566 Comments
May 24Liked by Jonathan V. Last

JVL, I’m 74; I grew up in Jim Crow Alabama, and escaped at age 19. I spent 20 years in the Army as a Counterintelligence/Counterterrorism officer, dealing with very dark things. After I retired, I spent 12 years in city government, where I saw how venal, feckless and flippant too many of our fellow citizens are about government and the positive role it can have in all our lives. Finally, before retiring, I taught criminal Justice at a small school in Savannah, Georgia, which delved into the many ways crime enters our lives. By rights, I should be pretty hopeless about our country, but I’m not. For every scoundrel, I’ve encountered good will. For every wave of hate and fear, I’ve seen hope and vision. Call me Pollyanna, but nation’s best years are ahead of us, as long as we realize we need each other. A good Memorial Day to you all.

TomCannon

Asheville, NC

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Thanks for this, Tom. It means a lot.

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Jonathan,

It’s hard to keep a positive attitude when you’re observing so much stupidity that is counterproductive to stupid people and their families and supposed friends, but we’ve been here before, and I have faith that we have leaders throughout the country that reject nihilism.

Tom

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Yes, and thank you for this lovely contribution today, on the approach to Memorial Day.

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Mary, Too many people died in our wars to give up without a fight to save the best of our country. A great Memorial Day weekend to you and yours.

Tom

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Thank you, Tom. Meaningful and needed words.

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May 24Liked by Jonathan V. Last

It is worth looking at why cash-strapped Trump is holding rallies in states he has zero chance of winning (NJ and NY). He held his rally in the Bronx in order to appear with black people and set up one of Sarah's "permission structures" for people who worry about his racism to vote for him. Trump understands the value of the spectacle, and he is getting better at deploying them strategically.

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Bread and circuses. You need both. He gets that.

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Where's the bread? He never offers bread, just circuses.

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He does offer bread. During the first three years of his presidency, How many times during one of his rallies did he say something like, “did you see the ‘Dow’ today? Did you see how your 401K is looking”? “It’s higher like never before”! And his devotees screamed adoringly and madly and biggly, even if most of them had no investments, no 401K, no nothing. He TOLD them they were receiving bread with the circus, and they loved the circus so much they felt no hunger…

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founding

And he does not pay for it, either, at least not with "his" own money, any bets?

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He promises bread but only delivers a circus .

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If the circus is exciting enough, people will forget a out the bread.

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He uses the circuses to get the bread.

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Exactly what I thought when I read "spectacle".

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Trump’s in NY and NJ because he wants a peaceful protest [wink] if he’s convicted next week. Hence the newfound camaraderie with gang members. He’s nothing if not transparent.

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Right, he is hoping that those two will say a good word for him in the pokey.

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"Trump understands the value of spectacle...he is getting better.... " but he is also showing signs of dementia. How much help is 45 getting from people around him who see what he can no longer do? Are they just waiting until he is re-elected then gets put aside by his all-important VP due to 25th Amendment?

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If I was unsure before the last few years, I am certain now:

Trump is us, that is America writ large, with the mask off.

It does not matter "was it ever so?" It is now.

"This is not who we are." Bullshit. It is now.

It is symptom and disease. A clear sign of a liberal society in a death spiral. The hell if I know what we or anyone else can do about it.

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Totally agree but just want to point out that Trump only represents 50% (at most) of the country. And that elections (and polls) only capture a moment in time.

Trumpism (or more accurately, the people who support people like Trump) has always been part of American history. We had slavery for 80 years, then it took us another 100 years to acknowledge that, perhaps, all people were created equal and that meant "all people". It's not even limited to race, but class, gender, sexual orientation etc.

I don't think this is exclusive to America, but I think Trump is the current avatar for the American version of it.

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Agree. There has always been a George Wallace faction in the US. And it's a minority of Americans. So where is the majority who value the equality of all proclaimed in the Declaration? They're looking at the Democratic candidate and they are not enthused. They were enthused in 2020 because he was not Trump. Why are they not enthused now? Because he's old. And for some reason, they don't recognize the threat to the equality before the law they value that Trump represents.

This is the Dems' job, to make that threat clear. So far, they haven't succeeded. This confounds me.

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Why haven't they succeeded? Maybe they are doing all the right things but they get no airtime because Trump is crazy and crazy people get noticed. Trump's crowds are crazy so when he speaks and there is a crowd the press is there When Biden speaks to crowds no press shows up for the simple fact he's not crazy. Your drunken uncle will be more fun at a family gathering then your sober father, but it's your sober father who cares for you and shows up at your soccer game.

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Yes, the airtime is completely different for the two candidates and the crazy one is way more interesting. But a successful campaign targets the voters they need to persuade and reaches out to them directly. I will be canvassing for Biden in WI this summer, so I will learn more about what the campaign is doing to reach and persuade those swing voters.

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Sandy, it bothers me, but I am not certain that the message has not reached those who are not enamoured with TFG, either. Remember "The Silent Majority"? whom Tricky Dick said were those not protesting the Vietnam War? Whether that was an accurate reading or not, he was re-elected three years after he coined the phrase.

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Yes, I remember Nixon. He won the '72 election by a landslide. At the start of the Dem primary, he attacked the likely Dem candidate, Muskie, and his wife through a forged letter (Tricky Dick, indeed) published by a conservative newspaper. By all accounts, Muskie's emotional response affected the Dem primary voters' support for him and in April, he withdrew.

Muskie had been governor of ME before he was a senator. He would have made a very good candidate. Obviously, Nixon was worried about him - why else would he go dirty on him? So I don't think you can attribute Nixon's reelection to voter sentiment only.

As to those who are not enamoured with TFG, the swing voters, enough of whom voted for Biden to give him the EC win, the Biden campaign's messaging on Trump is just getting started. I would be looking to the fall to see if it's reached them. They voted against Trump in 2020. It's too early to know if they will again. So, I say, stay tuned.

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It's not necessarily true that if they voted for Biden once they might not vote for him again. They are certainly not voting Trump even if they are not loving Biden.

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We are in agreement with the last two sentences of your reply above, which seem to me to have a different flavor than the second sentence of this part of the original post: "This is the Dems' job, to make that threat clear. So far, they haven't succeeded. This confounds me."

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Didn't I say "so far"? There's still time for them to improve.

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Afraid I am the Dems are entertaining themselves to death while the world that makes us all so comfortable is burning around us

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Do you mean the Biden campaign or the voters? The campaign is working hard, but it's the messaging. It's . . . what? I don't think anyone can say what Biden's message is, what his vision for the future is. That's on the campaign. But I'm sure they are not sitting around watching Tik Tok videos.

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forgive the incomplete thought; "Dems" could be replaced by "voters".

Most folks can name more Kardashians than the two Senators representing their own state.

The least informed seem the most filled with passionate intensity.

The passionate Right is being spoon fed empty calories of feelies and vibes by Fox and OAN, while the passionate Left is being spoon fed empty calories of feelies and vibes by Tik Tok and You Tube..

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Because there is so little media coverage. Biden and his surrogates are out there, they just don't get the news coverage. On the other hand Trump is NOT out there but he gets 24/7 coverage. How much coverage is this stupid trial getting? And they even take photos of him sleeping. And every evening there is recap in case you missed it. Biden is out in the country making speeches and the media doesn't care. It's a conspiracy because the Publisher of the NYT is throwing a hissy fit because Biden won't give him a personal interview. Probably because it will a hatchet job like that lawyer did. (Forgot his name already)

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That doesn’t make any sense at all

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founding

American wouldn’t elect Trump if we weren’t suffering from gerrymandering and the outdated electoral college process. After all, he lost the popular voter twice.

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Totally true, but *neither* of those are going away any time soon, particularly given the recent SCOTUS ruling on “political” gerrymandering vs “racial” gerrymandering, which to any reasonably thoughtful person are clearly the SAME DAMN THING!

So what do we do NOW? Get out the vote. Talk to friends and relatives. Do the hard work we need to do.

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100%

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Take Action! Hook into a VotePro Pros volunteer project! I don’t know about anybody else here but I’m in NY and I will spend all my free time in the fall at my computer and phone curing defective mail-in ballots in any PA county that allows it. Everybody get off your asses and SKATE TO WHERE THE FUCKING PUCK IS GONNA BE IN NOVEMBER!!!

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Absolutely!

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That's true. We have an amazing number of "values" voters who think cheating is just fine.

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America can have un-regulated free speech (propaganda included) or it can have a democracy, not both. The Germany of the mid-1930s is the hard proof of that statement. After 30+ millions deathsand a an abject military defeat, Germany adopted Hate Speech Laws and it seems to be a reasonably well-functioning democracy today. James Madison made it abundantly clear, "A democratic republic requires a well-informed electorate".

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A large percentage of Americans think having a basic education and open mind is a communist plot.

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Republican governors and state leaders are actively working against a well-informed electorate in their efforts to pass vouchers that will defund public schools. I wonder if we have already seen the high water mark in education.

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Giles, somehow I find it hard to think that you include yourself in "This is not who we are." Bullshit. It is now." I don't think too many Bulwarkians would put themselves there, either. MAGA is it, for damned sure, but that is a benighted, blinded minority who have large MAGAphones.

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"What if his theory about who Americans really are, about what this country really wants, is right?"

Sadly, this is right. It isn't about doing the right thing, smart policies, or doing the job of governing. Most americans have no conceptualization of what that is or looks like. What most Americans are are celebrity gazing, gossip loving, meme endorsing, zeitgeist following gadflies. We put our fingers in the air and follow the crowd.

What does America really want? I can tell you what they don't want--they don't want to think.

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I loved the quote from a recent Bulwark podcast. When a woman came up to Adlai Stevenson at a rally she said "Governor, every thinking person will be voting for you. "

Stevenson said "Madam, that's not enough. I need a majority."

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The fundamental problem here is that we have not had a nation-uniting event in 80 years. While the COVID pandemic could have been that, the distortions of the fragmented media landscape and corrosive social media content-boosting algorithms prevented it. The success of the '50s was the result of the sacrifice shared through the Depression and subsequent WWII. People had to depend on each other and saw the value of community. The current era emphasizes not that, but the value of "rugged individualism" and like-minded silos that are community-independent.

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It's not that. It is the repelling ofthe Fairness Doctrine which paved the way for a 24/7 right wing propaganda networks. Conservatives and the far right (like Murdoch) knew they had to start influencing the minds of the US. They had a long. Mirdoch has been promoting far right ideology most of his long long life. Now we have his followers like Musk with the same far right exclusive "white men only" pro oligarchy message.

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Trumpism is Steve Allen's Dumbth triumphant.

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Boy, correct or not, that sounds elitest to the core, i.e., no one but me (and those like me) can think, the others are too (fill in your adjective of choice) to do it.

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May 24·edited May 25

It sounds elitist to people who don't think critically and think propaganda is news. To everyone else, it's called common sense. It is common sense to vote for an experienced leader with a good track record. It idiotic to vote a lying cheat like Trump. If that makes me an elitist then so be it.

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"What does America really want? I can tell you what they don't want--they don't want to think."

Sorry, but that says in plain words that America does not want to think. Period. Nothing distinguishing about "people who think critically" or think "propaganda is news". Also nothing about "common sense to everyone else."

It was the all-inclusive, broad generalization to which I took exception.

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No. Elitism is when someone says "I know," what I wrote was "We put our fingers in the air and follow the crowd." That's cynicism.

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Your cynicism is well placed. We the people are into lost in the woods. WE are simply too interested in each and every shiny object that’s placed in front of our noses to/ be bothered with any larger concern. Hundreds of people actually kill themselves taking selfies each year. I will hazard a guess that none of the fatalities last thoughts revolved around policy concerns.

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I think in many ways we confuse "The People" with the rich people who decide what gets on our airwaves and in our publication. Media owners certainly cared more about the economy than people dying of COVID, and to borrow a phrase, they shoved that viewpoint down our throats.

Real people applauded front-line workers and bought them lunches. Corporate "people" made sure they didn't get raises and refused to protect them from violent "customers."

Real people got vaccinated and took home tests when they felt ill, at their own expense. Corporate "people" complained that work-from-home would destroy cities (but they really meant their own real estate investments).

Trump always sides with fictional corporate "people" over actual people. And when he loses the popular vote yet again (he has never won it), the corporate "people" will again lawfare him into office, and then turn around and blame real, actual people for the damage.

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May 24·edited May 24

The corporate world and the culture warriors are good at distracting people from what is really happening. There are a lot of fictional people involved. You see it in the fall out from the Dobbs decision. What? You mean women who aren't sluts who want to dodge responsibility for having sex have abortions too? You see it in the discussion of government handouts causing all the inflation we see. That's why egg prices are high, never mind that avian flu wiped out a lot of chickens in 2022. They have power we don't and government sometimes tries to curb that but ordinary people complain more about government than about the corporate world.

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I hadn't looked at it that way. Brilliant insight!

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Trump was 100% right on the conservative movement. He understood exactly what it really cared about, what the voters wanted, and how to use that to win.

Despite people like Buckley's attempt to silence the Birchers, people like them have always made up the core of the party and the movement. No amount of pseudo-intellectual wallpaper, no amount of decency politics, could hide that deep inside the US right has always been driven by a combination of christian nationalism and racial grievance. Trump took that from subtext to text, and people ate it up.

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The reality is Buckley never threw out the Birchers or crazies, in reality. Many of the anti-Semites, weirdos, and open racists stayed happily on the staff of places like National Review for years, and Buckley was friendly to people like George Lincoln Rockwell past when he was basically an open Nazi.

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Yep. Buckley was smart enough to understand that they both needed those people, and that they had to keep them quiet so as not to scare off the general public.

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Exactly. It wasn't crazy criminals who led Jews into concentration camps. It was hard working good Germans who needed someone to blame for their problems.

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Right. Completely. Totally. In addition, in the 1995 American President movie, Michael Douglas’s speech about Richard Dreyfuss talks about Republicans making you afraid of it and telling you who to blame for it. That’s nearly 30 years ago. No policy, nothing. Just blame the “bad people”: the socialists, Blacks, immigrants, working women, people from “shithole” countries, whoever. That’s been Republican politics and Trump takes this to a new level. It’s not the entire country but a large enough minority that, with the electoral college, voter suppression and apathy, and the fact that 40 percent of people don’t vote gives Trump what he needs. And that MSM is SO SO BAD at this.

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Well said.

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If I have said it once, I've said it a thousand times: stories trump facts every time. The stories we tell ourselves and the stories we tell each other are more important than any facts that may apply. The presidents that are most successful in capturing the loyalty of the public (Nixon, Reagan, Obama, Trump) are the ones that tell the best stories and make their voters believe they are a part of that story. The ones that are the least successful (Ford, Carter, Bush 1, Bush 2, Biden) are the ones that fail to tell any kind of story that the public can buy into.

The core problem that policy wonks face is that people are irrational and emotional, and to most people, policy flows downstream of feelings, not the other way around. People don't think about what policies they want and them decide how they feel. They decide how they feel and then decide on policies that assuage their feelings.

We know this, because things like criminal justice reform, climate change, housing policy, and immigration are all stuck in gridlock because there's no desire to change these things, due to how people feel about these issues.

Here's an example. The basics of capitalism are that the more people you have buying things, the more money everyone makes. This would, in theory, create a situation where more immigration is always a net good, because it leads to the kind of economic expansion the US saw in the 1920s and 1940s. However, that's not how people think. They think 'strange people are coming here, I don't like that' and would prefer to be poorer than see people that aren't like them.

Or, perhaps let's use a different concept: how do you deal with homeless people? The reality is that most people are homeless not due to economic issues but mental health issues, and it's actually cheaper to pay to house and treat them than it is to take actions against them. However, what people in government have discovered is that people would prefer to pay $100 to make it harder to be homeless than pay $1 to help them, which is why cities spend money on things like metal spikes on stairs so people can't sleep there.

Or, as JVL has noted, the pro life movement is about punishing and controlling women; it's more palatable for them to harm people than it is for them to help people. Helping people, being charitable, is less emotionally satisfying to lots of people than harming them. Punishing the 'wicked' takes priority over helping the good.

Again, none of this is new. Paul Ryan was at the forefront of the idea that the best way to help homeless people is to make them starve. We can't make sure every child gets lunch at school because people would prefer they starve than raise taxes by a few dollars.

I forget who said it, but the idea was that hell cannot exist because there is no amount of suffering or punishment that humans cannot become numb to. But then, we know that already.

The question that is on my mind is not 'have americans changed' but 'how long before they just say what they actually want?' How long before we bring back public executions, before people advocate openly for segregation, for engaging in all manner of barbarism that makes them feel good?

We are already approaching another Dred Scott moment with abortion access; how long before red states demand that blue states enforce the tracking and arrest of red state residents who travel to them? How long before some issue is forced by red states who will not compromise on anything? We've already gotten close with Greg Abbott deciding that he can make his own border policies and resist national enforcement agencies. At some point, someone is going to have to back down or it will come to blows somewhere.

The question we have to ask is this: are conservatives more loyal to the GOP or are they more loyal to the United States? And if they had to choose one over the other, which would they choose? I suspect many conservatives would prefer to kill the United States to maintain the GOP.

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Wow. Your last sentence stings. But to answer your question, we have to define "the United States". According to the results of a national poll, we have two different definitions: Nearly 2/3 of Americans define the US by the civic ideals of the Declaration - equality, liberty, self-government and the natural rights of all people to these things. The minority third does not. They define the US by shared ancestry, history, traditions or culture (https://www.nationhoodlab.org/most-americans-define-the-u-s-by-adherence-to-ideals-rather-than-heritage-ancestry-or-traditions-a-new-pell-center-nationhood-lab-poll-finds/). The MAGA Republicans are certainly in that minority.

We are a divided country.

The organization behind the poll, Nationhood Lab, is working on a revised U.S. national narrative for the 21st century (https://www.nationhoodlab.org/a-new-national-narrative/). It is organizations like these that give me hope.

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Silver Symposium- you hit the nail(s) on the head. And I can answer the question about the GOP based on Congressional GOP- they’d rather kill the US to maintain power.

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Oh my goodness. You have given me so much more to digest even on top of JVL. I am feeling despondent

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100%

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May 24·edited May 24Liked by Jonathan V. Last

"What If Trump Is Right About America?"

Congratulations. You just asked the most important question of the campaign, of our time, of the future of our nation, and the one that nobody wants to say aloud. That's a lot to accomplish with just seven words and a punctuation mark.

It also is what will be a decisive turning point for me personally, and probably many others as well. If he wins, change is coming to my life. The biggest question is whether I will choose it or if it will choose me. Either way, I would never see this nation and its citizens the same way again. There is no excuse for going down that rat hole a second time when he has been telegraphing all along where it will lead to. It is a road to hell, and it is not paved with good intentions.

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I used to think that Trump winning a popular plurality was impossible. I no longer think that.

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May 25·edited May 25

I am thankful that, at age 72, my years of suffering under a returned Trump and his successors are limited. Moving to another country is no longer an option. The years were generally good, but if THE PEOPLE want their "strongman daddy", then that's the way it is and time to bow out when I'm personally affected. All of my relatives of younger age who can vote are united against Trump. But that's not enough, given the power of celebrity and the reputation that The Apprentice baked in long ago.

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America has become one the wealthiest nations in human history and has perpetuated a standard of living unseen in other nations across human history. It makes sense that a dark side of that is having a a decadent citizenry that is obsessed with mindless distractions brought on by consumer wealth rather than substantive ideas and issues.

"It was luxuries like air conditioning that brought down the Roman Empire. With air conditioning their windows were shut, they couldn't hear the barbarians coming." -Garrison Keillor

"America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between..." -Oscar Wilde

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May 24·edited May 24Liked by Jonathan V. Last

Isn't JVL a ray of sunshine today! One thing that I think isn't noticed enough is that a lot of people came out to vote for the former president who rarely, if ever, voted before 2016. I'd like to see some sort of analysis of why that was. And the intersection of social media becoming some people's place to find "information" with political campaigns is also something that played into the phenomenon of a tv celebrity and businessman becoming president. Yeah so two things that I think aren't noticed enough.

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An even bigger lot of people came out and voted against the former President in 2020 who had never voted before, and that was before the love fest that was January 6, 2 civil guilty verdicts and 4 criminal indictments, not to mention his dark, demented current blatherings. The prospective “Thrilla in Manila” debates coming up will showcase the last point to great effect. Joe Biden is capable of self-restraint. TFG is not. I’m not willing to throw in the towel on American rationality just yet.

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Maybe many of those rarely voting folk were that upset with the thought that someone who called them "deplorables", was the wife of Big Bill, and a WOMAN, was enough of a reason to vote for the other guy, because he could not be as bad as she was. Then, in 2020, they realized how wrong they were and came out again to vote him out, as Linda Oliver writes below.

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I have tried speaking reasonably to Trump voters. If you're fool enough to think he's honest or a Christian, not much to say. We've become dumb as rocks.

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They simply don’t care. They don’t care if he respects the Constitution. They don’t care if he wants to use the Justice Department to go after his political rivals. They don’t care that he will sever all of our important alliances and align with our foreign enemies. They don’t care if he has repeatedly broken the laws of our country. We can’t figure it out because we do care and we will never understand why they don’t.

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The majority of Americans never voted for Trump. The entire Republican project is making sure that it doesn’t mater.

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That's so true and incredibly frustrating.

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JVL, Trump is only a surfer. Like many "leaders" of populist movements, he has an uncanny, feral sense of when a wave is building and how to jump on it. Tolstoy's War and Peace is pretty much about that phenomenon. Trump understands that many have become fed up with the trauma of four-plus decades of neoliberal policy coming from BOTH parties. Most of them can't even put a name to what's eating them but they know they don't trust government and want something to change. Trump knows that many people were, and still are, looking for a wrecking ball. They see his chaos as his primary desirable feature...not a bug. There are people from all races and walks-of-life who feel this. Trump knows it, at some animal level at least.

That said, Don't you believe for a minute that the majority feels that Trump is the answer. We're saddled with a system of government that favors the minority so their influence is over-represented. We can change that.

The Biden administration is the first one since before Reagan that believes and is acting like the Government is for the People. We must support that with everything in us. We're our only hope, Obiwan/JVL.

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"Voters seem not to care about any of this governing. At all." Make that "Republican voters...", please.

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If the national polling is correct that the race is basically tied, then it's more than R voters. There must be some Independents who don't care as well. The size of the Independents' vote is greater than either the Rs or the Dems.

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I recently read an analysis of people who respond to Presidential polls. Most polling asks a variety of people who they prefer. Some of these people never vote and are not even registered. When they poll registered voters who vote in every election, Biden is usually ahead by at least 5 points.

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Let’s be completely honest, though: a very *great* number of “independents” aren’t truly “independent” but merely don’t want to identify with either Party, though they share a good deal of one of those Party’s policy positions. are Republican-leaning at heart that don’t want to “identify” as such (and no doubt *some* Democrats as well)

Admittedly, my direct experience is limited to California, but having worked as a Vote Center Clerk in the primary earlier this year, people very quickly drop their “Independent” classification when they realized that they couldn’t vote for a Presidential candidate as an Independent (primary *only*!). The Democratic Party allowed them to receive a Democratic ballot *without* having to change their permanent registration. The Republican Party chose not to offer that, so if the voter *wanted* to vote for Trump, they HAD to change their registration to “Republican” (and we could administer that paperwork on the spot). Most voted Democratic but there were a few that took the additional time to change their registration to Republican….

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Definitely something to this.

I'm an Independent despite usually, (but not always), supporting Dems.

The Democratics of modern times are not perceived as the tough bare-knuckled fighters for The People they once were: (let's visualize the '30s & '40s for this.. Cagney and Stewart and Bogart as hard-boiled avatars for the working class).

It really is hard for many 🤚 to associate openly with the party who's primary political tactic these days is a hand-wringing wail of: "Please, oh please stop hurting us"

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Yes, you are right that Independents lean - 81% of them according to Pew Research. But their leaning is as split as the nation. According to Gallup in January, Republicans maintain a slight edge in leaned party identification.

As to having to declare a party to register to vote in the General Election, that's not the case in MI, and probably not (I couldn't verify) in WI & PA either. And those are the Independents who will decide the election.

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And just to clarify when I said “primary only”: in California, and I assume in ALL states, primaries are run by the state parties and *they* determine the rules and who’s on *their* ballot. In a general election, that is NOT the case and everyone votes from the same ballot.

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Yes, I think you did say "primary only" (I can't get to your comment). Sorry, I missed that.

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I think part of this highlights something I really and truly struggle with. One of the best things I took away from what I think of as the “conservative but not cruel” version of Christianity my parents tried to instill in us was that we are all sinners, or all imperfect and deserve grace and compassion as a result. That we are all the same in our flawedness. I think that’s valuable and good, it has made me empathetic. And as someone who is not a conservative Christian today I see great value in being someone who understands a mindset different from my own…

But man, the pandemic did show very clearly that as was noted here TONS of people in my country, maybe even most people, care more about being inconvenienced than the lives of others. I find that not only baffling but monstrous. I struggle with how I can respect my fellow citizens or NOT hold them in contempt for that. How can I have empathy or bridge a divide with someone who seems to value money more than my life, if the reverse is true for me? I just don’t know.

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I grew up with life-threatening asthma, and a non-life-threatening, but quality-of-life-frustrating connective-tissue disorder that went misdiagnosed till my mid 30s. I learned that it's unreasonable to expect others to care more about my life than their convenience. That's just how it is and it's nothing personal. Does that make them bad people?

I don't think so. Just limited people. Like we all are. Yes, we're all sinners, and sin is bad. But we remain limited beings even when we're not sinning. 

Most people simply cannot know very many others' lives that well. While people can be stingy with empathy even when they know better, empathy deficits are often knowledge deficits – knowledge deficits others can't be reasonably blamed for having, even in an information age. As Adam Smith said, "Every man, as the Stoics used to say, is first and principally recommended to his own care" – not because "greed" (or callousness) "is good", but because knowledge is limited.

Even when those closest to us are having a crisis, the rest of the mundane world doesn't stop. Last fall, while my mom was dying of stroke, I was granted her medical power of attorney. It was a serious responsibility and I took it seriously. But, while my sibling and I regularly visited Mom in hospital, the rest of life still had to go on. During Mom's final decline (at first, she was expected to live and be rehabbed), I got a call from the ICU saying, "Come in now." I asked – even though this was my own mother's life – "Can my arrival wait an hour? I'm finishing laundry." I wasn't being callous, or even selfish: I was responsible for a whole household of people who hadn't had their laundry done since I had assumed medical power of attorney, and they needed me, too. Of course, the doc only had to say, no, it couldn't wait, for me to forget about laundry and arrive immediately.

Nursing staff often smoke. Nursing is stressful. Smoking's self-medication. My asthma's sensitive enough that even thirdhand smoke stands a decent shot of derailing my plans. True, my asthma is unusually bad, but unusually bad asthma also isn't that unusual – if I'm affected, others must be, too. But enough to matter? Are nursing staff who smoke trying to be cruel to their more-sensitive asthmatic patients? No. They're trying to cope with a stressful job the rest of us ought to be grateful they do. Many people rely on little conveniences to get through their day. They don't have the bandwidth to cope with the outliers who'll be greatly inconvenienced by their little convenience.

Grifters like Trump who sell the message "We're entitled to our convenience at others' expense" don't just appeal to the selfishly entitled, but to those who feel out of bandwidth, who just want to get the laundry done.

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founding

I often think to myself, what if I'm wrong. What if they're right and I'm just an idiot. Then I go through a process and listen and read, but the answer is always the same. I am right, but your column has opened my eyes a bit. Everyone always says that Trump is transactional and I think that's what his supporters are too. I guess that the rest of us think in terms of behavior, consequences, cause and effect, big picture, morality and cultural norms, etc. I don't know how the divide will ever be closed. Right now it seems insurmountable .

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