Political Theatre category archive
Dick Polman reminds us that it can happen here and that, if it does, it’s our own damn fault for not paying attention, as a polity, to the politics. A snippet:
The news that his (Donald Trump’s) team seeks to control, thwart, discredit, and perhaps terminate Robert Mueller’s independent probe; the news that he’s already weighing the idea of pardoning himself (and aides and family members) for whatever crimes he claims have never been committed – none of this Putinesque behavior should surprise us. It was all telegraphed in technicolor during the presidential campaign.
In a way I don’t even blame Trump, because he doesn’t know any better. A poseur with Louis XIV pretensions (“L’etat c’est moi,” said the French king – “I am the state”), Trump has no concept of checks and balances, no respect for America’s enduring democratic institutions, and he’s been dodging accountability his whole life. His one mode is attack; long-dead Roy Cohn, his thug mentor, appears to be dispensing advice via his tooth fillings.
Remember, in Republican World, there is no such thing as the common good.
Via Job’s Anger.
Really. Donald Trump’s been President for only six months?
Dick Polman looks back:
In his first 181 days, he tweeted 991 times, played golf 40 times, and signed a grand total of 0 major legislation. Those stats tell us plenty about a tenure that appears fated to rank with the very worst in history, but in truth they only hint at the destabilizing chaos he sows on a daily basis. We are no longer citizens; we are hostages trussed with rope in the trunk of his careening limo.
All this, from a guy with a 36 percent approval rating, by far the worst of any elected president at the six-month mark — but what we’ve learned by now is that he “governs” for that 36 percent, the people who think he’s kickass because he stokes their grievances and hates the same institutions they hate.
Follow the link for the complete article.
Timothy Egan marvels at the unwavering support that evangelical they-call-themselves-Christians have for Donald Trump, a venal vulgarian who makes Bob Guccione look like a choir boy, and concludes
Follow the link to learn why he says that.
Josh Marshal thinks the Trump-Russia thing may be even worse than imagined. Me, I don’t know. I’m in a frequent state of “who woulda thunk” over the actions of our President, overwhelmed by the cavalcade of villainy and stupid (or it is the stupid villainy?). But over my years of reading Josh Marshall, I’ve found him a sober and reasonable interpreter of events.
Yesterday we learned that President Trump had a second, undisclosed discussion with President Putin for as long as an hour with only Putin’s translator present. In other words, no other American citizen was there to make a record of or hear what was discussed.
It’s been noted that President Obama spoke for a few minutes one-on-one once with Dmitry Medvedev when he was President or Russia. My understanding is that Medvedev actually speaks decent English; so translation is less of an issue. But no one had any reason to believe that President Obama was compromised by the Russian government or somehow in league with it. We have plenty of reasons to believe that about President Trump. (Is this circular reasoning? No, as I’ll explain in a moment.) I see no plausible explanation for this latest revelation other than President Trump wanting to discuss things with President Putin that he does not want any other American citizen to hear.
Jared Bernstein, in another excellent article, points out that Republican statements on health care and other aspects of the “social safety net” betray (or portray) an essential misunderstanding of how insurance works.
It’s like the old joke about life insurance: You’re betting you’re going to die, the insurance company is betting you won’t, and you hope they are right.
The purpose of experience is to spread risk so that each person bears a little tine bit of the cost so that, if someone needs assistance, the assistance is available without crushing expense. In contrast, Republicans seem to believe that crushing persons who do not have buckets of money under mountains of cost is somehow a good and moral thing.
Of course, that might seem reasonable to those who believe that there is no such thing as the common good. Here’s a bit from the article (emphasis added):
That’s kind of a description about how insurance works.
Two things, at least. First, I do think today’s conservatives are uniquely uneducated when it comes to the role of government in mitigating risk. But second, the old Upton Sinclair insight about people being paid not to understand something is also very much in play.
Brian Greenspun stands amazed at the willing, compliant credulity of the Trumpettes. A snippet:
It is easier to believe that a baby can take over a year to be born than it is to believe that the Russians did not interfere in our elections to help Donald Trump win the White House. And that Trump’s friends, associates and/or family were up to their elbows in that effort.
I don’t know if what happened is criminal, yet. That is what the special counsel will determine. Criminal or not — maybe the Trump team really is just incompetent and stupid — what we are watching in real time couldn’t even be conceived of in the minds of Hollywood’s most creative writers.
But, beyond all of this, what is criminal to me is that practically every Republican voter and elected official believes it is OK and patriotically American to just accept what Trump says even though what he says is now totally and demonstrably untrue.
We often hear the term “populism” applied to right-wing political movements. Frankly, I don’t think “populist” is an accurate term. These movements appeal to the fears of the populace, often embracing nationalist and racist themes to stoke those fears.
They are not “populist” in the same way the American political movement called “Populism” was; that was a movement of farmers and workers, primarily in the upper Midwest, which wished to limit the power of industrialists a century ago. I suspect the news media have adopted the term “populist” as a gentler alternative to “fascist” or, perhaps more descriptive, “fascistic.”
At the Boston Review, Rogers Brubaker explores the appeal and spread of these movements. Here’s a bit:
This extraordinary populist moment did not, of course, emerge from nowhere. It was prepared by two sets of structural transformations which have steadily expanded opportunities for populism over the last several decades.
The weakening of parties and party systems and changes in the relation between media and politics have fostered a kind of generic populism, a heightened tendency—shared by both the left and the right—to address “the people” directly. Party membership and loyalty have plummeted, and in many countries parties that had long dominated the political system have collapsed. This has encouraged politicians to appeal to the people as a whole rather than to specific social constituencies represented by parties.
The pervasive “mediatization of politics,” the intensifying commercialization of the media, and the accelerated development of new communications technologies have likewise made politicians less dependent on parties and more inclined to appeal directly to “the people.” They have also encouraged a populist style of communication, characterized by dramatization, confrontation, negativity, emotionalization, personalization, visualization, and hyper-simplification.
. . . this is only the second time in the history of the United States that being stupid is a political virtue.
Der Spiegel takes a in-depth look at American bigotry that parades under the “alt-right” label. Here’s a snippet:
Donald Trump is an imperfect vehicle for this purpose, but the only one that was available, says Yiannopoulos. As such, Trump is essentially the president of the alt-right movement or at least this is how Bannon explained it to him. Yiannopoulos says that Bannon is perhaps the most intelligent person he has ever met.
The alt-right has everything a movement needs: its own echo chamber, primarily on the internet, its own symbols, myths, martyrs and stories and even its own vocabulary. It is the first protest movement that is taking full advantage of digital technology and one that would be inconceivable without the internet. One of its primary tactics, internet trolling, is the practice of insulting and provoking political enemies online until they lose their composure.