Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

27 May 2019

Why Pelosi is Right


For an explanation how abortion has ruined our national politics and how we could recover, click here. For an essay on why we must compete peacefully with China and what we must do to win, click here. For an essay on Elizabeth Warren’s qualifications for the presidency, click here. For brief descriptions of and links to recent posts, click here. For an inverse-chronological list with links to all posts after January 23, 2017, click here. For a subject-matter index to posts before that date, click here.

Great Minds Think Alike?

I published the following post early Monday Morning. Tuesday morning’s print New York Times continued the theme at a factual level, in a story also released Monday online. It followed one laid-off worker at GM’s now-closed Lordstown, Ohio, plant, showing how his political struggle never was and never will be about impeachment. It’s about dignified, good-paying jobs for people who work mostly with their hands.

If you like the kind of news stories that focus on individuals at the personal level, this one will melt your heart. The headline in Tuesday’s print edition is more evocative: it reads, “Where Jobs Vanished, ‘Nobody Had Our Backs.’”

    “To impeach, or not to impeach, that is the question.
    Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous misdeeds,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
    And by opposing end them. To wait—to sleep,
        . . .
    To wait, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub:
    For what dreams may come when our 40%
    Might join the Devil and push us into Hell?”
    —with apologies to William Shakespeare
For months I’ve been relatively silent on the issue of impeachment. I’ve gone back and forth, again and again. But Friday I made up my mind. Trump’s temper tantrum over infrastructure pushed me over the edge. I now have a firm conviction that Nancy Pelosi is right.

The investigations must go forward, but in the background, sotto voce. They should produce no leaks or headlines except for “smoking guns” or Trump’s own tax returns, with secrets so stark as to tar him instantly as a monumental sleazebag.

But for the Dems to devote all their efforts to impeaching Trump now would be a big mistake. Rehashing the Mueller Report endlessly will do nothing but waste precious time. Here’s why.

Nancy Pelosi is one of the most underestimated pols of our age. Not only does she have the spurs from over forty-one years in politics—a record that, among Dems, only Biden can match. She also learned politics at her father’s knee, in a big Italian family. So she knows how to raise children and grandchildren, and she knows what to do when kids rebel.

Isn’t that pretty much what’s happening with our Trumpets? When teens rebel, there is only one way to reach them. It’s hard to do it with Reason, because they’ve waxed cynical and think they know better. To reach them, you have to convince them that you love them and have their best interests at heart.

Telling them is not enough. You have to show them. Once that realization dawns, then Reason can win.

And so it is with the Trumpets—the 40% of our electorate who love Trump. They will follow him literally into Hell: the Hell of an unfocused trade war with China, the Hell of an isolated and fractured economy, the Hell, perhaps, of a real war with Iran, and God knows what other unnecessary suffering.

Why is this so? Because know one else seems to care about them.

The rich just keep getting richer and more indifferent while the Trumpets’ jobs evaporate, their pay and benefits wilt, their factories and towns dry up and blow away, their retirements wither in bankruptcies of firms and cities, their families dissolve under economic stress, and their kids migrate to the coasts (or to Texas) where the jobs are and forsake them. So they turn to opioids (which the oligarchs make easily available) or to drink, and they kill themselves, quickly or slowly, as is their wont.

What do most Dems do? They lecture them, directly or indirectly. They justify themselves with abstractions, just as Republicans do. “Globalization and trade make everyone better off. Things will improve soon.” Stop clinging to guns and religion. Get more education or training. Get a new and better job. Stop complaining.

Hillary was the paradigm. She famously called Trumpets “a basket of deplorables.” Even Mitt Romney couldn’t match that in 2012. He only called them the “47%” and accused them of being “takers.”

Hillary and Romney weren’t alone. Nearly all pols, like our economic elite, ignored or dissed the Trumpets’ real suffering. It conflicted with their own personal comfort and their nice, neat, abstract economic and social theories why their own comfort was so right.

“Takers?” If you asked the Trumpets, they would say that everything that once made their lives joyful has been taken from them. Some takers!

Along comes Donald Trump. He’s profane, vulgar, crude, senile and erratic. But he says he cares about them. He says he’s going to fix their plight, and he’s the only one who can do it. In his own erratic, narcissistic way, he seems to love them. No one else does.

So suppose you are one of the ones who’ve lost almost everything. Are you going to go with the pol who has the better abstract idea to fix the economy? Are you going to follow the nuances of trade policy or of the Fed’s playing with interest rates and inflation? Are you going to worry about checks and balances and separation of powers? Or are you going to go with the only one who seems to love you and your kind?

These questions answer themselves, don’t they? That’s why the bond between Trump and his Trumpets is so hard to break. They think he loves them, and they think no one else does. Their hard lot this last generation makes convincing proof.

And what about the Trumpets’ other pols? They ought to care about checks and balances, the separation of powers, and Congress’ proper role. After all, many of them are lawyers. But they don’t. Most of them never had to fight for this country, never put on a uniform. So you’re going to tell them that they ought to care more for a bunch of abstractions they studied in law school than for their perks, their power, and the people who secure them? Good luck with that.

Dems are long past advising that suffering is good for you or “my plan will hurt you in the short run but help you in the long run.” It’s way beyond that already. All Dems can do is show their own love and refute the bad Dad’s. Trying to impeach the bad Dad will just put them in the Trumpets’ enemies’ camp, along with Hillary and Romney.

With his infrastructure tantrum, Trump gave the Dems an opening. His female pit bulls can spin it all they want. But Trump’s words and the angry look on his face show how much more he was concerned with himself and his reputation than any Trumpet’s livelihood. The Dems should show the clip of his angry grimace, in an endless loop, while explaining, over and over again, how many good jobs for skilled workers a big infrastructure push would create how soon.

But that’s only half the battle. The other half is Dems showing they love the Trumpets and want to improve their lives. That requires working on their health care, child care, college debt relief, free and reduced-cost higher education, opiate-addiction relief, strengthening the retirement safety net, and most of all, providing good new jobs for people who work mostly with their hands.

Nothing will show this love better than the Democratic House passing bill after bill while McConnell stalls or diverts his Republican Senate and, if a bill ever passes both houses, Trump vetoes it. Dems must show their love with practical measures and careful, empathetic explanation of benefits.

Then Dems can break the wall of fear and loathing and start to peel the Trumpets off from the Dark Side and back to America. If it ever comes to that, a Bill of Impeachment will enjoy so much more credence and power once the Dems do so.

The practical Democratic House bills should be real and valid, not tokens or poison pills. They should reflect the kind of good, bipartisan legislation that any pol of either party would have been proud to author forty years ago. If possible, each should garner a few stray Republican votes.

If nothing else, the Dems could enact revived copies of these bills instantly, early in 2021, if they win big in 2020. Then they might actually get a few things done for the people.

The very first bill out of the House’s hopper should be a gigantic infrastructure bill. It should provide at least two trillion dollars to fund millions of high-skilled jobs. It should deal with nothing else, just infrastructure. And it should be as simple as funds appropriated and a list of projects and places.

The Dems should promote this bill widely, with specifics about all the jobs it would fund and the many places where it would fund them—especially in red states! And in every ad and news clip where they tout it, the Dems should show the clip of Trump’s face, twisted in anger and refusing to deal, in an endless loop.

We’ve had enough of Armageddon. In October 1962, we almost extinguished our species in Armageddon with the Soviets. Now we’ve got Armageddon in our own land. Bannon, Miller, Bolton, and Trump want some kind of Armageddon with the Chinese, global Muslims, Iran, Hispanic refugees and God knows whom else. Trump seems to be daring Dems to start political Armageddon with the only one who, as erratic and self-centered as he is, has ever shown the Trumpets anything like love.

Under present circumstances, impeachment is just a political form of Armageddon. It will be so as long as 40% of our people think only Trump cares about them. Break that bond, and impeachment will be possible. Break that bond and it may not be necessary.

Trump’s own several Armageddons are the answer to nothing. They let him win only because they helped him convince his “base” that he loves them. But he doesn’t love them. He loves only himself. Show them that and Dems can win with empathy.

The Trumpets, too, are us. They are just as American as the rest of us. They grow our crops. They keep our outback alive and populated. Their small-town values create the kind of nurturing, wholesome, human-sized communities that many of us in huge cities wish we had. Show them all a little love and caring and we can wean them off of Trump’s testosterone-shriveled teats. We can do so without a climactic battle, political or otherwise.

Sure, we need to restore checks and balances and the balance of powers. Sure, we need to elect pols who will do that. Sure, we need to fill Congress with members who understand its institutional role and how it keeps us from the Dark Side of a runaway Executive.

But we also need to elect pols who will think for themselves, and for the common good. We desperately need ones who will relegate Rove, Luntz, Bannon, Miller, Bolton and their Democratic clones to the dustbin of history, where they so surely belong.

There are plenty of bad pols in both parties who’ve delegated their jobs and their thinking to shills, scoundrels, propagandists and fourth-rate operatives. They all need to go. But Dems can clean their own House and change the Senate quicker and better working with the Trumpets (or at least some of them) than fighting all of them at once.

To win with kind, thoughtful pols and weed the bad ones out, we need to love our neighbors once again, as Jesus advised. We don’t need a climactic battle, in Congress or otherwise. We need the kind of empathy, understanding and love that, of all the pols in our current twisted system, a 79-year-old woman who’s practiced politics and family all her life knows best.

Armageddon is overrated. We nearly tried it in 1962, with the Soviets. It nearly extinguished our species. Love and empathy work better. Nelson Mandela tried them, and they let him negotiate his people’s freedom from inside his prison cell. As old as she is—maybe because of her age and gender—Nancy Pelosi seems to understand.

Links to Popular Recent Posts

For an explanation how demagoguing the issue of abortion has ruined our national politics and brought us our two worst presidents, and how we could recover, click here.
For analysis of the Huawei Tech Block and its necessity for maintaining our innovative infrastructure, click here.
For ten reasons, besides global warming, to dump oil as a fuel for ground transportation, click here.
For discussion why we must cooperate with China and how we can compete successfully with China, click here.
For reasons why Trump’s haphazard trade war will not win the competition with China, click here.
For a deeper discussion of how badly we Americans have failed to plan our future, click here.
For an essay on Elizabeth Warren’s qualifications for the presidency, click here.
For comment on how not doing our jobs has brought us Americans low, click here.
To see how modern politics has come to resemble the Game of Thrones, click here.
For a discussion of the waste of energy and fossil fuels caused by unneeded long-range batteries in electric cars, click here.
For a discussion why Democrats should embrace the long campaign season and make no premature moves, click here.
For a discussion how Trump and Brexit have put the tree world into free fall, click here.
For a review of how our own American acts help create our president’s claimed “invasion” of Central American migrants, click here.
For a review of basic facts that must inform any type of universal health insurance, click here.
For a discussion of how the West’s fall and China’s rise affect the chances of our species’ survival, click here.
For a discussion of what the Mueller Report is and how its release could affect American politics, click here.
For a note on the Mueller Report as the beginning of a process, click here.
For comment on the special candidacies of Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg, click here.
For reasons why the twin 737 Max 8 disasters should inspire skepticism and caution with regard to potentially lethal uses of software and AI, click here.
For my message to Southwest Airlines on grounding the 737 Maxes, click here.
For an example of even the New York Times spewing propaganda, click here.
For means by which high-school teachers could help save American democracy, click here.
For a modern team of rivals that might comprise a dream Cabinet in 2021, click here.
For an analysis of the global decline of rules-based civilization, click here. For a brief note on avoiding health lobbying Armageddon, click here.
For analysis of how to save real news and America’s ability to see straight, click here.
For an update on how Zuckerberg scams advertisers, click here.
For analysis of how Facebook scams voters and society, click here.
For the consequences of Trump’s manufactured border emergency, click here.
For a brief note on Colin Kaepernick’s good work and settlement with the NFL, click here.
For an outline of universal health insurance without coercion, disruption of satisfactory private insurance, or a trace of “socialism,” click here.
For analysis of the Virginia blackface debacle, click here. For an update on how Twitter subverts politics, click here.
For analysis of women’s chances to take the presidency in 2020, click here.
For brief comment on Trump’s State of the Union Speech and Stacey Abrams’ response for the Dems, click here.
For reasons why the Huawei affair requires diplomacy, not criminal prosecution, click here. For how Speaker Pelosi has become a new sheriff in town, click here.
For how Trump’s misrule could kill your kids, click here.
For comment on MLK Day 2019 and the structural legacies of slavery, click here.
For reasons why the partial government shutdown helps Dems the longer it lasts, click here.
For a discussion of how our national openness hurts us and what we really need from China, click here.
For a brief explanation of how badly both Trump and his opposition are failing at “the art of the deal,” click here.
For a deep dive into how Apple tries to thwart Google’s capture of the web-browser market, click here.
For a review of Speaker Pelosi’s superb qualifications to lead the Democratic Party, click here.
For reasons why natural-gas and electric cars are essential to national security, click here.
For additional reasons, click here.
For the source of Facebook’s discontents and how to save democracy from it, click here.
For Democrats’ core values, click here.
The Last Adult is Leaving the White House. Who will Shut Off the Lights?
For how our two parties lost their souls, click here.
For the dire portent of Putin’s high-fiving the Saudi Crown Prince, click here.
For updated advice on how to drive on the Sun’s power alone, or without fossil fuels, click here.
For a 2018 Thanksgiving Message, click here.

Links to Posts since January 23, 2017

permalink to this post

4 Comments:

  • At Friday, May 31, 2019 at 6:10:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Jason said…

    Hi Jay,

    Have you seen any polling or academic data to suggest that the Trumpets really are the people who've lost almost everything and are desperate to be cared about? Because I don't see that at all, in the data or in the ones I've met. Certainly they aren't the educated elite, but if you look at average income and other statistics they seem to be as well-off as almost anyone else. That's a $65,000 pickup truck with the confederate flag in the back window and sticker of Calvin peeing on Obama. The cable news narrative that spins them as decent people backed into a corner seems to be a way of collectively living in denial about what a bunch of lousy people we're stuck with.

    I think Trump's base supporters are far harder to reach because they're motivated by tribalism. Republicans have long been signaling via dog whistles (and more explicitly from pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones) that they're the party to protect the God-fearing, gun-toting 'Muricans from the liberal atheist hippies who want to steal their guns so they have no defense when the dirty Mexicans come to take their jobs and rape their daughters. Mainstream Republican politicians have been edging closer and closer to this extremism for years while trying to maintain some veneer of mainstream respectability, all while rightwing talk radio and Fox News whips the base into an ever-worsening frenzy. Trump was just the first one to ditch the veneer and give the base what they really want: somebody who drank all the same kool-aid, and who's just as much of an uneducated, knowitall racist blowhard as they are, and who wears that assholery openly and proudly and by extension tells them it's okay to be like they are.

    If you look at online communities of Trump's core supporters like Reddit's the_donald, you don't find people who are economically desperate and looking to be loved. You find a cult of terrible human beings who overwhelmingly cheer (and upvote) posts about Michelle Obama having a secret penis and other equally vile ideas. Spend five minutes there and it becomes obvious that the problem with Hillary's "basket of deplorables" comment was its political fallout, not its accuracy. If anything, she low-balled the percentage of Trump's supporters who belong in the basket.

    Certainly the Democrats need to do a better job of selling an economic message to middle America, and that will help win back some of the very small proportion of Trump voters who also voted for Obama. I think those are the people who don't really like Trump but disliked Hillary more. A unity candidate like Buttigieg or a blue-collar type like Biden would help win back that group in 2019. But they are not going to cut into Trump's ~40 % floor of support, the extremist base who love him simply because he makes liberals angry and validates all their most deplorable instincts.

    Democrats also need to do a better job of coming across as fighters and not feckless weaklings who are afraid to fight for what's right when it might be politically difficult. The case to impeach Trump now is as simple as it looks: he blatantly broke numerous laws, and nobody should be above the law. Letting Trump finish out his term without facing any consequences from his actions except for brow-furrowing will cement, for an entire generation, the narrative that the Democrats can't stand up for themselves (let alone stand up for the people). If they aren't going to show some backbone now, then when will they? I think looking at the political fallout from Clinton's impeachment, as many of them do, is a terrible mistake that completely misreads the difference between that moment and this one. Everything about our situation calls for a show of strength in the interest of justice.

     
  • At Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 7:41:00 PM EDT, Blogger Jay Dratler, Jr., Ph.D., J.D. said…

    Dear Jason,

    Thank you for your detailed comment. I’m sorry I didn’t post it right away. I haven’t had too many comments worth posting lately, mostly spam. Yours is definitely worth publishing and responding to.

    There’s more than a germ of truth in your assertion that Trump plays on tribalism, and tribalism of the worst sort. But you have to be granular about constituencies.

    All the data I have seen show that more than enough votes in key upper-Midwest states switched from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016 to elect Trump as president. Trump won in Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and by small margins in each.

    These are neither deep-South nor traditionally racist states. Wisconsin, in particular, is a traditionally progressive state that appears to be slowly flipping back to blue.

    As you go further South, I think your points have more merit. Many things suggest that raw racism matters there: dog whistles, vote suppression, voter discouragement, and McConnell’s raw unreconstructed bossism, which ultimately derives from the Confederacy.

    Even there, the solution is not more tribalism and name-calling, far less a second civil war. Democracy is the art of persuasion, an art we have largely forgotten as a people, corrupted by social media. That ultimately may be our downfall as a nation: as Lincoln said so well, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

    We are very close to that point—which is exactly where Putin wants us. Of course Fox, Rush and Alex are major co-conspirators. My own view is that Fox and the Murdochs are ultimately more responsible for our nation’s decline than any foreign power, Russia and China included. If it were up to me, I would strip them of their citizenship, bar them from entry for life, as personae non gratae, and break up Fox and sell it off in pieces to owners with real patriotism and some understanding of the Fourth Estate.

    But you only fight wildfires with fire. That’s not a good strategy in politics. If we want to get rid of Trump without the kind of fight that could lead to civil war, we have to peel away his 40% support. The only way to do that is with persuasion.

    The shouldn’t be hard, as so much of what he and Fox have to say is patent lies. But to take that tack you have to give up demonizing the other side, no matter how much it may demonize yours.

    You have to be subtle and smart, just like Obama. That, by the way, is why I’m for Warren. I believe that she, not Biden, is Obama’s natural successor, in brains, subtlety and finesse. The only mistake of hers that I’m aware of is her response to Trump’s “Pocahontas” taunt, and it was a minor one.

    [Comment continues below.]

     
  • At Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 7:47:00 PM EDT, Blogger Jay Dratler, Jr., Ph.D., J.D. said…

    [continuation of response to Jason]

    As for impeachment, I understand all your arguments and share many of them. But as a practical matter I think now is the wrong time. Trump has tarred the investigations and the push for impeachment as a purely partisan fight, and he’s been pretty successful in doing so. Pushing hard for impeachment now is just what he wants. It fights on his terms.

    In contrast, the Dems won big in the midterms by fighting on kitchen-table issues, in that case health care. Trump has done nothing for the middle class but inflame and delude it, and that’s the Dems’ strongest ground. His walking away from the infrastructure building that he’s been promising falsely since his campaign is a big gift to Dems, which the Democratic House can exploit easily.

    That, in my view is what the Dems should focus on, to soften up and woo away as much of Trump’s base as possible. The investigations and subpoena enforcement should go on, but in the background, out of the news. Eventually, they will discover—perhaps in Trump’s tax returns—a smoking gun or incontrovertible evidence of wrongdoing, like the Nixon tapes. Then impeachment will become possible, if still not easy.

    In the meantime, the Dems must focus on showing the nation how Trump is driving us into the swamp, economically and politically, deeper and deeper every day. Some Republicans are already rebelling against his disastrous push for tariffs on Mexican imports. Perhaps soon a few will break with Trump to assert Congress’ constitutional role.

    As for the South, it’s sui generis and always has been. We must change it slowly but firmly, with demographic shifts, voter registration and enfranchisement, step by hard step. Here Stacey Abrams is my heroine. I desperately want to see her in a powerful DOJ role in a Warren Administration. But the Dems have to win first.

    This is no ordinary partisan fight. We are in a fight to preserve our democracy and our way of life. There is no room for error or for drunken roundhouse punches, no matter how satisfying they may seem at the time. Every move has to be well-considered, thoughtful and strategic.

    We are fighting for our lives and what remains of our country. And as we Dems don’t have a lot of incumbent political elders, we have to listen hard to those we have, including Pelosi, Cummings, Lewis, and Biden.

    Best,

    Jay

     
  • At Friday, June 7, 2019 at 8:12:00 AM EDT, Blogger Jay Dratler, Jr., Ph.D., J.D. said…

    Dear Jason,

    One of the hazards of being nearly 74 and having posted over a thousand essays is that I sometimes forget my best ones, especially if they didn’t get much traffic to begin with. By loading and presumably reading it, someone reminded me of a 2017 essay of mine relating to the topic of these comments. I hope it was you.

    The essay has the somewhat cryptic title “How the Economist is Killing its Children.” I strongly recommend it in this context, although it’s a bit abstract. I hope that some day someone on The Economist’s editorial staff might read it. Then it might even make a difference.

    Best,

    Jay

     

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