Their War Is With Modernity

The Guardian recently reviewed David Frum’s forthcoming book, “Trumpocalypse.” Frum, as most of you will recall, was the speechwriter who penned George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” accusation; whatever lingering concerns I may have had about his judgment, however, have waned, thanks to his work as a “Never Trumper.”

In “Trumpocalypse,” Frum makes the case that Trump has gutted the rule of law and institutionalized “white ethnic chauvinism.” The article notes that Frum’s journey is emblematic of an ongoing political realignment, in which the GOP has increasingly embraced white rural voters and steadily lost college graduates and suburbanites.

One of the points Frum emphasizes has reinforced my own belief that America–and for that matter, the rest of the world to varying degrees–is undergoing a paradigm shift.

The concept of paradigm shift originated with Thomas Kuhn, an American physicist and philosopher, to explain why people working within a particular worldview or scientific framework cannot understand explanations of works produced under a preceding or different framework. Fundamental changes in basic concepts make genuine communication impossible.

Frum’s book quotes the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan for the proposition that it is “culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society,” and he identifies specific aspects of the culture Trump’s base believes it is defending–especially, as he says,  the belief that by supporting Trump, they are defending a “distinct way of life”, one challenged by modernity.

I think this is the key to understanding what is otherwise inexplicable: how any rational individual could look at the operation of Trump’s administration, with its massive corruption and overwhelming incompetence, and still support him.

Support for Trump is how people who are profoundly threatened by modernity say “Stop the world, I want to get off.”

That reaction against modernity, which is characterized by increasing secularism, explains why religious fundamentalists make up so large a part of Trump’s base. Secularism, in this sense, isn’t necessarily the absence of religious belief, but it is the absence of a certain type of religious belief. It refers to the ability of science to explain phenomena that biblical literalists attribute to God (remember when Bill O’Reilly defended religious belief by saying “the tide goes in, the tide goes out–who knows why?” We do know why.)

In my 2007 book “God and Country: America in Red and Blue,” I examined differences between religious folks I dubbed “Puritans” and those I identified as “modernist.” Among other things, Puritans tended to believe that Christianity requires capitalism–that in a sense, God was Adam Smith’s “Hidden Hand”– and that poverty was evidence of moral defect.

Modernity is also undermining economic fundamentalism. Rutger Bregman was the  historian who told the zillionaires at Davos a couple of years ago that they would be more effective at fighting poverty if they paid their taxes. Time had an interview with him, focused on his new book, “Humankind.” Bregman argues that the core beliefs about human nature that justify exploitative capitalism are simply wrong, and that we are coming to recognize that fact.

The old fashioned “realist” position has been to assume that civilization is only a thin veneer, and that the moment there’s a crisis we reveal our true selves, and it turns out that we’re all selfish animals.

Bregman disagrees, asserting that, over thousands of years, people have actually evolved to be far more collaborative and kind. He also points out a central lesson of the pandemic: as governments make lists of so-called vital professions, those lists don’t include hedge fund managers or captains of industry. It’s the (underpaid) garbage collectors and the teachers and the nurses who turn out to be people we can’t live without.

Our assumptions about human nature matter, because those assumptions guide the design of our institutions, and the design of our institutions encourages behavior that is consistent with the assumptions.

One of the big differences between religious and economic fundamentalists on the one hand, and modernists on the other, is the inability of the fundamentalists to tolerate ambiguity. As both Frum and Bregman make clear, however, modernity absolutely requires the ability to reject “either/or” “black/white” versions of reality.

As Bregman says,

I don’t live in that binary world. Sometimes markets work best, sometimes the state has the best solution. During the Enlightenment, there were brilliant thinkers who realized that, if you assume most people are naturally selfish and you construct the market around that, sometimes it can actually work for the common good. I just think that in many cases, it went too far. What many economists forget is that this view of humanity, the so-called “homo economicus,” can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Or, as Frum notes, “politics can change a culture and save it from itself”.

That’s the politics of change–the politics that Trump’s base hysterically rejects.


  1. Sheila,

    “Or, as Frum notes, “politics can change a culture and save it from itself”.

    That’s the politics of change–the politics that Trump’s base hysterically rejects.”

    Frum must be in another world. The change has already occurred. Trump’s base supports his vision of neo-Fascism.

    Politics has changed our culture. There’s been a FUNDAMENTAL change, not a TECHNICAL one.

    Why don’t we try REALITY for a beginner?

  2. Normally, change is growth, but for some these days, the change they truly seek is punitive to their perceived aggressors. That desire has been exploited by one political party and relatively ignored by the other. This is an excellent blog post today.

  3. In George Lakoff’s equally informative book, “Don’t Think of an Elephant”, he also defines the Republican meme machine along the lines of Mr. Frum.

    This is an excellent blog today, in that it shows how certain parts of the tribe can cooperate and coordinate in times of crisis, while others hunker down and wallow in themselves. In evolutionary terms, it was the cooperators and coordinators that developed the “society” that could survive predation, make large mammals extinct by hunting them to death and create a surplus of goods, thus creating the groundwork for economics. Very enlightening blog in this regard. For me, it ties up a couple of loose ends on the subject of how humans evolved socially.

    Republicans, it is clear, are driven by the money changers, the silk suit hedge fund guys who are worthless during a crisis…indeed, exacerbate those crises. Their pandering to the rural folks is almost laughable in its desperation. The irony missed by rural Republicans/science deniers/modernity haters is that when they jump up onto their $200,000 combine, they’re starting up a marvel of science and engineering. When they spread their fertilizers and pesticides, they’re using the results of hundreds or thousands of chemical engineers and scientists. God forbid that their microwave ovens should quit.

    The simple point is that Republican politics is a lie. Denying progress is utterly self-defeating. If humans didn’t pursue progress, we’d all be sitting around a smoking campfire in a cave snapping spearpoints….still……if we “progressed” that far.

  4. Another way to look at secularism is to say that it is not necessarily irreligious, but instead, it is
    a-religious. Religion is irrelevant to how a secularist views the world. In that context, our Constitution is secular because it does not use a religious crutch to justify anything.

  5. Sheila, Modernity, LOL!?

    This is so-called modernity is an attempt to encourage the susceptible to dwell on the good old days! Except, there were no good old days! Or, the good old days depends on your ethnic makeup, because what white folks consider the good old days, are actually hellish old days for Non-male and or those in the nonwhite ethnic groups.

    I like listening to David Frum, he’s a nice Canadian guy! Although, I don’t know how nice he was 20 years ago?

    He is right about culture, and American culture was based on slavery! It was based on white wealthy land owners being able to make all of the decisions, because they were the only ones that had rights! Slaves had no rights, the natives that were here in this country 1st had no rights, and women had no rights either. Intellectual white women of the day (any day, historical or futuristic) probably were able to accomplish more than any other group because they could convince those wealthy mates or associates to take a different Tack. And, I’m sure it was more than just love that allowed this to be the case.

    You can look through history to find Ethnic women of high influence in the Worlds political construct. (Cleopatra concerning Mark Antony or Jezebel concerning any man, LOL, or the legendary Queen of Sheba; Queen of Ethiopia and King Solomon.

    These women knew that they could have a seat at the table, they could change opinions and influence their male counterparts, they also knew, that abdicating that responsibility was not an option in certain instances. Because it could also make these women lose power by challenging the perceived status quo.

    White men or wealthy powerful men in their specific cultures feel/felt threatened by those who are not wealthy powerful men. The status quo means retaining power, anything other than that, is a threat!

    In the United States of America, White to wealthy men were trying to expand an agrarian society across the hemisphere, where those white wealthy landowners had all of the say. And the Renaissance never really changed that point of view. American Manifest Destiny, American Romanticism, American Exceptionalism were all ideals based on white power, and it never really went anywhere, It’s still here alive and kicking!

    And when you look at politics here now, and religion here and now, something that does not have its roots in the white European societal construct, or their caste system would be a better way of putting it, Has to be Caucanized, like somehow Jesus Christ was a Caucasian, or somehow, the Bible was a Caucasian/European book, look at the preference of the King James flawed transcribed version over even some of the original Septuagint editions! In actuality the Bible is an Asian(Asia minor) book, and Jesus Christ was a Jew! The apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus) and, the Ephesian congregation in Ephesus was Asian, Job was an Asian oriental man, there are many others but this is a small example. That’s very difficult to grasp and can only be acceptable if it’s all Caucanized! Pasta/spaghetti is just another microcosm example, it’s Chinese! Lobster (sea bugs), shrimp, ( bottom feeding and sewage eating and biblically dirty) and salmon were considered poor man’s food, until the wealthy decided it tasted good!

    So, the backdrop is fascinating if you like history, but this is nothing new, this, is hijacking a lifestyle ideal, a power construct in society, Caucasian or any other powerful society! And it leaves minorities in the dust while the ruling classes continue to pound those minorities into submission while using misogynistic tactics to marginalize women! Slavery is always been here and it will never leave, no matter what happens, it’s infused in the genes of mankind. If your of minority dissent or a woman, you are a threat to the reality that has been created as a nice cozy warm and secure nest to rule from! The good old days were never really, “good old days” but they were/are an example of status quo and the bastion of power it represents!

  6. Religion doesn’t require one to be irrational. It only seems that way because the loudest religious voices in the room profit immensely from the irrationality they push on their minions.

  7. Modernity is in the eye of the beholder. Look at the diseases that have been wiped out, millions around the globe (not much here) pulled out of poverty and our technological wizardry.

    I would also consider SOME of the values of the current younger generation, like appreciation of diversity and concern for the planet. Unfortunately, one of the values is not to vote.

  8. we ask questions why, islamist are so profound in defending its institutions. seems parallel with others,and why. culture,ive lived with American culture,mainly in the working class rhelm,and alone..i like looking in, and enjoying the conversations,but move on to other adventures. living on the road and enjoying the locals,,,per se.. some extreme views have wrecked my easy attitude to understanding why someone would shoot themselves in the so called foot, preaching division,when the devision will ultimately be the extinction of our known goverment,that gave them the right to choose,and then they helped it to die. the wake up will be matter the reasons,they always side with,themselves..talking with the very groups we are describing in trumps world of denial,this only seems to perpetuate the denial down the line..monkey see,monkey,er… facts can be used,but you have to wiggle them in,and have it between their thinking and,what they forgot to think about..mindless at times, but,ive seen and heard the groans and the light goes on and get a reaction, many believe the change is not good,and still,they only see themselves,for who they are,trapped in the beliefs that align them to the people,in their circle..there isnt a way out? mentor someone,and see the at a time. even dumb truckers who live close to the ground,see the good,and capitalize on the hand out to,them…but few of them,know how to approach the change. that hand out sometimes makes their world more manageable,and the stress level a AA meeting, have the time to kick one over the fence..the blog today discribes the issue, now we need to find the change.. the closer we get to november,the tougher it will be to see some outcomes..
    NPR had a piece about the decline in voter registration.
    slate,has a piece also,but its profound that it finds the federalists have been debation the issue of voters,, see
    “the right wing legal network is now openly pushing conspiracy theories..”may 27/20
    i dont paste well, so ill just leave ya at that..
    best wishes as i help repair trumps ignored highway system…

  9. “Frum, as most of you will recall, was the speechwriter who penned George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” accusation; whatever lingering concerns I may have had about his judgment, however, have waned, thanks to his work as a “Never Trumper.”” – Sheila Kennedy

    First, as a veteran of the 2003 Iraq Invasion (chaplain in USAF ANG), I cannot (yet anyway…) bring myself to forgive or forget those (Frum, et al) who intentionally created (see “Project for the New American Century (PNAC),” a neoconservative think tank based in Washington, D.C. that focused on United States foreign policy) and rolled out wars we are STILL fighting. UNNECESSARY WARS, wars of CHOICE, that continues to kill (mostly civilians) in that part of the world to this day! It was/is ALL based upon lies (including the convenient labeling with “Axis of evil”) and manipulated and unsubstantiated “intelligence.”

    Tell me, Sheila, how is the death of hundreds of thousands of people (up to 1 million in Iraq alone), millions upon millions displaced and the destruction of a country justified by Herr Frum these days??? Should we even bother with the ongoing price tag of this “Mission Accomplished” bullshit??? He (along with many others) should be in prison for his complicity in helping to create/fabricate a false picture and narrative that is STILL causing mayhem in that part of the world as we speak today!

    “American Manifest Destiny, American Romanticism, American Exceptionalism were all ideals based on white power, and it never really went anywhere, It’s still here alive and kicking!” -john sorg

    Second, as stated above, America’s “role” in world history is a long thought out narrative that began with the very first white folk who stepped upon Native soil in the 17th century. “God” presumably brought them here to this part of the planet to be blessed, multiply and rule. And rule we have(!) from generation to generation as “Manifest Destiny” has taken on new and improved vigor and passion through the years up to the present day.

    The “Military Industrial Complex” (Eisenhower’s way of explaining that pervasive integration and ideological “marriage” of Corporate, Technological, Educational, Religious, Economic and Military powers in America’s DNA) has surpassed all previous historical powers in global DOMINATION. The USA operates 500 military bases on foreign sites across EVERY continent (80 countries) except for Antarctic (see › special-report › 2020/03/09). We operate 0ver 4,500 bases in our own country alone! Julius Caesar (or ANY historical leader) could NEVER have imagined that kind of domination and power. Yes, Obama was spot on when he infamously spouted early in his career about our country’s LOVE affair with our guns and bibles!!!

    “Religion doesn’t require one to be irrational. It only seems that way because the loudest religious voices in the room profit immensely from the irrationality they push on their minions.” – Peggy Hannon

    Last, but not least, religion has a long and winding road (sorry Sir Paul) history going back to cave “art.” Humanity invented religion as a way to understand, integrate and come to terms with our “human struggle” to survive this crazy existence (yes, I know, no one REALLY “survives,” the daily obit page confirms that common fact, but you know what I mean I hope).

    To Peggy’s point, religion in America is as much a “business” as any other. I was personally instructed in religion’s “role” in one of America’s mainline church (Lutheran, ELCA) and in 2 branches of the military (Navy and USAF). In a nut shell, religion in these capacities is there to serve the institutions and nothing else! Period. A guy by the name of George Washington saw and understood the power of these two institutions and their “roles” with and for one another in both the so-called secular (aka “profane”) world and in the war machine (The “Creator’s” favorite way to do “His” will in history).

    I was taught in both institutions the language and “theology” that presumably gives rationale and purpose (eternal?) to their existence! Let me just say, it is literally crazy (beyond “belief”) how these institutions justify their nuanced/clever “logic.” Again, it cannot be overstated, it is about POWER and CONTROL and KEEPING it that way! America has perfected this interwoven fabric of power and control in wrapping the American flag around our emotional (largely) belief systems of spirituality and religion.

    Great blog today Sheila. Thanks.


  10. Great post and enlightened comments.

    Sheila writes, “Support for Trump is how people who are profoundly threatened by modernity say, “Stop the world, I want to get off.”

    Based on my experience, the closed-minded ruralites have moved way past this stage into what is a more accurate statement, “Stop the world, I want YOU to get off.”

    When I hear Republican politicians and their supporters telling others that education has been destroyed the liberal mindset, so they want to destroy education, it speaks volumes to anyone listening.

    As the less educated Trumpians would decry, “Libtards are the problem.”

    What I am watching, which is a great example, is Trump’s war with Twitter for fact-checking his tweet about mail-in ballot fraud.

    Trump has the entire federal government at his disposal to prove there is fraud associated with mail-in ballot voting, but he’s not going that route. Most people would see that as a clue or red flag that “the mountains of evidence” proving fraud don’t exist.

    If one of Sheila’s students wrote a statement like that, she would ask the student to produce supporting references or documentation. Not in Trump’s world.

    They see this as a conspiracy against Trump and conservatives — “Twitter is censoring the POTUS during an election year because they don’t want him to win.”

    Talk about a “paradigm shift.” LOL

  11. Some look at “progress” as a choice. Oh, look, there’s a new path, should we take it or stay on the one we are on? I don’t remember choosing any of the paths that I’ve followed the crowd to on my journey through life.

    No, the truth is that innovation and forces beyond individual human control build a continuously changing human environment and we all adapt to it.

    Authoritarians don’ wanna. They would lose power that they believe what they were born with and into entitles them to. They have been sold on the belief that progress is how libtards steal power and give it to government.

    Of course in the end the human race will adapt to the current reality that we largely created – this many people sucking up earth’s natural resources way faster that nature can keep up with.

    Everything not sustainable is temporary and that fact scares the authoritarian entitled just like death does all of us and fear motivated people are irrational people.

  12. What you are calling “modernity” is perhaps more accurately post-modernity.

  13. Bradford @ 9:54 am, I agree 100% with your comments on David Frum and his Axis of Evil. I marvel how somehow a despicable person like Frum now can be rehabilitated simply because he is now Anti-Trump. Frum is a speech writer, an author and now he can cash in on his new book. I guess it goes back to the old saying, “The Enemy of My Enemy, is My Friend”.

    I checked WIKI on David Frum, so many dis-qualifiers in his background, such as being a Neo-Con. However, in the days of Anti-Trump anyone will do.

    Bradford, I was a combat infantrymen in Vietnam (Draftee Type). Back during Bush the Younger’s propaganda campaign to start Gulf War 2, I was voice against Gulf War 2. It had the smell and taste of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, an event that certainly did not justify a full scale war in Vietnam.

    The key point was the Imperialist-War Machine was looking for any excuse to start and/or escalate in both Vietnam and in Iraq.

    You are also correct to point out the millions of dead, wounded, missing, and refugees as a result of Gulf War 2, that Frum and his Neo-Con fellow travelers played a part in.

    The Trumpet has somehow made Bush the Younger look “good”.

    I know some the old GOP types, and Neo-Cons are upset with The Trumpet for one reason or another and now just because they are Anti-Trump we are expected to respect their opinions?? Sorry once a poisonous frog, always a poisonous frog.

  14. A competent speech writer chooses words that most effectively convey the thoughts of whoever she is writing for. They don’t set policy.

  15. The War on Modernity, IMHO has it’s roots in religion. Capitalism will transform itself. Back in the 1960’s we had typewriters, typists, filing clerks for paper files rotary phones, etc. Technology advanced and capitalism responded. The change has been enormous, even the agricultural revolution from hunter gathering to farming took hundred of years to spread across the earth.

    One piece of culture that cannot change is the Abrahamic Religions. They all rely on someone that “hears” the Supreme Being, tells us or writes down what they “hear”. The expectation is that you follow it. Now we have the various interpretations of what is written down and the cherry picking to justify a certain belief. You do have to believe in the supernatural.

    Oddly enough even though some of the messages are spiritual in nature, humans invented “holy places” and religious relics, bones, true crosses, holy grail etc.

    We have some religious persuasions that have come to grips with sun centered solar system, the Big Bang, or Darwin.

    We still have a substantial minority that do not believe in the Big Bang or Darwin. Chilling enough of these people like Pastor Pence have risen because of their rejection of Science. Not all Science is rejected by the Pastor Pence types, cell phones, Twitter, and ICBM’s that can deliver a nuclear weapon are accepted.

  16. In the UU faith we often draw parallels between the belief in predestination and the belief that people who are poor were predestined for poverty due to their “moral” character, bad choices etc. We UU’s do not believe such things. We are not threatened by modernity. In fact, we embrace it.

    Karen Armstrong a British theologian or perhaps a religious historian is of the belief that it is compassion that has helped the human race survive, not competetion. This belief is a rebuttal to Ayn Rand’s objectivism in which she asserts that selfishness is the highest virtue. I wonder what she would say about the current POTUS?

    As a retired nurse, I can tell you that we nurses know the importance of collaboration in public health and all areas of health care. As a psychiatric nurse, I had many challenges from difficult people as I worked toward practicing compassion. It is important we share information so that we can better serve our patients. This pandemic has exposed the importance of global collaboration and the need to create effective, competent public health infrastructure for all countries. It has also awakened many to the simple truth that what happens in one country, be it first world or 3rd world, has a global impact. The Ebola epidemic was contained largely because of global collaboration. Fortunately, it is not an air born pathogen.

    The current POTUS with his selfish “America First” attitude has no understanding of our global interdependence. He does not understand that none of will benefit from isolationist policies practiced in the past.

    China is doing little to nothing according to the media to discontinue “wet markets.” I can only hope that they decide to do so. We don’t need “exotic” food.

    I wish all the money countries spend on their military could be redirected toward public health infrastructure and promoting a healthy earth.( An unhealthy earth creates human illness.) In a world that has grown so small and so existentially threatened by global warming, we must redirect our financial strategies toward saving the earth and the human race. That would be a profound practice of compassion and wisdom.

  17. Chicken or egg? Uneducated fools or their religions? Never mind who or what is to blame. Suffice it to say that magical thinking and belief in fairy tales is increasingly incompatible with the survival of the human race. People ill equipped for critical thinking by circumstance of birth or the hobbling of the human mind through religion will not transition easily to modernity, post-modernity, or the post-post-modernity we see coming in the age of human cooperation as a necessity for the survival of the species.

  18. Sheila: an excellent analysis, but I think for many Trumpsters it’s as simple as this: they want to deny Barak Obama a legacy. They hate Barak Obama because: 1. he is black, intelligent, successful and popular, everything they aren’t; 2. they resent Michelle Obama because she is black, intelligent, successful and popular, everything they aren’t; 3. they resent educated people, especially women, because they aren’t educated, and they think educated women, like Hillary Clinton, are “uppity”; 4. they resent migrants, because so many of them are starting successful businesses, doing well by working hard, and their kids are getting good educations, none of which apply to them; 5. they fear change because they aren’t prepared to handle it, so they yearn for the days when you could graduate high school (or not), get a union-protected factory job making cars or something, and live and retire comfortably. Or, maybe you could work in a coal mine, which requires no education. Those days are gone. This is why Trumpsters are, for the most part, non college educated white people. And, because they are scared and unprepared to handle a future that doesn’t involve factory or coal mine work, they’ll defend Trump no matter how many lies he tells, no matter how many people die, and no matter how bad the economy gets. Because Trump is trying to bluff his way out of the COVID-19 crisis and won’t wear a mask to prove his machismo, they don’t either. The CDC says 80% of COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic, and they are the ones spreading the infection. You don’t have to be an epidemiologist to figure out what the future holds.

    Trump, who only wanted the presidency for what he perceived as the glory and adulation, has no idea what to do when a crisis erupts, like the pandemic. He has no empathy, and the biggest victim of COVID-19, in his view, is him because he can’t lie any more about creating the most-successful economy in history. He has no real agenda, other than silencing critics, demanding praise, strutting around appearing important, trying to deny Barak Obama a legacy and avoiding being held accountable. He cannot handle criticism, and brought with him the only real skills he had: bullying people, lying, deflecting when he gets caught, performing for the cameras and so forth. The latest news on the pandemic is that he is getting Republican governors to either lie or downplay the number of new cases and deaths, while exaggerating the number of positive tests, many of which are the antibody tests declared by the CDC as being worthless, so as to make it appear that the actual rate of transmission of the virus is less than it really is.

    The big story about Trump is that people have died and more are going to die because of him, and the only thing we can do about it is VOTE, in November. Your survival may depend on it.

  19. Bradford Nelson Bray,

    Thanks for understanding my lingual jambalaya, LOL! I like reading Tocqueville, because he understood what was going on, even though he was bamboozled by some of it! Rudyard Kipling was another one who was bamboozled not by others, but himself and his perceived superiority over the sullen savages out there that were conquered by American might.

    And as you brought out it never really went anywhere, and it left its indelible mark on the Middle East over the past 20/30 or so years.

    If it doesn’t go the way of the ruling class, then the ruling class would like it to go the way of the dodo bird. And, you can see examples of this every single day on Twitter, on fake news conferences, and on the mentality of policing minority communities all the while making life of those minorities disposable.

    After all, doesn’t someone have to be on the bottom?

  20. It is ironic, if true, that Trump does not want to wear a mask because he fears he will be perceived as a wuss. Though their were some powerful candidates running for president in the Democratic Primary, members of it have been talking punches for forty years without ever coalescing around messages with their own punch. I see opportunities for succinct messages all the the time. The latest was your use, Sheila, of Trumpublicans in yesterday’s blog. It rolls off the tongue much better than my own which is Retrumplicans. These words, and the redefining of terms have been mainstays of the Republican and current Retrumplican party for a long time. The Democratic Party and those who represent it can punch much harder without “going low.” We do not need primitive male messages about physical fights. We need words and phrases that communicate both implicitly and overtly in a powerful way to remind the bully party and it’s subjects just how fearful, weak and unprincipled they really are.

  21. Re: uneducated and working class whites being Trump supporters.

    Let’s not assume correlation represents causation. My white step-father, now in his 70s, lost his father, was abandoned by his mother, was abused by an adopted parent, and never received a decent education. He made the most of his opportunities and was a “working man” for all of his career. To hear him speak you might think him a rube, but he is anything but. He is a wise, intelligent man who despises Donald Trump and the Republicans for all the right reasons. Please do not dismiss him or his cohort as being incapable of modernity or morality.

  22. I don’t want to be contrary, but I hate “paradigm shift”. I had to read Kuhn twice in college. The term is way overused. “Anti-modernity” and anti-intellectualism are ancient. American culture has always been ambivalent about change. We love to believe we are the great innovators and inventors, but change is really scary. There have always been beliefs in the lone cowboy and the “common folk” knowing better. Appeals to “the old ways” can be seen throughout history.

    As for Bregman’s critique, I couldn’t agree more. I have long tried to counter those who try to be “scientific” and say, “man’s closest relative is the chimp and they are violent”. Well, we are also closely related to the bonobo and they aren’t. In fact, one explanation put forth for the difference is that chimps had to fight off other species while the habitat of bonobos is more protected. If that is the case, we should imitate the bonobos because our only real predators are each other.

    Trump’s followers love to feel better by seeing the educated elite being trashed. If they feel insecure in their lives and their futures, then at least they are better than Blacks, Latinos, Jews, Muslims, “foreigners”, and pointy headed intellectuals. Trump insults these groups and they cheer. The religious right likes him because he will tilt the courts towards giving their view of Christianity the dominant position in America. Then there is the money.

    One thing about downsizing and cleaning out old papers are finding old clippings. John McCarron had a column in The Chicago Tribune. I have a clipping of his from some time after the Iraq invasion, part 2. He posited that the real purpose was to reelect “W” because —

    “….one thing this president and his inner circle really do care about – repealing the New Deal. Not the New Deal per se, but America’s grand experiment in economic justice whose origins reach back to the Progressive Era. Ever since the first robber barons were slapped with graduated federal taxes on income, capital gains and inherited estates, the rich have had a score to settle Now is their moment to undo this great unfairness, this confiscation made worse by the ever expanding assortment of social programs to give their money to the undeserving poor.”

    While I doubt that Trump’s interests go beyond his ego, I do believe that this describes his moneyed backers. Four more years of Trump and the Progressive/New Deal era can be reversed and the government debilitated. Thus, the rich can rule as the hereditary aristocracy that they believe is their right, with no unions or government to get in their way.

  23. “A competent speech writer chooses words that most effectively convey the thoughts of whoever she is writing for. They don’t set policy.” – Pete

    Of course they don’t “set policy!” However, that’s like saying Joseph Goebbels did not “set policy” for Hitler!

    Please, these “speech writers” are cunning in their clever ways of getting across “policy” (aka propaganda) to the masses that is digestible or, again, as Goebbels (presumably but not substantiated) stated, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

    That quote is actually based upon Hitler’s book in prison, Mein Kampf, and his conviction that Jewish “lies” caused Germany’s great fall in WW1. But I digress.

    Thus, “speech writers” are TOTALLY complicit in the crimes against humanity for which they write to expand and deliver through the “power of the word.” In Bush’s case, most know he couldn’t write an intelligent sentence much less deliver one. He totally relied upon expert communicators and writers (hence, Frum) to pronounce and spread his “policy.”

  24. According to Wikipedia, Frum still sits on the Board of the Republican Jewish Coalition. And

    we’re going to use him for political guidance as he takes us over another “political cliff.”

    No wonder “we’re up Shit’s creek without a paddle.”

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