Donald Trump predicted doom for American when he accepted his nomination for Republican presidential candidate and Megan McArdle was aghast.
What did the delegates at the Republican National Convention like?
Mostly, they liked disliking things. And being afraid of things. And especially, Donald Trump, who is afraid of so many things, and dislikes them all.
The world portrayed by Trump as he accepted the presidential nomination was a sunless place, wracked by economic decay and under siege by foreigners who want to kill us. If it wasn’t ISIS, it was illegal immigrants, sneaking across the border to murder our children. The only rays of light in this bleak dystopia are the police who stand ready to beat back these dangerous hordes, and of course, Trump himself, who alone has the power, through steely will and the awesome depths of his love for the once-great American people, to replace the crumbling mortar of our civic virtue and re-lay the cornerstones of our lost prosperity … to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless … to slow the rise of the oceans and begin to heal our planet ... to end a war and secure our nation and restore our image as the last, best hope on Earth … oh, wait, sorry, somewhere in there I seem to have mixed up my presidential candidates.McArdle, who is powerless to do anything else, is releasing an ocean of snide against Hillary Clinton, which we will delve into in another post. Meanwhile, she aims her junior high scorn at Donald Trump, a worthy target, but her anger and disgust at his fear-mongering sounds awfully familiar.
Trump isn't the only person who tried to gain power and achieve his goals by predicting death and destruction if he isn't obeyed. Megan McArdle paved the way for Trump with years of shrieking about death panels, death spirals, and killer doctors. When Obamacare passed she nearly came unglued.
Regardless of what you think about health care, tomorrow we wake up in a different political world.
Parties have passed legislation before that wasn't broadly publicly supported. But the only substantial instances I can think of in America are budget bills and TARP--bills that the congressmen were basically forced to by emergencies in the markets.
One cannot help but admire Nancy Pelosi's skill as a legislator. But it's also pretty worrying. Are we now in a world where there is absolutely no recourse to the tyranny of the majority?The tyranny of winning an election! We must stop elections at once, so losers never have to watch winners pass legislation!
Republicans and other opponents of the bill did their job on this; they persuaded the country that they didn't want this bill. And that mattered basically not at all. If you don't find that terrifying, let me suggest that you are a Democrat who has not yet contemplated what Republicans might do under similar circumstances. Farewell, Social Security! Au revoir, Medicare! The reason entitlements are hard to repeal is that the Republicans care about getting re-elected. If they didn't--if they were willing to undertake this sort of suicide mission--then the legislative lock-in you're counting on wouldn't exist.
Oh, wait--suddenly it doesn't seem quite fair that Republicans could just ignore the will of their constituents that way, does it? Yet I guarantee you that there are a lot of GOP members out there tonight who think that they should get at least one free "Screw You" vote to balance out what the Democrats just did.McArdle got her wish, just not in the way she expected. (And isn't that always the way with wishes?) A lot of GOP members, encouraged and incited by Miss Megan, did decide to give a giant "Screw You" to balance out what the Democrats did. They just gave the finger to the elite who promised to eradicate Obamacare and failed, over and over and over. The good little authoritarians were so fed up with being hustled that they hustled themselves to the voting booth to punish everyone who had ever disappointed them.
If the GOP takes the legislative innovations of the Democrats and decides to use them, please don't complain that it's not fair. Someone could get seriously hurt, laughing that hard.Actually, Trump decided to use GOP tactics to hurt the GOP. And now nobody's laughing, because the Republicans screwed up, encouraging the authoritarian right because they are obedient and will vote on command, while breaking their habit of obedience by undermining authority. Then they didn't have the brains or balls to fix their mess.
But I hope they don't. What I hope is that the Democrats take a beating at the ballot boxand rethink their contempt for those mouth-breathing illiterates in the electorate.Instead, McArdle is expressing her contempt for the mouth-breathing illiterates in the GOP. It's funny how life works out some time.
I hope Obama gets his wish to be a one-term president who passed health care. Not because I think I will like his opponent--I very much doubt that I will support much of anything Obama's opponent says. But because politicians shouldn't feel that the best route to electoral success is to lie to the voters, and then ignore them.
We're not a parliamentary democracy, and we don't have the mechanisms, like votes of no confidence, that parliamentary democracies use to provide a check on their politicians. The check that we have is that politicians care what the voters think. If that slips away, America's already quite toxic politics will become poisonous.American politics did become poisonous, but not because of the perfidy of duly elected officials. The Republican party lost control over its racist, sexist, authoritarian base, and the base turned around and ate them.
That wasn't supposed to happen. According to McArdle, the Republicans were sittin' pretty and about to take over the government for all time, or at least until they managed to drown it to death. Megan McArdle, in 2013:
Democrats who think they’re a shoo-in seem to be unaccountably banking on the GOP nominating some tongue-tied wingnut who will spend the campaign discussing the scientific evidence that women can’t get pregnant from rape. But as Joe Scarborough argued in 2012, this is wishful thinking . . . in his words, “The GOP doesn’t nominate crazy”.The GOP doesn't nominate crazy. Remember that if a crazy man decides to run in 2016. No worries, the GOP doesn't nominate crazy!
In 2012, out of an incredibly weak field filled with tongue-tied wingnuts, they nominated the moderate with the best public policy chops and solid debating skills. In 2016, they will have a much more attractive bevy of candidates from which to choose someone electable.Chris Christie. Rick Perry. Scott Walker. Ted Cruz. Ben Carson. Carly Fiorina. That's one hell of a line-up, McArdle!
So I think that the chances that the GOP takes the White House are probably pretty high–maybe around 75%. This is not a Nate-Silver-style I-ran-9,000-regressions-and-here’s-what-I-got. It’s just my gut estimate of the odds. When Nate starts running his projections, I will revise accordingly.
Now, if the GOP takes the White House, I think the chances that they also take the House approach 100%. They have a big structural advantage here, and the president will pull a bunch of Republicans in on his coattails. As far as I can tell, everyone agrees with this, so I won’t belabor it.And now she is saying the exact opposite, because she was talking out of her ass in 2013.
The Senate is the biggest wildcard. 2016 is going to be a bit of a challenge for the GOP, since they’ll be defending the wave class of 2010. But some of those folks generally cited as liabilities, like Pat Toomey, actually seem to be doing okay. (In large part because they’ve tacked left on key issues, which should be a lesson to the Tea Party about the limits of primary challenges. But that’s a blog post for another day.) They’ll be helped by the fact that the president will have coattails in the Senate as well. ...She gets paid a small fortune to think about politics and economics. I find that endlessly amusing, in a grim way. And she has spent her career pushing the same kind of gloom and doom that Trump pushes. Back to the present:
All of these sorts of speeches have a certain megalomaniacal quality; the genre simply calls for it. “I’ll make marginal changes which you often won’t like very much, and try not to screw anything up too badly” just doesn’t sell as well to voters as “I’ll fix all of the problems you’re worried about and some you didn’t even know you had.”
What was remarkable was not so much Trump’s absurdly high claims for his own abilities, but his absolutely relentless negativity about almost everything else. A slight majority of a CNN focus group rated the speech positively -- but it's plausible they were comparing the speech to Trump’s usual oeuvre, not to the sorts of things that a normal politician might say on a convention stage.McArdle has been relentlessly negative about liberals.
There are, of course, many problems in this country. A lot of people feel economically insecure, including people who are currently decently well off, but no longer feel that they can count on that job, that income, that retirement nest egg, to be there in the future. Some Americans have indeed been killed by illegal immigrants, for any large group of people will contain at least a few who do terrible things. Decentralized terror networks represent a new and frightening threat to many Western countries, including our own. And the Obama administration has not offered any very satisfying solutions to these problems. Outlining those problems, and criticizing the opposition for ducking them, is absolutely fair political game.Evidently, so was inciting anger against liberals and lying about the effects of liberal policy.
What was missing from the speech was any attempt to elaborate what, exactly, makes the country worth saving. There was the country we live in, which is in terrible, terrible shape, and Trump, who is amazing, and wants to use the power of his amazingness to make the rest of us amazing too. He made little appeal to the many proud moments of our history, to the many fine elements of the American character, to our constitutional liberties or entrepreneurial spirit. We’re supposed to support Trump simply because in the post-apocalyptic hellscape we now inhabit, it’s us against them, and we’d better make sure that “us” prevails.McArdle thinks almost entirely on binary terms: Them vs. Us.
His demeanor reflected that tone. He barely smiled throughout the speech, even at moments where politicians usually do, such as when the crowd starts cheering for you. He delivered most of the speech with the outraged glare of someone arguing with a utility billing clerk, and after delivering each applause line, his face fell back into the sort of grimace generally favored by people who have just realized they’re about to be fired.
But this seemed to be what the crowd wanted. The big hits were praise of the police, attacks on Hillary Clinton, and anything perceived as making liberals look small. When he got into the part of the speech where he talked about what he might actually do, his audience started to look a bit bored, their clapping to sound dutiful rather than enthusiastic. Lucky for them, the policy section was brief. Trump's account of all the terrible things happening in America hardly left room for an expansive or detailed vision.McArdle's bear-baiting posts that slam liberals get hundreds of more comments than her more anodyne posts.
He promised to be splendid on trade, fantastic at stopping immigration, and the most magnificent tax cutter you’ve ever seen. How was he going to accomplish these things? By being awesome, of course. After a year on the campaign trail, Trump still hasn’t really gotten beyond his own fantasticality as the basis of his policy agenda.McArdle promises that the free market will solve all political and economic problems.
Of course, I’m not sure how much people will care. What the audience seemed to want was not so much someone to fix their problems as someone to validate their belief that these are problems -- problems that they feel liberals create and then systematically deny. As they say in 12-step programs, the first step is admitting that you have a problem, and if Trump seems like the only one who’s willing to make that admission, then, well, isn’t he one step beyond everyone else?
Unfortunately, while admitting problems is a good first step, it will not fix anything on its own. And in politics, at least, those next steps are a whole lot harder than the part where you say “something ought to be done.” Washington is full of people moaning that something needs to be done, but folks who can actually do something are rather thin on the ground.McArdle tells us that nobody can do anything ever, unless the banks need something, in which case we must give it to them or the economy will collapse.
Trump likes to say that that’s why we need an outsider to bring some can-do spirit to the city. However. The generally poor management of his campaign and convention that were on display this week, the weak interview preparation and message discipline, the vague-to-absent positive agenda -- none of these bode well for next steps.
This will not just be a problem in his core issue areas -- immigration, trade, crime -- where his supporters could plausibly argue that they’re seeing darned little progress anyway, so who cares if he’s not particularly effective as long as he’s not making things worse? The president of the United States manages a vast number of policy issues, day in and day out, for at least four years, and these cannot all be finessed with vague generalities and off-the-cuff musings. Nor can this task simply be passed off to a vice president; the power of the office is what drives most of the forward motion on policy.McArdle says the president has very little power every time she wants him to do nothing about something.
The world that Trump painted in his speech was a pretty dark place. A world in which the president of the world’s most powerful nation would only scowl and harangue and wait for applause, without ever trying to solve any problems. Imagine the nation under President Donald Trump, a nation paralyzed and backsliding. That truly is a dark and hopeless vision for America.That is the reality of a Republican administration. You broke it, you bought it. You now belong to the Party of Trump.