The collapse of the American media’s political coverage is yet another phenomenon of the Trump era. Sixteen years after the Iraq War started, seventeen years since reporters parroted Condoleeza Rice’s smoking crater nonsense about WMD, the press is no better at covering people who lie to their faces. Most reporters, I assume, have never interviewed a sniveling, humor-immune racist like Stephen Miller. We remain wedded to the norms of journalism school: we still teach variants on “While some people say this sofa is soft, others say the cushions are harder and denser than the surface of the moon.” I teach my students to trust their senses; they don’t need three source to confirm that chocolate is sweet. Continue reading
Inspired by Brenda Wineapple’s fine recent study of President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, Alex Pareene intertwines the similarities between Johnson and Trump’s voting bases, the political establishment’s fetish for moderation, and having the moral clarity to recognize what is at stake by leaving Trump in office for the sake of keeping his attention long enough to sign legislation.
I’ve written often about the snow job that teachers did on us high schoolers when we got to Reconstruction. Presented as a well-intentioned mangling that ushered in the so-called Gilded Age, Reconstruction was taught as if textbook writers had toiled at the bottom of the ocean to avoid dealing with the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts passed a century after the Civil War ended; if they endorsed those attempts to redress a hundred years of spilled blood, then a good faith argument required them to credit the Radical Republicans of 1866 and 1867 for wrenching leadership away from the racist demagogue in the White House whom Abraham Lincoln, in an attempt to woo War Democrats, had placed on the ticket a few years earlier.
The Radicals were right about nearly everything, and the moderates—who made a big show of caution and deference to the Constitution and generous accommodation to the office of the president—were plainly wrong. The ones who didn’t even have skin in the game but who wanted representation for those who did were correct to be fanatical in their pursuit of a more perfect country—and, more important, they were right about the baleful and regressive consequences of moderation in the face of extremist and reactionary unreason.
And any actually reasonable observer of American politics over the last several decades would have to conclude that it isn’t the diversity of one party that has led to gridlock. Rather, it’s been the brittle, homogeneous outlook of a conservative party that increasingly counts on a base that is overwhelmingly white and male—but, of course, anyone posing as a moderate interlocutor of good faith can blame their extremism on the diversity of the other side. “Radical liberals made me more racist” is, alas, not a remotely novel claim in American politics. Wineapple writes how, after Johnson angrily declared that “this is a country for white men, and, by God, as long as I am president it shall be a government for white men,” The Chicago Times—a reasonable Republican paper of the time—wrote: “If he used the language attributed to him, it was undoubtedly in reply to fanaticism and impudence.” In other words: The Radical Republicans made him do it.
We’ve heard variations on the last sentence from our Trump-loving relatives: if liberals didn’t push bathroom bills, paper straws, panic over rising seas, and an equitable health care system, I wouldn’t have voted for the racist!
In the last week we’ve heard testimony from career diplomats that in another era would have flipped a couple of querulous Republicans and instead will remind Americans which party cares about the Constitution. I waffled too on the political merits of impeachment; I’m no legislator. If Pareene is chiding Democratic leadership for abjuring its constitutional duties until early October, he’s not wrong, which makes the timing of this essay unusual.
One of the leitmotifs of this blog is reminding people that a political world existed before Donald J. Trump’s election in which conservatives were nabobs manipulated by the mountebanks they elected. “Personal freedom” meant “helping the wealthy avoid taxes.” Before they coined “religious liberty” in 2016, I dealt with “family values,” which meant “Abortions for the rich, sodomy if you can get away with it.” Continue reading
My little corner of the political junkie world went kerplooey twenty-four ago when The NYT published Nate Cohn’s story about Donald Trump beating every Dem candidate except Biden in battleground states. On the other hand a FOX News poll shows the top three candidates beating Trump in a range between five and twelve points. Continue reading
The hiring of Jamelle Bouie almost compensates for the continued presence of Brett Stephens. Continue reading
To argue for the existence of libraries because they provide books and free internet underestimates their capacities. Libraries also offer quiet. I’ve written about the centrality of public libraries in my life; I write this post from a table covered with a light dusting of pistachio crumbs at the Coral Gables Branch Library, where I’ve written hundreds of posts, reviews, and essays, and graded a few thousand examples of student handiwork. The hypercooled air coaxes out must, carpet shampoo, and a patron’s Subway lunch. It’s difficult to imagine anything else existing. Continue reading
in Nancy Pelosi’s New Yorker interview with David Remnick.
Earlier this week, Pelosi said, she took a call from Trump, who started out talking about guns. “The President, as you know, is big on what he claims is the charm offensive,” she said. “And some of his charm offensive is very offensive. He was calling me ostensibly to talk about guns, and I have to take him seriously if that is the purpose of the call. I welcome any overture to talk about gun safety. He was telling me progress was being made with his work with Democrats and Republicans. My point was, ‘I don’t know what Democrats you were talking to. We sent you a bipartisan bill over two hundred days ago, and that’s the way to save the most lives.’ ”
That was the first part of the conversation. “Then he somehow segued into what was happening now—that this phone call [with Zelensky] was ‘perfect.’ ‘When you hear this phone call, it was perfect.’ And I said, ‘No, it was wrong. . . . You understand your words weigh a ton. The words of the President of the United States weigh a ton.’ ” Pelosi told me that she doesn’t normally talk about calls with a President—“It’s a historic thing, a call between the President and the Speaker of the House”—but this was different.
A mocker of straight white men’s croakings of doom, I shared my own last Monday. Well.
Also, doing nothing to him for nine months has emboldened this child. I don’t want the next president to think soliciting foreign sources to help his election and profiting from his hotels is okee dokee. That’s my reason for supporting impeachment, and if the House votes on those articles, it’ll energize every lib I know. Savor the last point. I’m tired of watching pundits’ chins tremble in fear of Trump’s base. What about our base? It came out in November 2018. Should the Senate vote against conviction, or, worse, should McConnell refuse to hold a trial, the country will see an uproar from Democrats and the suburban fellow travelers who turned against the GOP last year that will make 2018’s turnout look like 2014.
Keep watching the polls. The speed doesn’t matter much to me (for now) because, elongated or accelerated, McConnell’s Senate won’t budge — unless, of course, the polls change.