Spencer Means / Flickr The Carlottesville Terrorist...
Spencer Means / Flickr

I have long written that the never Trump movement is out-numbered but not out-argued. Mike Gerson is an important example.

Michael Gerson/WaPo:

This madness will pass. Conservatives can’t give up.

Olsen’s hope for a return to normalcy within the conservative movement — in which even deep disagreements did not lead to complete rupture — is understandable. But his real contribution is probably not what he intended. Olsen sees this as an important but normal political moment, in which the policy views of populists and conservative intellectuals need to be reconciled on issues such as trade and immigration. An intellectual dialectic within the Republican coalition is straining to produce a new, more pro-worker synthesis — which Olsen himself has long advocated. But this raises the question: Is this a normal political moment?

If Trump were merely proposing a border wall and the more aggressive employment of tariffs, we would be engaged in a debate, not facing a schism. Both President Ronald Reagan and President George W. Bush played the tariff chess game. As a Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney endorsed the massive “self-deportation” of undocumented workers without the rise of a #NeverRomney movement.

But it is blind, even obtuse, to place Trumpism in the same category. Trump’s policy proposals — the details of which Trump himself seems unconcerned and uninformed about — are symbolic expressions of a certain approach to politics. The stated purpose of Trump’s border wall is to keep out a contagion of Mexican rapists and murderers. His argument is not taken from Heritage Foundation policy papers. He makes it by quoting the racist poem “The Snake,” which compares migrants to dangerous vermin. Trump proposes to ban migration from some Muslim-majority countries because Muslim refugees, as he sees it, are a Trojan-horse threat of terrorism. Trump’s policy ideas are incidental to his message of dehumanization.

This is what we mean when we say to the media and to conservatives: don’t normalize.  These are white supremacists and awful people. It may be a 60-40 losing fight within the Republican party but it’s a fight worth fighting. I mean, what could go wrong with accommodating Nazis?

We need more hot takes on how this won’t work. See, for example, Why a Laura Ingraham boycott will probably fail.


Do Trump’s voters even care if the President is a criminal?

So if the president’s base has no real commitment to democratic values, would they care if the president were found culpable in any of the scandals presently roiling the White House? Jan-Werner Müller, a political theorist at Princeton University and the author of the 2016 book “What Is Populism?” has his doubts. Even if Trump violated campaign finance laws in his alleged hush payment to Stormy Daniels, obstructed justice in the Mueller investigation or was discovered to have colluded with the Kremlin, Müller contends, he might not face any political consequences for his misdeeds.

“In many populist regimes, what seems so obviously like corruption is, in fact, a strength for these leaders,” Müller told Vox’s Sean Illing. “It’s easy to look at abuses of power and assume that it will hurt the person committing the abuses, but it’s not that simple. What might look like corruption or cronyism to neutral observers is seen by the supporters of populists as doing the right thing for the right people, the ‘real people.’ This is why the tribal appeal of populism is so crucial. Populist leaders thrive on distinctions between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ between ‘the people’ and ‘the establishment.'”

As Müller sees it, the president’s supporters have been conditioned to tolerate a criminal commander-in-chief. Because Trump campaigned on the promise to dismantle a rigged political system, his voters likely interpret his looting and graft as a means to an end.

David Byler/Weekly Standard (data guy, safe to read):

The Gritty Details of Trump’s Approval Ratings

Three takeaways about the president from a great SurveyMonkey series.

This graphic shows the percentage of Trump disapprovers who “strongly” or “somewhat” disapprove of Trump’s job performance in a series of SurveyMonkey polls stretching from January 2017 to now.

The top line tells most of the story. If you put every American who disapproves of Trump in a room (usually more than half of the people that SurveyMonkey polls) and picked someone randomly, the odds of picking a “strong disapprover” would be greater than 3-to-1.

trump disapproval graph, most strongly disapprove)
The blue line is somewhat disapprove and the red line strongly disapprove. 

Click, there’s more on that thread.

Elizabeth Bruenig/WaPo:

Evangelicals’ support for Trump will cost them — spiritually

German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer might have identified this convenient display of clemency as “cheap grace” — “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance,” the extension of “grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” Forgetting, in other words, without the difficult business of forgiving; a kind of loveless, self-interested charity.

Democrats: Gun control and Republicans: Right to bear arms.

This might not be the winning issue for Rs it has been before, it’s being matched on the D side. Want more evidence of enthusiasm?

Above, national. Below, bellwether PA.

Vanita Gupta/WaPo:

The bitter lie behind the census’s citizenship question

Even before this disastrous decision, local officials and community leaders were deeply concerned about the difficulty of achieving a robust response in some communities, given a political climate in which immigrants are demonized and families live in fear of loved ones being plucked off the streets and deported. Adding a question about citizenship status into the mix can only heighten suspicions, depress response rates and sabotage the accuracy of the 2020 count. This decision would affect everyone, with communities that are already at greater risk of being undercounted — including people of color, young children, and low-income rural and urban residents — suffering the most.

What is the benefit here? The false justification offered by Sessions and his Justice Department, and repeated in Ross’s decision memo, is that this question is critical for Voting Rights Act enforcement. That argument is a bitter lie, laced with cruel irony. Consider that this is the same Sessions who has called the Voting Rights Act “intrusive” and has shown no compunction in flouting voting rights enshrined in law.

Interesting take:


The Doctor Who Suddenly Got Nine Million Patients

For a position that demands high-level policy expertise, President Trump appointed his personal physician, Ronny Jackson.

The VA is the second-largest federal department, overseeing 1,243 health-care facilities including 170 hospitals, which tend to be a ghostly network of dim, mid-century structures that bear the scars of serving as constant political battlefields. They tend to have bad food and no marble and bizarre gift shops that I’ve seen sell knives and cured meats. Yet VA hospitals seem to underscore the waste of the glitz of five-star-hospital-style academic medical centers. The system punches above its weight in the quality and safety of care it delivers compared to most of the private health-care industry.

The guy is a good doc, and unqualified for the position. I can’t say uniquely unqualified, because of the rest of the Trump cabinet.

Alexandra Petri/WaPo:

I am sick of these children and their demands for safe spaces.

Safe spaces! Back in my day, all we had were dangerous spaces. People would call you names that would turn your ears blue. Everyone had measles, mumps and rubella, just as a matter of course, and we did not go crawling to our family physicians for so-called vaccines. Disease was a ritual of childhood. We toughed it out. We built character.

We did not have satellite radio or the Internet. We had to make our own electricity by rubbing sticks together. Everyone had six guns apiece, which we used to fight world wars. (There has not been a good world war for too long, and kids have gotten needlessly soft.) When children misbehaved, their parents were strongly encouraged to hit them with a rod.

Learn from your kids.

Terry Teachout/Commentary with a shoutout to stage directors:

Regardless of their theoretical approach, all good directors start by asking themselves a deceptively simple-sounding question: What is the play about? The answer can be as general as the sentence intoned by Laurence Olivier in his 1948 film version of Hamlet: “This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind.” It can even contradict the playwright’s intentions, as is often the case with postmodern European stagings of the classics, whose directors see themselves as co-equal in importance to the author (unlike most American directors, who at the very least pay lip service to authorial intent). But whatever the answer, it must be both concise and comprehensible, for every production-related decision made by the director will flow from his understanding of the play’s meaning. If it is vague, then the production will lack focus.

The next step is to figure out what the show will look like on stage. This is one of the most important decisions that a director makes, for it sets the overall tone of the production, and it is made in consultation with the set and costume designers, whose input is crucial. Generally speaking, three broad choices are possible: A production can be realistic, abstract, or set in a stylized space that is used as if it were realistic.

Gabriel Schoenfeld/USA Today:

Aunt Jeanne, Donald Trump and me: a modern Passover tale

My Jewish family had a harrowing escape from the Nazis. That’s informed my views of Donald Trump, an ‘America First’ bigot who preys on the vulnerable.

“You can do anything” — those are the words of unbridled power. Across an ocean and decades in time, those are the same words that played in the minds of the lawless men my aunt and mother encountered in the Pyrenees. When you’re a robber in the mountains with unarmed helpless Jews, “you can do anything.”
There are certain criminal types who appear again and again across time and place and leave their stamp on history. Born in a different moment and under different circumstances, what role would Donald Trump have played? We cannot know and can only judge him by a lifetime of low words and tawdry behavior. But with my aunt and mother both in their graves, fortunate to die peaceful deaths in our blessed land, it is difficult to accept that someone of his type is America’s president, the most powerful man on the face of the earth

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