Monday, February 06, 2017

Is Trumpism A Recast Version of the Culture Wars?

In some respects, the ascendancy of Donald Trump represents what will hopefully be a short-lived last gasp of white, heterosexual conservative Christians trying to impose their fantasy view of what America once was onto the majority of the population that either does not conform to this whites only world view or who recognize that the "good old days" the Christofascists long for were anything but good for many, many people.  Indeed, Trump and his supporters are fighting against modernity itself be it scientific knowledge that challenges myth based religious belief or changing economic circumstances that challenge the 1950's white nuclear family model that Trumpist desperate cling to. An undercurrent of this movement is cruelty towards others who adre diiferent in any way, be it in terms of race, religious belief, national origin, and sexual orientation.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at the backward looking theme of Trump and his supporters.  Here are excerpts:
The chaos of Donald Trump’s opening weeks should not come as a total shock. The first president with no experience in government, surrounded by a chief of staff, a chief strategist, and a son-in-law who also lack any government experience and who seem to be competing ruthlessly with each other for power, is not a formula for quick success. The administration’s incompetence manifested itself most visibly in the rapid execution of a cruel, overbearing immigration restriction that provoked protests nationwide and even grumbling from some Republicans in Congress.
At another level, though, the travel ban might be seen, from the ideological perspective of the people who crafted it, not necessarily as a failure at all. Despite its ostensibly narrow scope, the operation was extraordinarily ambitious, designed to send a message to the world about who Americans are, who can become American, and, most especially, who cannot. The mayhem, inconvenience, and heartbreak it caused were in fact its very intent.
There are three different aspects of the Trump presidency at play. One is simply characterological: The president’s distinct troubled-adolescent behavior pattern, which, via regular bouts of insult-spewing, braggadocio, ignorance, extravagant promises, wild lies, and absolute intolerance of criticism, frequently throws the policymaking process into disarray.
The second component, and the largest, is standard Republican policy, developed in Congress and conservative think tanks for decades, which Trump has begun to implement fairly smoothly. 
The final and most mysterious element — the one that created the travel ban — is Trumpism. This is the ethno-nationalistic aspect of the president’s governing ideology, which springs both from Trump’s own impulses and from ideas nurtured by a handful of his closest aides, including Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and several staffers brought over from the alt-right publication Breitbart. Trumpism combines an instinctive belief in zero-sum relations between countries with a narrow and retrograde definition of American identity. 
The executive order halting admission of refugees and cracking down on immigration from seven Muslim-­majority countries was a narrower codification of the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” that Trump had promised during the campaign. The implementation was a fiasco. . . . Families were separated, children and elderly people terrified. Parents of a 4-month-old with a serious heart condition had to cancel their baby’s planned heart surgery in Oregon. On and on the tragedies mounted. Beyond the humanitarian costs, the toll on business and intellectual life was immediate. 
A pillar of Trumpism is the refusal to distinguish between peaceful and violent Muslims. Trump has said “Islam hates us,” and when asked if he distinguishes between radical Islam and the religion as a whole, he brushed off the distinction: “It’s very hard to separate, because you don’t know who is who.” Bannon has repeatedly emphasized his belief that Islam as a whole poses an existential threat to Christianity. (“Islam is not a religion of peace,” Bannon has said. “Islam is a religion of submission.”) Trump has falsely implicated the entire Muslim-American community in the terrorist attacks of domestic radicals in San Bernardino and Orlando.  . . . . Punishing innocent Muslims for the threat posed by terrorists is not a side effect of their policy but an expression of its tenets.
The collateral damage to academia and tech firms from the ban may, too, have been part of the point. There is a plausible argument that low-skilled immigrants depress wages for workers in blue-­collar fields and that their numbers should thus be reduced. But leaked memos suggest the administration is designing crackdowns on highly skilled immigrants, despite mounds of evidence showing that such immigrants increase incomes for Americans of modest means. 
Trumpism is a culture war sold through chimerical economic and security gains. Michael Anton, a national-­security staffer in the administration and a key Trumpist intellectual, wrote an anonymous essay during the campaign predicting that Trump’s election would stanch what Anton called “the ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty.” America has long been defined — unlike France or Germany or Japan or Russia — as a country lacking a singular race. The ambition of Trumpism seems to be to create a blood-and-soil American nationalism, an identity from which Asian, Muslim, and Latin American immigrants are excluded permanently.
Trumpism’s greatest vulnerability lies not in the buried qualms of his Republican partners. It is in the American public. January was a month of citizen protest unlike anything this country has witnessed in decades. . . . . it took Trump to inspire Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others to join together in demonstrations of patriotic, ecumenical solidarity. At the moment, they are the strongest defense of the American idea against an ideology determined to thwart it.

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