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VAL 2016 | En av de roligare konsekvenserna av Donald Trumps valkampanj var den moralpanik som följde på valsegern.

time-augusti-22-2016

(The Reckoning: ”Donald Trump’s sinking polls, unending attacks and public blunders have GOP reconsidering its strategy for November”)

Och hela ”etablissemanget” – politiska, media, kulturella – hängde villigt på både här och over there. ”En ond och sjuk människa ska leda världens mäktigaste nation. Detta är inte bra för världen!”, skrev t.ex. riksdagskvinnan Hillevi Larsson (S) på Twitter.

time-october-2016

(Inside Donald Trump’s Meltdown: ”Donald Trump’s sinking polls, unending attacks and public blunders have the GOP reconsidering its strategy for November”)

Två andra exempel: Skoladministratörer i Boston erbjöd ”råd och stöd” till ungdomar som oroade sig över Trump medan Olle Wästberg, ”USA-kännare” och tidigare generalkonsul i New York, påstod att Trumps seger var värre för Sverige än för amerikanarna.

new-york-october-31-november-13-2016

(Final Days: ”As the unmanageable, unrepentant, and unprecedented candidate careens to the finish line, Donald Trump’s advisers try to figure out how to save themselves – and the movement he started.”)

Men speciellt pinsamt var valresultatet för opinionsinstituten och den politiska journalistiken som ”ended up with egg on their faces”.

I detta inlägg är tre favoriter från Time och New York som borde förfölja redaktörerna i sömnen framöver. Time t.o.m. följde upp sitt omslag med den alltmer smältande Trump i augusti med ett ”total meltdown” omslag i november. Så säker framstod Hillary Clintons valseger vid det laget.

För den som redan känner sig nostalgiska kan klicka på länkarna för att läsa hur fel alla hade.

Tidskriftsomslag: Time den 22 augusti (amerikanska editionen) och den 24 oktober 2016 samt New York den 31 oktober-13 november 2016.

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VAL 2016 | Bilden av Donald Trump är att han alltid säger vad som faller honom in för stunden. Men kanske är detta bara en myt som borde avlivas.

New York Magazine - April 4, 2016

Enligt Gabriel Sherman, i tidskriften New York, tog man fram en strategi för hur valrörelsen skulle bedrivas långt innan Trump lanserades som presidentkandidat.

Ansvarig för den informationsinhämtning, kartläggning och planläggning som krävdes var, enligt Sherman, Trump själv.

As much as his campaign appears off the cuff, Trump diligently laid the groundwork for his 2016 run over the course of several years, cultivating relationships with powerful allies in the conservative firmament and in the media, inviting them to private meetings at Trump Tower and golf outings in Florida, all the while collecting intelligence that he has deployed to devastating effect.

As early as 1987, Trump talked publicly about his desire to run for president. He toyed with mounting a campaign in 2000 on the Reform Party ticket, and again in 2012 as a Republican (this was at the height of his Obama birtherism). Two years later, Trump briefly explored running for governor of New York as a springboard to the White House. “I have much bigger plans in mind — stay tuned,” he tweeted in March 2014.

Trump taped another season of The Apprentice that year, but he kept a political organization intact. His team at the time consisted of three advisers: Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, and Sam Nunberg. Stone is a veteran operative, known for his gleeful use of dirty tricks and for ending Eliot Spitzer’s political career by leaking his patronage of prostitutes to the FBI. Cohen is Trump’s longtime in-house attorney. And Nunberg is a lawyer wired into right-wing politics who has long looked up to “Mr. Trump,” as he calls him. “I first met him at Wrestle­Mania when I was like 5 years old,” Nunberg told me.

Throughout 2014, the three fed Trump strategy memos and political intelligence. “I listened to thousands of hours of talk radio, and he was getting reports from me,” Nunberg recalled. What those reports said was that the GOP base was frothing over a handful of issues including immigration, Obamacare, and Common Core. While Jeb Bush talked about crossing the border as an “act of love,” Trump was thinking about how high to build his wall. “We either have borders or we don’t,” Trump told the faithful who flocked to the annual CPAC conference in 2014.

Meanwhile, Trump used his wealth as a strategic tool to gather his own intelligence. When Citizens United president David Bossie or GOP chairman Reince Priebus called Trump for contributions, Trump used the conversations as opportunities to talk about 2016. “Reince called Trump thinking they were talking about donations, but Trump was asking him hard questions,” recalled Nunberg. From his conversations with Priebus, Trump learned that the 2016 field was likely to be crowded. “We knew it was going to be like a parliamentary election,” Nunberg said.

Which is how Trump’s scorched-earth strategy coalesced. To break out of the pack, he made what appears to be a deliberate decision to be provocative, even outrageous. “If I were totally presidential, I’d be one of the many people who are already out of the race,” Trump told me. And so, Trump openly stoked racial tensions and appealed to the latent misogyny of a base that thinks of Hillary as the world’s most horrible ballbuster.

[…]

One way in which Trump’s campaign is like others is that its advisers have jousted for primacy. Over the summer, Lewandowski became embroiled in a battle for control with Stone, Nunberg, and Cohen. The principal fault line was over Stone and Nunberg’s belief that Trump needed to invest money into building a real campaign infrastructure and Lewandowski’s contention that their current approach was working fine.

[…]

Having won the power struggle with Nunberg and Stone, Lewandowski focused on letting “Trump be Trump,” which is what Trump wanted too. There would be no expensive television ad campaigns, no bus tours or earnest meet-and-greets at greasy spoons. Instead, the cornerstones of Trump’s strategy are stadium rallies and his ubiquitous presence on television and social media. “Mr. Trump is the star,” Hicks said.

Pundits have scoffed at this. Trump has no “ground game,” they say. His refusal to spend money on television ads spells disaster. But from the beginning, Trump knew he was onto something. “I remember I had one event in New Hampshire right next to Bush,” Trump told me. “I had 4,500 people, many people standing outside in the cold. Bush had 67 people! Right next door! And I said, ‘Why is he going to win?’ ”

[…]

The small scale and near-constant proximity mean they can respond to events quickly. In February, when the pope suggested Trump might not be a Christian owing to his plan to build a wall along the border, the campaign struck back within minutes. “If and when the Vatican is attacked by isis, which as everyone knows is isis’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president,” his statement said. Lewandowski recalled how it happened: “We found out about it as Mr. Trump was giving a speech on Kiawah Island in South Carolina, and within three minutes or less, he provided the response to Hope.” (By contrast, Clinton’s tweets are vetted by layers of advisers. “It’s very controlled,” one said to me.)

But if speed is the advantage of the small campaign, insularity is its inherent disadvantage. By all accounts, Trump doesn’t seek much counsel beyond his staff and children.

[…]

Meanwhile, the Trump team has poured almost all of its efforts into producing rallies down to the most minute details. At a Christmas-themed one I attended in Cedar Rapids in December, eight perfectly symmetrical Christmas trees lined the stage. As Lewandowski told me, “It’s all about the visual.” He requires reporters to stay behind metal barricades and positions television cameras for the most dramatic shots. “We want to know, what does it look like when he walks out on the stage?” Lewandowski said. “Sometimes we’ll allow cameras up close, sometimes we’ll show Mr. Trump on the rope line.” And the networks, hungry for ratings, have played by these strict rules.

[…]

After the rallies, Trump makes sure his fans stay mobilized. Everyone who attends a rally has to register by email, and the campaign uses this list, which Lewandowski estimates is “in the millions at this point,” to turn out voters. Most campaigns spend a lot of money to acquire voter lists; Trump largely built his own. “If you look at what the Obama campaign achieved many years ago, they were successful at bringing new people in, and then communicating with those people. What we’re doing is not dissimilar,” Lewandowski explained.

Tidskriftsomslag: New York den 4-17 april 2016.

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När Barack Obamas skulle ta med sin blivande fru Michelle på deras första ”official date” blev det ett biobesök där de såg Spike Lees Do the Right Thing.

När Will Leitch 2012 intervjuade regissören för tidskriften New York avlöpte samtalet på följande sätt:

Are you more careful about what you say now than when you were younger?
I think I am smarter—I feel I am confrontational when I have to be, but it is not something that I live, breathe, sleep, and eat. There are just some things since I have been a filmmaker that I have made a comment on, and when you stick your neck out there, you got to let the chips fall where they may, and every time is not going to be perceived the right way. You are going to be misquoted, misjudged, or whatever, but this started early. Joe Klein said Do the Right Thing was going to incite riots.

In New York Magazine, actually.

Your man did me, you know. Like, this is going to hurt David Dinkins’s bid to be the first African-American mayor. I remember this one line: Opening this weekend, “in not too many theaters near you, one hopes.” So it is not new.

And now the president says it’s the film he took his wife to on their first date.

Yeah, I’d say Joe Klein maybe had that wrong.

It must be pretty amazing that Obama took Michelle to Do the Right Thing.

When he was sizing Michelle up, this fine woman, he said, “How am I going to impress her?” I always kid him, good thing he didn’t choose motherfucking Driving Miss Daisy or she would have dumped his ass right there.

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LONDON | Det skall mycket till för att en kandidat från Labour skall förlora ett borgmästarval i London.

The Spectator 2 January 2016

Det är lika svårt för en konservativ politiker i London som för en republikan i New York.

Trots detta har Boris Johnson varit den perfekta konservativa borgmästaren för en storstad som London. Även om Johnson inte varit någon kopia av den tidigare republikanska borgmästaren Michael Bloomberg har de hel del gemensamt.

Båda har varit sitt eget varumärke. Båda har lyckats sälja in sin egen person snarare än deras partitillhörighet. Båda har gått sin egen väg och snarare varit pragmatiska än ideologiska.

Så när London nu skall gå till val igen i maj skall det mycket till för att Tories skall lyckas upprepa Johnsons bragd.

Den här gången kommer det att stå mellan Sadiq Khan från Labour och Zac Goldsmith från Conservative Party.

Eftersom Labour idag har en rejält impopulär partiledare i Jeremy Corbyn samtidigt som Johnson har varit mycket populär har Khan valt en strategi som går ut på att distansera sig från sin partiledare samtidigt som han talar väl om allt som det bara går att tala väl om hos sin motståndare.

James Forsyth, politisk redaktör på The Spectator, har tittat på Khan och hans kampanjstrategi.

He ran Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign in 2010 and led Labour’s fierce — and surprisingly effective —campaign in London last year. Now, his sights are set on reclaiming City Hall for Labour and persuading even those on the right that he is the natural heir to Boris Johnson.

‘I want Spectator readers to give me a second look,’ he says, when we meet in the House of Commons. He is not, he’s keen to stress, a lieutenant in Jeremy Corbyn’s army. He’s keen to ladle praise on Boris Johnson — a ‘great salesman for our city’ who made him feel ‘proud to be a Londoner’ during the Olympics. He even likes rich people. ‘I welcome the fact that we have got 140-plus billionaires in London; that’s a good thing. I welcome the fact that there are more than 400,000 millionaires; that’s a good thing.’ If you shut your eyes, it could be Peter Mandelson speaking. It is not what you would expect from someone who has always been on the soft left of Labour.

If elected mayor, he says, he would not attempt to taunt David Cameron’s government as Ken Livingstone once taunted Margaret Thatcher’s. ‘I’m not going to be somebody who puts a big banner up outside City Hall criticising the Prime Minister, he says. ‘As a Labour councillor for 12 years in Tory Wandsworth I saw the benefits of having to work with the Tories to get a good deal for my constituents.’

But this is all part of Khan’s ambitious strategy: he doesn’t just want to win, he wants to win big. He is confident about his own ability to run a campaign; to him the issue isn’t whether he’ll win — but how.

‘If we wanted to, we could just target those Labour voters and increase the turnout. We could win London just by doing that.’ But, he says, ‘That’s not the sort of mayor I want to be… I want to be everyone’s mayor.’ In particular, he wants to be that vanishingly rare thing: a Labour friend of business. ‘Bearing in mind who our leader is,’ he says, ‘it’s important to reassure the right people that he doesn’t represent all Labour thinking.’ Khan is clearly aware that his biggest vulnerability is being branded Corbyn’s candidate. He is eager to say he is not in regular contact with his party leader; the last time he saw him was when they had their photos taken together to promote the Living Wage more than a month ago.

[…]

The Tories would dearly love to turn this contest into independent-minded Zac versus Jeremy Corbyn’s man. But by love-bombing Tories and business, Khan is determined to stop them doing that. So if the Tories are to stop Labour retaking City Hall, then the Goldsmith campaign will have to match Khan’s organisation, energy and enthusiasm.

Tidskriftsomslag: The Spectator, 2 januari 2016.

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VAL 2016 | När en populistisk presidentkandidat på högerkanten får beröm i New York kan man vara säker på att (eller hon) gör något rätt.

New York - Donald Trump

Inte för att artikeln av liberalen Frank Rich är okritisk. Tvärt om. Men i det stora hela får Trump beröm för att han vågar ifrågasätta den politiska kulturen i allmänhet och republikanernas i synnerhet.

En innovation som gjort Trumpskampanj så framgångsrik är att Trump valt att hålla kampanjstrategerna på armslängds avstånd. Trump brukar säga att han får all information som han behöver från dagens nyheter. Han behöver inga rådgivare.

Och inte har han behövt att köpa någon tv-reklam heller. Han får tillräckligt med gratisreklam ändå.

Om Trumps kampanjstab är smarta ser man till att sprida innehållet till både höger och vänster. Om inte annat för att artikeln är än mer kritisk mot de övriga republikanska presidentkandidaterna (och mot Hillary Clinton).

In the short time since Trump declared his candidacy, he has performed a public service by exposing, however crudely and at times inadvertently, the posturings of both the Republicans and the Democrats and the foolishness and obsolescence of much of the political culture they share. He is, as many say, making a mockery of the entire political process with his bull-in-a-china-shop antics. But the mockery in this case may be overdue, highly warranted, and ultimately a spur to reform rather than the crime against civic order that has scandalized those who see him, in the words of the former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, as “dangerous to democracy.”

Trump may be injecting American democracy with steroids. No one, after all, is arguing that the debates among the GOP presidential contenders would be drawing remotely their Game of Thrones-scale audiences if the marquee stars were Jeb Bush and Scott Walker.

[…]

What’s exhilarating, even joyous, about Trump has nothing to do with his alternately rancid and nonsensical positions on policy. It’s that he’s exposing the phoniness of our politicians and the corruption of our political process by defying the protocols of the whole game. He skips small-scale meet-and-greets in primary-state living rooms and diners. He turned down an invitation to appear at the influential freshman senator Joni Ernst’s hog roast in Iowa. He routinely denigrates sacred GOP cows like Karl Rove and the Club for Growth. He has blown off the most powerful newspapers in the crucial early states of Iowa (the Des Moines Register) and New Hampshire (the Union-Leader) and paid no political price for it. Yet he is overall far more accessible to the press than most candidates — most conspicuously Clinton — which in turn saves him from having to buy television ad time.

[…]

He also makes a sport of humiliating high-end campaign gurus. When Sam Clovis, a powerful Evangelical conservative activist in Iowa, jumped from the cratering Perry to Trump in August, it seemed weird. Despite saying things like “I’m strongly into the Bible,” Trump barely pretends to practice any religion. The Des Moines Register soon published excerpts from emails written just five weeks earlier (supplied by Perry allies) in which Clovis had questioned Trump’s “moral center” and lack of “foundation in Christ” and praised Perry for calling Trump “a cancer on conservatism.” But, like Guy Grand in The Magic Christian, Trump figured correctly that money spoke louder than Christ to Clovis. He was no less shrewd in bringing the focus-group entrepreneur Frank Luntz to heel. After Luntz convened a negative post-debate panel on Fox News that, in Luntz’s view, signaled “the destruction” of Trump’s campaign, Trump showered him with ridicule. Luntz soon did a Priebus-style about-face and convened a new panel that amounted to a Trump lovefest. One participant praised Trump for not mouthing “that crap” that’s been “pushed to us for the past 40 years.” It’s unclear if Luntz was aware of the irony of his having been a major (and highly compensated) pusher of “that crap,” starting with his role in contriving the poll-shaped pablum of Newt Gingrich’s bogus “Contract With America.”

A perfect paradigm of how lame old-school, top-heavy campaigns can be was crystallized by a single story on the front page of the Times the day after Labor Day. Its headline said it all: “Clinton Aides Set New Focus for Campaign — A More Personal Tone of Humor and Heart.” By announcing this “new focus” to the Times, which included “new efforts to bring spontaneity” to a candidacy that “sometimes seems wooden,” these strategists were at once boasting of their own (supposed) political smarts and denigrating their candidate, who implicitly was presented as incapable of being human without their direction and scripts. Hilariously enough, the article straight-facedly cited as expert opinion the former Romney strategist Eric Fehrnstrom — whose stewardship of the most wooden candidate in modern memory has apparently vanished into a memory hole — to hammer home the moral that “what matters is you appear genuine.”

We also learned from this piece that Clinton would soon offer “a more contrite tone” when discussing her email woes, because a focus group “revealed that voters wanted to hear directly from Mrs. Clinton” about it. The aides, who gave the Times “extensive interviews,” clearly thought that this story was a plus for their candidate, and maybe the candidate did, too, since she didn’t fire them on the spot. They all seemed unaware of the downside of portraying Clinton as someone who delegated her “heart” to political operatives and her calibration of contrition to a focus group. By offering a stark contrast to such artifice, the spontaneous, unscripted Trump is challenging the validity and value of the high-priced campaign strategists, consultants, and pollsters who dominate our politics, shape journalistic coverage, and persuade even substantial candidates to outsource their souls to focus groups and image doctors. That brand of politics has had a winning run ever since the young television producer Roger Ailes used his media wiles to create a “new Nixon” in 1968. But in the wake of Trump’s “unprofessional” candidacy, many of the late-20th-century accoutrements of presidential campaigns, often tone-deaf and counter­productive in a new era where social media breeds insurgencies like Obama’s, Trump’s and Sanders’s, could be swept away — particularly if Clinton’s campaign collapses.

Tidskriftsomslag: New York, 21 september – 4 oktober 2015.

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IMAGE | Även den som är ointresserad av amerikansk politik minns att president Bill Clinton hade en otrolig förmåga att bli förknippad med skandaler.

The Plain Dealer den 20 december 1998

Det räcker t.ex. att nämna Monica Lewinsky för att minnena skall komma tillbaka. I många av dessa skandaler var Hillary Clinton direkt eller indirekt involverad.

Frågan alla ställer sig är om dessa skandaler – många nu tjugo år gamla – kommer att påverka Hillary Clinton negativt i valrörelsen.

Hillary Clinton är idag en välkänd person som väljarna redan har bildat sig en uppfattning om. Just av den anledningen skall det mycket till för att man skall ändra uppfattning om henne baserat bara på gamla skandaler som ingen längre minns detaljerna kring.

Så det behövs nog nya skandaler – som förstärker eventuella negativa misstankar om henne – för att väljarna idag skall börja ifrågasätta henne för vad som hände under president Clintons tid.

Med tanke på att många har en positiv bild av henne som utrikesminister så kommer kanske inte ens nya skandaler hjälpa hennes politiska motståndare.

En som borde veta när det gäller skandaler och krishanering är Chris Lehane, politisk rådgivare för demokraterna, som bl.a. jobbat för president Clinton.

Adam Nagourney, The New York Times, kallade en gång Lehane för en “fervent advocate of the dark arts of politics: the cutthroat, destroy-your-enemies, do-what-it-takes-to win approach to political campaigns”.

Eric Benson, på New York, frågade Lehane om han tror att dessa gamla skandaler kan komma att påverka synen på Clinton.

Do you see Republican attacks as potentially backfiring?

I think that the fact that she’s embracing the idea of being the first woman to become president serves as both a sword and a shield. It’s a shield because if you get down to it some of the attacks really are misogynist, and it’s a sword because this becomes part of her vision.

But Hillary already ran to become the first woman president, and Barack Obama still beat her with his “same old politics” attacks.

First of all, I’m not sure, at least in the first part of her campaign in 2008, that she really embraced the historic nature of the candidacy. In fact, if you look back, there was a real effort to not highlight that. And obviously 2008 was still only eight years removed from the Clinton presidency. When you’re running in 2016, that offers a different historical perspective. I’m doing polling all the time on campaigns across the country, and if you ask people how they voted in the Clinton years, you get 65, 70 percent of the public that say they voted for Bill Clinton even though he never, obviously, got close to those numbers.

You advocated getting in front of scandals when you were an aide in the Clinton White House. Do you think Hillary should respond when people like Rand Paul and Reince Priebus dredge up Whitewater and the impeachment?

To use a boxing analogy, I think you can sidestep those punches. I just don’t think they really connect, because they were just so long ago and they’ve been regurgitated any number of times. You’re talking about stuff, in some cases, that goes back to the mid-1980s. I mean, there’s some not-­insignificant percent of the population that wasn’t even born then!

Läs mer: ”Yeah, I Wrote the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy Memo” av Chris Lehane, PoliticoMagazine.

Bild: The Plain Dealer den 20 december 1998.

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USA | Jonathan Chait har skrivit en av de mer intressanta artiklarna om rasismen i USA under Barack Obamas tid som president.

Front Cover New York April 7-20 2014

Demokraterna (läs: liberalerna) håller på att vinna kriget om synen på hur man får debattera minoritetsfrågor i USA. Men man har kanske inte gjort det med metoder som är speciellt liberala.

Det har, inte minst i media och bland politiska motståndare, blivit accepterat att utmåla republikanernas konservatism som en form av dold rasism.

I bästa fall har man ”bara” anklagat dem för att deras ideologi gör dem blinda för att deras politik drabbar minoriteter i högre grad än vita.

Vad som komplicerar frågan är att liberalerna har en poäng i sin kritik av republikanerna.

Men enligt Chait har samhällsdebatten i allt större utsträckning accepterat att man tillmäter republikaner rasistiska motiv även när det talas om helt andra saker än just rasism.

Chait skriver i New York:

If you set out to write a classic history of the Obama era, once you had described the historically significant fact of Obama’s election, race would almost disappear from the narrative. […] The policy landscape of the Obama era looks more like it did during the Progressive Era and the New Deal, when Americans fought bitterly over regulation and the scope of government. The racial-policy agenda of the Obama administration has been nearly nonexistent.

But if you instead set out to write a social history of the Obama years, one that captured the day-to-day experience of political life, you would find that race has saturated everything as perhaps never before. Hardly a day goes by without a volley and counter-volley of accusations of racial insensitivity and racial hypersensitivity. And even when the red and blue tribes are not waging their endless war of mutual victimization, the subject of race courses through everything else: debt, health care, unemployment.

[…]

Racial conservatism and conservatism used to be similar things; now they are the same thing. This is also true with racial liberalism and liberalism. The mental chasm lying between red and blue America is, at bottom, an irreconcilable difference over the definition of racial justice. You can find this dispute erupting everywhere. A recent poll found a nearly 40-point partisan gap on the question of whether 12 Years a Slave deserved Best Picture.

In 1981, Lee Atwater, a South Carolina native working for the Reagan administration, gave an interview to Alexander Lamis, a political scientist at Case Western Reserve University. In it, Atwater described the process by which the conservative message evolved from explicitly racist appeals to implicitly racialized appeals to white economic self-interest:

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a by-product of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites … ‘We want to cut this’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘nigger, nigger.’”

Atwater went on to run George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaign against Michael Dukakis in 1988, where he flamboyantly vowed to make Willie Horton, a murderer furloughed by Dukakis who subsequently raped a woman, “his running mate.”

[…]

Yet here is the point where, for all its breadth and analytic power, the liberal racial analysis collapses onto itself. It may be true that, at the level of electoral campaign messaging, conservatism and white racial resentment are functionally identical. It would follow that any conservative argument is an appeal to white racism. That is, indeed, the all-but-explicit conclusion of the ubiquitous Atwater Rosetta-stone confession: Republican politics is fundamentally racist, and even its use of the most abstract economic appeal is a sinister, coded missive.

Impressive though the historical, sociological, and psychological evidence undergirding this analysis may be, it also happens to be completely insane. Whatever Lee Atwater said, or meant to say, advocating tax cuts is not in any meaningful sense racist.

One of the greatest triumphs of liberal politics over the past 50 years has been to completely stigmatize open racial discrimination in public life […] This achievement has run headlong into an increasing liberal tendency to define conservatism as a form of covert racial discrimination. If conservatism is inextricably entangled with racism, and racism must be extinguished, then the scope for legitimate opposition to Obama shrinks to an uncomfortably small space.

The racial debate of the Obama years emits some of the poisonous waft of the debates over communism during the ­McCarthy years. It defies rational resolution in part because it is about secret motives and concealed evil.

[…]

Few liberals acknowledge that the ability to label a person racist represents, in 21st-century America, real and frequently terrifying power. Conservatives feel that dread viscerally. Though the liberal analytic method begins with a sound grasp of the broad connection between conservatism and white racial resentment, it almost always devolves into an open-ended license to target opponents on the basis of their ideological profile. The power is rife with abuse.

[…]

It’s unlikely that Obama is deliberately plotting to associate his opponents with white supremacy in a kind of reverse-Atwater maneuver. But Obama almost surely believes his race helped trigger the maniacal ferocity of his opponents. (If not, he would be one of the few Obama voters who don’t.) And it’s not hard to imagine that Obama’s constant, public frustration with the irrationality pervading the Republican Party subconsciously expresses his suspicions.

Obama is attempting to navigate the fraught, everywhere-and-yet-nowhere racial obsession that surrounds him. It’s a weird moment, but also a temporary one. […] In the long run, generational changes grind inexorably away. The rising cohort of Americans holds far more liberal views than their parents and grandparents on race, and everything else (though of course what you think about “race” and what you think about “everything else” are now interchangeable). We are living through the angry pangs of a new nation not yet fully born.

Tidskriftsomslag: New York, 7-20 april 2014.

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