The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Authoritarian, phony, and probably going to win

Esquire's Charles Pierce is glad Trump is looking after "shitkickers like you," but he worries that stopping Trump will take more than just a moderate Republican:

The only way to stop He, Trump is not, as the Boston Globe so tragically suggests today, to have unenrolled people pick up the Republican ballot and vote for John Kasich. I can't think of a more impotent suggestion than that. In the general scheme of things, Kasich is worse off than either Cruz or Rubio and, also in the general scheme of things, no thinking Republican believes that the Commonwealth (God save it!) is important in any way at all. It's like a Democratic operative suggesting that his voters finagle with the results in, say, Mississippi. Come November, the Republicans could put up Zombie Abraham Lincoln Christ and still lose Massachusetts.

No, the only way to stop He, Trump is to give up on the twin fictions that have given him life—that government is something alien to us, instead of being the political manifestation of the popular will, and that elections are purely entertainment. The only way to stop He, Trump is to re-engage as citizens of a self-governing republic again, to realize that politics matter and that voting is more than an excuse for the PTA to run a bake sale. It is not time to make America great again. It's time to make America America again. 

Meanwhile, his brand of authoritarianism keeps building followers:

Trump’s base of white working-class authoritarians is scared of what they view as a “new” America, one in which they believe that the psychological and material wages of Whiteness will not be as great. A combination of the brain structures and cognitive processes of conservative-authoritarians, socialization by family and community, and disinformation from the right-wing “news” entertainment complex, reinforce those anxieties while also ginning up deep feelings of racial resentment toward non-whites.

Donald Trump is not necessarily the prime instigator or cause of those fears; he is just the Republican candidate who is most adept at manipulating them. Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” is a direct promise to restore a world where white folks are central to all things in the United States (to the degree that they are not), and their dominance, privilege and power are uncontested.

The worry I have, of course, is that people who aren't conservative authoritarians will vote for him in November. Because it seems obvious that he'll be the Republican nominee. And that's not a guy I want anywhere near real power.

The GOP reaps what it sowed

New Republic's Jeet Heer points out how the Republican Party's "Sourthern Strategy," going all the way back to the 1950s, led more or less directly to Donald Trump's campaign:

Far from being a “cancer” on Republicanism, or some jihadi-style radicalizer, he’s the natural evolutionary product of Republican platforms and strategies that stretch back to the very origins of modern conservatism in the 1950s and 1960s.

The racist voters swarming around Trump didn’t just pop out of nowhere. The Republicans have been courting them for decades now, in a dramatic break from the party’s origins. From its creation in 1854 in opposition to the expansion of slavery until the 1940s, the Republicans were the party of the North, and more anti-racist (albeit sometimes only marginally so) than the Democrats, whose most reliable base of support was the “solid” white South. 

The Southern Strategy was the original sin that made Donald Trump possible. If Republican voters were anywhere near as diverse as the Democrats’, a candidate like Trump would have been marginalized quickly. Conservative elites can denounce Trump all they want as a “cancer” or an impostor. In truth, he is their true heir, the beneficiary of the policies the party has pursued for more than half a century.

It's a long-ish article, worth the time.

Quel week-end

I haven't had a moment to blog this weekend, but wow, what a major political event yesterday. Justice Scalia died suddenly on Saturday, and almost immediately Senate Republicans said they won't allow any nominee from President Obama to come to a vote. As Josh Marshall points out, this had no purpose save one:

In a typically insightful Twitter spree last night, David Frum noted that "McConnell’s precipitate statement [that he would refuse to hold a vote on any Obama appointee] is wrong not only on grounds of appropriateness & timing, but even politics ..." As Frum notes, it is entirely unnecessary for McConnell to make this stark pronouncement. He and his Senate caucus could simply decide in advance to judge any nominee beyond the pale, reject them on a party line vote and run out the clock.

Part of me thinks this too. And I agree with David that it is simply wrong. But I think I know why McConnell is right out of the gate with a principle he seemingly has no need to explicitly invoke:to normalize the behavior, to stake out the maximalist position early in order to allow it time to become accepted as a given. And more than this, it makes sense for him to do so while the White House is bound by normative rules of propriety and decency to focus on statements and gestures of mourning rather than political brinksmanship.

As I said, there's no debate here. It's just a power-play, a refusal to fulfill a straightforward constitutional duty, which no one, not the President or anyone else, has the power to prevent. Let's not pretend otherwise.

Because the Republican Party doesn't want to govern; they want to rule. And this has been the case since 1964.

Eddie Lampert's murder of Sears

Sears, Roebuck & Co. was founded only a couple years after the Chicago fire (and the Apollo Chorus). For decades people equated the Sears brand with mail-order retail. They could deliver anything, anywhere, and people in rural 19th- and early-20th-century America depended on them. Their success and business acumen culminated in them commissioning the tallest building in the world just over 40 years ago.

Their current chairman, Eddie Lampert, took over in 2004, and immediately applied the teachings and wisdom of the sociopathic author Ayn Rand to running the august company. He set managers against each other, extracted cash without reinvesting, merged with bankrupt K-Mart, and in the process squandered two-thirds of the company's value—$6 billion just since 2012.

The company took another step to total collapse this week when they announced that they planned to write down the value of the name "Sears" by $200 million. This came in its official report that included dry but painful descriptions of its unbelievably bad Christmas season and its continuing hemorrhaging of cash and people.

The slow death of Sears by Lampert's hands is just sad. Lampert's ideology, and probably his narcissism, have killed one of America's biggest names. I don't think we've ever seen a better example of what happens when Ayn Rand's beliefs go up against reality.

Disqualifying characteristic of Rubio?

Buzzfeed via TPM reports that Marco Rubio is probably not ready for the White House:

The key line is: "Though generally seen as cool-headed and quick on his feet, Rubio is known to friends, allies, and advisers for a kind of incurable anxiousness — and an occasional propensity to panic in moments of crisis, both real and imagined."

Now plenty of us get anxious. But there's probably nothing you want less in a President than a propensity to panic in moments of crisis. It's almost terrifying. Now I'm panicking.

For all that, not to put too fine a point on it but the presidency is a fairly unpredictable enterprise with a more or less nonstop stream of crises, some trivial, some potentially world shattering. Coolness under pressure and the ability to make decisions are the two critical attributes in any leader or executive and likely the two most important for a President. What's the 3 AM red phone line call for Rubio? Even better is the reference to panicking over crises "both real and imagined."

Again, not Obama.

The current Republican rap on Obama is basically that he doesn't panic enough. Too cool and collected, when the world is burning around him. Whatever you make of that, Obama isn't a panicker. No drama. Again, you cannot put that much stock in any single article. But the charge is about the most devastating one that can be leveled at a candidate for President. And recent debate evidence tends to confirm the diagnosis.

Yep.

One reason people are pissed off

Calculated Risk updates the "scariest jobs chart ever:"

The chart shows each of the post-World War II recessions in terms of job losses from the pre-recession peak. Notice that the 2001 recession line slides right into the 2007 line, as the Republican policies that led to the housing boom and bust tanked the banking sector.

We haven't fully recovered from the 2001 recession, in other words. We've had a generally-down cycle for almost 15 years now. That is why we should not elect a Republican legislature until they figure out how economics works.

Bruce Rauner does the impossible

Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg put the Rauner administration in context in a column a couple of weeks ago:

Not only did Rauner fail to make tangible progress, but he didn’t even tread water properly. The normal operation of the state, such as passing an annual budget, failed to occur, sacrificed on the altar of the governor’s hunger for term limits, union enfeeblement and other unrelated pet causes. He’s like an office manager getting himself hired by promising to expand a business who then promptly fails to pay the electric bill, as a point of principle against the electric company monopoly, so they turn the lights off. Now we’re sitting in the dark, listening to him explain.

But give credit where due: Rauner has accomplished something real, something that I would have thought impossible:

He makes Rod Blagojevich look good.

In 2014, Rauner won every county in Illinois except Cook, beating Pat Quinn by about 150,000 votes out of 3.6 million cast. That's not a huge mandate. But it has turned into a huge disaster. ("A yuge disaster?" Hm.)

Reading list

Stuff:

Someone call lunch...

How stupid is Iowa?

No more or less than any other state. But that doesn't mean Iowans have any ability to pick winning candidates for president:

The problem is not that the people of Iowa are stupid. They are not, by most measurements. It’s that Iowa looks nothing like the rest of America. As a result, the winners, more often than not, are nationally unelectable extremists. Who can remember President Rick Santorum or President Mike Huckabee, both previous winners? Or President Uncommitted, who beat Jimmy Carter in 1976? And what to make of the finding that 43 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers this year are self-described socialists, prepared to select a dyspeptic and unelectable senator as their candidate?

As a bellwether, the Iowa caucuses are no more predictive than a gasbag on an ethanol high swaying from a bridge in Madison County. As a representative exercise relevant to the concerns of a nation of 322 million people, the caucuses are laughable.

Consider that half of all the babies born last year in the United States were nonwhite. Not in Iowa, of course, one of the whitest states in the nation. On Monday, if the Republican caucus is anything like the 2012 turnout, 99 percent of the attendants will be white. That’s not even the United States of 1816, let alone this year.

Meanwhile, the Republican party held a debate last night that their front-runner skipped, which apparently shows how big his testicles are.

News tuff to read

I may or may not have a letterspacing error in the headline...

Short list today, so I may do it after work before rehearsal:

Not to mention, I still haven't finished the Economist's special Christmas issue. Maybe I need a long flight or two?