Monday, March 14, 2016

Cruising the Web

I was starting to teach the unit on the 1950s to my AP U.S. History class and going over various words that had been used to describe the decade such as "conformity," "complacency," "anxiety," and "alienation." and making sure that the students knew what the words mean. (You'd be surprised at how students'vocabularies have shrunk in the years since I started teaching 25 years ago as students have so many other options for entertainment other than reading, but that's a subject for another day.) As they discussed the word "alienation" as feeling detached and isolated from a group to which one belongs, I was thinking of how that describes how I feel more and more. I just can't relate to college students who are so upset by certain words or pieces of literature that they need a trigger warning before they can read it. I don't understand how every little thing that someone might say or do is now called a "microaggression"necessitating all sorts of training seminars. I never did relate to all the people who cheered on Barack Obama as some sort of messianic figure to come save the country. Maybe my sense of alienation began as Bill Clinton was defended by feminists who decreed that he was entitled to one free grope or affair with an intern since he was pro-choice. I love history and read it and teach it. Increasingly, I felt that the country was a place I just didn't recognize or relate to. Briefly, after 9/11, I could feel connected to the country and sensed that bond among us.

But more and more, that feeling dissipated. And now with the rise of Donald Trump to being the front-runner of the party that I had felt affinity to since the late 1970s, I just have trouble relating to all these people who see him as some strong man ready to "take the country back"and channel all the anger and resentments that have been brewing for so long. I get the anger; I just can't understand believing that this one man, this arrogant charlatan, is the guy to save us. And as I stood before the class last week talking about the sense of "alienation" some people felt in the 1950s, I was thinking that that described the way I feel so often now. I don't feel that way about my own community of friends and family and the students and teachers I work with, but I see and read the news and I just feel like too many people out there have a mindset that is just so alien to me.

I watched this video of a press conference that Marco Rubio did a couple of days ago talking about the violence at Trump rallies and I agreed with Allahpundit, that this was the "best 13 minutes of his campaign."
Perhaps the sense of anguish that Rubio has here is that he is seeing his presidential dreams fade away, but it seems that he really believes that something terrible is happening in our country. And he just doesn't recognize what it means to be conservative any more if this guy Trump is the one that conservatives find appealing.
Rubio said that the violence at Trump rallies — which Rubio called a "pattern" — means that America is regressing to an uglier time.

"You saw those images last night of ... police officers bleeding from the head, reminiscent of images from the 60s ... We're going backwards here. This is a frightening, grotesque and disturbing development in American politics."

....The substance of Rubio's comments centered around repeated violence at Trump events, which the senator said will result in America being "ripped apart at the seams and we will be incapable of solving any of the issues we have."

"The great thing about our republic is that we settle things in this country at the ballot box, not with guns or bayonets or violence," Rubio said. "Now protests become a license to take on violence, to take on your opponents physically."

Rubio said Trump was firing up the anger of his supporters to get their votes.

"A Donald Trump supporter sucker-punched a man the other day at an event. Donald Trump has yet to condemn him," Rubio said, concluding that Trump doesn't want to "turn off" his supporters....

Rubio also lashed out at a favorite villain in this election cycle — the media, which he said has to bear some blame for Trump's rise.

"I think the media has to bear some responsibility. For too long, those comments were ignored. Some people thought they were cute ... Every time Donald Trump offends someone, says something ridiculous, says something offensive, it's wall to wall coverage and that has elevated him more."

The appeal of Rubio's remarks appear to be the Senator's visible frustration at reconciling the Trump campaign with what he describes as his own loyalty to the principles of the conservative movement.
Perhaps if we had seen this Marco Rubio earlier in the campaign, he would be doing a lot better in the polls. He certainly seemed a lot more admirable than when he was making a crude joke about the size of Trump's ... hands.

The "hecklers' veto" has become more and more a feature of our public discourse. That is what won out when Donald Trump had to cancel a rally because organizations like Black Lives Matter and decided to crash the rally and disrupt it so that he had to cancel it. But that has been going on for years now on college campuses when conservative speakers come to give talks to students. It was the method most valued by Code Pinkers while liberals cheered them on. In 2011, Time Magazine celebrated "The Protester" as its person of the year while regarding protesters in the Arab Spring on a par with Occupy Wall Street. The Occupiers were celebrated throughout the media and on the left. It was only this past year when some liberal professors were shouted down that liberals suddenly started to worry about how such actions threatened public discourse. And all those cheering while Donald Trump's rally has to be shut down should realize that this sort of power given over to the protesters will not stop at Donald Trump. The Democratic candidates will face the same pressure, because protesters have seen that it works. We've already seen Bernie Sanders, Bernie Sanders!, have to give up his podium to Black Lives Matter activists. Do you think this won't happen to Hillary Clinton or other Democrats? Look to college professors who are suddenly realizing that they don't have control over their own campuses. Perhaps they're feeling a little bit alienated themselves. And when Bernie Sanders'supporters brag about infiltrating Donald Trump rallies, do they not realize that Trump supporters can do the same to Sanders and Clinton rallies? Certainly, that is what Trump is threatening. Are we now going to see an arms race among political campaigns for disruption of political speeches?

Kindle Deals up to 80% off

New Deals Every Day for Home and Kitchen

Today's Best Deals

Of course, it's possible to strongly condemn protesters disrupting political rallies and to still see how Donald Trump has fed into and encouraged a sense of violence among his supporters for those with whom they disagree. And now he blames the guy who sucker-punched a black protester at his rally by falsely indicating that the victim was a follower of ISIS. When asked about it, Trump's response to the fact that the video purporting to show the guy was a ISIS was "All I know is what's on the Internet." Allahpundit comments, "As a motto for America in 2016, that can’t be improved upon."" And he has no regrets for telling people to "knock the hell out of people who might be throwing tomatoes, because, as Trump explains it, people can be seriously hurt by thrown tomatoes. And he continues to offer to pay the legal fees for those who take it into their own hands to knock out the protesters. He is also thinking that he might pay the legal fees of the guy who punched out someone at his rally because the guy was holding a "certain finger" in the air. Apparently, in Trump world that's enough to justify punching the guy. And this man is the leading contender for the GOP nomination. I just can't relate.

Here is some more Trumpian calls for violence against those who protest against him.
Trump — Saddam Hussein to the ayatollahs of political correctness on the other side — is of course far from blameless in all this. That is not to say that Trump’s irresponsible, wild-eyed, and meat-headed rhetoric, which has included explicit calls for violence against his critics, is responsible for having provoked the protests. Rather, Trump’s rhetoric has been unworthy of a presidential candidate — and unworthy of an American — in and of itself.

In case you are in need of a refresher: When members of the audience violently attacked protesters, Trump said this was “appropriate” and something “we need more of.” A shortcoming of American politics is that “nobody wants to hurt each other anymore,” he insists. He longed for “the good old days” when vigilantes would stop protesters and “treat them very, very rough.” He has offered to pay the legal bills of allies who commit criminal assault against protesters. He has fantasized about committing violence himself: “I’d like to punch him in the face,” he said of one protester. (Trump’s manicurist must have winced a little.) He called for protesters to be “carried out on a stretcher.” His instructions to audience members included “Knock the crap out of them.” There is much more.

Civil discourse requires civil people. The Black Lives Matters protesters and the others who rioted and burned in Ferguson, Baltimore, and other cities are not civil people. Neither is Donald Trump, who as a public figure and a political candidate bears a special responsibility to lead by example. There was a time when men of Trump’s station understood civic responsibility, though that time seems to have passed with the rise of the Kardashian culture of which Trump and Trump-ism are an integral part. In that culture, the basics have been forgotten: Free speech for you means free speech for others, too; political violence is illegitimate in a liberal society that offers many other avenues of redress; and, as a better man than any of these miscreants once put it, political passion may strain the bonds that join us together, but “we are not enemies.”

Among the reasons that Donald Trump would be a bad president is the fact that he is a bad citizen, as he has demonstrated spectacularly in recent months. Those who would deny him a public platform through violence and the threat of violence are equally poor citizens and should be kept far from the levers of power — as should opportunists who associate with them.

There is a difference between enjoying liberty and taking liberties. This isn’t Bull Run. Trump, and those who despise him, both have a right to make themselves heard, in peace. The childishness and stupidity on both sides is shameful, and decent people on both sides should say as much and insist on better.

Best Deals in Auto Parts

Sales and Deals in Beauty and Grooming

Deals in Jewelry

Jonah Goldberg is also feeling anguish and alienation from the conservative movement. His metaphor is Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Ironically, I was just summarizing that movie for my students since many had seen the original movie as a metaphor showing the support for communism sweeping the country in the 1950s. And now Goldberg is sensing something out there as one-by-one respected conservatives are being replaced by pod people who have come to admire Donald Trump and think that he is the answer to the nation's ills.
I’m losing the will to rebut Donald Trump’s “arguments” because he really doesn’t make any. First of all, most of his interviews are rapidly becoming as journalistically adversarial as the infomercial host asking, “Mr. Foreman, is it really true I’ll lose weight and save money by using the George Foreman grill?”

But more importantly, if you listen to Trump’s answers to almost any question about how he will fix a problem, he uses up the first 95 percent of his time explaining, re-explaining and demagoguing about how bad the problem is. (That is, if he’s not talking about polls.) Then in the last few seconds, he says we’ll fix the problem by being really smart or by winning or by hiring the best people.

In other words, he has no idea how to fix it.

Before Trump gelded him, or before he went to sleep and awoke from his husk with a strange, new, Renfield-like respect for his master, Chris Christie was very good at pointing out how Trump can’t explain how he will do anything. Now no one seems to care.

What I can’t get my head around is how other people can listen to this stuff and hear something substantive or serious. I truly don’t understand it. Or maybe I do understand it, and I just don’t want to because I don’t like what it might say about a lot of people I respect.

Among the commentariat, the first signs of creeping Trumpodism take the form of anti-anti-Trumpism. The argument usually starts off by grudgingly and bloodlessly conceding that Trump is imperfect — who isn’t? Wink wink. Then comes the extended and passionate diatribe about how the real nuts are the ones who are making a big fuss about how awful he is. Sometimes, they talk of “Trumpophobia” without the slightest acknowledgement they are buying into the left-wing crutch of attaching the suffix “phobia” to delegitimize arguments they can’t or won’t deal with.

Politically, anti-anti-Trumpism, as Orwell could have told you, amounts to being objectively pro-Trump, even if it doesn’t sound like it.

Often, the next stage is to lock into a face-palmingly stupid logical fallacy: People said Reagan was awful, therefore people who say Trump is awful must be wrong, too.

In part because I think the word “meme” should be banned, I suspect this argument is an earworm....

I shouldn’t have to explain this, but you could replace “Reagan” with “Charles Manson” or “Carrot Top” or “Bud Gretnick the narcoleptic plumber of Muncie, Indiana” and it would have exactly as much logical power. Just because some people were wrong about one politician nearly 40 years ago, doesn’t mean completely different people are wrong about a completely different politician four decades later.

....It’s a weird kind of stupid to say that Trump is like Reagan because liberals said Reagan was a fool — in response to conservatives who say Trump is a fool.

The next stage of conversion is the power-lusting gaze at Trump’s popularity. “He’s tapping into something real,” is repeated endlessly as if tapping into anger justifies pretty much anything.

I understand the anger. I understand that political junkies are likely to marvel at anything that arouses such political passion. I also understand that politicians have a weakness for anything that inspires the masses....

But what bothers me is the way that this admiration or appreciation bleeds into power-worship. One of the most illuminating aspects of this entire sorry chapter in American history — and it’s not even done yet — is how so many smart people reply to criticisms of Trump with declarations about his popularity and his success. This form of argumentum ad populum is more fit for ancient Rome. The people want blood sport! Give them blood sport! I get that people are legitimately hurting from the effects of globalization and Obama’s ridiculous policies. That doesn’t make protectionism any more advisable.
After outlining the stages he has detected in what he terms "Trumpodism," Goldberg goes on to discuss those conservatives who have fully embraced the Trumpian model.
Driving home from the airport on Wednesday, I happened to hear part of Sean Hannity’s interview of Newt Gingrich on the radio. Gingrich, whom I like and respect, said something along the lines of “Trump’s waging a campaign of high policy” or “He’s winning voters over with policy at the highest level.” I can’t give you the exact quote because when I heard it, I almost crashed into a mailbox. Gingrich added, more plausibly, that Trump is running perhaps the most nationalist campaign since Andrew Jackson....

Now, again, I like Gingrich. But this is flim-flammery. It would’ve been nice if Sean had asked Newt to explain how that answer reflects on Gingrich, given that the former speaker almost single-handedly got NAFTA passed.
What really upsets Goldberg is that Bill Bennett the guy who has written on virtue and outrage against Bill Clinton and the moral state of our society and several books of stories for children to learn about historical and real-life heroes. And now he's expressing admiration for Donald Trump. Goldberg has a long list of the repugnant things that Donald Trump has said. Yet bennett seems to have bought in to the argument that, if liberals criticized Reagan for being stupid when he was actually a great man, and they criticize Trump, then Trump must be a great man.
I know I’m being glib and jocular as I criticize Bill and other friends. That’s basically how I argue. But let me be clear (as Obama likes to say too often): I hate this. I hate it. I hate attacking people I respect. I hate hearing from former fans who say they’re ashamed to have ever admired me or my writing. I hate being unable to meet fellow conservatives half-way. One of the things I love about conservatism is that we argue about our principles; as I’ve written 8 billion times — more or less — we debate our dogma. I love our principled disagreements. But I honestly and sincerely don’t see this as a mere principled disagreement. I see this as an argument about whether or not we should set fire to some principles in a foolish desire to get on the right side of some “movement.” I have never been more depressed about the state of American politics or the health of the conservative movement. I hate the idea that political disagreements will poison friendships — in no small part because as a conservative I think friendship should be immune to politics. I certainly hate having to tell my wife that my political views may negatively affect our income. But I truly fear that this is an existential crisis for the conservative movement I’ve known my whole life. And all I can do is say what I believe. If Donald Trump is elected president, I sincerely and passionately hope I will be proven wrong about all of this. But I just as sincerely and passionately believe I won’t be.
I can relate, Jonah. I can relate.

Featured Deals in Sports and Fitness

Today’s Deals at Amazon

Best-selling Vitamins