Archive for the ‘Krugman’ Category

Blow, Cohen, and Krugman

August 22, 2016

In “Trump’s Hollow ‘Regrets'” Mr. Blow says the Republican candidate is not really sorry, but his party may soon be very sorry indeed.  We can but pray, Charles, we can but pray.  In “My Daughter the Pole” Mr. Cohen says history comes full circle for one young woman at a time when the world needs moral clarity to save it from darkness.  Prof. Krugman, in “The Water Next Time,” writes of conspiracy theories and climate action.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Donald Trump is the candidate who is so rigid in his perverted self-righteousness that he doesn’t “like to have to ask for forgiveness.” He says he has never even sought forgiveness from God, the divine author and inspiration of his favorite book, from which he struggled to name a favorite verse.

But Donald Trump actually expressed some “regret” last week, saying:

“Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it. And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain.”

Precisely what does Trump regret?

Does he regret his comments on Megyn Kelly and the issue of blood coming out of her “wherever”? Does he regret retweeting messages calling her a bimbo?

Does he regret attacking a Gold Star family?

Does he regret making fun of one of my colleagues with a disability?

Does he regret comparing Ben Carson’s temper to the incurable pathology of a child molester?

Does he regret suggesting that Ted Cruz’s father associated with John F. Kennedy’s assassin?

What, exactly, does he regret? There are so many things from which to choose.

I don’t believe, even for a nanosecond, that he regrets the personal impact of what he has said on anyone besides himself.

I believe that he only regrets that what he has said has not worked well for him in the general election portion of the campaign. That is the difference between regret as an act of public contrition and regret as an expression of personal disappointment in one’s own flagging fortunes.

I believe that Trump regrets that, as Lindsey Graham put it last week, “People are getting pretty nervous about our candidates because he’s in a death spiral here and nobody knows where the bottom is at.” Trump’s “regret” is just a cynical ploy to set a bottom and bounce back.

But it will take more than the 75-plus remaining days of this campaign to disassemble what it took 70 years of his life to build.

He is who he is.

This fragile narcissist, who is a sort of bottomless pit of emotional need and affirmation, is easily injured by even the slightest confrontation.

He is a man who has said of himself, “I have no friends, as far as I’m concerned,” as he joked that it would be easy to get big money out of politics. But that claim is worrisome, a thing that only a bully would say.

Yes, he can work a crowd, work a screen and work a Twitter account. He can channel anger, hatred and bigotry and give it a voice and face and standing. He can make bombast feel like bravado. He can lower discourse and raise the rabble.

He has the gifts of a grifter.

The problem is that, at the moment, those gifts are proving to be woefully insufficient as he continues to face horrible polling results and other Republican officials begin to reek of fear, panic and impending peril.

Furthermore, his team is being remade in the fourth quarter, as reports of corruption begin to swirl. Last week his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, resigned after The Associated Press reported:

“A firm run by Donald Trump’s campaign chairman directly orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling political party, attempting to sway American public opinion in favor of the country’s pro-Russian government, emails obtained by The Associated Press show. Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, never disclosed their work as foreign agents as required under federal law.”

The report continued:

“The lobbying included attempts to gain positive press coverage of Ukrainian officials in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press. Another goal: undercutting American public sympathy for the imprisoned rival of Ukraine’s then-president. At the time, European and American leaders were pressuring Ukraine to free her.”

This email controversy, coming from the same campaign trying to make hay of Hillary Clinton’s email controversy. Oh, the irony.

Trump thinks of himself as a great man — that is the premise of his entire sales pitch, that America has faltered and can only be made great again by the Midas touch of his tiny hands — but if current trends continue and he suffers a staggering loss on Election Day, his ego will be forever injured as he is assigned to history not as a great man but as a great disaster, a cautionary tale of what comes of a party that picks a con man as its frontman.

Trump’s recitation of regret wasn’t so much a ruthless Saul to Apostle Paul transformation as an inverted Jekyll and Hyde monstrous illusion.

There is something rotten at the core of this man that no length of script or turn of phrase can ameliorate.

Now here’s Mr. Cohen:

The British vote to leave the European Union has had many consequences, among them a plunge in sterling, sagging business confidence, an identity crisis in Britain’s two main political parties, confusion and uncertainty. One of its less well-known results is that my daughter Adele is now contemplating becoming a Pole.

“Dad,” she said to me the other night over dinner in Brooklyn, “if Britain starts up this Article 50 thing, I’m going to get Polish citizenship.” Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty lays out how a country quits the European Union. Because it is in a muddle over what to do, the British government has not yet triggered this procedure. But it almost certainly will.

On the face of it, Adele’s choice is a curious one. The Nazis gassed her great-grandmother, Frimeta Gelband, in Poland. Adele’s grandmother, Amalia, aged 11 in 1942, found herself alone in Nazi-occupied Poland, a Jewish girl hounded. She changed her name to Helena Kowalska, passed herself off as a Catholic, found work on a farm, and survived Germany’s attempted annihilation of European Jewry.

After the war, Polish authorities stuck Amalia in a Jewish orphanage in Krakow, where she remained for three years. All she wanted of Poland was to get out of it. Her mother, her cousins, aunts and uncles had all been slaughtered.

Amalia Baranek is now a Brazilian citizen living in Rio. She has been celebrating the wondrous Olympics that have just ended. She has little time for denigrators of Brazil, the country that took her in. She has been living in Rio since 1948, the year she was at last reunited with her father who had left Poland shortly before the war. There is no prouder Brazilian than Amalia. She knows a country whose spirit is generous.

Adele, who is 18 and a sophomore at the University of Southern California, adores her Brazilian grandmother. Still, she’s ready to become a Pole.

I am not sure whom to blame for this, or whether blame is the right word (see below). The world was full of fear and anger in the 1930s, enough to propel a hatemonger to power in Germany. It is full of fear and anger again today, enough to propel Britain out of the European Union and a man as flawed as Donald Trump to the brink of the American presidency.

The troubled psyche requires a scapegoat. For Hitler, it was the Jews, among others. Today scapegoats are sought everywhere for the widespread feeling that something is amiss: that jobs are being lost; that precariousness has replaced security; that incomes are stagnant or falling; that politicians have been bought; that the bankers behind the 2008 meltdown got off unscathed; that immigrants are free-riders; that inequality is out of control; that tax systems are skewed; that terrorists are everywhere. These scapegoats, on either side of the Atlantic, include Syrian refugees, African migrants, Polish workers in Britain, Mexicans, Muslims and, now that it’s open season for hatred, just about anyone deemed “foreign.”

There is not much new under the sun. As Rudyard Kipling observed: “All good people agree, / And all good people say, / All nice people, like Us, are We / And everyone else is They.”

After the madness against “everyone else” comes remorse. The descendants of families murdered in or driven out of Poland during the Holocaust are now eligible to apply for ancestral citizenship. Some of Adele’s close relatives have already become Poles. Of course, a Polish passport today is also a passport to work anywhere in the European Union, the greatest political creation of the second half of the 20th century, a borderless union of half-a-billion people (at least until Britain leaves). Young people — including all the young Britons who voted overwhelmingly to remain — want to live, love and work anywhere in Europe they choose.

Adele is one of them. She loves London, where she completed high school. She loves its openness. She cannot believe her British passport may soon — unless sanity is somehow restored — no longer be a European Union passport. And so Poland beckons, just as Germany, with a similar law, has beckoned since Brexit for some British Jews of German origin. History comes full circle.

In a way, this doubling-back is right. Adele owes her existence to a brave Pole named Miecyslaw Kasprzyk, who in 1942 risked his life to hide Amalia in the attic of his family’s farmhouse near Krakow. He knew the Gelband family, had been outraged by the killing of Jews, and, as he once said to me: “How can you not help, if a child asks?”

Kasprzyk told me something else: “Someone who does not know the difference between good and evil is worth nothing. In fact such a person belongs in a mental institution.”

Plenty of Poles collaborated, but some did not. May Kasprzyk’s moral clarity inspire Adele, as a Pole or not, and may the world never again descend into the darkness he felt bound to resist.

And last but never least here’s Prof. Krugman:

A disaster area is no place for political theater. The governor of flood-ravaged Louisiana asked President Obama to postpone a personal visit while relief efforts were still underway. (Meanwhile, by all accounts, the substantive federal response has been infinitely superior to the Bush administration’s response to Katrina.) He made the same request to Donald Trump, declaring, reasonably, that while aid would be welcome, a visit for the sake of a photo op would not.

Sure enough, the G.O.P. candidate flew in, shook some hands, signed some autographs, and was filmed taking boxes of Play-Doh out of a truck. If he wrote a check, neither his campaign nor anyone else has mentioned it. Heckuva job, Donnie!

But boorish, self-centered behavior is the least of it. By far the bigger issue is that even as Mr. Trump made a ham-handed (and cheapskate) effort to exploit Louisiana’s latest disaster for political gain, he continued to stake out a policy position that will make such disasters increasingly frequent.

Let’s back up for a minute and talk about the real meaning of the Louisiana floods.

In case you haven’t been keeping track, lately we’ve been setting global temperature records every month. Remember when climate deniers used to point to a temporary cooling after an unusually warm year in 1998 as “proof” that global warming had stopped? It was always a foolish, dishonest argument, but in any case we’ve now blown right through all past records.

And one consequence of a warmer planet is more evaporation, more moisture in the air, and hence more disastrous floods. As always, you can’t say that climate change caused any particular disaster. What you can say is that warming makes extreme weather events more likely, so that, for example, what used to be 500-year floods are now happening on an almost routine basis.

So a proliferation of disasters like the one in Louisiana is exactly what climate scientists have been warning us about.

What can be done? The bad news is that drastic action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases is long overdue. The good news is that the technological and economic basis for such action has never looked better. In particular, renewable energy — wind and solar — has become much cheaper in recent years, and progress in energy storage looks increasingly likely to resolve the problem of intermittency (The sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow.)

Or to put it a different way, we face a clear and present danger, but we have the means and the knowledge to deal with that danger. The problem is politics — which brings us back to Mr. Trump and his party.

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that when it comes to climate change, as with so many issues, Mr. Trump has gone deep down the rabbit hole, asserting not just that global warming is a hoax, but that it’s a hoax concocted by the Chinese to make America less competitive.

The thing is, he’s not alone in going down that rabbit hole. On other issues Republicans may try to claim that their presidential nominee doesn’t speak for the party that nominated him. We’re already hearing claims that Mr. Trump isn’t a true conservative, indeed that he’s really a liberal, or anyway that liberals are somehow responsible for his rise. (My favorite theory here, one that has quite a few advocates, is that I personally caused Trumpism by being nasty to Mitt Romney.)

But when it comes to denial of climate change and the deployment of bizarre conspiracy theories to explain away the evidence, Mr. Trump is squarely in the Republican mainstream. He may be talking nonsense, but anyone his party was likely to nominate would have been talking pretty much the same nonsense.

It’s interesting to ask why climate denial has become not just acceptable but essentially required within the G.O.P. Yes, the fossil-fuel sector is a big donor to the party. But the vehemence of the hostility to climate science seems disproportionate even so; bear in mind that, for example, at this point there are fewer than 60,000 coal miners, that is, less than 0.05 percent of the work force. What’s happening, I suspect, is that climate denial has become a sort of badge of right-wing identity, above and beyond the still-operative motive of rewarding donors.

In any case, this election is likely to be decisive for the climate, one way or another. President Obama has made some serious moves to address global warming, and there’s every reason to believe that Hillary Clinton would continue this push — using executive action if she faced a hostile Congress. Given the technological breakthroughs of the last few years, this push might just be enough to avert disaster. Donald Trump, on the other hand, would do everything in his power to trash the planet, with the enthusiastic support of his party. So which will it be? Stay tuned.

Brooks and Krugman

August 19, 2016

Bobo has a question:  “Is Our Country as Good as Our Athletes Are?”  He says we’re doing pretty well, in and outside of sports.  Surprising, since his party’s candidate paints the country as a dystopian hellscape…  Prof. Krugman says “Obamacare Hits a Bump,” but that it shouldn’t be hard to fix.  Here’s Bobo:

Pessimism has flavored this election campaign. America is in decline. The country is on the wrong track. We’re getting our clocks cleaned in global trade deals. We’re still suffering from the humiliation of Iraq.

The share of Americans who say that democracy is a “fairly bad” or “very bad” system of government is rising sharply. A quarter of young Americans feel that way, according to data drawn from the World Values Survey. A majority of young Americans believe that the United States should stay out of world affairs, according to a Chicago Council on Global Affairs report.

Yet when you watch the Olympics, we don’t seem like some sad-sack country in terminal decline. If anything, the coverage gets a little boring because we’re always winning! And the winners have such amazingly American stories and personality types (Biles, Ledecky, and, yes, Lochte).

American Olympic performance has been astoundingly consistent over the recent decades. With rare exception, we can be counted on to win between 101 and 110 medals Olympiad after Olympiad. The 2016 team seems on pace to win at least that many.

We’re not great when measured by medals per capita (New Zealand, Denmark, Hungary, Australia and Britain are the big winners there), but America does have more medals than any other nation in history, and that lead is widening.

Moreover, America doesn’t win because we have better athletes (talent must be distributed equally). America does well because it has such great systems for preparing athletes. Medals are won by institutions as much as by individuals. The Germans have a great system for training kayakers, equestrians and throwers — the discus or javelin. The U.S. has amazing institutions to prepare jumpers, swimmers, basketball players, gymnasts, runners and decathletes.

The big question is: Is the greatness of America’s sports institutions reflective of the country’s strong institutions generally, or is it more like the Soviet Union’s sports greatness, a Potemkin show masking national rot?

Well, if you step outside the pall of the angry campaign rhetoric, you see that America’s institutions are generally quite strong. Over the past decades, some developing countries, like Brazil, India and China, posted glitzy economic growth numbers. But those countries are now all being hampered by institutional weakness and growth is plummeting.

But America’s economic success is like our Olympic success, writ large. The nation’s troubles are evident, but our country has sound fundamentals. The American dollar is by far the world’s currency. The Food and Drug Administration is the benchmark for medical standards. The American patent system is the most important in the world.

Nine of Forbes’s 10 most valuable brands are American (Apple, Google, IBM and so on). The U.S. is the leading energy producer. We have 15 (at least!) of the world’s top 20 universities, while Hollywood is as dominant as ever.

America is also quite good at change. The median age in the U.S. is 37.8, compared with 46.5 for both Germany and Japan. The newer a technology is the more the U.S. is likely to dominate it — whether it’s the cloud or the sharing economy. According to The Economist, 91 percent of online searches are done through American companies’ services, and 99 percent of smartphones run on American-made operating systems.

Some American industries have declined, but others are rising. American fund managers handle 55 percent of the world’s assets. American businesses host 61 percent of the world’s social media users.

On the campaign circuit, global trade is portrayed as this great national disaster. We’re being destroyed by foreigners! The Trans-Pacific Partnership was the central dominating boogeyman at the Democratic National Convention, especially among people who have no clue what’s in it.

In fact, America succeeds in global trade about as well as at the Olympics. We rank third, behind Switzerland and Singapore, in global competitive rankings put out by the World Economic Forum. When trade is leveled by international agreements, American firms take advantage and win customers.

As Robert B. Zoellick noted recently in The Wall Street Journal, in the first five years after the U.S. has concluded free-trade agreements, the country’s exports to those places have risen three times faster than overall export growth.

Over the past five years, Zoellick wrote, the U.S. has run a $320 billion trade surplus in manufactured goods with its free-trade partners. The country’s farmers and ranchers boosted exports to free-trade partners by 130 percent between 2003 and 2013.

In one important way sports is not like economics. In Rio there are only three medals in each event. Global trade is not zero-sum. It spreads vast benefits across societies, while undeniably hurting some businesses in narrow fields along the way.

Of course, we have to take care of those who are hurt, but the biggest threat now is unmerited pessimism itself, and the stupid and fearful choices that inevitably flow from it.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

More than two and a half years have gone by since the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, went fully into effect. Most of the news about health reform since then has been good, defying the dire predictions of right-wing doomsayers. But this week has brought some genuine bad news: The giant insurer Aetna announced that it would be pulling out of many of the “exchanges,” the special insurance markets the law established.

This doesn’t mean that the reform is about to collapse. But some real problems are cropping up. They’re problems that would be relatively easy to fix in a normal political system, one in which parties can compromise to make government work. But they won’t get resolved if we elect a clueless president (although he’d turn to terrific people, the best people, for advice, believe me. Not.). And they’ll be difficult to resolve even with a knowledgeable, competent president if she faces scorched-earth opposition from a hostile Congress.

The story so far: Since Obamacare took full effect in January 2014, two things have happened. First, the percentage of Americans who are uninsured has dropped sharply. Second, the growth of health costs has slowed sharply, so that the law is costing both consumers and taxpayers less than expected.

Meanwhile, the bad things that were supposed to happen didn’t. Health reform didn’t cause the budget deficit to soar; it didn’t kill private-sector jobs, which have actually grown more rapidly since Obamacare went into effect than at any time since the 1990s. Evidence also is growing that the law has meant a significant improvement in both health and financial security for millions, probably tens of millions, of Americans.

So what’s the problem?

Well, Obamacare is a system that relies on private insurance companies to provide much of its expanded coverage (not all, because expanded Medicaid is also a big part of the system). And many of these private insurers are now finding themselves losing money, because previously uninsured Americans who are signing up turn out to have been sicker and more in need of costly care than we realized.

Some insurers are responding by hiking premiums, which were initially set well below what the law’s framers expected. And some insurers are simply pulling out of the system.

In Aetna’s case there’s reason to believe that there was also another factor: vindictiveness on the part of the insurer after antitrust authorities turned down a proposed merger. That’s an important story, but not central to the broader issue of health reform.

So how bad is the problem?

Much of the new system is doing pretty well — not just the Medicaid expansion, but also private insurer-based exchanges in big states that are trying to make the law work, California in particular. The bad news mainly hits states that have small populations and/or have governments hostile to reform, where the exit of insurers may leave markets without adequate competition. That’s not the whole country, but it would be a significant setback.

But it would be quite easy to fix the system. It seems clear that subsidies for purchasing insurance, and in some cases for insurers themselves, should be somewhat bigger — an affordable proposition given that the program so far has come in under budget, and easily justified now that we know just how badly many of our fellow citizens needed coverage. There should also be a reinforced effort to ensure that healthy Americans buy insurance, as the law requires, rather than them waiting until they get sick. Such measures would go a long way toward getting things back on track.

Beyond all that, what about the public option?

The idea of allowing the government to offer a health plan directly to families was blocked in 2010 because private insurers didn’t want to face the competition. But if those insurers aren’t actually interested in providing insurance, why not let the government step in (as Hillary Clinton is in fact proposing)?

The trouble, of course, is Congress: If Republicans control one or both houses, it’s all too likely that they’ll do what they do best — try to sabotage a Democratic president through lack of cooperation. Unless it’s such a wave election that Democrats take the House, or at least can claim an overwhelming mandate, the obvious fixes for health reform will be off the table.

That said, there may still be room for action at the executive level. And I’m hearing suggestions that states may be able to offer their own public options; if these proved successful, they might gradually become the norm.

However this plays out, it’s important to realize that as far as anyone can tell, there’s nothing wrong with Obamacare that couldn’t be fairly easily fixed with a bit of bipartisan cooperation. The only thing that makes this hard is the blocking power of politicians who want reform to fail.

Krugman, solo

August 15, 2016

In “Wisdom, Courage and the Economy” Prof. Krugman presents the case for not promising too much.  Here he is:

It’s fantasy football time in political punditry, as commentators try to dismiss Hillary Clinton’s dominance in the polls — yes, Clinton Derangement Syndrome is alive and well — by insisting that she would be losing badly if only the G.O.P. had nominated someone else. We will, of course, never know. But one thing we do know is that none of Donald Trump’s actual rivals for the nomination bore any resemblance to their imaginary candidate, a sensible, moderate conservative with good ideas.

Let’s not forget, for example, what Marco Rubio was doing in the memorized sentence he famously couldn’t stop repeating: namely, insinuating that President Obama is deliberately undermining America. It wasn’t all that different from Donald Trump’s claim that Mr. Obama founded ISIS. And let’s also not forget that Jeb Bush, the ultimate establishment candidate, began his campaign with the ludicrous assertion that his policies would double the American economy’s growth rate.

Which brings me to my main subject: Mrs. Clinton’s economic vision, which she summarized last week. It’s very much a center-left vision: incremental but fairly large increases in high-income tax rates, further tightening of financial regulation, further strengthening of the social safety net.

It’s also a vision notable for its lack of outlandish assumptions. Unlike just about everyone on the Republican side, she isn’t justifying her proposals with claims that they would cause a radical quickening of the U.S. economy. As the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center put it, she’s “a politician who would pay for what she promises.”

So here’s my question: Is the modesty of the Clinton economic agenda too much of a good thing? Should accelerating U.S. economic growth be a bigger priority?

For while the U.S. has done reasonably well at recovering from the 2007-2009 financial crisis, longer-term economic growth is looking very disappointing. Some of this is just demography, as baby boomers retire and growth in the working-age population slows down. But there has also been a somewhat mysterious decline in labor force participation among prime-age adults and a sharp drop in productivity growth.

The result, according to the Congressional Budget Office, is that the growth rate of potential G.D.P. — what the economy could produce at full employment — has declined from around 3.5 percent per year in the late 1990s to around 1.5 percent now. And some people I respect believe that trying to get that rate back up should be a big goal of policy.

But as I was trying to think this through, I realized that I had Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous Serenity Prayer running through my head: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” I know, it’s somewhat sacrilegious applied to economic policy, but still.

After all, what do we actually know how to do when it comes to economic policy? We do, in fact, know how to provide essential health care to everyone; most advanced countries do it. We know how to provide basic security in retirement. We know quite a lot about how to raise the incomes of low-paid workers.

I’d also argue that we know how to fight financial crises and recessions, although political gridlock and deficit obsession has gotten in the way of using that knowledge.

On the other hand, what do we know about accelerating long-run growth? According to the budget office, potential growth was pretty stable from 1970 to 2000, with nothing either Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton did making much obvious difference. The subsequent slide began under George W. Bush and continued under Mr. Obama. This history suggests no easy way to change the trend.

Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try. I’d argue, in particular, for substantially more infrastructure spending than Mrs. Clinton is currently proposing, and more borrowing to pay for it. This might significantly boost growth. But it would be unwise to count on it.

Meanwhile, I don’t think enough people appreciate the courage involved in focusing on things we actually know how to do, as opposed to happy talk about wondrous growth.

When conservatives promise fantastic growth if we give them another chance at Bushonomics, one main reason is that they don’t want to admit how much they would have to cut popular programs to pay for their tax cuts. When centrists urge us to look away from questions of distribution and fairness and focus on growth instead, all too often they’re basically running away from the real issues that divide us politically.

So it’s actually quite brave to say: “Here are the things I want to do, and here is how I’ll pay for them. Sorry, some of you will have to pay higher taxes.” Wouldn’t it be great if that kind of policy honesty became the norm?

Krugman, solo

August 12, 2016

In “Pieces of Silver” Prof. Krugman tells us why the G.O.P. establishment still backs Trump.  Here he is:

By now, it’s obvious to everyone with open eyes that Donald Trump is an ignorant, wildly dishonest, erratic, immature, bullying egomaniac. On the other hand, he’s a terrible person. But despite some high-profile defections, most senior figures in the Republican Party — very much including Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, and Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader — are still supporting him, threats of violence and all. Why?

One answer is that these were never men and women of principle. I know that many in the news media are still determined to portray Mr. Ryan, in particular, as an honest man serious about policy, but his actual policy proposals have always been transparent con jobs.

Another answer is that in an era of intense partisanship, the greatest risk facing many Republican politicians isn’t that of losing in the general election, it’s that of losing to an extremist primary challenger. This makes them afraid to cross Mr. Trump, whose ugliness channels the true feelings of the party’s base.

But there’s a third answer, which can be summarized in one number: 34.

What’s that? It’s the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of theaverage federal tax rate for the top 1 percent in 2013, the latest year available. And it’s up from just 28.2 in 2008, because President Obama allowed the high-end Bush tax cuts to expire and imposed new taxes to pay for a dramatic expansion of health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Taxes on the really, really rich have gone up even more.

If Hillary Clinton wins, taxes on the elite will at minimum stay at this level, and may even go up significantly if Democrats do well enough in congressional races to enable her to pass new legislation. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that her tax plan would raise the average tax rate for the top 1 percent by another 3.4 percentage points, and the rate for the top 0.1 percent by five points.

But if “populist” Donald Trump wins, taxes on the wealthy will go way down; in particular, Mr. Trump is calling for elimination of the inheritance tax, which these days hits only a tiny number of really yuuuge estates (a married couple doesn’t pay any tax unless its estate is worth more than $10.9 million).

So if you’re wealthy, or you’re someone who has built a career by reliably serving the interests of the wealthy, the choice is clear — as long as you don’t care too much about stuff like shunning racism, preserving democracy and freedom of religion, or for that matter avoiding nuclear war, Mr. Trump is your guy.

And that’s pretty much how the Republican establishment still sees it. Getting rid of the estate tax is “the linchpin of the conservative movement,” one major donor told Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur. Gotta get those priorities straight.

Should we be shocked at the willingness of leading Republicans to make this bargain? Well, we should be shocked — we should never, ever start accepting this sort of thing as normal politics. But we shouldn’t be surprised, because it’s just an extension of the devil’s bargain the economic right has been making for decades, going all the way back to Nixon’s “Southern strategy.”

Don’t take my word for it; listen to the conservatives who have reached their limit. Recently Avik Roy, a leading Republican health-policy expert, had the personal and moral courage to admit what liberals (and political scientists) have been saying for years: “In reality, the gravitational center of the Republican Party is white nationalism.”

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that top Republicans were or are personally bigoted — but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they were willing to curry favor with bigots in the service of tax cuts for the rich and financial deregulation. Remember, Mitt Romney eagerly accepted a Trump endorsement in 2012, knowing full well that he was welcoming a racist conspiracy theorist into his camp.

All that has happened this year is a move of those white nationalists from part of the supporting cast to a starring role. So when Republicans who went along with the earlier strategy draw the line at Mr. Trump, they’re not really taking a stand on principle; they’re just complaining about the price. And the party’s top leadership isn’t even willing to do that.

If this election goes the way it probably will, a few months from now those leading Republicans will be trying to pretend that they never really supported their party’s nominee, that in their hearts they always knew he was the wrong man.

But whatever doubts they may be feeling don’t excuse their actions, and in fact make them even less forgivable. For the fact is that right now, when it matters, they have decided that lower tax rates on the rich are sufficient payment for betraying American ideals and putting the republic as we know it in danger.

Of course they’ll all deny ever REALLY being for Trump.  After all, his failure wasn’t the fault of their twisted policies.  Conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed.  Obviously Trump isn’t a true enough conservative…  One anticipates with horror what they’ll nominate next.

Blow, Cohen, and Krugman

August 8, 2016

In “Trump’s Troubles in the Black Belt” Mr. Blow says there are signs of Republican decline, even in the Deep South.  Mr. Cohen, in “The World Loves Refugees, When They’re Olympians,” says the world is moved by Team Refugees at the Olympics but unmoved by refugees. More than words are needed for 65 million displaced people.  Prof. Krugman says it’s “Time to Borrow,” and states the overwhelming case for deficit spending.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

There has been much talk this election about the fundamental transformation of voters in the Rust Belt and what that portends for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

But there is another belt also worth keeping an eye on for its remarkable electoral transformation: The Black Belt, a series of counties with large black populations, that stretches from the Deep South to the Mid-Atlantic (Florida is not a Black Belt state.)

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday found that a measly 1 percent of registered black voters overall support Trump.

That’s extremely problematic in states with high numbers of black voters. The more black voters Clinton gets, the fewer white ones she needs.

The northernmost of these states have already voted Democratic in recent elections — Maryland since 1992; Virginia since 2008. North Carolina even flipped in 2008. But now, with Trump as the G.O.P. standard-bearer, the Black Belt states in the Deep South also look shaky.

A Georgia poll conducted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and released Friday showed Clinton leading Trump by four percentage points in the resiliently red state in a head-to-head matchup and by three percentage points when Libertarian and Green Party candidates are included.

On Friday, a headline on AL.com in Alabama blared: “Poll shows Clinton leading in Georgia: Is Alabama next?” It’s a question worth pondering in a state where 27 percent of the registered voters are black, according to a January Pew Research Center report. But it should be noted that Alabama is doing its very best to disenfranchise as many of those voters as possible.

As John Archibald pointed out on AL.com in the fall: “Take a look at the 10 Alabama counties with the highest percentage of nonwhite registered voters.” He pointed out that the state “opted to close driver license bureaus in eight of them.” As he put it: “Closed. In a state in which driver licenses or special photo IDs are a requirement for voting.” Furthermore, “Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed. Every one.”

Welcome to the South, folks. And thank you very much, Chief Justice John Roberts, for your opinion in the disastrous Shelby County vs. Holder case. How did you put it: In the South, “Things have changed dramatically.” Yeah, right.

Then there is Alabama’s western neighbor, Mississippi, which had the highest percentage of black people of any state (37 percent) in the most recent census, but which has not voted for a Democratic president in 40 years. A Mason-Dixon poll in April gave Trump only a small margin over Clinton, although FiveThirtyEight.com still gives Trump a 76 percent chance of winning it.

Lastly, there’s Louisiana, probably the hardest of the hard sells, where the Trump supporter and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke has said he is running for the U.S. Senate. In a recent poll conducted by the University of New Orleans’ Survey Research Center, Duke “gets support from 14 percent of black voters — a figure that eclipses the support Trump gets nationally or in nearby Georgia in a new poll from that state,” as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump put it, giving a hat tip to tweets from The New York Times’s Campbell Robertson.

(Louisiana is my home state, but don’t ask me to explain this. I can’t. Somebody drank all that magnolia wine.)

Now, of course, winning in many, if not most, of these states is simply wishful thinking for Democrats, mere flashes in a pan, but the fact that some of these Deep South states have showed up in any poll — even a single poll — with Clinton in the lead is noteworthy, if not earth-shattering.

The Republican Party’s 2012 autopsy report said: “Public perception of the Party is at record lows. Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us.”

It continued:

“We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too. We must recruit more candidates who come from minority communities. But it is not just tone that counts. Policy always matters.”

And then this year the party nominated Trump, a man who alienates all of these communities. (Insert roll of eyes.)

The black vote will be crucial this year, just as it was in the last election. As The Cook Report put it in July 2015:

“Deconstructing exit poll data from 2012, African-American voters accounted for Obama’s entire margin of victory in seven states: Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Without these states’ 112 electoral votes, Obama would have lost decisively.”

If Trump loses in November and the black vote tips even one of the Deep South, Black Belt states blue, the Republicans won’t only need an autopsy, they’ll need a Ouija board — because they’ll be dead and buried.

Mr. Blow, you can’t say that a red state has tipped blue just because the top of the ticket won.  You’ve got to look down-ballot at the House and Senate.  Still red, still red…  Now here’s Mr. Cohen:

The world is moved by Team Refugees at the Olympics in Rio. They are greeted with a standing ovation at the opening ceremony. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, not a man given to extravagant displays of emotion, is all smiles.

President Obama tweets support for these 10 athletes who “prove that you can succeed no matter where you’re from.” Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, posts a video on Facebook in which she speaks of the world’s 65 million displaced people— the largest number since World War II — and says they “are dreaming bigger because you’re doing what you’re doing.”

Who could fail to be moved? These are brave people. They have fled anguish in search not of a better life, but of life itself. In general, you do not choose to become a refugee because you have a choice, but because you have no choice. Like Yusra Mardini, the 18-year-old Syrian refugee from a Damascus suburb, who left a country that now exists only in name, and reached Germany only after the small boat bringing her from Turkey to Greece started taking on water in heavy seas. She and her sister Sarah dived into the water and for more than three hours pushed until it reached the island of Lesbos.

In Rio, Mardini won her heat of the 100-meter butterfly, but did not advance due to her inferior time. Still, hers is a remarkable achievement.

Yes, the world is moved by Team Refugees. Yet, it is unmoved by refugees.

They die at sea. They die sealed in the back of a truck. They die anonymous deaths. Fences are erected, walls mooted. Posters decry them. They represent danger and threaten disruption. They are freeloaders. They are left in festering limbo on remote Pacific islands. There is talk of a threat to “European civilization” — read Christian Europe. There is talk of making the United States great again — read making the United States white again.

Rightist political parties thrive by scapegoating them. Nobody wants refugees. They could be terrorists or rapists. They sit in reception centers. The United States pledged to take in at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the current fiscal year. In the previous four years, it had admitted about 1,900. This is a pittance. About 4.8 million Syrians have fled their country since the war began.

One Western country, Germany, has shown political courage commensurate with the challenge and thrown open its doors. Having plumbed the depths of depravity, it knows a moral imperative when it sees one.

The world loves Team Refugees — the two swimmers from Syria, the two judokas originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the marathoner from Ethiopia, the five runners from South Sudan. It admires Rami Anis, a Syrian swimmer now living in Belgium. His hometown is Aleppo, cravenly abandoned by the West to bombardment by Russian forces. Russia strolled into Syria when it realized, after several years of war, that the United States would not lift a finger.

Yes, let’s cheer the refugee team in Rio, the first of its kind, but not with empty words, and not to assuage our Syrian consciences. They walk now under an Olympic flag. They want the flag of a homeland. Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said: “We want to send a message of hope for all refugees in our world.” But after the fanfare, will anyone remember?

The world is being pulled in two directions at once. The force of globalization, of nomadic humanity, of borderless cyberspace has engendered an equally strong counter-force of nationalism, nativist politics and anti-immigrant bigotry. The two trends are poised in a tense equilibrium.

I lived in Brazil for several years. It is a generous country. Perhaps no other nation has such a mestizo culture, such ingrained habits of mingling. It feels right that this outreach to Team Refugees should have happened in Rio, a city of miscegenation and openness.

The glorification of Team Refugees and the vilification of refugees coexist. How can they? It’s the old principle: Not in my backyard. “We are getting better and we are getting worse at the same time,” Paul Auster, the novelist, told me. “And at the same speed.”

I am reminded of the words of my friend Fritz Stern, the distinguished historian who died this year. “I was born into a world on the cusp of avoidable disaster.” He continued, “The fragility of freedom is the simplest and deepest lesson of my life and work.”

Freedom cannot be built on exclusion and hatred. It is a universal human right. Brazil and the International Olympic Committee have given the world a glimpse of the humanity and aspirations of each refugee. Perhaps, after all, we are getting better faster than we are getting worse, and barriers will continue to fall — but not through words alone.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

The campaign still has three ugly months to go, but the odds — 83 percent odds, according to the New York Times’s model — are that it will end with the election of a sane, sensible president. So what should she do to boost America’s economy, which is doing better than most of the world but is still falling far short of where it should be?

There are, of course, many ways our economic policy could be improved. But the most important thing we need is sharply increased public investment in everything from energy to transportation to wastewater treatment.

How should we pay for this investment? We shouldn’t — not now, or any time soon. Right now there is an overwhelming case for more government borrowing.

Let me walk through this case, then address some of the usual objections.

First, we have obvious, pressing needs for public investment in many areas. In Washington, the aging Metro is in such bad shape that whole lines may have to be shut down for maintenance. In Florida, green slime infests beaches, in large part because failure to upgrade an 80-year-old dike or to purchase more land as a runoff area is forcing the Army Corps of Engineers to release polluted water from Lake Okeechobee. There are similar stories all across America.

So investing more in infrastructure would clearly make us richer. Meanwhile, the federal government can borrow at incredibly low interest rates: 10-year, inflation-protected bonds yielded just 0.09 percent on Friday.

Put these two facts together — big needs for public investment, and very low interest rates — and it suggests not just that we should be borrowing to invest, but that this investment might well pay for itself even in purely fiscal terms. How so? Spending more now would mean a bigger economy later, which would mean more tax revenue. This additional revenue would probably be larger than any rise in future interest payments.

And this analysis doesn’t even take into account the potential role of public investment in job creation: Despite a low headline unemployment rate, the U.S. economy is still probably short of full employment, and an investment agenda would also offer valuable insurance against possible future downturns.

So why aren’t we borrowing and investing? Here are some of the usual objections, and why they’re wrong.

We can’t borrow because we already have too much debt. People who say this usually like to cite big numbers — “Our debt is 19 trillion dollars,” they intone in their best Dr. Evil voice. But everything about the U.S. economy is huge, and what matters is the comparison between the cost of servicing our debt and our ability to pay. And federal interest payments are only 1.3 percent of G.D.P., low by historical standards.

Borrowing costs may be low now, but they might rise. Yes, maybe. But we’re talking about long-term borrowing that locks in today’s low rates. If 10 years isn’t long enough for you, how about 30-year, inflation-protected bonds? They’re only yielding 0.64 percent.

The government can’t do anything right. Solyndra! Solyndra! Benghazi! A large part of our political class is committed to the proposition that any and all government efforts to improve our lives are doomed to failure — a proposition that turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy when these people are actually in office. But to hold that view you have to turn your back on our own history: American greatness was in large part created by government investment or private investment shaped by public support, from the Erie Canal, to the transcontinental railroads, to the Interstate Highway System.

As for the constant harping on individual failures, all large organizations, private businesses very much included, engage in some projects that don’t work out. Yes, some renewable-energy investments went bad — but overall, the Obama administration’s promotion of solar and wind has been a huge success, with a rough quadrupling of production since 2008. Green energy should be seen as an inspiration, not a cautionary tale.

There is, in short, an overwhelming policy case for federal borrowing to pay for public investment. But will the next president be able to act on this case?

The good news is that elite discourse seems, finally, to be moving in the right direction. Five years ago the Beltway crowd was fixated on debt and deficits as the great evils. Today, not so much.

The bad news is that even if Hillary Clinton wins, she may well face the same kind of scorched-earth Republican opposition President Obama faced from day one. So it matters not just who wins in November, but by how much. Will there be a strong enough Democratic wave to give Mrs. Clinton the ability to act?

But while the politics remain uncertain, it’s clear what we should be doing. It’s time for the federal government to borrow and invest.

Brooks and Krugman

August 5, 2016

Bobo haz a concern.  Bobo is VERY concerned.  Bobo is fretting about “those” Republicans, you know, the ones WAAAY over there, certainly not anyone HE knows…  In “Trump’s Enablers Will Finally Have to Take a Stand” he firmly tells them that Trump’s behavior has left them no more middle ground to keep dancing between embracing him and disowning him.  I’ll believe any of this crap once Bobo bites the bullet and says that he’s not voting for the short-fingered vulgarian.  Even George Effing WILL has had that much courage.  “Gemli” from Boston will have something to say about this, following Bobo.  Prof. Krugman, in “No Right Turn,” says Hillary Clinton shouldn’t give disaffected Republicans a less progressive agenda.  Amen to that.  Here’s Bobo, wringing his hands over THOSE Republicans:

Up through the convention there were all sorts of Republican officeholders who weren’t really for Trump, but they weren’t really against him. They sort of endorsed him implicitly, while trying to change the subject.

Their bodies squirmed when they were asked about their nominee. They refused to look you straight in the eye. They made little apologetic comments so you would still like them even though they were doing this shameful thing.

They had all sorts of squirrelly formulations about why it was O.K. to ride the Trump train: He can be tamed or surrounded and improved. Sure, he’s got some real weaknesses, but he’s more or less a normal candidate who is at least better than Hillary.

Over the past few days, Trump has destroyed this middle ground. He’s exposed the wet noodle Republicans as suckers, or worse. Trump has shown that he is not a normal candidate. He is a political rampage charging ever more wildly out of control. And no, he cannot be changed.

He cannot be contained because he is psychologically off the chain. With each passing week he displays the classic symptoms of medium-grade mania in more disturbing forms: inflated self-esteem, sleeplessness, impulsivity, aggression and a compulsion to offer advice on subjects he knows nothing about.

His speech patterns are like something straight out of a psychiatric textbook. Manics display something called “flight of ideas.” It’s a formal thought disorder in which ideas tumble forth through a disordered chain of associations. One word sparks another, which sparks another, and they’re off to the races. As one trained psychiatrist said to me, compare Donald Trump’s speaking patterns to a Robin Williams monologue, but with insults instead of jokes.

Trump insults Paul Ryan, undermines NATO and raises the specter of nuclear war. Advisers can’t control Trump’s brain because Trump can’t control it himself.

He also cannot be contained because he lacks the inner equipment that makes decent behavior possible. So many of our daily social interactions depend on a basic capacity for empathy. But Trump displays an absence of this quality.

He looks at the grieving mother of a war hero and is unable to recognize her pain. He hears a crying baby and is unable to recognize the infant’s emotion or the mother’s discomfort. He is told of women being sexually harassed at Fox News and is unable to recognize their trauma.

The same blindness that makes him impervious to global outrage makes it impossible for him to make empathetic connection. Fear is his only bond.

Some people compare Trump to the great authoritarians of history, but that’s wrong. They were generally disciplined men with grandiose plans. Trump is underdeveloped and unregulated.

He is a slave to his own pride, compelled by a childlike impulse to lash out at anything that threatens his fragile identity. He appears to have no ability to experience reverence, which is the foundation for any capacity to admire or serve anything bigger than self, to want to learn about anything beyond self, to want to know and deeply honor the people around you.

Republicans are not going to be able to help the 70-year-old man-child grow up over the next few months. Nor are they going to be able to get him to withdraw from the race. A guy who can raise $82 million mostly in small donations has a passionate niche following.

But they can at least get out of the enabling business. First, they can acknowledge that they are being sucked down a nihilistic whirlpool. Second, they can acknowledge the long-term damage being done to the country and to themselves.

Amid the chaos, all sorts of ugliness is surfacing. See the video of the horrific things shouted at Trump rallies compiled by Times reporters. Moreover, Trump is permanently tainting the names of conservatism and the Republican Party and the many good men and women who have built and served it. As Ben Shapiro writes in National Review, “Trump asks something more — your political soul.”

Events are going to force Republicans off the fence. For the past many months Republican leaders have been condemning Trump’s acts while sticking with Trump the man. Trump is making that position ridiculous and shameful. You either stand with a man whose very essence is an insult to basic decency, or you don’t.

Those who don’t will have to start building a Republican Party in Exile. They will have to tell the country what they honestly think of Donald Trump. They will have to build a parallel campaign structure that will survive if Trump implodes, a structure of congressional and local candidates. They will have to jointly propose a clear manifesto — five or 10 policies the party in exile ardently supports.

There comes a time when neutrality and laying low become dishonorable. If you’re not in revolt, you’re in cahoots. When this period and your name are mentioned, decades hence, your grandkids will look away in shame.

Cripes.  What a gutless wonder he is.  Here’s what “gemli” in Boston had to say to him:

“Brooks gives an excellent analysis of Trump’s damaged mentality, but can’t understand why so many ordinary Republicans are unable to reject him outright. Can’t they see that he lacks empathy? Aren’t they concerned that he appears impervious to a mother’s pain? Does blatant sexual harassment leave them unmoved?

This is coming as a surprise to our conservative pundit, as if it’s just dawning on him that something is seriously wrong with kinder, gentler Republicans if you’ve got to explain to them why Trump is a bad idea.

Welcome to reality, Mr. Brooks. Trump is merely the Republican equivalent of Spinal Tap, with the volume turned up to eleven. While you hear Paul Ryan gently coo about privatizing Medicare and decimating Social Security, it sounds like a screech to us. When Mike Pence piously murmurs about banning marriage equality and supporting gay conversion therapy, it makes our ears bleed.

Perhaps the chorus of debating Republicans was music to your ears, but all we heard was a discordant howl of simple-minded hate speech aimed at a thumping Republican base who thought that gay bashing, defunding Planned Parenthood and jingoistic pseudo-patriotism had a nice beat.

Ever since Saint Reagan decreed that Ketchup was a vegetable we’ve known that something was amiss in the Republican worldview. There’s an underlying sickness to the conservative movement that has festered for decades. Trump is merely the rash it’s broken out in.”

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

All the experts tell us not to pay too much attention to polls for another week or two. Still, it does look as if Hillary Clinton got a big bouncefrom her convention, swamping her opponent’s bounce a week earlier. Better still, from the Democrats’ point of view, the swing in the polls appears to be doing what some of us thought it might: sending Donald Trump into a derp spiral, in which his ugly nonsense gets even uglier and more nonsensical as his electoral prospects sink.

As a result, we’re finally seeing some prominent Republicans not just refusing to endorse Mr. Trump, but actually declaring their support for Mrs. Clinton. So how should she respond?

The obvious answer, you might think, is that she should keep doing what she is doing — emphasizing how unfit her rival is for office, letting her allies point out her own qualifications and continuing to advocate a moderately center-left policy agenda that is largely a continuation of President Obama’s.

But at least some commentators are calling on her to do something very different — to make a right turn, moving the Democratic agenda toward the preferences of those fleeing the sinking Republican ship. The idea, I guess, is to offer to create an American version of a European-style grand coalition of the center-left and the center-right.

I don’t think there’s much prospect that Mrs. Clinton will actually do that. But if by any chance she and those around her are tempted to take this recommendation seriously: Don’t.

First of all, let’s be clear about what she’s running on. It’s an unabashedly progressive program, but hardly extreme. We’re talking about higher taxes on high incomes, but nowhere near as high as those taxes were for a generation after World War II; expanded social programs, but nothing close to those of European welfare states; stronger financial regulation and more action on climate change, but aren’t the cases for both overwhelming?

And no, the program doesn’t need to be more “pro-growth.”

There’s absolutely no evidence that tax cuts for the rich and radical deregulation, which is what right-wingers mean when they talk about pro-growth policies, actually work, or that strengthening the social safety net does any harm. Bill Clinton presided over a bigger boom than Ronald Reagan; the Obama years have seen much more private job creation than the Bush era, even before the crash, with job growth actually accelerating after taxes went up and Obamacare went into effect.

It’s true that there are things we could do to boost the U.S. economy. The most important of these things, however, would be to take advantage of very low government borrowing costs to greatly expand public investment — which is something progressives support but conservatives oppose. So enough already with the notion that being on the center-left somehow means being anti-growth.

Now let’s talk about the politics.

The Trumpification of the G.O.P. didn’t come out of nowhere. On the contrary, it was the natural outcome of a cynical strategy: long ago, conservatives decided to harness racial resentment to sell right-wing economic policies to working-class whites, especially in the South.

This strategy brought many electoral victories, but always at the risk that the racial resentment would run out of control, leaving the economic conservatives — whose ideas never had much popular support — stranded. And that is what has just happened.

So now the strategy that rightists had used to sell policies that were neither popular nor successful has blown up in their faces. And the Democratic response should be to adopt some of those policies? Say what?

Also, I can’t help but notice a curious pattern in the recommendations of some self-proclaimed centrists. When Republicans were in the ascendant, centrists urged Democrats to adapt by moving right. Now that Republicans are in trouble, with some feeling that they have no choice except to vote Democratic, these same centrists are urging Democrats to … adapt by moving right. Funny how that works.

Back to the main theme: Grand coalitions do sometimes have a place in politics, as a response to crises that are neither party’s fault — external threats to national security, economic disaster. But that’s not what is happening here. Trumpism is basically a creation of the modern conservative movement, which used coded appeals to prejudice to make political gains, then found itself unable to rein in a candidate who skipped the coding.

If some conservatives find this too much and bolt the party, good for them, and they should be welcomed into the coalition of the sane. But they can’t expect policy concessions in return. When Dr. Frankenstein finally realizes that he has created a monster, he doesn’t get a reward. Mrs. Clinton and her party should stay the course.

Blow and Krugman

August 1, 2016

In “Off to the Races” Mr. Blow says that despite Hillary Clinton’s enormous advantage in qualifications, the presidential race is likely to remain very tight.  Prof. Krugman, in “Worthy of Our Contempt,” addresses the civic irresponsibility of indulging your feelings in the age of Trump.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Attending both political parties’ conventions last month, I certainly had some upside-down-world moments.

The Republican convention featured a sprawling blended family, an L.G.B.T. first, and promises of a top-down government fix, while the Democratic convention showcased religiosity, patriotism, militarism, and American exceptionalism.

The Republican convention pushed radical change while the Democratic one championed the more conservative tenet of unwavering consistency.

It was enough to make my head spin.

But beyond the oddity of the incongruities was the production itself. Modern conventions are all about stagecraft and television production. They are multimillion-dollar infomercials for the candidate and the party. There are few surprises and few flashes of unpolished candor. When such flashes do occur, they often come from people who are not practiced politicians.

That said, purely as a vehicle to shape and drive home a narrative foundation for the final stretch of a campaign, they can be quite valuable, though they are not all equally successful.

On that note, the Democrats were by far the winners. The overwhelming lineup of political luminaries made the Republican convention feel like a high school talent show. And Donald Trump’s speech was a disastrous hodgepodge. As Hillary Clinton said during her acceptance speech: Trump spoke for “70-odd minutes — and I do mean odd.”

Indeed, according to a Gallup report last week: “Trump’s speech got the least positive reviews of any speech we have tested after the fact: 35 percent of Americans interviewed last weekend said it was excellent or good. Of the nine previous speeches we have rated, the top one was Barack Obama’s in August 2008, which 58 percent of Americans rated as excellent or good. The lowest-rated speech other than Trump’s was Mitt Romney’s in 2012, with 38 percent excellent or good.”

And yet, he still got a bit of a bump in the polls following his convention. Clinton will no doubt also see a bump in the polls.

But we should make no mistake: This is a very tight race and will likely be a tight one on Election Day.

Anyone paying close attention to each convention and each candidate and listening through a lens of rationality knows that Trump is not even in the same league as Clinton when it comes to qualifications. It’s like the difference between a tomcat and a tiger.

But Clinton can’t seem to break into the space of true dominance. There is tremendous dissatisfaction with both candidates.

According to a Pew Research Center report last month: “Overall satisfaction with the choice of candidates is at its lowest point in two decades. Currently, fewer than half of registered voters in both parties — 43 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of Republicans — say they are satisfied with their choices for president.”

And Clinton is continuing to struggle with younger voters, a deep scar inflicted during the harsh primary with Bernie Sanders that is proving incredibly hard to heal. According to a Gallup opinion piece last week written by Frank Newport and Andrew Dugan, Clinton’s approval ratings among young voters — those 18-29 — went from her strongest asset among age groups in July of 2015 to her greatest weakness this July.

As the authors wrote: “In 2012, Obama won the youth vote over Mitt Romney by a margin of 67 percent to 30 percent. This strong performance was complemented by the higher-than-average turnout of 18-to-29-year-olds in both the 2008 and 2012 elections, providing Obama — according to one independent analysis of the 2012 presidential election — with the edge he needed to win the key swing states of Ohio, Florida and Virginia.”

Add to that a subject that has gotten far too little coverage this presidential campaign season: the likely impact of voter suppression, particularly in key states, following the outrageous ruling in the Shelby County v. Holder case. Just Friday, a U.S. appeals court struck down a North Carolina voter suppression law, ruling, according to Reuters, “that it intentionally discriminated against African-American residents.” North Carolina is a swing state.

But there’s more. A report last week by NBC News points out: “But now the Shelby ruling is putting voting rights at risk in a whole new way: Citing the ruling, the Justice Department recently announced that it would significantly reduce the number of federal observers that it deploys at polling places to guard against voter suppression and intimidation.”

Even though Trump is a blustering buffoon, he speaks to a fear in America, particularly white America, among those with low levels of education, who work with their hands and sweat through their shirts. It is a fear of a future in which threats are global; in which the culture and complexion of the country are changing; and in which power and privilege are shrinking. They want protection from it. They want to erect a wall between them and that future.

Clinton and the Democrats have quite a few hurdles to clear and fewer than 100 days to clear them. We are now off to the races.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Donald Trump said some more disgusting things over the weekend. If this surprises you, you haven’t been paying attention. Also, don’t be surprised if a majority of Republicans approve of his attack on the parents of a dead war hero. After all, a YouGov survey found that 61 percent of Republicans support his call for Russian hacking of Hillary Clinton.

But this isn’t a column about Mr. Trump and the people who are O.K. with anything he says or does. It is, instead, about Republicans — probably a minority within the party, but a substantial one — who aren’t like that. These are people who aren’t racists, respect patriots even if they’re Muslim, believe that America should honor its international commitments, and in general sound like normal members of a normal political party.

Yet the great majority of these not-crazy Republicans are still supporting Mr. Trump for president. And we have a right to ask why.

True, a Clinton victory would mean a continuation of the center-left governance we’ve had under Barack Obama, which would be a big disappointment for those who want a turn to the right. And many people have convinced themselves that ideology aside, Mrs. Clinton would be a bad president. Obviously I disagree on the ideology, and while we won’t know about a Clinton presidency until or unless it happens, I find much to admire in the real Hillary, who is nothing like the caricature. But never mind: even if you’re a conservative who really dislikes the Democratic candidate, how can you justify choosing Donald Trump?

Put it this way: Is there any reason to believe that a Clinton victory would lead to irretrievable disaster? Because that’s the question you should be asking yourself.

Start with the least important issue (even if it is my specialty), economics. If you’re a Republican, you presumably believe that center-left policies — higher taxes on top incomes, a big subsidized expansion of health insurance, tighter financial regulation — are bad for the economy. But even if you think the Obama economy should have been better, the fact is that we’ve added 11 million private-sector jobs; stocks are way up; inflation and interest rates have stayed low; the budget deficit has withered away.

So it’s not a disaster, and there’s no reason to believe that a Clinton economy would be a disaster either. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump is talking about wildly irresponsible tax cuts, renegotiating debt, and ripping up trade agreements.

Moving up the scale of importance, what about national security? Even if you think that President Obama could have gotten better results by bombing more and talking less, there’s just no way to paint Mrs. Clinton — who has the support of many retired military leaders — as some kind of pushover for terrorists and foreign aggressors. Meanwhile, her opponent talks about abandoning NATO allies if they don’t pay up and seems fine with Russian adventurism in Ukraine.

Most important of all is the question of democracy at home.

I know, conservatives like to complain that Mr. Obama has overstepped his authority by, say, using administrative discretion to delay some provisions of the Affordable Care Act. But let’s be serious: no non-crazy person, even on the right, thinks that this president is acting like a dictator, or that the woman he wants to succeed him would threaten basic liberty. On the other side, anyone watching her opponent has to be very, very worried about his authoritarian streak.

The bottom line is that even if you don’t like Mrs. Clinton or what she stands for, it’s hard to see how you could view her possible victory with horror. And it’s hard to see how you could view Mr. Trump’s possible victory any other way.

How, then, can rational Republicans justify supporting Mr. Trump, or even remaining neutral, which is in effect giving him half a vote?

For rank-and-file Republicans, it’s presumably about feelings. Having spent so many years denouncing Democrats in general and Mrs. Clinton in particular, they have a hard time admitting that someone else could be much, much worse. But democracy isn’t about making a statement, it’s about exercising responsibility. And indulging your feelings at a time like this amounts to dereliction of your duty as a citizen.

And whatever one may say about ordinary voters, the real sinners here are Republican leaders — people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell — who are actively supporting a candidate whom they know poses a danger to the nation.

It’s not hard to see why they’re doing this. Opposing their party’s nominee, no matter how awful he is, would probably end up being a career killer.

But there are times when you’re supposed to put such considerations aside. The willingness of some people who know better to support Donald Trump is understandable; it’s also despicable.

Brooks and Krugman

July 29, 2016

Bobo says “The Democrats Win the Summer,” but that it may not matter which party had the better convention.  Bobo wrings his hands over the dystopian hellscape that the Republicans are trying to convince us we live in, but he can’t bring himself to call out Trump for the lying, misogynist, malignant narcissist that he is.  Even George Effing Will did…  Prof. Krugman has a question:  “Who Loves America?”  He says the Republicans’ flag-waving has nothing to do with patriotism.  Here’s Bobo:

Donald Trump has found an ingenious way to save the Democratic Party. Basically, he’s abandoned the great patriotic themes that used to fire up the G.O.P. and he’s allowed the Democrats to seize that ground. If you visited the two conventions this year you would have come away thinking that the Democrats are the more patriotic of the two parties — and the more culturally conservative.

Trump has abandoned the Judeo-Christian aspirations that have always represented America’s highest moral ideals: toward love, charity, humility, goodness, faith, temperance and gentleness.

He left the ground open for Joe Biden to remind us that decent people don’t enjoy firing other human beings.

Trump has abandoned the basic modesty code that has always ennobled the American middle class: Don’t brag, don’t let your life be defined by gilded luxuries.

He left the ground open for the Democrats to seize middle-class values with one quick passage in a Tim Kaine video — about a guy who goes to the same church where he was married, who taught carpentry as a Christian missionary in Honduras, who has lived in the same house for the last 24 years.

Trump has also abandoned the American ideal of popular self-rule.

He left the ground open for Barack Obama to remind us that our founders wanted active engaged citizens, not a government run by a solipsistic and self-appointed savior who wants everything his way.

Trump has abandoned the deep and pervasive optimism that has always energized the American nation.

He left the ground open for Michelle Obama to embrace the underlying chorus of hope that runs through the American story: that our national history is an arc toward justice; that evil rises for a day but contains the seeds of its own destruction; that beneath the vicissitudes that darken our days, we live in an orderly cosmos governed by love.

For decades the Republican Party has embraced America’s open, future-oriented nationalism. But when you nominate a Silvio Berlusconi you give up a piece of that. When you nominate a blood-and-soil nationalist you’re no longer speaking in the voice of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and every Republican nominee from Reagan to McCain to Romney.

Democrats have often been ambivalent about that ardent nationalistic voice, but this week they were happy to accept Trump’s unintentional gift. There were an unusually high number of great speeches at the Democratic convention this year: the Obamas, Biden, Booker, Clinton, the Mothers of the Movement and so on.

These speakers found their eloquence in staving off this demagogue. They effectively separated Trump from America. They separated him from conservatism. They made full use of the deep nationalist chords that touch American hearts.

Trump has allowed the Democrats to mask their deep problems. A Democratic administration has presided over a time of growing world chaos, growing violence and growing anger. But the Democrats seem positively organized and orderly compared to Candidate Chaos on the other side.

The Sanders people have 90 percent of the Democratic Party’s passion and 95 percent of the ideas. Most Sanders people are kind- and open-hearted, but there is a core that is corrupted by moral preening, an uncompromising absolutism and a paranoid unwillingness to play by the rules of civic life.

But the extremist fringe that threatens to take over the Democratic Party seems less menacing than the lunatic fringe that has already taken over the Republican one.

This week I left the arena here each night burning with indignation at Mike Pence. I almost don’t blame Trump. He is a morally untethered, spiritually vacuous man who appears haunted by multiple personality disorders. It is the “sane” and “reasonable” Republicans who deserve the shame — the ones who stood silently by, or worse, while Donald Trump gave away their party’s sacred inheritance.

The Democrats had by far the better of the conventions. But the final and shocking possibility is this: In immediate political terms it may not make a difference.

The Democratic speakers hit doubles, triples and home runs. But the normal rules may no longer apply. The Democrats may have just dominated a game we are no longer playing.

Both conventions featured one grieving parent after another. The fear of violent death is on everybody’s mind — from ISIS, cops, lone sociopaths. The essential contract of society — that if you behave responsibly things will work out — has been severed for many people.

It could be that in this moment of fear, cynicism, anxiety and extreme pessimism, many voters may have decided that civility is a surrender to a rigged system, that optimism is the opiate of the idiots and that humility and gentleness are simply surrendering to the butchers of ISIS. If that’s the case then the throes of a completely new birth are upon us and Trump is a man from the future.

If that’s true it’s not just politics that has changed, but the country.

Funny how he never mentions that the Republicans have worked with all their might for the last 40 years to create Trump and now they’re horrified…  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

It has been quite a week in politics.

On one side, the Democratic National Convention was very much a celebration of America. On the other side, the Republican nominee for president, pressed on the obvious support he is getting from Vladimir Putin, once again praised Mr. Putin’s leadership, suggested that he is O.K. with Russian aggression in Crimea, and urged the Russians to engage in espionage on his behalf. And no, it wasn’t a joke.

I know that some Republicans feel as if they’ve fallen through the looking glass. After all, usually they’re the ones chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” And haven’t they spent years suggesting that Barack and Michelle Obama hate America, and may even support the nation’s enemies? How did Democrats end up looking like the patriots here?

But the parties aren’t really experiencing a role reversal. President Obama’s speech on Wednesday was wonderful and inspiring, but when he declared that “what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican,” he was fibbing a bit. It was actually very Republican in substance; the only difference was that the substance was less disguised than usual. For the “fanning of resentment” that Mr. Obama decried didn’t begin with Donald Trump, and most of the flag-waving never did have much to do with true patriotism.

Think about it: What does it mean to love America? Surely it means loving the country we actually have. I don’t know about you, but whenever I return from a trip abroad, my heart swells to see the sheer variety of my fellow citizens, so different in their appearance, their cultural heritage, their personal lives, yet all of them — all of us — Americans.

That love of country doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, uncritical. But the faults you find, the critiques you offer, should be about the ways in which we don’t yet live up to our own ideals. If what bothers you about America is, instead, the fact that it doesn’t look exactly the way it did in the past (or the way you imagine it looked in the past), then you don’t love your country — you care only about your tribe.

And all too many influential figures on the right are tribalists, not patriots.

We got a graphic demonstration of that reality after Michelle Obama’s speech, when she spoke of the wonder of watching her daughters play on the lawn of “a house that was built by slaves.” It was an uplifting and, yes, patriotic image, a celebration of a nation that is always seeking to become better, to transcend its flaws.

But all many people on the right — especially the media figures who set the Republican agenda — heard was a knock on white people. “They can’t stop talking about slavery,” complained Rush Limbaugh. The slaves had it good, insisted Bill O’Reilly: “They were well fed and had decent lodgings.” Both men were, in effect, saying that whites are their tribe and must never be criticized.

This same tribal urge surely underlies a lot of the right’s rhetoric about national security. Why are Republicans so fixated on the notion that the president must use the phrase “Islamic terrorism,” when actual experts on terrorism agree that this would actually hurt national security, by helping to alienate peaceful Muslims?

The answer, I’d argue, is that the alienation isn’t a side effect they’re disregarding; it’s actually the point — it’s all about drawing a line between us (white Christians) and them (everyone else), and national security has nothing to do with it.

Which brings us back to the Vlad-Donald bromance. Mr. Trump’s willingness to cast aside our nation’s hard-earned reputation as a reliable ally is remarkable. So is the odd specificity of his support for Mr. Putin’s priorities, which is in stark contrast with the vagueness of everything else he has said about policy. And he has offered only evasive non-answers to questions about his business ties to Putin-linked oligarchs.

But what strikes me most is the silence of so many leading Republicans in the face of behavior they would have denounced as treason coming from a Democrat — not to mention the active support for Mr. Trump’s stance among many in the base.

What this tells you, I think, is that all the flag-waving and hawkish posturing had nothing to do with patriotism. It was, instead, about using alleged Democratic weakness on national security as a club with which to beat down domestic opponents, and serve the interests of the tribe.

Now comes Mr. Trump, doing the bidding of a foreign power and inviting it to intervene in our politics — and that’s O.K., because it also serves the tribe.

So if it seems strange to you that these days Democrats are sounding patriotic while Republicans aren’t, you just weren’t paying attention. The people who now seem to love America always did; the people who suddenly no longer sound like patriots never were.

Blow and Krugman

July 25, 2016

In “More Damned Emails” Mr. Blow moans that while the Republicans have a horrible candidate, many Democrats have little faith in their own.  Prof. Krugman, in “Delusions of Chaos,” says some are seeing America through blood-colored glasses, despite the evidence all around us.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Following last week’s Republican calamity in Cleveland, the Democratic National Convention rolls into Philadelphia on Monday with big opportunities and big challenges.

Many Democrats will come with enthusiasm, but also with reservations.

Unlike the Republican Convention’s speaker lineup, which was backfilled with Donald Trump’s children because there were so few party heavyweights to anchor it, the Democratic Convention will have a litany of A-listers: The president, the first lady, Bernie Sanders and former President Bill Clinton among them.

These speakers will paint a vastly different picture of the country and its future than the unremittingly dark and dangerous one portrayed by the Republicans.

There will also likely be less acrimony in Philadelphia, as the Democrats review the failed stagecraft of Cleveland and work hard not to replicate it.

But, all is not roses for the Democrats.

The presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, has a battered image — partly due to a concerted effort by Republicans to batter it, and partly the result of her own poor choices. Two-thirds of registered voters don’t believe that she’s honest and trustworthy, and trustworthiness is one of those attributes that tends to be difficult to quickly and easily alter.

Clinton’s honesty numbers are even worse than Trump’s, but not by much. They both have some unbelievable negatives. As The New York Times reported earlier this month:

“In a development not seen in any modern presidential contest, more than half of all voters hold unfavorable views of the two major party candidates and large majorities say neither is honest and trustworthy. Only half of voters say Mrs. Clinton is prepared to be president, while an astonishing two-thirds say that Mr. Trump is not ready for the job — including four in 10 Republicans.”

But, being about as bad as Trump is hardly a good thing. Trump is a horrible candidate who shouldn’t have a shot, but in this race he does. Although Clinton remains the favorite to win in November, the race is too close for comfort. There are paths to victory — uphill though they may be — for Trump to win.

(Just typing that sent shivers down my spine. The idea that a man who used a racist attack on a judge in one of his own cases might get to pick the next one — or even two or three — Supreme Court justices is in itself unfathomable. The fact that he’s even competitive makes me question the electoral competency of America.)

Too many voters find themselves in the worst possible position: They have a choice between a Republican of whom they are frightened and disgusted and a Democrat of whom they are leery and unenthused.

Last week Clinton had a chance to shake up the race with her vice-presidential pick, but instead she chose the safer route, choosing the Democratic centrist Tim Kaine.

Kaine has his virtues — he is solid and affable, a solid liberal from the crucial state of Virginia — but this is not the sort of pick that taps into the progressive populism sweeping the party or the expansive diversity that constitutes the party.

Kaine reinforces Clinton’s “steady hand” message, but that is a message, however valid and necessary, that’s completely devoid of sizzle.

Trump is campaigning on fear, change and winning, all intense and even seductive ideas, even though his proposals are insular, unrealistic or hollow. “Steady” just doesn’t have the same emotional appeal. And although I hate to boil a historic election, and monumental policy challenges, down to emotions, I’ve been around long enough to know that this sort of visceral sensibility can swing elections.

The Democrats also have to deal with the resurgent idea of a primary process and party apparatus that favored Clinton and wasn’t completely fair to Sanders.

This was reignited in the conversation last week when WikiLeaks released nearly 20,000 internal emails from the Democratic National Committee in which some officers expressed antipathy and outright hostility to Sanders and his candidacy.

No matter whom one supported during the primaries, or even what party one aligns with, this should turn the stomach. This kind of collusion is precisely what is poisoning faith in our politics.

This reinforced the feeling of many that the system was rigged from the beginning.

CNN reported on Sunday that in the wake of the scandal, the tainted party chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, agreed to step down from her role at the conclusion of the convention.

But the injury is already inflicted.

These leaks further damage an already damaged faith in the Democratic nominating process. In March, thePew Research Center found:

“Forty two 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.”

What are those Democratic voters supposed to do who don’t trust the candidate, the party or the process, even if they view The Donald as the Devil? This is one of the convention’s conundrums.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Last year there were 352 murders in New York City. This was a bit higher than the number in 2014, but far below the 2245 murders that took place in 1990, the city’s worst year. In fact, as measured by the murder rate, New York is now basically as safe as it has ever been, going all the way back to the 19th century.

National crime statistics, and numbers for all violent crimes, paint an only slightly less cheerful picture. And it’s not just a matter of numbers; our big cities look and feel far safer than they did a generation ago, because they are. People of a certain age always have the sense that America isn’t the country they remember from their youth, and in this case they’re right — it has gotten much better.

How, then, was it even possible for Donald Trump to give a speech accepting the Republican nomination whose central premise was that crime is running rampant, and that “I alone” can bring the chaos under control?

Of course, nobody should be surprised to see Mr. Trump confidently asserting things that are flatly untrue, since he does that all the time — and never corrects his falsehoods. Indeed, the big speech repeated some of those golden oldies, like the claim that America is the world’s most highly taxed country (when we are actually near the bottom among advanced economies).

But until now the false claims have been about things ordinary voters can’t check against their own experience. Most people don’t have any sense of how their taxes compare with those paid by Europeans or Canadians, let alone how many jobs have been displaced by Chinese competition. But 58 million tourists visited New York last year; tens of millions more visited other major cities; and of course many of us live in or near those cities, and see them every day. And while there are, as there always were, bad neighborhoods and occasional violent incidents, it’s hard to see how anyone who walks around with open eyes could believe in the blood-soaked dystopian vision Mr. Trump laid out.

Yet there’s no question that many voters — including, almost surely, a majority of white men — will indeed buy into that vision. Why?

One answer is that, according to Gallup, Americans always seem to believe that crime is increasing, even when it is in fact dropping rapidly. Part of this may be the wording of the question: People may have a vague, headline-fueled sense that crime is up this year even while being aware that it’s much lower than it used to be. There may also be some version of the “bad things are happening somewhere else” syndrome we see in consumer surveys, where people are far more positive about their personal situation than they are about the economy as a whole.

Again, however, it’s one thing to have a shaky grasp on crime statistics, but something quite different to accept a nightmare vision of America that conflicts so drastically with everyday experience. So what’s going on?

Well, I do have a hypothesis, namely, that Trump supporters really do feel, with some reason, that the social order they knew is coming apart. It’s not just race, where the country has become both more diverse and less racist (even if it still has a long way to go). It’s also about gender roles — when Mr. Trump talks about making America great again, you can be sure that many of his supporters are imagining a return to the (partly imagined) days of male breadwinners and stay-at-home wives.

Not incidentally, Mike Pence, Mr. Trump’s running mate, used to fulminate about the damage done by working mothers, not to mention penning an outraged attack on Disney in 1999 for featuring a martially-minded heroine in its movie Mulan.

But what are the consequences of these changes in the social order? Back when crime was rising, conservatives insistently drew a connection to social change — that was what the whole early ’90s fuss over “family values” was about. Loose the bonds of traditional society, and chaos would follow.

Then a funny thing happened: Crime plunged instead of continuing to rise. Other indicators also improved dramatically — for example, the teen birthrate has fallen 60 percent since 1991. Instead of societal collapse, we’ve seen what amounts to a mass outbreak of societal health. The truth is that we don’t know exactly why. Hypotheses range from the changing age distribution of the population to reduced lead poisoning; but in any case, the predicted apocalypse notably failed to arrive.

The point, however, is that in the minds of those disturbed by social change, chaos in the streets was supposed to follow, and they are all too willing to believe that it did, in the teeth of the evidence.

The question now is how many such people, people determined to live in a nightmare of their own imagining, there really are. I guess we’ll find out in November.

Brooks and Krugman

July 22, 2016

Bobo is bewailing “The Death of the Republican Party” and moans that Donald Trump’s acid bath hollows out the G.O.P.  Right.  It’s THOSE people, over THERE who created the mess, with no help at all from pandering pundits.  His ravings will be followed by a comment from “soxared040713” from Crete, Illinois.  Prof. Krugman, in “Donald Trump, the Siberian Candidate,” says the Republicans’ presidential nominee doesn’t just admire Vladimir Putin.  Here’s Bobo:

On the surface, this seems like a normal Republican convention. There are balloon drops, banal but peppy music from the mid-1970s and polite white people not dancing in their seats.

But this is not a normal convention. Donald Trump is dismantling the Republican Party and replacing it with a personality cult. The G.O.P. is not dividing; it’s ceasing to exist as a coherent institution.

The only speaker here who clearly understands this is Ted Cruz. He understands that the Trump phenomenon is probably not going to end the way a normal candidacy ends. It’s going to end catastrophically, in November or beyond, with the party infrastructure in tatters, with every mealy mouthed pseudo-Trump accommodationist permanently stained.

Some rich children are careless that way; they break things and other people have to clean up the mess.

I’m not a Cruz fan, but his naked ambition does fuel amazing courage. As the Republican Party is slouching off on a suicide march, at least Cruz is standing athwart history yelling “Stop!” When the Trump train implodes, the docile followers who are now booing and denouncing Ted Cruz will claim they were on his side all along.

It’s been gruesomely fascinating to see the Trumpian acid eat away the party of Lincoln and T.R. and Reagan.

A normal party has an apparatus of professionals, who have been around for a while and can get things done. But those people might as well not exist. This has been the most shambolically mis-run convention in memory — with a botched V.P. unveiling, a plagiarism scandal, listless audiences most of the time, empty seats midway through prime time, vote-counting strong-arm tactics, zero production creativity, no coherent messaging and a complete inability to control the conversation.

A normal party is united by a consistent belief system. For decades, the Republican Party has stood for an American-led international order abroad and small-government democratic capitalism at home. That capitalist ethos at least gave Republicans a future-oriented optimism.

Trump is decimating that too, along with the things Republicans stood for: NATO, entitlement reform, compassionate conservatism and the relatively open movement of ideas, people and trade.

There’s no actual agenda being put in its place, just nostalgic spasms that, as David Frum has put it, are part George Wallace and part Henry Wallace. This has been a convention of loss — parents who have lost children, workers who have lost the code that gave them dignity, white retirees who in a diversifying America have lost an empire and not found a role. Trump policies, if they exist, are defensive recoils: build a wall, ban Muslims, withdraw from the world.

A normal party has a moral ethos. For Republicans it has been inspired by evangelical Christianity. That often put the party on the losing side of the sexual revolution, but it also gave individual Republicans a calling toward private acts of charity, a commitment toward personal graciousness, humility and faithfulness. Mitt Romney is no evangelical, but his convention was lifted by stories of his personal mentorship.

All that is eviscerated, too. The selection of Mike Pence for his running mate notwithstanding, Trump has replaced Christian commitment with the ethos of a whining gladiator. Everything is oriented around conquest, success, supremacy and domination. He’s shown you can be a public thug and a good dad, but even in his children’s speeches, which have been excellent, he exists mostly as a cheerleader for high grades, moneymaking and worldly success.

This has been the Lock Her Up convention. The proper decibel level was set by Rudy Giuliani screaming. The criminalization of political difference was established by Chris Christie. Most of the delegates here are deeply ambivalent about their nominee, so they grab onto extreme Hillary bashing as one thing they can be un-ambivalent about.

But think about it: Can you think of a party or political movement that has devoted so much time to hatred without being blinded by it?

For example, look at the way Donald Trump has been calling people liars and traitors for a year. Then when Cruz has the temerity to use the phrase “vote your conscience,” the Trumpians fall all over themselves mewling, whining and twitching, without any faint self-awareness of how ridiculous they appear.

Confronted with Cruz’s non-endorsement, the Trump people seemed to decide they could crush him under a chorus of boos and antipathy. But this is a long game.

The Republican Party is not going to return to its old form. For a long time it will probably be a party for the dispossessed, but I suspect it will look a lot more like Ted Cruz in the years ahead than Donald Trump: anti-immigrant, anti-trade, but also more conventionally small government, more socially conservative. Ted Cruz types will lead the party in a million ways I don’t like. But at least it will be a party, not the narcissistic vehicle for one soft core Putin.

Poor, poor, Bobo and his big sad…  Here’s what “soxared040713” had to say:

“Mr. Brooks, you got the party and convention you deserved.

You’re making the same mistake by cheering Ted Cruz your party made by ignoring the signposts that led to Donald Trump. If all you have, in your ideological despair this Friday morning is a ruin of a party with Canadian-born Cruz at its center, you become Sisyphus. You’ll never get to the top of the steep climb without the stone rolling down to the bottom. The GOP is officially a bomb shelter.

You also need to drop “the party of Lincoln” lie. The 16th president lived and died to preserve the union. Ronald Reagan moved the right-leaning party from the devious Richard Nixon into territory co-opted by Trump for the past year, one truly “oriented around conquest, success, supremacy and domination.”

The acid core of the current GOP was minted by Reagan. You know this but continue to praise him as one of its champions. Reagan made segregation and racism acceptable in the GOP. He was the popular populist who threw stones at government as the people cheered. His message was “it doesn’t work; let’s kill it.” And you’re surprised that Trump echoes the nostalgia that won Reagan two terms?

Cruz led the insurgent Tea Party shutdown of the federal government and you tell us he’s the party’s future champion? You say “I’m not a Cruz fan” but then, like Mark Antony, you go on to praise murdered Caesar in the public square; you come not to bury Trump but to praise Cruz. How are they different?

GOP, rest not in peace. Just die.”  Amen.  Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

If elected, would Donald Trump be Vladimir Putin’s man in the White House? This should be a ludicrous, outrageous question. After all, he must be a patriot — he even wears hats promising to make America great again.

But we’re talking about a ludicrous, outrageous candidate. And the Trump campaign’s recent behavior has quite a few foreign policy experts wondering just what kind of hold Mr. Putin has over the Republican nominee, and whether that influence will continue if he wins.

I’m not talking about merely admiring Mr. Putin’s performance — being impressed by the de facto dictator’s “strength,” and wanting to emulate his actions. I am, instead, talking about indications that Mr. Trump would, in office, actually follow a pro-Putin foreign policy, at the expense of America’s allies and her own self-interest.

That’s not to deny that Mr. Trump does, indeed, admire Mr. Putin. On the contrary, he has repeatedly praised the Russian strongman, often in extravagant terms. For example, when Mr. Putin published an article attacking American exceptionalism, Mr. Trump called it a “masterpiece.”

But admiration for Putinism isn’t unusual in Mr. Trump’s party. Well before the Trump candidacy, Putin envy on the right was already widespread.

For one thing, Mr. Putin is someone who doesn’t worry about little things like international law when he decides to invade a country. He’s “what you call a leader,” declared Rudy Giuliani after Russia invaded Ukraine.

It’s also clear that the people who gleefully chanted “Lock her up” — not to mention the Trump adviser who called for Hillary Clinton’s execution — find much to admire in the way Mr. Putin deals with his political opponents and critics. By the way, while the Secret Service is investigating the comments about executing Mrs. Clinton, all the Trump campaign had to say was that it “does not agree with those statements.”

And many on the right also seem to have a strange, rather creepy admiration for Mr. Putin’s personal style. Rush Limbaugh, for example, declared that while talking to President Obama, “Putin probably had his shirt off practicing tai chi.”

All of this is, or should be, deeply disturbing; what would the news media be saying if major figures in the Democratic Party routinely praised leftist dictators? But what we’re now seeing from Mr. Trump and his associates goes beyond emulation, and is starting to look like subservience.

First, there was the Ukraine issue — one on which Republican leaders have consistently taken a hard line and criticized Mr. Obama for insufficient action, with John McCain, for example, accusing the president of “weakness.” And the G.O.P. platform was going to include a statement reaffirming this line, but it was watered down to blandness on the insistence of Trump representatives.

Then came Mr. Trump’s interview with The New York Times, in which, among other things, he declared that even if Russia attacked members of NATO he would come to their aid only if those allies — which we are bound by treaty to defend — have “fulfilled their obligations to us.”

Now, some of this is Mr. Trump’s deep ignorance of policy, his apparent inability to understand that you can’t run the U.S. government the way he has run his ramshackle business empire. We know from many reports about his stiffing of vendors, his history of profiting from enterprises even as they go bankrupt, that he sees contracts as suggestions, clear-cut financial obligations as starting points for negotiation. And we know that he sees fiscal policy as no different; he has already talked about renegotiating U.S. debt. So why should we be surprised that he sees diplomatic obligations the same way?

But is there more to the story? Is there some specific channel of influence?

We do know that Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, has worked as a consultant for various dictators, and was for years on the payroll of Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president and a Putin ally.

And there are reasons to wonder about Mr. Trump’s own financial interests. Remember, we know nothing about the true state of his business empire, and he has refused to release his taxes, which might tell us more. We do know that he has substantial if murky involvement with wealthy Russians and Russian businesses. You might say that these are private actors, not the government — but in Mr. Putin’s crony-capitalist paradise, this is a meaningless distinction.

At some level, Mr. Trump’s motives shouldn’t matter. We should be horrified at the spectacle of a major-party candidate casually suggesting that he might abandon American allies — just as we should be horrified when that same candidate suggests that he might welsh on American financial obligations. But there’s something very strange and disturbing going on here, and it should not be ignored.


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