The John Kelly myth

John Kelly may have been the “adult in the room” around Trump (low bar!) and insisted on a little more discipline than we might have otherwise gotten.  But that in no way makes him a good person who was fighting the good fight against the worst excesses of Trumpism.  Really like this pushback to the consensus media narrative from Yglesias:

No person’s entire career can be summed up in a single quote. But ousted White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s defense to the charge that the Trump administration’s child separation policy at the border was cruel deserves to be etched into his tombstone.

“The children,” he said, “will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever.”

That is roughly the degree of thoughtfulness and consideration that was put into the policy. And it properly reflects Kelly’s true legacy as chief of staff… [emphasis mine]

But the emphasis on times when Kelly could rein in Trump ignores the extent to which the two men were genuinely like-minded, and the many crucial moments where Kelly exacerbated Trump’s worst instincts.

Kelly intervened to scuttle a potentially sensible Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) deal while mocking large numbers of DACA-eligible youth as “lazy.” He slandered Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) and then for no real reason refused to apologize. He attempted to orchestrate a cover-up of White House aide Rob Porter’s alleged domestic abuse

Coverage of Trump and Kelly’s relationship has, from the beginning, been a little bit oddly dominated by the question of Kelly’s ability (or lack thereof) to constrain Trump’s bad tweets. As someone who’s gotten in trouble at work for bad tweets myself over the years, I always appreciate focus on this critical topic.

But in the specific context of Trump, the extraordinary thing isn’t his bad tweets but the fact that he has no substantive command of any policy area. He desperately needs a capable chief of staff. Instead, he had Kelly…

It’s true that, next to Trump, virtually anyone looks good. It’s also true that any chief of staff is bound to try to undercut Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s influence, which will almost automatically make you a sympathetic-seeming figure in comparison.

But the fact remains that Kelly was a true believer in some of Trump’s very worst ideas, echoed several of his very worst influences, failed completely to compensate for Trump’s most significant personal deficiencies, and intervened at key moments to make things worse. Good riddance.

Yep.  It’s seems like we have largely forgotten the moral abomination that was Trump’s family separation policy.  But we shouldn’t.  And we shouldn’t forget John “foster care or whatever” Kelly’s role in this.

The Republicans’ generational gamble

As I’ve been saying for a while now, Trump is basically toxic to young voters.  As Obama drew in a generation of young voters, Trump is now pushing the next generation away.  Ron Brownstein looks at the latest data in light of the 2018 elections:

The sharp turn against the Republican Party by young people in the 2018 election may be only the overture to an even greater political risk for the GOP in 2020.

Both historical voting patterns and underlying demographic trends suggest that the biggest difference in the electorate between this election and the next one is that relatively younger voters will cast a greater share of the votes in the presidential year — perhaps a much larger share. Even with much higher than usual turnout among young voters this year, voters 45 and below are likely to increase their proportion of the total vote from just under three-in-ten this year to something closer to four-in-ten by 2020, historical trends suggest.

“They will certainly be a larger percent of voters than they were in 2018 given presidential versus midterm trends,” says Yair Ghitza, the chief scientist at Catalist, a leading Democratic voter targeting and election modeling firm. “The question is to what extent the [higher] engagement we saw in 2018 will continue and be better than in 2016 and other presidential years.”

A rising participation level could threaten Republicans at a moment when younger voters, who have consistently expressed preponderant opposition to President Donald Trump in polls, provided Democrats their largest margins in decades during last month’s election.

“Voters under 45 moved decisively and overwhelmingly toward Democrats, and I don’t know how you take it as anything other than a total rebuke of Trump and what’s he done,” says Democratic pollster Andrew Baumann, who has extensively studied younger voters.

Despite Democrats’ emphatic gains among younger voters, Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, author of The Selfie Vote, a book on the Millennial Generation, says the GOP shows no signs of grappling with the shift. “Even though the election, especially on the House side, was not good for Republicans there has not been an appetite for a course correction or a change in approach,” she says. “So it would surprise me if there was a concerted effort to try win over more young voters between now and the 2020 election.”…

But while the GOP’s difficulties with the Millennial Generation predate Trump, there seems little doubt that he has compounded them. From the outset, many millennials viewed Trump’s belligerent language on race and immigration, and his belittling comments about women, as an explicit counterrevolution against the ideal of a more inclusive and tolerant America that most of them say they support. In a summer 2016 ABC/Washington Post survey, two thirds of voters under 40 said they considered Trump biased against women and minorities.

In this election, Trump faced a withering verdict from younger voters. In the exit polls, 66% of voters aged 18-29 and 62% of those aged 30-44 said they disapproved of his performance in office. In each group, just over half said they strongly disapproved of Trump’s performance, significantly more than the share of older voters (just over two-fifths) who said they were so strongly disenchanted with him.

“The disapproval of Trump, and the views of him as being a racist and sexist that we saw [among young people] in 2016, was somewhat muted by not loving Hillary Clinton,” said Baumann. “But it just got amplified after him being in power for two years. One of my theories coming out of 2016 was that Republicans by embracing Trump were at risk of losing a generation of voters, and it sure seems like that is coming to the fore now.” [emphasis mine]

Sure, some of these young people may end up moving towards Republicans, but the notion that people naturally become more conservative as they age is a conservative myth belied by actual data.  When we finally get some notable progressive victories in 15-20 years, you can thank Donald Trump.

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