Where is the GOP’s sense of self-preservation?

With the firing of Comey this week, we’ve seen yet another cycle of Trump doing something simultaneously alarming and stupid that’s left the entire country reeling. As always, part of this cycle includes cries for the GOP to recognize the horrors of his actions and actually do something about them. And again, as always, we get a few timid protests from the typical sources (Graham, McCain chief among them), but for the most part the GOP falls in line and lets Trump do whatever the hell he wants. At some point, this cycle has to break, though.

Here’s what I really don’t get. Trump’s poll numbers are in the shitter, and have been for some time. Nor are they showing any sign of changing direction. The GOP’s polling numbers are similarly weak, and their policies are not popular, as we’re seeing in vivid detail with AHCA. By continuing to suck up to Trump, they are not doing themselves any favors. If things keep going the way they are now, even with all the advantages gerrymandering and political-party-as-tribe have given them, the 2018 mid-terms are going to be a bloodbath for them. At what point do they recognize this and course correct?

My recommendation to Republicans would be to take the Comey firing as an opportunity to drop actual legislation (such as health care) that’s going to be a sure loser in the long run, and focus attention on Trump and the cavalcade of corruption that surrounds him. They would get to preen for the cameras for the next several months and stand up for America, all while letting the memory of healthcare reform fade away. With the weight of Fox News et al behind them, I have no doubt they could push Trump out of office. Unless he’s implicated too, Pence should come into office with more public support than Trump has, and they can return to their normal agenda. All this may still be putting party before country, but it will at least be less blatant.

Self-sealing

What Keeley is referring to here includes what’s come to be known as conspiracy theory’s “self-sealing” characteristic: if evidence against the conspiracy theory comes from a new source Y, the theory expands to include Y as part of the conspiracy. This self-sealing property is key to how global warming denialists have come to believe that vast majority of the world’s climate scientists are involved in perpetuating a “hoax,” as Donald Trump has called it. “As a result of this process,” Keeley writes, “an initial claim that a small group of people is conspiring gives way to claims of larger and larger conspiracies.”

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The Idea of America

The idea of America has been at the heart of our success in the world for 70 years. For all our imperfections, we have embodied political and economic openness, respect for human dignity and a sense of possibility. The power of our example has mattered more than the power of our preaching, and enlightened self-interest has driven our strategy.

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Because you won’t go away

The Washington Post: After a day of marches, Trump asks why people are still talking about his taxes

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Here’s why:

  1. You’re the damn president now, and we need to know how much your own policies are about enriching yourself (I’m guessing a lot). You’ve given us very little reason to trust you, and lots of reasons not to.
  2. You filed for reelection the day you were inaugurated. 2016 may be over, but 2018 and 2020 are coming. You’re president in a democracy, not King of America.
  3. We know you’re hiding something.

A quickie

I tend to think of Nixon’s second term as “Watergate break-in, yada yada yada…Nixon resigns.” But there were two years between those events. I continue to hope that Trump will meet a similar end, but even if we follow a similar timeline, we’re not even through the first “ya.”

Ugh. 

Fire, BAA-AD!

Really good piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today on the state of US politics today, although I do have some criticism. A couple key paragraphs are below. You can see the charts in his piece, but they basically show a couple cases where Democrats have stayed pretty consistent over the years, while Republicans have radically changed.

It also explains how Trump was able to tramp all over traditional conservative ideology in the primaries and still emerge victorious. He understood when no else did that loyalty to that ideology was an inch deep among the GOP base, and that the true unifying force was resentment. Even now, with the incompetence of the Trump administration on full display, and after a clear betrayal of his anti-elitist campaign promises, he retains significant conservative support based on his unrivaled ability to outrage liberals. He is proving once again that people will vote even against their own self-interest as long as their resentments are validated and appeased.

And on and on it goes. When you marvel at Republican inability to formulate coherent policy on health care, on Syria and the Middle East or any other issue, I again refer you to the charts above. For decades now, the centerpole of conservative thought has been to oppose liberal thought. As a result, when put in a position to enact policies of their own, they have none. It’s like a drunk who has spent all night leaning against a lamppost for support. Take away the lamppost, and he collapses.

My primary criticism with this piece is that it’s initially framed as a look at the “growing divide” in US politics. This is of course a refrain you hear a lot, but I don’t think it’s right. When people talk of the political divide in America today, that always implies some kind of equal division— as if for every step Republicans take to the right Democrats are also taking a step to the left. Look at those charts, though. Wherever Democrats stand on the left/right scale, they are more or less holding steady. Republicans, on the other hand, are lurching further and further away.

There’s also an offhand reference in the article to “a media culture that conservatives find increasingly antagonistic and dismissive, and often, I’ll admit, for very good reason.” (emphasis added) This seems to imply that conservatives are justified in their resentment of the media, as if their own behavior has had no role in driving the antagonism they claim to see.

Let me put it this way— with the rise of Trump, you will sometimes find references to “principled Republicans.” John McCain occasionally plays one of these on TV, at least in the sense that most people think of when they use that phrase. However, based on the continuing support of Trump by the Republican party, the only principle they have is “GOP good! Democrats bad!” I guess it fits on a bumper sticker, so they have that going for them.

Trump’s trail of tears

I’m assuming this is more or less how the whole “Let’s bomb Syria!” thing went down.

INT. White house

DONALD TRUMP is sitting with several aides discussing recent events in Syria. There is a loose pile of documents and photos on the table in front of them.

AIDE #1

We have an update on Assad’s recent chemical attack. There are some indications‑‑

TRUMP

Oh my god, are these babies?

AIDE #1

Sir?

TRUMP

That photo. Are those babies who were hurt in the bombing?

AIDE #1

Yes, sir. Current reports are that there were seventy or more casualties, most civilian.

TRUMP

(Starting to weep)

But they’re just babies!

AIDE #1

Yes, sir.

TRUMP

But‑‑ but that’s horrible! Babies!

TRUMP’s eyes well up with tears as he stares at the photos. There is a moment of silence as if everyone around the table is holding their collective breath. Then TRUMP suddenly bursts into tears, wailing inconsolably.

TRUMP

No! They’re babies! How can this happen? And that one! That one! I can’t believe it!

AIDE #1

Sir?

TRUMP

Look how hot that one’s mother probably is!

TRUMP continues to wail, while everyone else looks uncomfortable. TRUMP starts slowly beating his head on the table.

AIDE #2

Sir? If I may make a suggestion? Sir?

The AIDE tentatively puts his hand on TRUMP’s shoulder. TRUMP lifts his head. His face is streaked with tears and he has snot bubbling out of his nose.

TRUMP

What?

AIDE #2

Perhaps we could bomb them?

TRUMP

(Still sniffling, but this idea clearly brightens his mood)

Really?

AIDE #2

Yes, sir. This is America. It’s what we do.

TRUMP

Could we bomb them a lot?

AIDE #1

Well, let’s start small and see how it goes.

TRUMP

Can I watch it on TV?

AIDE #1

Uh, sure.

AIDE #2

This is America.