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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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founding
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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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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“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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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

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 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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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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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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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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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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“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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