From Robert Reich: http://robertreich.org/post/179577644425
Oct. 30, 2018
Demagogues rarely commit violence directly. Instead, they use blame, ridicule, fear and hate – and then leave the violence to others. That way, they can always claim “it wasn’t me. I don’t have blood on my hands.”
Of the tens of millions of Americans that the Trump-Fox News regime has made fearful, only a small percentage – say, a hundred thousand – have been moved to hate the objects of that fear.
And of those hundred thousand, only a relative handful – say, a few thousand – have been motivated to act on that hate, posting loathsome messages online, sending death threats, spray-painting swastikas.
And of that few thousand, a tiny subset, perhaps no more than a hundred or so, have been moved to violence.
But make no mistake: This lineage of cause and effect begins with Trump and his Fox News propaganda machine.
Politicians and media moguls have long understood that fear and hate sell better than hope and compassion, no matter how much we might wish it otherwise. But before Trump, no president had based his office on it. And before Fox News, no major media outlet had based its ratings on it.
Ronald Reagan stoked racism by bashing “welfare queens” and George W. Bush by airing campaign ads featuring “Willie Horton,” but fear and hate weren’t the centerpieces of either presidency.
The two political operatives behind these campaigns bear mention, though: Lee Atwater, who had also been chairman of the Republican National Committee and a senior partner at the political consulting firm of Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly (yes, that Manafort and that Stone); and Roger Ailes, who went on to create and run Fox News.
Atwater and Ailes premised their careers on fear and hate. Ailes’s Fox News monetized fear and hate through phantom menaces like a “terror mosque” near Ground Zero, Barack Obama’s alleged connections to black nationalists and Muslims, and Sarah Palin’s fictitious “death panels.”
Trump took Atwater and Ailes to their logical extremes – building a political base by suggesting Obama wasn’t born in America; launching his presidential campaign by warning of “criminals” and “rapists” streaming across the Mexican border; and ending his campaign with an ad suggesting that prominent Jews — billionaire philanthropist George Soros, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Fed Chair Janet L. Yellen — were in league with Hillary Clinton to control the world.
Continue reading at: http://robertreich.org/post/179577644425
Oct 25, 2018
After Democrats lost the 2016 presidential election, a certain conventional wisdom congealed within the pundit class: Donald Trump’s success was owed to the Democratic abandonment of the white working class and the party’s emphasis on identity politics. By failing to emphasize a strong economic message, the thinking went, the party had ceded the election to Trump.
That explanation ignored the uncomfortable fact that Trump’s economic vision was centered on a politics of white identity, charging that immigrants and unqualified minorities were obtaining advantages the average white American could not claim. That left his opponents with a choice: Contest that vision, or let him attack those groups uncontested. In the meantime, Trump’s administration has seen that economic message almost entirely subsumed by the focus of congressional Republicans on tax cuts for the wealthy and plans to shrink the social safety net. But even as the message has shifted, there hasn’t been a corresponding erosion in Trump’s support. The economics were never the point. The cruelty was the point.
Nevertheless, among those who claim to oppose identity politics, the term is applied exclusively to efforts by historically marginalized constituencies to claim rights others already possess. Trump’s campaign, with its emphasis on state violence against religious and ethnic minorities—Muslim bans, mass deportations, “nationwide stop-and-frisk”—does not count under this definition, but left-wing opposition to discriminatory state violence does. (A November panel at the right-wing Heritage Foundation on the threat posed by “identity politics,” with no apparent irony, will feature an all-white panel. )
But the entire closing argument of the Republican Party in the 2018 midterm elections is a naked appeal to identity politics—a politics based in appeals to the loathing of, or membership in, a particular group. The GOP’s plan to slash the welfare state in order to make room for more high-income tax cuts is unpopular among the public at large. In order to preserve their congressional majority, Republicans have taken to misleading voters by insisting that they oppose cuts or changes to popular social insurance programs, while stoking fears about Latino immigrants, Muslim terrorists, and black criminality. In truth, without that deception, identity politics is all the Trump-era Republican Party has.
Trying to scare white people is an effective political strategy, but it is also an effective ratings and traffic strategy. Trump’s ability to manipulate the media through provocation and controversy has been effective precisely because covering those provocations and controversies provides news outlets with the ears and eyeballs they crave. Trump considers the media “the enemy of the people” only when it successfully undermines his falsehoods; at all other times, it is a force multiplier, obeying his attempts to shift topics of conversation from substantive policy matters to racial scaremongering. The tenets of objectivity by which American journalists largely abide hold that reporters may not pass judgment on the morality of certain political tactics, only on their effectiveness. It’s a principle that unintentionally rewards immorality by turning questions of right and wrong into debates over whether a particular tactic will help win an election.
From The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/31/opinion/the-great-center-right-delusion.html
By Paul Krugman
Oct. 31, 2018
What’s driving American politics off a cliff? Racial hatred and the cynicism of politicians willing to exploit it play a central role. But there are other factors. And an opinion piece by Hertel-Fernandez, Mildenberger, and Stokes in today’s Times (which is actually social science, not opinion!) seems to confirm something I already suspected: misunderstanding of what voters want is distorting both political positioning and public policy.
What the authors of the piece show is that congressional aides grossly misperceive the views of their bosses’ constituents; this is true in both parties, but more so of Republicans. What they don’t point out explicitly is that with the exception of A.C.A. repeal, Democrats err in the same direction as Republicans, just less so. Specifically, both parties believe that the public is to the right of where it really is.
An aside on A.C.A. repeal: I wonder what’s really going on here. Lots of polling suggests that voters overwhelmingly want protection for pre-existing conditions and subsidies to help lower-income Americans afford insurance — that is, they want the substance of the A.C.A., even if they say they disapprove of the law. So I’d take this result with a grain of salt: Democrats may not be as wrong here as it appears.
Anyway, what I’d really like to see are comparable surveys of other groups — say, political analysts for major media organizations. Why? Because I suspect we’d see a similar result: people who opine on politics also imagine that voters are farther to the right than they really are. What I’m suggesting, in other words, is that there’s a shared inside-the-Beltway delusion: that America is a conservative, or at most center-right nation, a view that isn’t grounded in reality.
It’s true that Republicans, who are increasingly a far-right party, have been more than competitive politically, controlling the White House, the House of Representatives, or both for all but four of the past 24 years. But this owes a lot to a tilted playing field — they only won the popular vote for president once over that stretch, and can hold the House even when Democrats get a lot more votes.
And it also reflects a political strategy in which Republicans run on anything but their policies. Trump’s frantic attempt to make next week’s election about scary brown people rather than health care or tax cuts is cruder and uglier than anything we’ve seen for a long time, but it’s not fundamentally out of character. Bush the elder ran against Willie Horton. Bush the younger ran on national security. Their actual policies, not so much.
In fact, we got an object lesson in the dissonance between G.O.P. electioneering and public preferences in 2004-5. Bush made it a national security election, with a tinge of culture war; as I used to joke, he ran as the enemy of gay married terrorists. Then, with victory under his belt, he proclaimed that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security. He didn’t.
Continue reading at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/31/opinion/the-great-center-right-delusion.html