Archive for the ‘Krugman’ Category

Brooks and Krugman

October 28, 2016

Bobo is wringing his hands over “The Conservative Intellectual Crisis.”  But he tells us it’s about to get better.  Really — “conservative intellectual” is an oxymoron, with an emphasis on the last 5 letters.  There will be a reply from “soxared, 04-o7-13” from Crete, Illinois.  Prof. Krugman, in “Obamacare Hits a Pothole,” says the news about premium hikes is bad, but not nearly as bad as some critics would have you believe.  Here’s Bobo:

I feel very lucky to have entered the conservative movement when I did, back in the 1980s and 1990s. I was working at National Review, The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. The role models in front of us were people like Bill Buckley, Irving Kristol, James Q. Wilson, Russell Kirk and Midge Decter.

These people wrote about politics, but they also wrote about a lot of other things: history, literature, sociology, theology and life in general. There was a sharp distinction then between being conservative, which was admired, and being a Republican, which was considered sort of cheesy.

These writers often lived in cities among liberals while being suspicious of liberal thought and liberal parochialism. People like Buckley had friends of every ideological stripe and were sharper for being in hostile waters. They were sort of inside and outside the establishment and could speak both languages.

Many grew up poor, which cured them of the anti-elitist pose that many of today’s conservative figures adopt, especially if they come from Princeton (Ted Cruz), Cornell (Ann Coulter) or Dartmouth (Laura Ingraham and Dinesh D’Souza). The older writers knew that being cultured and urbane wasn’t a sign of elitism. Culture was the tool they used for social mobility. T.S. Eliot was cheap and sophisticated argument was free.

The Buckley-era establishment self-confidently enforced intellectual and moral standards. It rebuffed the nativists like the John Birch Society, the apocalyptic polemicists who popped up with the New Right, and they exiled conspiracy-mongers and anti-Semites, like Joe Sobran, an engaging man who was rightly fired from National Review.

The conservative intellectual landscape has changed in three important ways since then, paving the way for the ruination of the Republican Party.

First, talk radio, cable TV and the internet have turned conservative opinion into a mass-market enterprise. Small magazines have been overwhelmed by Rush, O’Reilly and Breitbart.

Today’s dominant conservative voices try to appeal to people by the millions. You win attention in the mass media through perpetual hysteria and simple-minded polemics and by exploiting social resentment. In search of that mass right-wing audience that, say, Coulter enjoys, conservatism has done its best to make itself offensive to people who value education and disdain made-for-TV rage.

It’s ironic that an intellectual tendency that champions free markets was ruined by the forces of commercialism, but that is the essential truth. Conservatism went down-market in search of revenue. It got swallowed by its own anti-intellectual media-politico complex — from Beck to Palin to Trump. Hillary Clinton is therefore now winning among white college graduates by 52 to 36 percent.

Second, conservative opinion-meisters began to value politics over everything else. The very essence of conservatism is the belief that politics is a limited activity, and that the most important realms are pre-political: conscience, faith, culture, family and community. But recently conservatism has become more the talking arm of the Republican Party.

Among social conservatives, for example, faith sometimes seems to come in second behind politics, Scripture behind voting guides. Today, most white evangelicals are willing to put aside the Christian virtues of humility, charity and grace for the sake of a Trump political victory. According to a Public Religion Research Institute survey, 72 percent of white evangelicals believe that a person who is immoral in private life can be an effective national leader, a belief that is more Machiavelli than Matthew.

As conservatism has become a propagandistic, partisan movement it has become less vibrant, less creative and less effective.

That leads to the third big change. Blinkered by the Republican Party’s rigid anti-government rhetoric, conservatives were slow to acknowledge and even slower to address the central social problems of our time.

For years, middle- and working-class Americans have been suffering from stagnant wages, meager opportunity, social isolation and household fragmentation. Shrouded in obsolete ideas from the Reagan years, conservatism had nothing to offer these people because it didn’t believe in using government as a tool for social good. Trump demagogy filled the void.

This is a sad story. But I confess I’m insanely optimistic about a conservative rebound. That’s because of an observation the writer Yuval Levin once made: That while most of the crazy progressives are young, most of the crazy conservatives are old. Conservatism is now being led astray by its seniors, but its young people are pretty great. It’s hard to find a young evangelical who likes Donald Trump. Most young conservatives are comfortable with ethnic diversity and are weary of the Fox News media-politico complex. Conservatism’s best ideas are coming from youngish reformicons who have crafted an ambitious governing agenda (completely ignored by Trump).

A Trump defeat could cleanse a lot of bad structures and open ground for new growth. It was good to be a young conservative back in my day. It’s great to be one right now.

Lordy.  Here’s rhe reply from “soxared, 04-07-13”:

“Another delusional column from the Captain Quint of the Republican party as the great shark moves in to devour it. Mr. Brooks, are you aware Jason Chaffaetz of Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform? He has taken a page out of Mitch McConnell’s How To Make Government Unresponsive by promising to double down on Mrs. Clinton’s email server contretemps while Secretary of State. The obvious goal in mind is impeachment of the new president before she takes office.

This is your idea of a “new conservatism”, Mr. Brooks, one that will “cleanse a lot of bad structures and open ground for new growth”? Well, here’s my take: it’s the obvious and deliberate attempt to destroy an American president before she even takes office We’ve just witnessed your party’s unique brand of conservatism during the Obama administration. The GOP promises more and all you can say today is “it’s great to be a conservative right now”?

Your misty-eyed reminiscence of William F. Buckley, for example, doesn’t take into account his happily-declared racism, his contempt for diversity. Yet you, as is your wont, try to slide by us a Hall of Fame of right-wing intellectuals as a pantheon of American greatness of thought. Mr. Buckley was Ronald “government is the problem” Reagan’s champion.

He’s also the “intellectual” father of Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Coulter, D’Souza, and, yes, Brooks.

Are you proud of that?”

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

For advocates of health reform, the story of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, has been a wild roller-coaster ride.

First there was the legislative drama, with reform seemingly on the edge of collapse right up to the moment of passage. Then there was the initial mess with the website — followed by incredibly good news on enrollment and costs. Now reform has hit a pothole: After several years of coming in far below predictions, premiums on covered plans have shot up by more than 20 percent.

So how bad is the picture?

The people who have been claiming all along that reform couldn’t work, and have been wrong every step of the way, are, of course, claiming vindication. But they’re wrong again. The bad news is real. But so are reform’s accomplishments, which won’t go away even if nothing is done to fix the problems now appearing. And technically, if not politically, those problems are quite easy to fix.

Health reform had two big goals: to cover the uninsured and to rein in the overall growth of health care costs — to “bend the curve,” in the jargon of health policy wonks. Sure enough, the fraction of Americans without health insurance has declined to its lowest level in history, while health cost growth has plunged: Since Obamacare passed Congress, private insurance costs have risen less than half as fast as they did in the previous decade, andMedicare costs have risen less than a fifth as fast.

But if health costs are looking good, what’s with the spike in premiums? It only applies to one piece of the health care system — the “exchanges,” the insurance markets Obamacare established for people who aren’t covered either by their employers or by government programs, mainly Medicare and Medicaid.

The way the exchanges were supposed to work was that both healthy and less-healthy people would sign up, providing insurers with a good mix of risks that let them offer reasonably priced policies. Broad participation was supposed to happen because the law requires everyone to have insurance — the “mandate” — or face a penalty. Buying insurance was supposed to remain affordable because the law provides subsidies for middle- and lower-income families, ensuring that health costs don’t become too large a share of income.

Many insurers entered the market in the belief that the system would work as advertised. After all, conceptually similar systems work in other countries, like Switzerland; Massachusetts has had a system along the same lines since 2006 (which is why some of us call it ObamaRomneycare); and even now it’s working O.K. in California, which has managed the program well.

In many states, however, not enough healthy people signed up — and now insurers are either pulling out or hiking their premiums to reflect the not-so-good risk pool. Since premiums have until now been well below projections, this only brings them back up to expected levels. But it’s clearly not good news.

How many people are hurt by these premium hikes? Not as many as you may think.

If you are covered by your employer, Medicare or Medicaid, this isn’t about you. Even if you buy a policy on the exchanges, you’re protected if your income is low enough — $97,200 for a family of four — to make you eligible for subsidies. So we’re talking about a fraction of a fraction of the population (which admittedly may still be several million people).

Oh, and bear in mind that many of those affected by the rate hikes have pre-existing conditions, which means that without Obamacare they wouldn’t be insured at all.

Even if the direct effects of this year’s hike aren’t that big, could it mean that Obamacare is about to unravel? No. Most people on the exchanges receive subsidies, which means that the rate hikes won’t induce them to drop out; people talking about a “death spiral” haven’t done their homework.

So the news is bad, but its badness is limited. Still, the architects of Obamacare had hoped to create a system that would eventually cover almost everyone.

Can the current problems be fixed?

As a technical matter, the answer is clearly yes. Strengthen the mandate; expand the subsidies; close the loopholes that have allowed some insurers to bypass the exchanges; take a more active role in setting standards and reaching out to families to make them aware of their options. Some states are doing much better than others, and it wouldn’t take a lot of money to expand best practices to the nation as a whole.

The trouble is that Congress would have to vote to spend that money. So unless Democrats manage to take the House (unlikely) or Republicans are willing to cooperate in the public interest (even more unlikely), the easy fix that’s clearly in sight will have to wait for a while.

So, is the latest health care news disappointing? Yes. Is it catastrophic? Not at all.

Blow and Krugman

October 24, 2016

Mr. Blow has a question in “Clinton’s Question of Illegitimacy:”  Why is the election “rigged” at the very moment that a woman is on the verge of victory?  Oh, Charles — if you thought the racism of the last 8 years has been fun, just WAIT until you see the sexism to follow.  In “It’s Trump’s Party” Prof. Krugman says don’t let anyone pretend otherwise.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

President Obama is fond of saying that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified person to ever seek the presidency. And, if current polls are correct and prove resilient, she will be one of the most qualified people to be elected and ascend to that office.

But one of the great ironies of this election is that America’s first female president may be viewed by many as the country’s most invalid president, hanging under the specter of suspicion, mistrust and illegitimacy.

This is partly because her opponents all along the way have complained that the system — from the media to the electoral apparatus — was “rigged” and unfairly tilted in her favor, and it’s partly because of unflattering bits of information that have come to light from an illegal hack.

During the primaries, Bernie Sanders (who now supports Clinton) made very clear that he thought that both the media and the Democratic Party itself had not been fair to him. As he put it, “We knew we were taking on the establishment.”

This became a motif of his revolution, and a force corrosive to voters’ confidence in the primary process. A March Pew report found a striking decline in Democrats’ trust in their nominating process:

“Democrats and Republicans differ on whether the presidential primaries are a good way of determining the best-qualified nominees. Currently, 42 percent of Republican voters have a positive view of the primary process, compared with 30 percent of Democrats. The share of Democrats expressing a positive view of the primary process has declined 22 percentage points,” from 52 percent in February 2008. “Republicans’ views are little different than in 2000 or 2008.”

In early May, Sanders said at a rally:

“When we talk about a rigged system, it’s also important to understand how the Democratic Convention works. We have won, at this point, 45 percent of pledged delegates, but we have only earned 7 percent of superdelegates.”

In late May, Sanders reversed course on the system being “rigged” on “Face the Nation,” saying:

“What has upset me, and what I think is — I wouldn’t use the word rigged, because we knew what the words were — but what is really dumb is that you have closed primaries, like in New York State, where three million people who are Democrats or Republicans could not participate, where you have a situation where over 400 superdelegates came on board Clinton’s campaign before anybody else was in the race, eight months before the first vote was cast.

Blogs like Vox and FiveThirtyEight tried to debunk the rigging claims, saying essentially that while some rules worked against Sanders, others worked in his favor, and in the end he simply lost because he got fewer votes. But still, the “rigged” idea stuck.

This idea was buttressed by WikiLeaks’ release of hacked emails that showed that some in the Democratic National Committee displayed an open disdain for Sanders and, as The New York Times reported, “showed party officials conspiring to sabotage” his campaign.

Whereas the foundation of Sanders’s objections were at least based on real issues, even though many were by no means new to this cycle, Donald Trump’s sermonizing about rigging is constructed of wild conspiracy and conjecture.

Trump has been on a tear for weeks about the general election being “rigged,” and apparently that message is sinking in among a large portion of his supporters, just as it sank in among a large portion of Democratic primary voters.

An NBC/SurveyMonkey poll released Friday found that 45 percent of Republicans definitely wouldn’t or were unlikely to accept the result of the election if their candidate lost, compared to 30 percent of Independents and 16 percent of Democrats who felt the same.

At this point, it’s not even clear if Trump would graciously concede if he lost. Indeed, grace may be beyond his grasp.

And while there are signs that Clinton is narrowing the enthusiasm gap with Trump, my sense is that Clinton’s current success is as much a repudiation of Trump’s abhorrence as it is an embrace of Clinton. It feels to me more like exhaustion than exhilaration.

We could be on the verge of something historic. So, why does it feel so much like acquiescence? Why aren’t more people rushing to the polls to vote for this immensely qualified woman rather than rushing to vote against this woefully unqualified man? One of the reasons is that her male opponents have successfully cast the race she may win as rigged.

I think it’s fair to say our electoral processes aren’t perfect. But they’ve never been. Nor has any candidate been perfect. So why must those imperfections be nullifying at the very moment that a woman is on the verge of victory? Clinton is a woman beating men at their own game. Deal with it.

Still, this all means that a potential Hillary Clinton administration could commence under a cloud and against a chill wind. It could be a first, but one met with a frost. Revolutionary acts come at a cost.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

The presidential campaign is entering its final weeks, and unless the polls are completely off, Donald Trump has very little chance of winning — only 7 percent, according to the Times’s Upshot model. Meanwhile, the candidate continues to say disgusting things, and analysts are asking whether down-ballot Republicans will finally repudiate their party’s nominee.

The answer should be, who cares? Everyone who endorsed Mr. Trump in the past owns him now; it’s far too late to get a refund. And voters should realize that voting for any Trump endorser is, in effect, a vote for Trumpism, whatever happens at the top of the ticket.

First of all, nobody who was paying attention can honestly claim to have learned anything new about Mr. Trump in the last few weeks. It was obvious from the beginning that he was a “con artist” — so declared Marco Rubio, who has nonetheless endorsed his candidacy. His racism and sexism were apparent from the beginning of his campaign; his vindictiveness and lack of self-discipline were on full display in his tirades against Judge Gonzalo Curiel and Khizr Khan.

So any politicians who try after the election to distance themselves from the Trump phenomenon — or even unendorse in these remaining few days — have already failed the character test. They knew who he was all along, they knew that this was a man who should never, ever hold any kind of responsible position, let alone become president. Yet they refused to speak out against his candidacy as long as he had a chance of winning — that is, they supported him when it mattered, and only distanced themselves when it didn’t. That’s a huge moral failure, and deserves to be remembered as such.

Of course, we know why the great majority of Republican politicians supported Mr. Trump despite his evident awfulness: They feared retribution from the party’s base if they didn’t. But that’s not an excuse. On the contrary, it’s reason to trust these people even less. We already know that they lack any moral backbone, that they will do whatever it takes to guarantee their own political survival.

And what this means in practice is that they will remain Trumpists after the election, even if the Orange One himself vanishes from the scene.

After all, what we learned during the Republican primary was that the party’s base doesn’t care at all about what the party establishment says: Jeb Bush (remember him?), the initial insider choice, got nowhere despite a giant war chest, and Mr. Rubio, who succeeded him as the establishment favorite, did hardly better. Nor does the base care at all about supposed conservative principles like small government.

What Republican voters wanted, instead, were candidates who channeled their anger and fear, who demonized nonwhites and played into dark conspiracy theories. (Even establishment candidates did that — never forget that Mr. Rubio accused President Obama of deliberately hurting America.)

Just in case you had any doubts about that political reality, a Bloomberg poll recently asked Republicans whose view better matched their own view of what the party should stand for: Paul Ryan or Donald Trump. The answer was Mr. Trump, by a wide margin.

This lesson hasn’t been lost on Republican politicians. Even if Mr. Trump loses bigly, they’ll know that their personal fortunes will depend on maintaining an essentially Trumpist line. Otherwise they will face serious primary challenges and/or be at risk of losing future elections when base voters stay home.

So you can ignore all the efforts to portray Mr. Trump as a deviation from the G.O.P.’s true path: Trumpism is what the party is all about. Maybe they’ll find future standard-bearers with better impulse control and fewer personal skeletons in their closets, but the underlying nastiness is now part of Republican DNA.

And the immediate consequences will be very ugly. Assuming that Hillary Clinton wins, she will face an opposing party that demonizes her and denies her legitimacy no matter how large her margin of victory. It may be hard to think of any way Republicans could be even more obstructionist and destructive than they were during the Obama years, but they’ll find a way, believe me.

In fact, it’s likely to be so bad that America’s governability may hang in the balance. A Democratic recapture of the Senate would be a very big deal, but they are unlikely to take the House, thanks to the clustering of their voters. So how will basic business like budgeting get done? Some observers are already speculating about a regime in which the House is effectively run by Democrats in cooperation with a small rump of rational Republicans. Let’s hope so — but it’s no way to manage a great nation.

Still, it’s hard to see an alternative. For the modern G.O.P. is Mr. Trump’s party, with or without the man himself.

Blow, Brooks, Cohen, and Krugman

October 21, 2016

In “Donald Trump vs. American Democracy” Mr. Blow says Trump is desperate for a reason to explain why he’s losing.  Bobo has decided to tell us all about “How to Repair Moral Capital.”  He says that the task ahead is globalism with solidarity.  Whatever that means.  As a delightful lagniappe, in true “Both Siderism” he actually refers to the totally discredited James O’Keefe.  And he has yet to disavow Trump.  Mr. Cohen, in “Trump the Anti-American,” says rage is all that Trump has had to offer. His America is small. But this is still the land of “Sure,” of the embrace of possibility.  Prof. Krugman, in “Why Hillary Wins,” has a memo to pundits:  Maybe she actually deserves it.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

I’m just stunned.

In a race that has been full of shocking moments, one at Wednesday’s presidential debate stands out as the most shocking: Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to accepting the outcome of the election.

And that’s saying something, because there were other shocking moments during the debate, like when Trump called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” or when he said he would deport “bad hombres” or suggested that late-term abortion included instances where doctors would “rip the baby out of the womb of the mother” and do so “as late as one or two or three or four days prior to birth.”

But nothing even came close to this exchange between the moderator, Chris Wallace, and Trump:

Wallace: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely — sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?

Trump: I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now, I’ll look at it at the time.

Trump went on in his response to complain about the media, saying: “They’ve poisoned the minds of the voters.” Then he complained about outdated voter registration rosters, then he pivoted to his belief that Clinton shouldn’t have been allowed to run. To him, all these things contributed to the election being “rigged.”

Wallace came back with a short history lesson:

But, sir, there is a tradition in this country — in fact, one of the prides of this country — is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner. Not saying that you’re necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?

Trump’s response:

What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. O.K.?

Clinton called the remark “horrifying,” and she was right. This is jaw-dropping, unprecedented and thoroughly irresponsible. This is an attack on our democracy itself.

And Trump has been peddling his “rigged” election theory for weeks, stating flatly this week that “Voter fraud is all too common, and then they criticize us for saying that.” Trump continued: “But take a look at Philadelphia, what’s been going on, take a look at Chicago, take a look at St. Louis. Take a look at some of these cities, where you see things happening that are horrendous.”

It should be noted that these are all heavily Democratic, majority-minority cities, and Republicans don’t fare well in places like that.

Indeed, as reported last November, Mitt Romney didn’t get a single vote in 59 of Philadelphia’s 1,687 voting divisions. As the paper put it: “These are the kind of numbers that send Republicans into paroxysms of voter-fraud angst, but such results may not be so startling after all.” The paper pointed out that “Chicago and Atlanta each had precincts that registered no votes for Republican Senator John McCain in 2008.”

As for the inclusion of St. Louis, it’s not clear to me that Trump isn’t confusing St. Louis with St. Lucie County, Fla., which was included in a viral email about voter fraud after the 2012 election. That email included this line: “In St. Lucie County, Fla., there were 175,574 registered eligible voters, but 247,713 votes were cast.”

But looked into that claim and found it to be “bogus,” writing:

It’s simply not true that there were tens of thousands more votes cast than voters available in St. Lucie County. Whoever first started this falsehood misread a St. Lucie election board document showing that 249,095 “cards” were cast, and registered voters totaled 175,554. But the supervisor of elections website explains that a “card” is one page, and the full “ballot” contained two pages. Total cards are not double the number of voters, as not every voter cast both pages (or “cards”).

But Trump, of birther fame, is not the kind of man who shies away from conspiracy theories; he embraces them.

He needs a reason that he’s losing other than the fact that he is arguably the least qualified, most ridiculous candidate to ever run for president as a major party nominee. He needs a reason other than the fact that he is being done in by his own words and actions. He needs a reason so that his self-inflated self-image as a relentless winner is not undone should he lose this election by embarrassing margins.

But to take that need for a diversion and distraction and turn it toward questioning the integrity of the electoral process itself and leaving open the possibility of not conceding should he lose is beyond the pale.

When Donald Trump gave that answer, he proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is completely unqualified to be president.

And now, FSM help  us all, here’s Bobo:

Hillary Clinton, who has been in politics all her adult life, seems to have learned something from Michelle Obama, who has never run for public office. Clinton gave three masterful answers in the debate Wednesday night that were tonally different from her normal clichés.

They were about Donald Trump’s alleged assaults on women, his refusal to respect the democratic process and the contrast between his years of “Celebrity Apprentice” experience and her own governing experience. Clinton’s answers were given in a slow and understated manner, but they were marked by moral passion, clarity and quiet contempt.

They were not spoken from the point of view of a politician. They were spoken from the point of view of a parent, which is the point of view Michelle Obama frequently uses. The politician asks: What can I offer to win votes? The parent asks: What world are my children going out into when they leave the house?

The politician is focused on individual interest, but the parent is interested in the shared social, economic and moral environment.

That turns out to be a useful frame for this ugly year. It’s becoming ever clearer that the nation’s moral capital is being decimated, and the urgent challenge is to name that decimation and reverse it.

Moral capital is the set of shared habits, norms, institutions and values that make common life possible. Left to our own, we human beings have an impressive capacity for selfishness. Unadorned, the struggle for power has a tendency to become barbaric. So people in decent societies agree on a million informal restraints — codes of politeness, humility and mutual respect that girdle selfishness and steer us toward reconciliation.

This year Trump is dismantling those restraints one by one. By savagely attacking Carly Fiorina’s looks and Ted Cruz’s wife he dismantled the codes of etiquette that prevent politics from becoming an unmodulated screaming match. By lying more or less all the time, he dismantles the fealty to truth without which conversation is impossible. By refusing to automatically respect the election results he corrodes confidence in our common institutions and risks turning public life into a never-ending dogfight.

Clinton has contributed to the degradation too. As the James O’Keefe videos remind us, wherever Hillary Clinton has gone in her career, a cloud of unsavory people and unsavory behavior has traveled alongside. But she is right to emphasize that Trump is the greatest threat to moral capital in recent history and that the health of that capital is more fundamental than any particular policy position.

The sad fact is that in the realm of common life, gnats can undo the work of giants. “Moral communities are fragile things, hard to build and easy to destroy,” Jonathan Haidt writes in his book “The Righteous Mind.” “When we think about very large communities such as nations, the challenge is extraordinary and the threat of moral entropy is intense.”

We are now in a country in which major presidential candidates can gibe about the menstrual cycles of their interviewers and the penis size of their opponents. We are now in a society in which the childish desires of a reality-TV narcissist can insult the inheritance that Washington and Hamilton risked their lives to bequeath. We are now in a society in which serial insults to basic decency aren’t automatically disqualifying.

Clearly, we have a giant task of moral repair ahead of us. That starts with a renunciation of the Trump style. One big lesson of 2016 is that that can only happen if people police members of their own party. If somebody is destroying the basic social and moral fabric through brutalistic rhetoric and vicious misogynistic behavior, it doesn’t really matter that he agrees with you on taxes and the Supreme Court; he has to be renounced or else he will drag the whole society to a level of degradation that will make all decent politics impossible.

It also means addressing the substantive social chasms that fueled Trump’s rise. We are clearly going to have a lot of angry populists around in the years ahead, of right and left. It should be possible to oppose them with a political movement that champions dynamism with cohesion, globalism with solidarity — a movement that supports free trade, open skilled immigration, ethnic diversity and a free American-led world order, but also local community building, state-fostered economic security, moral cohesion and patriotic purpose.

In other words, it should be possible to be conservative on macroeconomics, liberal on immigration policy, traditionalist on moral and civic matters, Swedish on welfare state policies, and Reaganesque on America’s role in the world.

The election of 2016 has exposed the staleness of the Republican and Democratic ideologies. It has also established a nihilistic, reality TV standard of conduct that will pull down the country if it is allowed to survive. The one nice thing about Trump is that he has prompted so many people to find their voice, and to turn from their revulsion to a higher alternative.

Yeah.  Right.  And how many of those people have stated that they won’t vote for Trump?  And now here’s Mr. Cohen:

Delmore Schwartz, the poet, wrote of “the beautiful American word, Sure.”

To anyone raised as I was in the crimped confines of a wearier continent, Europe, that little word is indeed a thing of beauty, expressing a sense of possibility, an embrace of tomorrow, openness to the stranger, and a readiness for adventure that no other country possesses in such degree. It is the most concise expression of the optimism inherent in the American idea.

It is also something incommunicable until lived. To the outsider, America may appear by turns vulgar or violent, crass or childish, ugly or superficial, and of course it can be all of these things. Jonathan Galassi, the poet and publisher, has written of the “American cavalcade,” Philip Roth of “the indigenous American berserk,” and there is a gaudy, raucous, cinematic tumult to American life that is without parallel. Relentless reinvention is what America does; that is not always pretty. But beneath it all reside a can-do straightforwardness and directness that are the warp and weft of the American tapestry.

“Will you come with me?”


No questions asked. Sure I will. The word is at once strong and soft, reassuring above all. The American experiment unravels without this.

The spirit of “Sure” stands in contrast to the culture of impossibility and the fear of failure that often undercut European enterprise. Bitter experience of repetitive cataclysm has taught Europe to be wary of risk. Perhaps the French brick wall contained in the phrase “pas possible,” a frequent response to my inquiries during the years I lived in Paris, best expresses this mind-set. Call it the spirit of “Non.” No wonder Europe does social protection better than innovation.

Now if this America, whose essence is openness, whose first question is not “Where do you come from?” but “What can you do for me?” becomes consumed by rage, then it is lost. Rage is a closing of the mind. Anger against the foreigner, against the outsider and against the other may offer some passing consolation in times of difficulty or dread but they lead America away from itself. They offer the spirit of suspicion in place of the spirit of “Sure.” They undercut American decency. They replace the draw of the next frontier and of the unknown with the dead end of walls. Rage is also a form of dishonesty because it precludes the reflection that leads to truth.

And this in the end is all that Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for the highest office in the land, has had to offer America: his shallow, manipulative, self-important, scapegoat-seeking form of rage.

Over the three debates withHillary Clinton it became clear that this businessman who says he wants to make America great again in fact wants to make America shrink into a defensive crouch of resentment. Trump was small in the debates. He was as small as the America he seems to envisage. He was mean, nasty, petty and lazy. Smallness oozed from his petulant pout; it was all that would fit between those pursed lips. Any target was good for this showman whose ego is so consuming that he is utterly without conviction: Mexicans, Muslims, women, the disabled, war heroes, and, in the end, American democracy itself, for which he showed contempt in suggesting he might contest the outcome of an election that he contends, without the slightest shred of evidence, might be “rigged.”

The America of “Sure” is a stranger to Trump. His is the angry America of “shove it.” If that frustrated, tribal and incensed America were not lurking in a time of disorienting economic upheaval, Trump would not have garnered millions of votes. He has held up a mirror to a troubled and divided society. That, I suppose, is some form of service. But the deeper, decent, direct, can-do America is stronger; and for that America the Trump now visible in all his aspects is simply unfit for high office. He would threaten to undo what America is.

Of all the sentences written about Trump over many, many months now, my favorite is the last one in the letter sent this month by The New York Times lawyer David McCraw to Trump’s lawyer. Trump had demanded the retraction of an article about two women who had come forward to describe the way he had groped them. The women’s accounts, McCraw argued, constituted newsworthy information of public concern, and he concluded: “If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”

Sure, we’ll see you in court.

Sure, America is a country that, despite its “original sin” of racism, elected a black man.

Sure, America will elect a woman as president.

Sure, this land was made for you and me.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Hillary Clinton is a terrible candidate. Hey, that’s what pundits have been saying ever since this endless campaign began. You have to go back to Al Gore in 2000 to find a politician who faced as much jeering from the news media, over everything from claims of dishonesty (which usually turn out to be based on nothing) to matters of personal style.

Strange to say, however, Mrs. Clinton won the Democratic nomination fairly easily, and now, having pummeled her opponent in three successive debates, is an overwhelming favorite to win in November, probably by a wide margin. How is that possible?

The usual suspects are already coalescing around an answer — namely, that she just got lucky. If only the Republicans hadn’t nominated Donald Trump, the story goes, she’d be losing badly.

But here’s a contrarian thought: Maybe Mrs. Clinton is winning because she possesses some fundamental political strengths — strengths that fall into many pundits’ blind spots.

First of all, who was this other, stronger candidate that the G.O.P. might have chosen? Remember, Mr. Trump won the nomination because he gave his party’s base what it wanted, channeling the racial antagonism that has been the driving force for Republican electoral success for decades. All he did was say out loud what his rivals were trying to convey with dog whistles, which explains why they were so ineffective in opposing him.

And those establishment candidates were much more Trumpian than those fantasizing about a different history — say, one in which the G.O.P. nominated Marco Rubio — acknowledge. Many people remember Mr. Rubio’s brain glitch: the canned lines about “let’s dispel with this fiction” that he kept repeating in a disastrous debate performance. Fewer seem aware that those lines actually enunciated a crazy conspiracy theory, essentially accusing President Obama of deliberately weakening America. Is that really much better than the things Mr. Trump says? Only if you imagine that Mr. Rubio didn’t believe what he was saying — yet his insincerity, the obvious way he was trying to play a part, was surely part of his weakness.

That is, in fact, a general problem for establishment Republicans. How many of them really believe that tax cuts have magical powers, that climate change is a giant hoax, that saying the words “Islamic terrorism” will somehow defeat ISIS? Yet pretending to believe these things is the price of admission to the club — and the falsity of that pretense shines through.

And one more point about Mr. Rubio: why imagine that a man who collapsed in the face of childish needling from Mr. Trump would have triumphed over the woman who kept her cool during 11 hours of grilling over Benghazi, and made her interrogators look like fools? Which brings us to the question of Mrs. Clinton’s strengths.

When political commentators praise political talent, what they seem to have in mind is the ability of a candidate to match one of a very limited set of archetypes: the heroic leader, the back-slapping regular guy you’d like to have a beer with, the soaring orator. Mrs. Clinton is none of these things: too wonky, not to mention too female, to be a regular guy, a fairly mediocre speechifier; her prepared zingers tend to fall flat.

Yet the person tens of millions of viewers saw in this fall’s debates was hugely impressive all the same: self-possessed, almost preternaturally calm under pressure, deeply prepared, clearly in command of policy issues. And she was also working to a strategic plan: Each debate victory looked much bigger after a couple of days, once the implications had time to sink in, than it may have seemed on the night.

Oh, and the strengths she showed in the debates are also strengths that would serve her well as president. Just thought I should mention that. And maybe ordinary citizens noticed the same thing; maybe obvious competence and poise in stressful situations can add up to a kind of star quality, even if it doesn’t fit conventional notions of charisma.

Furthermore, there’s one thing Mrs. Clinton brought to this campaign that no establishment Republican could have matched: She truly cares about her signature issues, and believes in the solutions she’s pushing.

I know, we’re supposed to see her as coldly ambitious and calculating, and on some issues — like macroeconomics — she does sound a bit bloodless, even when she clearly understands the subject and is talking good sense. But when she’s talking about women’s rights, or racial injustice, or support for families, her commitment, even passion, are obvious. She’s genuine, in a way nobody in the other party can be.

So let’s dispel with this fiction that Hillary Clinton is only where she is through a random stroke of good luck. She’s a formidable figure, and has been all along.

Blow, Bruni, and Krugman

October 17, 2016

In “Donald Trump, the Worst of America” Mr. Blow says he is the logical extension of misogyny, racism, privilege and anti-intellectualism.  Mr. Bruni, in “For Donald Trump, Lessons in Grace,” says the patriotic concession speeches of prior presidential candidates show an alternative to his corrosive conspiracies.  Prof. Krugman has a question in “Their Dark Fantasies:”  Why do Republicans hate America? He says their vision of the country is at odds with the reality.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Donald Trump has virtually stopped trying to win this election by any conventional metric and is instead stacking logs of grievance on the funeral pyre with the great anticipation of setting it ablaze if current polls turn out to be predictive.

There is something calamitous in the air that surrounds the campaign, a hostile fatalism that bespeaks a man convinced that the end is near and aiming his anger at all within reach.

As his path to victory grows narrower, his desperation grows more pronounced.

Last week a steady stream of women stepped forward to accuse Trump of some form of sexual assault, abuse or inappropriate behavior. Trump’s response has been marked by a stunning lack of grace and dignity, let alone contrition or empathy, a response much like the man himself.

Instead, he is doubling down on sexism.

On Thursday, Trump said of the People magazine reporter who accused him of forcibly kissing her: “Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so.”

He said on Friday of the woman accusing him of groping her on an airplane: “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.”

He also said of Clinton, “When she walked in front of me, believe me, I wasn’t impressed.”

His response to these charges has been surprisingly — and perhaps, revealingly — callow. He has mocked, whined, chided, bemoaned and belittled. It’s as if the man is on a mission to demonstrate to voters the staggering magnitude of his social vulgarity and emotional ineptitude. He has dispensed with all semblances of wanting to appear presidential and embraced what seems to be most natural to him: acting like a pig.

Furthermore, everything is rigged against him, from the media to the election itself. He’s threatening to sue The New York Times. He says he and Clinton should take a drug test before the next debate.

These are the ravings of a lunatic.

Trump is back to carelessly shooting off his mouth and recklessly shooting himself in the foot.

It is sad, really, but for him I have no sympathy. He has spent this entire election attacking anyone and everyone whom he felt it would be politically advantageous to attack. Trump, now that you’re under attack, you want to cry woe-is-me and have people commiserate. Slim chance, big guy.

The coarseness of your character has been put on full display, and now the electorate has come to cash the check you wrote.

Trump now looks like a madman from Mad Men, a throwback to when his particular privileges had more perks and were considered less repugnant. He looks pathetic.

He is a ball of contradictions that together form a bully, a man who has built a menacing wall around the hollow of his self. He is brash to mask his fragility.

But in a way, Trump was authentically made in America.

America has a habit of romanticizing the playboy as much as the cowboy, but there is often something untoward about the playboy, unseemly, predatory and broken.

For years, Trump built a reputation on shuffling through women, treating his exploits with jocularity and having too much of America smiling in amusement at the bad boy antics.

But he’s not a kid; he’s a cad.

And he seems constitutionally incapable of processing the idea that wealth is not completely immunizing, that some rules are universally applicable, that common decency is required of more than just “common” folks. He seems genuinely offended that he should be held to the same standards of truth, decorum and even law as those less well off.

Trump is in fact the logical extension of toxic masculinity and ambient misogyny. He is the logical extension of rampant racism. He is the logical extension of wealth worship. He is the logical extension of pervasive anti-intellectualism.

Trump is the logical extension of the worst of America.

With him you get a man who believes himself superior in every way: through the gift of fortune and the happenstance of chromosomes. He believes the rules simply don’t apply. Not rules that govern the sovereignty of another’s body, not rules that dictate decorousness.

And the Republican Party was just the right place for him to park himself.

When you have a political party that takes as its mission to prevent government from working instead of to make government work, a party that conflates the ill effects of a changing economy with the changing complexion of the country and is still struck by fever over the election of President Obama, Trump is a natural, predictable endpoint.

Furthermore, Trump is what happens when you wear your Christian conservative values like a cardigan to conveniently slip off when the heat rises.

Trump is fundamentally altering American politics — coarsening them, corrupting them, cratering them. And America, particularly conservative America, has only itself to blame.

Republicans sowed intolerance and in its shadow, Trump sprang up like toxic fungi.

Next up we have Mr. Bruni:

As Donald Trump seethes recklessly through the final weeks of this furious campaign, he should take just a few minutes to read something important: Al Gore’s words on Dec. 13, 2000.

Gore had reason to feel burned by the electoral process. His fight against George W. Bush for the presidency went all the way to the Supreme Court, which then had more Republican than Democratic appointees.

But when he conceded, there was no talk of anything “rigged.” There was no reminder that he’d won the popular vote. He clearly understood that the circumstances of his defeat were a threat to many Americans’ faith in the system, especially if their rancor was stoked.

“While I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it,” he said, going on to add: “For the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession. I also accept my responsibility, which I will discharge unconditionally, to honor the new president-elect and do everything possible to help him bring Americans together.”

I realize that those remarks came as the battle ended, not in the heat of it. So there’s no neat and clean comparison to what he said then and what Trump is saying now.

But Trump’s conspiracy-minded rants, with which he exhorts voters to treat any victor other than him as illegitimate, are the obvious precursors to a singularly dangerous concession speech, should he be called upon to deliver one. I’m close to sure that he will be. And now is as good a time as any to point him toward the way real patriots behave, to remind ourselves that losing needn’t be as incendiary as he is hell-bent on making it, and to reacquaint ourselves with decency in American politics.

Gore’s speech is just one example of it. In fact it’s the norm among the Democratic and Republican nominees who fell short of the White House — the Democratic and Republican nominees who preceded Trump. To revisit their words is to savor a maturity, dignity and civic spirit that he lacks.

In 1952, after Adlai Stevenson was shellacked by Dwight Eisenhower, he said: “It hurts too much to laugh, but I’m too old to cry.” And he urged Americans to give the new president “the support he will need to carry out the great tasks that lie before him. I pledge him mine. We vote as many, but we pray as one.”

I went back and took a close look at the presidential contenders’ concession speeches since 1992, which was the year that a different Clinton — Bill, not Hillary — won the election.

He beat the first President Bush, who was seeking re-election and responded by exalting “the majesty of the democratic system,” telling voters that “America must always come first,” and also saying:

I want to share a special message with the young people of America. I remain absolutely convinced that we are a rising nation. We have been in an extraordinarily difficult period, but do not be deterred, kept away from public service by the smoke and fire of a campaign year or the ugliness of politics. As for me, I plan to get — I’m going to serve and try to find ways to help people. But I plan to get very active in the grandchild business. And in finding ways to help others. But I urge you, the young people of this country, to participate in the political process. It needs your idealism. It needs your drive. It needs your conviction.

Four years later, when Bob Dole failed in his effort to deny President Clinton a second term, these were some of his remarks:

I’ve said repeatedly in this campaign that the president was my opponent and not my enemy. And I wish him well and I pledge my support in whatever advances the cause of a better America, because that’s what the race was about in the first place, a better America as we go into the next century.

Then came the 2000 election, which remained undecided for weeks after voters went to the polls, as a recount of the Florida vote began and was then stopped. Gore’s concession speech included, in addition to the sentences I presented above, these:

Almost a century and a half ago, Senator Stephen Douglas told Abraham Lincoln, who had just defeated him for the presidency: “Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I’m with you, Mr. President, and God bless you.” Well, in that same spirit, I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country. …

I know that many of my supporters are disappointed. I am too. But our disappointment must be overcome by our love of country. And I say to our fellow members of the world community: Let no one see this contest as a sign of American weakness. The strength of American democracy is shown most clearly through the difficulties it can overcome . . . .

While we yet hold and do not yield our opposing beliefs, there is a higher duty than the one we owe to political party. This is America and we put country before party.

In 2004, after losing to the second President Bush, John Kerry alsospoke of national unity, national pride and common values:

In an American election, there are no losers. Because whether or not our candidates are successful, the next morning, we all wake up as Americans. And that is the greatest privilege and the most remarkable good fortune that can come to us on earth.

With that gift also comes obligation. We are required now to work together for the good of our country. In the days ahead, we must find common cause. We must join in common effort without remorse or recrimination, without anger or rancor. America is in need of unity and longing for a larger measure of compassion.

I hope President Bush will advance those values in the coming years.

I pledge to do my part to try to bridge the partisan divide. I know this is a difficult time for my supporters. But I ask them — all of you — to join me in doing that.

John McCain’s concession speech in 2008 didn’t just encourage his supporters to respect the election’s outcome and to put common cause among wounded feelings. It also took full, celebratory note of the historic nature of Barack Obama’s victory:

A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to visit — to dine at the White House — was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.

Four years later, another Republican, Mitt Romney, also lost to Obama and also took the high road, saying that he wished “the president, the first lady and their daughters” well and that he was looking to “Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before the politics.” There were also these words:

We can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work. And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion.

Rising. Healing. Linking arms. Moving on. That’s what’s supposed to happen in the aftermath of even the bitterest elections. At least that’s what vanquished candidates are supposed to encourage. May the loser in this election uphold that tradition. So very much rides on it.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

I’m a baby boomer, which means that I’m old enough to remember conservatives yelling “America — love it or leave it!” at people on the left who criticized racism and inequality. But that was a long time ago. These days, disdain for America — the America that actually exists, not an imaginary “real America” in which minorities and women know their place — is concentrated on the right.

To be sure, progressives still see a lot wrong with the state of our society, and seek change. But they also celebrate the progress we have made, and for the most part the change they seek is incremental: It involves building on existing institutions, not burning everything down and starting over.

On the right, however, you increasingly find prominent figures describing our society as a nightmarish dystopia.

This is obviously true for Donald Trump, who views the world through blood-colored glasses. In his vision of America — clearly derived largely from white supremacist and neo-Nazi sources — crime is running wild, inner cities are war zones, and hordes of violent immigrants are pouring across our open border. In reality, murder is at a historic low, we’re seeing a major urban revival and net immigration from Mexico is negative. But I’m only saying that because I’m part of the conspiracy.

Meanwhile, you find almost equally dark visions, just as much at odds with reality, among establishment Republicans, people like Paul Ryan, speaker of the House.

Mr. Ryan is, of course, a media darling. He doesn’t really command strong support from his own party’s base; his prominence comes, instead, from a press corps that decided years ago that he was the archetype of serious, honest conservatism, and clings to that story no matter how many times the obvious fraudulence and cruelty of his proposals are pointed out. If the past is any indication, he will quickly be forgiven for his moral spinelessness in this election, his unwillingness to break with Mr. Trump — even to condemn him for questioning the legitimacy of the vote — no matter how grotesque the G.O.P. nominee’s behavior becomes.

But for what it’s worth, consider the portrait of America Mr. Ryan painted last week, in a speech to the College Republicans. For it was, in its own way, as out of touch with reality as the ranting of Donald Trump (whom Mr. Ryan never mentioned).

Now, to be fair, Mr. Ryan claimed to be describing the future — what will happen if Hillary Clinton wins — rather than the present. But Mrs. Clinton is essentially proposing a center-left agenda, an extension of the policies President Obama was able to implement in his first two years, and it’s pretty clear that Mr. Ryan’s remarks were intended as a picture of what all such policies do.

According to him, it’s very grim. There will, he said, be “a gloom and grayness to things,” ruled by a “cold and unfeeling bureaucracy.” We will become a place “where passion — the very stuff of life itself — is extinguished.” And this is the kind of America Mrs. Clinton “will stop at nothing to have.”

Does today’s America look anything like that? No. We have many problems, but we’re hardly living in a miasma of despair. Leave government statistics (which almost half of Trump supporters completely distrust) on one side; Gallup finds that 80 percent of Americans are satisfied with their standard of living, up from 73 percent in 2008, and that 55 percent consider themselves to be “thriving,” up from 49 percent in 2008. And there are good reasons for those good feelings: recovery from the financial crisis was slower than it should have been, but unemployment is low, incomes surged last year, and thanks to Obamacare more Americans have health insurance than ever before.

So Mr. Ryan’s vision of America looks nothing like reality. It is, however, completely familiar to anyone who read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” as a teenager. Nowadays the speaker denies being a Rand devotee, but while you can at least pretend to take the boy out of the cult, you can’t take the cult out of the boy. Like Ms. Rand — who was basically writing about America in the Eisenhower years! — he sees the horrible world progressive policies were supposed to produce, not the flawed but hopeful nation we actually live in.

So why does the modern right hate America? There’s not much overlap in substance between Mr. Trump’s fear-mongering and Mr. Ryan’s, but there’s a clear alignment of interests. The people Mr. Trump represents want to suppress and disenfranchise you-know-who; the big-money interests that support Ryan-style conservatism want to privatize and generally dismantle the social safety net, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get there.

The big question is whether trash-talking America can actually be a winning political strategy. We’ll soon find out.

Brooks, Cohen, and Krugman

October 14, 2016

Bobo’s decided to pretend that The Short Fingered Vulgarian doesn’t exist.  Today he’s graced us with a thing called “The Beauty of Big Books,” in which he informs us that a law professor takes a swing at the mother of all questions.  In the comments “syfredrick” from Providence, RI had this to say:  “Another book report from Mr. Brooks as he whistles past the graveyard.”  Nothing else needs to be said.  Mr. Cohen, in “How Dictatorships Are Born,” says thanks to Trump the unsayable can now be said. “Go back to where you came from,” is the phrase of the moment.  Prof. Krugman considers “The Clinton Agenda” and says a large margin of victory will be needed for an effective presidency.  Here’s Bobo:

Not long ago, an astonishing book landed on my desk. It’s called “Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan” and it weighs in at an impressive 1,076 pages. The author is Anthony Kronman, the former dean of the Yale Law School.

In an age of academic specialization, this is an epically ambitious book. In an age when intellectuals have lost their sense of high calling, this is an intellectual adventure story based on the notion that ideas drive history, and that to dedicate yourself to them is to live a bigger, more intense life.

Kronman has always had an abiding obsession: to understand the meaning of the modern world. “Since I first began to think about such things in even a modestly self-conscious way,” he writes, “I have been haunted by the thought that destiny has placed me in a world with a unique historical identity and been anxious to know what this is.”

Kronman has never been religious, but he felt that to understand the current era, you had to understand it in relation to all the other moments in history.

He was convinced that if he understood the meaning of this history, he would be saved from the moral perplexities of life, and he would even in some way conquer death: “Although we cannot be immortal, the worldis, and … every increase in our understanding of it, and in our power to sing its song, is a further, deeper experience of the deathlessness of the world.”

When Kronman was a college student in the 1960s, Karl Marx explained all things to him. In Marx’s view, history is driven by a single mechanism, class conflict, and it has a goal, communism, and we’re one revolutionary step away from it.

Then Kronman became a follower of Max Weber. Weber argued that science and reason give us vast powers, but the price is that we no longer feel our lives enchanted by religious significance. We live in a godless universe and must have the courage to face that squarely.

Later, as a middle-aged law professor, he became more Burkean. The search for a big philosophic explanation for everything is a fool’s errand, but we can gradually add to the practical wisdom of our species, and work out better ways to do things.

But the antiphilosophical position is too cold. Kronman wanted a worldview that would explain the sense of loving gratitude that is the proper response to living: “A life without the yearning to reach the everlasting and divine is no longer recognizably human.”

He is now a “born-again pagan.” He’s learned from the Greeks and the atheists, but he thinks such thinkers render people too prideful and solitary. He’s also learned from the Christians, but he thinks their emphasis on the next world disparages this world. He doesn’t like the way religion asks the intellect to bow down before faith.

To be a born-again pagan is to believe that God is not something outside the world; God is the world, down to its smallest detail. Kronman’s mother’s last significant words were, “The world comes back.” He reflects, “perhaps what she meant is this — that the world, from which we are separated at birth, returns to reclaim us at death, that it leaves no stragglers behind.”

His guiding philosophers now are Spinoza, Nietzsche and Walt Whitman, men who saw God “as the eternal intelligibility of the world itself, now expanded to include the whole of reality.”

Whitman, for example, was the prophet of diversity. The point is not for all of us to approximate a single model or a fixed pattern of living. Instead, “the supreme goal of democracy is to promote the uniqueness of every individual” — for each person to be vibrantly distinct.

Democracy isn’t a political or legal bargain. It’s enchanted like romantic love, but on a larger scale. Each democratic citizen receives the love of her fellows as a gift to which the only appropriate response is gratitude and love in return.

The poet has a special responsibility as society’s seer, who grasps the eternity in the present and sings to people about their own unique divine powers within.

Personally, I have issues with born-again paganism. Shapeless, it leads to laxness — whatever moral quandary you bring it, it gives back exactly the answer you’d prefer to hear. It throws each person back on himself and leads to self-absorption and atomization, as everybody naturally worships the piece of God that is one’s self. Naïve, it neglects the creedal structures that are necessary for those moments when love falters.

But Kronman’s book is like a gift from another epoch, a time when more people did believe that time-tested books held the golden keys to life, a time when people defined themselves by philosophic commitments as much as by partisan, sexuald or ethnic ones, a time when it was generally believed that if you didn’t throw yourself in some arduous way at the big questions of your moment, you’d live a meager life, and would have to live and die with that awful knowledge.

Bobo’s as much a coward as Paul Ryan.  Now here’s Mr. Cohen:

“Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?”

Of course Bob Dylan deserved the Nobel Prize for Literature. We’re all Mister Jones now. It’s the wildest political season in the history of the United States.

Just to make his pedigree clear, Donald Trump is now suggesting that Hillary Clinton “meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty, in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends, and her donors.”

What was it the Nazis called the Jews? Oh, yes, “rootless parasites,” that’s it. For Stalin they were rootless cosmopolitans.

Just saying.

Societies slide into dictatorship more often than they lurch, one barrier falling at a time. “Just a buffoon,” people say, “and vulgar.” And then it’s too late.

I’ve been reminded in recent weeks of the passage in Fred Uhlman’s remarkable novella, “Reunion,” in which a proud German Jewish physician, twice wounded in World War I, and convinced the Nazis are a “temporary illness,” lambasts a Zionist for trying to raise funds for a Jewish homeland:

“Do you really believe the compatriots of Goethe and Schiller, Kant and Beethoven will fall for this rubbish? How dare you insult the memory of twelve thousand Jews who died for our country?”

Germans fell for the rubbish. The Republican Party fell for the garbage.

Today, millions of Americans who plan to vote for Trump are apparently countenancing violence against their neighbors, people who might be different from them, perhaps Muslim or Latino. It’s easy to inject the virus of hatred: just point a gun.

That Trump traffics in violence is irrefutable. His movement wants action — deportations, arrests, assassination and torture have been mooted. The most worrying thing is not that Trump likes Vladimir Putin, the butcher of Aleppo, but that he apes Vladimir Putin.

Speaking of Latinos, here’s what happened the other day to Veronica Zuleta, who was born in El Salvador and became an American citizen more than a decade ago. She was in the upscale Draeger’s Market in Menlo Park when the man next to her said:

“You should go to Safeway. This store is for white people.”

Zuleta was shocked. Never had she encountered a comment like that about her brown skin. But even the Democratic bastion of Silicon Valley is not immune to the Trump effect: Once unsayable things can now be said the world over. “Go back to where you came from” is the phrase du jour.

In the three months after the Brexit vote in Britain, homophobic attacks rose 147 percent compared to the same period a year earlier. It’s open season for bigots.

Financial and emotional pressures have been mounting on Zuleta. She lives in what the visionaries of Google, Facebook and the like consider the center of the universe. Where else, after all, are people thinking seriously about attaining immortality; or life on Mars; or new floating cities atop the oceans; or a universal basic income for everyone once the inevitable happens and artificial intelligence renders much of humanity redundant?

Y Combinator, a big start-up incubator, has announced it will conduct a basic income experiment with 100 families in Oakland, giving them between $1,000 and $2,000 a month for up to a year. Just to see what people do when they have nothing more to do. Oh, Brave New World.

Back in the present, prices for real estate have soared. Zuleta lives in a modest rented place on what used to be the wrong side of the tracks, in East Menlo Park, east of Route 101 that runs down the Valley. As it happens, her home is now a couple of blocks from Facebook’s sprawling headquarters designed by Frank Gehry that opened last year. She asked about a job in the kitchen, to no avail. She struggles to make ends meet.

Facebook, she told me, “is intimidating for people like me. It’s like, get out of here if you don’t know anything about technology.”

For its part, Facebook says it cares about and invests in the local community — $350,000 in grants donated to local nonprofits this year and last, new thermal imaging cameras for the local fire district, and so on. Its revenue in 2015 was $17.9 billion.

Zuleta works from 6:30 in the morning until midnight, cleaning homes, driving children to school and activities, running errands for wealthy families (like shopping for them at Draeger’s), and cleaning offices at night. In between she tries to care for her two young children. The other day, she was in the kitchen, collapsed and found herself in the hospital.

“The doctor said I need to sleep and relax,” she told me. “But I can’t!”

Life is like that these days for many Americans: implacable and disorienting. As a Latina, Zuleta said she would never vote for Trump, but she feels overwhelmed.

Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?

And now we get to Prof. Krugman:

It ain’t over until the portly gentleman screams, but it is, as intelligence analysts say, highly likely that Hillary Clinton will win this election.  Poll-based models put her chances at around 90 percent earlier this week — and that was before the campaign turned totally X-rated.

But what will our first female president actually be able to accomplish? That depends on how big a victory she achieves.

I’m not talking about the size of her “mandate,” which means nothing: If the Obama years are any indication, Republicans will oppose anything she proposes no matter how badly they lose. The question, instead, is what happens to Congress.

Consider, first, the effects of a minimal victory: Mrs. Clinton becomes president, but Republicans hold on to both houses of Congress.

Such a victory wouldn’t be meaningless. It would avert the nightmare of a Trump presidency, and it would also block the radical tax-cutting, privatizing agenda that Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, has made clear he will steamroll through if Mr. Trump somehow wins. But it would leave little room for positive action.

Things will be quite different if Democrats retake the Senate. Poll-based models give this outcome only around a 50-50 chance, but people betting on the election give it much better odds, two or three to one.

Now, even a Democratic Senate wouldn’t enable Mrs. Clinton to pass legislation in the face of an implacably obstructionist Republican majority in the House. It would, however, allow her to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia.

Doing that would have huge consequences, for environmental policy in particular. In his final years in office, President Obama has made a major environmental push using his regulatory powers, for example by sharply tightening emission standards for heavy trucks.

But the most important piece of his push — the Clean Power Plan, which would greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants — is currently on hold, thanks to a stay imposed by the Supreme Court. Democratic capture of the Senate would remove this roadblock.

And bear in mind that climate change is by far the most important issue facing America and the world, even if the people selecting questions for the presidential debates for some reason refuse to bring it up. Quite simply, if Democrats take the Senate, we might take the minimum action needed to avoid catastrophe; if they don’t, we won’t.

What about the House? All, and I mean all, of the Obama administration’s legislative achievements took place during the two-year period when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Can that happen again?

Until the last few days, the chances of flipping the House seemed low, even if, as now seems all but certain, Democratic candidates in total receive more votes than Republicans. Partly that’s because G.O.P.-controlled state governments have engaged in pervasive gerrymandering; partly it’s because minority voters, who overwhelmingly favor Democrats, are clustered in a relatively small number of urban districts.

But a sufficiently big Clinton victory could change that, especially if suburban women desert a G.O.P. that has turned into the gropers-owned party. And that would let her pursue a much more expansive agenda.

There’s not much mystery about what that agenda would be. I don’t know why so many pundits claim that Mrs. Clinton lacks a vision for America, when she has actually provided an unusual level of detail on her website and in speeches.

Broadly speaking, she would significantly strengthen the social safety net, especially for the very poor and children, with an emphasis on family-related issues like parental leave. Such programs would cost money, although not as much as critics claim; she proposes, credibly, to raise that money with higher taxes on top incomes, so that the overall effect would be to reduce inequality.

Democratic control of the House would also open the door for large-scale infrastructure investment. If that seems feasible, I know that many progressive economists — myself included — will urge Mrs. Clinton to go significantly bigger than she is currently proposing.

If all of this sounds to you like a second round of what President Obama did in 2009-2010, that’s because it is. And why not? Despite Republican obstruction, Mr. Obama has presided over a remarkable rise in the number of Americans with health insurance, a significant decline in poverty and the creation of more than 11 million private-sector jobs.

In any case, the bottom line is that if you’re thinking of staying home on Election Day because the outcome is assured, don’t. Barring the political equivalent of a meteor strike, Hillary Clinton will be our next president, but the size of her victory will determine what kind of president she can be.

Blow and Krugman

October 10, 2016

The power just came back on!  Today Mr. Blow, in “Donald Trump, Barbarian at the Debate,” says we have to stop grading this man on a curve.  Prof. Krugman has a question in “Predators in Arms:”  Is there a partisan pattern here?  Here’s Mr. Blow:

What the hell did I just watch in that presidential debate last night?

Before the debate even commenced, did a man who was just caught on a hot mike bragging about being a serial sexual predator who routinely assaults women by kissing them without their consent and grabbing them by the vagina actually organize a news conference with the sexual abuse accusers of Bill Clinton?

Did he actually plunge the debate into a reality television swamp of tawdriness and tackiness?

By the way, at least one of these women was part of a group of accusers whom Donald Trump in 1998 called “terrible” and a “really unattractive group.” In that same interview with Neil Cavuto of Fox News, Trump said of Bill Clinton: “He is really a victim himself.”

Did Trump actually use those women, whom he had chastised and demeaned for their looks (something he is wont to do because he is a sexist and a cretin), as a political prop?

Did Trump actually sit those women in the debate hall and use them to attack Hillary Clinton for her husband’s behavior?

By the way, in 1999 Trump told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Clinton was “a wonderful woman,” “really a very terrific woman” who has “been through more than any woman should have to bear, everything public.”

But last night did he actually add to that public burden and call Clinton a lying “devil” who “has tremendous hate in her heart” to boot?

When the moderator Anderson Cooper said to Trump, “You described kissing women without consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault. You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?” did Trump actually respond: “No, I didn’t say that at all. I don’t think you understood what was — this was locker room talk”?

Did Trump essentially say that he didn’t actually say the things we all heard him say? Did he actually try to deflect and normalize sexual predation as ubiquitous jocular language intrinsic to maleness itself? Does he not actually realize that this is precisely how rape culture is maintained and perpetuated — through normalization? Does he not register that that answer should scare the daylights out of every woman and shame every man who knows full well how aberrant and not at all normal those comments were?

Furthermore, did Trump actually suggest that as president he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate his political opponent and would jail her?

Did Trump actually suggest that he indeed had not paid federal income taxes for many years, as many had speculated, because of a $916 million loss he reported in 1995? And then, did he actually try to pin his not paying taxes on Clinton, saying:

“A lot of my write-off was depreciation and other things that Hillary as a senator allowed. And she’ll always allow it, because the people that give her all this money, they want it. That’s why.”

Did Donald Trump actually throw his running mate Mike Pence under the bus on live television?

The moderator Martha Raddatz asked the candidate what he would do about the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, Syria, and said to Trump:

“I want to remind you what your running mate said. He said provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength and that if Russia continues to be involved in airstrikes along with the Syrian government forces of Assad, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike the military targets of the Assad regime.”

Did Trump actually say: “O.K. He and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree. I disagree.”

Did Raddatz have to respond with what many were thinking: “You disagree with your running mate?”

Throughout the debate, did Trump actually use his physicality as a tall, rotund man to menace Clinton as he stalked and prowled about the stage like an agitated animal, grimacing and sniffing, glowering over her back and getting uncomfortably close when she was answering questions, seemingly trying to unnerve and intimidate his female opponent?

I was gobsmacked at the whole spectacle and incredulous as to whether I was actually hearing and seeing what I was hearing and seeing. Could this really be happening, or was I losing my mind?

Yes, all of that happened, Charles. You are not crazy. Trump’s performance, however, was.

Forget all the post-debate “it was a draw” foolishness you may have watched and read. It wasn’t. Though Trump stood tall, last night his campaign continued to crumble. Indeed, an admittedly Democrat-heavy CNN/ORC poll of debate watchers showed a clear victory for Clinton, with 57 percent saying Clinton won, as opposed to 34 percent for Trump, although most said Trump exceeded expectations.

We have to stop grading this man on a curve, against abysmal expectations. The curve is how he has been allowed to bend the truth, to bend decency, to bend decorum, to bend America’s moral fiber.

I try not to give predictions, but if I had to give one after this week, with that lascivious tape and this bizarre debate, this would be it: Trump is toast.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

As many people are pointing out, Republicans now trying to distance themselves from Donald Trump need to explain why The Tape was a breaking point, when so many previous incidents weren’t. On Saturday, explaining why he was withdrawing his endorsement, Senator John McCain cited “comments on prisoners of war, the Khan Gold Star family, Judge Curiel and earlier inappropriate comments about women” — and that leaves out Mexicans as rapists, calls for a Muslim ban, and much more. So, Senator McCain, what took you so long?

One excuse we’re now hearing is that the new revelations are qualitatively different — that disrespect for women is one thing, but boasting about sexual assault brings it to another level. It’s a weak defense, since Mr. Trump has in effect been promising violence against minorities all along. His insistence last week that the Central Park Five, who were exonerated by DNA evidence, were guilty and should have been executed was even worse than The Tape, but drew hardly any denunciations from his party.

And even if you consider sexual predation somehow uniquely unacceptable, you have to ask where all these pearl-clutching Republicans were back in August, when Roger Ailes — freshly fired from Fox News over horrifying evidence that he used his position to force women into sexual relationships — joined the Trump campaign as a senior adviser. Were there any protests at all from senior G.O.P. figures?

Of course, we know the answer: The latest scandal upset Republicans, when previous scandals didn’t, because the candidate’s campaign was already in free fall. You can even see it in the numbers: The probability of a House Republican jumping off the Trump train is strongly related to the Obama share of a district’s vote in 2012. That is, Republicans in competitive districts are outraged by Mr. Trump’s behavior; those in safe seats seem oddly indifferent.

Meanwhile, the Trump-Ailes axis of abuse raises another question: Is sexual predation by senior political figures — which Mr. Ailes certainly was, even if he pretended to be in the journalism business — a partisan phenomenon?

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about bad behavior in general, which occurs among politicians (and people) of all political leanings. Yes, Bill Clinton had affairs; but there’s a world of difference between consensual sex, however inappropriate, and abuse of power to force those less powerful to accept your urges. That’s infinitely worse — and it happens more than we’d like to think.

Take, for example, what we now know about what was happening politically in 2006, a year that Nate Cohn, The Times’s polling expert, suggests offers some lessons for this year. As Mr. Cohn points out, as late as September of that year it looked as if Republicans might retain control of Congress despite public revulsion at the Bush administration. But then came the Foley scandal: A member of Congress, Representative Mark Foley, had been sending sexually explicit messages to pages, and his party had failed to take any action despite warnings. As Mr. Cohn points out, the scandal seems to have broken the dam, and led to a Democratic wave.

But think about how much bigger that wave might have been if voters had known what we know now: that Dennis Hastert, who had been speaker of the House since 1999, himself had a long history of molesting teenage boys.

Why do all these stories involve Republicans? One answer may be structural. The G.O.P. is, or was until this election, a monolithic, hierarchical institution, in which powerful men could cover up their sins much better than they could in the far looser Democratic coalition.

There is also, I’d suggest, an underlying cynicism that pervades the Republican elite. We’re talking about a party that has long exploited white backlash to mobilize working-class voters, while enacting policies that actually hurt those voters but benefit the wealthy. Anyone participating in that scam — which is what it is — has to have the sense that politics is a sphere in which you can get away with a lot if you have the right connections. So in a way it’s not surprising if a disproportionate number of major players feel empowered to abuse their position.

Which brings us back to the man almost all senior Republicans were supporting for president until a day or two ago.

Assuming that Mr. Trump loses, many Republicans will try to pretend that he was a complete outlier, unrepresentative of the party. But he isn’t. He won the nomination fair and square, chosen by voters who had a pretty good idea of who he was. He had solid establishment support until very late in the game. And his vices are, dare we say, very much in line with his party’s recent tradition.

Mr. Trump, in other words, isn’t so much an anomaly as he is a pure distillation of his party’s modern essence.

Brooks and Krugman

October 7, 2016

Bobo has a question in “Intimacy for the Avoidant:”  What is phone addiction doing to friendship?  Instead of “gemli” from Boston let’s have “Sally Gschwend” from Uznach, Switzerland respond to Bobo’s question with one of her own:  “Has David Brooks switched over to pop psychology because he can’t bear to talk about his beloved GOP?”  Prof. Krugman, in “What About the Planet?,” also has a question:  Why is the media not raising climate change as part of the presidential race?  Probably because that would involve covering actual policy positions instead of a horse race.  Here’s Bobo:

Over the past generation there seems to have been a decline in the number of high-quality friendships.

In 1985, most Americans told pollsters that they had about three confidants, people with whom they could share everything. Today, the majority of people say they have about two. In 1985, 10 percent of Americans said they had no one to fully confide in, but by the start of this century 25 percent of Americans said that.

All of this has left people wondering if technology is making us lonelier. Instead of going over to the neighbor’s house, are we sitting at home depressingly surfing everybody else’s perfect lives on Facebook?

Over the past decade, the best research has suggested that no, technology and social media are not making us lonelier. These things are tools. It’s what you bring to Facebook that matters. Socially engaged people use it to further engage; lonely people use it to mask loneliness.

As Stephen Marche put it in The Atlantic in 2012, “Using social media doesn’t create new social networks; it just transfers established networks from one platform to another.”

But recently, people’s views of social media have grown a bit darker. That’s because we seem to be hitting some sort of saturation level. Being online isn’t just something we do. It has become who we are, transforming the very nature of the self.

Earlier this year, Jacob Weisberg had a fine essay in The New York Review of Books reporting that, according to a British study, we check our phones on average 221 times a day — about every 4.3 minutes.

A decade ago almost no one had a smartphone. Now the average American spends five and half hours a day with digital media, and the young spend far more time. A study of female students at Baylor University found that they spent 10 hours a day on their phones.

A lot of this traffic is driven by the fear of missing out. Somebody may be posting something on Snapchat that you’d like to know about, so you’d better constantly be checking. The traffic is also driven by what the industry executives call “captology.” The apps generate small habitual behaviors, like swiping right or liking a post, that generate ephemeral dopamine bursts. Any second that you’re feeling bored, lonely or anxious, you feel this deep hunger to open an app and get that burst.

Last month, Andrew Sullivan published a moving and much-discussedessay in New York magazine titled “I Used to Be a Human Being” about what it’s like to have your soul hollowed by the web.

“By rapidly substituting virtual reality for reality,” Sullivan wrote, “we are diminishing the scope of [intimate] interaction even as we multiply the number of people with whom we interact. We remove or drastically filter all the information we might get by being with another person. We reduce them to some outlines — a Facebook ‘friend,’ an Instagram photo, a text message — in a controlled and sequestered world that exists largely free of the sudden eruptions or encumbrances of actual human interaction. We become each other’s ‘contacts,’ efficient shadows of ourselves.”

At saturation level, social media reduces the amount of time people spend in uninterrupted solitude, the time when people can excavate and process their internal states. It encourages social multitasking: You’re with the people you’re with, but you’re also monitoring the six billion other people who might be communicating something more interesting from far away. It flattens the range of emotional experiences.

As Louis C.K. put it in a TV appearance, “You never feel completely sad or completely happy. You just feel kinda satisfied with your products. And then you die.”

Perhaps phone addiction is making it harder to be the sort of person who is good at deep friendship. In lives that are already crowded and stressful, it’s easier to let banter crowd out emotional presence. There are a thousand ways online to divert with a joke or a happy face emoticon. You can have a day of happy touch points without any of the scary revelations, or the boring, awkward or uncontrollable moments that constitute actual intimacy.

When Montaigne was describing the accumulating intimacy he enjoyed with his best friend, he described an emotional interaction that was full and progressive: “It was not one special consideration, nor two, nor three, nor four, nor a thousand; it was some mysterious quintessence of all this mixture which possessed itself of my will and led it to plunge and lose itself in his; which possessed his whole will and led it, with a similar hunger, and a like impulse, to plunge and lose itself in mine.”

When we’re addicted to online life, every moment is fun and diverting, but the whole thing is profoundly unsatisfying. I guess a modern version of heroism is regaining control of social impulses, saying no to a thousand shallow contacts for the sake of a few daring plunges.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Our two major political parties are at odds on many issues, but nowhere is the gap bigger or more consequential than on climate.

If Hillary Clinton wins, she will move forward with the Obama administration’s combination of domestic clean-energy policies and international negotiation — a one-two punch that offers some hope of reining in greenhouse gas emissions before climate change turns into climate catastrophe.

If Donald Trump wins, the paranoid style in climate politics — the belief that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by a vast international conspiracy of scientists — will become official doctrine, and catastrophe will become all but inevitable.

So why does the media seem so determined to ignore this issue? Why, in particular, does it almost seem as if there’s a rule against bringing it up in debates?

Before I get there, a brief summary of the policy divide.

It’s strange how little credit the Obama administration gets for its environmental policies.

Everyone has heard about how loan guarantees to one solar-energy company, Solyndra, went sour — at a cost, by the way, that amounted to only a bit more than half the amount Mr. Trump personally lost in just one year thanks to bad business decisions. Few people, by contrast, have heard about the green energy revolution that the administration’s loans and other policy support helped promote, with plunging prices and soaring consumption of solar and wind power.

Nor have many heard about the administration’s tightening of fuel efficiency standards, especially for trucks and buses, which in itself is one of the most significant environmental moves in decades.

And if Mrs. Clinton wins, it’s more or less certain that the biggest moves yet — the Clean Power Plan, which would regulate emissions from power plants, and the Paris climate agreement, which commits all of the world’s major economies to make significant emission cuts — will become reality.

Meanwhile, there’s Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly called climate change a hoax and has suggested that it was invented by China to hurt U.S. competitiveness. I wish I could say that this puts him outside the mainstream of his party, but it doesn’t.

So there is a huge, incredibly consequential divide on climate policy. Not only is there a vast gap between the parties and their candidates, but this gap arguably matters more for the future than any of their other disagreements. So why don’t we hear more about it?

I’m not saying that there has been no reporting on the partisan climate divide, but there has been nothing like, say, the drumbeat of stories about Mrs. Clinton’s email server. And it’s really stunning that in the three nationally televised forums we’ve had so far — the “commander inchief” forum involving Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump, the first presidential debate and the vice-presidential debate — the moderators have asked not a single question about climate.

This was especially striking in Tuesday’s debate.

Somehow Elaine Quijano, the moderator, found time for not one but two questions inspired by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget — an organization concerned that despite relatively low budget deficits now and extremely low borrowing costs, the federal government may face fiscal problems a couple of decades down the line. There may be something to this, although not as much as deficit scolds claim (and Ms. Quijano managed to suggest that Mrs. Clinton’s proposals, which are fully paid for, are no better than Mr. Trump’s multitrillion-dollar debt blowout).

But if we’re worried about the longer-term implications of current policies, the buildup of greenhouse gases is a much bigger deal than the accumulation of low-interest debt. It’s bizarre to talk about the latter but not the former.

And this blind spot matters a lot. Polling suggests that millennial voters, in particular, care a lot about environmental protection and renewable energy. But it also suggests that more than 40 percent of young voters believe that there is no difference between the candidates on these issues.

Yes, I know, people should be paying more attention — but this nonetheless tells us how easy it is for voters who rely on TV news or don’t read stories deep inside the paper to miss what should be a central issue in this campaign.

The good news is that there are still two debates to go, offering the opportunity to make some amends.

It’s time to end the blackout on climate change as an issue. It needs to be front and center — and questions must be accompanied by real-time fact-checking, not relegated to the limbo of he-said-she-said, because this is one of the issues where the truth often gets lost in a blizzard of lies.

There is, quite simply, no other issue this important, and letting it slide would be almost criminally irresponsible.

A small personal note — Hurricane Matthew is scheduled to visit Savannah tonight.  We’re likely to lose power, and during the last storm, which wasn’t as severe as Matthew some people in town were without power for almost 3 days.  If that happens I’ll do a post (or several posts) of what I missed when the lights were out.  Keep your fingers crossed for us, please.

Blow and Krugman

October 3, 2016

In “Donald Trump: Terroristic Man-Toddler” Mr. Blow says The Donald is an immature bully who lashes out when he should be embarrassed.  My guess is that he’s incapable of feeling embarrassment.  Prof. Krugman, in “Trump’s Fellow Travelers,” says they are profiles in cowardice and fecklessness.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Donald Trump is a domestic terrorist; only his form of terror doesn’t boil down to blowing things up. He’s the 70-year-old toddler who knows nearly nothing, hurls insults, has simplistic solutions for complex problems and is quick to throw a tantrum. Also, in case you didn’t know it, this toddler is mean to girls and is a bit of a bigot.

It isn’t so much that he is a strict disciple of radical ideology, but rather that he is devoid of fixed principles, willing to do anything and everything to gain fame, fortune and power. He has an endless, consuming need for perpetual affirmation. This is a bully who just wants to be liked, a man-boy nursing a nagging internal emptiness.

He’s fickle and spoiled and rotten.

So, when he loses at something, anything, he lashes out. When someone chastises him for bad behavior, he chafes. This is the kind of silver-spoon scion quick to yell at those he views as less privileged, and therefore less-than, “Do you know who I am?”

We do now, sir.

After Trump got trounced in the first debate, he went full anti-science, insisting that flimflam applause-o-meter polls, many from conservative websites, were in fact proof positive that he had won the debate.

During the debate, Hillary Clinton delivered a devastating kidney punch, calling out Trump for his sexist, bigoted comments about a Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, who had apparently gained too much weight for Trump and his pageant.

Trump has been smarting over this ever since.

He spent the week sulking and careening from fat-shaming Machado to slut-shaming her, shooting off a manic insomniac’s witching-hour tweet storm that called Machado “disgusting” and the “worst Miss U” and encouraged his followers to “check out” an alleged “sex tape” and her past.

Trump was apparently oblivious to the can of worms this would open about his own past and that of his family.

This is the same man who marveled on television about his daughter Ivanka’s “very nice figure” and mused, “I’ve said that if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps, I would be dating her.”

This is the same man who said on a radio show that he marveled at the beauty of a 12-year-old Paris Hilton, the daughter of his friends, saying when she walked into the room — at 12! — “Who the hell is that?” He would then go on to admit that he had watched Paris’s sex tape.

This is the same man who told Esquire in 1991, “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of [expletive].”

This is a man who, as Buzzfeed reported Friday, made his own cameo in a Playboy porno in 2000, though thankfully not as an erotic actor.

That man is lecturing someone else about their past and calling them disgusting?

And, early Friday morning, Trump tweeted: “Anytime you see a story about me or my campaign saying ‘sources said,’ DO NOT believe it. There are no sources, they are just made up lies!”

Hours later he repeated the assertion in another tweet: “Remember, don’t believe ‘sources said’ by the VERY dishonest media. If they don’t name the sources, the sources don’t exist.”

But CNN’s Brian Stelter shot back on Twitter: “Tell that to your campaign aides who insist on anonymity.”

Then Stelter provided screen grabs, presumably from a smartphone, that Stelter described as proof of people on the Trump campaign requesting anonymity.

But perhaps even more absurd is that this admonition about sourcing comes from Trump, who often prefaces his offenses with anonymous-sourcing phrases like, “A lot of people are saying …” Just because you use that as a vehicle to spread a lie, Mr. Trump, it doesn’t mean that other people do, too.

Last week CNN obtained Trump campaign talking points which instructed his supporters to bring up Bill Clinton’s sexual scandals as an attack on Hillary.

I think Trump is falling into a trap here. I think in his anger and haste he is severely underestimating the empathy people have for a betrayed spouse, who might, in misdirected anger, blame the victim, believe the unbelievable, and grant unearned forgiveness. Love makes people do crazy things, and a broken heart isn’t a physical wound but a psychic, spiritual one. It hurts like hell and people often respond in ways that are less than honorable, but ultimately understandable.

This is the kind of childish person who, when losing, flips over the board and yells insults at his family, rather than learning from the loss so that he can get better and be in a stronger position to win the next time.

This man is a brat whose money has stunted his maturation.

He shouldn’t be ushered into the White House; he should be laughed into hiding. His querulous nature shouldn’t be coddled; it should be crushed.

America is in need of a leader, not a puerile, sophomoric sniveler who is too easily baited and grossly ill-behaved.

Go to your gilded room, Donald. The adults need to pick a president.

The assumption is that the voters will behave like adults.  I’m not all that confident…  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

Donald Trump has just had an extraordinarily bad week, and Hillary Clinton an extraordinarily good one; betting markets now put Mrs. Clinton’s odds of winning almost as high as they were just after the Democratic convention. But both Mrs. Clinton’s virtues and Mr. Trump’s vices have been obvious all along. How, then, did the race manage to get so close on the eve of the debate?

A lot of the answer, I’ve argued, lies in the behavior of the news media, which spent the month before the first debate jeering at Mrs. Clinton, portraying minor missteps as major sins and inventing fake scandals out of thin air. But let us not let everyone else off the hook. Mr. Trump couldn’t have gotten as far as he has without the support, active or de facto, of many people who understand perfectly well what he is and what his election would mean, but have chosen not to take a stand.

Let’s start with the Republican political establishment, which is supporting Mr. Trump just as if he were a normal presidential nominee.

I’ve had a lot of critical things to say about Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House. One thing of which I would never accuse them, however, is stupidity. They know what kind of man they’re dealing with — but they are spending this election pretending that we’re having a serious discussion about policy, that a vote for Mr. Trump is simply a vote for lower marginal tax rates. And they should not be allowed to flush the fact of their Trump support down the memory hole when the election is behind us.

This goes in particular for Mr. Ryan, who has received extraordinarily favorable press treatment over the years — portrayed as an honest, serious policy wonk with a sincere concern for fiscal probity. This reputation was never deserved; his policy proposals have always been obvious flimflam. But in the past, criticisms of Mr. Ryan depended on pointing out hard stuff, like the fact that his numbers didn’t add up. Now it can be made much simpler: Every time he’s held up as an example of seriousness, remember that when it mattered, he backed Donald Trump.

While almost all Republican officeholders have endorsed Mr. Trump, the same isn’t true of what we might call the G.O.P. intelligentsia – actual or at least self-proclaimed policy experts, opinion writers, and so on. For the most part, the members of this group haven’t spoken up in support of this year’s Republican nominee. For example, not a single former member of the Council of Economic Advisers has endorsed Mr. Trump. If you look at who has endorsed Mr. Trump — say, at the signatories of the statement of support from “Scholars and Writers for America” — it’s actually a fairly pathetic group.

But if you think that electing Mr. Trump would be a disaster, shouldn’t you be urging your fellow Americans to vote for his opponent, even if you don’t like her? After all, not voting for Mrs. Clinton — whether you don’t vote at all, or make a purely symbolic vote for a third-party candidate — is, in effect, giving half a vote to Mr. Trump.

To be fair, quite a few conservative intellectuals have accepted that logic, especially among foreign-policy types; you have to give people like, say, Paul Wolfowitz some credit for political courage. But there have also been many who balked at doing the right thing; when Henry Kissinger and George Schultz piously declared that they were not going to endorse anyone, it was a profile in cowardice.

And the response from sane Republican economists has been especially disappointing. Only charlatans and cranks have endorsed Mr. Trump, but only a handful have risen to the occasion and been willing to say that if keeping him out of the White House is important, you need to vote for Mrs. Clinton.

Finally, it’s dismaying to see the fecklessness of those on the left supporting third-party candidates. A few seem to believe in the old doctrine of social fascism — better to see the center-left defeated by the hard right, because that sets the stage for a true progressive revolution. That worked out wonderfully in 1930s Germany.

But for most it seems to be about politics as personal expression: they dislike Mrs. Clinton — partly because they’ve bought into a misleading media image — and plan to express that dislike by staying at home or voting for someone like Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. If polls are to be believed, something like a third of young voters intend to, in effect, opt out of this election. If they do, Mr. Trump might yet win.

In fact, the biggest danger from Mr. Trump’s terrible week is that it might encourage complacency and self-indulgence among voters who really, really wouldn’t want to see him in the White House. So remember: Your vote only counts if you cast it in a meaningful way.

Brooks and Krugman

September 30, 2016

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.

Blow and Krugman

September 26, 2016

In “Police Violence: American Epidemic, American Consent” Mr. Blow says that officers merely reflect the attitudes and fears of a racist society.  In “Progressive Family Values” Prof. Krugman outlines policies for the real, real America.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Another set of black men killed by the police — one in Tulsa, Okla., another in Charlotte, N.C.

Another set of protests, and even some rioting.

Another television cycle in which the pornography of black death, pain and anguish are exploited for visual sensation and ratings gold.

And yes, another moment of mistakenly focusing on individual cases and individual motives and individual protests instead of recognizing that what we are witnessing in a wave of actions rippling across the country is an exhaling — a primal scream, I would venture — of cumulative cultural injury and a frantic attempt to stanch the bleeding from multiplying wounds.

We can no longer afford to buy into the delusion that this moment of turmoil is about discrete cases or their specific disposition under the law. The system of justice itself is under interrogation. The cultural mechanisms that produced that system are under interrogation. America as a whole is under interrogation.

We are in a new age in which the shroud has slipped and trauma has risen.

This is a video age, in which facts that were previously filtered though police accounts and media sources, that were previously whispered over shoulders at barbershops and across kitchen tables, have been buttressed by the immediacy and veracity of visual proof.

It is an age in which the language of resistance has been set and accepted, in which the mode of expression and resistance has been demonstrated and proved effective. It is an age of enlightenment and anger, of fear and frustration, of activism and alertness. Black America is beyond the breaking point, a point of no return.

And in this era, the discussion around these issues must be broad and deep because the actions required to address the problems must be broad and deep.

This moment in our nation’s history is not about how individual fears are articulated — in an emergency call, in an officer’s response, in weapons drawn and fired, in black people’s desire to flee for their lives, in black parents’ anxiety about the safety of their children. This moment is about the enormous, almost invisible structure that informs those fears — the way media and cultural presentations disproportionately display black people, and black men in particular, as dangerous and menacing and criminal. It’s about the way historical policies created our modern American ghettos and their concentrated poverty; the ways in which such concentrated poverty and its blight and hopelessness can be a prime breeding ground for criminal behavior; the way these areas make poverty sticky and opportunity scarce; the way resources, from education to health care to nutrition, are limited in these areas.

We keep talking about choices, but we don’t talk nearly enough about the fact that choices are always made within a cultural and historical context.

People didn’t simply choose to live in neighborhoods with poor housing and poor schools and crumbling infrastructure and few grocery stores and fewer adequate health care facilities. There were many factors that created those neighborhoods: white flight, and the black flight of wealthier black people, community disinvestment, business lending practices and government policies assigning infrastructure and public transportation to certain parts of cities and not others.

And the people living in those communities — sometimes trapped in those communities — make choices, sometimes poor ones, within that context.

We may say that a poor choice is simply wrong and the offending party must deal with the consequences. But poor choices made in a poor environment don’t have the same consequences as those made in wealthy environments. For poor people, the same poor choices are punished more often and more severely, compounding their deficit.

Then America takes it further, imputing the poor choices of a few onto a whole race, and in so doing sets the stage for disaster. This creates the suspicion and fear that can lead to the deaths we’re seeing, in which the person killed may have made no poor choices, in which the only poor choice was the pulling of a trigger.

This is what people mean when they talk about the impact of systemic racism in these cases and in these areas. It is not that the police harbor more racism than the rest of America, but rather that racism across society, including within our police departments and system of justice, has been erected in ways that disproportionately impact poor, minority communities. That is acutely clear in these killings.

What took centuries to grow may take a long time to fully chop down. You can’t fight racism by plucking leaves from the top of the poisonous tree, but by taking an ax to the root.

Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence said last week, “We ought to set aside this talk, this talk about institutional racism and institutional bias,” calling it “rhetoric of division.” That is exactly the opposite of what we should do.

The police are simply instruments of the state, and the state is the people who comprise it. The police are articulating a campaign of control and containment of populations and that campaign has the implicit approval of every citizen within their jurisdictions. This is not a rogue officer problem; this is a rogue society problem.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Here’s what happens every election cycle: pundits demand that politicians offer the country new ideas. Then, if and when a candidate actually does propose innovative policies, the news media pays little attention, chasing scandals or, all too often, fake scandals instead. Remember the extensive coverage last month, when Hillary Clinton laid out an ambitious mental health agenda? Neither do I.

For that matter, even the demand for new ideas is highly questionable, since there are plenty of good old ideas that haven’t been put into effect. Most advanced countries implemented some form of guaranteed health coverage decades if not generations ago. Does this mean that we should dismiss Obamacare as no big deal, since it’s just implementing a tired old agenda? The 20 million Americans who gained health coverage would beg to differ.

Still, there really are some interesting new ideas coming from one of the campaigns, and they arguably tell us a lot about how Mrs. Clinton would govern.

Wait — what about the other side? Aren’t Republicans also offering new ideas? Well, I guess proposing to round up and deport 11 million people counts as a new idea. And Republicans in Congress seem to have moved past their tradition of proposing tax cuts that deliver most of their benefits to the wealthy. Now they are, instead, proposing tax cuts that deliver all of their benefits to the 1 percent — O.K., actually just 99.6 percent, but who’s counting?

Back to Mrs. Clinton: Much of her policy agenda could be characterized as a third Obama term, building on the center-left policies of the past eight years. That would hardly be a trivial matter. For example, independent estimates suggest that her proposed enhancements to the Affordable Care Act would extend health coverage to around 10 million more people, whereas Donald Trump’s proposed repeal of the act would cause around 20 million people to lose coverage.

In addition to defending and extending President Obama’s achievements, however, Mrs. Clinton is pushing a distinctive agenda centered around support for working parents. This isn’t a completely new idea, but the scale of the Clinton proposals is off the charts compared with anything that has gone before. And as I said, this tells us a lot about her priorities.

One piece of that agenda involves 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for new children, help sick relatives, or recover from illness or injury. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Mr. Trump, who has offered his own threadbare version of a maternal leave plan, was pants-on-fire lying when he claimed that his opponent has no such plan. Are you surprised?

Another, even more striking piece involves helping families with young children in several ways, especially through universal preschool and public outlays — subsidies and tax credits — to hold down the cost of child care (the campaign sets a target of no more than 10 percent of income.)

And everything we know, both about Mrs. Clinton’s long-term interests and her current choices of advisers, suggests that family-centered issues are close to her heart. I was personally struck by the campaign’s choice of Heather Boushey, a leading expert on work-life balance issues, as chief economist for the Clinton transition team. That tells me a lot about priorities.

But why should helping working parents be such a priority? It looks to me like an attempt to focus on the problems of the real America — not the white, rural “real America” of right-wing fantasies, but the real, real America in which most of our fellow citizens live. And that America is one in which working parents are the norm, in which stay-at-home mothers are a distinct minority, and in which the problem of how to take care of children while making ends meet is central to many people’s lives.

The numbers are striking: 64 percent of women with children under the age of 6 are in the paid labor force, up from 39 percent in 1975. Most of these working mothers are surely doing so out of economic necessity, and we as a society need to find a way to reconcile this reality with the need to raise our children well.

I suppose a free market purist might question why we need government policies to help deal with this new reality. But we are, after all, talking about the fate of children, who are to some extent a common responsibility. Furthermore, child care economics is in some ways like health economics: for a variety of reasons, mostly coming down to the fact that we’re dealing with people, not things, we can’t trust unregulated markets to deliver a decent outcome.

So anyone who complains that there aren’t big new ideas in this campaign simply isn’t paying attention. One candidate, at least, has ideas that would make a big, positive difference to millions of American families.