I think the possibility of some sort of breakup of the United States is a lot higher than people think (which is not to say very likely or even necessarily more likely than not). No, I’m not talking about the California secession movement, which is dumb, Russian-backed (which is so unsurprising it’s almost surprising), poorly conceived and won’t work. I’ve never met a California nationalist and I’ve lived here over three decades. I don’t believe they really exist in any sort of numbers. But the fact that 33% of the state says they support it is interesting. And perhaps more would favor ditching the current constitution and adopting self-governing regions a la Switzerland (or Belgium), with a national government handling a few things like trade, defense, foreign relations, etc. Obviously that 33% number could be simply measuring revulsion at Trump. But that revulsion isn’t going to go away, and it could be a sign of something.

I’m sure most of us have read about the studies how ideologically polarized countries with presidential systems always see them fall apart. So that’s always there. And the divides in our country go back to the beginning of the country, and believing in total ideological victory of one side over the other goes against the entirety of our history. FDR didn’t destroy conservatism, Reagan didn’t destroy liberalism. They entered fallow periods before re-emerging. Even at the height of the “Great Consensus” Barry Goldwater still almost got 40% of the vote, so the divides have always been there, in mostly recognizable form, and probably not changing much in terms of numbers. But the defense mechanisms to avoid total ideological war–heterogeneous political parties, strong institutional norms, a governing culture geared toward bipartisanship and, probably most importantly, broadly shared prosperity that would make most people not want to mess with a good thing–are all long gone. And with Donald Trump, liberals are confronted with a national leader with whom they share not a single value. While plugged-in left-wing political observers have been sounding the alarm about the changes within the GOP for years now, the Republican establishment and the mainstream media worked hard to downplay the story with a steady stream of “both sides” nonsense, all the while one old-school, sensible Republican after another was drummed out of the party, to be replaced by an extreme nutcase. Most liberals get their news this way, so it set a certain expectation, a cushion against the inarguable (but, pre-Trump, ignorable) reality.

Trump now makes the uncomfortable reality unavoidable. Both sides didn’t elect vulgar, bigoted fascists. Only one did. And Republicans are, by and large, quite pleased with this. There are a few noble exceptions out there but generally speaking, a president committed to wrecking the lives of brown people and lavishing favors upon the rich seems to suit conservatives just fine. Liberals may phrase it in terms of being shocked about what their country is about, but really, it’s the Republicans who have shocked them. Liberals were told for years by the media and Republican elites (and even, most ridiculously, by their party’s own president) that Republicans aren’t actually all that extreme, that Trump wouldn’t do what he promised, that he couldn’t win, that the fever would break, that Republican moderates would finally bolt from the extremists, etc. None of it happened. In the end, the game the media and the Republican establishment were playing was bound to fail as it was based on a fiction, and an empirically provable one at that. Successful a president as Obama was, his fundamental misunderstanding of the national divide–and preference to see it as largely phony and ginned up by cynical politicos, all the while ignoring the visible rise of right-wing extremism–will also factor heavily into his legacy (and, whatever her flaws, Clinton’s willingness to actually confront these things publicly during her campaign will also factor into hers in the opposite way). In context, the response of liberals to Trump’s victory by technicality makes complete sense. It was the bursting of a bubble. The frenzy since then–and its uncharacteristic (for liberals) binary nature–reflects an accurate understanding that there is no common ground to find a compromise with Trump. And, by extension, with the conservative America that so roundly supports him.

Of course, it’s not certain that this will lead to a break-up, of course. But the implications of all this are only beginning to play out, and the combination of minimal prosperity, continued social divisions exacerbated by the White House being occupied by a sentient middle finger directed at every group that didn’t vote for him (and a corresponding lack of illusion about the nature of the divisions) could plausibly lead there. Certainly, the prospect of a few more generations of the same conflicts, the same debates about the same things, the same arguments and conversations past one another, can’t be very appealing to anyone. To be sure, there is no doubt a breakup would be expensive, complicated and messy. But something’s going to have to give. Perhaps it will be something else. But it could be this.

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Lev filed this under: , ,  

Excellent piece from WaPo on how the current administration prefers slanted media coverage on what it does (to the point of nudging it along via non-comments) so that it can attack the coverage as biased, even lying about not being called for comment. It’s both scary and stupid, in the usual Trumpian fashion: the base will just love it, but by not commenting on stories, they’re losing their chance to influence how that information gets presented, and the emphasis of the story is all-important. (Too soon to bring up Mrs. Clinton’s emails?) Attacking press coverage is part of politics, but it needs to be done strategically, with a goal in mind. Just doing it every day will make the public tune out the attacks, or potentially allow even defensible actions that draw media criticism to be damaging if the denials sound like the same-old. As, perhaps, they already do.

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Gotta love this:

And so Trump’s staff essentially outsources the job of circulating pro-Trump alternative facts to the right-wing media in order to dissuade the president from doing it himself and thereby tarnishing his brand. The president is therefore not only the subject but also the object of his own staff’s propaganda campaign.

My only question is: do these staffers really think this is going to help in the long run? It seems like the ultimate sacrifice of the long-term for the short-term. Conditioning Trump to sublimate apocalyptic responses to criticism, legitimate or otherwise*, by seeking out positive hackery seems almost certain to eliminate even the smallest hopes that he’ll be anything but a disaster. Admittedly, I don’t have any better ideas.

* And yes, there is some illegitimate criticism. Mainly anyone complaining about his playing golf. Golf’s a shitty, boring game that’s mainly enjoyed by men who hate their (often very plush) lives and want to escape them for as long as possible, but Jesus Christ, doesn’t that explain why the last four presidents have been addicts?

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Lev filed this under:  

At least the naifs over in the Berkeley administration will have an easy out now from having to reschedule that talk. Sheesh.

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Lev filed this under:  

Bernstein:

Indeed, it’s hard not to imagine that Trump believes that the portions of the presidency that are for show, the meetings with CEOs and the Oval Office photos with foreign leaders and the press conferences, are the essential core of the job. Not, for example, carefully reading briefing papers in order to figure out what tough questions to ask those who are briefing him, or dealing with the details of policy choices.

Of course he thinks that. That’s what they show of the presidency on television.

The guy really thought that the presidency would be cheers and flowers and thank yous, when in reality it’s jeers and tomatoes and fuck yous. Plus twenty-hour days, daily mockery and being hated by half the country (or more) for much of it no matter what. The ultimate example of the man’s ignorance, poor judgment, and lack of self-knowledge is that he actually ran for this job in the first place. As I’ve said before, it’ll eat him alive.

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Lev filed this under:  

Bill Maher is not an asset to liberalism, leftism or any other sort of progressive point of view. I won’t deny having enjoyed watching him tear apart the occasional far-right apparatchik over the years purely as entertainment, but essentially his act is a version of Sorkinism that gives liberals warm, tingly feelings but accomplishes nothing. Ultimately, getting yelled at by a loud, angry liberal may cause momentary discomfort for an Ann Coulter or a Dinesh D’Souza, but in the long run it merely burnishes their credibility with conservatives. And his various expressions of sexism and religious bigotry do more to set back our vision of society than to move it forward. The notion that young Milo will be destroyed by this–as opposed to keeping his 15 minutes going with the added attention from appearing on a conflict-oriented show–is to misunderstand the situation entirely.

In conclusion, Andy Kindler is always right:

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Also, I actually disagree with Loomis here. I don’t think Republicans will get rid of Trump when he becomes an electoral millstone to them, for the same reason they didn’t do it to Dubya after he did: they’re the daddy party and getting rid of daddy will make the children confused and angry. No matter what Trump does, 70-75% of Republicans will approve of him, as they did of Bush. If Democrats were somehow stuck with a genuinely unstable president I don’t think the base would put up too much of a fuss to get rid of him (or her – this is a hypothetical) if the next in line were of the same party. But this is the GOP couldn’t get its act together to oppose Trump in the primaries, wasted peoples’ time exploring options to dump Trump despite clearly not having the will to do it, and then winced throughout the general election but did nothing. The contrast with 52 years earlier, when party elites took one for the team when the nutcases nominated an extremist (though, admittedly, a rather more stable one) speaks volumes about their party’s desecration. But regardless, can you imagine Mitch McConnell going on FOX News to try to sell the dickwads with truck nuts on why Donald Trump has to be impeached? I can’t. They do not want to tell the Trump-loving base something it does not want to hear, ever. So impeachment is out, the 25th Amendment is out, and I don’t think Trump would resign under any circumstances (though I’m not 100% sure he won’t just say no to re-election if the numbers are terrible). Obviously, there are less…official means of removal, but frankly I don’t see anyone in their upper ranks with the guts to become the new Lavrenty Beria. Paul Ryan and his P90X moves? Please.

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Lev filed this under:  

Now is the time for liberals to indulge in a little vulgar patriotism. Democratic elites really should start upping the patriotic rhetoric as a cudgel against Trump. You don’t want to go full force into it now, just subtly let a little creep in. But after Republicans refuse to open a real investigation into Trump’s Russia ties, this could be one of those instances where liberals can have their cake and eat it too with this stuff. Having a Republican president compromised by a foreign power–indeed, by a historically antagonistic power–is a pretty novel situation and I don’t think Republicans would be able to handle such attacks well. At a minimum, it’ll piss them off and distract them from the horrible work they’d otherwise do. It wouldn’t even be questioning Trump’s patriotism because it’s already in question. Just emphasizing that fact could be very politically beneficial.

Incidentally, I do think that liberals tend to be more genuinely patriotic than conservatives generally. At this point, the prevailing conservative patriotism seems to be so mixed up in disdain for the nation that it is it’s hard to see it as love of any kind (in other words, #MAGA). Obviously, there are exceptions. But there’s nothing wrong with saying it.

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