Brooks and Krugman

Bobo has decided to whine about “The Death of Idealism” and says it’s sad to see how the promise of the decades when Clinton and Trump established themselves has aged.  “Gemli” from Boston has a few words to say about that.  Prof. Krugman addresses “How the Clinton-Trump Race Got Close” and says Hillary Clinton was hurt by hostile reporting from the mainstream media.  Here’s Bobo:

This presidential election is a contest between the oldest of the baby boomers. Yet Donald Trump, 70, and Hillary Clinton, 68, represent two very different decades in the formation of that generation. Donald Trump became famous as a classic 1980s type, while Hillary Clinton first attained public notice as a classic 1960s type.

It’s interesting, and sad, to see how the promise of those two decades has aged.

Trump opened Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan in November 1983. Go-go capitalism had a lot of élan back then. Capitalism had washed away the stagnation of the 1970s. It was defeating the Soviet Union. During the Reagan years, writers celebrated capitalism not only as a wealth-generating engine but also as a moral system, a way to arouse hard work, creativity and trust.

Of course, Trump was always a scuzzy version of the capitalist type. Somehow I got on the guest list of a few of the ’80s-era parties he hosted in the lobby of his skyscraper and would go for sociological entertainment.

They were filled with the sort of B-grade celebrities and corrupt city officials who were desperate for any mention on the front and sixth pages of The New York Post. A friend of mine came up to me at one of those parties and summarized the atmosphere: “Not indicted, not invited.”

As we saw on Monday night, Trump now represents capitalism degraded to pure selfishness. He treats other people like objects and lies with abandon. Proud to be paying no taxes while others foot the bill, proud to have profited off the housing bust that caused so much suffering, he lacks even the barest conception of civic life and his responsibilities to it.

His ethos is: Get what I can for myself, and everyone else can take care of themselves. As Alexi Sargeant pointed out in First Things, “Trump’s policies, such as they are, usually come down to America breaking its promises.” Trump would have America break its promises to its NATO allies, Japan, its creditors, its trading partners and its own constitution.

Trump reminds us — even those of us who champion capitalism — how corrosive capitalism can be when unaccompanied by a counterbalancing ethos of moral restraint.

Rod Dreher of The American Conservative points out that when a leader consistently breaks promises, communal life is impossible. “If you cannot count on people to honor their vows, you never know what is real,” Dreher writes. Trump is the low, dishonest detritus of a once bright decade.

Clinton gave her Wellesleycommencement speech in the spring of 1969. It was filled with that ’60s style of lofty, inspiring and self-important idealism.

“The challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible possible,” she said. “We’re not interested in social reconstruction; it’s human reconstruction,” she continued. “We’re searching for more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating modes of living.”

She dreamed of a society in which trust would be restored. “Where you don’t manipulate people. Where you’re not interested in social engineering for people.” The words were grandiose, but at least there was a spiritual ambition to them.

That poetic, aspirational quality is entirely absent from what has become the Clinton campaign. Clinton can be a devastatingly good counterpuncher, but she lacks the human touch when talking about the nation’s problems, and fails to make an emotional connection.

When asked why she wants to be president or for any positive vision, she devolves into a list of programs. And it is never enough just to list three programs in an answer; she has to pile in an arid hodgepodge of eight or nine. This is pure interest-group liberalism — buying votes with federal money — not an inspiring image of the common good.

The twin revolutions of the 1960s and the 1980s liberated the individual — first socially and then economically — and weakened the community. More surprising, this boomer-versus-boomer campaign has decimated idealism.

There is no uplift in this race. There is an entire absence, in both campaigns, of any effort to appeal to the higher angels of our nature. There is an assumption, in both campaigns, that we are self-seeking creatures, rather than also loving, serving, hoping, dreaming, cooperating creatures. There is a presumption in both candidates that the lowest motivations are the most real.

Ironically, one of the tasks for those who succeed the baby boomers is to restore idealism. The great challenge of our moment is the crisis of isolation and fragmentation, the need to rebind the fabric of a society that has been torn by selfishness, cynicism, distrust and autonomy.

At some point there will have to be a new vocabulary and a restored anthropology, emphasizing love, friendship, faithfulness, solidarity and neighborliness that pushes people toward connection rather than distrust. Millennials, I think, want to be active in this rebinding. But inspiration certainly isn’t coming from the aging boomers now onstage.

I can’t wait until Driftglass gets his teeth into this — he’ll love that Bobo cited Dreher…  Now here’s what “gemli” had to say to Bobo:

“There is no equivalence between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Those who say that they’re both flawed are typically conservatives who are trying to assuage the embarrassment they feel that Trump is carrying the Republican banner. There’s no way to make him look better, so they try to make Hillary look worse.

Trump isn’t a “classic” anything. He’s the worst example of an amoral economic mobster of the kind that emerged in the 1980s, at a time when Saint Reagan was setting the moral tone for conservatives by declaring that schoolchildren could eat Ketchup.

Whatever her flaws, Hillary Clinton was an idealist from day one. If she was strident or grandiose, it was in the service of ideas that would improve people’s lives. Her ideas were lofty when she was in college, but Brooks can’t help tagging them as self-important, and reminding us that the aspirational tone is now absent.

Of course, we have a president now who was ridiculed by conservatives for his aspirational tone, and for the idea that hope and change were possible. He was set upon by the Tea Party for daring to suggest that the crimes and the despair of the Bush years could be put behind us.

Trump is the legacy of hate handed down by those who championed greed, and whose moral compass always pointed to whatever might enrich them.

Right now, there is no quest more idealistic than preventing Trump from becoming president. Hillary Clinton needs our support, not a screed that undermines her chances.”

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Monday’s presidential debate was a blowout, surely the most one-sided confrontation in American political history. Hillary Clinton was knowledgeable, unflappable and — dare we say it? — likable. Donald Trump was ignorant, thin-skinned and boorish.

Yet on the eve of the debate, polls showed a close race. How was that possible?

After all, the candidates we saw Monday night were the same people they’ve been all along. Mrs. Clinton’s grace and even humor under pressure were fully apparent during last year’s Benghazi hearing. Mr. Trump’s whiny braggadocio has been obvious every time he opens his mouth without reading from a teleprompter.

So how could someone like Mr. Trump have been in striking position for the White House? (He may still be there, since we have yet to see what effect the debate had on the polls.)

Part of the answer is that a lot more Americans than we’d like to imagine are white nationalists at heart. Indeed, implicit appeals to racial hostility have long been at the core of Republican strategy; Mr. Trump became the G.O.P. nominee by saying outright what his opponents tried to convey with dog whistles.

If he loses, Republicans will claim that he was some kind of outlier, showing nothing about the nature of their party. He isn’t.

But while racially motivated voters are a bigger minority than we’d like to think, they are a minority. And as recently as August Mrs. Clinton held a commanding lead. Then her polls went into a swoon.

What happened? Did she make some huge campaign blunders?

I don’t think so. As I’ve written before, she got Gored. That is, like Al Gore in 2000, she ran into a buzz saw of adversarial reporting from the mainstream media, which treated relatively minor missteps as major scandals, and invented additional scandals out of thin air.

Meanwhile, her opponent’s genuine scandals and various grotesqueries were downplayed or whitewashed; but as Jonathan Chait of New York magazine says, the normalization of Donald Trump was probably less important than the abnormalization of Hillary Clinton.

This media onslaught started with an Associated Press report on the Clinton Foundation, which roughly coincided with the beginning of Mrs. Clinton’s poll slide. The A.P. took on a valid question: Did foundation donors get inappropriate access and exert undue influence?

As it happened, it failed to find any evidence of wrongdoing — but nonetheless wrote the report as if it had. And this was the beginning of an extraordinary series of hostile news stories about how various aspects of Mrs. Clinton’s life “raise questions” or “cast shadows,” conveying an impression of terrible things without saying anything that could be refuted.

The culmination of this process came with the infamous Matt Lauer-moderated forum, which might be briefly summarized as “Emails, emails, emails; yes, Mr. Trump, whatever you say, Mr. Trump.”

I still don’t fully understand this hostility, which wasn’t ideological. Instead, it had the feel of the cool kids in high school jeering at the class nerd. Sexism was surely involved but may not have been central, since the same thing happened to Mr. Gore.

In any case, those of us who remember the 2000 campaign expected the worst would follow the first debate: Surely much of the media would declare Mr. Trump the winner even if he lied repeatedly. Some “news analyses” were already laying the foundation, setting a low bar for the G.O.P. nominee while warning that Mrs. Clinton’s “body language” might display “condescension.”

Then came the debate itself, which was almost unspinnable. Some people tried, declaring Mr. Trump the winner in the discussion of trade even though everything he said was factually or conceptually false. Or — my favorite — we had declarations that while Mr. Trump was underprepared, Mrs. Clinton may have been “overprepared.” What?

But meanwhile, tens of millions of Americans saw the candidates in action, directly, without a media filter. For many, the revelation wasn’t Mr. Trump’s performance, but Mrs. Clinton’s: The woman they saw bore little resemblance to the cold, joyless drone they’d been told to expect.

How much will it matter? My guess — but I could very well be completely wrong — is that it will matter a lot. Hard-core Trump supporters won’t be swayed. But voters who had been planning to stay home or, what amounts to the same thing, vote for a minor-party candidate rather than choose between the racist and the she-devil may now realize that they were misinformed. If so, it will be Mrs. Clinton’s bravura performance, under incredible pressure, that turned the tide.

But things should never have gotten to this point, where so much depended on defying media expectations over the course of an hour and a half. And those who helped bring us here should engage in some serious soul-searching.


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