It’s Trump’s party now

Paul Waldman today is depressing:

Around the country, Republicans embroiled in tough primaries are increasingly emulating President Trump — by echoing his xenophobia, his veiled racist appeals, his attacks on the news media, and even occasionally his calls for imprisoning his political opponents. [emphases mine]

Meanwhile, all indications are that Trump is heading for a serious confrontation with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III or Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein over the Russia investigation.

So how long until multiple GOP primary candidates begin seriously running on the message that the Mueller probe is part of an illegitimate Deep State coup that justifies Trump shutting it down by any means necessary — that is, on a message of unabashed authoritarianism?

Two new articles — one in the New York Timesthe other in National Journal — illustrate what’s happening in many of these GOP primaries. The Times piece, by Jeremy Peters, reports that in West Virginia, GOP Senate primary candidate Don Blankenship is running an ad that says: “We don’t need to investigate our president. We need to arrest Hillary … Lock her up!”

In multiple GOP races across the country, the Times piece reports, candidates are employing phrases such as “drain the swamp,” “build the wall,” “rigged system” and even “fake news.” The GOP Senate candidate in Tennessee ran an ad that promises to stand with Trump “every step of the way to build that wall,” and even echoes Trump’s attacks on African American football players protesting systemic racism and police brutality:  “I stand when the president walks in the room. And yes, I stand when I hear ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’”

Meanwhile, National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar reports that in the Indiana Senate GOP primary, Mike Braun, the candidate who is most vocally emphasizing Trump’s messages — on trade, the Washington “swamp” and “amnesty” — appears to be gaining the advantage. Braun’s ads basically recast true conservatism as Trumpism in its incarnation as populist anti-establishment ethno-nationalism.

It gets worse. As the Indianapolis Star recently reported, one of the Indiana GOP Senate candidates has bashed “Crooked Hillary Clinton,” and all three have cast aspersions on the Mueller probe. One called it a “fishing expedition,” and another claimed: “Nothing’s been turned up except that Hillary Clinton is the real guilty party here.”

The question all this raises is whether there is a large swath of GOP primary voters who are fully prepared to march behind Trump into full-blown authoritarianism. The original plan was for Republicans to make tax cuts the centerpiece of their midterm campaign agenda. But in the Virginia gubernatorial race, the Republican candidate resorted to Trumpian xenophobia and a defense of Confederate statues to activate the GOP base, and in the Pennsylvania House special election, Republicans cycled the tax cuts out of their messaging. There just doesn’t appear to be much of a constituency for Paul Ryan Republicanism among today’s GOP voters.

There’s been lots of good Political Science research in the past decade that shows that Republicans are now more far more likely than Democrats to have personal characteristics that embrace authoritarianism.  And, I think that means they are far more likely to embrace an authoritarian, strongman-type leader, democratic principles be damned.

This reminded me of a great Thomas Edsall piece from a couple weeks ago on Republicans’ “contract with authoritarianism:”

The election of Donald Trump — built as it was on several long-term trends that converged in 2016 — has created an authoritarian moment. This somewhat surprising development is the subject of “Remaking Partisan Politics through Authoritarian Sorting,” a forthcoming book by the political scientists Christopher FedericoStanley Feldman and Christopher Weber, who argue that

Three trends — polarization, media change, and the rise of what many people see as threats to the traditional social order — have contributed to a growing divide within American politics. It is a divide between those who place heavy value on social order and cohesion relative to those who value personal autonomy and independence.

The three authors use a long-established authoritarian scale — based on four survey questions about which childhood traits parents would like to see in their offspring — that asks voters to choose between independence or respect for their elders; curiosity or good manners; self-reliance or obedience; and being considerate or well-behaved. Those respondents who choose respect for elders, good manners, obedience and being well-behaved are rated more authoritarian.

The authors found that in 1992, 62 percent of white voters who ranked highest on the authoritarian scale supported George H.W. Bush. In 2016, 86 percent of the most authoritarian white voters backed Trump, an increase of 24 percentage points.

Federico, Feldman and Weber conclude that

Authoritarianism is now more deeply bound up with partisan identities. It has become part and parcel of Republican identity among non-Hispanic white Americans...

In an email, Johnston summarized some of their findings:

Over the last few decades, party allegiances have become increasingly tied to a core dimension of personality we call “openness.” Citizens high in openness value independence, self-direction, and novelty, while those low in openness value social cohesion, certainty, and security. Individual differences in openness seem to underpin many social and cultural disputes, including debates over the value of racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity, law and order, and traditional values and social norms.

Johnston notes that personality traits like closed mindedness, along with aversion to change and discomfort with diversity, are linked to authoritarianism..

In an email to me, Hetherington said that in their book he and Weiler will describe “people on opposite sides of the divide as having a fixed or fluid worldview:”

Those with a fixed worldview tend to see “American Carnage,” while those with fluid worldviews see the world as a big, beautiful place that is safe to explore. The fixed tend to be wary of what they perceive as constant threats to their physical security specifically and of social change in general. The fluid are much more open to change and, indeed, see it as a strength. For them, anger lies in holding on to old ideas and rejecting diversity.

Hetherington and Weiler argue that the answers to questions about the four childhood traits reveal “how worldview guides a person in navigating the world,” as Hetherington put it in his email:

Not only do the answers to these questions explain preferences about race, immigration, sexual orientation, gender attitudes, the projection of military force, gun control, and just about every “culture war” issue, people’s worldviews also undergird people’s life choices. Because ‘the fixed’ are wary about the dangers around them, they prefer the country over the city. ‘The fluid’ prefer the reverse.

As Edsall’s nice summary of the evidence makes clear, these trends among the GOP well pre-date Trump.  But he is just the man to bring them to their apotheosis.  As many others have noted, Thank God he’s not actually a more skilled demagogue.

Finally, EJ Dionne ties this to the behavior of Congressional Republicans on the Comey memos:

Any doubts that Republicanism and conservatism have given themselves over to one man, his whims and his survival were dispelled by the GOP’s use of the congressional oversight process to undermine a legitimate probe into a hostile power’s interference in our elections.

As it happens, the actual memos are embarrassing to Trump and support Comey’s veracity. And if the Republicans’ obstructionist triumvirate of Reps. Devin Nunes of California, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Trey Gowdy of South Carolina had hoped to prove that Comey leaked classified information, the memos reveal exactly the opposite.

It should be stunning that the chairs of the Intelligence, Judiciary and Oversight committees are more interested in doing Trump’s bidding than in figuring out how Vladimir Putin may have helped to elect our current president. It’s possible to imagine that, somewhere, Ronald Reagan is weeping.

This episode speaks to a larger question: that the corruption of American conservatism is the primary cause of our inability to have constructive debates that move us to resolve issues rather than ignore them.

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Save lives; limit magazine sizes

Gotta love the story of the guy who saved the day with the Waffle House shooting:

Mr. Shaw and Mr. McMurry had just sat down in the restaurant early Sunday when a loud crashing sound rang out. At first, Mr. Shaw said Monday, he thought a dishwasher had knocked over some plates.

It quickly became clear what was happening. Bullets pierced the restaurant’s windows. A man collapsed onto the floor. Waiters ran.

Mr. Shaw and Mr. McMurry raced to the hallway outside the restrooms, taking cover behind a swinging door. As the gunman entered the Waffle House to continue shooting, Mr. Shaw recounted in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” he looked for a moment to fight back.

“There is kind of no running from this,” Mr. Shaw said. He recalled thinking to himself, “I’m going to have to try to find some kind of flaw or a point in time where I could make it work for myself.”

During a sudden break in the firing, Mr. Shaw sprinted through the door as fast as he could, slamming into the gunman and knocking him to the ground. He grabbed the rifle and tossed it over the restaurant counter…

Mr. Shaw said Sunday that he eventually learned that the pause in the gunman’s firing came when he was trying to reload the rifle. It was a brief enough break, Mr. Shaw said, for him to make a move. [emphasis mine]

Now, if you are foolish enough to try and debate this on-line with gun-lovers you will hear all about how an expert can reload in 1/2 a second, etc.  Of course, most mass shooters are not actually fast re-loading experts.  The Gabby Giffords shooter was also stopped when he reloaded.  Now, of course it’s not always going to work, but every time a shooter has to break to reload, you dramatically increase the chances that he can be stopped.  There are literally people alive today who would not be if the Waffle House shooter or the Tuscon shooter had magazines with more ammunition in them.  I’m sure it’s nice when target shooting to not have to reload for a good 30 rounds, or whatever.  But what’s even nicer is limiting the devastation of mass shootings.  Obviously, there’s so much more that we can do, but this seems like suck obvious low-hanging fruit.

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