Trump Does Not Only Speak for himself — He Also Acts Only For Himself

Tillerson memorably explained that the President speaks for himself.

That’s bad enough.

But, once you think about it, it becomes crystal clear not only that he not acts for himself, but that the acts ONLY for himself.

Every story bout his financial benefits, about his marketing, about his policies, about his ego-serving behavior, demonstrates that nothing is done with any perception of national interest, let alone world interest.

Indeed, he has gotten away with this for so long because his base thinks he is acting in their interest.  So the simple trick is get them to start to see otherwise,  Maybe Tillerson has show how to start.

Remember, he acts only for himself.

 

 

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Great Article on Why the Left Gave Up Violence

The Washington Post has a great article on why the left gave up violence.  The two first are basicially that it is counter-productive, and that there are better ways to get change.  Te other however, is much more interesting, and worthy of much thought:

The third and most important reason for giving up violence can be found in the new makeup of the American left. Emerging out of the rubble of the 1960s, the modern left, which coalesced around George McGovern’s quixotic 1972 presidential run, effectively represented a gathering of fugitives. African Americans, Hispanics, women, gay men and lesbians, Native Americans, and workers: These long-ostracized groups, which came to replace the New Deal coalition anchored by the white working class, were the very peoples against whom violence had been done for so long. Their painful histories made them instinctively averse to, and intolerant of, political violence. Those who had survived lynchings, beatings, bombings, sexual violence, forced removals and economic exploitation were least disposed to employ them in return. In 1972, those groups were often on the far left, but they eventually became the spine of Barack Obama’s electoral coalition.

Even while the fringes of the left were drawn to violence by overwhelming frustration (not to mention FBI provocateurs), most were profoundly ambivalent, probably in major part for these reasons.

It occurs to me that the only way the right seems to have to respond to those whose claims and philosophy has been shaped in part by a family history of being at the very least at risk of being victims, is to embrace their own victim-hood — and the facts just do not support those beliefs.

This also suggests that the left might be better than we fear at reaching out to the right self-perceived victims on the basis of common “victimhood.”  At a minimum, in individual conversations, those on the left can tell stories that might create some sense of sympathy.  Of course, the sociopaths (like the Donald) will never feel any such empathy, but I simply refuse to believe that 30% are sociopaths.

And, a society built on an understanding of the risk of victimiztion would surely be a better one.

 

 

How About “Frighteningly Unpatriotic” as a Label for the Trump Operation’s Newly Revealed Behavior

Obviously, the astonishing developments of the last few days remove from the Trumps any intent or mens rea defenses.  All that is left is that “nothing happened,” which in politics, or in adultery, does not really get you very far.

The developments have also caused the first upswing in  the use of the word “treason.”  There may well be a legal case, perhaps ultimately a compelling one, but for the target population of traditional low information Republicans, it may be a wall too far right now.

So let me suggest that the concept we should be pushing is “patriotism,” or rather the astonishing lack of it.  How can anyone truly patriotic, if and when approached by a foreign and hostile power offering partnership in interfering with our sacred democratic election process, do anything other than say “no,” and then call the FBI.  Nor, would we expect any patriot of another country to do anything other than that country’s equivalent.

Obviously, such an idea never occurred to anyone in the Trump operation.  But, I am sure that the vast majority of Trump voters, while happy to get hear of dirt on Hilary, would not want to be in partnership with Russia to get that dirt.  They are better and more patriotic people than that.

So I would experiment with phrases like “frighteningly unpatriotic to even consider participating with Russia to undermine our election system,” or “at best shockingly unpatriotic and maybe at worst treasonous behavior.”

The point is to use words that resonate with the Republican base.

 

 

‘Europeans Can’t Think of Building a Future Without the Americans’ — You Won’t Have To, But We Do All Have to Think Differently

Politico has a great article, with the self-explanatory title, itself a quote from the French Ambassador to the US – ‘Europeans Can’t Think of Building a Future Without the Americans’

Nor can I imagine a US without Europe deeply engaged with us.  (I am coming to be able to understand a Europe without the UK, or rather parts of it, but that is a much simpler matter, more related to Britain’s 150 year decline.)

What North Americans and Europeans have to do is understand that together we are one political  system, although not one nation.  Politics in one of these two mega nations (lumping Canada in with the US for now) are already deeply intertwined, and will get more so.  That is much more the case than any other large countries dyad.

As recent elections have shown, political events in one of the mega-nations trigger and influence those in the other — and not always in fully predictable ways.  Skilled demagogues, well actually all demagogues, will try to use events in one as a source of fear or reactionary possibility in the other, and building a positive “liberal system” vision will always require more nuance and time.

In short, in order to leverage each other, ideas have to flow between the two groupings as easily as capital already does.  We in the US have so much to learn about managing technology to limit the forces of inequality, and our friends in Europe have so much to ,learn about building greater flexibility into their economic system.

In the end, however, we have to learn to think about the impact on the European system of all that we do, and they have to do the same about us.  Think about how Trump’s failure to understand the nuances of this have enhanced European integration, and perhaps even saved Europe from disintegration.  The more Trump embraces Putin, the more the rest of Europe fears him, or rather both of them. I personally will not get tired of these kinds of winning.

 

 

 

Polls Say Trump Voters Are Happy With Him — But We Know Trump Voters Can Not Easily and Reliably Be Polled

There has been a lot of reporting of how Trump has not lost much support of those who voted for him.

But do we know how reliable the self-reporting of prior voting behavior is.  I wonder if anyone has been checking if the self-reporting of Trump voting is consistent with the actual votes.

We know hat Trump voters are low education, we know that they are often hard to get to answer polls, and we suspect that they may be less prone to tell the truth (at least to pollsters.)

So there may be lots of hidden dissatisfied Trump voters out there.  I remember the moment during Watergate when Nixon’s reputation became so poisonous that more people remembered that they had voted against him than for him.

If this theory is right, it holds particular danger for Republlicans facing reelection in 2018, because it will make it harder to track the Trump voters whose reason for turning against a Republican incumbent is his or her support for Trump.

Worth keeping an eye on.

 

NBER Report Suggests We Should Not Blame Polarization on the Internet.

The National Bureau of Economic Research has long been a highly respected and independent source of analysis on economic and statistical matters.  So it is well worth paying attention when they focus on the impact of the Internet on polarization.

A recent Report concludes:

We find that the increase in polarization is largest among the groups least likely to use the internet and social media.  .  .  .  Across intermediate age groups, the growth in polarization is consistently higher among older respondents. Polarization increases more for the old than the young in eight of the nine individual measures. A similar pattern emerges for groups of respondents divided by our broader index of predicted internet use.

The paper admits that there may be ways of explaining the phenomenon to dissolve the inconsistency, but, given its breadth of measures, that seems unlikely.

Indeed un-linking Internet access statistics from polarization does not exclude the possibility that the existence of the Internet incentivizes the taking of extreme positions, and that those incentives work on populations regardless of their internet access.  It may be, or example, that what the Internet did was make it possible for marginal voices to be amplified much more by mainstream media who reach lower information people.  In other words, we would be worse off without the Internet.

However, when you think about it, the “beauty” of the “Internet did it” meme is that no one needs to take responsibility.  Not the commentators, not the politicians, not the newsfolks, not the religious leaders.  Not the increase in inequality, not the massive insecurity, not the reduction of need for those with traditional blue collar jobs.  Not the increasing costs of housing and education and the impossibility of getting both.

Holding people responsible for what they say and advocate — and what they said yesterday, and weeks, months and years ago is easier than ever before.  Understanding economic change should also be easier than ever.

So, while the Internet alone may have some second order effects, its much more important to look at the big picture of ideas and leadership.

 

 

Why “Americans by Birth” Are Threatened by “Americans by Choice” and How to Fix That

Its clear that many “Americans by Birth” are deeply threatened by “Americans by Choice,” also known as “immigrants.”   But, why?

Traditional explanations cite job fears, cultural threat, fear of the unknown, not to mention simple racism.  All surely play their role.

But let me suggest that some of the reaction is explained by the fear insight buried inside “Americans by Birth,” that they have actually shown less committement to this country that “Americans by Choice,” most of whom have displayed determination, ambition, risk-taking, and sometimes extraordinary courage to get here.  (I certainly exclude my own privileged path here from this description.)

I wonder if “Americans by Choice,” particularly those already public about their status, should explicitly make the point that: “We Americans by Choice thank you, Americans by Birth, for building this into the country we want so much to stay in and help continue to build.”

That is a hard message to reject, and while perhaps implicit in the desire to stay, not necessarily yet heard by those in fear.