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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Noted & Quoted

This is a Waterloo moment for Trump, the tea party and their alliance.  They have been stopped in their tracks not only by Democratic opposition but because of a mutiny within their own ranks. Although never particularly liked or respected, it is now clear that they are no longer feared. The bankruptcy of their ideas and their incompetence have been exposed. Their momentum has been dissipated. Their rejection of political norms has itself been scorned. Our long national nightmare may finally be coming to an end.

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One seasoned Democrat told me that among the reasons Trump won in 2016 was that a long year of Crooked Hillary talk, about emails and Goldman Sachs and the like, had steadily demoralised and demobilised the liberal base. If sustaining fury at Trump helps keep those same voters energised, so they eventually turn out to defeat him, it’ll be worth it, he says.

But it can’t just be in the form of world-weary, if witty, tweets. What’s needed is a coherent argument, one that explains why Trump’s repulsive behaviour matters. For Americans, that will surely centre on the state of their society. The civic realm is being degraded by Trump’s lies, vanities and insults. The national conversation is being coarsened. The basic democratic assumption, that disagreements can be resolved through discussion rather than coercion and violence, is being eroded from the very top. Note the language of Scaramucci’s outburst: “I want to fucking kill all the leakers.”

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[C]limate scientists have a strange kind of faith: We will find a way to forestall radical warming, they say, because we must.

It is not easy to know how much to be reassured by that bleak certainty, and how much to wonder whether it is another form of delusion; for global warming to work as parable, of course, someone needs to survive to tell the story. The scientists know that to even meet the Paris goals, by 2050, carbon emissions from energy and industry, which are still rising, will have to fall by half each decade; emissions from land use (deforestation, cow farts, etc.) will have to zero out; and we will need to have invented technologies to extract, annually, twice as much carbon from the atmosphere as the entire planet’s plants now do. Nevertheless, by and large, the scientists have an enormous confidence in the ingenuity of humans — a confidence perhaps bolstered by their appreciation for climate change, which is, after all, a human invention, too. They point to the Apollo project, the hole in the ozone we patched in the 1980s, the passing of the fear of mutually assured destruction. Now we’ve found a way to engineer our own doomsday, and surely we will find a way to engineer our way out of it, one way or another. The planet is not used to being provoked like this, and climate systems designed to give feedback over centuries or millennia prevent us — even those who may be watching closely — from fully imagining the damage done already to the planet. But when we do truly see the world we’ve made, they say, we will also find a way to make it livable. For them, the alternative is simply unimaginable.

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