Category: The Right

Politics in this country has never felt the way the it does now…

“The Vietnam War years were the most ‘politicized’ of my life. I spent my days during this war writing fiction, none of which on the face of it would appear to connect to politics. But by being ‘politicized’ I mean something other than writing about politics or even taking direct political action. I mean something akin to what ordinary citizens experience in countries like Czechoslovakia or Chile: a daily awareness of government as a coercive force, its continuous presence in one’s thoughts as far more than just an institutionalized system of regulations and controls. In sharp contrast to Chileans or Czechs, we hadn’t personally to fear for our safety and could be as outspoken as we liked, but this did not […]

Trump Everlasting

I’m glad I’m not a journalist. I don’t think I could handle the whiplash of the ever-changing story line, the way a grand historical narrative gets revised, day to day, the way it seems to change, week to week, often on a dime. Or a $1.5 trillion tax cut. In my Guardian digest this week, I deal with the media’s memory, taxes, the state of the GOP, judges, sexual harassment, and leave you at the end with my assessment of where we are. Here’s a preview: Last week, after the victory of Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama’s senatorial election, the media began reporting that the Republican party was facing an epic disaster. Citing insider talk of a “political earthquake” and a “party in turmoil,” the Washington Post anticipated a […]

Moon Over Alabama: Elections and the left

My weekly digest for The Guardian, looking back on Tuesday’s Senate election in Alabama with the help of Brecht and Weill, Sheldon Wolin, Matt Bruenig, and Eddie Glaude. Some excerpts: Since Tuesday’s Senate election in Alabama, when the mild centrist Doug Jones defeated the menacing racist Roy Moore, social media has been spinning two tunes. Politicians tweeted Lynyrd Skyrnyrd’s Sweet Home, Alabama. Historians tweeted the 1934 classic Stars Fell on Alabama. My mind’s been drifting to The Alabama Song. Not the obvious reference from The Doors/Bowie version – “Oh, show us the way to the next little girl” – but two other lines that recur throughout the song: “We now must say goodbye … I tell you we must die.” It’s a lyric for the left, which can’t seem to let go of its […]

When it comes to domination—whether of race, class, or gender—there are no workarounds

Thomas Edsall says some frustrating, historically shortsighted things in this interview with Isaac Chotiner. After calling for the Democrats to be more moderate, to trim on issues that divide the country—the presumption being that moderation in one party breeds moderation in the other or that moderation in one party checks the extremism of the other (we’ll come back to that)—Edsall brings up the infamous Boston busing battle of the 1970s. This exchange ensues: Q: So what do you draw from the busing controversy then? What advice would you have given racial justice advocates in the 1970s? A: The goal of school integration was a crucial and important one. The mechanism to achieve it—of pitting working-class whites against working-class blacks—was not […]

If taxes are the thunder of world history, what kind of history did the GOP make this past week?

Schumpeter famously said that taxes are the “thunder of world history.” So what kind of history did the Republicans make this past week? Here I am in The Guardian, answering that question with four takeaways on the GOP tax bill. The piece is a kind of digest of some of my posting on social media this past week; increasingly as some of you have noted, I’m doing more of my posting on social media rather than on the blog. If you’re not on Facebook and/or Twitter—and who can blame you if you’re not?—you’ll have missed these posts, so The Guardian piece is a good digest to look out for.

When Libertarian Judges Rule

Prominent libertarian jurist Alex Kozinski has been accused of sexual harassment by six women, all of them former clerks or employees. One of the women is Heidi Bond. In a statement, Bond gives a fuller description of Judge Kozinski’s rule, sexual and non-sexual, in the workplace. One day, my judge found out I had been reading romance novels over my dinner break. He called me (he was in San Francisco for hearings; I had stayed in the office in Pasadena) when one of my co-clerks idly mentioned it to him as an amusing aside. Romance novels, he said, were a terrible addiction, like drugs, and something like porn for women, and he didn’t want me to read them any more. […]

Trump and the Princeton Tory

Robert Kelner, the attorney for Former-National-Security-Advisor-For-A-Day Michael Flynn, just notified Trump’s people that Flynn will no longer be discussing Mueller’s investigation with them. People are taking this as a sign that Flynn is ready to cooperate with Mueller and tell all. I hadn’t heard or thought of the name Robert Kelner in over 25 years. But when I checked, I discovered it’s the very same Rob Kelner I graduated with from Princeton in 1989. For some reason, that one “l” in Kelner always stuck with me. Kelner was a wiry, intense little guy, as I recall him, a College Republican who wrote for (and maybe helped found) a right-wing paper called The Sentinel, whose alums include Ramesh Ponnuru. Kelner was […]

I’ll be on The Leonard Lopate Show tomorrow—and here are a bunch of reviews and interviews

I’m going to be on The Leonard Lopate Show tomorrow, Wednesday, November 22, talking about the new edition of The Reactionary Mind. The show starts at noon, at least in New York. So while you’re readying for the Thanksgiving holiday, have a listen! The book has begun to get reviews! The inimitable Sarah Jones, one of my favorite journalists, gave it a thoughtful endorsement in The New Republic: The book’s second edition, eagerly awaited, now swaps out Palin for the commander-in-chief. Palin and Trump both demand some sort of unifying theory. How can it be that the party of Senator Ben Sasse—who enjoys a mostly-unearned reputation as a moderate—is also the party of Trump? The answer is even less difficult […]

Stokely Carmichael and Clarence Thomas

“This [the opposition to segregated schools] reinforces, among both black and white, the idea that ‘white’ is automatically superior and ‘black’ is by definition inferior.”   —Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton, Black Power   “This position [against segregation in schools] appears to rest upon the idea that any school that is black is inferior, and that blacks cannot succeed without the benefit of the company of whites.”   —Clarence Thomas, Missouri v. Jenkins

Forty Years of The Firm: Trump and the Coasian Grotesque

In his classic article “The Nature of the Firm“—which I wish would be put on the list of required reading for political theorists; it really should be in our canon—the economist R.H. Coase divides the economic world into two modes of action: deal-making, which happens between firms, and giving orders, which happens within firms. Coase doesn’t say this, but it’s a plausible extrapolation that making deals and giving orders are, basically, the two things businessmen know how to do. In the last year, it’s occurred to me, on more than one occasion, that Trump is a Coasian grotesque. Making deals and giving orders: that’s all he knows how to do. Except that he doesn’t. As we’re seeing, he’s really bad […]

If you don’t think that some day you’ll be looking back fondly on Trump, think again: That day has already come.

Back in March 2016, I made a prediction: If, God forbid, Trump is elected, some day, assuming we’re all still alive, we’ll be having a conversation in which we look back fondly, as we survey the even more desultory state of political play, on the impish character of Donald Trump. As Andrew March said to me on Facebook, we’ll say something like: What a jokester he was. Didn’t mean it at all. But, boy, could he cut a deal. When I wrote that, I was thinking of all the ways in which George W. Bush, a man vilified by liberals for years, was being rehabilitated, particularly in the wake of Trump’s rise. Yesterday’s speech, in which Bush obliquely took on Trump, was merely […]

“It’s Scalias All the Way Down”: Why the very thing that scholars think is the antidote to Trump is in fact the aide-de-Trump

Mike Allen is reporting this morning: Trump was upbeat and brought up a Kim Strassell column in The Wall Street Journal, “Scalias all the way down,” giving the president credit for “remaking the federal judiciary.”‘ I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. While political scientists warn against the norm erosion of the Trump presidency—and dwell on the importance of the courts, the Constitution, and the rule of law as antidotes—the most far-seeing leaders of the conservative movement and the Republican party understand that long after Trump has left the stage, long after the Republican Party has lost its hold over the political discourse and political apparatus, it will be Trump’s judiciary—interpreting the Constitution, applying the rule of law—that […]

As we approach the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s election…

As we approach the one-year anniversary of Trump’s election, I notice an uptick in two types of commentary. First, there’s a focus on the barrenness of Trump’s legislative record. It really is astonishing, and something we can forget amid the day-to-day sense of crisis, but compared to every modern president, Trump’s achievements in the truly political domains of the presidency—that is, those domains that require the assent, cooperation, or agreement of other politicians and the majority of citizens—have been miniscule. I rarely agree with Nancy Pelosi these days, but with the exception of the Gorsuch nomination (which, truth be told, was McConnell’s achievement, not Trump’s), she’s right: “We didn’t win the elections, but we’ve won every fight,” she said about the legislative […]

Oh, Jonah: If only conservatives knew their own tradition, Part LXXVII

Jonah Goldberg had this little exchange on Twitter on this morning. I wonder if Jonah has ever read Section 2 of the Sedition Act. SEC. 2. And be it farther enacted, That if any person shall write, print, utter or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring […]

What do the NFL and Trump’s Birth Control Mandate Have in Common? Fear, American Style

The Wall Street Journal reports that the NFL may adopt a policy to force football players to stand for the national anthem as a condition of employment. It’s worth recalling that as a matter of constitutional right, a six-year-old student in this country cannot be required to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem. But a grown man or woman can be forced by their employer to do so. That should tell you something about the state of rights in the workplace. A state-run institution like the public school cannot stop you from sitting down during the pledge, but a private employer can. The one factor that may stop the NFL from forcing the players to stand up during […]

From Buckley to Bannon: Whither the Scribbler Scrapper of the Right

I have a piece in The Guardian on the meaning of Steve Bannon’s departure from the White House: Once upon a time, conservatives plotted a path that began with the magazines and ended in the White House. With Steve Bannon’s departure from the Trump administration on Friday to head the Breitbart News Network, we seem to be witnessing the reverse: an unspooling of history that begins in power and ends in print. In 1955, William F Buckley launched National Review, declaring war against liberalism and the Democratic party but also, and more immediately, a civil war on the right. … Since Charlottesville, pundits and historians have wondered whether we’re headed for a civil war. With Bannon’s exit, it’s clear that we […]

Norm Erosion: The President Addresses the Nation about Afghanistan

Tonight, Trump gives an address about Afghanistan. The tone/style will be either trademark bombast (fire and fury) or “presidential” or both. Regardless of the style, it’ll entail a commitment, according to the latest reports, of roughly four thousand US troops, a fraction of the number of troops committed to Afghanistan under Obama, with no mention of private contractors. In the grand scheme of things, it’ll be a status quo operation packaged in high-octane rhetoric. Social media will focus entirely on the rhetoric. The theme of the commentary will be something like: Trump consolidating his shaky presidency with imperial violence abroad! Media falls for new Trump presidency grounded in imperial violence abroad! And then by Wednesday, it’ll all be forgotten. The […]

On Marcel Ophuls’ The Memory of Justice

I’m about 2/3 of the way through Marcel Ophuls’s long-lost documentary The Memory of Justice, which is now playing on HBO. I had been alerted to it by this mostly appreciative review from Ian Buruma. If I can be permitted an opinion without having quite finished the film (that comes tonight), part of me is disappointed with what I’ve seen. The first half covers fairly well trodden ground, without unearthing much that’s new. Much of it feels like a director being put through his paces, or a director putting his subjects through their paces. Despite his reputation as an interviewer, Ophuls doesn’t extricate a lot from Telford Taylor that you wouldn’t know from reading Taylor’s articles and books. Or from Albert Speer, for that matter, that you didn’t know […]

The very thing that liberals think is imperiled by Trump will be the most potent source of his long-term power and effects

John Harwood has a good piece about Trump’s downward spiral of weakness: Increasingly, federal officials are deciding to simply ignore President Donald Trump. As stunning as that sounds, fresh evidence arrives every day of the government treating the man elected to lead it as someone talking mostly to himself. … “What is most remarkable is the extent to which his senior officials act as if Trump were not the chief executive,” Jack Goldsmith, a top Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, wrote last weekend on lawfareblog.com. “Never has a president been so regularly ignored or contradicted by his own officials,” Goldsmith added. “The president is a figurehead who barks out positions and desires, but his senior subordinates carry on […]

Why John Kelly won’t—in fact, can’t—save Trump

Here’s how you know Kelly can’t and won’t impose discipline on the White House, notwithstanding the bold-not-so-bold-out-of-the-gate move of firing Scaramucci. Anyone who would take this job, thinking that he—unlike everyone else before him—can somehow make Trump into what Trump is not, thinking that what Trump really wants is to be saved from himself (remember, Trump is 71 years old; he’s not really in the market for a change of life), suffers from the same magical thinking that is at the heart of Trump’s entire operation. Kelly is not an answer or alternative to Trump; he is Trump.