Trump Derangement Syndrome, Part Deux

One of the saddest spectacles this election season has been the Trump-induced transmogrification of Kevin Williamson from an insightful columnist into a dishonest hack. I’ve read Williamson for years, met him once, and generally have never failed to learn something from his articles. He is an excellent writer with a gift for conveying complex economic concepts in clear and simple prose.

As is the case with Jim Geraghty, the Trump phenomenon seems to have shaken something loose in him, to the point where his latest article in his most embarrassing yet. It is not enough to say that it is beneath his usual standards – it is indeed beneath contempt.

In Resentment Republicans Have Their Day, Williamson claims the Trump phenomenon has revealed a fissure in the GOP between Aspiration Republicans and Resentment Republicans.  The Aspiration Republicans are those good Republicans like Reagan, Buckley and, of course Williamson himself, who champion limited government, the founding principles, baseball, apple pie and sunshiney unicorns.  The Resentment Republicans, who have hearts of darkness (his phrase), are barely literate unreconstructed racists fixated on welfare, foreign aid, and spewing ethnic stereotypes.

Extrapolating from the polls, it would seem that Aspiration Republicans and Resentment Republicans are about evenly split. Which is to say, Kevin Williamson thinks about half of the GOP is comprised of nascent Nazis. He sounds like he’s been reading Mother Jones – maybe he’ll be writing there soon.

Equally disappointing as Williamson’s dishonest caricature of Trump supporters is his refusal to address the legitimate grievances of those supporters. Rather, he strikes a faux “speaking truth to power” pose in which he recasts those grievances into a form he is happy to answer, though which bears no resemblance to any position any reasonable person actually holds. As a public service, I thought I would assist Mr. Williamson by agreeing with him on those bold statements he is comfortable making:

1. People Should Not Hate Other People Based on the Color of Their Skin. Agreed.

2.  People Should Not Take Meth or Engage in Other Self-Destructive Behavior. Agreed.

3. People Who Live in Areas With No Good Jobs Should Move Where Good Jobs Are. Agreed.

4.  Donald Trump Is a Vulgar Buffoon, Lifelong Liberal, . . . (Numerous Insults Continue). Agreed. (I am a Cruz guy myself.)

There. Feel better? Straw arguments comfortably slain?

Now, about those pesky issues the Trump phenomenon actually does raise, but which Williamson would on pain of death refuse to address:

1. Should it be the official policy of the U.S. government to encourage mass immigration (legal and illegal) of unskilled migrants?

2. Should it be the official policy of the U.S. government to encourage mass non-white immigration (legal and illegal) with the express goal of making whites a minority in the U.S.?   U.S. immigration policy does indeed actively discriminate against whites; this is not paranoia or hyperbole, it is fact. The “demographic transformation” underway in the U.S. is not a naturally occurring event, it is deliberate government policy.

3. Should whites object to being second-class citizens under the law? It is in fact legal to actively discriminate against whites in university admissions, government contracting and employment. This is not paranoia or hyperbole, it is objectively verifiable fact.

4. Can reasonable, non-racist whites be concerned about the wisdom of these three policies, or does harboring any such concerns make one ipso facto a racist?

Inquiring minds would like to know, but you will be waiting a long time (see, e.g., eternity) before Williamson or any of his NR colleagues will provide an answer. I can understand their refusal: these are unpleasant issues with no easy answers. Endorse the demographic transformation of the U.S. and lose much of your white support; oppose it and you’re a card-carrying Klansman. Far better to evade, obfuscate, and reformulate the hard questions into cartoon versions that can be answered.

Which is to say, I understand the dodge, the weaseling, the cowardice. Occasionally that’s the best way to advance your goals. But please spare me the sanctimonious contempt for those too unsophisticated to lie.

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Trump Derangement Syndrome at NR

Standing Athwart NR’s TDS, Yelling Stop

It is just me, or has the Trump boomlet caused the writers at National Review to go ‘round the bend?  Yesterday alone National Review Online published three articles disparaging conservatives who are concerned about immigration (that is, most conservatives) as dolts, cranks, or Nazis.

First up is the usually thoughtful and interesting Kevin Williamson.  His article Visa Vulnerability describes how the government not only goes out its way to not enforce immigration law, but also to not collect data confirming the extent to which it does not enforce immigration law.  Williamson concludes that this state of affairs is by design and not accident, and that DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson should be impeached if it is not corrected.

Oh really? Surely Williamson knows that this state of affairs has persisted for decades with the awareness and tacit approval of the GOP establishment. But only now it is an intolerable situation worthy of impeachment? Why is that? Perhaps, just perhaps, the government’s dereliction of duty is under discussion now only because of a certain self-promoting casino mogul. But of course Williamson can’t acknowledge this, and instead has to include a gratuitous insult of Trump supporters (at least one Trump insult per article is now apparently mandatory): “Don’t try explaining this to a Trumpkin.”

Reihan Salam then chimed in with an article proposing a new immigration policy: The New Melting Pot. It is long wonkish piece worthy of a rejoinder (which is coming), but I found it notable for the way the normally restrained Salam felt impelled to include his own gratuitous Trump bashing. According to Salam, Trump’s “clownish provocations” cater to “fear and resentment” and are characterized by “bombast and chauvinism.”

Last up is Jim Geraghty, whose writings on immigration become more unhinged by the day. In yesterday’s offering, The Rise of the Doomsday Conservatives, we learn that conservatives who question the wisdom of permanently high levels of third-world immigration are “white nationalists,” “paranoid race-obsessed hysterics,” and “Trump-aligned anti-immigration zealots” who exhibit traits of “lunatic white-nationalism.” Typical Geragthy restraint and thoughtfulness, in other words.

Geragthy formulates the concerns expressed by columnist Diana West as follows: “West and others assert that a majority-minority United States will be a lesser country – less free, less prosperous, less safe. At heart, they believe that what gives the United States its unique strengths is a population that is predominately European in heritage.”

Hmm, that’s an interesting proposition. I suppose, if one were so inclined, one could do the research and compare countries around the world run by members of different ethnic groups and then see how they stacked up according to some objective criteria. Say, for instance, respect for religious and ethnic minorities, equal treatment of women, respect for the rule of law, respect for property rights, absence of corruption, protection of free speech and political dissent, etc. Maybe there’s something to West’s point; maybe it’s load of crap.

But Geragthy has zero interest in learning whether there is any merit to it or not. Rather, he helpfully transforms her position into something he finds more assailable: “But if you think a strong national defense, strong family values, free-market economics and respect for the rule of law only benefit white America, and can only be preserved by them, you’re out of your mind.”

It should go without saying that Geraghty’s framing of the issue bears no resemblance whatsoever to West’s point. She made a reasonable if debatable assertion that countries run by Europeans and their descendants tend to be more free, safe and prosperous than others. What she emphatically did not say is that within such countries, only white people benefit.

A basic rule of punditry is that it is bad form to call people names, as such behavior is typically a sign of a weak argument. I will therefore refrain from going full-Geraghty and responding in kind, except to say that his straw argument is a vile, malicious smear, and the accompanying slurs and insults are a discredit to him and NR.

As Kevin Williamson might say, maliciously lying about your opponents’ viewpoints, then bravely refuting the malicious lie you have just created, and, for good measure, loading in a lot of name-calling based on the now refuted invented lie, does not happen by accident but by design.

I have been a subscriber to National Review since 1985. It was that year that I came across a copy of Right Reason by William F. Buckley, Jr., and then attended a speech he gave at Florida Atlantic University. I had been fairly apolitical until then, but the book and the speech set me on a course as a lifelong conservative. Since then NR has been a continuing source of insights and information.

It is therefore especially disappointing to me to watch NR’s recent transformation into . . . something else.

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The KAOS Candidate Battles the Forces of CONTROL

In last Thursday’s GOP debate cum snoozefest the soporific Jeb! made headlines for calling out The Donald as the “chaos candidate” who would be a “chaos president.”  At least that’s how the media transcribed it.

I’d like to think that Jeb was actually pegging Trump as the “KAOS” candidate, in an homage to the old Get Smart TV series.  If I’m right – and I am always right – Bush was slyly suggesting that Trump is the leader of a shadowy organization based in Romania (either for tax purposes or as a convenient source for his next East European ex-wife), while Bush and his ineffectual candidacy are the bumbling but lovable Maxwell Smart and the forces of CONTROL.  It’s an interesting analogy – I could totally see Bush taking a call on his shoe, or one lobbed his way from an aggrieved member of the press.

But in his typical ham-handed way, Jeb’s putative insult actually highlights a significant part of Trump’s appeal.  The GOP primary to this point can be fairly characterized as the base’s repudiation of the existing order.  If the alternative is a continuation of the status quo, a majority of the GOP electorate has registered its belief that an injection of chaos may be just what the system needs.

Contra the Establishment’s howls of protest, there is a scientific method to the base’s madness.  In mathematics there is something known as chaos theory, which posits that a small change in inputs in a dynamic system can lead to a wildly different outcome (and the base they wants them a wildly different outcome).  This is the so-called butterfly effect, though in this model Trump’s candidacy is not the distant flapping of a butterfly’s wings, but Mothra crash landing in Reince Priebus’s front yard.

This is why the attacks on Trump fail to resonate.  We are warned that his personal life and decorum are off-putting, he is a bad-hair-walking crony capitalist, a Hillary-contributing, casino-operating, insulting, reality-TV showboat, a policy dilettante, and just generally a megalomaniacal, publicity-seeking buffoon.  Or whatever the slur du jour is.  No matter. The more the Establishment stresses his unsuitably as a traditional politico, the more it bolsters his street cred as a disruptive input.

This also explains why a great many conservatives support him even though he is nobody’s idea of a conservative.  Sure, he might be true to his word and build a wall on the Mexican border, or he might build an express lane for the 50% of Mexicans who haven’t moved here already.  He might nuke the third cousins of suspected terrorists, or he might enter into a gay marriage with Vladimir Putin.  Who knows?  At least he couldn’t be reliably counted on to sign an omnibus budget deal that sells out every conservative position imaginable while leaving no donor-class wish list unfunded.

Mark Steyn memorably described many of our institutions as “incapable of meaningful course correction.”  In Steyn’s telling, the salient difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is that the Democrats are prepared to drive the country over the cliff’s edge with the accelerator pressed to the floor, while the GOP would ease it back to 70 mph or so.  To extend the analogy, Trump is the lunatic driver who is likely to wrench the steering wheel to one side and cause the car to roll side-over-side until the battered hulk comes to a rest, hopefully a few feet short of the precipice.  This may not count as meaningful course correction, but more and more voters reasonably see it as preferable to the alternative.

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Rested and Ready

After a brief (well, not overly brief) respite from the world of political and policy blogging, I have returned for the 2016 campaign.  Because what this nation needs, now more than ever, is one more opinion about how things ought to be.

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Judging from Experience

Yesterday’s WSJ article (subscription required) on Judge Leon’s decision holding the NSA telephone metadata collection program unconstitutional contained this tidbit:

“Judge Leon’s skepticism for government behavior developed despite holding a number of positions at the Justice Department in the 1970s and 1980s, and later serving as counsel to several congressional investigations.”

James Taranto is on vacation until January, so in his place I will nominate this gem for a “Fox Butterfield, is that you?” insight.

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Tax Transparency #3

In the weekend’s ongoing series of recent tax tidbits that highlight the many ways in which governments go out of their way to conceal their true costs from taxpayers, I could not help but note the entirely foreseeable consequences of the Obamacare medical device tax.  Many device makers report that the tax will force them to raise prices, which will be charged to hospitals and insurance companies, who in turn will pass the cost along to patients as surely as day follows night.

The notion that this reaction was not eminently predictable is unpersuasive, to put it charitably.  Indeed, it follows the tried and true Obama approach.  Hide the cost of government by imposing those costs directly on an easily demonizable subset of the population.  When the target class responds by passing the costs along to consumers, taxpayers, patients, etc., affect mock horror and denounce the unbridled greed of the fat-cats resorting to loopholes to avoid paying their fair share.I assume they have a software program in the West Wing that spits these things out.

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Tax Transparency #1

The New York Times reports that the new W-2 rule requiring the disclosure of the cost of employer provided health care contains surprises for many workers.  The rule was ostensibly added to make workers more cost conscious, though critics suspect it was also added as a prelude to eventually taxing the benefits.

I disagree with Rush’s perspective that the disclosure could cause workers to feel that their employer is not providing them much in the way of benefits — in my experience health premiums are incredibly expensive and the average worker is shocked to learn how much it really costs.  According to the Times article, the average premium for family coverage in 2012 was $15,745.  As regular readers know, I think tax transparency promotes smaller government by making the cost of government more apparent.

To modify a menswear store’s slogan from my youth (“An educated consumer is our best customer”), an educated taxpayer is big government’s worst nightmare.

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