the biggest best most unbelievable beautiful stink bomb ever

Jonathan Chait’s new explanation for the rise of Donald Trump – or for the failure of analysts to predict it1 – is appealingly simple:

Here’s the factor I think everybody missed: The Republican Party turns out to be filled with idiots. Far more of them than anybody expected.

Chait concedes that to say as much is “gauche,” but stands by the argument to the end:

As low as my estimation of the intelligence of the Republican electorate may be, I did not think enough of them would be dumb enough to buy his act. And, yes, I do believe that to watch Donald Trump and see a qualified and plausible president, you probably have some kind of mental shortcoming. As many fellow Republicans have pointed out, Donald Trump is a con man. What I failed to realize — and, I believe, what so many others failed to realize, though they have reasons not to say so — is just how easily so many Republicans are duped.

Some observers may feel more comfortable attributing the capture by Donald J. Trump of the Republican Party nomination to his voters’ mental rather than moral deficiencies. We often view mental defect as exculpatory, and for that reason I believe that Chait’s impolite argument, whatever its other flaws, would be too easy on Trump voters, at least if one views their choice to be not merely idiotic, but dangerous, and not merely dangerous but morally suspect. It is only Chait’s presumption that Trump’s voters see in Trump a “qualified and plausible president,” or consider that issue to be paramount. Trumpism has a more radical implication, usually put under the heading of “anti-establishment” or “outsider” preference: of the impossibility at this time, in these days, of any qualified and plausible presidency at all, perhaps regardless of the personal make-up of the candidate or nominee. Perhaps mistakenly, perhaps unacceptably, perhaps inconsistently in their own minds, they would rather, as per the cliché, “shake things up” than elect a competent head of (this) state and (this) government. They are not putting a man forward to take over the office of the presidency. They are throwing a human stink-bomb at it – or the biggest best most unbelievable beautiful stink bomb ever at whatever might plausibly qualify a president for support in the eyes of Jonathan Chait. 

In that sense they, or some of them, or some possibly important number of them, or many of them most of the time, are not being stupid about expressing what they want to express and getting done they want to get done. 

Notes:

  1. Here’s the Real Reason We All Underrated Trump ” []

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And this programmer suggested a way to avoid user input all together:

Eventually, programmers on Reddit started making fully-functioning, interactive versions of the awful forms, like this and this and this. Someone even created one out of the classic game Snake. The meme hasn’t stopped for weeks now, and iterations of it seem to be growing more detailed and elaborate.

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Trump actually congratulated Erdogan on the outcome. Trump apparently thought it was a good thing that, despite all the flaws in the process, a bare majority of Turkey’s citizens voted to strengthen their populist leader. I don’t think any other post-Cold War president would have congratulated a democratic ally that held a flawed referendum leading to a less democratic outcome. This is not that far off from Trump congratulating Putin on a successful referendum result in Crimea if that event had been held in 2017 rather than 2014.

Public disquiet and behind-the-scenes pressure on key illiberal allies is an imperfect policy position. It is still a heck of a lot more consistent with America’s core interests than congratulating allies on moving in an illiberal direction. In congratulating Erdogan, Trump did the latter.

For all the talk about Trump’s moderation, for all the talk about an Axis of Adults, it’s time that American foreign policy-watchers craving normality acknowledge three brute facts:

  1. Donald Trump is the president of the United States;
  2. Trump has little comprehension of how foreign policy actually works;
  3. The few instincts that Trump applies to foreign policy are antithetical to American values.
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He sensed that the public wanted relief from the burdens of global leadership without losing the thrill of nationalist self-assertion. America could cut back its investment in world order with no whiff of retreat. It would still boss others around, even bend them to its will...

There was, to be sure, one other candidate in the 2016 field who also tried to have it both ways—more activism and more retrenchment at the same time. This was, oddly enough, Hillary Clinton... Yet merely to recall Clinton’s hybrid foreign-policy platform is to see how pallid it was next to Trump’s. While she quibbled about the TPP (which few seemed to believe she was really against), her opponent ferociously denounced all trade agreements—those still being negotiated, like the TPP, and those, like NAFTA and China’s WTO membership, that had long been on the books. “Disasters” one and all, he said. For anyone genuinely angry about globalization, it was hard to see Clinton as a stronger champion than Trump. She was at a similar disadvantage trying to compete with Trump on toughness. His anti-terrorism policy—keep Muslims out of the country and bomb isis back to the Stone Age—was wild talk, barely thought through. But for anyone who really cared about hurting America’s enemies, it gave Trump more credibility than Clinton’s vague, muddled talk of “safe zones” ever gave her.

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State of the Discussion

+ Wade, your last paragraph is crucial to your argument. Certainly it expresses economically the source of the weight of a country's foreign policy, and [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic
+ Not sure where you got the idea that I ever wrote “[President Trump] doesn’t know what he’s doing!!!!!!" - bob's idea for a possible rallying [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic
Wade McKenzie
Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ The conversation that you and Bob were having at the time that I wrote my comment had everything to do with the recent missile strike [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic

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