Posts Tagged ‘Tea Party’

the rise of American authoritarianism

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

More than two years ago Amanda Taub, a journalist and former human rights lawyer, published an amazing article that I somehow missed. Drawing on the work of several political scientists, Ms Taub explains why Donald Trump was elected, and why we can expect US voters to elect authoritarian figures similar him in the future. In other words, Trump is not a passing phenomenon. (more…)

Donald Trump and political parties

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

Against all predictions, Donald Trump will soon be the official Republican candidate for president of the United States. The President of the United States functions as head of state and head of government. A President Trump in this powerful office frightens many, including the editors of the Financial Times. Today’s FT contains a strong ‘non-endorsement’ of Trump. Below are highlights from the editorial.

Mr Trump’s personality, intellect and experience make him radically unqualified for the presidency of the United States. ….

It is indeed shocking that the party of Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower is about to nominate a shallow narcissistic demagogue such as Mr Trump. But, in some respects, the Republicans have sown the seeds of their own downfall — by flirting for decades with nativist themes and radical anti-government rhetoric that has too often shaded into conspiracy theories about everything from gun control to the “liberal media”. ….

…. Mr Trump’s antitrade stance and isolationism carry disturbing echoes of the 1930s.

Despite all this, … [h]is defenders in the American establishment are already advancing the idea that much of Mr Trump’s campaign rhetoric is an act. They argue that the “real” Donald Trump is a shrewd businessman who would govern pragmatically once he was in the Oval Office. They also suggest that Mr Trump will move to the middle-ground and show a more moderate face to the world once he has definitively secured the nomination of the Republican party.

Yet Mr Trump cannot simply erase the memory of the campaign to date. The past few months have already demonstrated that he would be a disastrous choice for the most powerful political office in the world.

Trump and the future of American leadership“, Financial Times editorial, 5 May 2016 (metered paywall).

Regardless of whether Mr Trump wins (with help from supporters of Bernie Sanders) or not, it is clear that the Republican party will never be the same. I think it is time for the US to move to a three-party system. The Republican party could become the Tea Party in everything but name: a coalition of social conservatives and libertarians. The Democrats since Bill Clinton have embraced conservative policies, similar to those of the Eisenhower and Reagan Republicans of old. What is missing is a party on the left, one that would attract supporters of Bernie Sanders. This new party would be similar to the Labour party in the UK or Canada’s New Democrats. It could even adopt the name New Democratic Party. The Democrats would become the party of the centre, the Republicans the party of the right, and New Democrats a party of the left.

In the three-party system outlined above there is no place for “a shallow narcissistic demagogue such as Mr Trump”. That is intentional. It is not a bug.

libertarian logic

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

These are not direct quotes, but similar statements are sometimes uttered simultaneously, by the same person.

“Redistribution of income with revenue from taxes will never work because people are inherently selfish.”

“Charity will cover everything because people are inherently generous.”

HT “The Discovery of the Heart“, CBC Ideas podcast, with Paul Kennedy, 13 April 2016.


working-class Republicans in US politics

Saturday, April 16th, 2016

American journalist Jacob Weisberg has an interesting op-ed in this weekend’s Financial Times. Here are two paragraphs that caught my attention. To place these paragraphs in context, note that working-class Democrats who became Reagan Republicans decades ago are Donald Trump Republicans today.

Working-class Republicans are waking up to the reality that their party does not represent them any more than the Democrats did. On issue after issue, Mr Trump’s supporters are at odds with Republican dogma. They do not support free trade and globalisation. They do not favour tax cuts for the wealthy, or bailouts for banks, or financial deregulation, or the rollback of consumer protections. And, though nationalistic, their families are the ones that paid the human cost for the neoconservative fantasy of bringing democracy to Iraq. ….

In this context, the rise of the Tea Party now appears as a red herring. Rank-and-file Republicans were not dismayed by George W Bush’s failure to shrink their benefits. It was the party’s wealthy elite who were frustrated about that. Working-class Republicans were enraged because they saw the federal government bailing out Wall Street banks instead of ordinary citizens. The Tea Party quickly dissipated into irrelevance because it did not represent the people it claimed to represent.

Jacob Weisberg, “The Republicans face a historic rupture“, Financial Times, 16 April 2016.

Jacob Weisberg (born 1964) is editor-in-chief of Slate Group, and former editor of Slate magazine.

Anti-intellectualism in American Life

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

Commenting on my TdJ post on “American exceptionalsim”, Douglas Walker wrote, in part:

America is exceptional because it has nurtured a people who view the world as one of grandeur beyond the ability of mere mortals to comprehend. For this reason, the typical American tends to be anti-intellectual, in the best sense of the word. Pragmatic and forward looking in their view of the world, Americans are not seeking intricate theoretical explanations of philosophical notions about the nature of the world but simple practical ideas relevant to the problems of an active life.

Responding to Douglas, I wrote (in part):

Douglas, you seem to agree with de Tocqueville’s observation that Americans’ “strictly Puritanical origin, their exclusively commercial habits, even the country they inhabit, … seems to divert their minds from the pursuit of science, literature, and the arts ….” In short, the typical 19th century American was very practical and anti-intellectual, except for “religion alone [, which] bids him turn, from time to time, a transient and distracted glance to heaven”. Unlike de Tocqueville, though, you consider anti-intellectualism to be a virtue, not a character flaw.

All this led me to recall a book I read fifty years ago as an undergraduate student of history. The book was Anti-intellectualism in American Life (Knopf, 1963), written by Columbia University historian Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970). I was unable to locate a copy of the book but, in my search, I did find a wonderful review. It was written about a year ago by American journalist Nicholas Lemann. I would like to share a few extracts of the review with you. To download and read the full review, click on the link below.

The main point I take from Lemann is that Hofstadter, unlike Alex de Tocqueville, felt that anti-intellectualism was a natural, perhaps even necessary, aspect of democratic society. I hope soon to re-read Hofstadter’s book to see if I agree with Lemann’s interpretation of it. After 50 years, my memory is not very clear.

Here are extracts from Lemann’s review that I most enjoyed. (more…)

American exceptionalism

Monday, December 28th, 2015

The idea of American exceptionalism, together with past American greatness, is often discussed in US politics, most recently in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The concept of American exceptionalism was introduced long ago by Alexis de Tocqueville in his classic book, Democracy in America (1835/1840). The following sentence from volume 2, chapter 9 of the 1972 translation is frequently cited: “The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one.”

But what did de Tocqueville really mean? The chapter that contains the sentence is itself titled “The Example of the Americans Does Not Prove That a Democratic People Can Have No Aptitude and No Taste for Science, Literature, and Art”.

This hardly suggests that de Tocqueville used the term ‘exceptional’ in the sense of in the sense of ‘superior’ or ‘great’. (more…)

libertarian criticism of President Obama’s policies

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

Libertarians, like the Tea Party Republicans, are unhappy with Barack Obama, but their criticism takes a very different tone. Here is an example, from a libertarian critique of the way Obama is waging ‘war on terror’.

Think about the terrible ordeal Sen. John McCain went through as a prisoner of war. Ditto for Rep. Sam Johnson and other Americans who were tortured by their Vietnamese captors. Awful as all that was, does anyone think the world would be better off if McCain, Johnson and the others were killed rather than tortured?

Well, that is how Barack Obama thinks. He criticized George [W] Bush for allowing three captives to be water boarded. He called it “torture” and apologized to the world. But Obama has no problem at all with killing people. As I previously reported, that is what our drones are doing day in and day out and the number of drone kills has spiked radically during the Obama years. In the president’s first five years in office, the C.I.A. made 330 drone strikes in Pakistan alone (a country we are not even at war with!), compared with 51 total drone strikes in four years of George W. Bush’s presidency.

Remember: Our drones are killing people who are not wearing uniforms. They are not shooting back at us. They are not in any traditional sense “combatants.” I’m sure that a lot of the people the Obama administration has killed deserved to die. But we don’t always know who we are killing. And we admit that bystanders, including children, are victims as well.

Is that really more humane than water boarding?

John C. Goodman, “How the Left Thinks about the War on Terror“, Newsroom (Independent Institute), 28 November 2015.

Economist John Goodman is a senior fellow at the Independent Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Oakland, California.

For another example, in the same publication, of libertarian views that differ markedly from those of Tea Party Republicans, see the column written by Independent Institute research fellow Abigail R. Hall, who expresses her gratitude for migrants “who come here legally and for those who come here illegally“.

return of the neocons

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

This is scary. American writer Jacob Heilbrunn (born around 1965) explains.

[T]he Republican party is resurrecting the unilateral foreign policy doctrines that first took hold under President George W Bush and his vice-president Dick Cheney.

Unlike the Democrats of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, who later came to express regret over their role in the Vietnam war, leading Republican figures such as Mr Cheney and former deputy secretary of defence Paul Wolfowitz have never admitted to making missteps in Iraq or Afghanistan. On the contrary, they have argued that it is President Barack Obama who has erred by failing to prosecute combat in Iraq and Afghanistan vigorously enough.

Until recently they did not get much of a hearing. But recent events have blown fresh wind into the sails of the neocons. ….

Perhaps no one has been more impassioned in their support of the foreign policy of George W Bush than Tom Cotton, a 37-year-old Iraq war veteran who has won election as senator in Arkansas. Mr Cotton has called the Iraq war a “just and noble” cause and said that victory in Afghanistan is simply a matter of finding enough willpower. In Iowa incoming Republican senator Joni Ernst, another Iraq veteran, also lauded the war. Based on her service in Iraq, she said: “I do have reason to believe there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”  [Emphasis added.] ….

Whether a Republican president would result in wholesale reversion to Bush-era policies is an open question. But the fact that the neocons are driving the debate in the Republican party and putting Mr Obama on the defensive is itself a remarkable tribute to their resilience. Indeed, to say that they are back may be something of a mistake. They never went away in the first place. The difference is that the Republican party is listening to them once again.

Jacob Heilbrunn, “Unvanquished Republican neocons surge back“, Financial Times, 12 November 2014.

Mr Heilbrunn is author of  They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons (Doubleday, 2008) and editor of The National Interest (TNI), an American international affairs magazine. TNI was founded in 1985 by Irving Kristol.  Henry Kissinger is the magazine’s honorary chairman.

Candidate Joni Ernst (born 1970) was endorsed by the Tea Party.  According to Wikipedia, she opposes cap and trade, a federal minimum wage, and same-sex marriage while supporting gun rights and partial privatization of Social Security old-age pension accounts. She won the 2014 race for the US Senate 52.2% to 43.7%. Senator-elect Tom Cotton was also supported by the Tea Party movement.

Keynes was right!

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

This ‘must-read’ column is not gated. Click on the link below to download all 11 paragraphs. The language is clear, concise, easy to understand. IMHO, the analysis is spot on. If you disagree, please post a comment.

Countries that took emergency measures to reduce public borrowing have mostly suffered weaker growth, as in the case of Britain from 2010 to 2012, Japan this year and the United States after the 2013 “sequester” and fiscal cliff deal. In more extreme cases, such as Italy and Spain, fiscal tightening has plunged them back into deep recession and aggravated financial crises. Meanwhile countries that ignored their deficit problems, as in the United States for most of the post-crisis period, or where governments decided to downplay their fiscal tightening plans, as in Britain this year or Japan in 2013, have generally done better, both in terms of economics and finance. The one major exception has been Germany, where budgetary consolidation has managed to coexist with decent growth, largely because of a boom in machinery exports to Russia and China that is now over, pushing Germany back into the recession its stringent fiscal policy suggested all along.

Thus the six years since 2008 have provided strong empirical support for the supposedly outmoded Keynesian view that government borrowing is more powerful than monetary policy in stimulating severely depressed economies and pulling them out of recession. In a sense, it is odd that the power of fiscal policy has come as a surprise – or that it continues to be categorically denied by the German government and the U.S. Tea Party. The underlying reason why fiscal policy is so important in recessions, and has now come to dominate over monetary policy, is a matter of simple arithmetic that should not be open to debate. [Emphasis added.]


As monetary policy has lost traction, fiscal policy has automatically gained power. With interest rates at or near zero, private demand cannot be simulated with further rate cuts and this means that monetary easing can no longer offset fiscal tightening. As a result, any reduction in budget deficits becomes unambiguously deflationary, which is why the French and Italian governments were right to resist enforcement of the German-inspired fiscal compact in the euro-zone. Conversely, fiscal expansion now provides an unqualified economic stimulus because there is no risk of interest rates rising significantly in the next year or two – and perhaps not until the end of the decade. In short, the world has returned to a period of fiscal dominance, as in the 1950s and 1960s.

Anatole Kaletsky, “The takeaway from six years of economic troubles? Keynes was right.“, Reuters, 31 October 2014.

Anatole Kaletsky (born 1952 in Moscow, USSR) is a journalist and financial economist based in the United Kingdom. He joined Reuters and The International Herald Tribune in 2012. He previously wrote for The Economist, the Financial Times and The Times of London. Mr Kaletsky is also chief economist of GaveKal Dragonomics, a Hong Kong-based group that provides investment analysis to financial institutions around the world. His book Capitalism 4.0: The Birth of a New Economy in the Aftermath of Crisis (Perseus/Public Affairs, 2010) has been translated into Chinese, German, Korean and Portuguese.

HT Mark Thoma

David Brat defeats congressman Eric Cantor

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

FT Columnist Christopher Caldwell comments on economist David Brat’s upset victory against Eric Cantor – the number two man in the US House of Representatives – in a Republican party primary.

Prof Brat was such a long shot that no national Tea Party association backed him. But it is right to call him a Tea Party man. He is an ideologue. Mr Cantor, by contrast, was a pragmatist. Tea Partiers … believe … Republican bigwigs represent their donors, who overlap and socialise with Democratic donors. Together they secure the things rich people want: low capital gains rates, high immigration, an agnostic culture. ….

It is a common error to look at the Tea Party ideology as just an intense, distilled version of the Reaganism Republicans have espoused since the late 1970s. The political scientist Norman Ornstein, for instance, speaks of a battle “between hardline conservatives who believe in smaller government and radical nihilists who want to blow up the whole thing”. This is wrong. What the Tea Party brings to the Republican party, for the first time in a century and a half, is a leaven of hostility to capitalism – or at least to crony capitalism. Republicans have been an anti-slavery party, a robber-baron party, a hard-money party, an anti-communist party and a Christian party, but they have always had a soft spot for businessmen.

No more. While Prof Brat professes to revere Ronald Reagan, he is not a supply-side dogmatist. …. He believes in free markets but does not assume every rich person is his friend.

Of the Wall Street executives he blames for the past six years of finance crisis and stagnation, he said on the stump last month: “Those guys should have gone to jail. Instead of going to jail, they went on Eric [Cantor]’s Rolodex, and they are sending him big cheques.”

Christopher Caldwell, “Brat reconnects Republicans with an angry electorate“, Financial Times, 14 June 2014.

Christopher Caldwell (born 1962) is an American journalist and senior editor at The Weekly Standard, a neoconservative opinion magazine founded in 1995 by William Kristol (born 1952).