Where did I go wrong? Or, why Trump may be like Jimmy Carter

As readers of this blog well know, I predicted that Clinton would defeat Trump in November. I was wrong. Big time.

Since the election, I’ve thought a lot about what I got wrong and why I got it wrong. Part of my failure, of course, was that I didn’t read the polls carefully enough. A lot of the polls, as my more attentive readers pointed out, showed Clinton’s margin over Trump, particularly in key states, to be well within the margin of error. That should have been a warning.

But to be honest, I wasn’t so much influenced by the polls as I was by two other things: first, my understanding of conservatism as a reactionary movement of the right; second, my understanding of the presidency as an institution.

In the last chapter of The Reactionary Mind, I argued that conservatism, at least in its modern, twentieth-century American incarnation, had essentially succeeded in its goals. That is, it had destroyed the New Deal, had effectively stopped the civil rights movement, and had significantly slowed the feminist movement. Its great success was its defeat of the left. And because I understand conservatism as an inherently reactionary movement, as a movement that mobilizes against movements of emancipation on behalf of subordinate classes, I argued that its success would prove, long-term, to be the source of its defeat. We could already see the signs, I argued throughout the book, of this coming conservative crack-up. That was in 2011.

But in writing about the election of 2016, I was also influenced by Stephen Skowronek’s The Politics Presidents Make. In that book, which came out in 1993, Skowronek argues that presidents come into office not as sovereign creators of a new world, but as the beneficiaries or burdens of an established regime. That orientation to the regime—is the president opposed to or aligned with the existing way of doing things—plus the strength or weakness of the regime, gives us a sense of how a president might govern. My sense, based on my reading of conservatism and the George W. Bush presidency, was that the Republican free-market regime of Ronald Reagan was becoming weaker, and that Trump would prove to be the equivalent of the George McGovern of the right: that is, the most outré  expression of the regime’s principles, at a moment when the regime has begun to decline in popularity.

So I was obviously wrong about Trump being the McGovern of the right. The question is why?

One possibility is that I was wrong about the weaknesses of the Reagan regime. Rather than being weak, perhaps it was strong, which would make Trump an ideal candidate for election. In support of that possibility, people will point to the widespread control the Republicans have over state legislatures today, though as I said at the time this McGovern issue came up, the Democrats also had widespread control over state legislatures in the 1970s, and their control over Congress, particularly the House, was legendary and long-standing.

Another possibility is that I wasn’t wrong about the weaknesses of the Reagan regime but that I was wrong about Trump. Unlike conservatives or Republicans, he was doing something different: he was populist, he was revanchist, he was racist, he was outrageous, he was a demagogue, he reached out to the white working class. He was, in other words, the expression of an utterly new formation, not captured by the nostrums of conservatism. For a thousand different reasons, most of which I explore in my book, I think that argument couldn’t be more wrong. Virtually all the things that people point to that supposedly make Trump not like your typical Republican or conservative are, from my point of view, the emblematic features of what it means to be a conservative. And nothing anyone has said has convinced me otherwise.

But there is still another possibility: I wasn’t so much wrong about Trump or the Republicans; what I got wrong was the Democrats. What enabled Nixon to defeat McGovern in 1972, in addition to the secular factors that favor incumbents over the challengers, is that the Republicans, while divided, were moving toward a steadily more coherent sense of attack on the New Deal, and had gained some sense of how to win elections.

For a variety of reasons, I don’t think today’s Democratic Party is there. Despite the strength of the Sanders insurgency, the party leadership is not ready to make a realignment. That was clear in Clinton’s campaign, by her desperate—and ill-conceived—effort to hive off Trump from the rest of the Republican Party, by her refusal to make Trump the leading representative of the entire Republican deformation that has governed this country since the election of Ronald Reagan. In the end, I think what I got wrong about the 2016 election was not that I under-estimated Trump but that I over-estimated Clinton and the Democrats.

The real story of the 2016 election, in other words, was not that Trump won—he did, after all, lose the popular vote—but that Clinton lost. That’s what needs to be explained: not that there was a massive shift in the electorate to the right (there wasn’t; Trump’s victories came from a small group of states where there was a tiny swing of the vote), not that there was a revolt of the white working class (incidentally, an old story in American politics; Nixon mobilized the hardhat majority, Reagan mobilized the Reagan Democrats), but that Clinton lost the Democratic base: either among people who stayed home or among a tiny, tiny group of swing voters in a few Rust Belt states who jumped to Trump.

So where does that leave us today? How are we to understand Trump now? I believe that he is as vulnerable as ever: not simply because he is a weak and polarizing candidate, but also because the movement and the party for which he speaks (and against which he speaks) is fraying.

That’s what I argue in this long piece I just did for n+1: that the real precedent for understanding Donald Trump is not Hitler or Putin, not Bersculoni or Brexit, but Jimmy Carter.

Here’s a taste:

THE INTERREGNUM BETWEEN Trump’s election and his inauguration has occasioned a fever dream of authoritarianism—a procession of nightmares from faraway lands and distant times, from Hitler and Mussolini to Putin and Erdogan. But what if Trump’s antecedents are more prosaic, his historical comparisons nearer to hand? What if the best clues to the Trump presidency are to be found in that most un-Trump-like of figures: Jimmy Carter?

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CARTER and Trump are many and obvious: Carter shyly confessed to having “looked on a lot of women with lust”; Trump brags about grabbing pussy. Carter was a moralist and a technocrat; Trump, an immoralist and a demagogue. Carter was a state senator and a governor; Trump has no political experience. Carter wouldn’t hurt a fly (or a rabbit). Trump takes pleasure in humiliating others, particularly women and people of color.

The parallels between Carter and Trump are also many, if less obvious. Like Carter, Trump…

Read it all here.

 

 

33 Comments

  1. Tom R January 11, 2017 at 5:17 pm | #

    I have looked at the Michigan vote count in detail. It agrees with your view that Clinton lost the election more than Trump won it. Trump gained fewer votes from Romney 2012 than Clinton lost from Obama 2012.

    But the election was so close that there are many factors that, by themselves, could be seen to tip the election.

    The counties that tended to show the largest drop in margin were the rural counties. These are the ‘Michigan Militia’ counties that hatched OKC bomber Terry Nichols. In my judgement t is a very likely that the vote shifts in these counties were significantly driven by racism. Even in these counties, however, Clinton lost more votes than Trump gained. Were these assumed racist voters actually voting for Obama over Romney in 2012? Did they hate the snobby rich guy Romney more than the black guy Obama? Or did Obama the organizer know how to find votes in these places better than Clinton?

    But the biggest vote shifts came from the urban counties, Wayne and Genesee. Were black voters in the core cities much less enthused by Clinton than by Obama? There has been a lot of population loss from the cities, did they just lose too many voters? And were Trump’s increased votes coming from black voters switching to Trump, or from working class suburban white voters behaving much like rural voters?

    What is particularly interesting is that Clinton’s best counties, in addition to the university counties, were the wealthy suburban establishment Republican counties. These were the only locations where Trump lost votes versus Romney.

    And, of course, Sanders surprisingly won Michigan, so it is certainly possible that there were enough progressive Sanders voters with enough antipathy to Clinton to cost her the state. It is hard not to think that is a factor in Clinton’s large vote declines versus Obama.

    So it seems to me to be overreaching to interpret this as a single dominant story.

    • ronp January 11, 2017 at 5:28 pm | #

      I think Corey accepts many factors as an explanation, but tries to put Drumph in the context of another historical era (error?) of political re-alignment.

      I still find it shocking 60 million voters could elect the fool. There is a twitter account called “Trump regrets” where people who supported the guy express surprise about how terrible he is turning out to be.

      I think he will become popular over time and will be re-elected (sadly). It is pretty easy for him to look at polls and support what is popular even against his own “party.”

      He will weather any scandal or Katrina like event. I really do not have much hope of him being a one termer like Carter. Maybe another oil crisis plus an embassy hostage event could combine to weaken him enough for Cory Booker to beat him in 2020. Someone I doubt it though.

      • Mitch Guthman January 11, 2017 at 6:32 pm | #

        I really can’t see the base of the Democratic Party supporting Booker for basically the same reasons that they felt disaffection with the Clintons. He might be a better, more opportunistic showman than Hillary but, apart from that, he seems to have more of everything that was wrong with Hillary and less of everything that was good.

  2. msobel January 11, 2017 at 6:20 pm | #

    I suspect the failure of JEB! was a harbinger.

  3. Dean C. Rowan January 11, 2017 at 7:42 pm | #

    Would love to hear James Fallows’ take on this, inasmuch as he has a personal (or at least professional) investment in the Carter comparison. He seemed particularly blind-sided by the Trump win.

  4. Rich Puchalsky January 11, 2017 at 7:43 pm | #

    I think that looking at the Crooked Timber commenter bubble before the election is illustrative. There was basically one person who (annoyingly) supported Trump and pretty much got the essentials of Trump’s appeal right. All other regulars who would have supported Trump were, by that time, banned, and the site immediately before the election instituted a new comment screening system intended to remove rudeness, i.e. to keep out anyone else who might evince the qualities associated with Trump voters.

    The election wasn’t predetermined, and of course could have gone the other way. But looking back at the views on e.g. Brexit, I think it’s clear that the center-left is clueless, and too much immersion in that world will make you more clueless.

    • J. Otto Pohl January 12, 2017 at 1:52 am | #

      “The center-left is clueless, and too much immersion in that world will make you more clueless.”

      This is the main problem of the internet especially the various blogs controlled by tenured professors.

    • LFC January 13, 2017 at 4:45 pm | #

      The number of commenters, pollsters, pundits, experts etc who actually predicted Trump would win was tiny. A few did, but not many. By all accounts not even the Trump campaign expected a victory.

      In that context to chalk all this up to the supposed cluelessness of the center-left and “the Crooked Timber commenter bubble” is laughable. (Anyway the new CT moderation system was directed not vs Trump supporters but against people who, in comment threads, routinely insulted their interlocutors as silly, stupid, clueless, or unable to reason.)

      Btw I think Corey in the OP perhaps has not distinguished enough between Trump’s style and his content; the latter may not have been a big deviation from Reagan-era conservatism, but arguably the former was.

  5. Dean C. Rowan January 11, 2017 at 7:50 pm | #

    “The center-left is clueless, and too much immersion in that world will make you more clueless.” Truer words…

  6. David Green January 12, 2017 at 12:03 am | #

    Liberal identity politics is about minorities; conservative IP is about whites. Liberal imperialism is about R2P; conservative imperialism is labelled neo. Neoliberalism is the same left or right. We are all monetarists now.

    Trump challenged the latter 2 binaries. How that makes him like Carter, I don’t know.

  7. Robert Kircher January 12, 2017 at 12:58 am | #

    As a history-sociology student who took this stuff seriously I couldn’t agree more with the view that we’ve not seen anything like this. What I see is something on the order of an organic-to-functional operational shift in the processes of congressional legislative creation, executive and electoral processes. Lefties would call it a coup. I prefer something less ideological — something like Jane Mayer attempted to lay out in her ‘Dark Money’ with the extended, multigenerational, evolving role of the Koch-network.

    If Trump isn’t impeached or removed on a thoroughly documented constitutional challenge, we’re in for an eight year “reality TV show”.

  8. Old Microbiologist January 12, 2017 at 5:51 am | #

    I suspect one aspect everyone is missing is that Trump is not the fool everyone makes him out to be. That was a character he played, and played it well. He has stacked his team with many very savvy IT personnel. Similarly he has a private security team made up of ex-Spetznatz so he clearly understands the risks he is placing himself under.

    I believe the election was rigged by the Clintonites from the inside at the voting machine level and that Trump’s people either unhacked them or rendered them inoperable. If you recall the massive numbers of machines that became non-functional on election day an in areas that were predicted to be Clinton’s. This explains the shock and outrage at the results as they already knew exactly what the numbers would be and it didn’t happen. I recall in high school a friend and I cheated together on one of our exams and he got an A and I got a C. We had the exact same answers but I couldn’t complain as cheating was worse than getting a C. I suspect this is exactly the case for the Clinton party and in their perspective Trump stole it not by fraud but by un-hacking the hacked machines. This has been a bizarre election from the outset. Add in his masterful use of Twitter to ensure his name is constantly out there for free and in large volumes. He is clearly a genius at marketing.

    • Old Microbiologist January 12, 2017 at 5:52 am | #

      At this point we have to wait and see what transpires next. I think he is going to very quickly dissemble the IC and MIC networks and unravel the deep state. They want him to be reacting but he is getting ahead of them and no they are playing defense. We can theorized what things he might do to shift things his direction. Consider that there is an “attempt” on his life at the inauguration which the bullet only hits his Kevlar without wounding him then we will see his masterful use of marketing again. He will in effect have arranged another event similar in effect as 9/11 and can then do what he pleases. I think something along those lines might play out or something outside the box which is unpredictable. Once he is in anything is possible. Also, do not underestimate the amount of pressure coming from Ukrainian operatives and if you look clearly you can see their fingerprints on a lot of this which leads back to McCain, Graham, Nuland and the NED (and USAID). The CIA may be only partially on board so we may see a palace coup inside the agencies now.

    • TM January 18, 2017 at 8:11 pm | #

      Proof?

  9. stevenjohnson January 12, 2017 at 9:34 am | #

    As to the two basic understandings, first, the idea that conservatism has run out of things to roll back assumes there is no ruling class that needs to divide to rule. It also assumes that their rule isn’t about wealth and power, of which there is never enough, so that reaction can finally rest on its laurels. Neither assumption displays an understanding I think.

    Second, the notion that the regime is somehow in crisis because it’s increasingly unpopular doesn’t make any sense. Political crisis is like economic crisis in one way at least, there’s only one when the owners are losing money. The Obama years were a continuation of the Bush years because Obama succeeded in restoring profitability. Thus the Global Financial Crisis went away so far as the owners are concerned. Looking forward, the claim that Trump is fundamentally a typical conservative who has a typically conservative majority in both houses (and a majority of governors too,) somehow means he’ll be weakened makes no sense. What he can’t do, is deliver on his demagogic promises. When confronted with the task of making America great again, Trump, and other conservatives and liberals alike, is weak. The only question is why anyone thinks this is really a problem for Trump and the Republican Party? They want their masters to be wealthy and powerful. That’s what they mean by greatness. Any peace and prosperity for the people at large doesn’t count as greatness. If Trumpism means anything, it means ignoring all that politics and servicing the wealthy without concessions to the rabble. The decreasing popularity I anticipate is not a failure of Trumpism, it is a necessary means to the ultimate ends.

    If I was to draw a general conclusion for politics from this election, it would be, the belief that you can vote against someone is one of the craziest, therefore most effective, ways to render formal democracy practically null and void.

  10. jonnybutter January 12, 2017 at 9:43 am | #

    what I got wrong was the Democrats

    Exactly, although one could hardly blame you (and I too thought HRC would win). Imagine a model of the economy wherein one basic group (say, consumers) not only doesn’t act with rational self-interest (which happens sometimes), but doesn’t so act for many years, despite widespread immiseration. How could you predict that? How do you predict that particular kind of idiocy? I think even the cliche of the brontosaurus – tiny head, huge body – is the wrong metaphor for the Dems because it would imply too much coherence. The Democratic party doesn’t seem to be a political party at all. It’s more like a giant, failing corporation, one big enough to fail for a decade and still exist – think IBM.

    I have been saying for a few years that the Reagan Epoch should/could have been over or starting to end around 2008. I think it continues so far past its ‘sell date’ because the GOP has no serious political opposition, and hasn’t had for many years. Even being outsmarted by Donald Frigging Trump has not changed minds in the Democratic Party braintrust. Perhaps since I am not an historian or political scientist, it’s hard for me to think of a parallel situation; political parties usually like to win elections! But the Dems seems to be happy just cashing checks, or whatever they do. GOD they suck.

  11. Dennis Brasky January 12, 2017 at 10:11 am | #

    The conservative effort to defeat the New Deal had important assistance from the Democrats. The function of the Republican Party in US politics is to serve as the vanguard of reaction and racism. The function of the Democratic Party is to interfere and render harmless the attempts by the Left to fight against that reaction/racism.

  12. Edward January 12, 2017 at 1:30 pm | #

    I think the congressional approval rating is about 5%. Is the U.S. a democracy at that point? i think most Americans sense they have been had and both political parties are split between the haves and the have-nots. The haves want to maintain the status-quo– and their power, and the have-nots want a new regime that reflects their interests.

  13. Glenn January 12, 2017 at 2:31 pm | #

    Nate Silver, who made his reputation by accurately picking Obama in two presidential elections, kept predicting Hillary wins over Sanders in the primaries, but the margin always closed before the election and Sanders won 23 of the contests.

    Silver’s general election polling followed the pattern of the primaries so consistently that by the time of the election I stopped thinking they were meaningful, even when Silver picked Hillary over Trump 85% to 15%.

  14. Bruce Wilder January 12, 2017 at 4:54 pm | #

    The liberal New Deal’s last avatar was Walter Mondale, not Jimmy Carter. Carter and Reagan were, in many respects, two faces of the emerging neoliberal regime, complementary alternatives and not true opponents. Carter was the template and precedent for Clinton.

    The realignment that cashiered the New Deal was a two-step that leveraged vestigial party identifications and loyalties, but also established new patterns of dominance. In the New Deal political alignment, both Parties had their “liberal” wings and their reactionary or populist conservatives, as the case might be. The Republicans ditched their “liberals” in the Ford Administration; the Democrats ditched their New Deal liberals in the 1984 election where Mondale as Captain went down with the ship.

    Carter, Clinton and Obama have been as much an integral part of the Neoliberal regime that took permanent hold of establishment power with the advent of Reagan as any of the Republicans. The good cop, bad cop routine each side presented to their partisans with manipulation of political symbols masked a common neoliberal economic program and acquiescence of the Dems in the foreign policy program of the neoconservative Republicans.

    The pattern of cyclic change was set by the twin poles of the Great Depression and the end of the Second World War, a dozen years of momentous institutional economic change that put many structures and habits of mind into place that still frame conventional views. The subsequent waves of change have echoed that periodicity. Nixon’s 1968 election was as many years after FDR’s 1932 landslide as George W Bush’s re-election was in 2004 from Nixon; now, a dozen years of financial crisis and war later, Trump’s election is as distant in time from Reagan’s as Reagan’s was from the election of FDR and Truman.

    Trump, I would submit, is George W Bush redux. George W. Bush’s administration, ironically given his family name, represented the near-fatal weakening of the power of the Republican establishment that was practically built into Reagan’s welcoming of the darker Id of right-wing politics. The Republican coalition was shifting decisively in the direction of religious fundamentalism, dirty oil and financial fraud, and in the process, the crazy came forward to a position of potential dominance in the coalition. Kevin Phillips is invaluable on this change in political coalition. The erosion of norms with the unjustified War in Iraq and the politicization of the Justice Department under Alberto R. Gonzales was sweeping. The electoral strategy of 2004 was a masterpiece of seizing power on the thinnest of margins by ethically challenged means and the manipulation of the Electoral College arithmetic.

    The Republican Establishment, frightened especially by the neocon enthusiasm for war against Iran and smart money fear of the political potential of the then coming financial crisis, used the Bush family to reassert itself, installing Bernanke at the Fed and Gates at Defense, to keep the lid on before the pot boiled over. Obama, dutifully, continued these worthies in office, continuing and normalizing the neoliberal economic program and neoconservative foreign policy of his predecessor (why withdraw when you can surge!?), and crippling the Democratic Party organizationally as a potential vehicle for left-of-center reform impulses. In 2012, the Republican establishment repaid the complement (sic) by engineering the nomination of Romney, a man Obama could beat with a minimalist electoral strategy that required few populist promises or attacks on the vampire capitalist opposite and, of course, with no effort to strengthen the Democratic Party in Congress or State Houses.

    In summary, although I think it eminently appropriate to see Trump Triumphant in the context of American political cycles, I think it is a mistake to imagine that the Democrats were any less transformed by their Southern Strategy (Carter, Clinton, Gore) than the Republicans. There has been a single neoliberal regime, with a dialectic between conservative libertarians and left neoliberals that has been increasingly successful at marginalizing and excluding populist and progressive concern for the poor and the merely middle-class from the political discourse. Carter was to Clinton what GWB is to Trump. Carter was a novelty in his time: a post-New Deal Democrat, the first President not of the GI generation. Trump is not; GWB’s Administration provided precedent and training for the kind of wholesale discarding of norms as well as simple competence I would expect Trump to introduce and if the increasingly elderly Trump defers to Pence, Bannon or other more energetic ideologues of the Bad Money, Dirty Oil, American Theocracy . . . well, this will be interesting.

  15. mark January 13, 2017 at 8:54 am | #

    How many Republicans will have ‘Russian Conservatism and Its Critics: A Study in Political Culture’ by Richard Pipes at the ready to wave in front of Trump?

  16. Robert Daniels January 13, 2017 at 9:57 am | #

    FRANKEN STEIN 2020

  17. bob mcmanus January 13, 2017 at 2:54 pm | #

    Sorry. I read the whole thing and failed to find any reference to the voters or people. I am getting embarrassed to keep pushing the Bill Bishop book, but America is demographically, geographically, economically, and socially a radically different set of nations than existed in 1965 or 1979 or 1999. Maybe political science as a discipline has to be top-down and institutional in order to differentiate itself from sociology and posit as a starting assumption a passive, static, and unchanging populace that is manipulated and managed by changing forms of leadership and institutions, but my guess is that such a science will be consistently surprised, and frankly has an authoritarian undertone I find repellent.

  18. Glenn January 13, 2017 at 4:14 pm | #

    Cory,

    I never read your analysis in the Reactionary Mind as a predictive science but valid as a recognition of one strong tendency among many others.

    Each vote is like a vector of unknown direction and magnitude forced into a system that is worse than broken, channeling all variability largely into two paths; it’s fixed.

    Pebbles dropped onto a target will not land repeatedly on the same spot, but will land within an envelope if initial conditions are fixed, as best as can be, to being identical.

    The Electoral College was instituted to solve a problem for the 1% of the day, but it didn’t really solve that problem.

    The Twenty-Second Amendment was instituted to solve a problem but it has created its own problems by leaving second-term presidents free from the constraints of democratic accountability.

    • Glenn January 13, 2017 at 4:17 pm | #

      Elections cannot be predicted any better than stock market behavior. This behavior is simply not mathematically determinable, other than to have a result statistically determined to fall within an envelope.

      For every person that gives serious consideration to possible policy outcomes between candidates, there are likely many more persons who will vote impulsively on extraneous issues like height, prominence of ears, or neck apparel, negating careful analysis.

      • Old Microbiologist January 14, 2017 at 6:52 am | #

        Actually, I disagree with you completely. Before algorithmic trading back when humans actually did all the trading it was extremely predictable and statisticians were in high demand who specialized in this area. Back when I was doing my PhD I needed to do forecasting of animal diurnal temperature deviations so as to determine when a significant fever occurred based on surgically implanted radiotelemetry device (in nonhuman primates) which transmitted 5 measurements one of which was temperature. Every animal has a daily swing of temperature roughly 1 degree up or down daily and every animal’s rhythm is slightly different which makes this a huge problem. The problem is to determine significant events from normal variations. To do this you need to run modeling on each animal and produce a forecast of normal behavior using Adjusted Rate Integrated Moving Averages (ARIMA) which is a function in non-parametric statistics. My problems is no one seems to be available to discuss this with back in the day. Why? Everyone who is an expert at ARIMA works for Wall Street or the National Weather Service both of which use non-parametric modeling. You can see that the best and brightest went to Wall Street and the lesser ones went to forecasting the weather. The modeling can be done with anything and algo traders are using new parameters such as Twitter feeds to predict the market. And yes, I have made a lot of money on the stock market, but ironically not using ARIMA as this is no longer functional as the market is completely manipulated now thus if you know who to watch you can ride along.

        • Glenn January 14, 2017 at 1:06 pm | #

          The market does not operate as it would if it were not manipulated, you say. It is not operating in accordance with an idealized model.

          Models are artificial constructs that attempt to predict, but there is always behavior that departs from models. The model’s adherents have faith that it is never the model that can be at fault and so it is not falsifiable.

          Falsifiability or refutability of a statement, hypothesis, or theory is the inherent possibility that it can be proven false

          I have great differences with Karl Popper, but I agree with his understanding of the need for a statement to be falsifiable before it can be tested.

          Ideologues of all stripes find many ways to explain away model failures, leaving their faith in a model miraculously intact.

          Between which two market crashes did the market behave with the extreme predictability you refer to?

        • Glenn January 14, 2017 at 2:52 pm | #

          I know someone (on my wife’s side of the family) who made a lot of money in the market. I helped him when he was setting up the hardware for his day-trading adventure.

          He found out that successful day-traders need to be closer to the physical trading location to execute trades ahead of others playing the same game, and that rents that close were over his head.

          So he wrote and sold a program that would always make money in any market and that’s where he made his big money—not in the stock market, but in the market for programs that are guaranteed to beat the market.

          His portfolio lost (I assume he was using his market-beating program) about 40% in the last big crash, but he made enough from selling his market-beating program to still be very comfortable.

  19. jonnybutter January 16, 2017 at 4:55 pm | #

    GOP strategy: win so many elections that the opposition party crumbles. Dem strategy: lose so many elections that the opposition party crumbles (from governing record). Such a pot-boiler

  20. Dan Knauss January 18, 2017 at 4:35 pm | #

    Corey’s book pegs the ur-fascist mentality of the nationalist and theocratic right so well I honestly thought he knew Trump had a very good chance. I thought Corey’s optimism was just him trying to be a team player and keep up morale during the election. Now I think he fundamentally does not understand the real live people of the right, their international networks and aims. Look to people like Masha Gessen for the correctives. Not just Trump but the American heartland was co-opted by Russian and assorted international far right, counter-jihad agendas. The reason Gessen left Russia — its legislative definition of gay adoptive parents as pederasts — was a development western “pro-family” theocratic interests (Dobson, World Congress of Families, Alliance Defending Freedom) were invited to assist in, and they did. Western media paid no attention. The ADF in particular has been openly doing this kind of work worldwide for years and is entrenched within the fairly mainstream Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities, where it provides legal counsel/uses member institutions to attack reproductive, labor, and civil rights. This is one tip of an enormous organized movement that is just beginning to reap the rewards of decades of effort.

    • Theo January 18, 2017 at 9:56 pm | #

      I loved your book on conservatism, Corey, and read it several times, passed it on to others to read. And I believe you are right in your analysis of what conservatism is. However, I too, and I attributed this mainly to the fact that the book was a compilation of past writings rather than a comprehensive history of the conservative movement, felt your conviction about the past and future weakness of the movement was not convincing. Just as Hazlitt complained about the conservatives of his day, the same thing must be said about the conservatives of today: They simply never give up, they are never satisfied, wrecking this or that program, idea, stifling the life chances of whole groups, whole classes of human beings, destroying the basis of the U.S. economy does not satiate them (of course the New Democrats have been proven no slouches in these endeavors). Their knives are always out. They are protean in their pursuit of their beliefs and they can justify their beliefs and actions with self-righteousness, religion, and particularly nasty ideologies in neoliberalism and neoconservatism, the falseness of each shown by their spectacular failure in the real world for all but a small percentage of people even before the housing crisis. As you point out in the book, I believe, conservatism can never fail, but only be failed.

      Liberalism has failed as well, but liberals admit of some doubt as well as certainties with large dollops of hypocrisy of course, and, tragically, most liberals in politics are faux liberals and are really neoliberals. The Germans were souped up on drugs going into France during WWII; the conservatives don’t need drugs. They do what comes naturally and this makes them endlessly dangerous and they always do their worst. Even though they won neither the majority of votes in the general election nor in the Senatorial election, they believe, as Trump does as well, that they have a mandate.

      More people voted for Democrats in both elections but of course this means nothing in the face of the Electoral College and the party’s history of refusing to contest Republicans. Just as Democrats have refused to address Republican machinations against voting rights and their manipulation of voting machines, voting rolls, and outright electoral theft in Florida and Ohio in 2000 and 2004, they have refused to mount a campaign against the Electoral College and in favor of a tamper proof paper ballot.

      I read a piece recently that stated that only 26% of Americans voted for Trump once you take into account all those who did not vote and perhaps as well the widespread voter suppression by the Republicans. Just when you think the Republicans can’t get any worse, they do. Witness the speed with which they are acting in the House and Senate even before Trump’s inauguration.

      Of course, a party such as the Democratic party was and is an enabler on a grand scale and their echoing of conservative insanities and their manipulation of identity politics rather than support for economic well-being for all as well as racial, gender, gay, transgender justice has led us to Trump. So many of them have been willing to work with Republicans to destroy the best of their party’s social justice legacy, most of all Bill Clinton (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, unions, privatization of public schools, Postal Service) and Obama (privatization of public schools, the Postal Service, unions, card check, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the public option, the ACA).

      The new Counterpunch newsletter in a piece by Eric Draister discusses the recent studies that show the usually ignored or vastly underreported racism and sexism and beliefs about whiteness and the threats to white Americans that imbued the campaign and brought Trump to power, although the altogether justified anger about the economic situation brought him to power as well.

  21. b. January 24, 2017 at 2:17 pm | #

    The election was close. It should not have been close. The question is not why so many did not vote for, or even voted against, Clinton. The question is: Why did Trump manage to get so many to vote for him?

    The Republican Party since Goldwater/Nixon is not reactionary, even if many of its voters might be motivated by reactionary ideas and rhetorics. The Republican Party is radical – most easily argued with the neocon movement. Reagan was not a weak president, and neither was GWB – they facilitated or even drove change that has not been reversed, either because the changes are, thus far, irreversible, or because the Democratic Party and its related movements are too weak to reverse them, or because the Democratic Party and the oligarchy it represents do not actually want to reverse these changes.

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