Quick, Dirty and Accurate

Every so often, I read something that expresses an opinion I hold so succinctly and clearly that I get a bit jealous of the wordsmith. (That tends to be my reaction to pretty much anything Leonard Pitts writes, and especially this one).

That was also my reaction to a recent post by Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Brayton was addressing the recurring question of why Trump supporters don’t care about his constant–incessant–lies. He began by referencing two classic analyses by Richard Hofstadter, the book  Anti-Intellectualism in American Life and Hofstadter’s much-quoted essay, The Paranoid Style in American Politicsboth of which are well worth reading if you haven’t already done so. Hofstadter wrote in the 1960s, and Brayton’s point was the cyclical nature of American history.

It seems that about every 40-50 years we go through this bout of pseudo-populist, anti-intellectual, anti-immigrant and racist fervor. You can go back to the Know Nothings of the mid-1800s, to the rebirth of the KKK in the early 1900s, to the McCarthy era and the birth of the John Birch Society in the 60s (which was just starting when Hofstadter did his analysis). What we’re seeing with Trump is the latest rebirth of those movements. He’s tapped into a rich vein of ignorance, paranoia and bigotry that is never far below the surface in America.

When I am particularly worried about our prospects for emerging from the current cesspool of corruption and bigotry, I remind myself of these episodes from America’s past. After all, we survived those; surely when the fever breaks, we can repair the damage being done every day by the looters and racists who now control our government.

Can’t we?

Brayton makes another point I’ve frequently made: these eruptions occur in times of economic and cultural stress.

When people feel insecure economically or socially — as in white Christians feeling threatened by becoming a smaller percentage of the population, coupled with vast income inequality and the massive recession of 2008 and 2009 — they tend to retreat into this very simpleminded tribalism. They want to build Fortress America and shut everyone else out. They retreat to racial tribes and lob bombs — sometimes literally — at other tribes. Their fear and insecurity make them easy targets for demagogues like Trump to whip them up into a fervor by telling them that it’s all the fault of (insert scapegoat here — blacks, Latinos, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, gay people, “elites” or “globalists”). Fear is a powerful motivator and is easily exploitable by those seeking authoritarian power.

And once people are fully in the grip of tribalism, the truth simply doesn’t matter to them anymore.

Brayton points to Trump’s repeated–and largely fact-free– attacks on immigrants as an example. Those immigrants (unless, of course, they are pale and come from Norway) are dangerous threats, they are “other.”

Leonard Pitts, in the linked column, brilliantly summed up how we fell into this particular abyss.

There is no mystery here. Trump is president because Obama was, and because there were many people for whom that fact was apocalyptic. It’s no coincidence David Duke loves this man, white people chant his name to taunt black ones and hate crimes spiked during the campaign.

After all, what’s a lie or two–or 3,000–when your white Christian heterosexual tribe is in danger of losing its hegemony?


  1. Mother England provides us with a phrase that always seems to come to the rescue:
    “Keep Calm and Carry On”.
    Now that the G-7 has finally realized that we ain’t that great any more, and that we’re unlikely to ever again be worthy of having a say in world affairs, they must go on without us, they too, must say those words.

  2. Leonard has his moments but writes in establishment trash. Or, should I say, he’s allowed to write in establishment trash.

    The younger writers have a little more reality inserted into their wordsmithing. Teodrose Fikre writes this for Truthdig:

    “What Pelosi is banking on is that voters are beset by “collective recollection deficit.” Never mind that Democrats had solid majorities in both houses of Congress and did the opposite of what she is now promising. Pay no attention to the fact that Barack Obama had a mandate when he made history in 2008. In a world according to neoliberals, iniquities took root on Jan. 20, 2017—and now all the ills of the world can be traced to Donald Trump.”

    “We are witnessing the tried-and-true tactic of imprisoning voters in the moment. The duopoly continues to thrive because the media-politico establishment has conditioned us to have short-term outrage and disregard the connective nature of the two-party racket. Both parties are co-opted by corporations and the plutocrat class. They differ on the margins, but at their core, Democrats and Republicans’ primary purpose is to transfer wealth from the masses to the neo-aristocracy.”


    This kind of intellectual honesty will bring about change, but like I said yesterday, the USA has built a massive surveillance state for the coming push back because it is coming and they know it.

    Blaming Trump for our problems is intellectually dishonest. Capitalism was built on slavery and racism. Trump is merely a product of a system which extracts wealth and distributes it upwards.

  3. I am a little perplexed by this analysis. So, is it something cyclical we experience every 40-50 years for mysterious reasons? Or now because the “white Christian heterosexual tribe is in danger of losing its hegemony” we are experiencing this?

  4. Sadly the pendulum of American Politics has become a wrecking ball with Trump swinging it recklessly in all directions, while ignorantence cheers him on.
    It troubles me greatly, as so with many others who have spent their life’s building America, I just hope I’m in the majority of voters in November.

  5. “What we’re seeing with Trump is the latest rebirth of those movements.”

    This one sentence provides the best argument for pro-abortion; for we must abort the human mutation sitting in the White House along with the infections of ignorance, paranoia and bigotry he is feeding on. The entire administration is interdependent; feeding off of each other and growing is size and strength. The fact that Trump is the world leader who will be the primary representative of the free world in the upcoming nuclear summit with Kim Jong Un is as frightening as it gets. Two more useless specimens of bipeds (I cannot use the term humanity here) have ever had so much power at their disposal. Ignorance, paranoia and bigotry feeds their egos, both in control of their country’s nuclear power, and now the world awaits the outcome of this pairing of fools to decide our fate. They represent the resulting births of the pro-lifers who care not the condition of the results they protect and certainly do not want the responsibility of their care.

    “When I am particularly worried about our prospects for emerging from the current cesspool of corruption and bigotry, I remind myself of these episodes from America’s past. After all, we survived those; surely when the fever breaks, we can repair the damage being done every day by the looters and racists who now control our government.”

    Will there be enough left to repair? They have already gone beyond “damage” to the level of “full destruction” on some issues. Even with opposition candidates sitting in the White House; so many of Americans have never lost complete faith in this government, there has always been the rational factor remaining in all past administrations. Today; we cannot see one rational person or rational issue to grasp or place some hope in. Trump and HIS faction of Republicans were definitely “Quick, Dirty and Accurate” in their destruction as we sat stunned and licking our wounds during the early morning hours of November 9, 2016.

  6. Stephen F. Smith; President Macron has already stated, “G-7 can become G-6!”

    Todd; I keep saying we NEED to know the reason today’s Republican party placed Trump as their nominee over SIXTEEN actual Republicans, to begin to understand why we are where we are nationally and in the world view. “Blaming Trump for our problems is intellectually dishonest.” NOT blaming Trump is foolhardy; knowing why the 1%, using Citizens United, bought and paid for this fool could lead us to the source of our current tyrannical dilemma based on Fascism and could bring answers to find our way out of it. Still; the question will remain; will there be enough left to repair?

  7. patmcc,

    Thanks for the column. I have always held America’s “exceptionalism” is an unwarranted, dangerous, and destructive view. It facilitates persecution and oppression of the “other” and summons up demagogues like Trump. Make America great again!

  8. Todd @ 6:47 am posted: >>>Both parties are co-opted by corporations and the plutocrat class. They differ on the margins, but at their core, Democrats and Republicans’ primary purpose is to transfer wealth from the masses to the neo-aristocracy.”<<<

    This wealth transfer happened in Indianapolis and it was not hidden away in the proverbial smoke filled back room. It was decided during the Lugar Regime a new stadium – Market Square Arena (MSA) had to be built for Pacers. The Hoosier Dome was constructed under the Hudnut Regime in 1984, which would become the home of the Colts. Bankers Life Field House replaced MSA and Lucas Oil Stadium replaced the Hoosier Dome.

    The mega-billionaire owners risked nothing as the tax payers fund, the construction and maintenance of these stadiums. Socialization of costs and privatization of the profits. The local republicans and democratic parties welded them selves together to produce a Republicrat Party, which never questions the choice of using public dollars to subsidize these professional sports teams. The condition of our city's streets, roads, a wretched public transportation and underfunded park system bears witness to this wealth transfer.

    Eugene Debs commented on this Republicrat approach to governance.

    The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles.

  9. In the same vein who was it that said, “never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups”?

  10. Monotonous; regarding Market Square Arena, decision made and property purchased during the Mayor Lugar regime, do you remember the many complains – public and private – about the small space causing the steep stairs? The reason for that confined area being selected and purchased is because it was sold to the city by Mayor Lugar’s mother. She had remarried so her last name was Caldwell; she was step-mother to newscaster Howard Caldwell who was Richard Lugar’s step-brother. The wealth transfer was not hidden away in the proverbial smoke-filled room…but it was certainly hidden away from the public whose taxes paid the bills. The construction began in 1972, during Mayor Lugar’s administration; my job as clerk-typist was in IPD Traffic Division and my desk was by the window overlooking the construction site.

  11. WOW! Sounds like everyone here today is going to have a joyous weekend counting their blessings and reminding themselves about how smart they are and how much of our society and government they have figured out. I wish it were that simple.

    Giving money to power seekers is wrong, has always been wrong, but has also always been part of how our tribes evolved from the caves to Wall St. As JoAnn suggested, we have eschewed the rules of evolution and allowed slime to reproduce such that genetically induced greed has become concentrated in the minds of Republicans.

    Those who lump Republicans and Democrats together haven’t been paying attention. Democrats don’t foster the upward push of money AS MUCH OR AS OFTEN as do Republicans. Democrats don’t want teachers packing guns in school. Democrats don’t overtly hate and disrespect women. Democrats don’t look down their noses and say idiotic things like: “Government shouldn’t help you. You’re on your own. Democrats don’t want to destroy public education. Democrats want stronger labor unions. Democrats want to spend money on infrastructure rather than portfolio structure. Democrats want to invest in our people. Democrats want to promote INCLUSION. Democrats want controls on greedy capitalists. Democrats care about the environment. Republicans care for none of these things; they care only for more money for the rich.

    Tribalism has always been there. Republicans and Democrats have ALWAYS been different from one another. But some pundit decided that using the word tribalism suffices to discuss our problems. Well, if we’re so damned tribal, then how is it that some say Democrats and Republicans are the same?

  12. Whenever I read “Agent Orange is not responsible…..” I am flabbergasted. Everything else causing today’s chaos was wrong between 2008 and 2016, especially a Republican Congress, but we still made progress and saw the possibility for hope and change.

    I had an aunt who used to say people don’t change as they age, they just get more so. I think that we can say the same thing about our Republican Congress, but we’ve gone from one of the best administrations in our history to in my mind anyway inarguably the worst.

    I never worried before about the survival of the American way of life or either major political party but I do now. I believe that either our national culture will survive or the GOP will but not both.

    I certainly hope that Trump is the death rattle of the party of Lincoln.

    Not that there won’t still be a myriad of challenges facing us to realistically hope to adapt to the future that we won’t determine but will have to be successful in.

    But, first things first.

  13. Speaking of quick and accurate….

    How did the Democratic Party become the Washington Generals basketball team?

  14. Speaking of quick and accurate….

    How did the Democratic Party become the Washington Generals basketball team?

    WTF? This is way too deep for anyone to comprehend. I had no idea the Democrats had a team. What is the name of their town?

  15. It’s hard not to see this wave of American fascism as unprecedented. Past cycles didn’t have the legal financial donations to politicians or the degree of civic ignorance that we have today. The outcome of redistricting efforts will tell us how long this cycle is likely to last.

  16. Democrats are more vulnerable to attack than Republicans since we have a “big tent” as opposed to the wigwam Republicans have for their much smaller crowd of CEOs and Wall Street denizens. I join Sheila in applauding the excerpts she has chosen for her blog today. They are right on, and our task, as before and as therein cited, is to weather the storm and (one hopes) come out stronger for the experience. Whether Trump is the problem or symptomatic of already existing problems among the polity and is using tariff, G-6 and other baits to sew doubt and confusion, as our ancestors did with Birchers, know-nothings et al., is immaterial. Why? Because “deconstruction of the administrative state” is shorthand for the destruction of American democracy, a precious legacy that must be defended at alll costs.

  17. I had to stop watching Trump on MSNBC, his pity for Pruitt being picked on by the press over this latest nonsense expenditure, the”lotion commotion”. Arriving in Canada late for the G-7 meeting, already announced he is leaving early for the nuclear summit, canceling his meeting with President Macron and wanting Russia to be readmitted to G-7. Well as President Macron said, G-7 can become G-6. They could all remove him from their midst; he deserves it but America and Americans do not. Giuliani’s grinning idiocy cannot distract us from Trump today; the entire world is watching and waiting.

    And Congress sits with their thumbs up their butts watching their personal fool travel around the world to destroy this country. Will he ask Kim Jong Un to use their nukes on this country while he is away? Canada is next door; is he moving further away for protection. Have I become as crazy as he is by watching him; is insanity infectious via air waves and cyber space? How are we to survive more than 2 1/2 more years of this?

    As Gerald suggested, “deconstruction of the administrative state” is shorthand for the destruction of American democracy, a precious legacy that must be defended at all costs.” How much more are we expected to tolerate and still survive? We didn’t do enough to prevent this and what we did accomplish, has come too late. But we do not deserve even what has transpired today alone; and we certainly do not deserve whatever the hell lies ahead of…if there is anything.

  18. I personally think that it would be perfectly appropriate to remove the US from the G7 until the country can be adequately represented.

    Trump in that group as well as here is nothing but a distraction from important business. In fact it would be functional for the US press to abandon all coverage of him both fake news and real.

  19. We should all write/call to our Canadian and Mexican friends to assure them that we are not ALL like Trump. Ask them for forgiveness for our sins in putting a raving, unhinged lunatic in the president’s office. Tell them we will sort things out once we’ve figured out how to remove the madman in the Oval Office. Beg their forgiveness as we try to recover our own sanity on a daily basis.

  20. Pete; your point is well taken but…the world is not going to wait for this Republican privately-owned and operated Congress to take action on Trump. Economics don’t take a time out to wait for fools any more than those nuclear weapons know or care who or where they hit. We are circling the bowl as a trusted country and trust is not a bounce-back issue if or when Trump is ousted; it will take at least a few years to begin to undo partially what Trump has done in less than 18 months.

  21. JoAnn @ 10:26 am

    Interesting story you relate about Crony-Capitalism in action. I arrived in Indianapolis in late 1975 via South Chicago, so I can relate to the activity you describe.

    Thomas E. Keane, a Chicago Alderman, was considered the second most powerful man in Chicago politics behind Mayor Daley the Elder. Keane’s career ended in ignominy in 1974 with a federal conviction on mail-fraud and conspiracy charges stemming from some questionable real estate deals.

    Keane’s downfall came in 1974, when an ambitious federal prosecutor named James R. Thompson directed Mr. Keane’s conviction on charges stemming from his City Council votes on city purchase of real estate in which he had a vested interest.

    James R. Thompson was appointed by President Nixon to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. Thompson was very aggressive in prosecuting many politicians in Illinois, among them former Illinois Governor Otto Kerner. Thompson is one of the few recent Illinois Governors who did not end up in a prison cell.

    Prosecuting political corruption these days is a lost art.

  22. Monotonous; Chicago politics from those long ago days are infamous, Indianapolis wasn’t as bad or it was better covered up. While I was Records Secretary for the Metropolitan Development Commission in the 1990’s, I don’t know when they came into being but they made all decisions in this city…till Goldsmith came on the scent to appoint the new president and tell them what to day. I was surprised to read 2 days ago the amount of responsibilities our City-County Council carries; my Councilor had posted on Facebook looking for support. I commented to ask where he had been since I voted for him the last time; got a long self-serving E-mail after he asked for my E-mail address. I replied with a long E-mail listing a number of problems in this district, all of which reflect on him, still waiting for his reply. Being the Democratic candidate I will vote for him; let him know that is why I voted for him the last time. Also let him know what had been done by the Councilor he replaced; like walking through small neighborhoods to speak with residents. I am making enemies at every turn; too late to turn back now to being a go-along-to-get-along type female of the species. A belated Welcome to Indy!

  23. I think it should be by crystal clear by now, The Trumpet (Aka Agent Orange) has one purpose and that is to be the sole center of attention. His egocentricity has no boundary. As he spreads chaos, he must derive supreme satisfaction as various people scramble to pick up the pieces.

    His flash-bang approach provides the cover for dismantling any protections we proles may have had from Wall Street, and the polluters.

    Agent Orange’s whole demeanor reminds me of the puffy chested, jut jawed, bloated dictator Benito Mussolini, who thought of himself as modern day Caesar.

  24. JoAnn @3:47 pm, one of my bosses who was from Chicago said Indiana was the Alabama of the North. I had several native Hoosiers who said Chicago was corrupt compared to Indianapolis. That observation irked me since corruption is character flaw that has no geographic center. I would say the cover up was better here in Indy.

    One thing I did notice was how docile the local media TV and print was in Indy compared to Chicago in dealing with politicians. The Chicago Media was always on the hunt for scandals involving political figures, elected or appointed.

  25. I agree with Monotonous Langour, that the ignoramus in the White House is reminiscent of Benito Mussolini. And I remember how Benito’s career was ended.

  26. I was tracking Vernon’s thoughts pretty well until he said, ‘Democratic want strong unions.’ Don’t believe that. If you believe I’m wrong just let a union try and organize a Democrat’s employees. They start acting Republican immediately.

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