Sunday, March 06, 2016

Ross Douthat's Sunday Column

I blame Josh Barro who tweeted a link to this column. So I started to read it. Note to self -- don't Do that.

So I fisk.

"MAYBE Donald Trump is doing us a favor.

The United States has long been spared a truly authoritarian element in our politics. Since Southern apartheid was crushed and far-left terrorism died away , we’ve had very little organized political violence, and few homegrown movements that manifest the authoritarian temptation."

Far right terrorism with no explicit link to Southern apartheid has long (I think always) been stronger than far left terrorism. The "far-left terrorism" is a mixture of Ballance and determination to keep the affirmative action for Republicans advantage.

"Yes, our political institutions are creaking, and our presidency is increasingly imperial. But there are still basic norms that both parties and every major politician claim to honor and respect."

The presidency is much less imperial than it wsa 8 years ago, when the administration explicitly asserted that the president was above the law ("when acting as commander in Chief") when the president claimed the authority to have US citizens arrested in the US and held indefinitely without trial or access to counsel, & when the president claimed the authority to establish special tribunals by executive order without even the pretense that the order was executing a law. Here Douthat wrote something absurd and plainly false, because he has to write it to claim he is a Republican and has a right to be a token Republican on the NY Times opinion pages.

"What Trump is doing, then, is showing us something different, something that less fortunate countries know all too well: how authoritarianism works, how it seduces, and ultimately how it wins.

But — God willing — he’s doing it in a way that’s sufficiently chaotic, ridiculous and ultimately unpopular that he will pass from the scene without actually taking power, leaving us to absorb the lessons of his rise."

I note the logical inconsistency between saying Trump shows how authoritarianism wins and the hope that he is incompetent so his authoritarian effort will lose. It can only mean that the way authoritarianism wins is by being "chaotic, ridiculous and ... unpopular". I think this is the most charitable possible interpretation of Douthat's reasoning.

"That rise has four building blocks. First, his strongest supporters have entirely legitimate grievances. The core of that support is a white working class that the Democratic Party has half-abandoned and the Republican Party has poorly served — a cohort facing social breakdown and economic stagnation, and stuck with a liberal party offering condescension and open borders and a conservative party offering foreign quagmires and capital gains tax cuts. Trump’s support is broader than just these voters, but they’re the reason he’s a phenomenon, a force."

The Democratss offer closed borders with a very high rate of deportations (record level ?) and negative net migration from Mexico. Douhat must know this, but I think he considers noting inconvenient facts to be "condescension". Of course he can effortlessly make the case that Republican policies are bad for the working class (white and non-white) but he can only make a plainly utterly false assertion on a matter of fact and link to a necessarily subjective assessment of tone to make the case against the Democrats. He knows this and it doesn't matter. He is trying to participate in the debate within the GOP. False assertions on the increawsingly imperial presidency and open borders are part of the admission fee.

"Second, you have the opportunists — the politicians and media figures who have seen some advantage from elevating Trump. The first wave of these boosters, including Ted Cruz and various talk radio hosts, clearly imagined that Trump would flare and die, and by being in his corner early they could win his voters later, or gain his fans as listeners. But the next wave, upon us now, thinks that Trump is here to stay, and their hope is to join his inner circle (if they’re politicians), shape his policy proposals (if they’re idea peddlers), or be the voice of the Trump era (if they’re Sean Hannity).

There is no real ideological consistency to this group: Trump’s expanding circle of apologists includes Sarah Palin and Steve Forbes, Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie; he has anti-immigration populists and Wall Street supply-siders, True Conservatives and self-conscious moderates, evangelical preachers and avowed white nationalists. The only common threads are cynicism, ambition and a sense of Trump as a ticket to influence they couldn’t get any other way.

Then third, you have the institutionalists — less cynical, not at all enamored of Trump, but unwilling to do all that much to stop him. These are people who mostly just want Republican politics to go back to normal, who fear risk and breakage and schism too much to go all in against him.

The institutionalists include the party apparatchiks who imagine they can manage and constrain Trump if he gets the nomination. They include the donors who’ve been reluctant to fund the kind of scorched-earth assault that the Democrats surely have waiting. They include the rivals who denounce Trump as a con artist but promise to vote for him in the fall. They include Republicans who keep telling themselves stories about how Trump will appoint conservative justices or Trump is expanding the party to pretend that Trump versus Hillary would be a normal sort of vote. And they even include the occasional liberal convinced that Trump-the-dealmaker is someone the Democrats can eventually do business with.

" I actually agree with these 4 paragraphs.

"Then, finally, you have the inevitabilists — not Trump supporters, but Trump enablers, who encourage the institutionalists in their paralysis by acting and talking as if the support of 35 percent of the primary electorate means Trump Cannot Be Stopped."

Actually 43%. Also I read only that he will be unstoppable if nothing changes before the ides of March are passed. Douthat doesn't quote an inevitabilist. He can't, because although there are preople who are confident that Trump won't be stopped all know he could be (if the voters unanimously decide to stop him he will be stopped). Douthat set up a straw man who made an absurd claim.

Some inevitabilists are intoxicated with celebrity and star power. Cable news is riddled with such voices, who daily manifest Orwell’s dictum, “Power worship blurs political judgment,” so that, “Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.”

Does the NY Times have copy editors ? Douthat used quotation marks without quoting anyone in particular. He asserted that someone said those words in that order (and no others note no ellipses). The quoted words are a claim of fact, whihc should be checked. Douthat should be forced to retract his claim if he can't proves someone said each of those things. Also note how the (falsely alleged) claim that someone "seems invincible" is used to support the (unsupported) claim that someone thinks Trump is invincible. It seems that Douthat does not understand the difference between to be and to seem to be.

"Others, especially in the intelligentsia, have a kind of highbrow nihilism about our politics, a sense that American democracy’s decadence — or the Republican Party’s decadence, in particular — is so advanced that a cleansing Trumpian fire might be just the thing we need.

I have a little bit of the last vice, which is why I spent a long time being anti-anti-Trump: not rooting for him to win, but appreciating his truth-telling on certain issues, his capacity to upset the stagnant status quo.

Which is the way it so often works with authoritarians. They promise a purgation that many people at some level already desire, and only too late do you realize that the purge will extend too far, and burn away too much."

OK Ross Douthat has finally named one of the fools tempted by authoritarianism. He is named Ross Douthat. I can't contradict Douthat's claim that he is a fool who plays with fire. He would know.

"Fortunately Trump’s fire should still be contained, by the wider electorate if not by his hapless party. Fortunately he’s still more a comic-opera demagogue than a clear and present danger. Fortunately this is just history giving us a lesson in what could happen, how the republic could slide into a strongman’s hands.

" Fortunately."

A bit weak on "should" and "shall" isn't he. I suppose that given this column, Douthat has decided to vote for Clinton or Sanders rather than Trump. But he didn't write that did he ?

1 comment:

Hans Suter said...

arghhh, you made me read Douthat