A Potpourri

A Potpourri

From

Readers of the Howard Adelman Blog

I received a mélange of responses to yesterday’s blog on the decline of the Republican Party. Because I am busy in my new job as a nurse’s aide, I forego today’s blog and instead include a selection from the reactions to Monday’s blog with the odd additional comment. Some were brief and complimentary – “impressive and helpful analysis/synthesis Howard…it won’t help me sleep in coming nights but thank you/.” Some picked up one or two points of criticism and one was harshly critical, a reply which I include below. Others I have chosen based as much on geographical distribution as anything else, partly as a lead-in to my next blog on the Decline of the West. The salmagundi selected also added to my understanding. I have limited the selection to five to keep the blog at its average length. I also hope this will indirectly explain why I respond to very few of the feedbacks I receive.

1. Canadian Supporters of Trump

Polls indicate that 80% of Canadians support Clinton and oppose Trump. The only country that exceeds this one-sided support is Germany where the support for Clinton is 86% and even 75% of the alt-Right. 20% in Canada support Trump, many because he indicated that he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. That, however, is not the only reason. Some admire him for who he is and what he says. This is what one reader wrote me yesterday:

Trump is a talented leader, who calls out the liberal and greedy elite. Like King David. He likes women like all healthy males including you and me.
Most women play to their sexuality through makeup and choice of clothes. Healthy and tasteful.
Bill Clinton rapes and abuses women. Hillary destroys women who speak up against her husband’s victims so that this power couple can play the corrupt system.
Trump earned his money. The Clintons stole theirs.
I am so happy they are now being called out along with Obama and his Jeremiah Wright and Muslim Brotherhood friends.
For me this is going to be a wonderful week.
Regards

2. The Deep Story Behind the Tea Party

An additional insight that I did not have was received from LA. I believe that the “deep story” is very insightful.

Hi from LA!

Nathaniel Rich reviews a book called “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right” by Arlie Russell Hochschild in the New York Review of Books this week.

Rich describes Hochschild reaching for emotional explanations for the rise of Tea Party-ism / Trumpism and the anger of the white, working-class Republican voter; she finds other accounts to be lacking this emotional component. He quotes Hochschild:

“I found one thing missing in them all—a full understanding of emotion in politics. What, I wanted to know, did people want to feel, think they should or shouldn’t feel, and what do they feel about a range of issues?”

Rich goes on:

“How, then, do Tea Party voters feel? They’re angry, bitter, resentful—that much is obvious. Hochschild goes further, however. She develops for them what in brand marketing is referred to as the “back story,” a story that provides a unifying emotional logic to a set of beliefs. She calls it the “deep story.”

The deep story that Hochschild creates for the Tea Party is a parable of the white American Dream. It begins with an image of a long line of people marching across a vast landscape. The Tea Partiers—white, older, Christian, predominantly male, many lacking college degrees—are somewhere in the middle of the line. They trudge wearily, but with resolve, up a hill. Ahead, beyond the ridge, lies wealth, success, dignity. Far behind them the line is composed of people of color, women, immigrants, refugees. As pensions are reduced and layoffs absorbed, the line slows, then stalls.

An even greater indignity follows: people begin cutting them in line. Many are those who had long stood behind them—blacks, women, immigrants, even Syrian refugees, all now aided by the federal government. Next an even more astonishing figure jumps ahead of them: a brown pelican, the Louisiana state bird, “fluttering its long, oil-drenched wings.” Thanks to environmental protections, it is granted higher social status than, say, an oil rig worker. The pelican, writes Hochschild,

‘needs clean fish to eat, clean water to dive in, oil-free marshes, and protection from coastal erosion. That’s why it’s in line ahead of you. But really, it’s just an animal and you’re a human being.’

Meanwhile the Tea Partiers are made to feel less than human. They find themselves reviled for their Christian morality and the “traditional” values they have been taught to honor from birth. Many speak of “sympathy fatigue,” the sense that every demographic group but theirs receives sympathy from liberals. “People think we’re not good people if we don’t feel sorry for blacks and immigrants and Syrian refugees,” one Tea Partier tells Hochschild. “But I am a good person and I don’t feel sorry for them.”

When Hochschild tells her deep story to some of the people she’s come to know, they greet it rapturously. “You’ve read my mind,” says one. “I live your analogy,” says Mike Schaff. She concludes that they do not vote in their economic interest but in their “emotional self-interest.” What other choice do they have?” [Emphasis added.]

Care to comment on Hochschild’s “deep story”? I’ve read a lot of attempts at explaining the Tea Party / Trumpist / Angry White Man phenomenon, but this little parable touches on something I don’t think any of those other accounts do. Maybe it’s just how it’s encapsulated in a nice little story, or maybe something more.

Thought you might find it interesting – the book itself looks really good, and I’d buy it immediately if I didn’t have piles to read already. Be well!

3. From BC

A key point in your latest is that there are those who still hope for community and are not getting it. They are legion. Sadly, real community has been corrupted and is still a huge deal but, in the modern sense, it now means little in pragmatic, comforting ways and a bit too much in divisive ways.

Like religion, our communities divide [and do] not include. And that division is encouraged. Us and them. We have the Cincinnati Bengals vs the Green Bay Packers, we have the Chicago Cubs vs the Cleveland Indians and that used-to-be uniting spirit of ‘game’ has been polarizing instead since the corporate mindset made the owners and the players so rich that even our ‘local boys’ were foreigners bought and paid for to play the game for us. People still cling to their teams like religious people do their churches but that kind of faith is divisive, destructive and sick. And, ultimately, counter productive.

Love is tolerance and acceptance. And there is little of that left in the modern world (except at an individual scale). And it is capitalism, corporatism, institutional-think, politics, government and blind greed that is at fault. We worship the golden calf more and more. See Trump.

You cannot have a successful community when money is more important than all else. Can’t happen. Because real community is not about ‘making a buck’ or ‘getting yours’, it is about mutual caring and sharing. Money ain’t got nothing to do with it. Never should.

And money is what the US is all about. And we are connected at the hip.

4. From Germany

Reading your wonderful analysis (which I will have to read a few more times to thoroughly savour and digest) made me think: whatever happens on Nov 8, or thereafter, the Donald did not singlehandedly cause it; just like Luther did not singlehandedly cause the 30-year war. There are sometimes people who find themselves in a complex situation that has evolved over time, due to a multitude of complex and relevant connections when they, either inadvertently or purposefully just upset the table that was already rather wobbly to begin with. Sometimes that is the only way to turn around a hopeless situation. I still think you are attributing too much intelligent and thoughtful analysis to Donald (projecting your own wise self into his feverish orange skull), when he is way too impatient and impulsive – he is not executing a well-thought-out strategy with a well-defined goal in mind: he is reactive, rather than proactive, improvising as he goes along, exploiting any given situation that he deems advantageous, and mercilessly mowing down any that he perceives as a threat to his person.

You are absolutely right to focus less on his person and more on the context in which he is operating: just like you say, “the pathway to a potential victory had been forged by the previous leadership of the Republican Party. Trump had simply upped the ante,” as he moved along. The Republicans not only had paved the way by endorsing most of the policies long before Trump arrived, they also wholeheartedly endorsed his person, banking on his popularity (disregarding his lack of political experience, impulsiveness, narcissism, etc. etc.), as if he were some sort of harmless lucky mascot. The real betrayal of America has been taking place for a long time in the background; I don’t think Trump the individual should be scapegoated on his own.

He just grabbed the opportunity to make the deal of all deals for himself (he probably is rubbing his eyes, still not able to fathom how he got this far with such little preparation) – BUT SO DID THE REPUBLICAN PARTY WITH HIM AS WELL – their deal is just as reckless and disgusting and immoral as are Trump’s moves (and their group is more culpable as they, unlike Trump, cannot necessarily be excused on account of a pathological mental state). They were coldly calculating and analyzing and strategizing when they endorsed him. I found it most telling how they never once acted outraged when he was spouting his anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, etc. garbage, but exploded in extreme righteous indignation about his “locker-room” remarks. I think they had probably long before realized that their choice of mascot was not that lucky after all, and the pussy riot was just a convenient excuse to demonstratively and noisily remove themselves from this increasingly embarrassing association with him, and score a huge PC point on the side.

Contrary to M. Gladwell’s Tipping Point, where the author identifies the factors that cause suddenly emerging trends, here, like among the Christians in Luther’s era, there is a long-term, slow brewing of a complex, increasingly negative situation, where an angry, overly emotional, impulsive, and somewhat mentally unstable man instinctively realized the opportunity that he could suddenly upset the table, not quite grasping the long-term deleterious consequences this may cause. A number of ghosts this Halloween!

Note: I see no contradiction between a unique strategy that is subject to critical analysis and the reality that the strategy itself may have been instinctual and had not been developed by means of deep thought. HA

5. From the Ukraine

You did not give enough attention to the role of Russia in both promoting Trump and in the corresponding latest decline of the Republican Party. It is widely recognized that Putin has launched Russia into a new stage of adventurism and interventionism outside its borders, particularly in the Ukraine and Syria. The Baltic states may be his next target. This is part of Putin’s campaign to “Make Russia Great Again.” These exercises in heightened patriotism are also crude attempts to cover up an economic system of corrupt patronage in an economy severely in trouble. In reference to your blog, there has been the brazen effort of Putin to promote Trump and diminish Clinton – an unprecedented Russian intervention in American politics.

Russia is one of the few and perhaps even the only country where the population favours Trump over Clinton, and by a large margin. This result is enormously assisted by Putin’s control over the media. A combination of reasons explain this support for Trump. First, Trump has flattered Putin and has compared him to Obama extremely favourably. Second, Putin has flattered Trump and called him “brilliant” knowing full well that he has a thin skin when it comes to ridicule (he responds viscerally with venom) and also when it comes to praise, with a very different result. Trump is inflated into a large red balloon floating towards the stratosphere. Third, Trump has criticized Hillary Clinton’s proposal to create a no-fly zone for humanitarian purposes in Syria and has argued against the Obama administration’s leadership in boycotting and ostracizing Russia over its aggression in the Ukraine. Fourth, Trump has emerged as the greatest threat to the Western economic and military alliance with his insistence that the allies “pay their own way.” The only downside is Trump’s suggestion that Japan and South Korea develop their own nuclear weapons.

The risk of the latter is well worth the very economical cost of hacking Democratic Party emails and stirring up the pot in the American election, especially when Trump refuses to accept the briefing by all seventeen American intelligence agencies that Russia is behind the hacking. What may have begun as a wild card prank has developed into a potential provocation into American domestic politics. Further, it was beyond even the Kremlin’s wildest dreams that Trump would actually adopt the Russian two-year-old line that America was preparing to initiate World War III. Who would have ever believed that the leader of the Republican Party of the United States would be an open admirer of Putin and even a Charlie Chaplin to Putin as Edgar Bergen.

There are, in addition, some noticeable similarities between Putin and Trump. Neither has any respect for the truth. Both are bullies and alpha males in the extreme. Putin, like Trump, is an improviser rather than a long-range strategist in foreign affairs, taking advantage of opportunities as they pop up. Like Trump, Putin reacts rather than acts, especially to perceived slights, without calculating the long term negative costs to Russia. Both men double down when attacked and project their own liabilities onto their “enemies.” Is there any difference between Putin riling up a resistance and providing it with military support in the Donbass region and Trump appealing to racists and riling up the masses at his rallies? Both have a populist base among malcontents.

Though Putin is far more disciplined than Trump, both are very hard workers. However, Putin does know his stuff which Trump does not. Both indulge in performance theatre on the world stage and pull off stunts to garner publicity, only, ironically, Putin sees the world as his stage whereas Trump has contracted the American stage to the homeland. Thus, the Republican Party, which used to be the bastion of the hard line against Russia, has undergone it most important revolution and, under Trump, has embraced Russia as its ideological ally at the expense of its traditional friends.

With the help of Alex Zisman

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