The Trump Jesus

Oh my, oh my.  I started reading this Washington Post article this morning about Southern Baptists in Alabama trying to reconcile their faith and their love of the amazingly God-less and amoral man that is Trump.  I stopped reading because it was long and, look, pro-life judges!  Later on, though, I discovered via twitter that I had missed the best part.  Damn, motivated is strong with partisanship, but it can be even stronger with religion.  Check this out from a “Sunday school teacher” (and the  best evidence yet to stop using that phrase as the marker of a decent person):

And there was Sheila Butler, who sat on the sixth pew on the right side, who said “we’re moving toward the annihilation of Christians.”

She was 67, a Sunday school teacher who said this was the only way to understand how Christians like her supported Trump.

“Obama was acting at the behest of the Islamic nation,” she began one afternoon when she was getting her nails done with her friend Linda. She was referring to allegations that President Barack Obama is a Muslim, not a Christian — allegations that are false. “He carried a Koran and it was not for literary purposes. If you look at it, the number of Christians is decreasing, the number of Muslims has grown. We allowed them to come in.”

“Obama woke a sleeping nation,” said Linda.

“He woke a sleeping Christian [emphases in original] nation,” Sheila corrected.

Linda nodded. It wasn’t just Muslims that posed a threat, she said, but all kinds of immigrants coming into the country.

“Unpapered people,” Sheila said, adding that she had seen them in the county emergency room and they got treated before her. “And then the Americans are not served.”

Love thy neighbor, she said, meant “love thy American neighbor.”

Welcome the stranger, she said, meant the “legal immigrant stranger.”

“The Bible says, ‘If you do this to the least of these, you do it to me,’ ” Sheila said, quoting Jesus. “But the least of these are Americans, not the ones crossing the border.”

To her, this was a moral threat far greater than any character flaw Trump might have, as was what she called “the racial divide,” which she believed was getting worse. The evidence was all the black people protesting about the police, and all the talk about the legacy of slavery, which Sheila never believed was as bad as people said it was. “Slaves were valued,” she said. “They got housing. They got fed. They got medical care.”

Good God.  It’s almost like an Onion parody of a Southern Christian.  Alas, that’s the reality.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Yes, “identity politics” is very much for white conservatives.

2) Krugman on the Republican Party’s war on the poor:

So what’s behind the G.O.P.’s war on the poor?

It’s not about incentives. The persistent claim on the right that America is filled with “takers” living off social programs when they should be working may be what conservatives want to believe, but it just isn’t true. Most nondisabled adults receiving aid work; most of those who don’t have good reasons for not working, such as health issues or the need to serve as caretakers for family members. Slashing benefits would push some of these people into the work force out of sheer desperation, but not many, and at a huge cost to their well-being.

And claims that excessively generous social programs are the cause of falling labor force participation can be easily refuted by looking at the international evidence. Europe’s welfare states — or, as conservatives always say, its “failing” welfare states — provide much more generous aid to low-income families than we do, and as a result have much less poverty. Yet adults in their prime working years are more likely to be employed in leading European nations than in the United States.

It’s also not about the money. At the state level, many Republican governors are still refusing to expand Medicaid even though it would cost them little and would bring money into their states’ economies. At the federal level, it would take draconian benefit cuts, imposing immense suffering, to save as much money as the G.O.P. casually gave away in last year’s tax cut.

What about the traditional answer that it’s really about race? Social programs have often been seen as helping Those People, not white Americans. And that’s still surely part of what’s going on.

But it can’t be the whole story, since Republicans are fanatical about cutting off aid to the less fortunate even in places like Maine that are overwhelmingly populated by non-Hispanic whites.

So what is the war on the poor about? As I see it, you need to make a distinction between what motivates the G.O.P. base and what motivates conservative politicians.

Many blue-collar whites still think that the poor are lazy and prefer to live off welfare. But as events in Maine show, such beliefs aren’t central to the war on the poor, which is mainly being driven by political elites.

And what motivates these elites is ideology. Their political identities, not to mention their careers, are wrapped up in the notion that more government is always bad. So they oppose programs that help the poor partly out of a general hostility toward “takers,” but also because they hate the idea of government helping anyone.

And if they get their way, society will stop helping tens of millions of Americans who desperately need that help.

3) Fewer Americans now view Mexico as a friend/ally.  If you guessed that Republicans are behind this, you’re right!  Gallup:

4) Lee Drutman is right about what the Democrats need as a 2018 slogan:

“Support Checks and Balances. Elect Democrats”

After all, you can turn on any news channel and witness the charade. Republicans in Congress are bending over backward and upside down and sideways to figure out how to excuse away the inexcusable — siding with a foreign enemy when all intelligence experts are screaming that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and plans to again in the 2018 election.

I’m typically hesitant to invoke the “country over party” dichotomy because it’s usually meaningless (“country” typically means whatever I think is right). But in this case, it’s unusually apt. Republicans actually are being forced to choose between country and party. And party is winning…

In theory, this creates an opportunity for Democrats. That’s because checks and balances are really popular.

In a recent Democracy Fund Voter Study Group report I wrote with Larry Diamond and Joe Goldman, called “Testing the Limits Examining Public Support for Checks on Presidential Power,” we found: “Eighty-one percent of respondents say that ‘members of Congress should provide oversight of the president and executive branch, even if the president is in their same party.’” The remaining 19 percent say that “members of Congress should give the president freedom to make the decisions he feels are right for the country.”

In other words, Americans really, really like Congress as a check on presidential power.

Let me repeat that finding: 81 percent of Americans want Congress to check presidential power. Even wide majorities of Trump supporters agree.

5) It’s just one study, but certainly a knock in the “we’ve just got to let poor kids have vouchers for private schools” argument:

A new study from the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education finds that low-income children or children enrolled in urban schools do not benefit more from enrolling in private school between kindergarten and ninth grade.

“Despite the arguments in favor of the use of vouchers or other mechanisms to support enrollment in private schools, ostensibly as a way to help vulnerable children and families access a quality education, this study finds no evidence that private schools, exclusive of family background or income, are more effective for promoting student success,” said Robert C. Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education and co-author of the study.

Directed by a steering committee and supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the study, called “Does Attendance in Private Schools Predict Student Outcomes at Age 15?” tracked a sample of American children from birth through age 15. This longitudinal study examined the extent to which enrollment in private schools between kindergarten and ninth grade was related to students’ academic, social, psychological and attainment outcomes at age 15. The study was co-authored by Arya Ansari, a post-doctoral research associate at the Curry School.

Children were followed from birth to 15 years with a common study protocol, including interview, home, school and neighborhood observations that occurred on a yearly basis.

Although children with a history of enrollment in private schools performed better overall, the advantages of private school education were not present for low-income students or those enrolled in urban schools.

6) Boys out-performing girls in math is far from uniform, but most prominent in rich, white, suburban school districts:

The gender achievement gap in math reflects a paradox of high-earning parents. They are more likely to say they hold egalitarian views about gender roles. But they are also more likely to act in traditional ways – father as breadwinner, mother as caregiver.

The gap was largest in school districts in which men earned a lot, had high levels of education, and were likely to work in business or science. Women in such districts earned significantly less. Children might absorb the message that sons should grow up to work in high-earning, math-based jobs.

High-income parents spend more time and money on their children, and invest in more stereotypical activities, researchers said, enrolling their daughters in ballet and their sons in engineering.

There is also a theory that high-earning families invest more in sons, because men in this socioeconomic group earn more than women, while low-earning families invest more in daughters, because working-class women have more job opportunities than men…

Although well-off districts encourage boys in math, they don’t seem to encourage girls in the same way. Researchers say it probably has to do with deeply ingrained stereotypes that boys are better at math.

Teachers often underestimate girls’ math abilities, according to research by Sarah Lubienski of Indiana University and Joseph Cimpian of New York University, who also found the gender gap in math was largest for students from high-income families. They found that as girls move through elementary school, they lose confidence in their math skills – more than they lose interest or achievement.

7) Chait on how the most ideologically pure conservatives are the Trumpiest:

Last fall, the Pew Research Center released one of its periodic typologies of the American electorate, identifying the demographic and ideological fissures both within and between the two parties. The two most conservative factions within the Republican Party were familiar types. The first, and largest, “Core Conservatives,” holds doctrinaire positions on everything. This group is “financially comfortable,” and “overwhelmingly supports smaller government, lower corporate tax rates and believes in the fairness of the nation’s economic system,” and also “express[es] a positive view of U.S. involvement in the global economy.” This is the conservatism of Paul Ryan.

Another group, “Country First Conservatives,” is “older and less educated than other Republican-leaning typology groups,” and has more populist and isolationist views. They are “highly critical of immigrants and deeply wary of U.S. global involvement,” and most likely to believe “if America is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation.”

Which of these two groups do you think registered higher support for Donald Trump? The Country First Conservatives, right? Well, no. Ninety-three percent of Core Conservatives approved of Trump’s job performance, as opposed to 84 percent of Country First Conservatives. The most ideologically pure conservatives are Trumpier than the nativist and isolationist ones.

The waning months of the Republican primary campaign in 2016 devolved into a contest between Trump and the purity of conservative doctrine. Ted Cruz, the last candidate standing against Trump, represented the latter, and enjoyed the vocal support of most of the organized conservative movement. Cruz called Trump a “fake conservative.” Rick Perry had termed him a “a cancer on conservatism.” Trump’s presidency has driven home the surprising reality that Trump is conservatism.

8) Ryan Cooper, “If democratic socialism is so bad, why is Norway so great?”

How does all that compare to the United States? Well, our economy is somewhat less wealthy, with per capita GDP of $59,500 — but to be fair, that is about the highest outside of oil-rich or tax haven countries. Socially, however, the picture is much worse: America ranks in the mid-teens for happiest countries, while its life expectancy is two years behind Norway, and actually fell in 2016 and 2017. America’s infant mortality rate is three times higher. Its murder rate is over 10 times higher, as is its incarceration rate.

Surely there are complicated factors here not accounted for by economic systems. But it’s impossible to believe that better social health has nothingto do with the Norwegian state using its economic control to provide everyone with generous health care, high wages, shorter working hours, and other such goodies, while the more private, capitalist U.S. system creates situations like this:

The fact is, when it comes to building a decent place to live, Norway is completely blowing America out of the water. So while conservatives have been pointedly ignoring the most obvious and relevant piece of evidence in their spittle-flecked tirades against socialism, Norwegians can and do point to the United States as an example of what happens when you let capitalism run wild — and with a great deal more justice.

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