Polls tell us that many Americans, particularly millennials, get their news from television comedy shows, such as Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. The same probably holds true for their knowledge of history. If that’s the case, then thank the Lord (or, in this case, thank Lenin) for Comrade Detective, the buddy-cop export from the dark side of the Iron Curtain. Though the show is a spoof, it does an astonishingly good job exposing the ideological fissures of the Cold War.
Category Archives: Politics
During the Republican presidential primaries, 16 of the 17 candidates differed and bickered but agreed on one thing. They all agreed that Donald Trump was not a true Republican. Trump, of course, won the nomination anyway. And then he won the presidency. And then, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, the 16 made their peace with him.
While a few Republican activists and intellectuals, known as “Never-Trumpers,” have steadfastly opposed him, most have supported him or kept silent.
Why? How has a man who has renounced long-held Republican positions on free trade, international relations, American exceptionalism, and a host of other fundamental issues managed to attract the loyalty of those who have long espoused those very positions?
Trump’s magnetic appeal to traditional Republicans can be analyzed the same way any magnets can. Magnets either attract or repel.
The simplest explanation for Trump’s appeal to traditional Republicans is magnetic repulsion. Republicans are not so much attracted to Trump as they are repelled by his opponents. They are not so much pro-Trump as they are anti-anti-Trump.
The phenomenal success of the rap musical Hamilton has acquainted many theater goers with the custom of dueling. Three duels take place in the story. To ensure the accuracy of their depiction, Lin-Manuel Miranda consulted Joanne Freeman, whose book Affairs of Honor he deemed “indispensable.” Dueling did not lead to a happy ending for the show’s namesake, or for his son Philip. But that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to be said for the custom. A respectable – and not entirely facetious – argument can be made for its revival.
Sam: You’re a very rude young woman. I know Douglas from the Rotary, and I can’t believe he’d want you treating customers so badly.
Cashier: I don’t think I was treating her badly.
Sam: Then you must be from New York.
Sam Burns (played by John Lithgow) in Terms of Endearment, the 1983 Academy Award winner for Best Picture.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump supporters attempted to paint their opponents as coastal elitists out of touch with and contemptuous of the nation’s heartland. Now comes an event on Broadway — possibly the bluest thoroughfare in the bluest city in the country – that portrays liberals as … well … as coastal elitists out of touch with and contemptuous of the nation’s heartland.
Last Friday, Vice President-elect Mike Pence took his daughter to see Hamilton, the hottest show on Broadway. As they took their seats, audience members booed. Pence took it in stride, telling his daughter: “That’s what freedom sounds like.” After the show, as Pence and his daughter were leaving, they were treated to a lecture by Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who portrays Aaron Burr. Pence stopped and listened. The next morning, he told interviewers that he was not offended, and he encouraged everyone to see the show.
Although some commentators have dismissed the incident as “dumb news,” it nonetheless deserves examination. It tells us much about the current state of division in our country, and perhaps even a little about how that division propelled Trump to the presidency. Continue reading
“Don’t waste your vote.”
That’s the message conveyed to the electorate in this, the autumn of our discontent. Vote for Hillary Clinton or vote for Donald Trump. A vote for a third-party or write-in candidate is a wasted gesture.
It’s a difficult message to stomach because in Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the nation has the worst electoral menu in its history. Just look at how their more articulate supporters justify their preference.
William Bennett served as Secretary of Education in the Reagan administration. He supports Trump. In a November 1 piece for FoxNews Opinion, Bennett and co-author F.H. Buckley called Trump “a Sam Slick who seemingly has taken every legal advantage offered by the Tax and Bankruptcy Codes. And you expected something better from a New York City businessman?”
On the same day that column appeared, Conor Friederdorf, political staff writer for The Atlantic, offered this ringing endorsement of Hillary Clinton: “There are so many politicians, many Republicans among them, that I would rather have as America’s president. If not for Trump, I would not even consider voting for her.”
That’s what their supporters are saying, so one can understand the vitriol spewed by their opponents. Not surprisingly, the New York Times reports today that more than eight out of ten voters are repulsed rather than excited by the campaign.
But wouldn’t a vote for anyone other than these two tawdry products be wasted?
In fact, the opposite may be true. Voting for Hillary or Trump would be wasteful because neither will be in a position to accomplish anything after winning the election. Both will face congressional or judicial investigations. Trump is scheduled to go on trial later this month for fraud concerning Trump University. If elected, he will face investigations into his Foundation, his taxes, and his supposed ties to Russia. Meanwhile, Hillary already faces investigations into her family Foundation, as well her private email server.
Neither candidate is likely to find Congress cooperative. Trump will not only face the unified opposition (and disdain) of congressional Democrats, he will also face opposition from his own party. At an October meeting of Republican activists and intellectuals at the Hoover Institution, the consensus was that the Party is “in for a pretty long civil war” after the election. Meanwhile, Republicans have already begun discussing grounds for impeachment of a President Hillary Clinton.
But even if a President Trump or a President Clinton is unable to accomplish anything, why vote for an alternative who cannot possibly win?
Well, not so fast. One outsider actually does have at least a theoretical chance. Continue reading
For Jews, these are the Days of Awe, the ten days between with the New Year and the Day of Atonement, when Jews repent for past sins and make resolutions for the future. One topic Jews may ponder is the special place assigned them among the peoples of the world. This is a distinction most Jews would rather do without. Injustices to which they have been subjected over the millennia are constantly diluted and devalued into a kind of common currency of calamity, with which all may identify. On the other hand, injustices which they have (supposedly) visited upon others are constantly magnified into unique catastrophes,to which history offers no parallels.
One sees evidence of the first phenomenon in the comparison of the plight of the Syrian refugees with the Jewish refugees of 1938. Pundits, and even a questioner at the second presidential debate, repeatedly mention the supposed equivalency.
Friends, foes, and even casual acquaintances of the Republican Party insist that disaster looms. And, indeed, the odds are that the Grand Old Party will lose in November. But that’s the short run. In the long run, the Democrats, not the Republicans, face calamity.
The parties’ respective situations are illustrated by the legendary exchange between Winston Churchill and Bessie Braddock, when the plumpish Labor Party MP spied the Prime Minister deep in his cups. “Sir Winston,” she said, “you are drunk.” “Bessie,” he replied, “you are ugly. But tomorrow, I’ll be sober.”
This year, the Republican Party is drunk. But its inebriation with Trump is a short term affliction. In due course, the Party will sober up and dump him. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, is stuck with a set of ugly positions which they cannot disavow or abandon. Whether the Democrats win or lose in November, those positions are likely to grow even more repellent with time, and they will weigh the Party down.