Quotes of the day

If by now you don’t find Donald Trump appalling, you’re appalling…

Since Mr. Trump joined the GOP presidential field and leaped to the top of the polls, several views have been offered to explain his popularity. He conveys a can-do image. He is the bluntest of the candidates in addressing public fears of cultural and economic dislocation. He toes no line, serves no PAC, abides no ideology, is beholden to no man. He addresses the broad disgust of everyday Americans with their failed political establishment.

And so forth and so on—a parade of semi-sophisticated theories that act as bathroom deodorizer to mask the stench of this candidacy. Mr. Trump is a loudmouth vulgarian appealing to quieter vulgarians. These vulgarians comprise a significant percentage of the GOP base. The leader isn’t the problem. The people are. It takes the demos to make the demagogue

Republicans like to think of America as an exceptional nation. And it is, not least in its distaste for demagogues. Donald Trump’s candidacy puts the strength of that distaste to the test.

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Trump is a dangerous megalomaniac with a distorted sense of reality. When 30,000 people turned out to see Trump in Mobile, Ala., he told the crowd, “Now I know how the great Billy Graham felt.” (More than 2 million people attended Graham’s New York City crusade for 16 weeks in 1957.)…

Trump says he attends Marble Collegiate Church in New York, where the late Norman Vincent Peale — author of the self-help book The Power of Positive Thinking — was his pastor. It’s at this church that Trump presumably drinks “my little wine” and has “my little cracker,” as he described taking Communion recently.

Peale was a major figure in the fringy and theologically unsound “prosperity gospel” movement. Pastor Paula White, a prosperity gospel huckster, reportedly will host a meeting for Trump with Christian leaders. White frequently tells her flock to donate large sums of money to her ministry as a “seed” to ensure God answers their prayers.

She’s a scam artist. Just like Trump. Evangelical voters need to wake up.

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My colleague John McCormick dives into the latest Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll today to examine the reason for Donald Trump’s powerful appeal: he’s been able “to sell himself as the straight-talker most candidates aspire to be,” which has landed him squarely in first place.

This is an important insight that I’d carry further, because I think it explains why standard-issue Republican candidates such as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who have tried to emulate Trump, typically fail and will always fail. Calling someone a “straight talker” is code for saying they’re authentic. Trump’s authenticity, and hence his appeal, stems from his willingness to criticize his own party’s priorities (tax and entitlement cuts), not just Democrats’, whereas most pols like Walker who style themselves straight talkers tend to limit their “straight talk” to criticizing the other party’s agenda and wilt when presented with a chance to critique their own side. Voters pick up on this and respond accordingly…

The fact is, true straight talk—that is, straight talk delivered at both parties—is exceeding difficult for career politicians like Walker to pull off, because it upsets the patrons and supporters they depend on for their livelihood (this is another Trump straight-talk point). I can think of only one example: “Maverick”-era (2000) John McCain. And McCain’s example actually illustrates the difficulty of a politican pulling off true straight talk. In his battle against George W. Bush for the Republican nomination, McCain ultimately shrank from criticizing the Confederate Flag (which he opposed), which shattered his straight-talking image. In fact, this sent McCain hurtling it the other direction to become the docrinaire Republican who was the party’s nominee in 2008.

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Genius. Trump is a human handler extraordinaire — the jet-set equivalent of the black-hatted fellow who wheeled his cart into tumbleweed towns. He doesn’t just sell snake oil. He milks the venom from the gathering throng of willing believers, then bottles it up and sells it right back to them. Delicious with raw meat.

There’s something curious about this crowd, however. Trump’s fans aren’t just pokes looking for entertainment. They also include many well-known conservative purists. How does a staunchly pro-life advocate support a man who was recently pro-choice and who has said, albeit when asked, that his sister, a judge who ruled in favor of partial-birth abortion, would make a “phenomenal” Supreme Court justice?…

Trump knows he has the world over a barrel. His opponents fear him because he gave them money. His party fears him because he might run as an Independent. We should all fear a presidential candidate who perfumes the air with red meat and is prepared to collect on his debts.

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Trump’s support is solid despite the simple fact of his policy positions in favor of higher taxes, gun restrictions, single-payer, partial-birth abortion, and recent past as a Hillary-donating, Obama-voting Democrat. None of these things can hurt Trump, because none of them matter to his supporters, and because the chief argument against them requires you to believe in the Republican Party as a vehicle for something different than the Democratic – a fact that is no longer an item of belief for many voters.

When the talking points coming out of Mitch McConnell’s mouth are essentially identical to those coming out of the White House – an agenda divorced from the priorities of a significant portion of the electorate, of trade and reauthorizations and appropriations and device tax repeal and governing – why should they believe any different? Why should such a party continue to exist if it exists to serve the people who donate, not the people who vote? What use is such a party to the people? Why not dissolve it and create another?

This goes back to the whole argument about why the Republican Party exists. Frustrated GOP presidential candidates are responding to Trump’s rise by saying loudly: “He’s not a Republican!” And the people are responding: “So? WTF is that?” Republicans who say “Trump’s damaging the Republican brand” are saying it to a bunch of people who don’t care – and in fact, think America needs a candidate who really doesn’t care about the “Republican brand”, whatever that is…

Parties can die, just as elephants can hang. They do so very rarely. But sometimes, parties just evolve into something that no longer recognizes its past as representing anything historically valuable in guiding its future. The Democratic Party did this within many of our lifetimes. Perhaps it is the GOP’s turn now.

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The Republican base is far less consistent. It wants to cut taxes, and it likes speeches that rail against government spending. But when it comes to making real-world spending cuts, GOP voters (who tend to be older than Democrats and therefore more dependent on government programs that aid the elderly) agree with the person who famously (and absurdly) declared, ”Keep your government hands off my Medicare!” The grassroots want a free lunch, in other words, which is one important reason why the federal budget deficit has soared under every Republican president since Ronald Reagan.

Add in a growing willingness on the right to see the rich pay more in taxes, and Trump’s seemingly off-sides positioning begins to make sense in Republican terms. Yes, the mix of support for tax cuts and hikes, spending cuts and entitlement protections that one finds in the GOP base is contradictory, even incoherent. But it’s where conservative voters are, and Trump is the one candidate promising to give them exactly what they want.

Then there’s Trump’s blustery approach to foreign policy and trade relations: ”Elect me,” he seems to be saying, ”and I’ll be the toughest negotiator you’ve ever seen. I’ll get my way by sheer force of indefatigable will.” But of course, the Republican toughness fetish set in a long time before Trump. Ever since the Sept. 11 attacks and George W. Bush’s cowboy swagger and “Dead or Alive” threats to Osama bin Laden, the GOP has been obsessed with projecting strength — and assuming that the U.S. is bound to get its way if only the president unapologetically drives the hardest bargain at every moment. Trump is merely proving to be marginally more convincing than his rivals on this score because he’s been cultivating an omniconfident image in the public eye for decades…

Donald Trump might scramble the pieces of the Republican coalition and emphasize different policies than the party’s leadership would prefer, but he’s not a traitor to the GOP. He’s a heretic — one whose heterodoxy comes from deep inside the Republican fold.

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The elites of the party pine for regularized mass immigration, tax cuts for “wealth creators,” and a severe drop in the rate of corporate taxation. For them, lower taxes and access to more loopholes are privately thought to be the kinds of rewards that encourage productive striving among the nation’s entrepreneurs…

The party’s base is older white voters who rely on Social Security and Medicare. Many of these people are not in the wealth-creating phase of their lives. According to the elite Republican consensus, they are part of the “47 percent” that Mitt Romney so cavalierly dismissed as takers. But these voters say a cut to their “earned” benefits is an insult to their honor, and their willingness to work hard and play by the rules. We are a long way from the time that George W. Bush claimed a mandate to create privatized Social Security accounts.

Other members of the base include younger red-state evangelicals, some of whom have trouble finding the resources to support their families in a gig economy, and are stuck in part-time work. For these voters, the GOP’s catechism about free trade and free markets is abstract and of dubious value. This is why some of Trump’s best applause lines — on trade and other financial issues — are those in which he promises to fight and negotiate tenaciously in the interest of Americans…

The lesson is this: Republicans have been failing to represent the economic interests of their older voters and heartland conservatives. If they persist in this error, their voters will offer a stiff correction.

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Judging from the reaction on social media and in the comments section of my articles, the seventh group [of Trump supporters] consists of people who want to burn down the Republican Party for not giving them enough of their agenda. They don’t love Trump so much as they hate the GOP leadership and want to use the coiffed avenger as a wrecking ball to tear it apart.

There is a kind of political nihilism at work here, a desire to see the whole system destroyed if you don’t get everything you want right now. If you look at the American political situation and you see that it consists of one party run by people who want outright socialism and another party run by people who don’t want socialism but are fairly ineffective at resisting it, and your answer is: let’s get rid of the ineffective resistance—then you’re not trying to accomplish anything positive. You’re just venting your anger. If this is the case, please go find a hobby to channel your excess energy into, and leave politics alone. Politics is not about venting your emotions. It’s about accomplishing results, which takes planning, persistence, and patience…

Their beef isn’t with the Republican Party, it’s with the whole American system of government. Their enemy isn’t Mitch McConnell. It’s James Madison…

Trumpism is an appeal to the fantasy that we can just get around all that. The fantasy is: here’s this celebrity billionaire with a flamboyant personality who’s very famous and who seems to be the kind of guy who “gets things done.” And he is, for the moment, repeating some of the things that are high on your political wish list. So maybe he will be able to overcome everything in the system that is designed to prevent you from getting that wish list. Maybe he will magically allow your political faction to govern as if it were a majority.

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Because of America’s two-party system and the dominance of individualistic libertarians and social conservatives in one party and left-egalitarians and interest-group liberals in the other, we forget the basics. As the late great political scientist Aaron Wildavsky taught us years ago there are four fundamental political types: egalitarians, individualists, social conservatives, and—the ones we forget about—what he called “fatalists.”

We tend to forget the fatalists because they tend not to vote. They view the world as foreign, chaotic, ephemeral, dangerous, on the edge of falling into bedlam. He used the analogy that their world is like a marble rolling unsteadily on a glass surface, rolling and pitching who knows where. Government has some control but is run by an untouchable, all-powerful elite acting in its own interest. Such a world can only be tamed by something enormously powerful and masterful, and only during a crisis. Then a strong central government supported by angry, patriotic nationalists and led by a popular Napoleon on his white horse can arrest the anarchy. Trump’s autobiography is titled Think Big and Kick Ass…

If Trump wins Iowa and New Hampshire, it is difficult to see any opponent who could rally South Carolina two weeks later, or Nevada. Then on March 1 a half-dozen Southern states with many fatalists (remember Huey Long) will split the opponent’s ranks further. On March 15 Bush could be ousted by Marco Rubio in Florida, with John Kasich winning by a smaller than expected margin in Ohio. Trump could win by losing, saying they were only favorite sons. No one would be left anyway. If he wins either state, it is all over…

The willfully blind establishment in Italy did not think Benito Mussolini or even Silvio Berlusconi could win, either; both succeeded because the reasonable right floundered. The latter became prime minister three times. How does President Trump sound? Or President Hillary?

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“What I also believe fervently is that all of this support for Trump, this movement, whatever you call this that’s happening with Trump, it’s not about conservatism,” Limbaugh said. “And that doesn’t bother me.”