Sunday, February 28, 2016


Donald Trump is the man of the hour, and according to Ross Douthat, Barack Obama and liberalism are to blame:
THE spectacle of the Republican Party’s Trumpian meltdown has inspired a mix of glee and fear among liberals....

What it hasn’t inspired is much in the way of self-examination, or a recognition of the way that Obama-era trends in liberal politics have helped feed the Trump phenomenon.
Now, Douthat is a reasonable man, so he wouldn't put all the blame on Obama and liberals:
Such a recognition wouldn’t require letting the Republican Party off the hook. The Trump uprising is first and foremost a Republican and conservative problem: There would be no Trumpism if George W. Bush’s presidency hadn’t cratered, no Trumpism if the party hadn’t alternated between stoking and ignoring working-class grievances....
You can define immigration as a "working-class grievance," but Islamophobia? Birtherism? The alleged repulsiveness of Megyn Kelly's "wherever"? I don't think these have anything specifically to do with Republican neglect of the proletariat.
But Trumpism is also a creature of the late Obama era, irrupting after eight years when a charismatic liberal president has dominated the cultural landscape and set the agenda for national debates....
Really? Do tell.
First, the reality TV element in Trump’s campaign is a kind of fun-house-mirror version of the celebrity-saturated Obama effort in 2008.
And this was unique to Obama? Wait, here's Douthat's qualification of that statement:
Presidential politics has long had an escalating celebrity component....
Gee, ya think?
But the first Obama campaign raised the bar.
Higher than Reagan did? Ross, I post these images all the time. Do I really have to post them again?

... now we have the nearly-inevitable next step: presidential politics as a season of “Survivor” or, well, “The Apprentice,” with the same celebrity factor as Obama’s ’08 run, but with his campaign’s high-middlebrow pretensions stripped away. If Obama proved that you can run a presidential campaign as an aspirational cult of personality, in which a Sarah Silverman endorsement counts for as much as a governor or congressman’s support, Trump is proving that you don’t need Silverman to shout “the Aristocrats!” and have people eat it up.
Again, you're talking about campaigning with a "celebrity factor" as if Barack Obama invented that, when the GOP twice ran a candidate who'd been a Hollywood star for decades. And Trump isn't running as a celebrity. He's a celebrity who's running as a self-made billionaire strongman. He's not making a big deal of his TV show. He's not showing up in Super Tuesday states with Gary Busey and Meat Loaf. In fact, it's Ted Cruz who's campaigning with the Duck Dynasty guy, and it was Mike Huckabee who hung out with Ted Nugent all the time.

And if we're going to talk about personality cults, how much influence has the posthumous Reagan cult had on the GOP electorate's susceptibility to Trump? Elsewhere in the column, Douthat refers to the '08 Obama campaign's imagery as "quasi-religious" -- but what in American politics more resembles a religion that Republican worship of Reagan? Reagan cultism has set a bar other campaigns struggle to clear. Obama hasn't come close.

Douthat also blames Obama for Trump's authoritarianism:
He’s also proving, in his bullying, overpromising style, that voters are increasingly habituated to the idea of an ever more imperial presidency -- which is also a trend that Obama’s choices have accelerated. Having once campaigned against his predecessor’s power grabs, the current president has expanded executive authority along almost every dimension: launching wars without congressional approval, claiming the power to assassinate American citizens, and using every available end-around to make domestic policy without any support from Congress.
And this happened in a complete vacuum, right, Ross? On domestic policy, it had nothing whatsoever to do with the near-boycott of the Obama presidency by Republicans in Congress -- right, Ross? And regarding foreign affairs and the threat of terrorism, what Obama has done -- drone-killing Awlaki's son, taking out bin Laden -- still hasn't been enough to prevent Republicans from claiming that he's weak and feckless and "leading from behind." It's as if the GOP is begging him to be a carpet-bombing, waterboarding strongman. Maybe that's the reason Trump thinks he doesn't have to respect constitutional restraints?

Oh, and also, according to Douthat, it's Obama's fault that Trump is trying to appeal to voters in the Republican bloc:
... [Trump] is rallying a constituency that once swung between the parties, but that the Obama White House has spent the last eight years slowly writing off. Trump’s strongest supporters aren’t archconservatives; they’re white working-class voters, especially in the Rust Belt and coal country, who traditionally leaned Democratic and still favor a strong welfare state.
(Well, they favor it for themselves, though not so much for Those People. But never mind.)
These voters had been drifting away from the Democratic Party since the 1970s....
Yes, starting when Obama was in middle school. But it's still his fault that he's not begging them to vote for him!
... but Obama has made moves that effectively slam the door on them: His energy policies, his immigration gambits, his gun control push, his shift to offense on same-sex marriage and abortion. It was possible to be a culturally conservative skeptic of mass immigration in the Democratic Party of Bill Clinton. Not so anymore.
If Douthat wants to say that Trump is battling for blue-collar whites because Democrats have decided it's futile to try to win them over, that's fine. But even if Democrats have ceded blue-collar whites to the GOP, how does that justify Trump's decision to appeal to them with demagoguery and racism?

Here's a comparison. We know that Republicans effectively ceded the black vote to Democrats starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s. What if Democrats had responded by embracing a violent strain of black nationalism? Would Douthat say that was justified because, well, the GOP gave up on black voters? If a Democratic presidential front-runner had cheered violent attack on white protesters at his rallies, would Douthat say that was cool, because the GOP's Southern strategy meant that Democrats weren't responsible for their own actions?

Sorry -- if Douthat is looking to blame someone for Trumpism, he should blame Trump. He should blame a Republican-leaning propaganda machine that thought it could rouse the rabble with proto-Trumpian rhetoric without inspiring those mobs to take the rhetoric literally. He should blame the Republican Party for willfully throwing sand in the gears of America's government, because punishing a Democratic president is more important than doing what's right for American citizens. Trump is not Obama's fault.


Victor said...

Oh, will the perfidy of Obama never end?

First, he was responsible for Father Coughlin.
Then, Senator Joe McCarthy.
And now, Trump!

The links to all of America's bromances with Fascism, is this black guy, Obama!

Yeah, Trump is Obama's fault.
This is "Baby Bobo" at his Brooksian worst.

I'd tell him to just stick to his constant insipid lecturing about sex, but even the Pope is now more open-minded - so, whither wander he now in this topic?

Another waste of prime Op-ed real estate!

Feud Turgidson said...

Douthat, channeling Jeffrey Tambor as "Hank" in The Larry Sanders Show: Reagan was a Hollywood B-movie actor? I. don't. think. so.

No. Look: I'm quite sure you're completely wrong on that. I remember: Reagan was a governor - of a big state, like California; yeah, California, I'm pretty sure on that. And before he was a state governor, he was some sort of industry organizer, a labor leader, that's what I remember. And he came into that line of work as an internationally famous freedom fighter against God-less commies. I also think he had something to do with taking out Hitler.

... these pix look a little like him, but pix can be photo-shopped ... movies, too: they can be manipulated; ever see that documentary on the Mancharian presidental Candidate?

Ronald Reagan was a professional actor? You could have fooled me.

Blackstone said...

good lord I hope Feud is snarking

Never Ben Better said...

What the heck are these pundits gonna do when they don't have Obama to blame everything on any more? I mean, granted, they've been keeping their chiropractors in business fixing the contortions they go through to do it, but seriously, doesn't it hurt after a while to keep digging that hole when you're all corksc4rewed like that?

Feud Turgidson said...

No one says a word to Blackstone on this:

mlbxxxxxx said...

I don't think I've seen anyone put their finger on the real reason that the GOP appear destined to nominate Trump. The "rise of Trump" is obviously not Obama's fault and is a natural result of the game the R's have been playing with the bigots in their party for years. But he would not be a serious threat to walk away with the nomination if it weren't for the winner-take-all nature of so many of the GOP contests.

As I understand it, the GOP intentionally encouraged winner-take-all primaries in order to more quickly reach a consensus candidate. They also were jealous of the Dem's early convention last time and wanted theirs to be early, too, to have lots of time before the election to sell their guy. Now, as a result of trying to massage the democracy out of the process, they are facing the Nomination of Trump. With lots of time for him to destroy the GOP's reputation with every voting bloc in the country.

If they'd left their process alone, he might have only been a Buchanan '92 type disaster. Instead, he's seems destined to set a new benchmark for putting a fascist face on the GOP. Kevin Drum says we shouldn't cheer this as it happens. I disagree. I think Trump has the potential to destroy the GOP as a viable option for many, many people for many, many years to come. And that sounds like reason to cheer.

Go, Trump! Also, two thumbs up for not disclaiming the Klan/David Duke support.

Unsalted Sinner said...

"These voters had been drifting away from the Democratic Party since the 1970s...."

Since 1964, to be precise. I'm sure it has nothing to do with a certain law passed that year.

Feud Turgidson said...

... apparently entirely on the basis of a D party president declining to veto it!

Now, that's not EMOTIONALLY accurate; but it is IN FACT so. From his bully pulpit, President LB Johnson pushed not just the idea of the act, but his preferences n particularly drafted sections, sentences, clauses, passages, grammar, phrases and words over others.

Yet in the end, no matter WHICH version was being voted on, and no matter in which chamber of Congress, Republican party members voted YEA in a higher percent than Democratic party members.

So, naturally, the GOP adman operation went about marketing its genesis, conception, birth, middle passage, ceremonial coming of age and transition into maturity as a law, as an exclusively "Democrat" act of Yankee federal compulsion, while still managing to nyah nyah, for over 50 years now, that its survival thru every moult depended critically on some century long Lincolnian ripple in the fabric of Republican prudence & sagacity.

Ten Bears said...

Gun control push? The past eight years have been exponentially record breaking years. Obama is the best thing that ever happened to the gun industry.

Trump has been dabbling in presidential runs since the nineties. Obama, not so much.

Interesting times, we live in.

Feud Turgidson said...

10Bs: Except, as I understand, the increase in individually effective weapons has been entering the impassioned embraces and hot sweaty jerking arms of a decreasing pool of furiously sublimating hell-spawn.

Ten Bears said...

Be that as it may, more guns have been sold in the past eight years than ever before. And though the pool of insufficiently evolved is indeed decreasing, the guns are still out there.

Rand Careaga said...

"What if Democrats had responded by embracing a violent strain of black nationalism?" Hasn't that been more-or-less the GOP line since Obama was nominated? Good lord, wade into the fever swamps of redstate and freeperdom and catch the heady scent of freedumb. Be sure to put on your waders first, and a full-spectrum series of vaccinations might be a good idea as well.

Lit3Bolt said...

I can hear future GOP columnists now:

"Climate change was President Obama's fault."

"The Mexican Holocaust of '24-'28 was the Democratic party's fault."

"Run-away capitalism and constant bank fraud is Hillary Clinton's fault."

"The end of morals in America was President Clinton's fault."

"The Great Islamic War started because of Jimmy Carter."

"JFK was killed by...himself!"

PeakVT said...

Really not understanding why the NYT publishes such lame bullshit. But Occam's Razor suggest they publish it because they support it...

Feud Turgidson said...

"JFK was killed by...himself!"

Yes, it does present its own special challenges, but at least it promises to fit some of the more creative and improbably theories entertained in the Warren Commission's hearings. Like, it could actually work better than the magic corner-turning bullet theory.

There should have been a reality show - not a long-running serial, because of things like hurt feelings and death threats to the show runners being, I think, quite probable - where a quality comic is put in the position of chairing a government commission, actual or shouldabeen.

Like, Triump the Comic Insult Dog could chair the Life Starts When? Commission (tolerance for butt sniffing being a low-tech alternative approach to determine fetal viability: as in, If my dog wants to eat it, it's probably not cooked enough.); or the Rent's Too Damn High guy could chair the Money As Speech Commission; or we could re-animate Bill Hicks to chair the Hicks-Warren Transmission on JFK's Assassination and the Potential Authorization of a home version of "Let's ALL Hunt & Kill Billy Ray Cyrus".

The New York Crank said...

The Douthat column is familiar. I heard his argument for the first time in kindergarten when Joey Fiorello spilled the finger paints. Also heard it from my next door bickering neighbors. And I think it was used more than a few times as an excuse for several more-or-less accidental homicides.

Boiled down to its essence, the familiar argument Douthat puts forth is six words long: "See what you made me do!"

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank

BillFromPA said...

These clowns are pathetic! Everything, including their own miserable party is Obama's fault.