Protecting (and expanding) “Identity Politics” For a Democratic Comeback


Image result for trump rally

Pictured: not identity politics, I guess


The way to win again is not to buy into the “identity politics” formulation. It is to remind the white working class that only one party protects them from the worst of Trumpism and Ryanism.

Continue reading

Politico Confirms That Nothing Matters

Image result for politico

Hey, did you think the media might be reflecting on how they essentially enabled a white nationalist know-nothing wildly corrupt strongman by normalizing his insane flaws while focusing on 1) emails, and 2) the horserace? Well, fuck you, because they haven’t. They’ve gone even further to accept Trump’s essential distortions. 

Continue reading

How Democracies Die

Lawyers, Guns, and Money has a guest post up today by by Valerie J. Bunce, the Aaron Binenkorb Chair of International Studies at Cornell University, and Mark R. Beissinger, the Henry W. Putnam Professor of Politics at Princeton University on how democracies die. Read it

There are three pieces to the puzzle of why and how democracies fail. The first involves public opinion. In Russia, for example, growing public worries about crime and social disorder, economic collapse, and national security paved the way for the rise of a leader who promised political order, economic growth, and strong government—in short, making Russia great again. In many instances of democratic collapse, there was a decline in tolerance, as publics grew more polarized, more locked into their own views and into networks of like-minded people, and more distrustful of and angry at each other and the government. There was a thirst for new styles in politics, flamboyant rhetoric, and a willingness to gamble. Citizens voted for change; they did not vote to end democracy.

The second piece is dysfunctional political institutions. Just as the rise of Victor Orbán in Hungary was preceded by the collapse of the party system, so too was the rise of Hitler and Mussolini foreshadowed by prolonged parliamentary paralysis. In failing democracies, public trust in political institutions declines, and government can no longer fulfill the basic tasks expected of it. In the American case, there is ample evidence of such trends—from the Republican obstruction and gridlock in Congress to repeated attempts to shut the government down. Little wonder that trust in Congress has plummeted to the mid-20 percent level since 2010.  Mistrust of government is contagious, poisoning democratic processes. Echoing Trump’s rants about a “rigged system,” nearly a half of all registered voters believe that voter fraud occurs somewhat or very often in the United States, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

The final piece of the puzzle is the role of politicians in terminating democracy. As Nancy Bermeo reminds us, it is political leaders that end democracy, not angry publics or dysfunctional institutions. But how leaders have taken down democracy has changed over time. During the interwar years and the Cold War, democracy tended to end through military coups or declarations of national emergency. By contrast, contemporary would-be autocrats have played a more subtle game, undermining democracy from within. Claiming to have the support of the people (and therefore the right to use all means necessary to defend the nation), they use legislation, appointment powers, and informal interventions to whittle away at checks-and-balances, the rule of law, and civil liberties.

I don’t think we’re capable of recognizing, broadly, through out institutions, just how much damage is being done so quickly. The media, the other branches of government, the public at large: we’re too sprawling and unwieldy and atomized. It’s frighteningly easy for this swirl to be harnessed and this vacuum to be filled.

Racism is in Sessions!


Image result for jeff sessions

“Now, I may just be a simple country bigot…”


Remember all the “give Trump a chance” people? They’re wrong.

President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Senator Jeff Sessions, a conservative from Alabama who became a close adviser after endorsing him early in his campaign, to be the attorney general of the United States, according to officials close to the transition.

Jeffery Beauregard Sessions is the closest thing the Senate has to an open racist; as it is, he’s just-barely buried it under the thinnest veneer. But he is, at heart, a race man, and it is clear what Trump’s animating governing principle will be: cater to white anger and white backlash.

Sessions was rejected as a US attorney for being racist. But he’s gotten everyone back. Thanks to Trump, and the economic anxiety he’s trying to fix.

Government By Absurd Declarations


Image result for chaplin great dictator

Inside Trump Towers

When you have a President who doesn’t really want to be President, and a cabinet that looks to be made up of grotesqueries, and no one who really has any idea what they are doing, how do you rule? Through absurd declarations, and an attempt to bend reality through sheer force of megaphoned fiat.

Mr. Trump shot back at critics last night: “Very organized process taking place as I decide on Cabinet and many other positions,” he wrote on Twitter. “I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!”

First of all, if you take the second sentence literally, that’s terrifying, since this is a man who probably couldn’t tell you what, exactly, the Secretary of Education does (“the best educating”). And the first sentence is clearly false, as reported in the  Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, etc. It’s bloodletting underpinned by personal vendetta and seemingly run by Jared Kushner, who’s emerging as one of the true villains of these dumb times.

So where does that leave us? With a cult of personality-based con, where Trump thinks if he says something it should be taken as real. I mean, hellfire, it worked in the campaign. But now he has the levers of power. It’s a terrifying reality.

I’m working on a long piece about fighting back in an absurd and truthless age. Hopefully by Friday.