Category: The Left

Political Criticism in the Age of Trump: A How-To, or A How-Not-To

At some point in the coming weeks, I’d like to write an essay, a brief essay, on political criticism in the Age of Trump—a how-to, or a rules-of-the-road, for the way we ought to be doing analysis right now. One of the counters I often get to the various claims I make about the weaknesses or vulnerabilities or incoherences of the Trump regime—or when I point out policy moments when I think those weaknesses, vulnerabilities, or incoherences are being expressed—is this: Well, even if Trump pulls back from position x or even if he does action y (where y is not as a bad as z), he’s still awful, he’s only doing it to save his ass, he’s not giving […]

It’s time to start thinking about a realignment: 2 things for the left to do

I really don’t know how long this disaster can last. Every day, the crisis and chaos expand, geometrically. If it continues like this—that is, gets worse and worse, in ways we can’t anticipate—it’s critical that we on the left do two things.   First, make the connection between Trump and the Republican Party. The GOP tied themselves to this man; do not allow them to slip out of the noose they designed for themselves. I don’t simply mean they embraced Trump. I mean that he comes out of 50 years of their politics, and we have to make sure everyone remembers that. Do not make the same mistake Clinton made in the campaign.   Which brings me to the second […]

Stop freaking out about Pence

I really wish people would stop with the “if Trump steps down or is impeached, Pence takes over, and that’ll be really bad because he’s not just super right-wing in a consistent and serious way, but he’s also super effective and politically potent and powerful” line.   First of all, we have zero—as in no—evidence that Pence is a super effective political player. Long before Dick Cheney was in the Bush White House, he had demonstrated his political savvy and skills, on multiple occasions and in multiple institutions and venues. Not so, Pence.   Second, it makes no sense to think Pence is super effective and powerful, on the one hand, yet has simply suffered the unfortunate happenstance of being […]

Trump: 0. Democrats: 0. The People: 1.

1. Donald Trump was handed a major defeat tonight when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate his travel ban. The three-judge panel, which included a George W. Bush appointee, unanimously rejected one of Trump’s key arguments: that when it comes to immigration and national security, the actions of the executive branch are not subject to judicial review. Although our jurisprudence has long counseled deference to the political branches on matters of immigration and national security, neither the Supreme Court nor our court has ever held that courts lack the authority to review executive action in those arenas for compliance with the Constitution. To the contrary, the Supreme Court has repeatedly and explicitly rejected the notion that the political […]

Peggy Noonan Speaks Truth: The Circuits Are Overloaded

Peggy Noonan’s in the Wall Street Journal today with a genuine and useful insight: Mr. Trump has overloaded all circuits. Everything is too charged, with sparks and small shocks all over. “Nothing feels stable,” I mused to a longtime Washington media figure at a dinner the night before the Prayer Breakfast. “Nothing is stable,” she replied. Noonan captures here, I think, a truth about the current moment, particularly how it feels. Every night, my wife and I look at each other and ask, How long can this go on. This constant sense of disruption, this sense that every day is a decade, a minute a year. But stepping back from the feeling of the moment to its politics, I think Noonan […]

If Trump is a fascist, he may be the most backassward fascist we’ve ever seen

1. Rousseau thought that in a real democracy, each person would be so concerned with the fate of the republic that at any sign of a problem, she’d “fly to the assemblies” to make things right. Tonight she flew to the airports. 2. It is absolutely too soon to predict anything at all, but Trump’s executive order regarding immigrants and refugees has generated so much protest and pushback that it has already generated cracks in the Republican Party. Trump’s people are not as all-powerful and invulnerable as they seem. Quite the contrary. Remember: Donald Trump wasn’t just rejected by the majority of this country. He was also rejected in the primaries by the majority of his party: 55.1% of the Republican electorate voted […]

January Journal

As some of you know, more and more of my commentary now appears on Facebook rather than on this blog. If you’re not averse to joining Facebook, you can catch it there; I encourage you to do so, as the conversations can be quite lively and good, involving lots of different folks. I’m maxed out on friends, but you can follow me. But since a lot of readers don’t want to join Facebook, I’m going to try to make it a regular feature—monthly or semi-monthly—to catch you up to speed on what I’ve been saying there. I’m going to collect various Facebook posts and post them here as a kind of regular journal or diary. Some will be out of date […]

David Hume on the Inauguration of Donald Trump

This morning I’m reading Hume, who has a thought for us on Trump’s inauguration. If you think your constitution is so excellent—and many of our political commentators do—”then a change of ministry can be no such dreadful event; since it is essential to such a constitution, in every ministry, both to preserve itself from violation and to prevent all enormities in the administration.” If you don’t think your constitution is so excellent, or not so excellent as to relieve you from worry upon a change in the ministry, then you’ve got a much bigger problem: “Public affairs, in such a constitution, must necessarily go to confusion, by whatever hands they are conducted.” In such a situation, Hume goes onto say, […]

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, […]

December Diary: From the Political to the Personal

1. About a month before the election, I found myself—don’t ask how or why—in an audience listening to a speech by Jeffrey Wiesenfeld. For those of you who are not CUNY insiders, Wiesenfeld is a former member of the CUNY Board of Trustees. He’s also an ultra-right Zionist who’s got a lot of nice things to say about Meir Kahane (“misunderstood”) and who’s been behind or involved in pretty much every dustup over Israel/Palestine that we’ve had at CUNY these last ten years or so. His most notable effort was trying to deny an honorary degree to Tony Kushner. (I was pleased to find out from his lecture that our massive pushback against him led him to lose a bunch […]

Against the Politics of Fear

This is a confession. In the last few days, I’ve gotten a lot of emails and comments asking me why I seem, in my Facebook posts and tweets, to downplay the threat of Trump. Why I resist the comparisons to Hitler and the Nazis, why I emphasize the continuities between Trump and previous Republicans, why I insist on attending to the fractures and cleavages within his coalition. Now, of course, nothing I say is meant to downplay the threat at all; it’s all designed to get us to see it more clearly (clearly, of course, by my lights), and while I don’t see my posts or tweets primarily or even secondarily as organizing tools, I’d like to think they give […]

Viva Las Vegas!

As we head into the final days of the election, some thoughts, observations, and provocations—by turns, cantankerous, narrow, and crabby, and, I hope, generous, capacious, and open to the future. 1. As the polls tighten, there’s a lot of left-blaming and left-fretting among Clinton supporters. That fits with a long-standing psycho-political syndrome among liberals of attacking the left—a syndrome in which the left often plays its own not so healthy part. But there’s little basis for that syndrome in reality, at least in this election. Not that this particular reality has much impact on the self-styled reality-based community. But it’s important to register that reality nonetheless: “The problems Hillary Clinton is having do not have to do with the left,” says Matt Grossmann, a political scientist […]

1980 v. 2012

In 1980, women made up 49% of the electorate, and voted for Reagan over Carter by a one-point margin. In 2012, women made up 53% of the electorate, and voted for Obama over Romney by an 11-point margin. In 1980, non-whites made up 12% of the electorate, and voted for Carter over Reagan by anywhere from a 20- to a 70-point margin. In 2012, nonwhites made up 28% of the electorate, and voted for Obama by anywhere from a 50- to a 90-point margin. In 1980, under-30 voters made up 23% of the electorate, and split evenly between Reagan and Carter. In 2012, under-30 voters made up 19% of the electorate, and voted for Obama over Romney by a 23-point margin. […]

Why I Won’t Be Appearing at the Brooklyn Commons on Wednesday

On Wednesday, as I announced in my last blog, I’m scheduled to appear on The Katie Halper Show, which is being broadcast live from the Brooklyn Commons. I’ve decided I can’t go on the show because of the venue. Brooklyn Commons is the space that last month hosted Christopher Bollyn—an anti-Semite who seems to find a Jewish conspiracy wherever he turns, who can’t seem to speak of a crime or injustice in the world without saying the word “Jewish”—despite repeated requests from prominent progressives and leftists that Brooklyn Commons not do so. Though I knew of that controversy, I hadn’t made the connection to the venue when I agreed to come on Katie’s show. After it was pointed out to me, I asked Katie if we could […]

Trump and Tomasky: Where Liberalism and Conservatism Meet

Donald Trump in last night’s debate: And we have to be sure that Muslims come in and report when they see something going on. When they see hatred going on, they have to report it. As an example, in San Bernardino, many people saw the bombs all over the apartment of the two people that killed 14 and wounded many, many people. Horribly wounded. They’ll never be the same. Muslims have to report the problems when they see them. Michael Tomasky, liberal columnist for The Daily Beast and editor of the liberal journal Democracy, in December, after the San Bernadino killings: …the rights you [Muslims] have as Americans have to be earned, fought for….If anything Obama should have been more emphatic about this. […]

Sex, Dice, and the Trump Tapes

Yesterday, the Washington Post revealed that it had obtained a videotape featuring Donald Trump bragging, in the most graphic and ugly terms, about women he’s groped, harassed, demeaned, and more. Within 24 hours, the tape seems to have transformed the political landscape, with legions of Republican leaders now calling on Trump to step down from the ticket. 1. Across social media, people are wondering why this particular story has proven so explosive for Trump. Given that everyone already knew the vileness of his views on women and the viciousness of his behavior toward them—not to mention Muslims and Mexicans—what’s so different about this story? I suspect it’s the profanity. People forget this, but one of the things that most hurt Richard Nixon during Watergate was the release […]

Donald Trump: The Michael Dukakis of the Republican Party

Two takes on last night’s debate, one from last night, one from this morning. 1. The single biggest impression I took away from tonight’s debate—beyond the fact that Clinton clearly dominated (with the exception of the opening discussion on jobs and trade)—is how thoroughly conventional a Republican Donald Trump is. On economics, Trump’s main platform is tax cuts and deregulation. On race and social policy, his main platform is law and order. On foreign policy, his main policy is, well, actually I don’t know. Something about good deals and fee for services. For all the talk of Trump as somehow a break, both in terms of substance and style, with Republican candidates past, virtually everything he said last night—again, with the exception […]

On Neoliberalism. Again.

I’m a bit late to this article, but back in July, the Cornell historian Larry Glickman offered a fascinating periodization of the term of “neoliberalism.” Initially, Glickman argues, in the 1930s, the word was a term of abuse wielded by conservative free marketeers against New Deal liberals. The free markeeters accused the New Deal liberals of betraying the real meaning of the term “liberal” by embracing the state, constraining the market, and so on. So, said these free marketeers, the New Dealers were “neoliberal” while they, the free marketeers, were the true liberals. Phase 2, we move to Europe and the Mont Pelerin Society, where the term takes on a positive meaning among free market intellectuals like Hayek and, for […]

How Clinton Enables the Republican Party

I’ve been saying that one of the problems with the “Trump is like no Republican we’ve ever seen before” line is that it prevents us from consigning the Republican Party to the oblivion it deserves. In making Trump sui generis, by insisting that he is an utter novelty, you allow the rest of the party to distance themselves from him, to make him extreme and themselves respectable, and to regroup after November. Now a leaked email from DNC Communication Director Luis Miranda, which I stumbled across in Carl Beijer’s excellent discussion here, makes plain just how costly this strategy is. Writing back in May, Miranda protests that the Clinton campaign wants to separate Trump from the GOP so that it can point to all the Republican […]