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Recently, the National Review devoted an entire issue to the scary, gauche thing that is Donald Trump. In it, they published what may turn out to be the most famous sentence ever to appear in their magazine. It is being repeated all over. Let me repeat it again:

He and Bernie Sanders have shared more than funky outer-borough accents.

Dahlink, I’ve got a funky “outer-borough” accent. Technically, mine is from New Jersey, but it’s not the Upper East Side. Sorry folks. I’m not partial to the Donald’s taste. I was once a decorative painter and I have a nearly painful awareness of the intersection of taste and class. I’ve advised clients to not add one more curlicue. However, one thing I hate more than the taste of the overly ornate arriviste is the taste of fear, the abject people who seek approval and dress in fear, and furnish their homes in fear, and speak in fear.

What does this have to do with French? Not much except free association inside my noggin.

“Moé, chus bonne.” One of the most remarked upon differences between Quebec French and Standard French is the pronunciation of the “oi” sound. Today, in Standard French “moi” is pronounced like “mwah” (ipa: mwa). However in Quebec it is pronounced as “mweh” (mwe). (I know the typical way of transcribing the pronunciation of é is “ay,” but “ay” is a dipthong and they sound very unlike. We don’t have the sound in English.) Louis XIV, in all likelihood, said “L’etat, c’est moé.”

The French typically tell me that the Canadians speak “eighteenth century French.” This of course is incorrect. Obviously, we are in the twenty-first century and the French-speaking Canadians are, but definition, speaking a variety of twenty-first century French. France lost Canada to the English in 1763. This was before the revolution. “Mwe” was Standard French. “Mwa” was the working class, Parisian pronunciation. In linguistic terms, it was highly marked. We might call it stigmatized, it marked you as a lower class person. During the Revolution, however, these things got turned upside down and having an upper class accent could get you killed. It was only in the wake of the French Revolution that French became standardized throughout the country. I’m not sure why the “wa” pronunciation spread, but it did. Certainly, Canadian French has changed since 1763, but it did not undergo the changes wrought by the Revolution, which is why is sounds “eighteenth century” to some French people.

Another distinction between Standard French and Quebec French is the pronunciation of the r. This is the main element of a Canadian accent that my French retains. To an English speaker, it is a subtle difference, both are uvular fricatives, meaning that they are “rolled” in the back of the throat, however Standard French is voiceless (ʁ) and Canadian French is voiced (χ). For those of you unfamiliar with linguistic terms, this is the difference between a “p” and a “b.” “P” is voiced while “b” is voiceless. If you say “puh” and “buh”, you’ll see what I mean. Your lips are doing the same things, but your vocal cords are not. A voiced “r” does appear in some regional French accents. (Quick – how many nasal vowels are there in French? If you said four, you probably learned French in school like I did. Different regional accents have different numbers of nasal vowels, anywhere from three to six.) In English, the more noticeable your regional accent is, the lower down on the class scale you probably are. I’m not familiar enough with French culture to be certain, but I believe a similar dynamic occurs there. It is definitely the case the Quebec. At the same time, however, if you speak French in Quebec with a voiceless r, you will be accused of putting on airs. One of the reasons I have a Canadian r to begin with is that my ex-husband was obsessed with my pronunciation of this one sound. He kept telling me that I sounded like a “snob.” Since I could barely speak French at that time, I thought this was a bizarre fixation on his part. However, it goes to show how closely tied our accents are to social signals and identity. At times, I’ve thought it would be socially useful to speak without an accent and have thought about changing it. The reason I haven’t done so is that I would feel like a faker.

Before going onto my next free association, I thought I might add this video I found more or less by accident a few months ago. The girl in the video strikes me as looking and sounding typically Quebecoise. Sometimes when trying to give and example of French Canadian accents people give examples that either highlight or downplay the differences between Quebec and France depending on the point they’re trying to make. This strikes me as the sort of language I heard on a daily basis.

I recall reading when I was kid about the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland. One story I read talked about how, if a kid walked into a neighborhood where he was unknown, he might be grabbed by a gang of local kids and forced to recite the alphabet. If he pronounced “h” in the wrong way he would get beaten up. Different social groups had different accents and the pronunciation of the “h” was a distinguishing feature.

I don’t drop my h, but then I’m not from Brooklyn or Queens. Still, I know that I have a lower middle class manner of speaking. I have one rich friend who visibly winces when I say certain words.

From Matt Welch writing on the libertarian website Reason:

Yes, Trump is nobody’s conservative, but it’s not at all clear that many voters really care about such things. His rise is a rebuke to the stories that political commentators have long told themselves, and to the mores they have long shared even while otherwise disagreeing ideologically with one another. You can despise Donald Trump (and oh Lord I do), and appreciate National Review’s efforts here, while simultaneously wondering whether his forcible removal of a certain journalistic mask might also have some benefit.

Strangely, despite disagree with Trump on a variety of issues and doubting that he has the requisite experience to make a decent president, I can’t help rooting for him. I know that the people who hate him hate me too. It’s a strange feeling. I understand why someone wouldn’t vote for him, but I don’t understand the hysteria. We have a republican form of government. What’s the worst that could happen? I’m supporting Sanders despite not being a socialist in large part because I don’t think he’d be able to get his most socialist ideas through Congress. I think Sanders’ focus on working people is good and Congress will prevent him from going too far. It would be even more dramatic with Trump. My own hunch is that if Trump becomes president he will be able to do less than even Sanders because he’s not as familiar with the inner workings of government. We’ll have four muddled years. The earth won’t stop turning. Frankly, I don’t see Trump as having enough support to do something like invading Iraq, so I doubt he’ll even be as damaging as President Bush, Jr. After that, we’ll probably get a more mainstream politician.

As far as Trump being an embarrassment, I don’t really care. Between the welfare of the American people and the good opinion of European high society, I’ll take the welfare of the American people every time. Trumps accent, lack of style, hair, wife, interior decorations are all non-issues to me. Everyone was so thrilled that President Obama cut a dignified figure on the world stage, but, while he did so, the gap between the rich and the poor grew. Dignity be damned. My concern about Trump is that he is too unfamiliar with government to govern well.

Anyway, the person who truly scares me is Senator Cruz.

 

 

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William Voegeli, writing in the Claremont Review of Books recently, had a very important article regarding Donald Trump, “The Reason I’m Anti-Anti-Trump.” I immediately liked the title. I am someone who is temperamentally disinclined to like Trump. However, there’s a certain sort of group political behavior which has always given me pause. It seems almost de riguer these days for everyone to write a piece decrying, in terms louder and more hysterical than the last person, how thoroughly awful Donald Trump is. Many of these writers must have read the previous pieces, so I’m not quite sure what they think they are bringing to the conversation. Therefore, I’ve been pleased to see a small number of people writing about the subject in a more serious way.

Voegeli begins his article quoting several of those breathless denunciations including Damon Linker of the Week.

Trump’s supporters are the “culturally alienated, conservative white male voters” who have “been manipulated … into a perpetual state of aggrieved indignation” by right-wing talk-radio…

Voegeli responds to that characterization by noting that:

To say, however, that Trump’s voters have been manipulated into aggrievement implies that their dissatisfactions are either spurious or, if genuine, illegitimate and indecent.

It should be noted that trying to understand political opponents is not a new subject for Voegeli. In and interview, explaining why he wrote about the politics of compassion, in Salon in 2014 he said:

I thought for a conservative trying to understand liberals as they understand themselves it seemed necessary to go there, because it’s a big part of the liberal self-identity.

From the liberal side of things, I have long argued for the same behavior on our part. It is of little theoretical utility to simply mock and castigate people who advocate policies different from one’s own. It is intellectually lazy to presume negative motivations on the part of people with whom one disagrees. It helps in both developing better positions and better persuasion. I believe Voegeli is quite right to say:

The fact that Trump has become a credible contender despite, or even because of, his obvious faults argues, however, for taking his followers’ concerns seriously rather than dismissing them. It is not, in fact, particularly difficult to explain the emergence of Trumpismo in terms of legitimate concerns not addressed, and important duties not discharged. That such a flawed contender could be a front-runner tells us more about what’s wrong with the country than about what’s wrong with his followers.

If you are a Democratic politician, work for one or are employed by the Democratic Party, then you may find the chaos into which Trump has thrown the Republican Party something to mine for your own personal advantages and shouting about how awful Trump is might make some sense. However, if you are a private citizen who happens to find himself or herself aligning more frequently with Democrats because you think they advocate better policies, then looking at what concerns Trump’s supporters have is something we should do.

The strange thing about the fact that the leftist and liberal pundits’ inability to take the concerns of Trumps supporters seriously is that some of their concerns align with the concerns that the left claims to represent. A year or two ago, a study came out from two professors showing that rich individuals and large businesses drive public policy and the views of ordinary citizens have no influence at all. From The Hill:

The analysts found that rich individuals and business-controlled interest groups largely shape policy outcomes in the United States.

The study also debunks the notion that the policy preferences of business and the rich reflect the views of common citizens. They found to the contrary that such preferences often sharply diverge and when they do, the economic elites and business interests almost always win and the ordinary Americans lose.

This study was widely reported in the progressive press at the time. It should be noted, however, that this is a bi-partisan indictment. The Republican Party has been less shy about its support of big business, but a recent headline in the Washington Examiner read, “2015: The year the Democrats fully embraced corporatism.”

Democrats have long been purveyors of patronage and corporate welfare, but forever they’ve gotten away with pretending to be populists.

The article goes on to assert that for decades the Republicans have done the Democrats’ “dirty work.” “Democrats have always relied on corporte welfare,” it says.

But as long as Republicans were willing to take the lead on “pro-business” policies, Democrats were happy to play a mere supporting role. This always gave Barney Frank and Obama great ammunition with which to attack Republicans as hypocrites — opposing welfare for the poor, but favoring it for corporate America.

The article then goes on to credit, incorrectly I believe, the end of the charade to the rise of the Tea Party and an “anti-cronyism movement” on the Right. I say incorrectly, because if the population felt that elected Republican politicians were responding to the needs of the people we wouldn’t have Trump. Trump’s supporters would be thronging Senators Rubio or Cruz.

The Examiner article mentions the Import-Export bank and the financial troubles of health insurers. It specifically mentions Marco Rubio.

In late 2014, Marco Rubio passed a measure capping Risk Corridor payouts to struggling insurers, thus protecting taxpayers.

Marco Rubio is not at the top of the polls because most people don’t see him as fighting for the average American due to his position on immigration. It’s no secret what issue catapulted Trump to the front of the Republican field. It’s immigration.

Writing in The Atlantic, David Frum analyzes the “internal class war” taking place in the Republican Party.

These populists seek to defend what the French call “acquired rights”—health care, pensions, and other programs that benefit older people—against bankers and technocrats who endlessly demand austerity; against migrants who make new claims and challenge accustomed ways; against a globalized market that depresses wages and benefits. In the United States, they lean Republican because they fear the Democrats want to take from them and redistribute to Americans who are newer, poorer, and in their view less deserving—to “spread the wealth around,” in candidate Barack Obama’s words to “Joe the Plumber” back in 2008. Yet they have come to fear more and more strongly that their party does not have their best interests at heart.

In this context, immigration is representative. The oligarchs and their elite mouthpieces in the media characterize the populace they rule in this undemocratic democracy as racist or xenophobic. Yet, no one is fooled about why the oligarchs want a high level of immigration. They want cheap labor. We all know this and no one is fooled. Those accusations of xenophobia are just a smoke screen to avoid talking about the real problem, summarized in Fiscal Times headline from last September, “For Most Americans, Wages Aren’t Just Stagnating — They’re Falling.”

The people working in the oligarch’s think tanks often point to studies that are reported to show that immigration does not reduce the average wages of or U.S. born workers. I don’t think the average person trusts these studies. I’m not particularly paranoid and don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories. I think bias exists, but it is the result of more subtle forces, not grand conspiracies. Still, I, along with large portions of the American people, have difficulty swallowing the argument that large-scale immigration somehow helps the living standards of people who are already U.S. citizens.

Secondly, there is the question of democracy. If voters time and time again vote for a lower level of immigration, and their elected officials continue to advocate policies that are the direct opposite of the wishes of the voters, and in line with the wishes of the wealthy and big business, then this is an excellent example of that very lack of democracy noted in that study about how the wishes of ordinary citizens have zero effect on the actions of politicians. In that regard, it should be unsurprising that immigration has become a flash point.

As David Frum relates the disconnect between the Republican Party and the people the purport to represent:

As a class, big Republican donors could not see any of this, or would not. So neither did the politicians who depend upon them. Against all evidence, both groups interpreted the Tea Party as a mass movement in favor of the agenda of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. One of the more dangerous pleasures of great wealth is that you never have to hear anyone tell you that you are completely wrong.

During the 2012 Republican primary, Mitt Romney supported the interests of big business.

The rank and file did not like it. But they could not stop it. The base kept elevating “not Romneys” into first place, and each rapidly failed or fizzled; Romney, supported by a cumulative total of $139 million in primary funds by March 2012, trundled on.

Frum explains how immigration fits into the picture:

Owners of capital assets, employers of low-skill laborers, and highly compensated professionals tend to benefit economically from the arrival of immigrants. They are better positioned to enjoy the attractive cultural and social results of migration (more-interesting food!) and to protect themselves against the burdensome impacts (surges in non-English-proficient pupils in public schools). A pro-immigration policy shift was one more assertion of class interest in a party program already brimful of them.

According to Frum, Trump promised the working class supporters of the Republican Party four things on which they felt betrayed by the rich: to protect their pensions from austerity, to avoid another war in the Middle East, to campaign without the influence of monied interests and to “protect their wages from being undercut by Republican immigration policy.”

Frum concludes:

What happens to an elite whose followers withdraw their assent? Does it self-examine? Or does it take refuge in denial? Does it change? Or does it try to prevent change? Does it challenge itself to build a new political majority? Or does it seize the opportunities the American political system offers to compact and purposeful minorities? When its old answers fail, will it think anew? Or will it simply repeat louder the dogmas that enthralled supporters in the past?

“What happens to an elite whose followers withdraw their assent?” Indeed. This is what I believe fuels the hysterical denunciations of Trump.

The anti-democratic tone of many of the anti-Trump articles disturbs me as a person without connections or influence. In this context, I couldn’t help but take note of a Vox article which said that “most millenials don’t think it’s essential to live in a democracy.” An interesting detail was that support for authoritarian government was growing most quickly among the wealthy.

As inequality is rising, and the wealthy have more to lose from economic policies that would favor the bulk of the population, they are growing increasingly impatient with democratic institutions. The number of wealthy Americans who want a strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with Congress or elections, for example, has sharply increased since 1995.

People who are against Trump should not view him as a cause, but as a symptom. For decades, people have been voting for mainstream candidates in hopes that they would represent their interests. Time and time again, they have been betrayed. The concerns of the citizenry are well-known. The fact that our politicians are entirely incapable of even beginning to address those concerns shows how beholden they are to the wealthy who pull the strings. I believe it is disingenuous to get all riled up over Trump if you are not even more riled up over the moral corruption that pervades our political class.

Today I read an article by Douglas Murray in The Spectator which echoed thoughts I have had myself recently.

The other night my mother mentioned that she would be coming over. I said something about tidying up. She responded with “Don’t worry.” Quickly, she corrected herself. “As a social worker, I know you’re never supposed to say ‘Don’t worry.’” Indeed, saying don’t worry often makes people worry more. Then, I found myself explaining to my mother, who happens to hate Donald Trump, that some of his appeal is probably driven by just that dynamic.

It’s an idea that had crossed my mind sometime before, but has been at the forefront since the San Bernardino shooting. Although I would never turn to Trump for answers, every time someone on the left starts pooh-poohing the Islamic State or terrorism I feel like I want to jump up and down and start yelling, “What part of ‘We’re going to kill you,’ don’t you get?” I would much prefer to have liberal politicians who can be honest about the existence of a militant Islamist ideology deal with the matter in a measured way. However, if we can’t have a proper response, an over response is preferable to an under response. I wish our ruling class could recognize that the appeal of Donald Trump comes from desperation.

In “The left is to blame for the creation of Donald Trump” by Murray, starts by pointing out that “the great problem of our time does not have to be a partisan issue.” But, as he goes on to explain, “in response to the political left failing to identify the problem, the political right has started going off.”

“The American left has a huge problem in the form of a President who refuses to name Islamist terrorism or identify where it comes from. His likely successor, Hillary Clinton, has the same issue. Of course the word-play this leads to may be perfectly well-meaning…. But when you have 14 people being gunned down in America again apparently in the name of a specific extremist ideology, not identifying where it comes from becomes part of the problem, driving people on all sides mad with rage and making them wonder what else is being kept from them.

“Which brings us onto Donald Trump. Last night Donald Trump announced a new ‘policy’ idea which would be to stop any more Muslims going to America. He would even, it seems, prevent Muslim Americans who are currently out of the country on their holidays, from returning home. This is – it need hardly be said – a back of the envelope policy. And it has already had the desired effect. The social justice warriors who mistake Twitter for real life, have been busily signalling their utter outrage at Trump’s remarks. Journalists have seized the opportunity (which the New York Times and others have been trying all along) to insinuate that Trump is in fact the new Hitler. The reaction is as ill-tempered as the original comment. But we should know how we got here.”

He goes on to say:

“But what people seem slow to realise is that suppressing legitimate concerns and decent discussion inevitably leads to people addressing the same things indecently. We can thank the American left for the creation of Donald Trump and we can thank them for his comments last night. For years the left made the cost of entering this discussion too high, so too few people were left willing to discuss the finer points of immigration, asylum or counter-terrorism policy and eventually the only release valve for peoples’ legitimate concerns is someone saying – wrongly in my view – ‘keep them all out.’”

Large parts of the left will simply ignore this warning. They look at Donald Trump and say, “Americans are stupid,” seemingly unaware that this is more or less the same electorate that elected a Democratic president, a Democratic senate, and a Democratic house back in 2008. “Americans are stupid,” has always been a weak cop-out that flatters the self-importance of the speaker while excusing failure and justifying inaction. They never seem to ask exactly what is making Americans so “stupid.” (“They just are,” is not a good answer.)

In an interesting, related subject, the Spectator has another article about the Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström, a feminist who brought up the subject of Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women.

“Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador and stopped issuing visas to Swedish businessmen. The United Arab Emirates joined it. The Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, which represents 56 Muslim-majority states, accused Sweden of failing to respect the world’s ‘rich and varied ethical standards’ — standards so rich and varied, apparently, they include the flogging of bloggers and encouragement of paedophiles. Meanwhile, the Gulf Co-operation Council condemned her ‘unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’….”

The writer, Nick Cohen, continues:

“It is a sign of how upside-down modern politics has become that one assumes that a politician who defends freedom of speech and women’s rights in the Arab world must be some kind of muscular liberal, or neocon, or perhaps a supporter of one of Scandinavia’s new populist right-wing parties whose commitment to human rights is merely a cover for anti-Muslim hatred. But Margot Wallström is that modern rarity: a left-wing politician who goes where her principles take her.”

At least in the United States, this is a very recent development, and one I find more than a little confusing and which puts me, as I said the other day, in the situation of feeling like I have no party, no side, no allies. I can’t truly be alone, but try as I might I see no one in the press expressing even a shadow of my ideas. Since I’ve never been on the margins, never a conspiracy theorist, this is a distinctly new feeling.

Cohen goes on to mention something interesting:

“Sweden is the world’s 12th largest arms exporter — quite an achievement for a country of just nine million people. Its exports to Saudi Arabia total $1.3 billion. Business leaders and civil servants are also aware that other Muslim-majority countries may follow Saudi Arabia’s lead. During the ‘cartoon crisis’ — a phrase I still can’t write without snorting with incredulity — Danish companies faced global attacks and the French supermarket chain Carrefour took Danish goods off the shelves to appease Muslim customers. A co-ordinated campaign by Muslim nations against Sweden is not a fanciful notion. There is talk that Sweden may lose its chance to gain a seat on the UN Security Council in 2017 because of Wallström.

“To put it as mildly as I can, the Swedish establishment has gone wild. Thirty chief executives signed a letter saying that breaking the arms trade agreement ‘would jeopardise Sweden’s reputation as a trade and co-operation partner’. No less a figure than His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf himself hauled Wallström in at the weekend to tell her that he wanted a compromise. Saudi Arabia has successfully turned criticism of its brutal version of Islam into an attack on all Muslims, regardless of whether they are Wahhabis or not, and Wallström and her colleagues are clearly unnerved by accusations of Islamophobia. The signs are that she will fold under the pressure, particularly when the rest of liberal Europe shows no interest in supporting her.”

This reminded me however of reports I heard earlier this year that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is encountering financial difficulties. The cynical side of me can’t help wondering how much money influences what our politicians see and say. The Clinton Foundation has received between 10 and 25 million dollars from the King of Saudi Arabia and the Sultan of Oman has given between 1 and 5 million. We do not know what President Obama will do as an ex-president, but former President Clinton has set a troubling example.