Snyder: The American Abyss: A historian of fascism and political atrocity on Trump, the mob and what comes next.

Good long and sobering read:

When Donald Trump stood before his followers on Jan. 6 and urged them to march on the United States Capitol, he was doing what he had always done. He never took electoral democracy seriously nor accepted the legitimacy of its American version.

Even when he won, in 2016, he insisted that the election was fraudulent — that millions of false votes were cast for his opponent. In 2020, in the knowledge that he was trailing Joseph R. Biden in the polls, he spent months claiming that the presidential election would be rigged and signaling that he would not accept the results if they did not favor him. He wrongly claimed on Election Day that he had won and then steadily hardened his rhetoric: With time, his victory became a historic landslide and the various conspiracies that denied it ever more sophisticated and implausible.

People believed him, which is not at all surprising. It takes a tremendous amount of work to educate citizens to resist the powerful pull of believing what they already believe, or what others around them believe, or what would make sense of their own previous choices. Plato noted a particular risk for tyrants: that they would be surrounded in the end by yes-men and enablers. Aristotle worried that, in a democracy, a wealthy and talented demagogue could all too easily master the minds of the populace. Aware of these risks and others, the framers of the Constitution instituted a system of checks and balances. The point was not simply to ensure that no one branch of government dominated the others but also to anchor in institutions different points of view.

In this sense, the responsibility for Trump’s push to overturn an election must be shared by a very large number of Republican members of Congress. Rather than contradict Trump from the beginning, they allowed his electoral fiction to flourish. They had different reasons for doing so. One group of Republicans is concerned above all with gaming the system to maintain power, taking full advantage of constitutional obscurities, gerrymandering and dark money to win elections with a minority of motivated voters. They have no interest in the collapse of the peculiar form of representation that allows their minority party disproportionate control of government. The most important among them, Mitch McConnell, indulged Trump’s lie while making no comment on its consequences.

Yet other Republicans saw the situation differently: They might actually break the system and have power without democracy. The split between these two groups, the gamers and the breakers, became sharply visible on Dec. 30, when Senator Josh Hawley announced that he would support Trump’s challenge by questioning the validity of the electoral votes on Jan. 6. Ted Cruz then promised his own support, joined by about 10 other senators. More than a hundred Republican representatives took the same position. For many, this seemed like nothing more than a show: challenges to states’ electoral votes would force delays and floor votes but would not affect the outcome.

Yet for Congress to traduce its basic functions had a price. An elected institution that opposes elections is inviting its own overthrow. Members of Congress who sustained the president’s lie, despite the available and unambiguous evidence, betrayed their constitutional mission. Making his fictions the basis of congressional action gave them flesh. Now Trump could demand that senators and congressmen bow to his will. He could place personal responsibility upon Mike Pence, in charge of the formal proceedings, to pervert them. And on Jan. 6, he directed his followers to exert pressure on these elected representatives, which they proceeded to do: storming the Capitol building, searching for people to punish, ransacking the place.

Of course this did make a kind of sense: If the election really had been stolen, as senators and congressmen were themselves suggesting, then how could Congress be allowed to move forward? For some Republicans, the invasion of the Capitol must have been a shock, or even a lesson. For the breakers, however, it may have been a taste of the future. Afterward, eight senators and more than 100 representatives voted for the lie that had forced them to flee their chambers.

Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around, and the era of Trump — like the era of Vladimir Putin in Russia — is one of the decline of local news. Social media is no substitute: It supercharges the mental habits by which we seek emotional stimulation and comfort, which means losing the distinction between what feels true and what actually is true.

Post-truth wears away the rule of law and invites a regime of myth. These last four years, scholars have discussed the legitimacy and value of invoking fascism in reference to Trumpian propaganda. One comfortable position has been to label any such effort as a direct comparison and then to treat such comparisons as taboo. More productively, the philosopher Jason Stanley has treated fascism as a phenomenon, as a series of patterns that can be observed not only in interwar Europe but beyond it.

My own view is that greater knowledge of the past, fascist or otherwise, allows us to notice and conceptualize elements of the present that we might otherwise disregard and to think more broadly about future possibilities. It was clear to me in October that Trump’s behavior presaged a coup, and I said so in print; this is not because the present repeats the past, but because the past enlightens the present.

Like historical fascist leaders, Trump has presented himself as the single source of truth. His use of the term “fake news” echoed the Nazi smear Lügenpresse (“lying press”); like the Nazis, he referred to reporters as “enemies of the people.” Like Adolf Hitler, he came to power at a moment when the conventional press had taken a beating; the financial crisis of 2008 did to American newspapers what the Great Depression did to German ones. The Nazis thought that they could use radio to replace the old pluralism of the newspaper; Trump tried to do the same with Twitter.

Thanks to technological capacity and personal talent, Donald Trump lied at a pace perhaps unmatched by any other leader in history. For the most part these were small lies, and their main effect was cumulative. To believe in all of them was to accept the authority of a single man, because to believe in all of them was to disbelieve everything else. Once such personal authority was established, the president could treat everyone else as the liars; he even had the power to turn someone from a trusted adviser into a dishonest scoundrel with a single tweet. Yet so long as he was unable to enforce some truly big lie, some fantasy that created an alternative reality where people could live and die, his pre-fascism fell short of the thing itself.

Some of his lies were, admittedly, medium-size: that he was a successful businessman; that Russia did not support him in 2016; that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Such medium-size lies were the standard fare of aspiring authoritarians in the 21st century. In Poland the right-wing party built a martyrdom cult around assigning blame to political rivals for an airplane crash that killed the nation’s president. Hungary’s Viktor Orban blames a vanishingly small number of Muslim refugees for his country’s problems. But such claims were not quite big lies; they stretched but did not rend what Hannah Arendt called “the fabric of factuality.”

One historical big lie discussed by Arendt is Joseph Stalin’s explanation of starvation in Soviet Ukraine in 1932-33. The state had collectivized agriculture, then applied a series of punitive measures to Ukraine that ensured millions would die. Yet the official line was that the starving were provocateurs, agents of Western powers who hated socialism so much they were killing themselves. A still grander fiction, in Arendt’s account, is Hitlerian anti-Semitism: the claims that Jews ran the world, Jews were responsible for ideas that poisoned German minds, Jews stabbed Germany in the back during the First World War. Intriguingly, Arendt thought big lies work only in lonely minds; their coherence substitutes for experience and companionship.

In November 2020, reaching millions of lonely minds through social media, Trump told a lie that was dangerously ambitious: that he had won an election that in fact he had lost. This lie was big in every pertinent respect: not as big as “Jews run the world,” but big enough. The significance of the matter at hand was great: the right to rule the most powerful country in the world and the efficacy and trustworthiness of its succession procedures. The level of mendacity was profound. The claim was not only wrong, but it was also made in bad faith, amid unreliable sources. It challenged not just evidence but logic: Just how could (and why would) an election have been rigged against a Republican president but not against Republican senators and representatives? Trump had to speak, absurdly, of a “Rigged (for President) Election.”

The force of a big lie resides in its demand that many other things must be believed or disbelieved. To make sense of a world in which the 2020 presidential election was stolen requires distrust not only of reporters and of experts but also of local, state and federal government institutions, from poll workers to elected officials, Homeland Security and all the way to the Supreme Court. It brings with it, of necessity, a conspiracy theory: Imagine all the people who must have been in on such a plot and all the people who would have had to work on the cover-up.The Presidential Transition

Trump’s electoral fiction floats free of verifiable reality. It is defended not so much by facts as by claims that someone else has made some claims. The sensibility is that something must be wrong because I feel it to be wrong, and I know others feel the same way. When political leaders such as Ted Cruz or Jim Jordan spoke like this, what they meant was: You believe my lies, which compels me to repeat them. Social media provides an infinity of apparent evidence for any conviction, especially one seemingly held by a president.

On the surface, a conspiracy theory makes its victim look strong: It sees Trump as resisting the Democrats, the Republicans, the Deep State, the pedophiles, the Satanists. More profoundly, however, it inverts the position of the strong and the weak. Trump’s focus on alleged “irregularities” and “contested states” comes down to cities where Black people live and vote. At bottom, the fantasy of fraud is that of a crime committed by Black people against white people.

It’s not just that electoral fraud by African-Americans against Donald Trump never happened. It is that it is the very opposite of what happened, in 2020 and in every American election. As always, Black people waited longer than others to vote and were more likely to have their votes challenged. They were more likely to be suffering or dying from Covid-19, and less likely to be able to take time away from work. The historical protection of their right to vote has been removed by the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, and states have rushed to pass measures of a kind that historically reduce voting by the poor and communities of color.

The claim that Trump was denied a win by fraud is a big lie not just because it mauls logic, misdescribes the present and demands belief in a conspiracy. It is a big lie, fundamentally, because it reverses the moral field of American politics and the basic structure of American history.

When Senator Ted Cruz announced his intention to challenge the Electoral College vote, he invoked the Compromise of 1877, which resolved the presidential election of 1876. Commentators pointed out that this was no relevant precedent, since back then there really were serious voter irregularities and there really was a stalemate in Congress. For African-Americans, however, the seemingly gratuitous reference led somewhere else. The Compromise of 1877 — in which Rutherford B. Hayes would have the presidency, provided that he withdrew federal power from the South — was the very arrangement whereby African-Americans were driven from voting booths for the better part of a century. It was effectively the end of Reconstruction, the beginning of segregation, legal discrimination and Jim Crow. It is the original sin of American history in the post-slavery era, our closest brush with fascism so far.

If the reference seemed distant when Ted Cruz and 10 senatorial colleagues released their statement on Jan. 2, it was brought very close four days later, when Confederate flags were paraded through the Capitol.

Some things have changed since 1877, of course. Back then, it was the Republicans, or many of them, who supported racial equality; it was the Democrats, the party of the South, who wanted apartheid. It was the Democrats, back then, who called African-Americans’ votes fraudulent, and the Republicans who wanted them counted. This is now reversed. In the past half century, since the Civil Rights Act, Republicans have become a predominantly white party interested — as Trump openly declared — in keeping the number of voters, and particularly the number of Black voters, as low as possible. Yet the common thread remains. Watching white supremacists among the people storming the Capitol, it was easy to yield to the feeling that something pure had been violated. It might be better to see the episode as part of a long American argument about who deserves representation.

The Democrats, today, have become a coalition, one that does better than Republicans with female and nonwhite voters and collects votes from both labor unions and the college-educated. Yet it’s not quite right to contrast this coalition with a monolithic Republican Party. Right now, the Republican Party is a coalition of two types of people: those who would game the system (most of the politicians, some of the voters) and those who dream of breaking it (a few of the politicians, many of the voters). In January 2021, this was visible as the difference between those Republicans who defended the present system on the grounds that it favored them and those who tried to upend it.

In the four decades since the election of Ronald Reagan, Republicans have overcome the tension between the gamers and the breakers by governing in opposition to government, or by calling elections a revolution (the Tea Party), or by claiming to oppose elites. The breakers, in this arrangement, provide cover for the gamers, putting forth an ideology that distracts from the basic reality that government under Republicans is not made smaller but simply diverted to serve a handful of interests.

At first, Trump seemed like a threat to this balance. His lack of experience in politics and his open racism made him a very uncomfortable figure for the party; his habit of continually telling lies was initially found by prominent Republicans to be uncouth. Yet after he won the presidency, his particular skills as a breaker seemed to create a tremendous opportunity for the gamers. Led by the gamer in chief, McConnell, they secured hundreds of federal judges and tax cuts for the rich.Mitch McConnell Got Everything He Wanted. But at What Cost?Jan. 22, 2019

Trump was unlike other breakers in that he seemed to have no ideology. His objection to institutions was that they might constrain him personally. He intended to break the system to serve himself — and this is partly why he has failed. Trump is a charismatic politician and inspires devotion not only among voters but among a surprising number of lawmakers, but he has no vision that is greater than himself or what his admirers project upon him. In this respect his pre-fascism fell short of fascism: His vision never went further than a mirror. He arrived at a truly big lie not from any view of the world but from the reality that he might lose something.

Yet Trump never prepared a decisive blow. He lacked the support of the military, some of whose leaders he had alienated. (No true fascist would have made the mistake he did there, which was to openly love foreign dictators; supporters convinced that the enemy was at home might not mind, but those sworn to protect from enemies abroad did.) Trump’s secret police force, the men carrying out snatch operations in Portland, was violent but also small and ludicrous. Social media proved to be a blunt weapon: Trump could announce his intentions on Twitter, and white supremacists could plan their invasion of the Capitol on Facebook or Gab. But the president, for all his lawsuits and entreaties and threats to public officials, could not engineer a situation that ended with the right people doing the wrong thing. Trump could make some voters believe that he had won the 2020 election, but he was unable to bring institutions along with his big lie. And he could bring his supporters to Washington and send them on a rampage in the Capitol, but none appeared to have any very clear idea of how this was to work or what their presence would accomplish. It is hard to think of a comparable insurrectionary moment, when a building of great significance was seized, that involved so much milling around.

The lie outlasts the liar. The idea that Germany lost the First World War in 1918 because of a Jewish “stab in the back” was 15 years old when Hitler came to power. How will Trump’s myth of victimhood function in American life 15 years from now? And to whose benefit?

On Jan. 7, Trump called for a peaceful transition of power, implicitly conceding that his putsch had failed. Even then, though, he repeated and even amplified his electoral fiction: It was now a sacred cause for which people had sacrificed. Trump’s imagined stab in the back will live on chiefly thanks to its endorsement by members of Congress. In November and December 2020, Republicans repeated it, giving it a life it would not otherwise have had. In retrospect, it now seems as though the last shaky compromise between the gamers and the breakers was the idea that Trump should have every chance to prove that wrong had been done to him. That position implicitly endorsed the big lie for Trump supporters who were inclined to believe it. It failed to restrain Trump, whose big lie only grew bigger.

The breakers and the gamers then saw a different world ahead, where the big lie was either a treasure to be had or a danger to be avoided. The breakers had no choice but to rush to be first to claim to believe in it. Because the breakers Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz must compete to claim the brimstone and bile, the gamers were forced to reveal their own hand, and the division within the Republican coalition became visible on Jan. 6. The invasion of the Capitol only reinforced this division. To be sure, a few senators withdrew their objections, but Cruz and Hawley moved forward anyway, along with six other senators. More than 100 representatives doubled down on the big lie. Some, like Matt Gaetz, even added their own flourishes, such as the claim that the mob was led not by Trump’s supporters but by his opponents.

Trump is, for now, the martyr in chief, the high priest of the big lie. He is the leader of the breakers, at least in the minds of his supporters. By now, the gamers do not want Trump around. Discredited in his last weeks, he is useless; shorn of the obligations of the presidency, he will become embarrassing again, much as he was in 2015. Unable to provide cover for their gamesmanship, he will be irrelevant to their daily purposes. But the breakers have an even stronger reason to see Trump disappear: It is impossible to inherit from someone who is still around. Seizing Trump’s big lie might appear to be a gesture of support. In fact it expresses a wish for his political death. Transforming the myth from one about Trump to one about the nation will be easier when he is out of the way.

As Cruz and Hawley may learn, to tell the big lie is to be owned by it. Just because you have sold your soul does not mean that you have driven a hard bargain. Hawley shies from no level of hypocrisy; the son of a banker, educated at Stanford University and Yale Law School, he denounces elites. Insofar as Cruz was thought to have a principle, it was that of states’ rights, which Trump’s calls to action brazenly violated. A joint statement Cruz issued about the senators’ challenge to the vote nicely captured the post-truth aspect of the whole: It never alleged that there was fraud, only that there were allegations of fraud. Allegations of allegations, allegations all the way down.

The big lie requires commitment. When Republican gamers do not exhibit enough of that, Republican breakers call them “RINOs”: Republicans in name only. This term once suggested a lack of ideological commitment. It now means an unwillingness to throw away an election. The gamers, in response, close ranks around the Constitution and speak of principles and traditions. The breakers must all know (with the possible exception of the Alabama senator Tommy Tuberville) that they are participating in a sham, but they will have an audience of tens of millions who do not.

If Trump remains present in American political life, he will surely repeat his big lie incessantly. Hawley and Cruz and the other breakers share responsibility for where this leads. Cruz and Hawley seem to be running for president. Yet what does it mean to be a candidate for office and denounce voting? If you claim that the other side has cheated, and your supporters believe you, they will expect you to cheat yourself. By defending Trump’s big lie on Jan. 6, they set a precedent: A Republican presidential candidate who loses an election should be appointed anyway by Congress. Republicans in the future, at least breaker candidates for president, will presumably have a Plan A, to win and win, and a Plan B, to lose and win. No fraud is necessary; only allegations that there are allegations of fraud. Truth is to be replaced by spectacle, facts by faith.

Trump’s coup attempt of 2020-21, like other failed coup attempts, is a warning for those who care about the rule of law and a lesson for those who do not. His pre-fascism revealed a possibility for American politics. For a coup to work in 2024, the breakers will require something that Trump never quite had: an angry minority, organized for nationwide violence, ready to add intimidation to an election. Four years of amplifying a big lie just might get them this. To claim that the other side stole an election is to promise to steal one yourself. It is also to claim that the other side deserves to be punished.

Informed observers inside and outside government agree that right-wing white supremacism is the greatest terrorist threat to the United States. Gun sales in 2020 hit an astonishing high. History shows that political violence follows when prominent leaders of major political parties openly embrace paranoia.

Our big lie is typically American, wrapped in our odd electoral system, depending upon our particular traditions of racism. Yet our big lie is also structurally fascist, with its extreme mendacity, its conspiratorial thinking, its reversal of perpetrators and victims and its implication that the world is divided into us and them. To keep it going for four years courts terrorism and assassination.

When that violence comes, the breakers will have to react. If they embrace it, they become the fascist faction. The Republican Party will be divided, at least for a time. One can of course imagine a dismal reunification: A breaker candidate loses a narrow presidential election in November 2024 and cries fraud, the Republicans win both houses of Congress and rioters in the street, educated by four years of the big lie, demand what they see as justice. Would the gamers stand on principle if those were the circumstances of Jan. 6, 2025?

To be sure, this moment is also a chance. It is possible that a divided Republican Party might better serve American democracy; that the gamers, separated from the breakers, might start to think of policy as a way to win elections. It is very likely that the Biden-Harris administration will have an easier first few months than expected; perhaps obstructionism will give way, at least among a few Republicans and for a short time, to a moment of self-questioning. Politicians who want Trumpism to end have a simple way forward: Tell the truth about the election.

America will not survive the big lie just because a liar is separated from power. It will need a thoughtful repluralization of media and a commitment to facts as a public good. The racism structured into every aspect of the coup attempt is a call to heed our own history. Serious attention to the past helps us to see risks but also suggests future possibility. We cannot be a democratic republic if we tell lies about race, big or small. Democracy is not about minimizing the vote nor ignoring it, neither a matter of gaming nor of breaking a system, but of accepting the equality of others, heeding their voices and counting their votes.

Source: https://nuzzel.com/digeststory/01092021/nytimes/the_american_abyss?e=6714311&c=zsH9ZmXNh5eMSaix9Dy7Kr6kBCZkryuqvNwFRsSqZy&utm_campaign=digest&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nuzzel

In capitals around the world, there is no joy in a Biden win

Authoritarians of a feather, stick together:

In major cities across a divided United States, Americans celebrated this weekend as Joe Biden became their president-elect. A number of liberal democracies joined in congratulating Mr. Biden, hoping for a return to something close to normal after four years of Donald Trump’s chaotic, unpredictable and damaging retreat from the global order.

But not all world leaders are so excited for a change in U.S. administration. For some, Mr. Biden signifies a return to normative Barack Obama-era preaching about human rights, a renewed commitment to multilateralism and to global climate action at the expense of their hyper-nationalist agendas, and a restoration of Chinese appeasement policies in exchange for short-term U.S. trade gains.

Leaders in Israel, Egypt, Saudi and the United Arab Emirates, for instance, have benefited greatly from Mr. Trump’s presidency. His transactional foreign-policy approach, favourable view toward unfettered arms sales, and disregard of their human rights abuses have all resonated positively. A Biden administration, on the other hand, may reverse the sale of advanced F35 warplanes to the UAE, and it will surely be more critical of Saudi bombings using U.S.-made warplanes in Yemen. Despite sending congratulations for the president-elect, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egypt’s autocratic Abdel Fattah el-Sisi have lost a friend with Mr. Trump’s exit. Perhaps more importantly, Mr. Trump’s unilateral “maximum pressure” strategy against Iran was welcomed by these Middle East leaders; Mr. Biden, meanwhile, has vowed to reopen multilateral negotiations on a nuclear agreement with that country.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government in Turkey, which has purchased Russian-made missile defence systems and whose state-owned Halkbank faces indictment in the U.S. for allegedly funnelling money to a sanctioned Iran, will miss Mr. Trump too. Mr. Biden has unreservedly supported the NATO alliance’s military interoperability, which will comfort European allies frustrated by both Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Trump.

Europe isn’t necessarily unanimous in its celebration of Mr. Biden, however. While Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Polish President Andrzej Duda found ideological common ground in Mr. Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-EU, populist-nationalist views, Mr. Biden has referred to those leaders as “thugs.” Meanwhile, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will have to deal with Mr. Biden’s tough talk against a reinstated customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – unwelcome complications to Mr. Johnson’s already fraught Brexit negotiations with the EU.

Despite Russia’s Trump-boosting election-interference efforts, President Vladimir Putin may have a mixed response to Mr. Biden’s win. Mr. Trump added more sanctions on Russian officials, approved arms sales to Ukraine and declined to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea. But the chaos Mr. Trump brought to the United States did help Mr. Putin quash domestic discourse about the virtues of liberal democracy. Mr. Biden, meanwhile, has already affirmed his support for Russian civil society and democracy advocates, surely triggering memories of Hillary Clinton’s perceived interference in Russia’s 2011 pro-democracy protests.

In Asia, Mr. Biden’s criticism of India’s illiberal turn – with its new citizenship law and lockdown of Kashmir – will not go over well with Indian PM Narendra Modi, even though Mr. Trump hadn’t budged on a U.S.-India trade deal. Both Mr. Modi and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte appreciated Mr. Trump’s supportive tough talk on Chinese military expansionism, both on the disputed Himalayan border with India and throughout the South China Sea. While Mr. Trump may be seen by Asian countries such as Vietnam and Taiwan as a more effective countervailing force to China’s ascent than Mr. Biden, who is likely to pursue re-engagement with Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo are relieved all the same to see Mr. Biden elected, given Mr. Trump’s repeated threats that he would remove U.S. troops from South Korea and Japan.

In the Americas, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has been among the ranks of the world leaders remaining silent in the wake of Mr. Biden’s election win. Mr. Bolsonaro, who has been dubbed the “Trump of the Tropics,” has been criticized by Mr. Biden for Brazil’s deforestation of the Amazon and his government’s failure to control raging wildfires. Similarly, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has struck up an unlikely rapport with Mr. Trump, shared Mr. Trump’s interests in increasing investments into fossil fuels and stemming Central American migration. On both of these issues, a Biden presidency – which is likely to bow to progressive forces within the Democratic Party and change course – could potentially complicate the Mexican-American relationship.

In cities such as London, Paris, and Toronto, people reportedly celebrated Mr. Biden’s win with fireworks, the ringing of church bells, and jubilant noise-making from their balconies. But for the international leaders who might have gotten comfortable with the trajectory of the last four years of discord, a Biden administration might now represent a Trump-sized system shock of its own.

Bessma Momani is a professor of political science at the University of Waterloo and senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

MacDougall: Let’s dump Trump’s accomplices: social media and cable news

Hard not to agree:

Now that Donald Trump has been fired by (enough of) the American people, it’s time to think about how to bin his accomplices: cable news and social media.

The Trump Era has been exhausting and the lion’s share of that exhaustion stems from our grossly expanded information economy. What used to come to us in dollops of papers and broadcasts is now streamed non-stop across all hours of the day on too many platforms to count. But there can be too much of a good thing. A glass of water quenches your thirst; a firehose knocks you over and leaves you drenched. It’s time to turn off the tap.

Whatever the intention at their points of creation, cable news and social media have flown a long way off course. Watching CNN or Fox News during (and after) the Presidential election was to subject yourself to a marathon of preachy monologues/inquisitions interspersed with furious nine-person panels, in which various partisans were invited to bark at each other, not listen to an argument or concede a point. It was a stark reminder of how far our public sphere has degraded.

But it’s actually worse than that. Cable news has also sought to make stars out of journalists but journalism isn’t meant to be celebrity entertainment. It’s supposed to serve a nobler purpose. It’s the work that’s meant to be important, not the author. What’s more, inviting reporters on to discuss or opine on the news of the day is to make them active participants, not impartial observers. What news value is there, for example, in having CNN’s Anderson Cooper calling the President of the United States of America an “obese turtle”? Is it any wonder that trust in the news is at record lows?

And if that wasn’t bad enough, social media then picks up the baton to make everything worse. Instead of bringing hidden expertise to bear on conversations, social media makes everyone ‘experts’ on everything, no matter what they don’t know about the subject. Even worse, the loudest and most extreme takes get the most attention. As study after study has shown, social media encourages people to indulge their emotions, not to apply logic or reason. These channels encourage us to huddle amongst like-minded people and then helps us radicalize. It makes enemies of citizens instead of encouraging a common understanding.

That’s why the sooner we get our politics and news off 24/7 platforms, the better. If the past four years of Trumpism have taught us anything, it’s that our brains simply cannot handle the volume of information they’ve been receiving. Seeing so much means we retain little of actual value. And it’s not just politics that suffers from this consumption pattern. Our recall with music, for example, was much stronger when we had to buy physical albums than it is now when we can stream literally anything for a few bucks a month. Everything now goes in one ear (or eyeball) and out the other.

It turns out quality content isn’t a gas; it doesn’t expand to fill the available space. If anything, whatever quality exists in our news environment now gets choked by the amateur fumes polluting our screens and feeds. Using quality to compete for attention in the 24/7 information economy is to lose the battle before it starts. Everybody is more interested in the outrage. A better approach would be to evacuate the pitch and find a new place to play, somewhere it has a chance of being noticed.

Pulling news content off social media would be a risk, yes, but it’s less of a risk than hoping the current information environment will improve. The news can either die on its terms or someone else’s, and right now social media companies and cable news programmers are incentivized to virality and outrage, not analysis or introspection. More importantly, their current output is cheap, unlike quality journalism. They do not, as presently constructed, serve a civic good. We wouldn’t miss them when they’re gone.

Of course, we can’t actually bin cable news and social media. For one, the purveyors of cable news and social media make too much money doing it. They won’t stop. But we can make the choice to stop watching and clicking.

It would help if the media outlets took the first step of not seeding the outrage machine with the lifeblood of their content. It would also help if they forbid their reporters from appearing on cable shows. We have enough data now to know that social media and cable news aren’t gateways to serious news consumption; they’re pathways to polarization and misinformation. They are platforms for the already convinced. More pertinently, they’re not serious money makers for news organizations. Media organizations need to make their content scarce, not ubiquitous. It’s time to put up paywalls and demand money for quality.

And now that we’re all properly exhausted, people might be open to a return to the subscription model. I know my mood has improved significantly since I prioritized one paper in the morning to the exclusion of all others. And while I might miss some stories because of it, I trust in the quality of my morning read to know that I won’t be out of too many important loops.

As strange as it seems after years of the firehose, we’ll have to consume less to understand more.

Andrew MacDougall is a director at Trafalgar Strategy, and a former Head of Communications to Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Source: Let’s dump Trump’s accomplices: social media and cable news

Analysis Finds Geographic Overlap In Opioid Use And Trump Support In 2016

Interesting correlation with nuanced explanation and analysis:

The fact that rural, economically disadvantaged parts of the country broke heavily for the Republican candidate in the 2016 election is well known. But Medicare data indicate that voters in areas that went for Trump weren’t just hurting economically — many of them were receiving prescriptions for opioid painkillers.

The findings were published Friday in the medical journal JAMA Network Open.Researchers found a geographic relationship between support for Trump and prescriptions for opioid painkillers.

It’s easy to see similarities between the places hardest hit by the opioid epidemic and a map of Trump strongholds. “When we look at the two maps, there was a clear overlap between counties that had high opioid use … and the vote for Donald Trump,” says Dr. James S. Goodwin, chair of geriatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and the study’s lead author. “There were blogs from various people saying there was this overlap. But we had national data.”

Goodwin and his team looked at data from Census Bureau, the 2016 election and Medicare Part D, a prescription drug program that serves the elderly and disabled.

To estimate the prevalence of opioid use by county, the researchers used the percentage of enrollees who had received prescriptions for a three-month or longer supply of opioids. Goodwin says that prescription opioid use is strongly correlated with illicit opioid use, which can be hard to quantify.

“There are very inexact ways of measuring illegal opioid use,” Goodwin says. “All we can really measure with precision is legal opioid use.”

Goodwin’s team examined how a variety of factors could have influenced each county’s rate of chronic opioid prescriptions. After correcting for demographic variables such as age and race, Goodwin found that support for Trump in the 2016 election closely tracked opioid prescriptions.

In counties with higher-than-average rates of chronic opioid prescriptions, 60 percent of the voters went for Trump. In the counties with lower-than-average rates, only 39 percent voted for Trump.

A lot of this disparity could be chalked up to social factors and economic woes. Rural, economically-depressed counties went strongly for Trump in the 2016 election. These are the same places where opioid use is prevalent. As a result, opioid use and support for Trump might not be directly related, but rather two symptoms of the same problem – a lack of economic opportunity.

To test this theory, Goodwin included other county-level factors in the analysis. These included factors such as unemployment rate, median income, how rural they are, education level, and religious service attendance, among others.

These socioeconomic variables accounted for about two-thirds of the link between voter support for Trump and opioid rates, the paper’s authors write. However, socioeconomic factors didn’t explain all of the correlation seen in the study.

“It very well may be that if you’re in a county that is dissolving because of opioids, you’re looking around and you’re seeing ruin. That can lead to a sense of despair,” Goodwin says. “You want something different. You want radical change.”

For voters in communities hit hard by the opioid epidemic, the unconventional Trump candidacy may have been the change people were looking for, Goodwin says.

Dr. Nancy E. Morden, associate professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, agrees. “People who reach for an opioid might also reach for … near-term fixes,” she says. “I think that Donald Trump’s campaign was a promise for near-term relief.”

Goodwin’s study has limitations and can’t establish that opioid use was a definitive factor in how people voted.

“With that kind of study design, you have to be cautious in terms of drawing any causal conclusions,” cautions Elene Kennedy-Hendricks, an assistant scientist in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “The directionality is complicated.”

Goodwin acknowledges that the study has shortcomings.

“We were not implying causality, that the Trump vote caused opioids or that opioids caused the Trump vote,” he cautions. “We’re talking about associations.”

Still, the study serves as an interesting example highlighting the links between economic opportunity, social issues and political behavior.

“The types of discussions around what drove the ’16 election, and the forces that were behind that, should also be included when people are talking about the opioid epidemic,” Goodwin says.

Source: Analysis Finds Geographic Overlap In Opioid Use And Trump Support In 2016

American Muslims on Trump’s iftar: Thanks, but no thanks

Appropriate non-attendance:

A scene from the horror movie “Get Out.” A moment of bloody betrayal — the dreaded Red Wedding — from HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” A medieval painting depicting a huge mouth devouring people as they eat.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump’s White House will host its first iftar, the sundown meal that breaks fasts during the holy month of Ramadan. For some American Muslims, it’s also time to break out the horror-movie memes.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “30 to 40” people had been invited to the iftar, though Trump administration officials haven’t yet released a guest list or divulged many details about the event.
On Wednesday, a White House spokesperson said Trump will host the iftar dinner in the State Dining Room at 8 p.m. ET “for the Washington diplomatic community.”
In years past, White House iftars have invited not only diplomats but dozens of American Muslims from civil society, including corporate executives, scholars, activists and athletes.
But many American Muslims say they are reluctant to break bread with Trump, citing the President’s rhetoric and actions toward Muslims and other religious and racial minorities.
“We do not need an iftar dinner,” said Imam Yahya Hendi, the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University. “Rather, we need to get the respect we highly deserve. Do not feed us and stab us.”
Hendi attended a White House iftar in 2009, when President Barack Obama was in office. He said he was not invited this year. Like many prominent Muslims who have attended previous White House iftars, Hendi said he would not attend if invited this year.
Many American Muslims said they suspect Trump’s iftar is aimed at placating the country’s allies overseas, rather than making genuine connections with their community, with whom the president has had a troubled relationship.
“I was not invited to the White House iftar, but I would not attend if I were,” said Dalia Mogahed, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
“Attending this event, especially during the holy month, a time of introspection and spiritual growth, would be inappropriate in my view as it would appear to normalize this administration’s behavior.” …

Source: American Muslims on Trump’s iftar: Thanks, but no thanks

The Weight of the Words: Levy – Niskanen Center

Good long read  by Jacob T. Levy of  McGill University on the importance and impact of words. Excerpt is with respect to impact on the public, article covers the full range:

….Within the electorate, the speech of elites matters in a couple of different ways. A large part of the population begins with a tribal sense of what team they’re on, which side they support, but relatively little information about the substantive policy views associated with that. Thanks to Trump’s Twitter feed and Fox News (and the strange reciprocal relationship between them) the Republican and conservative rank and file now have an unusually direct, unusually constant source of information about the things that people like us are supposed to believe and support. I think that we can see the effect of this in the rapid and dramatic swings in reported Republican opinion on questions from free trade to Russia policy. Trump’s stump speeches and unhinged tweets, and Fox News’ amplification of them, are changing what Republican voters think it means to be a Republican. He doesn’t speak for them; how many of them had a view about “the deep state” two years ago? He speaks to them, and it matters.

One example is the attack on the mainstream news media–“fake news,” by which Trump means nothing more and nothing less than “news outlets that aren’t subservient to me.” There have always been media outlets of different political colorations, and there have always been elected officials who disliked and feared media outlets critical of them. The delegitimation of the basic enterprise of independent journalism is something else, and something new to the US. In their important new book How Democracies Die, the political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt point to the delegitimation of the independent press as one of the key warning signs of a genuine would-be autocrat. They note the parallel between Trump characterizing the media as the “enemy of the American people,” his expressed desire to “open up” libel laws, and his “fake news” campaign and the words that preceded action in democratic breakdowns elsewhere. We don’t know how far Trump will be able to go in his attempts to suppress the media, but we know that he’s persuaded millions of Republicans to let him try.

There has been a lot of discussion lately about why Republican elites who presumably know better (like Paul Ryan) seem to have become fully complicit in the administration’s attack on the Russia investigation, fully willing to help conceal, impede, and obstruct when they don’t themselves know what the investigation will find. (If you’re the target of an investigation, you roughly know what you’re guilty of and what you’re not. Paul Ryan has no earthly idea what Trump or his circle have done; why risk having someone else’s unknown crimes hung around your own neck?) The popular theory is that they got their tax cut, and they’re willing to pay any price for that. I think that’s wrong, and underestimates Congressional self-interest. I think the answer is, at least in part: over the last year Trump has successfully radicalized the Republican electorate, with his words, in their support of him personally. Congressional Republicans who, a year ago, were still at least trying to keep Trump at arm’s length don’t dare to anymore. Trump has successfully belittled, marginalized, and demonized his occasional critics among Senate Republicans, with his direct line to the Republican electorate (and, again, as always, its amplification in the Trumpist media). The absurd drumbeat to “release the [Nunes] memo,” by its very absurdity, reveals Trump’s current power over Congressional Republicans. A year ago, more of them would have objected to delegitimizing the FBI. But Trump has successfully communicated to his voters that being on their team means not being on the FBI’s team. He’s changed what being a Republican means.

And he’s trying to change what being an American means. The power of elite speech in a democracy is only partly that of giving partisan cues to one’s supporters. It’s also the power to channel and direct the dangerous but real desire for collective national direction and aspiration. Humans are tribal animals, and our tribal psychology is a political resource that can be directed to a lot of different ends. The alleged realism of those who want to ignore words will often point to some past president whose lofty rhetoric obscured ugly policies. Whether those presidents are named “Reagan and George W. Bush” or “JFK and Barack Obama” varies in the obvious way, but the deflationary accounts are similar; there are blunders, crimes, abuses, and atrocities enough to find in the record of every American president. But all those presidents put forward a public rhetorical face that was better than their worst acts. This inevitably drives political opponents crazy: they despise the hypocrisy and the halo that good speeches put on undeserving heads. I’ve had that reaction to, well, every previous president in my living memory, at one time or another. But there’s something important and valuable in the fact that they felt the need to talk about loftier ideal than they actually governed by. They kept the public aspirations of American political culture pointed toward Reagan’s “shining city on a hill.” In words, even if not in deeds, they championed a free and fair liberal democratic order, the protection of civil liberties, openness toward the world, rejection of racism at home, and defiance against tyranny abroad. And their words were part of the process of persuading each generation of Americans that those were constitutively American ideals.

Trump’s apologists are now reduced to saying that his speech has been worse than his actions so far, the reverse of this usual pattern. The effect is the reverse, too. When he tells us that there are “very fine people on both sides” as between the Klan and their critics, he turns the moral compass of American public discourse upside-down. He channels the desire for collective aspiration into an attempt to make us worse than we are. The norm against publicly legitimizing Klan-type explicit racism was built up over a long time, calling on white Americans to be better than they were, partly by convincing them that they were better. The norm is still strong enough that Trump grudgingly kind of walked back his comments after the Charlottesville protests last year. But a norm that was built up through speech, persuasion, and belief can be undermined the same way. Trump’s own racism, his embrace of white nationalist discourse, and his encouragement of the alt-right over the past two years have, through words, made a start on that transformation….

via The Weight of the Words – Niskanen Center

 

The Trump Standard Won’t Outlast His Presidency: Noah Rothman on Evangelical Support

Interesting commentary by Rothman on evangelical support for Trump, and the compromise this has entailed:

…In an interview with Politico, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins confessed that the community of moral leaders on the right gave Trump a “mulligan” for the debauchery in which he engaged before he became a political figure. He said that the religious right is “tired of being kicked around” by the left and are “glad” there’s “somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.” What about turning the other cheek, Perkins’s interlocutor asked. “You know, you only have two cheeks,” he replied.

Perkins is getting a lot of grief for that, but his honest assessment of the transactional nature of the evangelical community’s moral compromise is illuminating. “That support is not unconditional,” he said. “If the president for some reason stopped keeping campaign promises and then engaged in that behavior now, the support’s gone.” In other words, if Trump stops delivering for them in office, this community of formerly self-righteous moral scolds reserves the right to rediscover their principles.

Many have offered theories as to why these and many other evangelical leaders compromised themselves for Trump. Less attention has been paid to whether the moral majority’s acceptance of Trumpian turpitude represents a depressing new normal. Is this the standard of ethical degradation to which all will be held in the future? If Perkins’ admission is reflective of unspoken sentiments broadly shared on the right, the answer is no. Trump’s is a standard to which only the politically valuable are held.

There was some justified fear that the Trump standard was being broadly applied in November when the right’s moral gymnasts engaged in a collective defense of Alabama justice Roy Moore. They joined with the institutional GOP to ratify Donald Trump’s support for the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate despite his contempt for the law, the Constitution, and the credible allegations that he had abused underage girls. But once Moore lost, his utility was spent. As Breitbart’s Alex Marlow confessed, the accusations against Moore were credible, but the impulse to protect Trump—not Moore, per se—from his detractors was more important than moral rectitude. This, too, was transactional.

Conservatives might be tempted to retreat into a persecution complex. After all, defending Trump’s repeated indiscretions is a full-time job and one that the left seems conspicuously able to avoid. The Trump standard is the Bill Clinton standard, they might say, and it’s about time that Republicans held a mirror up to Democrats and their enablers in media. Stringent moral standards were shackles by which the right constrained itself, thus allowing the left to operate with impunity. Good riddance.

But the Trump standard and the Clinton standard seem reserved for presidents. Anthony Weiner, David Wu, and John Edwards did not benefit from the Clinton standard. Al Franken and John Conyers’ appeals to precedent didn’t salvage their political careers. Similarly, even in just the last 12 months, personal indiscretions were enough to cut short the political careers of Republicans like Blake Farenthold, Joe Barton, and Tim Murphy.

Some might push back against the notion that we can draw broader conclusions from these politicians’ experiences because Rep. Patrick Meehan and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens have managed to hold on despite the sex scandals engulfing their careers. Their careers might withstand calls for their resignations; time will tell. But their experiences reinforce the fact that there really are no universal moral standards. There are only individuals. And the actions of those individuals are condemned or condoned as a result of calculated cost/benefit analyses, not morality. It was always ever thus.

If this doesn’t sound like cause for optimism to you, buck up. Presidential politics is unique because the stakes at the presidential level are so high. Both parties tend to reflect their titular leaders, but presidents are transitory figures. The Republican Party’s status quo ante was Mitt Romney, John McCain, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, and so on; men of moral fortitude who had no stomach for conspiratorial thinking, nativist acrimony, or degeneracy. A reversion to the mean is perfectly imaginable.

If such a reversion is in the cards, no one who compromised their stated values in the Trump era should be allowed to forget the bargain they made. Yet this presidency has exposed a valuable truth: too often, ethical considerations are situational and conditional—particularly in politics. If American moral decline is going to be arrested, the country’s self-styled moral leaders must confront that fact and realize the extent to which they’ve contributed to the plunge.

Source: The Trump Standard Won’t Outlast His Presidency

Undocumented Irish Unexpectedly Caught In Trump’s Immigration Dragnet : NPR

Always interesting to see who gets caught when the net is cast so wide. While the Irish man caught is the focus of the story, the overall data is revealing:

The Trump administration has been aggressively deporting foreign nationals home around the globe, from Somalia to Slovakia. Though Mexicans, Central Americans and Haitians make up nine out of 10 people removed from the United States, year-end figures analyzed by NPR show that deportations to the rest of the world have jumped 24 percent.

Some are from formerly “recalcitrant” countries that used to reject U.S. deportees but have now agreed to take them home. These nations include Guinea, Cuba, Bangladesh, Iraq, Vietnam and Afghanistan. Moreover, agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, are arresting more immigrants in the interior of the U.S. who have overstayed their visas.

A case in point — the unauthorized Irish in Boston.

“It’s really indiscriminate. ICE, in their aggressive tactics of detention, are going after the Irish as much as they’re going after any other nationality,” says Ronnie Millar, director of the Irish International Immigrant Center in Boston.

Sitting in the visiting room of the Suffolk County House of Corrections, Dylan O’Riordan, 19, wears a lemon-yellow jail jumpsuit and a bewildered expression on his pale face.

“I was aware how with Trump immigration was going to get a lot harder, but I didn’t pay as much mind to it as I should have, which was my first mistake,” he says.

O’Riordan was born in Galway, Ireland. Both of his parents had lived in Massachusetts before he was born and already had green cards. They brought Dylan from Ireland to the Boston area in 2010 on a visitor’s visa when he was 12 years old. He overstayed his 90-day visa, and began living his life like any other American teenager, though he was unauthorized.

At 19, he had a child with his girlfriend, Brenna, then dropped out of high school and went to work for his uncle’s roofing company. About four months ago, he and Brenna were shopping at a mall when they got into an argument. “It was nothing at all,” he says. “Some woman called the cops, said I was abusing my girlfriend.”

O’Riordan was arrested for domestic assault and battery, but Brenna refused to file charges. The county chose not to prosecute. O’Riordan had no prior criminal record, so the judge let him go.

Immigrants who overstay their visas are at a unique disadvantage compared to immigrants who illegally cross the border. When they apply for their visa, they waive their right to an immigration hearing if they end up staying after their visa expires.

O’Riordan’s lawyer, Tony Marino, points out that his client was brought here when he was a child, but ICE won’t budge.

“Their position has been, well, he waived whatever rights he had when he came,” says Marino. “Twelve year olds don’t waive rights! I’ve never seen anything like it. I can’t wrap my head around it.”

The ICE office in Boston sent a statement to NPR: “Dylan O’Riordan … overstayed the terms of his admission by more than seven years. ICE deportation officers encountered him in Sept 2017 after he was arrested on local criminal charges. ICE served him with an administrative final order of removal.” He is scheduled to be put on a plane to Dublin later this week.

“You look American, you sound American.”

Dylan O’Riordan is not an isolated case. Irish visa overstayers have been swept up in the administration’s nationwide immigration dragnet. Under strict new rules, anyone here illegally is a target — whether they’re convicted of a crime or not. In 2017, ICE deported 34 undocumented Irish, up from 26 the year before. The numbers are tiny compared to the 128,765 Mexicans ejected from the country last year, but in Boston’s closeknit Irish community the wave of arrests is big news.

via Undocumented Irish Unexpectedly Caught In Trump’s Immigration Dragnet : NPR

Sanctuary cities: Why it’s harder for Trumpism to take root in urban Canada – Adams and Norris

 Adams and Norris on how greater urbanization in Canada provides a degree of resilience to Trump-style politics:

In early 2007, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani led the pack of would-be Republican nominees for president, but some worried he was “too metropolitan” for heartland voters. On Saturday, another famous New Yorker, Donald Trump, marks his first year in the White House. Paradoxically, the Manhattan magnate’s supporters are overwhelmingly rural and small-town folks.

Big U.S. cities such as New York and Los Angeles – and even smaller places such as Miami and Dallas – loom large in imaginations far beyond America’s borders. As for Canada, we suspect most people around the world tend to imagine the country as defined more by wilderness than urban life.

Despite the lower profile of Canadian cities, however, they arguably exert more pull in the country’s political life than U.S. cities do south of the border. American cities are culturally potent but politically constrained.

One reason is that a greater share of Canada’s population is clustered in a smaller number of cities. America’s 10 largest cities contain just 8 per cent of the country’s population. The proportion of Canadians who live in Canada’s 10 largest: 31 per cent. That clustering in a relatively small number of places is even more evident when we include the suburbs. If we look at the census metropolitan areas of the top 10 Canadian and U.S. cities, we find about a quarter of Americans (27 per cent) and more than half of Canadians (55 per cent) living there.

But it’s not just the fact of urban living that matters; it’s also the nature of the cities. Canadian cities are some of the most diverse on Earth. The populations of two of its largest, Toronto and Vancouver, are almost half foreign-born and more than two-thirds first– or second-generation Canadian. Our cities are largely products of postwar immigration. The past half-century has been especially important: Canada retired its explicitly racist immigration policies in the 1960s, moving to a points system prizing education and language proficiency, leading to huge inflows of talent, energy and youth from around the world.

The United States also had considerable (but proportionally smaller) migration inflows over the same period, which affected cities profoundly. But U.S. cities were also being shaped by forces related to slavery and segregation. In what’s called the Great Migration, millions of black Americans fleeing the violence and oppression of the Jim Crow South moved to northern cities such as New York, Milwaukee, Detroit and Chicago. In many urban neighbourhoods, as black residents moved in, whites moved out to monocultural suburbs – a pattern sometimes called “white flight.” Redlining – denying services to residents of certain areas – housing discrimination and other racist practices also contributed to the de facto segregation of ostensibly integrated cities. The effects of these policies remain to this day.

It’s true that poverty is racialized in Canada and that this is reflected in some of the residential patterns we see in and around big cities. But Canada never had a demographic upheaval on the scale of the Great Migration, which saw the internal movement of about six million Americans. The story of ethnic concentration in Canada is a nuanced one, shaped directly by discrimination in some cases – and indirectly by economic circumstances born of discrimination – but also often driven by people choosing to be close to others of their own background. Ethnic enclaves can support shops with offerings from “home,” as well as community and religious gathering places. The thriving Chinese community in the affluent Toronto suburb of Markham and the South Asian community in Surrey, B.C., for instance, were formed more by affinity than discrimination (which is not to say their residents don’t experience discrimination – just that it didn’t compel them to live where they live).

Destiny and geography

Another quality that differentiates Canadian cities from American ones is that they are connected to a system – and, importantly, a culture – of economic equalization. Although provinces are responsible for health and education, the federal government redistributes resources with the aim of ensuring that all Canadians enjoy comparable levels of service. This ideology shapes the political culture of provinces and cities as well; when disparities are revealed in the levels of service available to people living in different parts of a larger jurisdiction, Canadians tend to agree – at least in principle – that this is unacceptable.

Americans, with their greater skepticism of government and their greater attachment to local control, are less likely to believe that all Chicagoans, for instance, should enjoy the same quality of services. The fact that excellent schools funded by a strong tax base can be just a few miles away from struggling schools with crumbling infrastructure probably doesn’t thrill most Americans, but it is part of their economic and political tradition. Politically viable responses to such inequity (school vouchers, innovative charter schools) tend to be rooted in more individual choice and more entrepreneurialism, not more redistribution of resources and greater social solidarity across social and geographic boundaries.

The composition and characteristics of each society’s cities have important political implications. In Canada, it’s difficult to win a federal election without winning over immigrants and their children, a powerful presence in many urban and suburban ridings. In the United States, for presidential candidates, the diverse urban vote is useful but not make-or-break. Equally important, the urban vote isn’t always diverse; it can be monocultural. Redrawing electoral boundaries can allow candidates to ignore certain people and still win. North Carolina’s lawmakers have twice been ordered by judicial panels to redraw that state’s electoral map because of extreme gerrymandering – one according to voters’ partisan affiliations, another by race.

As for the U.S. Congress, the composition of the House of Representatives, like our House of Commons, largely reflects the distribution of the population. But the U.S. Senate – much more powerful than our largely advisory upper chamber dedicated to sober second thought – gives hugely disproportionate powers to rural states: Wyoming (population: 585,501) has the same number of senators as California (population: 39.25 million). Indeed, the 26 least populous states, whose 52 senators constitute the majority, represent less than a fifth of the country’s population.

When all these factors are combined, they result in a Canadian political landscape where cities matter enormously and an American political landscape in which it’s possible for national political actors to work around cities.

Canada has racists and racism, and like elsewhere, some of them are feeling emboldened by recent political events. But the mechanics of our political institutions are such that, at the national level, courting the dominant-culture majority at the expense of smaller ethnic or religious groups is a dangerous game, as the Conservatives learned in 2015. In the United States, it can be a winner.

Many factors differentiate Canada from the United States. Our history, our institutions, our values, our public policies are all distinct. The fact that so many of us live so close together in a small number of diverse – in a few cases hyper-diverse – cities is one of the key factors that makes a politically dominant Trump-style backlash on a national scale in this country unlikely.

via Sanctuary cities: Why it’s harder for Trumpism to take root in urban Canada – The Globe and Mail

Trump’s ‘s—hole countries’ remark casts remarkable light on immigration policies: Shree Paradkar

Implications of Paradkar’s arguments is that essentially we should have a completely open door rather than managed immigration programs.

And rather than only commentary, some numbers with respect to the Haitians in Canada who were obliged to leave after the 2014 change, versus regularizing their status, would be helpful:

However, the outrage also reveals a society more eager to be scandalized by the President’s words than upset by government actions that harm those same lives for whom they are purporting to demand respect.

Trump’s words on Haiti are particularly galling, given what its citizens have endured and American and Canadian modern roles in undermining that nation’s democracy.

Trump pulled the plug on a humanitarian program that allowed some 60,000 Haitians to remain in the U.S. under special immigration status while their homeland recovered from devastating disasters.

Canada cancelled its own program of giving Haitians special status and began asking Haitians to pack their bags in 2014 under Stephen Harper. That cancellation was completed in 2016, under Justin Trudeau with little fanfare.

Yet, Trudeau is the good guy of the global immigration crisis. Remember that viral tweet that was so celebrated after Trump moved to ban immigrants from Muslim-majority countries? “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada”

Last year, poor Haitians who took Canadian goodness seriously, trying to cross unguarded points from the U.S. into Canada had the lowest acceptance rate — at 17 per cent — for asylum claimants between February and October.

Individual Canadians have been generous after the Haitian earthquake. More recently, Montrealers have been moved to help Haitian asylum seekers.

Still, the overall lack of indignation over the continued rejection of Haitians suggests a Canadian comfort with discriminatory attitudes so long as they’re not overt, Trump style.

via Trump’s ‘s—hole countries’ remark casts remarkable light on immigration policies | Toronto Star