The Unbridgeable Republican Split

As a chronicler of the Republican Civil Wars I’ve gotten a lot of entertainment value at watching the various factions come apart at the scenes.  One day, this will make a great PBS special narrated by Keith David.  Until then, I’ll do my best to jot down my observations in the hopes that screenshots of my blog will be shown while Mr. David narrates.

So I was listening to the Ricochet podcast and they were interviewing Avik Roy, a Republican health policy analyst who was with the Romney campaign and has written extensively on Obamacare. The subject was his recent interview with Vox about the soon to be death of the Republican Party.  That’s certainly a provocative and legitimate case to argue, but in this case I found it extremely self serving.  Roy blames nationalism, which he conflates with white nationalism as the reason for the GOP’s decline. Roy recounts one of the founding myths of the identity politics left; the “southern strategy” going all the way back to 1964 and the nomination of Barry Goldwater.  This leads him to the conclusion that the bulk of the GOP electorate is motivated by white identity politics rather than conservative principles.

As someone who’s been on political forums for years, the subject of the southern strategy comes up every few weeks as providing the imprimatur that Conservatives in general and Republicans in particular are racists, motivated by race, and thinking of nothing other than race.  Considering that’s a good description of the left, there is a lot of projection involved, but this is standard fare for the left.  What’s new is it becoming standard fare for Republicans.

Or should I say a certain type of Republican, the #nevertrumpers who’ve fought Trump all the way to the nomination, in a way they’ve never fought Obama or the Democrats.  But nothing seems to bring joy to the #nevertrump crowd like calling their fellow Republicans racists. So establishment types like Roy, who didn’t seem bothered by either the southern strategy or Goldwater’s nomination until the past year, are reaching for the same racial playbook that the left has used.  Now they can finally call someone racists, and if they’re lucky, win the approval of teen writers at Vox or some MSNBC reporter.  Roy isn’t the first GOPe who’s decided to throw the entire non-establishment GOP under the bus as racists.  Paul Ryan, Erick Erickson, and Senator Ben Sasse among others also tossed out the racist charge against fellow Republicans.

Noted anti-Trumpist and National Review writer Jonah Goldberg doubled down on Roy’s nationalism=white racism thesis last week in ‘New Nationalism” Amounts to Generic White Identity Politics.  Goldberg, a writer I’ve often admired and enjoyed his witty writing style, boils down his argument into probably the dumbest thing published in NR (not counting anything written by Katherine Timpf).  The argument basically boils down to observing that Trump’s support is mostly white.

That’s it.

Now it’s interesting to note that for both Roy and Goldberg (among many others) the keyword here is “Nationalism” as in nationalism being just another code word for white racism.  It’s almost mind-blowing that these arguments are coming from ostensibly conservative pundits. So I’m really unclear on what basis these two sides ever come back together again.

Imagine a scenario in which Trump loses and loses big, say more than Romney’s defeat, with a voter percentage of over 4% and an electoral blowout where Trump wins less than 200 electoral votes.  Will the #nevertrump crowd cackle with glee and then reach out their hand to everyone they’ve called ignorant hate filled racists for the past year and say, “On to 2020?”

Or imagine a scenario where Trump loses narrowly by #nevertrump margins such as Trump losing the vote in Utah due to Independent candidate Evan McMullin.  When it’s clear that the margin of victory was lost due to Republican establishment intransigence, on what basis would the people who voted Trump and really wanted to win this year, ever forgive those who spent a year trying to not only sabotage his campaign but denigrate his supporters?

Or this:  Trump wins.  The establishment and #nevertrump is discredited, but now that Trump has won they want to jump on the bandwagon.  Again, you have people who not only tried to sabotage victory and called everyone racist to boot, but now want to resume what they feel is their God given leadership roles in a movement they tried to destroy.  Is that going to be forgiven?

My feeling is whatever the electoral scenario; there is a divide in the GOP that is now permanent.  In 21st century America, calling someone a racist is throwing down the gauntlet. Politicians are used to hurling invective at each other and then hammering out deals, but these are attacks on the voting public; by presumably the same side. How are commentators like Roy and Goldberg ever going to support anything having to do with the GOP again when they’ve just smeared the majority of its voters as white identity racists?  And more to the point, why would they want to?  They’ve just identified the GOP as the racist party after all.

So whatever happens on Election Day, in a certain sense it’s over between these two factions of the GOP.  These are factions that, bad names and invective aside, have polar opposite policy goals.  The GOPe wants amnesty, open borders, and unlimited “free” trade; no matter how many US jobs are lost.  The Trump faction (which is numerically the far bigger faction) wants exactly the opposite. Where do they meet in the middle on policy?

These issues seem so fundamental that it’s hard to not see a major political realignment coming out of this clash.  The Republican establishment could find itself fleeing to the Democrats, turning it into an overtly free trade party.  Or maybe the Republican Party just splits into two parties (although I find that unlikely due to the US’s first past the post elections). Maybe the old left/right paradigm is breaking down into a new globalist/nationalist one.

Back in the Presidential Prediction Business

After a week in which the media has gone apoplectic over Trump saying Obama was a founder of ISIS, I was finally able to get some clues as to what is actually going on in Trump’s head.  First it should be noted that the entire kerfuffle is all Media generated.  When Hillary Clinton said that Trump was “the recruiting sergeant for ISIS” a few months ago, there were no equivalent media spasms that Clinton has gone too far. Instead Trump had to explain how he wasn’t recruiting for ISIS.  But of course there is no point in once again pointing out the biased coverage against any generic Republican nominee.  They have all been racist, sexist, homophobes who are literally Hitler.  But what makes Trump different is that the media has always pretended to be “objective.”  Now, they’ve taken off the gloves and admitted it’s impossible to be objective.

The New York Times columnist Jim Rutenberg made that point clear in last Sunday’s column:

“If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?

Because if you believe all of those things, you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century, if not longer, and approach it in a way you’ve never approached anything in your career. If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, non opinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable.

But the question that everyone is grappling with is: Do normal standards apply? And if they don’t, what should take their place?”

Clearly it’s laughable that the media thinks it’s been objective the whole time, and only now, in 2016, is that wavering.  But this is a signal I think to the rest of the MSM, that it’s time to pull out all the stops and sabotage Trump by any means necessary.  After all, if you could go back in time and take out Hitler before he became chancellor, wouldn’t you?  That seems to be the media’s position on Trump; stop him at all costs.  What are journalistic ethics compared to stopping “literally Hitler?”

But I say that just to point out the media environment that Trump is facing.  Getting back to my main point, I think I’ve figured Trump out (or at least a part of how he thinks).  A few weeks ago I wrote a post about predictions and said this regarding this year’s Presidential race:

“So when it comes to predicting this year’s race…I’m out.  I think Trump could win if his campaign confiscates his twitter account, keeps him on a steady diet of prepared speeches, and Muslims continue to be Muslim.  However all of the default conditions that make me think the Democrats have a natural advantage in Presidential years are still in play. “

But now I’ve got a clue to how Trump thinks, so I think I feel comfortable in actually making a prediction.  A few days ago on the Hugh Hewitt Show there was this interesting exchange between Hewitt and Trump regarding the “Founder of ISIS” situation:

HH: Well, that, you know, I have a saying, Donald Trump, the mnemonic device I use is Every Liberal Really Seems So, So Sad. E is for Egypt, L is for Libya, S is for Syria, R is for Russia reset. They screwed everything up. You don’t get any argument from me. But by using the term founder, they’re hitting with you on this again. Mistake?

DT: No, it’s no mistake. Everyone’s liking it. I think they’re liking it. I give him the most valuable player award. And I give it to him, and I give it to, I gave the co-founder to Hillary. I don’t know if you heard that.

HH: I did. I did. I played it.

DT: I gave her the co-founder.

HH: I know what you’re arguing…

DT: You’re not, and let me ask you, do you not like that?

HH: I don’t. I think I would say they created, they lost the peace. They created the Libyan vacuum, they created the vacuum into which ISIS came, but they didn’t create ISIS. That’s what I would say.

DT: Well, I disagree.

HH: All right, that’s okay.

DT: I mean, with his bad policies, that’s why ISIS came about.

HH: That’s…

DT: If he would have done things properly, you wouldn’t have had ISIS.

HH: That’s true.

DT: Therefore, he was the founder of ISIS.

HH: And that’s, I’d just use different language to communicate it, but let me close with this, because I know I’m keeping you long, and Hope’s going to kill me.

DT: But they wouldn’t talk about your language, and they do talk about my language, right?

HH: Well, good point. Good point. 

 

And that is when I had my epiphany. These are not gaffes or slips of the tongue.  Trump is deliberately using language that can be construed in the worse possible way in order to generate publicity.  With decades of experience at being a celebrity, he has taken to heart the publicist adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  And in terms of generating publicity, he’s been an outstanding success if you count it by minutes of airtime or lines of copy in print.  Certainly there would have been zero media coverage discussing poor decisions by the Obama administration leading to the creation of ISIS without Trump.  Getting those issues out there and forcing a hostile media to talk about issues they don’t want to discuss is also a success.

However in politics, that isn’t reflected in the polls.  Kanye West is great at generating publicity for him, but at the cost of it being almost uniformly bad publicity.  This may be a great strategy for getting on Page 6, but it’s a terrible one if your goal is to win a general election.  So my reason for not making a prediction on the election earlier was because I thought that Trump could easily fix his problems; stop attacking other Republicans, stick to prepared speeches and stump speeches, ease off twitter, and his polling would go back up because after all, people really don’t like Hillary Clinton and would love for an excuse not to vote for her.  But Trump thinks that generating unfavorable publicity is the ticket to success, and as long as he both thinks and acts like it is, Hillary Clinton is the next President.

God help us all, as her vengeance will be mighty!

 

 

Florida is Glowing Blue on the Electoral Map

Michael Tomasky had an interesting piece in The Daily Beast called Is Florida Even a Swing State Anymore?

“You will also hear them say a kajillion times until Election Day that Florida is a swing state. Well, yes. It has been historically. But the combination of massive demographic changes since 2012 and Trump’s anorexic performance among college-educated whites makes me wonder if Florida is a swing state this year at all. And while the Republicans might nominate a normal candidate in 2020, the state’s demography is galloping away from the GOP.

In sum, 2016 could be the year that Florida stopped becoming a swing state.”

Blue Florida

Although it’s more bad news for Trump in particular and the GOP in general, it’s more confirmation for me that I was right on that particular score.  As I wrote back in February:

“Florida went for Obama twice in a row; in 2008 and 2012.  Is there something that’s going to break that pattern?  A lot of things could, except that the State used to be a red State, now, according to Gallup, it’s “competitive.” But there are trends that are moving Florida from red to blue, and that’s demographics. As NPR helpfully points out, Puerto Ricans have been pouring into Florida.  Although it’s part of a long term trend, it’s exacerbated by the financial crisis in Puerto Rico.  Although Puerto Rico can’t vote in a Presidential election, Puerto Ricans can, the minute they leave Puerto Rico.  And again as NPR hopefully shows, Puerto Ricans predominately vote for Democrats.”

But I think Florida has had a couple of things going for it that made that less obvious.  First, an unusually large retired population.  Old people vote at a higher percentage and they tend to skew Republican. This has been a buffer against the 40% minority population of Florida, which otherwise should have thrown Florida into a permanent blue zone years ago.

Of course that 40% isn’t as clear cut.  Tomasky is right that younger Cubans lean strongly Democratic and Puerto Ricans lean about 80% Democratic, however election time in Florida usually leads to some interesting radio ads, in which a Spanish surnamed Republican may find himself opposing a Spanish surnamed Democrat for the same local seat.  Although I’m a firm believer that demography is destiny, there are some local gator sized hiccups in that.

On the state level, the timing of Florida elections leads to some counterintuitive outcomes.  As I noted in reference to the Medical Marijuana Amendment:

“Florida’s governor’s race is on what are nationally off year elections.  Although nationally this is an off year election since no President is on the ballot, in Florida, we elect governors.  Since the turn out for off year elections tends to run older, whiter, and more Republican, it’s no surprise that Florida gets a bit schizophrenic, turning red and electing a Tea party backed governor and senator (Marco Rubio) during off year elections like 2010, and re-electing President Obama and Democratic senator Bill Nelson during a Presidential election year.”

Of course this year is no off year election.  This is a full on Presidential year which means at least 50 million more voters will turn out; the classic low information voters who only turn out in Presidential years because that’s the only race they are aware of, and that’s only when one of the NCIS shows gets pre-empted for a Presidential debate.

So I find it hard to imagine a scenario in which Florida goes red for Trump this fall.  There may be one, but the default for 2016 for me was always that Florida was going blue in 2016 and right now I see nothing to change that.

 

Two Americas: Dunham and Duck Dynasty

After spending days of airtime excoriating Donald Trump for asking why Mrs. Khan didn’t speak at the Democratic Convention, Morning Joe decided to take a breather to interview Hollywood Reporter writer Michael Wolff for his new article, “Michael Wolff on Hillary’s “Self Delusion, “Trump’s S- Show” and the Media’s Final, Frantic 100 Days.”  Wolff’s basic thesis is that the two conventions show that we’re too different countries with almost no middle ground.  He uses the example of two convention stars, Lena Dunham for the Democrats and Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame for the Republicans.  As Wolff writes:

“The Nation divides over many lines, but a basic split is between Lena Dunham, who made a prime time appearance July 26 at the Democratic National Convention, and Willie Robertson, a star of Duck Dynasty and a celebrity endorser at the Republican convention. No longer an actual aspect of political decision-making, party conventions are wholly symbolic affairs, an elaborate messaging apparatus and targeted media platform. In this instance, Dunham represented a cosmopolitan, millennial, pan-sexual, women-focused view, abhorrent to a significant part of the country, and Robertson a nativist, older, gun-associated, military-inclined, white-male-focused view, abhorrent to the Dunham part.”

That’s basically true I think.  If you drew a Venn Diagram of Dunham fans and Robertson fans, the two circles would probably just sit there without even touching.  I’ve had my own fun with Dunham, so just knowing I’m in the non Dunham circle should tell you a lot about me.

Wolff doesn’t sound very optimistic about the two Americas, but the division is not a new invention.  America has over big issues and small, long been a divided country.  What’s different now has been the tendency to nationalize every issue into a one size fits all, top down approach; exactly the opposite of what the founders intended.  I suspect the divide began to take on national consequences with Roe v Wade in 1973.  It may be hard to believe now, but the country was gradually moving towards a pro choice position when the Supreme Court decided to short circuit the democratic process and impose a court written national law that froze the debate in place. So for 40 plus years, the needle has barely wiggled on abortion and it’s still a contentious issue.  And you can add up every single issue that we’ve had either decided for us by the courts or imposed on us at a national level issues that were usually a state and local concern. Now that the federal government is vitally concerned about who goes into what bathroom in North Carolina, and every state in the union, there are effectively no limits to what the national government can decide or impose.  So every issue is a national issue in which at least half the country feels burned on.

There is an easy solution to this of course, good old fashioned constitutional federalism.  Leave the bathrooms, abortions, and gay marriage cakes up to each state, and suddenly we have a lot fewer things to fight about on the national stage. Unfortunately good old fashioned constitutional federalism is as abhorrent to half the country as Duck Dynasty and country music.  So prepare for more squabbling between Dunham and Dynasty.

 

Almost Star Trek Beyond Caring

Warning: Very spoilery.

As a long time Star Trek Fan, each new Star Trek movie is reason enough to do something special, like take a day off from work so I can enjoy the movie during a normal workday, without the large crowds of evening or weekend showings.  And that is what I did for the latest outing from the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek Beyond.  Like the previous movie, Star Trek into Darkness, the title made no sense and had nothing to do with the actual film.  This is all part of the JJ Abrams school of secrecy that wants to keep as little information about the movie as possible from leaking out.  If 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, had been done by JJ Abrams, it would have simply been titled Star Trek Wrath.  No spoilers on the villain!  Of course Abrams had a lighter touch for this iteration of the film franchise (Justin Lin directed).  He was only a producer, not a director for this one, which probably explains the paucity of lens flares.

star trek beyond

The rebooted Star Trek movies are action movies, so Justin Lin, of the Fast and Furious movies, makes an adequate director for that type of film.  This irritates a lot of old school Star Trek fans, who don’t see Gene Roddenberry’s philosophical vision in the rebooted Star Trek films.  However for me, that’s a feature, not a bug.  Roddenberry’s “vision” was of a communist utopia that even in the realm of science fiction, made no sense.  It was easier to make up the technobabble of transporters, holodecks, and faster than light travel then explain why they don’t need money and no one is drawing a paycheck, but still showing up for work every day.

There is another reason of course.  That kind of film just wouldn’t fly todayMark Wolper, son of the man who brought Roots to life on the small screen in the 1970’s sat his 16 year old son down to watch the original Roots with disappointing results. His son just didn’t get it, it didn’t speak to him, and the production style was just too different.  In other words, much of the movies and television shows that are considered classics now are basically unwatchable to millennials and younger.  I got a taste of this myself when a few months ago I had a hankering to pull up a particular episode from Star Trek, TOS on Netflix.  Although I enjoyed the episode and it was everything I remembered about it, it was also extremely slow moving, and slow paced compared to modern television and movies.  Since I seldom dip back into decades old TV, it was eye-opening for me.  If Star Trek is to survive, it has to be faster paced and more action packed than anything conceived of by Gene Roddenberry.

And that’s what the new movie gets right.  It’s a visually stunning picture with great special effects, fast moving, with great action sequences, and is finally starting to tap into some of the relationships that made Star Trek work in the first place.  Karl Urban’s Doctor McCoy is pitch perfect and the movie highlights some of the old Spock-Bones rivalry that played so well on TOS and the original movies.  Chris Pine seems more like Kirk and I would argue that the entire crew cast finally fits into their roles comfortably. If you knew nothing about Star Trek and were just looking for an outer space shoot-‘em-up while waiting for Rogue One to come out, this movie admirably fits the bill.

If you are a Star Trek fan it might be a different story.

In the tradition of JJ Abrams, it’s a great movie to watch, but as soon as you exit the theater and get hit with the harsh summer sunshine, you suddenly realize that the movie that you just watched and enjoyed made no sense.

starbase yorktown

The first thing that made no sense to me was Starbase Yorktown. It just seemed illogical (with apologies to Mr. Spock) to me that 3 years into a 5 year mission to explore unexplored space, the Federation has a starbase as large as the Death Star on the frontier of known space. Visually it’s stunning, it’s like a giant moon sized snow globe, but it also looks ridiculous; something that no one would build regardless of how much money and technology they had.  If you can build something like that, why bother with planets?

But the silliness of the design of a star base isn’t a large plot point.  Having a ridiculous villain is, and Idris Elba’s character Krall is a ridiculous villain.  The alien Krall looks like he put super glue all over his face and dived headfirst into a box of gravel, but the worst part is that Krall isn’t an alien at all; he’s really a human, from an early Federation starship.

I told you this was going to be spoilery.

So this early starship, the USS Franklin, crash lands on this planet with an abandoned alien mining facility, and yada yada yada, the Captain, Balthazar Edison is transformed into some sort of long lived, energy draining rock face who has a totally inexplicable reason for hating the Federation and decides to use the mining facility as a launching pad to prepare an attack against the Federation.  Again, his motivations are pretty unclear except for some vague Nietzsche-like desire to purge the Federation of weakness. Idris Elba is totally wasted in this role.  Any buff guy who can handle rock make up could have pulled it off.

The USS Franklin is it’s own level of ridiculousness, since even though Krall/Edison was the captain of that ship and crashed on that planet, he somehow managed to forget all about it so thoroughly that one of his escapees Jaylah used it as a refuge and was slowly working to repair it.  Jaylah, played by Sofia Boutella, actually was one of the more interesting characters and had such a good chemistry with Scotty that I wouldn’t mind if she joined the crew for the next movie.  However could she have done such a good job that Chekov could make the more than a century old ship space worthy in a few hours?  It just doesn’t make sense.

Although I had a lot of high hopes when I heard that Simon Pegg was writing the script, I came away underwhelmed.  Parts of the movie seemed like they were patched on from other movies.  Like in 2009’s Star Trek, this movie made heavy use of the Beastie Boys Sabotage. Now kudos for discovering how good Sabotage is for an action scene, and the battle scene with Sabotage playing is actually kind of cool, but we had already seen that used in a Star Trek movie.  They seriously couldn’t find another piece of music that would work?

Nor was I happy that they destroyed the Enterprise again. Somehow, that ship had managed to last the entire original series up till Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.  Now, barely into the 5 year mission and the ship is already toast.  Even some of the destruction scenes seemed like retreads.  Didn’t I see that same saucer section crash scene in Star Trek Generations?  The Enterprise’s destruction in previous movies was because they were simply out of ideas, but if they are already out of ideas on the third movie into a rebooted franchise, what’s the point?  Once you destroy the ship that is as much of a cast member as any of the actors, you lose the ability to keep the crew together in any way that makes sense. If you think this might be your last movie, than go for it, but since there is already a commitment for a fourth movie, why make script writing more difficult for yourself for the next movie?

The movie ends with a montage of the new Enterprise being assembled.  After building a moon sized Star Base, I imagine a starship is child’s play.  My only surprise was that they didn’t play Eye of the Tiger during the rapid fire scenes of the new Enterprise’s assembly, interspersed with shots of Kirk and the crew working out in the snow. Given the limited amount of imagination and originality allotted to this film, I won’t be on the edge of my seat awaiting Star Trek 4: The Revenge of Ivan Drago, or whatever “villain” they determine they need to make the movie work.

So it’s a credit to the people who bring us such movie magic that they actually put together an enjoyable film from such a weak script.  But however disappointed I am in a limited story, they have a chance to make it up to me in January with the new Star Trek TV show, Star Trek Discovery.

Don’t disappoint me, even though I’ll watch it anyway.

 

On Making Predictions

Watching the breaking news of the terrible terrorist attack in Nice, during Bastille Day celebrations, I felt a morbid interest as the casualty count marched upward.  After the initial shock on hearing of the news of the attacks however, I skipped over the part about mourning a senseless tragedy, or whatever the current buzzwords are.  As I described last November after the Paris Attacks, I’m over it.  Europe would rather have regular terrorist attacks than recognize why they have regular terrorist attacks.  No, my interest was in the causality numbers, 30, 40. 70, and then finally it went over 80.

“I win.”  And I say that with no satisfaction.

On January 1st I listed these following predictions for 2016 on a forum:

The Syrian government will be in a better position than today against the IS and the other rebels, thanks to Russian help. Also Assad will still be in power.

There will be another terrorist attack in the US resulting in the deaths of at least 10 people.

Oil will be back over $40 bucks a barrel.

Trump gets the Republican nomination.

Hillary will NOT be indicted.

And finally…

There will be another terrorist attack in France resulting in the deaths of at least 80 people.

So with the Bastille Day attack, the last open prediction I had came true, and we’re only half way through the year.  Of course you could argue that the year is still not over and something could still happen to Assad’s government, or there could be a convention coup next week to put Jeb! Back on the Iron Throne, but if I had to call it now, I would say every prediction I made almost 7 months ago was right.

I don’t think this makes me a super forecaster, like the ones being sought for the Good Judgment Project, a crowd sourcing website for predictions.  But amateurs often beat the experts on these kinds of things.  My accurate prediction that the Supreme Court would uphold Obamacare had nothing to do with my (limited) legal knowledge, or the disastrous oral arguments, even though multiple “experts” declared Obamacare dead after the Solicitor General stumbled and fumbled his way through them.  My view was more holistic, and simpler: The left leaning judges will always vote left, regardless of the law or the Constitution.  With the right leaning judges, it’s more of a crapshoot.  They actually peek at the Constitution and case history.  And as Judge Roberts demonstrated, they can be intimidated by media pressure.  That’s why the Burwell case on the Obamacare State Exchanges was easy to predict.  No knowledge of the law was required, only the knowledge that the right leaning judges could crumble under media pressure.

And as for gay marriage, that was about the easiest prediction I’ve ever made.  Who didn’t know that as soon as it hit the Supreme Court, they would find a way to make sure love is love?

I applied the same holistic thinking to Presidential elections.  I called the 2012 election for Obama by the end of summer, and after the 2014 midterms, which was a huge Republican success; I went head and predicted that Republicans would lose both the Senate and the Presidency in 2016.  Again, I took a holistic approach.  I didn’t think I needed to know each county’s voting history, aka Michael Barone.  I just knew that overall demographic trends, media bias, and the increased tribalism of American politics favored the Democrats.

But I couldn’t anticipate Black Swan Events, and that very much describes Donald Trump’s impact on the 2016 election.  Minus Trump, this election would have gone pretty much as I had predicted it would in 2014, one of the other 16 primary candidates would have won the nomination, they would have run an honorable campaign, and would give what everyone would later acknowledge as one of their best speeches when they conceded on election night. But Trump was a wildcard not only in showing how Republicans could beat the media’s political correctness game, but he pushed the Overton Window on Immigration and single handedly threw out one of the Republican Party’s golden platform planks on trade.  By doing so, he changed the calculus on which votes he might attract.

So when it comes to predicting this year’s race…I’m out.  I think Trump could win if his campaign confiscates his twitter account, keeps him on a steady diet of prepared speeches, and Muslims continue to be Muslim.  However all of the default conditions that make me think the Democrats have a natural advantage in Presidential years are still in play.  If nothing else, this particular black swan has made this the most interesting Presidential race in my lifetime, and who could have predicted that?

 

Making Trumpism Coherent

As far as #NeverTrump institutions on the right go, the most powerful would have to be The Wall Street Journal. Few people outside of right leaning political wonkiness read the National Review or The Weekly Standard. But the venerable WSJ is read by all sorts of business and other establishment types, giving that paper real heft to make their views known.  And they’ve been engaged in full blown warfare against Trump all year.  The hatred and bile towards Trump that drips from the Wall Street Journal editorial page is unprecedented. I’ve read their site online for years and just cannot recall this sort of attack against anyone on the left ever.  Maybe someone can correct me, but like with so many other things this Presidential year, we’re on new ground.

But there is one person on the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board that is not simply interested in bombing Trump rallies then machine gunning any survivors.  This person wants to really understand what’s going on with the people who support Trump, and that person is former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan.  Unlike her WSJ compatriots, Noonan has approached the rise of Trump with humility.  What did we miss?  How did things get this bad?  What we can do to fix it?  All good questions that the Republican establishment should have been asking for the past year instead of plotting various Jeb!/Cruz/Romney/French (David) coup d’etat’s.

Noonan asks again in this piece, A Party Divided, and None Too Soon.

The Beltway intelligentsia of the conservative movement continues to be upset about Mr. Trump’s coming nomination and claim they’d support him but they have to be able to sleep at night. They slept well enough through two unwon wars, the great recession, and the refusal of Republican and Democratic administrations to stop illegal immigration. In a typically evenhanded piece in National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru writes of conservative infighting. Most back Mr. Trump, but others, “especially among conservative writers, activists, and think-tankers,” vow they’ll never vote for him. “This debate splits people who have heretofore been friends with similar views on almost all issues, and who on each side have reasonable arguments to hand. It is therefore being conducted in a spirit of mutual rage, bitterness, and contempt.”

This tracks with my observations as well.  It’s less the political positions that separate the Trump/anti-Trump forces so much as where each person sits on the Red Pill/Blue Pill Conservative divide.  But make no mistake, there are political positions involved as well.  I’ve discussed the economic nationalism agenda that Trump brings before, but there hasn’t been much discussion of it as a movement other than in Alt Right circles.  That’s a territory that a Peggy Noonan would never venture into, but as an important member of the establishment, she knows people.

So she introduces the blog, Journal of American Greatness.  As Noonan gives their own description for themselves from their website:

Where they stand: “We support Trumpism, defined as secure borders, economic nationalism, interests-based foreign policy, and above all judging every government action through a single lens: does this help or harm Americans? For now, the principal vehicle of Trumpism is Trump.”

That is a description describes Trumpism as both conservative, and not conservative in the Bush/Ryan worldview. My suspicion is that these mystery bloggers are known writers and think tankers in the conservative intelligentsia, but obviously they can’t go public because, that’s a career death sentence.  Can you imagine a researcher at the Cato Institute or at The Weekly Standard coming out for Trump?  Maybe that’s why the Wall Street Journal didn’t allow a link to its site in Noonan’s original column in the WSJ.  They are certainly not going to encourage these kind of shenanigans.

But these are serious people, since they are capturing the eyes of Noonan, and some of them are probably names we would recognize.  Even noted anti-Trumper Jonah Goldberg referenced in a column an online discussion he had with one of the bloggers at the Journal of American Greatness.  Could there be a rapprochement between the two different sides of the Republican Civil War?

And then, the Journal of American Greatness shut down and deleted all of their posts.

Why did they do it?  It’s not hard to guess.   They were afraid of being doxxed and having their livelihoods destroyed.

And now, suddenly, they’re back; as JAG Recovered; returned with all of the previously deleted posts.  With the new website, they make clear how seriously they take their anonymity.

No, literally—who are you guys?

None of your damned business.

Why won’t you tell us?

Because the times are so corrupt that simply stating certain truths is enough to make one unemployable for life.

That’s a bit dramatic, isn’t it?

Ask Brendan Eich.

 

So they do have a point. But the long and short of Trumpism is that it’s simply Paleoconservatism, which got the boot from establishment conservatism when Pat Buchanan dissented on the Iraq War.  Turns, out, that’s what the Republican voter wanted all along, or else the Republican voter needed to see how bad things could really get before they would consider Paleoconservatism.

Well apparently we’re at that point.

But is it too late?  Probably so.  When people who want to write about such things are frightened of losing their jobs and livelihood merely for discussing issues like trade and immigration, then you’ve gone pretty far down the well.  There won’t be any big donors or institutions funding this, its people who are afraid of being outed and losing everything, and they will be attacked by forces of both the right and left.  Still, I’m glad that at least some people are trying.  Keep your heads low guys!