and keeping a portrait of him in the Oval Office.

    Many of Trump’s worst instincts have so far been restrained by the people around him and by the fact that Trump is a weak and incompetent leader who has no idea how to manage the institutions he’s ostensibly in charge of. But if he actually got to do some of the things he’s promised (such as his campaign pledge to deport the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants), it would begin to resemble some of the racist atrocities of past leaders.




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  43. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @george: Every President up until Carter was an actual racist. The rest have been prejudiced–a slight improvement. The civil rights movement was just over 50 years ago and the first high school classes that spent K-12 with black kids in class haven’t even celebrated their 40th year class anniversaries yet. The first white non-racist, non-prejudice President is probably a minimum of 1o years away from leading this country. Trump is a white liberals idea of what a racist is–we know better though. The dangerous ones hold their cards close–you’d never guess they are what they are unless you eavesdropped on them OR–they were just really comfortable with you. A racist or white nationalist exposed is no problem at all…its the ones undercover I worry about.




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  44. Kylopod says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Oh the irony that America’s noveau n!&&3Rs (white rural america) are so drawn to its first actual black president in practice–a certain Donald Trump.

    Actually, he’s the second–the first was Clinton.




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  45. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Kylopod: Clinton was a panderer and could give a southern Baptist preacher a run for their money in terms of speaking. Even though we all knew he was a stuffed suit…damn he was magic behind a microphone.

    But no….everything America assumed they would get from a black White House…has been unabashedly delivered by T-Rump. You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.




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  46. Kylopod says:

    @Jim Brown 32: I was alluding to a famous 1998 essay by Toni Morrison in which she described Clinton as the “first black president.”

    I always interpreted the essay to be a somewhat snarky commentary on the way Republicans treated Clinton, but a lot of people (many of whom I suspect didn’t even read the essay) seem to have gotten the idea she was calling Clinton the Eminem of presidents or something, an honorary soul-brother. During his 2004 presidential run, John Kerry (in a particularly cringe-worthy moment) referenced the Morrison essay and said he wanted to be the “second” black president.




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