Archive

December 1st

Donald Trump could kill the American union

    As Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin -- states that once were the stronghold of the nation's industrial union movement -- dropped into Donald Trump's column on election night, one longtime union staff member told me that Trump's victory was "an extinction-level event for American labor."

    He may be right.

    A half-century ago, more than a third of those Rust Belt workers were unionized, and their unions had the clout to win them a decent wage, benefits and pensions. Their unions also had the power to turn out the vote. They did -- for Democrats. White workers who belonged to unions voted Democratic at a rate 20 percent higher than their non-union counterparts, and there were enough such workers to make a difference on Election Day.

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Don't normalize Donald Trump; 'abnormalize' him

    Much has been said about how we Americans, particularly we Americans in the mainstream media, should not "normalize" Donald Trump. I think it's way too late for that.

    Look around. Most Republicans already have normalized Trump. So have the independent swing voters and even disgruntled Democrats who helped to get him elected. Either he was normal enough for those voters or those voters didn't want "normal." They wanted change. They wanted what President Barack Obama offered as a candidate in 2008: hope and change.

    It's hard to change people's minds about someone they have normalized. Yet some things need to be abnormalized.

    For some of us, Trump's attempts to win votes by any means necessary are jeopardizing our ability to get along across racial and ethnic lines. We must not normalize his racial dog-whistle rhetoric that appears to have fed a spike of more than 700 incidents of hateful harassment and attacks since Election Day, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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Carving Donald Trump

    On Thanksgiving, Americans sat down to dinner, looked at the big turkey and thought about Donald Trump.

    OK, that was totally the wrong attitude. We’re supposed to be having a reset. The president-elect has been going out of his way to build bridges. He came to The Times this week for a long conversation, during which he was extremely amiable. He blasted the alt-right twits who celebrated his victory with Nazi salutes. (“Of course I condemn. I disavow and condemn.”) He had nothing but praise for Barack Obama (“I really liked him a lot.”) He has no desire to see Hillary Clinton prosecuted. (“She went through a lot. And suffered greatly in many different ways.”)

    Policywise, he was still the guy who’s not all that into position papers. In discussing climate change alone, Trump use the phrase “open mind” seven times. This is one thing you can count on. We haven’t had a mind so open in the White House since Warren Harding.

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Ben Sasse's conservative cause needs Brooklyn

    With Donald Trump poised to assume power over the federal government, individual Republicans must decide whether they are on Team Trump, Team Conservative or Team America. The overwhelming majority will choose the first, and most expedient, category. They will use Trump, and be used by him, to advance their own ambition, trampling underfoot whatever conflicting principles they previously claimed to hold.

    There will, however, be a few notables who align themselves either with conservative principles, or with the broader, less ideological cause of supporting democratic norms, pluralistic political culture and American cohesion. This small band, aided by Democratic allies, will determine how much damage Trump inflicts while making America great again.

    Arizona Sen. John McCain, for example, has already raised concerns about Trump's crush on Vladimir Putin and about Trump's position on torturing suspected enemies. There's nothing uniquely conservative about either concern. Similarly, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is not enthusiastic about Trump's plan to deport young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. It's a humane position, but not an especially conservative one.

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At Lunch, Trump Gives Critics Hope

    Well,  that was interesting ... Donald Trump came to lunch at The New York Times. You can find all the highlights on the news pages, but since I had the opportunity to be included, let me offer a few impressions of my first close encounter with Trump since he declared for the presidency.

    The most important was that on several key issues — like climate change and torture — where he adopted extreme positions during his campaign to galvanize his base, he went out of his way to make clear he was rethinking them. How far? I don’t know. But stay tuned, especially on climate.

    There are many decisions that President-elect Trump can and will make during the next four years. Many of them could be reversible by his successor. But there is one decision he can make that could have truly irreversible implications, and that is to abandon America’s commitment to phasing out coal, phasing in more clean energy systems and leading the world to curb carbon-dioxide emissions before they reach a level that produces a cycle of wildly unpredictable climate disruptions.

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America's working class has its own culture and will fight to keep it

    America is a patchwork of regional and local identities, stitched together by a shared history and the values and political structures enshrined in the Constitution. Despite the immortalization of cultural assimilation in the 1907 play "The Melting Pot," Americans have preferred the richness of regional and local flavors to a bland, everyman America.

    More like PBS' " A Chef's Life ," with its focus on the food and traditions of eastern North Carolina, many Americans remain rooted in the folk culture of their region, whether it's the way of life found in the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia, or the Great Lakes of the Upper Midwest.

    The vast majority of those who inhabit the regional folk cultures of America's fruited plains belong to what historian Christopher Lasch called the "petty bourgeoisie." By this, Lasch meant the confluence of the working class and the lower middle class - small proprietors, artisans, tradesmen and farmers. They at one time unionized against the forces of industrialization and now have voted against globalization, and they share the same set of values and thus a common perspective.

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A Trump infrastructure bank would create many risks

    Politicians have fretted over, debated and vowed to fix America's crumbling infrastructure. For four decades.

    Donald Trump, in his election-night victory speech, is the latest to pledge to give the nation a facelift, using American-made steel and employing American workers. "We're going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals," he said. Construction stocks zoomed on the news.

    Where will he get $1 trillion for such an ambitious plan? Trump's chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, isn't worried. The controversial chairman of Breitbart News Network said in a Nov. 15 interview that he's the biggest proponent in Trump-land of borrowing for these public-works projects because negative interest rates are "the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything." He enthused:

    "Shipyards, ironworks, get them all jacked up. We're just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution."

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A pediatric critical-care nurse has a message for her patients and their parents: Thank you

    When people ask me what my job is like, I have a hard time coming up with an answer. I am a nurse in a pediatric intensive-care unit, so the definition of a good day is relative to the condition of my patients, and a bad day is usually too hard to describe. But one thing that I can always convey is that my patients and their families often do more for me than I do for them.

    Recently, the Islamic scholar Hamza Yusuf spoke in a talk he gave about his mother's passing. He mentioned a letter he received from her oncologist, Suhail Obaji, who wrote that "my visits with her were a treat to my soul. She gave me a comfort and tranquility that in reality made me realize that she was the doctor and I was the patient."

    I am blessed to come across people who make me feel like this almost every day. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here is my gratitude to these parents and their children.

    - For your compassion. To the 7-year-old with cystic fibrosis happily playing with her self-made crown and plastic jewels, until she saw a boy rolling by in a wheelchair. The next thing I knew, she was making him a crown, and never did she look more royal to me.

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A fake conspiracy for a fevered political age

    Walk in to Comet Ping Pong, a neighborhood restaurant about two miles from the White House, and you don't think," Satanic den." You think, "How long will I have to wait to get a table," and "Geez, there are a lot of kids in here."

    Comet may be a family pizzeria in a leafy neighborhood, but it's still in Washington in a political year. And that was enough to turn this hole-in-the-wall into an obsession of the alt-right, a loose collection of white nationalists and sympathizers who have ardently supported President-elect Donald Trump.

    A Reddit page topped by a President Trump logo is rich with charges that Comet is the red-hot center of a Democratic sex ring that operates under the code name, you guessed it, "pizza."

    Responding to a thread of slurs about a pizzeria cum child-sex-trafficking ring, a Reddit user asked of an alt-right-friendly news site: "@BreitbartNews OMG -- do you know what this means?! Am I supposed to be mad or hungry?"

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November 30th

Yes, in the US, the people can reject a president - if they're sure he's a tyrant

    If the thousands of protesters chanting "Not my president!" are any indication, the U.S. president-elect's legitimacy may be in peril.

    This should not be dismissed as mere rhetorical flourish: A recent poll shows that 18 percent of Americans reject Donald Trump's legitimacy as president.

    Some critics dismiss these protesters as sore losers. More seriously, they are blamed for undermining the legitimacy of our democratic institutions. Trump won fair and square according to our agreed-upon constitutional processes; hate him all you want, as Andrew Sabl wrote here in the Monkey Cage, but you cannot reject the winner just because your side loses.

    What these arguments fail to grasp, however, is that, in the United States, authority is never legitimate if it is tyrannical, no matter how unanimous the vote or impeccable the electoral process. (As Sam Goldman recently pointed out, tyranny - a concept so relevant to ancient Athenian politics - suddenly seems poised for a comeback!)

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