Kennedy Retires — It’s On!

Whoever accepts President Trump’s call for the nomination will be one of the bravest men or women in public life, because he or she is going to be attacked with unrelenting fury from the Left.

.. For a lot of white evangelicals, this moment was worth every migrant child forever traumatized, every refugee family denied safety, every sexual assault victim betrayed, every white nationalist emboldened, every lie told. These are the ends that justified the means.

.. Bears repeating: Had Clinton won, she’d likely have replaced Scalia, Kennedy, and eventually Ginsburg (85) and Breyer (79). -That’d make six relatively young liberal justices and a lasting majority. -Now, it’ll be five conservatives, all 70 and under.

.. (Chuck Schumer quite understandably called on McConnell to follow the same policy he did to deny Merrick Garland a hearing in an election year. McConnell, a hardballer if ever there was one, quite understandably didn’t take this seriously.)

.. If Trump is re-elected in 2020, and he still has a Republican Senate, there is a decent chance that he could leave office with a 7-2 conservative majority.

.. First, the hearings could well be a catalyst for real violence

..  Let’s revisit this January piece from National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty:

I’ve started to think that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy may be the one man preventing the United States from political breakdown.

.. both sides have reason to pity themselves as the losers of the [political] system. Partisan Democrats, with some justification, feel that the constitutional system favors dirt (geography), so it rewards Republicans with too many senators and even electoral votes than they would otherwise win. Many partisan Republicans also feel that their votes go for naught, and that elites in the media, donor class, and social scene of Washington, D.C., constantly make Republicans under-deliver on their promises.

.. Kennedy deals out victories and defeats to each side — giving slightly more defeats to social conservatives. In effect, he constrains what each side can do to the other. His mercurial jurisprudence replicates and even gives the savor of legitimacy to a closely divided country.

.. So I’ve started to worry that if the Court soon consolidates to the left or the right, partisans on the losing end of that bargain will swiftly lose faith in democracy itself. A non-swinging Supreme Court would give the impression of super-charging the ability of one party to act, and restraining its competitor. A consolidated Supreme Court could open up whole new fields of legislation for one side to act against the other. At that point, what would happen?

.. Overturning Roe would only mean that regulating abortion returns to the states. If you live in a socially liberal state now, you don’t have anything to worry about. That’s not going to make you happy, but it’s not Armageddon. And there is no realistic chance that Obergefell will be overturned. But even if it were, again, that only means that the gay marriage question devolves to the states. Gay marriage is overwhelmingly popular. There might be a handful of Southern states (plus Utah) that might vote against it, in a popular referendum. But even they would fall eventually. Same-sex marriage isn’t an issue for younger voters, who support it by a wide margin.

.. Kennedy retiring is where the Roy Moore own goal really, really hurts. We now only have 51 votes, but two of those are Murkowski and Susan Collins, who will likely be reluctant to support a 5th pro-life justice. Mitch will have to put the screws on to get to 50.

.. However, had Hillary Clinton won, conservatives would be in the same miserable position today as liberals are.

It is not at all healthy for the republic that the Supreme Court matters so much. But we are where we are.

Republicans embrace the ‘cult’ of Trump, ignoring warning signs

voters in South Carolina cast out Rep. Mark Sanford, a firmly conservative member of Congress who had survived earlier scandal, in favor of a state legislator who had condemned Sanford for publicly criticizing the president. In Virginia, Republicans nominated for senator a Trump-like candidate with a history of embracing, as the president has, Confederate symbols and white nationalists.

.. Meanwhile, many in the party who in the past have opposed talks with North Korea’s leader this week praised Trump for his summit with Kim Jong Un.

The week was marked by continued deference to Trump on the part of congressional leaders who have swallowed the president’s upending of long-standing party views on several major issues. Legislative efforts by some in the party to wrest trade authority back from Trump and rewrite the nation’s immigration laws in ways he has opposed both fell in defeat.

Meanwhile, many in the party who in the past have opposed talks with North Korea’s leader this week praised Trump for his summit with Kim Jong Un.

As a result, the Republican Party appears united now not by fealty to ideas or policies but to a man

.. Republican voters, who have swiftly adopted the president’s issue positions and looked the other way at a progression of missteps and conflicts that would have doomed prior presidents.

.. Despite misgivings about Trump’s behavior, Republican voters have rewarded him with support unmatched by a Republican president since George W. Bush’s tenure in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And they have rained down punishment on those who disagree with Trump.

.. Anthony Scaramucci. “He doesn’t speak with an elitist vocabulary and the savoir faire that Washingtonians are used to,”

.. I don’t think we, or any president, demanded personal loyalty to the degree Trump has,” said David Axelrod, an Obama adviser during his first campaign and term. “We made appeals around shared goals, ideals and agendas.

.. Trump has one of Obama’s most vexing problems, the inability to transfer power down the ballot.

.. In Michigan, two Republican candidates have spent weeks squabbling over how one of them abandoned Trump after the pre-election release of a recording of Trump bragging about sexual assault.

.. Tim Pawlenty is seeking a comeback by running against benefits for undocumented immigrants and recanting the criticism he made of Trump after the tape’s release.

.. In Nevada, brothel owner Dennis Hof, the star of a TV show about prostitution and the author of “The Art of the Pimp,” blew past a Republican incumbent to win the nomination for a seat in the state legislature. In an interview, Hof said that Trump “blazed the trail” for him.

“He gave me the confidence that I could do this — I could be a reality TV star, an author and a brothel owner and then be elected to serve,” said Hof.

Trump Raises an Army

When asked about pardoning former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio as Harvey was making landfall, Trump responded:

“Actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally.”

.. Trump and the people who either shield or support him are locked in a relationship of reciprocation, like a ball of snakes. Everyone is using everyone else.

The oligarchs see Trump as a pathway to slashing regulations and cutting taxes for the rich. According to a July analysis by the Tax Policy Center, “Nearly 40 percent of the tax cut would flow to households in the top 1 percent of the income distribution, giving those earners an average annual tax cut of around $270,000.”

  • Establishment Republicans see him as a path to reversing the New Deal.
  • Steve Bannon-ists see him as a path to the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”
  • All Republicans, but particularly the religious right, see him as a securer of conservative Supreme Court justices.
  • The blue-collar Trump voters view him as a last chance to breathe life into the dying dream that waning industries and government-supported white cultural assurances can be revived.
  • And the white nationalists, white supremacists, racists and Nazis — to the degree that they can be separated from the others — see him as a tool of vengeance and as an instrument of their defense.

Trump sees all these people who want to use him, and he’s using them right back. Trump made an industry out of selling conspicuous consumption. He sold the ideas that greed was good, luxury was aspirational and indulgence was innocent.

Trump’s supporters see him as vector; he sees them as market.

.. Marketing is how he has made his money and attained his infamy. That is why he is so obsessed with the media and crowds and polls (at least when he was doing well in them): He sees people, in his die-hard base at least, who have thoroughly bought into the product of Trumpism and he is doing everything to please them and make them repeat customers.

.. But in addition, and perhaps more sinisterly, I think that Trump is raising an army, whether or not he would describe it as such, and whether or not those being involved recognize their own conscription. This is not a traditional army, but it is an army no less.

.. How do you raise an army?

You do that by dividing America into tribes and, as “president,” aligning yourself with the most extreme tribe, all the while promoting militarization among people who support you.

You do it by worshiping military figures and talking in militaristic terms.

.. You cozy up to police unions and encourage police brutality.

.. You do this by rescinding Obama-era limits on the militarization of police departments

.. You do this by defending armed white nationalists and Nazis in Charlottesville.

You do this by defending monuments of Confederates who fought to preserve the noxious institution of slavery, and you do it by tweeting the coded language of white supremacists: “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.”

.. You do this by pardoning Arpaio, a man who joked about an Arizona jail being a “concentration camp,” signaling to people that racist brutality is permissible.

You also do this by attempting to reduce or marginalize populations of people opposed to you: Build a wall, return to failed drug policies that helped fuel mass incarceration, ban Muslims, curb even legal immigrationincrease immigration arrests.

And why raise this army?

.. Should something emerge from the Robert Mueller investigation

.. Trump wants to position any attempt to remove him as a political coup. His efforts to delegitimize the press are all part of this because one day the press may have to deliver ruinous news.

.. Trump is playing an endgame. In the best-case scenario, these die-hards are future customers; in the worst, they are future confederates.

.. Trump is playing an endgame. In the best-case scenario, these die-hards are future customers; in the worst, they are future confederates.

 Comment:

I too believe that Trump would not accept being removed from office — or even voted out. If he could brazenly declare Clinton’s popular victory of nearly 3 million votes to be mere fraud, then he will certainly brush aside any effort to neutralize him in 2018 or replace him out in 2020. I often (masochistically) survey right wing sites, and some post about the very scenario that Mr. Blow fears: they revere Trump with a near-religious loyalty that includes using their weapons in his service. As they frequently boast, they “outgun the liberals” and, with the military training that they also tout, the anti-Trump forces wouldn’t stand a chance, they declare. Some seem eager for armed conflict. They seem to think that the military itself would back Trump in such a struggle. They consider Trump adversaries to be so dangerous that they must be “militarily” conquered in order to save the country. It’s a concern when people speak this openly and fearlessly.

Trump’s Fan-Service to His Base Is Tearing America Apart

The president doesn’t pretend to represent all citizens—just his most hardcore supporters.

.. Trump has carved out for himself a uniquely agonistic and tribalistic persona. He’s polarizing, and proud of it.

.. To win the presidency, you first need to win the support of a major political party, which means having a partisan identity. But once in power, the commander in chief is supposed to preside over the whole nation, not just those who voted for him.

.. But Trump has decided to forgo any attempt at conciliation. Instead, he’s run a bluntly partisan presidency, where his rhetoric is geared toward pleasing fanatical Fox News viewers more than creating a broad coalition. It’s a peculiarity of Trump’s behavior that he talks openly about his base, not even pretending to be the president of all Americans.

..  “The ugly truth is that white nationalists, the KKK, neo-Nazis and other bigots are indeed part of the Trump base,” columnist Brent Budowsky argued at The Hill. “Trump should throw these bigots out of his base. He should say he does not want their support. He should name names and name hate groups, loudly and repeatedly, and say he does not want their votes, their support, their praise and that he believes they are a stain on America.”

.. Rather than heeding such advice, Trump is moving in the opposite direction—and paying a political price for it.

..  As the president is increasingly criticized from outside his base, he’ll increasingly use his passionate fans as a political shield. And as Charlottesville proves, if those fans end up killing someone, the president will defend them. Caught in the closed loop of fan-servicing, Trump is setting the nation on a path toward further radicalization and further violence.

Before You Punch a Nazi: A New Anabaptist Response to White Supremacy

This week has reinforced my belief that it’s not only unethical to punch Nazis, but also ineffective. Punching a Nazi–literally or in effigy–may be satisfying, but if anything, it reduces the number of people who are empathetic to progressive causes. It’s a reactionary doubling-down on rhetoric that indicates that Nazis are so far beyond the general population that we–in the moderate-to-radical left–would not welcome them even if they tried to re-integrate themselves. One of the most chilling developments among post-Trump activism is the way liberals cling to the Nazi-punching rhetoric inspired by the protestor who punched Richard Spencer on Inauguration Day. It isolates neo-Nazis even more deeply in their narrow, self-justifying ideology–and it isolates anti-racist activists from their moral high ground, which was, “we’re all seeking to be recognized as human.” If you want your enemy to love you (or at least respect you), you have to illustrate that you are willing to love (or at least respect) your enemy.

.. The journalist quoted MJ Sharp, “rebels love talking about the past.”

MJ understood that the violent rebels he approached “were nostalgic for a mythical home and aimed to rewind history to a time that never really existed in the first place.” MJ described this as a sense of “dreaming of home”–and those who dream of home are deeply homesick.

.. Neo-Nazis, white nationalists, are homesick. For all their violence and their rallies, they don’t really know how to get home, aren’t even sure what home they’re trying to get to, they just know this moment doesn’t feel like home. The stability of this country relies on the mainstream envisioning a future white supremacists can come home to. The vast majority of Americans must remind white supremacists that the past is not the only place to find comfort.

.. Anabaptists are uniquely situated activists–they have the legacy of pacifism, but also the legacy of ostracism, shunning, and doubled-down factionalism. And they have the legacy of white supremacy. And the historical memory of homesickness. Anabaptism in America has all the tools to be bridge-people, to be allies and peacemakers.

.. We need to create a way for white supremacists to come home without violence. We need to envision and offer de-radicalization.

.. Michael Sharp recalls the message that MJ and his Congolese companions tried to deliver to rebel leaders (fighters who had moved into the Congolese forests during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide):

“You… you’re over 50 years old, it’s too late for you to take over Rwanda. But your children are growing up uneducated in the bush. Don’t you see that your children, who are the future of Rwanda, when they go back they’ll be the slaves of those who are there! Because they are illiterate!”

.. they persuaded at least 1,600 Rwandan rebels to lay down weapons. The left–the mainstream–has to use every pacifist bone it can muster to create a message like this, a message white supremacists can hear.

To the older ones: it’s too late for you to get what you dream of, but if you want your children to get that dream, you have to teach them something different. And to the younger ones: You can get back home, but this road will not lead you there.

.. It’s tempting to respond to white supremacy in reactionary ways. But pacifism–true creative nonviolence–is proactive. It sees what violence dreams of, and morphs that dream into something nonviolent, thriving, and interdependent. For Anabaptists to be allied with anti-racism, we must do the work of building exit-ramps from white supremacy. We have to develop the template for re-integration.

Trump is Sarah Palin but better at it

Palin remains critical: to a faction of the Republican Party, and to understanding the emergence of Donald Trump and Trumpism — the ideology created by the president’s most ardent supporters, though not necessarily by the president himself.

.. From the moment Palin entered the national scene, the praise for her on the right was heavily tied to her image.

.. Kathleen Parker said of her initial interest in Palin: “She was the antithesis and nemesis of the hirsute, Birkenstock-wearing sisterhood — a refreshing feminist of a different order who personified the modern successful working mother.”

Nowhere in the piece were Palin’s conservative viewpoints referenced; her views on, say, health care or school choice, or even abortion, went unmentioned. Palin’s problem, in Parker’s view, wasn’t her beliefs but her tendency to ramble. What mattered about the governor was what she could reflect back to a hungry Republican base: an “attractive, earnest [and] confident” woman in a position of power.

.. Palin said what the base was thinking.

  • She accused Barack Obama of “palling around with terrorists.”
  • She praised those willing to “screw the political correctness.” She cheered the birther movement promoted by one Donald Trump.
  • As the keynote speaker at the first-ever National Tea Party Convention in February 2010, she taunted Democrats, “How’s that hopey-changey stuff working out?”

.. Palin was an avatar for how her supporters felt about themselves and the world they wanted to see, one they saw rapidly slipping away from them. Sure, she might be wrong, they seemed to say, but she’s like us. She is us.

.. her departure left an opening that was filled by Trump

.. Trump campaigned on the Palin model. In fact, he improved upon it. His identity was his trademark, rendering the constant shifts in policy goals and promises almost meaningless. His base saw in Trump what they wanted to see.

  • .. Some saw a fighter who would stand up for them,
  • others saw a vaunted truth-teller,
  • and a few, truth be told, likely saw a potential white-nationalist hero.

And he gave it to them: the image, the veneer, the blank slate upon which their deeply held dreams

..His fans weren’t dissuaded by
  • his past support for Democrats (including his 2016 opponent),
  • or his lies,
  • or his personal liberalism,
  • or his crudeness,
  • or his long history of mistreating small-business owners of the kind he claimed to champion,
because his fans weren’t voting for Trump. They were voting for what Trump meant to them personally.
.. his base will not leave him, because to abandon Trump would not be to abandon the current president but to leave behind deeply held beliefs of their own.
.. His popularity is cultural, not political, resilient to the notions of truth and fiction and to Trump’s own failures.

‘Alt-Right’ Leaders Won’t Condemn Ramming Suspect

Richard Spencer and Nathan Damigo, two leading figures of the white nationalist alt-right movement who had participated in Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally , spoke to reporters at Spencer’s office and apartment in Alexandria.

.. Spencer blamed the authorities for what happened in Charlottesville, saying the city’s mayor and governor of Virginia have “blood on their hands” for not policing the situation properly. The alt-right, he said, is “nonviolent;” he waxed nostalgic while speaking about the hundreds of white nationalists marching through Charlottesville with torches on Friday night, calling the event “really beautiful.”

Some fighting between them and counter-protesters reportedly took place during the Friday event;

Saturday’s rally attracted militia members with guns, and descended into all-out street violence.

.. But one person who didn’t come in for unequivocal criticism was Charlottesville suspect James Alex Fields, who has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman who had come to protest the Unite the Right event. Fields was photographed earlier in the day at the rally with Vanguard America, a self-identified white supremacist and fascist group that attended the rally.

.. General Jeff Sessions has called the incident an act of terrorism.

.. “I am not going to condemn this young man at this point,” Spencer said. When he first saw the video, he said, he saw it as a “malicious act of violence”; but he’s now less sure that it was a purposeful act and won’t come down on one side or another until an investigation is complete.

.. Spencer dismissed Trump’s statement as “kumbaya nonsense” and said he didn’t view it as a repudiation of his movement, which he defended as “non-violent.”

“He sounded like a Sunday school teacher,” he said. “I just don’t take it seriously.”

.. “I don’t know exactly what he meant by that statement,” Damigo said. “People in his position, they’re not stupid, they make these very ambiguous statements with words that are very loaded and hard to interpret.”

.. we don’t know the facts yet.

.. “We were connected with Donald Trump on a kind of psychic level,” he said of the alt-right. Trump is the “first true authentic nationalist in my lifetime.”

.. Asked who in the White House he views as a fellow traveler of the alt-right, Spencer named top policy advisor Stephen Miller and chief strategist Steve Bannon

“They at least are connected with identitarian ideas in a way that the rest of them are not,” Spencer said.

.. But he seemed less than cowed, promising to return to Charlottesville.

“There’s no way in hell I’m not going back to Charlottesville,” he said.