Today In Trumpsplaining
A couple of good pieces for your consideration, one from the right, the other from the left. First, from the right, here’s one by Trump backer John Kluge, a lawyer and veteran of two Mideast deployments. Excerpts:
Let me say up front that I am a lifelong Republican and conservative. I have never voted for a Democrat in my life and have voted in every presidential and midterm election since 1988. I have never in my life considered myself anything but a conservative. I am pained to admit that the conservative media and many conservatives’ reaction to Donald Trump has caused me to no longer consider myself part of the movement.
I would suggest to you that if you have lost people like me, and I am not alone, you might want to reconsider your reaction to Donald Trump. Let me explain why.
OK, let’s hear it.
[I]t doesn’t appear to me that conservatives calling on people to reject Trump have any idea what it actually means to be a “conservative.” The word seems to have become a brand that some people attach to a set of partisan policy preferences, rather than the set of underlying principles about government and society it once was.
Conservatism has become a dog’s breakfast of Wilsonian internationalism brought over from the Democratic Party after the New Left took it over, coupled with fanatical libertarian economics and religiously driven positions on various culture war issues. No one seems to have any idea or concern for how these positions are consistent or reflect anything other than a general hatred for Democrats and the left.
Lost in all of this is the older strain of conservatism. The one I grew up with and thought was reflective of the movement. This strain of conservatism believed in the free market and capitalism but did not fetishize them the way so many libertarians do.
This strain understood that a situation where every country in the world but the US acts in its own interests on matters of international trade and engages in all kinds of skulduggery in support of their interests is not free trade by any rational definition. This strain understood that a government’s first loyalty was to its citizens and the national interest. And also understood that the preservation of our culture and our civil institutions was a necessity.
All of this seems to have been lost. Conservatives have become some sort of schizophrenic sect of libertarians who love freedom (but hate potheads and abortion) and feel the US should be the policeman of the world. The same people who daily fret over the effects of leaving our society to the mercy of Hollywood and the mass culture have somehow decided leaving it to the mercies of the international markets is required.
Tell us more:
Third, there is the issue of the war on Islamic extremism. Let me say upfront that I am a veteran of two foreign deployments in this war. As a member of the 1% who have served in these wars which movement conservatives consider so vital, my question for you and every other conservative is just when the hell did being conservative mean thinking the US has some kind of a duty to save foreign nations from themselves or bring our form of democratic republicanism to them by force? I fully understand the sad necessity to fight wars and I do not believe in “blow back” or any of the other nonsense that says the world will leave us alone if only we will do the same. At the same time, I cannot for the life of me understand how conservatives of all people convinced themselves that the solution to the 9/11 attacks was to forcibly create democracy in the Islamic world. I have even less explanations for how — 15 years and 10,000-plus lives later — conservatives refuse to examine their actions and expect the country to send more of its young to bleed and die over there to save the Iraqis who will not save themselves.
Next, from the left, here’s a Trumpsplainer by Thomas Frank, author of What’s The Matter With Kansas? Frank begins by talking about how the chattering class talks constantly about how the reason for Trump’s success is RACISM. And Frank concedes that there is real bigotry in Trump’s campaign and among his supporters. But this fact, he says, justifies serious blindness on the part of outsiders. Excerpts:
Everyone knows it: Trump’s followers’ passions are nothing more than the ignorant blurtings of the white American id, driven to madness by the presence of a black man in the White House. The Trump movement is a one-note phenomenon, a vast surge of race-hate. Its partisans are not only incomprehensible, they are not really worth comprehending.
Or so we’re told. Last week, I decided to watch several hours of Trump speeches for myself. I saw the man ramble and boast and threaten and even seem to gloat when protesters were ejected from the arenas in which he spoke. I was disgusted by these things, as I have been disgusted by Trump for 20 years. But I also noticed something surprising. In each of the speeches I watched, Trump spent a good part of his time talking about an entirely legitimate issue, one that could even be called leftwing.
Yes, Donald Trump talked about trade. In fact, to judge by how much time he spent talking about it, trade may be his single biggest concern – not white supremacy. Not even his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border, the issue that first won him political fame. He did it again during the debate on 3 March: asked about his political excommunication by Mitt Romney, he chose to pivot and talk about … trade.
It seems to obsess him: the destructive free-trade deals our leaders have made, the many companies that have moved their production facilities to other lands, the phone calls he will make to those companies’ CEOs in order to threaten them with steep tariffs unless they move back to the US.
All this surprised me because, for all the articles about Trump I had read in recent months, I didn’t recall trade coming up very often. Trump is supposed to be on a one-note crusade for whiteness. Could it be that all this trade stuff is a key to understanding the Trump phenomenon?
Frank interviews a couple of labor leaders and researchers, who tell him that from what they see, the Trump phenomenon is driven by despair over the loss of good blue-collar jobs. Lots of blue-collar Democrats are backing Trump because they (rightly) see Hillary Clinton as a candidate of the kinds of trade deals that send their jobs overseas — which makes her no better than her GOP alternatives, save one. Frank says these are the kind of people the Democratic Party was supposed to help, before it became the party of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. More:
Yet still we cannot bring ourselves to look the thing in the eyes. We cannot admit that we liberals bear some of the blame for its emergence, for the frustration of the working-class millions, for their blighted cities and their downward spiraling lives. So much easier to scold them for their twisted racist souls, to close our eyes to the obvious reality of which Trumpism is just a crude and ugly expression: that neoliberalism has well and truly failed.