Painting the Barn: Never Trump, The Lincoln Project, and Ignoring Obvious Answers

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Dennis Sanders

Dennis Sanders is the Associate Pastor at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Minneapolis, MN.  You can follow Dennis through his blogs, The Clockwork Pastor and Big Tent Revue and on Twitter.  Feel free to contact him at dennis.sanders(at)gmail(dot)com.

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39 Responses

  1. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    says:

    These are good observations, but the image you are constructing here is that Trump staged a hostile takeover of the party.

    Was it really hostile, though?

    Is there, was there ever, any daylight between Trump and the average GOP voter?
    Wouldn’t a Romney/Jeb/Cruz/Rubio administration give us the same judges, the same tax cuts, the same pro-corporate regulatory perversions?

    I guess one could say that those administrations would have more respect for law, and more faithfulness to norms of behavior and I believe that is right.

    But that also explains why Trump won; The GOP voting base wants what it wants, and is willing to go to any lengths to get it. When they say that “Trump fights” that’s what they mean;

    For example, if Congress refused to appropriate funds for a border wall but instead appropriates funds for Ukraine a Romney/Jeb/Cruz/Rubio administration would accept that as the way the Constitution is meant to work and faithfully obey.

    Trump doesn’t feel obliged to follow the Constitution or norms of behavior and this is why somewhere around 90% of the GOP base loves him.Report

    • Avatar Nevermoor in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      That’s my view too. The worst part of a Trump admin, if reelected, is that the next GOP admin will know they can defy the rule of law, and will doubtlessly do it with a better veneer of polish.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      I made a point on another thread a couple of days ago and it didn’t get noticed, so I’m going to try again.

      The argument for impeachment is that Trump is outside acceptable standards. But that conflicts with the position that Trump is just an ordinary Republican. Either he’s unprecedented or he isn’t. I guess the only way that Trump can be worthy of impeachment and just like all the other Republicans is if you say that no Republican can be tolerated as president. Maybe you’d be ok making that argument, but it’s an argument for war.

      I guess you could be saying that the Republican Party has changed in nature in the past three years. But I don’t think that’s what you’re saying. I don’t know. Is the circle squarable in a way I don’t see?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Pinky
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        says:

        Pinky, can we flip this around? Does the fact that Republican voters and politicians think Trump’s behavior is acceptable matter in this discussion? Seems to me that the defense of Trump made by effectively the entire party means his behavior, policies, etc is *exactly* what the party is, though not necessarily what it’s always been. Seems to me that insofar as someone views Trump’s actions as illegal and unconstitutional, and then observes the entirety of the GOP defending that illegality, that person would indeed be very skeptical about a Republican president being tolerable, and justifiably so.Report

        • Avatar Pinky in reply to Stillwater
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          says:

          I don’t think the case has been made that his actions were illegal or unconstitutional, +/-10%. (By that I mean significantly outside the bounds we typically accept from a president.) Just because something doesn’t rise to the level of impeachable doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. Truth is, I don’t hear a lot of defense of Trump, just criticism of the way Democrats are handling this. I bet a censure vote would have gotten significant Republican support.

          (ETA: “Criticism” is understating it. More like hyperbolic hyperventilation.)Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Pinky
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            says:

            I don’t think the case has been made that his actions were illegal or unconstitutional, +/-10%.

            Well sure!

            But a) that’s not the issue I was addressing and b) surely you can understand that *if* a person views Trump and the GOP’s behavior that way the conclusion follows, right? The topic you were wondering about is Democrats viewing a Republican president as tolerable. Not whether they’re justified by *your* standards for that view.

            I bet a censure vote would have gotten significant Republican support.

            Hmmm. We’re gonna have to agree to disagree on that. 🙂Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky
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        says:

        The answer is in the middle paragraphs of my post.

        That a normal Republican would pursue the same policies as Trump, but obey the norms and constraints of the Constitution.
        Trump doesn’t feel such constraints.Report

        • Avatar James K in reply to Chip Daniels
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          says:

          That’s kinda burying the lede though isn’t it?

          These chefs are basically the same because they use the same recipe for chilli con carne. I mean, one of them uses human flesh as an ingredient, but otherwise they’re interchangeable.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James K
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            says:

            Right. Under, say, Ted Cruz, would be have the mass judicial appointments and the irresponsible tax cuts? (You know, the ones written in secret. where the vote was scheduled before clean copies could be printed.) Of course.

            Would we have “very fine people on both sides”, the destruction of the Foreign Service, the sucking up to Putin, the soliciting of bribes from foreign governments, and the rampant corruption? Probably not, at least not all of them.Report

  2. Avatar Aaron David
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    says:

    It was during a constitutional law class in college 30 years ago, where the professor posed a question. There were two court cases 30 years apart involving the Ku Klux Klan and the NAACP. In one case, the court ruled in favor of the NAACP in protecting their membership lists from the state. Thirty years earlier, the Klan faced a similar case and were forced to reveal their membership lists. The professor asked the class, why did two similar cases come to different conclusions?

    The class came up with many reasons why and each time the professor shot them down. This went on for about half-hour. He finally says to the class that the reason for the different rules was because the NAACP was good and the Klan was bad.

    As a Jewish person, who lost an unknowable amount of family in the holocaust (they all died), I find this to be the single most disgusting line of thought conceivable. I would stand proudly next to anyone who wears a swastika or any other symbol of the Nazi regime. I know my line of thought and argument is stronger and I do not need to censor anyone.

    My great-grandfather wrote his dissertation on The Censorship of Hebrew Books. I consider trying to smother ideas, no matter if I find them grotesque, no different than the subjection of my people’s religion during the Spanish Inquisition or various Russian pogroms.

    That being said, what and what is not constitutional is open for debate, which is what we have the courts for. Seeing the Trump administration stand up to the Nazi-like, fascist tactics that have been put on display by the Pelosi led house is truly a triumph of democracy. We have seen the show trials presented in that body during the runup to the partisan impeachment, a show so pathetic in its totalitarianism that resistance to it was the inverse; the rarely seen bipartisan vote.

    Calling anything you dislike unconstitutional is akin to calling any disagreeing voice racist. It weakens your argument and lessons the important work of trying to end discrimination. In the past, we saw many of the Obama regimes actions brought before the court, where they were found to be unconstitutional before that august body. That, the following of our countries separation of powers to achieve action in accordance with laws, is far superior to the childish tantrums of weak partisanship and bigotry on display by the left and its politicians.Report

    • Avatar Judith Vorster in reply to Aaron David
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      says:

      I may not agree with everything else that you’ve written, but I have to agree the line ‘the reason for the different rules was because X was good and Y was bad’ rather got to me. It’s such a blatantly rediculous argument I can’t really believe the guy was serious, or that anyone would take him seriously.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Aaron David
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      says:

      I can’t tell if the professor was trying to point out the mistake that the Court made, or he was endorsing their approach.Report

    • Avatar Urusigh in reply to Aaron David
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      says:

      I find this to be the single most disgusting line of thought conceivable. I would stand proudly next to anyone… I know my line of thought and argument is stronger and I do not need to censor anyone.

      THIS! +infinity upvote. There is a word for societies where the “approved” groups receive the full protection of the law and “undesirable” groups receive the full force of the law: Tyranny. That people who dare to call themselves “Liberal” or “Anti-Fascist” express agreement with this travesty of justice proves them hypocrites.Report

  3. Avatar DavidTC
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    says:

    Chip is right, but I think it’s easy to not notice what _caused_ Trump. Because the party can’t be untrumped without it realizing how it got there.

    What caused Trump was the party, or rather each individual politician in the party, slowly ceding more and more power to utterly bonkers right-wing media. Every single one of them made a decision, either yes or no, to hop on that bandwagon but at some point, enough of them did it that it gained critical mass. Which meant the ones that said ‘no’ were primaried out.

    The Republican voters didn’t _magically_ start primarying out moderates. What happened is that enough Republicans saw an advantage to going along with the media’s purity tests that those because normal.

    This actually started with normal right-swing by the Newt Gingrich people, and they’re often blamed for it, but the original thing that happened was just normal political movement. But a very small amount of people, who hated the Clintons, started conspiracy-theory-and-far-righting part of the media, started using it in ways it had never been used before, and the elected Republicans went along with it. And…spiral.

    The only way to fix this is for the Republican party to stand up to that part of the media, which has now not only transferred itself to social media, but is now literally operated by foreign powers, who saw an obvious and very stupid way to control America polities. They have to stand up and rejected that. Which is…the opposite of what they do. Instead, they stand around repeating those things _even when Trump’s not involved_.

    This is because standing up to the media is going to hurt, and there’s literally no incentive to do it, especially since none of the first people to do that are going to _survive_ it. Maybe what has been suggested here will work, but people really do need to think about the idea that the entire party is unsalvagable, that it just has to burn to the ground. Sometimes the rot is so bad you cannot something with the structure staying intact.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DavidTC
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      says:

      ” it’s easy to not notice what _caused_ Trump. ”

      counter: no, you have to willfully not notice that was caused Trump was the Democratic Party’s insistence that it was Her Turn, Her Turn, that we were finally past all that Elect A Black Guy silliness and now it was Her Turn, and that when the voters said “there is some shit we will not eat” the response was “…but don’t you understand, it is. Her. TURN!”Report

  4. Avatar Slade the Leveller
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    says:

    But a very small amount of people, who hated the Clintons, started conspiracy-theory-and-far-righting part of the media, started using it in ways it had never been used before,and the elected Republicans went along with it.

    Of course, the R’s going along with the wingnut BS didn’t just happen in a vacuum. There had to be a sense of a change in the conservative zeitgeist apparent to those in power that would make their embrace of Rush and his ilk politically tenable. As the author says, there are very few profiles in courage in American politics.Report

  5. Avatar George Turner
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    says:

    Trump became President by representing the views of Republican voters far better than most of the Republican politicians did. That’s why his approval rating among Republicans is at 90%, and why Justin Amash is going to rent a U-Haul to haul his furniture home from DC. Trump all but secured his nomination when he stood up to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly in the first debate, who had blood shooting out of her eyes and other places. He did what almost every other politician was afraid to do, he called out the media and told them to get stuffed, taking his message directly to the voters and bypassing traditional outlets. In so doing, he stripped the fourth branch of its overwhelming power, and they’ve been determined to destroy him ever since. They have failed.

    Channel a bit of “Man in the High Castle” and suppose that during the Obama administration our media had instead been a bunch of pearl-clutching country-club types right out of the 1930’s and 1940’s, with even the Democrats in the media coming from the deep South and reflecting entrenched racism of Southern Democrats. Suppose those journalists had no qualms about lying about anything and everything because they had Obama derangement syndrome, desperately spinning everything Obama did as proof that he’s a threat to America and must be removed from office by any means necessary. Suppose they constantly peddled the idea that his supporters were all “N-words” and communists. Now suppose that Obama spent much of his time talking directly to the people, time and again denouncing the racist liars and bigots in the corporate media who couldn’t figure out why any white person would support him, and wondering why blacks couldn’t see that he was just a Russian agent. Meanwhile Republicans pine away for the old days and scream that mainstream Democrats should take their party back and return to the comfortable and genteel era of Jim Crow, where everybody knew their proper place. Pundits opine that if Congress can just remove Obama, all that Civil Rights nonsense will go away and everything will go back to normal.

    Trump’s message is surprisingly similar to Bernie and Warrens. “You’ve all been getting screwed and I know who’s been doing it – the people who’ve been unfairly benefiting for the past few decades., the people who’ve been running the country, rigging the system, making unfair trade deals, exporting your jobs, closing your businesses, flooding the country with your replacements, and throwing you in jail.” A great swath of the Republicans in Congress won’t go against him because they think he’s probably right about that.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner
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      says:

      “You’ve all been getting screwed and I know who’s been doing it – the people who’ve been unfairly benefiting for the past few decades., the people who’ve been running the country, rigging the system, making unfair trade deals, exporting your jobs, closing your businesses, flooding the country with your replacements, and throwing you in jail.”

      See, this is the American Rorschach test.

      When normal people here this they imagine the Wall Street bankers, the corporate CEOs, the hedge fund managers.

      The Trumpist hears this, he thinks of that bossy black lady in HR. She’s gonna get told to stuff it, oh yes she will!Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels
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        says:

        When Democrats hear this, they think of the Jews and the Christians.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Chip Daniels
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        says:

        Really? Most of the people I grew up with in red areas don’t give a damn about race. It was all about gov’t screwing the little guy.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels
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        says:

        The Trumpist hears this, he thinks of that bossy black lady in HR. She’s gonna get told to stuff it, oh yes she will!

        If that were the case, Trump’s support would be primarily from blue cities, especially urban areas, and not from places like West Virginia, Idaho, Texas, the Dakotas, and the Rust Belt. I’m pretty sure there isn’t more than a handful of Trump supporters who think blacks are holding them down.

        Instead, cast your gaze at the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua and her ilk, raking in billions from oil fiefdoms. Look at the Hollywood elites who hector us about our 1985 Toyota Corolla’s CO2 emissions as they commute between London, New York, and LA on their private jets. Look at all the Wall Street big wigs who made a fortune buying up companies in the heartland and packing them off to China and Mexico, to fund their lavish homes on Martha’s Vineyard. Look at California, the state with the most poverty and a crumbling infrastructure, that panders to the liberal elite lifestyle of the anointed leisure class in San Francisco, Malibu, and Sacramento.

        A lot of the same populist sentiments have been sweeping Europe, as people come to realize that the powers-that-be, the new liberal aristocracy, have been serving themselves, not the average person on the street whom they despise and disparage.

        And there’s the rub. The rulers began to openly express their contempt for the ruled, and the ruled have had enough of it and decided to toss them all out and put better people in charge. The feeling is that the elites hate Trump’s supporters and want to destroy them, and Trump is what’s standing in their way. Trying to target Trump’s supporters (“How can we get these morons to abandon him?”) only reinforces their conviction that Trump is their champion and salvation. This script has been played countless times before, from Moses to Robin Hood to Lech Walesa, as a corrupt regime tries to figure out how to destroy an popular champion of the people, driving the figure to ever higher levels of popularity.

        That dynamic is at work once again, and is why Trump fills giant sports arenas with wildly enthusiastic supporters, and why he’s probably the first really revolutionary figure we’ve had since the 60’s.Report

  6. Avatar Rufus F.
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    says:

    I know this might sound defeatist, but why not just wait ’till Trump’s out? It might be one year, or it might be five, but how long can a cult of personality survive after the personality’s gone?Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Rufus F.
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      says:

      We’re on 11 years of a cult-of-personality presidency. I guess there’s some consolation in the fact that none of the Democratic candidates are likable, so there’s a 50% chance that the pattern will be broken in 2021. But still, things felt safer back when we had one adult party. (I’m old enough to remember two.)Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Pinky
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        says:

        Much safer before the cult of Reagan.Report

        • Avatar Pinky in reply to Mike Schilling
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          says:

          The fanaticism toward Reagan was after his time in office. He was popular, sure, but way more on the Clinton level than the JFK. The Republicans who’ve named every building after the guy fought with him constantly.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Pinky
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            says:

            Unlike the Obama-worshippers, who went along with everything he said? I must misremember how hard it was to get PPACA passed, even with a veto-proof majority.Report

            • Avatar Pinky in reply to Mike Schilling
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              says:

              It’s possible to be worshipped and lousy at your job. I mean, you’ve got to grant that, right? The original conversation was about Trump. Don’t you think that he’s both unreasonably adored and incompetent? Even the most ardent Obama supporter can admit that some people got crazy worked up over him, and that he left a lot of the particulars about “Obamacare” as well as the navigation of the legislation up to Congress. You can even admit both of those things without considering him incompetent.

              My main point stands, that Reagan was never treated during his terms with the reverence that Obama has been.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                I was only a mere baby ( high school and college student) at the time but I remember Reagan being revered during his term. He had R critics. Some thought he was naive to enter arms control agreements with the Soviets but by his second term i think he was worshiped. Was it Obama level? Who knows, this is all from distant memory. There was a metric crap ton of talking around his clear mental deterioration in his last couple years. But it was defiantly before he was out of office that he was put on a pedestal.Report

  7. Avatar Brandon Berg
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    says:

    Any GOP Senator who wants to be reelected knows that they will have to first be re-nominated by a pro-Trump, anti-impeachment primary electorate.

    Note that the costs of getting primaried are not merely personal. If an anti-Trump Republican Senator in a safe Republican state who wants to impeach Trump gets primaried, there’s a high chance of being replaced by a true believer. Because Senators can remain in office for decades, this can do more damage, long-term, than just letting the Trump administration run its course.

    Look at Amash. He’s toast now, and his replacement will almost certainly be worse. Did the symbolic stand he took accomplish anything of enough value to justify that?Report

  8. Avatar Urusigh
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    says:

    “He finally says to the class that the reason for the different rules was because the NAACP was good and the Klan was bad.That was it. There was no special tactic that provided the answer; it was simply one organization was a benefit to society, and the other was not.”

    A fine example of everything wrong with activist teachers (who should have been fired) and activist judges (who should have been overruled and then impeached). There’s an entire Constitutional amendment to make explicit that everyone is equal under the law, not only whether they are liked or not, but ESPECIALLY if they are disliked.

    “What I learned from that experience is how the most obvious answer is the truly right answer and how much we try to ignore the answer that is sitting right in front of us.”

    And yet it apparently hasn’t occurred to you that the obvious reason Republicans in congress don’t support impeachment is because the charges are so transparently without basis that even some House Democrats voted against them, merely yet another wholly partisan attack by Democrats who have been swearing since his election that they would somehow remove him. This has been an unserious farce from start to finish, don’t expect serious legislators to abandon their duty just to humor your tantrums.Report

  9. Avatar Kolohe
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    says:

    The class came up with many reasons why and each time the professor shot them down. This went on for about half-hour. He finally says to the class that the reason for the different rules was because the NAACP was good and the Klan was bad.

    While this is true, I wonder if another, or even more fundamental dynamic is that during those thirty years, the Klan lost (both legally and socially, and probably financially) and that streak of losing (and reputation of losing) is what caused the pivot.

    It’s one of the darker thoughts I have, because I’d rather it not happen, but I fear the only way for Trump and Trumpism to be rooted out is through a sound defeat – not only at the ballot box, which at this point seems unlikely*, but also includes an economic (and possibly military) ‘defeat’ that would in fact be terrible for a lot of people.

    *that is, at this point I don’t think Trump is going to win re-election, but the election will be rather close, 2 percentage points or less. (and he may get over a million more votes than he did back in 2016. A quarter of a million just in Utah)Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kolohe
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      says:

      Part of the thing that makes me wonder is that, right now, when Trump goes head to head against any name in the primaries, to some extent he’s running against Generic Democrat. This isn’t true for everybody out there, now. I know that we happy few on this board could explain the difference between Harris and Warren and Sanders and Biden fairly easily.

      But I wonder to what extent that normal people are imagining “generic democrat” when talking about any given candidate but would swing from probably blue to leans blue or DANGER DANGER from leans blue to undecided or, god forbid, from undecided to leans red (LIKE THEY WERE EVER UNDECIDED IN THE FIRST PLACE! WE DON’T NEED PEOPLE LIKE THAT VOTING FOR US ANYWAY!) when face to face with Harris or Warren or Sanders or Biden.

      Because I was pretty sure that Trump was going to lose at this point in the cycle last time. Hell, I was pretty sure that he was never gonna be nominated. Never in a million years.Report

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