Trump, Palin, and the politics of resentment

Great post from Peter Beinart:

In endorsing Donald Trump, Sarah Palin faced a challenge. How does a woman who has built her brand on hating cultural elites endorse a billionaire, Manhattan TV star? Her answer: by turning Trump into a victim.

She began by reasserting her own victimhood…

After that, Palin expanded the circle of victimhood to include American sailors who were made to “suffer and be humiliated” by Iran, forced to “kowtow” and “apologize” and “bend over and say, ‘Thank you, enemy.’” And she added workers who suffer so the “campaign donor class” can have “cheap labor” by ensuring that “the borders are kept open” and who lose their jobs when those rich donors endorse “lousy trade deals that gut our industry.”

What ties these people to Trump? They’re victims of a bipartisan system designed to screw them. And whom do the people running that bipartisan system fear most? Who is “really ticking people off”? Donald Trump…

But he alone, perhaps because he is a billionaire and from their elite world, may be able to stand up to them and strike a blow on behalf of the little people…

White, straight, conservative Christians, who consider themselves the last group in America that can be victimized with impunity, have now embraced Trump for the same reason. If the same purveyors of political correctness who call them bigots call him one, then he must be doing something right.

And similar sentiments from Frum:

Since Donald Trump entered the race, one opponent after another has attacked him as not a real conservative. They’ve been right, too! And the same could have been said about Sarah Palin in 2008. Palin knew little and cared less about most of the issues that excited conservative activists and media. She owed her then-sky-high poll numbers in Alaska to an increase in taxes on oil production that she used to fund a $1,200 per person one-time cash payout—a pretty radical deviation from the economic ideology of the Wall Street Journal and the American Enterprise Institute. What defined her was an identity as a “real American”—and her conviction that she was slighted and insulted and persecuted because of this identity.

That’s exactly the same feeling to which Donald Trump speaks, and which has buoyed his campaign. When he’s president, he tells voters, department stores will say “Merry Christmas” again in their advertisements. Probably most of his listeners would know, if they considered it, that the president of the United States does not determine the ad copy for Walmart and Nordstrom’s. They still appreciate the thought: He’s one of us—and he’s standing up for us against all of them—at a time when we feel weak and poor and beleaguered, and they seem more numerous, more dangerous, and more aggressive… [emphases mine]

Although Palin did finish college, her life story resembled the lives of non-college white America in a way that the personal lives of the Bushes, of John McCain, of Mitt Romney, or of Paul Ryan never did or could. The themes and commitments that define Movement Conservatism—free-market ideology, organized religiosity—are increasingly upmarket themes … and increasingly remote from downmarket America. Sarah Palin did get rich in the end, but like Donald Trump, she didn’t get wealth or enjoy wealth in the way that the hated elite got and enjoyed wealth.

As for the electoral impact, my thinking is that the vast majority of people who care about whom Palin endorses were quite likely already supporting Trump anyway.  These two seethe downscale white resentment like no others.  Mostly, though, I just love having Sarah Palin in the news.  Nobody talks like Sarah Palin (Seriously– click the link for Palin’s best statements yesterday).

Photo of the day

Recent National Geographic photo of the day:

Picture of grizzly bears walking down Park Road in Denali National Park, Alaska

Bear Jam

Photograph by Aaron Huey

A mother grizzly and her cubs cause a “bear jam” on Denali National Park and Preserve’s 92-mile-long Park Road, open to private vehicles only five days each summer. Most visitors travel the route by Park Service bus, frequently spotting wildlife but rarely catching a cloudless glimpse of the park’s namesake peak.

The problem with Bernie

At the risk of angry comments from John F., I’m going to link this Michael Cohen column that makes the case that  Bernie Sanders doesn’t really understand how politics works:

It’s all that and something else — Sanders really does have a singularly naive and simple-minded understanding of American politics. He genuinely seems to believe — and I know this because he repeatedly yelled it at me during the debate — that money is the root of all evil in politics and that if you get the big money out, great things will happen. [emphases mine] Sanders said that “a handful of billionaires . . . control economic and political life of this country.” He argued that Republicans and Democrats don’t “hate each other.” He called that a “mythology.” Instead, he said, the “real issue is that Congress is owned by big money and refuses to do what the American people want them to do.”

I’m sorry, but that is a maddeningly simplistic — and wrong — explanation of how American politics works.

Take single-payer health care, which Sanders claims has been difficult to enact because of a corrupt campaign finance system that allows the “pharmaceutical industry” and private insurance companies to spend millions in “campaign contributions and lobbying.”

On the one hand, Sanders is right — those are powerful interests. But so are doctors and hospitals, who’d pay a huge price if single payer became law; so are Republicans, who fought tooth and nail to defeat Obamacare and would do the same for a single-payer plan; so are Democrats, who couldn’t even support a public option for Obamacare and are unlikely to support single payer; so are Americans, who may not be inclined to support another restructuring of the health care system — a few years after the last one. It’s not just about money; it’s also about a political system constructed and reinforced to block the kind of massive reform Sanders is advocating. Money is important, but it’s not even close to the whole story.

How someone who’s been in Washington as long as Sanders can believe that all that stands between doing “what the American people want [Congress] to do” is something as simple as reforming campaign finance is stunning. Sanders, who brags the NRA gives him a D- rating, is the same politician who supported legislation giving gun manufacturers immunity from civil lawsuits and voted against the Brady Bill. Why? Perhaps it is because Sanders comes from a state that has few gun control laws and lots of gun owners. Yes red-state senators who oppose gun control receive contributions from the NRA. They also have constituents who oppose gun control measures and vote on the issue — like Bernie Sanders. It’s as if in Sanders’ mind, parochialism, ideology, or politics plays no role . . . in politics.

Yep.  Yes, big money is a serious problem in American politics.  But there’s so much more to it than that.  Among other things, as you’ve read here, Democrats and Republicans really do hate each other :-).  And money too readily gets the blame.  For example, Republican politicians vote the NRA party line not because the NRA gives them money, but because 1) they will face difficult primary challenges if they don’t; 2) most elected Republican officials probably truly believe Obama wants to take our guns away and they cannot allow anything along that path.  And that is why the NRA gives them money.  Take the money out of gun politics and I suspect the results are almost exactly the same.

Again, not to say we don’t have way too much big money in our politics, but there are a lot of problems that won’t be fixed at all with campaign finance reform.

And while I’m at it, Chait’s take:

Sanders’s worldview is not a fantasy. It is a serious critique based on ideas he has developed over many years, and it bears at least some relation to the instincts shared by all liberals. The moral urgency with which Sanders presents his ideas has helped shelter him from necessary internal criticism. Nobody on the left wants to defend Wall Street or downplay the pressure on middle- and working-class Americans. But Sanders’s ideas should not be waved through as a more honest or uncorrupted version of the liberal catechism. The despairing vision he paints of contemporary America is oversimplified.

Even those who do share Sanders’s critique of American politics and endorse his platform, though, should have serious doubts about his nomination. Sanders does bring some assets as a potential nominee — his rumpled style connotes authenticity, and his populist forays against Wall Street have appeal beyond the Democratic base. But his self-identification as a socialist poses an enormous obstacle, as Americans respond to “socialism” with overwhelming negativity. Likewise, his support for higher taxes on the middle class — while substantively sensible — also saddles him with a highly unpopular stance. He also has difficulty addressing issues outside his economic populism wheelhouse. In his opening statement at the debate the day after the Paris attacks, Sanders briefly and vaguely gestured toward the attacks before quickly turning back to his economic themes…

Against these liabilities, Sanders offers the left-wing version of a hoary political fantasy: that a more pure candidate can rally the People into a righteous uprising that would unsettle the conventional laws of politics. Versions of this have circulated in both parties for years, having notably inspired the disastrous Goldwater and McGovern campaigns. The Republican Party may well fall for it again this year. Sanders’s version involves the mobilization of a mass grassroots volunteer army that can depose the special interests. “The major political, strategic difference I have with Obama is it’s too late to do anything inside the Beltway,” he toldAndrew Prokop. “You gotta take your case to the American people, mobilize them, and organize them at the grassroots level in a way that we have never done before.” But Obama did organize passionate volunteers on a massive scale — far broader than anything Sanders has done — and tried to keep his volunteers engaged throughout his presidency. Why would Sanders’s grassroots campaign succeed where Obama’s far larger one failed?

Lastly, I’m also a big fan of political cue-taking.  For my money, the people who best understand American politics and how it works are political science professors.  My perception– admittedly somewhat anecdotal, but nobody’s done that survey– is that the vast majority of them support Hillary over Bernie.  That’s telling us something.

So, go ahead, feel the Bern.  I’m glad he’s running.  I’m glad he’s getting people passionate and talking about ideas that people don’t talk about enough.  I’m glad he’s pushing on things rather than accepting the status quo.  But as a Political Scientist and a Democrat I’m remain very much of the belief that Hillary would make a superior president.

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