Monday, February 29, 2016

You get that it's Popular Front time, right people?

The Intercept has a banner headline today that represents everything I find unsettling about that site's occasional queasy flirtation with a vaguely pro-Trump angle in its political coverage. I get that Glenn Greenwald and the other leftists at Intercept are not going to end up endorsing Trump for president-- which I think would actually cause a tear in the fabric of space and time. I assume the spirit behind all this is simply something like: "Listen up, you self-righteous mainstream liberals, we get that Trump is awful and xenophobic and Islamophobic and all the rest of it, but so are most of the U.S.'s policies with regard to the civil liberties and human rights of Muslim people and the border, and we never seem to hear from you when the Establishment people are doing it -- and weirdly enough Trump actually seems better on a couple points than Hilary Clinton or the mainline GOP candidates do." 

That's the idea, I think. I'm here today to remind us, though, that there have got to be limits to how much one toys with contrarian positions in the interests of unmasking hypocrisy. Doing so can lead to some scary places. As we are now a matter of hours away from a potential massive wave of Trump wins on Super Tuesday, and living in the wake of a raft of fresh obscenities from Trump-- including his recent refusal to condemn the KKK and white supremacist leader David Duke when asked to do so and his promise to change the nation's libel laws in order to be able to sue journalists who depict him negatively -- the time has long since passed for this kind of contrarian provocation. We are entering a world in which the possibility of Trump becoming an actual fascist dictator is less of a colorful journalistic point, less of a joke, less of a piece of alarmist rhetoric than it ever was before. What we need now is to circle the wagons, to form ranks. On this one we need all the forces of bourgeois democracy to pull together, plus the forces of Old Europe and Metternich and Guizot to boot-- and Lindsay Graham and whoever else we can get. Come one, come all! This is Popular Front time.

Monday, February 22, 2016

U.S. in Haiti: Old Bottles, Old Wine

Let’s take a break today from our own farcical national politics to look at those of another country in the Western Hemisphere whose fate, like ours, has been determined to a statistically anomalous degree over the past thirty years by people with the last name of Bush and Clinton. I am referring to Haiti, our long-suffering Caribbean neighbor, who over the past few months has dealt with a fraudulent election, public unrest, a temporary power vacuum, and now a caretaker interim government whose future is uncertain—all of these in part the consequences of yet another U.S. attempt to influence (that's a nice word for it) Haiti’s elections and deny power to any candidate who comes within six degrees of separation of the popular left-of-center former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hawks Coming Home to Roost

Between the current GOP frontrunner trumpeting from the debate stage his early opposition to the Iraq War (however factitiously) and the only Bush on stage consistently sagging in the polls, this election cycle can leave the feeling at times that it spells the decisive end of Neoconservatism as a force in Republican politics. And the really strange part is what a sinking feeling it is. For those of us who forged our political identities through waging ceaseless “mental fight” against the Bush-Cheney dragon, you’d think that the spectacle of major GOP candidates falling over themselves to heighten the contrast between them and the Bush legacy would be a welcome sight. And yes, so it would be, were it not for the fact that the contrast so often shows to the advantage of the Neocons.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Not That the Consensus is So Great Either

Perhaps it is a little early to write the post mortem on Cruz and Trump and a bit premature to declare Marco Rubio the Republican nominee, given that there’s been only a single caucus at this point and anyways Rubio lost it-- besides, I am not any good at picking stocks or election results and don’t pretend to be. Still, though, my heart and conventional wisdom are telling me the following: that Cruz’ Iowa victory is in exactly the same category as Huckabee’s and Santorum’s wins in that state in the previous two elections—i.e., a predictable plumping for the most evangelical candidate that means almost nothing for the general election; that Trump’s loss and subsequent whinging have cost him the sheen of terrible invincibility and inevitability (“I could go out onto Fifth Avenue and shoot someone at this point,” or whatever it was) that made the large minority of voters with psychological issues related to authority fall in line behind him; and that Rubio is perfectly nuts enough to satisfy the base and already has the “establishment” behind him, so he’ll probably be the candidate. All of this means that the rest of the election will be less interesting to watch -- and, infuriatingly, that David Brooks was right (minus the part where Rubio now suddenly repositions himself as a great champion of reasonable and middle of the road Brooksian ideals)-- but also that the nation will be spared an election year in which there is a very real possibility that the candidate for the world’s most powerful single political office is someone who has threatened to violate wholesale the civil and human rights of every member of the world’s second largest religion. This is a trade-off that we should all be willing—nay, pleased and grateful – to make.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Trump L'Oeil II

I was, after all then, as forewarned
A kind of trick of the eye, a smudge
In one corner of the frame, a lash
That made you blink, a lie, a Mephistophelean
Game, a name (monumentally monosyllabic) and now
Seeing as I must soon vanish
Into a puff of smoke
I suppose I can let you in on
the joke: I (you may have noticed)