Blow and Krugman

In “The Year’s Biggest Social Justice Stories” Mr. Blow says three observers list events, decisions and controversies of significance in 2015.  In “The Donald and the Decider” Prof. Krugman addresses the history of G.O.P. dumbing-down, which began long before Trump.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

I have always been interested in social justice, and it has always been an integral part of this column. But from the time, nearly three years ago, that I first spoke with Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, I knew that the tenor of the column was forever altered. I am still haunted by the ache in her voice on that first phone call, by the first time I interviewed her in person and saw how the grief draped over her body, and bent it.

Since then, there have been too many stories like Trayvon’s, and this year the pace seemed to quicken. I covered so much pain that I nearly lost myself in it. Maybe I’m getting too close. So, to round up this year in social justice I asked other people who operate in that area to give me their top stories. Here are the results.

HENRY LOUIS GATES JR., Harvard professor and scholar of African-American literature:

1. Massacre at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, S.C.; the victims’ families’ willingness to forgive the killer; President Obama’s eulogy a few days later; and the consequential vote by the South Carolina Legislature to remove the Confederate flag from the State House as part of a large national debate over the flag as a symbol of heritage versus hate.

2. The death of Sandra Bland in Texas and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement to curb police violence, including the launch of the political phase of the struggle with Campaign Zero.

3. Campus unrest, principally at the University of Missouri and the stand the football team took in refusing to play, a stand that led to the resignation of the college president. This is unprecedented in my experience, I have to say! I call this “The Revolt of The Talented Tenth.”

4. The Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, to guarantee the right to same-sex marriage under the Constitution.

5. The immigration debate and the Syrian refugee crisis, especially as they have intersected with the Republican primary race.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER, author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”:

1. The uprisings in Baltimore proved that the Black Lives Matter movement would not be contained to a handful of cities — nor would it be limited to situations in which unarmed black men were killed by white police officers in cities run by whites.

2. Fast-food strikes widen into social justice movement. As wealth inequality reached a new zenith and austerity programs were debated around the world, what may have been the largest ever demonstrations for fair wages in the United States occurred and the protests went global.

3. Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage. The triumph of an extraordinary human rights movement in the United States with ripple effects around the world.

4. Hunger strike and protests force resignation of president at Mizzou. The resignation of the president stunned the nation, focused public attention on old Jim Crow racism still prevalent on college campuses, and inspired national solidarity protests and debate about free speech and racial climate on college campuses.

5. Trump and Bernie. A billionaire demagogue who proudly and openly stokes racial and religious fears, divisions and animosities surges in popularity within the Republican Party as he threatens to shred the Constitution, deport millions of immigrants and close our borders to Muslims. Meanwhile, a Democratic socialist attracts record crowds as he argues for a political revolution against the oligarchs, full employment, fair wages and universal health care.

DAN SAVAGE, author, columnist and co-founder of the “It Gets Better” project:

1. The Black Lives Matter movement. Democratic presidential candidates are responding with solid policy proposals, not platitudes, and some bad cops — homicidally bad cops — may actually face justice, all thanks to a new generation of activists, black Twitter, and cellphone video. But there’s still a long way to go.

2. The fight for the $15 minimum wage. Thousands of fast-food workers revive the labor movement by taking the streets to demand a fairer wage — and a bigger share of the profits their labor generates for giant corporations.

3. Obergefell v. Hodges. The Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in the United States v. Windsor — which overturned the odious Defense of Marriage Act — set the stage for the court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which found that the Constitution protected the right of same-sex couples to marry. A one-two punch that secured the right to marry for all in the United States.

4. Caitlyn Jenner. At first it appeared that Jenner’s coming out as a trans woman would be both reality-showy and tabloid-y. But while Jenner herself has been “problematic,” as the kids on Twitter say, her surprisingly informative and sensitively produced reality show, I Am Cait, transcended both its genesis and its network, helping to educate millions of Americans on trans issues.

5. The Republican nomination contest. Donald Trump’s vicious attacks on immigrants, Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee’s lethal lies about Planned Parenthood, Chris Christie’s cowardly pants-crapping about Syrian toddlers, Marco Rubio’s promise to force women to give birth to their rapists’ babies, every single thing that comes out of Ben Carson’s mouth — the collective effort of activists, journalists, fact checkers, and pundits to counter the demagoguery, lies and delusions of this field of G.O.P. candidates.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Almost six months have passed since Donald Trump overtook Jeb Bush inpolls of Republican voters. At the time, most pundits dismissed the Trump phenomenon as a blip, predicting that voters would soon return to more conventional candidates. Instead, however, his lead just kept widening. Even more striking, the triumvirate of trash-talk — Mr. Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz — now commands the support of roughly 60 percent of the primary electorate.

But how can this be happening? After all, the antiestablishment candidates now dominating the field, aside from being deeply ignorant about policy, have a habit of making false claims, then refusing to acknowledge error. Why don’t Republican voters seem to care?

Well, part of the answer has to be that the party taught them not to care. Bluster and belligerence as substitutes for analysis, disdain for any kind of measured response, dismissal of inconvenient facts reported by the “liberal media” didn’t suddenly arrive on the Republican scene last summer. On the contrary, they have long been key elements of the party brand. So how are voters supposed to know where to draw the line?

Let’s talk first about the legacy of He Who Must Not Be Named.

I don’t know how many readers remember the 2000 election, but during the campaign Republicans tried — largely successfully — to make the election about likability, not policy. George W. Bush was supposed to get your vote because he was someone you’d enjoy having a beer with, unlike that stiff, boring guy Al Gore with all his facts and figures.

And when Mr. Gore tried to talk about policy differences, Mr. Bush responded not on the substance but by mocking his opponent’s “fuzzy math” — a phrase gleefully picked up by his supporters. The press corps played right along with this deliberate dumbing-down: Mr. Gore was deemed to have lost debates, not because he was wrong, but because he was, reporters declared, snooty and superior, unlike the affably dishonest W.

Then came 9/11, and the affable guy was repackaged as a war leader. But the repackaging was never framed in terms of substantive arguments over foreign policy. Instead, Mr. Bush and his handlers sold swagger. He was the man you could trust to keep us safe because he talked tough and dressed up as a fighter pilot. He proudly declared that he was the “decider” — and that he made his decisions based on his “gut.”

The subtext was that real leaders don’t waste time on hard thinking, that listening to experts is a sign of weakness, that attitude is all you need. And while Mr. Bush’s debacles in Iraq and New Orleans eventually ended America’s faith in his personal gut, the elevation of attitude over analysis only tightened its grip on his party, an evolution highlighted when John McCain, who once upon a time had a reputation for policy independence, chose the eminently unqualified Sarah Palin as his running mate.

So Donald Trump as a political phenomenon is very much in a line of succession that runs from W. through Mrs. Palin, and in many ways he’s entirely representative of the Republican mainstream. For example, were you shocked when Mr. Trump revealed his admiration for Vladimir Putin? He was only articulating a feeling that was already widespread in his party.

Meanwhile, what do the establishment candidates have to offer as an alternative? On policy substance, not much. Remember, back when he was the presumed front-runner, Jeb Bush assembled a team of foreign-policy “experts,” people who had academic credentials and chairs at right-wing think tanks. But the team was dominated by neoconservative hard-liners, people committed, despite past failures, to the belief that shock and awe solve all problems.

In other words, Mr. Bush wasn’t articulating a notably different policy than what we’re now hearing from Trump et al; all he offered was belligerence with a thin veneer of respectability. Marco Rubio, who has succeeded him as the establishment favorite, is much the same, with a few added evasions. Why should anyone be surprised to see this posturing, er, trumped by the unapologetic belligerence offered by nonestablishment candidates?

In case you’re wondering, nothing like this process has happened on the Democratic side. When Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders debate, say, financial regulation, it’s a real discussion, with both candidates evidently well informed about the issues. American political discourse as a whole hasn’t been dumbed down, just its conservative wing.

Going back to Republicans, does this mean that Mr. Trump will actually be the nominee? I have no idea. But it’s important to realize that he isn’t someone who suddenly intruded into Republican politics from an alternative universe. He, or someone like him, is where the party has been headed for a long time.

And now they seem to be taking to the fainting couch, clutching their pearls, and moaning…  Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

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