News You Can (Probably, Sort of) Use

My Arbitrary Review of Items of Interest

— I published an update to the Oxy Electorate here. For a while now, my working theory has been that the modern Republican Party electoral coalition is unwinding as a national force, and that Donald Trump is as much an expression of the bind the Republicans find themselves in as he is a “solution” to it. My recent analysis of the steel belt suggests that the “solution” furnished by Trump’s right wing authoritarianism is losing its force.

It’s worth noting that I’m not alone in predicting the demise of the modern Republican coalition. However, everyone else who seems to agree prefers a demographic (or what I sometimes call “inevitability”) analysis. (One might suppose that pollster Stanley Greenberg’s forthcoming book, “R.I.P. G. O. P.: How the New America is Dooming the Republican Party” will belong to this genre.) At some point, I’d like to say more about what I consider to be the shortcomings (even dangers) inherent in casting this political transformation solely, or even mainly, along demographic lines.

— An insightful and informative piece which I urge you to read and share widely:

We’ve seen this dynamic before: some deeply dysfunctional institutional or policy pattern that the Obama administration, using insider tactics and levers, tried to put on a more defensible footing…only to have the Trump administration come in and exploit established precedents to put it on an altogether more deplorable one. I believe this dynamic, now playing out in various quarters of the federal government, represents the best “durable” observation that will ultimately guide how the history of this moment is written. A number of policy domains can be summoned to illustrate this dynamic: immigration, drug policy, drone strikes. What makes this piece so special is that this kind of thoughtful analytic is rarely applied to the basic operational procedures of Defense Department, at least not in a public setting.

— The only surprise here is that the headlines tried to report this move as a “surprise.”

For me, the Catholic Church is like American football, eating mass-produced meat, or Facebook. Many people of good faith continue to adhere and contribute to all of these things, but there is no such thing as good faith participation in any of these unless you are willing to learn about, acknowledge, and accept responsibility for the outrageous practices that your engagement continues to facilitate. I defer to all the good reasons to stay committed to any of these things — but, at this point, there is no excuse for ignorance about them.

— I’ve sent this piece around to several friends, and now I’m “sending” it to you. I suggest saving it for a long commute or quiet weekend moment.

Latest in the Mueller Probe

It’s not great.

— First, I thought this was overlooked: “The Cheney group was often doing things… outside the customary boundaries of America’s internal and external politics,” she added. “If Mueller finds evidence of wrongdoing, it would make us wonder why we as a community — whoever we are — weren’t paying attention to Cheney alums’ persistent presence in American domestic politics.”

— Second, as someone who predicted that Manafort would not really flip, I am chagrined but not surprised by this week’s developments. I don’t care what sort of silver lining people sketch; it’s a setback, and one that was entirely foreseeable (and foreseen).

I continue to encourage everyone to lower their expectations regarding what the Special Counsel will ultimately produce. It’s entirely possible that the names circulating in the press are momentary visuals, like sighting a head above the parapet; meanwhile down below a fortress’ worth of work churns away and will one day be revealed to us. Not just Russia but Turkey, Saudi Arabia, China, and Israel may all come in for some serious discussion, as should the appallingly moneyed business of American politics, which provides access and cover for those countries’ incursions into our electoral process. But it’s also entirely possible that Mueller and his team of establishment-anchored attorneys will file some well-constructed footnotes “for posterity”, turn off the lights, and adjourn to the Cosmos Club to discuss their next profitable landing.

I try to not indulge my doubts regarding the Special Counsel too much, because Mueller has sometimes surprised me in the past. And, I always considered Manafort an impossible flip (for a couple of reasons); I don’t think there’s anything his team could have done to avert that outcome and it’s not really their fault. On the other hand, someone like Sam Clovis strikes me as entirely and eminently flippable, yet he’s somewhere in private practice in Iowa, maybe contemplating his next political shakedown, and/or his next corn dog. If Clovis is flying carefree, then I can only assume that Mueller had no criminality to leverage against him, and that suggests to me that it’s very possible this investigation will stall out at a level that Trump can readily disavow.