Sovereign democracy edition. Trump’s grand bargain (see “pro-growth tax policy,” below) is economic prosperity in exchange for limited political freedoms, suppression of the media, the judiciary and Congress, and toxic hostility to human rights, immigrants, women, LGBTQ, minorities, and non-Christians. Very much in the Putin mold, let the dog eat well but not bark too much, and get rid of or silence those who bark too much. This new “realism” is really just authoritarianism and political repression. All of this is disguised as populism, the will of the people. This is what is now called ‘illiberal democracy,” what the The Kremlin calls “sovereign democracy.”
What this might portend for America’s future is well spelled out by Indiana University political scientist Jeffrey Isaac:
A spectre is haunting Europe and the United States; the spectre of illiberal democracy.
The project of instituting a new form of ‘illiberal democracy’ in place of the supposedly outmoded form of liberal democracy is most closely linked to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has repeatedly announced this intention. But the idea is commonly associated with a broader range of political leaders – Jarosław Kaczyński in Poland, Vladimir Putin in Russia, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, among others – who have sought to institute illiberal measures and to justify them, at least in part, by appeal to a more authentic form of ‘democracy.’ As David Ost has recently observed of the Hungarian and Polish cases:
Eviscerating the Constitutional Court and purging the judiciary, complete politicization of the civil service, turning public media into a government mouthpiece, restricting opposition prerogatives in parliament, unilateral wholesale change of the Constitution or plain violation of it, official tolerance and even promotion of racism and bigotry, administrative assertion of traditional gender norms, cultural resurrection of authoritarian traditions, placing loyalty over competence in awarding state posts, surveillance without check – with such policies and more, right-wing governments in Hungary and Poland are engaged in a direct attack on the institutions of democracy. The ruling parties, Fidesz and Law and Justice (PiS) respectively, do not even claim to adhere to ‘liberal’ democracy anymore. Are they committed to democracy at all? Both accept it now that elections have brought unchecked one-party rule by the party representing ‘the nation.’ Otherwise, ‘democracy’ appears to be only a curtsy to the political correctness they otherwise abhor.
rhetorical claim: the Trump “America First” foreign policy sees the international environment as an inherently zero-sum arena in which the gains of other countries are America’s losses, all foreign policy is inherently competitive, the promotion of human rights and democracy are distractions from winning, and only America stands in the way of the undermining of civilization. (see “the triumph of Western civilization,” below)
rhetorical effect: this dog-eat-dog vision alienates long-time allies, encourages dictators and autocrats, undermines existing treaties and institutions, ignores the very values that have made the US into a foreign policy force in the first place, and undermines all trust and cooperation in our network of alliances. This deterioration of trust can only lead to political, economic and military instability, and thus serve as a form of national security that actually makes America more insecure.
rhetorical claim: the mainstream media’s fake news is an effort to agitate, not inform, akin to foreign propaganda. It is a greater threat to the US than white supremacy.
rhetorical effect: putting the media on the same moral p[lane as the KKK and neo-Nazis further demonizes them. Hardens the cultural divisions between mainstream news media and those who consume it and the populist press and its supporters, resulting in a self-perpetuating cycle of mutual mistrust and hostility. Conveniently masks the fact just calling the media “fake news” is itself an example of fake news.
the triumph of Western civilization
rhetorical claim: political correctness in the form of tearing down Confederate statues, limiting free speech, changing the ways history is depicted in textbooks so that all non-Europeans are portrayed as victims of racist white colonialists–such Orwellian attempts to not only limit but set the terms of political debate are key to the Left’s ultimate opposition to the triumph of Western civilization.
rhetorical effect: narrows what qualifies as “civilization”; equates conquest with ‘”triumph”; invokes the sentiments of the Crusades by type-casting most of the world as uncivilized infidels.
pro-growth tax policy
rhetorical claim: President Trump’s supply-side tax cut proposal would stimulate the economy and help our workers, companies and country compete against China.
rhetorical effect: claims ownership of American workers and companies, so that anyone opposed to Trump’s massive tax cuts for the rich becomes an enemy of the people. Disguises trickle-down plutocracy as populism. Creates an authoritarian legitimacy by offering prosperity in exchange for political corruption, media intimidation, and playing to his racist, sexist white supremacy base.
system of values
rhetorical claim: Trump’s system of values is America’s system of values: hard work, individual liberty, honor, patriotism, and respect for law and order. Liberals, by contrast, do not share any of the “Make America Great Again” values. They value government handouts over hard work, collective values over individual rights, constant doubt about American power, scoffing at the idea of patriotism, and respect for the state.
rhetorical effect: makes it sound as if liberals only values obstructionism , mockery and the sheer will-to-power.
rhetorical claim: uncontrolled migration is responsible for plummeting wages, rising crime and overcrowded schools.
rhetorical effect: skips over the facts that migration is strictly controlled, non-immigrants are far likelier to commit crimes than immigrants, technology has taken jobs away from Americans far more than immigrants have, overcrowding in schools is caused by a plethora of factors, and crime rates are lower among immigrants than among people born here
antiquated Congressional processes and procedures
rhetorical claim: ending the filibuster and the 60-vote rule in the Senate; changing the way the CBO scores bills, changing the ways baseline spending is tallied, changing the definitions of budget windows–all of these changes to antiquated Congressional policies and procedures will free the administration up to enact real tax cuts and stimulate a supply-side boom economy.
rhetorical effect: changing the rules of the game to rig the results means that the truly pernicious and inequality-producing aspects of the tax bill will be disguised and will also ease the way to passage. The GOP is out to create a grammar ans a rhetoric of greed.
rhetorical claim: Americans are experiencing race fatigue, no longer willing to feel guilty due to the progressives’ false charges of racism. The Left’s hypocritical false sense of moral superiority has been unmasked for what it truly is: the will to power, exclusion, and elitism. Racism is the wedge issue the haters want to use to destroy Trump and take over the entire the entire government
rhetorical effect: promulgates the pernicious myth that we live in a “post racial” society; makes any claims of racial bias false and self-serving, turning the victims into perpetrators of vicious stereotypes.
rhetorical claim: Environmental resilience comes from economic growth, not the Paris accord or climate change hysteria. As argued by Bret Stephens in the New York Times,
Only sustained economic growth leads to better safety standards, funds scientific research, builds spillways and wastewater plants, creates “green jobs,” sets aside prime real estate for conservation, and so on. Poverty, not wealth, is the enemy of the environment. Only the rich have the luxury of developing an ethical stance toward their trash.
Resilient economies are built on hard work, little or no regulation and government interference, and little or no zoning, Progressives’ obstructionist government regulation will not stop people from moving to cities (such as Houston) in which the progressives’ hidden agenda of political opportunism has been exposed and rejected by the voters. Thus these are the cities where houses are cheap and jobs are plentiful.
rhetorical effect: calling poverty the enemy of the environment makes the poor into enemies of the people and the planet. This may be couched as a rallying cry to end poverty, but is really a rhetorical justification of unchecked, unregulated economic growth. Progressive notions such as zoning, growth limits, environmental and land use regulations
rhetorical claim: as captured in this rant in The American Thinker:
President Trump, whatever one thinks of him, has taken off flying on the executive level. As a result of aggressive deregulation, the economy is roaring — record-low unemployment and a record-high stock market, plus an impressive rise in GDP, with new and major companies building and hiring. North Korea is being heavily sanctioned and dauntlessly confronted. (Imagine if Obama were President now; weakness is the last thing we need at this moment. Thank God that Trump is the Commander-in-Chief, rather than his predecessor, who left North Korea [and so many other totalitarian regimes] totally unchecked and enabled it to become a nuclear power.) Street gangs, such as MS-13, are being robustly prosecuted. Energy is on the move, including coal and the Keystone KL pipeline project. ISIS is on its deathbed, Taliban forces are in for a nasty surprise, and Iran and Syria have finally been shown that the U.S. means business. FEMA’s response to Hurricane Harvey was hailed and contrasted with the federal government’s response to disasters under previous administrations.
This progress is all the result of executive decisions, not legislation or anything related to Congress.
It is the intrepid and maverick approach of the current White House that cuts through the red tape and rushes to get things done, indifferent to naysayers and the weighty forces of inertia on the part of career politicians.
Trump is America’s CEO, and his executive-level successes will create his legacy and leave detractors to grope in their comfortable cloud of bureaucratic dust.
rhetorical effect: The impossible task of extolling Trump’s executive skills and accomplishments obviously relies on lies and distortions: everything except the pipelines was moving along under Obama as well. The real effects of having a CEO, reality show marketer in the Oval are better explained by David Friend in The New York Times:
America has received what much of the nation had been asking for since the 1990s. In the electoral reckoning, civility had been trumped by hostility, respect by chauvinism, tolerance by bigotry, truth by fabrication and deceit, privacy by exposure, modesty by exhibitionism, achievement by fame, shame by shamelessness, and bridges by walls.