Is Donald Trump a fascist? If so, is that a bad thing?

According to Robert Kagan in the Washington Post, Donald Trump constitutes a “singular threat to our democracy.”[1]  Trump’s chief pull on his supporters “is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence.”  He “provoke[s] and play[s] on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger [directed against] Muslims, Hispanics, women, Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, Arabs, immigrants, refugees…His program,…consists chiefly of promises to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion. He will deport them, bar them, get them to knuckle under, make them pay up or make them shut up.”

According to Kagan, Trump has aroused the “mobocracy” dreaded by the “Founders.”  Alexander Hamilton feared that “the unleashing of popular passions would lead not to greater democracy but to the arrival of a tyrant, riding to power on the shoulders of the people.”  “[I]n other democratic and quasi-democratic countries over the past century, [this] has generally been called “fascism.”  “Fascist movements had no coherent ideology,… fascism was not about policies but about the strongman, the leader (Il Duce, Der Führer), in whom could be entrusted the fate of the nation.”  “[If Trump] wins the election, his legions will likely comprise a majority of the nation.”  “This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.”

Well, no.  “Fascism” and “national socialism” (another term that Kagan throws around in a devil-may-care fashion) were born of grave social and economic crises ineffectually faced by liberal[2] governments between the two world wars.  The fascist movements adopted an emphatically anti-democratic stance.  They commonly resorted to “exemplary” violence.[3]  They sought to commandeer elections to create an obstructionist group in the legislature so as to paralyze democratic politics.

None of this is true of Donald Trump.  He has never proclaimed his opposition to democracy.  The Trumpsters have engaged in minor violence on rare occasions and usually only when provoked by leftists trying to prevent Trump from speaking.  Trump has no party.

Undoubtedly, the established parties have been put through the wringer in the past decade.  The Republican Party has been battered by the Tea Party movement and now by the Trump insurgency.  The Democrats saw their settled succession overthrown by Barack Obama and now tested by Bernie Sanders.  American voters aren’t just falling into line.  The question of what is behind these movements is enormously important.

I’m not planning on voting for Trump, although his opponents may yet talk me into it.[4]

[1] See:

[2] Small “l” liberal: representative governments; an executive that can be evicted from office when it loses the support of the majority in the legislature; checks and balances; bills of civil rights and the rule of law; more or less free and fair elections.  The New Deal’s reliance on Southern white voters doesn’t disqualify it.  I suppose.

[3] Tying a Socialist mayor to a tree in the town square, then pouring castor oil down his throat, or kicking a newspaper editor to death in front of his wife and children for example.


An ugly election is shaping up.

First, Wall Street is all that stands between America and a Trump presidency!  As Donald Trump slew a succession of mainstream or even not-so-mainstream Republican dragons, the financial industry turned with a will to supporting Hillary Clinton.  Wall Street’s role rose from 32 percent of her campaign contributions in 2015 to 53 percent in March 2016.[1]  Clinton has shrugged off the criticism in this regard directed at her by Democratic rival Bernie Sanders.[2]

At the same time, just over half (51 percent) of 18-29 year-olds do not support capitalism.  A third (33 percent) do support socialism.[3]  That said, it isn’t clear what those polled mean by “capitalism” or “socialism.”  Still, Bernie Sanders is running at a time when many young people are more estranged from the accepted economic system than are their elders.  In the nature of things, the elders are going to die before the younger.  Sanders and his message may help shape the long-term attitudes of an entire generation.  Clinton’s support from Wall Street might confirm their beliefs.  Moreover, that support might make it difficult for Clinton to rally the support of many Sandersites, regardless of what course he follows.

Second, almost two-thirds of Americans in general (62 percent) think that their “beliefs and values are under attack.”[4]  Virtually all (85 percent) Republicans believe that their “beliefs and values are under attack.”  This includes 91 percent of the supporters of Donald Trump.  Thus, Trump isn’t far off what a lot of Republicans say, even if they don’t like the way Trump says it.  So, are Trump’s voters really angry over economic issues or are cultural issues at the heart of this movement?  Poll trolls report that 80 percent of Trumpsters believe that “the government has gone too far in assisting minority groups,” and that 85 percent believe that the US has “lost its identity.”  In the wake of Ferguson and BLM, and President Obama’s executive orders on illegal immigrants, this election could be about race.

Third, it’s going to be a case of voters holding their noses and picking the least bad option.  As of mid-May 2016, only 33 percent of people had a favorable view of the Republican Party, while 62 percent had an unfavorable view.  That’s a minus 29.  That hasn’t sent people streaming to the Democrats.  Only 45 percent had a favorable view of the Democratic Party and 50 percent had an unfavorable view.  That’s a minus 5.  However, 25 percent take an unfavorable view of both parties.[5]

The unfavorable gap is wide for both likely presidential nominees.  Hilary Clinton is at minus 24 (56 percent unfavorable versus 32 percent favorable); Donald Trump is at minus 41 (65 percent unfavorable versus 24 percent favorable).[6]  The majority of people polled have an unfavorable view of both candidates.  Almost half (46 percent) of Clinton’s supporters attribute their main motive to voting for her to the need to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.  Slightly more (47 percent) of Trump voters say that their main motive is to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House.[7]

Regardless of who wins, this election is liable to leave a bad taste in the mouths of most Americans.  Worse, neither candidate looks like a healer.

[1] “Noted,” The Week, 20 May 2016, p. 18.

[2] Given Wall Street’s history, the question is whether a Clinton “bubble” is growing.  If such a “bubble” bursts, will it happen before the election or afterward?

[3] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 6 May 2016, p. 17.

[4] Lost the reference to this article.

[5] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 13 May 2016, p. 17.

[6] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 29 April 2016, p. 17.

[7] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 20 May 2016, p. 19.

Republican Opinion.

In late March 2016, 52 percent of Republicans opposed the party trying to prevent Donald Trump from getting the nomination, while 36 percent favored such an effort.[1]  A week later, a majority (54 percent) of Republican and Republican-leaning voters thought that Trump should get the Republican nomination if he gets the majority of delegates—even if he doesn’t get the required number of delegates.  Again, about a third of Republican and Republican-leaning voters want someone else—anyone else, even Ted Cruz—to get the nomination.[2]

In early March 2016, a clear majority (58 percent) of Americans thought that the Senate should vote on a Supreme Court nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia.  Slightly more than a third (38 percent) opposed even holding hearings, let alone voting.  That left only 4 percent of Americans who are undecided.  However, two-thirds of Republicans opposed holding hearings or voting until after the presidential election.[3]  (Still, that means that one-third of Republicans disagree.  By late March 2016, opinion had shifted slightly   The great majority (61 percent) of Americans think that the Senate should hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee.[4]  Only about a third (36 percent) thinks that the seat should remain vacant until after the next presidential election.

What do Americans think about the proposal from Senator Ted Cruz that the police patrol “Muslim neighborhoods”?[5]  They are pretty much evenly divided: 45 percent agree with Cruz; 40 percent disagree; and 15 percent don’t know.   The party positions are markedly different, however: 75 percent of Republicans agree; while “only” 57 percent of Democrats agree; and 37 percent of Independents agree.[6]

What might these numbers indicate?  First, Trump has been winning an average of 39 percent of the Republican vote in the primaries, but 54 percent think that he should get the nomination if he has the most delegates.  So, people who don’t want Trump, still think that he should get the nomination if he wins the most delegates.  Most Republicans believe that the Senate should go ahead and vote on the Supreme Court nominee, regardless of what Mitch McConnell says.  The Constitution says that the President shall nominate and the Senate shall advise and consent [or reject] the nominee.  So, a bunch of Republicans think that the Constitution trumps what Mitch McConnell wants to do.  That doesn’t mean that they want conservative predominance on the Supreme Court lost.  It just means that they want the proprieties observed.[7])  In short, the spirit of fair play is not dead among Republicans.

Second, Donald Trump isn’t the only candidate pushing anti-Muslimism.  Moreover, this is an issue that resonates with a majority (54 percent) of Democrats.  To the extent that Hillary Clinton (and the less likely nominee Bernie Sanders) rejects such policies, this may cost them votes.  “Reagan” Democrats aren’t likely to buy into Cruz’s social views.  They might well feel drawn to Trump.

Finally, under the heading of false data as news: Donald Trump’s supporters are almost twice as likely (99 percent) to film themselves having sex than are Hillary Clinton’s supporters.  However, most Clinton supporters are older Americans and predominantly women.  What 60 year-old person is a) going to film themselves having sex, or b) watch it afterward?  None, that’s who.  Unless, you know, there are a lot of Clinton supporters who like watching all that cottage cheese swaying around in poor lighting.  Yuck.  So, really, the Trump supporters aren’t significantly more depraved (at least in this area) than are the Clinton people.[8]  It just makes for a good headline.  Are people really surprised that no one pays attention to the “news” anymore?

[1] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 1 April 2016, p. 17.

[2] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 8 April 2016, p. 17.

[3] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 4 March 2016, p. 19.

[4] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 1 April 2016, p. 17.

[5] Discretely hang out in the hallal section in the Shop-Rite at the corner of Rte. 309 and Cheltenham Avenue, keep track of who—other than me—is buying goat.

[6] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 8 April 2016, p. 17.

[7] The whole issue of how the courts and especially the Supreme Court came to be so politicized bears further investigation.

[8] “Noted,” The Week, 19 February 2016, p. 18.

The Trump Narrative.

The standard liberal interpretation of supporters of Donald Trump is that they are angry, poorly-educated, older, working-class white men.[1]  How true is this stereotype?  A recent chart in the Wall Street Journal may offer some insight.[2]

So far in the primaries, Trump has won an average of 39.1 percent of the Republican vote.  If the various munchkins who were running for the Republican nomination had gotten out of the way early-on in favor of one candidate, then the “The Donald” might refer to a specialty deli sandwich[3] right now.

The demography of the Trump vote.

There is no polling data on “angry.”  Just channel Robin Williams.[4]


High school or less:     46.1 percent.

Some college:              42.5 percent.

BA                              34.6 percent.

Post-grad.                    27.0 percent.


<$50K                         44.0 percent.

$50K–$100K              36.6 percent.

>$100K                       35.4 percent.


65+                              39.8 percent.

45-64                           39.6 percent.

30-44                           35.1 percent.

17-29                           30.2 percent.


Male                            42.0 percent.

Female                         33.5 percent.


Rural.                                      40.9 percent.

Suburban.                    37.9 percent.

Urban.                         32.7 percent.

How Conservative?

Somewhat.                  40.0 percent.

Mod./Liberal.              37.3 percent.

Independent.               35.2 percent.

Very.                           35.1 percent.

In sum, Donald Trump does draw many votes from just the group described in liberal media.  However, he also draws a lot of support from the antithesis of the stereotype.  It would appear that Trump is also the candidate of a significant share of the well-educated, the well-off, the younger, and the female among Republicans.  Apparently, lots of them are angry too.[5]

[1] Or “rednecks” as my sister-in-law phrased it.

[2] Aaron Zimmer, “Inside the Trump Coalition,” WSJ, 25 March 2016.

[3] I’ll let you figure out the ingredients.  Probably a lot of ham on an onion loaf to begin with.

[4] See, for example,

[5] See

Young People These Days.

Barack Obama cleaned up among voters aged 18 to 29.  In 2008, he won 66 percent of them; in 2012 he won 60 percent of them.[1]  Now, a series of polls suggest that many young people don’t like Donald Trump.[2]  In one poll, people under 35 preferred Hillary Clinton (52 percent) to Trump (19 percent).  Another poll reported that people under 40 preferred Clinton over Trump by two-to-one (roughly 60 percent to 30 percent).

However, the situation is more complicated than that.  A generational divide appears in the polls.  For one thing, the Democratic advantage among young people is dropping.  It has fallen from 66 percent in 2008 to 60 percent in 2012 to at best 52 percent in 2016.  Indeed, one poll reported that among people aged 19 to 26, while a mere 9 percent preferred Trump, only 11 percent preferred Clinton.[3]  Young people want “that hopey-changey thing.”   Either failing to deliver on it or looking like you don’t believe in it in the first place can hurt a candidate.

The same poll reported that 31 percent preferred Bernie Sanders.  Young people lean left.  Their big concerns appear to be related to the distribution of benefits from the economy: the cost of college; student debt that results from that cost, and the “economic inequality” that makes it difficult to pay off that debt.  The poll that reported Bernie Sanders drawing 31 percent of those aged 19 to 26 years, also reported that 58 percent saw socialism as a more humane system than capitalism, while 33 percent saw capitalism as a more humane system than socialism.  That’s bad for Republicans without being good for mainstream Democrats.  Yet another poll reported that Trump was favored over other Republican candidates by 26 percent of the 18 to 34.  (OK, the poll didn’t report how many Republicans are 18 to 34.)

This preference could have long term consequences when looking forward.  At least one study suggests that the most important period for setting political preferences comes between the ages of 14 and 24 years of age.  “Events”—impressions, really—that happen at age 18 are three times as influential as things that happen at age 40.  So, would a Donald Trump candidacy sink the Republican Party for a whole generation by alienating young people?

However, the same theory can be applied looking backward.  One poll showed that Clinton and Trump running a dead-heat among voters over 40 years of age.  If their formative political experiences came between ages 14 and 24, then, for those aged:

40-50: born 1965-1975; formative experiences from 1979-1999.

50-60: born 1955-1965; formative experiences from 1969-1989.

60-70: born 1945-1955; formative experiences from 1959-1979.

If any of this is true, then—at least in psychological terms–there is a good chance that the election of 2016 will be about our troubled past.  To seek the dark cloud around any silver lining, this might mean that the election will be about flunked wars; unsettling technological change  that never seems to work to the advantage of the country that creates so much of it; economic upheaval that profits the few; scandal-plagued presidencies; now-ancient grievances; and big talk from politicians that rarely turns into effective action

            Despite the rhetoric about a “great America,” it will not be about the possible futures of our children.  They will not thank us.  Nor should they.

[1] Why the drop in support of almost 10 percent among this age group?  Did a bunch of them age-out and become more conservative?

[2] Toni Monkovic, “Lasting Damage for G.O.P.?  The Young Reject Trump,” NYT, 24 March 2016.  Well, Trump’s got a thick hide.  He’ll survive.

[3] So, pretty much a dead heat.  Just in a race for the bottom.

American Opinion on Clinton versus Trump.

A recent poll reported that 66 percent of Americans think that Hillary Clinton has the right experience to be president, 58 percent think that she has the temperament to be president and 37 percent think that she is honest and trustworthy.  Thud.[1]  Even with the pervasive (63 percent) doubts about her honesty and trustworthiness, on this basis, Hillary Clinton would beat Donald Trump 50 percent to 41 percent.[2]

Another poll reported that 55 percent of Americans would never vote for Donald Trump, while 47 percent would never vote for Hillary Clinton.  That means that 45 percent of Americans might be willing to vote for Donald Trump, while 53 percent might be willing to vote for Hillary Clinton.[3]  Again, Clinton has the bulge on Trump, even if she is in moral Spanx.

Yet a third poll reports that almost half (48 percent) of Republicans who do not support Donald Trump say that they probably or definitely would not vote for him if he becomes the Republican nominee.[4]  What will these Republicans do?  Will they vote for Clinton to make sure something worse doesn’t happen?  This seems unlikely, given how deeply she and her husband are despised among Republican voters.  Will they just be won over by whatever charm offensive Trump launches between now and the election?  That might happen.  Trump already has begun to throttle back on his rhetoric and to reject further debates in which he might fly off the handle and say something true about Ted Cruz.  Will they turn out in the usual numbers to vote for everyone except the presidential candidate?  Although lots of Republicans are not enthusiastic about this year’s candidates,[5] this seems like the most reasonable conjecture.

What might these numbers mean?  In 2014, 43 percent of Americans self-identified as political Independents, 30 percent as Democrats, and 26 percent as Republicans.[6]  In 2015, 42 percent self-identified as Independents; 29 percent self-identified as Democrats; and 26 percent self-identified as Republicans.[7]  (Still, the Independents are going to have to vote for either the Republican or the Democrat candidate.)

If 29-30 percent of Americans self-identify as Democrats and if Clinton pulls 53 percent of the vote, then she would pick up an additional 23-24 percent of the vote beyond Democrats.  If 42-43 percent identify as Independents, then Clinton would pull well over half of them, while Trump would pull 18-20 percent of the total.  If 26 percent of voters self-identify as Republican and he also picks up the 18-19 percent of voters who are non-Clinton Independents, then he would have 44-45 percent of the vote.  That matches up with the number who say they might be willing to vote for Trump.  But he doesn’t, based on these polls.  He tops out at 41 percent in the most recent poll numbers.  These numbers (45 percent – 41 percent = 4 percent, but this 4 percent comes entirely from the 26 percent who are Republicans, so 4 x 4) suggest that about 16 percent of Republicans will sit out the presidential vote.  Not much, but maybe enough.

So, wake me when this nightmare is over.  “Which one?” you ask.

[1] How can they think this?  See: Kimberley Strassel, “Hillary’s real e-mail problem,” WSJ, excerpted in The Week, 25 March 2016, p. 14.  I’ve got a bridge that might interest you.

[2] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 25 March 2016, p.19.

[3] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 18 March 2016, p. 19.

[4] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 11 March 2016, p. 17.

[5] Only 39 percent of Republicans who are not Trump supporters claim to be “more enthusiastic” than in years gone by.  This offers a sense of the size of the Cruz-Rubio vote within the Republican Party.  See: “Poll Watch,” The Week, 11 March 2016, p. 17.

[6] “Noted,” The Week, 23 January 2015, p. 16.

[7] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 22 January 2016, p. 17.

Explaining Bernie Sanders—and Perhaps Donald Trump.

Two-thirds of Americans believe that there is at least one presidential candidate who would make a good president in the current crop. Most (75 percent) of Republicans believe that Donald Trump could win a general election—even though only about half of Republicans want him as their candidate. Virtually all (83 percent) Democrats believed that Hillary Clinton could win election–before Bernie Sanders ran even with Clinton in Iowa and then torched her in New Hampshire. Among the less-favored candidates are Ted Cruz (60 percent of Republican); Marco Rubio (55 percent of Republicans); and Bernie Sanders (54 percent of Democrats).[1]

In theory, Hillary Clinton wipes the floor with the leading Republican candidates when it comes to dealing with terrorism. Americans preferred her to Donald Trump (50-42), Marco Rubio (47-43), and even Jeb Bush (46-43).[2] On the other hand, that means that 43 percent of Americans want anyone-but-Hillary, no matter how clownish or inexperienced, to deal with terrorism. Is it the same for other issues? If it is, then she has remarkably high negatives for someone running for president. Still, so did Richard Nixon. Oh. Wait.

On the other hand, Independents fail to share this enthusiasm. Only 58 percent of them believe that there is anyone who would make a good president. (If Independents sit out in large numbers, then that might leave the November 2016 election in the hands of party regulars.)

Why are Americans so rabid for anti-establishment candidates?

In 2003, the net worth of the average American was $87,992. In 2013, the net worth of the average American was $56,335 in 2013. That amounts to a 36 percent fall in net worth, before allowing for nugatory inflation.[3] On the other hand (2003-2014), the net worth of the top five percent of earners increased by 14 percent over the same period.[4]

About one-third of Americans have no savings accounts at all.[5] Twenty percent of people aged 55 to 64 have no retirement savings. Almost half (45 percent) of people surveyed expected to live on whatever Social Security paid them.[6] Almost half (44 percent) of Americans don’t have an “emergency fund” to cover basic expenses for three months. Almost half (43 percent) of American workers would be willing to take a pay cut IF their employer would increase the contribution to the 401k retirement savings plan.[7] In August 2014, about 77 million Americans had a debt “in collection.” The median amount owed is $1,350.[8]   That’s not a lot of money. Unless you don’t have it.

If the “Great Recession” had not occurred, then college graduates entering the job market might have expected salaries 19 percent higher. The “normal” penalty for graduating in a recession is about 10 percent.[9] The recent unpleasantness has been unusually unpleasant. Also, state aid to public colleges has fallen during the recession. That means that students have been graduating with much larger debt loads than previously. They have to service those debts out of smaller starting salaries.

People hiring employees tend to favor those who are narcissistic over the humble.[10] Apparently, they are right to do so. “Narcissistic” CEOs make an average of $512 million more over their careers than do those who are not.[11] Will it be the same for voters? Hard to think of anyone more narcissistic than the Clintons. Unless it is Donald Trump.

[1] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 5 February 2016, p. 19.

[2] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 4 December 2015, p. 19.

[3] “Noted,” The Week, 8 August 2014. P. 14.

[4] “Noted,” The Week, 8 August 2014. P. 14.

[5] “The bottom line,” The Week, 15 February 2013, p. 32.

[6] “Noted,” The Week, 22 August 2014, p. 16.

[7] “The bottom line,” The Week, 22 August, 2014, p. 32.

[8] “The bottom line.” The Week, 15 August, 2014, p. 31.

[9] “The bottom line,” The Week, 1 August 2014, p. 31.

[10] “The bottom line,” The Week, 27 June 2014, p. 32.

[11] “The bottom line,” The Week, 1 August 2014, p. 31.

The Gracchi.

According to the guiding theory of the Democratic Party, a big government that robs the rich to give to the poor should be a permanent winner in electoral politics.[1] It isn’t, in spite of continual Democratic efforts to paint the Republicans as Rich Swells and the mere creatures of Big Business. Eduardo Porter conjectures that working-class whites assign greater importance to “racial, ethnic, and cultural identity,” than to “economic status.”[2]

In December 2015, one poll reported that Hillary Clinton would beat Donald Trump in a general election—if only college-educated people voted. On the other hand, Trump would beat Clinton if only people without a college education voted.

Porter is at pains to argue that, while Trump also polls ahead of his Republican rivals with women and upper-income voters, his main base is “less-educated, lower-income white men.”[3] He argues that white, working-class voters (especially men) are “nostalgic for the county they lived in 50 years ago.”[4] These people—he doesn’t quite say “those people”—“would rather not have a robust government if it largely seems to serve people who do not look like them.” While 62 percent of white Americans would prefer a smaller, less providential government[5], only 32 percent of blacks and 26 percent of Hispanics desire that end.   As a result, America could experience “an outright political war along racial and ethnic lines over the distribution of resources and opportunities.” Actually, it isn’t that clear. Whites account for 62 percent of the population, while African-Americans account for 13.2 percent and Hispanics account for 17.1 percent. Taken together, the supporters of a smaller government total better than 46 percent of the population. That’s a big constituency that spans racial lines.

Porter confuses other issues as well. He approvingly quotes one scholarly paper that argues that “racial animosity in the U.S. makes redistribution to the poor, who are disproportionately black, unappealing to many voters.” For one thing, Trump has not attacked blacks to the best of my knowledge. Indeed, he has sought the support of traditional leadership figures in black communities. Trump’s white, working-class base agrees with the candidate’s policies on building a wall along the border with Mexico; deporting illegal immigrants, virtually all of whom are Hispanic-Mexicans; and registering Muslims as potential terrorists. All these can be read as expressions of concern about the loss of jobs to foreign competition, the open flouting of the rule of law, and security in an age of terrorism. For another thing, while Porter accepts that people can have predominant non-economic concerns, he ignores the chance that people are ideologically opposed to welfare dependency. Something else must be driving them. That “something” appears to be race, as in “racism.” Again, however, Porter turns a blind eye to long-standing traditions of self-reliance as an American virtue.

America’s economy, society, and place in the world have all changed in ways that most people do not like. Democrats and Republicans are both nostalgic and they offer policies aiming at “restoration.” We need something better.

[1] “Tax, spend, elect” is one version of a motto attributed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s advisor Harry Hopkins. The authenticity of the phrase is disputed. See:

[2] Eduardo Porter, “Racial Identity Returns to American Politics,” NYT, 6 January 2016.   This is a variant of what Marxists term “false consciousness.” People think that that they belong to a different social class than they actually do, so they behave in the wrong fashion. In this case, people assign less importance to “economic status” than liberals think that they should.

[3] That is, the foundation of the New Deal coalition and of its successors until the Seventies. Now much despised.

[4] President Obama and other Democrats have been talking about restoring the middle class to its former prosperity. Why isn’t that “nostalgia”?

[5] This group spills well outside of the Republican constituency, let alone the Trump constituency.

In re: Donald Trump as Crazy Person Redux.

In a January 2013 Gallup poll, 47 percent of people identified as Democrats or Democrat-leaning Independents, while 42 percent identified as Republicans or Republican-leaning Independents.[1] How does that apply to other issues?

First, a large share (40 percent) of Americans and almost half (49 percent) of Republicans would support registering Muslims in America.[2]

Back of the envelope, if 49 percent of Republicans favor registering Muslims, that comes to about 21 percent of the electorate.[3] The other 19 percent come out of people who identify as Democrats or as Democrat-leaning Independents. That’s about 40 percent of the Democrat voter base who agree with Donald Trump on this issue. Basically, there are only marginally more Republicans opposed to registering Muslims than there are Democrats who favor it.

Second, in 2011, 47 percent of Americans thought that Islam’s values were “at odds” with America’s values. By November 2015, 56 percent of Americans thought that Islam’s values were “at odds” with America’s values.[4] In late November 2015, 56 percent of Americans were against allowing Syrian refugees into the United States. In contrast, 41 percent favored accepting Syrian refugees.[5] That leaves only 3 percent who “aren’t sure.”

Back of the envelope, if 42 percent of voters are Republicans and 56 percent of people think that Islamic values are incompatible with American values, then 14 percent are not Republicans. That 14 percent amounts to almost one-third of the people who self-identify as Democrats. Bernie Sanders isn’t going to tack into the wind to capture this share of the vote, but Hillary Clinton well might.

Third, opinion polls in October 2015 revealed that almost half of Americans (46 percent) supported building a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico.[6] A slightly larger share (48 percent) opposed building a wall.

Back of the envelope, if 46 percent of Americans favor building a wall, and 42 percent of Americans self-identify as Republicans, then 4 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning favor building a wall. Even so, the previous statistics suggest that almost half of Republicans (about 21 percent) aren’t drinking Donald Trump’s Kool-Aid. But that means that a lot of Democrats (21 + 4 percent = 25 percent) are drinking the Kool-Aid.

So, Trump can be stopped pretty easily in a general election. Why don’t we think about the issues that unite us, rather than about the party labels that divide us? Unless, of course, what you want is the warm, gooey, chocolate-chip-cookie-fresh-out-of-the-oven feeling of moral superiority. Even if it means a disaster for the Republic.


[2] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 11 December 2015, p. 17.

[3] 40 percent (all Americans who favor registering Muslim)s – 21 percent (Republicans who favor registering Muslims) = 19 percent (who are NOT Republicans who favor registering Muslims). “If a train leaves Dubuque heading eastward at 30 mph and another train leaves Rock Island heading westward at 40 miles an hour, how much will the lawyers eventually make?”

[4] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 27 November 2015, p. 17.

[5] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 4 December 2015, p. 19.

[6] This is a separate question from who should pay for such a wall.

In re: Donald Trump as crazy person.

Three months ago, Paul Krugman pointed out that Donald Trump is the only Republican candidates who is willing to raise taxes on the rich and who has something to say in favor of universal health care.[1] While Krugman goes on to denounce Trump for “his implicit racism” what is really interesting about Krugman’s analysis comes later in the column. Krugman argues that, when it comes to economics, Trump is voicing what a lot of the Republican base actually believes. However, their views have never been articulated in recent years because the Republican Party’s elected representatives are chained to a demonstrably failed economic ideology. The chains are campaign donations from wealthy donors.[2] The Republican politicians have been living in a fool’s paradise. Trump is rich enough in his own right to run for president while speaking his own mind. Even if Trump doesn’t capture (Please, oh please) the Republican nomination, his campaign is likely to shift the terms of debate inside the party, and not necessarily in the way that Democratic pundits have been predicting.

What if Donald Trump is also articulating what a lot of Americans think on other issues?

Opinion polls in October 2015 revealed that almost half of Americans (46 percent) supported building a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico.[3] A slightly larger share (48 percent) opposes building a wall. Six percent aren’t sure. While the core of the base for building is Republican (73 percent of them approve it), there are also a good number of Democrats (perhaps a third) and fewer than half (less than 48 percent) of Independents. Nothing in the polling reveals how much voters assign primacy to this issue in comparison to other issues.

In 2011, 47 percent of Americans thought that Islam’s values were “at odds” with America’s values. By November 2015, 56 percent of Americans thought that Islam’s values were “at odds” with America’s values.[4] In late November 2015, 56 percent of Americans were against allowing Syrian refugees into the United States. In contrast, 41 percent favored accepting Syrian refugees.[5] That leaves only 3 percent who “aren’t sure.” In sum, on these issues at least, America is divided into two big and solid blocks. To my mind, President Obama is right in his belief that Muslims and America are compatible and in his willingness to accept Syrian refugees. However, right at the moment, he isn’t with the country on these issues.

Well, he doesn’t have to be. He’s a lame-duck president facing a Republicans opposition in control of both houses of Congress. He isn’t going to get any legislation passed unless it’s in line with what Republicans want. He is likely to rely on executive orders and regulatory changes that get tied up in the courts, and on public excoriation of the voters for not “getting it.”

What if the Republican Party isn’t the only party whose leaders are tied to an ideology that its voters really don’t accept? What if, just for the sake of speculation, there are a bunch of Democrats who are social progressives, but economic moderates? Bernie Sanders appeals to social and economic “progressives.” In November 2016 that seems likely to be a small slice of the pie. It’s easy and comforting to think that Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump. Can she?

[1] Paul Krugman, “Trump Is Right on Economics,” NYT, 7 September 2015.

[2] This suggests that Republican voters have supported people who don’t share their economic beliefs because the alternative would be to vote for Democrats who might share some of their economic beliefs, but whose views on social issues they reject. So much for Marxism.

[3] This is a separate question from who should pay for such a wall.

[4] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 27 November 2015, p. 17.

[5] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 4 December 2015, p. 19.