Friday, August 12, 2016

Peak Trump: what matters?

Earlier this week I suggested to a friend that we'd passed "Peak Trump." The rest of the week has confirmed this sense. The polling aggregate maps look overwhelming; Hillary Clinton is ahead everywhere she should be and even where she shouldn't be, as in Arizona and Georgia. The results of the November election aren't likely to be quite that overwhelming for the Democrat, but they could be.

Via 538.
So how did Trump go in three weeks from mortal threat to the Republic to a noisy, but emasculated, clown?
  • Plenty of the credit goes to the phony-baloney mogul himself. He simply stayed in character and evidently flunked the test of basic legitimacy that voters pose to a potential President. From a convention pitch that he alone could save us, to trashing the NATO alliance while asking Russia's Putin to hack his opponent, through picking a fight with the parents of an deceased Muslim Army captain, to suggesting that Clinton should encounter "Second Amendment remedies" and that Obama created ISIS -- the guy has shown himself unfit to a majority.
  • Meanwhile, elites piled on to drive the narrative of Trump's unfitness. They included the usual Democratic pols, of course. A president whose approval rating is sitting at +6.5 %, the highest point since his own re-election. But also the intellectual, academic, policy and security honchos. And, unlike during the Republican primaries, mainstream media drove home the message about the monster they helped create.

    Those of us who want a better country that is less in thrall to those elites should take note: when they put their minds and what passes for hearts into it, they can stomp insurgencies quickly and brutally. Better make sure we got our ducks lined up when we go up against them.
  • But although after November 8 we won't have Donald Trump to worry about (his after-performance will probably only serve to keep us on our toes about authoritarianism), the conditions that paved the way for Trump will still fester. Glenn Greenwald called this out:
    The reason why Brexit resonated and Trump resonated isn’t that people are too stupid to understand the arguments. The reason they resonated is that people have been so fucked by the prevailing order in such deep and fundamental and enduring ways that they can’t imagine that anything is worse than preservation of the status quo. You have this huge portion of the populace in both the U.K. and the US that is so angry and so helpless that they view exploding things without any idea of what the resulting debris is going to be to be preferable to having things continue, and the people they view as having done this to them to continue in power. That is a really serious and dangerous and not completely invalid perception that a lot of people who spend their days scorning Trump and his supporters or Brexit played a great deal in creating.
  • Greenwald is right that this condition is global. The economist Dani Rodrik argues persuasively that, in the absence of a left force and left program that might make our economies livable for the majority, nationalism and racism will thrive.
    Absent such a response again, the field will be left wide open for populists and far-right groups, who will lead the world – as they always have – to deeper division and more frequent conflict.
  • Meanwhile, even if the Trump monster is collapsing, the election remains an arena for tactical struggle. As the wise Black Lives Matter activist Alicia Garza has explained:
    ... if and when we choose to use the power of the vote, it's very much about choosing the terrain on which we want to fight in order to win [our] vision. ... there is diversity in the movement about what tactics we use. My personal push would be we need to use all of them. ...
    A president is not a messiah, but a president who knows she owes her ascendancy to people of color and young people is a potential asset to a movement seeking to force deep changes. She'll take reminding.
  • And beyond the presidential contest, who is elected as Senators, Congresscritters and state officials matters. Hillary Clinton will be a much better president if she is accompanied by a strong Democratic majority in the Senate (possible), has a Democratic majority in the House of Representative (less likely but not impossible thanks to the repulsive Donald), and Dem majorities in as many state offices as possible. This last could make the difference between 4 or 5 million people having access or not to health insurance; wherever there are Democratic governors, Medicaid has been extended to poor people to whom Republicans deny it. That sort of thing should matter a lot to those of us who don't worry about access to health insurance.
Matters seems to be the word for the year.

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