Archive

November 17th, 2016

Stay angry America

    The ascendancy of Donald Trump is surprising, but it is not shocking. How could this have happened? Easily. We are not a society of angels. The poisons that Trump peddles have been loose in the land for a long time. For decades the Republican Party has played with this fire with increasing recklessness, until finally it surrendered to the ravaging flame. There was never anything "unimaginable" about the nasty anti-modern furies that carried this repulsive demagogue to the White House; more precisely, liberals appear to have suffered yet again from a failure of imagination. If our allegiance to the ideals of justice and equality and tolerance leaves us shocked at the persistent vitality of their opposites, then our idealism is parochial and naiive. This is a country of wildly different destinies, and the belief in equality does not make people equal: The unprecedented pace of change, the daze of historical acceleration in which we live, produces a sensation of insecurity, a terrible volatility, that often results in fear. Trump battened off working-class panic and white panic. He practices the politics of panic. He is not the first: There is a tradition of such politics in America. In the wake of its victory, we must attend to its causes. Why all this American panic?

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Should the world get ready for Secretary of State Bolton?

    Who will be America's next secretary of state?

    Several names keep popping up on the list to become the top U.S. diplomat in the wake of Donald Trump's victory Tuesday. They include Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and European history buff; Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Richard Haas, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former State Dept. official in the George W. Bush administration; and John Bolton, U.N. ambassador under Bush.

    Obviously, any one of these men - all veterans of the D.C. swamp Trump said he would drain - could be tapped. Corker, one Hill staffer says, was called out of a staff meeting to speak with Trump during the president-elect's visit to the Capitol on Wednesday; Haas briefed Trump on foreign policy last summer, though a source familiar with the Trump team says "Haas may be angling for the job, but it's not entirely clear."

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Resist Much

    This is a very dangerous man, our next president. Dangerous in his certitude about what he doesn’t know. Dangerous in his ignorance of history, his antipathy toward reading, his inability to sort fact from fiction. The last man to play things by the gut while in control of the world’s most powerful military left a mortal mess.

    But welcome, for now, President-elect Donald Trump. It feels, in much of the nation, like the death of a loved one — the sudden, unexpected kind. I haven’t felt this way since the nuns told our second-grade class that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Still, grief is an emotion that has little power in politics.

    A majority — well, not from the popular vote, which Hillary Clinton won — chose radical change over reasoned predictability. They’re going to get plenty of change, much of it chaotic and cruel. Those who think Trump can be contained, or trained by seasoned K Street hacks to act reasonable, are deluding themselves. He’ll do it his way.

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Repealing Obamacare looks easy; replacing it isn't

    The Republican-led Congress has voted at least 60 times in six years to repeal Obamacare. With Donald Trump in the White House and a Republican majority in both chambers of Congress, the next attempt may well succeed.

    But what would replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010? Throughout the campaign, Trump spoke of "erasing the lines," by which he meant letting insurers sell health plans across state lines to increase competition and decrease premiums. On Thursday, the president-elect's new website laid out a bare-bones health-care transition plan to do just that.

    It makes some sense. More competition, after all, usually leads to lower prices and better products as companies compete for a bigger share of the market. For Republicans, the benefit of increased competition is an article of faith.

    Except that, when it comes to the health-insurance market, the usual rules don't apply. What Trump and congressional Republicans propose wouldn't solve the problems that Obamacare was designed to fix. It might even return millions of Americans to the ranks of the uninsured.

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Putin knows working with Trump won't be fun

    In Moscow, many allies of President Vladimir Putin appeared to be in a festive mood after Donald Trump's victory in the U.S. presidential election. They aren't stupid, though: They know the gap between Trump's relatively pro-Russian rhetoric during the campaign and his actual policy may be "yuuuge." The celebratory noise is tactical -- an attempt to flatter Trump so he doesn't forget all the nice things he had promised Putin while he ran against that notorious Russia hawk, Hillary Clinton.

    The Kremlin will know if the tactic has worked when Trump picks his Cabinet, but chances are it won't work too well.

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Outsiders inexperienced about government must now take over a huge bureaucracy

    Tuesday's election results shocked the political professionals, the country and the world. As its true implications become clear, many people who thought they would be doing one thing for the next four years are now confronted with a stark and different future. This kind of cognitive adjustment is difficult for even the most levelheaded of individuals. Readers should offer empathy for those who must process this news the quickest.

    I am referring, of course, to Donald Trump and his transition team.

    While many commentators are lambasting the Clinton campaign for not reading the political moment better, the postmortems show that Trump's team was only marginally less surprised by the outcome. Bloomberg's Joshua Green and Sasha Issenberg report that "even on the eve of the election Trump's models predicted only a 30 percent likelihood of victory." Politico's Nancy Cook and Andrew Restuccia note a similar mind-set:

    "Many members of the 100-plus Trump transition team were surprised by the election results. Many privately expected the Republican to get lambasted at the polls."

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Identity politics couldn't clinch a Clinton win

    Many Democrats have believed that a coalition of minorities, millennials and single women would help create a new Democratic majority for years to come. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign was counting on it.

    But the "rising American electorate," as it's called, failed to carry Clinton across the finish line. It didn't even come close. According to national exit polls, among Latino voters she fell six points from President Barack Obama's numbers in 2012; she dropped five points each among 18-to-29-year-olds, unmarried women and African Americans. Together, these groups made up the same percentage of the electorate in 2016 as they had in 2012. Some of the battleground-state figures are even more striking. In Ohio, Clinton was 13 points behind Obama among 18-to-29-year-olds. In New Mexico, she fell 11 points among Latinos.

    Why did the Democrats' strategy fail so miserably? Ultimately, because they overestimated the strength of a coalition based on identity politics.

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I said Clinton was in trouble with Michigan voters. My fellow Democrats didn't listen.

    I was the crazy one. I predicted that Hillary Clinton was in trouble in Michigan during the Democratic primary. I observed that Donald Trump could win the Republican nomination for president. And at Rotary clubs, local chambers of commerce, union halls and mosques, I noted that we could see a Trump presidency. "That's Debbie, it's hyperbole, she is nuts."

    It's now our reality, and as Americans we need to understand why. My district reflects much of this country's diversity. Ann Arbor is a university- and start-up town. Ypsilanti is urban, and its issues mirror those of larger cities such as Detroit and Chicago. Dearborn is headquarters to Ford Motor Co. and has the largest Muslim population in the country. The "Downrivers" - a collection of communities south of Detroit - mean auto plants and manufacturing with strong union membership.

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Five myths about democracy

    Democracy is one of the most cherished features of our nation. But we have many misconceptions about what it is, how much of it we have, how it works and what place it occupies in history. Perhaps more than at any time in recent American history, democracy is now a subject of debate , as populist movements abroad and at home cause many to question the nature of the rule of the many. The United States has just finished one of the most divisive elections in recent history, and there is no sign yet that consensus is on the way. While we ponder last week's election, there are certain facts about democracies at large that are worth considering.

 

Myth No. 1: Voters are selfish.

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Dumb elites face the revenge of the deplorables

   President Trump. A handful of syllables still hard to get one's mind around. How on earth did this happen?

    There's no single reason. Any number of factors were involved, and it wouldn't have taken much for things to have turned out differently. If the Republican Party had been slightly less willing to be stolen by a populist demagogue; if James Comey and the Federal Bureau of Investigation hadn't waded in (twice) so clumsily; if Wikileaks hadn't supplied a constant stream of reminders about the hypocrisy and venality of the professional political class; if the professional political class had been a bit less hypocritical and venal in the first place; if any of these things and who knows what else had been different, then Trump the outrageous outsider might have lost.

    Still, two things seem to loom large. First, that Hillary Clinton was an objectively bad candidate. Second, that having chosen so poorly, Democrats came up with yet more ways to repel a large segment of the electorate. If I'd been asked to advise them on how to lose an election to a manifestly unqualified opponent, I'm not sure I could have been much help: They had it covered.

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