Today in Terrible Columns

Bret Stephens' piece this week adds up to not much.

Bret Stephens’ column in the NYT asks the follows question in its title:  Why Aren’t Democrats Walking Away With the Midterms?

My immediate reaction is:  all probabilities indicate that the Democrats will win the House and fail to win the Senate.  Indeed, the likelihood is a very good night for them in the House, but the Senate was always likely a bridge too far given the exigencies of how Senate elections go (i.e., only one third at a time, and this particular third is not favorable to Democrats, even in this environment).  Any journalistic discussion of the two chambers that treats their electoral conditions as equivalent is pure laziness (at best).  It is also true that the Democrats are looking good to gain governorships, which would also be part of the broader context of “the midterms.”

And, of course, it is impossible to know who is, or is not, “walking away” with anything until the votes are cast and counted.  Really, all indications are the Democrats will be the overall winners on Tuesday, and I say that knowing that there is still a health probability that this will not be the case.  If there is a 90% chance of rain, and it doesn’t rain, that does not mean that the prediction was wrong necessarily.  Sure the model might be flawed,  but a 10% chance of something happening is still a non-zero chance (and, indeed, not a crazy out-of-our-experience chance). There is only a 1 and 10 chance of rolling a “10” on a 10-sided die, yet it happens with regularity (you know, 10% of the time….).  Sure a forecast model or a poling process can be flawed and produces incorrect results.  Or it could be that the lower-probability outcome happened.  There is a much higher probability of a strike than a hit on a given pitch in baseball, and yet hits happen all the time.

Stephens’ title-writer is not the main thing about this column that struck me, however, it was the overall non-argument that Stephens makes in the piece. The column has this solemn, thinking-man’s columnist vibe to it (that Stephens often deploys) but there is ultimately a criticism without substance that I find frustrating.  It is weird piece in which he actually describes one of Trump’s policy suggests as “fascistic” (the idea of sending troop to the border), but somehow the villain of the piece are all those pesky liberals.

He starts:

The night Donald Trump was elected was supposed to be, for most liberals and a few conservatives, the beginning of the end of the world. The economy would surely implode. The U.S. would probably blunder into a catastrophic war. The new American president would be blackmailed into conducting foreign policy as Putin’s poodle.

None of that has happened — not yet, at any rate.

Yes, there was a lot of hysteria when Trump won.  Much of which was overwrought.  I remember tweeting out the Mexican pesos’ free fall on news of his election and was concerned that his policies would create such levels of international uncertainty that global markets would react negatively.  I was wrong about that, I will readily admit.  Although, his long-term policies approaches to the prevailing global economic order still have the likelihood of long-term damage.  His tariff policy alone will have serious consequences.  The problem is that this damage is not immediately obvious.  Indeed, others may reap the blame of the seeds he is currently sowing.

I, for one, never thought he was likely to start a war (at least no moreso than your average president), although his rhetoric and simplistic worldview worried me to some degree.

I would disagree to a substantial amount with Stephens vis-a-vis Putin. While it is true that the US government has engaged in a number of anti-Russian policies, we cannot dismiss the degree to which Trump’s behavior has created serious trouble with our allies (especially the EU, NATO, and the G7–which all overlap, of course) in ways that clearly benefit Putin’s goals.  Further, the degree to which Trump’s very existence (and his approval of authoritarians the world over) helps Putin’s own domestic critique of democracy is clearly a huge benefit to Moscow.

The main bulk of the piece is pointing out that Trump is successfully exploiting the caravan to his political ends, and that the Democrats have been unsuccessful in countering him.  I will agree with this assessment, although I am left at a loss as to what Stephens himself thinks the solution is.

He notes:

several thousand people are pushing their way to the U.S. border with the idea that they will find a way to push their way through it. If they do, tens or even hundreds of thousands more will surely follow. It’s perfectly reasonable for fair-minded voters to wonder how the U.S. will vet and then absorb even a fraction of them (though I think we easily can), and what doing so will mean for our wider immigration system.

To which the Democratic response is — what, exactly?

If it’s “compassion,” it’s a non-answer. If it’s to abolish ICE, it’s a dereliction of responsibility for governance. If it’s to open the border, it is an honest form of political suicide. If it’s more trade and foreign aid for Central America, that’s a solution for the too-long term.

The truth is that there is no easy fix to the challenge of the caravan, which is why Trump was so clever to make the issue his own and Democrats have been so remiss in letting him have it. The secret of Trump’s politics is to mix fear and confidence — the threat of disaster and the promise of protection — like salt and sugar, simultaneously stimulating and satisfying an insatiable appetite. It’s how all demagogues work.

In an abstract sense, yes, the Democrats have done a terrible job at responding to Trump’s caravan demagoguery insofar as it is nearly impossible to counter visceral, racialized fear with real policy solutions. The border issue remains complicated.  Even explaining the reality of the caravan is a complicated thing (heck, I don’t think most people even know where they are, how long it will take them to reach the border, nor what the likely actual numbers will be at that time, let alone the number that will then actually cross into the US).  And if explaining the reality of the problem is hard, explaining adequate policy solutions is several quanta harder.

Without providing any notion of how to combat Trump’s demagoguery over the caravan, he shifts to:

I have written previously that the real threat of the Trump presidency isn’t economic or political catastrophe. It’s moral and institutional corrosion — the debasement of our discourse and the fracturing of our civic bonds. Democrats should be walking away with the midterms. That they are not is because they have consistently underestimated the president’s political gifts, while missing the deeper threat his presidency represents.

By the way, I think this is the position that most critics of the president take.  The underlying concern are things like his norm-breaking, his barely disguised white nationalism, his penchants for preferring dictators or democrats, and so forth.  If we were just having arguments over economic and political issues, life would be far less stressful.

This also brings me back to “Democrats should be walking away with the midterms”–what does that mean?  The Senate is almost out of reach for the Democrats for reasons noted above (when scenarios of taking the chamber include Dems winning in Texas and/or Mississippi then you are are talking about long-shot scenarios).  Even in years in which conditions are favorable for Democrats in the House, most seats are not competitive, and Republicans have a built-in structural advantage in which the Democrats need to win the popular vote nationally by somewhere around 7%+ to win the chamber. We do not talk about these conditions enough in the national discussion.  It is not sour grapes or some partisan position to continually point this out.  If we were talking a football game here, the Reps would be starting each game against the Dems with a few points on the board before the game started.

Stephens concludes:

There’s a lesson here worth heeding. Our economic GDP may be booming, but our moral GDP is in recession. The tragedy of Pittsburgh illustrates, among other things, that the president cannot unite us, even in our grief. Whatever happens on Tuesday, Democrats will only win in 2020 if they find a candidate who can.

Speaking as someone who writes as part of their profession (and as someone who wrote newspaper columns for state papers on a semi-regular basis for a while a few years ago) that is the conclusion by someone who needed to conclude a column.  I am not even sure it makes full sense.   Despite hundreds of words of criticism, I see no real solution offered.  I recognize that an easy solution is not in the offing.  But the problem is that his diagnosis misses the mark:  while, yes, Dems can and should be criticized (as all parties should be), the main problems are a combination of structural conditions, the media environment, and Trump voters.

We are in a real national quandary here, and it is that a large number (but a numeric minority) of voters are willing to either embrace or ignore demagoguery.  There is a clear market for fear out there that laps up the xenophobia and the nationalism.  That group is in coalition with (and overlaps with) a large number of otherwise run-of-the-mill Republican voters who are in denial or simply don’t understand what Trump is doing.  There are plenty of well-meaning people who just see the rallies and the tweets as noise.  Those voters are the truly pivotal ones, but they are likely not amendable to Democratic persuasion because they will inevitably see a vote for a Democrat as a vote for higher taxes and abortion. (I would note, that is not irrational from a political point of view, nor does it mean that they are on board with the craziness of Trump’s xenophobic behavior, even if does mean that they are, in my opinion, playing with fire).

Columns like this one are of a genre that first blames Democrats for Trump, and is further a sub-genre of conservative never-Trumpers who want to hand wring rather than fully note that the problem is not just Trump, nor just the inability of the Democrats to respond to Trump, but that the problem is Republican voters combined with a flawed system that gives one party a consistently shortened field to play on.  To pretend like the fight is fully even is to miss a major component of our currently political reality. I would be more sanguine that Democratic fine-tuning of their rhetoric would solve the problem if we have a truly fair and competitive electoral system.  I would again refer readers to a piece I wrote a few weeks ago:   Rural v. Urban Representation and the Quality of Democracy (and I didn’t even talk in that piece about gerrymandering nor systematic attempts in number of states to make voting more difficult).

To sum up:

  1. Could Democrats do better?  Well, sure.  “Better” is always possible. I am not entirely sure what “better” looks like, however.  I do hope that whomever runs in 2020 does a good job of underscoring Trump’s failings (so, I agree with Stephens there).  I still have no clue what the appropriate counter-attack is to lies and demagoguery is supposed to be save the truth (but the truth is not sexy, sadly).
  2. Put another way:  if the thesis of your column is “Democrats need to do better on X” then come up with a suggestion for what that might look like.
  3. The rules are stacked in one party’s favor.  We need to understand this better than we do.
  4. The “libs” aren’t responsible for Trump.  Trump and his voters (and the system) are.
  5. I will say this:  the media has to do a better job than falling into constant “bothersiderism”/sensationalism of the day.  It plays into Trump’s hands–although I fear a more honest press will not ameliorate the situation as much as it will drive trumpistas more to right-wing pseudo news.
FILED UNDER: Campaign 2018, 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. Modulo Myself says:

    Put another way: if the thesis of your column is “Democrats need to do better on X” then come up with a suggestion for what that might look like.

    Something along the lines of ‘Opponents of Hitler need to do a better job convincing the Nazis that they aren’t the master race’. Oddly enough, that sounds pretty stupid. Or maybe ‘African-Americans in Tulsa needed to do a better job in 1921 in winning over the white people of Tulsa’. Oh wait, that sounds just as stupid. Go figure.

    Stephens was the guy who called climate-change activist Stalinists. Obviously, it’s a bit of stretch intended to give the dummies and crooks who were ‘skeptical’ of climate-change a grievance to mention. He’s a hack, and he’s trying to pretend conservatives have been on a credible non-authoritarian side.

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  2. Teve says:

    Bret Stephens’ column in the NYT asks the follows question in its title: Why Aren’t Democrats Walking Away With the Midterms?

    Check out the small brain on Bret.

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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    In an abstract sense, yes, the Democrats have done a terrible job at responding to Trump’s caravan demagoguery insofar as it is nearly impossible to counter visceral, racialized fear with real policy solutions. The border issue remains complicated. Even explaining the reality of the caravan is a complicated thing (heck, I don’t think most people even know where they are, how long it will take them to reach the border, nor what the likely actual numbers will be at that time, let alone the number that will then actually cross into the US). And if explaining the reality of the problem is hard, explaining adequate policy solutions is several quanta harder.

    The problem for DEMs isn’t that those policy solutions are difficult to formulate and even more difficult to explain in a way that people will understand, it’s that they won’t fit on a bumpersticker, which is the length of most voters attention span.

    There are plenty of well-meaning people who just see the rallies and the tweets as noise. Those voters are the truly pivotal ones, but they are likely not amendable to Democratic persuasion because they will inevitably see a vote for a Democrat as a vote for higher taxes and abortion. (I would note, that is not irrational from a political point of view, nor does it mean that they are on board with the craziness of Trump’s xenophobic behavior, even if does mean that they are, in my opinion, playing with fire).

    I have to disagree. They are in fact very much on board with his xenophobic craziness. It may not be why they voted for him or continue to vote for his party, but when they climbed onto the trump train they very much signed up for the whole banana. It’s why I’ve always said voting for trump doesn’t mean one is a racist, but it does mean that at the very least one is OK with a racist in the White House.

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  4. Teve says:

    There’s a lesson here worth heeding. Our economic GDP may be booming, but our moral GDP is in recession.

    “Our” my culo. This is what happens when your side puts an amoral, adulterous, racist, half-wit tax cheat into the highest office of the land, Bretty-poo.

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  5. Teve says:

    I will say this: the media has to do a better job than falling into constant “bothersiderism”/sensationalism of the day. It plays into Trump’s hands–although I fear a more honest press will not ameliorate the situation as much as it will drive trumpistas more to right-wing pseudo news.

    Someone noted this weekend on twitter that in the last week or so the NYT and WaPo have a combined 100+ front page stories on the Caravan of Violent Strapping Smallpox-Infected Terrorist Invaders.

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  6. Teve says:

    To which the Democratic response is — what, exactly?

    If it’s “compassion,” it’s a non-answer.

    GFY Bret. I noticed yesterday that some of Beto’s people got together and raised some funds and blankets and water etc for those refugees and now Ted Cruz is attacking him for it. GFY and your whole party and most of your friends and family.

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  7. Kit says:

    the problem is not just Trump, nor just the inability of the Democrats to respond to Trump, but that the problem is Republican voters combined with a flawed system that gives one party a consistently shortened field to play on

    The real problem is, in my opinion, that half the country is not particularly attached to democracy nor to the humanistic principles upon which it is based. Even if the coming election breaks the Democrat’s way in every tight race, the underlying problem is still there, festering. The real question is: Why?

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  8. @Kit:

    that half the country

    I understand the shorthand, but I feel the need to start really pushing back on this: it isn’t half. It really isn’t and we need to stop talking like we are in a 50-50 split. For one thing, the R-D split is not 50-50 and even the part that is on the R side is not uniform.

    50-50 language is a cousin to bothesiderism that needs to go away.

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  9. Kit says:

    50-50 language is a cousin to bothesiderism that needs to go away.

    Fair enough. What percentage to you propose? I suspect that a worrisome part of the country have no love of democracy, even if they love their country. Another large part (on both sides) would vote against vast sections of the Constitution were it ever to come up to a vote. And now we have the New Confederacy in the saddle and riding hard. Holding this force off for another cycle is not victory, it’s merely living to fight another day. And this, I repeat, is the real problem.

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  10. Teve says:

    Voting oversamples the elderly over the young 2:1. And even then Trump only got 46%. If you look at polls for more gun control, immigration, medicare for all, higher wage laws, etc, it’s like 3:1 Decent People:Trumpers.

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  11. reid says:

    I’m not going to bother reading it, but it does sound like a terrible column. It would have been more informative to address the reasons why the Democrats aren’t running away with it, like you’ve done, Steven. Another thing I’ll add (and I’ve said here several times): The Republicans are reaping the fruits of decades of propaganda. It has polarized the country tremendously, and a sizable portion of the country (not half!) gets its news from Fox or worse. This is a difficult thing to undo.

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  12. @OzarkHillbilly:

    I have to disagree. They are in fact very much on board with his xenophobic craziness.

    I am not trying to make excuses, but I just don’t think this is straightforwardly true as you make it out to be. I have talked to people just this week who I think are utterly in denial about what they are supporting.

    As I noted the other day: if hardcore feminists supported Bill Clinton (and they did) then it is not hard for non-xenophobes to deny/rationalize away Trump. People’s ability to rationalize is incredible–and a two party system with binary options makes it tremendously easy to do.

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  13. Kit says:

    @Teve: As a hard-and-rough estimate, I suspect that you are close, but having 25% of the population permanently set against the founding principles is worrying. In better times, I’d be arguing a purely theoretical point, but Republicans already control all the branches of government. Democrats have a good chance of gumming up the works of one branch. Are you so sanguine that this will mark the high-water mark of the right-wing tide?

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  14. Teve says:

    Are you so sanguine that this will mark the high-water mark of the right-wing tide?

    Part of the Turtle’s calculation on Kavanaugh was that they’re on the losing side of history and will have very few opportunities for power as the country becomes, year by year, more liberal, less White Supremacist, more educated, etc. Look at Georgia. They’re pulling out all the stops to cheat to win in fucking Georgia.

    Cut mamaw’s social security to give it to Carl Icahn, blow up the deficit again, tell dummies it’ll trickle down to their Wal-Mart job,…the GOP is a scam, they know it, and they know scams don’t last forever. Paul Ryan’s not getting the fuck outta dodge because he’s too old, it’s because he knows the wheels are coming off the wagon and he wants to get paid while the gettin’s good.

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  15. KIt says:

    @Teve: I see all the same signs, and they are encouraging. As far as they go. But I don’t see this as a sort of game were one side must be utterly defeated. Neither do I see it as a never-ending Manichean battle. The damage already done will not be fixed in one election cycle. After a certain point, changes just become part of the system.

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  16. Ben Wolf says:

    The “libs” aren’t responsible for Trump.

    Yes, they do bear some of the responsibility. Polanyi made clear why failure of liberal systems which are impeded from necessary structural changes is the well-spring of fascism. Libs have been center-stage, right along with Republicans, in not only blocking those changes but actively worsening the situation.

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  17. James Pearce says:

    if the thesis of your column is “Democrats need to do better on X” then come up with a suggestion for what that might look like.

    What if the suggestion isn’t something you want to hear? What then?

    The rules are stacked in one party’s favor.

    But are they really? I just went to the National Art Gallery today, saw a Warhol painting of Richard Nixon that said “Vote McGovern” on it. It reminded me that McGovern won 17 whole electoral votes. 17! To a monster like Nixon. Were they saying the same thing back then?

    The “libs” aren’t responsible for Trump.

    The libs are responsible for Clinton, though… Would we have Trump were it not for Clinton? I don’t think so…

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  18. Teve says:

    Kevin M. Kruse Retweeted

    Dee2

    @deedeeflagg
    Nov 1

    Oh, I voted all right. I moved on that ballot like a bitch. I got there, w/ blood coming out of my wherever! I’m auto attracted to polling stations—I just start filling in ovals. It’s like a magnet. And when ur registered, they let u do it. U can do anything.#Grabthembytheballot

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  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Maybe Steven, but then I have to say they have their heads up their asses. What can I say, he started his campaign with racist dog screams and they’ve only gotten louder since he got in office.

    There is a point at which stupidity is no longer an excuse.

    ETA and I know those people you talked to recently. I live among them and interact with them on a daily basis. Guess what: we don’t talk about politics anymore. Why? Because I tell them truths they don’t want to hear. I can explain it to them very calmly in a way they can not deny. And I have. You know what they do? They change the subject.

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  20. wr says:

    @Ben Wolf: Every time I read one of your comments I feel like you’re actually a character from The Young Ones…

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  21. @OzarkHillbilly:

    Maybe Steven, but then I have to say they have their heads up their asses. What can I say, he started his campaign with racist dog screams and they’ve only gotten louder since he got in office.

    There is a point at which stupidity is no longer an excuse.

    I get it and I am not trying to make excuses, but rather am trying to be a clear-headed realist on this topic. First, even educated news-consuming people are not as tuned into this stuff as those who frequent political blogs might think, and b) people’s ability to rationalize and justify their team is immense.

    Just look at the work Brendan Nyhan has done on the way people react when given clear facts that contradict their position.

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  22. I keep coming back to the binary nature of our system. It is going to create sorting and getting people to re-sort is far harder than it is for people to rationalize their team.

    Again, regardless of whether one in agreement or not, the bottom line is that if one is profoundly anti-abortion, or if one really does think that tax cuts are the engine that drives the economy, or if you think that the society is changing too quickly because of gay marriage or trans rights or whatever, you are going to stick with the Reps. It is going to be very hard to change. And, from a policy preference POV, it is rational.

    Just like you could be a pro-choice, social democrat feminist who rationally stuck with Bill Clinton.

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  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I’ll admit I am losing patience with them. BUT… My wife is one who is totally disconnected from the news. Mind you she hears about it from me from time to time but mostly she just doesn’t have the energy for it. Never listens/reads the news. Mention trump? Katy bar the door! Her and him in a room? They’d have trouble finding the pieces. Might have something to do with the fact that she is an immigrant.

    I’ll have to read up on Nyhan but my experience with “b) people’s ability to rationalize and justify their team is immense.” is that they don’t rationalize, they just flat out ignore. (I like to think I am immune to this but I have caught myself in this sin a time or 2)(I also like to think that realization makes me a cut above the rest but maybe not)

    We aren’t talking mere politics, in which agreed upon facts are argued over with disagreed upon solutions. We can’t even agree over what the facts are.

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  24. Ben Wolf says:

    @James Pearce: Without the Clintons’ extreme racism, militarism and their systematic assault on the working classes, Trump wouldn’t be president.

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  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    or if one really does think that tax cuts are the engine that drives the economy,

    It may be a hard argument to make but great countries invest in their *future*, banana republics rape their children’s future to make today’s rich richer.

    GI Bill anyone?

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  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Without the Clintons’ extreme racism,

    Ahem…. A whole lot of black people decided he was this nations first “black president”.

    Jus’ sayin’….

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  27. Modulo Myself says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Ben’s not talking about black people. He’s talking to himself in the only way he knows.

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  28. One American says:

    Even saw Mike Bunge commenting on this over at althouse what a day.

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  29. dazedandconfused says:

    The article is fairly typical of much Republican behavior towards Trump.

    Watched some cable news this weekend, including Colbert. He had Wallace on the other night. Watch Wallace squirm to avoid directly criticizing Trump. The Mooch has been making the rounds too…with his odd explainerism-avoidance of doing exactly that. He clearly knows this is BS. So does Wallace. I bet so does Bret.

    I would say Stephens feels the same pressure. He want’s to speak his mind but does not dare to, but since he must say something, the result is a half-hearted mush mouthed half-criticism, probably carefully edited to make sure he hasn’t written anything that could threaten his career.

    Trump has them all bullied. He’s getting away with it at the moment. It’s a hard but brittle management style. When you force people to do and say things they do not believe they hate you for forcing them…but most of all they hate themselves for knuckling under. That self-loathing is toxic.

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  30. al Ameda says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The column has this solemn, thinking-man’s columnist vibe to it (that Stephens often deploys) but there is ultimately a criticism without substance that I find frustrating. It is weird piece in which he actually describes one of Trump’s policy suggests as “fascistic” (the idea of sending troop to the border), but somehow the villain of the piece are all those pesky liberals.

    Stephens does what his conservative brethren Ross Douthat and David Brooks do – they often simulate criticism of Republicans but they often close the deal by blaming Democrats.

    It is instructive to remember that they are Republican and although they are less extreme and less partisan in their conservative ideology than most of the opinionista at Heritage or the National Review, they STILL are generally on board with the substance of Trump if not the style of Trump.

    This is their way of having it both ways – appearing to be independent while maintaining their Republican conservative credentials. In a way, Stephens, Douthat and Brooks are a lot like Jeff Flake or Rob Corker – they hate Trump’s style, but they always go with what Trump wants.

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  31. Kylopod says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Ahem…. A whole lot of black people decided he was this nations first “black president”.

    While I don’t agree that the Clintons were guilty of “extreme racism,” the business with the “first black president” was based on a widely misunderstood essay by Toni Morrison, where she wasn’t praising Clinton per se, she was mocking Republicans for treating him almost like they saw him as a surrogate black man.

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  32. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Ben Wolf: While I’m sure that James Pearce will probably agree with you, I’m having difficulty with the “extreme racism” and “systematic assault on the working class” parts about the Clintons. I count the racism of the Clintons as more the common garden variety that most white folk have and while I would be inclined to view how they view the working class as being benign neglect and technocratic oversimplification, the real systematic assault on the working class is coming–as it always has–from the right. That Bill pivoted to the center in order to try to attract people like me–from 2 working-class-income families that did much better on average in the 50s and 60s than many–could scarcely not have been expected. And, he actually succeeded in prying some of us loose from the hold of conservatism as the conservatives and Republicans continued to show us in the 80s and 90s that their program was a scam and that we were not participants; we were the marks.

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  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @One American: Glad to know that bunge has found a new home. Good on ‘im. Hope he gets to stay, but some fairly intelligent people go there, so it’s hard to know if he will,

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  34. One American says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: yes it is very entertaining over there.

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  35. James Pearce says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Without the Clintons’ extreme racism, militarism and their systematic assault on the working classes, Trump wouldn’t be president.

    Don’t forget the narcissism. 30 years of Democratic politics have been for the benefit of two people: Bill and Hillary Clinton. Even when an upstart like Obama gets some traction — and two terms in the White House — the Clintons are there going, “Well, what about me?”

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    A whole lot of black people decided he was this nations first “black president”

    And yet they have Obama‘s portrait on the wall…

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  36. Ben Wolf says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: The purpose of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was to replace Jim Crow laws with a legally compliant alternative system, and it worked. Half of black Americans are under supervision of the criminal injustice system because of that bill, under the boot of the state. No American politicians have inflicted more domestic racial violence than the Clintons.

    Bill Clinton’s attack on workers went back to his support for the Labor Reform Act of 1977. He joined the DLC and for the next decade and a half closely allied himself with corporate interests against unions, while during that same time Hillary was participating in and endorsing the Waltons’ anti-union policies. Their political careers were made on the “nowhere else to go” principle, whereby one can not only abuse but attack labor and the left, because the only other option is a Republican. NAFTA was an intentional attack on unions in the name of a “flexible” labor market and the evidence for this is that labor was almost entirely excluded from the negotiations and that the final bill was submitted to the Labor Advisory Committee one day before a response was required.

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  37. JohnMcC says:

    One of the balloon-juice contributors (I think that’s where I saw it… I try to reference my sources…) has a wonderful tweet-thread from Dr Krugman in which he documents Mr Stephens’ ‘innumeracy’ demonstrated in this column.

    When I read the original column I wondered if one of our commenters who is in the space above this had collaborated with Mr Stephens. Here he is echoing it.

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  38. mattbernius says:

    For context, its worth noting that in 2010, during the Tea Party “rebuke” of Obama, the Republicans only captured the House. At the time, that was seen as a huge moment politically.

    They would not capture the Senate for another four years (2014).

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  39. Kylopod says:

    @mattbernius: I think it’s generally understood that the Senate is a lagging indicator in elections, simply because only a third is in play in any given year. That said, the GOP’s failure to capture the Senate in 2010 was viewed as a slight defeat for them, especially because it depended in part on their blowing a few winnable races by nominating awful candidates.

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