Sunday, September 06, 2015

Trump and the Beltway Village press

The economist Brad DeLong used to title a lot of his blog posts with "Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?" Here's another in an endless series of examples that raise that question.

You think Trump's support has something to do with white racism? Xenophobia? Authoritarianism? Media elder statesman Tom Brokaw was on Meet the Press today to set you Mean Libruls with your Political Correctness straight (Meet the Press Transcript - September 6, 2015):

And that's the constituency of Donald Trump right now. There are a lot of people out there who just say, "Look, I don't want to deal with conventional politicians. This guy is saying all those things." But at some point, he's got to tell us if he's going to take down ObamaCare and replace it with something that's a lot cheaper, a lot more effective. Come on, give me the details on that.

If you're going to move 11 million migrants back to their home country, how much is that going to cost? And the point of that is, that if someone came to him with a real estate deal that was only about this is what I can do, and no numbers attached to it, he'd throw them out of the office. And at some point, both the press and I think voters, have to say, "Show me the money."
Yes, you silly hippies, Trump's fans like him because he's, uh, unconventional. And the problem with a massive nationwide police sweep to relocate 11 million or so undocumented workers out of the country, including American citizens by birth? Well, The Donald just hasn't told us how much it will cost yet.! Hey, nobody important wants to hear a bunch of whining about racism and brutality and violations of Constitutional rights and all your other useless librul obsessions.

Michael Tomasky takes on the Trump story in the New York Review of Books 09/24/2015; accessed 09/06/2015. He has a more realistic assessment with this:

Is Trump not the logical culmination of where Republican politics have been headed for many years now, going back to the Clinton and Bush presidencies, but especially during the tenure of Barack Obama? Two qualities more than any others have driven conservatism in our time. The first is cultural and racial resentment, felt by the mostly older and very white population the GOP increasingly represents—resentment against a fast-changing, more openly sexual America, as well as against dark-skinned immigrants, and White House occupants, and gay people and political correctness and the “moocher class” and all the rest. The second is what we might call spectacle—the unrelenting push toward a rhetorical style ever more gladiatorial and ever more outraged (and outrageous), driven initially by talk-radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh and now reproduced on websites, podcasts, and Twitter feeds too numerous to mention. There is a strong tendency, perfected over the years by Fox News, to cover and discuss domestic politics as a combination of war, sport, and entertainment all at once.
There's one of those "Is Trump not ...?" constructions that annoy me because it's a way of taking a position without committing to it.

And this is also an important observation about how even though Trump takes:

... a few heterodox and even surprisingly progressive positions, it was resentment—specifically, his remarks about Mexico “sending” us rapists and criminals, back in June — that vaulted him to the top of polls. Trump has continued to stake out far-right positions on immigration, calling for the deportation of around 11 million undocumented people and an end to birthright citizenship, which has been guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment since 1868.
The seemingly left-leaning positions Trump is taking is a typical part of what Public Eye called "sucker punch" populism, which could also be thought of as "sucker populism." The seemingly progressive parts of his campaign talk are not likely to be priorities for him as President. And they don't seem to be a major part of Trump's emotional appeal to so many Republicans.

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