A House Divided Against Itself

These are the times that try a Republican’s soul. There’s still no telling how such a crazy election year as this will turn out, but at this late date in the process the polls aren’t hopeful for the presidential prospects of the Grand Old Party, and the intra-party fighting is already underway.
Republicans started this election cycle with solid if not-quite-veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate, a number of Republican governors and state legislatures and county commissions and city councils not seen since the Roaring ’20s, not to mention a strong field of successful governors and legislators and business leaders vying for the presidential nomination, and were destined to face the most deservedly unpopular Democratic nominee of our lifetimes, but at this dire moment in this crazy election we seem to have blown it. The erstwhile party of family values and free market capitalism and keeping the international bad guys at bay chose to nominate a twice-divorced casino-and-strip-club mogul whose latest wife is an illegal immigrant nudie model, whose casinos and strip clubs have gone bankrupt and whose vodka brands and minor-league football teams and ill-timed mortgage companies and scam real estate schools have gone under, and who now insists he can force Apple to make its products in America and sell them for a hundred grand or so a pop, and seems to have a strange attraction to the Russkies’ suddenly revanchist dictator and insouciance toward other international bad guys.
Apparently much of his appeal to the plurality of the party who nominated him was his tough talk about taking it to those darned Republican politicians that the party had previously put into office in such formidable numbers, and yet failed to make America sufficiently great again, so it’s not surprising that as the nominee’s poll numbers are lately tanking as the result of latest predictable scandals the “establishment” he vowed to destroy is taking the opportunity to fight back. Speaker of that Republican-majority House Paul Ryan has announced that he’s no longer defending the party’s presidential nominee and is instead focused on retaining those Congressional and state and county and local majorities, four of the party’s last five presidential nominees are also withholding their support, 36 statewide and Congressional Republican office-holders have called on their nominee to step down, another ten have withdrawn their support but stop short of calling for his withdrawal, and another 18are  offering pointed criticism of the nominee’s recently revealed and widely-panned boasts about being able to grab random women by the whatever, among his other recent problems. Meanwhile the party’s big business wing is withholding contributions, such formerly definitive non-talk-radio conservative media as The National Review and The Weekly Standard and The Central Standard Times remain as critical of the nominee as ever, and even the most reliably conservative publications in the daily and monthly press are refusing for the first time in their history to offer a Republican endorsement, with Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson leading the Republican by five-to-zero among the nation’s top 50 circulation newspapers, and the poll numbers among the college-educatated suburban-dwelling sorts of Republicans, especially the distaff portion, are almost as horrible.
Which is likely to result that in that most deservedly unpopular Democrat nominee of our lifetimes becoming president, but as she might put it, what difference, at this point, does it make? At this particular moment in this crazy election year the more pertinent question is which faction of the party should survive the recriminations, and there’s no telling how that might play out.
Should Republican nominee Donald J. Trump somehow survive this moment and become president, we’ve no doubt he’ll be so awful that all those fancy-schmantzy establishment types and such less well-healed and well-credentialed NeverTrump folks as ourselves will be vindicated, for whatever slight consolation that might be worth. In the seemingly more likely event that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton becomes the most deservedly unpopular newly-inaugurated president ever we’re also sure that she’ll be so awful that Trump fans will be able to make an argument he couldn’t have possibly been worse, but there will still be an at least equally plausible argument that any other Republican name you might have picked out of a hat would have prevented that calamity, and at this glum point in this crazy election we expect to spend the next four years fighting that intra-party battle. We know which side we’ll be  on, at least, but we won’t relish the fight, and would much prefer to be fighting the Democrats as we would in a less crazy year.

— Bud Norman

The Fissure at the Border

The president and his supporters in the press are trying their best to portray the Republicans as the villains in the ongoing border crisis, but it’s looking like more of a problem for the Democrats. All those unaccompanied minors who have illegally entered the country in the past months have unified the Republican opposition, annoyed the politically unaffiliated, and at long last exposed some dangerous fault lines in the Democratic coalition.
After so many years of successfully vilifying the Republicans as a bunch of stingy racist xenophobes eager to harass any brown-skinned people who innocently if illegally wander across the border it is now hard for the Democrats to argue that it was the GOP who lured all those unaccompanied minors across the border with promises of amnesty and ample social services. There have been some Republicans from the big business wing who were tolerant of an insecure border and willing to tolerate those who crossed it, but House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor lost to an under-funded unknown because of his welcoming attitude toward illegal immigrant even before the current mess started to dominate the headlines, and it’s a certainty that the next Republican majority in Congress will be almost entirely rid of such heretics. The smart people have long warned the Republicans that this stance will forever doom them to a demographic disaster, but it now seems likely to win the support of a lot of otherwise apolitical people who are suddenly being asked to pick up the tab for the education and health care and eventual imprisonment of tens of thousands of unskilled and non-English-speaking youngsters who hopped the freight trains across Mexico.
Worse yet for the Democrats, those demanding the immediate repatriation of the invaders include many voters they’ve come to depend on. “Every economist agrees” that importing a few million more unskilled and non-English-speaking people into a country already suffering high unemployment and declining wages is just the thing to get the economy booming, according to a president who is fond of spouting such obvious nonsense, but a lot of high school drop-outs and a Harvard economist have already noticed the damage being done by unfettered immigration to financial prospects of those at the bottom rung. The law of supply and demand are more ruthlessly enforced than immigration, after all, and is hard for the most unsophisticated worker not to notice when the fines show up in a paycheck. A perpetually unkept promise to redistribute some wealth their way has kept the lower working class in the Democratic column for more decades than anyone alive could remember, but the immigration issue offers Republicans a rare opportunity to peel off a few votes with their own naked appeal to economic self-interest.
A disproportionate share of those low-wage workers are minorities, too, and their displeasure with the invasion is making hard to pretend that the opposition is comprised solely of  Gadsen-flag-waving and tricornered hat-wearing white folks. Some videos that have “gone viral” over at the much-watched YouTube site belie the press accounts that protestors who blocked the entrance of a convoy of Homeland Security buses full of the recent illegal arrivals in the California town of Murrieta were a lily-white mob, and feature African-Americans offering full-throated rants against admitting the youngsters. Our favorite of the videos show a couple of impassioned black men, one of them in Rastafarian garb, arguing with the pro-illegal immigration counter-protestors who had flocked the barricades. The counter-protestors are waving signs about how America stole the land from the Indians and Mexicans, but even the Native American in the “Vietnam Veteran” ball cap seems unable to articulate and argument about how the arrival of tens of thousands of unskilled and non-English-speaking youths is going to benefit his people. Illegal immigration not only gives black Americans competition for jobs, but also the political racial spoils that suffice in lieu of a job, and it will be difficult to keep the black political leadership on board with the Democrats’ agenda. It will be interesting to see if they’ll be able to keep Rep. Charles Rangel, who has been re-elected in Harlem since Reconstruction, but barely survived a primary challenge earlier this year in a district that is now majority Hispanic.
Sooner or later the homosexual community might consider if it is in their interest to welcome a massive immigration from a more macho part of the world that still taunts its soccer opponents with the Spanish equivalent of “faggot,” and then another loyal Democratic constituency could be in revolt. Those limo-driven one per centers who needn’t worry that their children will be seated next to any of the recent arrivals at their swank boarding schools will still be loyal to the cause, as will those idealists who believe that America should be caring for all of the world’s many billion needy, but the rest of the Democratic coalition will be vulnerable to doubts.
The overwhelming ublic sentiment for secure borders is so apparent that even the president is talking tough about sending the invaders back home, and he’s attempting to blame the Republicans for his failure to do so because they won’t authorize his request for $3.7 billion to deal with the situation. The request is tough enough to offend such open borders advocates as La Raza, the radical and revanchist and explicitly racialist organization from whence the president’s top policy advisor on immigration came, but it’s pork-laden and mostly spent on caring for rather than repatriating the aliens and will likely continue a policy of setting the invaders free with a pointless of promise of show up at a far-off deportation hearing. It’s calculatedly too soft to win the vote of any self-respecting Republican, and the president is already griping that the Republicans are too interested in playing politics to vote for it. We suspect the president would be more comfortable vilifying the Republicans as stingy racist xenophobes, and is eager to get back to that as soon the headlines fade and the negotiations on “comprehensive immigration reform” begin with whatever wobbly Republicans are left in the Congress, but the border crisis is causing all sorts of trouble for the Democrats.

— Bud Norman

In God We Trust, the Rest of You Not So Much

We right-wingers grouse mostly about the government, and tend to wax enthusiastic about the virtues of the private sector, but deep in our conservatives souls we know that almost every segment of our civilization is decline. A new poll from the Gallup organization, which measured how much trust Americans place in 16 important institutions, suggests that the view is widely shared.

Only the military fared especially well, with 75 percent of the respondents saying they trusted it “a great deal” or “quite a lot” and only 6 percent saying they trust it very little or not at all. The armed forces have traditionally been highly esteemed in Gallup’s annual survey, but scored an unusually high favorability rating this year. We suspect the military’s public image has lately benefited not only from its heroic efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, but also because the media tend to treat its inevitable missteps more calmly when the Commander in Chief is from the right party.

Small business enjoys a respectable approval rating of 63 percent, with only 6 percent saying they trust it little or not at all, but that likely reflects a romanticized notion of the humble mom-and-pop store. Many small businesses are lousy, of course, and in some cases the proprietors are also lousy parents, but they’re rarely portrayed as villains in the popular culture and the failings of a small business are not big news. The police are trusted a great deal by 56 percent and not trusted at all by only 16 percent, which is not bad for an institution that hands out speeding tickets, but there are almost certainly some police forces out there that are bringing down the average.

Organized religion is trusted a great deal by only 44 percent of Americans, with 26 percent saying they trust it very little or not at all. Those numbers probably overstate how secularized America has become, as the non-trusting category will include many evangelicals who regard the mainline churches as too squishy and many mainline congregants who regard the evangelicals as too rigid, but it does suggest that Americans realize that the churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples have all failed in their mission of inculcating moral behavior.

The medical system fares even worse, with only 41 percent expressing a great deal of trust, a 2 percent decline from last year, and 26 percent having little or no trust in the institution. It is not surprising that the government’s efforts at reforming the medical system have not improved its standing, given that the presidency and the Supreme Court are even less trusted, with only 37 percent having a great deal of trust in either institution, and a full 36 percent having very little or no trust in the presidency. The public schools and the criminal justice system, two institutions that are increasingly intertwined, are trusted a great deal by only 29 percent of Americans. Newspapers are trusted a great deal by a mere 25 percent of Americans, television news by 21 percent, and it’s likely that most of those are products of the public schools.

Banks and big business are trusted by only 21 percent, which is not surprising given the way they have been demonized in the pop culture for the past many decades, but organized labor is trusted by the same low number of Americans despite a sustained propaganda campaign, so it’s hard to guess who people will be rooting for in a strike. Health maintenance organizations, which we had previously assumed were part of the medical system, are trusted a great deal by only 19 percent of Americans, perhaps because there are no mom-and-pop HMOs.

Congress comes in last, as it has every year regardless of which party holds the majorities, and with both parties currently reigning in one chamber there is now something for every to distrust, but the 13 percent of respondents who have a great deal of trust is nonetheless a damning number.

All of these results suggest that Americans are a suspicious lot, perhaps even more so than is healthy, but they also indicate that many of our institutions are not very trustworthy. Reversing the country’s decline will require major changes in our government, but it will also require major changes in the broader culture, and we can’t trust the government to do that.

— Bud Norman