Weekend reading

Saturday is a slow day (it’s supposed to be my day off, but that never happens), and so I’ll reserve anything substantive for the rest of the week. But there are two items I recommend reading today—actually three, but I’ll save the other for tomorrow. The first is Andrew Sullivan’s weekly “Interesting Times” column in New York Magazine (click on screenshot below). He always has one long segment and two short ones. The former is about the difference between conservatives and reactionaries (who are extreme conservatives), while the other two are on a previous column comparing Trump’s America to Imperial Rome and on the unholy Trump/Netanyahu alliance.

While I usually agree with what Sullivan says, I think he goes a bit wrong on the Israel segment, faulting it for not wanting a two-state solution (he doesn’t seem to know that the Palestinians want it even less!), and calling Israel an “apartheid state”. The latter is an uncharacteristic act of Sullivan buying into anti-Israel propaganda as well as his failure to both understand apartheid and to realize that the Palestinian territories are far more of an apartheid state. But I digress: his main piece is what I want to discuss here. In the spectrum from reactionaries to conservatives, Sullivan finds himself firmly ensconced in the latter camp.

I’m not exactly sure why Sullivan still considers himself a conservative, unless it’s because, as he says, he wants the pace of social change to go slowly as people’s minds are changed gradually, rather than being imposed from the top, as “The Squad” and candidates like Elizabeth Warren apparently want. And he argues that reactionary politics simply drives centrists to the Right and turns right-wingers into extremists.

Here’s his distinction:

And that’s why I often listen to him [Michael Anton, a reactionary]. He reminds me why I’m a conservative, why the distinction between a reactionary and a conservative is an important one in this particular moment, and how the left unwittingly is becoming reactionism’s most potent enabler.

A conservative who becomes fixated on the contemporary left’s attempt to transform traditional society, and who views its zeal in remaking America as an existential crisis, can decide that in this war, there can be no neutrality or passivity or compromise. It is not enough to resist, slow, query, or even mock the nostrums of the left; it is essential that they be attacked — and forcefully. If the left is engaged in a project of social engineering, the right should do the same: abandon liberal democratic moderation and join the fray.

More about the divide, and where Sullivan sees himself:

This, it strikes me, is one core divide on the right: between those who see the social, cultural, and demographic changes of the last few decades as requiring an assault and reversal, and those who seek to reform its excesses, manage its unintended consequences, but otherwise live with it. Anton is a reactionary; I’m a conservative. I’m older than Anton but am obviously far more comfortable in a multicultural world, and see many of the changes of the last few decades as welcome and overdue: the triumph of women in education and the workplace; the integration of gays and lesbians; the emergence of a thriving black middle class; the relaxation of sexual repression; the growing interdependence of Western democracies; the pushback against male sexual harassment and assault.

Yes, a conservative is worried about the scale and pace of change, its unintended consequences, and its excesses, but he’s still comfortable with change. Nothing is ever fixed. No nation stays the same. Culture mutates and mashes things up. And in America, change has always been a motor engine in a restless continent.

To me, this doesn’t sound like a conservative but a centrist, and I’m not sure why those who favor progressive social change, but gradually, are conservatives. Well, Sullivan gets the right to use his own personal pronoun, and so be it. But I do agree with him when he argues that the denial of plain facts by the Left is going to do us in. It will surely contribute to that, but I’m hoping that if Trump is counting on a victory borne on wheels of a strong economy, he’ll lose. Regardless, Sullivan gives punch after punch to the Authoritarian Left, and I think most of them land hard:

Many leftists somehow believe that sustained indoctrination will work in abolishing human nature, and when it doesn’t, because it can’t, they demonize those who have failed the various tests of PC purity as inherently wicked. In the end, the alienated and despised see no reason not to gravitate to ever-more extreme positions. They support people and ideas simply because they piss off their indoctrinators. And, in the end, they reelect Trump. None of this is necessary. You can be in favor of women’s equality without buying into the toxicity of men; you can support legal immigration if the government gets serious about stopping illegal immigration; you can be inclusive of trans people without abolishing the bimodality of human sex and gender; you can support criminal-justice reform without believing — as the New York Times now apparently does — that America is an inherently racist invention, founded in 1619 and not 1775.

Moderate change within existing structures wins converts and creates conservatives, willing to defend incremental liberal advances. Radical change bent on transforming human nature generates resistance and creates reactionaries. Leftists have to decide at some point: Do they want to push more conservatives into Michael Anton’s reactionary camp or more reactionaries into the conservative one? And begin to ponder their own role in bringing this extreme reactionism into the mainstream.

The second piece is a NYT op-ed by Yale Law Professor Peter Shuck, who specializes in “law and public policy; tort law; immigration, citizenship, and refugee law; groups, diversity, and law; and administrative law.” Click on the screenshot to read it:

I’m recommending it because I agree with his premise: immigration has become a big issue in the 2020 campaign, and if Democrats don’t come up with a sensible immigration plan, they’re cooked (or so I think). That involves admitting that not all people who claim to be refugees are refugees (many are here for economic gain, which doesn’t qualify as for refugee status), and taking concrete steps so that Democrats can’t be characterized as The Party of Open Borders.  That said, the policy must be humane, must not involve separating children and parents, and must have a speeded-up way to adjudicate claims. But I’ll let Shuck speak:

First, the issue:

Before Mr. Trump’s campaign, immigration was fairly low on voters’ lists of their top issues. Since Mr. Trump’s election, this has changed strikingly: In a Gallup poll of registered voters taken days before the 2018 midterms, immigration tied with the economy as the “most” or an “extremely” important issue, at 78 percent, just below health care. The concern is bipartisan — 74 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners ranked it similarly near the top.

Mr. Trump understands that these voters represent a ripe target for fearmongering and for extremist policies that play off that fear. At heart, voters have legitimate concerns about undocumented immigration and the possibility of ever-larger numbers of people attempting to cross the southern border. But Democrats’ leading candidates have responded defensively, with rhetoric and policy ideas that are sometimes extreme and incoherent in the opposite direction.

Now you can say that immigration isn’t really a problem, and we shouldn’t formulate policy driven by Trump’s agenda. But even Democrats are concerned about immigration, and failure to address it sensibly is almost a guarantee (barring economic meltdown) that Trump will be re-elected—a nightmare for all of us. (In my heart, I’m hoping he won’t run, but that seems unlikely.)

Then some (and only some) of Shuck’s recommendations:

For the most part. . . Democratic candidates appear unwilling to make the hard choices that a difficult situation like the one along the border demands. For example, facilities on the American side are inadequate to house all the people seeking asylum; it makes sense, then, to house them on the Mexican side, so long as the United States, along with human rights groups, ensures that the applicants have safe, decent housing conditions and due process in immigration court. But most of the candidates reject that option out of hand — even though we know that a vast majority of asylum claims will be rejected.

Their unrealistic position seems to imply that most people who arrive at the border asking for asylum have a valid claim. But as much as we can sympathize with their plight, the poverty and generalized fear of violence that most at the border hope to escape do not qualify them for asylum under American or international law. “Membership in a particular social group” (the legal category they invoke) is sometimes interpreted to cover fear of targeted gang violence and domestic violence. But courts traditionally have rejected this reading, because such fears are so common and are not tied to a qualifying “particular social group.” Democrats should propose more rigorous criteria for adjudicating such claims, rather than just pretend that the law means something it mostly doesn’t.

It is the oft-heard Democratic claim that all refugees need to be let in, and the equating of economically-driven migrants with “real” refugees, that make Democrats sound unconvincing to many Americans. The public is not that credulous.

Another remedy:

Democrats should also endorse much stronger interior enforcement, although it is more socially disruptive than border control: Roughly half of the 10.5 million undocumented immigrants in America entered illegally, and the other half overstayed their visas and melted into the population. President Barack Obama took interior enforcement seriously, and Democrats today should not apologize for his actions, deriding him as “deporter in chief” — as they too often do on the stump and the debate stage.

And three more:

Democrats rightly favor legal status for millions of the undocumented, especially the Dreamers and many of their parents (Mr. Trump favored this, then reneged). Congress should extend this status to other longtime-resident, law-abiding undocumented people. The easiest fix would legalize all long-term, continuously resident applicants who can show good moral character — easy because a statutory remedy dating to 1929 uses a very old eligibility cutoff; it cries out for updating to include those who arrived before, say, 2009.

The United States should also welcome many more new immigrants than the 1.1 million we now admit annually. Democrats should call for an end to the misbegotten “diversity lottery,” which eats up 50,000 precious visas each year, and instead use those visas for a pilot program for a points-based system like Canada’s (which proportionately admits many more immigrants than we do).

Democrats should call for a return to the norm for refugee admissions of roughly 75,000 to 85,000 a year, from the shamefully low 22,000 admitted per year under Mr. Trump. They should also support some conservatives’ proposals to modernize the larger system, such as reforming the clotted approval process for admitting temporary farmworkers and H-1Bs, and reassessing the troubled investor visa program.

Feel free to agree or disagree. For the most part I agree. 



  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 17, 2019 at 1:06 pm | Permalink


  2. Jon Gallant
    Posted August 17, 2019 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Shuck’s recommendations were fulfilled, by and large, in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744), sponsored by Senator
    Chuck Schumer and the rest of the bipartisan “gang of eight”. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Border_Security,_Economic_Opportunity,_and_Immigration_Modernization_Act_of_2013 .

    The bill passed the Senate 68-32, but was killed in the House. The Democrats could stop shooting themselves in the foot on immigration by simply affirming the tenets of this bill, introduced 6 years ago by their current Senate leader. The failure of most of the presidential aspirants to take this simple step is baffling—and discouraging.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 17, 2019 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      Despite the “gang of eight” plan passing the US senate by better than a 2-to-1 margin, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner declined even to bring it to a vote on the House floor because the bumptious Tea Party wing of his Party (viz., the forerunners of today’s “Freedom Caucus”) opposed it, and opposed any other proposal that would create a pathway to citizenship for anyone who had entered the US illegally, including the DACA youth and “Dreamers” who were brought here as innocent children.

      These House radicals — who plainly meet the definition of “reactionaries” described by Sullivan in his New York magazine piece — also threatened to label any Republican who supported that bill, or any other form of compromise on immigration, as pro-amnesty RINOs. This is why NONE of the 18 Republicans who ran for the Party’s 2016 presidential nomination (including, even, one of the Senate bill’s original gang-of-eight co-sponsors, Marco Rubio) would dare support any type of common-sense immigration proposal. And it goes a long way to explaining how the GOP ended up nominating a candidate whose only immigration policy consisted of building a wall and imposing a ban.

  3. rickflick
    Posted August 17, 2019 at 1:38 pm | Permalink


  4. DrBrydon
    Posted August 17, 2019 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    As a conservative, I find Sullivan’s description very congenial. I read a comment on a website last week that struck me for its view of conservatism. The person asserted that liberalism, like atheism, was a neutral position, and that the extent to which one was a conservative was the extent to which one wanted to harm people. I am not sure I live in the same world as that person.

  5. Harrison
    Posted August 17, 2019 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Dems see falling rates of illegal immigration and increased conflation between asylum and illegal immigration as a Republican attempt to pump up the numbers to create a fake crisis. They perceive responding to that fake crisis as legitimizing it, which it absolutely would be.

    Why is refusing to fight on your opponents’ crooked terms being maligned as a strategic misstep? Why does no one ever say anything like “man, if Republicans don’t actually come up with that miracle health care solution they’ve been promising for 15 years their goose is cooked”?

    • Posted August 17, 2019 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      After a significant drop in the early 2000’s, illegal entry attempts remained steady at c. 500,000 p/a*, until a sudden spike over the last 12 months or so.

      It is the Democrats who disingenuously conflate economic migrants with legitimate asylees, who falsely declare generic regional conditions valid grounds for asylum.

      It was the Democrats who doggedly denied a crisis existed when the sudden influx of illegal immigrants from Central America arrived at our border, then made political hay with the overwhelmed processing infrastructure, demagoguing about ‘concentration camps’, etc.


    • harrync
      Posted August 17, 2019 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

      It is a strategic misstep because, unlike you or me, the typical swing voter is irrational and emotion driven. Overall, I think Warren has the best policy proposals; I also think they are big political losers, at least when it comes to immigration or medicare for all. If you lose the election, it doesn’t matter how good your proposed policies are. I’ve come around to wishing for a Biden-Warren ticket. Like Reagan [and, alas, Trump], when it comes to Biden, by golly, people just like him. Or at least enough people to get them elected.

  6. Posted August 17, 2019 at 2:39 pm | Permalink


    … that it is exactly this kind of pious, preachy indoctrination about “oppressive systems” that are actually turning some white kids into alt-right fanboys.

    … this kind of scolding is almost always counterproductive. Subject young white boys to critical race and gender theory, tell them that women can have penises, that genetics are irrelevant in understanding human behavior, that borders are racist, or that men are inherently toxic, and you will get a bunch of Jordan Peterson fans by their 20s.

    Does Sullivan really believe Peterson fans are ‘alt-right’? Peterson strongly opposes the alt-right, and his sociopolitical & philosophical views are very much in keeping with Sullivan’s.

  7. pablo
    Posted August 17, 2019 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    It’s too late for the Democratic party on immigration. Both Julian Castro and my former favorite candidate Warren has endorsed open borders by making border crossing a civil instead of a criminal offense. So far I haven’t seen any of the other candidates push back against it. I don’t think they will. They foolishly fear the woke Twitterati and their media enablers too much.

    • Posted August 17, 2019 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Biden did quite clearly in the last debate. IIRC, Ryan, Klobuchar, Delaney, Gabbard, Bullock, Hickenlooper all oppose decriminalizing illegal border crossings. One of the reasons they’ve all been ‘ghosted’ by the leftist MSM.

  8. Posted August 17, 2019 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    I like Sullivan most of the time too. He obviously makes some good points here. However, overall it hit me as an attempt to resurrect conservatism in the face of Trump and to signal his friends that he’s still a conservative.

    He’s ok moving forward on some things (marriage equality, etc.) but claims we will always have bigotry. He seems to offer this to encourage liberals to back off on calling everyone on the Right bigots. Although they are not all bigots, enough of them were ok with Trump’s obvious racism and bigotry to elect him. Until they reject Trump en masse, the label stays as far as I’m concerned. Those on the Right who dislike the “bigot” label need to come out strongly against Trump and his supporters, like Sullivan has.

    In his final paragraph, rather than counter reactionaries’ bad ideas directly, he blames the Left,

    • Adam M.
      Posted August 18, 2019 at 1:14 am | Permalink

      Those on the Right who dislike the “bigot” label need to come out strongly against Trump and his supporters, like Sullivan has.

      How can they do that while still opposing illegal immigration, though? It seems like any Republican who wants to end illegal immigration or to deport illegal immigrants will be called a bigot, regardless of his motives. I don’t agree that bigotry and opposing illegal immigration are synonymous, but it seems that many people think that way.

      • Posted August 18, 2019 at 11:42 am | Permalink

        I don’t think that is at all true. Most Dems realize there’s an immigration problem but recoil at portraying it as an invasion of sub-humans. They’ve pretty much always supported sane policy discussion. Republicans have just been unrealistic and inhuman when it comes to real problems of Dreamers and 11M illegals/undocumented who are well-integrated into our economy. In fact, there have been bipartisan agreements that have been killed at the last minute by Trump or failed to bring to a vote in the Senate.

        I know the Dem presidential candidates have said some crazy things, such as decriminalizing illegal entry, but my hope is that is an aberration due to there being so many candidates pitted against each other in debates where they don’t get much chance to talk. That will sort itself out soon.

  9. Historian
    Posted August 17, 2019 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Sullivan states: “A conservative who becomes fixated on the contemporary left’s attempt to transform traditional society, and who views its zeal in remaking America as an existential crisis, can decide that in this war, there can be no neutrality or passivity or compromise. It is not enough to resist, slow, query, or even mock the nostrums of the left; it is essential that they be attacked — and forcefully. If the left is engaged in a project of social engineering, the right should do the same: abandon liberal democratic moderation and join the fray.”

    This statement by Sullivan is a red herring. Blame those zealous lefties for some conservatives becoming reactionaries. If only those lefties were more moderate, people on the right would stay moderate conservatives such as himself. Actually, a better argument is that most in government on the right are reactionaries as defined by Sullivan and the excesses of the left are in response to the fact that today’s right has opposed even moderate social change as evidenced by their apocalyptic resistance to Obamacare and any form of universal health care, their xenophobic view of immigrants, their unconcern about climate change, their failure to support even tepid measures to reduce inequality, and their adamant unwillingness to back moderate gun reform (although perhaps this is changing). Sullivan opposes Trump, but the vast number of Republican rank and file support him and Republican politicians, even though they support some measures opposed by the politicians, such as background checks on gun purchases.

    At one time the Republican Party had a substantial number of moderates and even liberals. More than a half century ago they supported LBJ’s civil rights legislation. They don’t exist anymore. Aside from Trump, the symbol of the Republican Party is Mitch McConnell, the vile Senate Majority Leader who has blocked legislation that a true conservative, as Sullivan defines himself, would support. So, I contend that the reactionary Republican Party has driven many on the left further in that direction. The Republican Party is reactionary not because of what the left has done but because the business interests in the party oppose any action to reduce income and wealth inequality while the social wing (Trump’s base) resists their dominance that is challenged by the changing demographics of the nation.

    The country is becoming more polarized. This cannot be denied and is very dangerous. But, in contrast to Sullivan’s argument, this is because the dominant but shrinking majority have instituted a campaign of massive resistance rather than supporting measures that all groups can find acceptable through compromise. Through the normal democratic processes the reactionaries will lose. The question is how will they respond to this? Reactionaries are not usually good losers. Violence may ensue. If it does, Sullivan will probably blame the left.

    • Posted August 17, 2019 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      I agree entirely … except perhaps for your final speculation that Sullivan will blame violence on the Left. I hope he’s better than that.

    • EdwardM
      Posted August 17, 2019 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      Interesting. So to you the left is blameless? It could not because of excesses by both the right and left?

      • GBJames
        Posted August 18, 2019 at 9:23 am | Permalink

        He didn’t say that.

        • EdwardM
          Posted August 18, 2019 at 11:35 am | Permalink

          I guess I was responding to this;

          “So, I contend that the reactionary Republican Party has driven many on the left further in that direction. The Republican Party is reactionary not because of what the left has done because ..(good examples omitted)..”

          I agree mostly with Historians thoughtful analysis. I just feel he’s left the Left off the hook. I thing Sullivan has a point and though Historian brings up some good counterpoints, I don’t think it was a Red Herring.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 17, 2019 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      … today’s right has opposed even moderate social change as evidenced by their apocalyptic resistance to Obamacare and any form of universal health care, their xenophobic view of immigrants, their unconcern about climate change, their failure to support even tepid measures to reduce inequality, and their adamant unwillingness to back moderate gun reform …

      You can add to that list the unseemly alacrity with which they are trying to outlaw abortion (and, in some instances, even to make it murder), as well as the bitter-end battle they waged against Sullivan’s own pet issue, same-sex marriage, and gay-rights in general.

      Just as the Republican Party has lost its liberal and moderate wings — the long tradition of Republicans like Margaret Chase Smith and Prescott Bush and George Romney and Everett Dirksen and his son-in-law, Howard Baker — it has now all but lost its “conservative” wing (as that term is defined by Sullivan in his piece). Traditional conservatives (the ones who trace their lineage to Edmund Burke) have been never-Trumpers from the get-go, and many (George Will among them) have abandoned the GOP outright.

      The Republican Party that remains has fallen in line completely behind Donald Trump, a man whose positions are inimical to the foundational values of traditional conservatism — free trade, open markets, limited government, balanced budgets, due regard for American institutions and traditions and norms, strict constitutional construction, maintenance of strong international alliances and a multilateral foreign policy, and the thing conservatives long claimed to hold most dear: personal probity and rectitude.

      • Posted August 17, 2019 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        Gee, when you put it that way, Sullivan’s breakdown into Conservatives and Reactionaries really seems like a fantasy made out of whole cloth. This was also my take but you’ve put a pin in it.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 17, 2019 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

          I’ve been gravely disappointed by the failure of principled conservatives within the Republican Party to come forward in resistance to Donald Trump (and, indeed, by their failure to come forward early, as they should have, to strangle his candidacy in its crib).

          But those few who have, the “never Trumpers” — most recent among them, conservative representative Justin Amash of Michigan — may well go down as this era’s heroes, the ones who merit a “profile in courage,” even more so than those on the Left who are Trump’s natural adversaries.

    • Harrison
      Posted August 17, 2019 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

      The blame game only works one way. The worst excesses of the right are blamed as a reaction to the left. The worst excesses of the left are never treated as a reaction to the right.

      The left always needs to moderate itself or else. The right never needs to do any such thing.

      • GBJames
        Posted August 18, 2019 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        Indeed. And this is why the country has slid to the right for 40 years.

    • Jim Swetnam
      Posted August 17, 2019 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

      Historian, Mr. Topping, and Mr. Kukec, I think all of your comments on this thread, and this post, have been very perceptive.

  10. J Cook
    Posted August 17, 2019 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Human population is a subject that never is included when immigration is discussed and argued about. We are way too many. An infestation. ” To overrun in numbers large enough to be harmful, threatening or obnoxious…” American Heritage Dictionary.
    The subject of human population is off the table.

  11. Posted August 17, 2019 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    My hope is that the crazy things Dem candidates have said lately (eg, decriminalizing illegal entry) are due solely to their perceived need to be seen as lefter than their competition in order to win the primary. Unfortunately, these things will have to be walked back by whoever wins the primary. If they don’t, they may lose to Trump.

    It seems totally unnecessary to sign on to these radical proposals. I can’t really see it winning them the primary and it may, in fact, lose it for them. Although the most left usually vote in primaries, everyone knows that we need the candidate that is most likely to beat Trump.

  12. Roo
    Posted August 17, 2019 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    I find the comments following Sullivan’s articles extremely depressing. He’ll make an argument that you may or may not agree with but that is at least an actual, reasoned argument, and I’ll think “This is good, this touches on some of my frustrations with the far Left, maybe this type of reasoned discourse will bring some of these issues to the surface.” Then the commenters will sort of self-parody by screaming “Sullivan is a white supremacist!!! This is just proof that he hates brown people!”. It puts me in mind of a Sam Harris quote, where he says “There really is no talking to some people.”

    I hate that a few commenters who might be trolls bring out such a defeatist attitude in me, but I must admit, there is something really disheartening about seeing concerns from the conservative side laid out in clear and eloquent language, and for the response to be nothing but ever louder drum banging. It gives the impression that we are into total power struggle territory, past the point where reasoned discourse has much of an impact. I hope that is an entirely incorrect impression based on, again, a few troll-y commenters, simply a cases of the loudest and not most representative voices being the most visible, but even so, it’s discouraging.

    • Posted August 17, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      The thing that makes me most sad when reading such troll-y comments is not the comments themselves. It’s the absence of the sane, interesting conversations that might otherwise have taken place.

    • EdwardM
      Posted August 17, 2019 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      I agree it is very discouraging to read comments – it seems we are in an impossible to break cycle of hatred and anger. I make it a habit to skip comments at most places for that reason, but I do think it is an unfair sampling of peoples views. Without the slightest bit of evidence in my favor, I think the angriest and most vituperative are greatly over-represented in on-line comment sections. The grumpy, angry and whiny want EVERYONE to know it.

      • Steve Gerrard
        Posted August 17, 2019 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

        Some of them are bots. Some of the human ones act like bots. The classic xkcd “someone is wrong on the Internet” pins down the motivation:

    • Roo
      Posted August 18, 2019 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Paul, Edward, Steve – all good points. And I suppose I should remember that almost no one, upon initially hearing rather stinging criticism of themselves, reacts by saying “Well thanks, that makes perfect sense, I’ll just change the way I’ve been doing things now!”. It takes awhile for the wheat to be separated from the chaff when it comes to critical viewpoints, and for the possibility that change is needed to slowly sink in.

  13. Posted August 17, 2019 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    What do you think about the US role in the current state of Central America in the first place? does that not make it justifiable that, at least in part, the US makes reconstructing Central America an important part of such policies, and not just “stop them as much as possible”?

    Search for Guatemalan Civil War for reference, 40 years of conflict due to the US imposing a far right dictator left the country in ruins. Again, saying “economic reasons is not enough to warrant consideration” downplays the true story here.

    • Posted August 19, 2019 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Right – there is a restitution obligation (in my mind) that is very little discussed.

      Lest I be seen as American bashing, I would point out that my country of Canada is likely responsible for some of this due to weak laws on Canadian mining companies (in the case of Guatemala) or support for coups (in the case of Honduras and likely Haiti).

  14. Steve Gerrard
    Posted August 17, 2019 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    My take is that the Democrats are sensing that going for the middle is not a very strong strategy this time around.

    Winning the votes of those who would vote Biden in a Biden-Trump contest, but would vote Trump in a Warren-Trump contest, is going after a small slice of the pie that is hard to win. Anyone who would vote Trump in some circumstance is going to be tough to win over, and the number of such voters is not that large. (They may be key in some swing states, though!)

    The alternative is go solid left, and try to generate enough enthusiasm to get a really great turn out, including the purple states. It seems entirely plausible to me, though by no means guaranteed to work.

    The immigration issue is going to be swamped by the impact of climate change anyway. It will be a massive, world-wide humanitarian crisis, to deal with as best we can.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 17, 2019 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

      A Fox News poll released two days ago showed Trump unable to break the 40% mark in head-to-head match-ups with ANY of the four leading Democratic contenders — Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Harris. He’s at 38 or 39% against each of them. The poll also had Trump with a 56% disapproval rating among potential US voters.

      These are devastating numbers for an incumbent president, and they are unlikely to get better, with Trump flat-lined at 10 to 15% underwater in approval/disapproval polls essentially since the start of his presidency, and with the wheels beginning to wobble on his main selling point, the economy.

      Trump seems all but resigned to losing the popular vote again. His only path to victory is to go so relentlessly and unprecedentedly negative on his Democratic opponent as to drive that candidate’s popularity (and likely voter turnout) down to where Trump can again eke out another electoral college win, likely again with the help of a hostile foreign power.

      The only meaningful distinction between the potential Democratic candidates in terms of beating Trump, accordingly, doesn’t concern their policy positions or whether they are progressive or centrist, but simply who will best be able to withstand the attacks from Trump and his minions.

      • GBJames
        Posted August 18, 2019 at 9:29 am | Permalink

        The goal must not simply to beat Trump, important as that is. The entire Republican Party, up and down the line, needs to be defeated roundly enough that it finds a way to reconstitute without the nightmarish extremism that it currently represents.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 18, 2019 at 10:59 am | Permalink

          Were Trump to get just 40% or 42% of the general election vote, it will be a disaster for down-ticket Republicans. If he is polling that low in the last months of the campaign, many of them will abandon him to try to save themselves (just as many did in 2016, after the release of Access Hollywood hot-mic tape).

          If Trump loses, he will blame it on the establishment wing of the Republican Party. If the election is close in the swing states, Trump will also claim voter fraud (as he claimed was the reason he lost the popular vote in 2016). Trump will not go gentle, and the lame-duck period between the November 2020 election and the inauguration of the new president the following January will be one of the ugliest with recriminations in this nation’s history. The resulting sturm und drang may rip the Republican Party apart at its seams.

          • Jon Gallant
            Posted August 18, 2019 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

            “If he is polling that low in the last months of the campaign, many of them will abandon him to try to save themselves. …The resulting sturm und drang may rip the Republican Party apart at its seams.” Ahhh, a silver lining. Thanks, Ken. I hope to be around to see this all come to pass.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted August 18, 2019 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

              I don’t think Trumpism is sustainable as a long-term governing strategy, Jon. On the other hand, it has a sufficient number of adherents — the supporters who would not abandon Trump, as he brags, even should he shoot someone on Fifth Avenue — that it’s not going away either.

              How the GOP finds a way forward, especially with its shrinking demographic base and no efforts underway to increase that base’s breadth, will be interesting to see (and crucial to the survival of this nation’s current two-party system).

              • rickflick
                Posted August 18, 2019 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

                How the GOP finds a way forward,

                Maybe they run Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity.

  15. darrelle
    Posted August 19, 2019 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    “The public is not that credulous.”

    I agree with some of the points you and Sullivan make, but this does not seem to be accurate to me at all. The public seems to me to be very credulous and reliably so. The problem is that the Republicans make use of well organized propaganda much more so than the Democrats and have done so for decades. Right now the narrative they’ve been constructing for decades has the upper hand among the public. A significant percentage of the public is dancing to their tune.

    Immigration is a very good example. In a very real sense our Immigration Crisis is indeed something that Trump and the Republican machine have created as a means to motivate voters in their favor. Sure, in the past 12 months there has been a big spike in border crossings after many years of record lows. But Trump and the Republican machine began their immigration crisis scare propaganda campaign years ago when border crossings had been at record lows for years. And also at that time,and for many years previous, the Democratic Party actively seeking Immigration reform to improve security, streamline the process and make the path to citizenship more efficient. The Democrats pursued such reforms hand in hand with some Republicans even during Trump’s presidency, bills that had nearly everything everybody says needs to happen, and the attempts were blocked by Republican leadership. And the entire time that’s going on Trump is scaremongering about immigration being a major crisis and how the Democrats have never done anything about it.

    Lie after lie and a significant percentage of the public swallow it whole and are living in Trump’s alternate reality that bears little resemblance to actual events because they are reliably credulous and the Republican machine knows this and bends all their efforts to make use of it.

    I see the same thing happening over and over again. Hillary Clinton is the best example. 20 + years of the Republican machine sparing no effort to create an Evil Hillary narrative and even a significant percentage of Independents and Democrats have excepted the narrative to one extent or another. The same is evident these days with respect to our Immigration Crisis. Many Liberals, Democrats and Independents talk as if either they believe the narrative created by Trump and the Republican machine or as if there is no choice but to pretend it’s true because the Republican / Trump base believes it. A sort of fatalism.

    • Posted August 19, 2019 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Yes, I agree. Basically, Republicans have been much better at lying consistently than Dems. Not to say that Dem politicians don’t lie occasionally, they are not coordinated lies that can be fact-checked. This has been going on for a long time. I’m thinking of the “trickle-down” theory of economics, a theory that the GOP has pushed in one form or another since Reagan directly in the face of much economic research that shows it’s bunk.

      • darrelle
        Posted August 19, 2019 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        Yes, degrees do matter. One party is much worse than the other. The “both sides do it” argument is a fallacy.

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