Good Populism


Victor Davis Hanson is a classist and historian. That background is apparent in his post over at The New Criterion called The Good Populism. He points out that there have been two types of populism in the West since ancient times. One is populism of the urban mob—the Roman turba, the French Revolution, Antifa. The other is the populism of the middle class—the mesoi, the American Revolution, the Tea Party. Hanson suggests that it was the middle guy being feed up with the “elites” catering to the mob that paved the way for Donald Trump.

So Trump was a populist nemesis visited upon the hubris of the coastal culture. When he took on “fake news,” when he tweeted over the “crooked” media, when he railed about “globalists,” when he caricatured Washington politicians—and ranted non-stop, shrilly, and crudely—a third of the country felt that at last they had a world-beater who wished to win ugly rather than, as in the case of John McCain or Mitt Romney, lose nobly. As a neighbor put it to me of Trump’s opponents, “They all have it coming.”

The targets of Trump’s ire never quite understood that the establishment’s attacks on him, and their own entitled appeals to their greater sensitivity, training, experience, education, morality, class, and authority, were precisely the force multipliers that made Trumpism so appealing.

In 2016, pundits and experts had focused mostly on the populism of the race, class, and gender brand, and its would-be champions Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, who sought to channel the new identity, youth, and feminist politics for their own advantage.

All had forgotten that there was also another populist tradition, lying dormant. It was a quieter but far more potent bomb just waiting to blow up—if someone ever would be so uncouth and angry enough to detonate it.

Read the whole thing.

The Water’s Edge


It used to be said that America’s domestic politics stopped at the water’s edge. That doesn’t seem to be true today. Angelo M. Codevilla has a post over at America Greatness examining that failure in the context of the recent Helsinki summit and the event’s press conference.

This led to the final flourish. The Associated Press reporter demanded that Trump state whether he believes the opinions of U.S. intelligence leaders or those of Putin. It would be healthy for America were it to digest Trump’s answer: The truth about the charge that Russia stole the contents of the Democratic National Committee’s computer server is not to be found in the opinions of any persons whatever. The truth can be discovered only by examining the server in question—assuming it has not been tampered with since the alleged event. But, said Trump emphatically, those making the accusations against Russia have refused to let the server be examined by U.S. intelligence or by any independent experts. What is the point of accusations coupled with refusal of access to the facts of the matter?

The classic texts of diplomatic practice teach that diplomacy advances the cause of peace and order only to the extent that its practitioners avoid contentious opinions and stick to demonstrable facts.

The AP reporter, who should be ashamed, is beyond shame. Then again, so are the ruling class representatives who have redoubled their animus against Trump. Cheap partisanship is not all that harmful. It is the transfer of domestic partisan animus to international affairs, however, that has the potential to start wars.

Not so long ago, American school kids had to read George Washington’s farewell address, which warned in the most emphatic terms at his command to avoid that sort of thing for the sake of peace with other nations as well as among ourselves.

What that ignorant “journalist” was demanding of Trump—precisely what the credentialed experts should know better than to have demanded—was that the president of the United States scream at the president of Russia for all his evils. Competitive “virtue signaling” has become the way of political life in America. To the extent that it bleeds into America’s foreign policy, we are all in big trouble.

The post also has an interesting analysis of what the two leaders may have actually accomplished. Read the whole thing.

An Unlikely Ally


The Nation has a post up titled The Mueller Indictments Still Don’t Add Up to Collusion. Normally, one wouldn’t expect The Nation to be supportive of Donald Trump, and it may be that they’re really not in this case. The magazine has a history of … how shall I phrase this … favorable reporting … yeah, that’s the ticket … favorable reporting on Russia. So any aid they give to the President may only be a by product of their real intention.

The January 2017 intelligence report begat an endless cycle of innuendo and unverified claims, inculcating the public with fears of a massive Russian interference operation and suspicions of the Trump campaign’s complicity. The evidence to date casts doubt on the merits of this national preoccupation, and with it, the judgment of the intelligence, political, and media figures who have elevated it to such prominence.

Read the whole thing anyway.

Who’s Next?


So Little Rocket Man may be giving up his nukes. We’ll see how that works out.

If it does, it will be an interesting precedent for other countries with weak economies that can’t carry the load of paying simultaneously for weapons development and economic development. Iran has a bigger economy than North Korea, but the mullahs have stunted their civil economies growth. Pakistan has lots of nukes and rampant poverty. The collapse of the Soviet Union was driven in large part by that country’s inability to pay for guns and butter. The Russians changed leaders, got a modestly improved economy, and kept their nukes. Will Kim preserve his hold on power by giving up his nukes for economic development? Will anyone else?

Stay tuned.

Running Against Ghosts


Specters haunt our political discourse. For decades, Republicans have tried to frame their Democrat opponents as the next Jimmy Carter. For a couple of generations, Democrats tried to paint every Republican as another Herbert Hoover. But as the voters who lived through those disastrous presidencies have died off, the tactic has lost its emotional connection to the electorate’s personal experiences and become less useful. My parents were in high school during the Hoover administration; I wasn’t born until after World War II. Their understanding of the early years of the Great Depression are personal; mine are second hand. Similarly, my son was born during the Reagan Administration, so he has no memories of Jimmy Carter as President.

Thus, it would seem that we should see the Republican’s running against Carter to peter out over the next few years just as the Democrats have given Hoover a rest.

Except that it appears that the Democrats are so desperate for something to run on that they’re bring  back comparing their opposition to Hoover. Bret Stephens has a piece over at the New York Times called Herbert Hoover’s Ghost comparing President Trump’s tariff policies with the Smoot-Hawley disaster of the early 1930’s. Of course, the world economy is very different today than it was in 1930, so even if Trump’s policies are mistaken (and I think some are), his tariffs won’t cause world trade to contract by over 60 percent as happened almost 90 years ago. Indeed, the weak recovery from 2009 to 2017 was quite similar to the weak recovery from 1933 to 1941. Yet, Stephens predicts:

The darker echoes of the 1930s are sounding louder. The shadow of Hoover grows longer. We know how this movie ends.

If the recent past is prolog, I expect the movie’s script to end with a plot twist the says the Trump’s policies were the result of collusion with the Russians and fully outlined in the emails that were missing from the server in Hillary Clinton’s bathroom. I also expect that movie’s script will not reflect what happens in the Real World.

Good Manners v. Effective Communication


I’ve been gathering my thoughts to write about President Trump’s use of the word shitholes and the resulting media pearl clutching, but Andrew Klavan has beaten me to the punch with a better essay than I was planning.

(Personally, my first thought on hearing about the remark was: “What squirrely little tattle-tale of a weasel went running to the press with that?” But never mind. That’s just me.)

Also,

For all the bad language, for all the loose talk, I would rather hear a man speak as a man without fear of the Nurse Ratcheds in the press and the academy than have him neutered and gagged by a system of good manners that has been misused as a form of oppression. Better impoliteness than silence. Better crudeness than lies.

Read the whole thing.