Keith Richards on Trump and Reagan

Keith RichardsCan you imagine President Trump? The worst nightmare. But we can’t say that. Because it could happen. This is one of the wonders of this country. Who would’ve thought Ronald Reagan could be president?

—Keith Richards
Quoted in Vanity Fair

Conservative Voters Aren’t That Different

Conservative VotersI’ve long argued that conservative voters don’t actually think that differently from liberals. In my conversations with them, I find that we have an enormous amount of common ground. Where things get weird is that conservative voters have a strong tendency toward parochialism — or flat out racism. But in the context of their lives, they get what’s going on: the middle class is shrinking, wages are stagnant, and all of this is going on as the rich just get richer. The rich aren’t “job creators”; they are job destroyers, who take any extra economic efficiencies as profits for themselves. Conservative voters get that.

I want to be clear about this distinction, however: conservative voters, not conservative politicians and other elites. Ted Cruz may seem very authentic to the people who vote for him. But look at his tax plan. Is he looking out for the interests of middle class Americans? No. He talks the talk, but he walks the walk of the Republican establishment that is committed most of all to one thing: reducing taxes on the rich. The net effect of the entire Republican Party economic plan is to funnel money from the poor to the rich. This is not a plan that most conservative voters would be for if they knew.

Trump With FansWe all know how it is that the Republican Party gets the base to vote for it. It’s the same way that Donald Trump is doing it. After all, Donald Trump’s tax plan is even worse (pdf) than Cruz’s plan. But conservative voters are very easily distracted with mythical fears about an ISIS invasion and the horror of keeping fetuses alive so we can “harvest its brain.” So don’t take anything I say as meaning that Trump is any different from the Republican establishment.

What is different is that Trump terrifies the Republican establishment. And this has led to the remarkably vile Kevin Williamson article, The Father-Führer in National Review. A Jonathan Chait summed up the article, Conservatives to White Working Class: Drop Dead. This is tearing the Republican Party apart.

What Conservative Voters Believe

Digby brought my attention to an article in Breitbart, A Rebuttal to National Review’s Claim that White Working Class Communities Deserve to Die. Tell me if the following quote couldn’t have been written by me:

This is not the fault of those who lived in those towns that depended upon local manufacturing that was shipped overseas, it is the fault of the government policy that put into place the environment where closing local mills in North Carolina made more economic sense than keeping them open.

Obviously, I would dive deeper and note that the issue isn’t so much the moving of plants but that government policy has allowed the rich to keep all the gains from these moves — and more. The Breitbart writer goes on to rant about environmental regulations, as though that’s what’s actually going on. It is, after all, the Breitbart party that has pushed for lower taxes on the wealthy and government benefit cuts on the poor and middle class. But clearly, Breitbart is closer to the conservative voters than National Review — or Ted Cruz.

Of course, it’s all very funny to watch. There are some Trump voters who have been screwed by the economy. But that isn’t what’s going on for the most part. As Jonathan Bernstein noted last week, Good Times, Not Anger, Led to Trump’s Rise. The truth is, things are good enough for angry conservative voters to say, “Screw it!” They’ve been told by the Republican establishment that Obama has done nothing but destroy the United States over the last eight years. Is it surprising that they would go with someone who seems like a radical? As Bernstein concluded:

Overall, however, the Obama years haven’t resulted in recession, soaring inflation, or a foreign misadventure with major American casualties — in other words, anything that produces serious political reaction. Barring that, an entertainment version of politics has some appeal. And Trump puts on a good show.

But I actually do think that Trump voters see that the nation is out of balance. Of course, like conservative voters always seem to do, they vote for exactly what they claim to be against. I mean, really: they see the middle class being destroyed by sleazy billionaires so they want to elect the sleaziest billionaire? But that’s all part of the game. Trump tells them all the problems of the American worker is do to the Mexicans and the Chinese. But the fact remains: conservative voters aren’t that different from liberal voters in that they see what is happening to the American worker. They just can’t seem to engage with it on a rational level.

Morning Music: Speaking in Tongues

Speaking in TonguesI did kind of want to end Talking Heads with Remain in Light. It’s nice to end on a high note. But the truth is, you can’t blame Talking Heads for never reaching those heights because who reaches those heights? (Well, maybe Jerry Harrison.) But I think I should talk about Speaking in Tongues.

Yes, I put the album down a lot. It’s actually a really good album. But the value of the album depends upon its context. For a lot of people, it was the first thing they heard. And I can imagine, it must have been very exciting. The first thing I heard was Talking Heads 77. And no, I didn’t listen to it in 1977. I discovered Talking Heads all at once in 1981.

I remember the first time I heard anything from Speaking in Tongues. I was at a friend’s house and “Burning Down the House” came on the local radio. I thought it sounded okay, but it didn’t have the depth of anything that was on Remain in Light. But I ran out and got the album. (Well, I ran out and bought it as soon as I got the money. It’s amazing to think back at what a big deal buying a new record was in those days.) And it was fine. But I was expecting Remain in Light II.

Actually, what I was hoping for was something that would surpass Remain in Light as much as it had surpassed Fear of Music. Was that reasonable? Of course not! But I was still in my teens. So I don’t blame people who were introduced to Talking Heads with Speaking in Tongues for thinking that it was great. And as I said, it is really good. But you have to admit, that it gets better if you move back an album.

So what are we going to listen to? Not “This Must Be the Place.” Not because I dislike it. It just doesn’t go that well with the album. So how about “I Get Wild/ Wild Gravity”? Well, you have no choice!

Anniversary Post: Jim Bakker Steps Down

Jim BakkerOn this day in 1987, Jim Bakker stepped down from his “Praise The Lord” (PTL) church because of the whole Jessica Hahn incident. I’m not that much interested in that, but it is interesting to think that he actually raped her. I wouldn’t put it past him. He is not a good man. But what I didn’t know is that Jerry Falwell took over for him. It makes you wonder.

You all know that I’m an atheist. At the same time, I’m pretty friendly toward religion as long as it is sincere and not just some kind of cultural signifier. Now my father is rabidly anti-religion, even as he has beliefs in a spiritual side of the universe that I don’t buy into. He just thinks that churches are just about money and that’s it.

I think that’s unfair. Just the same, when you look at someone like Jim Bakker, it’s hard to deny that at least in the world of television Protestantism, it does seem to be all about money. In the end, we find out in Small Gods, that Vorbis had just been talking to himself all those years. Indeed, we find out that there is only one person in all of Omnia who actually believed in Om. But it’s so much worse when it is a high priest.

I don’t think that Jim Bakker believes in the God of the Bible, just as I don’t believe that Jerry Falwell did. These were just men who found that they could use the old religion to gain money and power. I don’t see them as any different from the ISIS pretenders who claim to be doing God’s will by burning people alive. They just live in a different environment where worse acts are acceptable.

So where is Jim Bakker today? Well, he apparently has a radio show and he publishes books. Because it really doesn’t matter. He’s a man of “God” and there will always be people willing to give to him. If God wanted to prove his existence, he’d strike Jim Bakker dead. But God has always been a great disappointment when it comes to that kind of justice.