Trump and the challenge to the media

Great piece from Brian Beutler on how Trump’s racism presents a particularly difficult problem for American media given journalistic norms.

This attack was unprompted—not that a racist outburst would be a forgivable response to anything, but it was a response to nothing. The four congresswomen weren’t feuding with Donald Trump. They were at odds with members of their own party. The Fox segment was about Democratic infighting. Trump simply saw some black and brown members of Congress challenging their leaders, and tweeted the first smears about them that came to mind. Lo and behold, what occurred to him was foul bigotry…

Republican officialdom now exists to lie about the value system Trump and his feral supporters proudly espouse—that non-white citizens who don’t wear MAGA hats should be defamed and deported—and if you challenge the lie, these Republicans will exploit the suffering of Jews (who overwhelmingly reject Republican politics) to stifle dissent. This is the 2020 campaign they intend to inflict on us… [emphasie mine]

From the moment Trump launched his candidacy, reporters have asserted without qualification that Trump has contempt for norms and institutions, and in important ways, it’s true. All politicians spin but normally they try to avoid lying outright. Thus the fact that Trump lies pathologically can be expressed as a matter of abnormality rather than as a matter of moral deficiency. Modern presidents relinquish control of their assets and place them in blind trust, so Trump’s decision to run a real-estate and branding organization from inside the White House is easily framed as an example of his contempt for norms, rather than as evidence of graft, theft, and other crimes. Trump doesn’t appreciate the values of free speech, rule of law, or free and fair elections, and his unwillingness to conceal those authoritarian predilections is indeed abnormal. But the concept of normalcy fails to capture either the ubiquity or the moral horror of white supremacy. In this realm, it’s not that Trump is abnormal. It’s that he’s bad.

 

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Is this who we are?

Adam Sewer’s essay on Trump and racism is definitely the must-read piece of the past week.  The highlights:

Trump’s nationalist innovation is not taking pride in his country, supporting a principled non-interventionism, or even advocating strict enforcement of immigration laws. The only thing new Trump brings to the American nationalism of recent decades is a restoration of its old ethnic-chauvinist tradition. [emphases mine] Conservative intellectuals cannot rescue nationalism from Trump, any more than they could rescue Goldwater from Jim Crow, because Trump’s explicit appeals to racial and religious traditionalism, and his authoritarian approach to enforcing those hierarchies, are the things that have bound conservative voters so closely to him. The failure of the conservative intelligentsia to recognize this is why it was caught so off-guard by Trump’s rise to begin with…

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers “Go back to where you came from” as its example of potentially unlawful harassment on the basis of national origin.

Trump’s demand is less a factual assertion than a moral one, an affirmation of the president’s belief that American citizenship is conditional for people of color, who should be grateful we are even allowed to be here. Some elected Republicans offered gentle rebukes; others defended the president’s remarks. But at his rally in North Carolina, Trump showed them all that the base is with him. The crowd erupted into chants of “Send her back” when the president mentioned Omar, the Minnesota representative who came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia…

The argument that Omar’s criticisms of her adopted country for failing to live up to its stated ideals justify revoking her citizenship substantiates the very criticism she lodged. Trump has said, “If you hate our country, or if you are not happy here, you can leave!” but his entire 2016 campaign was premised on the idea that many Americans not only are deeply unhappy, but also have every right to demand that things be better. That Trump’s supporters believe Omar’s sins justify her banishment, and Trump’s similar transgressions justify his presence in the White House, helps illustrate exactly what is going on here. Under Trumpism, no defense of the volk is a betrayal, even if it undermines the republic, and no attack on the volk’s hegemony can be legitimate, even if it is a defense of democracy…

So I want to be very clear about what the country saw last night, as an American president incited a chant of “Send her back!” aimed at a Somali-born member of Congress: America has not been here before.

White nationalism was a formal or informal governing doctrine of the United States until 1965, or for most of its existence as a country. Racist demagogues, from Andrew Johnson to Woodrow Wilson, have occupied the White House. Trump has predecessors, such as Calvin Coolidge, who imposed racist immigration restrictions designed to preserve a white demographic majority. Prior presidents, such as Richard Nixon, have exploited racial division for political gain. But we have never seen an American president make a U.S. representative, a refugee, an American citizen, a woman of color, and a religious minority an object of hate for the political masses, in a deliberate attempt to turn the country against his fellow Americans who share any of those traits. Trump is assailing the moral foundations of the multiracial democracy Americans have struggled to bring into existence since 1965, and unless Trumpism is defeated, that fragile project will fail.

Plenty more great stuff.  You should read all of it.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Drum expands on Jared Bernstein’s four economic myths and adds one:

You can read the whole thing here, but the details are less interesting than his entirely correct conclusion:

Pegging the “natural rate” too high, ignoring the harm from exposure to international competition, austere budget policy, low and stagnant minimum wages — all of these misunderstood economic relationships have one thing in common.

In every case, the costs fall on the vulnerable: people who depend on full employment to get ahead; blue-collar production workers and communities built around factories; families who suffer from austerity-induced weak recoveries and under-funded safety nets, and who depend on a living wage to make ends meet. These groups are the casualties of faulty economics.

In contrast, the benefits in every case accrue to the wealthy: highly educated workers largely insulated from slack labor markets, executives of outsourcing corporations, the beneficiaries of revenue-losing tax cuts that allegedly require austere budgets, and employers of low-wage workers.

It’s funny how mistakes like this always seem to point in the same direction, isn’t it? And I’d add at least one more: that lower taxes on the rich are good for the economy. There is, at best, some thin evidence that this is true if top marginal rates are very high, but that’s about it. In the America that we actually live in today, there’s simply no reason to think that cutting taxes on the rich will have any effect other than the rich paying lower taxes and the budget deficit going up.

But don’t expect to stop hearing this anyway—or any of Bernstein’s other four examples. They’re just too convenient for the rich and powerful.

2) This from Nick Hanauer was really good in the July Atlantic, “Better Schools Won’t Fix America
Like many rich Americans, I used to think educational investment could heal the country’s ills—but I was wrong. Fighting inequality must come first.”  Alas, I was shocked that smart people could be so willfully naive on the issue of education.  But, motivated reasoning.  Damn.  At least Hanauer has opened his eyes to something I thought all liberals already knew (though, apparently not the super-rich philanthropic class):

This belief system, which I have come to think of as “educationism,” is grounded in a familiar story about cause and effect: Once upon a time, America created a public-education system that was the envy of the modern world. No nation produced more or better-educated high-school and college graduates, and thus the great American middle class was built. But then, sometime around the 1970s, America lost its way. We allowed our schools to crumble, and our test scores and graduation rates to fall. School systems that once churned out well-paid factory workers failed to keep pace with the rising educational demands of the new knowledge economy. As America’s public-school systems foundered, so did the earning power of the American middle class. And as inequality increased, so did political polarization, cynicism, and anger, threatening to undermine American democracy itself…

But after decades of organizing and giving, I have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that I was wrong. And I hate being wrong.

What I’ve realized, decades late, is that educationism is tragically misguided. American workers are struggling in large part because they are underpaid—and they are underpaid because 40 years of trickle-down policies have rigged the economy in favor of wealthy people like me. Americans are more highly educated than ever before, but despite that, and despite nearly record-low unemployment, most American workers—at all levels of educational attainment—have seen little if any wage growth since 2000…

For all the genuine flaws of the American education system, the nation still has many high-achieving public-school districts. Nearly all of them are united by a thriving community of economically secure middle-class families with sufficient political power to demand great schools, the time and resources to participate in those schools, and the tax money to amply fund them. In short, great public schools are the product of a thriving middle class, not the other way around. Pay people enough to afford dignified middle-class lives, and high-quality public schools will follow. But allow economic inequality to grow, and educational inequality will inevitably grow with it.

By distracting us from these truths, educationism is part of the problem. [emphasis mine]

3) OMG, how had I never heard of musical political satirist Randy Rainbow before this week’s Fresh Air.  So good.  Just watch some of these.

4) Drum again, on race:

For what it’s worth, this was mostly the conclusion of Republicans themselves, too. The famous post-election autopsy written by the Republican National Committee after Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss, said this:

In 1980, exit polls tell us that the electorate was 88 percent white. In 2012, it was 72 percent white….According to the Pew Hispanic Center, in 2050, whites will be 47 percent of the country….The Republican Party must be committed to building a lasting relationship within the African American community year-round, based on mutual respect and with a spirit of caring.

But there was always a glaring problem with this strategy, one that everybody was keenly aware of: reaching out to black voters would only work if Republicans also ceased their tolerance of white bigotry. In other words, they’d almost certainly lose votes on a net basis at first, which would mean handing over the presidency—and maybe much more—to Democrats for upwards of a decade or so. That’s just too big a sacrifice for any political party to make.

So instead they took another route: they went after the white vote even harder. In Donald Trump they found a candidate who wasn’t afraid to appeal to racist sentiment loudly and bluntly, something that simply hadn’t occurred to other Republicans. They never thought they could get away with something like this in the 21st century, and normally they would have been right: it would have lost them as many votes among educated whites as it won them among working-class whites. But after eight years of a black president in the White House, racial tensions were ratcheted up just enough that Trump could get away with it. Only by a hair, and only with plenty of other help, but he did get away with it, losing 10 points of support among college-educated whites but gaining 14 points among working-class whites.

The entire Republican Party is now all-in on this strategy. They mostly stay quiet themselves and let Trump himself do the dirty work, but that’s enough. Nobody talks anymore about reaching out to the black community with a spirit of caring or any other spirit. Nor is there anything the rest of us can do about this. Republicans believe that wrecking the fabric of the country is their only hope of staying in power, and they’re right. If working-class whites abandon them even a little bit, they’re toast.

4) Jamelle Bouie on the gleeful hatred at Trump rallies:

The chanting was disturbing and the anger was frightening, but what I noticed most about the president’s rally in Greenville, N.C., on Wednesday night was the pleasure of the crowd.

His voters and supporters were having fun. The “Send her back” chant directed at Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was hateful but also exuberant, an expression of racist contempt and a celebration of shared values.

This dynamic wasn’t unique to the event. It’s been a part of Trump’s rallies since 2015. Both he and his crowds work from a template. He rants and spins hate-filled tirades; they revel in the transgressive atmosphere. The chants are their mutual release. Sometimes he basks in them.

To watch raucous crowds of (mostly) white Americans unite in frenzied hatred of a black woman — to watch them cast her as a cancer on the body politic and a threat to a racialized social order — is to see the worst of our past play out in modern form.

To be clear, the Trump rally was not a lynch mob. But watching the interplay between leader and crowd, my mind immediately went to the mass spectacles of the lynching era. There’s simply no way to understand the energy of the event — its hatred and its pleasures — without looking to our history of communal racial violence and the ways in which Americans have used racial others, whether native-born or new arrivals, as scapegoats for their lost power, low status or nonexistent prosperity.

5) Have we hit “peak podcast“?  Probably.  Just a ridiculous amount of great content out there now.  That said, this is definitely harder than it looks, as a lot of mediocre podcasters have learned the hard way:

There’s no available data comparing podcast formats, such as how many interview shows exist and how many are news programs or narrative journalism. But industry analysts and production companies say that so-called “bantercasts,” in which the host and guests chitchat for an hour or more, likely comprise the bulk of new productions.

“So many of these are just painful,” said Tom Webster, the senior vice president of Edison Research, which tracks consumer media behavior. “We revere the great interviewers, but it’s an incredible skill that nobody has. What did Terry Gross do before she had her own show? Well, she was an interviewer, not a marketer for a software company.”

6) Great satire from New Yorker, “This Password is Invalid.”

Thank you for creating your new online account! Please choose a password.

password: lovedogs

error: Password must contain at least nine alphanumeric characters, including one number.

password: ilovemydog2

error: Password must contain at least one hard-to-guess number.

password: ilovemydog8

error: Getting warm, but not quite.

password: ilovemydog88

error: Uh-oh. Getting colder.

password: mydogismybestfriend1

error: Yeesh. Password must be less sad.

7) For you, DJC, “Born to Walk Barefoot: Shoes protect our feet, but they also alter our strides and could increase the wear on our leg joints.”  I will say I love my summertime barefoot walks.  Though, when it gets too cold in October, back to the shoes.

8) OMG what a scam safe deposit boxes are.  Clear lesson– don’t actually put anything truly valuable in them.

9) Nice essay from Dahlia Lithwick on all the damage Trump is doing to the rule of law:

The rule of law is a curious thing. It is made up not only of the skeletal legal rules, the ability of the courts and other authorities to enforce them, but also a range of norms, precedents and assumptions—the tissue, ligaments and nerve endings that hold those bare bones in place. These too are, in practice, essential to checking the caprice of brute power, and ensuring justice is pursued without fear or favour. Had the transition lasted longer than a couple of months, there might have been an interesting discussion among conservative and liberal critics of Trump about where the threat would come from—might his White House literally refuse to do the courts’ bidding? Might it instead subvert or bully those courts? Or might, in the end, all the sound and fury of the campaign trail be seen off by America’s trusty old political culture and constitution?…

When we look for evidence of erosion of the rule of law, it is not necessarily to be found in the “Muslim ban,” or the new anti-abortion regulations, or the big showy policy changes, many of which will be halted in the courts. The erosion of the rule of law is both much larger and far smaller than any of those big-ticket actions. It is happening because the crash barriers of constitutional order as anticipated by the Framers—a free press, an independent judiciary, a congress jealous of its own prerogatives, independent government agencies—have lost public trust. The very nature of language and truth have become confounded and confused. Far more worrying than any single cruel policy or a host of bad life-tenured judges, will be the lasting Trumpian legacy of a public that no longer believes in rules, in laws, or in the soft tissue of democracy itself.

10) So, this is cool, “Team Sports May Help Children Deal With Trauma: Training, working hard and learning to win and lose help children develop resilience, experts say.”  Also, playing on and/or coaching a soccer team is so much fun :-).

11) I have to say, 1984 is probably one of my favorite books ever.  And for something written in 1948 it is amazing how relevant it is to the world today.  Nice essay from George Packer on the meaning of 1984 today.  Also, if you haven’t read it, you really, really should.  And it’s a really good read, too, not just something you need to feel obligated to read.

12) An interesting argument that we are doing elementary education all wrong by putting too much emphasis on reading comprehension and not enough on knowledge.  Not sure I’m sold on this, but definitely an interesting argument.

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