Why does it matter that Donald Trump is not a novelty?

In the past few weeks, as the campaign has intensified, I’ve gotten a lot of questions (and pushback) about why I keep arguing for the non-newness of Donald Trump, why I keep resurrecting the multiple precedents for his candidacy against those who would argue for its novelty and innovations.

Part of the reason, of course, is that it is an offense against history and memory to pretend that the GOP of the past was somehow a party of reasonable men, clear-headed and basically decent moderates who were taking the car out for a Sunday spin when it got suddenly hijacked by crazies and yahoos. For years, I’ve been making the claim that the GOP radicals and extremists of today are consistent with conservatives past; I don’t see why I should give it up just because it’s no longer convenient for winning elections, because it doesn’t jibe with the claim, heard every four years, that this is the most important election ever.

But as I’ve thought about it some more these past few days—why do I keep insisting on these precedents?—it occurred to me that there is a less historical, less intellectual and scholarly, reason for my claim.

In this election, we have the opportunity to repudiate not only Donald Trump but Trumpism, and not only Trumpism but the entire apparatus that gave us this man and this moment. That apparatus is the Republican Party and the modern conservative movement. The movement and the party that gave us the Southern Strategy, that made white supremacy the major dividing line between the two parties, that race-baited its way to the free market as the dominant ideology of our time, that made hysterical, revanchist militarism the common sense of bipartisanship, that helped turn the Democratic Party into the shell that it is today (with plenty of assistance of course from people like Bill Clinton), that gave us Donald Trump.

When we pretend that Donald Trump is an utter novelty on the American political scene, when Democratic presidents and Democratic presidential aspirants invoke the reverie of Ronald Reagan against the reality of Donald Trump, when liberal journalists say the contest this year is not between the Republicans and the Democrats but between a normal party and an abnormal formation (with the implication being that if only we could go back to the contests of 2008, 2000, 1992, 1980, 1972, all would be well), we not only commit an offense against history and memory; we not only betray a woeful ignorance of how we came to this pass (and thereby, as the cliche would have it, ensure that we will come to it again); we help shore up, we extend the half-life, of a party and a movement that should be thoroughly smashed and repudiated. (That, incidentally, is what all the great realignments do: they shatter the old regime, they destroy the ideological assumptions and repudiate the interests that have governed for decades, they send the dominant party and its leading emblems into exile.) We make plain our intention to give that party and that movement, even if they should lose in November, a second chance to make their malice and mischief all over again.


  1. John Maher July 30, 2016 at 12:16 am | #

    You are correct of course. I argue that Trump’s politics may not be novel but his “insult comic” delivery is a funny throwback 60s borschtbelt act. Trump realizes that he is a spectacle and must constantly outdo himself with ever greater insults and absurdities. And it is funny for now. The Donald may have Burke’s politics but he stole Don Rickles’ act.

  2. Russell S. Day (@Transcendian) July 30, 2016 at 12:54 am | #

    However Trump thinks it works to claim admiration for Russia’s Putin and go so far as to ask for more secret information from the Russians so as to smear their common foe the Clintons. may be closer to terminal stupidity than he thinks. Truly some things one says will get you killed in the real world, as opposed to TV land full of luxury enemies who just say bad things about you.

    If he was at all a student of history he would be aware that most all evidence points to James Angleton & Richard Helms directing the Assassination of JFK for threatening to end the Cold War. The coup was at the behest of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. People like Curtis LeMay, and another guy JFK put out of his way.

    Mind Control was well advanced as part of the Cold War arsenal then, as it is now. (CIA Rogues & the Killing of the Kennedys by Patrick Nolan & JFKs War with the National Security Establishment by Douglas P. Horne ought give Citizen Trump some pause.)

    I followed up by watching youtube available film and interviews and found little to challenge.

    Far as the Clintons are concerned, well we can all say, “Been there, done that.” Whatever credibility they may have built up as survivors & deal makers has hit its shelf life sell by date, and tried to still appear fresh and tasty when gone rotten some years back when she was Sec. of State & his speech rates quadrupled as told in “Clinton Cash”. “Gotta pay the bills somehow.” He says.

    It is Wrestlemania.

    After election rigging, and all the rest of it and some useless apology for the ruination of another generation’s innocence who are supposed to now know about the real world and the stupidity of indulging in any idealism. Debbie Wasserman Schultz won, and is certainly fixed for life.

    The Democrats of Secret Donors and a platform meant to appeal to the GOP & GOP Women, & Black Women of the C.S.A. states more than Sanders Progressives, New Deal Democrats is clearly one party. It is one stick with two ends with one end being Trump & the other being The Clintons. GCD, GOP, C.S.A. & Dems. Just the GCD my friends.

    I am already being impolite as the comment is not supposed to be longer than the author’s post.

    Transcendia.org, or Transcendian. Thanks, Russell

  3. fosforos17 July 30, 2016 at 1:34 am | #

    I am amazed at the idea that it is the historical Republican Party which is mainly responsible (admittedly with Clintonian assistance) for “turning the Democratic Party into an empty shell.” Was the DP any less an empty shell in 1944 whenits establishment dumped the overwhelming favorite of the party’s base, Henry A Wallace? When Truman dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, armed Greek and Turkish dictatorships against their people and formed NATO under the banner of “anticommunism? and began the Loyalty-Security program we remember as the Red Hunt and the McCarthy era? In my view, the essence of the US repressive state is, and has been for much more than a century, the Bipartisanship of the two parties financed by capital. And what is absolutely unprecedented aboiut Trump is nothing to do with his orangeness or his bullshit–it is that he has spectacularly disrupted that bipartisanship to the point of forming an open capitalist consensus behind the Clinton. That is why the mild “socialism” of a Sanders could not be tolerated, why we have seen such absurd demonization of Trump in the entire media reaching even the NYDaily News (McCarthy’s House Organ back in the day) and the “saner” elements of the Murdoch Foxnews. Thje crisis of consent besetting the US ruling class is indicated by the open racism of a Liberal media dumping on the “white working class” uneducated millhands pining for a decent job (who can se through the Clinton but are taken in by the Trumpe-l’oeil). Of course Trump is a third-rate PTBarnum. But how many 19th century Presidents (leaving aside Lincoln and, maybe, Grant) were any better at presidenting than Barnum? Many surely were much worse than he could ever have been.

  4. Thomas Shapiro July 30, 2016 at 3:05 am | #

    Alas, we must also recall that white supremacy and racism, xenophobia, anti immigrant sentiments, Jim Crow laws, the Klan terrorism were once integral to the Democrat party. And that goes all the way back to the States rights quarrels of Jefferson, and Jackson. Trump is the current avatar of the dark side of the American Psyche that flourishes in tough times. It happens to have found a home in the Republican Party since Lyndon Johnson drove them away with civil rights and voting rights of the Great a Society that allowed Nixon to build them a home in the Republican Party with his famous Southern strategy. He then wooed them and screwed them in one election after another. These people have legitimate complaints about how devious and destructive to their class of aging white trades men and factory workers unregulated free market capitalism has been. If, deo volente, Trump is defeated, they will not disappear unless and until the four branches of our balance of powers government cooperate to engineer some reasonable legislative programs that improves their lives.
    Until we restore equal voting rights for all ,eliminate gerrymandering ofcongressional districts, drive the financial oligarchs out of election finance and restore the idea of using the power of government for the Good of the people not parties or office incumbents little will change.

    • Steve Musicant August 10, 2016 at 3:41 pm | #

      Mr. Shapiro, I have seldom if ever seen a more concise, better written description of what’s going on in American civic life today. I hope you don’t mind if I copy your comments; they’re just too brilliant to leave in a response thread.

  5. costrike July 30, 2016 at 7:32 am | #

    I agree we shouldn’t be pretending he’s a novelty act, but I fear that genie is out of the bottle and won’t be easily returned. The dividing line between the present and past campaigns is that Trump has given license to what was previously unacceptable behavior. The dog whistle is now the train whistle. (That David Duke feels emboldened to seek the limelight should tell us something.) The only hope I see of Trump’s approach being discarded is a humiliating loss on election day (and that may not be enough to do it); an outcome that’s-possible, but maybe not likely at this point. Falling that, I think we’ll be dealing with candidates who play this tune for a while.

    • fosforos17 July 30, 2016 at 10:52 am | #

      Why can’t you even take notice of the fact, unprecedented in every sense of the word, that virtually the entire corporate media (meaning virtually all the media from Fox to Comedy Central) is united in a total Bipartisan effort to villify, demonize, and now redbait the REPUBLICAN candidate? Going so far as to glorify the Iraq War as lead-up to the Clinton’s rant last Thursday?

  6. Roqeuntin July 30, 2016 at 8:10 am | #

    For whatever it’s worth, reading your book and blog was a primary reason I started seeing through the claims that the modern version of conservatism was something new. For that, I thank you.

    One of Altusser’s refrains was “Ideology has no history.” I think it applies here because most of the analysis pushing this idea that Trump is somehow new is fundamentally ahistorical. Frankly, so are most of the arguments in favor of Clinton. Few to none of them make reference to anything she or her husband have actually done when in office, the DLC, the interests they have served when they were in power. They couldn’t justify themselves as the lesser of two evils if they campaigned on that. Instead, you get the ideology of the office place: Hillary has the resume. She’s “qualified.” We are presented with the logic of the HR department, the same logic which gives executives golden parachutes regardless of what sort of fraud they commit, which creates a revolving door where people forced out of one company simply move to run another. That our government mirrors this environment is no coincidence, because they run on the same ideology, which in practice translates into justification for the ruling class to stay in power. They have created the perfect Catch-22. To lead you need experience, and to get experience you already have to have lead. Furthermore, you can only lead in a hopelessly corrupt bourgeois form of government.

    This kind of circular logic is how a powerful system insulates itself from change. I can’t say it enough times. The same media which smeared and ignored Sanders is now telling us that Trump is an entirely new thing, a bona-fide fascist. This is prima facie absurd, because fascism itself is a century old, but I digress. Do people think these media sources have changed in the past months? That they don’t serve exactly the same people and the same powers? Do they not understand that just because it’s not happening to Sanders changes nothing about the fundamental relationships at work?

    • bystander July 30, 2016 at 11:10 am | #


    • Carolyn Porter July 30, 2016 at 1:26 pm | #

      I agree with you here. Can you give me the Althusser reference for
      “Ideology has no history”? It’s been a while since I read, and
      taught, Althusser, i.e. pre-internet days. Also, am curious about
      the possible relation between his statement and Jameson’s
      announcement that “History is what hurts.”

      • Roqeuntin July 30, 2016 at 2:24 pm | #

        Absolutely, it’s repeated several times in “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” which is probably the most influential thing he ever wrote. Much of Foucault’s work about “Disciplinary Institutions” has its roots there.


        If you scroll down the page, there’s a heading “Ideology has no history.”

        • Carolyn Porter July 30, 2016 at 3:16 pm | #

          Many thanks. Should have known this.

  7. gmackin July 30, 2016 at 10:26 am | #

    Throughout your posts about the non-newness of Trump, I’ve been mulling the issue. I was finding something unsatisfying about your arguments, but not able to articulate it. For a long time, I kept trying to think about ways to refute your thesis directly (Trump has said/done X and Y, which is something Reagan/Goldwater never did—that sort of argument). But I don’t think that’s really my concern. Your new post here, I think, has helped me to figure out why I’ve been resistant to the argument you’ve been pushing. So I’ll start with my agreement: Many of the things we could describe about Trump also apply to Reagan. Movement conservatism has, in effect, been a form of reactionary Trumpism for a long time, and I understand your hope that if we can keep them linked together, then there is hope that defeating Trump this election might also help defeat that brand of conservatism.

    Yet I have two points of disagreement. First point: I think this line of posts has been a bit overly focused on historical accuracy, when I sed the question at stake as almost entirely political. I tend to see the question of whether Reagan “really” was akin to Trump, in other words, as sort of beside the point. The name “Reagan” today signifies something other than what he was in the 1980s, and can be re-signified. Historians can worry about whether the Reagan of the popular memory is accurate, but I’m not sure why it matters for contemporary political activism. It is true that those who are arguing for Trump’s novelty invoke Reagan to refer to someone who was conservative but also “principled.” The name is used to invoke the position of someone interested in governing, had limits to what he was willing to do, and even showed flexibility (in, for instance, raising taxes and in negotiating with Gorbachev). But for me, the most important question is not whether such conceptions of Reagan are whitewashes (they are), but whether they are a good idea.

    And this leads to my second (and more important) point: The re-signification of Reagan might serve a valid political end. In my view, there is currently no chance of eliminating the revanchist militarism, white supremacy, and so on that operates in contemporary politics. The only way to “eliminate” those aspects of our politics would be to eliminate those who buy into such practices/principles. And there are a lot of these people. The goal must be to figure out a way to live with these aspects of our political culture while preventing them from doing more damage. If so, then (for example), re-signifying Reagan to refer to “principled conservatism” might have some value, as it might provide a less destructive way of expressing the reactionary positions that operate in our political culture. (Or shorter version: I guess I don’t agree with the claim that reactionary conservatism/fascism is somehow going to be crushed, eliminated, or extirpated, and I’m dubious about the idea that this should be the goal of leftist politics).

    Granted, I don’t think that this is what people like Klein are doing when they insist on casting Trump as utterly unprecedented and abnormal. Still, I do think Klein’s narrative might be a bit more defensible than your argument suggests.

  8. Glenn July 30, 2016 at 11:20 am | #

    “Democratic presidents and Democratic presidential aspirants invoke the reverie of Ronald Reagan…”

    Obama here selling the “normality” of the Republican Party in 2008, preceding his sellout into the Reagan trajectory that the Clinton presidency maintained:

    “I don’t want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. I think part of what’s different are the times. I do think that, for example, the 1980 election was different. I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.

    “[Reagan] put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like, you know, with all the excesses of the 60s and the 70s…”

    “I think it’s fair to say that the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10, 15 years, in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom.”

  9. jonnybutter July 30, 2016 at 12:15 pm | #

    Yes the ideo-pathology that produced Trump and lives through him is hardly new. But there is something novel about him: he is hilariously unsuited for just about any job, in politics or otherwise. That a still-major party nominated someone like him really is novel. The liberals blur that distinction because of what it is *they’re* devoted to, namely an unmoored cravenness which they like to call ‘competence’.

    • fosforos17 July 30, 2016 at 12:33 pm | #

      But the “Trump phenomenon” was not produced by some ” ideo-pathology.” It was produced by a *socioeconomic* pathology that has seen most of the country (those inhabiting the “flyover” country between Wall Street and Silicon Valley) deindustrialized, disemployed, depressed, despised and denigrated by the Bipartisan plutocracy and its whole ideopathological; Mass Media. The bien-pensant intelligentsia, in its selfsatisfied political complacency, seems entirely blind to that fact.

      • LFC July 30, 2016 at 8:34 pm | #

        That (economic factors) is only one part of the Trump phenomenon and base of support, as revealed by polling data on racial etc. attitudes. An economically pressed voter is more likely to vote Trump if he/she has certain beliefs about immigrants and Muslims; some economically distressed voters have those beliefs, others don’t. (Link on this to follow.)

        • LFC July 30, 2016 at 8:43 pm | #

          Not endorsing 100 % this link to a political scientist’s take, b/c I haven’t closely studied all the graphs, but it’s a useful corrective to some of the conventional wisdom (h/t a commenter at Crooked Timber):

          • Zach Braff August 3, 2016 at 5:53 pm | #

            @ LFC, and the graphs from Twitter

            These just identify differences between Trump & Clinton voters, so it’s gonna track with the difference between GOP & Dem voters — not a good tool for arguing “something’s different” about Trump, more the opposite.

            Liberals don’t listen to conservatives ever, so they don’t understand the distinctions between groups on their side.

            During the primary, the best predictor of who would vote Trump was who believes “The government doesn’t work for people like me.” Of course all types of racial resentment and white fear get tied up with that statement, a connection conservatives have been blazing for what, 150 years? But the belief in white (and Christian) persecution at the hands of liberals is true for the Cruz wing of the party, too. They think Dems are just giving amnesty to illegals and food stamps to black criminals to buy votes and win power. Like Corey said, there’s a straight through-line here, and Trump is not an outlier.

            The religious right hate government, but they’ve been pandered to systematically for thirty years. As a consequence, they believe in change within the (corrupt) system, led by a courageous Christian with values like Cruz. They vote en masse, they have a sense of efficacy. What’s different with Trump supporters is still that statement, “government doesn’t work for people like me.” And what truly sucks is – absent its racial dimension – we have empirical proof now that statement is true.

            So what’s dangerous to me come November is how Democrats are re-triangulating as the party of this broken status quo: “America Is Already Great”

            I’m ready for a devolution of the parties, but it might go the wrong way. We’re running the risk there will be even less representation for the Left, no party advocating for working people at all — just one party uniting Reaganite Cold Warriors with creative class professionals, and then a broiling stew of resentment for the remainder.

          • fosforos17 August 3, 2016 at 7:14 pm | #

            That outcome would, for those hoping for a political revolution–and therefore the conditions for the formation of a true revolutionary mass movement–be the best outcome short of a Green majority.

    • Roqeuntin July 30, 2016 at 2:49 pm | #

      As clownish as Trump is, I have to disagree. As if Reagan somehow wasn’t “hilariously unsuited for just about any job, in politics or otherwise.” An actor, and not even a particularly good one at that. The idea that the reality show version of politics is new is patently false. Ronnie Reagan who, along with Nancy, planned most of their schedules based on Astrology were not the slightest bit less silly. Say what you will about Trump, but to the best of my knowledge he’s never done anything that ludicrous. That this idea that Trump is novel is combined with a near universal hagiography of Reagan by major figures in US politics is the ultimate irony.

      • paintedjaguar July 30, 2016 at 8:00 pm | #

        As noted, Reagan wasn’t even much of an actor. His real vocation for much of his life, including his years in the White House, was being a pitchman for wealthy interests.

    • nihil obstet July 30, 2016 at 4:06 pm | #

      The novel thing about Donald Trump is that he’s crass and boorish in public. Otherwise, as a candidate he’s no worse than the thin-skinned, ignorant, incurious, dry-drunk George W. Bush and is much better than Reagan. A lot of what we’re seeing from the elites is an assertion of their own refinement.

  10. jonnybutter July 30, 2016 at 4:22 pm | #

    As if Reagan somehow wasn’t “hilariously unsuited for just about any job, in politics or otherwise.”

    Reagan had jobs all his life. After a radio and then Hollywood career (he wasn’t such a bad actor, BTW), Reagan was president of a union (SAG) and gov of CA for 8 years, before starting his runs for pres. (He was also a propagandist for GE). Reagan was a politician, and quite a skilled one at times. Can you imagine Trump doing any of that? I can’t. He could not have been even what he is today – a reality tv star – without having been born into wealth, and living in a moment (and city) perfectly suited for rich assholes like him. He’s not even good at commercial real estate.

    The closest thing to Trump in modern times is GWB, although even Callow George had been a half assed gov of a weak-governor state, and a political operative for his dad.

    Unlike Obama, HRC, and DWS, I would never defend Reagan – he and movement conservatism have been a tragedy for the US. But political actors can always get worse, and Trump is novelly worse. Even frickin’ Hearst ran for congress first.

    • Roqeuntin July 30, 2016 at 5:32 pm | #

      I’ll grant you that his lack of ever having held political office is novel, at least on a presidential level, but that is it. You’ll never get me to say Reagan was any better than Trump except in terms of optics. Since he was an actor, he knew how to play the role (which is all it really was to him, a starring role in his biggest movie ever). I’ve said it before, but the only thing novel about Trump, at least to me, is the fact he’s vulgar. That’s all of it. He says in crass, ordinary language things conservatives only implied through coded language and dog whistles before. This is a form of aggression, but also is the core of his support. He uses the low language of the middle and lower class whites who form his base and sharestheir racial prejudices.

      On a side note, Glenn Ford at the Black Agenda Report has had some of the best commentary on this election anywhere. Just thought I’d mention that.

  11. jonnybutter July 30, 2016 at 6:54 pm | #

    You’ll never get me to say Reagan was any better than Trump except in terms of optics.

    There is a piece of videotape somewhere (no idea where i might find it among the piles and stacks of Trump quippage), in which Trump was asked what he thought of the Brexit question – this was several days before the vote. You can tell by the look on his face that he didn’t know what it was. BREXIT. A few days later, he was asked about it and wisely said that ‘you shouldn’t listen to me because I haven’t been focused on it, but…’ and then gave his unconsidered opinion.

    OK, I’m not about saying who’s ‘better’ – I’m about saying who is worse. It seems to be an impossible concept for – even brooding leftist – Americans to grasp: badness/ugliness is a linear, absolute value which has a vast scale. Things can almost always get worse, and it’s a conceptual mistake to see it as a ‘relative thing’. Trump didn’t even know what Brexit *was*, a week before the vote, during his successful campaign for GOP nomination for pres. That’s not a new level of ridiculous? ‘Don’t listen to me!”. What?!

    I know ppl on the left, including me, can feel a certain quiet satisfaction in the fact that Trump is GOP nominee. The GOP’s very shit came to life and kissed it on the lips. I’d bet that there are plenty of, perhaps politically more incoherent Americans, who are thrilled to see our politics exposed for the joke that it is.

    But just because the clear repudiation this ideology deserves (as Corey says) is, tragically, and pathetically, not accomplished by electing liberals instead, doesn’t mean that, on balance, it’s OK for The Donald to be president, that that possibility is ‘not that a big deal’, etc. Yes, it is. I contend he is a new and dangerous level of bad, however convenient that fact is to ppl like HRC, et. al. The ideology is not new, and yes, Democrats and Republicans – especially Democrats – crank up the fear mongering during every election. But this can be true simultaneously with the above.

    I’d also say that, whatever Glenn Ford says notwithstanding, electing a frank racist and bigot is immediately physically and psychically dangerous for a lot of people, especially non-orange people.

    • Roqeuntin July 30, 2016 at 7:53 pm | #

      Once again, I have to disagree with you. There is no fundamental difference between Reagan, who almost provoked nuclear war with the Soviets on two separate occasions over a “joke” and military exercises in terms of political knowledge or preparedness. Any attempt to do so is historical revisionism to make Trump seem worse, and Hillary seem better by comparison.

      “I know ppl on the left, including me, can feel a certain quiet satisfaction in the fact that Trump is GOP nominee. The GOP’s very shit came to life and kissed it on the lips. I’d bet that there are plenty of, perhaps politically more incoherent Americans, who are thrilled to see our politics exposed for the joke that it is”

      I couldn’t disagree more. I take no pleasure in this whatsoever, and not only because Trump is being used as a cudgel to browbeat us all into getting behind Hillary. There is nothing thrilling about this man, and you, who claim he is uniquely awful should understand that. I’d argue that what is so “thrilling” about Trump is that he makes it easy for us to overlook just how little the Democrats do for us and how similar what they do when in power is. Trump is a gift from heaven for a bankrupt neoliberal capitalist politics which offers us nothing but fear.

      I will admit that such a frank racist and bigot is troubling, but what have the Democrats done about any of it in concrete terms while in office. The whole of Black Lives Matter took place with Obama in the White House. He has also set records in deporting people. He does nothing economically for people in the inner cities and doesn’t even pretend to. Trump may be vile, but that in no way excuses the “alternative.” It’s the same thing every election, they goad us into voting against our own interests. I’m only now realizing that people who vote Democrat have Stockholm Syndrome almost as bad as the people voting for the GOP, they just take a different road to get there.

      I am resolute in voting for Jill Stein. If not now, when? If rigging a primary and Hillary working to form a new political block consisting of the neoliberal capitalist wing of the Democrats and people who were perfectly content voting Republican until Trump came along doesn’t convince you that the left has no place in the party, I’m not sure what will.

      I’m sorry. I empathize with you, I really do. But no, I will no longer be held hostage by this process.

      • LFC July 30, 2016 at 9:00 pm | #

        No one is “browbeating” you into voting for HRC. Jonnybutter is pointing out, reasonably it seems to me, that, among other things, the level of Trump’s ignorance is astounding. Didn’t know what Brexit was, didn’t know what the nuclear triad was, etc. Reagan was ignorant but in a somewhat different way; he at least went through briefing books before his debates. Will be interesting to see if Trump bothers to do that. There are many reasons to find Trump troublesome, but I think the hand-on-the-nuclear-button argument is one of the most compelling. Reagan changed on that issue while in the White House btw. Reagan was also a ‘conviction politician’. His convictions were mostly bad, but he had them. Trump appears to have none that are discernible as actual, deeply held convictions.

        I would not argue that Trump is a complete novelty. But he is supremely unsuited to be pres., as jonnybutter says. (This reminds me I still haven’t read most of David Auerbach’s CT post on Trump.)

    • fosforos17 July 30, 2016 at 8:36 pm | #

      But NOBODY knew what “Brexit” was and nobody now knows what it is, if it turns out to be anything at all. A meaningless advisory vote between two vague generalities (“stay?” or “leave?”)–why should anyone, let alona an American golfing impresario, “focus” on it?

  12. jonnybutter July 30, 2016 at 11:50 pm | #

    I think we’re arguing past each other here, Roquentin. I don’t care if you vote for Jill Stein or not, and I am also not voting for HRC, FWIM. But I think it’s foolish and – to put it mildly – insufficiently materialist to be sanguine about a possible DT victory.

    I don’t disagree with Corey’s piece, either. I’m just pointing out the distinction between ideological continuity and basic personalities of candidates. I think it’s actually harder to argue for the continuity Corey cites if one insists that Trump is not novel in *any* way. As LFC says, there’s a big difference between the personalities of Reagan and Trump. Sure, Reagan was relatively ignorant, but he was at least interested in, and experienced in, and often very skilled at, politics. Again, as LFC says, he had shitty convictions (or biases), but at least he bothered to *have* a few.Trump is not even interested in his own new profession! Sorry, but that is bizarre and new for a modern pres candidate.

    And barring some bumbling catastrophe, Trump will surely lose the election. Unfortunately, the ideology fueling him and the GOP will *not* be smashed – not yet. My theory – sorry for the repeat – is that the natural end of the Reagan Era was around 2008, not 2016 or later. But liberals tend to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory – Obama made it his speciality, but he’s hardly alone. Liberals don’t want to defeat Reaganism, they want to BE it.

  13. I M Flaud July 31, 2016 at 1:53 am | #

    “…that made hysterical, revanchist militarism the common sense of bipartisanship…”
    John Mearsheimer’s Offensive Realism considers militarism structural, a matter of the survival of the state — hysterical, revanchist militarism is presumably beyond the call of duty.

    It’s hard to tell if you consider the United States worse in this regard than any other regional hegemon, or if the US and Russia decided to “retreat from the field of imperial struggle,” whether you believe China and other countries would take their place.

  14. stevenjohnson July 31, 2016 at 9:10 am | #

    The defection of quite a few professional Republican Party politicians suggests rather strongly that they think Trump is not just business as usual. Their perception that Trump has hijacked the base rather suggests that they think the base was actually theirs in the first place. Or that they were expressions of the will of the base. Neither proposition seems plausible to me. Both mainstream parties have had a tenuous relationship with mass sentiment for quite some time. The whole general approach of seeking to enact popular policies (which usually means reforms,) is by and large something reserved for special occasions like the New Deal (prompted by the Great Depression,) or the Great Society (prompted by the mass resistance of African-Americans and the exigencies of the great crusade.)

    It’s true enough that nothing in Trump’s policy proclamations is a true novelty in bipartisan politics since WWII. The real point is that he’s running against politics, which is why all the free publicity for his shocking, shocking, shocking statements just campaigns for him as the guy who’s above being politic. Trump is running against politics, against the system, against the establishment. You may ask, how is a billionaire not part of the establishment? So far as I know, not even Sanders has had the nerve to criticize Trump as stockholder in the system, as an owner of the establishment. All the criticisms of Trump (and Clinton) are from the right.

    As to Trump’s chances of winning, Clinton seems to think that enlisting bipartisan support is her best option. Since the Republican politicians couldn’t stop Trump from winning the nomination, I’d say their support isn’t going to stop Trump from winning the Presidency either.

  15. b. August 1, 2016 at 3:44 pm | #

    In consequence, isn’t the real problem the #NotQuiteTrump counter-candidate that is currently engaged in reckless, fact-free red-baiting to distract from the leaking records of the misdeeds of her and hers?

    The lack of decency looks pervasive, and dragging a nuclear power into what is essentially a PR con so inept it could only work in America is not without cost either.

  16. David Green August 1, 2016 at 5:28 pm | #

    I’m seriously not understanding how the Repub lineage is now separate from the Democratic (Carter, Clinton) lineage. The Repubs have a successful if dysfunctional class revolt; the Dems have a failed functional class revolt. Come on, Corey, address these issues. You play in HRC’s hand with this analysis.

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