Arlie Hochschild writes: I had begun my five-year journey to the heart of the American right carrying with me, as if it were a backpack, a great paradox. Back in 2004, there was a paradox underlying the right–left split. Since then the split has become a gulf.
Across the country, conservative “red states” are poorer and have more teenage mothers, more divorce, worse health, more obesity, more trauma-related deaths, more low-birth-weight babies, and lower school enrolment. On average, people in red states die five years earlier than people in liberal “blue states”. Indeed, the gap in life expectancy between Louisiana (75.7) and Connecticut (80.8) is the same as that between Nicaragua and the United States. Red states suffer more in another important but little-known way, one that speaks to the very biological self-interest in health and life: industrial pollution.
The right now calls for cuts in entire segments of the federal government – the Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce, and Interior, for example. In January 2015, 58 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to abolish the Internal Revenue Service, which is responsible for the collection of taxes. Some Republican congressional candidates call for abolishing all state schools. In March 2015, the Republican-dominated Senate voted 51 to 49 in support of an amendment to a budget resolution to sell or give away all non-military federal lands other than national monuments and national parks. This would include forests, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas. Joined by 95 Republican congressmen, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, one of the most polluted states in the union, has called for the end of the EPA.
The Tea Party’s turn away from government may signal a broader trend. During the depression of the 1930s, Americans turned to the federal government for aid in their economic recovery. But in response to the great recession of 2008, the majority turned away from it. As the political divide widens and opinions harden, the stakes have grown vastly higher. Neither ordinary citizens nor leaders are talking much “across the aisle”, damaging the surprisingly delicate process of governance itself. The United States has been divided before, of course. During the civil war, a difference in belief led to some 750,000 deaths. During the stormy 1960s, too, clashes arose over the war in Vietnam, civil rights, and women’s rights. But in the end, a healthy democracy depends on a collective capacity to hash things out. And to get there, we need to figure out what’s going on – especially on the rapidly shifting and ever-stronger right. [Continue reading…]
Peter Beinart writes: Crusaders against “political correctness” often portray themselves as brave. They deride others for knuckling under to left-wing orthodoxy, for being too afraid of African Americans, Latinos, feminists, and gays to speak the truth. They, on the other hand, speak their mind, come what may.
No presidential candidate has used this conceit more effectively than Donald Trump. His supporters love his willingness to say things about Mexicans, Muslims, and African Americans that ordinary politicians won’t say for fear of being called a bigot. That’s part of what they mean when they say he “doesn’t talk like a politician.”
But over the last couple of weeks, Trump has illustrated something important about the anti-politically correct. They’re most comfortable confronting PC orthodoxy when the people they’re confronting aren’t around. Once they actually encounter African Americans, Latinos, and other minority groups, they become a lot less brave. [Continue reading…]
This election is about voters choosing the least worst candidate. That's where we are in our politics.
— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) September 4, 2016
That tweet from Chris Cilizza of The Washington Post’s The Fix blog is cleverly framed to be about the voters’ view of this campaign. Both candidates do have high unfavorable ratings among the public (as does the Congress and pretty much every other institution, including the press.) That jaded comment by a member of the media, however, illustrates something important. Some members of the press are not just commenting on a reality; they are pushing the theme of two equally unpalatable candidates and it just isn’t true.
The main problem for Clinton is that people think she is a congenital liar. When asked what it is she lied about, most people can’t point to anything specific; they just know she’s dishonest and corrupt. The fact that she’s been dogged by political enemies and investigated by special prosecutors, the media and Congress with unlimited budgets and every possible means of getting to the truth and has been exonerated doesn’t seem to register. Indeed, the fact-checkers all find her to be more honest than virtually anyone in politics while Donald Trump, by contrast, lies more than he tells the truth.
To understand how this came to be, go back to a column from 1996 in The New York Times by vicious right-wing columnist William Safire who first dubbed her a “congenital liar.” All the crimes that he accused her of committing and lies he insisted that she had told later proved him to be the liar (or badly misinformed), but it didn’t matter. For many reasons, not the least of which was simple sexism, it was set in stone that this feminist, lawyer first lady was devious, calculating and power mad — Madame Defarge and Evita rolled into one. The political press has filtered its coverage of her through that lens ever since. [Continue reading…]
Paul Krugman writes: Americans of a certain age who follow politics and policy closely still have vivid memories of the 2000 election — bad memories, and not just because the man who lost the popular vote somehow ended up in office. For the campaign leading up to that end game was nightmarish too.
You see, one candidate, George W. Bush, was dishonest in a way that was unprecedented in U.S. politics. Most notably, he proposed big tax cuts for the rich while insisting, in raw denial of arithmetic, that they were targeted for the middle class. These campaign lies presaged what would happen during his administration — an administration that, let us not forget, took America to war on false pretenses.
Yet throughout the campaign most media coverage gave the impression that Mr. Bush was a bluff, straightforward guy, while portraying Al Gore — whose policy proposals added up, and whose critiques of the Bush plan were completely accurate — as slippery and dishonest. Mr. Gore’s mendacity was supposedly demonstrated by trivial anecdotes, none significant, some of them simply false. No, he never claimed to have invented the internet. But the image stuck.
And right now I and many others have the sick, sinking feeling that it’s happening again. [Continue reading…]
Paul Waldman writes: In the heat of a presidential campaign, you’d think that a story about one party’s nominee giving a large contribution to a state attorney general who promptly shut down an inquiry into that nominee’s scam “university” would be enormous news. But we continue to hear almost nothing about what happened between Donald Trump and Florida attorney general Pam Bondi.
I raised this issue last week, but it’s worth an update as well as some contextualization. The story re-emerged last week when The Post’s David A. Fahrenthold reported that Trump paid a penalty to the IRS after his foundation made an illegal contribution to Bondi’s PAC. While the Trump organization characterizes that as a bureaucratic oversight, the basic facts are that Bondi’s office had received multiple complaints from Floridians who said they were cheated by Trump University; while they were looking into it and considering whether to join a lawsuit over Trump University filed by the attorney general of New York State, Bondi called Trump and asked him for a $25,000 donation; shortly after getting the check, Bondi’s office dropped the inquiry.
At this point we should note that everything here may be completely innocent. Perhaps Bondi didn’t realize her office was looking into Trump University. Perhaps the fact that Trump’s foundation made the contribution (which, to repeat, is illegal) was just a mix-up. Perhaps when Trump reimbursed the foundation from his personal account, he didn’t realize that’s not how the law works (the foundation would have to get its money back from Bondi’s PAC; he could then make a personal donation if he wanted). Perhaps Bondi’s decision not to pursue the case against Trump was perfectly reasonable.
But here’s the thing: We don’t know the answers to those questions, because almost nobody seems to be pursuing them. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: An imam of a mosque in New York City and his associate shot dead while strolling following afternoon prayers. A presidential candidate calling for Muslims to be barred from entering the United States. Muslim women harassed and physically attacked in Chicago while walking to their car.
During the Islamic Society of North America convention that started here on Friday, official speakers said these actions had become all too commonplace in the United States.
“In this political climate, we’ve seen a normalization of bigotry,” said Altaf Husain, an associate professor at Howard University and a vice president of the society, whose convention here is the largest Muslim gathering in the United States and Canada.
But Mr. Husain, expressing what he said was the sentiment of many other American Muslims, said the Obama administration had made it a priority to bolster engagement with Muslims across the country. The latest example of the administration’s engagement came Saturday night when Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, became the first sitting cabinet member to address the Islamic Society’s convention.
Mr. Johnson said his speech was part of a sustained outreach effort that has taken him from the suburbs of Washington to Minneapolis to Los Angeles, where he has met with community leaders and visited mosques, while fielding questions about racial profiling and anti-Muslim speech on the presidential campaign trail.
In his address, Mr. Johnson told the audience that their lives were “the quintessential American story.” [Continue reading…]
Matthew Sheffield writes: Trump’s style and positions — endorsing and consorting with 9/11 truthers, promoting online racists, using fake statistics — draw on a now-obscure political strategy called “paleolibertarianism,” which was once quite popular among some Republicans, especially former presidential candidate Ron Paul.
Formally, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) may be his father’s political heir. But there’s no question that the paranoid and semi-racialist mien frequently favored by Trump originates in the fevered swamps that the elder Paul dwelled in for decades. Most people who back Trump don’t do so for racist reasons, but it’s incredible how many of the same white nationalists and conspiracy theorists to whom Ron Paul once catered are now ardent Trump supporters. It’s because Trump and Paul speak the same language.
Mainstream libertarians have been agonizing over this legacy among themselves for some time, hoping that either the elder or younger Paul would definitively denounce the movement’s racialist past, but no such speech has ever come. Instead, the paleolibertarian strategy concocted decades ago as a way to push for minimal government threatens to replace right-wing libertarianism with white nationalism.
The figure whose ideas unify Pauline libertarians and today’s Trumpists is the late Murray Rothbard, an economist who co-founded the Cato Institute and is widely regarded as the creator of libertarianism.
Nowadays, many libertarians like to portray their ideology as one that somehow transcends the left-right divide, but to Rothbard, this was nonsense. Libertarianism, he argued, was nothing more than a restatement of the beliefs of the “Old Right,” which resolutely opposed the New Deal and any sort of foreign intervention in the early 20th century. Many of its adherents, such as essayist H.L. Mencken, espoused racist viewpoints, as well.
As moderate Republicans such as Dwight Eisenhower and “New Right” Christian conservatives such as William F. Buckley became more influential within the Republican Party in the 1950s and ’60s, the future creators of libertarianism gravitated instead toward the work of secular anti-communist thinkers such as economist Ludwig von Mises and novelist Ayn Rand. [Continue reading…]
Timothy Egan writes: Give me your extreme-vetted, your ideologically certified, your elite. Send only the smartest, the best-connected, the richest to our shores. No losers, no freethinkers, and no ugly people, please.
In the hate speech that Donald Trump gave on immigration in Phoenix on Wednesday night, he all but deported the Statue of Liberty, laying out one of the darkest visions of the American experience that any major-party nominee has ever given. Despite the media misread by some who presented the speech as a pivot, it got rave reviews from neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan supporters, and prompted some of Trump’s few Latino advisers to resign in protest. “Excellent speech,” said David Duke, the former Klan leader.
In Trump’s America, those working in the shadows are not the lawn cutters, Sheetrock hangers, fruit pickers or nannies we see in every community, but the criminal dregs. Under his rules, this country would have closed its doors long ago to those who made the United States the great experiment, unique to the world. He would have shut off the flow of people whose best and perhaps only asset at the time was desire for a better life. [Continue reading…]
Fear is in the air, and fear is surging. Americans are more afraid today than they have been in a long time: Polls show majorities of Americans worried about being victims of terrorism and crime, numbers that have surged over the past year to highs not seen for more than a decade. Every week seems to bring a new large- or small-scale terrorist attack, at home or abroad. Mass shootings form a constant drumbeat. Protests have shut down large cities repeatedly, and some have turned violent. Overall crime rates may be down, but a sense of disorder is constant.
Fear pervades Americans’ lives — and American politics. Trump is a master of fear, invoking it in concrete and abstract ways, summoning and validating it. More than most politicians, he grasps and channels the fear coursing through the electorate. And if Trump still stands a chance to win in November, fear could be the key.
Fear and anger are often cited in tandem as the sources of Trump’s particular political appeal, so frequently paired that they become a refrain: fear-and-anger, anger-and-fear. But fear is not the same as anger; it is a unique political force. Its ebbs and flows through American political history have pulled on elections, reordering and destabilizing the electoral landscape.
This week, Trump delivered a speech on immigration that depicted outsiders as a frightening threat. “Countless innocent American lives have been stolen because our politicians have failed in their duty to secure our borders,” he said. His acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention similarly made clear the extent to which his message revolves around fear. “The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life,” Trump thundered. “Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country. Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally; some have even been its victims.”
Notes of uplift were few and far between in the convention speech, and commentators were duly shocked by its dark tone. (The conservative writer Reed Galen called Trump’s convention “a fear-fueled acid trip.”) Trump summons fear in the conventional way, by describing in concrete terms the threats Americans face. But he also, in a more unusual maneuver, summons fear in the abstract: There’s something going on, folks. [Continue reading…]
Bloomberg reports: “There’s no need to distract the public’s attention from the essence of the problem by raising some minor issues connected with the search for who did it,” Putin said of the DNC breach. “But I want to tell you again, I don’t know anything about it, and on a state level Russia has never done this.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has high confidence that the government in Moscow was behind the theft at the DNC and other Democratic Party organizations seeking to propel Clinton to victory over Republican Donald Trump in November, a person familiar with the findings has said. Trump has praised Putin as a great leader and the billionaire’s former campaign chairman spent years working for the Kremlin ally who was ousted from Ukraine’s presidency in 2014.
In a two-hour conversation near Russia’s eastern fringe, Putin touched on subjects ranging from the war in Syria to oil prices and trade with China. It came just two days before Putin, Barack Obama and other world leaders gather at a Group of 20 meeting in Hangzhou.
An internal DNC probe by CrowdStrike Inc., a cybersecurity company, traced the DNC break-in to two groups it says are linked to Russian intelligence services. One, Cozy Bear, it says is affiliated with the Federal Security Service, the main successor to the KGB, while the other, Fancy Bear, it says is tied to the Main Intelligence Directorate, a branch of the Defense Ministry.
James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Russia’s “track record” of state hacking goes back at least a decade, so Putin’s denials aren’t credible.
“Nice try, but no goal,” Lewis said.
The digital net cast by the hackers has widened almost weekly — security experts say it now includes congressional staffers, NATO generals, Washington think tanks and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — adding another unpredictable element to a highly unusual election. The subsequent leaks have included the mobile number of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said she was barraged with “obscene” calls within hours.
Putin also took a dig at the U.S. campaign and what he saw as an obvious party bias in favor of Clinton, saying he “couldn’t imagine” that the information leaked from the DNC would be newsworthy for “American society — specifically that the campaign headquarters worked in the interest of one of the candidates, in this case Mrs. Clinton, rather than equally for all of the Democratic party candidates. ”
Alexander Gostev, the chief expert at Kaspersky Lab, a Moscow-based software security firm, said of all the Russian-speaking hacking groups targeting governments, Fancy Bear “is the most notable.”
Malware linked to Fancy Bear was widely detected in Ukrainian government computers during the elections that were held after the country’s Kremlin-backed leader, Viktor Yanukovych, was deposed, Gostev said, adding that “six or seven” groups may be tied to the Russian government.
At the same time, Russia has come under attack by viruses linked to U.S. and U.K. intelligence services, Gostev said, adding that hacking efforts from China against Russian defense and nuclear agencies have intensified in the past year. [Continue reading…]
Ioan Grillo writes: Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, had already had a terrible summer. July was the most murderous month in Mexico since he took office in 2012. Second-quarter results showed negative economic growth for the first time in three years. A survey found his approval rating slipping to 23 percent. And a news report even alleged that he plagiarized nearly a third of his law degree thesis. How could he make it any worse? Only by inviting Donald J. Trump, one of the most hated men in Mexico — so hated that piñatas with his visage are brisk sellers across the country — to his presidential palace.
The curious thing about Mr. Peña Nieto’s latest debacle is how, unlike his other woes, it was totally self-inflicted. There is little tradition of sitting Mexican leaders meeting with American presidential hopefuls, so he was under no pressure to arrange the get-together. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time: the very day of Mr. Trump’s hard-hitting immigration speech, and the day before Mr. Peña Nieto’s state of the union address. Mr. Peña Nieto had even compared Mr. Trump to Hitler.
But in a stupefying decision, last week he sent invitations out to the Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton and Mr. Trump to come to Mexico, and then conceded, reportedly under pressure from the Trump team, to meet its candidate first, on the fateful Aug. 31.
Mr. Peña Nieto insists that his nation won something from the encounter. “I was very clear — in public and private — in emphasizing that in Mexico we feel wounded and hurt by his announcements about Mexicans,” he wrote in an opinion piece in El Universal newspaper on Thursday. “I expressed that Mexicans deserve respect.”
But most politicians and pundits — and the public — read the scene differently. To them, Mr. Peña Nieto looked weak and submissive in front of a bully who is humiliating their nation. [Continue reading…]
Politico reports: Several major Latino surrogates for Donald Trump are reconsidering their support for him following the Republican nominee’s hardline speech on immigration Wednesday night.
Jacob Monty, a member of Trump’s National Hispanic Advisory Council, has resigned, and Alfonso Aguilar, the president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said in an interview that he is “inclined” to pull his support.
“I was a strong supporter of Donald Trump when I believed he was going to address the immigration problem realistically and compassionately,” said Monty, a Houston attorney who has aggressively made the Latino case for Trump. “What I heard today was not realistic and not compassionate.” [Continue reading…]