Wednesday, April 24, 2024

More Wednesday Male Beauty


THe GOP and Turning White Anxiety Into a Movement

The twin pillars of today's Republican Party are racism and white "Christian" extremism, both of which Donald Trump has skillfully played to his advantage in all of his campaigns.  Both are powered by fears of whites and Christofascists that they are losing their privilege and power and ability to dominate and ride rough shod over the rest of American society.  Republican "friends" and acquaintances would deny these motivations in their support of someone as morally bankrupt as Trump, yet for the non-super wealthy who care only about lower taxes, there really is no other explanation, especially when the American economy is currently the envy of much of the world.  Trump, of course, was not the first Republican to use white racial hatred and anxiety and white Christian nationalism to turn out voters. Richard Nixon used the former as the keystone of his "Southern Strategy" and George W. Bush used gay marriage opposition in his 2004 campaign where anti-gay referendums were placed on state ballots, including here in Virginia, to drive evangelicals to the polls.  Indeed, Trump and his acolytes have only taken fanning white/Christofascist anxiety to new levels such accusing immigrants of "poisoning the nation's blood."  A piece in The Atlantic looks how pandering to and inflaming white anxiety became a hallmark of today's GOP. Here are highlights: 

In May 1995, Pat Buchanan appeared at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to announce an immigration policy that would become the centerpiece of his presidential campaign. “We have an illegal invasion of this country,” Buchanan warned. To resist it, he called for a “Buchanan Fence” patrolled by the military along the southern border, a five-year moratorium on legal immigration, and a constitutional amendment that would deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. to undocumented parents.

The platform was designed to stave off something Buchanan had long dreaded: “If present trends hold,” he noted a few years earlier, “white Americans will be a minority by 2050.” Buchanan was the first major politician to transform white anxiety about that prospect—which the Census Bureau first predicted in 1990—into an organizing principle for the conservative movement.

Buchanan never came close to winning the presidency, but the fear he incited of a majority-minority future has become integral to the Republican Party and Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign. Like Buchanan, Trump has made opposition to undocumented immigration the cornerstone of his presidential bid. Although he and his supporters try to portray this as a matter of law and order, they often admit that their chief concern is America’s shifting ethnic composition.

“People are just alarmed by what they see in the changes in the demographics in our country,” South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, a Trump surrogate, said in Iowa this year. A few weeks earlier, Trump accused migrants of “poisoning the blood of our country.”

For Buchanan and Trump, immigration isn’t just about America’s ethnic identity. It’s also about electoral power. Even as the GOP slowly diversifies, white Americans continue to make up a disproportionate share of its base, leading many conservatives to view nonwhite immigration as an existential threat.

[T]he American right’s preoccupation with declining white power isn’t new; it shaped the right’s defense of slavery and the violent overthrow of Reconstruction. By the time Buchanan ran for president, it wasn’t new for him either. He’d begun politicizing white resentment at the start of his career, creating a blueprint that would prove hugely influential for the GOP.

As a young speechwriter for Richard Nixon, Buchanan helped conceive of the “southern strategy” that Republicans used to appeal to white voters who were alienated by the civil-rights movement. Buchanan counseled Nixon to ignore “liberal issues” like housing, education, and unemployment.

When he ran for president in the 1990s, Buchanan was still criticizing the civil-rights laws of the 1960s, trying to court revanchist white voters, such as supporters of the Klansman turned presidential candidate David Duke. He described the Voting Rights Act as “regional discrimination against the South” and visited Confederate monuments while campaigning in states such as Georgia and Mississippi. “Who speaks for the Euro-Americans?” he asked. “Is it not time to take America back?”

Buchanan first ran for president in 1992 under the slogan “Make America First Again,” a riff on Ronald Reagan’s “Let’s Make America Great Again.” . . . . Although Buchanan didn’t win a single state, Republicans adopted some of his positions on immigration as the official party platform, pledging to “equip the Border Patrol with the tools, technologies and structures necessary to secure the border.”

Four years later, Buchanan ran again and won the New Hampshire primary. During the campaign, he portrayed his effort to preserve Judeo-Christian values and white power in the face of a massive demographic shift as part of America’s oldest struggle, calling his followers “the true sons and daughters of the Founding Fathers.”

After he lost the nomination, Buchanan was sidelined by the GOP establishment. Instead of getting a prime-time slot at the convention, he was blocked from speaking entirely. . . . He spent the 2000s in the political wilderness, watching as the country’s white population grew by just 1 percent from 2000 to 2010 while the Black population grew by 15 percent, and the Hispanic and Asian populations by 43 percent. Every few years he published screeds with titles like The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization and State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America. “The people who put the GOP in power are not growing in numbers nearly as rapidly as immigrants and people of color who want them out of power,” he wrote in 2006. “The fading away of America’s white majority entails an existential crisis for the GOP.”

These writings, mostly ignored at the time, appeared prophetic after Barack Obama’s election in 2008, when Republicans fretted over the diverse coalition assembled by the first Black president. As Buchanan became more marginalized, his ideas paradoxically found greater favor within the GOP. His concerns about white displacement, which Republican leaders had mostly tried to downplay in the 1990s and 2000s, were now being pushed into the mainstream of the party. . . .

These views clearly influenced Trump and his advisers. In August 2014, the GOP consultant Kellyanne Conway released polling showing that white voters who were unhappy about demographic change would turn out in higher numbers if a candidate emphasized “stricter enforcement of current immigration laws” and demanded that “illegal immigrants … return to their home countries.” While Trump prepared to launch a seemingly quixotic bid for the presidency, his chief strategist Steve Bannon called the missing-white-voter theory and Conway’s polling on immigration “the intellectual infrastructure” of Trump’s campaign.

If Buchanan helps explain the start of Trump’s presidency, he also helps explain its culmination on January 6. . . . Unlike many Republicans, the insurrectionists didn’t come from the country’s reddest or most rural counties. Instead, they were more likely to reside in counties whose white populations had experienced significant declines, such as Harris County, Texas, a majority-minority area that includes Houston. The study described a political movement “partially driven by racial cleavages and white discontent with diversifying communities.” . . .. Fears of a “Great Replacement” were the “most important driver of [the] insurrectionist movement,” the survey concluded.

The fact that Trump has found so much more political success than Buchanan did 30 years ago in exploiting white anxiety suggests that it will worsen as the supposed majority-minority tipping point approaches. That’s coming sooner than Buchanan once feared; white Americans, census data now suggest, will technically be a minority by 2045. Buchanan may have failed to hold back demographic change, but the backlash he sparked is only getting stronger.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


More Tuesday Male Beauty


The Humiliation of Donald Trump

For decades Donald Trump has surrounded himself with flatterers and sycophants - and more recently countless Republicans - who pander to his narcissism and intense and overwhelming need to believe himself powerful, important and a New York socialite.  Now, stuck sitting in court as a criminal defendant where an endless flow of negative depictions and stark reality are hitting him daily and where he is not in charge and can be ordered to shut up.  Adding to the unpleasant spectacle are several reports that Trump - who mocks "sleepy Joe" - has fallen asleep while sitting with defense counsel.  The overall image is anything but what Trump must want to project even as he whines that he is being politically persecuted. Frankly, I can think of few things more enjoyable than seeing Trump, a man who loves to denigrate and humiliate others, now being humiliated himself.  Meanwhile, many voters are being reminded just how sleazy Trump is  and why they should vote against him in November.  A piece at Salon looks at the ongoing humiliation of De Trumpenfuhrer.  Here are highlights:

While it falls far short of the punishment he deserves, there was no small amount of satisfaction from reports that Donald Trump had to spend much of the first week of his first criminal trial quietly taking it as mean tweets about him were read aloud in court.

Trump is such a famous narcissist he literally has a woman who follows him around with a wireless printer to keep him in a steady supply of online praise. Hearing what people outside of the paid shills have to say was, all reports suggest, very upsetting for the former president. He glowered and eventually tried to leave the courtroom so quickly that he had to be told to sit down by the judge. 

The jury is now impaneled, and no longer will be asked to talk about past social media posts calling Trump "dumb as [expletive]." But, as Monday's trial opening suggested, this trial is set to put Trump's fragile ego through a lengthy battering. It's hard to believe it — considering his ridiculous hair, hideous makeup and comically oversized suits — but by all accounts, Trump seems to actually believe he cuts an impressive figure. He famously spent decades longing to be included in the ranks of Manhattan's social elite, imagining he had a "classiness" they were simply failing to see. . . . "The rich and powerful sometimes invited him to their parties, but behind his back they laughed at his coarse methods and his tacky aesthetic."

Alas, getting elected president allowed Trump to finally swaddle himself in the pomp that allows him to successfully delude himself into believing he has an air of dignified stature.  . . . Trump's clownishness just made all of that seem ridiculous to those looking on, but his attempted stern-faced expressions and chin-up pride showed that he really did seem to feel he was finally being taken for the great man he wished himself to be.

Even after leaving the White House, Trump went to great lengths to keep himself in this elevated atmosphere. Unfortunately, he gets a lot of help keeping up the illusion of majesty. The presence of Secret Service protection allows him to travel with pricey black car entourages at the taxpayer's expense. He also sees a steady stream of Republican politicians visit Mar-a-Lago, allowing Trump to play the part of a king greeting supplicants who kiss the ring. 

While the outcome of the trial remains weeks away, the process of being a criminal defendant has already stripped Trump of most of the trappings he uses to prop up his delusions of nobility. He has to sit still and do what he's told, which he whines about ad nauseum when he's outside of court. He keeps reportedly falling asleep and believable rumors suggest the smell of him is hard to bear

On Monday, the humiliations continued to pile on Trump with opening arguments and the first witness, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker. Even in this truncated day of court, the picture painted of Trump was not the regal leader of his fantasies, but who he actually is: A sleazy poseur who belongs to the world of trashy tabloids and scheming hucksters. The whole thing is a harsh reminder, to his face, that Trump is more suited to wallowing in the gutter than sitting on a throne. 

The prosecutor, Matthew Colangelo, did not hold back from the salacious details in describing the alleged crimes that led to Trump sitting at the defendant's table: the extramarital sex, the hush money payments, the alleged out-of-wedlock child, the conspiracy with the National Enquirer to pay women off in a practice with the tawdry name "catch-and-kill." He spoke of Trump as such a miscreant that he required a full-time "fixer" to "take care of problems." . . . Colangelo spoke of Trump's crude bragging on the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape about how he likes to sexually assault women. 

Regardless of the air quality around his desk, defense attorney Todd Blanche had a stinky job on Monday: Trying to portray Trump as somehow above the shady people he surrounds himself with. Blanche sanctimoniously called Trump "President Trump," as if saying it makes it true. He tried to humanize his glowering orange lump of a client . . . .

It may work, of course. Jurors are people and people can be bamboozled, as Trump's entire career demonstrates. But Blanche's argument just doesn't make sense.  If Trump is such an upstanding citizen, then why would he need someone like Cohen to commit crimes on his behalf? Nor is Trump "just like you," unless you, ordinary person, do so many terrible things on a regular basis that you literally need a full-time fixer to clean up your messes.

Pecker only spent about 20 minutes on the stand before the judge called recess for the day, but in that brief time, the jury got another glimpse into the vulgar environments that are Trump's natural home. Pecker described his business as "checkbook journalism" and agreed with Colangelo that he traffics in "juicy stories."

Despite Trump trying to tell reporters this trial is going "very well," reports from inside the courtroom are that he was seething. No surprise there. Prior to this, Trump spent all day, every day inside a bubble, surrounded by flatterers and sycophants, always ready to tell him that he's a mighty man who definitely doesn't weigh an ounce over 215 and wins every golf game with ease. Now he's spending his days in a dingy courtroom, staying silent while other people talk about his real self: A pathetic figure who pressures reluctant women into sex, and then runs to his seedy friends and barrel-scraping employees to bail him out of trouble. If there was a hell, Trump's punishment would be to look into a mirror for all of eternity. Having to hear people tell the truth about him for hours a day is as close as we're going to get on the mortal plane. 

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Sunday, April 21, 2024

More Sunday Male Beauty


The House Vote: Ukraine Won, Trump and Putin Lost

After consistently being opposed to more aid to Ukraine, Speaker Mike Johnson changed course and brought a vote on the Ukraine aid package which passed with 101 House Republicans voting for the aid package. We may my never know what brought about Johnson's conversion, especially in the face of threats by Marjorie Taylor Greene who some in Congress have called "Putin's special envoy" and other Republicans have lamented as repeating Kremlin talking points.  Whatever the cause of the conversion, the vote passing the aid package - which the Senate promises to pass quickly - is a major defeat for Donald Trump and his puppeteer, Vladimir Putin.  Time will tell whether Greene and other narcissistic Republicans like Matt Gaetz - about whom one fellow Republican stated  “Scumbag Matt Gaetz paid minors to have sex with him at drug parties” - will take revenge on Johnson.  Meanwhile one can only imagine the raging going on at the Kremlin and at Mar-a-Lago.  Adding to Trump's problems is the fact that opening arguments begin tomorrow in his hush money trial and hold the prospect of voters being reminded of Trump's slimy history and general moral bankruptcy.  A piece at The Atlantic by a former Republican looks at the Ukraine vote and other cracks in Trump's intimidation of Republicans.  Here are highlights:

The House vote to aid Ukraine renews hope that Ukraine can still win its war. It also showed how and why Donald Trump should lose the 2024 election.

For nine years, Trump has dominated the Republican Party. Senators might have loathed him, governors might have despised him, donors might have ridiculed him, college-educated Republican voters might have turned against him—but LOL, nothing mattered. Enough of the Republican base supported him. Everybody else either fell in line, retired from politics, or quit the party.

Trump did not win every fight. In 2019 and 2020, Senate Republicans rejected two of his more hair-raising Federal Reserve nominations, Stephen Moore and Judy Shelton.

But Trump won almost every fight that mattered. Even after January 6, 2021, Senate Republicans protected him from conviction at his impeachment trial. After Trump left office, party leaders still indulged his fantasy that he had “really” won the 2020 election. Attempts to substitute Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley as the 2024 nominee sputtered and failed.

On aid to Ukraine, Trump got his way for 16 months. When Democrats held the majority in the House of Representatives in 2022, they approved four separate aid requests for Ukraine, totaling $74 billion. As soon as Trump’s party took control of the House, in January 2023, the aid stopped. Every Republican officeholder understood: Those who wished to show loyalty to Trump must side against Ukraine.

At the beginning of this year, Trump was able even to blow up the toughest immigration bill seen in decades—simply to deny President Joe Biden a bipartisan win. Individual Senate Republicans might grumble, but with Trump opposed, the border-security deal disintegrated.

Three months later, Trump’s party in Congress has rebelled against himand not on a personal payoff to some oddball Trump loyalist, but on one of Trump’s most cherished issues, his siding with Russia against Ukraine.

The anti-Trump, pro-Ukraine rebellion started in the Senate. Twenty-two Republicans joined Democrats to approve aid to Ukraine in February. Dissident House Republicans then threatened to force a vote if the Republican speaker would not schedule one. Speaker Mike Johnson declared himself in favor of Ukraine aid. This weekend, House Republicans split between pro-Ukraine and anti-Ukraine factions. On Friday, the House voted 316–94 in favor of the rule on the aid vote. On Saturday, the aid to Ukraine measure passed the House by 311–112. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate will adopt the House-approved aid measures unamended and speed them to President Biden for signature.

As defeat loomed for his anti-Ukraine allies, Trump shifted his message a little. On April 18, he posted on Truth Social claiming that he, too, favored helping Ukraine. . . . . But that was after-the-fact face-saving, jumping to the winning side after his side was about to lose.

Trump is still cruising to renomination, collecting endorsements even from Republican elected officials who strongly dislike him. But the cracks in [GOP] unity are visible.

Some are symbolic. Even after Haley withdrew from the Republican presidential contest on March 6, some 13 to 19 percent of Republicans still showed up to cast protest votes for her in contests in Georgia and Washington State on March 12; Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio on March 19; and in New York and Connecticut on April 2.

Other cracks are more substantial—and ominous for Trump. Trump’s fundraising has badly lagged President Biden’s, perhaps in part because of Trump’s habit of diverting donations to his own legal defense and other personal uses. In March, Biden had more than twice as much cash on hand as Trump did. Republican Senate candidates in the most competitive races and House candidates also lag behind their Democratic counterparts.

How much of this is traceable to Trump personally? The Ukraine vote gives the most significant clue. Here is the issue on which traditional Republican belief in U.S. global leadership clashes most directly with Trump’s peculiar and sinister enthusiasm for Vladimir Putin’s Russia. And on this issue, the traditional Republicans have now won and Trump’s peculiar enthusiasm got beat.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty