Trump and the Speech About the West

Since I tend to think and write a bit about our terrible educational institutions leaving generations of Americans ignorant about civics and the values of Western Civilization, I feel like I should have some thoughts about Pres. Trump’s Warsaw speech about “The West.”

Of course, by Monday, there have been plenty of takes on the speech, hot and otherwise.  If you want an interesting discussion about defining The West in this context, you should check out the most recent Editors’ podcast at NR.  Rehan Salam largely posits the The West as an historic concept distinct from “The Free World,” while Charles C.W. Cooke argues for the latter as the current iteration of the former.

They both have a point, though I tend to side with Cooke in the context of discussing the speech, in which National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster finally succeeded in getting Trump to publicly acknowledge NATO’s Article 5 principle.

Moreover, thinking of The West as something of an epic tale that begins in pagan Rome and Greece and continues on to today’s iteration– primarily led by the Anglosphere — is a useful corrective to the progressive meatballs who simply dismiss The West as an ideology of white Christian supremacy.  It’s obviously a far more complex and interesting story than that, lost on the very people who have been cheated by our educational institutions, as noted above.

My main thought about the speech, however, arrives from my reaction to the marginally less stupid and yet marginally more depressing argument that while Trump’s speech was mostly in line with speeches by prior Presidents, including JFK and Reagan, it should nonetheless be heard in the context of its delivery by Donald Trump, who is nationalist, nativist, etc.

Unlike some conservatives, I won’t summarily dismiss the idea that Trump’s speeches should be considered in the political context that they are delivered by Trump.

However, my main problem is not — as the progressives seem to believe — that we should start with the premise that Trump is a bad person to read bad intent into the speech.  Rather, we should start with the premise that Trump is generally not interested in ideas (and perhaps not capable of grasping complex ones).

If you are among those inclined to believe the anonymous White House sources claiming that Trump labored for hours over this speech, you’re doing it at least as wrong as those uncritically accepting the anonymous leaks from anti-Trump sources regarding the Trump-Russia probe.  The dissonance between the speech and Trump’s unscripted comments during this foreign jaunt ought to be the tell here.

Once you remember that Trump generally doesn’t know what he’s talking about, it becomes much harder to see the Warsaw speech as promoting a clash of civilizations, any more than his Riyadh speech (less than two months old now) was serious about disclaiming any such clash.  The White House has competing factions which Trump is not inclined to referee, not only because of the aforementioned lack of interest or capacity, but also because he has rationalized this into a theory of personnel management.  The speech reflects the office politics of a moment, not a policy or a philosophy.

In short, we got a serious (if flawed) speech about serious matters that will likely further polarize any debate serious people want to have about Western Civ, mostly because the the speechmaker is not a particularly serious man.  Or, as the kids might say, This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.

PS: Consider sharing this post with the buttons below, as well as following WHRPT on Twitter.  Thanks for reading and sharing.

Trump, the MSM, and the Movie Trope

I was so sure someone else must have already written this hot take that I Googled for it.  Could it be that people have only observed the parts of this without putting the pieces together?  I feel near-certain someone must have written this — it’s the internet, after all — but just in case, I’ll jot it down for the weekend.

Consider what people don’t like about Pres. Trump, even some who otherwise support him or some of his policies.  He’s a vainglorious narcissist, desperate for an audience.  He engages in hyperbole and cannot stop generating needless drama.

He has a casual relationship with the facts of important issues.  He is even worse when he goes off-script.  He has trafficked in conspiracy theories, whether it was Birtherism or absurdly implicating Sen. Ted Cruz’s father in the JFK assassination.

He poses as the tough guy, but he’s a crybully — a Cowardly Lion who pleads victim status when attacked by the media, regardless of whether the criticism is true or false.

This should be the point in the movie where Trump turns to the camera and tells the media, “We’re not so different, you and I…

The New York Times markets itself as the Ministry of Truth, while dumping its public editor and earning a defamation suit from Sarah Palin.  The Washington Post adopts the histrionic motto “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” but has seemed more interested in traffic than accuracy on at least several occasions.   The media has never posed harder as the brave Speakers of Truth to Power, and it is difficult to think of a stretch where they have blown so many stories over so short a period.

Most of their embarrassments stem from coverage of the the Trump-Russia probe, which they hyped relentlessly, despite the apparent lack of evidence (so far) that Trump or any of his associates colluded with Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 campaign.  CNN recently had three high-profile resignations after one of its Russia stories was retracted (that bit of accountability being a ray of light in the overall situation).

But they occasionally blow it on smaller stories as well.  And when extemporaneous, as they are on Twitter, there are few days that go by where journalists with blue checkmarks do not embarrass themselves with further inaccuracies and juvenile partisanship.

Despite the media’s posing as hard-boiled heroes, when Trump or his administration disrespects them, they rush to assume the mantle of victimhood, even when First Amendment concerns are not remotely implicated.  Their overreactions are such that they cannot seem to help making themselves the focus of so many news cycles.

In one of the most recent incidents, CNN seemed to take out their anger on a Redditor who made a GIF or video of Trump wrestling a man with a CNN logo for a head.  They made a public show of hunting him down, even though they concluded his identity is not newsworthy.  The Redditor seems like a jackass, and probably anti-Semitic, but it was a clear case of punching down by the network.

In short, the media’s response to Trump has been to become more like him.  It is a cinematic cliche brought to life, a bore you’ve seen a dozen times before.

Conversely, the Right’s response to this development has been to use it as an excuse for Trump’s deficiencies.  Even now, someone reading this will be thinking, “Trump’s a politician; we expect politicians to be egomaniacal and dishonest” or “What about Obama/Clinton/etc.”  And as always, this is defining deviancy down, rationalizing behavior you find unacceptable from others.  By the same token, the Right knows that the MSM has always been biased and unfair where even nominal Republicans like Trump are concerned and thus we are merely discussing an escalation (or a decline) all around.

If you’ve been loathing the MSM even more than usual these past months, take note of whose bad habits they adopt.

PS: Consider subscribing to WHRPT in the sidebar (the posts come straight to your inbox; no muss no fuss). And sharing this post with the buttons below, as well as following WHRPT on Twitter.  Thanks for reading and sharing.

Actually, It’s About Ethics in Journalism

That’s not quite the quote from the “Gamergate” kerfuffle, but it has the advantage of describing the entirety of American political discourse at the moment.

Yesterday was Day Two of “CNN threatened to dox a Redditor who made a video promoted by our childish President.”  It was Day Four of “The President tweeted a childish video about CNN.”

We deserve this.

Yesterday’s Commentary Magazine podcast was titled: “What Do You Care More About: North Korea or CNN?”  The panel made a number of good points, but they arguably didn’t answer the question.

To be sure, it was noted that Pres. Trump seems to care more about CNN than North Korea, which just tested an ICBM.  It was noted that the media also seems to care more about CNN, as Trump’s feuds with the media have only heightened an unseemly, industry-wide penchant for navel-gazing.  Indeed, narcissism seems to be a common bond of this dysfunctional relationship.

It was even noted that media critics may care more about CNN’s behavior because the more the main story is the media, the more important media critics think they are.  They will focus much more on CNN’s treatment of the Redditor than the media’s collective editorial judgment in the case of Redditor vs. Kim Jong-un.

But what do you care more about?  The People have spoken.

The GOP nominated Trump knowing he lacked either the interest or capacity for any public policy issue more complex than building a border wall.  The vast majority of Republicans came home to vote Trump despite this fact — or because of it, in some cases.  (In fairness, the main alternative was Hillary Clinton, a woman not only under federal investigation, but also without a finger on the pulse of the electorate, whose mass communications were also remarkably free of policy.)  And one thing that united the GOP behind Trump was his continual trolling of the establishment media.

So We Got Trump.  Perhaps not for those reasons, but we got him.  Can anyone say with a straight face that they are shocked the the Trump era has been more marked by (un-)Presidential Twitter fights with the media (and perhaps some improvement regarding illegal immigration) than addresses on the nuts-and-bolts of healthcare reform, or the intricacies of the Syrian civil war?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Captain Renault?

Puh-leeze.  We are getting almost exactly the sort of administration we elected, even if it isn’t exactly the sort of administration we might have preferred.

It’s not about governance.  It’s about ethics in journalism.

PS: Consider subscribing to WHRPT in the sidebar (the posts come straight to your inbox; no muss no fuss). And sharing this post with the buttons below, as well as following WHRPT on Twitter.  Thanks for reading and sharing.

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Part of the July 4th weekend — perhaps not all that surprisingly — was taken up by one of Pres. Trump’s self-generated dramas.  In this case, Trump tweeted a video on Sunday in which he was portrayed clothes-lining a man whose head was replaced by the CNN logo.  The media, per usual, overreacted to this childish and unpresidential stunt, treating it as a threat to the republic.

In fact, CNN went so far as to investigate the identity of the Redditor who posted the original video and arguably threatened to reveal that identity in the event of further misbehavior.  Much of the Right will focus on CNN’s behavior instead of an overarching dynamic that does not benefit the Right in the medium- to long-term.

As NR’s Kevin Williamson noted just two days earlier regarding a similar Trump media-baiting tweet, “it is his unrequited love of the media that is undoing him… Trump, for all his professed contempt for the media, believes that success is not success until it is certified by Time magazine or (avert thine eyes, Hannity!) the New York Times.”  I won’t rehash that case here, but it is necessary to understand Williamson’s point to learn a lesson from these episodes.

Trump’s past week of Twitter attacks on the media seems to have fueled the idea that these kerfuffles do not advance his agenda or the GOP agenda.  Yet there remains a bloc of Trump supporters that remain stuck on the “But he FIGHTS!” defense.  They defend Trump as a counter-puncher, even when it seemingly does not benefit them.

The key word here is “seemingly,” as I try to avoid the the sort of condescending false-consciousness explanations for voter behavior of which the Left is so fond.

The question, therefore, is what interest is served by defending Trump’s often personal feuds with the media?  (Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and CNN’s Jeff Zucker all had pre-existing, friendly relationships with Trump.)  The answer, I would hypothesize, might be found in identity politics.

Although identity politics has grown far worse in recent years, it has been for decades the basic subtext of what the Left (including the establishment media) has said about the Right.  To disagree with the Left about most any policy matter is not simply to be wrong, but a bad person: racist, sexist, phobe, etc.

Some believe that the Right’s rejection of this dynamic is How You Got Trump.  Inasmuch as Obama-Trump voters were key to his victory, I tend to think this was not the case.  I do think that this dynamic was how Trump survived episodes during the campaign that were previously thought to be fatal for any other politician.

And it is this dynamic that may explain why a bloc of Trump supporters do not see his media feuds as personal, per se.  Rather, some see Trump as representing them, as venting decades of pent-up anger with institutions that have viewed them with contempt.

This reaction may in some sense seem understandable.  Ironically, it is also the opposite of how Trump and his supporters should be reacting.

During the campaign, Trump very clearly laid out a narrative of being the candidate who would take on the establishment media (and by proxy, its treatment of the Right).  He won.  Yet neither he nor his supporters pushed hard to shift the narrative to: “The media lost.  Half the country rejected their smears.  They whine, they hype the liberal agenda, but they no longer have control of the national narrative.”

Instead, Trump has remained a slave to the media’s view of him — as do his supporters and even other conservatives obsessed with the establishment media.  It is probably too late to correct that mistake now.  By looking for love in all the wrong places, they empower their opponents.

PS: Consider subscribing to WHRPT in the sidebar (the posts come straight to your inbox; no muss no fuss). And sharing this post with the buttons below, as well as following WHRPT on Twitter.  Thanks for reading and sharing.

(Fictional) Advice to John Adams

One of my July 4th weekend traditions is to watch the “Independence” episode of  HBO’s John Adams mini-series.  Not just because the writing is terrific and Paul Giamatti gives a tremendous performance throughout.  Rather, it has a soft spot in my heart for all of the good small-p political advice Adams receives.

Take the advice Abigail Adams gives him about Congress:

ABIGAIL: Men need to think that they have made their own decisions, not had them forced upon them.

JOHN: I don’t have the time to coddle like a young girl courting a beau.

Adams ignores the advice at first, getting him beaten in Congress by John Dickinson.  He then receives advice from Ben Franklin:

FRANKLIN: What did you get by opposing the motion? It was carried with our without you. All you did was make enemies… and make yourself feel better, of course.

ADAMS: Do you not believe in saying what you think?

FRANKLIN: No, I’m very much against it. Thinking aloud is a habit responsible for much of mankind’s misery. St. Thomas Becket might have lived to a ripe old age if he… You insulted Mr. Dickinson. You insulted him in public.

ADAMS: Would you have me insult him in private?

FRANKLIN: It’s perfectly acceptable to insult someone in private. Sometimes they might even thank you for it afterwards. But when you do it in public, they tend to think you are serious.

ADAMS: I feel myself hated in this town.

FRANKLIN: Go gently, I beg you. You are a guest in Philadelphia. Fish and guests stink after three days.

And of course, there is Franklin’s sage observation on George Washington (and ultimately, perhaps the Presidency in general):

ADAMS: A natural leader.

FRANKLIN: He’s always the tallest man in the room. He’s bound to end up leading something.

Adams gets his Continental Army largely by making it a referendum on the leadership of Washington, not of Adams.

Later, he convinces Thomas Jefferson to become the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, this time explicitly admitting what was implicit in the prior tactic of making Washington the issue:

JEFFERSON: What can possibly be your reason?

ADAMS: First, you are a Virginian, and a Virginian should be at the head of this business as it’s the most powerful state. Second, I am obnoxious, suspected and unpopular. And you are very much otherwise. Third, and perhaps most important, I have read your summary view of the rights of British America and I have a great opinion of the elegance of your pen, and none at all of my own.

JEFFERSON: You’re too modest, sir.

ADAMS: You’re the first to find me so, sir. I am not by nature a humble man, but circumstances sometimes require a change of habits.

Mind you, I don’t take any of this advice as often as I should.  But I like to be reminded of it, just in case I ever decide to found a new nation.

Enjoy the weekend.  It’s certainly what Adams intended.

PS: Consider subscribing to WHRPT in the sidebar (the posts come straight to your inbox; no muss no fuss). And sharing this post with the buttons below, as well as following WHRPT on Twitter.  Thanks for reading and sharing.

Patriotism, Nationalism, and the Strange Death of Europe

With the Independence Day weekend coming up, my mind again turns to the role that patriotism and nationalism play in our politics.

My latest thoughts on this debate were sparked by a recent Federalist Radio Hour, in which Ben Domenech interviewed Douglas Murray, the author of The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam.  Much of the hour — as you might expect — involves Europe’s migration policies, multiculturalism, etc., and is worth a listen in its entirety.

The passage that leapt out at me, however, involved what Murray –a  Brit — had to say in comparing America and European democracies.  (This passage starts at roughly the 18-minute mark.)

In discussing multiculturalism, Murray describes it as government policy that treats a nation like a hotel into which people are free to move, but management is essentially uninterested in its tenants and makes few if any demands upon them.  It is only now, in the post 9/11 world, that European politicians like Angela Merkel have worked up to the idea that, for example, immigrants to Germany ought to learn to speak German.

Murray then noted that while America has a version of this problem, we are likely to deal with it better than Europe because our Founders came up with “very clear and… wonderful” ideas of what it is to be an American and that to which a nation should aspire.

In comparison, a monarchy like the UK lacks a cohesive statement of principles like our written Constitution.  As a result, according to Murray, the UK is more fragile in the sense that it lacks a clear basis for its response to the issues raised by immigration.

Extending Murray’s metaphor a bit, it seems to me he is suggesting that the hotels of the Old World are not built on the firmest of foundations.  Their hotels are built on nationalisms rooted in history and culture, complex and unwieldy.

OTOH, America’s nationalism is bounded by its patriotism.  The Founders believed our culture should conform to certain universal principles of political justice.  It is that belief, found in the Declaration of Independence and implemented (however imperfectly) in our Constitution, that may account for America’s historical ability to assimilate immigrants.

America is ultimately a nation built on principles and we expect that immigrants wishing to become citizens understand them.  This is often more than can be said for native-born children, if the condition of our educational system is any indicator.

America’s multiculturalists (in the sense Murray defines the term) have been blasting away at this foundation for decades (arguably a century).  They have successfully created fissures which are now increasingly filled by Old World, blood-and-soil nationalism.

This dynamic may wind up being a much larger issue than the economic ones that Peter Beinart thinks should give the Left pause on its immigration dogma.  And it’s an aspect of the issue that won’t be solved by Beinart’s preferred solution of increased income redistribution.  Quite the opposite, which will make it difficult, perhaps impossible, for the the identity politicians — Left or Right — to address.

PS: Consider subscribing to WHRPT in the sidebar (the posts come straight to your inbox; no muss no fuss). And sharing this post with the buttons below, as well as following WHRPT on Twitter.  Thanks for reading and sharing.

The GOP Benefits From Its Immigration Schism

This one is more musing than argument.

I was reading this column by Josh Kraushaar, which considers (as I had to myself) the idea that despite all the rumors and not-so-subtle hints from the Trump administration, Justice Anthony Kennedy may not retire this year, but could retire next year and turn yet another election into a referendum on the SCOTUS.

I was thinking about it in the context of the fragility — or fluidity — of the GOP coalition, which I’ve written about recently.

The reason the SCOTUS looms as large as it does in our politics — in 2016 or any other year — is because of the degree to which, for better and worse, the Court tends to remove issues from the ordinary give-and-take of representative democracy.  The classic modern example is abortion, which likely accelerated the movement of social conservatives or “Reagan Democrats” into the GOP during the 1970s.

Abortion is an issue with what political scientists call “saliency,” meaning it’s the sort of issue that may never be tops with the masses, but is a the type of issue that creates single-issue (or near-single-issue) voters.  And you could say much the same about the Second Amendment, or religious liberty — two issues that are not as firmly fixed in Supreme Court jurisprudence and motivating the Right to rally to the GOP when Justice Antonin Scalia passed.

Conversely, there are issues like same-sex marriage that the SCOTUS has essentially removed from the public debate.  Despite issues on both sides with the quality of Justice Kennedy’s opinion finding a right to same-sex marriage, a new Pew poll finding increases in support for same-sex marriage among Republicans and evangelical Millennials and Gen Xers.

Whatever this means for society at large, as a practical matter, it seems as though same-sex marriage will fade as a political issue and potentially benefit the GOP.  Indeed, in more cynical moments, I wonder whether this is why the Left has moved so aggressively on transgenderism — having won a big victory, they found themselves in need of their next wedge issue (note I said my more cynical moments; there’s more to it than that, obvsly).

So what does any of this have to do with immigration?  After all, aside from Pres. Trump’s so-called “travel ban,” the federal judiciary already halted the DAPA program and immigration is thus not squarely before the SCOTUS.

Indeed, consider that the SCOTUS, in granting review in the travel ban case, signaled that it is likely to follow its general jurisprudence in this are, which respects the plenaty power over immigration granted to Congress (which in turn has largely delegated that authority to the President).  This suggests immigration will not be one of the instances where the SCOTUS takes an issue away from the give-and-take of normal politics.

However, it is an issue where — as Peter Beinart notes — the Left has largely taken the issue off the Democratic table, in the sense that the party’s candidates must take a hard pro-migration stance, despite the potential economic and cultural impact of de facto open borders.

In contrast, the GOP can attract immigration hawks.  Indeed, almost half of Trump voters would probably be at least open to the idea of voting for a Democrat, but for the saliency of the immigration issue with these voters.

Yet Trump has yet to treat his victory as a mandate on immigration.  To be sure, enforcement has been beefed up (tho the bottleneck in immigration courts is almost certain to worsen before it improves).  But he has not demanded immediate, substantial funding of the border wall that was his best-known campaign issue.  And while he reversed the DAPA program Obama imposed by executive order, he has so far retained the prior DACA program, despite his ability to eliminate it with the stroke of a pen.

The question I found myself asking is, “What if Trump was as aggressive as he sounded during the campaign…and succeeded in a comprehensive clampdown on immigration?”

Apart from the immediate real-world impact, might that sort of success not also dramatically affect the shape of the GOP coalition?

I think of two imperfect analogies.  First, it could be (and has been) argued that part of How We Got Trump was the erosion of Reagan’s coalition in the wake of his successes.  Reagan’s tax policies are largely the paradigm of tax debates even today; even Pres. Obama was unwilling to undo the entirety of Pres. (George W.) Bush’s tax cuts.  The GOP has not been very creative in tax policy since.

Reagan also set the stage for victory in the Cold War, which left the anti-Communist wing of the GOP searching for new foreign policy and national security paradigms.  Post 9/11, the party largely rallied to the Bush Doctrine, but the overall results of that quasi-Wilsonian approach left an opening for someone like Trump to win questioning it.

Second, I think of the Conservatives’ disappointing showing in the UK’s recent snap election.  Prime Minister May believed many of the nationalist voters who had voted for UKIP candidates in the past would break for the Tories to support her efforts regarding the UK’s Brexit from the EU.  Instead, it could be argued that many UKIP voters who were formerly Labour voters returned home based on economic issues after the Brexit victory seemed secure (Labour, which had been split on Brexit, came around to accepting it).

Political successes — including nationalist ones — may contain the seeds of the destruction of the coalitions that won them.  Accordingly, given the dogmatism of the Dems on immigration, it may be a good thing for the GOP that it is split on the subject, because the SCOTUS isn’t going to take the issue off the table for them.

PS: Consider subscribing to WHRPT in the sidebar (the posts come straight to your inbox; no muss no fuss). And sharing this post with the buttons below, as well as following WHRPT on Twitter.  Thanks for reading and sharing.

How We Are Already Failing in the Trump Era

Let’s start with this: One of the supposed upsides to Pres. Trump was that he was going to be a disruptor.  He was going to shake things up in DC and maybe rattle people’s confirmation biases.

If anything, despite the sturm and drang of the past few months, the opposite has happened.

Yesterday’s thesis, which may have been obscured by sarcasm for some readers, was that: (1) the MSM, after a day or two of supposed self-reflection, decided to become even more partisan and less accurate than usual; and (2) in response, the Right has defaulted largely to the idea that the MSM is wrong about everything, which is an extreme and potentially blinding reaction.

To wit, the MSM’s treatment of investigations into any connections between people in Trump’s orbit and Russia has been histrionic and frequently far beyond what is supported by the known evidence (of which there is very little in public).  The most recent of these irresponsible stories claimed three CNN journalists, as it should be in a biz that demands accountability from others.

OTOH, the MSM’s coverage of the internal dysfunction of the Trump administration — and the problems this has caused for a GOP Congress too used to taking its marching orders from GOP Presidents — has been broadly accurate.  In addition, the Right cannot credibly cherry-pick the results of polls it likes (e.g., about the Russia probes distracting Congress and the White House from issues votes care about) and dismiss those it does not like (e.g., Trump’s anemic job approval).

Focusing on the daily Punch-And-Judy Show featuring Jim Acosta and Sean Spicer may follow the old adage that “great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; [and] small minds discuss people.”  It may even get ratings when the cameras are on.  But it probably doesn’t move many votes.  Dems idiotically talking about impeachment may drive GOP turnout in 2018; the MSM broadcasting them is at best incidental to this dynamic and likely a net benefit to the GOP.

Insofar as I’m fond of noting the parallels to date between the Trump and Clinton administrations, the latter’s scandals and pseudo-scandals were a much-discussed, but mostly irrelevant part of the era’s overall political dynamic until the Lewinsky scandal blew up.

Rather, the GOP took advantage a series of unpopular Clinton policy initiatives (as with Obama in 2009-10).  The Contract With America was poll-tested and focus-grouped to ensure the GOP was running on a platform of strongly popular proposals in 1994.  Clinton himself survived as the internet boom boosted the economy and swelled the Treasury.  He also decided — under GOP pressure — to keep his campaign promise on welfare reform, and to do business with the GOP on occasion before the Lewinsky scandal.

So let’s say you are of the mind, based on the current hard data, that the Russia investigation’s impact will be about the same as the claims that George H. W. Bush flew in an SR-71 Blackbird jet to Paris to interfere with the Iranian hostage negotiations — with perhaps a Scooter Libby-esque charge or two of minor figures misleading investigators along the way.  If so, you should be quietly smiling at those inside and outside the MSM wasting their political capital on it. (Sen. Pat Toomey is on point here.)

OTOH, the Right should be concerned about the poll suggesting that people think the investigations are getting in the way of getting important things done (unless you’re sticking with the “polls are always wrong” thing, though no one really is; I’ve seen harsh media critics sharing this poll).  Insofar as trying to make the investigations go away would backfire spectacularly (see, e.g., the Comey firing), the emphasis here should be on getting things done.  And those things should be — dare I write it — popular.  It is politics, after all.

This week, the GOP Senate is going to try to pass its healthcare legislation (at the moment, that may not happen).  The roughly similar bill passed by the House is by most accounts unpopular.  It’s not even wildly popular among Republicans.  Pres. Trump had a party when the House passed their version, which he has since called too “mean.”

Moreover, even by a fairly balanced analysis of the Senate bill (such as by Yuval Levin), it’s only marginally better than Obamacare and the House bill as policy.

I would suggest that if people don’t see a substantial improvement in the individual market by 2018 or 2020, the GOP will get what it deserves.

Again, voters went for Trump in significant part because he was the real “change” candidate in a “change” election.  In this sense, he was the latest in a chain going back probably two decades.  George W. Bush narrowly won and held a GOP Congress for six years based mostly on the idea of people looking for post-9/11 stability.  But since 2006, midterm elections have tended to be wave elections rebuking the party holding the White House.  And Trump is at least as big a departure from Obama as Obama was from Bush.

These are the elections of the Information Age, the Post-Industrial Economy and the Post-Great Recession Economy.  Voters — particularly the Obama-Trump voters who comprised about two-thirds of Trump’s victory — are not getting what they want out of politics.  They keep voting for change and keep getting more frustrated at the lack thereof.

Will Obamacare Lite — and its likely results — will fill the bill for these voters?  I doubt it.  And even if corporate tax reform winds up better on a policy basis than the healthcare bills (and I think it’s needed), is anyone confident it will be either popular with or beneficial to those voters in ways that are visible in their lives?  It had better, as you can bet the Dems will use corporate tax reform as a major exhibit when they go for lefty economic populism in 2018 and 2020.

Given the structural advantages the GOP has in 2018, this should be their opportunity to forge and maintain their majority.  And for the purposes of today’s posting, I’m agnostic over how populist versus how conservative that coalition should be.

But what we see instead is the GOP largely going thorough the same old motions, with Trump lacking the talents to stop them or to avoid wallowing in increasingly self-created problems.  Dems are also going through the motions, as their identity politics proved too big an obstacle to any opportunity they may have had to engage Trump on issues like infrastructure and trade.

The non-Left media is also often going through the same old motions, heavily criticizing the MSM, which itself is mostly going through its same old partisan motions.

The difference is that everyone is being more overwrought about going through the motions, which is likely what voters will notice about the Beltway remaining stuck in these old grooves instead of the big new challenges of a changing economy and culture.  Everyone thinks they are retreating to the safe path, when it’s really just the familiar one.

No, I’m not doing the “no labels,” post-partisan shtick here either.  I’m just noting that for all of the talk about the need to renew the parties internally on a policy level (ongoing for years), no politicians are really doing it and the major media on both sides doesn’t push it.  And we’re in a political environment that has been punishing both parties for not doing it.

PS: Consider subscribing to WHRPT in the sidebar (the posts come straight to your inbox; no muss no fuss). And sharing this post with the buttons below, as well as following WHRPT on Twitter.  Thanks for reading and sharing.

I Wish I Knew How to Quit You, MSM

What more do Republicans want from the MSM, anyway?

For decades, Republicans have wished that the establishment media would simply drop the mask.  What was so irritating, it was claimed was not so much that the MSM leaned left, but they were dishonest about it.  They pretended to be neutral and objective while slanting the news leftward.  It was argued that it would be preferable to return to the days openly and honestly partisan media.  The “objective and neutral” pose was really just a recent, phony exception to the historical rule, it was said.

Well, hasn’t the MSM obliged?  For over a year, hasn’t it been a gushing firehose of argumentative anchors, pugnacious pressers, snarky chyrons, and self-righteous slogans?

Are you not entertained?

For decades, Republicans have hoped that the MSM’s biases would become self-discrediting.  And for at least a year, the MSM has obliged, producing a seemingly uncommon number of stories, generally reliant on anonymous stories, that turned out to be inaccurate or wrong.  Public trust in the media is at a historic low.  People don’t even have much trust in their own preferred news outlets.

The MSM have been giving the Republicans exactly what they asked for, and then some.

So why are Republicans still so upset and so obsessed with the MSM?

It can’t be the MSM’s slant.  As noted above, the historical reality of partisan media is undeniable.  (Republicans can’t secretly be totalitarian on this point, can they?)  It can’t be the MSM’s influence.  They’ve never been less influential.

And They’re Wrong About Everything!  Republicans should be dancing in the streets.  After all, the polls are wrong; who would be so ridiculous as to rely upon the polls? (Except the ones that confirm my priors, obvsly.)   Pres. Trump is not 13-15 points underwater in his job approval rating; he’s actually wildly popular and always has been.  Indeed, he really won the popular vote had it not been for all those illegal votes.

The Trump White House is not riven with backbiting and dysfunction; just ask people in the know.  All of those sub-cabinet positions the MSM claims are unfilled are actually filled with Trump loyalists, busy making good on Stephen Bannon’s effort to smash the administrative state.  Again, just ask people who know the applicants.  Accordingly, the cloud of pseudo-scandal ginned up by the MSM cannot interfere with filling those slots.

The MSM is wrong about everything.  So Trump supporters should know that they are going to get every bit of the populist governance for which they voted.  Contrary to the lying MSM, Trump cancelled that DREAMer amnesty, just like he promised he would.  Mexico will still be paying for our border wall; the solar panels will bring in a budget surplus.  The U.S. is not preparing for more war in Afghanistan or sidling up to a proxy war in Syria, so don’t listen to those in the media suggesting otherwise.

The MSM is wrong about everything.  The GOP Congress is running like a well-oiled machine, and has been since Inauguration Day.  The GOP is going to make good on its long-standing promise to repeal Obamacare, no matter what you’ve seen in the media.  Trumpcare can in no way be called “Obamacare Lite.”

In fact, Republicans are laying down a marker: Trumpcare implementation is going to be great and people will love it.  Trumpcare Enrollment Day will become a national holiday, celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, BBQ, bonfires and illuminations from sea to shining sea.

No matter what the MSM reports, just remember: They’re Wrong About Everything.  They have given the GOP a yuge gift.  Republicans need not care about the MSM anymore.

Republicans are winning.  Republicans are winning so much they will get tired of all the winning.  Believe me.

PS: Consider subscribing to WHRPT in the sidebar (the posts come straight to your inbox; no muss no fuss). And sharing this post with the buttons below, as well as following WHRPT on Twitter.  Thanks for reading and sharing.

Does Trump Hurt the GOP in the Midterms?

This is a silly question over a year away from the midterm elections. Yet many are asking it at the conclusion of a round of Congressional special elections highlighted by Karen Handel’s victory over Jon Ossoff in the overhyped and overspent run-off election in Georgia’s sixth district.  And there are many theories; the latest Commentary podcast gamed out seven different scenarios.

The one in which I am most interested, set forth by David Harsanyi (and others), goes something like this:

What if Republican voters who don’t particularly like Donald Trump are also able to compartmentalize their votes? What if they dislike Democrats more than they do the president? What if, rather than being punished for Trump’s unpopularity, local candidates are rewarded for their moderation? This, of course, would be a disaster for Democrats. And Tuesday’s run-off election in Georgia’s sixth district shows that it might be possible.”

Of course, this theory interests me in large part because it tends to confirm many of my biases.  I harp on the fact that down-ballot GOP candidates generally outpolled Trump in 2016, frequently with a different “map” than Trump that relied more on suburban college-educated whites.

Charlie Mahtesian can write about “The GOP’s Suburban Nightmare,” but if you read it closely, he’s writing much more about how poorly Trump did in the ‘burbs, not the Congressional party of Rubio, Toomey, Johnson, etc.  Indeed, in GA-6, Tom Price far outpolled Trump before being tapped to be HHS Secretary.

And as I’ve noted more than once, John Judis — a progenitor of the Emerging Democratic Majority theory — had figured out prior to the 2016 cycle that the GOP was having great success with middle-class voters in the so-called “office economy,” a success not limited to white voters, either.

Moreover, I’ve written quite recently about the nature of the GOP coalition and suggested that conservatives could wind up regaining control of the party from its Trumpier factions.   So naturally, I am interested in the theory that the GOP might do well in 2018 running its traditional GOP candidates in relatively traditional campaigns.

But one of the reasons I set up this blog was to work through my own thinking and challenge my own biases.  And this theory, appealing though it may be, has its weaknesses.

For example, Harsanyi asks:

We already know that an electorate can be happy with a president and dislike his party. Why can’t the reverse be true? Barack Obama, for example, carried healthy approval ratings for the majority of his presidency, yet voters decimated his party over six years. What if there’s a faction of Republican voters who don’t like Trump but still don’t like Obama’s policies?

Obama was less popular than we remember.  Pres. Obama’s job approval numbers went underwater in late June 2010 in remained there through year’s end.  And they were underwater during the entirety of 2014.  Indeed, Obama was also pretty flat for his 2012 election, in which he became the first POTUS since 1944 to receive fewer electoral votes and a lower popular vote percentage in his reelection.

The second part — positing GOPers who don’t like Trump but also don’t like Dems — seems on much firmer ground.  You can hear this theme from people in GA-6.  And it’s why some Dems are grumbling about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who personified more than Ossoff what GOP voters in GA-6 were voting against.

Harsanyi also notes that the midterms, unlike the specials, will feature mostly GOP incumbents, which is one of several structural advantages the GOP will have going into the midterms.  But as Nate Cohn also notes at that link (and Dave Wasserman did on Twitter), the Dems’ over-performance in these special elections ought to have GOP candidates concerned that their margins for error — or victory — may be much smaller with Donald Trump as the face of the party.

I don’t want to place all of that burden on Trump per se.  Just as I caution people not to attribute Trump’s 2016 success entirely to him when there were many other factors helping him, I would caution people not to blame Trump entirely for the fate of the Congressional GOP in 2018.

As Jay Cost has noted: “The moment a party achieves total control of the government is the moment just before power begins to slip through its fingers.”  Historically — and unsurprisingly — voters hold the party in power accountable (even for things not entirely within its control).

Moreover, presidential approval at the time of the midterms seems related to the scale of losses in initial midterms.  Trump’s already low net approval could be deadly if it continues to deteriorate (though the fact that he’s never been really popular argues for less of a fall than other Presidents).

The GOP ought to be preparing for this.  Indeed, it’s why I suspect they will want to make Pelosi (assuming she survives) their boogeywoman, and why they will want to stoke hysteria that a Democratic House would impeach Trump.

But already resorting to the Democrats’ 1998 anti-impeachment playbook — and running against the media — is (like most Trumpian politics) a base strategy.  It does not suggest a party confident of convincing swing voters on the GOP record, should there be one.

PS: Consider subscribing to WHRPT in the sidebar (the posts come straight to your inbox; no muss no fuss). And sharing this post with the buttons below, as well as following WHRPT on Twitter.  Thanks for reading and sharing.