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The Cult of Personality

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From Bret Stephens at The Wall Street Journal, The Donald and Demagogues:

If by now you don’t find Donald Trump appalling, you’re appalling.

And so forth and so on—a parade of semi-sophisticated theories that act as bathroom deodorizer to mask the stench of this candidacy. Mr. Trump is a loudmouth vulgarian appealing to quieter vulgarians. These vulgarians comprise a significant percentage of the GOP base. The leader isn’t the problem. The people are. It takes the demos to make the demagogue.

It says that many of the same people who have bellyached nonstop for the past seven years about the cult-of-personality president currently in the Oval Office are seriously willing to consider another cult-of-personality figure on the off-chance he’s peddling the cure America needs. Focus group testing by pollster Frank Luntz suggests that Mr. Trump’s fans could care less about his flip-flopping political views but responded almost rapturously to his apparently magnetic persona.

When people become indifferent to the ideas of their would-be leaders, those leaders become prone to dangerous ideas. Democracies that trade policy substance for personal charisma tend not to last as democracies. They become Bolivarian republics. Donald Trump may be America’s Hugo Chávez, minus the political consistency.

HKO

Populists need demons, because without demons there is no savior.  Bret’s criticism is harsh, as has much of the commentary from the thinkers on the right.

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Snark

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from David Daley in Salon, Camille Paglia takes on Jon Stewart, Trump, Sanders: “Liberals think of themselves as very open-minded, but that’s simply not true!”

excerpt:

I think Stewart’s show demonstrated the decline and vacuity of contemporary comedy. I cannot stand that smug, snarky, superior tone. I hated the fact that young people were getting their news through that filter of sophomoric snark.  Comedy, to me, is one of the major modern genres, and the big influences on my generation were Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl. Then Joan Rivers had an enormous impact on me–she’s one of my major role models.  It’s the old caustic, confrontational style of Jewish comedy. It was Jewish comedians who turned stand-up from the old gag-meister shtick of vaudeville into a biting analysis of current social issues, and they really pushed the envelope.  Lenny Bruce used stand-up to produce gasps and silence from the audience. And that’s my standard–a comedy of personal risk.  And by that standard, I’m sorry, but Jon Stewart is not a major figure. He’s certainly a highly successful T.V. personality, but I think he has debased political discourse.  I find nothing incisive in his work.  As for his influence, if he helped produce the hackneyed polarization of moral liberals versus evil conservatives, then he’s partly at fault for the political stalemate in the United States.

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Trumping Elites

From Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal, America Is So in Play:

On the subject of elites, I spoke to Scott Miller, co-founder of the Sawyer Miller political-consulting firm, who is now a corporate consultant. He worked on the Ross Perotcampaign in 1992 and knows something about outside challenges. He views the key political fact of our time as this: “Over 80% of the American people, across the board, believe an elite group of political incumbents, plus big business, big media, big banks, big unions and big special interests—the whole Washington political class—have rigged the system for the wealthy and connected.” It is “a remarkable moment,” he said. More than half of the American people believe “something has changed, our democracy is not like it used to be, people feel they no longer have a voice.”

I end with this. An odd thing, in my observation, is that deep down the elite themselves also think the game is rigged. They don’t disagree, and they don’t like what they see—corruption, shallowness and selfishness in the systems all around them. Their odd anguish is that they have no faith the American people can—or will—do anything to turn it around. They see the American voter as distracted, poorly educated, subject to emotional and personality-driven political adventures. They sometimes refer to “Jaywalking,” the old Jay Leno “Tonight Show” staple in which he walked outside the studio and asked the man on the street about history. What caused the American Civil War? Um, Hitler? When did it take place, roughly? Uh, 1958?

Both sides, the elites and the non-elites, sense that things are stuck.

The people hate the elites, which is not new, and very American. The elites have no faith in the people, which, actually, is new. Everything is stasis. Then Donald Trump comes, like a rock thrown through a showroom window, and the molecules start to move.

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Choosing Anger over Victory

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from Erick Erickson at Red State

But what the hell — at this point there are a lot of people who would rather be angry and lose than happy and win. Some Republicans have contracted the same sickness much of the left has suffered for a decade — they’re only happy when they’re miserable and angry.

At some point Trump supporters will conclude the polls are rigged — but it will only be after he’s continued a downward trend. At that point they’ll stop believing polls and point out how wrong the polls were in 2012, 2014, and even the 2015 British election. Until then, the top line of the polls are to be believed and everything beneath the top line is a damnable anti-Trump conspiracy.

HKO

As much as we dislike politics, it is an art and a profession and one where experience and prior successes and failures have worth.  While I like the idea of  citizen participation, this applies to local elections and the Congress much more than to the highest office in the land.  The skill sets in business and politics and the environment in which decisions must be made are very different.

I get it that 20% of the people are perpetually pissed off, but the Trump’s supporters have suspended any objectivity in order to propel this foolishness. There is nothing in Trump’s background to indicate he would support either conservative or Republican principles. He is absent of any humility or diplomatic tact, which should be key characteristic of a leader in such a position.  The longer his campaign lasts the more damage he does to the GOP and whoever wins the nomination.  If Hillary is replaced by Biden, a Trump candidacy will drive many soft Republicans (economic libertarians and social liberals) to the other side, or make them indifferent enough to stay home on election day.  The best thing the GOP has going for it is Hillary as a front runner: she is so detested that the she should galvanize Republican opposition.  The only thing that could screw this up is The Trump as the nominee; a very depressing thought.

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The High Cost of Free Stuff

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from Kevin Williams at National Review, There is No Alternative,

excerpt:

Socialism has two relevant features: Central planning of the economy by political powers and the public provision of ordinary goods (as opposed to public goods such as national defense and judicial systems). This is distinct from welfare-state policies such as those found in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Sweden has a large and expensive welfare state, but it has a robustly capitalistic trade-driven economy that in many ways is more free-market than our own, with lower corporate taxes and fewer trade barriers. The difference between welfare programs and socialism is the difference between food stamps and the state-run groceries that were the bane of the common people’s existence in the old Soviet Union and in modern Venezuela. The former is imperfect, the latter catastrophic.

The price of free stuff ends up being terribly high. While Venezuela has endured food riots for years, the capital recently has been the scene of protests related to medical care. Venezuela has free universal health care — and a constitutional guarantee of access to it. That means exactly nothing in a country without enough doctors, medicine, or facilities. Chemotherapy is available in only three cities, with patients often traveling hours from the hinterlands to receive treatment. But the treatment has stopped. Juvenile cancer patients taken by their parents to the children’s hospital in the capital are being turned away because the treatments they need are no longer available. The scene is heartbreaking, but that’s the political mode of thinking: Declare a scarce good a “right” and the problem must be solved, regardless of whether that scarce good is any more plentiful than it was before.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/423011/venezuela-nicolas-maduro-socialism-economics

HKO

Debbie Wasserman Schultz was inept or unable to distinguish Socialism from the Democrats in a question from Chris Matthews.  Perhaps she should read Kevin Williams.