Opinion | Trump Can’t Unite Us. Can Anyone? – By Frank Bruni and Ross Douthat – The New York Times

By Frank Bruni and Ross Douthat
Mr. Bruni and Mr. Douthat are opinion columnists. They converse every other week.

Oct. 30, 2018 382 comments

Frank Bruni: Ross, I would typically begin with some idle pleasantry — “Hey, it’s good to talk with you” — but this doesn’t seem to me a moment for idle pleasantries, and “good” just doesn’t cut it. Not after the massacre of 11 Jewish Americans in a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday. Not after the pipe bombs of last week. Not amid ugly talk and ugly tweets. I’m hugely worried about this country, and I do not believe that President Trump has it in him to unite us and heal our wounds. Please, please, please tell me I’m wrong.

Ross Douthat: Of course you’re not wrong, Frank. In his presidency Donald Trump has shown no interest in actually presiding over the country, as opposed to just trying to mobilize his own coalition against the liberal Other. For him to respond to a pair of far-right terrorist attacks with defensiveness and partisanship is simply who he is — a self-justifying polarizer who finds the other aspects of the job tedious and prefers, even amid trauma, to just hurl rhetorical grenades from his Twitter feed.

Frank: Is that it, then? We give up on hoping for anything better from him and … do what? It’s a serious question. The presidency has enormous moral force, quaint as that notion sounds right now, and if the president has no moral compass, what can we do so that we don’t unravel further as we wait him out?

Ross: Well, if you’re a Democrat, you try to beat his party at the polls. I’ve said before in these conversations that I think Trump has some modicum of self-control, but it’s mostly linked to self-interest. If you want him to abjure a polarizing response to tragedy, you need to show that it’s a bad political strategy. Which I think it is; I think politically the horror in Pittsburgh and the mail bombs are a gift to Democrats, because they highlight one of the most specific ways that Trump is ill-suited to his office.”

Well don gentlemen. Here is a comment I enjoyed:
Socrates
Downtown Verona. NJ4h ago
Trump is a neo-Jefferson Davis, governing for the Confederate States of America and not a single Union citizen opposed to his 1861 platform of Making America White Again.

He and his Republican nihilists just blew up the national deficit for the sole purpose of painting the toenails of the rich a finer hue of gold…..healthcare, infrastructure, education, voting rights, women’s rights, worker rights, environment and decent public be damned.

The heart and soul of Trump-Republicanism is stealing from the poor to give to the rich in the name of white supremacy, fear, loathing and selfishness.

Red Republican welfare state regressives are completely subsidized by industrious, educated Democratic blue states.

Making 1861 Great Again is a suicidal Southern strategy.

Vote for modernity, healthcare, infrastructure, the environment, campaign finance corruption reform, voting rights, free and fair elections, decent regulation and an emergency brake on the Grand Old Psychopaths who are happy to flush all 241 years of American ideals down a Trump Toilet for a few extra dollars.

November 6 2018

VOTE

4 Replies200 Recommended

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Opinion | The Kavanaugh Accusation Is Dangerous for the Pro-Life Movement – By Ross Douthat – The New York Times

“This includes the pro-life movement. Even if it wins its long-desired victory at the high court and more anti-abortion legislation becomes possible, a pro-life cause joined to a party that can’t win female votes and seems to have no time for women will never be able to achieve those legislative goals, or at least never outside a very few, very conservative states. And having that long-awaited victory accomplished by a male judicial appointee confirmed under a cloud of #MeToo suspicion seems like a good way to cement a perception that’s fatal to the pro-life movement’s larger purposes — the perception that you can’t be pro-woman and pro-life.

This points to a conclusion that’s certainly unfair to Kavanaugh if he’s innocent, but nobody ever said that politics would be fair. If his accuser testifies publicly and credibly, if her allegation isn’t undermined by a week of scrutiny and testimony, if it remains unprovable but squarely in the realm of plausibility, then all the abortion opponents who were supporting him should hope that his nomination is withdrawn — with, ideally, a woman nominated in his place.”

DL: Nice try Ross.
Here is a comment that covers my main thoughts well.

Clare

Sorry, but people thinking they can be feminists or pro-women’s rights and also thinking that the state should force women to give birth against their will is fundamentally untenable. If you don’t like abortion, first of all, don’t have one. That seems obvious, but the stories of pro-life protesters waving signs outside clinics one day and going into one the next when they or a family member needed an abortion are legion. Second, recognize that making abortion illegal does not help you reach your stated goal of limiting abortion to the greatest extent possible. (In fact, both history and contemporary experience teaches us that the more restrictive the abortion laws, the higher the abortion rates — true across states and countries). What reduces abortion rates are comprehensive sex education, readily accessible, effective birth control, and a social safety net that is sufficient for women to make decisions about abortion for reasons other than economics. When people on the so-called pro-life side embrace these things as policy, I will be willing to concede that they care about the actual issue and not just punishing women for exercising their agency. Until then, please don’t pretend you care in the least about women and their rights, or even policy positions that have a chance of getting you to your stated goals.

Opinion | We Are All Supreme Court Skeptics Now – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“Democracy is in peril. The majority no longer rules; a determined minority has the whip hand. The least accountable branch of government, the Supreme Court, has fallen into the hands of an aggressively counter-majoritarian faction, which intends to traduce self-government for ideological ends. The time has come to consider drastic countermeasures against our robed masters and their nascent tyranny.

These arguments are on the lips of many liberals lately. With the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, general Trump-era anxieties have found a focal point in the fear of right-wing judicial activism, of a high court that pushes policy rightward and allows Republicans to lock in anti-democratic advantages.

But any liberal with an ounce of self-awareness should recognize the resemblance between their sudden fear of juristocracy and the longstanding conservative critique of exactly the same thing. Indeed it’s quite striking, and ironically amusing, to have Trump-era liberals striking the same anti-Supreme Court notes as the talk-show populists and religious-conservative intellectuals of my own not-so-distant youth.

Partisanship being what it is, I don’t really expect either side to learn anything from these echoes and convergences. But for liberals newly awakened to the dangers of judicial power, let me offer two suggestions for thinking seriously about democratic accountability in Congress and the courts.

First, it would be wise for liberals to recognize that neither a judiciary out of step with democratic majorities nor an electoral advantage for one political apparatus are new things in American history — because when the Democratic Party dominated American politics both were important aspects of liberalism’s rule.

The politics of the 1940s and ’50s and ’60s would have still been generally liberal without judicial activism; Democrats would have still held congressional majorities, mostly, without the baked-in advantages that gave them more House seats than their share of the popular vote.

But the countermajoritarian sweep of liberal jurisprudence in that era was still dramatic, extending beyond race and segregation to encompass the entirety of the culture war, where majorities were consistently overriden, legislative debates consistently short-circuited, and longstanding features of American life — ecumenical school prayer, Christian-influenced morals legislation — overruled or uprooted by fiat.”

David Lindsay:  Well done Ross Douthat, for awhile you had me confused. This is an attractive set of arguments. Here are the two top comments, which I endorsed, which help put the analysis above into some perspective.

Martin
New York

May I mention, as an example, that Roe v Wade, the decision most often cited by Republicans as demonstrating judicial liberal overreach, was a decision in which 5 Republican judges joined 2 Democrats in the majority, with the 2 dissenters came 1 from each party? It seemed to many of us that the positions of the post war era that we now call “liberal” became dominant not by gerrymandering, voter suppression & partisan propaganda, but by reasoned argument. And it has always struck me that the “conservative” reaction against those positions over the last 40 years has used identity politics, partisan media, and political power not to engage a debate on the issues, but to obtain a pre-determined result by exercising economic & political power.

Barking Doggerel commented July 14

Barking Doggerel
Barking Doggerel
America

Although not alone in doing so, Douthat takes false equivalence to historic highs.

Equating the surges of liberalism and conservatism over time is either cluelessness or disingenuousness on steroids.

Liberals actual press to advance the values and promises of democracy.

Equality under the law for women, people of color and LGBTQ citizens is not “activism.” it is justice – albeit delayed and incomplete.

Fighting for voting rights is not a partisan game. It is fighting for the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Attempting to protect the rights to reproductive health autonomy against an onslaught of religious objections is not a “liberal” position. It is an effort to honor the founding of our pluralistic republic by keeping the hands of theology off the bodies of women.

It is dangerous to see this nomination or the broader issues as just equally valid points of view.

Opinion | The Democrats’ Midterm Dilemma – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“One of the few people to really see Donald Trump coming was the University of Chicago economist Luigi Zingales, who warned way back in 2011 that American politics was going the way of his native Italy, that we could easily produce our own version of Silvio Berlusconi, and that Trump was an obvious candidate to bottle the celebrity-populist-outsider cocktail.

So Zingales’s advice to Democrats after their 2016 defeat carried more weight than the average act of punditry. On the evidence of Berlusconi’s many victories and rare defeats, he argued, the best way to beat Trump was to do exactly what many liberals understandably didn’t want to do — to essentially normalize him, to treat him “as an ordinary opponent” rather than an existential threat, to focus on issues rather than character debates, to deny him both the public carnival and the tone of outraged hysteria in which his brand of politics tends to thrive.”

I haven’t forgiven Ross yet for his creepy column supporting right to life laws in Ireland, that have caused great pain and suffering to the poor and middle classes of Ireland. See Maureen Dowd’s report that same Sunday.

But his basic warning here is sound and important. “So Zingales’s advice to Democrats after their 2016 defeat carried more weight than the average act of punditry. On the evidence of Berlusconi’s many victories and rare defeats, he argued, the best way to beat Trump was to do exactly what many liberals understandably didn’t want to do — to essentially normalize him, to treat him “as an ordinary opponent” rather than an existential threat, to focus on issues rather than character debates, to deny him both the public carnival and the tone of outraged hysteria in which his brand of politics tends to thrive.” “

Trump Hacked the Media Right Before Our Eyes – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“But the liberal establishment’s fixation on Facebook’s 2016 sins — first the transmission of fake news and now the exploitation of its data by the Trump campaign or its appendages — still feels like a classic example of blaming something new because it’s new when it’s the old thing that mattered more. Or of blaming something new because you thought that “new” meant “good,” that the use of social-media data by campaigns would always help tech-savvy liberals and not their troglodytic rivals — and the shock of discovering otherwise obscures the more important role that older forms of media played in making the Trump era a reality.

No doubt all the activity on Facebook and the apparent use of Facebook’s data had some impact, somewhere, on Trump’s surprise victory. But the media format that really made him president, the one whose weaknesses and perversities and polarizing tendencies he brilliantly exploited, wasn’t Zuckerberg’s unreal kingdom; it wasn’t even the Twitter platform where Trump struts and frets and rages daily. It was that old pre-internet standby, broadcast and cable television, and especially TV news.

Start with the fake news that laid the foundation for Trump’s presidential campaign — not the sort that circulates under clickbait headlines in your Facebook feed, but the sort broadcast in prime time by NBC, under the label of reality TV. Yes, as media sophisticates we’re all supposed to know that “reality” means “fake,” but in the beginning nobody marketed “The Apprentice” that way; across most of its run you saw a much-bankrupted real estate tycoon portrayed, week after week and season after season, as a titan of industry, the for-serious greatest businessman in the world.”

David Lindsay Jr. Hamden, CT Pending Approval
Atta boy Douthat, as my father liked to say, You’re not as dumb as you look.

The commenters tear at your arguments on the periphery, and some them make good points, but the heart of your argument is impeccable. I hope the TV executives and managers and talking heads are taking notes.

im·pec·ca·ble NYT, why is there no spell check in this writing box. Help us out.

Speaking Ill of Hugh Hefner – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“No doubt what Hefner offered America somebody else would have offered in his place, and the changes he helped hasten would have come rushing in without him.

But in every way that mattered he made those changes worse, our culture coarser and crueler and more sterile than liberalism or feminism or freedom of speech required. And in every way that mattered his life story proved that we were wrong to listen to him, because at the end of the long slide lay only a degraded, priapic senility, or the desperate gaiety of Prince Prospero’s court with the Red Death at the door.

Now that death has taken him, we should examine our own sins. Liberals should ask why their crusade for freedom and equality found itself with such a captain, and what his legacy says about their cause. Conservatives should ask how their crusade for faith and family and community ended up so Hefnerian itself — with a conservative news network that seems to have been run on Playboy Mansion principles and a conservative party that just elected a playboy as our president.

You can find these questions being asked, but they are counterpoints and minor themes. That this should be the case, that only prudish Christians and spoilsport feminists are willing to say that the man was obviously wicked and destructive, is itself a reminder that the rot Hugh Hefner spread goes very, very deep.”

Well said, Ross Douthat.

The Health Care Cul-de-Sac – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“This goes for both parties: not only the stepping-on-rakes Republicans, but the suddenly single-payer-dreaming Democrats. If Obamacare repeal is really dead for the year 2017, both left and right have a chance to shake their minds free of the health care debate and ask themselves: What are the biggest threats to the American Dream right now, to our unity and prosperity, our happiness and civic health?

I would suggest that there are two big answers, both of which played crucial roles in getting a carnival showman who promised to Make America Great Again elected president. First, an economic stagnation that we are only just now, eight years into an economic recovery, beginning to escape — a stagnation that has left median incomes roughly flat for almost a generation, encouraged populism on the left and right, and made every kind of polarization that much worse.

Second, a social crisis that the opioid epidemic has thrown into horrifying relief, but that was apparent in other indicators for a while — in the decline of marriage, rising suicide rates, an upward lurch in mortality for poorer whites, a historically low birthrate, a large-scale male abandonment of the work force, a dissolving trend in religious and civic life, a crisis of patriotism, belonging, trust.”

Ross is mostly right. There are bigger issues to address. It is time to moveon.org.

An Elusive Immigration Compromise – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“The last time Gallup asked Americans if they thought immigration to the United States should increase or decrease, 35 percent chose a decrease, 24 percent an increase, and 38 percent preferred the present rate. Support for increasing immigration has been rising for a decade, but it remains relatively low. To the extent that there is a middle-ground position, it is for something like the status quo.

From polling like this you would imagine that recent immigration reform efforts would have worked in that middle space, trying to tweak the mix of new arrivals without increasing the immigration rate. But instead, most recent attempts at a “comprehensive” bill have sought not only amnesty for illegal immigrants, but an increase in low-skilled immigration, above the already brisk post-1960s pace.

Bipartisan bills dramatically at odds with the shape of public opinion are generally bad for both parties. And sure enough, the attempts at immigration reform under George W. Bush and Barack Obama helped give us both a much-reduced Democratic Party and a G.O.P. helmed by Donald Trump.”

A Trump Tower of Absolute Folly – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“Donald Trump’s campaign against his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, in which he is seemingly attempting to insult and humiliate and tweet-shame Sessions into resignation, is an insanely stupid exercise. It is a multitiered tower of political idiocy, a sublime monument to the moronic, a gaudy, gleaming, Ozymandian folly that leaves many of the president’s prior efforts in its shade.

Let us walk through the levels of stupidity one by one. First there is the policy level — generally the lowest, least important in Trumpworld, but still worth exploring.

To the extent that any figure in the Trump administration both embodies “Trumpism” and seems capable of executing its policy ambitions, it is Sessions, who is using his office to strictly enforce immigration laws and pursue an old-school law-and-order agenda.”

Brilliant Ross Douthat, just brilliant.

Here is a top comment I found interesting>

Mark

Connecticut 6 hours ago

I’m a board-certified psychiatrist who has worked extensively in the forensic arena. I have evaluated many people for age-related mental compromise. I have watched videos of Trump from years ago (interviewed by Chris Matthews and many others) and watched and listened to him over the last few years. It’s clear to me that Trump’s cognition and judgment have progressively declined, and his utterances are those of a compromised individual. Your article amply demonstrates Trump’s lack of logic, poor judgment (defined as the ability to foresee the consequences of one’s actions), and his poor impulse control. His immature and mindless blather is filled with moment-to-moment contradictions and semantic mantras of repetition (“Believe me” or “beautiful”) indicating an inability to think and speak coherently. While he has not had a major “stroke” I am certain he has not-so-subtle indications of vascular compromise that would show up on brain scans. Aside from his severe personality defects, he is cognitively and emotionally compromised by virtue of organic brain changes, and the 25th Amendment would be an appropriate remedy.

A Conspiracy of Dunces – by Ross Douthat – NYT

 

“Here is a good rule of thumb for dealing with Donald Trump: Everyone who gives him the benefit of the doubt eventually regrets it.This was true of clients and contractors and creditors throughout his business career. It was true of the sycophants and opportunists before whom he dangled cabinet appointments during the campaign and then, oh, never mind. It has been true of his cabinet members and spokesmen, whose attempts to defend and explain their boss’s conduct are gleefully undercut by the boss himself. And it should be true — for the sake of their souls, I sincerely hope it’s true — of the Republican leaders whose reputations for probity and principle he has stomped all over since winning their party’s nomination.

And now it’s true of me.”

David Lindsay

Hamden, CT Pending Approval

Atta boy, Ross Douthat. As my father liked to say to me, “You’re not at dumb as you look.”