Our last professional President?

In the above photo, a previous American President says something intelligent about something complicated while using large words.

Barack Obama was a giant at Harvard Law. He left a powerful mark on legal legend Lawrence Tribe who remembers him as one of the best students he ever taught. While there he led the prestigious Harvard Law Journal, and later accepted a faculty position at the University of Chicago. In addition to his academic credentials and political achievements, he successfully submitted thirteen papers to scientific journals while serving as President of the United States.

Obama is not the only President to have works published in science journals. Both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton had papers accepted while in office. With a handful of exceptions, all our Presidents since Lincoln have had advanced degrees or graduated from our top military academies. All of them have had deep prior experience in government, usually Governors, Senators or Congressmen. Since the Civil War, the White House has been occupied by a long series of seasoned, distinguished professionals.

Our new President has a TV show, a gold-plated apartment, and a foul mouth. Get used to it. The age of the professional President may have come to an end.

Explanations for Trump’s surprise win generally focus on his racist appeals and the economic frustrations of Rust Belt whites. However, another factor figures into this debacle which may point to longer term political impact. Slow down for a moment in the check-out line at the grocery store and survey the tabloids. They are plastered with adoring images of Trump. Describing the tabloids as pro-Trump is a gross understatement. He is depicted there as an epic hero, a demigod, a shining celebrity President.

Trump’s campaign exposed giant gaps in the firewall of qualifications and competence we assumed would block rank celebrities from senior political roles. Hollywood has taken notice. So have the Democrats.

In the week after the election, Michael Moore suggested that Democrats should nominate Tom Hanks or Oprah in 2020. That idea is starting to work its way into the policy-making class. Jeet Heer wrote in New Republic this week:

Democrats’ main problem last year wasn’t in appealing to anti-elitist voters; it was in getting out the party’s base. A magnetic, attractive movie star would have a far better chance of accomplishing that than just another accomplished, dowdy politician.

This is true, but it misses the point. If all that matters is putting a Democrat in White House, then rolling out the star power makes sense. Trump has demonstrated the political pull of celebrity, even for a low-rent celebrity that built his career out of being an asshole. And Democrats enjoy an unassailable celebrity edge. Practically any liberal celebrity could outpoll any conservative celebrity ten times out of ten. But what’s the point of winning the White House if your winner is a loser?

Presidents have actual responsibilities in the real world. This breach of the celebrity/politics firewall has implications that reach beyond Donald Trump. While Beyonce or Ben Affleck or George Clooney or any other relatively housetrained celebrity would be less piggish and authoritarian than Trump, that’s not enough. An ‘accomplished, dowdy politician’ may be boring, they might also be able to find Pakistan on a map. Even a nice celebrity could still be so grossly unprepared to execute their duties as to unleash havoc.

Since at least the time of the first Roosevelt, the Presidency has been a very large job with highly complex demands. Performing the job poorly could have serious, even lethal consequences for millions of Americans. We have come to expect that the job should be taken seriously, and it should be occupied by sober, accomplished professionals. We might appreciate a candidate with a catchy tagline, it was still more important for them to know what they were doing.

Of course, some carried deeper credentials on paper than others. Both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan raised eyebrows for their supposedly limited qualifications, yet, both had been Governors. Reagan had been a major political figure for two decades. He had served as leader of a large labor union and earned two terms leading the nation’s largest state.

For the first time in living memory we will now have a celebrity President who fails any credible standard of competence or qualification. The solution emerging on the left, attempting to replace Trump with a better celebrity, fails to address the core problem. For the country to survive in a dawning age celebrity politics, the power of the Presidency and the reach of the federal government may have to be constrained. If competent political professionals are going to be consistently defeated by tabloid figures, then it may be time to rethink the power of the office itself.

Washington has often been described as Hollywood for ugly people. That refuge of nerds is now in danger. By shredding the assumption that Presidents need some off-screen qualifications, Trump has given us a problem likely to outlast his miserable administration. If Democrats respond in-kind, unleashing their overwhelming arsenal of entertainers on Washington, scientific articles and advanced degrees will soon be eclipsed by leaders sporting Grammies, Oscars or Super Bowl rings. A long era of competent, professional political leadership may be coming to an end.

66 Comments

  1. Breaking news – and it’s NOT from an American newspaper:

    http://www.palmerreport.com/news/cia-feb-nsa-warrant-russia-donald-trump/923/

    “The BBC has released a stunning new report which claims that the CIA encountered evidence all the way back in April of 2016 that the Kremlin was funneling money into Donald Trump’s campaign for president. The CIA can’t investigate domestic matters so it formed a task force with the FBI, NSA, DOJ, and Treasury Department — basically an all hands call for domestic help on the matter. But their attempt at getting warrant to move on the matter was shot down in secret court, and by the time they had obtained a less powerful warrant, it was October 15th, just three weeks before the election.”

  2. Chris-
    You’re way too late on this trend. It started with Jimmy Carter, thanks to the revulsion of DC inspired by Nixon and Watergate, along with the changes in the party nominating process. Carter touted his background as a peanut farmer more than his experience as a governor, or his education as a naval nuclear engineer. And he beat a multitude of establishment candidates.

    George HW Bush was the last person to run and win on his superior political experience. Bill Clinton was neutral, touting his experience as AR governor but also touting his outside-the-establishment credentials. George W Bush may have been TX governor, but being dumber and less experienced than his rival Al Gore was seen as a positive by most of his supporters (“I could have a beer with him!”). And Barack Obama, for all his college intelligence and impressive oratory, had 4 unaccomplished years in the Senate, and an unremarkable state senate career before then. I still remember two years into his Senatorship watching him on a Sunday news show when the host asked him about a policy position and he cracked a joke about how he “was the most junior Senator in the Senate and was still figuring out how the phones worked”. I didn’t think it was funny to profess incompetence at your job two years in…

    My point is, the experience of the men in the Oval Office has been on a steady decline for the past 40 years. More importantly, the electoral strategy has fundamentally changed since then: IMHO, GHWB vs. Dukakis was the last election where the candidates competed to prove who was more competent for the job; every other election since Carter has been a race to be seen as the one with the least experience to lead. Heck, being a VP is now seen as an impediment to getting elected: Al Gore distanced himself from Bill Clinton’s record, and of course, the last two VPs declined to run at all after their bosses retired.

    The Presidency’s decline to an American idol contest started long before Trump.

    1. Before I go risking being served yet another slice of humble pie, I respectfully put forth that in a state that Trump lost by 30-ish points and where every single statewide office is held by a Democrat, an asshole opportunist like Thiel would have to pull off a truly astounding political feat to be able to win the governorship.

      That said, I’ll believe he’s running when he’s actually running. In such a case that he does, I concede that weirder things have happened in politics (they just did) and that he would have one helluva uphill battle to fight.

      1. I agree. The people of CA have demonstrated pretty high thinking levels……I think they’d figure this one out, too. I can see Thiel funding an opponent to the expected candidate, Gavin Newsome, the Lt Gov, who is already fundraising but people like Thiel usually like to work in the shadows.

      2. I don’t know about Californians being smarter. More like a stronger tribal affiliation with Democrats after so many years of essentially one-party rule.

        Given that Meg Whitman gave Jerry Brown a real race, I think Thiel would be competitive but probably ultimately lose. The only silver lining to that would be that Thiel would probably have to self-fund much of his campaign, putting a slight but noticeable dent in his net worth (Meg Whitman spent $140 mil of her own money).

      3. I think by 2018 Trump’s brand, already in the toilet in California, is going to be covered in slime and deep into the sewage system. Newsome will make sure everybody sees Thiel as mini-Trump, so a successful run would seem to be fanciful, at best.

        However Trump might surprise us all and his coattails might put Thiel in office. In this age of black swans, it seems prudent to be humble.

    1. Well, let’s just get the obvious out of the way first and say that there is no magical silver bullet to the question of “why” when it comes to asking why people elected Trump. When you get right down to it though, it was an issue of change and just enough people bought into what Dear Leader was selling to give him a shot, many of them thinking that if things don’t work out, well we can just kick him out in four years.

      As to the issue of lying, yes, we all expect politicians to lie and twist the truth to suit their needs. We expect that from each other. Was that a factor in Trump’s victory though?

      In a way, yes, though I’d argue that it was more people’s unwillingness to take him literally and to hold him to account that helped him far more. Trump has and does play fast and loose with the truth more than any modern-era politician would dare to and he does it masterfully. Credit where credit is due, and that skill in being about to lie so brazenly and get away with it fostered that aforementioned unwillingness in people that helped push him over the top. Clearly though, this is something that Trump’s been doing for longer than some of us have been alive, not just when he was a candidate.

      1. All that aside, Ryan, what I really object to is that Trump didn’t do the work to articulate and present positions on critical issues. He mocked the process and didn’t offer concrete proposals. He didn’t release his tax returns which is a big thing, IMO. It adds to my suspicions which are already quite large. Trump toyed with the entire process of running for President and I suspect he will be as flip in actual governance. He’s a despicable man and he will either destroy the democratic process or wake its defenders up. I couldn’t possibly guess which will happen at this juncture. But I have such low expectations of Trump that frankly he can only surprise me. It’s the Republican majority I worry about. They know how things work and they are going to screw this nation over.

  3. Hi all. So I’m now doing a module on economics and politics as part of my post graduate certificate. I’m part way through a surprisingly readable report by the Commission for Inclusive Prosperity that had been convened by the Centre for American progress. It addressed the issue of the deep mistrust of government institutions by the public which in large has led to the woeful mess that we’re in now, both here and in the US.

    They acknowledge that yes, there has been an unabated erosion in the mobility and real income of both the middle and working classes, and that this income inequality in fact began before the 2008 financial crisis. They quote 4 broad factors there were responsible.

    The first is the change in the global economy. Whilst it indeed has lifted millions of people out of poverty in the emerging economies, it has also allowed corporations to outsource their operations to countries where labor laws and environmental standards are lax, to the detriment of workers in the advanced economies as they lose their jobs, and ultimately to the detriment of the developing economies as labor abuse becomes widespread and their environment deteriorates.

    Second is the profound technological change that has replaced traditional middle income jobs, resulting in the hollowing out of the labor market, and making the returns from capital and top class qualifications higher and higher, and labor lower and lower

    Third is the change in the structure of the labor market. I’ll allow the report to quote itself here

    “In many advanced economies, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, employment is less likely to be stable or long term. Increasing numbers of workers find themselves in contractual relationships that do not guarantee hours worked or provide bene ts such as paid vacation, sick days, or pension benefit. Major corporations have opted to use subcontracting to perform basic functions, and many workers are now classified as independent contractors, eroding basic labor-law protections.”

    Fourth, corporations function far less effectively as providers of large scale opportunity. Their top focus have now shifted to share price maximisation and compensation of their top employees. This has been facilitated by technology that has loosened the connection between top management and ordinary workers.

    They then concluded that the unsurprising result of all this is increasing inequality and a deep mistrust in institutions of all kinds, in part because both government policy ( think trickle down economics and the deregulation of banks ) and business have failed to deliver a broad prosperity.

    Of course, it still doesn’t excuse either Brexit or Trump, both equally disastrous, but it explains the rise of the mistrust and anger very well

    1. Good article and nicely summarized, hoonteo. This also affirms the validity of government delivery of certain societal functions: defense, public infrastructure, environmental and health and safety regulations, health care, criminal justice,space exploration.

      Privatization is fine for its purpose, but the needs of a society should not be monetized on a profit basis; rather, the broad services of government need to be all inclusive and effectively delivered.

      An interesting foray for you might be to explore (google) sources that examine the why government can’t be run like a business (except in broad efficiency goals) and why business will never be run like government (profits drive all decisions.)

      An aside – Trickle Down economics will be alive and well in Trump’s cabinet through the appointees he has proposed. Laffer has apostles within the Trump circle….https://pro.creditwritedowns.com/2016/12/supply-side-economics-likely-to-dominate-trumps-economic-agenda.html

      1. I’ve been thinking of writing an off topic “In Defense of Supply Side Economics.” Supply side economics has been properly criticized for not delivering the trickle down effects it promised. What needs to be realized is that supply side economics did exactly what it was designed to do – deliver massive benefits for corporate owners and management.

      2. I can understand supply side proponents getting behind such a theory; however, I don’t understand elected officials and proponents of supply side not being honest about its negative economic impacts. Supply side economics has encouraged management to exact profits at the expense of its workforce – an ugly but real effect. It has and is continuing to create a wealth gap in America (and globally) that is contributing to poverty , illness, fear and resentment.

        I’d look forward to reading your post on supply side economics. One day soon, the 80-90% of Americans who can barely meet life’s exigencies, will no longer be able to purchase the goods and services these mega-supply siders are offering. In fact, that is the situation for many people now.

      3. The fundamental policy strategy of supply side economics was to shift the burden of taxation off of capital and by default onto labor (cut taxes on the rich, in other words). Economists like Arthur Laffer and Larry Kudlow promoted the idea that cutting rich people’s taxes would stimulate the economy. Needless to say, rich people thought this was a brilliant idea. And they threw their considerable financial support to think tanks that promoted it, and campaign funding to politicians who promised to implement it.

        The obvious fatal flaw of supply side economics is that supply is only one side of the economic coin. Demand is the other side, and it cannot be neglected without serious harm to the economy.

    2. The most important thing to remember when reading a report like this is that these results are NOT inevitable results of laws of market economics, they are the result of deliberately chosen economic policies that have been put in place by specific, identifiable people for specific, identifiable reasons, those reasons being their personal benefit. We could have chosen different policies, and then we would have different results. It is vitally important to push back on the narrative that “there is no alternative,” that nothing can be done, this is all the inevitable result of forces beyond anyone’s control.

      Ignorance is a tool of the oligarchy.

    1. Profile photo of DS DS

      Unfortunately, Lewis has chosen poorly in picking this fight. That Vox article is relying on the recently falsified line of thinking that argues that there’s some magical line of decency that Trump will cross that will cause voters to abandon him in droves. Didn’t happen during the election, won’t happen now. Nobody who supports Trump cares if he attacks John Lewis, and Republican legislators have demonstrated that the fear of losing Trump’s base is greater than any concern they might have for doing the right thing.

      Questioning Trump’s legitimacy poses both factual and political problems. Factually, no one can definitively prove that foreign interference was decisive in this election. So here, Lewis has no leg to stand on. Politically, this is the sort of accusation that will inflame Republican passions, and cause their voters to rally to Trump.

      More fundamentally, openly questioning the legitimacy of the election erodes confidence in our institutions. We would all have been better off had Lewis stuck to calling out Trump on his racism and identifying shortcomings in his policy proposals. It was inevitable that someone was going to take this road, but it remains unhelpful.

      1. Count me in with those questioning the legitimacy of the election. The FBI played games with the M16 info they got in June, 2016, using a double standard with announcing their investigation of Clinton for “new” emails while actively investigating Trump via this M16 agent and not announcing it. In my book, that’s grounds for questioning the outcome of the election and its legitimacy.

        Could/should Lewis have handled this differently? Probably, but this man has given so much personally for equality that I’ll give him a pass. Trump, OTOH, doesn’t know when to shut up. It doesn’t matter to me that Trump’s base won’t “care”, it matters to me that Lewis is standing up for what he believes in which is a hell of a lot finer than anything I’ve heard DJ Trump say.

        You won’t find my TV tuned into the inauguration. As a small personal protest, I’m not going to contribute the Trump’s ratings by tuning in. I will, however, watch the Women’s March in Washington on Saturday. Their platform and integrity is one I admire.

      2. I agree with DS here. I can sympathize with John Lewis, but I don’t think we want anymore people promoting the de-legitimization of our President, as god-awful as he is. My fear is, much as the Tea Party movement undermined faith in our government, an overly vitriolic resistance movement will only undermine our democratic institutions and norms once again. Democrats must respond firmly and with persuasive force against Republican and Trumpian overreach, but in doing so, they should not fight Republicans with the same tools and breaking of our democratic norms that Republicans utilized. If they do end up continually breaking our norms and making our government seem illegitimate in order to break Republicans, the worst result we could see is two increasingly tribal and warring authoritarian parties and a gridlocked democracy that will shatter on itself. I don’t think we’ll see this happen, but it’s possible.

      3. Whether or not you agree with Lewis’ choices, there was a simple way for Trump to defuse this- Ben Sasse gave him the perfect example to follow. The fact that he can’t do this is going to be a recurring problem. Not that any of us should be surprised.

        I don’t expect the deplorables to dump Trump yet- they will need major economic pain to motivate them. I saw them representing in the various comment sections, just as clueless as their idol about Lewis’ heroism. I do expect this to fuel the fires of the opposition. This pissed me off the way I was pissed off when Trump dissed McCain’s service and the Kahn family.

      4. DS and Solid Karma – I respect your thoughts on Lewis actions, but here is a CURRENT example of what black people continue to deal with. As an American, I am offended by this blatant, racist slur as should we all be. Read the article carefully and you will see that the city of Biloxi, MS, never really backed off its refusal to acknowledge Martin Luther King Day, a national holiday. Constant demeaning and denigration adds up over the years and maybe this contributes to the utter frustration and anger of people like Lewis who have fought for their race and all others their entire life.

        http://www.palmerreport.com/news/city-biloxi-trouble-referring-martin-luther-king-day-great-americans-day/860/

      5. Just followed up on City of Biloxi reaction to the blizzard of criticism they have rightly received. The explanation goes like this: “supposedly” the term “Great Americans Day” has been in force in Biloxi since 1985 (I have not verified this through personal research, this is a statement from a current Biloxi spokesman). “Somehow” it never got changed..Note that MLK Day was established as a federal holiday in 1986.

        The good news is that Biloxi is meeting Monday, Jan. 17 at 10am to consider a formal change that will replace “Great Americans Day” with “Martin Luther King DAy”. I am certain their action will be publicized.

        Vigilance. Standing up against wrong – however subtle or blatant. It’s important. Condescension hurts – just ask women.

    1. Off Topic – But there is hope. This blogger predicted Trump would win if the unemployment rate did no better than fall more than .1% between January 1, 2016 and Election Day. It was on 5.0% on 1/1/16 and 4.9% on Election Day. Go to his site to see the charts but here is his prediction for a Trump first term (http://franzlischka.blogspot.com/):

      “Here is the update of the chart which I posted a couple of months ago (long before the election), saying that the US economy was heading for a re-acceleration of growth, due to inventories having been depleted too much:

      The latest manufacturing surveys (Philly Fed and ISM) now vindicate that. Has nothing to do with Trump, would have happened anyway. This is the 3rd intra-cycle uptick in this expansion and probably the last one.

      And this is Trump’s problem (would have been Hillary’s as well, if she got elected, has nothing to do with Trump himself): We are extremely late in this cycle and it is hardly imaginable that this expansion will last another 4 years.

      In March, the current expansion will surpass the 1980s expansion in its length and will become the 3rd longest on record. In July 2019 it would become the longest ever. Holding up until late 2020 would be really outstanding.

      It becomes even less likely once you look at the unemployment rate, which usually falls during expansions and then sharply rises during recessions:

      At the rate of the last 7 years the unemployment rate would have to fall to way below 2% if the expansion should hold until Election Day. Of course, unrealistic.

      This leads me to very early political prediction: Trump will be a one-termer. While promising to “make America great again” he will face a recession in his term. This itself wouldn’t be the problem for him. Ronald Reagan and Georg W. Bush both saw a recession early in their first term as well. It wouldn’t be a problem for him, if the recession would occur – and also ended – in the first half of his term. But this is very unlikely. Giving the way the economy is now accelerating the cycle would call for a recession around 2019, being well remembered on Election Day. This timing is also much more likely given the stage of the Fed’s interest rate cycle. US recessions have only occurred once the yield curve inverted. Given the likely path of Fed rate hikes, this is unlikely to happen before late 2018.

      So bottom line: Trump and his tweets may affect one or the other company, his overall impact is probably overrated and probably won’t save him from defeat in 2020. The smartest guy might have been Joe Biden with his decision to run in 2020 instead of 2016. (By the way, just checked his quotes on betfair: link. Still a bit illiquid. But at a quote of 1:21 the Biden 2020 contract might have some room to run)

      While talking about the unemployment rate, there is an interesting relationship with the stock market. And it is just reverse to what people may believe:

      Below 6% unemployment rate, stock market returns tend to diminish gradually.

      Why? Lower unemployment means higher wages (cutting into corporate margins) and tighter monetary policy and further makes a new recession more likely (especially once unemployment falls below NAIRU).

      Another interesting chart: Budget Deficits and shifts from Republican to Democratic presidents (blue arrow) and the other way round (red arrow)

      Deficits have usually rather been increasing under Republican presidents and more often fallen under Democratic presidents, monetary policy has usually been therefore tighter under Republicans (as it would have otherwise been the case).

      Result: Stock market returns have been lower under Republicans (see my comment from Nov. 27th), as tighter fiscal policy coupled with looser monetary policy is better for the stock market than the other way round. Trump’s expected deficit-spending might boost the economy in the short-term even more than what would have happened anyway, but should result in tighter monetary policy, which should dampen the economy in coming years more than it would have anyway.

      To sum it all up: The economy was in for a major uptick in 2017 anyway, Trump may accelerate it further. But the cycle will turn hard in the following years and will lead to a recession probably around 2019. Again, that would have happened probably anyway, but the Fed’s reaction to Trump’s policy will make it more likely still.

  4. A fun fact regarding your first paragraph:

    The very first thing I discovered in my digital adventures into fascist Alt-Right Land (aka Twitter) is that birtherism cleanly and unsurprisingly extends into denying that Obama ever went to school at all.

    And by ever, I mean even 1-12.

    Remember folks: coastal liberal elites need to ‘engage more’ to ‘understand’ and ’empathize’ with these people.

      1. I nearly posted a similar rant to that in Chris’ last article.

        Democrat flagellation and self-flagellation over this election is as annoying to me as Trump Whisperer articles were to Chris. All these meek white people saying, “What did we do wrong? Why don’t we understand people better?” when

        > Hillary got 3 million more votes than Trump and gained in red states as well as blue over Obama.

        > Democrats gained in Congress and had a real chance of overcoming in the Senate until Comey’s letter.

        > Trump’s win is so incredibly narrow, literally less than .5% in the states that flipped, that we can justifiably argue this is a Black Swan event constituting a perfect storm of events,

        which from there also derives that EVERYTHING mattered. Literally every little thing that pushed votes one way or another in a handful of states. Russia, Comey, Benghazi, Brexit, e-mails, racism, sexism, but even the other sides as well, DNC mismanagement, Bernie bros, Clinton not being left enough, Clinton not being right enough, Clinton not being around enough, 40 years of witch hunts, 40 years of hiding from the media, or even the stuff that affects everyone regardless of outcome: fake news, sluggish economies, falling trust in government, shrinking institutions, increasing partisanship, the political-entertainment complex, lack of adjustment to mass social media, global warming, globalization, rising income inequalities, rising wealth disparities, refugees, terrorism, rising personal debt, increased complexity, rising Russia, rising China, elitist detachment…

        ALL of it matters in such thin margins to add up to a very thin marginal win. And yet what the largest agreement everyone settled on is,

        “The Democrats lost their white working class base.”

        Which is racism.

        The Democrats don’t always make the best or most effective solutions, but regarding comparisons between their work and the GOP’s, they have by far put more work into the needs of lower income, lower wealth, bottom fifth percentile, working poor, wage slaved, financially distressed people of whatever the hell you want to call them. Period full stop. They may have made a lot of mistakes, but they actually tried. Period full stop.

        So what is this ‘white working class’ bullshit? They exist in the same fucking class the Democrats at least tried to help. The only reason why they need special attention is if it’s agreed that they deserve special attention. What makes them more special than all the other working class people?

        They’re white.

        Meanwhile, who actually voted for Trump? Old, retired, wealthy white people. So why does Trump get credit for gaining white working class attention?

        Because he ran entirely on racial appeal.

        Finally, everyone acts like the Democrats’ assumptions about the Blue Wall and so forth was a show of such consumate detached arrogance and social bubbles, but I’m sorry, who on this website didn’t believe as of August 2015 when the primaries got started the following two basic assumptions:

        1) Results speak for themselves. Lower unemployment, higher markets, lower deficit, lower uninsured, wages finally on the uptick, healthcare cost increases on the decline, and all this in the face of a struggling world economy with not nearly the same amount of recovery as the US, and against the obstruction of GOP in Congress over further laws that may or may not have helped the recovery even further (unclear: perhaps it’s BECAUSE of GOP obstruction we were best able to keep that receding deficit).

        But apparently even relatively well-off Millennials were more eager to believe the world was burning via Bernie than that we’ve been conscientiously putting out whichever fire we could at a time.

        2) That nobody adult and sane would vote for a belligerent narcissistic sociopath billionaire reality television star who ran a campaign entirely based on deprecating entire demographics of people and blabbering in half-English about fully disproven conspiracy theories.

        I’m sorry, but that wasn’t an ‘arrogant’ assumption to have. It certainly showed itself to be a wrong assumption, but it’s not a sign of sand-in-head lalalala ignorance.

        Lastly, the problem with a wide variety of these fascist idiots who voted for Trump, based on my visiting their communities to do the whole ’empathy’ thing, is that they’re bullies. Full stop. Whether they are happy about something or distressed about something, it always is expressed and comes down to the pain and misfortune they wish upon other people — typically liberals, often minorities, but always some Other. They never just simply say something like, “America will be great again!” They always follow it up with “I can’t wait to see liberals cry as their precious bubble is burst.” The pain of others is inextricably linked to their sense of power and wellbeing.

        And it’s the Democrats’ fault for not appealing to them? It’s the big city dweller’s fault for not understanding them?

        Fuck that.

      2. >] “Meanwhile, who actually voted for Trump? Old, retired, wealthy white people. So why does Trump get credit for gaining white working class attention?

        There are Trump supporters like that, but the ones who put him over the top are those who voted for President Obama in ’08 and ’12 that decided to stay home, didn’t vote for president at all or took the full plunge and voted for Trump.

        To put that in context, the African-American vote in Michigan was down from four years ago and 90,000 Michiganders didn’t vote for president at all. Trump’s margin of victory there, iirc, was somewhere around 11,000.

        When push comes to shove, and with a thoroughly uninspiring opponent on the other side, just enough people are willing to swallow the most openly racist and vile presidential candidate in modern political history if they believe he’ll bring change to an economic system that they feel has left them forgotten. In their minds, that ranks higher.

        >] The Democrats don’t always make the best or most effective solutions, but regarding comparisons between their work and the GOP’s, they have by far put more work into the needs of lower income, lower wealth, bottom fifth percentile, working poor, wage slaved, financially distressed people of whatever the hell you want to call them. Period full stop. They may have made a lot of mistakes, but they actually tried. Period full stop.

        And what’s your point? Trying and succeeding are two entirely different things. Just because they’re better than the current iteration of the GOP doesn’t mean their policies amount to success, and if it still leaves too many people feeling left behind, then that’s still a recipe for defeat.

        This is a mindset that, with all respect, must die. You cannot equate the Democratic Party’s value by virtue of how much the Republican Party sucks. They control the House, the Senate, the presidency and an overwhelming majority of state legislatures and governorships in this country. Rail against them all you want. People don’t give a shit. You either inspire them and show them a way to win or you don’t and you lose. There is no in between.

      3. Democrats consistently over a long period of time have fought for working class peoples’ rights – even if or when they have lost ground under a better organized GOP – and that counts and it matters. We do have to communicate better with the people with shared values, and we do so by meeting them where they are, not because we “need” their votes but because we need their voices. Until we achieve more parity in our voting districts, eliminate voter suppression laws and actions, we will have to grind it out – one person at a time, one election at a time. Hopefully this new initiative being spear-headed by Eric Holder will make progress.

        I have decided to focus my efforts on people who will listen, who may not vote regularly, or may not be registered to vote. That’s more fertile terrain for Dems and a damn sight better investment of what little time I have to commit to this area of political engagement.

      4. “This is a mindset that, with all respect, must die. You cannot equate the Democratic Party’s value by virtue of how much the Republican Party sucks. They control the House, the Senate, the presidency and an overwhelming majority of state legislatures and governorships in this country. Rail against them all you want. People don’t give a shit. You either inspire them and show them a way to win or you don’t and you lose. There is no in between.”

        I’m exactly there with you. My arguments is that that mindset (from the Democrats) is understandable, but wrong, and that the Democrats need a better PR.

        As for ‘by virtue of not being Republicans’, there’s still some truth that if Republicans wanted to be lead better than Democrats, they could have offered ideas. They did not. So the Democrats may have lost, but the Republicans have nothing to do with the victory.

        Anyway, my argument is that the Democrats shouldn’t waste their time trying to ‘understand’ embittered fascists. They should be spending their time turning their victories into ‘our’ victories, making all that ‘this is good for the globe’ about ‘this is good for America’, and all of that ‘this is good for minorities’ about ‘this is good for working Americans.’

        Outside that, I don’t care about the Democrats. Other things to do, better groups to join.

      5. Aaron, your comment is right on.

        I predict that if we continue on our current path, the modern Republican Party will be consigned to the dust heap of history, and the Democratic Party will split in two: a pro-business center-right party (similar to the Republican Party of the 50s and 60s) and a progressive party.

  5. Being president is serious business. There is another, as serious consequence of unqualified celebrities serving as POTUS – their appointment power (think Flynn, Carson, et al plus 133 judicial lifetime appointments) and the executive power a president holds.

    This Lobelog article speaks to the latter – specifically, how Trump may deal with the Iran agreement, especially given that his CIA pick, Mike Pompeo, is an avowed opponent of it. What could possibly go wrong?

    http://lobelog.com/will-trump-shred-the-iran-nuclear-deal/#more-37538

  6. Hollywood celebrity shouldn’t be a disqualifier for nomination (I’d take a thoughtful, intelligent Merrill Streep ANYDAY over the huckster Trump). Reagan was unusual in that he had both an acting career and governing experience, which made him uniquely qualified. I agree that if celebrities want to run for POTUS, they need to prepare for the job, just as Reagan did.

    To your larger point – doing anything to “win”….is not in our country’s best interests.

  7. Certainly, the idea of a lasting celebrity presidency is disturbing on a plethora of levels, though a couple of things to take into consideration:

    – Trump did not expect to win. He was convinced that he was going to lose, and even right now until the end of his presidency (merciful short as we all hope that will be), he doesn’t want to be president. I think that idea is going to stick in the back of of the mind of any reasonably sane-minded celebrity out there who toys with the idea. Think it’s just going to be a slick PR stunt? Trump’s proven that that isn’t the case.

    – Sure, Chris Rock has thrown around a tweet to troll the idea, but thus far we haven’t seen any serious embracing of the idea on the left. Let Michael Moore throw around Oprah’s name all he wants, I’ll believe it when I see it and we can deal with it then.

    – How much does Trump’s barrel full of monkeys on speed-esque presidency fuck things up and to what extent does that stick in the public mind when it comes to pulling the trigger for a celebrity for president? Big unknown at this point, but worth keeping an eye on and never, ever letting people forget. Ever.

      1. I have mixed feelings about trying to influence a mind that refuses to accept rational alternatives to their opinions. Even when faced with hard facts. It was reported (Gallup I believe) that only 1 in 8 Republicans believe that Russia tried to influence American election outcomes. We have already witnessed the obdurate refusal of the Republicans in the House and Senate to treat this information about Russia with the seriousness it deserves. Instead, they are politically containing control by keeping it within committee vs setting up an independent commission.

        In listening to a discussion last night on Maddow about the Russian memos that are just now being publicly circulated (they were released in October to media by Mother Jones), it is obvious to me that the cover up has begun. NOTHING will be allowed to interfere with the Republican agenda. I fully believe that the GOP will sacrifice Trump if he becomes a problem. David Corn (Mother Jones editor) referenced the fact that the M16 spy had forwarded the docs to the FBI in June, 2016, then was contacted by the FBI to send sources and more information as he obtained it. NEVER did we hear a peep about this. NEVER did the FBI announce as they did with Clinton’s emails that they were investigating a problem regarding Trump and Russia. Instead, they sat on the information – information that was far, far more alarming than C’s emails that was later dropped, conveniently close to the election.

        Here’s the follow up MJ article that references Corn’s interview with the M16 spy. Decide for yourself if this information from a highly credible source shouldn’t have been at least treated as the Clinton emails. I will always feel that Comey’s letter turned the tide in the election. Learning this has only made me more certain that there was far more going on than we, the public, were allowed to know about. How do you influence minds when the source of information is so controlling?

        http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/spy-who-wrote-trump-russia-memos-it-was-hair-raising-stuff

      2. We don’t have any choice except to get over it and keep on fighting, mime. Allegations were made during the election that FBI insiders were decidedly pro-Trump and now it looks as if we’ve entered into an era where the FBI will be on one side and the CIA will be decidedly on another. Be grateful that we have like-minded individuals that will act in common interest.

    1. Consider the brilliant judgement and lack of decency in these two changes:

      Retirement of the inaugural parade announcer who has been on the job since President Eisenhower took office; and, retirement of the National Guard General with 40 years of experience as coordinator of the inaugural logistics in D.C.

      Then there is the very real consequence of “draining the swamp” of experienced, career civil service individuals…maybe we just “thought” Trump meant someone else – like, Wall Street and banking figures?

      What could possibly go wrong? (I am going to be saying that a lot, going forward.)

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/commanding-general-of-dc-national-guard-to-be-removed-from-post/2017/01/13/725a0438-d99e-11e6-b8b2-cb5164beba6b_story.html?wpisrc=nl_wemost&wpmm=1

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2017/01/12/the-inaugural-parade-announcer-since-eisenhower-wasnt-asked-back-this-time-now-hes-got-a-new-gig/

    2. I disagree that Trump didn’t expect to win, but on the other hand I think the real lesson of our ‘predictions’ is that we shouldn’t try to understand Trump’s motivations or thoughts. It’s a dead subject, all we can do now is deal with actions.

      But I do agree that we need a better filter for the ilk of Moore and other celebrity pundits who are more celebrity than pundit. Moore is a disastrous acquaintance to have as an activist and most celebrities can be truly ignored for their political speeches. The only thing useful about celebrities’ anti-Trump speeches right now is the fact that they seem to really piss Trump off, but once again, read paragraph one. These whole “Hurr, let’s make Trump feel sad!” movements are a waste of energy and time.

      And if any celebrities do run in 2020, I suppose to Mary’s point without any credible experience, I will be on the front lines of primarying them out of the race.

  8. Damn, Micheal Moore is such a broken clock here. He correctly predicted a Trump Presidency, but that’s not making the notion of a Dem celebrity prez any less wrong.

    Unfortunately I think the only way this trend gets nipped in the bud is for Trump to totally fuck things up, the harshest medicine of all.

    1. Fly, Trump disgusts me. He worries me due to his lack of judgement and ethics.

      Trump, however, is providing the distraction for the Republican Party to achieve their entire agenda. The actions they are taking are long term; Trump will likely be a short term figure because of the very reasons Ryan cited – he’ll get bored, the job will require too much work, the “digs” are very substandard, the constant media harping will interfere with his preference for unpredictability, etc etc.

      I’m watching the Republicans in Congress. That’s who worries me most.

      An aside: on NPR yesterday, there was a discussion about a rumor that Mexico has spent a couple of billion dollars to prop up the peso only to watch it fall every time Trump tweets aspersions their way. The rumor is that Mexico is now considering the purchase of Twitter (which is up for sale) then shutting it down (-; figuring that will be more effective than any infusion of cash to stabilize their economy. Just a rumor for a laugh or two….

      1. Or perhaps Twitter should man up and cancel boss tweet’s account, considering that he keeps breaking the conduct rules.

        Yes, I know it won’t happen, but it should. I also am capable of watching both the GOP Congress and the petulant man-child.

      2. While we were sleeping Thursday night, Democrats offered several amendments to try to save those features of the ACA that are most important. Republicans voted them all down. They included:

        1) Protect people with pre-existing conditions.
        2) Allow young people to stay on their parent’s plan.
        3) Maintain access to contraception.
        4) Ensure medicaid expansion stays in place.
        5) Protect children on medicaid or CHIP.
        6) Protect veterans care.

        https://thinkprogress.org/gop-vote-essential-health-benefits-694a83fbaaf6#.utn49fgl9

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