America’s Placebo President

That is my new piece in The American Interest, here is one excerpt:

When I ponder why the American electorate turned to such an unorthodox President as Donald Trump, I think first of the idea of control.

…To date, the commentary on Trump has focused on perceived losses of control, such as 9/11 or diminishing global influence on the foreign policy side, and the loss of manufacturing jobs, real wage stagnation, and rising use of opioids on the domestic side. Those events all did raise the background level of anxiety, but the bigger picture is that the rise of Trump actually coincides with America righting its ship, at least to some extent, especially in economic matters.


In other words, Trump’s main policy is his rhetoric, and his very act of promising to restore control to the “deplorables” is a significant signal of control itself. In essence, Trump supporters are diagnosing America’s problems in terms of deficient discourse in the public sphere, as if they had read George Orwell and the Frankfurt School philosophers on the general topic but are drawing more on alt-right inspirations for the specifics of their critique.


I was struck when one of my friends (a Trump supporter) described Trump’s policy positions as not so different from Dwight Eisenhower’s. At first the assertion shocked me, because I typically think of Trump as so erratic and Eisenhower as so extremely reliable. On reflection it occurred to me that the world Trump actually wants does bear a lot of resemblance to what Eisenhower loved and fought for, even if most Americans have moved on and accepted or embraced most of the social changes the nation has accumulated since that time. Consider how much the world of Eisenhower looks like the dream of Trump: There were hardly any Muslims living in America under Eisenhower’s presidency, he deported significant numbers of illegal Mexican immigrants, tariffs (but also taxes) were higher, and there was no NAFTA or TPP.

We are used to conceptualizing political positions in relative terms, in part to help us judge people’s social status. So if someone (say Ike) was a “moderate” back in the 1950s, we instinctively think of that person as in some way similar to today’s moderates. But an alternative perspective, bracing at times, is to simply to compare positions in absolute terms, and that makes a lot of Trump’s views resolutely ordinary in the broader sweep of American history.

Do read the whole thing.


Read this TC post and comment, now!

There's a JC (Christ) theme with Trump, it's true, the idea of the "heroic sacrifice", and I suppose a "Back to the 50s" theme, though equating the solid Eisenhower--a German surnamed general who did his best work in the Philippines for MacArthur in the pre-WWII days, and MacArthur, arrogant as he was, gave Eisehower little or no credit--is a bit of a stretch.

I think the best way to describe Trump's victory however is a combination of 'change for change's sake' (recall Churchill lost after WWII), the deplorables / Baby Boomer backlash, and let's face it: diehard Republicans who want a tax break (many of my rich friends --I'm in the 1% via my family wealth--voted for Trump).

Ike is considered a "moderate" in large part based on his mild personality and reputation for getting along well with others. His policy positions also contribute to that reputation, though they IMO play a secondary role. Politics isn't about policy as TC says.

The sharp turn to the left by the Democrats embracing Marxist socialism and their affinity to communist groups and overseas funding didn't enter your mind as a possible reason. The fact that our government has been governing against our will and spending $1.2 trillion more every year than they take in didn't occur to you as a reason. Or the necessity for our government to lie to us about our economy and jobs because the truth is we have been in a recession for 8 years. Or that or IRS turned against us and flaunted their anti-constitutional acts in front of congressional committees. Or that Obama decimated our military defense. Or that Obama replaced common sense with men in bathrooms with girls... None of these things occurred to you as a possible reason? Or that Hillary had committed so many felonies in her pay to play schemes that she broke all records or that she allowed ALL of our state secretes to be hacked by the Russians and Chinese. Hell even North Korea knew more about what our government was doing than the American people did. The fact that the Obama administration may well have been the most dishonest and corrupt administration in our history didn't seem important? Never mind the invasion of 10 million legal and illegal "immigrants" that the tax payer has to support for generations.

It is always tough, reading comments, to guess what is a common belief in your opposition. But FWIW, I do fear that too many convinced themselves of this "Democrats embracing Marxist socialism" b.s.and that is the reason they cannot now be reached with reason. Anything rational is rejected because it does not conform to the group hysteria.

Black and white thinking is highly conducive to getting brainwashed.

If you perceive yourself as relawtively right wing and can only see communism in those who are 1% to the left of you ...

You are insane with that comment. Spittle-flecked rant.

Much of the appeal of Trump is as an antidote to the Orwellian political correctness that keeps America from thinking its way to moderate, pragmatic Eisenhowerian policies about immigration, crime, and so forth.

Correct. My guess is that he is a backlash again the illiberal left.

Many are sick and tired of their livelyhood being constantly threatened by the left. The need to continually self censor at work or face immediate dismissal is quite taxing to many.

Maybe we will be able to push back the reign of terror, but it is quite difficult. They control academia, which we should be relying upon more and more as the world becomes more complex. They control the media, through their control of academia, which is ever present in our connected world. It is going to be a very uphill battle. They have played a very smart game.

I'm curious what is it that you feel you can't say anymore without being immediately dismissed from your job? What is being censored exactly?

Well, at Middlebury College you evidently can't say, "I'm Charles Murray ..."

And yet, Charles Murray has yet to be fired for saying his name.

Murray hasn't been fired because he's a member of the AEI with all the right pedigree. If a regular Joe went into work and quoted The Bell Curve word for word they would be fired on the spot. Murray isn't safe because of his content, he's safe because he's in a different class then the plebs and they have different rights.

Other then getting shouted at by college students, Murray hasn't had to sacrifice too much. He didn't lose his career. He didn't lose his livelihood. He didn't miss a mortgage payment. He didn't become persona non-grata amongst his own personal social circle. Your average Joe faces far worse. That person is on the HR train to poorsville.

Jason Richwine got dumped from a conservative think tank over his Harvard dissertation that was approved by Christopher Jencks.

"...can't say I'm Charles Murray."

LOL! Exactly!

I doubt you are curious at all. If you work in the US (perhaps any g7 country), in any large firm, you know what I am talking about. The various courses are mandatory.

The legal line is quite narrow. A person at work has changed their life by losing weight? Do not comment least someone over hear and be offended. Do your reports consist of only males, if so do not refer to them as guys lest someone be offended. Also, how is it possible that your team is only composed of males, here are two courses that will be plunked down on your calendar. Do not get passionate at work, lose your cool, and swear. You can be reported. Don't even get me started about talking about politics, if you are on the wrong side of the line HR will mediate a session where you are educated.

It's quite taxing to many. But hey, it's all just "grabbing ****", right?

Strange, I work at a Siliocn Valley company in the Bay Area and all we do is talk about politics at work. I'm a liberal and my boss is an Orange County Republican, so it's not the bubble that's keeping me out of the clutches of HR.

I also work in silicon valley and I hear plenty of swearing. I've complemented someone on getting in shape or looking sharp, no HR crack down. I have a woman and 4 men that report to me and refer to the group as guys every day at out stand up meeting.

Are you sure stuff like that gets people fired? seems dubious.


You have to remember, most of the conservatives commenting here are in their 60's or older, so haven't really worked in the modern workplace.

They're just regurgitating what they hear on Fox News or read in Breitbart

Lol@ at the responses. Queue the iraq war minister of information.

All of the top firms in the valley work this way. Sorry. It's possible that front line employees don't see it.

Poor things, they can't be themselves at work. 50 years old teenagers...

One can not demand more from the common man than one demands from the president. If the president does it, it is legal/moral.

The world is actually more simple than ever in physical terms. The boobs that inhabit it can understand most of it without resorting to the creation of imaginary spirits to explain physical phenomenon. The complexity arises from humankind's never ending effort to complicate abstractions for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many.

"The boobs"
Definitely harassing

Well, the incident at Middlebury was pretty bad, although occurring after Trump became president, but otherwise while largely deplorable, it seems that calling the wave of PCism "a reign of terror" seems a bit overdone. After all, one has never been able just to say anything that they like at work, unless one has a tenured academic position (and even not then). So in most jobs one has rarely been able to get away with going up to their boss and saying, "I think you are incompetent and doing everything wrong and should be fired."

What's your standard for a "reign of terror"? Spitting on conference attendees (Yale) isn't it, I guess. Threats of physical violence against reporters (Missouri), no big deal. Using surveillance cameras to locate and punish Trump supporters (Emory), still not there. Firebombs (Berkeley) don't qualify. Sending professors to the emergency room (Middlebury), still not a problem. I guess there have to be actual deaths on campuses, is that it? Or maybe it has to be ~40,000 deaths, like the original? Please, set a bar.

Ask Barkley's neighbors, his students, and the people who have office space near his about his day-to-day conduct, and you'll get a clue as to what the answer is. Here's a little tidbit from RateMyProfessors:

"A swift kick to the face would be ten times more pleasurable than this guy. He is too smart to be teaching at a college and comes off rude and incomprehensible... perhaps he would leave to pursue something else? One could only hope and pray. "


I do not approve of any of what went on at any of the places you mention, and Middlebury was especially bad, involving actual injury to somebody. However, in my book a reign of terror involves people dying, as in the guillotinings that accompanied the original Reign of Terror in France.

Are Deco,

Sigh, getting personal again are we, Mr. Effectively Anonymous? About 1 in 20 of my students have historically hated my guts totally. Most of the rest of them like me but many find me grading too hard. Rate My Professor is an interesting example of small sample bias. I have taught well over 100 courses, with all of them evaluated by all the students in them. My overall rating on RMP is lower than the overall rating I have ever gotten in any course I have ever taught. But then those who really hate my guts have a greater tendency to show up on RMP than those who are generally pleased if not wildly so.

As for my colleagues and neighbors, well, maybe they are too terrified that I shall start a reign of terror against them if they criticize me, but so far they have ball been putting on a pretty good act of getting along with me pretty well without any apparent anger or fights.Sorry to disillusion you on that one, AD. I know some of you here like to rant that everybody at JMU wishes I were gone (and I am off in Italy this semester as it is), but in fact they keep giving me awards and other stuff there that would seem to indicate otherwise. Too bad.

Sigh, getting personal again are we

When you look in the mirror, just who do you see?


You deserve credit for commenting under your real name. I admire that.

I don't object to reserving the term "Reign of Terror" for situations where people are actually killed, as long as we reserve "fascism" for states where regular elections do not occur and people are sent to death camps based on their religion or political views, and reserve "the Resistance" for movements that resist fascism as so defined. That isn't quite the standard for rhetoric observed at American universities at present.

Ohmigosh, Art Deco! You have revealed the truth! I just looked in the mirror, and I saw....a horrible terrorist reigner! I shall never comment on Marginal Revolution or teach a class or even dare to breathe ever ever ever again! Oh, thank you so much, you terribly wise commentator!

I was called "the face of white supremacy" for supporting an anti-trump jew's right to speech at a public university.

So America is supposedly being held back because of "political correctness" imposed by illiberal leftists? So you bet your future on a man who thinks blaming immigrants, implementing an anti-trade (or anti-imports if you prefer) policy, threatens to abandon its NATO partners, twits recklessly constantly, displays embarrassing lack of judgment in a number of decisions, calls the press "enemies of the people", mocks disable people on camera and bluntly lies about that fact?

Political correctness?


He is not intimidated by PC bullies - he is our gladiator.

Trump is not the antidote to the PC/SJW crowd. He's their Viagra.


Trump and the PC/SJW social media sphere are in a symbiotic relationship. Trump lives on attention and outrage, and so do they. Each one feeds off the other.

This comic is a perfect illustration of the problem.

No, I think we're winning for real:

Read "The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities" by by Robert David Johnson and Stuart Taylor.

And then ponder whether a President Clinton would have turned this inquisition into a full-blown Holy War.

And then consider why Trump won the election: not because voters don't realize he is deeply flawed, but because the alternative was so awful.

Or, just say "Trump wants to roll the USA back to Eisenhower," and pretend you're saying something significant? For there's no evidence at all that Trump is (or ever has been) a social conservative. Or (despite having some disreputable supporters- don't all politicians?) that in is heart of hearts he'd really like to re-install Jim Crow.

Perhaps instead of offering crude caricatures of Trump voters ("back to 1955!") start by assuming that voters just might have had some entirely rational reasons for choosing Trump over the alternative?

Sure. A majority of his supporters think the stock market fell during Obma's presidency and that the unemployment rate rose. These people may be "rational," but a lot of them are massively ignorant. Sorry, no respect for those who believe this sort of nonsense, none.


Replace this:
"Sure. A majority of his supporters think the stock market fell during Obma’s presidency and that the unemployment rate rose. These people may be “rational,” but a lot of them are massively ignorant. Sorry, no respect for those who believe this sort of nonsense, none."

with this:

Sure. A majority of Hillary's supporters think the Russians actually altered votes to give the election to Trump. These people may be “rational,” but a lot of them are massively ignorant. Sorry, no respect for those who believe this sort of nonsense, none.

and then I will agree with you.

I voted for Trump because both political parties failed and they all need to be replaced, starting with the president. I don't care if you don't respect me, I only care if I win. I won, you lost.

Meanwhile, some out there care for the country...

Sorry, Lanigram, but it is not a fact that a majority of Hillary supporters believe that Russians altered votes. Very few do. Where did you come up with this baloney?

However, it is a fact that what I said about a majority of Trump voters is true. This is easily checked out. Go do it, please, before you make yourself look like a total blithering idiot any further.

Ordinary people have no idea about where the stock market is. (Not) Sorry, no respect for your kind of smug disingenuousness.

Don't lead with "Clinton would have turned this inquisition into a full-blown Holy War" only to finish with "start by assuming that voters just might have had some entirely rational reasons for choosing Trump."

"the Orwellian political correctness that keeps America from thinking its way to moderate, pragmatic Eisenhowerian policies"

This is an interesting theory, that it was other people's politics that kept me from being moderate and pragmatic. But if true, why is no one, Trump or on his sphere, asking me to moderate and pragmatic now?

Clearly reading comprehension isn't your thing. Steve's point was that moderate, common sense policies that made America the envy of the world in the 1950s are now considered beyond the pale thanks to mentally warped people like yourselves who will countenance any level of violence necessary to prevent those ideas from circulating.

Gosh, is this right? Steve, are you in the Sam Haysom camp? Should all of us Trumpians be?

I find your perspective that it is Orwellian to speak critically of those who say things I believe to be an offensive perspective.

And here I am using my free speech as a free individual saying so. What's Orwellian about that?

When the USA is already the most incarcerated country on the planet, what do you suggest for "moderation"? Yes, I do believe you support policies that would lead to an even further extreme when already in about the most extreme situation possible.

With regard to immigration, that's a different story. But keep in mind that 1/4 of the most highly specialized research force in the US is from abroad, the highest share of any country in the world, and a major explanatory factor behind the technological prowess of the USA.


Nobody cares about immigrant doctors, scientists, and brilliant engineers. Equating that with the exportation of an uneducated underclass to our nation is either dishonest or stupid or maybe both.

The education and social welfare systems of CA were overwhelmed by that process. I don't even include cosideration of all the taxes evaded supporting the massive NGO sector that provides services to that same population. CA used to have free community colleges and a nearly free public university. Not anymore. I was a lucky graduate of both. The amnesty bill in the 80s killed both.

After excluding all of the most technologically advanced and most proftiable US corporations which pay the most taxes (except for Apple, the bastards), you might be right. Oh all all the best univerisities where all the top research happens - they might care too.

So basically if you exclude all the most relevant, profitable and important people and sectors, then you're pretty much on the money.

Another point: Incoming experts to not take jobs from prospective working class meat packers.

You misunderstood my post. Most Americans are ok with professional and highly skilled immigrants. They object to mass illegal immigration of low-skill, poorly educated, and very needy immigrants. They perceive those immigrants to be very expensive, and indeed they are.

Ahhh.. correct, I totally misunderstood you. I thought by "not care about" you meant like "F those guys, get out of the country", whereas your point was "that's not who people are concerned about".

California doing pretty well right now, Lanigram. Wow you are a totally ignorant fool, aren't you? But then so are an awful lot of Trump supporters. it really is pretty nauseating, this spectacle of you clowns so full of yourselves with your lies and falsehoods.

California is doing well? By what metric?

You are a very rude person. Perhaps you are a deplorable.

I can't wait to read your CA facts. I gave you two regarding free community colleges and cheap UC and CSU fees.

And much of the above explanation applies to the Jihadists as well, but possibly going farther back in time.


"Moderate" Muslims are essentially just Protestant Muslims.

Tell that to Oliver Cromwell.

What year do you think this is? Also if you were going to have to pick a person from the Puritan movement to govern you at that time Cromwell was one of the moderates.

"...Cromwell was one of the moderates..."

He killed a lot of Catholics in Ireland. The unintended consequences off that slaughter continue to this day.

I don't think you can lay at Cromwell's feet the blame for Peter Sutherland, Mary Robinson, Fintan O'Toole, or Slane Girl.

Tyler, you talk about how the anti immigrant push is about status and control instead of racism. I wonder... what do you think is the difference? Because I have a lot of problems seeing how wanting people that look like you having higher status and more control over the political process is really anything other than a good definition of racism.

Sympathetic as I am to this point, I think there is a difference. In their mind, there's no doubt a difference between allowing state discrimination against black Americans who act property, the Colin Powells etc (so not your grandfather's US racism) and non-Americans who want to be part of the club. Everyone agrees that African-Americans are Americans, and as long as the act properly (BTW, not my views here), I don't think the T-people by and large have anything against them or want to deprive them of any of their American rights. On the other hand, foreigners have no such rights, we have no duty to treat them any way whatsoever. If we decide as a country not to admit more of group X into the club, then we can do it and as non-Americans they have no recourse. I think this is a philosophically consistent position (and not mine, again).

"you talk about how the anti immigrant push is about status and control instead of racism. I wonder… what do you think is the difference?"

It's clear enough from the piece that there isn't one. TC is re-packaging lefty conventional wisdom that Trump supporters are all racists into something that sounds vaguely "behavioral" and socially scientific.


The thing is, progtrash make a big to do about ethnic antagonisms (including a sense of ethnic differences without antagonisms) while giving themselves a pass for all the aversions they themselves harbor, some of them quite poisonous, so the discourse about 'racism' is 80% humbug even when they're not tarting it up.

Art Deco,

The "progtrash" are especially cruel to the losers of globalism, automation, and the dominance of the elite, unless, of course, the losers kowtow to the elite and accept the progressive narrative that they deserve to be the rulers. The elite backlash against the underclass looks like the snarl of a big cat protecting it's kill. The belief in "progressivism", unjustified by facts on the ground, appears to be a religion that justifies their position on top - the new pharoes. They would believe that now wouldn't they?

If I were king, I would sentence the elite to read John Gray's "Straw Dogs" and reread Taleb's "The Black Swan".

Something unexpected is going to happen.

Well, if they lost jobs due to adjust to more competition, there is no special need for them to approve of the trade deals at the same time as accepting what supports are most supported by the same people who supported the access to opportunities that come with trade.

Troll Me,

Say what? Your comment is a mess.

I disagree with blaming the people who want to compete internationally, who tend to be the same people who support what help exists for those who were not well positioned to compete when things opened up.


Your second comment seems to be unrelated to my post regarding the cruelty of the elite toward their fellow citizens left behind by globalization and automation.

I haven't got a clue what you mean by "elite".

But you seem rather positioned to the side of the spectrum which proposes less, not more, support for those left behind. With the exception of holding everyone behind so they can enjoy a last dash in the old economy.

That's a strange definition you've got there. Racism implies some sort of animus; preferring to live in a country populated and governed largely by members of one's own ethnic group does not.

Certainly the two positions can co-exist for many people. But preferring the one thing does not mean hating the other or wishing to contrain the opporutnities of those other people who are here.

At the same time, there is the possbility in such logic to prefer rule by someone who looks like you but is a horrific tyrant, as compared to some system which enables much democratic participation among the general population where those different-looking people are also encouraging your participation in political processes geared towards outcomes which are at least pretty OK for most people.

Do you think Tyler has ever had a black neighbor or non-white boss? By this truly reprehensible metric Tyler is an appalling racist. And the fact is that Tyler is an appalling racist but not towards minorities. His racism is towards the WWC.


I suspect Tyler was bullied without mercy and this is the source of his hatred of "brutes". However, we shouldn't be too hard on him. We are driven by neurological machinery, honed by tens of millions of years of selection pressure, to seek dominance over other males to improve access to females and spread our DNA. The machinery is indifferent to our cognitive hallucinations, themselves the byproduct of the same machinery.

Tyler is swinging wildly at the "brutes" and he doesn't even know why,

Feel pity for him, unless he has a harem at GMU, in which case he's the alpha male lion in a very large pride.

Are you saying we should give into the "machinery", that it's hopeless to fight against it? If so, what do you make of the progress that civilization has made over the last few centuries? By that, I mean life is not, for millions of people, "nasty, brutish, and short," and it seems to be due to the creation of institutions and norms that help us be the "better angels of our nature."

"...give into..,"

No, we live in a web of social obligations that limit our behaviour. See Michael Gazzaniga for a more thorough explanation - I don't have the title at hand.

We do have socially acceptable methods to express our base instincts - competition at work, hoarding money and real assets, political power, prestige, conspicuous consumption, etc that manifest the tendency to express dominance. Sometimes (understatement) these behaviours are pretty obvious and ugly. In academia, high tech, and Wall St you see the "smartest guy in the room" syndrome where everyone debunks everyone else until the smartest guy is left standing. See Jonathan Haidt and his "rider on the elephant" model of the human brain.

Regarding progress, yes we have technologies in agriculture, medicine, sanitation, power generation, communication, education, etc that improve the human condition but not equally - many people in the world still suffer the conditions that we have fixed in the first world.

Regarding the Pinker hypothesis, I am not so sure. It is easy to find plenty of violence in the world: Chicago, gang violence in California, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Crimea, ... I could go on and on. Even a Harvard educated POTUS, supposedly on the side of the poor and powerless, had no problem killing innocent women and children with drones in the pursuit of "terrorists". The terrorists see themselves as moral warriors trying to save the world as the know it against a great evil.

The belief in the myth of progress is the religion of the left. Ironically, it has been used as justification to kill people with fundamentally different beliefs - tribal outsiders. We overwhelm their culture with ours and when they react with violence we up the ante with even greater violence. Is that progress?

in which case he’s the alpha male lion in a very large pride.

He has a step-daughter, IIRC.

Interesting day when I am sympathizing wtih Art Deco.

Look, Lanigram, I do not know what rock you climbed out form under, but when even someone like Art Deco can see that you are over the top, you should really seriously consider what you are doing here. There are a lot of stupid and ignorant maniacs here, but you are competing for being one of the worst of the bad lot. I suggest you go to hell, scumbag.


I really have you barking Barkley. I guess you lost the argument and now you are deep into the name calling weeds. So be it.

I don't think you would have to change a word to be welcome at overtly Nazi and eugenicist organizations.

Reading the response to AMichael, this was at least somewhat misplaced though.

Depends on whether they ever allowed Walter Williams a turn as department chair. He's now emeritus. There appear to be no Orientals, East Indians, or mestizos in the department as we speak. The one black guy appears to be some sort of research associate (which I would wager is a soft-money position).

Fairfax County, Va.'s population is shy of 11% black. Most of the blacks live in a set of census tracts which comprises 18% of the whole, so you could say that one part of the county is 29% black and another part 6.5% black. Sounds sort of familiar.

Walter did serve as dept chair at GMU for awhile.

The American electorate did not turn toward Donald Trump. It turned away from Hillary Clinton. It was tired of more of the same, but especially delivered by someone so ugly, cold, and downbeat. Most Republicans could have beat Clinton. Most Democrats except Clinton could have beat Trump, but Clinton made sure no one else had the chance. This election was unique in being a weird collision of unlikely events.

I don't think this is correct at all. They turned to Donald Trump as the physical and tonal opposite of Obama. Even though they like many of Obama's most important policies, especially Obamacare, they can't stand those policies coming from him so there has to be a major push back. I think more of the same Obama policy coming from Joe Biden would have been fine with the vast majority of the country. Obama policy coming from a black person and then a woman is what isn't acceptable.

Sigh. Of course there could be no reasons other than sexism and racism to oppose the atrocious candidate Hillary, or object to the most left leaning presidency at least in a generation.

Sigh. I demand a congressional investigation because I read a Breitbart article and angry tweeted about it and my staff just realized it's total bullshit.

It's possible to reason too much from Trump's narrow victory over a weak candidate, but also possible to reason too little.

A significant plurality of the electorate did turn toward Trump specifically. That is why he, not another Republican, got the nomination. Also, I'm not sure another Republican would have drawn white, working class traditionally Democratic voters like he did (though I think all of the major Republicans had a good shot of winning).

The election we ought to be reasoning more about is 2012. Romney was in many ways the perfect Republican candidate, with a stellar resume and the skills for the times, and he was beaten soundly. Not enough was done to figure out what was wrong with Romney.

Trump - a petty, vindictive, a-hole - said what everyone's been thinking on immigration and trade and won handily.

2016 was 80% issues. It was 20% that Clinton was an awful candidate with her own baggage, and that Trump is a better political mind than people give him credit for.

Consider this morning's Guantanamo tweet. It was wrong, but it was angry, and it came out of the Fox universe.

Trump didn't need to have "a better political mind" if he was instead part of the flock, benefiting from his _peers_. A low information President elected by the same sort of low information voters.

You should listen to msgkings.

Every time you comment, you make another Trump voter. Trump's ability to get you, and others like you, to act like an idiot is an underrated skill.

Stand on your own damn feet. If you have a moderate and pragmatic belief don't say you can't have it because someone somewhere wants to use a bathroom. Don't attack me instead of grasping the significance of the Guantanamo tweet because that is an easy out for your tribal, monkey, brain.

I mean, hall. Just step back one moment and consider what you did.


That is the faulting problem with politics in America.

Can't both be true? Trump's idiocy is a bigger problem than yours, but we can't do much about his.

There is a serious answer. It's one we have discussed before. Research shows that pushing back against false beliefs produces the immediate result that people double down in false beliefs. This sometimes leads to the idea that you should just let false beliefs be. But again, we have discovered the problem in that. False beliefs can win. And if you let them lie they will keep winning.

And so even if it is a dirty job, someone has to push back against falsehood every damn day.

It's almost like you are Jesus Christ.

Maybe the actual problem is the scarcity of truth here. Or as Tyler said yesterday on Reddit about MR comments:

"Maybe blogs get the comments sections they deserve! I apologize for that, it can be horrendous. Maybe a lot of human beings just aren't that good."

msgkinds, maybe you aren't that good. Maybe what you actually fight is people with normal, middling levels, of civic responsibility.

Stop again and think about a normal level of civic responsibility brings here. "Value signaling!" "Moral preening!" "It’s almost like you are Jesus Christ!"

Yep, you are Jesus and I am Pilate apparently.

I made a point that the 2016 election was mostly about issues, and only secondarily about the bad candidate the Democrats put forward and the clever politicking of Trump.

You responded with a non-sequitur about your emotional reaction to a tweet designed to provoke your emotional reaction. I suggested you maybe ought not do that, because it doesn’t help your case. So you got into a fight with a guy who ought to be an ally. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

I guess we see your stubborn nature. You can't say "OK, normal civic responsibility is good" because you are playing your own style of comment games.

Lord Action, it is not a "non sequitur" when it is a reply to a direct quote.

OK, normal civic responsibility is good.

To continue a bit, because this is important:

There are lefties too who still look for some hidden genius in Trump's moves. They'll respond to things like the Guantanamo tweet with "Distraction!" Seriously? A cunning President will "distract" with messages that say "look what a big idiot I am?" No. Occam's razor. Trump tweets like an idiot because he is.

I know everyone hates "I told you so," but I told you so. A year ago I said Trump wasn't just liked by crazy old men watching Fox news, I said he was a crazy old man watching Fox news. Tweeting b.s. he hears on Fox or reads on Breitbart is not inner cunning. It is open faced stupidity.

It cracks me up every time you post like you are the one breaking the story that Trump is an idiot. Thanks for the investigative journalism, anon. Now we all know Trump is an idiot. Before I read your comment here I wasn't sure. You really did tell us so.

You are very selective. You skip over "Trump is a better political mind than people give him credit for" to say to me, no we all know that isn't true.

OK, he's not a better political mind than people give him credit for. Disagree with Lord Action on this one. He is charismatic and a great salesman and public persona though. He proved it. Is that a 'political mind'? Perhaps so.

"He is charismatic and a great salesman and public persona though."

I'm not sure I see how you're disagreeing with me. I don't think he's some policy wonk who would fit in the Stanford Econ faculty. I think he's a great, intuitive politician. That manifests best in his ability to enrage idiot extremists like anon. Their subsequent spittle-flecked rantings make people think "Jeeze, with enemies like that, maybe this Trump guy isn't so bad."

Dudes. Seriously. You are now defending falsehoods with "I don't like the people with the truth?"

You can call me a bad person, but I always link. I can provide sources on any of my beliefs. I'm not making shit up. And yet you can't believe truths because you don't like me.

Try rising above that.

Here is the link for the story you avoid above:

Try reading that, rather than concentrating on me.

LOL. We (or at least I) agree with you already, what is your problem? Who's defending falsehoods?

You state that Trump is a lying tweeting idiot. I agree. Then you get mad that I don't agree with you.

I guess I have to wrap my head around that then. "A great, intuitive politician" who can't control his own messaging.

Guess so. Where are you getting that "A great, intuitive politician" quote from, though? Fox News?

But he is an extraordinary politician. He did something as a complete neophyte that no one has ever done before, despite being massively outspent and having most of the media and half his party dead set against him.

Winning the Presidency is a remarkable accomplishment, probably the most impressive thing he has ever done. Like Obama before him.

You don't have to like the guy to recognize this.. I know because I don't like the guy.

Most Republicans couldn't beat Trump.

In fact, we ran the experiment in the primaries, with a bunch of prominent, successful Republican politicians losing to Trump. Bush, Rubio, Cruz, Christie, and Paul all hold or have held powerful offices (governor or senator), won elections, drawn crowds and donors. Trump beat them all pretty handily. It's quite possible he wouldn't have done as well against them one or two at a time, but it's hard to say--he certainly wiped the floor with Jeb Bush, the frontrunner who had no advantages except massive establishment support, name recognition, years of governing experience, piles of donor cash and the presumption of the media that he would be the eventual nominee.

To be sure, the Republican primaries are not the same as the general election and, as you point out, maybe the "clown car" primaries helped him, but pretty much yeah. A lot of people clearly prefer him to basically anyone the establishment could have chosen.

Being perpetually clad in a pant suit, wearing glasses with blue lenses, staggering on and off airplanes and armored cars, having make-up applied with a trowel. Those kind of visuals don't go over very well in a society where instant imagery takes precedent over thoughtful reflection.

It should be kept in mind that all this talk of the American electorate "turning to Donald Trump" is somewhat overdone also. As of nine days before the election, just before James Comey came out with his announcement about further investigations of HRC's email, which in the end found nothing, she had such a large lead in the polls she was campaigning in AZ and UT rather than WI and MI where she should have been, with much of the talk being about whether the House might go Dem along with the Senate, ha ha ha. As it is, she still beat Trump in the popular vote by about 2% and he has never been above 50% in positive poll ratings even at his peak (I think one Rasmussen poll had him there briefly), and in many is now below 40%.

Rasmussen has him +>50% every day of his presidency. Up to 59% at one point. This is (in spite of/ because of) a national media attacking him at every turn.

Quinnipiac has him at 36%. No one besides Rasmussen has polled him above 50%.

Is there something special about Rasmussen that I should know about?

All the polls but one - IBD - had Hilligula ( I like this name) winning. You should have rejected IBD.

Only lefties care about hi ho Nate Silver and his untrusty steed 538. Ever since Obama they love him - maybe anchor bias. I tried to read Nate's book, I had such high hopes, but I could not stay awake. It sucked. Booring. Noise. I think Nate was fooled by randomness. I dunno, but he's making money and the chicks are for free.

Amazing thing is the 'country going in the right direction' poll. Low of 21% in July to 45% now. Obama got close to Trumps's worst number back in 2012 for a week.

Do you have a citation for your numbers? As near as I can tell, they are not from a major source.

(Apologies, the only aggregator I found was HuffPo:


I like them because they are robo calls, and people tend to answer these with more honesty.

Rasmussen has a long track record of being way more pro-Republican in their outcomes and also often wildly wrong in their predictions. They were about the only poll saying Romney would beat Obama.

Yogi the Bear could have beaten Hilary Clinton.

Somehow this message has not been received:

The American people really really do not like HRC.

The democrats I have spoken to have said that they voted for 'the least bad option'.

That is not a ringing endorsement.

I agree 100%. Yet, there has been a lot of mental gymnastics and ink wasted (digital and literal) coming up with different explanations for why Trump won.

From the numbers I've seen, Trump did NOT have a groundswell of white support. Many of Hillary's voters just didn't show up.

Most importantly, Trump won the coveted "Reagan Democrats" that pollsters and talking-head types have been blathering about since 1980. Nothing that amazing to see here.

Trump greatly increased white turnout in the Rust Belt, getting more total votes then Romney. His white numbers were down on the coasts but they are electorally unimportant.


Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.


There are no black swans. ;)

Haven't you heard? Orange is the new black.

It is an appropriate time to mention that Clinton actually got a few million more votes than Trump. It is the method via the electoral college that led to this outcome.

"...electoral college..."

The "S" in USA stands for "States". Did you not study US history? We have a republic, if we can keep it.

I was clarifying two basic facts, not expressing approval or disapproval.

Yeah, nothing like that ever happens in Cannuckistan.,_1979

Troll me,

That surfeit of votes did not come from X regions or Y states, but from California and most of it from Los Angeles. The very nature of that surfeit proves a lot of the Trumpists right about the electoral effects of deliberate population change. The geographical nature of the electoral college system is meant to prevent just such a win. That is my opinion, of course.

OK. If you want to put it that way.

3 million voters in LA are less important than some thousands in butt fuck nowhere.

The setup of the electoral college is supposed to weight things slightly in that direction. But if you want to present it the way you want to present it, let`s enjoy some logical consistency.

THANK YOU, Tyler Cowen. Finally something not idiotic written about the Trump phenomenon.

In your mind, is there a possible places for the existence of things which are both a) critical of Trump and b) not idiotic?

I think one difference is that there may have been fewer international treaties and more tariffs in the 50's Eisenhower was trying to create stronger international organizations and move towards more free trade. Eisenhower at times aligned with congressional Democrats in oppostion to more isolationist Senate Republicans of that era. Eisenhower was to the left of the Republcian party but could get away with it because of his personal popularity.

As of 1949, isolationists made up perhaps a quarter of the GOP Senate caucus (and about 5% of the Democratic caucus). By 1959, there were almost none left. They really weren't more than a modest irritant to Eisenhower.

A desperate and impoverished populace has no option left but look for a savior, a steongman. Many of our neighbours had experiences with caudillos. As long as living standards fall, political conscience falls, too.

How many disillusions will the American people be able to take?

The short answer is "More." Government in America is always a lagging indicator. In this case, it's a lagging indicator of where we're choosing to solve our problems instead.

In the Eisenhower era, the income share of the top 1% was about 4%; today, the income share of the top 1% is almost 25%. Not since 1929 has the income share of the top 1% been as high as it is today (and in 2007-08). Cowen has provided all kinds of explanations for the financial crisis, tepid economic growth, political unrest, the Trump phenomenon (today it's "We Like Ike"), but he never mentions the elephant in the room, inequality. Sure, he mentions it in his book, but only to say that Americans oppose redistribution; he fails to mention that the Republican Party (including Trump) is dedicated to redistribution, upward redistribution! The Complacent Class offers an accurate and insightful look at today's America. Hidden in plain sight is the very high level of inequality in America. The reset that Cowen predicts in the final chapter is opaque, Cowen choosing instead to jump right over the reset to the better days that come after the reset. Maybe it will be Ike in the flesh.

Trump is easy to understand if you leave the progressive bubble and look at the facts.

After Obama announced support for a mortgage forgiveness program (IIRC), Rick Santelli delivered his famous rant on CNBC and the "Tea Party" was born. This was not really an organized effort, but millions of like-minded individuals realizing that they despised the Obama regime's profligacy. Scott Brown's shocking win of Ted Kennedy's Senate seat broke the Democrats' 60 vote majority and they were forced to use trickery to pass the unpopular Obamacare.

The GOP establishment said it could do nothing without Congress and the voters gave them control of the House and then the Senate. Still the GOPe complained that it could little without the Presidency. The 2016 GOP presidential campaign featured an impressive lineup of up and comers (and a few retreads), but the voters were drawn to a newcomer with a tabloid past and a blunt approach who was opposed to illegal immigration and amnesty. Enough voters were fed up with the GOPe and found someone who was on their wavelength.

Ah yes, Trump won because Hillary was weak. But Trump won in spite of being skimpily funded. He won despite being an amateur. He won despite being opposed by virtually all of the media outlets (including Fox) and he won despite being opposed by most of the GOPe. When you say he narrowly won against a weak candidate, he won despite being shackled in irons and racing in bare feet. His achievement in winning the Presidency is breathtaking and is being overlooked as his begins his term in a whirlwind of activity, still being opposed by the same forces.

The placebo President? Don't make me laugh - more like a jackhammer.

>His achievement in winning the Presidency is breathtaking

Also "deeply historic," as Hillary was fond of calling the 2016 election.

Great post by the way. It'll go right over Tyler's head, but still great.

Haha. "Whirlwind" is one way to put it. "Activity" is debatable. And on track to accomplish anything other than lie and embarrass himself and the country on a daily basis and accomplish nothing? Absolutely not.

This was not really an organized effort, but millions of like-minded individuals realizing that they despised the Obama regime’s profligacy.

Thanks God he was the first ... profligate-American president. This is the "first" that bothers them. OK.

"His achievement in winning the Presidency is breathtaking and is being overlooked as his begins his term"

Imagine what you will cal him when he actually achieve something.

He's an accomplished business man. He's been achieving for more than 4 decades. If you'd care to run down the list of consequential Democratic candidates for the presidency since Mr. Carter's retirement, you'll discover they number about 20, of which Paul Simon, Bob Kerrey, Howard Dean, and Wesley Clark are the only ones with actual accomplishments outside the political realm (bar just earning a living). You could add Bill Bradley if you're impressed by professional athletes. You could also add John Edwards and Hilligula, if you include "making a handsome living running a shady law practice" under the heading of 'accomplishment'. There's been one fellow who had an exceptionally thin resume - the most recently departed incumbent.

Builing casinos and managing the largest economy and military entity in the history of the planet are not the same thing.

Trump's pretty awesome at business. Like, middling average S&P kind of thing. Which is way better than almost everyone. But really not at all stunning as a qualification for president, especially when looking at the facts of which investments he held by virtue of what he was born into, and that these just happened to be investments that did really well (especially NY real estate).

He's got quite a list of failed projects to consider beside his real estate gains and quasi-legal accounting schemes.

I suppose if we were a serious country we'd have run a drama teacher turned serial grad school dropout whose most salient issue was legal traffick in maryjane (because the drug busts have been damned inconvenient to his mother).

I wasn't saying that Trump's experience DISQUALIFIES him from the job.

I just think it's fairly irrelevant as a qualification as president.

So if you're going to try to tell us that his business experience is a qualifying factor, I'm going to point out that he's middle of the pack S&P kind of material.

Similarly, I do not think the fact of having taught languages or drama for a couple years is a strongly qualifying factor to become prime minister. So, I do not raise it as a qualifying factor. Nor is it a DISQUALIFYING factor.

The sorts of things that I think qualify that guy who early in life had a stint as a snowboard instructor (very cool!) and a high school teacher (whatever ... but maybe good), are things like handing a mic to protestors at a rally, giving press conference of several hours on his first day in office (as compared to five pre-approved questions on day one of his predecessor), and immediately reminding everyone that, after the election, those people beside us, they are our neighbours and we should try to get along.

There is an even bigger increase in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases–all tied to diet and lifestyle.

You keep repeated that discredited meme.

Similarly, I do not think the fact of having taught languages or drama for a couple years is a strongly qualifying factor to become prime minister. So, I do not raise it as a qualifying factor. Nor is it a DISQUALIFYING factor.

It's the only thing he's done with his adult life.

Question: Why do you consider it an insult to say that someone was a drama teacher?

Is that not a respectable job?

Personally, I consider it as more respectable thangoign out of your way to keep black people out of rental properties. Since we're on the subject of things that happened 20 or 30 years ago, much earlier in the life of the respective national leaders of the two countries.

I was thinking more about the "whirlwind of activity" and his "historical election" and what he will be called when he achieves something as president. By then, I think the sycophants will have already spent all their words.

"Most likely, we’ll end up with a President who doesn’t and indeed can’t solve America’s basic social problems, and rather than restoring cultural control to his supporters he is likely to revitalize the ACLU and the protest movement, now including Teen Vogue and Saturday Night Live. "

There was a candidate that could solve America's basic social problems? To Teen Vogue and Saturday Night Live any president but a Democrat would have been the butt of their derision.

"One recent New York Times article described the White House, in its early days, as being run by a small number of Trump picks literally working in the dark at night, because they had not yet figured out how to work the light system. "

The definition of fake news.

Well, at least Obama's people did not take all the T keys from the keyboards.

'The “scandal” broke benignly enough, with an item in Lloyd Grove’s dishy Reliable Source column in the Jan. 23 Washington Post, three days after the inauguration of George W. Bush.

“Incoming staffers of the Bush White House,” Grove wrote, were “apparently victims of a practical joke.” Bush aides in the Old Executive Office Building (EOB), adjacent to the White House, discovered that “many computer keyboards in their work spaces are missing the W key — as in President Bush’s middle initial.”

Some W keys were discovered “taped on top of the doorways,” while others were broken.

The report was more cute than cutting, with Grove quoting former Al Gore spokesman Chris Lehane, who quipped: “I think the missing W’s can be explained by the vast left-wing conspiracy now at work.”

But within two days, Grove’s playful item had morphed into one more full-blown Clinton scandal. Suddenly newspapers and TV news shows were featuring extensive reports of Clinton administration “vandalism,” stretching from the EOB offices of former Vice President Gore to the West Wing. Reports alleged expletive-ridden graffiti, sliced computer and telephone wires, file cabinets glued shut, presidential seals steamed off doors, stolen pictures and so-called porn bombs, which were never exactly described.

The technological problems the vandals wrought were so severe that, according to a report in the New York Daily News, “a telecommunications staffer with more than a quarter-century of service was seen sobbing.”

“Phone lines cut, drawers filled with glue, door locks jimmied so that arriving Bush staff got locked inside their new offices,” a disapproving Andrea Mitchell reported on NBC News. The message seemed clear: The trailer-trash Clintons and their staff had enjoyed one last bacchanal at taxpayer expense.

Now it seems those closely detailed stories were largely bunk. Last week it was revealed that a formal review by the General Accounting Office, Congress’ investigative agency, “had found no damage to the offices of the White House’s East or West Wings or EOB” and that Bush’s own representatives had reported “there is no record of damage that may have been deliberately caused by the employees of the Clinton administration.”'

The people who cast a ballot for Trump in the general election, those who cast a ballot for Mitt Romney, and those who cast a ballot for John McCain in 2008 are largely the same people bar from some modest demographic shifts from coming-of-age and death. There are some modest differences in certain strata and categories.

What's an interesting phenomenon is that north of 70% of Republican primary voters cast ballots for men despised by the Capitol Hill nexus (or at odds with that nexus) and that the modal preference among GOP donors (Jeb Bush) was, once there was an alternative, ignored by Republican voters.

What's interesting on the other side is that north of 40% of the ballots in the Democratic contest were cast for a septuagenarian who had spent nearly his entire career running for office as a non-partisan candidate or a candidate of locally-organized 3d parties.

Partisan preferences are highly entrenched among a high share of actual voters, no?

So the fact of many voters voting for McCain, Romney and Trump is consistent with the view that many American voters would vote for the same party no matter who runs.

Most likely, we’ll end up with a President who doesn’t and indeed can’t solve America’s basic social problems,

That's just silly. The sclerosis of federal institutions currently prevents anyone from accomplishing anything and the insiders like AM McConnell like it that way. If they could, the best thing federal authorities could do was prevent the courts from disrupting the efforts of state and local actors from addressing social problems and provide a functional scaffolding that assists local efforts. The locus of corruption and abuse of power in our society would be the legal profession, the school apparat, and higher education. The feds need to break their legs so the state legislatures can finish them off.

Otherwise stated: The first order of business is to remove peaceful means of dispute resolution and to get rid of the source of experts?

I get some ways in which you can be talking quite a lot of sense about very relevant issues where reform would be highly beneficial. But I think there is also much potential for misunderstanding along the lines of supporting trajectories towards tyranny.

Otherwise stated: The first order of business is to remove peaceful means of dispute resolution and to get rid of the source of experts?

Otherwise stated: Nathan hasn't a clue how anything works in the country just to the south of where he professes to have grown up.

I'd be interested to see how you could frame that in a more explicit and constructive manner. If there are problems to be address in the legal profession or academia, much more specifity is needed. And, also, they would almost certainly be very welcome.

Slandering peaceful means of dispute resolution and the origins of technological prowess sounds like a pathway to much worse things.

To me, political correctness is far more than just personally not being able to say what I really think.

Political correctness is our political system and elites not allowing problems to be solved.

For example, illegal immigration could be solved in 5 minutes. The SS administration knows who is illegal, they're people whose SS# does not match their name. But they don't care and they don't do anything about it because political correctness.

Murders in Chicago is totally created by public policy influenced by political correctness. Police have stopped policing, in reactor to Ferguson and their own publicized shootings. Police are no longer arresting people for, for example, smoking pot in public. It's the perfect example of the broken windows theory put to life. But the elites can't even fathom that these are the real issues, because political correctness.

Re Chicago, making use of New York as a benchmark, their police force is amply staffed - and quite ineffective. Baltimore and Detroit suffer from chronic understaffing.

Just as note, when talking about rounding up people, it might be good to avoid the initials SS - it tends to give the wrong impression.

Including the fact that the Social Security, currently, has absolutely no authority to round up anybody, nor provide lists of those to be rounded up.

And hard as this might to be to imagine, that is a good thing.

What possible objection can there be to Social Security providing a mismatch list to DHS?

One objection is that your Social Security number was never intended to be an ID number, and has a serious flaw - 'The SSN is the single most widely used record identifier for both government and the private sector, exerting a broad influence on the lives of most Americans. However, by itself, it is not a personal identifier because it lacks systematic assignment to every person and the means to authenticate a person's identity.'

Further, as noted a bit later in the same report - 'The current use of the SSN as a personal identifier in both the public and private sectors is not the result of any single step; but rather, from the gradual accretion over time of extending the SSN to a variety of purposes. This has led many to conclude that the SSN is already, in effect, a national identifier, a term generally viewed negatively in the U.S. The implications of the widespread use of a single identifier on personal privacy have generated much concern both within the government and in society in general. Opposition to the use of such an identifier appears to stem from the fear that it will be used improperly to exchange information among organizations or could possibly lead to dossiers about people which would follow them throughout life. The potential to profile people raises questions about limits to freedom of choice and access to society's services and benefits.'

If one thinks that every citizen should have a dossier tied to their SSN, then sure, why not have the government maintain one? Why joke about a permanent record when you can be certain that the federal government is maintaining one on you, right?

Third, how do you determine a mismatch? This is what the Social Security Administration says, from the cited (somewhat dated) report - 'SSA verification workloads related both to use and misuse of the number have increased as the number's use has expanded. Such verifications are done primarily through regular automated exchanges. We verify SSNs for employers to ensure the correct posting of wages and for other government agencies to ensure accurate benefit payments. Where required by law and, in certain circumstances where permitted by law, we verify that the name and SSN in the files of third parties are the same as those on our SSN records. However, we do not uniformly verify the SSNs used by the private sector. Our disclosure policy protects the privacy rights of SSN holders and limits use of our resources to the business of Social Security. It is important to note that none of these verification operations ensure that the person giving a number, even when presenting the corresponding Social Security card, is the person to whom the SSN was assigned.' In other words, such a list is currently beyond their ability to create - as long as someone has a SSN and the name attached to it (see the point about presenting the card), there is no mismatch, after all. Not that I plan to provide my name and SSN here, but if you had it, there would be no current way to identify that mismatch if you get a job using that information.

If we fingerprinted every American citizen, though, in the name of rounding up those who don't belong in the U.S., well, at least one of the practical problems with creating that list would be solved.

The infallibility of finger printing, and of DNA matching, is a myth.

Nothing is stopping you from saying what you think. It's just that if you use your free speech to trash other people, other people might use their free speech to make observations, in passing, that this could reflect irrational racist views.

I think it would be a concern if police stop doing their jobs, for example to offer equal quality of service to the diverse communities they serve.

But if people are smoking pot in public places without having a potential-limiting criminal charge, wasted time in courts or even prison, etc, is this not a huge savings of societal resources which constitutes a relative improvement to incentives to invest in one's future potential?

It’s just that if you use your free speech to trash other people,

Says the man who trashes cops at every opportunity.

In Art's world, things get better if everyone just shuts up instead of pointing at problems.

Should we deny the existence of bad apples? Just because there's a partisan point to score?

P.S., I highlight that it is extremely important to Art to present those who identify the existence of bad apples, to come across as rapid police haters, maybe who even support the killing of cops.

Anyone like to venture a guess as to why?

"For example, illegal immigration could be solved in 5 minutes. The SS administration knows who is illegal, they’re people whose SS# does not match their name. But they don’t care and they don’t do anything about it because political correctness."

Someone starts a job. After two weeks they get their first paycheck with taxes taken out. Maybe after a month or two the Treasury department gets a payment from the employer for taxes with held. On an initial pass 95% of the social security numbers 'line up' leaving some payments not allocated to a valid number. A letter goes out, "employer please check these #'s they don't match". A letter comes back, "our secretary messed up on this number, don't know about these other two".

By this time probably several months have passed and low skilled, low wage jobs have a lot of turnover so the guy might very well have moved on. What is Social Security supposed to do to 'solve' the illegal immigration problem? Send a SWAT team out to every employment report with a mismatched social security number?

An engineer should know these things all have costs. To create a control system where everyone 'checks in' with their social security # before working would require much more monitoring and enforcement by the Federal government than happens now. Today your social security number is run like paper checks were a few decades ago. You write a check the guy getting it assumes it's god. If it's not it might take a week to a month to fully reconcile that problem. That's a con in the system but a pro is that they require relatively little interaction. The bank doesn't know where you were when you wrote a check, doesn't need to know if you wrote it in person or dropped it in the mail, they cannot put together your day by looking at the order of checks that clear. A credit card, however, does require much more intimate sharing of data with the bank and merchants.

It is not obvious that illegal immigration is such a problem that Americans should choose to have an equally tight and intimate relationship with government agencies.

I think there's a (Chinese) [can I say that] firewall.

Having departments share info with every other dept. is not good. Meta data on steroids.

I do know the IRS seems to be checking SSNs more closely, since they found an error with one of my family's and we couldn't file our taxes until it was corrected. Our acct had the same issue with some of his clients.

It used to be common sense that restricting data access across agencies, etc., was one of several cornerstones of dictatorship prevention.

It's not that SSN numbers are so secret. Social Security is not like a credit bureau or your cell phone or your credit card. It isn't meant to track you every day but simply collect some data over time (i.e. your work, your pay, taxes etc.). Social Security knows where you worked 5 years ago, how much you made and how much you paid in taxes but it doesn't know whether you changed jobs last week or probably even last month.

>the world of Eisenhower looks like the dream of Trump: There were hardly any Muslims living in America

In which Tyler announces to the world that he has gone off the deep end, and has no intention of ever, ever coming back.

I failed to appreciate just how badly Nov 8 damaged his self-esteem.

Placebo President indeed. That seems to be a good summary for what we are seeing. We have actual policy which is meandering and more or less a shit show. Then on Twitter we have fake policy where Trump is fighting illegal wiretaps of his Tower, secret agents Obama left behind in the gov't to thwart him, he's solved terrorism by selectively banning immigrants, etc. etc.

This ironically implies the previous President was highly underrated. What type of 'crises' could America have been in in 2016 if it elected a President whose main aptitude is creating fake news stories and picking fights with celebrities on social media?

That was good perspective on Trump. The thing you didn't talk about was his partners-in-government, the republicans, who also have some things they would like to control. They will to us him to achieve their goals of control of the electoral system, through rules changes, voter-suppression laws, gerrymandering, packing the courts. Something to thing to note, is they are only a few states away from being able to call a constitutional convention.

Trump is a super-unreliable tool (pun acknowledged), but having him create all this distracting fuss might be to their advantage. They can work in the shadow of his shit-storm. On the other hand, Trump's behavior has seemed to energize the press and the democrats and maybe it will increase their vigilance and resistance.

I don't understand why it is assumed that a constitutional convention can only be called if there are sufficient states of the same partisan colours. Might Democrats and Republicans agree sufficiently on a few things that a lower barrier, alongside greater non-partisan or inter-partisan exchange and dialogue, could lead to a convention to discuss potential changes to the constitution?

I would assume so. But if Republican run states have a majority in a convention, wouldn't they just ram through whatever changes they wanted: abolish income taxes, etc... I don't think there are any rules to a constitutional convention. So while there could be some common ground between democratic and conservative states, it wouldn't be worth pursuing it because the majority party would also have license to move on to uncommon ground.

If they want to abolish income taxes just do it now. The Republicans have Congress and the White House. The fact that they aren't offering any dramatic alternatives to the Obama administration (except in increasing the level of stupid) isn't because there's Constitutional barriers. Their barriers are mental and ideological.

I think the huge deficit crisis would also be barrier to abolishing the income tax.

Also, reality is a barrier. The wildest ideas of the far left and far right are ridiculous in the real world.

Is it such a sure thing that 40 Republican state legislatures would agree on things, just by virtue of being Republican?

My point of reference is Canada, where you can have a "first ministers conference" of all provincial leaders for many reasons, but even if they are mostly the same partisan colours, they are very likely to represent their constituents and provincial interests more so than partisan colours. There will be a degree of ideological alignment, but not an abandonment of representation of their constituents.

So, it seems to me that the implicit assumption is that Republicans at the state level would abandon representation of the people they work for at the level of government they are working at, for ideological reasons. This doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing in the big picture. But it seems problematic for some reasons.

I think you only need 34 states and I guess on further reading that the scope of the convention is limited. You can't just get into a convention and change whatever you want. Although it seems like this is not a settled point. There have been no constitutional conventions since the first one. But as far as you assumption that "Republicans at the state level would abandon representation of the people they work for at the level of government they are working at, for ideological reasons," I would point first to the example of Kansas and second to the lack of Republican opposition to Trump in congress. But in general, I think you are right that it might be hard to find something to change in the constitution that 34 states can all agree on.

correction: I realized I sort of misquoted you. You are saying that is seems problematic that "republicans would abandon representation of the people they work for at the level of government they are working at, for ideological reasons.

"...problematic for some reasons."

They won't get re-elected.

Thanks. I understand a bit better about that now.

I assume the Democrats wouldn't be highly averse in the same ways I suggest of the Republcians. It's just that Democrats are very far out of power now, and have been for quite some time with the except of the presidency, so it doesn't seem like a very relevant consideration for this specific subject.

But maybe there are some things that 32 Republican legislatures and 2 Democrat legislatures could all agree on.

"We are used to conceptualizing political positions in relative terms, in part to help us judge people’s social status. So if someone (say Ike) was a “moderate” back in the 1950s, we instinctively think of that person as in some way similar to today’s moderates. But an alternative perspective, bracing at times, is to simply to compare positions in absolute terms, and that makes a lot of Trump’s views resolutely ordinary in the broader sweep of American history."

People scoff when I say that Obama's policies were much more conservative than Richard Nixon's. But they were. The 1970s were just a different time.

I must have missed it when Nixon was promoting homosexual pseudogamy via judicial ukase and insisting religious orders pony up for Sandra Fluke's condom collection.

If you don't love Art Deco, there is something wrong with you.

But my favorite Nixon memory was when he spent months insisting that if you didn't want grown men peeing next to your daughter at the city park, you were a hate-filled monster.

I gotta admit, AD, this one is a pretty cute line.

That Trump supporters want things to be the way they were in the 50s is a pretty unoriginal observation. This is basically the standard argument from liberals that racism was the primary driving force behind Trump, which Tyler seems to have just recouched in less explosive terms.

Thought you made some great points. Some observations:

1. The left dominates government, media, and academic institutions (the fonts from whence political correctitudes spring). The right is therefore often compelled to attempt to construct its own alternate institutions. Trump is the ultimate product of this movement, in much the same way Obama was the ultimate product of those institutions.

2. Both parties promote benefits specific to the racial demographics of their constituents. Republicans and Democrats want to have very different conversations about this because of what is fashionable (or even utterable) in their increasingly separate cultural contexts, driven by their increasingly separate institutions.

3. Trump's control probably even weaker than you argue, because in addition to having relatively little ability to affect left-dominated institutions (even or perhaps especially those he is nominally in charge of) he has relatively little support on the ideological right as well.

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