Friday, December 11, 2015

Trump, La Pen, and the Failure of the Very Serious People

Krugman has a great piece on this. As I've urged previously, what offends about Trump is not so much that he lies-the media has allowed lots of lies and with things like Benghazi, Emailgate, Vince Foster, and Whitewater, openly participated in the spreading of lies-or even the bigotry but that Trump breaks the rules.

He uses the racist bullhorn rather than the racist dog whistle. But this doesn't clamp down on bigotry but to the contrary.

"What do these events have in common? Both involved political figures tapping into the resentments of a bloc of xenophobic and/or racist voters who have been there all along. The good news is that such voters are a minority; the bad news is that it’s a pretty big minority, on both sides of the Atlantic. If you are wondering where the support for Mr. Trump or Marine Le Pen, the head of the National Front, is coming from, you just haven’t been paying attention."

"But why are these voters making themselves heard so loudly now? Have they become much more numerous? Maybe, but it’s not clear. More important, I’d argue, is the way the strategies elites have traditionally used to keep a lid on those angry voters have finally broken down."

He then draws an interesting sketch about the problem specifically in Europe:

"Let me start with what is happening in Europe, both because it’s probably less familiar to American readers and because it is, in a way, a simpler story than what is happening here."

"My European friends will no doubt say that I’m oversimplifying, but from an American perspective it looks as if Europe’s establishment has tried to freeze the xenophobic right, not just out of political power, but out of any role in acceptable discourse. To be a respectable European politician, whether of the left or of the right, you have had to accept the European project of ever-closer union, of free movement of people, open borders, and harmonized regulations. This leaves no room for right-wing nationalists, even though right-wing nationalism has always had substantial popular support."

It should be noted too that in the case of Euorpe there are some very good reasons to crticize the acceptable discourse from the Left as well.

"What the European establishment may not have realized, however, is that its ability to define the limits of discourse rests on the perception that it knows what it is doing. Even admirers and supporters of the European project (like me) have to admit that it has never had deep popular support or a lot of democratic legitimacy. It is, instead, an elite project sold largely on the claim that there is no alternative, that it is the path of wisdom."

"And there’s nothing quite like sustained poor economic performance – the kind of poor performance brought on by Europe’s austerity and hard-money obsessions — to undermine the elite’s reputation for competence. That’s probably why one recent study found a consistent historical relationship between financial crises and the rise of right-wing extremism. And history is repeating itself."

The sad thing is that if I lived in Europe I could almost understnad the appeal of a La Pen-because her and her party at least speak to the real angst and misery of the people. Her solutions of course is a different matter, of course, though blowback against open borders dogma in this context is understandable whether a good thing policy wise. 

Probably I'd prefer to go with a leftist party but I might well be totally against the mainstream parties-certainly I would be if I lived in Greece. Even the British Right wing UKIP has a point about the EU and you have to say that Margaret Thatcher was certainly right at least in keeping the UK off the euro. 

Krugman than analyzes our American scene:

"The story is quite different in America, because the Republican Party hasn’t tried to freeze out the kind of people who vote National Front in France. Instead, it has tried to exploit them, mobilizing their resentment via dog whistles to win elections. This was the essence of Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy,” and explains why the G.O.P. gets the overwhelming majority of Southern white votes."

"But there is a strong element of bait-and-switch to this strategy. Whatever dog whistles get sent during the campaign, once in power the G.O.P. has made serving the interests of a small, wealthy economic elite, especially through big tax cuts, its main priority — a priority that remains intact, as you can see if you look at the tax plans of the establishment presidential candidates this cycle."

"Sooner or later the angry whites who make up a large fraction, maybe even a majority, of the G.O.P. base were bound to rebel — especially because these days much of the party’s leadership seems inbred and out of touch. They seem, for example, to imagine that the base supports cuts to Social Security and Medicare, an elite priority that has nothing to do with the reasons working-class whites vote Republican."

"So along comes Donald Trump, saying bluntly the things establishment candidates try to convey in coded, deniable hints, and sounding as if he really means them. And he shoots to the top of the polls. Shocking, yes, but hardly surprising."

So the establishment and the serious pundits are bankrupt and their phony system has broken down. 


  1. ... and I love how the campaign spending totals of the various candidates highlight this break down: Trump has spent the least, and Bush the most (by almost 100x, right?), and Trump is more than 10x ahead of Bush in the polls. It's like the dog whistles (that they paid a fortune for) aren't even functioning.

    Well, no matter, if my vision comes true, even Jeb (and Carson!) will be donning Klan robes by the time the nomination process is done.

  2. Yes I've discussed the spending before too. It's very interesting. With all the talk of money in politics and how rich Trump is or says he is-he's rich though many insist not quite as rich as he says-he has spent very little.

    So it is possible to get very far without much spending. Still I don't know if this is repeatable for those who lack his name recognition and celebrity.

    1. "...for those who lack his name recognition and celebrity."

      I agree: that's questionable. But it's really for those who lack his "strong man" and "cult of personality" attributes I think. The aspects of him which make him a possible fascist leader. He clearly has those attributes in spades. There should be a word for that: "fascistabilty" maybe?

    2. "Fascillicious"... How's that?

    3. That would make a great headline: Trump is Fascillicious!

  3. But his cult of personality stems from his celebrity. He wouldn't have the resonance he does if he didn't have the history.

    What he says has credibility because of who he is and what he's accomplished-the Trump brand.

    1. Mike, I can imagine that Trump hotels, casinos, etc, around the world are now prime terrorist targets. Imagine one is hit: what do you suppose Trump's response will be? Will he back down because what's really important to him is his bottom line? Will he try to turn that to his political advantage? I'm not sure what to expect.

    2. BTW, I can see ISIS NOT wanting to attack Trump... but I imagine they might have a hard time controlling lone wolf operations around the world.

    3. "But his cult of personality stems from his celebrity." Yes, celebrity is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition.

    4. Correct-it was needed but to make something of it his skills are needed.

  4. O/T: Mike, is there any possible way this isn't terrific news?:

  5. I'm going to write about that later and the short answer is no there isn't' any possibility

  6. You should see Jen Rubin today. Her desire to spin news about Trump is reaching desperation levels. If I had a subscription I'd be heavily trolling her... So Jen, will you support your party's nominee (Trump)... Or when the time comes will you endorse HRC?

  7. Hey Mike
    thought you might like this article I saw on Salon;

    This Trump stuff is getting to the point where I wonder if he is a "Poe"

  8. Although I think it's important to have perspective. Rand Paul is also for banning Muslims.

    Trump simply framed it as banning Muslims rather than banning immigration form countries that all happen to have Muslims.

    And just for historical perspective between 1925 to 1964 we literally had no immigration in the country at all for Muslims or other.

    So there certainly are antecedents.