How much power will a president with such tenuous claim to it get to wield? How profound and durable an impact will such a shallow and fickle person make?
.. Donald Trump barely won the White House, under circumstances — a tainted opponent, three million fewer votes than she received, James Comey’s moral vanity and Russia’s amoral exertions — that raise serious questions about how many Americans yearned to see him there.
.. In his heart of hearts, he doesn’t give a damn about rolling back abortion rights. Any sane analysis of his background and sober read of his character leads to that conclusion. Yet this man of all men — a misogynist, a philanderer, a grabber-by-the-you-know-what — may be the end of Roe v. Wade.
.. So many of Trump’s positions, not just on abortion but also on a whole lot else, were embraced late in the game, as matters of political convenience. They were his clearest path to power. Then they were his crudest way to flex it.
.. Now they’re his crassest way to hold on to it. He will almost certainly move to replace Kennedy with a deeply, unswervingly conservative jurist not because that’s consistent with his own core (what core?) but because it’s catnip to the elements of his base that got him this far and could carry him farther.
.. Never mind how much it exacerbates this country’s already crippling political polarization
.. his is a moment, if ever there was one, to set a bipartisan example and apply a healing touch.
.. Trump will gladly cleave the country in two before he’ll dim the applause of his most ardent acolytes.
.. Get ready: He’ll crow and taunt. He’s already crowing and, characteristically, making Kennedy’s retirement all about him.
.. He will bully, both ideologically and tactically. And he will get his way, because — this is part of that cosmic joke — the advantages seem always to cut his way. The obstacles teeter and collapse.
.. Other presidents have had to worry about getting 60 votes in the Senate for Supreme Court nominations to proceed. Not Trump.
.. McConnell used the “nuclear option” once already, for Neil Gorsuch, rendering a Democratic filibuster irrelevant. So the precedent has been set.
.. In fact three of them — Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — supported Gorsuch’s confirmation last year. It’s no accident that North Dakota, which Trump won by nearly 36 points, was the site of his rally on Wednesday night.
.. his sneering, gloating, uncompromising response to that aren’t a familiar combination.
.. It’s impossible to square the roughly 77,000 votes by which he won the Electoral College with the license that he has given himself and the rein that the members of his adopted party have given him.
.. the truth about Trump is the opposite of the story he tells. He points to Robert Mueller’s investigation and to negative media coverage and portrays himself as a modern-day martyr.
.. But he’s the luckiest man alive. Although he savaged the G.O.P. en route to its presidential nomination, he was greeted in Washington by a mum McConnell, a blushing Paul Ryan and a mostly obsequious Republican congressional majority.
.. with a handpicked replacement for Kennedy, he’d probably have “fewer checks on his power than any president in his lifetime
.. “The media, normally the last check on a president with total control of government, has lost the trust of most Republicans and many Democrats, after two years of Trump pummeling.”
.. That doesn’t account for a Democratic takeover of at least one chamber of Congress, the importance of which cannot be overstated.
.. conscience. A better man might shudder somewhat at the division that he was sowing and the wreckage in his wake. Trump merely revels in his ability to pull off what nobody thought he could. Shamelessness is his greatest gift. How unfunny is that?
Tax cuts. Deregulation. More for the military; less for the United Nations. The Islamic State crushed in its heartland. Assad hit with cruise missiles. Troops to Afghanistan. Arms for Ukraine. A tougher approach to North Korea. Jerusalem recognized as Israel’s capital. The Iran deal decertified. Title IX kangaroo courts on campus condemned. Yes to Keystone. No to Paris. Wall Street roaring and consumer confidence high.
And, of course, Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. What, for a conservative, is there to dislike about this policy record as the Trump administration rounds out its first year in office?
.. “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society,” said the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
.. And want to preserve your own republican institutions? Then pay attention to the character of your leaders, the culture of governance and the political health of the public. It matters a lot more than lowering the top marginal income tax rate by a couple of percentage points.
.. Or maybe you regret the failure to repeal Obamacare. But that had something to do with the grotesque insults Trump lobbed at John McCain, the man whose “nay” vote sank repeal... Look at every other administration embarrassment (Scaramucci) or failure (the wall, and Mexico paying for it) or disgrace (the Charlottesville equivocation). Responsibility invariably lies with the president’s intemperance and dishonesty. That puts Republican control of Congress in play. It also risks permanently alienating a millennial generation for which the G.O.P. will forever be the party of the child-molesting sore loser and the president who endorsed him... Now look at the culture of governance. Trump demands testimonials from his cabinet, servility from Republican politicians and worship from conservative media. To serve in this White House isn’t to be elevated to public service. It’s to be debased into toadyism, which probably explains the record-setting staff turnover of 34 percent.. In place of presidential addresses, stump speeches or town halls, we have Trump’s demagogic mass rallies. In place of the usual jousting between the administration and the press, we have a president who fantasizes on Twitter about physically assaulting CNN. In place of a president who defends the honor and integrity of his own officers and agencies, we have one who humiliates his attorney general, denigrates the F.B.I. and compares our intelligence agencies to the Gestapo.
Trump is normalizing all this; he is, to borrow another Moynihan phrase, “defining deviancy down.” A president who supposedly wants to put a wall between the U.S. and Latin America has imported a style of politics reminiscent of the cults of Juan Perón and Hugo Chávez.
.. Trump is empowering a conservative political culture that celebrates everything that patriotic Americans should fear: the cult of strength, open disdain for truthfulness, violent contempt for the Fourth Estate, hostility toward high culture and other types of “elitism,” a penchant for conspiracy theories and, most dangerously, white-identity politics.
One of the more interesting trends of recent years has been the effort to view citizenship through a kind of debauched meritocratic lens. This approach is favored particularly by those who oppose enforcing immigration laws, who argue that somehow immigrants (including illegal immigrants) are more “American” than poor Americans. Like some earlier iterations of Social Darwinism, this worldview combines moral self-righteousness with a crass materialism.
.. Bret Stephens offers a “Modest Proposal”–style recommendation to deport poor Americans: “Complacent, entitled and often shockingly ignorant on basic points of American law and history, they are the stagnant pool in which our national prospects risk drowning.” Stephens says he doesn’t really want to deport struggling Americans; his tongue is firmly in his cheek. His main purpose is to criticize the deportation of illegal immigrants by pointing to the supposed shortcomings of many native-born Americans. However, rather than destroying the case for enforcing immigration laws, this satirical proposal far more effectively skewers efforts to dissolve national fellowship in the name of the pseudo-meritocracy.
.. many immigrant families sometimes face more challenges than their immigrant parents did. For instance, sociologists Edward E. Telles and Vilma Ortiz found that the economic prospects of those descended from Mexican immigrants often stall or even decline after the second generation.
.. Whether or not a poor American “deserves” to be an American is beside the point — what matters is that he is American and that, by virtue of his citizenship, he has an inherent claim to the public square and public concern. While pseudo-meritocratic initiatives to cull the weak are chic on Wall Street, they inject poison when applied to politics. Arguing that the poor and disadvantaged are somehow less worthy citizens exacerbates civic alienation; it cuts the materially unsuccessful out of the body politic and flatters the indifference of the successful, whispering to them that they are justified in sneering at the struggles of the weak.
.. the argument that the native-born are degenerate trash-people is almost a recipe for even more populism, a force that has caused Stephens himself no small angst in recent years.