Week's End Thoughts & Reflections, July 7, 2018


Once again Portable Bohemia is on the cutting edge with insightful analysis, incisive commentary, and honest indignation. Well, honest indignation anyway. On Monday Christopher Dickey at The Daily Beast wrote, "We are rapidly approaching the moment when we should stop referring to the American government and start referring to the Trump regime." (When Does the American Government Become the Trump Regime?). In this space we have been referring to the Trump regime for months. Out ahead of the curve. I'll accept the risk that I'm starting to come off like a PR shill for Michael Tomasky because he's an astute observer of the scene whose columns are almost always thought provoking, whether I agree with him or not. His analysis of the media narrative about a Democratic Party in disarray is his latest I want to recommend: Democrats in Disarray? No, That’s the Myopic Media. Key points quoted from his column:

  • There’s always a little truth to these stories. But they always ignore the fuller context that explains why the Democrats are a cantankerous lot and the Republicans aren’t. And they always cherry-pick for the evidence that suits the thesis, ignoring the evidence that doesn’t.

  • … the Democrats are just a more ideologically diverse party because they represent the America that consists of all races, religions, sexual orientations, while Republicans represent white, heterosexual, Christian America. And this is why the Democrats often appear to be in disarray. Republicans represent a homogeneous America, and Democrats represent a heterogeneous America.

  • Now, a note to those from the heterogeneous zones. "Diversity" includes ideological diversity, a fact many diversity celebrants seem to forget. The Democratic Party needs its Manchins and its Jon Testers. As I never tire of writing, you won’t get majorities without them. If the Democrats become a party of 0’s and 1’s [left end on a scale of 1 to 10] as some people wish, they’ll lose every time, because there are more 9’s and 10’s [right end on scale 1 to 10] in this country, and besides they have a bajillion times more money.

Media darling. Will Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez survive celebrity? Or will the media monster chew her up and spit her out? I hope for the best because, as I've said before, I find her impressive. I'm also anxious.

Ezra Klein on Trump's poll numbers (The messy reality of Donald Trump's poll numbers):

  • The other dynamic here is that Trump’s Twitter feed is a lot more salient to political obsessives than to most Americans. It’s always worth remembering: If you sought out an article on Trump’s poll numbers and made it 1,200 words in—and if you’re here, you did and you have—you’re very weird.

  • One of Trump’s great political talents, if it can be called that, is to behave so bizarrely that the bar is set lower for him than for any president in history. Then he can claim to have defied the doubters when he barely clears the standard he lowered for himself. If another president were polling at 42 percent amid 3.8 percent unemployment, no one in Washington would even consider covering that as a political achievement.

  • Trump has not managed to become a popular president. In fact, he seems to be squandering an unusually strong run of peace and prosperity. If Trump and his advisers are fooling themselves into believing otherwise, that’s a more interesting fact about the administration’s internal echo chamber than it is a convincing analysis of reality.

Comrades out on my wing of the political bird have a terrible knack for congregating in herds to thunder off the nearest cliff in pursuit of fruitless controversy that distracts us all from more serious underlying issues. The foofaraw over civility and public confrontation with Trump regime officials going about their private lives is one example. (For my take on the confrontation approach, see the Week's End posts for June 30, 2018, and June 23, 2018.)

Calls for abolition of ICE fall into the same category. Abolition talk fires up hotheads on both sides of the immigration issue. And gets us nowhere. We could abolish ICE tomorrow. Trump regime policy would remain in place with objectionable practices presently carried out by ICE handed off to other agencies.

There are more than enough reports of questionable ICE operations and tactics to warrant a thorough review and evaluation of the agency. It is possible that review could lead to the conclusion that the agency is beyond redemption and should be abolished and its legitimate functions parceled out to other agencies. It is also conceivable that we might conclude that the problem lies not with the agency but with regime policy and that with reform, including greater oversight, ICE could legitimately pursue its mission to enforce "federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration to promote homeland security and public safety."

Supreme Court. I don't want to think about it. Jill Abramson implores the Dems to be willing

to burn the house down in order to prevent a catastrophe for the country, a US supreme court that will march the country rightward for at least a generation more. A supreme court where Clarence Thomas will be in the mainstream, not on the fringe. (Democrats must fight Trump's supreme court pick tooth and nail, The Guardian, July 7, 2018)

Well, how exactly, and at what cost? Abramson wants the Dems to appeal to their constituency, especially young voters, who "are woke and virulently anti-Trump...take a page out of Mitch McConnell's playbook and organize their hearts out...fight fire with fire." Even if the Democratic caucus stands firm and votes in unison, they still need someone from the Republican side of the aisle to join them, Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski on principle, or maybe Jeff Flake just to be ornery. That is not likely. We might also want consider the price attached to a "no" vote by Heidi Heitkamp or Joe Manchin or Jon Tester if it turns out to cost them in November. I disagree with Heitkamp, Manchin, and Tester on plenty of issues, but we will not be better off if they are replaced by Republicans.

The specter of a Thomas-esque Supreme Court doesn't help my insomnia, but I am kind of reconciled to it. We must all organize our hearts out and work to get good people elected to office at every level, because we will need them to overcome a lot of deplorable decisions in the years and decades ahead.

Enough. Too much. I vow to step away from the political abyss, put my nose to the dreary grindstone, and hack out a review of Desmond Morris's The Lives of the Surrealists, the book's a hoot, and reflections on Ingmar Bergman films I caught during the NW Film Center's centenary retrospective that runs through July 22.

Keep the faith.

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David Matthews

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