Opinion | What Is Trump Playing At? – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

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Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“As newspapers and media across the country and around the world reported Joe Biden’s victory and Donald Trump’s defeat in last week’s election, Trump himself — along with his Republican allies in Congress, including the entire Senate majority leadership and the Republican House minority leadership — remained defiant.

I queried a number of American historians and constitutional scholars to see how they explain what should be an inexplicable response to an election conducted in a modern democracy — an election in which Republican victories up and down the ballot are accepted unquestioningly, while votes for president-elect Biden on the same ballots are not.

Many of those I questioned see this discrepancy as stemming from Trump’s individual personality and characterological deficiencies — what they call his narcissism and his sociopathy. Others offer a more starkly political interpretation: that the refusal to accept Biden’s victory stems from the frustration of a Republican Party struggling to remain competitive in the face of an increasingly multicultural electorate. In the end, it appears to be a mixture of both.

Many observers believe that the current situation presents a particularly dangerous mix, one that poses a potentially grave danger to American democracy.

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Jonathan Gienapp, a professor of history at Stanford and the author of “The Second Creation: Fixing the American Constitution in the Founding Era,” noted by email that there have been close, contested elections in the past,

But none of these earlier examples featured what we see now: a completely manufactured controversy based on no evidence whatsoever, purely to maintain power, and to overturn a legitimate election.

In this context,

Trump’s refusal to concede and his congressional allies’ refusal to object to what he is doing is indeed most dangerous. If it continues to be given oxygen, it’s hard not to think that there could be lasting damage to the republic.

This, Gienapp concluded, “is what rot looks like.”

James T. Kloppenberg, a professor of American history at Harvard, responded to my inquiry with a broad overview, worth quoting at length:

Trump’s refusal to acknowledge defeat is unprecedented. Yet it is consistent with everything he’s done throughout his life, so it should not surprise us. While political scientists often focus on institutions and political practices, democracy, where it exists, rests on deeper cultural predispositions that are harder to see. Unless a culture has internalized the norms of deliberation, pluralism, and above all reciprocity, there is no reason to concede to your worst enemy when he wins an election, nor is there any reason to acknowledge the legitimacy of opponents.

It is just these underpinnings of democracy that Trump threatens, especially now:

Norm-busting has been Trump’s modus operandi from a very early age, so to expect him now to conform to democratic norms is unrealistic. Conceding defeat is a tradition consistent with the ethic of reciprocity: you admit defeat, move on, work with those you disagree with, and try to win the next election. Establishing those norms is the work of centuries, not decades. The colonies that became the United States had been at it since the 1630s. By 1787 those cultural pillars were already in place.

Trump’s behavior, Kloppenberg argues, is the culmination of long-term developments within Republican ranks:

Many conservatives considered the New Deal a repudiation of the laissez-faire dogmas they claimed were written into American life. They were wrong about that, as a generation of progressives had shown for decades before FDR’s election. But from Goldwater and Reagan through Gingrich to the present, many Republicans have viewed deviations from what they consider the gospel of free-market capitalism as heresy. Of course there has never been anything remotely resembling a free market in the United States. State, local, and federal governments were involved in daily life from the nation’s first days. But the fantasy of unrestrained capitalism has endured, as has the strategy of condemning as ‘un-American’ anyone who dares suggest otherwise. Given Trump’s four years of hate-mongering and his stubborn refusal to acknowledge reality, his behavior since the election is to be expected — and criticized as the direct challenge to democracy that it is.

Opinion | What if Beating Trump Is the Easy Part? – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Jeff Swinger/Associated Press

“In the short term, should Joe Biden win the election and move into the White House, he would take office with a Democratic Party unified in its opposition to all things Trump. The question is how long would that last before leaders of every liberal interest group circling the new administration begin to get restless.

In answer to this question, Carter Eskew, a top strategist on Al Gore’s 2000 campaign, wrote by email that

Biden became a unity candidate in response to an overwhelming, almost feral desire to limit Trump’s damage to one term. When Trump leaves, Democratic unity, I fear, may be close behind. Unlike Republicans who have essential agreement around economic and social policy, our Party has fissures on many fundamental issues.

Danger signs for a Biden presidency are already emerging. Different factions within the Democratic coalition will have competing demands: Last week, Black lawmakers — led by Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi — called on Biden, if victorious, to appoint an African-American as secretary of the Treasury, “complicating,” as Axios put it, “prospects for establishment women — like Lael Brainard, Janet Yellen and Sarah Bloom Raskin — to become the first female Treasury secretary.”

Another source of potential division: corporate elites and the donor class versus the reform left: Raúl Grijalva, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Katie Porter, along with organizations like the Communications Workers of America, Our Revolution, Indivisible and the Progressive Change Campaign, called on the Senate on Oct. 16 to reject “any nominee to an executive branch position who is currently or has been a lobbyist for any corporate client or c-suite officer for a private corporation,” putting them in conflict with much of the affluent Democratic establishment.

Biden will take office under immediate pressure to address internal Democratic battles over a broad range of topics, including, to name just a few, mass incarceration, immigration reform, denial of asylum seekers’ rights, constraints on evictions, the politics of utility shut-offs, defunding law enforcement and the logistics of mandatory vaccination.”

DL: Further on, someone points out that getting rid of the filibuster will create new problems for the Democrats.

Opinion | Five Things Biden and His Allies Should Be Worried About – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York Times

“There are at least five reasons Joe Biden’s consistent lead over Donald Trump does not guarantee him a lock on the White House.

First, there are indications that Trump’s base of support — whites without college degrees — is more energized and committed to voting this year than key Democratic constituencies. And there is also evidence that polling does not reflect this.

Second, Latinos, who are key to the outcome in several crucial states — Arizona and Florida, for example — have shown less support for Biden than for past Democratic nominees. Many Hispanic voters seem resistant to any campaign that defines them broadly as “people of color.”

Third, absentee voting is expected to be higher among Democrats than Republicans, subjecting their ballots to a greater risk of rejection, a fate more common to mailed-in votes than to in-person voting.

Fourth, the generic Democratic-Republican vote (“Would you be more willing to vote for a Republican or Democratic candidate for Congress?”) through early July favored Democrats by more than 10 points, but has since narrowed to 6 points.

Fifth, the debates will test Biden’s ability to withstand three 90-minute battles against an opponent known for brutal personal attacks.

There are other factors — such as the possibility that the Republican Party will conduct an effective voter suppression drive, or that Trump and his advisers will contrive new mechanisms to pave the way to victory.”

Opinion | Voters Seem to Think Biden is the ‘Law and Order’ Candidate – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

“On Feb. 20, Time magazine asked Henry Louis Gates Jr, the director of the Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research at Harvard, about America’s “missed opportunities for racial equality.”

Gates replied:

One of the most dramatic shifts to the structure of the African-American community has been the doubling of the Black middle class and the quadrupling of the Black upper middle class since 1970.

Gates was drawing attention to the fact that from 1995 to 2017, the number of Black Americans with advanced degrees — Masters, Ph.D., M.D. or J.D. — tripled, going from 677,000 to 2.1 million. Over the same period, the percentage of Black adults with college degrees more than doubled, from 11 to 24 percent.

William Julius Wilson, a University Professor at Harvard and the author of “The Truly Disadvantaged,” made a related observation in 2017:

One of the most significant changes in recent decades is the remarkable gain in income among more affluent blacks. When we adjust for inflation to 2014 dollars, the percentage of Black Americans earning at least $75,000 more than doubled from 1970 to 2014, to 21 percent. Those making $100,000 or more almost quadrupled to 13 percent (in contrast white Americans saw a less striking increase, from 11 to 26 percent).

These gains have not been restricted to affluent Black Americans.

Since 1966, two years after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the percentage of African-Americans with incomes below the poverty line has been halved, from more than 40 percent to 20.8 percent in 2018.

Decades of defamatory rhetoric from Donald Trump — as both citizen and president — notwithstanding, Black America is doing vastly better than it was before the advent of the civil rights movement.”

Opinion | The Politics We Don’t See Matter as Much as Those We Do – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Corey Lowenstein/The News & Observer, via Associated Press

“Some of the most important developments in politics do not happen every election cycle, but every ten years, when politicians scrap the old battleground map and struggle to replace it with a new one more favorable to their interests.

Steven Hill, a former fellow at New America, described how this works in his still pertinent 2003 book “Fixing Elections: The Failure of America’s Winner Take All Politics.”

“Beginning in early 2001, a great tragedy occurred in American politics,” Hill wrote. As a result of that tragedy, “most voters had their vote rendered nearly meaningless, almost as if it had been stolen from them” as “hallowed notions such as ‘no taxation without representation’ and ‘one person, one vote’ have been drained of their vitality, reduced to empty slogans.”

Hill was referring to “the process of redistricting” that he argued was legalized “theft” engaged in by “the two major political parties, their incumbents, and their consultants,” which Hill said was “part of the everyday give-and-take (mostly take) of America’s winner-take-all politics.” “

Opinion | Why Do We Pay So Many People So Little Money? – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Brittany Newman/The New York Times

“With notable abruptness, thanks to the advent of the coronavirus, much of the public has become aware its dependence on hospital orderlies, cleaners, trash collectors, grocery workers, food delivery drivers, paramedics, mortuary technicians, and postal, shipping, maintenance, wastewater treatment, truck stop and mass transit employees — on what, to many, had been a largely invisible work force.

As Tony Powell, a 62-year-old hospital administrative coordinator, told Molly Kinder, a fellow in the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, in a taped interview in May:

People are not looking at people like us on the lower end of the spectrum. We’re not even getting respect. That is the biggest thing: we are not even getting respect. Nobody is listening to their voices. Maybe they’ll wake up and see: Oh, these are the people that are actually taking care of the people that need to be taken care of.

A paper published that same month, “The Declining Worker Power Hypothesis,” by Anna Stansbury and Lawrence H. Summers, economists at Harvard, describes conditions on the bottom rungs of the job market:

The American economy has become more ruthless, as declining unionization, increasingly demanding and empowered shareholders, decreasing real minimum wages, reduced worker protections, and the increases in outsourcing domestically and abroad have disempowered workers — with profound consequences for the labor market and the broader economy.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Excellent research and writing, thank you Thomas Edsall. I propose we consider and try to implement a new employment tax that goes up as the unemployment rate goes up, and retreats as the unemployment rate goes down. The funds would help pay for a federal work program for every American that needs a job. One of the many benefits of such a tax and spend system, is that it would put pressure on companies and small business people to hire workers, since if they don’t, the tax goes up. Supermarkets that replace cashiers with robots would see their taxes go up, unless those workers quickly found other work.

Opinion | Trump’s Immigration Ban Is Straight Out of His Old Populist Playbook – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

“President Trump has chosen his pandemic re-election strategy. He is set on unifying and reinvigorating the groups that were crucial to his 2016 victory: racially resentful whitesevangelical Christiansgun activistsanti-vaxxers and wealthy conservatives.

Tying his re-election to the growing anti-lockdown movement, Trump is encouraging a resurgence of what Ed Kilgore, in New York magazine, calls “the angry anti-government strain of right-wing political activity that broke out in the tea-party movement” — a movement now focused on ending the virus-imposed restrictions on many aspects of American life.

Jeremy Menchik, a political scientist at Boston University, argues in a lengthy Twitter thread that

these protests have something for everyone: small-business, concerns for the working class, anti-elitism for resentful rural whites, fetishism of guns for NRA, dislike of government for traditional conservatives. It’s a crosscutting issue even amid a pandemic.

Menchik makes the point that anti-quarantine protests

will distract the electorate. If the election is a fight between Trump vs governors who refuse to open their economies, Trump doesn’t have to defend his record on Covid-19. He’s an advocate for liberty!

Studies of the 2009-10 Tea Party movement, Menchik writes, suggest that “continued protests will boost conservative turnout in Nov 2020.” The protests

will help frame the 2020 election as a choice between the pro-open economy Trump versus the Washington insider #BeijingBiden who is complicit in China’s efforts to hurt working class Americans.

Crucially, Menchik argues,

Continued protests will help Trump rebuild his coalition of 2016. Scholars of digital social movements emphasize a logic of connective action not collective action; where personalized content sharing across media networks enables coalition building.

Casting the coronavirus epidemic as a wedge issue, Trump is playing both ends against the middle, in an attempt to veil his own inconsistencies.    . . . “

David Lindsay:

Here are the top comments after this article, which, like the article,  are also amazing.

David Potenziani
Durham, NC
Times Pick

Mr. Edsall ably documents the fact that Trump is clever but not smart. He’s clever by driving wedges between groups and connecting his disparate supporters in the hope to flip a few states. If he were smart, he would have stepped up with leadership showing (feigned) sincerity, calm, and empathy for the plight of the American people, marshaling the resources to get testing on its feet, and driving forward for effective treatment and the promised land of a vaccine. He would have won. Maybe bigly. But all is not good in the land of Trump. The latest polls show erosion of support by seniors. GOP governors are breaking ranks with the leaders of their party. Most Americans fear the virus and want protection. Trump’s approach is purely political when a vastly different solution is needed. The lack of leadership will leave all areas in the lurch. Because COVID-19 respects no one, the epidemic will ravage every farm, hamlet, village, and town—everywhere. This was a challenge of leadership. Trump has failed. Tragically.

35 Replies907 Recommended

John commented April 22

John
Cleveland Heights
Times Pick

In addition to the groups described as comprising his coalition, Trump pulled together a number of single-issue voters who were willing to hold their noses regarding their general dislike for the man: anti-choice, anti-tax, anti-immigrant, anti-regulation, anti-Palestinian, etc. I hope that this pandemic has revealed that character matters. This is a guy who insisted on placing his name on stimulus checks as a decoration, a guy who lies shamelessly and gives himself a 10/10 for his performance on every issue, the kind of person who, if a character on a TV show, everyone would laugh at and find completely despicable and to be dismissed. I hope that these single-issue voters will come to their senses and see that Trump is not presidential material. Biden, despite his flaws, has a basic sense of right and wrong that one could appeal to. It would matter to Biden whether a given course of action was right or not. Trump completely lacks that. He does not even understand that. His desire to win at all costs and his lack of character are now completely laid bare. He has got to go.

24 Replies574 Recommended

alan haigh commented April 22

alan haigh
carmel, ny

Thank you pundits. Without your guidance Trump’s tactics would have seemed like love of America and the desire to lift the lot of working Americans to me. Every single Trump briefing on the pandemic has revealed such utter incompetence- such a complete inability to marshal a simple paragraph of information that if the voters bring him within a mile of another term, I suppose we will have the government we deserve. Cuomo’s detailed briefings provide a perfect contrast, revealing a thorough grasp of the data and what the consequences are for regular people. Night and day. Grammar school and graduate school. How can Trump be a champion for anyone who successfully graduated high school?

7 Replies495 Recommended

Joel Sanders commented April 22

Joel Sanders
Montgomery, AL

It’s interesting that the anti-shutdown protestors see themselves as, once again, giving the middle finger to the coastal elites but are actually being duped by conservative elites.

5 Replies415 Recommended

Tony Pious commented April 22

Tony Pious
Times Pick

Conservative working class whites fail to understand what wealthy conservative whites have always known. Government per se is not the enemy; government is merely the tool of the real enemy — Big Capital. That the Kochs and Mercers and DeVos’s of the world can fund astroturf campaigns and hoodwink blue colar whites into acting against their own interests is bald evidence of the primacy of money in American politics. What credulous working class whites fail to understand is that COVID-19 is a far greater threat to them than to the shadowy squintillionaires who bankroll their protests. So while they are coughing and hacking their way to an early grave the Kochs and Mercers and DeVos’s of the world are secure in the knowledge that their squintillions will isolate them from the havoc they wreak.

20 Replies409 Recommended

Stephen Csiszar commented April 22

Stephen Csiszar
Carthage NC

@David Potenziani He cannot even be bothered to pretend to feign sincerity, or anything else he lacks, like everything. He can however, continue endlessly to talk about himself. TV game show host making life-and-death decisions for hundreds of millions. Oh America.

329 Recommended

Mike N commented April 22

Mike N
Rochester

Our country is divided now into two camps but it isn’t even about ideology anymore. It comes down to one thing: those susceptible to the con, and those who aren’t. It’s not about ideology; it’s about gullibility.

24 Replies328 Recommended

Opinion | Covid-19 Is Twisting 2020 Beyond All Recognition – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

“Not only will the coronavirus crisis define Donald Trump’s legacy, it will determine whether or not he is a one-term president.

David Winston, a Republican pollster, summed up the situation in an email:

The country is not looking at what is occurring through a political lens. They are focused on the threat to their health and the country’s health and how that threat is being addressed.

Because of that, Winston continued, voters will judge the Trump administration by “the effectiveness of actions taken to address that threat, and get the country moving forward again,” making the question on Election Day “who does the country believe should be given the responsibility to govern.”

Crises can provoke extreme responses. The 2008-9 recession produced both Barack Obama and the Tea Party. On a grander scale, the Great Depression produced both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler.

No one is suggesting that the country is at such a point now, but, then again, no one suggested in January of 2015 that the country was on the verge of electing Donald Trump president.

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The current pandemic shows signs of reshaping the American political and social order for years to come.

March 10-15 NBC News/Commonwealth Fund poll asked 1,006 adults “How much do you trust the President Trump to provide information about the coronavirus epidemic?” A majority, 53 percent, said they either had no trust at all (40 percent) or little trust (13 percent). 30 percent said they either completely trust (16 percent) or mostly trust (14 percent) the president.

In another danger signal for Trump, the poll asked “how confident are you that the vaccine will be available to the American public at little or no cost” if a Democrat wins or if Trump is re-elected. Nearly two thirds said they were confident a low-cost vaccine would be available with a Democrat in the White House; half said they were confident with Trump in office for another four years.

Trump’s job approval ratings have risen in recent weeks, but Gary Langer, who conducts polling for ABC News, warned that the results of an ABC/Washington Post survey released on March 27 show that there are substantial risks to the president:

Trump’s overall approval rating drops among people who are more worried about catching the coronavirus, report severe local economic impacts, say their lives have been especially disrupted or know someone who’s caught the virus. He also has lower approval in states with higher per capita infection rates.

While some of those findings reflect the higher levels of infection with coronavirus in blue states, Langer wrote, “the results suggest that as the crisis deepens, the risks to views of his performance likely rise.”

On March 26, Pew Research released results of a survey that showed significant demographic and partisan differences in responses to the question “Has someone in your household lost a job or taken a pay cut as a result of Covid-19?”

Opinion | Trump Has His Sights Set on Black Voters – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Leah Millis/Reuters

“The Trump campaign is investing more money and resources in an attempt to attract African-American voters than any Republican presidential campaign in recent memory.

The drive includes highly visible television advertising, including an $11 million Super Bowl commercial, along with ad purchases in local black newspapers and on radio stations; “Black Voices for Trump”; storefronts in key battleground states; and a sustained social media campaign directed at black voters whose consumer, religious and demographic profiles suggest potential support, including on such issues as immigration, abortion, gender roles and gay rights.

For Trump, the effort became all the more crucial as the Super Tuesday primaries demonstrated Joe Biden’s strong appeal to black voters. Exit polls showed Biden winning 57 percent of the votes cast by African-Americans on Tuesday, 40 points higher than his closest competitor, Bernie Sanders, at 17 percent.

Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of the pro-Democratic BlackPAC and the affiliated nonpartisan Black Progressive Action Coalition, wrote in an email that Trump has already communicated with a large segment of the African-American electorate, although she disputes the effectiveness of Trump’s bid to win black support:

We’ve had a significant number of black voters tell us that they have gotten Trump ads on their social media platforms. That tracks with our recent poll where nearly 30 percent of those surveyed said that they had been contacted by the campaign.

Many Democrats and their liberal allies downplay the president’s efforts, arguing that not only is black support for the Democratic Party rock solid, but that animosity to Trump among minority voters has reached record highs. Democratic politicians and strategists who act on these assumptions do so at their own risk.”

Opinion | Does Anyone Have a Clue About How to Fight Back Against Trump’s Racism? – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“Can Democrats diminish the bigotry that Donald Trump has unleashed in this country?

Stung by the success of Trump’s anti-immigrant, racist campaign themes in 2016, left-of-center advocacy groups — think tanks, unions, progressive academics and Democratic consultants — are developing tools this year to counter the continuing Republican assault on liberal values, based on the optimistic assumption that the reservoir of white animosity is not so deep that Trump is assured re-election.

These efforts on the left challenge the long history of Republican success in exploiting race and a host of ancillary issues — crime, welfare, social disorder, family breakdown, homelessness — a history that includes Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972, Ronald Reagan in 1980, George H.W. Bush in 1988 and Donald Trump in 2016.

That history points to the relentless power of racial resentment in American politics. Despite polling that shows greater acceptance of racial equality, this issue is as potent a source of political strength for Trump today as it was for Nixon a half century ago.

There are myriad studies, as have noted (along with many others) that show the continuing effectiveness of race and immigration as wedge issues. These studies continue to appear at an alarming rate.”