Sunday, April 3, 2016
Started to work on this, then got so waylaid by allergies my brain
froze up. Of course, trying to write about whether Trump is a fascist
is a question that begs so much backtracking it's easy to get lost.
Worth noting here that the Wisconsin primary is Tuesday. Cruz has
long been favored over Trump and Kasich: the latest 538 poll averages
are 44.1-32.1-21.4%, and since it's mostly winner-take-all Trump is
likely to fall short of the delegate count to stay on track for a
first ballot win -- so expect some pundit talk about Trump stumbling,
but Trump is a lock for a big win in New York on April 19, and has
a good chance of scoring his first greater than 50% win there (538's
poll average is 52.1-24.0-21.8%, with Cruz second and Kasich third).
More interesting is the Democratic primary, which 538 still gives
to Clinton, but the poll averages have narrowed to 48.8-48.6%, with
Sanders leading in five of the seven most recent polls. At this point
I expect Sanders to win there, but it won't be a landslide. 538 is
still showing Clinton with a huge lead in New York, 61.0-37.0%, but
the last two polls there have Clinton +12 and +10, a far cry from the
71-23% outlier 538 still factors in. Clinton also has big leads in
the other April primaries (65.9-30.5% in Pennsylvania, 70.6-27.0% in
Maryland); also in California and New Jersey on June 7.
Some scattered links this week:
Steve Coll: Global Trump:
Trumpism is a posture, not a coherent platform.
[ . . . ]
Trump hasn't indicated that he would definitely pull out of treaty
commitments to Europe and Asia. He seems to think that his threats and
his pleas of poverty will soften up allies so that, once in the White
House, he can close some of those great deals he often talks about. For
"many, many years," he told the Times, the U.S. has been the "big stupid
bully and we were systematically ripped off by everybody," providing
military security without adequate compensation.
Like a hammer viewing everything as a nail, Trump desperately wants
to reconceive foreign relations as something that can be fixed by a
flamboyant and shrewd deal maker -- i.e., by himself. He reminds me
of a guy who was brought in to become CEO of a troubled company I used
to work for. The company had racked up massive losses over several
quarters, staving off bankruptcy only because they had sold a lot of
bonds a few years earlier -- they didn't need the bonds but sold them
"because they could" and just sat on the cash until they burned it all
up. Anyhow, this new CEO (I don't even remember the name now) had the
huge ego you get in jobs like that, so the first thing I decided to do
was to renegotiate all of the company's supplier contracts, just because
he figured he was a better negotiator than his predecessor. Turned out
that he never successfully renegotiated a thing: all he did was piss off
suppliers the company was already in arrears to, companies that no longer
saw us as viable long-term customers. America isn't in as bad shape as my
company was, but if Trump follows through and tries to shake down traditional
allies, he's not likely to net much other than bad will. (Japan, for instance,
pays us for defense because it's a pittance compared to our trade deficits.
Maybe they'll pay a bit more, but the US market isn't what it used to be,
nor is the US commitment to defend them.)
Coll has a pretty rosy view of American military spending abroad --
surprising for someone who's mostly covered the Middle East for the last
Trump also argues that reduced defense spending abroad would free up funds
for investment at home. We do need to rebuild bridges, airports, railways,
and telecommunications. But defense spending isn't stopping us from doing
so; the problem is the Republican anti-tax extremists in Congress, who
refuse to either raise revenues or take advantage of historically low
long-term interest rates. In all probability, the U.S. can afford its
global-defense commitments indefinitely, and an open economy, renewed by
immigration and innovation, should be able to continue to grow and to
share the cost of securing free societies. The main obstacle to realizing
this goal is not an exhausted imperial treasury. It is the collapse of the
once-internationalist Republican Party into demagoguery, paralysis, and
That, of course, is pretty much the Clinton position, one that argues
that America is still great, has never been anything else. Such platitudes
are baked into the Belt Area foreign/security policy professional class.
They even seep into
Stephen M Walt: No, @realDonaldTrump Is Not a Realist.
Tierney Sneed: How Trump Ticked Off Anti-Abortion Groups by Trying to
Prove His Creed: So Trump commits this gaffe, realizes his error
(or more likely has it pointed out to him), and walks it back within
In practical terms this should be treated as a wash -- like a muons
which appears in a high-energy burst then vanishes within microseconds --
except that I think it shows two things:
For months, the major concern the anti-abortion movement had with Donald
Trump was that he was too wobbly on the issue. But on Wednesday, Trump
staked out an abortion position so extreme that he blew up years of
abortion foes' careful messaging.
Trump's remark at an MSNBC town hall that an abortion ban should carry
a punishment for women who seek out the procedure sent anti-abortion
activists immediately scrambling to correct the damage.
"Mr. Trump's comment today is completely out of touch with the pro-life
movement and even more with women who have chosen such a sad thing as
abortion," Jeanne Mancini, the president of March for Life Education and
Defense Fund, said in a statement rushed out about an hour after Trump's
remarks were first broadcast. "No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a
woman who has chosen abortion. This is against the very nature of what we
- Trump understands the logic of the anti-abortion movement, which is
about little more than punishing women (for sexual licentiousness, or
getting raped, or just being poor), much as he understands punishment
as the essential means of disciplining errant children and other rabble.
No doubt being a major league misogynist helped Trump on this score.
- The much alleged "political correctness" police on the left are pikers
compared to those who dictate orthodoxy on the right: the latter turned
Trump around in hours, whereas Trump held firm on his assertions that
"Mexicans are rapists" and his embrace of support from the KKK and
outright Fascists. Sure, one might argue that this proves that the
offenses he held firm on reflected deeply held beliefs, whereas his
anti-abortion stance was never more than pure political opportunism.
But I doubt he has any bedrock beliefs beyond his obsessions with
the media spotlight and making money off that.
Here's How a Republican Is Supposed to Answer That Abortion Question
Trump Flubbed, which shows how Ted Cruz handled the same question.
See, Donald? That's how you do it. When someone asks you about abortion
penalties after the overturn of Roe, here's what you do:
You attack the questioner.
You attack the media.
You attack Barack Obama.
You tell them what a swell pro-life person you are.
You do everything except answer the question.
Olivia Ward: Is Donald Trump actually a fascist? I'll add that leftists
like myself are hypersensitive to fascist airs, and apply the label broadly
to any right-winger who threatens violence, glories in empire, and/or seeks
to reverse liberal progress (which they often decry as decadence and decay).
Trump loosely qualifies, but so does Cruz and Kasich and most Republican
activists, especially anyone who thinks America enjoyed a golden age under
Calvin Coolidge or William McKinley (or Jefferson Davis). What makes Trump
seem exceptional is the way he draws the sort of people who historically
have supported fascism: racists, xenophobes, ultra-nationalists, those
who want to use state power to enforce religious morality, those who hate
unions, those who are contemptous of democracy (and other people), those
who are prone to violence and hung up on patriarchy, those who feel the
need to follow a charismatic and forceful leader. So it's not so much that
Trump started out as a fascist as that by style and temperament he's been
anointed as the Führer of the fascists, a role he hasn't shirked.
Susan Sarandon Lives in a Very Small World: A not-very-smart critique
of the "scandal" caused when Sarandon said that some Sanders supporters
won't vote for Clinton against Trump, and that her own view was "I don't
know. I'm going to see what happens." I wrote more about this piece then
tore it up. Two points are that Sanders' popularity shows that there is
much more quasi-left in America than anyone gave us credit for, and that
transitioning from voting for one candidate who wants changes you want
to another one who wants to defend the status quo (or somewhat mitigate
the damage the goons on the other side are plotting) isn't likely to be
smooth or automatic: perhaps if Clinton wins the nomination she should
campaign for Sanders' supporters instead of veering to the right so to
come off as slightly saner than Trump or Cruz, assuming everyone else
will fall in line. At any rate, it's premature to worry about Sanders'
supporters breaking ranks. As for the ad hominem attacks about Sarandon
"living in a very small world," I think her political engagement is
admirable and far-sighted, showing much more awareness of other people
than is common in her tax bracket.
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