Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day







Saturday, June 24, 2017

June 22, 2017

A number of reports have noted that Trump’s approval ratings are unusually low, especially for a point so early in a term. The mystery to me is why they are so high, considering his obvious incompetence. The Gallup tracking poll, asking how Trump is handling his job as President, has showed an approval rating of as much as 45, holding steady in the high thirties since late May. His disapproval rating has been above 50 almost from the start, but there is no evidence of impending desertion, and continuing support from more than a third.
When asked by Gallup, between June 7 and 11, about Trump’s handling of specific issues, responses were as follows:
ApproveDisapproveUnsure
The economy45532
Foreign affairs35623
Health care policy28675
Terrorism46532
Immigration40592
Relations with Russia30665
Taxes35577
The environment32635
Federal budget36576
Relations with news media34642
That produces a comparable result, an average of 36.1.[29] He dropped below one-third approval on issues which have received the most attention, which is some reason for hope.
 However, polls — even assuming that they accurately measure opinion — and votes are two very different things. Republicans have won the four special elections for the House held thus far, including the contest in Georgia which has drawn so much attention. Granted, these are Republican districts, but the results do not show abandonment of Trump. They may, however, demonstrate a movement away from him or from Republicans. All four districts were held by Republicans previously and all voted for Trump last year. Here are the GOP margins:

State
House, 2017House, 2016 Trump, 2016
Georgia3.8231.5
Kansas6.83027
Montana6.11520
South Carolina3.22019
In each case, there was a sharp drop off from the previous House election, and in three, a sharp drop from Trump’s margin. In Georgia, the Republican House candidate in this year’s election did better than Trump, but by a relatively small amount. Perhaps there is cause for optimism.
Whatever the message from those contests, Democrats need to do two things between now and November, 2018: decide on a message (and get it right), and work for greater turnout.
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29. All poll results from http://www.pollingreport.com/trump.htm.
























 

Monday, June 5, 2017

June 4, 2017

Are Donald Trump and his administration so bad that he should be removed from office? Yes.
An article in The New York Times on Tuesday asked "Can a Sitting President Be Indicted?" Even if there were grounds, the answer, probably, is no; impeachment is the appropriate remedy. Although the odds of impeachment of President Trump by this Congress are slight, it is necessary to begin making the case for removal now.
It is barely possible that Republicans in Congress will see the light on their own. The reputation of Republicans in Congress for clear thinking or serving the public interest is not impressive, and they think that Trump will useful to them in repealing the Affordable Care Act, cutting taxes on the rich and letting business do whatever it wants. However, they might be prodded to move if their constituents turn against Trump and, by extension, against them; if there are enough angry confrontations at town halls, ideology may give way to desire for re-election. Thus far, however, Trump’s supporters among the public haven’t deserted him despite his showing as clearly as possible that he’s a bad joke and the unlikelihood that he will look out for their interests.
Election of a Democratic Congress in 2018 would improve the odds of impeachment. There also is the possibility of removal under the Twenty-fifth Amendment, but that seems even less likely than impeachment. As a last resort, Trump could be rejected in 2020. Any of these happy outcomes depends on showing the country what Trump and his cohort are.

1. Trump’s personal failings.
He is undoubtedly one of the worst choices for the presidency ever, and the worst since Harding, who faced a less complicated, less dangerous world. Trump’s ignorance, foolishness, self-absorption and dishonestly damage America’s reputation abroad and impair its ability to positively influence events. They ensure that domestic policies will be a muddle, at best. His rudeness helped to turn the European part of his recent tour into a disaster. He blurted out, in Israel, that he hadn’t given away that Israel was the source of the intelligence he gave away to the Russians. (See 6.a. below).
His fragile ego has led him to exaggerate the size of the crowd at his inauguration, to concoct a story about illegal voting which denied him a majority, and now to appoint a commission to investigate "improper voter registrations and improper voting." The likely outcome will be vote suppression. A skin too thin for politics has led him to label the news media as enemies of the people, and to dismiss all negative reports as "fake news." Having something to hide would produce the same reaction. His refusal to release his tax returns supports that view.
His inane comments are not limited to oral statements, so the problem is not merely talking without thinking. Presumably there is no time pressure on his tweets, and they are just as foolish.
2. Conflicts of interest.
His tax proposal would lower the tax rate on "pass-through" income, such as that from partnerships or limited-liability companies. Trump reportedly receives income from 500 such organizations. It would eliminate the alternative minimum tax, which affects him, among other high-earners. Eliminating the estate tax would benefit his heirs. The presence of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump on his staff, both with extensive business interests, increases the scope of the conflict. His nepotism and conflicts of interest will taint any policy proposal.
3. Administrative incompetence.
Trump is so unaware and undisciplined that he conducted a national security conference with the Japanese premier, Michael Flynn and Stephen Bannon in a restaurant, in view and earshot of other diners. It was at his Mar-a-Lago resort, thereby also raising the conflict of interest issue. His constant flow of tweets, in addition to revealing his intellectual and emotional failings, create a risk of damage to the country by disclosure of sensitive information.
About 1,200 positions in the federal government require Senate confirmation. Of 559 "key positions," according to The Washington Post, nominees to 39 positions have been confirmed, 63 others have been nominated, 14 are "awaiting nomination," i.e., announced (floated?) but not actually submitted, and 443 positions have no nominee. [26] The positions for which there is no nominee include the following:
State Department: Under secretary for arms control and international security affairs; 41 Ambassadors, including those to Canada, France and Germany; and the Representative of the United States to the European Union.
Defense Department: Under secretary for intelligence; Secretary of the Army; Secretary of the Navy.
Justice Department: Assistant attorney general for the national security division; Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
National Intelligence Agency: Principal deputy director; Director of the National Counterterrorism Center.
For an administration fixated on national security, these are odd lapses. No legislation of significance has been adopted, partly due to the regressive nature of the proposals, partly to administration clumsiness, partly to disarray in Congressional Republican ranks. The attempt to overturn the ACA was a fiasco, fortunately.
Despite Trump’s description of his administration as a well-oiled machine, it is dysfunctional. The communications director is gone and press secretary Sean Spicer seems to be in the dog house. The flow of leaks from the White House demonstrates a high level of discontent and confusion.
4. Reactionary policies.
His budget would be a joke if it weren’t a threat. It favors the very wealthy, already insulated from real life. It cuts Medicaid, Social Security disability coverage and food stamps. It cuts funding for the State Department, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, environmental protection and food safety and inspection. It wastes over a billion dollars on the border wall, a symbol of Trump’s fear of immigrants. It throws even more money at the military, even though we spend more on "defense" than the next eight countries combined.
The budget doesn’t even make sense on the surface. It assumes 3% annual growth, not seen since 2005. It cuts taxes by $2 trillion, assumes (contrary to any evidence) that growth triggered by those cuts will produce $2 trillion in tax receipts to cover that loss, and then counts the $2 trillion again as a revenue increase.
The budget and the health care proposals would reverse progress made toward a responsible federal health care law, something finally achieved in part after a century of trying. The United States does not rank high internationally in health care; becoming even more backward hardly is a way to make America great.
Trump has tried, twice, to restrict entry by residents of Muslim countries, only to be slapped down by the courts. Any argument that the bans were not religiously motivated is belied by Trump’s anti-Muslim speeches during the campaign. Trump fired the acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, for instructing Justice Department lawyers not to defend the ban.
5. Diplomatic blunders
In Trump’s hands, we will be isolated, less powerful and potentially less secure. He has insulted allies — "The Germans are bad, very bad" because they sell cars in the U.S. — and praised dictators. He avoided promising to adhere to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which stipulates that other NATO allies must come to the aid of a member country under attack, even though the only time it was invoked was following 9-11, and even though his evasion came as he was dedicating a memorial to the attacks of that day. He declined to endorse the Paris accords on climate change.
Those exercises in self-injuring stupidity have led Angela Merkel to announce that, lacking American support, Europe must look to its own resources. Another effect may be to push some European countries toward Russia or China. On Thursday, Trump confirmed his withdrawal from the Paris agreement, leaving us in a state of denial joined only by Nicaragua and Syria.
6. Legal issues.
a. Russia. As reported by The New York Times on May 23, "intelligence agencies are unanimous in their belief that Russia directly interfered in the election." The FBI is, or was, pursuing that issue. Director Comey testified on March 20 that the FBI "is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed."[27] According to The Washington Post, following Comey’s testimony Trump "made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion . . . ." On May 9, Trump fired Comey, offering the laughable reason that he had mishandled the inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s emails.
There is evidence that Trump fired FBI Director James Comey to impede the investigation into Russian ties to his transition team and administration. (Trump has admitted that he was thinking about the Russian issue when he fired Comey). If so, he may be guilty of obstruction of justice. This could be a rerun of Watergate, an attempted coverup becoming the trigger for impeachment. Trump’s hiring of outside counsel and the recent appointment of special prosecutor provide further echoes.
In January, Trump was warned by Acting Attorney General Sally Yates that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had lied to the vice president about his contacts with Russians during the transition. "To state the obvious," she told a Congressional committee, " You don’t want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians." Despite the warning, Flynn hung around until February 13, eighteen days later
On May 10, Trump, in a meeting with the Russian Ambassador and Foreign Minister, disclosed intelligence information. Trump admitted that, on Twitter: "As President I wanted to share with Russia . . . which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety." Israel apparently was the source of the intelligence.
b. Business. Trump has many trademarks in China. He and daughter Ivanka have been awarded new ones recently; perhaps entirely by coincidence, that happened after Trump abandoned his challenge to China’s stance on Taiwan. Trump has business ties to numerous countries or their citizens; visitors from abroad curry favor by staying at Trump’s Washington hotel. All of this may implicate the Emoluments clause of the Constitution, which provides that "no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States] shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State."
An emolument, according to Black’s Law Dictionary, is "any advantage, profit, or gain received as a result of one’s employment or one’s holding of office." Whether Trump has violated the Clause is far from clear, but his foreign financial connections, and possible vulnerabilities, add another issue regarding his fitness to serve.
7. Impeachment.
If matters ever reach this point, any of the above may enter into the discussion. However, Trump needn’t be found guilty of a crime or even be indictable in order to be removed by impeachment. "The Framers . . . completely separated the impeachment-removal proceedings from a subsequent indictment and criminal trial. . . . History, in short, does not require indictability as the basis for impeachment."[28]
8. Harmful policies.
Several of these issues, such as self-serving tax cuts for the wealthy, opposition to environmental protection, cuts to the social safety net and possible collusion with Russia, have been mentioned above in other contexts. Their greatest significance, however, is not in their violation of some specific norm. They are harmful to the nation he purports to lead. That is the most direct and meaningful, if not the legally neatest, reason to remove him. He is dangerous to the welfare of the nation.

__________________________

26. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/trump-administration- appointee-tracker/database/
27. Transcript of hearing, House Intelligence Committee, March 20, 2017.

28. Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, 1973, p. 661.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

April 29, 2017
Tax farming — tax collection by private individuals — is a system subject to abuse. A limited version of it — private collection of delinquent taxes — has been tried by the U.S. government, twice, with poor results. Nevertheless, and true to its privatization obsession, Congress tucked a clause into a highway bill which requires the IRS to "enter into qualified tax collection contracts to collect outstanding inactive tax receivables," i.e., to farm out tax collection to private collection agencies. The IRS has selected four companies to pursue those delinquent accounts.
One might think that increasing the IRS budget, allowing it to hire more agents, would be a better plan than giving 25% of collections to the debt collectors, especially as their record at collection during prior trials is unimpressive. Also, the new program opens up opportunities for fraud and abuse, both by the designated collectors and by others posing as such.
The IRS announced that it would begin using the debt collectors in April. One of the companies selected by the IRS is Pioneer Credit Recovery, a subsidiary of Navient Corporation. Two years ago, Pioneer was accused by the Education Department of misleading borrowers about their loans. In January of this year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed suit against Navient, accusing it of "systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment," and cheating "many struggling borrowers out of their rights to lower repayments, which caused them to pay much more than they had to for their loans."[24]  The same month, the States of Washington and Illinois sued Navient; the Washington Complaint accused it of a number of unfair and deceptive practices, including "aggressive and misleading collection tactics."[25]
Privatization is a dubious idea in any area of government activity. Privatizing tax collections is worse. Selecting a company with a bad reputation, one other government agencies accuse of wrongdoing, is difficult to explain. Of the four companies approved, two are from New York, including Navient-Pioneer, and one is from Iowa. Senators Schumer (New York) and Grassley (Iowa) are supporters of private tax collection. Apparently their viewpoint allows them to see an advantage invisible to most of us.

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24. https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-sues-nations-largest-student-loan-company-navient-failing-borrowers-every-stage-repayment/
25. http://www.atg.wa.gov/news/news-releases/ag-ferguson-files-suit-against-sallie-mae-offshoot-navient-corp-announces-student

Friday, April 21, 2017

April 20, 2017
As The Washington Post informed us late last year, "It's official: Truth is dead. Facts are passe." The basis of that cynical statement? "Oxford Dictionaries has selected ‘post-truth’ as 2016's international word of the year," because the Brexit referendum battle and the presidential election "caused usage of the adjective to skyrocket, according to the Oxford University Press."[19]  Is selecting a word of the year important, or even meaningful? Recent words of the year are such additions to discourse as locavore, hypermiling and refudiate, the last made notorious by Sarah Palin. Oxford Dictionaries defines post-truth as an adjective "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief,"[20] which is as awkward as the yearly word routine is meaningless; neither hypermiling nor refudiate have been added to the OED. On the other hand, the Dictionary has just added "sticky-outy."
Leaving aside whether dictionaries should describe rather than prescribe or, as Fox News puts it, report, not decide, the state of our political discourse, in which facts and truth are discarded, indeed is worthy of note. (In the Age of Trump, examples are not necessary; read any account of a press conference). What is the source of this intellectual decline?
One suggestion is that we should blame philosophy. On the cover of the April 3, 2017, issue, Time Magazine, apparently not yet convinced, asked "Is Truth Dead?" An article on Salon offered this comment: "Whether deliberate or not, the cover headline alludes to the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who is best known for proclaiming the death of God, but also for rejecting the idea of objective truth (‘there are no facts, only interpretations’). For the philosophically inclined, then, our ‘post-truth’ era can be traced back to Nietzsche . . . ."[21]

A more recent reference also might support the theory. Richard Rorty observed that, under modern analytic philosophy, statements are "no longer thought of as expressions of experience nor as representations of extra-experiential reality." Truth "is simply a compliment paid to sentences seen to be paying their way." As long as the story sells, it can be called truth.
The intellectual fad known as postmodernism has helped to undermine respect for truth and fact; it includes "an excessive interest in subjective beliefs independently of their truth or falsity; and an emphasis on discourse and language as opposed to the facts to which those discourses refer (or, worse, the rejection of the very idea that facts exist or that one may refer to them)."[22]
Not many people keep abreast of trends in philosophy or literary criticism, so any influence must be by way of absorption into the culture. A different and less arcane source has been suggested, one which would have direct influence on many: conservative (usually called evangelical) Christianity. A recent article in The New York Times [23] observed that "two compulsions have guided conservative Protestant intellectual life: the impulse to defend the Bible as a reliable scientific authority and the impulse to place the Bible beyond the claims of science entirely." The result is a view that any statement must be false if it contradicts or challenges biblical stories taken literally. Rejecting much of modern science, to which this leads, is an anti-factual stance with a vengeance.
For some, this is based on a theory burdened with the almost unpronounceable name "presuppositionalism," which reflects this idea: "We all have presuppositions that frame our understanding of the world." However, not all presuppositions are equal: "one worldview, the one based on faith in an inerrant Bible, does have a claim on universal truth."
The Times article referred to a biologist who also is a creationist; he "calls himself a ‘presuppositionalist evidentialist’ — which we might define as someone who accepts evidence when it happens to affirm his nonnegotiable presuppositions." Although accepting some parts of science might seem an advance, a scientist who rejects inconvenient science is even more defensively blinkered than the outright denier.
Whatever the source or terminology, denial of reality, dressing up lies as "alternative facts," and contempt for the very notion of truth pose a serious problem in a complex, rapidly changing, menacing world.

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19. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/word-of-the-year/word-of-the-year-2016


20. https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/press/news/2016/12/11/WOTY-16

21.
http://www.salon.com/2017/04/01/trumps-war-on-environment-and-science-are-rooted- in-his-post-truth-politics-and-maybe-in-postmodern-philosophy/

22.
Sokal and Bricmont, Intellectual Impostures

23.https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/13/opinion/Sunday/the-evangelical-roots-of-our- post-truth-society.html

Saturday, March 18, 2017

March 18, 2017
Labeling Donald Trump or his administration "fascist" doesn’t, in itself, help us to understand the gang in power because, among other reasons, the terms "fascist’ and "fascism" are ill-defined. However, it’s worth noting that the conditions which gave us Trump bear some resemblance to those which have preceded the rise of authoritarian governments and far-right parties, including to those now appearing in Europe. That may be useful in explaining how Trump garnered almost 63 million votes (46% of those cast) and why polls show that 40% approve of his performance.
"Making America Great Again" is a slogan that excuses right-wing nationalism. The extreme example in this genre is the term "Third Reich," coined before the Hitler era to appeal to the desire to make Germany great again, imagining a rebirth of the glory days of the Holy Roman Empire and the Prussian Kingdom/German empire.[13]  Contrast the alleged weakness of the democratic Weimar Republic and the Obama administration.
Several writings on right-wing populism offer interesting insights. None refers to the rise of Trump or the recent election; each sets out characteristics that seem to be present in those phenomena. One is a small book on fascism [14] (in which the author more or less abandons an attempt to define the term): "[S]ome situate the emergence of the radical right in the context of the 'revolt against reason', which was said to characterize the last decades of the 19th century. Certainly, many fin-dc-si├Ęcle thinkers opposed rationalism and its ramifications: liberalism, socialism, materialism, and individualism. They were pessimists who refused to see history as progress, and instead saw it as a desperate struggle against degeneration." The make-America-great-again slogan in effect complains of degeneration. Many of Trump’s followers are opposed to liberalism, socialism, and, at least among his evangelical followers, materialism. Their attitude toward individualism is mixed, but to the extent they are individualistic, it consists of resenting government regulation. That makes support for an authoritarian leader ironic.
"In Germany, various strands of spiritualist thought, descended from Romanticism, informed the idea of the German ‘volk’—that is the people defined as an ethical, socially united, patriarchal, ethnic, and linguistic community." The white nationalist element of Trumpism dreams of an American volk.
"The radical right did not . . . derive simply from ultranationalism or anomie. It was rooted in daily contests for jobs, financial reward, educational success, and political honour against socialists, ethnic minorities, feminists, and liberals, in a context of nation-building and imperialism, and interest in improving the quality and efficiency of the race." Trump’s position on imperialism isn’t clear, except that he expects the U.S. to give orders; most of the rest applies.
In a study a few years ago of postmodernism’s connections to the right,[15] the author considered the social and economic forces behind the emergence of the European New Right. He found generational differences, but both the old and more recent right show similarities to Trumpism. "Historical fascism was able to draw upon a fairly large middle-class electoral base: small town dwellers and farmers, small proprietors, the lower middle classes, and white-collar workers. Often, this group has been collectively characterized as the ‘losers of the modernization process’: individuals most vulnerable and exposed to the social dislocations involved in industrialization. . . . The constituency of the New European Right is also heavily comprised of potential ‘losers of the modernization process’."
Fear of loss is the key. The far-right parties do not appear to draw support primarily from the ranks of the unemployed, but from "those social groups who feel in danger of being left behind by new developments in a globalized, postindustrial economy . . . ." Putting it more broadly, "[s]tatistical breakdowns of the New Right's constituency abound with examples of how ‘feelings of anxiety and social isolation, political exasperation and powerlessness, loss of purpose in life, and insecurity and abandonment’ provide social conditions conducive to the success of far-right political views." As here, "New Right politicians are skilled at playing on such feelings and fears."
According to a recent article,[16] contemporary right-wing parties in France, Denmark and The Netherlands present a picture different from Trumpism and the old European right, in general and as to some particulars. "These parties . . . have made a very public break with the symbols of the old right’s past, distancing themselves from skinheads, neo-Nazis and homophobes. . . . They have effectively claimed the progressive causes of the left – from gay rights to women’s equality and protecting Jews from antisemitism – as their own, . . ." However, here’s the point of contact: they have done that "by depicting Muslim immigrants as the primary threat to all three groups. As fear of Islam has spread, with their encouragement, they have presented themselves as the only true defenders of western identity and western liberties – the last bulwark protecting a besieged Judeo-Christian civilisation from the barbarians at the gates."
There’s another parallel: "These parties have steadily filled an electoral vacuum left open by social democratic and centre-right parties, who ignored voters’ growing anger over immigration – some of it legitimate, some of it bigoted – or simply waited too long to address it." They respond to "economic anxiety and fear of terrorism by blending a nativist economic policy – more welfare, but only for us – and tough anti-immigration and border security measures."
As in the U.S., so in Europe: "nostalgia for an older, whiter France has become a potent political force." The Dutch new right, by "framing its anti-migrant politics as a battle against imperious elites and political correctness, . . has been able to capitalise on a panoply of grievances, from anger over asylum seekers to Euroscepticism." There is "a strong anti-PC tone to the Dutch right: do not tell us what to say, what to celebrate and who we must live next to." How did this happen? "The Dutch Labour party . . . gave up on its working-class base." In Denmark, the attitude was summed up thus: "Immigrants can’t do right. When they’re unemployed they’re a burden to society. When they’re in a job, they just stole the job from a Dane."
Finally, Britain: "Not least among the lessons of Brexit was that, for millions of disaffected voters, immigration is just one more thing nobody asked them about. This is what makes the issue an especially potent weapon: it combines the resentful energies of nativism, economic instability, and hatred of a remote and unaccountable political elite."
In all this we can identify several public attitudes common to the rise of authoritarian governments and the election of Donald Trump. Prominent is resentment of immigrants, which derives, at least in part, from fear of terrorism and from a sense of threat to jobs, prosperity and status. In addition, there is a sense of political powerlessness; resentment of elites who allegedly run everything, including government; and social attitudes forced on an unwilling citizenry, i.e., political correctness. Underlying these developments is economic inequality and the power of the wealthy. One of the ironies of the American version of right-wing populism is that it leads to the election of those who will protect and expand such inequality.
________________________
How do we deal with this? One solution was offered by Tony Blair, writing in The New York Times on March 3. The new wave "is a revolution that is partly economic, but mainly cultural." It is caused by "the scale, scope and speed of change." That occurs "economically as jobs are displaced and communities fractured, and culturally as the force of globalization moves the rest of the world closer and blurs old boundaries of nation, race and culture." In other words, the nationalism of the new right blames globalization for lost jobs and immigration.
To Blair, it would be a mistake to respond with a wave of leftist populism. Left populists, as he sees it, also revolt against globalization, and they "agree with the right-wing populists about elites, though for the left the elites are the wealthy, while for the right they’re the liberals." Should there not, then, be a revolt against the conservative elite, especially now that the wealthy and the government have merged? He says not: left populism, he thinks, has no chance of success and "dangerously validates some of the right’s arguments. This only fuels a cynicism that depresses support for the more progressive parts of the left’s program." He doesn’t elaborate on, and I don’t see the merit of, that argument. If, in rejecting populism, Blair is proposing a policy of polite, patient advocacy, with no enemies and no demonstrations, he’s out of touch with the times.
He’s correct in saying that left populism is a response to the failure of the liberal establishment or, as he puts it, the paralysis of the center. "The parties and politicians of the center have become the managers of the status quo in an era when people want change. So, the center — in both its center-right and center-left camps — is marginalized, even despised." A focus on the center is not surprising in an advocate of the third way but, at least in this country, the center-right has vanished; the "center" is the Democratic establishment, which has failed to address the issues that give rise to right-wing populism, such as concern about immigration and globalization.
One aspect of his centrism has merit, the toning down of certain liberal arguments and, better yet, reconsideration of some of them, in his words learning "the difference between being progressive and appearing obsessive on issues like gender identity."
Populism can be an elusive subject. The term is more often used than defined, and definitions aren’t consistent. Some definitions are useless; my unabridged dictionary [17] defines "populist" as "a member of the People’s Party," which expired a century ago; "populism" is simply a derivative with no separate definition. Some definitions include negative aspects, such as anti-intellectualism, prejudice or mob mentality. That may be why Blair avoids it. However, there are more neutral, useful definitions, for example: "A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite."[18]  That is what Trumpism purported to be during the campaign.
A liberal populism, that is, a movement focused on improving the lot of ordinary Americans rather than the one percent, is, despite Blair’s concerns, the way forward. The anti-Trump rallies show that many people are ready. Bernie Sanders demonstrated populism’s appeal and force, and it could succeed if it had the support of the Democratic establishment. The goal must be to convince people, including many who currently support Trump, that there is a better way than his — and better than anything mainstream Republicans have offered in years — and that Democrats understand them and will work for their benefit. Democratic dithering won’t do it and Democrats beholden to Wall Street can’t. It’s time to choose sides.

__________________

13
. See Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich (2003), p. 121.

14
. Passmore, Fascism: A Very Short Introduction (2014), pp. 28, 35

15
. Wolin, The Seduction of Unreason
(2004), 275-77

16
. Sasha Polakow-Suransky, "The Ruthlessly Effective Rebranding of Europe’s New Far Right, "https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/01/the-ruthlessly-effective-rebranding-of- europes-new-far-right

17
. Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language

18
. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language  
 https://ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=populism

Thursday, March 9, 2017

March 8, 2017
Trump’s renewed effort to bar entry to Muslims, including refugees, should remind us that this is not the first time that the country has barred entry or flight. Referring to the plight of German Jews in the 1030s, an historian described the situation as follows: "[T]he United States was neither willing nor able to provide refuge for more than a handful of those fleeing Nazi persecution. The 1924 law permitted a total of only 150,000 immigrants a year, of which the Jewish quota was a small percentage. . . . Roosevelt stretched the law as best he could to admit more refugees. But the only real answer was a basic modification of policy, and at a time of continuing high unemployment there was little inclination to do that. Thousands of Jews were stranded at transit points across Europe. Some made it on ships to the Americas only to be denied permission to land."[11]
Another occasion was noted by Eric Foner in a recent issue of The Nation. "President Trump’s executive order . . . and his frequent threats to deport millions of undocumented immigrants bring to mind another era when the federal government acted forcefully to apprehend men, women, and children fleeing oppressive conditions. In 1850, Congress passed and President Millard Fillmore signed the Fugitive Slave Act. The law authorized federal marshals to capture people who had escaped from the slaveholding Old South, federal commissioners to order their return to bondage, and federal troops to carry out these orders."
On February, 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 "authorizing the secretary of war to designate military zones within the U.S. from which ‘any or all persons may be excluded.’ The order was not targeted at any specific group, but it became the basis for the mass relocation and internment of some 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry, including both citizens and non-citizens of the United States."[12]  Fear of foreigners again was the basis for the action.
That this country has turned away refugees and other unwanted persons or interned them, even under a far better President, does not justify Trump’s action. It does show that his idea of making America great again is to relive some of its worst moments.
Lady Liberty went dark this week. Perhaps it was from embarrassment.

___________________________

11.
Herring, From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations since 1776, pp. 516-17

12.
https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2011/08/world-war-ii-internment-of-japanese- americans/100132/

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

February 14, 2017

One of the challenges in evaluating Donald Trump, or predicting what he will do, is deciding what he is. Is he power-hungry or merely narcissistic? Are his falsehoods deliberate or does he simply not know the difference between fact and fancy? Are we dealing with a clever manipulator, a sociopath or an adolescent? In a sense, it doesn’t matter; whatever the diagnosis, his egocentrism, ignorance, short attention span, disinterest in detail, emotional outbursts and childish language render him unfit for the office.
It’s clear that his focus is on Donald Trump, not on governance, policy, or even politics in the sense of party or theory. Some of his impulses mesh with Republican aims, such as restriction of immigration and cutting taxes, but those similarities seem almost accidental. His sympathetic attitude toward Russia and Putin, if expressed by a Democratic President, would lead to impeachment.
Trump’s disinterest in governance recalls the theory expressed during the campaign that he didn’t expect or intend to win the nomination, still less the presidency. John Lewis declared that, because of Russian interference in the election, Trump is not a legitimate president. His loss of the popular vote is another reason to conclude that. More importantly, he is not a competent or stable president.
His selection of cabinet members and counselors is another indication that he is unfit and, especially as to the latter, to wonder who is in charge. One of his campaign advisors predicted that a Trump administration would be "basically a blank slate that needs to be filled in." Another way to put it is that he can and will be manipulated. His failure to control his administration is a source of danger, given the character of his team, but it may be a blessing, if causes Republicans to realize, in time, that he has to go.