Trump is the Democrats’ Secret Weapon

There is no question that the Democrats are going overboard on the staged theatrics surrounding the horrific events of January 6th. This is a clear attempt by the Party to revive their electoral prospects this autumn, but they may well end up undermining the only man who can save them: Donald Trump.

The hearings already face diminished ratings. After the first day, audience figures fell by 50% and seem unlikely to persuade most fair-minded people that January 6th was anything like the ‘insurrection’ it’s painted as. What emerges instead is a confirmation of mass stupidity by addled MAGA activists set in motion by a cheerleading Chief Executive.

Trump certainly bears his share of the blame for January 6th but not as an organiser of a coordinated rebellion in the historic sense. A coup? Without guns and no military or police support? Mussolini, he is not. January 6th lacked the focus and planning of the March on Rome and there’s certainly nothing of the organised violence that facilitated the Nazi rise to power. Instead, Trump comes off as a hopeless narcissist unwilling to accept his loss even when presented with the facts by his most reliable advisors.

What is catching up with Trump is not his fascist leanings but his pathetic character as an overaged Baby Huey. Progressives and Democrats revel in the idea that the GOP is now a tool of Trump as the unassailable il duce. But in reality, the ex-President is not getting stronger, but weaker. His poll numbers, even among Republicans, have weakened, as more members claim to identify with their party rather than its titular leader. Trump does not retain the respect and loyalty that Ronald Reagan, for example, maintained among a broad part of the party.

Trump’s paranoid, personal style — so evident in the hearings — is no longer unchallenged inside the party. This year his record of endorsements, particularly in hotly contested races, is mediocre. His loss in Georgia, against state officials he desperately wished to topple, was particularly revealing. Last week in South Carolina, he was only partially successful in his drive to expel “disloyal” house members. There are even signs that he may have lost the support of the Murdoch empire.

This is not to say that Trump might not win the GOP nomination, which would be a disaster for the party and country. Even though Trump still leads the field, it’s likely much of the party would favour figures like former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida’s Ron DeSantis or South Carolina’s Tim Scott or Nicky Haley. For many, a Trumpista policy agenda without the diversions of Trumpian insanity may prove appealing.

As for the rest of us, it’s clear that we are fed up with both of the flawed alter cockers who have run this country into the ground. Over 70% of Americans would prefer that neither one runs again.

But we may be forced to accept this choice. If as in 2016 the opposition to him is divided, Trump can skate to victory with 30% of the Republican primary vote. This would give the Democrats a rallying point that they will sorely need, particularly if their likely candidate is an ever more debilitated Joe Biden or the remarkably unappealing Kamala Harris. Indeed, even amid the awful performance of this Administration, Trump polls about even with the likely Democratic candidate.

The hope here is that sentient elements in the Republican Party can stop Trump from ruining what could be a historic opportunity to stop the more extreme progressive agenda. At the same time, the GOP can be recast as the voice of the middle and working class. In this, the Democrats may be helping by placing emphasis on Trump’s personal awfulness. If Trump’s image continues to fade, even to the point of caricature, the GOP may end up thanking Nancy Pelosi for saving their party from itself.

This piece first appeared at UnHerd.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Homepage photo: Gage SKidmore via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.

Green Rope-a-Dope: China Watches as America Greens

The color green has long been associated with envy, but increasingly it’s becoming a pigment of mass delusion. Amid near-hysterical reporting about the climate, the U.S., and much of the West, is embracing willy-nilly policies likely to weaken our economy and boost China’s ascendancy at the expense of democracy and market economies.

In essence, China is adopting a version of the great Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope” boxing strategy, which had the opponent wear himself out by launching harmless punches as Ali lounged on the ropes. Then, as the rival began to weaken, Ali would seize the moment and pummel him.

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Who Will Be the Next Mayor of Los Angeles?

Central Avenue, the historic heart of South Los Angeles, has seen better days. Once the home to leading black institutions, like the famous Dunbar Hotel, where jazz and other musical greats stayed, it was also an industrial powerhouse that promised decent work for those fleeing the Jim Crow South. But today many, if not most, of its factories are closed; many icons of the old black business community have disappeared, too. The area, site of two of the most devastating riots in American history, is now poorer in relation to the rest of the city than before those upheavals.

Yet amid a malaise that afflicts much of the city, entrepreneurial energy remains evident. Central Avenue’s sidewalks crowd with the brightly colored booths of street vendors, selling a broad range of food, clothes, and other products—more like Mexico City or Mumbai than the South L.A. of the past. Some new apartments are rising to replace the decrepit ones, and the street-level liveliness seems more Washington Heights than car-centric Los Angeles. Despite its troubles, Central Avenue does not exhibit the deathly sense of abandonment of places like the South Side of Chicago or other inner-city communities, where the spirit of enterprise has all but disappeared.

“We still have potential,” insists 63-year-old Rick Caruso, a billionaire running what once seemed a quixotic campaign for mayor. On June 7, Caruso will be a candidate in the city’s open mayoral primary, facing off against, among others, the race’s early frontrunner, long-time congresswoman Karen Bass. (The top two finishers will meet in a run-off general election in November if no candidate wins a majority of the vote.) Without any press, but for me, Caruso spent a recent morning at the Beehive, a new Southside business incubator located amid the detritus of the city’s industrial past. The youthful activity of the startups seemed to energize him. “I want to get on the phone and get investors to come back here—but they won’t if they see instability, the homeless camps, and the crime. That has to change.”

Though he has discarded his designer suit, Caruso cannot help but appear natty with his coiffed hair and monogrammed white shirt. The grandson of Italian immigrants, and son of an entrepreneur who founded Dollar Rent a Car, he started his real estate business here in 1987 and made a fortune worth more than $4 billion by developing shopping complexes, most notably the Grove, adjacent to the iconic Farmer’s Market. A key Caruso theme is restoring the promise that made L.A. the premier urban growth center of the last century, during which the city’s population grew from barely 100,000 in 1900 to nearly 4 million. Now, Los Angeles’s population is in decline and its appeal has faded. The city peaked at a population of 3,983,000 in 2019, and fell 134,000 to 3,849,000 by 2021, with a 41,000 loss in the last year.

The Wall Street Journal has described Caruso as a “liberal,” but that’s a stretch. A longtime Republican now conveniently turned Democrat, Caruso is best seen as a pro-business moderate Republican trying to downplay his membership, for example, in the Ronald Reagan Foundation. Yet unlike most GOP candidates here, he also has lots of money. He has spent over $24 million of his own money to reach out to Angelenos. His campaign boasts of his skills in dealing with L.A.’s fractious communities, whether in his business ventures or as a member of the Water and Power board, president of the Police Commission, or chair of the USC trustees. His money and message are clearly making headway. Despite the now strongly progressive tilt of the L.A. electorate, Caruso has managed to rise from single digits in February to parity, and perhaps even a lead, over Bass.

Read the rest of this piece at City Journal.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Homepage photo: Karen Bass via Flickr in Public Domain and Rick Caruso via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.

What COVID Hath Wrought

Glenn Ellmers’s analysis of COVID and Trump represents a classic, and effective, account of the situation from the perspective of declining liberty and adherence to traditional values. But though it is important and necessary to hold onto our highest ideals, I would like to emphasize what is actually taking place on the ground and its likely long-term implication.

Statistics show that COVID accelerated economic, demographic, and geographic trends which were already existent, but rarely acknowledged. These trends include large-scale migration to the south, the west, and the suburbs. COVID also, as Ellmers suggests, sharpened the conflict between many Americans and the ruling “expert” class, who, unlike most Americans, actually flourished under COVID.

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We’re Telling the Wrong Story About Race in America

It’s been a week since a mentally ill racist murdered 10 people, most of them Black Americans, in a Buffalo supermarket. In the intervening days since this horrific tragedy, many have noted how often liberal journalists and politicians have tried to pin the blame for the mass shooting not just on the shooter and his far-right racist ideology, but anyone outside their progressive circles. In what was perhaps the most extreme example of this widespread trend, the cultural warriors of Rolling Stone insisted that the isolated and largely unhinged shooter was no outlier but “a mainstream Republican.”

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How the Boomers Robbed the Young of All Hope

“Young people do not degenerate; this occurs only after grown men have already become corrupt.”Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws, 1748.

The great test of a generation is whether it leaves better prospects for its descendants. Yet by virtually every indication, the baby boomers, and even the Gen Xers, are leaving a heritage of economic carnage – as well as a growing social and cultural dissipation that could shape our future and the fate of democratic self-rule, and not for the better. This legacy comes not from outside forces, but the investment bankers, tech oligarchs and their partners in the clerisy who have weakened their national economies and undermined the chances of upward mobility for most young people.

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Between the Stupid and the Evil

‘We have two parties here, and only two. One is the evil party, and the other is the stupid party… I’m very proud to be a member of the stupid party… Occasionally, the two parties get together to do something that’s both evil and stupid. That’s called bipartisanship.’

So said the late conservative journalist M Stanton Evans. Read more

The Independent Republics of Big Tech Are the Biggest Threat to Democracy

The Department of Homeland Security revealed last week that it was creating a Disinformation Governance Board to distribute “best practices” for countering disinformation. The new board joins a growing chorus—which includes President Biden and former President Barack Obama—that views disinformation disseminated on social media as one of the biggest threats facing our democracy.

But there’s a much bigger threat to democracy coming out of Silicon Valley and it’s this: America’s largest financial and tech companies increasingly act as independent countries, routinely exporting jobs, money and technology to our most significant global adversary. These companies, their assets, and increasingly their workers, exist wholly outside of America’s democratic borders and under the auspices of China’s anti-democratic ones. And they are bringing these undemocratic pressures back home with them, subverting our democracy from within.

Apple Computers, once the ultimate expression of American entrepreneurial innovation, epitomizes this new corporate mindset. With ever-increasing dependence on Beijing, the company is much more in line with Xi Jinping’s promised “China dream” of greater wealth and technological supremacy than it is with the American Dream. The company may be based in Cupertino, but it produces two-fifths of its products in China, four times more than the share made in the U.S., and despite rising concerns about China’s ascendancy, Apple is doubling down on its support for the emerging authoritarian world-state.

In 2016, Apple negotiated a $275 billion deal with China that guarantees the firm’s continued dependence on the Middle Kingdom, with additional promises to share vital technology with our most important global adversary. The company recently announced plans to source some of its chips in China, and Apple also contributes to and profits from China’s ever-expanding surveillance system.

But the growing divergence between Apple’s interests and America’s is not unique. As economic power consolidates here, some companies, notably Wall Street and the tech giants, have grown so large and powerful that they have become in essence their own nation states.

By 2020, the five largest tech companies had total revenue amounting to half of those of all state governments combined. In January this year, Apple’s market cap was larger than the GDPs of all but seven countries. But this is not exceptional. Microsoft’s market cap is larger than that of Canada, Brazil, Russia, Korea, or Mexico. Amazon does about the same.

But these companies don’t employ masses of Americans to make their money; production is generally shifted elsewhere. Those non-elite jobs which do exist are often dangerous, short-term and driven by relentless monitoring. And even when it comes to tech workers, Big Tech goes elsewhere for (cheap) talent: Some 75 percent of Silicon Valley’s workforce are not U.S. citizens. Many have H-IB visas, which make their holders essentially indentured servants, brought into the U.S. on short-term contracts to do work for tech companies that evade the burden of paying wages as high as they would to American workers.

Read the rest of this piece at Newsweek.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Do We Need a Capitalist Civil War?

We Americans like to think of ourselves as a thoroughly modern people — living proof of what, with enough toil and grit, the rest of the free world can one day hope to be. And yet for all our progressivism and idealism, America’s political culture finds itself unable to escape the past. We may be living in a 21st century democracy, but that “democracy” increasingly resembles something that could have been plucked out of feudal Europe or, perhaps more accurately, feudal Japan.

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What the New York Times Won’t Admit About California

Even the New York Times has to admit unpleasant realities, like the departure of people from California and other deep blue states. But one thing the paper, and other similarly-minded reporters based here, will never admit: the connection between the California economy and regulation and the rising out-migrations.

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