Paul Krugman is no friend of Donald Trump or the Republican Party, to put it mildly. Yet while his January 2 New York Times op-ed is extremely hard-hitting, his argument is incomplete in a way that understates the challenges they might constitute for our democracy.
One challenge he airs is whether America will turn into a Trumpistan, along the lines of the Central Asian states (the names of which all end in “stan”), formerly parts of the USSR, that are controlled by corrupt, crony-capitalism strongmen pushing personality cults. (Pardon my nit-picking, development professional digression, but Krugman gets this wrong when it comes to Kyrgyzstan, the only one of those five states that is a functioning though flawed democracy – not that we’re ones to judge these days. It should not be lumped in with its neighbors.)
STEP UP FROM THE MISSTEP
Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia and her resulting September 11th stumble has the press fretting about her health, her campaign and her reputation for a lack of transparency. Taken together with other steps, however, the Clinton campaign must turn this political and literal misstep into an opportunity.
Here’s why: The Great Debate Expectations Game. Heading into the first presidential debate on Sept. 26th, Clinton must change any media expectation that she will trump Trump. It’s a forecast that even her own campaign has cultivated – witness a New York Times report that she hopes “to crush Mr. Trump on live television.”
Hillary Clinton will never be a great orator. But she still gave a great, important speech last night. Its main theme: She blasted Donald Trump for the racism he promotes and the racists he embraces.
Here’s a video of the speech.
And you can find transcript here.
Some of what she said may not be new to you. But the speech is still notable for several reasons:
First, she provided as good a summary as I’ve seen of the reasons Trump is so dangerous.
In addition, she said so much about Trump and so little about herself. The speech could have been delivered by any number of Clinton allies. But it was still savvy for her to do so, because the indictment of him gets the most attention by virtue of Hillary delivering it.
TRUMP DOUBLES DOWN
Whatever else emerges from this year’s presidential campaign, one thing is certain: Donald Trump is mainstreaming bigotry.
How could I seriously suggest this, given the widespread outcry against his repeated bigoted belches, and given the political harm they have caused him?
Here’s how: The Republican Party nominee has voiced and validated many voters’ worst instincts, to much tut-tutting but no disavowals of him by his party’s leaders. What’s worse, he recently doubled down by bringing on the far right’s channeler-in-chief, Steve Bannon, to be his campaign’s CEO. Bannon’s contribution to mainstreaming bigotry largely flows from his popular right-wing website (and associated radio program), Breitbart News, which is increasingly promoting the views of the Alt-Right.
At a campaign rally yesterday, Donald Trump seemed to suggest that a way to protect the Second Amendment could be for “Second Amendment people” (i.e., gun owners) to take action against his Democratic rival:
“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially, the Second Amendment,” he said. “By the way, and if she gets the pick—if she gets the pick of her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I dunno.”
Was he simply joking? Perhaps. But as The Atlantic points out in analyzing the video of his statement, “At no point in recent American history has the nominee of one of the two major parties even jested about the murder of a rival.”