Sunday, March 13, 2016

What to Make of "I'm for Bernie or Donald?" Who's to Blame for Trump?

To imagine that Donald Trump is a sort of comb-over John the Baptist for some eventual progressive Jesus is a fiction we force on ourselves by faith, not by reading history. For most of the last century, progressives of various sorts were always convinced that nationalist self-assertion could be magically transmuted into progressivism. By “heightening the contradictions” or showing “capitalism with the gloves off,” authoritarian contempt for parliamentary democracy might be magically transmuted from the wrong kind of rage into the right kind of reform.... Adam Gropnik, The New Yorker ---
This comment really touches on an element of the Bernie-Trump axis which is the theme of this piece.

A few hours ago we received a photo from my brother in law of my sister in law wearing a Trump shirt - they are at the Trump rally in Boca and believe me it is not to protest. My wife is virulently anti-Trump and sent back some little ditty. I just laughed. Passover this year will be fun as my wife includes a Trump button on the sedar plate as a substitute for the bitter herbs. I can't wait to read the section where we name the plagues: vermin, frogs, boils, the first born, Trump.

A transcript of our festive meal would reveal the underlying truths of Bernie, Trump and Hillary supporters. I think the April 19 NY primary comes before the festive meal so we will have lots to have a food fight about.
 ...nationalism sufficiently strident can get by with an eclectic or completely vague economic program both in promise and in practice. Fascism may have appealed to the economically insecure, but it did not appeal by giving them an economic answer. It appealed by giving them an enemy. As in France, or throughout Europe now, the extreme right flourishes not because there is insecurity but because they have an answer for insecurity: blame the Muslims (they’ve also blamed the Jews, though they’re quieter about that right now). Or: blame the Muslims and the Mexicans. They work, in the classic manner, not by providing answers to insecurity but by blurring the lines between genuine anxieties and imaginary fears and then by offering an imaginary solution—the Jews/Muslims/terrorists/Commies who are coming—to the imaginary fears as though that would alleviate the real anxieties.... Adam Gropnik, The New Yorker ---
Gropnik identifies himself as a conservative and his piece below my commentary is worth reading.
He touches on the Ted Cruz charge that Obama is to blame for Trump:
It isn’t Trump or his followers who are really to blame for his rise; it’s the circumstances that produced them and the guys, chiefly liberals, who they think created those circumstances.
Not that this is what they are talking about but is there some sort of Bernie-Trump axis and Trump's trying to blame Bernie for the protests is a sign that he recognizes that lurking among Bernie supporters are people who will support him?

The other day a Bernie supporter called the Brian Lehrer show and said if Bernie doesn't get the nomination he would vote for Trump over Hillary. Brian was astounded, not only at the notion but that this was a respected progressive caller who had called a number of times in the past with a high degree of credibility. Brian asked him to explain. He said he could not vote for a corporate, free trade Democrat once again and would prefer to take a shot with Trump. Are there progressives for Trump who are just ashamed to say so?

I wrote about this Trump-Bernie axis on Dec. 30: The Trump Whisperers in Supposedly Liberal Circles.

Now that Trump is making the ridiculous claim that the Bernie campaign is sending protesters to disrupt the Trump rallies - which I believe actually wins Trump more supporters -- and is threatening to send people to disrupt Bernie events we are reaching a new wrinkle where the other candidates, even Hillary, are pushed to the side. Really, if Bernie thinks he can be the nominee who better to run against than Trump?

I remember waking up in the morning WINS reporting on the Bobby Kennedy assassination. It is indelible in my memory. You know we've seen the possible future in the past when violence erupted which led to assassination attempts and scapegoating - ie George Wallace, the Kennedys, King. Can't you just see some Republican Party saviors looking for a Mexican they can scapegoat an pin an attempt on Trump on - if you believe the conspiracy theories of the past, why not? I have also been worried about Hillary given the hatred she inspires. But I also worry about Obama even if not a fan - I still do and only hope all ends well.
Are we in 1968 territory?

Anyway, our teacher pals in Chicago played a role in the shutting down of the Trump rally on Friday. I have mixed feelings on these protests but haven't sorted it all out yet. I am not a protester in that way. I prefer doing things outside rather than inside.

One of the links between Bernie and Trump is economic woe with the free trade issue at a focal point. Gropnik addresses and disparages this notion:
There’s often a strong need on the part of progressive people to believe that all ailments are essentially economic and that, therefore, if there is a political program that isn’t economic in its emphasis it must be surreptitiously economic in its real purpose. It’s a little like Freudian analysis: since all neuroses are sexual traumas, then a sexual trauma will always be found. But one of the fundamental and tragic lessons of the last century is that nationalism can exist on its own as a cause and faith and belief attached to the most meagre shreds of any kind of economic project. That’s the way Mussolini worked, or, later, Berlusconi. People still identify—yes, let’s go there—Hitler’s rise with the currency inflation of the Weimar Republic. And yet that panic had already passed; Hitler’s appeal, as any reader of “Mein Kampf” can find, was very marginally about economic grievances, almost entirely to feelings of aggrieved identity and unavenged humiliation.
In a follow-Up post I will offer the other side - where the thinking is that Trump is more populist than racist.

Here is the full Adam Gropnik piece.




Roots and Rot: Dodging the Blame for Donald Trump

By

http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/roots-and-rot-dodging-the-blame-for-donald-trump

There seems to be only a partial correlation between economic anxiety and Trumpism, and a much stronger one between his supporters and residual racial suspicions. Credit Photograph by Carlos Osorio / AP
Confession being good for the soul, it is always a good thing to offer a confession for a bad part of one’s past. It is aggravating, though, if, having written a confession, you then go around insisting that everybody else sign it, too. The wiser and most honest conservatives among us have been acknowledging, in the past few weeks, that the ascent of Donald Trump is a huge and historic mistake—but they also want to insist that he’s not just their huge historic mistake. They’ve been passing the blame around. Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal has written, rather movingly, of how Trump’s ascent seems alarmingly to affirm bad things that liberals have said about Republican racial attitudes in the past, with the strong implication that this was, until this very moment, unfair—without stopping to ask how different things might be if the Journals editorial page had, in 2012, really condemned Romney’s embrace of Trump at the height of his most rancid “birtherism.”
It would be, as we used to say, funny if it weren’t so scary. The same people who have long scoffed, often with reason, at the “root causes” theory of terrorism or crime or whatever—emphasizing, instead, individual responsibility for whatever it is we choose to do— have now become full-fledged rootsers. It isn’t Trump or his followers who are really to blame for his rise; it’s the circumstances that produced them and the guys, chiefly liberals, who they think created those circumstances. Or else it’s said that there is a “systematic rot” in American politics, of which Trump is merely a symptom. But in this case there is not a systematic rot. There is a specific rot. The rot was in a party and movement that never actually took the trouble to seal itself off from its own extremists. Yes, of course, there are nuts on all sides, but 9/11 “truthers” play exactly zero role in liberal electoral politics; “birthers” played such a central role in the right that the biggest and most rancid birther of them all is now the leading Presidential candidate of the Republican Party.
Along with this urge to spread the skin around is the impulse to explain the rise of Trump in terms of a more general economic malaise, so granting a pathos and sympathy to his followers. And that there is economic anxiety is obvious. If this were a sufficient explanation, though, one would expect Trump’s own peculiar brand of Home Shopping Network crypto-fascism to track those anxieties, and one would expect the most marginalized and threatened among us to be most taken with it. But there seems to be only a very partial correlation between economic anxiety and Trumpism, and a much stronger one between his supporters and residual racial suspicions. Trump barely makes an effort to gesture toward economic reform, beyond his diffuse tirades about trade. If there’s one thing that economists, right and left, agree on, it is that, as Paul Krugman puts it, globalization “is not a problem we can address by lashing out at foreigners we falsely imagine are winning at our expense.” Trump’s supposed concern for the welfare state rests on things like his occasional remarks about not letting people die in the street, notable or meaningful only for the outrage of Ted Cruz, who apparently would want people to die in the street—or, actually, to die, as has often happened, after being admitted to an emergency ward, months or often years too late. Huey P. Long’s “Every Man a King” was a dubiously non-specific program of economic relief. But even that is different from “I’m a king, and that makes me the Man,” Trump’s real slogan.
Beneath all this is a larger historical current. There’s often a strong need on the part of progressive people to believe that all ailments are essentially economic and that, therefore, if there is a political program that isn’t economic in its emphasis it must be surreptitiously economic in its real purpose. It’s a little like Freudian analysis: since all neuroses are sexual traumas, then a sexual trauma will always be found. But one of the fundamental and tragic lessons of the last century is that nationalism can exist on its own as a cause and faith and belief attached to the most meagre shreds of any kind of economic project. That’s the way Mussolini worked, or, later, Berlusconi. People still identify—yes, let’s go there—Hitler’s rise with the currency inflation of the Weimar Republic. And yet that panic had already passed; Hitler’s appeal, as any reader of “Mein Kampf” can find, was very marginally about economic grievances, almost entirely to feelings of aggrieved identity and unavenged humiliation.

To imagine that Donald Trump is a sort of comb-over John the Baptist for some eventual progressive Jesus is a fiction we force on ourselves by faith, not by reading history. For most of the last century, progressives of various sorts were always convinced that nationalist self-assertion could be magically transmuted into progressivism. By “heightening the contradictions” or showing “capitalism with the gloves off,” authoritarian contempt for parliamentary democracy might be magically transmuted from the wrong kind of rage into the right kind of reform.
It doesn’t happen like that. In truth, nationalism sufficiently strident can get by with an eclectic or completely vague economic program both in promise and in practice. Fascism may have appealed to the economically insecure, but it did not appeal by giving them an economic answer. It appealed by giving them an enemy. As in France, or throughout Europe now, the extreme right flourishes not because there is insecurity but because they have an answer for insecurity: blame the Muslims (they’ve also blamed the Jews, though they’re quieter about that right now). Or: blame the Muslims and the Mexicans. They work, in the classic manner, not by providing answers to insecurity but by blurring the lines between genuine anxieties and imaginary fears and then by offering an imaginary solution—the Jews/Muslims/terrorists/Commies who are coming—to the imaginary fears as though that would alleviate the real anxieties.
Grievances alone are not social goods. Marine Le Pen’s voters have grievances; George Wallace’s voters, God knows, had grievances. But one can recognize the grievance without entering into a sentimental view of the aggrieved. This is, again, the curious reversal that has left all of us in need of some of the classic conservative lessons: that root causes are not all-purpose explanations, much less alibis; that economics are not everything, or even the major thing; that irrational ideology and identity count far more in human affairs. And that democratic societies are more fragile, and more easily broken, than their continuities can often make them seem.

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