Magnum Opus Secundum

So many themes, they get scattered and lose impact. It seems time to pull some threads together and knit a rope, or rather a hawser. Hawsers moor or tow ship and our ship of state needs lashing down before we have to tow it somewhere else.
There are many points of entry so I’ll pick the proximate one, comments by a professor of economics at the London Business School, Linda Yueh. She spoke this morning on the A.M. Joy show. The issue Joy Reid was discussing was the economics of Trump’s stance at the G7 meeting. Yueh took up the question of what one should do when the trade deficit is bad. Her answer was: sell more, not tax imports. To sell more you have to have good relationships. A normal president would get advice from his Cabinet and others. Joy interjected that Trump is free-lancing.

Yueh points out that under these conditions, the Chinese and the European Union benefit. Our allies are targeting farmers, pork producers, and the rust belt to pressure Congress, but that will not suffice. Trump is putting restrictions on investments into the U.S. Investments actually form the supply chain, they are the investments. Once those are disrupted, the economic damage is incalculable and such damage cannot be reversed, i.e. the supply chains cannot be rebuilt, they’re gone. The U.S. will be cut out of major supply chains (she used the example of Apple building its devices all over the world). But that is exactly what trade is, supply chains.

Dan Dicker of Oil jumped in to say that our situation is like that of the frog is water slowly coming to a boil. We won’t notice, not through the 2018 elections and probably not through the 2020 elections.

Yueh then threw in the next step in the process: the U.S. withdrawing from the World Trade Organization, resulting in other setting the rules of trade. We are then isolated.

Now my processing of this is that this may be just what Trump wants. As the “leader” of a beleaguered nation, he can claim absolute power and eventually appoint one of his family the next Great Leader, because by then elections will be a footnote in our history books.

To be continued (I’m taking my web guru’s advice so that my additions to this will pop up along with this original part at the top of the blog rather than sinking back to its original date of publication.

June 10. OK, I just did it, so we’ll see if this goes to the top of the chronological queue.

I just read in The Wise Men that congressmen and any politician in the 50s were completely hamstrung by McCarthy’s anti-communist hysteria. No reelection was possible without beating the anti-communist drum. We all know that that drum sounded through raucous sessions of school boards, county commissions, mayoral elections, law enforcement, and on and on, a Communist under every bed. So compared to that, we are not there yet. A good portion of the country thinks Trump is a disaster and that his supporters are looney.

The difference is that at the head of government then was Harry Truman. We had John Foster Dulles and other luminaries. It was the elected figures – leaving out the 4 year term President – who suffered, unable to do their jobs in the din of anti-communist craziness. Fox News has not yet matched that one senator in their ability to turn the country into a mass of screaming meemies.

Continuing…. Jonah Greenberg was interviewed by Norm Podhoretz on C-SPAN about his book Suicide of the West. I was prepared for the usual drivel about clashing civilizations and the preeminence of Christianity but got instead a very balanced view of how societies respond to capitalism. It is worth watching. I hope to get his book, although I think he expressed his ideas clearly in the interview.

June 12 Tomorrow we celebrate 54 years of marriage, my wife and me. She is writing her autobiography and I type up the recorded interviews done with her, so I’ve been wallowing in our past. Rough stuff. We keep picking ourselves up and trudging on and appreciative of the fact of no great tragedies like some folks suffer. But the trajectory of our country is a sad thing. We were jolted by the 2008 recession but Obama helped us all claw back. Then a large mass of people put into the executive position someone who brought up all the filth lying at the bottom of our national cesspool. We really should have known this would happen, given the Republicans’ unrelenting attack on American values in the name of their twisted view of what made and makes America great. For decades they’ve been fanning the flames of jealousy and envy, hatred and contempt, bigotry and ignorance, gleaning votes from people’s resentments and fears. What a oozing mess of filth the GOP has become. And now their ultimate triumph. We grasp for straws: Graham makes sense some times, McCain stands firm once in a while, Kasich is not deranged. And then Louie Gomert stands up a speaks, Jordan appears in his trademark white shirt, Gowdy calls another hearing on Bengazi, and the whole bunch forms a circular firing squad.

Listening to Steve Kornacki on MSNBC give primary election results tonight is like watching the infamous slow-moving train wreck. The Trumpsters are voting into top slots people who will be beautiful targets for Democrats, people like the sick puppy in Virginia who defends Confederate monuments and makes anti-Semitic statements. Neat. Republicans are looking at their Representatives’ races and seeing them having an uphill battle now that the Senate race is headed by Corey Stewart. Here are a couple of comments:

Brian J. Walsh, a Republican strategist who has worked on Senate campaigns, tweeted: “Can we just skip past the part where the media focuses on all the idiotic, racist & embarrassing things Corey Stewart will say & do the next five months and just acknowledge Tim Kaine won his re-election tonight. And he has Stewart voters to thank for it.”

“I am extremely disappointed that a candidate like Corey Stewart could win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate,” former Virginia Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling tweeted. “This is clearly not the Republican Party I once knew, loved and proudly served. Every time I think things can’t get worse they do, and there is no end in sight.”

Walsh is just looking at putting more Republicans in Congress to hand our wealth over to the trillionaires and undermine the institutions we fought King George to forge for ourselves. But Bolling has it right; a GOP that once stood up for our institutions and honored our aspirations and values has sold out completely and turned the country over to people we would not let in the building. And that is just what has happened. Millions of Americans who do not understand what a trade deal is, who will simple cry “fake news” when you tell them Mexico has been one of our top three trading partners for decades, who learned to scorn people of other countries even as they admit their total ignorance of those countries except for stereotypes, who sat in the back of the classroom drawing dirty pictures on their notebooks during Civics class and so were easily convinced that Obama was a tyrant. What else could a Black guy be? After all, he got where he was via affirmative action and wasn’t even born in this country. We all read it on the Internet.

Sadly for all of us, it will take a few years for Trump’s disasters to hit home as even your local Walmart shutters its doors and Starbucks brews its last cup. We can watch the Rich and the Famous cavort in foreign resorts, spending their money there but coming back here to suck more out of taxing the middle class too dense to have seen what was happening to them before it happened. Protest movements like White Lives Matter will spring up as the cops maintain order against angry mobs of unemployed people and magical cures will make a big comeback as hospitals and most medical services shut down.

Frankly, I have a hard time imagining the mass of Americans letting that happen. But if that Blue Wave does not materialize in November we must fear for 2020. Trump voters will never turn their backs on him and they will get more and more hysterical as their gurus and politicians rant against the dirty smelly foreigners polluting our fine Christian country. Scapegoats will abound: Mexicans, women, gays, Blacks, immigrants, non-Christians (including all those Jewish neo-cons and Desi conservatives like Dinesh D’Souza who think they are safe) and anyone else who can be Othered.

June 14 For those who have a weak grasp on the creedal nature of American citizenship, I suggest you watch Morning Joe. For example, this morning he had Mark Sanford on. Mark and Joe are flaming conservatives whose views I disagree with and oppose on issues. Their grasp of the principles of the creed of our country, of our Constitution, and of our normative traditions is sound. So if you style yourself a conservative, hear them out. They see their party, the GOP, shattered by its takeover by the Trump coalition to some degree, but they identify the real problem as conservatives who fear Trump and his coalition of no-nothings, fascists, racists, America-Firsters, demagogues, wannabe dictators, and authoritarians.

The latter group is worth unpacking b/c according to one figure, about 26% of the American population is authoritarian in orientation. That’s not authoritarian personalities, just an authoritarian orientation. These few lines from a Wikipedia article, Authoritarian Personali gives the flavor of the authoritarian orientation type of explanation for our current divide:

“Later, Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, and Sulloway (2003) have proposed that authoritarianism, RWA and other similar constructs of political conservatism are a form of motivated social cognition. These researchers propose that conservatism has characteristics similar to those of authoritarianism, with resistance to change, and justification for inequality as the core components. In addition, conservative individuals have needs to manage uncertainty and threat with both situational motives (e.g., striving for security and dominance in social hierarchies) and dispositional motives (e.g., terror management and self-esteem). Despite its methodological deficiencies, the theory of the authoritarian personality has had a major influence on research in political, personality, and social psychology.

The research on social cognition and motivation is continued by John Duckitt and Chris Sibley. They distinguish two different aspects of world views that lead to two different kinds of authoritarianism. A view of the social world as dangerous and threatening leads to right wing authoritarianism, while the view of the world as a ruthlessly competitive jungle in which the strong win and the weak lose leads to social dominance orientation.[13]”

The caution is warranted since diagnosing political malaise based on people’s personalities is very iffy. However, the division into world views, one seeing the social world as dangerous and one seeing the world as a jungle accounts for most of the people I have labeled reactionary. However again, we read above: “conservatism has characteristics similar to those of authoritarianism, with resistance to change, and justification for inequality as the core components.” This is why there is overlap between conservatives and reactionaries, they both resist change and justify inequality. The conservatives do so by reliance on Social Darwinism, viz. competition among people giving the lead and therefore the authority to the cream that rises to the top. No issues of opportunity or chance are recognized except in anecdotal, biographical narratives. The very fact of non-White people, non-Europeans not having the wealth or power of Whites of European heritage attests to their victory as superior. This truly is the essence of the conservative tendency to defend and justify social and economic inequality. The counter-example I use is that of the Jews, who do not allow anyone to forget for one second what happened to them in the Holocaust. No one dare say, “You’re playing the victim” or “You’re being a cry-baby, just get over it.” The force of every Jewish institution and organization will be brought to bear on that idiot who says something like that. But other groups are fair game b/c they have no stern response to the calumnies and smug positions of conservatives.

This goes back to my early concerns that the African-American community was failing to recognize the resistance that Whites had to Blacks. At the time, affirmative action was opening up jobs that had been closed to Blacks, esp municipal and state jobs (and here in AZ also to Hispanics). Residential segregation was ending (we moved out of the Black part of town in 1973, a bit behind some others) and the appearance of Black people where they had not been seen before (in malls, restaurants, etc.)  or not in large numbers (colleges, police forces) boosted the notion of successful integration. But then came the backlash, beginning mightily with Ronald Reagan. Newt Gingrich abetted all the demons let loose by the likes of Lee Atwater and Kevin Phillips and other Republican operatives. The appointment of Rehnquist to the Supreme Court and his later elevation to Chief Justice signaled clearly that all this stuff about Blacks had gone far enough.

But then in the 90s, a wave of immigrants from Mexico began changing the “complexion” of the country. Now racism could be masked by an anti-immigrant rhetoric that invoked the same old racist principles: they’re different, they’re dark, they’re criminal, they speak other languages, they breed like rabbits, they use drugs, they are ignorant, and, yeah, they’re dark-skinned. If you have ever tried to talk a conservative out of the idea that someone crossing an international border without paperwork and permission is not exactly the same as a guy holding up a convenience store, you know the vehemence they spew. The notion that these people were invited by the business community with a wink and a nudge, that all borders are more or less porous, that no great harm is done in people going back and forth across the border without expensive and hard-to-acquire documents, that we’ve always had immigrants who don’t assimilate until the second and third generations, that many Hispanics do not speak English because so many just arrived – give them a few years……… all these idea simply provoke eruptions of hate-filled remonstrance. Their heroes, Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchanen, and all Fox News people, give them a daily dose of horror stories about illegal immigrants that at least took a little heat off the infamous “Black thugs” of Fox News. Figures on the low crime rate of new arrivals, of their rapid assimilation, of their economic contribution to the country and their military service are all derided as government lies promulgated by Liberals who hate America.

Now just why we Liberals hate America is left blank unless they have read the David Horowitzes and other flacks for the Right who paint a picture of U.S. education that has it bulging at the seams with Marxists, Socialists, and outright Communists reading Chomsky and Saul Alinsky. But just the stereotype of the America-hating Liberal has taken such a firm hold on the American Right that no amount of rationale reasoning dents it. Thus we have thoroughly divided the country b/c no matter what Trump or the Republicans do, including destroying the economy, these cultists of the Right will never surrender their guns and bibles. They will find a way to blame Obama or Nancy Pelosi. In fact, the Republicans under George W. Bush did destroy the economy and the Republicans managed to blame Obama even as he was bringing the economy back from the brink. No, just as with any cult, you can in no way bring these people into the fold of reason.

George Lakoff is right: you need to manipulate the frames that activate these people. Not that Liberals and others don’t have their own frames; but we need to decide what course is best for the country in the absence of any reasonable conservative alternative. This is why it is important to identify these cultists as reactionaries rather than conservatives.

The next step is to find out what is wrong with being a reactionary. We all react to things. The first clue there is something wrong is common admonition not to just react. We even invented a new word: proactive. I first heard proactive in the 70s but the Oxford dictionary says it dates back to the 30s. So common sense says you should push forward your own agenda, not just react to others’, kind of like military strategists and tacticians say don’t crouch defensively but go on the offensive.

Beyond that lies the question of what is being reacted to. A Trump focus group offered the following flashes of genius:

“When we get our manufacturing base back, look out! America will be back again.” Thus spoke a Trump supporter. It’s simple economics, she states emphatically, and the only guy in the room who says he would not vote for Trump again just shook his head. She doesn’t know what news “you” are looking at, but our high tax rate is driving companies out of the country. I think we know what news she watches.

Some issues:

DACA – it’s the Democrats keeping immigration reform, including DACA, from going forward

crowd size – of course the inauguration crowd for Trump was bigger than any other president’s, esp Obama’s, b/c so many Americans love Trump, it just makes sense.

bowling green – terrorism is everywhere. Kelly Anne Conway cited one not covered by the news and of course the media has to ridicule a good American trying to warn us

highest corp tax – all American taxes are higher than anywhere else and higher than they’ve ever been. So-called experts to tell us the rate was 90% back in the days the Trumpsters love so much, the fifties, are lying, esp if they use fake government statistics or fake media reports. The government workers aka civil servants aka the Deep State all serve anti-American interests for no discernible reason and the journalists all hate America and love radical jihadis b/c America has a history of oppressing all dark-skinned people. Since most journalists are not dark-skinned, one waits for an explanation as to why they hate America but that is explained by the Marxists college professors they all studied under.

highest murder rate in 47 years – any other statistic is fake news, generated by the liberal media who doesn’t want to admit the obvious, that Black thugs and illegal aliens are murdering White people in droves

Sweden – another example of how the liberal elites ridicule someone willing to point out the obvious activities of terrorists around the world. Isn’t Sweden a foreign country? Aren’t the terrorists esp active in foreign countries b/c those countries aren’t tough like Americans and are pushovers? So Sweden has terrorist activities – it’s just simple logic.

The guy who questioned the woman who thought we’re victorious in Syria and who wouldn’t vote for Trump again reads the NYT. Everyone else: Fox.

The media comes up as the bad guy. So here’s the scenario: thousands of journalists, many of whom went into journalism determined to get to the truth and give the public the facts, but if you don’t know any journalists, you don’t know about this, who are subservient to their overlords, their paymasters. The paymasters are the heads of the news corporations and manipulate the news for the benefit of……and that’s not clear, maybe for other heads of corporations (back in the day they would have been dedicated Communists, like the small town school teacher indoctrinating the kids).

The reality is pretty close to this: information is being twisted by Fox and other outlets to convince people to support a flow of money toward the …… yes, heads of corporations and the superwealthy. The journalists are the keepers of the drawbridge, exposing the attacks on our economy and society by the wealthy and the corporate giants with allegiance to international corporate heads and power brokers.

In the end, under both scenarios, the American people get screwed and we revert to the sort of society that has been the rule: a few rule over the many, sucking the labor out of the many. But Trump supporters don’t read history.

What can we say that Trump supporters are reacting to then, overall? It’s been said many times many ways….. change, economic distress, isolation, lack of education. Scapegoating works well with people who these factors apply to. But we must press further. Further can mean further back in time, when did this all start? In many blog entries here I’ve addressed this, most prominently in the first Magnum Opus, a response to a man who insisted what we call facts depends on our world view. Well into our exchange, which lasted over a year, the Trumpian alternative facts burst on the scene, validating what I was saying, viz. your interpretation of the facts may depend on your world view but not the facts themselves, which do have an independent existence despite numerous philosophical stabs at rendering them useless and lifeless…… or, as Moynihan famously said, “You are entitled to your own opinion but not to your own facts.”

Back in time means how far? I mentioned Kevin Phillips; he designed the nefarious Southern strategy which took advantage of the howling resentment of White Southerners at being “forced to associate with Nigras” and channeled it into Republican votes by the use of racist dog whistles (see Ian Haney Lopez’ Dog-Whistle Politics for a nuanced presentation of how that works) like “urban crime” and “urban schools” and “crime in the streets” and, in the immortal words of St. Ronald, “big strapping bucks.” Honest White Southerners like David Gergen spoke out that he knew exactly what those dog whistles meant.

We can go further: why did the Southern strategy work, i.e. why were White Southerners so sensitive to Black people having rights equal to theirs? Ah, that is the key to all of this. It may indeed seem like I am laying everything about the appeal of Trump and about our divided country at racism’s door and you would be right. But I am by no means alone. Some very surprising people have affirmed this, long-time Republicans, long-time conservatives, long-time observers of our politics, historians, and other social scientists, not to mention social critics like James Baldwin, Ta-Nahisi Coates, Cornell West, and dozens of others. But how did that happen? Am I saying that conservatism is inherently racist? That’s a tricky one I’ll deal with first.

Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski  and Sulloway above say: “…. conservative individuals have needs to manage uncertainty and threat with both situational motives (e.g., striving for security and dominance in social hierarchies) and dispositional motives (e.g., terror management and self-esteem)” That is a pretty nice insight into what bends people toward racist interpretations of social realities. But then, what is ‘racist’?

The word race cannot be erased from our social vocabulary but it does not belong in scientific vocabulary. Few people understand, as Trump would say, that the concept of human races arose in sciences in the 18th and 19th centuries. It reached it apogee around the turn of the last century when an American president, Woodrow Wilson, could segregate the civil service along racial lines b/c he was highly educated in the thinking of the day which reduced non-Europeans to a spectrum of civilization. No dark-skinned people made it into the highest realms, although grudging acknowledgement of achievements by the Chinese, Indians, and Middle Easterners was granted. However, during this same period, scientists were demolishing this concept of human types. Sadly, few people have abandoned the 19th century thinking concerning racial hierarchies.

However, when the word racist enters the conversation, we have a different thing altogether. A racist harbors ideas about race which a deterministic, i.e. that a person’s mental characteristics and behavior are determined by the race one belongs to. Heritability is therefore a major element in racist thinking. Even remnants of the One Drop Rule persist in seeing “Black behaviors” seeping out when the person is White in every respect except for one Black ancestor. The history of this is complex and cannot be reduced to a few paragraphs here. The full panoply of this thinking, dressed up in modern attire, can be seen in Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve in which he attributes moral characteristics to people’s inherited level of cognitive development, i.e. poor people are poor and pass pathological behaviors of the poor onto their children by dint of the low IQs of poor people as shown by their performance on IQ tests.

I will dismiss this line of thought by pointing out that we have seen numerous examples of organized groups who purport to be fair and scientific in their reasoning and goals but soon turn out to have a racist agenda. Examples of such groups are those advocating an English Only policy, restrictions on immigration, dismissal of English as a Second Language education in public schools, eugenics programs, private and charter schools financed by public money (not in all cases), private militias patrolling the border (with Mexcio, not Canada), and societies for the protection of the Southern Way of Life.  All of them reveal their true colors and when they do, decent people like Linda Chavez and Walter Cronkite abandon them and cease allowing them to use their names.

A better word than racist is discrimination. Unfortunately, it’s an imperfect usage b/c, unlike racist, discrimination can be perfectly reasonable as when we discriminate between fine dining and greasy spoons. Also, there is no noun referring to a person who discriminates on racial grounds. “Discriminator” doesn’t quite get it.

Another word more accurate than race is ethnicity or ethnic group. People who discriminate against or for people of an ethnic group could be called bigots, but that would include those who discriminate along religious lines, for instance. So we are in a bind for a word that will get us away from reifying this debunked notion of race. And I have no suggestions.

Many studies have been done of the personalities given to despising and fearing those of other ethnicities. One has only to go out among people to find bizarre prejudices, like Greeks hating Serbians in Phoenix, AZ. Really? It’s that bad? Crazy stuff like the lady I mentioned in another blog post who thought Litvak Jews were terrible but Galitzianer Jews were fine people (two distinct types of Jewish communities in pre-War Poland). Just nuts. But then people still think keeping my wife and me from being married is not only healthy for the nation but biblical as well. Just ask Jeff Sessions. I can just see him telling his overseer in kindly tones to show the slave, Rastus, that falling asleep in the shade is not a good idea and closing his ears to the man’s screams. Oh! I’m being extreme? What about tearing children away from their parents? He’s doing that with great joy and the Trumpsters are jumping up and down with glee. Finally, they say, someone is showing those Mesicans who is in charge here. How far is that from selling slave children away from their parents? Oh, yeah, that was so-o-o-o-o-o-o long ago. My wife’s great grandfather was a slave; when I asked my students one time how many had a great grandparent, a number raised their hand. Not so long ago. Avenatti and Stormy may bring Trump down legally, but this border atrocity may bring him down politically.

The Hispanic community has been in this country longer than any other except the indigenous people. They married into the indigenous cultures in Florida and the Southwest. In the north, the French also intermarried into the indigenous cultures. Neither area had anywhere close to the soul-twisting repugnance toward Africans. The Spaniards had had Africans in their European lands for several centuries before Columbus came this way. The English, who contributed the bulk of immigrants into North America did have negative reactions to Africans (read White Over Black by Winthrop Jordan) and those reactions hardened as it became apparent that Africans made good slaves but needed to be isolated for security’s sake. In the early days, many were free but over time that element of the African population dwindled (see Many Thousands Gone by Ira Berlin). Only in the Southwest were no laws passed prohibiting intermarriage between Whites and Hispanics b/c the Whites wanted access to the lands owned by Hispanic families, much of it granted by the Spanish monarch before the area became part of Mexico and then part of the U.S. Many Hispanics in New Mexico still identify as Spanish b/c they were under Mexican rule for only about 20 years.

To return to the word race, there is no Hispanic race. Although many Hispanics like to think of themselves as a race (see Loving by Sheryl Cashin), they are clearly an ethnicity marked by Spanish language and elements of both Spanish and indigenous cultures interwoven. Some Hispanics in countries like Argentina trace their lineage back only 2 or 3 generations to Italy or Spain or Ireland, but the vast majority of Hispanics throughout the New World are some mixture of indigenous, European, and African. I knew a man who insisted Hispanics are White, even though he, a Hispanic, was as dark as my wife, clearly a Negress (I like those old terms, like calling a granddaughter a quadroon – it just rubs into people the way Africans were thought of by Whites up until the 1960s).


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