Tag Archives: Trump

They Didn’t Really Hold Their Noses

Portrait of a young woman holding her nose because of a bad smel“The Religious Right held their noses and voted for Trump.”

You know this line all too well. Unless you live in a sensory deprivation tank, you probably hear it many times a day from pretty much every expert analyst. You’ve heard it so many times that you probably believe it without even thinking to question it.

But it is simply baseless nonsense.

The Religious Right did not in fact hold their noses and vote for Trump. They enthusiastically embraced Trump AND all of his vile, disgusting behaviors and rhetoric.  And even after nearly two years of incessent exposure to his lies and indictments and mean-spirited policies, these supposed nose-holders still support Trump without significant reservation or qualification. At this point it is fair to ask whether they support him precisely because of all his vile, disgusting behaviors and rhetoric.

You can reality-check this for yourself. Simply tune in any talk show that accepts calls from the Religious Right. The overwhelming number of these callers not only still support Trump, but they support him passionately and vehemently. You won’t detect any nose-holding from them.

The next time you hear an analyst repeat this meme, notice that they never provide any evidence or data to support it. In fact, this narrative of the mythological nose-holding, morally conflicted religious right voter is definitively disproven by impartial analysis of the facts. In a study of voting data, political science professor Paul J. Djupe at Denison University concluded that:

“To the central claim: noseholding is not disproportionately common (or uncommon for that matter) among white evangelicals (see here).”

Professor Djupe goes on to point out that:

“I understand why the claim of noseholding is attractive. It suggests that you and your group are better, more pure than a political candidate, that your support is temporary and subject to revocation. It is a claim of both independence and moral superiority.”

So any such claim of moral angst in a Trump voter is a false claim. Rather, it is a strong indicator of moral deficiency. It is analogous to my admitting to my wife that I had an affair with a seedy prostitute, but that I had to “hold my nose” to do it. And this moral failure is not only evident in their support of Trump, but in their wholehearted support of a Conservative Congress that engages in similarly egregious behaviors that are in direct conflict with their espoused moral values.

It is clear why the elite on the religious right like to push this narrative to make themselves look and feel better, particularly while they support politicians who engage in blatant behavior that is antithetical to everything they falsely claim to stand for.

But this nose-holding meme is also repeated without legitimate skepticism by mainstream analysts. I suspect this is partly because they themselves would be conflicted in such a situation. Perhaps they genuinely held their nose and voted for Hillary when their heart was with Bernie. It is natural then that they would naively project their own angst into those on the religious right.

But do not make the mistake of giving the Religious Right too much credit for basic human decency and morality. Do not underestimate their capacity to rationalize terrible behaviors as somehow moral and justifiable. I previously wrote about their support for torture as one example (see here). In the case of Trump, they did not, and still do not, even have the rudimentary decency to actually hold their noses while they fervently embrace both him and all his enablers.

 

Privatizing Theocracy

privatizationThe strategy is clear. Privatize as much of the government as possible and exempt those privately run services from Constitutional protections.

If we do not wise up, we could gradually privatize our way to theocracy.

Conservatives love privatization. Regardless of where they lie on the not-so-wide spectrum from capitalist to libertarian, they all share a foundational belief that the private sector does everything better than publicly run counterparts. To them, it is self-serving economic dogma that a hard-nosed, self-interested, profit motive is somehow inherently superior to a sincere mission to serve the public good. Therefore everything that can be privatized should be privatized.

Of course, there is no actual proof of any such inherent superiority. Sure, some privately run companies can be more efficient than governmental programs. But many are not. For every inefficient, bureaucratic, slow-moving government agency, one can point to dozens of disastrous, failed, bankrupt, unresponsive, and socially irresponsible private companies with obscenely overpaid corporate leaders.

Moreover, the primary function of private businesses is not to serve their customers with the best possible goods and services, but to extract maximum profit for shareholders and executives. The idea that competition always optimizes to result in the best possible services at the lowest possible price is a convenient fiction. Private businesses actually optimize to extract the highest possible profit by providing the cheapest possible services. Their fiduciary obligation is not to serve the public good, but on the contrary it is to pass off as many of their harms and risks as possible onto the public sphere.

It is simple math. All else equal, a well-run private company simply cannot provide better services than a well-run governmental agency because the private company must extract maximum profits. And it is a lie that government agencies cannot be just as well-run. In fact, our Conservative leaders know this, which is why they work so hard to make the Post Office and other services fail so that they can justify privatizing them.

Further, there are some public functions that are simply incompatible with the profit motive, these include things like health care. I am not against all private business, but I am against private businesses running essential social services that fundamentally conflict with their profit motive. I wrote a blog on the conflict between profit and healthcare (see here). And we have all seen how well has privatization worked for prisons.

This fanatical push for privatizing everything from military service to social security in order to extract private profits has been bad enough. But now, with Citizen’s United and Hobby Lobby and the dominance of Church-friendly executives in public office, we should clearly see another terribly dark side of privatization – the synergy of privatization and religion.

As more and more government services, from social services to education and beyond are privatized, those new “public service” companies can then exert their growing independence to reject governmental policies and even Constitutional protections to inject religious beliefs into those services. Rather than serve the general public good, rather than adhere to restrictions put in place to ensure the public good, these newly privatized services can now exert their “religious freedom” to limit those services in accordance with their religious beliefs.

The Religious Right has been frustrated because they have been thwarted in their efforts introduce prayer and intelligent design in schools. Their new strategy is focused on privatizing education so that they can “teach” whatever they wish to larger numbers of children. By simultaneously asserting religious rights of conscience for these private companies, they can do an end-run around the Constitution.

As another case in point consider hospitals. We used to have a lot of public hospitals. But we have allowed private, for profit hospitals to take over without requiring them to provide the same level of service to underprivileged populations. Increasingly, churches are assimilating all of these private hospitals and refusing to offer essential services that they feel violate their religious beliefs. The New York Times recently highlighted this (see here).

Now duplicate this same strategy to privatize every government service with an ideological or profit interest. If the greedy and the religious can remove all such operations from governmental oversight, then the protections of our Constitution become moot. How can the Constitution protect us with nothing remaining under its jurisdiction? The Conservatives want less, not more of the regulations that would be required.

Make no mistake. This trend toward theocracy by privatization will continue to accelerate unless we understand the following:

  1. Private corporations do not really do everything better, and some essential public services are fundamentally undermined by a profit imperative.
  2. Private companies must not be allowed to claim personhood and religious liberty in order to abdicate ethical responsibilities and circumvent Constitutional protections.
  3. Political leaders must not be allowed to be complicit in this theocritization by intentionally destroying working public services and by putting in place governmental structures to assist in privatization and the expansion of religious exemptions.

For further reading I recommend a previous blog entitled Why Wall Street Loves Trump (see here).

Maybe Trump is Good for US

trumpHow could Donald Trump conceivably be good for us and for the USA? I’m glad you asked!

Most of us appreciate that the normally low norm of juvenile political dysfunction in our country has degenerated over the last few decades down into an unsustainable and unacceptable low of incivility and internecine warfare. We have not quite reached a Mad Max level of dysfunction, but we’re getting uncomfortably and embarrassingly close.

We have always been proud of a certain level of dysfunction baked into our system of government. By design, we see great value in our system of check-and-balances in which each official and unofficial branch of government challenges the others to ensure that none of them run amok. A certain level of conflict is desired and expected.

However, if carried too far, healthy checks-and-balances can easily degrade into automatic knee-jerk obstruction and mindless attacks. Imagine a football team in which healthy competition between players degrades into “I don’t care if we win this game. I only care if my teammates score less than me. If my teammates get injured, all the better for me!

That is the very level of self-destructive behavior that our government has degraded into. As much as our system of government benefits from a measure of good-natured competition, it simply cannot function when the prevailing attitude is “destroy the other guy at all costs.” If the various groups refuse to cooperate and instead focus exclusively on winning and beating the other side, then healthy competition breaks down and becomes counter-productive and self-destructive.

Over the last few decades this is exactly what has happened in politics. Others could point to a different progression, but in my lifetime I have to point to the Clinton hearings as when it turned truly nasty. The Republicans pledged to “bring down” Bill Clinton even before he was sworn into office, and they put 100% of their energy into that. They virtually brought all responsible governance to complete halt while they prosecuted their incessant and relentless attacks on Clinton.

Unfortunately for all of us, this infighting has only continued to get worse from there. And frankly this war has been largely waged by Conservatives who have continued to escalate each year. They have lost all interest in moving our country forward and instead are doggedly fixated on simply destroying anything and anyone that does not identify with them. And they don’t even actually have an agenda. Their agenda is largely whatever hurts or at least does not help the other side and they are happy to burn down the nation if it diminishes their opponents.

So, is it any surprise that out of this climate of rabid, raving, insensate political ideologues, someone like Donald Trump should emerge as their leader? As clearly crazy and incompetent as he is, he is still a welcome breath of fresh air by comparison to the status quo that has emerged. He actually offers some hope amidst the angry, incompetent, government-loathing, self-interested dogmatic extremists that have completely taken over the Republican Party for far too long.

Here’s how this may be a good thing. Trump is a slap in the face of our self-image. He could be just the drenching of cold-frigid water that we need to wake up and snap out of our routine of mindless attacks and rigidly partisan childishness. Perhaps he will force pundits, political fight-promoters in the media, voters, and even Conservative leaders to step back a moment and ask, is this us? Is this the US? Is this as good as we can be?

I think for every American with a shred of sanity remaining, the answer has to be no. We can do much better. We must do much better. We can dial back our senseless Hatfield and McCoy feuding and work together to accomplish great and good things.

If Donald Trump succeeds in showing us just how far we have sunk, if he incites us only to step back and self-assess our behavior, he may have offered our nation the greatest service possible just when it is most desperately needed.