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So to be reductionist I think things may have been better had they elected Ross Perot instead of Clinton back in the day. This 30 min campaign ad makes for both hilarious and, in retrospect, pretty interesting watching. https://youtu.be/tm8_Cn4M9wc

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I realized there is one other point I want to make here, something I've been meaning to bring up for a while. It's tied to both "What's broken in America?" and "Why do they still support Trump?"

It has to do with the failure (as I see it) of American Christian churches. Now, I'm a Christian, and I realize some or perhaps most of you aren't. So you may not agree with this statement but I'll make it anyway so you understand where I'm coming from: there is only one solution to the problems that plague mankind, and that is Christ. And that solution won't really ever come on this side of eternity. It's a spiritual solution. However, a Christian worldview, rightly understood and adhered to, can and has solved a great deal of problems. Even if that world view, incorrectly understood, has created problems.

With that in mind I suggest that a big problem with America is that the American Christian church has failed the great commission. In the final sentences of the Gospel of Matthew, a resurrected Christ commands his followers to go to all the nations and make disciples. We don't do that, most of us. You'll reacall perhaps two stories from the gospels. The first is when Christ confronts the religious elite as washing only the outside of the cup, and not the inside (referring to their own souls). You'll aso recall the parable of the talents, in which a guy gives his servants 5, 2, and 1 talent respectively. The guy who got five, duplicated them in to another 5. The guy who got 2 duplicated them in to 2. These cats got rewarded by their master. The third didn't lose the 1 talent, but neither did he duplicate it. This is a picture of what we are to do with our faith. We are to duplicate it. How? By "making disciples".

I contend that most American churches do not teach us how to make disciples. Worse, I think we are mostly just polishing our own cup. We are constantly "working on myself". We think we gotta get our cup all shiny before we can do anything. And if there is a great doom or darkness, this is the reason. We think that the purpose of the church is to help us get our cup nice and shiny, and oh will shine up my kids' cups too? We think it's the pastor's job to make 5 talents in to 5 more talents. Our job is to keep our talent shiny and put a buck on the plate. Yes I'm mixing my metaphors, get over it.

Our kids, frankly, don't buy any of this crap. They know it's inauthentic. And an unbelieving world does too. Add to it the evangelical church's support for Donald Trump and what do you get? A whole society who says "I ain't buyin' what yer sellin'!"

If you want to know why the evangelical church can't seem to see through Trump's lies, it's because they don't study their bible, they don't pray for each other, they don't fulfill the great commission. Trump is a symptom of a deep brokenness, not the cause of it.

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I'm not really even sure where to start...so I'll jump in. All this class war nonsense is, well, nonsense. It may be true that "the elite" built a system only they can thrive in. If they did, then they left the door open to a lot of people I know who aren't hyper-educated, but still succeed. I have a 2 year degree that took me 5 years to get, I come from generations of farmers who've never risen above middle class. My wife was raised my working class stiffs, on "the rez". If you don't know what I mean but "the rez", you are an elitist and you can pound sand. My wife got a degree in Tribal governance after raising kids and now pulls down decent money given how long she was away from the work force.

The class warfare stuff doesn't seem to resonate too much with the MAGA folks I know, because most of them are doing quite fine. Whatever it is that is dooming America hasn't quite made it our way. I see it when I go downtown Seattle, though.

The emptying out of small town main street was a big concern back in the 90s. I delivered papers in the mid-1980s in my hometown, and I had the downtown route. It was bustling then. I went away to the Army, and when I came back main street was a ghost town and the "new mall" (as my mother called it) was a goin' concern. Guess what? That new mall is gone. Not shut down: gone. Downtown is where it's at. There are shops and wine tasting bars and cafes. Same goes for the little town I live in now. There's a swank cigar shop I like to go to once or twice a week, and when I drive down there on a Thursday at 2:30pm, there's no place to park.

MAGA people may cry about blue collar jobs and what not, but in my experience what animates them more is the culture war stuff, that "the elites" and the progressives (do I repeat myself) tell them is all in their head, but isn't. It's having to sit through corporate training under the heading of "DEI" that spews progressive talking points. It's being called a racist for not being sufficiently woke. It's watching cities burn across America because of the lie of "systemic racism", but then being told their support of Denver Tango and Jan 6 is the cause of our failed system. That's what causes the MAGA folks to look at "the elites" and say "They are destroying this country and they have to go. If we can use the blunt instrument that is Donald Trump, so be it!"

I should pause and note that while I agree with their complaints, I don't agree with their solution.

I want to talk a little bit about jobs, the workforce, etc. This fits in here somewhere. I've said for years that "high schools are the farm league for Big University." It's an intriguing and troubling thing that most who are against "Big Anything" (Big Government, Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, Big Business, yadda yadda) don't seem to think much about Big U. The college bubble has never seemed to burst. It needs to, and I see some signs of it bursting, even if they are anecdotal. There has been a huge upswell of support for CTE, or Career and Technical Education. In the past, the kids who went to "shop class" were considered stupid. These are those, Claire, that you suggest aren't capable of academic achievement. Shop Class, which I use here as euphemism for non-academic, career readiness training, used to be important to "The Real America". But there's big money in loaning kids a bunch-o-cash, giving them a credit card, and trundling them off to the dorm. Many of them fail out right. Most of them come out of four years of university with no prospect for a job that'll pay off the loans they took out. In recent years, there is huge pressure to find ways to funnel kids away from Big U, and instead in to training that will support them, and the American economy. These kids aren't dumb, but they aren't academically inclined. And we don't need them to fuddle around for 4 or 6 or 8 years after high school trying to figure out why they don't succeed in the "go to college and get a job" thing. We need them learning how to weld and fit pipes and work on cars and nurse and account and install HVAC. Fortunately this need has finally found it's way in to school board meetings, counselling offices, and state budgets.

Anyway...

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I believe this is exactly right. If the statements of Trump supporters on social media are a good approximation of the attitudes of Trump supporters in general, they are not mainly concerned about their personal economic situation. The most common complaint I've seen is: "I want my country back." It really is an issue of 'culture' -- something we are not supposed to argue about here. The mainstream GOP, the Chamber of Commerce party, is not -- rightly -- seen by them as an opponent of the deep, ultimately destructive, cultural changes being pushed by a minority -- but an influential one -- of the Democratic Party.

That was Trump's secret: his pedigree, not his formal program. It is also unfortunately true that his supporters are not bothered by his willingness to ignore the painfully-achieved political consensus about the Rule of Law -- but then, this consensus has really only existed from the late 1960s, as shown by the last person to campaign for the presidency from prison, Eugene V. Debs. It's just that before the 60's, the Left were the victims, and the Right were the beneficiaries, of the way the law was interpreted and enforced. Now things have changed.

One more point which I can't resist: Trump feels sympathy with authoritarian leaders. Yes, shame on him. 'Sympathy' is for wimps. He really should follow tradition and actively embrace the idea of overthrowing democratically-elected leaders, like Mossadegh of Iran and Arbenz of Guatemala, and replacing them with death-squad dictators, when the democratically-elected ones inconvenience us and our international corporations.

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Adding a point: the real debate here -- or at least a major debate -- is not about Trump's truly deplorable character, and whether it is bad enough to render him the Greater Evil in all plausible electoral contests -- but rather, is also about his program.

I believe the mainstream Cosmopolitan Globalist supporters disagree with him on several issues, and would disagree with any Republican candidate who held the position Trump does:

(1) Foreign policy. I believe the mainstream position here is 'interventionist': that the US should have a 'forward policy' of confronting and trying to destroy authoritarian states including by military force on occasion. Thus the Iraq and Afghanistan interventions would have been favored; the American posture towards post-Communist Russia -- promise no NATO expansion, and then expand NATO right up to their border -- would be approved of as would the willingness to go to war with China over Taiwan.

(2) Effectively Open Borders: let them all in, they'll assimilate, no worries;

(3) Effective indifference to, if not mild approval of, the 'cultural revolution' taking place in America's institutions (schools, universities, the military, big corporations): encouragement of non-normative sexuality; the emplacement of 'systemic (white) racism' as the 'official ' explanation for Black failures.

This was the de facto position of the pre-Trump Republican Party, corresponding to the needs of its Donor Class.

Of course, we cannot do an experiment and give history a morally normal Trump, that is, someone with the ethics of a Clinton -- we can only do a 'thought experiment' here. But we should try to separate the two streams of anti-Trump motivation.

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About your last paragraph--we're in complete agreement. When I say that "Most people aren't capable of academic achievement," I *in no way* mean, "Most people aren't capable of contributing meaningfully to our economy, pulling down a good wage, and supporting a family." If that were true, it would be an awfully big mystery how they managed to do that for several thousands millennia prior to the age of (as you call it) Big U. The idea that everyone needs a university education is recent. I agree that everyone who *wants* such an education should be able to get it. But most people *don't want it.* It's wasted on a very large part of those who get it, and who slog through it only out of a sense that it's expected of them. Among those of us with a university education: How many of the students around you were truly on fire to read what the professor assigned? How many were genuinely curious about what they were learning? If I rightly recall, at the University of Washington, it was somewhere between 10-20 percent.

For certain degrees--education, medicine, and the like--I don't care whether the students are actually interested, so long as they learn it. Those are professionally necessary degrees, and you can't be a doctor or an engineer without one, period. But of all the students who graduated with degrees in Poli Sci, or English, or really any of the humanities or social sciences -- most were just getting that degree so they could check the box that said, "Went to university." They didn't really care about what they were reading or learning. They would have been much better off using that time to do whatever it was they did care about. And we'd be better off if we stopped using "wasted four years getting a B.A." as a job credential and instead hired people because they really wanted to do the job and seemed like they'd be good at it.

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Aug 5, 2023·edited Aug 5, 2023

The scary thing about all of this is, and it’ll pain all the anti-Trump Republicans who’ve sold their souls for a mess of Democratic pottage, is that under slightly different circumstances the populists could have taken the reins of the Democratic Party. The rhetoric’s been just as fierce on the Left, as anyone who’s got a memory longer than a gnat can see, as has the penchant for political violence, the disregard for the rule of law, etc. If anything, we should be happy that the most recent avatar of Leftwing populism was a broken-down, uncharismatic old Marxist-Leninist.

That’s why I can criticize Trump all day long, but I can’t become a Biden booster. I see folks who created the populist nightmare we’re living here in the U.S., people like former talk radio dittohead Charlie Sykes and consultants like Steve Schmidt, Rick Wilson, and Tim Miller, who rake in book deals and Democratic donations for venting spleen because they didn’t get jobs on the Trump train and castigating the Great Unwashed they used to gull, cully, and diddle for fun and profit. Someday after Trump’s dead and gone there’ll be a Great Reckoning in the GOP, and you know what? The Tim Millers and Steve Schmidts will come home to roost, and make peace with the Chris LaCivitas and Dave Bossies, and everything will be peaches and cream in the Consultant Grifter Universe, and folks like me who’ve been fighting populism in the Party will still be personae non gratae.

Sorry for my rant. Maybe it’s the DayQuil and the head cold. I’m just disgusted that the folks who’ve always crapped on people like me for being “unprincipled hacks” can find ways to make gobs of cash whether they’re flogging fascist or Democratic talking points. That’s one of the underlying problems of which Trump’s just the symptom.

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Aug 5, 2023·edited Aug 5, 2023

I would be very surprised if someone like Jonathan V Last formerly of the Weekly Standard and now editor of the Bulwark ever returns to the GOP. Schmidt and Wilson I don't know enough about to predict but I also think someone like yourself hates Jonathan V Last more than Schmidt and Wilson. Last famously wants to shoot people like yourself into the sun on a Falcon Heavy Rocket and does Gomer Pyle imitations of Trump supporters frequently during podcasts where he also belittles and makes fun of Trump supporters.

As an aside I also find that Democrats have been far more welcoming of JVL coming to there team than they have towards people like Wilson, Schmidt, Miller, and Sarah Longwell perhaps because JVL uses the most violent rhetoric and craps the most on anti-anti-Trump Republicans.

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And to be fair, Democrats shouldn’t trust Miller, Longwell, Schmidt, Wilson, Sykes, or the rest of the opportunists. It was funny watching Mona Charen walk around the Principles First conference this year, looking down her nose at all the filthy moderate Republican plebs who paid good money to see her speak. It was a shitshow, because the representatives from the Bulwark crapped on everyone and made scenes on stage. They’ve become just as performative as the people they hate.

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What is your opinion of Tom Nichols and Ben Wittes both of which I think Claire knows?

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From what little I’ve read and heard of them, I think Tom has a similar resentment to that of the Bulwark crew that he lets influence his analysis. I understand that emotion, as a fellow jilted Republican, even if I can’t stand the resulting cattiness. But he was never a populist-booster like the others. Ben seems to be more charitable, but as a guy of the center-left, he isn’t emotionally processing defenestration like us moderate Republicans are. So that makes sense psychologically. At least those are my observations as of the last time I heard them speak on a podcast or read their work.

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Aug 5, 2023·edited Aug 5, 2023

Oh, I know JVL will never come back to the GOP, and besides writing and editing for the Weekly Standard, will admit he never was much of a Republican. And of the Bulwark crew, he’s one of the few not cashing in on his opportunities or trying to maintain some strange political prestige like Kristol. We’ve agreed to disagree and are still friendly. At least the Bulwark hasn’t become a full-blown consultant grift like the scumbags at the Lincoln Project. I just find it aggravating that folks who stoked populist rage for ages now criticize me for not following them to their new Democratic-donor-funded meal tickets.

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This article might be the one that initially triggered me. I didn't realize it was so old, which is why it probably took me FOREVER to find it: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/06/05/its-time-to-bust-the-myth-most-trump-voters-were-not-working-class/

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Claire: I agree: Trump supporter's value are not mine and fundamentally in conflict with the founding principles of American democracy. What I cannot fathom is why you are willing to give Biden a pass. An "okay" presidency? Really? (If Dave Garrow is correct, Obama, through his acolytes in the current Administration, is really pulling the strings here. An interesting, and telling, observation.) The man is one of the most corrupt and dishonest individuals to have held the office in my increasingly long lifetime. True, Trump set a high-water mark for improbity, but Biden - and his "brand" - are giving him a run for his money. I'm interested in your further thoughts on the emerging scandal.

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Aug 5, 2023·edited Aug 5, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

You are proving my point about anti-anti-Trumpism. Is Biden one of the best President's the US has ever had far from it? Yet any rationale analysis would say Biden is far from the worst President the US has ever had will Trump is certainly one of the worst if not the worst President. the US has ever had.

I also think your comment proves another longstanding view of mine which is a lot of GOP establishment types are still deeply upset that the permanent GOP majority they were being promised after George W Bush's re-election by people like Karl Rove in 2004 turned about to be a mirage. I for one am not sure why people ever believed this back in 2004 and 2005 when any student of American history will tell you there almost never permanent political victories. The moment the 2004 election was announced for Bush was also the moment it became highly likely that a Democrat would be elected to the Presidency in 2008.

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See above, I've replied to a few comments about it.

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“Whatever they say, Trump’s supporters cannot really believe this indictment is the process of a “politicized judiciary.” (Claire Berlinski)

That’s precisely what millions of Americans believe because it is self-evidently true. The Special Counsel chosen to investigate and prosecute these matters was selected precisely because of his political bias. He’s not only a repulsive figure but he’s a hack (as his ridiculous prosecution of the former Virginia Governor who’s conviction was overturned by a unanimous Supreme Court proved). After Trump is convicted in DC and the conviction is affirmed by the DC Circuit, I’d bet the house that a Trump conviction will be vacated by the Supreme Court. The trial court judge was appointed by Obama. The DC circuit has a majority of Democrat-appointed judges though Trump could get lucky when a three judge panel is appointed. The Supreme Court has a majority of Justices appointed by Republicans and three were appointed by Trump himself. The outcome of this case will almost certainly be decided by politics. You would have to be oblivious or insistent on pretending that Justice will prevail to fail to recognize this.

But the greatest proof that the American Justice system is fatally compromised and is more subject to politics than to the rule of law is provided by how important the venue of prosecution is to whether Trump is convicted.

Everyone with an ounce of sentience understands that a DC jury is overwhelmingly likely to convict Trump. Everyone also understands that if this case were tried in Oklahoma or South Carolina, the prospects for conviction would be near zero. This provides ample evidence that when it comes to this case, politics matters more than Justice.

The American system of Justice is increasingly a joke but never more so when it comes to this case.

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I wonder how you'll explain his convictions in Georgia and Florida?

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An Atlanta jury is likely to convict as opposed to a jury elsewhere in Georgia. The same thing with a New York jury. We will have to see about a Florida jury. That case is much stronger than any of the others but Trump benefits from a judge that he appointed. I expect her to be as relentlessly anti-prosecution as decorum will permit. All this will prove yet again that the American judicial system is relentlessly political to the point of farce.

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Most definitely. Sent his dad a pix parachuting. Kid's twin brother is pursuing a professional career.

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“If Biden loses to Trump, there will be no Ukraine. Europe will be plunged into a nightmare I find too frightening to contemplate.” (Claire Berlinski)

It’s too bad for Ukraine that Biden instigated Putin to invade and that the American President vetoed a compromise that was being mediated by the former Israeli Prime Minister. Whether Ukraine is defeated or finds a way to prevail in its conflict with Russia, much of the country has been reduced to rubble. We will never know whether a re-elected Trump would have deterred the Russian invasion, but what we know beyond a reasonable doubt is that Biden is almost as complicit in the tragedy of Ukraine as Putin is.

If Trump wins the next American presidential election and Europe is “plunged” into a dystopian nightmare, when searching for whom to blame, Europeans should look in the mirror. The image looking back at them will be pathetic and incompetent; a paltry thing; a veritable tattered coat upon a stick.

Europe is not an American responsibility. If it can’t fend for itself, let it sink into a morass of it’s own making. Good riddance.

One reason for Trump’s popularity is that many Americans are sick and tired of being bled dry by Europe. For a time, the United States benefited from being the leader of the free world. Those days are long gone.

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Aug 4, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

WigWag...where to start? For $200, I'll choose "Biden instigated Putin to invade". It's an incredibly bold assertion on its face, and simply untrue, even if you argue that US policy vis-a-vis former Soviet satellite countries has been inconsistent, confusing and -- from Russia's point of view -- threatening as more former Soviet dependencies gained admission to NATO. Biden did not instigate Russia's invasion. I will grant you that he should have made a more determined American declaration of Ukraine's independence and territorial integrity as vital to European peace and stability.

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Biden hired Victoria Nuland who was responsible during the Obama years for supporting if not inspiring the Ukrainian revolution. According to Nuland, of course, the United States had a right to stick our nose into the affairs of Ukraine, a nation with which Russia had a long-standing interest and one-time alliance. Nuland, an anti-Russian bigot, is one of the most nefarious apparatchiks of the American Uniparty which believes it is entitled to interfere wherever and whenever it wants to.

Biden refused to take Ukrainian membership in NATO off the table. Had he done so, it is possible and maybe likely that Putin wouldn’t have invaded.

Biden threatened Putin with massive sanctions if he invaded Ukraine. He must have known that this wouldn’t deter Putin but would instead enrage and instigate him.

Biden called Putin a war criminal. It may be true, but Biden must have known that saying it out loud would egg Putin on, which is exactly what Biden intended to do.

After the Trump presidency, Biden bragged that an American-led NATO was back. Did he think Putin would cower in response or did he think Putin would respond in kind?

At the beginning of the conflict, Biden called for the overthrow of Putin. How exactly did he think Putin would react?

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett engaged in a mediation effort early on in the conflict that he assessed had a 50/50 chance of success. That is until according to Bennett, Biden deep-sixed a compromise. Bennett’s testimony is game, set and match when it comes to Biden’s complicity.

And, of course, the Biden Crime Family was deeply embedded in Ukrainian affairs from the time Biden was Vice President.

Biden is drenched in Ukrainian blood. The fact that Putin is even more drenched in blood does nothing to exonerate Biden. His supporters can cry “out, out, damn spot” to their heart’s content. It changes nothing.

Like it or not, the United States is deeply complicit in the destruction of Ukraine; a nation that may never fully recover.

The Uniparty, that Claire and her fellow travelers revere, is making the same mistake with China and Taiwan that we made with Russia and Ukraine. China was content with the status quo on Taiwan and was happy to push off a resolution far into the future. That is until the idiot Speaker Pelosi visited Taiwan and the idiot Speaker McCarthy met with the President of Taiwan. What those morons (in a display of Uniparty stupidity) viewed as a show of strength was anything but. It enraged China and makes an invasion (or a blockade) more likely not less likely. As Claire herself had mentioned recently there’s a growing consensus that if the United States and China fight a war over Taiwan, China will win.

Of course that won’t give Biden or the Uniparty a moments pause. After all, we lost almost every military conflict we’ve engaged in since World War II. Despite this, our Uniparty overlords are always anxious to find a new war for Americans to prosecute and lose.

If they can work out a few kinks over abortion and sex-change operations for trans soldiers, the Uniparty is about to pass an $880 billion Pentagon Budget. Most of that money would be just as valuable flushed down the drain. Just for you, R. Hodson, I asked ChatGPT how much the United States has spent on the Pentagon since the end of the Second World War. The answer I got back is that between 1948 and 2022, US defense expenditures were approximately $25 trillion. Considering that our country hasn’t won a “hot” war since 1948, you would think we could have found a way to lose all of our wars while spending a just a little less money.

To anyone who’s intelligence has not been compromised by too much education, the American record of military failure is both remarkable and horrific to behold. The American military is at least as incompetent as the Russian military but at least the Russian military achieves all of its failures at a far lower cost.

Claire suggests that Europe will implode if Trump wins. She hasn’t told us why she thinks this; I hope she does. But in the event she’s right, it’s just more evidence of the terrible price of American leadership. If Europe is so utterly dependent on the United States for its freedom and prosperity, it demonstrates perfectly that American leadership has enfeebled rather than empowered Europe.

The United States was once a colossus. Thanks to the type of American President that Claire supports our country has developed the anti-Midis touch. Almost everything we touch turns into you know what.

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Aug 5, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

You seem to have an idee fixe that President Biden, Hunter, and for all I know, others are all members of what you are pleased to call, "the Biden crime family." That you disagree with Joe B's politics is apparent, but no crime; at least, no evidence of one has been uncovered by Republican investigations to date. Likewise, Hunter B admits to having criminally withheld taxes due, and to the crime of having lied when making a gun purchase. He is also a notorious substance abuser (cocaine, alcohol, and???) who has struggled with rehab. Hunter has shamelessly traded on his father's name when promoting himself to business clients. Other stuff? We hear allegations, but to date, no evidence pointing to Joe Biden having committed any crimes. Therefore, I judge your use of the term "Biden crime family" to be a presumption of guilt, and maybe slanderous (dunno, not a lawyer, etc.).

I realize that it is important to keep these comments focussed on the substance of the arguments proposed, rather than the character of the person commenting. Without suggesting anything derogatory, I am surprised that such an apparently intelligent, well-informed person as yourself seems to have such a gloomy outlook on America; you are spreading a huge load of negativity about American politics and life in general. You said, "The United States was once a colossus." Why the past tense? We are now more populous, more productive and wealthier as a nation than ever before. Yes, we have problems, but incessantly obsessing about them to the exclusion of all else is the most destructive form of navel-gazing imaginable. America needs to work to make things better, rather than carrying grievances and nit-picking the past.

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Aug 5, 2023·edited Aug 5, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

Very well stated, R Hodsdon. In fact, the grace you show in your reply is inspiring. Thank you.

EDITED for clarity (to include R Hodsdon's name)

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What you’re calling negativity is instead the sad reality. Joe Biden, like the mainstream, neoconservative Republicans as well as mainstream liberal internationalist Democrats are responsible for making the world a much more dangerous place. It’s long past time to heed the words of our founders and exercise a little bit more restraint when it comes to foreign entanglements. We’ve spent trillions. and have far too little to show for it.

It’s not just that the Uniparty obsession with American leadership made the destruction of Ukraine more likely not less likely. This same narcissistic obsession with American leadership makes war in Asia increasingly likely.

Before American neoliberal elites set China on it current path to superpower status, the mainland was backwards and impoverished. Taiwan was dramatically more technologically advanced and economically prosperous than its cousins across the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan was more than capable of developing its own nuclear deterrent.

Of course it never did because American Uniparty ideologues, obsessed if not drunk with American power, insisted that Taiwan shelter under an American nuclear umbrella rather than develop its own.

What a horrible mistake this was, especially for Taiwan. Once American neoliberal elites set China on its path to superpower stardom, all that deters a Chinese invasion is an increasingly rickety American promise to respond militarily. But if China invades and we do respond militarily (which we might or might not do) the consensus is that China will win and the United States will be humiliated.

Our aircraft carriers are sitting ducks for Chinese hypersonic missiles. It’s highly doubtful that the Japanese or Koreans would join us in attacking China. The Philippines won’t either. I guess we can count in Guam.

If we had been less obsessed with American leadership, Taiwan could have developed its own nuclear arsenal which would have been a far greater deterrent to a Chinese invasion than the threat that our armed forces, which couldn’t even defeat the Taliban, would somehow protect Taiwan’s freedom.

Just in the past several months, our South Korean friends debated the prospect of developing their own nuclear deterrent to disincentivize an attack from North Korea. The Biden Administration was, of course, horrified. After all, what would it say about American leadership if one of our closest Asian friends escaped from an obviously fraudulent nuclear umbrella and developed its own weapon. Biden and his Uniparty brethren were at least as motivated by the need to protect the illusion of American leadership as they were by the need to protect South Korea.

The absurd compromise reported by the press was that American nuclear armed submarines would visit South Korea more publicly and more often.

South Korea is making a huge mistake by acquiescing to American demands. North Korea has intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach America’s West Coast. No American President of either political party will risk the obliteration of Seattle, Portland or San Francisco in response to a North Korean nuclear attack on South Korea. The American nuclear umbrella protecting South Korea is little more than a fraud.

The Uniparty’s obsession with American leadership not only results in military interventions that we always seem to lose, it’s also making our allies weaker and more vulnerable not stronger and more self-reliant.

The only two candidates who get this are Trump and Kennedy. No matter how wrong they are about other things, they are spectacularly right about this reality.

How many more disasters does the United States have to foster before things deteriorate beyond repair?

The Ukrainians are paying the price for American stupidity. Will the Taiwanese and South Koreans be next?

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Aug 5, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

You have posited that, rather than relying on an American "nuclear umbrella", East Asian states such as Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and possibly the Philippines would have made the world a safer place had they developed their own nuclear arsenals and ICBMs, to counter any threat from the PRC. Your position is not the consensus position of the US Foreign Policy establishment -- which I suppose is the reason it appeals to you. You obviously disagree with a great deal of US post-WWII policies.

Your assertions are debatable but untestable; we don't have multiple universes in which we can see how your ideas would play out. Personally, I adhere to the belief that nuclear proliferation is a far greater threat to world peace than the current, non-proliferation regime. Messy, yes, but far less that a world with many nuclear-armed adversaries.

Last comment (of the many I would like to make in response to your comment, but am constrained by time and inadequate typing skills): you keep harping on the theme of "American stupidity", and accusing US statecraft of being "nothing more than a fraud." It is generally not a good idea to bet against the odds. Is the threat of US nuclear retaliation against nuclear attack a real possibility, or is it just a sham? If you are a Chinese war planner, would you be confident enough your analysis to tell Xi, "We can go ahead and attack Taiwan - the Americans will do nothing!"?

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Taiwan and South Korea were both more than capable of developing their own nuclear deterrent. Neither country would represent a proliferation risk. Certainly both countries represent a far smaller proliferation risk than Iran; a country that Obama and Biden actually hoped would get nuclear weapons. Neither nation developed deterrence strategies because they foolishly relied on the United States. They are weaker and more vulnerable as a result.

The Philippines wasn’t capable of developing its own nuclear program and Japan for obvious reasons was loathe to consider it.

The foreign policy consensus that you refer to has been wrong far more often than its been right; at least since the end of the Cold War. Afghanistan and Iraq were disasters and Ukraine is in the process of turning into a disaster. The United States foreign policy establishment is responsible in whole or in part for all of these tragedies. Trillions of dollars squandered on shooting wars that we always lose; what would you call that R Hodson?

Tens of thousands of lives lost, American soldiers coming home in body bags or sans arms or legs or both, America’s allies more vulnerable than ever because of their alliance with us. What would you call this R Hodson?

The United States is a hubristic and increasingly hollowed out hegemon. This massive failure has been delivered to us by a foreign policy elite that largely agrees with the disastrous policies that Claire Berlinski advocates regularly on her Substack.

Spend a moment reflecting on what Claire said in her essay. If Trump is re-elected she argues, it’s lights out for Europe. A darkness will descend on Europe that she’s horrified to contemplate.

Here we are almost 75 years after World War II and Europe still can’t stand on its feet in the absence of American leadership. What could be more pathetic than that?

Inadvertently perhaps, Claire has provided convincing evidence that America’s lust for leadership has fostered a dependency in Europe that has so sapped the strength of European nations that their safety, prosperity and perhaps survival all depend on the vagaries of an American presidential election. If Claire is right, it’s a stunning indictment of American and European foreign and military policy.

What both Trump and RFK, Jr get that the other presidential contenders don’t is that American leadership makes the United States weaker not stronger. For decades, American hegemony actually benefited the American economy. Those days are gone. It’s become unaffordable for us and more often than not it makes our enemies stronger and our allies weaker.

Trump and RFK, Jr. are wrong about many things, perhaps even most things. But what they are right about is remarkably important. American foreign policy and defense policy require revolutionary change.

Before it’s too late.

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Aug 4, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

Between this depressing but brilliantly written piece and Andrew Sullivan’s (also depressing and brilliantly written) today, I would be on the verge of slicing my wrists if not for my innate optimism in a country that survived a civil war that set brother upon brother in an ultimately successful quest to expunge our original sin to eventually become the greatest power the world has ever seen. A country, I would add, that used that power not to subjugate its enemies but to empower them in a way the world had never experienced. Maybe my optimism is misplaced and I have come to see the future with the same selectiveness my wife insists I remember the past but I have watched my fellow Americans interact with each other all across this continent over the past few years and the divisions that seem so apparent online simply do not exist in the real world. Sure we have our problems and those problems are serious and occasionally expressed violently and Donald Trump is a real threat to our constitutional order but I refuse to believe this great nation will be brought down by a reality TV conman.

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Aug 5, 2023·edited Aug 5, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

Like you, I am an optimist concerning the future of the US. I believe that Trump is merely the symptom of the GOP's single-minded regimentation in a drive for power, consequences be damned. Trump has a cunning understanding of what appeals to the mob. But he merely built on what was already there. Origins of the MAGA movement lay in Gingrich's "Contract with America", the Tea Party and militias, conservative evangelic sects and the various strains of Nazi-loving white supremacist movements. The gravest responsibility, in my lies with the Republican Party Establishment, for allowing this travesty to continue with the full, formal support of the party. Even if Trump were in fact the second coming of Christ (as some of his more fervent supporters may believe), pledging fealty to any politician who disrespects the Constitution as Trump does, would not be a responsible course of action. Much less for supporting such a horrible, miserable excuse for a human being as is the now twice-impeached, indicted enemy of democracy as Donald J Trump..

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From your mouth to God's ears.

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Aug 4, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

Armed forces members with at least H.S. education has grown from about half to 90%.

Our investment banker's son is an elite warrior, military increasingly a place for technologically competent soldiers.

https://prhome.defense.gov/portals/52/Documents/POPREP/poprep99/html/chapter2/c2_education.htm

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Is he an officer?

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David Brooks wrote pretty much of a rehash of his long-held convictions on class separation, but he was mostly wrong in this piece. MAGA people are not mostly uneducated second-class citizens. For proof, you only have to look at the H6 rioters. Many, if not most, were fairly well-off folks. Stewart Rhodes was a Yale-educated lawyer. There was that real estate agent who took a private plane. The list goes on. Tom Nichols has the type nailed down, and we need to read his stuff.

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Daniel Drezner picks apart the David Brooks article here

https://danieldrezner.substack.com/p/david-brooks-means-well-but

If the article is paywalled, please comment here and I will forward a copy to Claire to share privately with you.

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I also received this from a reader: https://www.vox.com/2023/8/4/23818817/trump-support-david-brooks-economic-anxiety.

I’d have to look at the research Beauchamp mentions carefully to assess it. My first thought is that his thesis and Brooks’ are not mutually exclusive. I wonder if he thinks that Trumpism could have emerged absent the economic transformation Brooks (and Packer, better) describe? Is this kind of racial resentment something like Dutch Elm disease, which requires a weakened forest to spread?

I suspect it’s a mistake for him to lump “discomfort with racial equality” and discomfort with what we have no good word for, but which we’ve come to call wokeism. This really is a distinct ideological movement that burst forth in about 2014, and it complicates analysis greatly because people can be entirely liberal, at least in their racial instincts, but find themselves appalled by the illiberal, self-satisfied culture of our Puritanical, college-educated elites. I have a lot of sympathy with the inarticulate parents who don’t really know what CRT is, but know something’s being taught in their kids’ classes that isn’t wholesome, and who are outraged in particular by the idea that their kids are learning about the “T” and the “Q” part of LGBTQ in first grade.

In fact, from here, it seems to me resentment of transsexualism exceeds racial resentment among Trump’s supporters. Not resentment of homosexuality, which I think most Americans have accepted. But they draw the line at accepting transsexualism as more than merely “tolerable among full-grown adults, but we’re going to laugh.” I do understand that. I have heard from lots of Americans that suddenly, half a dozen kids in their children’s schools have come out as trans. These numbers are just plain weird: https://www.browndailyherald.com/article/2023/06/lgbtq-student-self-identification-has-doubled-since-2010-according-to-herald-polling-data. If you tell parents that this is all perfectly normal and their minor children can be taken away from them if they don’t let them have a sex change, you're just cruising for a political bruising. (That the Democrats are so stupid about politics is, at this point, criminal. If Biden were a more adroit politician, he’d Sister Souljah the hell out of that issue. But he isn’t, and that’s deeply worrying.)

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Aug 6, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

A liberal friend’s autistic 11 year old grandson, whom he’s raising, has come out as transgender with the support of the boy’s “non-binary” girlfriend and the teachers and other parents at his school. 11 years old! Transgender! Has a girlfriend at 11! Who considers herself non-binary! And the school community in this artsy-fartsy Leftist enclave’s cheering them on! It’s absolute insanity. It is no wonder that sane parents are rebelling against this crap. I feel so sorry for my friend and the child, who is too young and emotionally stunted to understand anything that’s going on. What the heck do 11 year olds know about biology, sexuality, and their own identity, for that matter?

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I'm aware of that data, but it's strikingly counterintuitive, so I wonder about whether there's been some mistake in the data collection.

When I watch Trump rallies, it looks to me as if the crowds are, for the most part, lower-class or poor, and uneducated. I know "looking at a Trump rally on TV" isn't a rigorous and careful way to study things, but I suspect most Americans could peg the class status (if not the income bracket) of any other American they meet within seconds: Like most humans, we're good at sussing out signs of status. The crowds that love him most are not, for the most part, Yale-educated lawyers.

There are clearly exceptions. The cost of traveling to DC probably selected for wealthier devotees, so I don't think we can draw conclusions from the economic status of the J6 rioters. But I'd bet "education level" will reliably correlate with support for Trump in every study with a statistically valid sample. And education level reliably correlates to income.

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I'm sorry, I just can't let ya get away with this, Miss Daisy. Yes, there are a lot of snaggle toothed hillbillies who support Trump.

One of the things that really, really confuses us FANTs and ANTs (formerly-almost Never Trumper and Always Never Trumper) is that we don't understand why they can't see what we see. We all tend to think that given the same set of complete data, intelligent people will come to similar conclusions. In this case it's so stark as to boggle the mind how it would be any other way.

But here's the thing: they don't believe what you believe about Trump. They don't have the same set of data. "But how can that be?!" exclaims Claire. "It's all right there, plain as the mask on your face!"

Well I hearken back to what I heard Jonah Goldberg say to a podcaster for The Atlantic. The guy asked him "Don't you kind of have to be a racist to be a Trump supporter?" Jonah said (and I paraphrase) "No! Whether Trump is or is not a racist, if he was, and we were the only ones pointing it out, they wouldn't hear it. Because the stopped listening to us." He went on to say that the reason they stopped listening to "us" is because they are tired of being called a racist.

The long and the short is they just tune everyone out. Because they've been called poor and uneducated and racists for so long, and Donald Trump essentially gave them permissions to tell all those people to shut the **** up. Now, I think they threw the Jonah's and the Claire's out with the bathwater, frankly. Which is unfortunate. But I don't think it's fair to categorize most Trump supporters as poor and uneducated. Most of the Trump supporters I know are neither.

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Claire, I've read a couple of your books ("There Is No Alternative" and "Menace In Europe") and I've thought that you've had pretty good insights into cultural phenomena before. However, on this one, I think you're completely missing the mark if that the majority of Trump supporters are lower-class, uneducated people. If the majority of Trump supporters are lower-class, uneducated voters, then the same holds true with whatever politician is running for office.

Also, I've seen Trump 2024 flags and stickers everywhere from rural, eastern North Carolina to AOC's district in the Bronx. You're right in that there is a certain kind of people who vote for Trump, but I don't think it's a class distinction.

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Alas, Trump has not been indicted for his most grievous crimes, whatever one thinks those may be. He is not charged with insurrection, nor seditious conspiracy, nor treason. Instead, we have before us an exercise in creative legality, which is the polite term for lawlessness.

When one closely examines the indictment, it becomes difficult to discern the actual crimes alleged. Lying? False consciousness? Doublethink? Really, it’s humbug. If Trump is guilty of being an election truther, then so is Al Gore, who also sought to overturn an election on the basis of lame-brained legal theorizing. Ditto the Rightful Governor of Georgia, Her Excellency Stacey Abrams. Ditto the Democrats who, in 2016, sought to bully presidential electors into disregarding the voters’ choice in their states and cast their votes against Trump.

It looks to me as though Trump’s most implacable enemies have decided that to vanquish him, they have to be worse than him. How does that make America a better place?

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I don't recall Al Gore refusing to concede after exhausting his legal options. Or creating fake electors. Or pushing state officials to come up with fake votes. Or pressuring the vice-president to refuse to certify the election.

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founding

Finally. Thank you.

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I have trouble figuring out which comments are in reply to which. Who are you thanking?

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Aug 5, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

You.

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Oh, good! You're welcome!

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In 2000, the election night tally gave Florida to Bush. Because the margin was so narrow, Florida law mandated a machine recount of the ballots. That recount gave Florida to Bush. Thereupon, the Democrats embarked on a campaign to overturn the results with selective recounts in counties where they thought that examinations of “hanging chads” & etc. would throw the election to Gore. Only when court rulings looked likely to go against it did the Gore campaign demand a statewide hand recount of ballots. Thankfully, the US Supreme Court called a halt to the whole burlesque.

The truth was that the outcome in Florida was a statistical tie. The initial tally and the mandated machine recount both gave the victory to Bush. Precisely how was the Gore campaign’s refusal to accept this not an abuse of the legal system and an attempt to defraud the United States?

Trump may be a bad actor, indeed a monster of evil, but his election denialism is not unprecedented. The people who denounce him on that score have not scrupled to do exactly the same thing. As a Catholic who accepts the doctrine of Original Sin, I can put up with a lot—but not with the gross hypocrisy of Donald Trump’s most rabid accusers.

None of the above applies to you, Claire—obviously. I may from time to time disagree with your opinions (as, inexplicably, you may with mine) but your intellectual integrity is never questioned here in northwest Indiana.

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Hello Claire, Somehow the analysis and characterizations just don't square with my experiences in the concepts introduced and instances cited and my attempt at making a point includes both society and politics. This is a first impression and I'd need a bit more time and thought to flesh things out. In short, I encounter all sorts of individuals and couples in social, business and familial relationships who just don't fit into the proscribed boxes. As I read the body of the piece, my thoughts drifted to recollections of The Bell Curve, Charlles Murray's work and we have a decent grasp of the shortcomings and inconsistencies of that tome, not to mention the reception. In short, there's a lot more going on than what's stated in the piece. I wonder if any other readers have the same thoughts? As always, thanks.

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Packer's boxes? Did you read his article? I may not have done it justice.

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Aug 4, 2023·edited Aug 4, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

Great piece and a lot to think about. I have been reading a lot about manufacturing in the late 1960s in the US lately and something I have been coming across was just how poor the US workforce was at actually performing very high skilled work. There were famously several "high tech" factories built in the late 1960s such as one in Indiana to build nuclear power plant parts that became national laughingstocks for the absolutely poor quality of there workforce. I question if the problems in the US go deeper back to when during and after World War II manufacturing started to shift and move away from it's traditional birthplace in the Northeast and New England.

I keep noticing a parallel with the desire of the French govt to use low skilled construction labor to build the suburban tower blocks around Paris compared to the highly skilled craftsmen that had previously built Paris itself.

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This is very interesting and would seem to explain a lot.

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You know, I don't know. I'd be curious to hear more about what you learn.

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“Do Americans realize that once you lose your reputation for political stability, your wealth disappears?” Great how you saved that line for the end. That’s what’s the most baffling about it. In a nutshell that’s why I started The Neoliberal Standard. Does no one realize that the least bad outcome of populism, is that we’ll make America poor? Does nobody care to be a rich country anymore? It makes no sense. But this is why, sad though it might be about all those immiserated lives, we cannot give into populism the least by pitying them. We’ll surrender our liberties and our rights only when we have the misplaced empathy enough for a victimized class whose plight George Packer, Nick Kristof Ross Douthat, David Brooks, or some New Yorker columnist cynically dramatizes. Anyway incomes rose immensely since Thatcher broke the unions, and working class jobs were replaced with lower middle class jobs. Reagan and Thatcher created a ton of new jobs and with the benefit that consumer goods like cars and tv became lots cheaper. Neoliberalism on the whole was actually very good for ordinary people. Sure there’s a big gap between the meritocrats, and the losers. But there was always a hierarchy. Indeed it was much more severe before the Enlightenment under monarchies where you were born into a favored privileged group or not, or maybe you were a slave or a serf, or an indentured servant. If you look on the bright side of the status gap we have now, you’ll find it’s at least the justest status gap we ever had. The problem is reconciling people to it. I don’t blame economics or trade for our dysfunction and polarization moreover. In the old days, that good old time religion was enough to tide over the lower classes and sports. Now the real issue is that we envy the successful who have before never been so visible, because of the mass media at our fingertips, making us only more painfully aware of how inadequate we are. This makes us more self-conscious, insecure, and uncertain. Crippled as we are by envy, we lack the moral structure to enable us to suppress our envy. Modern therapeutic culture is bereft of stigma, any belief in excellence, or the value of hard work, or even the ennobling value of suffering for a worthy end. This culture we have of medicalizing every unpleasant thing infantilizes us and makes us outraged by the smallest perceived slight and encourages us to justify our existence to ourselves by inventing conflicts, and seeking vengeance as a tool of personal empowerment. I’m not sure how we do it, but I think we need to relearn the values of self-control and common courtesy. Modern culture has made us debauched by rapacious selfishness, making men beasts, and the rise of Trump reflects that. Not a lot of people are lacking for money or opportunity. On the other hand we have culturally fetishized stealing Respect through acts of brute strength, coarse gestures, and violence.

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Aug 5, 2023·edited Aug 5, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

I think one of the problems with Reaganomics was the people who most benefited from it were groups like Upper Middle Class New England Liberals that were not in fact the people who voted FOR Reagan. These were the people that opposed involvement in the Vietnam War even when Kennedy was President i.e. small l Liberal isolationists. There is a whole book about this group of people who btw I am myself associated with by geography, education, and to a lesser extent temperament.

https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Blame-Us-Transformation-Democratic/dp/0691157235

In fact I would go as far to say that anti-anti-Trumpers are more than anything to this day people who are disgusted by those who in reality benefited the most from Reaganomics(suburban Boston Liberals) and the fact that they themselves(flag, faith, family, and chamber of commerce conservatives in places like NW Indiana) did not benefit as much and further disgusted that these same upper middle class suburbanites from around Boston care almost nothing about Hunter Biden's improprieties.

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Reagan carried Massachusetts twice. In the light of the current state of Taxachusetts, astonishing!

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Aug 5, 2023Liked by Claire Berlinski

BTW, the narrative of Taxachusetts is not nearly as strong as many think. It tended to fade away in the 1990s during the years Massachusetts had a long string of Republican Governors. The shift from Mike Dukakis to Republican Bill Weld was real and has impacts still to this day.

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In any other state, Barbara Anderson, advocate for reasonable taxation extraordinare, would have been a heroine. In current day Massachusetts, she's hardly mentioned. Lessening of the tax burden has occurred in Massachusetts? The Republican Govenors are powerless in this regard and have been for years. The State Legislature controls tax policy and they're not about to let up for even an instant on the ongoing trend of revenue enhancement. In other words, 'hold onto your wallet.'

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That’s interesting Tim. And then it goes to show the anti-anti Trumpers are concerned more about status than income and opportunity. It’s the narcissism of small differences that defines the Trump movement, the same with the progressive left. They complain about things that show there is nothing, really, to complain about. I was listening to a guy on National Review’s Capital Record podcast yesterday who was saying that everyone who wants capitalism to do more, criticizing “market failures,” is blind to everything markets already do. I think I’m fairly alone in my conviction that populism is not a legitimate response to anything that failed policies explain. If anything we have only become so miserable that we think we want populism, because America is so fucking wealthy and fairly free already. That is to say it’s from the luxury and privilege that America affords that gen z kids think the president is justified to “cancel” student debt. Same with Trump. People only think they want to make america great again, because it’s already pretty good, and they’re bored. We used to dream of a better life for ourselves--better than yesterday, better than our parents’-- but now we’ve achieved a better life for ourselves and our kids, especially over the last 3 decades. So now we want more than incremental betterment. Now we have the unabashed, bold childishness to dream of perfection for each other, where life has cosmic value. And we’re infinitely valuable and absolutely powerful like superheroes. This is where material prosperity and technological productivity collide, that we think we can and we want to transcend everything ordinary and achieve a Singularity or something. Each Woke and MAGA movement expresses this tendency, the desire to transcend oneself and one’s limitations to merge with one’s perfect imagined identity, and be loved. Something like that.

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You're definitely not "fairly alone."

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I think I’m pretty rare for giving almost no benefit of the doubt or an ounce of sympathy to the populist cause. For the record I think the Donald Trump right wing populist movement is owed .5% to the china shock and .5% to the foreign policy establishment/ ‘08 financial crisis-- the other 99% is owed to individual autoinfantilization, comparable to the psyche of a spoiled child. It’s a great big abhorrently immature, grandiose tantrum to me, nothing more or less. I think even you, Claire (who’s infinitely more like me than most) give too much credence to elite failure. But I while I concede our censorious elites certainly aren’t helping at all, and indeed they compound the malaise-- in my view populism is the demented offspring of a moral crisis of faith, on the order of Max Weber’s theory of disenchantment or Nietzsche’s death of god. Notably the world wars were provoked by this same exact crisis of values, an anxiety that there was no higher end for humanity after empire or the authority of the established church. I think what held civilization together after the world wars and through the cold war was only the common fear of mutually assured destruction and more war, a rational response to conflict. Only now that we haven’t had any big war in more than half a century we have had the luxury of the arrogance to experiment with ideas about revolutionizing society to put into a practice a grand vision of reorganizing society to achieve utopia or total control over anything and everything that makes one unhappy in lieu any metaphysical cosmic end to existence, giving your life meaning. Since people are constitutionally incapable it seems of living without an absolute life-affirming purpose, they have transferred all of their fears to the political realm and now the same bad ideas that led to Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia are floating in the ether once again. Why, because people are insatiable! The reason I’m so contemptuous of this rather than sympathetic is because it strikes me as so irresponsible besides irrational, and since this same pettiness resulted in two world wars, so I would have hoped that we might learn our lesson about grand ideas after all this time, but clearly no we haven’t learned anything! I’m too haunted by the twentieth century and perhaps too comfortable with my own ease with living without grand ideas, that to witness populism inspires only loathing in me. For better or worse. I don’t want to assume I’m more mature or smarter than they are, even though I guess that’s inevitable-- folly of my youth. But in any event I’m confident without knowing how right I am, that I have a good grasp of how wrong the populists are.

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I agree with all of this.

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