Trump, Not So Statuesque

Things are looking down for the Donald.

For a long time, Republicans have brandished the same old narrative to try to scare their way into the White House.

Their candidates were presented as the patriarchs, protecting the house from invaders with dark skin.

With Nixon, it was the Southern Strategy, raising alarms about the dismantling of Jim Crow laws.

With Reagan, it was launching his 1980 campaign on fairgrounds near where the Klan murdered three civil rights activists.

With Bush senior, it was Willie Horton coming to stab you and rape your girlfriend.

With W. and Cheney, it was Qaeda terrorists coming back to kill us.

With Donald Trump, it was Mexican rapists and the Obama birther lie.

For re-election, Trump is sifting through the embers of the Civil War, promising to protect America from “troublemakers” and “agitators” and “anarchistsrioting, looting and pulling down statues that they find racially offensive. “They said, ‘We want to get Jesus,’” Trump ominously told Sean Hannity Thursday night.

But Trump is badly out of step with the national psyche. The actual narrative gripping America is, at long last, about white men in uniforms targeting black and brown people.

In the last election, Trump milked white aggrievement to catapult himself into the White House. But even Republicans today recognize that we have to grapple with systemic racism and force some changes in police conduct — except for our president, who hailed stop-and-frisk in the Hannity interview.

The other scary narrative is about our “protean” enemy, as Tony Fauci calls Covid-19, which Trump pretends has disappeared, with lethal consequences. With no plan, he is reduced to more race-baiting, calling the virus “the China plague” and the “Kung Flu.” Nasty nicknames don’t work on diseases.

The pathogen is roaring back in the South and the West in places that buoyed Trump in 2016. Texas, Florida and Arizona are turning into Covid Calamity Land after many residents emulated their president and scorned masks and social distancing as a Commie hoax.

Is Trump’s perverse Southern Strategy to send the older men and women who are a large part of his base to the I.C.U.?

The president showed off his sociopathic flair by demanding the repeal of Obamacare — just because he can’t stand that it was done by Barack Obama. Millions losing their jobs and insurance during a plague and he wants to eliminate their alternative? Willful maliciousness.

And this at the same time he has been ensuring more infections by lowballing the virus, resisting more testing because the numbers would not be flattering to him, sidelining Dr. Fauci and setting a terrible example.

The Dow fell 700 points on the news that Texas and Florida are ordering a Covid-driven last call, closing their bars again, and the virus is revivifying in 30 states.

In 2016, the mood was against the status quo, represented by Hillary Clinton. But now the mood is against chaos, cruelty, deception and incompetence, represented by Trump. In light of our tempestuous, vertiginous times, Joe Biden’s status quo seems comforting.

It is a stunning twist in history that the former vice president was pushed aside in 2016 by the first black president and put back in the game this year by pragmatic black voters.

Bill Clinton was needy; he played a game with voters called “How much do you love me?” Do you love me enough to forgive me for this embarrassing personal transgression, or that one?

But Trump has taken that solipsism to the stratosphere, asking rallygoers in Tulsa to choose him over their health, possibly their lives, recklessly turning a medical necessity into a tribal signifier. I wasn’t surprised that so many seats there were empty, but that so many were filled.

In a rare moment of self-awareness, Trump whinged to Hannity about Biden: “The man can’t speak and he’s going to be your president ’cause some people don’t love me, maybe.”

It’s not only the virus that Trump is willfully blind about. A Times story that broke Friday evening was extremely disturbing about Trump’s love of Vladimir Putin. American intelligence briefed the president about a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offering bounties to Taliban-linked insurgents for killing coalition troops in Afghanistan, including Americans. Yet Trump has still been lobbying for Putin to rejoin the G7.

Trump had a chance, with twin existential crises, to be better after his abominable performance in his first three years. But then, we’ve known all along that he is not interested in science, racial harmony or leading the basest elements of his base out of Dixie and into the 21st century. Yes, the kid from Queens enjoys his newfound status as a son of the Confederacy.

Wall Street Journal editorial Thursday warned that he could be defeated because he has no message beyond personal grievances and “four more years of himself.”

But Trump has always been about Trump. And the presidency was always going to distill him to his Trumpiest essence.

I asked Tim O’Brien, the Trump biographer, what to expect as the man obsessed with winning faces humiliating rejection.

He will descend further into abuse, alienation and authoritarianism,” O’Brien said. “That’s what he’s stewing on most of the time, the triple A’s.”

Good times.

Trumpism Is ‘Identity Politics’ for White People

After Democrats lost the 2016 presidential election, a certain conventional wisdom congealed within the pundit class: Donald Trump’s success was owed to the Democratic abandonment of the white working class and the party’s emphasis on identity politics. By failing to emphasize a strong economic message, the thinking went, the party had ceded the election to Trump.

.. the meantime, Trump’s administration has seen that economic message almost entirely subsumed by the focus of congressional Republicans on tax cuts for the wealthy and plans to shrink the social safety net. But even as the message has shifted, there hasn’t been a corresponding erosion in Trump’s support. The economics were never the point. The cruelty was the point.
.. Nevertheless, among those who claim to oppose identity politics, the term is applied exclusively to efforts by historically marginalized constituencies to claim rights others already possess. 
.. Trump’s campaign, with its emphasis on state violence against religious and ethnic minorities—Muslim bans, mass deportations, “nationwide stop-and-frisk”—does not count under this definition, but left-wing opposition to discriminatory state violence does.
.. A November panel at the right-wing Heritage Foundation on the threat posed by “identity politics,” with no apparent irony, will feature an all-white panel.
.. But the entire closing argument of the Republican Party in the 2018 midterm elections is a naked appeal to identity politics—a politics based in appeals to the loathing of, or membership in, a particular group. The GOP’s plan to slash the welfare state in order to make room for more high-income tax cuts is unpopular among the public at large. In order to preserve their congressional majority, Republicans have taken to misleading voters by insisting that they oppose cuts or changes to popular social insurance programs, while stoking fears about

.. In truth, without that deception, identity politics is all the Trump-era Republican Party has.

.. Trump considers the media “the enemy of the people” only when it successfully undermines his falsehoods; at all other times, it is a force multiplier, obeying his attempts to shift topics of conversation from substantive policy matters to racial scaremongering.

.. The tenets of objectivity by which American journalists largely abide hold that reporters may not pass judgment on the morality of certain political tactics, only on their effectiveness. It’s a principle that unintentionally rewards immorality by turning questions of right and wrong into debates over whether a particular tactic will help win an election.

.. In the closing weeks of the campaign, the president has promised a nonexistent tax cut to the middle class after two years in which unified Republican control of government produced only a windfall for the rich
.. Trump’s nativism, and the Republican Party’s traditional hostility to government intervention on behalf of the poor, have had a happier marriage than some might have expected.

.. But that wasn’t what Trump promised—rather, his 2016 campaign pledged both generous social-insurance benefits for working-class white Republicans and cruelty for undeserving nonwhites.

.. Republicans are scrambling to insist that they will cut taxes on the middle class, offer robust health-care protectionsand protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, even as GOP leaders in Congress plot to slash all three to cut the deficit created by their upper-income tax cuts.

.. When armed agents of the state gun down innocent people in the street, when the president attempts to ban people from entering the U.S. based on their faith, or when the administration shatters immigrant families, these are burdens that religious and ethnic minorities must bear silently as the price of their presence in the United States.

And in the impoverished moral imagination of Trumpist political discourse, any and all white Americans who also oppose such things must be doing so insincerely in an effort to seek approval.

.. America is not, strictly speaking, a center-right or center-left nation. Rather, it remains the nation of the Dixiecrats, in which the majority’s desire for equal opportunity and a robust welfare state is mediated by the addiction of a large chunk of the polity to racial hierarchy. It is no coincidence that the Democratic Party’s dominant period in American history coincided with its representation of both warring impulses and ended when it chose one over the other. The midterms offer a similar choice for the American voter, in rather stark terms.

National Review Finally Gets It Right on Stop-and-Frisk

In 2013, a federal judge ruled that the New York City police tactic of Stop-and-Frisk was unconstitutional because it violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on illegal searches and seizures. It was good to have such a ruling, but the notion that police officers could search random people based on nothing more than a hunch should have struck everyone as unconstitutional from the get-go. In America, you can’t just stop passersby (so many of whom were innocent) and intrude on their personal spaces and lives in brute fashion.

.. Democrat Bill de Blasio vowed to end the practice, something many in law enforcement and on the political right insisted would inevitably spike crime. That isn’t what happened. Today crime is down in New York City significantly, to levels not seen since the 1950s.

.. de Blasio was correct in saying the city could withstand a sharp decrease in stop-and-frisk. And he was right to draw attention to the social cost of the practice; more than 80 percent of those subjected to stop-and-frisk since the start of the Bloomberg administration were, according to the NYPD, completely innocent. That means hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers were unjustly subjected to embarrassment or even humiliation.

.. The basic freedom of a man or woman to walk down the streets of New York or any other city without fear of being harassed by law enforcement is something we should all be able to agree on and defend. There are no exceptions great enough to dismiss that principle. It’s why we have a Fourth Amendment in the first place.

.. Government will always tend towards exploiting our fear to take away our constitutional rights: mass shootings, murderous white supremacists, urban crime.

 

Donald Trump’s Real Message on Race

The crime rate in New York dropped in the ’90s, as it did around the country, but not because of stop-and-frisk. Of nearly 4.5 million stops conducted under the policy, only 6 percent resulted in arrests and 6 percent in summonses. In about 83 percent of cases, the person stopped was black or Hispanic.

.. “I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected,” Miller told a reporter from The Guardian.