Politics Feed

Romney-Clinton Voters

An article in Politico discusses that future electoral success for Democrats should come from building bridges with those Romney voters who abandoned Trump for Clinton. I have been saying this sort of thing for months, as I've worried that the Democrats are missing the big opportunity before them.

Romney-Clinton voters are, generally speaking, college-educated suburban professionals: lawyers, doctors and businesspeople. They voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, but switched to Hillary Clinton in 2016. They abhor xenophobia, the alt-right and racists, but they also mostly socialize within their own race and they’re mostly white. They’re socially liberal but not obsessed with a political agenda. They value fiscal responsibility but also believe in investing in the future, especially education. They remain deeply worried about Trump’s qualifications, scared about his temperament and alienated by his misogyny and ties to extremists. For the first time in a long time, they’re willing to hear about and vote for Democrats.

For journalists and political operatives, these people are harder to romanticize. They lack the stirring, deeply ingrained Americana imagery of the Appalachian coal miner or the Rust Belt autoworker—a news story set against the backdrop of a paralegal’s research library or a suburban office park simply doesn’t feel as compelling.

But if you want to see the future of the Democratic Party—and if you want to understand how Democrats can win back a congressional majority—then it’s important that you pay attention to a group of voters who might cut a less evocative image than their Obama-Trump counterparts, but whose support of Democrats could cause the GOP to collapse.


What the opposition needs

This article in Salon criticizes liberals for thinking there will be an easy Trump backlash, as the special election in Montana went for the violent bully as well.  But the author contends the left is focused on the wrong things, something I've been saying this year.  In fact, I've said almost this exact sentence, "My position is that Donald Trump is a symptom of the fundamental brokenness of American politics, not the cause."  

He concludes:

For the Trump resistance to have meaning, it must be more than the handmaiden or enabler of a political party that has lost its power, lost its voice and lost its way. Electoral victories will come (and go), but we should have learned by now that they are never sufficient in themselves. Rebuilding and redeeming American democracy — if that can still be accomplished — is a much bigger job, and there are no shortcuts.

Fortunately, there are many on the right who also opposed Trump and believe the same thing, that he is a symptom of a far more serious problem with our society.  We can work together with those folk to repair the social fabric and moral character of our democracy, that is the most important project at the moment.  I find 2017 to be a great time for bipartisan cooperation in opposition the the national catastrophe of Trump.


Dreams & Politics

It is precisely because the social world provides raw materials for private dreams that dreams can help us to think about society. Dreams are not, in other words, an escape from reality, but rather another way of thinking about what ‘reality’ in social and political life actually means.

A provocative essay on Aeon about American dreaming.


On Liberty

On Liberty, Utilitarianism and Other EssaysOn Liberty, Utilitarianism and Other Essays by John Stuart Mill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was reading On Liberty from this collection, the first time I've read this classic work. I'm surprised I didn't read it in high school or college, when it's message about individualism would have been more inspiring. At my current phase in life, I have a more community-based approach to ethics.

Mill's views seem naive in retrospect. His ideal of individual liberty does not address systemic problems of poverty, racism, etc. So many of his ideas, on the left when written, would resonate with some members of the right at the moment.

Mill also possesses the naivete so common in post-Enlightenment liberalism that education would solve most problems by teaching people to be rational and pursue their best interests. He believes that over time as the truth of things is revealed, people will come to more agreement. Clearly this has not happened. He underestimates brute forces and ignorance. He underestimates the power of the majority to undo the progressive politics he advocates. He does not foresee Trump.

I've never been a big fan of Mill. He was clearly influential in his time and is important to the history of liberal democracy, but I believe there are more sophisticated thinkers in that history. I don't care for his book Utilitarianism and chafe whenever I have to teach it. His Metaphysics is a joke, in my opinion. I don't think that Mill's work will remain in the canon long term.

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Church's loss of influence

One of my responses  after the election of Trump was that his election signified the loss of influence of the Christian church, particularly if someone so immoral and whose views were antithetical to the faith could get elected, then we had lost our influence even more than we realized.

In the most recent Atlantic, an article by Peter Beinart gives support to that thesis, while also showing wider cultural trends.

Whereas it has long been claimed that a more secular society will be more tolerant and liberal and will avoid the culture wars, that does not seem to be true.  People who aren't active in church are more likely to hold extreme, polarizing political views.  Beinart writes, "As Americans have left organized religion, they haven’t stopped viewing politics as a struggle between “us” and “them.” Many have come to define us and them in even more primal and irreconcilable ways."

He discusses how non-church going religious conservatives were the core of Trump's supporters, that non-church going liberals split with church-going liberals over Hillary and Bernie, and that Black Lives Matter doesn't work within the traditional church as previous civil rights movements have.  Beinart concludes:

Maybe it’s the values of hierarchy, authority, and tradition that churches instill. Maybe religion builds habits and networks that help people better weather national traumas, and thus retain their faith that the system works. For whatever reason, secularization isn’t easing political conflict. It’s making American politics even more convulsive and zero-sum.


Immigration Policy

When I was a Republican, one thing I was proud of was that we were the party of free trade and open borders.  Ronald Reagan had granted legal status to undocumented immigrants living here.  And one of the main reasons I voted for George W. Bush in 2000 was his goal of reforming immigration.  In fact, the guest worker program he and Vincente Fox negotiated in the summer of 2001 is still the policy which I support.  It would have made it legal for people to move freely back and forth across the border in order to find work.  This should be our policy.  A border wall smacks of Soviet policy.  I thought Obama didn't go far enough with his immigration policy, that his deportations were excessive, and the detainment camps for children were morally repugnant. These ICE raids of recent days look like an authoritarian state.  I reject the immorality of our national laws on immigration and the worsening moral corruption of this administration.


Moderation

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"Moderation is a generally misunderstood virtue," writes David Brooks in his discussion of the moral character of Dwight Eisenhower (a previous blog post explored some other elements of this discussion).  "Moderation is not just finding the mid-point between two opposing poles and opportunistically planting yourself there."  

"On the contrary," he writes, "moderation is based on an awareness of the inevitability of conflict."  Moderates don't think the world can be fit neatly together.  Brooks adds, "If you think all moral values point in the same direction, or all political goals can be realized all at once by a straightforward march along one course, you don't need to be moderate, either. . . Moderation is based on the idea that things do not fit neatly together."

So, a moderate must accept "that you will never get to live a pure and perfect life," because there will always be compromises between competing values.

Brooks uses the opportunity of discussing this virtue in relationship to Ike to give a warning to political leaders.  Be careful what you do because "the damage leaders do when they get things wrong is greater than the benefits they create when they get things right."  Ike is often criticized for what he didn't do.  Maybe there was a good reason?

Brooks also contrasts Ike's farewell with Kennedy's inaugural.  Ike spoke with humility about finding balance, while Kennedy challenged the nation to move forward with confidence.  Brooks concludes with something that sounds like a dire warning at this particular moment,

Like the nation's founders, [Ike] built his politics on distrust of what people might do if they have unchecked power.  He communicated the sense that in most times, leaders have more to gain from being stewards of what they inherited than by being destroyers of what is there and creators of something new.


Defeating Trump

I have been energized by the strong opposition to Trump from the Right, even the Far Right.  I've watched Republican college and high school friends--Southern Baptist pastors, mothers, Army guys--daily post their opposition to Trump

Which is one reason I'm worried that so much of the organized opposition is taking on a Leftward bent.  Now is the time to build grand coalitions that cross traditional ideological divides.  After twenty years of bitter partisan division, I actually hopeful for a new bipartisan consensus to develop in opposition to Trump.  At the current moment John McCain looks willing to lead.  Which, of course, may create a new partisanship and a new political alignment.  Or it may simply signal the civil war that is clearly underway in both parties between their centers and their extremes.

David Frum gives some advice for the opposition of how they need to be more effective.  I hope people will read his article.  One thing that has bothered me the last dozen years I've been on the Left is how often ineffective things are done.  The Right generally does think more strategically.  I, for one, am a pragmatist.