Tag Archive for: Republicans

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.

GOP Stupidity is Squandering the Opportunity Created by Woke Authoritarians

It’s hardly debatable anymore that the Left is out of control, increasingly influenced and even governed by a radical authoritarian culture that brooks no dissent and over-corrects on all fronts it sets its sights on. You would think this would present a perfect opportunity for Republicans to seize the moment and capture the confidence of moderates and even liberals deeply alienated by this woke authoritarian culture.

You would be wrong.

Through sheer stupidity, the GOP has repeatedly squandered opportunities to fight the righteous cause of left-wing overreach with sensible and popular counterproposals. Instead, Republicans have doubled down on culture war issues and their own extremism, mirroring rather than fighting the Left’s overreach. In case after case, Republicans seem to be working overtime to alienate potential constituencies in the service of their most aggrieved and even unhinged base.

The most glaring example comes from the heart of Republican power: Texas. The state passed an abortion law so extreme it effectively bans all abortions while relying on private citizens to enforce it; the law deputizes individuals to bring civil lawsuits against their neighbors should they learn that they have performed or assisted in an abortion. The law bans abortions at six weeks and anyone who assists or performs an abortion can be sued.

The new law is so extreme it has the local business community “scratching their heads,” as one Republican operative put it; business leaders were shocked to see Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a sometimes moderate, adopt such a far right stance. Like other far right pieces of legislation on things like the open carry of guns, the new law could become a barrier to attracting more companies to the Lone Star State; it’s already generated a strong set of counter-measures among tech firms. Some have been kicking pro-life activist websites off their servers and offering protections to their own employees, including Uber and Lyft drivers who might be liable for transporting people to abortions.

And it’s not just business leaders who are alienated. The abortion ban will not play well in the suburban communities that are the state’s prime political battlegrounds. As Gallup has consistently found, barely one in five Americans support a total ban on abortion, while fully one-third favor no restrictions at all.

The abortion law reminded voters how extreme large sections of the GOP have become, particularly in red states like Texas. But perhaps more critically, the abortion law and the way it deputizes vigilante justice undermines what was becoming a compelling case against progressive authoritarianism as it’s being carried out in universities, on social media, and on major internet platforms.

After all, it’s difficult to campaign against campus thought policing and the blatant politicization of information by Google and Facebook while urging citizens to spy on each other. And the fight against encroaching left-wing authoritarianism and censorship is popular according to recent surveys, not only among Boomers but the vast majority of millennials and Gen Zers, too.

This is a fight the GOP could win—and win big. But to do so, it will need to stop focusing on the culture wars. Let the progressives—increasingly the voice of the Democrats—keep hammering away at the culture wars, embracing a repressive and widely unpopular agenda. Republicans should abandon these sorts of fights that appeal to the most extreme corners of their base, and should focus on moderating across the board.

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 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.

Photo credit: David Weaver via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.

Why Did Larry Elder Call Me for Advice?

The emergence of 69-year-old talk show host Larry Elder as the leading candidate to depose California’s Gavin Newsom is both odd and significant. Elder is no one’s idea of a politician, and when he called me for advice at the start of his run, I was perplexed. I thought Larry had it all — the nest egg, nice house, successful career.

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How America Turned Into the EU

For many liberal Americans, the European Union is the perfect elite model: a non-elected, highly credentialed bureaucracy that embraces and seeks to enforce the environmental, social and cultural zeitgeist of the urban upper classes. It is, as the establishment Council on Foreign Relations puts it, a “model for regional integration”.

Now that “progressives” have returned to the White House, aping the EU has become a national policy. Taking his cue from his party’s Left, President Joe Biden has already sought to federalise many functions — from zoning to labour laws to education — that historically have been under local control.

But while Biden’s administration has been embraced by the Eurocrats, Americans would do well to consider the EU’s remarkable record of turning Europe into the developed world’s economic and technological laggard. Overall, nearly a third of Europeans consider Brussels an utter failure; half admit the EU’s pandemic response was inadequate. Indeed, while the American media was busy denouncing the US response to Covid under Trump as the “worst” in the world, the EU was showing them how it was done: of the 15 countries suffering the highest fatality rates, 13 are European, of which nine are in the EU — all worse than the US.

The US may always have had a “Federal Government”, but the notion of dispersed power gained approval from many on the Left only after President Trump’s election, as many Democrats looked to local government as a means of fighting back. Cheerleaders for Barack Obama’s imperial presidency, such as The New Yorker, started to embrace states’ rights with an almost Confederate enthusiasm.

But once the Democrats won back the House in 2018, the appeal of total central power became irresistible, with leading Democrats competing for who could most expand DC’s remit. Kamala Harris, now Vice President, demanded Washington give teachers across the country a federally funded five-figure pay rise, while Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro sought to hand over local planning and zoning powers to the DC bureaucrats.

President Trump, for what it’s worth, had little interest in such issues — though even he made a point of trying to overturn states’ laws when it suited his agenda, particularly with the border wall and his attempts to crack down on radical education policies. In many ways, Trump’s authoritarian brand of Republicanism was always going to express an interest in an expanded federal role.

Yet in looking to expand federal power, Biden is picking up the mantle of President Obama, regarded by Republicans as one of the most prolific authors of executive power in US history. During its first six years, the Obama administration put forward more than twice as many major rules as George W. Bush’s government during the same period, focusing largely on issues such as climate change and immigration.

Of course, the notion of decentralised control — and the benefits associated with it — predates America. Ancient Roman cities enjoyed particular autonomy from central control, while the great Italian and Dutch cities of the early modern period developed extensive forms of self-government and, in some cases, functioned as independent states. Indeed, born out of Enlightenment ideals about limited government, the US Constitution lays out a system of dispersed power, creating in localities “the habits of self-government”.

In some cases, however, federal action was necessary; for example, to end the abomination of slavery and keep the Republic safe from European encroachments. And of course, some local governments continued to pass detestable laws, such as Jim Crow segregation in the South — though states also innovated in a more positive direction, providing models for other jurisdictions. For example, western states less tied to parochial ways of thinking — such as Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Washington and California — introduced female suffrage well before the federal government. New York built the earliest welfare state, while my adopted home of California invested heavily in roads, schools, universities and technical training, leading to its remarkable boom in the late 20th Century.

States, as progressive Supreme Court Judge Louis Brandeis noted, were “laboratories of democracy”, places that experimented with policies that, when they were successful, would be adopted by others, and sometimes the federal government. In contrast, Europe’s bureaucratic meddling has served to keep wealth concentrated, as it has been for centuries, in places like Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, while the south and east lag perpetually behind.

Read the rest of this piece at UnHerd.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the 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: European Parliament via Flickr, under CC 2.0 License.