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Ben Carson running the Department of Housing and Urban Development is obviously an embarrassment. We can take as read that he lacks the grounding in issues and the management experience to handle the job, and is being picked solely because HUD is a place that has* to have a member of a minority running it. But the ultimate outcome is going to be with a secretary who doesn’t understand the job, it’s going to be run by staff with the guy nominally in charge hazily aware of departmental business and not particularly able to do much.

Then again, I expect much the same of the Trump White House.

* Doesn’t actually have to. Barack Obama picked a white guy.

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I think this Chris Cillizza piece is pretty astute generally, but I do think something needs to be said about this:

The idea of the media as the intermediary between Trump and the public — reporting on and analyzing his proposals, contextualizing his statements, fact-checking him (and the Democratic politicians opposing him) — is totally lost on him.  The media is to be judged solely on whether or not they, collectively, are being nice to the president.

Being “nice” to a president or simply writing down what he says is not the news media’s job. Most politicians know this — even if they would prefer that journalists be less adversarial and more willing to just sort of take their word for it. Trump is outside of that normal understanding of how presidents and the people tasked with reporting on them need to interact and understand one another.

Not sure why he’d think he could speak through the press to the public without any intermediary. Oh, right, because for most of the campaign they let him do just that. It’s a classic case of operant conditioning, as exemplified with the experiments with Pavlov’s dogs. He’s been conditioned to expect the unfiltered treatment and is confused and angered when he doesn’t get it.

[Updated to be less confusing.]

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Despite Hillary Clinton’s loss, I’m not really hearing much chatter about how North Carolina was one of the brighter spots for Democrats this election. But it was! Here’s why:

  • Democrat Roy Cooper is almost certainly going to be the state’s next governor.
  • Democrat Elaine Marshall will continue in her role as Secretary of State.
  • Democrats will control the state Supreme Court unless the GOP decides to pack it. This is a possibility that cannot be discounted, though at the moment it sounds as though it’s more likely not to happen, due to the undisguisable baldfaced partisan power grab nature of the move.

Admittedly, the GOP’s gerrymandered maps will provide legislative supermajorities, but with a majority-Dem Supreme Court, Democrats could just file suit in state court against discriminatory maps, as they did in Florida and Virginia in recent years. New maps could change things completely. And that–combined with the two elected officials named above winning–could put a crimp in future plans of voter suppression in the state. A lot could still go wrong, of course. But given the state’s closeness this year, it’s grounds for some hope.

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Mark Schmitt has a piece for Democrats on Trump that is worth reading in full. Here are some key points:

At other moments, though, Democrats realise that Trump has no fixed ideology or purpose other than bluffing his way through his biggest and most daring fraud ever. He did say “infrastructure”; he did say he would fix “inner cities” (places where “you get shot walking to the store”); he and his daughter Ivanka mentioned paid family leave. Perhaps these are opportunities. Maybe he’s as easily nudged in the direction of such progressive policy goals as he is towards the adamantine conservatism and racism reflected in his first three high-level nominations.

But those first moves on Trump’s part send two important messages to Democrats, which will also affect mainstream Republicans and conservatives. First, he doesn’t intend to or doesn’t know how to expand the coalition that supports him. Trump is aware only of his hardcore base, the people who came to his rallies and chanted “lock her up” when he mentioned his opponent.

Second, he’s unlikely to be a popular president in his first months in office, which is unprecedented. On election day, Trump’s favourable rating was comparable to Richard Nixon’s in May 1974. Nixon resigned in August 1974. Will Trump’s 2017 public support move up from Nixonian levels? It might, with the aura of the presidency, or it might not, in the absence of the distrusted Hillary Clinton as a foil. Democrats have to be prepared for it to move in either direction, but down is a safer bet.

It can’t be stated enough just how little Trump is prepared for the presidency, and how characterologically and behaviorally unsuited he is for it. It’s possible he’d be great at it but it’s not the most likely outcome. I also think that Schmitt’s point that he doesn’t know how to expand his coalition is apt. In spite of Trump’s inevitable (but not historically all that impressive) “dead cat bounce” after the election, I’m not really sure he can.

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Talking Points Memo has a great piece on the rise of the “nones.” Some of it is stuff I’ve known for some time: the “take it or leave it” choice that the religious right imposes upon the discourse has prompted a lot of millennials to just leave altogether. But it explores other interesting causes as well, such as the prevalence of divorce and mixed-faith households:

Millennials are also more likely to be raised in interfaith households. According to a Pew study this year, 27 percent of Millennials say they were raised in a religiously mixed household, compared to 20 percent for Generation Xers, 19 percent for Baby Boomers and only 13 percent for the Silent and Greatest generations. And 24 percent of Millennials say they were raised by at least one unaffiliated parent, up from 11 percent among the Silent and Greatest generations.

Americans raised in such households report lower levels of religious activity than those raised in a household with one shared religion. Only 40 percent of Americans raised in such mixed households say they attended services regularly as children. They are also less likely than those raised by parents of the same religion to have practiced religion growing up in the form of prayer with their families and attendance at Sunday school.

Lots of interesting stuff, though you can only read it all if you’re part of TPM Prime. And you should be! They’re definitely one of the top independent media operations out there, with top-notch reporting and opinion that cuts through the bullshit. A way better use of your money than rewarding one of the big media outlets that made a hash of the election with your digital dollars.

It’s hard to keep a hopeful attitude these days, boy do I know it. But I have every reason to think that the Trump era will accelerate these trends, which could add up to a huge x-factor going forward:

While Europe secularized slowly over the course of a century—a slow and steady “drip, drip, drip,” according to Putnam—the United States is now in a state of rapid secularization. The implications for these changes are nowhere more clear than in our politics. That’s because for decades evangelical leaders became so ingrained in Republican Party politics that voters had a hard time separating the two. As Mark Shibley, a professor of sociology at Southern Oregon University, told me, his students roundly reject the conservative evangelical strain of Christianity that capped the last century. “They just want nothing to do with it,” he said. “They don’t even know that evangelical Protestantism is just one aspect of religion. For them, that is religion and, [they think], “That’s it. We’re done.” […]

The Republicans may have ridden a populist wave to the White House this time. The election itself, reflecting the rise of the unaffiliated, was probably the least overtly religious in recent history. But President-elect Donald Trump made private pledges to evangelical leaders to respect their agenda on Supreme Court choices. If Trump keeps his word and if he allows the evangelical right to play a large part in Republican social policy, he will face this committed band of unaffiliated Millennials. In the years to come, they could become a scourge on the Republicans in the same way that Falwell, Robertson, and their followers have made life difficult for the Democrats.

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I think Jeet Heer is more right than not here:

Rather than blaming the “fake news” sites or social-media purveyors like Facebook, Democrats need to realize they compounded the problem by gearing their general-election strategy to winning over moderate or Trump-averse Republicans. This strategy had the effect of blunting a message of economic populism, which got sidelined despite the fact that Clinton was running on the most progressive platform in history. Pursuing suburban college-educated Republicans who were always going to be reluctant to support her clouded over the very economic message that would’ve appealed to working class voters of all races, leading to a fatally lower turnout from the Obama coalition in decisive states like Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

Social media may have empowered the spread of fake news—and Trump’s candidacy surely fueled it. But it’s the Democrats’ own flawed political strategy that made the rise of fake news so important—and perhaps so decisive—in 2016.

The fake news thing is being driven by conservatives wanting to believe what they want to believe, and while it shouldn’t be tolerated on social media simply on first principles (such as if you put any stock in the concept of truth), the extent to which it changed opinions more than, say, an email forwarded sixteen times is up for debate.

Also, trying to generate a stampede of moderate Republican women repulsed by Trump’s character was a suboptimal strategy in the first place. I know why they did it, but the Clintons of all people should know the folly of counting on moderate Republicans.

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Where does Trump find these people:

The renewed effort saw Mr Trump working 18 hours a day “as if it’s 15 minutes” and increasing the number of rallies to shore up support, his former aide revealed.

“[After that] he  went from four campaign states a day to five or seven or eight,” Mr Lewandowski said.

“In those last last eleven days Mr  Trump was exceptionally disciplined. He used a teleprompter, and he did less media.. The team used social media like no campaign in history.”

“And then, Donald Trump won the election campaign by the largest majority since Ronald Reagan in 1984.” [emphasis mine]

Just a reminder, the 1984 results:

Ronald Wilson Reagan (Incumbent) Republican California 54,455,472 58.77%
Walter Frederick Mondale Democratic Minnesota 37,577,352 40.56%

And this year’s:

Donald Trump Republican New York 61,496,079[4] 46.72%
Hillary Clinton Democratic New York 62,830,751[4] 47.73%

I guess math isn’t his strong suit, if he thinks -1.5 million is larger than +17 million. Just a reminder that Trump’s retinue is basically nothing but cranks, fabulists and has-beens, the refuse of the GOP professional class that chose him because nobody else would have them (and the better people wanted–and largely still want–nothing to do with him). Now he’s going to put these people in government. Which is not so great on the one hand, but their presence reduces the already-small chance that a Trump presidency will be anything other than a gigantic failed experiment. People inclined to delusional grandiosity aren’t so good at offering reality-based advice, and as Dubya proved, creating your own reality only takes a person so far.

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