Sunday, December 3, 2017

Donald Trump vs. Donald Trump

According to Niall Ferguson Donald Trump’s most significant enemy is Donald Trump? He’s the one enemy that Trump cannot easily dismiss as biased against him.

Ferguson disputes writers like Bret Stephens who suggest that Trump is crazy. He prefers to believe that Trump is crass and rude. Which is not the same thing.

Ferguson is disturbed that Trump’s incivility has been drowning out his accomplishments. As of this morning Gallop reports that Trump has a 68% disapproval rating among American voters. Please do not write in to tell me it’s a sign of political acumen.

In Ferguson’s words:

I have a slightly different view. Like Bret, I don’t think Trump is nuts — not as nuts as King George, at any rate. He’s just crass and always has been. Unlike Bret, however, I don’t think Trump is failing. He has just secured a major legislative breakthrough, a package of corporate and personal tax cuts that are as popular on Wall Street as they are hated by Democratic economists.

Yes, I know. Fewer than 40% of Americans approve of the president. The Democrats are ahead in the polls with a reasonable shot at electoral success next year. But the US economy is growing at about 3.5%. The stock market is at record highs — up nearly a quarter since Trump’s election. And, although I have my doubts about adding to the deficit, respectable economists insist the Republican tax bill will benefit not just the rich but also working and middle-class families by boosting investment and growth — and that the Trump administration’s push to reduce burdensome regulation will have even more positive effects.

By all accounts, a good record. The news from the foreign policy arena also shows some significant success:

As for foreign policy, the moment of truth in the North Korean missile crisis draws ever nearer after Kim Jong-un’s long-range missile test last week. China must act or America will. In the Middle East, meanwhile, Isis has been defeated and, as part of an astounding revolution from above, the Saudi crown prince has turned on the jihadists.

And yet, no one is focusing on the successes. Everyone is mesmerized by what Ferguson calls Trump’s “incorrigible crassness:”

The problem is that, in his incorrigible crassness, Trump consistently drowns out the signal of meaningful policy achievement with deafening yet inconsequential noise.

In this, unfortunately, he is not abnormal in the least. On the contrary, he is the incarnation of the spirit of our age. His tweets — hasty, crude and error-strewn — are just one symptom of a more general decline in civility that social media have encouraged. Fact: according to a recently published paper by researchers at New York University, a tweet is 20% more likely to be retweeted for every moral-emotional word (such as “hate”) that it uses. On Twitter and Facebook extreme views are second only to fake news….

One of many problems with the decline of civility is that uncivil discourse is so difficult for the remaining civil people to take seriously. As a result, serious issues — such as Islamic extremism or the North Korean threat — become trivialised and civil people assume, wrongly, that it is Trump we should really worry about.


trigger warning said...

"deafening yet inconsequential"

Key phrase.

Civility is greatly overrated. Po.itics isn't the Oxford Union. Incivility certainly hasn't hurt Democratic electoral politics, and it's always useful for the Left, the Party of Incivility, the Party of Antifa, to demand civility from the opposition; see Alinsky Rules 4, 5, 13.

F*** civility.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Disapproval rate of 68%--- try f...king that.

Anonymous said...

Could it just be true that the point is not to appear "civil" but to appeal to the populace and instead of seeing the audience as ignorant they are taken seriously, even if their means of discourse seems uncivil. It is basically what Jeffrey Doty in his book Shakespeare, Popularity and the Public Sphere argues about the significance of Shakspeare and his emphasis on the significance of the populace. Now lets not go off on whether or not Trump is Shakespeare for that is not where I am going. The "civil" discourse today is to discount Trump and so in reality Nial Ferguson is bowing to the "civil" vs the populace. At one time or another we all have probably heard the claim that Shakespeare's audiences were dumb and didn't follow the plays and that they were only interested in their raucous partying, as if Shakespeare was so dumb that he wasted his words on the populace. W

I grew up with my parents speaking two types of German - low german and high german. The civilized german was what was spoken in church and civil discourse. If you really wanted to know the humor and day to day reality you spoke low german. Every once in awhile a person of high standing would speak something "civil" in low german and it would take a long time for the "civil" people to realize that this person had empowered the masses whose high german may not be as good as their common sense. They understood what was going on but just didn't have the language. Whereas many who spoke only high german had no clue what was going on but had the words. As the song goes "Those who know don't have the words to tell. And the ones with the words don't know too well"

Maybe this Christmas season we can think a little more about the incarnation. "And the word became flesh and dwelt among us." In a manger. This is not a scene of civility.

trigger warning said...

"Disapproval rate of 68%--- try f...king that."

No need. Already been done.

"About six in 10 voters — 61 percent — said they had a dim view of Trump..."
--- NBC News, 11/9/16

And that was an exit poll. :-D

Sam L. said...

Unsurprising, that disapproval rate, given our media's bum-rush on Mr. Trump. I'd like to see what their sample size is, and what demographics were sampled (by percentage). Trust them, I do not.

Jane Kinkel said...

Yes. The polls have been SO accurate, you are wise to put your faith in them.

Anonymous said...

I marvel at how Trump maintains the ability to cofound the media, the left and the establishment. Trump is on a high given the approval rates for Congress, the media and the left. It will grow given his latest accomplishments.
I use to wonder what he was doing when it seemed he was his own worse enemy, but then I reread "The Art of War" and revisited how power was utilized in the past to get things accomplished. Given that Trump had almost the whole government, media, establishment, et al agains't him he has masterfully been able to control the agenda. How long he can maintain this I have no idea, but given what appears to be OCD and the TDS of his opponents it could be quite some time. His ability to find the right word to brand his competition is almost always well played.
Have you ever used a laser pointer to play with cats. The cats will chase that laser point until they are too exhausted to go further even knowing, I suggest, that it is not something they can ever catch. Now think of Trump as the person with the laser pointer and the media and all of his other detractors as the cats. I find it increasingly enjoyable. It sure has confounded "rocket man" and Elisabeth Warren.

Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ares Olympus said...

I'm glad Ferguson also worries about cutting taxes while we're already deficit spending. But no one needs to give Trump any credit for this GOP near-"victory" since Trump has nothing to do with it. This is the same sort of tax bill that a GOP congress would have under President Cruz or even Romney and McCain.

I do recall Trump saying now the deficit doesn't matter since markets have been going up much faster than debt has been going up, even if the top 10% own 80% of the stocks, so party on, as if it was 1927 or 2007. And when markets crash again, the federal reserve will print another $20 trillion for the government to bail out the billionaires (along with our diversified retirement accounts), so nothing can stop us now.

Ares Olympus said...

Here's an article that summarizes my interpretation of Trump - weak, consistent with the idea he's his own worst enemy.

Yes, Trump is a superstar on Twitter, with his 44 million followers. But the moment he steps away from that "bully" pulpit, where someone can say no to his immediate wants and needs, or where someone can get what they want from him through flattery, he's a child and so we're limited to the wisdom and benevolence of those around him who know how to play him. And even if the narrative isn't 100% true, its true enough that he'll get no respect except through his ability to threaten things other people care about.

We can try to believe "The office makes the man", but evidence says this doesn't work on someone like Trump, and his biggest fans don't want him to change. Perhaps he's the first pure id president, existing only to mirror the fragmented ego of our nation.