It’s the Robot Economy, Folks

David Atkins made a good point yesterday at The Washington Monthly after former Clinton staffer Nick Merrill shot back at Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg for suggesting that economic anxiety indeed played a role in Donald Trump’s 2016 win:

So, in the argument between Merrill and Buttigieg, who is right? They both are. And the fact that Merrill doesn’t understand that point is part of the problem; and it’s a sign of what the 2020 Democratic nominee must fix.

One cannot even begin to talk about this issue without acknowledging that the white working class is quite literally dying. Mortality rates for middle-aged white Americans have been ticking upwards for nearly 20 years, led primarily by a sharp rise in “deaths of despair”—suicide, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse—among those without college degrees. According to research, these deaths are primarily driven by a lack of good jobs and the dysfunction that economic anxiety creates in the social fabric.

Buttigieg is right that Trump pretended to offer solutions for these voters specifically, and that certain aspects of Clinton’s messaging did not convey the urgency that people in these communities feel about their circumstances. It’s no accident that “learn to code” has become a scornful joke on both the right and the progressive left.

Merrill is also right that the solutions Trump offered were racist, vitriolic, and full of false promises. Trump blamed economic and social problems on immigrants, promised to use his supposed skill as a negotiator to fix trade deals and bring jobs back, and promised to use his bully pulpit to strongarm companies into keeping existing factories open and getting new ones built.

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More on the Scandals in Virginia Politics

A few weeks have passed since scandals shook up Virginia politics, starting with the news that Governor Ralph Northam’s Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) year book page included a photo of two men at a party.  One of the men in the photo wore a KKK costume, the other blackface.  Governor Northam could not, in the moment, definitively say he was not one of those people.  So Northam admitted he may have been in the photo, then retracted that admission the next day.  

Democrats in Virginia, myself includedlined upto ask the Governor to resign.  It got worse after his “Moon Walk” press conference, and speculation started about who Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax would appoint to take his place as LG after he took Northam’s place.  But then the second scandal popped: accusations of sexual harassment against Fairfax. This shifted discussions to succession in Virginia, and scenarios that would put House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox in the Governor’s mansion.  Soon enough a third shoe dropped:  Attorney General Mark Herring volunteered that he had once appeared in blackface himself. 

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Ileana Johnson is not a Serious Person

Writing at The Bull Elephant (and Freedom Outpost), Ileana Johnson complains that:

“What is good has become bad, evil has become good, and moral values have been replaced by moral relativism, decadence, and filth. America continues to be fundamentally transformed from the shadows.”

Johnson is a conservative, so she’s not talking about Donald Trump paying porn stars not to talk about his (lack of) skills as a lover. She’s talking about Barack Obama promising to “’fundamentally transform’ America into a socialist paradise of his anti-American and racist ideology.”  I must admit to having a bit of trouble wrapping my mind around this, and Johnson does not elaborate in a way that clears up her meaning.  Continue reading

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Does the Constitution Give Congress the Power to Regulate Immigration?

Thanks to Ampersand over at Alas, a Blog, I ran across two articles by Ilya Somin arguing that the Constitution includes no enumerated power to restrict immigration.  Go check Amptoons out – he’s a killer cartoonist.

In the first, at Reason Magazine, Somin suggests that President Obama had the power to defer deportation for four million immigrants through executive order.  He thinks this is so in part because he doesn’t think the Constitution gives Congress no power to regulate immigration in the first place.  Later, in the Washington Post, Somin argues that the Migration and Importation Clause (Article I, Section 9) doesn’t fix this because it refers to slavery. Continue reading

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The GOP “Script”

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell wants Donald Trump to “get on script.”  By this, he of course means The Donald should quit saying the quiet parts out loud and get back to using the dog whistle.

McConnell and other conservatives don’t mind racism.  They happily appeal to racism and bigotry when they can use it to distract voters from the real source of their economic woes.  They just don’t want to change the official Republican Party brand from “family values for some families” to racism and bigotry.

Wait.  Maybe they already have that brand.

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#TrumpWillNeverBePresident II

A couple of takeaways from “Trump Orders Surrogates to Intensify Criticism of Judge and Journalists” at Bloomberg Politics:

@realDonaldTrump is a terrible leader and manager of staff.  He had no idea which staff member had sent the memo telling surrogates not to discuss the Trump University lawsuit.  Then he threw her under the bus, telling people on the call to “throw it out,” and asking if there were “any other stupid letters.”  “…you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t all that smart,” he told supporters (including Jan Brewer and Scott Brown) on the call.  He seems to forget that he’s the incompetent executive who hired “people who aren’t all that smart” in the first place.

@realDonaldTrump hasn’t the foggiest idea what it takes to run a Presidential campaign or to assemble a winning political coalition.  He has no idea how to build and run the organizations and teams necessary to win the Oval Office.  If someone constructed it for him he would jerk it out of their hands like a toy he covets and start throwing it at the ground just to watch pieces fly off.  He doesn’t understand who does what (communications, organizers, fundraisers) or how these people achieve success (data analysis, volunteer recruiting, media plans).  He apparently doesn’t realize that political campaigns are highly specialized endeavors with a handful of professional experts who know how it’s done.  He has no use for either a sound strategic plan or expert guidance for the detailed tactical work needed to identify and motivate supporters.

@realDonaldTrump doesn’t understand that bullying your way through the storm after saying something offensive won’t help him expand his universe of potential supporters.  He can’t seem to help categorizing and referring to people as members of groups (Muslim, “the blacks,” “the Hispanics,” Mexican).  People hear this as a claim that tribal membership is the most important quality people have – it drives their behavior.  This is, of course, the very definition of racism – and I believe his willingness to say some of these things out loud has driven his popularity among many Republican primary voters.  At this point, however, it’s begun to offend his now wider audience.  Rather than back off this rhetoric, he’s asking surrogates to emphasize it.  This, by the way, puts people like Jan Brewer and Scott Brown in a tough position – they want to elect a Republican President, but probably don’t want to earn reputations as racists in the process.

#TrumpWillNeverBePresident.  He’s a terrible leader and can’t manage subordinates except through fear.  He calls junior staff “stupid” in front of other senior people.  He hasn’t the smallest clue what it takes to put together the national political coalition needed to win the US Presidency and apparently believes he can win simply by saying silly things on television so people pay attention to him.  And when he says silly things on television and the people around him advise reticence, he lacks the temperament to realize he’s in over his head.

This is all very good news for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. #TrumpWillNeverBePresident.

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Sunday Morning Coffee

A few things I read over coffee this morning…while watching the talking heads discuss Iowa:

Morton Guyton, writing at Patheos blog Mercy Not Sacrifice, discusses an ideological perspective he calls ” White Evangelical Nihilism:”

There’s a genuine ideological foundation for the ethos that makes Trump and Cruz so popular. I call it white evangelical nihilism.

When you’re told by your pastor that all the people outside of your ideological tribe are utterly wicked and deserving of eternal torture, that’s how it becomes a sin to compromise with your opponents politically and work together for the common good.

Everything about secular liberalism must be utterly antithetical to the Christian gospel and profoundly offensive to God. It has to be, or else secular liberals wouldn’t be worthy of damnation. So everything about liberalism is put into binary opposition with “God’s truth.” To believe in climate change is to believe that God is not in control of the environment. To believe that the government should provide for the poor is an emulation of atheist communism and a usurpation of God’s sovereignty. To promote “political correctness” is to silence the courageous proclamation of “Biblical truth.”

This tracks with a point I make when discussing today’s polarized American political climate.  Conservatives run on a set of existential issues on which there can be no compromise: abortion, homosexuality, taxes, and guns.  Two of these have their basis in religion and two in racism, but all four depend on the fundamental premise that only wicked, lazy or authoritarian people disagree with the right wing on these issues.  This is the fundamental American political problem we need to resolve.

Guyton goes on to reframe salvation.  Rather than a search for God’s help in saving individual sinners from themselves, he argues we should seek His help in saving other people from our sin:

Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.” Imagine if Christians, and especially Christian politicians, were known as the people who regard everyone else as “better than [them]selves.”

Read the whole thing.  Excellent essay. Continue reading

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