Wonks and Trump

Back in July, I wrote that if and when Republicans, having worked their way through the 5 stages of Trump grief, came to accept him as their party’s standard bearer, I hoped that “they may well recognize that their ideological celebration of the rich and of demagoguery have delivered them precisely the candidate they’ve asked for.”

Republicans have worked their way through their grief — especially in the face of even more destabilizing Cruz grief, seem to be coming to grips with that their party seems poised to do.

The pundits who said it would never happen, however, are having a bit more difficult time.

Nate Cohn, still imagining a Marco Rubio (and not John Kasich, who’s the best polling non-nut right now) resurgence, is shocked that Republican leaders have helped Trump shore up his IA advantage, and with it chances he’ll get the nomination.

There’s still a lot of time before the caucuses on Feb. 1. The debate on Thursday could change things, as could the belated airing of attacks on Mr. Trump from Mr. Cruz’s allies. Mr. Cruz is also thought to have a considerable organizational advantage over Mr. Trump, who may be dependent on low-turnout voters.

But the increasing possibility that Mr. Trump will win the state — in no small part because of an improbable alliance with the party’s establishment — makes Mr. Trump’s path to the nomination far more plausible than ever before.

[snip]

Astonishingly, Mr. Trump’s attacks were successful in part because they were amplified by some of the G.O.P.’s most prominent leaders, like John McCain and Mitch McConnell. The chorus of opposition to Mr. Cruz didn’t end there; Terry Branstad, the six-term Iowa governor, said he wantedMr. Cruz “defeated,” and the former presidential nominee Bob Dole said he preferred Mr. Trump.

[snip]

A Trump win in Iowa could make it more difficult for a mainstream candidate, like Marco Rubio, to mount a comeback later in the season — even if the establishment does intend to fight Mr. Trump after dispatching Mr. Cruz.

Cohn points to Nate Silver for his judgment (including on whether the book The Party Decides has been disproven by Trump) that the GOP party is not so much backing Trump yet as it is working first to defeat

[I]t may be that Republicans think of Cruz as the more immediate threat, and then plan to turn around and attack Trump later. But that’s a high-degree-of-difficulty caper to pull off. For one thing, Trump, who’s in a much better position in the polls than Cruz in states after Iowa, could rack up several wins in a row if he takes the Hawkeye State.

[snip]

Things are lining up better for Trump than I would have imagined, however. It’s not his continued presence in the race that surprises me so much as the lack of a concerted effort to stop him.

And Jonathan Chait piles on, arguing with the others that his past predictions that Trump would go nowhere was based on the assumption that, “I didn’t think the GOP was suicidal.”

All three of these pundits are still missing the key part however (which carries over into Chait’s other badly wrong punditry). The reason Trump is winning this year (and the reason Bernie is competitive) is because the promises of the elite have gone undelivered for so long. It may be that the GOP is trying to accommodate to themselves to this, or still have plans to get save Rubio’s campaign. But ultimately, the GOP has no choice, because Trump proved immune (partly because of all the free press he has gotten, not to mention his own wealth) from their controlling mechanisms, but to let a man who exploited their own demagoguery exploit it one last time, because the master the GOP has been serving in its name — unrestrained capitalism — is not helping the high school educated white voters who make up the key part of Trump’s success. And yet, Trump’s voters like his authoritarianism, something else the GOP has encouraged more and more since 9/11.

The pundits are still looking at sacred fundamentals for their analysis, without considering that underneath them all are actual human beings who were bound, one day, to revolt over the undelivered promises.

The elite pundits are still operating — on the election itself, but also on health care and economic policy — on the assumption that no one will or is holding them responsible for their undelivered promises.

Update: I hope (well, actually, may reluctantly after much procrastination) return to this issue, but this great post hits at a lot of what I would also hit at on the pundits’ lack of awareness about the revolt over unfulfilled promises.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

10 replies
  1. ALBERT CHAMPION says:

    i have enjoyed your commentaries on the secret state and hidden history over the years.

    but, i am finding that your commentary on presidential aspirants lacks a similar intellectual vindictiveness.

    i would have thought that someone with your scalpel-like intellect would be indentifying all these aspirants as marionettes for the plutocrats[and the zionists].

    the electorate has no more a chance for remedying the final slide into totalitarianism[fascism, in my lexicon] with these aspirants than they have had since the end of ww2.

    you got very close to the reality of this electoral sinkhole in your exegesis of hannah arendt’s thoughts on totalitarianism.

    in a sense, i considered that a well-disguised indictment of the USA and the not very well hidden agenda of imposing totalitarianism.

    but, i think the time has come to really call a spade a spade. come right out and say that all the presidential aspirants are financially beholden to the banksters and are totalitarians.

    thank you for your consideration.

  2. omphaloscepsis says:

    On the discussion of Single Payer in the link in the Update — a long time ago, NBC ran a five part mini-series with Robert MacNeil interviewing C. Everett Koop.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._Everett_Koop,_M.D.

    The doctor may not have used the term “single payer”, but he advocated strongly for a single claims form. He quoted a lot of numbers about the sheer variety of forms due to the large number of insurance companies (mergers may have changed that by now). But mostly he talked about the waste in having to train or pay people to be able to fill out that many different forms. He decried the money spent on “health care” that had nothing to do with delivering medical services.

    And Dr. Koop was far from a “bleeding heart liberal”.

    He had much more to say on the state of health care in America, but who wants to listen to a common scold?

  3. Evangelista says:

    To forewarn you against walking into any swamps unaware,

    1. Donald Trump is not a Hut, he is a Correction. The longer the correcting is put off, the more radical correction will be needed, and demanded, and the more radical the Correction will be.

    2. Trumps voter base is not “high school educated white voters”, it is the ex-middle-class and still surviving middle-class, especially ex- and surviving small-business owners, and small-business-ownership dreamers. The self-reliant, of all education-levels, especially strong amongst white basically educated, self-educated and vocationally educated, and so commonly identified to them, is a significant Trump-voter co-demographic. but the ex-middle-class and surviving middle-class are who draw these along and give them inspiration, and so are the ‘head’ of the ‘beast’ that Trump’s success shows turning on its ‘elites’ masters.

    3. The reason Trump is “winning this year” is not “because the promises of the elite have gone undelivered for so long”. It is because the ‘elite’s’ swindling and cheating and manipulating has defrauded the loyal and believing who were members of their congregation, who swallowed the ‘elite’s’ gospel of self-reliance, independent-ownership, hard-work, no-hand-outs, reward-for-the-hard-worker, strive-to-get-and-get-to-keep-what-you-have-got, and so on. These are who have eschewed hand-outs, didn’t need unions, damned welfare, raged against food-stamps and voted solidly Republican, and, alas, bought up in housing, bought Roths and 401Ks, invested in markets, leveraged, ‘re-fi’d’ as instructed on TV to take advantage of equity-capital and so on. They are finding themselves manipulated out of everything and are perceiving themselves f–d out of all. All they worked-hard to earn, saved to have, invested to build, put away to be secure, etc., etc. They are realizing that thei ‘pastors’, who preached the ‘gospel’ they believed, are who screwed them, who led them, strung them, marked and pigeoned them.

    To add insult to their injuries, these once proudly independent, these Republican Party base and broad-support, who didn’t need anything from anybody, who glorified independent achievement, who loyally followed the Republican Party Elite , who they saw not as elite but as those ahead of themselves in the achievement climb, who hymned damnation at the behest of those elites, on food-stamp programs, welfare programs, hand-out-dependent charity-beggars, social-security solicitors, union-organizing socialist interferers and on and on, are finding themselves in need of what they condemned, having to beg and having to eat crow.

    They are very unhappy. They feel wronged, they feel angry, they feel dependent. They see no failure of delivery, they see themselves having been fooled, been made fools and been played for fools by those they admired, worshiped and trusted. They want back what has been stolen from them, they want ‘their’ country back to the ‘normal’ ‘ideal’ they believed in. That is what they are demanding of Trump. A start toward that is what Trump has been promising.

    A return to isolation, American self-reliance, American independence, all the ‘foreign’ out, will, form the loss-of-faith point forward will be a best-case result. Trump might be able to manage it. He does have self-control and intelligence. Sanders, at this point, looks unlikely to be able to, since his messages are complaints, not calls for actions, and he is not actually intelligent, only educated. This does not mean Sanders is equivalent to GW Bush and Obama, because he is not educated-but-stupid, as they are.

    According to history the next stage, if a Trump stage fails to materialize, or fails to produce results that produce improvement or inspire the electorate to see possibility for improvement, will include slaughters, especially if accompanied by economic collapse. Review not the French Revolution, but the period before, from the death of Louis XIV to the death of Louis XVI, and the period from Versailles publication to the end of the Republic in 20th century German history. The respective Revolution and Reichs Rise are only the products the histories produced.

    • galljdaj says:

      The first portion of your analysis omits the main reason why the promises have not been fulfilled, i.e., greed driven acquisition has run out of ‘targets’ and is now feeding on ‘everyone’.

    • wayoutwest says:

      It’s refreshing to read some analysis here about Trump and his supporters not based on fear and ignorance. I read that 20% of his supporters view themselves as liberal or moderate and 60% earn $50K+ a year so even if they are less formally educated they are smart enough to be successful.

      I doubt that Trump’s election will dramatically change the direction we are headed but he might keep us from instigating an apocalypse where the much more authoritarian and incompetent HRC seems to want to push that button. Sanders has a barely controlled temper that reveals his authoritarian tendencies when it slips its leash and his foreign policies are Imperialist so there is no telling where he might go during a crisis.

  4. scribe says:

    The Reagan Democrats are finding out – or will, when Trump loses one way or another – that the Country Club Republicans never liked them, never wanted them, and only put up with tickling them under their chins to get their votes so they could enrich themselves.
    .
    However this turns out – Trump losing in the primaries or in the general – it’s going to get quite, quite fugly.

  5. bloopie2 says:

    On point: This article about how Pat Buchanan, 20 years ago, foreshadowed the populist tack Trump is taking now. One of Buchanan’s advisers: “[S]ooner or later, as the globalist elites seek to drag the country into conflicts and global commitments, preside over the economic pastoralization of the United States, manage the delegitimization of our own culture, and the dispossession of our people, and disregard or diminish our national interests and national sovereignty, a nationalist reaction is almost inevitable and will probably assume populist form when it arrives. The sooner it comes, the better.” Absolutely spot on, two decades later.
    .
    http://theweek.com/articles/599577/how-obscure-adviser-pat-buchanan-predicted-wild-trump-campaign-1996

  6. lefty665 says:

    Our founders institutionalized mixed capitalism that harnessed the energy of capitalism and restrained the excesses through a government elected by the people. It worked pretty well for a long time, but has failed. The monopolization of wealth as we have increasingly embraced Reagan’s “Gub’mint is the problem not the solution” has done its dirty work. Unrestrained capitalism is doing what it does best, enrich a very few and impoverish the rest.
    .
    We had the opportunity to change direction back towards balance in 2009, but Obama chose to abandon Change and instead chose to use veto proof majorities in Congress to embrace Same. One result has been 8 more years of concentration of wealth and failure to thrive for the majority of the country. Another that the voters having seen their mandate for Change fail have tried another way, but with even poorer results from an increasingly Republican Congress. This presidential cycle the swings are larger with incrementalist candidates failing to thrive.
    .
    Our mixed capitalism model has failed, corrupted by the rich. Sanders at least has the issue right. Whether he is the right vehicle to resurrect the balance our founders established between capitalism and the people is a separate question. Between Trump and Sanders we will shortly see how the Parties respond. So far the Repubs appear to have a clearer sense that more Same is a disaster.

  7. Casual Observer says:

    “I hoped that “they may well recognize that their ideological celebration of the rich and of demagoguery have delivered them precisely the candidate they’ve asked for.””

    I can’t help but repeatedly return to how GOP’s current ideology is a great example of political evolution, giving them a noticeable advantage over Democrats. Democrats are just as bought as Republicans (and the war against Sanders shows this) but they are hindered by this vestigial ideology that speaks to things like concerns for the poor, or withering of the middle class, or that a government must actually be functional, etc. etc.

    In contrast, the GOP’s ideology has evolved into a species that’s perfectly suited–and much more efficient–in doing the bidding of corporations and to pipeline the money. Just stating the obvious I know, but I’m still amazed by it as a great example of cultural evolution.

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