Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Ill-educated But Well-off White Sexagenarians are the Real Hippies

Mungo Thomson, "Levitating Pentagon", colored pencil on paper, 2004, via Kenneth Pobo.

But before I get to David F. Brooks, in breaking news, the Senate just did something: confirmed Trump's second nominee to the National Labor Relations Board, corporate lawyer William Emanuel, giving it a Republican majority which is expected to take away some of the gains achieved by workers during the past three or so years (for most of Obama's two terms, Senate Republicans wouldn't allow him to have a functioning National Labor Relations Board at all). Or at least that's what Senators Warren and Murray are worried about (I'm quoting from Fortune):
that he would favor industry over workers on a board they view as tasked with protecting fair working conditions and the right to collective bargaining.
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said the board should act as a neutral party in the resolution of labor disputes, rather than explicitly protecting workers as his Democratic colleagues suggested. He said the board had become too activist under Obama and expressed hope that Emanuel could return it to impartiality.
For their part, industry groups said they welcomed the addition and hoped Emanuel would soon lead the board to undo Obama-era policies, including allowing employees to organize in “micro-unions” and holding franchisors responsible for franchisees’ violations of labor law.
Love how McConnell objects to fairness because that's not neutral and feels the Board needs to be more passive (its official mission is to enforce the 1935 National Labor Relations Act protecting the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively, not to beam equally on the parties to a dispute and ask them to get along).

Anyway I guess that must be what Brooks is getting at with his lede this morning:

It has to be admitted that Donald Trump is doing exactly what he was elected to do.
Oh wait, no, I'm all mixed up. Brooks doesn't think Donald Trump was elected to pull down the lingering institutions of the New Deal like the National Labor Relations Act and the Great Society like the Voting Rights Act and Medicaid, but to be a conservative Abbie Hoffman, "The Abbie Hoffman of the Right: Donald Trump":

He was not elected to be a legislative president. He never showed any real interest in policy during the campaign. He was elected to be a cultural president. He was elected to shred the dominant American culture and to give voice to those who felt voiceless in that culture. He’s doing that every day.
I'm sure some of the older readers remember the cultural presidency of Abbie Hoffman, after the Youth International Party or "Yippies" unexpectedly routed the dominant Democrats in 1968. Or was it the dominant Republicans in 1972?

I'm sorry, I'm already getting tired of this. The president is usually elected to be an executive president, working in tandem with the legislative legislature and the jurisprudent judiciary. The idea of a "legislative president" is interesting—I wonder if it would be useful to think of Lyndon Johnson as that?—but the thing Brooks wants to do with it is not interesting.

Also, let's stop saying Trump "was elected" by somebody, because he wasn't. He was dumped in the White House by a long series of errors, dirty tricks, and mischances, through all those dreadful Republican primary candidates and then the media-hated Hillary Clinton. Trump (in some ways like George W. Bush before him, but more spectacularly) failed to lose.

Long story short, Brooks is still wandering disconsolately around White Working Class territory looking for ways of treating the Trumpery as an alien invasion, with no connection to the Republican project of the last 50-odd years to make a home in the party for white racists, no connection at all.

This time the seminovel theory is that the Trump voters of 2016 are a kind of analogue to the hippies of 1968. Though if there's an analogy to be drawn between us old former vipers and anarchists with today's nihilistic opium eaters whose living standards as measured by employment or life expectancy or stable family formation are dropping fast, though still not as low as those of African Americans, it needs to be continually noted that these guys are not Trump voters because they DON'T VOTE.

But really, one of the things that needs to be understood is that Trump's presidency isn't even that ineffective, as compared for instance to the Republican Congress. Trump is personally incompetent, to be sure, but he's got people around him doing things, generally Republican things like stripping environmental and labor regulations, suppressing minority votes, and baffling our friends in Western Europe and East Asia. Trump's continual acting out on the Twitter and at his campaign rallies, his Nixonian call on the racist loudmouth dotards who think of themselves as a "silent majority", whether he himself knows it or not, are a terrific distraction from the real work the White House is quietly getting done. If it weren't for the utter incompetence of Ryan and McConnell and the brokenness of the party as a whole, we could be in real trouble.

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