Cory Leonard

Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’

The Comprehensive Case v. Trump

In politics on September 16, 2016 at 9:58 pm


No need to rehash all my Tweets and posts from the past. Enjoy this marvelous summation from Peter Weher, a smart, thoughtful Republican:

The strongest case to make for conservatives supporting Donald Trump is a modest one. It goes like this: He is a deeply flawed man who is running against someone who is even more deeply flawed. Hillary Clinton is a person with liberal instincts who has been pulled further to the left in this campaign. She is also an ethical wreck whose career is laced with ineptitude, from HillaryCare to her handling of the Libyan fiasco, the Russian “re-set,” the Syrian civil war and spreading disorder in the world. So while Trump may be imperfect, the odds of him doing some good, on some issues, are better than in the case of Clinton. He is problematic; she is worse. And so, given the choice between two massively imperfect candidates for president, we are obligated to support the one who will do the least amount of damage and perhaps, if we’re lucky, a bit of good here and there.

This is a point of view held by some intelligent and well-intentioned people. It deserves a serious response from those of us who will not vote


And if you are still a discouraged Republican aiming for #NeverTrump, try this: strategic vote-swapping via  App. (How very 2016.)


Shall I Unfriend Thee, Political Foe?

In politics on August 26, 2016 at 8:10 pm


From Leticia Bode, new research on that issue of the century–talking politics on social media.

Social media allow users some degree of control over the content to which they are exposed, through blocking, unfriending, or hiding feeds from other users. This article considers the extent to which they do so for political reasons. Survey data from Pew Research suggests that political unfriending is relatively rare, with fewer than 10% of respondents engaging in the practice. Analysis finds support for the idea that political unfriending is most common among those who talk about politics, those strongest in ideology, those that see the most politics in social media, and those that perceive the greatest political disagreement in their social networks. This suggests that social media are not exacerbating the political information gap as political information on social media is likely still reaching the least politically engaged, whereas the most politically engaged may opt out of political information within social media but still receive it elsewhere.

via Sage Journals | Pruning the news feed: Unfriending and unfollowing political content on social media

Game Theory for the Win: Explaining Ted Cruz

In politics on July 29, 2016 at 5:37 pm

Some might say that Ted Cruz is a traitor. Others see him as a spur in Trump’s saddle. Another, more satisfying explanation is that Cruz is a rational actor (champion debater, actually), and had a strategic goal in standing up to Trump at the RNC Convention.

With that in mind, think of the GOP speakers as poker players. Trump has led the betting, and they are all holding bad cards. How will they respond? Poker pro Phil Hellmuth once reduced all poker players to five distinct types: the mouse, jackal, elephant, lion, and eagle. We don’t need to discuss all of them here, but suffice it to say that Trump is a jackal—he always bets big, regardless of the hand he’s holding. Jackals can be difficult to play against because, as in Nixon’s Mad Man theory, they don’t abide by the rational rules of poker. This makes it hard to tell if they’re bluffing, but it also makes them vulnerable to an opponent who catches good cards and isn’t afraid to bet them, because they’ll never fold but just keep raising until they’ve bet all their chips on a losing hand. But so far, Trump’s opponents have acted as mice: fundamentally weak players who are too timid to take a risk on less-than-perfect cards and fold against a more aggressive player. When mice face jackals, they tend to wait too long to make a move while the jackal slowly eats up their ante bets. Eventually they are forced to make a last-gasp bet with bad cards before they run out of chips.

via How Poker Theory Explains Ted Cruz’s Convention Speech | WIRED

The End of America, a la Trump (Explained by Plato)

In politics on July 27, 2016 at 11:41 pm


In case you missed it, this is one of the best bigthink pieces from Andrew Sullivan in a long time, and for internet time, this is already old. But it gets passed around because it is that good–and particularly prescient, especially in the postmortem of the RNC Conference.

Plato, of course, was not clairvoyant. His analysis of how democracy can turn into tyranny is a complex one more keyed toward ancient societies than our own (and contains more wrinkles and eddies than I can summarize here). His disdain for democratic life was fueled in no small part by the fact that a democracy had executed his mentor, Socrates. And he would, I think, have been astonished at how American democracy has been able to thrive with unprecedented stability over the last couple of centuries even as it has brought more and more people into its embrace. It remains, in my view, a miracle of constitutional craftsmanship and cultural resilience. There is no place I would rather live. But it is not immortal, nor should we assume it is immune to the forces that have endangered democracy so many times in human history.

Source: America Has Never Been So Ripe for Tyranny — NYMag

Dothat opined on this when it came out and when Trump was still a novelty, not a cruel populist joke. (“If the republic is lucky, such a figure simply couldn’t exist”). But others saw Sullivan’s framing of Trump in Platonic terms–as elites v. uneducated–as wrongheaded and even “dangerous,” with others struggling to engage with Sullivan’s longform arguments.

A Republican Party Future?

In politics, Uncategorized on July 20, 2016 at 4:40 am


Let’s start with the Republicans for now, in honor of their dispiriting convention. This is the problem: Their demographics are changing and yet the party lacks a compelling plan for the real problems the country faces.

In a worthy read by Clare Malone at Five Thirty Eight, the party’s demise is skillfully documented. Ben Sasse is noted as a thought leader capable of leading the party to a more effective future.

“We have before us the task of trying to create a society of lifelong learners because people’s jobs are going to expire every three years forevermore at a pace that’s going to continue to accelerate. And so what’s the Republican’s Party solution to that? What’s the Democratic Party’s solution to that?” Sasse said. “The Democrats have a really crappy product — they’re trying to sell more central planning and more monopolistic rule of experts in the age of Uber — and Republicans, no one knows what we stand for.”

via Five Thirty Eight

Interesting to see them cite Mike Lee as a possible leader in a new vision for R’s. But for now, both parties are focusing on the negatives of the other side—rather than what they can do to build in a way that matters.
Is there a way forward for the Grand Old Party? Not likely in this election cycle. Another thought leader, Yuval Levin, offers prescriptions in his book, The Fractured Republic:
Nostalgia for the way things used to be — heavy industry, vibrant social safety net institutions — “is why younger Americans so often find themselves re-enacting memories they do not actually possess, and why our nation increasingly behaves like a retiree,” he writes.

What’s Behind the Natavism?

In politics on July 15, 2016 at 4:27 pm

Concerns and criticisms that are being channels by autocratic populists are real. Understanding what is really happening across Western democracies is an important starting point. In the U.S., Trump is changing the foundational beliefs of the Republican Party, turning inward in a nativist dream vision that he sees as a way to regain American “greatness”. James Traub explains in FP:

Illiberal democracy is a highly effective political strategy because many of the constituent principles of liberalism, especially the ones seized on by the populists, are intended to serve as bulwarks against majoritarianism. Perhaps the first liberal was James Madison, who in the Federalist Papers made the case that democracies, by their nature, endanger the rights of political minorities and must design institutions to protect those rights. Over the course of the 19th century, liberalism evolved to include advocacy of civil liberties, free markets, and activist government. The high-water mark of liberalism was the mid-20th century, when the world was threatened by the totalitarian nightmares of communism and Nazism. For its great exponents, like George Orwell, liberalism meant anti-totalitarianism.

That moment has long since run its course, and liberalism has taken on different meanings that are less urgent, less binding, and more deeply contested. Liberalism (as tolerance of others) isn’t working for the French or Belgians who look at the North African immigrants in their midst and fear another terrorist attack or for Germans who worry that refugees will upend their culture. Liberalism (as free trade) isn’t working for American industrial workers whose factories left town and reopened in Mexico. Other contemporary elements of liberalism, such as the cosmopolitan welcoming of diversity and difference, go deeply against the grain of the way most people live and will always be subject to charges of elitism. The New York Times’s Ross Douthat has pointedly argued that cosmopolitanism is an elite taste masquerading as a universal principle.

In short, there are good reasons why liberalism is in crisis and illiberalism in the ascendant.

The Trump File

In politics on January 4, 2016 at 3:02 am


The Republican Party has some boundary issues. And a major populism problem. And calling the insurgent candidate names doesn’t seem to be working–even as fears of European-style far right support in the US appear in his visage.

Will Trump win? Can he win? Polls are a leading indicator, although not an accurate one, according to polling superstar Nate Silver.

But now that David Frum has offered his own “neoconservative” analysis that is raising the volume (he’s not loved by all, I should note) on a donor-derived “class war” that is tearing the party apart, here’s a rundown of recent commentary that marks efforts to identify and address this 2015 US electoral phenom known as The Donald:

Dylan Matthews (Vox), I asked 5 fascism experts whether Donald Trump is a fascist. Here’s what they said.

To be blunt: Donald Trump is not a fascist. “Fascism” has been an all-purpose insult for many years now, but it has a real definition, and according to scholars of historical fascism, Trump doesn’t qualify. Rather, he’s a right-wing populist, or perhaps an “apartheid liberal” in the words of Roger Griffin, author of The Nature of Fascism.

Akim Reinhardt, Donald Trump is Not a Fascist or Your Next President

Trump is giving voice to some of the anger, fears, and frustrations that can be found in much of the United States, and which resonate most loudly on the right. And the voice he gives to them is largely unique, as other Republican presidential would-be’s stick much more closely to the established party line. And thus Trump finds his eager audiences, people on the right who are happy to hear someone acknowledge, validate, and champion their anger, fears, an frustrations in a way that no other big name American politician is.

Devin Foley, One sentence that explains Trump’s popularity: Keep in mind the mood of our times.

Whatever happens, for this particular moment of uneasy times there is a sentence from The New Dealers that seems rather relevant:

“The starveling saints may win shrines from posterity, but the full-blooded, hearty man is the hero of his own times.”

Whatever your position, never forget the power of mass human psychology and the potential of those who are able to exploit it.

Michael Lind, Interviewed by Brooke Gladstone, “Elite Traitors v. Fascist Morons,” (On The Media)

BROOKE: You say that these narratives that are put forward by the parties and repeated by the media not only fail to hold up factually but fail politically, too, because they leave a considerable swath of the public out in the cold? These are people who are too liberal to be conventionally conservative and too conservative to liberal?

LIND: That’s exactly right. Trump and Huckabee, two of the populists, have attacked the Republican party for wanting to cut social security and medicare, because their white working class voters depend upon it. The number of white Americans who want to combine less immigration with preserved or expanded social security and medicare is enormous. It’s nearly 50%. No one in either party represents pro social security anti immigrant voters. And yet they’re a huge part of the population. The conservatives have adopted the anti immigrant theme, but at the same time the mainstream conservatives all want to cut social security and voucher-ize medicare, which their own voters don’t want to do. 33% of Democratic voters want to cut immigration. Only 20% want to expand it. And yet that view is not represented in the Democratic party. When you get large groups in the population whose combinations of particular policies do not fit the combinations on offer by our two parties, you get a substantial part of the electorate turning to outsiders because of a lack of any other choices.

Ross Douthat, “The Secret of Trump’s Success” (NYT)

But for now support for Trump on foreign policy isn’t an endorsement of his policy vision. It’s more of a cathartic howl against twelve years of failure, which neither political party can quite call by its deserved name.

Damon Linker, “Can right-wing populism be stopped?”

No, what Trump’s supporters appear to want is someone to rail rudely against economic, racial, ethnic, and demographic aspects of contemporary American life that they find distasteful, dangerous, and unfair; to place the blame for these trends on somebody besides themselves (immigrants, liberals, big business, stupid people, Muslims, big government, the media, the president); and to promise a magical fix brought about by superhuman feats of commonsense competence. Trump gives them all of this, and his followers love him for it. That makes him a textbook example of a demagogue and them a political force that everyone from Aristotle to Alexander Hamilton would recognize as a mob.



  • James Zogby, C-Span Washington Journal, 12/15:  You have to “make him suffer in the pocketbook,” but regardless, “the Trump brand is destroyed.”
  • Michael Signer, author of the book Demagogue: The Fight To Save Democracy From Its Worst Enemies identifies John Fenimore Cooper’s four criteria required for a demagogue. “My study of demagogues shows that satire does not work… In Trump world, none of those things matter so when you lampoon him or when you satirize him or when you call him a clown or a carnival barker, none of that matters because they’re showmen, and they get how to agitate and connect with people in a way that ordinary mortals do not. So I think the thing is actually taking a demagogue seriously in their claims and educating the audience about how the demagogues claims and what they’re doing actually hurts the country, so that requires a slightly different approach: it doesn’t begin in this squawk of outrage, it doesn’t start with a temperament that the demagogue has initiated.”
  • Signer also writes in WaPo, updating his conclusion: “It was with demagogues in mind that the framers devised a series of constitutional checks and balances, including the United States Senate — which Madison described as a “necessary fence” against “fickleness and passion” — and the Electoral College, whose independent electors could, theoretically, stop a demagogue from becoming president…The American people understood what they were dealing with then: democracy’s enemy within. And we’d be wise to accurately diagnose it now. Trump is a demagogue. Not just in a casual sense, but in the most powerful meaning of the word, and he should be confronted as such.”
  • Just….wait…urges David Brooks, who suggested that the “pink rug theory” will be realized at a critical moment: “When this mental shift happens, I suspect Trump will slide. All the traits that seem charming will suddenly seem risky. The voters’ hopes for transformation will give way to a fear of chaos. When the polls shift from registered voters to likely voters, cautious party loyalists will make up a greater share of those counted.”
  • Damon Linker sums up the real challenge: “How can the members of this mob be persuaded to abandon their cultural populism and the candidate who assures them he will turn back the tide?I have no idea. But I’m pretty sure a list of sensible, wonky policy proposals isn’t going to do the trick.”
  • And finally, David Frum argues that “the Republican donor elite failed to impose its preferred candidate on an unwilling base in 2015 for big and important reasons,” leading to four possible strategies:
    • Double Down but maybe focus on someone other than Jeb, perhaps Rubio or Carson–and keep the same approach
    • Make Tactical Concesssions and go with Cruz and Christie campaign approach
    • Offer True Reform, addressing many concerns of the middle class with “a multiethnic center-right coalition”–as we have seen in other democracies recently
    • Change the Rules and concede that running one branch of the Federal government plus legislatures and governorships is an effective way to promote an agenda, “playing defense”

It now appears that Republic elites’ hopes for a quick burnout from the shining star will not occur. Now what?

It sounds like an urgent plea when Signer asks: “Who will confront him? Will our national hero come from the media, governing class, academia, or even among the Republican candidates?” But could Trump’s downfall come through co-option–with praise and flattery for his perceived strengths–and then we’ll see him turn into something less novel and powerful?

Bring Back Buckley?

In politics on December 7, 2012 at 4:32 am

Is David Welch correct, arguing that a neo-William F. Buckley, Jr. could save the Republican Party from its Tea Party insurgencies?

Buckley’s formula for conservative success rested on “the most right, viable candidate who could win.” He saw the danger the Birchers posed to the party, and in 1962 he wrote a devastating essay in National Review that condemned them for essentially calling on the party to commit political suicide. He dismissed Welch’s outrageous views as “drivel” and “removed from common sense.”

The essay relegated the Birch Society to pariah status. Buckley may have saved the nascent conservative movement from the dustbin of history.

The absence of a Buckley-esque gatekeeper today has allowed extreme, untested candidates to take center stage and then commit predictable gaffes and issue moon-bat pronouncements. Democrats have used those statements to tarnish the Republican Party as anti-woman, anti-poor, anti-gay, anti-immigrant extremists. Buckley’s conservative pragmatism has been lost, along with the presidency and seats in Congress.

via Where Have You Gone, Bill Buckley –

Not so fast says Jacob Heilbrun in The National Interest.  There is more to this story:

Yes, Christie and Bush could help pull the GOP back to more sensible positions. But invoking the example of Buckley is not the way to do it. The truth is that Buckley launched his own crusade against the Republican establishment, against the middle-of-the-road moderation espoused by Eisenhower. Buckley himself was a pal of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s and on the right of the party. He set out to destroy the traditional Republican party with his own insurgency. He succeeded.

That is the story of modern conservatism. But like many revolutionaries, Buckley saw his own movement lurch out of control.

The Leninists took over in the form of the neocons—endless wars in the Middle East, blind support for Israel, bloated military budgets, extravagant budget deficits, the very policies driving America toward fiscal ruin. Now the right resembles, as Sam Tanenhaus has put it in The Death of Conservatism, “the exhumed figures of Pompeii, trapped in postures of frozen flight, clenched in the rigor mortis of a defunct ideology.”

via Does the GOP Need A New William F. Buckley, Jr.? | The National Interest Blog.


David Frum Offers a Dose of Reality

In politics on November 12, 2012 at 6:01 pm

My favorite line: “The Roman Catholic Church deems despair a mortal sin.” And then this next:

The United States did not vote for socialism. It could not do so, because neither party offers socialism. Both parties champion a free enterprise economy cushioned by a certain amount of social insurance. The Democrats (mostly) want more social insurance, the Republicans want less. National politics is a contest to move the line of scrimmage, in a game where there’s no such thing as a forward pass, only a straight charge ahead at the defensive line. To gain three yards is a big play.

Whatever you think of the Obama record, it’s worth keeping in mind that by any measure, free enterprise has been winning the game for a long, long time to this point.

via Conservatives, don’t despair –

via Conservatives, don’t despair –

Bob Bennett on Church and State | Hugh Nibley Off the Record

In politics on October 29, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Former Senator Bob Bennett, fellow at the Hinckley Instiutte of Politics explains how it works:

The Church does not say, ‘Well let’s purge Harry Reid.’ They say, “Let’s call him up and ask him for something else we need.’ And he delivers.

via Bob Bennett on Church and State.

Bob Bennett Video on Nibley and Politics: Part 2.