A piece on the Left I wish I’d written (well, at least part of it)

December 21, 2021 • 12:00 pm

This piece by Fredie deBoer on his eponymous Substack column is free, but do subscribe if you read him often. It’s an analysis of the failure of the Left to unify themselves in a way that can appeal to middle American and defeat the Republicans—things I’m on about all the time. It also answers a question I get all the time: “Why are you always bashing the Left and leaving the Right alone when the Right is clearly more dangerous to America?” Well, I don’t really neglect the Right, and I do agree about the relative dangers. But I do concentrate on the Left, and deBoer explains why better than I can.  And he pulls no punches.

Click to read:

The part I don’t wish I’d written, because I think it detracts from deBoer’s message, is that he writes a LOT about Chris Hayes—a political commentator on MSNBC—using Hayes as an exemplar of what’s gone wrong with the Left. In particular, after Trump was elected, says deBoer, Hayes got woke. This is just a short bit reflecting deBoer’s disappointment with Hayes (even though he says he admires him):

When I think of this refusal to practice introspection, I think of MSNBC host Chris Hayes. I see two great impediments to the American liberal project, and Hayes embodies both: a fixation on Trump that nears the pathological, trapping liberalism perpetually in yesterday’s war, and a studious refusal to speak plainly and critically about the way that the Democratic party has become captured by donors and staffers whose politics are not just wildly out of step with the median American but with the median Democrat. Whether for ratings or to satisfy the contemporary lie that Trump is the worst president ever – you can read Hayes’s own writing from the Bush era to understand why it’s a lie – Hayes cannot quit Donald Trump, and thus like his party cannot settle on a remotely coherent political vision. He’s trapped.

And that’s all I’ll say about Hayes, though deBoer has a lot more to say about him. I don’t think it’s wise to use Hayes as a whipping boy for Woke Democrats, simply because it detracts from deBoer’s message. Plus I don’t know squat about Chris Hayes!

I’m just going to give two long quotes by deBoer because he expresses some of my own sentiments more strongly and with more sarcasm than I could. The bold questions are mine that I think deBoer answers (indented bits):

First, why does he (and your host) concentrate on the perfidies of the Extreme Left rather than the Dangerous Right? deBoer:

Sometimes I get people asking me why I don’t write more criticism of Republicans and conservatives. I’ve made the basic point many times before: those with influence within the conservative movement are too craven or crazy for meaningful written engagement to be worth anything, and those who are interesting and honest have no influence within the conservative movement. You can engage with Ross Douthat, who’s sharp and fair but who the average conservative would call a RINO [JAC: “Republican in name only”], or you can engage with a roster of interchangeable lunatics who lie and dissemble in defense of a cruel revanchist movement. I tend to train my fire on the broad left of center because, as much as I would sometimes like to wash my hands of the whole damn lot of them, they are the half of American politics that could actually reform, that could improve. I see no positive outcome from going through Breitbart posts and pointing out the lies. But Hayes, and other liberal Democrats who grumble and groan about left on liberal criticism, seem to think that if we just keep talking about how awful Josh Hawley and the Proud Boys are, somehow these problems will all sort themselves out.

They won’t. If you’re obsessed with defeating Trumpism, you should realize that you can only do that through securing a broad multicultural coalition, and you can’t do that when you’re alienating Hispanic voters or failing to challenge people in your political orbit when they insist that white children should be taught that they’re inherently and irreversibly racist. 70% of this country is white, Hispanic voters are not remotely as left-leaning as people assumed, immigrants are far from uniformly progressive, women were never actually a liberal stronghold, and you can’t win national elections by appealing only to the kinds of people who say “Black bodies” instead of “Black people.” This is the simple point David Shor has made for over a year, and for his trouble he gets a columnist in the Nation flat-out lying about him. Imagine a political tendency where popularism – literally, the idea that you should do things that appeal to voters – is immensely controversial. Liberalism is not healthy.

And your host will add: yu don’t need me to bash Republicans because there are already a gazillion people who do it, and you can read them instead of me.  Also, I feel more compelled to address problems in my own family (Democrats) than in that bad family across the street. It’s easier to settle family squabbles than reconcile the Hatfields with the McCoys.  Finally, it distresses me that my family is riven by a thousand differences, as well as imbued with apparent ignorance of what Americans want in their democracy—both of which will help spawn Republican victories down the road. At any rate, deBoer is right: we need a multicultural coalition, and the “elites” aren’t helping with that.

Now deBoer is not in my position on the political spectrum. In his Substack bio, he describes himself this way:

I write about everything but have a few jams that I engage with consistently. I am a Marxist of an old-school variety, which means I frequently complain about liberals, social democrats, and whatever “democratic socialism” is.

Second, and finally, what does the Left need?  deBoer, though perhaps “a Marxist of an old-school variety”, says this, first quoting Democratic ex-Senator Harry Reid, who, when asked what message he wanted to leave with America, answered “I want everybody in America to understand that if Harry Reid can make it, anybody can.”

And then deBoer riffs on that:

Does that sound anything like the message American liberalism wants to deliver now? Absolutely not. Today, American liberalism wants to tell you not that America can be a place of justice and equality where we all work together for the good of all, even as we acknowledge how badly we’ve failed that ideal. In 2021 liberalism wants to tell you that the whole damn American project is toxic and ugly, that every element of the country is an excuse to perpetuate racism, that those groups of people Hayes lists at the bottom are not in any sense in it together but that instead some fall higher on an hierarchy of suffering, with those who are perceived to have it too good in that hierarchy deserving no help from liberalism or government or the Democratic party – and, oh by the way, you can be dirt poor and powerless and still be privileged, so we don’t want you, especially if you’re part of the single largest chunk of the American electorate. Anyone who tows the line [sic] Harry Reid takes here is either a bigot or a sap, and politics is a zero-sum game where marginalized groups can only get ahead if others suffer, and Democrats fight to control a filthy, ugly, fallen country that will forever be defined by its sins. That’s the liberalism of 2021, a movement of unrelenting pessimism, obscure vocabulary, elitist tastes, and cultural and social extremism totally divorced from a vision of shared prosperity and a working class movement that comes together across difference for the good of all. In fact, I think I learned in my sociology class at Dartmouth that a working class movement would inherently center white pain! Better to remain divided into perpetually warring fiefdoms of grievance that can accomplish nothing. Purer that way. Now here’s Chris with part 479 of his January 6th series, to show us the country’s biggest problems.

Conservatives run roughshod over the country, and liberals are powerless to stop them, because liberalism has been colonized by a bizarre set of fringe cultural ideas about race and gender which they express in abstruse and alienating vocabulary at every turn. If anyone complains, liberals call them racist or sexist or transphobic, even when those complaining are saying that we can fight racism and sexism and transphobia more effectively by stressing shared humanity and the common good. Republicans tell the American people batshit conspiracy theories about communists teaching Yakub theory in kindergarten; Democrats fight back by making PowerPoint slides about why resegregating public schools is intersectional. We have reactionary insanity that expresses itself in plain, brute language and an opposition that insists that most voters don’t actually have any real problems, using a vocabulary that should never have escaped the conference rooms of whatever nonprofit hell it crawled out of. I cannot imagine a more obvious mismatch, the gleeful conspiracist bloodletting of the right against the sneering disdain and incomprehensible jargon of the left. I wonder who’ll win politically, an army of racist car dealership owners who have already taken over vast swaths of America’s state and local governments, keening for blood and soil? Or the guy in your anthropology seminar who insisted they were the voice of social justice while simultaneously making every conversation all about them?

This is all humorous and snarky, but also rings true. (I suppose deBoer’s Marxism is reflected in his concentration of class instead of race.) Be that as it may, the next time someone asks me why I bash the Left more often than the Right, I’ll just send them this post.

________

Note to deBoer: it’s “toes the line,” not “tows the line.” And it’s a “vise grip” not a “vice grip.”

 

h/t: Steve

MSNBC bashes Jussie Smollett’s guilty verdict as the “crowning jewel” of the Right, a verdict that empowers Trump and his minions

December 10, 2021 • 12:15 pm

I’ve heard of the Right bashing MSNBC as  the Left-wing equivalent of Breitbart, but I never read or watch MSNBC, so I had no opinion. But my attention was called this morning to two articles on MSNBC that criticize the Smollett verdict—or rather, wring their hands over it—because, say the writers, it gives succor to the right and to Donald Trump and his supporters. And it will hurt members of the LBGTQ community as well, as people won’t believe any claims of gender-based hate crime.

I couldn’t believe this line of thought, but you could read the articles below.  My take on the verdict is that justice was done, that there wasn’t going to be much political fallout except for racists being glad that a black man was convicted, and that, overall, the verdict was not only just, but useful in deterring future hoaxers from trying the same thing. There’s a penalty if you get caught. I was satisfied that justice was done.

But the first article, below, blames the guilty verdict on a proposed future in which LGBTQ people will not be believed when they report real hate crimes. (Smollett is gay.) That’s really messed up: what will make people less likely to believe the claims of victims is HOAX CLAIMS by LGBTQ people: that is, what Smollett did, not what the jury did. What planet does Zach Stafford live on?

Click to read:

First Stafford dismisses any importance of the actual truth of what Smollett claimed, or of the verdict’s affirmation that he lied (my emphasis):

The Jussie Smollett saga may now be technically over after a Chicago jury found the actor guilty Thursday of five of the six counts he faced, but its impact will be — and has already been — felt for years to come. It doesn’t matter if the actor, who starred on “Empire,” really was beaten up by people yelling “This is MAGA country!” and is wrongly being punished or if he did stage an elaborate hoax, as the jury decided he did by finding him guilty of five counts of disorderly conduct.

No, this is what matters:

Instead, the seemingly never-ending questions over the almost three years regarding the truthfulness of his account means the indisputable victims of hate crimes will now carry an even heavier burden of suspicion.

The only winners found as the dust settles are the members of the right who have declared themselves America’s real victims of hate and discrimination — people who have strategically made the Smollett case their go-to example for how the left operates and how it wrongly makes villains out of Donald Trump supporters.

Meaning Smollett’s guilty verdict is their new crowning jewel as our culture wars rage on.

(I believe he means “crown jewel”.)

For crying out loud! Justice was done in this case, and all Stafford worries about is whether the Right will use the verdict to support their crusade against LGBTQ rights? But you know what? The Right will use what they can use, and beefing that Smollett was found guilty will not change that. Similarly, the Left will use what the Left can use, as it did with Smollett’s initial claims. Does Stafford wish he’d been found innocent, even though a ton of evidence said that he was guilty?

Stafford first revealed how the Left buttressed Smollett, as this tweet from Bari Weiss shows. Yes, people weighed in before the fact, jumping to conclusions. But there was no trial, so all I thought was that his story sounded fishy and if he were tried, he’d likely be convicted. As a scientist, one withholds judgment until evidence starts appearing.

Then Stafford gets distraught because as the hoax began to be uncovered, Trump and his son went on social media talking about the flaws of the media, “fake news”, and mocking the “MAGA hat wearing” that was part of Smollett’s claims.

Here’s how Stafford winds up, and I’m not sure what he’s trying to say.

We couldn’t help but cover the story of a Black, gay celebrity who said he’d been attacked by Trump supporters. This wasn’t just because it was a story involving a famous member of the community we covered, but also because for many of us who had been reporting on anti-LGBTQ crimes for years, we believed his case might help shine a light on the fact that LGBTQ folks — especially trans people — were dying at historic rates in the streets. Smollett claimed to have been attacked in those same streets.

Since journalists began accurately reporting trans homicides in the early 2010s, we have consistently seen a rise in anti-LGBTQ violence, with 2021 being the deadliest year on record, specifically for trans people. Black people in this country, regardless of their sexuality, also find themselves over-represented in FBI data documenting hate crimes in the U.S. each year.

With this guilty verdict, it’s really those people who lost — not just Smollett — with the winners being people who are now more emboldened in demanding even more from victims before receiving justice. Sure, Smollett may have lied — or at least was found guilty of it. But statistically most people who report these cases do not lie and are rarely ever believed.

What is so important for us to do in this moment, as we look to what’s next, is to ensure work is done to stop the epidemic of hate facing folks who look like Smollett. Trump supporters are not being subjected to hate crimes for supporting Trump on any level — full stop.

Nor are Biden supporters being subjected to hate crimes for supporting Biden on any level—full stop.

Is Stafford implying that the verdict should have been “not guilty”, thus helping all the true victims of LGBTQ hate crimes down the line? Or is he just bewailing the fact that it will be harder to take those claims seriously? If the latter, then he should be blaming Smollett,  There is no reason to drag the verdict itself into the fight for LGBTQ rights, which is a good fight.  If Stafford is saying that he wished, in the face of the evidence, that the jury should have acquitted Smollett (perhaps for the greater good, which is NOT a reason for a verdict), then god help him.

This piece by Ja’han jones is too slight to have been published, but there is a telling bit at the end. Click to read:

The last bit:

Smollett held throughout the trial that the incident was not a hoax.

Nonetheless, the strange, seemingly ever-changing details in the case have provided nearly three years’ worth of material for comedians and online commentators. Some of it has been quite funny, in fact.

Even more comical, in my view, was the predictable conservative outrage over Smollett’s allegations. Conservatives took to social media in 2019 to express outrage over the dropped charges. How dare someone make such a heinous claim about followers of their dear leader, they screeched. Violent, masked white guys who shout Trump slogans and use chemical agents to attack victims?

Many on the right shamed those of us who knew such a claim was totally plausible — and then the Jan. 6 insurrection happened.

Well, one could say that it was equally funny to see the credulous Left accept such a dubious story.  If Jones thought that Smollett’s story was “totally plausible”, he must have been smoking something. Of course I wouldn’t have thought that the January insurrection was plausible, either, but there are plenty of readers here who either thought it possible or were not surprised when it did happen.

But all this is what we Jews call “pilpul”:  meaningless and endless debate about matters of little consequence. Both writers are trying to make political hay out of a verdict that was just and, in fact, will probably deter hate crimes if it has any effect at all.

Happy Friday!

The coalescence of the American Right: a view from David Brooks

November 23, 2021 • 1:30 pm

I didn’t know that, alongside his gig as a columnist at the New York Times, David Brooks is a contributing writer to The Atlantic. And five days ago he wrote a long column about his visit to the National Conservative Conference in Orlando, Florida (NCC; click on screenshot below). As a centrist-rightist who hates Trump, Brooks feared he’d be expelled or ostracized from the meeting. Instead, he was treated politely. What happened was that the meeting scared the bejeezus out of him as he realized how the right is coalescing around a central narrative—one that could propel Trump back to the White House.

According to Brooks, the new Republicanism fuses hatred of the “elites” (which means all Democrats, centrists, and the media), who are said to control everything, with espousal of a working-class populism that sees the average Joe and Jill as victims.  Into that toxic mess they toss a large dollop of religion, for this movement sees religion not only as important for their goals and the “salvation” of America, but essential.  Finally, the conservatives at this meeting feel that they must regain power by starting at the state level.

Here are the three themes of this gemisch and their adherents. I note to my dismay that Glenn Loury is calling himself a conservative again. My emphasis:

The movement has three distinctive strains. First, the people over 50 who have been hanging around conservative circles for decades but who have recently been radicalized by the current left. Chris Demuth, 75, was for many years president of the American Enterprise Institute, which used to be the Church of England of American conservatism, but now he’s gone populist. “NatCons are conservatives who have been mugged by reality,” he told the conference. Seventy-three-year-old Glenn Loury, a Brown University economist, was a conservative, then a progressive, and now he’s back on the right: “What has happened to public discourse about race has radicalized me.

The second strain is made up of mid-career politicians and operatives who are learning to adapt to the age of populist rage: people like Ted Cruz (Princeton, Harvard), J. D. Vance (Yale Law), and Josh Hawley (Stanford and Yale).

The third and largest strain is the young. They grew up in the era of Facebook and MSNBC and identity politics. They went to colleges smothered by progressive sermonizing. And they reacted by running in the other direction. I disagreed with two-thirds of what I heard at this conference, but I couldn’t quite suppress the disturbing voice in my head saying, “If you were 22, maybe you’d be here too.”

What has driven Loury back to the Right along with the young? Wokeness.  Still, Loury quacked like a liberal at the NCC:

Some of the speakers at the conference were in fact classical liberals, who believe in free speech, intellectual debate, and neutral government. Glenn Loury gave an impassioned speech against cancel culture, the illiberal left, and the hyper-racialized group consciousness that divides people into opposing racial camps. Loury asserted that as a Black man he is the proud inheritor of the great Western tradition: “Tolstoy is mine! Dickens is mine! Milton, Marx, and Einstein are mine!” He declared that his people are Black, but also proudly American. “Our Americanness is much more important than our Blackness,” he said, before adding, “We must strive to transcend racial particularism and stress universality and commonality as Americans.” This is the classical-liberal case against racial separatism and in favor of integration.

And then the characterization of the Left as elitists who must be overthrown at the state level:

The idea that the left controls absolutely everything—from your smartphone to the money supply to your third grader’s curriculum—explains the apocalyptic tone that was the dominating emotional register of this conference. The politicians’ speeches were like entries in the catastrophism Olympics:

“The left’s ambition is to create a world beyond belonging,” said [Josh[ Hawley. “Their grand ambition is to deconstruct the United States of America.”

. . .Conservatives have got the culture-war act down. Trump was a culture-war president with almost no policy arm attached. The question conservatives at the conference were asking was how to move beyond owning the libs to effecting actual change.

Christopher Rufo, the architect of this year’s school-board-meeting protests against critical race theory, argued that conservatives had erred when they tried to slowly gain power in elite cultural institutions. Conservatives were never going to make headway in the Ivy League or the corporate media. Instead, Rufo argued, they should rally the masses to get state legislatures to pass laws embracing their values. That’s essentially what’s now happening across red America.

My old friend Rod Dreher of The American Conservative argued that because the left controls the commanding heights of the culture and the economy, the only institution the right has a shot at influencing is the state. In these circumstances the right has to use state power to promote its values. “We need to quit being satisfied with owning the libs, and save our country,” Dreher said. “We need to unapologetically embrace the use of state power.”

The importance of religion:

Yoram Hazony, the chief intellectual architect of national conservatism, is an Orthodox Jew who went to Princeton before moving to Israel. He argues that you can’t have a society that embraces government neutrality and tries to relegate values to the private sphere. The public realm eventually eviscerates private values, especially when public communication is controlled by a small oligarchic elite. If conservatives want to stand up to the pseudo-religion of wokeism, they have to put traditional religion at the center of their political project.

Another Israeli political philosopher at the conference, Ofir Haivry, argued that Americans shouldn’t delude themselves into thinking that a nation is built out of high-minded liberal abstractions, like the Bill of Rights. A nation is, instead, a cultural tradition, a common language, a set of rituals and beliefs, and a religious order—a collective cultural identity.

But is that collective identity going to be Jewish or Christian? For make no mistake about it, conservatives see America as a Christian nation, not an Abrahamic or Judeo-Christian one. They’ll come for the Jews after they take care of the Left.

For his part, Hazony argued that the American cultural identity is Christian—and has to be if it is not going to succumb to the woke onslaught. If 80 percent of Americans are Christian, Hazony reasoned, then Christian values should dominate. “Majority cultures have the right to establish the ruling culture, and minority cultures have the right to be decently treated,” he said. “To take the minority view and say the minority has the ability to stamp out the views of the majority—that seems to me to be completely crazy.”

I’m not a sophisticated enough thinker to parse the Right this way, and I didn’t go to that conference. But to Brooks, this neo-populism is not only growing, but a severe danger to America:

Over the past few decades there have been various efforts to replace the Reagan Paradigm: the national-greatness conservatism of John McCain; the compassionate conservatism of George W. Bush; the Reformicon conservatism of the D.C. think tanks in the 21st century. But the Trumpian onslaught succeeded where these movements have so far fizzled because Trump understood better than they did the coalescence of the new American cultural/corporate elite and the potency of populist anger against it. Thus the display of Ivy League populism I witnessed in Orlando might well represent the alarming future of the American right: the fusing of the culture war and the class war into one epic Marxist Götterdämmerung.

It’s a long piece, but we should all be sussing out the Right to better anticipate and combat their inevitable striking out in the 2022 and 2024 elections. Brooks’s piece is free, so go read it.

Andrew Sullivan on the possible downfall of Biden

October 2, 2021 • 11:00 am

Andrew Sullivan is no lover of Trump, nor, I think, are many people here. But it behooves us liberals to ensure that he doesn’t make a comeback. I think that unlikely, but others differ. One of them is Andrew Sullivan in his column this week, concentrating on the issue of immigration (click on screenshot, but subscribe if you read frequently). You can read his argument by clicking on the screenshot below.

Before we begin, let me recommend again Sullivan’s new book, Out on a Limb: Selected Writing, 1989-2021. The selections range from very short to quite long, and some of them are really great essays. His arguments for gay marriage, for instance, instrumental in moving the country towards recognizing that institution, are heartfelt and persuasive. He offers an apologia for his support of the Iraq war, trying to explain where he went wrong, and, presciently, predicted Obama’s victory well before the election. His essay “We all live on campus now” was also prescient, and there are various miscellaneous pieces like a good essay on “What’s so bad about hate?” The pieces go up to February of this year with discussions of gender issues and “the whiteness of the classics.” If you don’t like an essay, just read the next one. There’s something here for everyone. It’s also quite personal in places, as when he recounts his bout with HIV and how it changed him.

Anyway, click below to read:

The elephant in the room—the one factor that may be fatal to Biden’s reelection while energizing Trumpists, is, claims Sullivan, immigration. No liberal wants to come out explicitly favoring immigration limits (it’s been discussed very little lately, though 400,000 immigrants are predicted to pass through the southern border of the U.S. this October), as that sounds inhumane. Nevertheless, we have to take into account three issues. As Sullivan says, they’re not all Biden’s fault, for he inherited a badly broken immigration system.

a.) Volume, clearly much greater than ever before. As Sullivan says,

We are in a new era of mass migration, and the US government is demonstrating in real time that it has no idea how to control it. From January through July, well over a million undocumented migrants were intercepted at the border — Venezuelans, Cubans, Haitians, Romanians, among others — and the pace is accelerating. If those intercepted in the first half of this year formed a city, it would be the tenth largest in the US.

There are some short-term factors behind this: earthquakes, natural disasters, political unrest, Covid, gang warfare, and economic stagnation. But there is also a long-term one: climate change, the impact of which on migration from the south to the north is increasingly felt across the globe. The sudden wave at the border is a 21-year high — after both the Obama and Trump administrations had kept the numbers to around a quarter of that rate most years (excluding a sudden surge in 2019).

A further — and arguably central — reason for the acceleration is a change under Biden in how the US treats these intercepted newcomers.

I think even Progressive Democrats have to admit that this volume of influx is unsustainable, but you won’t hear them mention it. In fact, one could well get the impression from both Progressive and Center-Left Democrats that they favor open borders. We want to be compassionate, but no country can deal with this level of influx. Sullivan says that the tide of immigration, much of it illegal, is one reason why Latino support for Biden is waning, especially in towns near the border.

b.) Once you’re in, legally or not, you’re pretty much in for keeps. We all know that despite the requirement for formal applications to stay in the U.S., and rulings by immigration judges, many immigrants simply vanish into the population, not showing up for their court dates and lying low.  Sullivan:

In the latest crisis, with 15,000 Haitian migrants arriving in Del Rio, around 2,500 were sent back to Haiti (where many hadn’t lived for years), and 12,500 were allowed in. That’s an 83 percent success rate.

So what, you may ask? Don’t those 12,500 have to get their asylum cases approved in order to stay permanently and legally in the US? Theoretically yes. But the wait for a court date can be several years (the average is around two and a half years) given our broken immigration infrastructure, after which it’s inhumane (as well as extremely difficult) to send people back. There’s also currently no way to force anyone to appear at the court, and 50 percent of removal orders — failed applications for asylum resulting in deportation — are issued in absentia, i.e. without the asylum-seeker showing up. The key stat: every year only around two percent of illegal immigrants are deported. You can do the math. That’s why another 60,000 Haitians are on their way.

This is why we badly need immigration reform, which of course will be sidelined for the next few months as Congress squabbles over Biden’s infrastructure and social reform bills. Don’t expect the initiative to come from the Democrats, many of whom equate immigration reform with immorality, nor from the Republicans, who have a lot to gain by doing nothing and letting people gravitate towards Trump as immigrants pour in.

c.) Many immigrants claim refugee status, but are really moving for economic advantage. To get asylum you have to be fleeing danger or persecution in your home country, and all immigrants know this. Many thus confect persecution stories to get in. It’s the savvy thing to do. Everybody in Congress knows this, but it’s ignored. Sullivan:

The other clear fact is that, by any sane definition, these are not people fleeing political or religious persecution, i.e. bona fide asylum cases. Most, including most Haitians, had already relocated to countries like Chile, but chose the US for economic reasons. And that’s great. They can apply legally, and see if they qualify. Instead, they are using the broken border, and fake claims of asylum, to jump the line.

Responding to the claim that, well, Sullivan himself is an immigrant, he notes that he went through the process legally, and it took him 18 years.

I agree with Sullivan here: the Democrats, if they’re to win the midterm elections next year and the 2024 election, would be much better positioned if they had a humane but workable immigration program.  We don’t want Trump re-elected while immigration is still broken and as he promises to build his damn wall.

Overall, Sullivan has a pretty gloomy prognostication about Biden aside from the immigration issue. You may disagree, but here’s his take:

Elsewhere in the West, mass migration has empowered the far right, and taken the UK out of the EU.

Yet in a very similar situation, when racial anxiety has already helped bring an unhinged authoritarian to power, and threatens to help him come back, the Democrats seem utterly blind to the danger. You want to take the wind out of the racist “Great Replacement” canard that appears to be gaining traction? You can huff and puff on Twitter, and feel great. Or you can get serious about border control.

The optics are also terrible — and compound a sense that the Biden administration is losing control of events. The scenes of death and mayhem in Kabul merge too easily in the mind with the squalor and disorder in Del Rio. Factor in the faltering vaccine program, and the prevaricating, incomprehensible shit-show of this Congress, and you can see how the image of a doddering incompetent in the White House is beginning to stick. And once that image imprints itself, it’s hard to escape it.

Worse: the immigration debate reflects an elite that simply cannot imagine why most normal citizens think that enforcing a country’s borders is not an exercise in white supremacist violence, but a core function of any basic government.

. . . If mass migration continues to accelerate under this administration, and Biden seems unable or unwilling to do anything about it, Tump could win that election in a romp. And deserve to.

Well, under no circumstances do I think an unhinged, authoritarian demagogue deserves to win, but what Sullivan surely means is that unless the Democrats get savvier, they’ll be hoist with their own petard.

 

Discussion: Impeachment trial

February 13, 2021 • 11:00 am

I have no particular expertise—much less knowledge—about the second Trump impeachment trial, as I watched virtually none of it save the videos and thus can’t weigh in. All I can say is that I wish that the Democrats had made the indictment broader, as I indicated this morning in the Hili dialogue. Regardless, from what I know, I would vote to kick the s.o.b. out.

I’m also not sure what bearing a conviction has on his ability to hold future office. In truth, I’m also not sure—narcissist that he is—that he even wants future office. He may just be content with the role of “elder GOP statesman” for his fawning, slavering minions. But he’ll remain a danger so long as he has any political influence.

If you’d like to say your piece on the proceedings, or on the unlikely outcome that he’ll be convicted, by all means weigh in below. Will he be barred from office? How many Republican senators will vote for his conviction? Mitch “666” McConnell has remained strangely silent in the last several days; could it be that he’s rounding up 17 Republicans to vote for conviction, hoping to save the reputation of his party?

Whoops, cancel that. I just saw this on Twitter:

My friend Betsy sent me a New York Times summary of the defense’s case, which she found amusing in this description of one of Trump’s hastily-assembled team of lawyers:

“A personal injury lawyer whose Philadelphia law firm solicits slip-and-fall clients on the radio and whose website boasts of winning judgments stemming from auto accidents and one case “involving a dog bite,” Mr. van der Veen proceeded to lecture Mr. Raskin, who taught constitutional law at American University for more than 25 years, about the Constitution.”

If that isn’t snark in the news, I don’t know what is.

van der Veen, from the NYT. Credit: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Impeachment trial: discuss

February 10, 2021 • 6:00 pm

I haven’t watched the live coverage of the impeachment trial, which began in earnest today with the “prosecution’s” presentation of the evidence. What’s all over the Internet are new scenes of terror and violence in the Capitol, which of course are relevant to the indictment since this is the purported outcome of Trump’s words.

But of course the question is whether Trump knowingly incited that violence, and here the Democrats have an uphill battle. For every rioter who said that “Trump invited us here,” there is a statement by Trump calling for “peaceful demonstration at the Capitol”. It all rests on sussing out what his intentions were. The degree of violence, even if it were much less than actually occurred, and didn’t involve deaths, is in some ways ancillary.

I happen to believe that Trump did know what he was doing, and thus is guilty of the charge. But I also think the charges could have been more far-reaching, involving many different forms of malfeasance and incompetence. Were he in his second or third year of Presidency, he would have go go NOW.  He’s gone, though, and so the Democrats have a hard job.

The House impeachment managers have done a terrific job, but they’re facing a near monolith of Republican opponents, many of them claiming, ironically and disingenuously, that the trial is “divisive.” I have little hope of a conviction, for the division occurred a long time before the impeachment began, and the Republicans too self-absorbed to worry about America.

Many of you have watched the coverage. What do you think so far?

An analysis of the Trump movie shown at the Capitol Rally: An exercise in fascism

February 4, 2021 • 12:45 pm

This is an interesting analysis of the two-minute film shown to the crowd that assembled at the Washington, D.C. pro-Trump rally on January 6, right after Donald Trump, Jr. and Rudy Giuliani spoke. And you know what happened after that! (Thanks to reader Ken for calling this to my attention.) The analysis by Jason Stanley goes through the movie frame by frame, and gives a written discussion of how it fits into the tradition of fascistic propaganda. I recommend watching the movie first (click on the Vimeo site below), then read the article and then re-watch the movie with fresh eyes.

Jason Stanley is the Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University and an expert in the history and workings of fascism. His piece appears at the site Just Security, described by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU Law School as

“an editorially-independent online forum co-founded by CHRGJ Faculty Co-Chair Professor Ryan Goodman. It provides rigorous analysis of US national security law and policy, aiming to promote principled and pragmatic solutions to national security problems faced by decision-makers. Just Security‘s masthead includes people with substantial government experience, civil society attorneys, academics, and other leading voices.”

This is just to show you that this is no basement-dwelling YouTuber who did the analysis. You should take it seriously.

Okay, first skip the headlines below and watch the short movie. Then go back, click the headlines below and read Stanley’s analysis. I have a few thoughts at the bottom.

 

Stanley appears to know what he’s talking about, and emphasizes the many tropes of fascism that appear in this movie. There’s the father figure (Trump), the emphasis on the nation’s fears, the identifying of an enemy (apparently blacks and Jews), and the reliance on the military. The only thing I’m dubious about is Stanley’s identification of the Jews as the explicit enemy that needs to be overthrown. On the other hand, he does make some good points: this movie was carefully confected, and some of the images seem to make sense only in an anti-Semitic context.

Clearly, Stanley sees the movie as good fascist propaganda, and I can’t say I disagree. But was it really intended to prompt the demonstrators’ assault on the Capitol? I don’t do psychologizing so much, but Stanley seems to say, “yes”:

Each of us can decide what moral responsibility Trump personally has for a video to rouse his supporters at the rally. How much of a role the White House or Trump himself may have played in deciding to show the video and sequencing it immediately after Giuliani’s speech, we don’t know. But it is worth noting that the New York Times recently reported that by early January, “the rally would now effectively become a White House production” and, with his eye ever on media production, Trump micromanaged the details. “The president discussed the speaking lineup, as well as the music to be played, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversations. For Mr. Trump, the rally was to be the percussion line in the symphony of subversion he was composing from the Oval Office,” the Times reported.

Worldwide, there have been many fascist movements. Not all fascist movements focus on a global Jewish conspiracy as the enemy, and not all of them were genocidal. Early on, Italian fascism was not anti-Semitic in its core, though it later turned that way. British fascism was not genocidal (though it also was never given the opportunity to be). The most influential fascist movement that takes a shadowy Jewish conspiracy as its central target is German fascism, Nazism. Nazism did not start out in genocide. It began with militias and violent troops disrupting democracy. In its early years in power, in the 1930s, it was socialists and communists who were targeted for the Concentration Camps, torture, and murder. But it must never be forgotten where Nazism culminated.

As a secular Jew, I have to take particular care when leveling the charge of anti-Semitism because it feeds into my own biases. So I reserve judgment here, but ask you to watch the movie and read the analysis with a clear head, and then come to your own conclusions. I’d advise you to do both watching and reading, for this kind of authoritarianism, no matter what you call it, is still heavily afoot in America.

Who will get pardons from Trump?

January 18, 2021 • 6:14 pm

In only two days Trump will be gone, to a massive sigh of relief across America as well as to the groans of Deplorables.

There are reports that Trump may issue up to 100 pardons tomorrow, though the recipients are said not to include himself. But the list will surely include many who don’t deserve this leniency.

Whom do you think he’ll pardon?  Although this isn’t a contest, I’ll give a prize of my choosing to the first person all of whose guesses are all correct, so long as they are four or more. Any wrong guesses disqualify you, and if you guess fewer than four but they’re all correct, you also don’t get a prize. There’s only one way to win, and if nobody wins, no prize. But guess away if you don’t care about prizes, and of course you can give fewer or more than four names.

I’m not qualified to guess, but I know that many readers are. Who do you think will be the recipient of Trump’s largesse?

Remember, Trump can pardon people convicted of or who will be accused of federal crimes, not state ones.