Home > World Events > Rubin gets it right (crosspost from Crooked Timber)

Rubin gets it right (crosspost from Crooked Timber)

May 8th, 2016

Crises upend all kinds of assumptions, and the crisis in the Republican Party is no exception. Who would have thought, for example, that the National Review crowd might end up voting for the Libertarian candidate while lots of self-described libertarians are backing Trump.

At least as surprising to me is that, among all the attempts from establishment Repubs to understand the disaster that has befallen them, the most insightful and accurate (that is, the closest to my own analysis) has come from Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post, someone I’ve never before taken seriously. Unlike nearly all the NeverTrumpers she accepts the obvious implication of the fact that around half the Republican electorate has gone for Trump’s tribalism

The GOP discovered (in part, through Sen. Ted Cruz’s collapse despite perfect mechanical execution) that there is no majority supporting the Reagan agenda. Certainly, Cruz was a politician of limited talent and imagination, but if he could not sell the “three-legged stool” to the masses, perhaps there are no masses receptive to that sort of stuff. Even in a GOP primary, there is no majority looking to roll back gay rights or give huge tax breaks to upper-income Americans.

Second, she nails the role of climate change denialism in the intellectual collapse of the political right

Along with all of this, conservatives have to end their intellectual isolation and self-delusions. They need to stop pretending that climate change is not occurring (the extent and the proposed solutions can be rationally discussed) or imagining that there is a market for pre-New-Deal-size government. Conservatives must end their infatuation with phony news, crank conspiracy theories, demonization of well-meaning leaders and mean rhetoric

Contrast that with, say, Will and Krauthammer, who denounce Trump in extreme terms, but peddle lunatic conspiracy theories themselves.

In this context, I was struck by this piece headlined The outlandish conspiracy theories many of Donald Trump’s supporters believe. Despite the headline and the spin in the text, the data reported in the article shows that Trump supporters are only marginally more likely than Cruz and Kasich voters to accept the standard set of Republican conspiracy theories. To give a fairly typical example,

Fifty-two percent of his supporters said [the claim that vaccines cause autism] was possibly or definitely true, compared to 49 percent of those who supported Cruz and 45 percent of those who supported Kasich

These differences are barely outside the likely margin of error in a poll of this kind. The differences between groups of Repub voters on any given issue are far smaller than the differences arising from more or less extreme conspiracy theories (for example, only about 20 per cent of each group think that the Sandy Hook shootings were faked).

If there is one prediction that can safely be made it is that the Republican party of 2017 will be very different from that of 2015, before the Trump eruption. Whether it moves in the direction of sanity remains to be seen.

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  1. GrueBleen
    May 8th, 2016 at 16:55 | #1

    ProfQ,

    I’d like to draw your attention to this (if you haven’t seen it already:

    http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2016/05/hofstadter-on-the-american-right.html

  2. BilB
    May 8th, 2016 at 18:13 | #2

    Hofstadter from that article is identifying 43 years ago the reality that the right of politics is the domain of lower empathy people and the the left of politics is the domain of higher empathy people. At the far extremes are the ultra emps and bleeding heart liberals on the left and on the right are sociopaths and in the most extreme,… psychopaths, with the rest of us in between.

    I haven’t observed enough of Trump to know where he fits in the empathy bell curve, but to have attracted the label of “compulsive liar” to some in the Republican party he would have to be somewhere inside the sociopath domain.

  3. BilB
    May 8th, 2016 at 20:34 | #3

    Reading through some of the above the Republican Party is positively boiling. We can only hope that the broth reduces down to something at least half sane.

    Looking at Trumps empire it is hard to see how Trump could stay uncontroversial

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trump_Organization

    …keeping his holdings from interfering with affairs of state. “Chinese Wall” manufacturers will have a field day.

  4. Stockingrate
    May 8th, 2016 at 23:21 | #4

    ” she accepts the obvious implication of the fact that around half the Republican electorate has gone for Trump’s tribalism” and does not countenance that they might be rejecting Democrat/Republican militarism in the Middle East, antagonism towards Russia, and the purchasing of candidates by Wall St.

  5. Newtownian
    May 9th, 2016 at 08:01 | #5

    What a wondrous time to be watching the Republicans reap what they have sown. But there are problems.

    – The Democratic Party establishment provides no progressive alternative, just a promise to return to the good ole days of Bill. But the latter is itself either delusion or lie as neoliberal forces which appear allied to the Clintons continue to push privatization, financialization and rule by the powerful/0.01% with no end or alternative in sight.

    – Its not clear how a change in the Party’s collective sanity could happen. The idea that NeverTrumpers will over the course of a month or year wake up en masse and say with one voice “yes we have been wrong, we need to give away our power/hegemony/wealth/strategic positions in the interests of democracy/equity/environmental/sanity” is also delusional. This isnt how human society works.

    On the matter of Trump supporters not being more looney than typical Republicans this an important issue to explore. A week ago Nate Silver posted an interesting analysis of the wealth of Republican primary voters based on exit polls that supports this contention:

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-mythology-of-trumps-working-class-support/

    The first table in this piece suggests he is right. The wealth of Trump voters is essentially the same as Cruz. Also interestingly:
    – The median wealth of ALL voting groups are consistently above the median for all states listed (n=23) indicating the primary voters are not representative of the mass of voters.
    – Trump voters are much more wealthy than those of Bernie (and indeed Hillary) so the argument they are tapping into a similar demographic appears wrong.
    – Clinton appeals to much the same wealth demographic as Sanders
    – Of all the candidates Sanders is closest to each state’s average.

    Overall these stats suggest that provided voters can be marshalled across the board as happenned with Obama, Trump will not win, subject to the demographics of the US voting population as against the population overall.

  6. Ikonoclast
    May 9th, 2016 at 08:35 | #6

    I wouldn’t get too excited about the collapse of the GOP. As Newtonian correctly points out, the Democrats are also all about “privatization, financialization and rule by the powerful 0.01%” with no end in sight. The mainstream political parties in the Anglosphere are now just tools of corporate capital. If one tool loses its edge the corporate capitalists just pick up another. They can always buy any party they want. They can always manipulate any party towards that part of the political spectrum where they require it to operate. Power has moved from parliaments to boardrooms, from the people to the money. There will be no change of these processes under this system (late stage capitalism). There will only be an intensification of these processes. The real question is what happens when this system breaks down from its internal (class) and external (environmental) contradictions.

  7. J-D
    May 9th, 2016 at 09:13 | #7

    @Ikonoclast

    Delenda Carthago

  8. James Wimberley
    May 9th, 2016 at 09:46 | #8

    @Ikonoclast
    How is the breakdown from “environmental contradictions” supposed to work? From your perspective, the Paris Agreement looks like a decision by (again on your view) world capital to do the minimum necessary to avoid systemic collapse from climate change. If this means throwing the coal industry under the bus, too bad. Goldman Sachs will sell the families a nice funeral. They have decided to do this because it’s the better deal. Compare the contributions of Bismarck, Lloyd George, FDR and Neville Chamberlain to the welfare state in their respective countries. It’s easy to miss this standard pattern if you live in the USA or Australia, where extractive industries have atypically large political leverage and conservatives are exceptionally stupid – or perhaps, in the case of intellectuals, venal.

  9. Tim Macknay
    May 9th, 2016 at 11:17 | #9

    @James Wimberley
    Wot J-D said.

  10. Moz of Yarramulla
    May 9th, 2016 at 11:37 | #10

    While it’s funny to watch the Republicans implode, the key point is that the social and political consensii in the USA are still strongly committed to exceeding 2 degrees, and ideally 4 degrees, as soon as possible. They’re with Tony “6 degrees or bust” Abbott on all the important climate change issues.

    James Wimberley :
    @Ikonoclast
    From your perspective, the Paris Agreement looks like a decision by world capital to do the minimum necessary to avoid systemic collapse from climate change.

    From my perspective Paris was an agreement to start making changes that might result in only 2 degrees of warming … if implemented by around the year 2000. Making those promises now, when we already have more than 1 degree of warming in much of the inhabited world, is a joke. The optimistic view is that it’s better than Abbott’s “six degrees and ten metres by 2100” plan.

    What we actually needed from Paris was some hard declarations along the lines of “no fossil fuels by 2020, net zero emissions by 2030, international transport is in, and every forcing emission counts starting today”. Instead we saw a slightly less vague “we will think about possibly changing some things in the near future, if our local politics permit”. But back in Australia our local political parties are still pushing their traditional “too little too late” policies. The ALP have chosen the “better than Liberal” option, but have promised to export enough coal to take us past 3 degrees while not even promising to address our direct emissions.

    The Greens, have, like Obama, pre-compromised and are promising to ask their coalition partner(s) to please take this a little more seriously. I’m tempted to vote for the Shooters and Fishers Party purely because their population reduction plan might actually work (unrestricted hunting in National Parks FTW).

  11. May 9th, 2016 at 16:10 | #11

    The rise of Donald Trump is an interesting phenomena in recent politics as with Jeremy Corbyn and (whilst unlikely to win against Hillary Clinton) Bernie Sanders.

    In my opinion, all three politicians gained momentum in public support fundamentally because they offered (at least in their campaign) economic policy alternatives to what’s generally known as neoliberal economic policies which are offered by their respective political party’s establishment members. Like what Slavoj Zizek said, if you take away the misogynist and racist aspects of Trump, what you’re left with is an anti-Clinton liberal (in the US sense). Following this premises, the rise of Trump can be better described as the Republican voters wanting an alternative to “neoliberalism”, and the misogynist, racists and bombastic characteristics of Trump is less of a concern to them; rather than describing the election of Trump as a melt down of voters’ intelligence into some negative IQ or some conspiracy theory. Indeed, the support for Trump in states where there were traditionally manufacturing intensive states but now ridden with high unemployment rate (the stagnation of the US economy will reach a decade next year) is an evidence of this.

    I suspect the same trend would occur in Australia, if Australia have high unemployment for nearly 10 years and that Australians are allowed to vote for who will be their registered political party’s leader.

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