Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Does Trumpanzee Psycho-Babble Actually Mean Something?


Trump can't call a gaggle of press people to the White House and say, "Look, I snorted up a little too much Adderall when I woke up on Saturday and got carried away. I know Obama never wire-tapped me. Sorry, let's just forget the whole thing." No, that's not Trump. He's just going to keep digging. As George Lakoff famously pronounced ages ago, "Being a minority president drives Trump crazy. Never stop reminding him that he lost the popular vote big league." In January Lakoff was on NPR with Brooke Gladstone looking a the patterns in Trumpish tweeting. First let me suggest you look at this relatively calm one from yesterday-- along with my own photographic response:

The picture on the right is the sparsely attended Spirit of America Rally Trump rally in front of the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines on Saturday. At its peak, there were maybe two hundred sad, pathetic Trump supporters. The picture on the left is the anti-Trump Sister Rally at the same location where thousands of Iowans showed up to express their opposition to Trumpism. There was also a Trumpist rally Saturday in Council Bluffs, in the reddest part of Iowa. You want to see sad?

In mid-January, Gladstone and Lakoff explored how understanding Trump's uses language in his tweets is essentially for understanding how to deal with them. Lakoff offered his first premise: "[T]he idea of preemptive framing is to frame an issue before other people get a chance to, to put the idea out there first, for example, quote, 'The only reason the hacking of the poorly defended DNC is discussed is that the loss by the Dems was so big, they were totally embarrassed.' [T]he idea is that the hacking of the DNC was the fault of the DNC... You have to understand what the framing is and what the framing is he’s trying to avoid. You know, he said, 'In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote, if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.' Right? No reason to think anybody voted illegally, but what he's doing is trying to reframe the popular vote."

Lakoff then explored the concept of the diversion tweet which "occurs when there's some major issue that's come up, and what he'll do is do things like attack Meryl Streep, you know, Meryl Streep, one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big. The idea is to get people on TV talking about Meryl Streep, not talking about the real issues, in this case, conflict of interest and the Russian hacking. Before that, he had done the attack on Hamilton, you know, 'The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior.' So that all the people on New York radio and TV and so on are going to talk about Hamilton, instead of talking about the [$25 million settlement in] the Trump University [scandal]."

The third category is the trial balloon tweet. Lakoff: "He says, 'The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capacity until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.' He’s going to see how people react to this, and then he'll know what to do in the future. People were confused, they talked about, you know, nuclear proliferation a little bit and then it went away. And then the fourth category is deflection, where you attack the messenger, so he attacked BuzzFeed, CNN, the BBC for putting out the discussion of the Russian leaks."
BROOKE GLADSTONE:  Obviously, you don't think the media are handling these utterances very well. What do you suggest that we do?

GEORGE LAKOFF:  The media is addicted to breaking news, so we have to give the tweet first. That’s the breaking news. Wrong, because that allows him to manipulate you as a reporter and manipulate the truth.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  So you're saying don't report on the tweet?

GEORGE LAKOFF:  You begin by telling the truth and giving the evidence for that truth, then mention his tweet, point out that that contradicts the truth and then talk about what kind of tweet this is. You know, you say, this is a case of diversion. Here’s what he is diverting, quickly. Don't have a panel discussion about it, you know, [LAUGHS] just do it and go on. Keep going back to substance and the truth.

Also, what is the effect of his tweeting on the truth? He’s trying to say, usually, that this truth is a general truth. And that’s another thing that I should add to this list of the things he does, is to take a specific case and say that it's the general case... There is a rape or a murder, a shooting by a Mexican, he says, they’re rapists and killers. He does that all the time.

Former White House press secretary Josh Earnest has a slightly different way of looking at Trump's tweeting. He told This Week viewers yesterday that Trump tweets to distract from scandals: "There is one page in the Trump White House crisis management playbook. And that is simply to tweet or say something outrageous to distract from a scandal. And the bigger the scandal, the more outrageous the tweet."

Writing for The Nation a few days ago, William Greider lured in readers with the provocative title, Is our President Bonkers? but pivoted immediately: "Maybe, but this screwball won because he saw something about the American condition that neither Democrats nor Republicans have the nerve to acknowledge." Greider acknowledges that "Trump has chosen some scary right-wing goofballs as his intimate advisers" but says we've "survived a lot worse than Donald Trump."
Trump’s freakish behavior and obsessive lying (not to mention the foul racist slurs) have captured the public’s fascination, like watching a scary picture show. Every day the news is Trump, Trump, Trump. People argue endlessly over how it’s going to end. Some on the hysterical left insist the country is on the brink of fascism, but I know some old hands in Washington’s permanent governing class who have a calmer perspective. They assume that Trump’s people can do a lot of damage but will ultimately fail on the big stuff, because they don’t understand the intimate politics of governing, and every day they do one thing or another to undercut their own power and influence with Congress and lobbyists. Watching the Trump presidency stumble is like slowing down on the highway to get a better look at the wreck on the roadside.

But this begs an obvious question: How did this screwball get to the White House in the first place? Put aside his odious traits and egomaniacal vanity. What explains the extraordinary success of this neophyte politician?

I have a theory: Trump baffled and defeated his conventional opponents because he expressed an emotional truth about the American condition that people feel in their guts. But neither Democrats nor Republicans have the nerve to acknowledge it. The “American Century” is over, Trump declared in so many words (“We never win anymore!”). The long and mostly successful saga of US triumphalism, in which Washington essentially ran the world, is finally stumbling toward a confused and chaotic conclusion. Governing elites, though, refuse to accept that reality. It would sound cowardly, unpatriotic.

Never mind the endless succession of losing wars, never mind the gargantuan US debt, meant to keep the world economy from sinking into the full catastrophe of global depression. We are still the “indispensable nation” celebrated by New York Times columnists and certain learned professors.

Only, Americans at large aren’t buying it any more. Odd as it sounds, ordinary people came to a clear understanding of our national predicament long before the power elites and most of the economics profession, and especially before the data wizards of our major political parties. Trump saw an opportunity, and now his victory has generated a kind of nervous breakdown among the elites. Hard-shell conservatives are trying to talk like working-class champions. They are not so afraid of Democrats, but what if Trump puts the plug on them in the next election?

Yes, Trump sold a magical package of solutions when he promised to restore America’s “greatness.” He even revved up a fearsome echo of 1930s/early ’40s isolationism, when Americans in general really didn’t want to get involved in Hitler’s war in Europe. But “America First” sounds reassuring to many Americans (many of whom are unaware of the historical echoes), and Trump’s criticisms of trade treaties sound right to them too.

The United States is still fabulously wealthy and inventive, still largely a beacon of hope and freedom for other parts of the world, but our singular preeminence and power base have been matched, even eclipsed in some respects. The governing class doesn’t want to give up dominant influence-- that’s understandable-- but Trump is right when he says other countries are often free riders on our willingness to pick up the tab. On the other hand, the United States spends way too much on its own military, and its arms industry is always looking for customers among our allies.

Trump’s popular appeal is mainly driven by sentimental nostalgia for the American past-- a longing for the glory years when the United States liberated the world and created a new global order, when prosperity was shared more widely and rising opportunities were more plentiful at home and abroad.

That saga ended in America a generation ago, and it’s nowhere more evident than in the diverging path of wage and income distribution. The rich have gotten richer and working people are struggling to maintain their status and losing. Many are now competing with $2-a-day child labor in Asian sweatshops. Families tried to keep up for a time by working two jobs while borrowing more and more, to no avail. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) made her name by attacking the vicious bankruptcy laws that tightened the squeeze on working people (lots of banker-friendly Democrats voted for those laws).

My point is this: Trump (along with Bernie Sanders) deserves credit for forcing this new working-class consciousness into the brain-dead political debate of Washington. If Sanders had won, we could reasonably hope for the dawn of a new reform era. But don’t count on Donald Trump. We already know he is unreliable with facts. More to the point, he looks back nostalgically at lost glory and imagines that certain familiar economic measures-- mainly, pro-business tax cuts-- will restore the good times. As technologist Joe Costello says, Trump’s program is “reactionary nostalgia.”

In fact, Trump’s proposals (with the possible exception of trade reform) are sure to increase economic inequality. His ideas are patterned after Ronald Reagan’s regressive tax reductions — a massive looting of the Treasury in behalf big business and big wealth holders. Despite warnings from budget analysts, the Gipper’s early 1980s giveaway launched the modern era of swollen federal deficits. Only now, instead of billions, US indebtedness is counted in trillions.

Most Democrats are looking backward too. Like Trump, their new ideas are mostly retreads. If rank-and-file Dems want to get real influence, they should copy a successful Republican device. Ask every Democrat running for office-- from the US House and Senate to state legislatures and governorships-- to take the following pledge: They must promise that they will not vote for any tax measure that favors the billionaires and big corporations, thereby increasing the income inequality that is already a national scandal. If the Democratic candidates refuse to sign the pledge, put them on the hit list.
Hit list? OK, these are the dozen worst garbage Democrats in the House who have earned spot on the hit list... and primary opponents (the order is adjusted by the partisan makeup of their districts, giving a slight break to the ones in redder seats):
Tom O'Halleran (Blue Dog-AZ)
Tom Suozzi (NY)
Lou Correa (Blue Dog-CA)
Stephanie Murphy (Blue Dog-FL)
Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ)
Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Charlie Crist (FL)
Vicente González (TX)
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog- MN)
Jacky Rosen (NV)
By the way, there's only one Democrat in the House today with a PERFECT 100% lifetime ProgressivePunch crucial vote score: Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). Credit where credit is due. You can help make sure Pramila is reelected by contributing to her campaign here. In fact, everyone of that list at the link is nothing short of essential. These are the most effective and persistent congressional voices of The Resistance against Trumpism.

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At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again, I must disagree with the conclusion. As long as the default starting point is the democrap party, there really isn't anyone that is indispensable. I like Jayapal. There are maybe 10 others that I like. The rest are shit.

But they are all members of an institution that exists for the purpose of taking from the masses and giving to the rich. Jayapal is about .5% of the house and is, thus, impotent to affect anything at all. Her ONLY value is that she will tell the truth... to a media that won't cover her and to an electorate in WA that already knows. Same with the other 9 or so. The remaining 95% of the Ds as well as 110% of the leadershit are never going to allow that sect of their "party" to get in the way of their gravy train.

If the default position of voters is that democraps are the only alternative... we're well and truly fucked forever. FOREVER.

Voters have to insist on actual change. That means ACTUAL CHANGE, starting with permanently eschewing the democraps and their leadershit.

Fill the left vacuum with a truly left party and Jayapal and the other 9 will eagerly join in.

As to whether der fuhrer's tweets "mean" anything... who cares. He's psychotic... paranoid delusional... maturity of a 7-year-old... 5th-grade education... only knows tyrannical rule and would never cede any power he doesn't want to cede to anyone... certainly not to the masses. He should be running a forklift somewhere for minimum wage. That's his professional (merit) ceiling.

But born with a silver spoon up his ass... and this guy got 60 million votes.

Says all you need to know about us voters.


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