How Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric Crushed Crowdfunding for Minority Entrepreneurs

Another interesting study. Words matter:

What does fearmongering about immigration have to do with crowdfunding new ideas on Kickstarter?

For Black, Asian, and Hispanic entrepreneurs, such rhetoric can undermine fundraising efforts, making it even less likely that new ideas will come to fruition, argues Harvard Business School Professor William Kerr. In a new paper, Kerr and his collaborators shed light on how discrimination affects fundraising, and ways crowdfunding sites, entrepreneurs, and investors can take action.

Minority business founders already typically face a fundraising disadvantage compared to their white counterparts, but that gap triples during periods of high public anxiety over immigration in the United States.


Banks have historically rejected loan applications from Black, Asian, and Hispanic small-business owners at higher rates than for whites, according to Federal Reserve data, potentially driving some to alternative sources of capital, like Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites. The pullback in support noted in Kerr’s research is national in scope, taking place in cities like Seattle and New York, with reputations as progressive bastions, as well as in more conservative-leaning locales.

“When there is the greatest anxiety, we see this funding shortfall,” says Kerr, the D’Arbeloff Professor of Business Administration. He cowrote the paper with John (Jianqui) Bai, an associate professor of finance at Northeastern University, and Chi Wan and Alptug Yorulmaz, associate professor and graduate research assistant, respectively, at UMass Boston.

Measuring fear during the Trump era

The paper looks closely at two different sets of data. The first is the Migration Fear Index, which counts the number of newspaper articles that include at least two terms associated with the debate over immigration, such as “migrant, asylum, refugee,” and “human trafficking,” as well as “anxiety, panic, bomb, crime, terror, worry, concern,” and “violent.”

Kerr and collaborators then compared the quarterly fluctuations of the Migration Fear Index from 2009 to 2021 to efforts by minority entrepreneurs to raise money on Kickstarter, which has raised $7.3 billion for popular projects such as opening restaurants and publishing comic books.


The fear index surged when former President Donald Trump, with a barrage of anti-immigrant rhetoric, launched his first campaign in 2015, and continued speaking disparagingly of immigrants through his first year in office. Overall, minority entrepreneurs were less likely to meet their fundraising goals during periods like this of high anxiety over immigration, the study finds.

“You can compare quarters within the same year and find the connection between the hostile rhetoric and greater difficulty in fundraising for minority creators. You can also follow individual minority creators over time and see ups and downs in their rates of success,” Kerr says.

Certain groups feel it more

The heaviest impact was felt by groups that found themselves the most frequent targets of hostile rhetoric.

Hispanic entrepreneurs or creators suffered the sharpest pullback in support from financial backers on Kickstarter during the 2016 election cycle, while Chinese ethnic creators in the US faced a harder time meeting their financing goals during “episodes of Asian hate,” including Trump’s use of the phrase “Chinese virus” to describe COVID-19.

By contrast, while Black entrepreneurs had lower success rates overall in raising money, support did not fluctuate as dramatically with the ups and downs of the Migration Fear Index.

The paper finds that even during periods of low anxiety, minority creators are 2.4 percent less likely to achieve their fundraising goals on Kickstarter. But during periods of higher anxiety, minorities experience an 8.2 percent lower success rate.

Where and why it’s happening

Meanwhile, Kerr and his co-authors considered—then knocked down— several different theories for the decline in support, including the idea that funding support from minority communities may be pulling back during times of heightened tension around immigration or that creators might be posting different types of projects.

Rather, the evidence points to another hypothesis, that spikes in anxiety over immigration trigger a broader, nationwide retraction of support among backers of Kickstarter projects. Most backers are white, the study contends.

The decline in support for minority creators during increases in the Migration Fear Index are most pronounced in conservative counties. But Kerr and collaborators “also find sizable impacts in very liberal counties,” according to the paper.

“A majority of financial backers for typical Kickstarter campaigns live more than 50 miles away from the creator they support, tending to reside in big cities like Seattle and New York,” the researchers note.

Drawing lessons from the data

The report builds upon previous research on “systemic racial bias in entrepreneurial finance,” illustrating a “more direct” connection between shifts in public attitudes and struggles experienced by minority creators in raising money for new ventures, Kerr and his co-authors write.

Still, the study does not have data on potential backers who looked at pitches by minority entrepreneurs, only to take a pass on their proposals. That, in turn, made it hard to draw any conclusions on whether these decisions by white backers were driven by conscious racism, unconscious racism, or a combination of the two, according to Kerr.

However, there might be ways for Kickstarter and similar platforms to offset or at least mitigate some of these tendencies and trends.

Minority entrepreneurs are less likely to have projects promoted as “staff picks” on Kickstarter during period of hostile rhetoric, which is not the case normally. That is likely driven by the algorithms used, which tend to pick up on momentum, Kerr says.

Given this research, platform operators could keep an eye out for this trend and look at ways of compensating for it in the algorithm, Kerr explains.

“One of the hopes for crowd funding is that it will democratize access to capital from those previously excluded,” the authors write. “Prior work has shown that discrimination still exists on crowd-funding sites … we take a step further in understanding how minority creators can suffer acute funding shortfalls in moments when anxiety over immigration is high.”

Source: How Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric Crushed Crowdfunding for …

How Big Business Got Woke and Dumped Trump

Good long read:

The CEOs started calling before President Trump had even finished speaking. What America’s titans of industry were hearing from the Commander in Chief was sending them into a panic.

It was Nov. 5, 2020, two days after the election, and things weren’t looking good for the incumbent as states continued to count ballots. Trump was eager to seed a different narrative, one with no grounding in reality: “If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” he said from the lectern of the White House Briefing Room. “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us.”

The speech was so dangerously dishonest that within a few minutes, all three broadcast television networks spontaneously stopped airing it. And at his home in Branford, Conn., the iPhone belonging to the Yale School of Management professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld began to buzz with calls and texts from some of the nation’s most powerful tycoons.

The CEOs of leading media, financial, pharmaceutical, retail and consulting firms all wanted to talk. By the time Tom Rogers, the founder of CNBC, got to Sonnenfeld, “he had clearly gotten dozens of calls,” Rogers says. “We were saying, ‘This is real—Trump is trying to overturn the election.’ Something had to happen fast.”

For decades, Sonnenfeld has been bringing business leaders together for well-attended seminars on the challenges of leadership, earning a reputation as a “CEO whisperer.” A committed capitalist and self-described centrist, he has informally advised Presidents of both parties and spoke at Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell’s wedding. Now he suggested the callers get together to make a public statement, perhaps through their normal political channels, D.C. industry lobbies such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable (BRT). But the CEOs wanted Sonnenfeld to do it; the trade groups, they fretted, were too risk-averse and bureaucratic. And they wanted to do it right away: when Sonnenfeld, who issues invitations for his summits eight months in advance in order to secure a slot on CEOs’ busy calendars, suggested a Zoom call the following week, they said that might be too late.

The group of 45 CEOs who assembled less than 12 hours later, at 7 a.m. on Nov. 6, represented nearly one-third of Fortune’s 100 largest companies: Walmart and Cowen Inc., Johnson & Johnson and Comcast, Blackstone Group and American Airlines. Disney’s Bob Iger rolled out of bed at 4 a.m. Pacific time to join, accompanied by a large mug of coffee. (Sonnenfeld, who promised the participants confidentiality, declined to disclose or confirm their names, but TIME spoke with more than a dozen people on the call, who confirmed their and others’ participation.)

The meeting began with a presentation from Sonnenfeld’s Yale colleague Timothy Snyder, the prominent historian of authoritarianism and author of On Tyranny. Snyder did not beat around the bush. What they were witnessing, he said, was the beginning of a coup attempt.

“I went through it point by point, in a methodical way,” recalls Snyder, who has never previously discussed the episode. “Historically speaking, democracies are usually overthrown from the inside, and it is very common for an election to be the trigger for a head of state or government to declare some kind of emergency in which the normal rules do not apply. This is a pattern we know, and the name for this is a coup d’état.” What was crucial, Snyder said, was for civil society to respond quickly and clearly. And business leaders, he noted, have been among the most important groups in determining whether such attempts succeeded in other countries. “If you are going to defeat a coup, you have to move right away,” he says. “The timing and the clarity of response are very, very important.”

A lively discussion ensued. Some of the more conservative executives, such as Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, wondered if the threat was being overstated, or echoed Trump’s view that late ballots in Pennsylvania seemed suspicious. Yet others corrected them, pointing out that COVID-19 had led to a flood of mail-in ballots that by law could not be counted until the polls closed. By the end of the hour, the group had come to agreement that their normal political goals—lower taxes, less regulation—weren’t worth much without a stable democracy underpinning them. “The market economy works because of the bedrock foundation of the rule of law, the peaceful succession of power and the reserve currency of the U.S. dollar, and all of these things were potentially at risk,” former Thomson Reuters CEO Tom Glocer tells TIME. “CEOs are normally hesitant to get involved in political issues, but I would argue that this was a fundamental business issue.”

The group agreed on the elements of a statement to be released as soon as media organizations called the election. It would congratulate the winner and laud the unprecedented voter turnout; call for any disputes to be based on evidence and brought through the normal channels; observe that no such evidence had emerged; and insist on an orderly transition. Midday on Nov. 7, when the election was finally called, the BRT immediately released a version of the statement formulated on Zoom. It was followed quickly by other trade groups, corporations and political leaders around the world, all echoing the same clear and decisive language confirming the election result.

Sonnenfeld thought the hastily convened “Business Leaders for National Unity,” as he’d grandly dubbed the 7 a.m. call, would be a one-off. But Trump’s effort to overturn the election persisted. So in the ensuing weeks, the professor called the executives together again and again, to address Trump’s attempt to interfere with Georgia’s vote count and the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. “This was an event which violated those rituals of America and created a visceral reaction,” Nick Pinchuk, CEO of the Kenosha, Wis.–based toolmaker Snap-on, tells TIME. “Talking about this, it kind of transformed from the realm of politics to the realm of civic duty. CEOs wanted to speak out about this, and Jeff gave us a way to do that.”

To Sonnenfeld, the effort—much of which has not been previously reported—underlined a generational shift taking place in the collective civic attitudes of the CEO class. Its effects are evident in Washington, where Big Business’s longtime alliance with the Republican Party is foundering. Congressional Republicans have divorced the Chamber of Commerce; the GOP’s corporate fundraising is diminished; Fox News anchors and conservative firebrands rant about “woke capital” and call for punitive, anti-free-market policies in retaliation. Many of the companies and business groups that implacably resisted Barack Obama have proved surprisingly friendly to Biden, backing portions of his big-spending domestic agenda and supporting his COVID-19 mandates for private companies. Political observers of both parties have tended to attribute these developments to the pressures companies face, whether externally from consumers or internally from their employees. But Sonnenfeld, who is in a position to know, argues that just as much of it comes from the changing views of the CEOs themselves.

Snyder, the scholar of authoritarianism, believes the CEOs’ intervention was crucial in ensuring Trump left office on schedule, if not bloodlessly. “If business leaders had just drifted along in that moment, or if a few had broken ranks, it might have gone very differently,” he says. “They chose in that moment to see themselves as part of civil society, acting in the defense of democracy for its own sake.”

It was perhaps inevitable that Trump, the corporate-showman President, would force the private sector to reconsider its duty to society—and that Sonnenfeld would be the one to force the issue. For 2020 was not the two men’s first confrontation. Back in the mogul’s reality TV days, the business guru was a harsh critic—before burying the hatchet and giving Trump the idea for Celebrity Apprentice.

A Philadelphia native, Sonnenfeld, 67, was drawn from an early age to the human side of business. “He was always irrepressible, uninhibited—just a barrel of monkeys,” recalls the public relations guru Richard Edelman, who rowed crew with Sonnenfeld at Harvard. “You always knew he would be either a politician or a professor, not one of the gray-suited soldiers coming out of Harvard Business School.”

Sonnenfeld authored several scholarly publications before his 1988 book, The Hero’s Farewell: What Happens When CEOs Retire, became a surprise best seller. CEOs sought his counsel, and he realized they were starving for such insights: surrounded by subordinates and yes-men, powerful executives had plenty of opportunities to pontificate but few venues for learning from their peers. Yet Sonnenfeld’s interest in leadership psychology was unfashionable in an M.B.A. field focused on the technical workings of companies and markets. Denied tenure at Harvard, he started his “CEO College” at Emory University in 1989. After a decade, he moved it to Yale, where his Chief Executive Leadership Institute helped put its School of Management on the map. Today, Sonnenfeld’s executive seminars have many imitators, including CEO summits put on by Forbes, Fortune, Bloomberg and the New York Times.

When The Apprentice premiered in 2004, Sonnenfeld reviewed it for the Wall Street Journal. The show, he wrote, was teaching aspiring leaders precisely the wrong lessons while fueling public disdain for business. “The selection process resembles a game of musical chairs at a Hooters restaurant,” he wrote. “No new goods or services are created, no business innovations surface, and no societal problems are solved.” A real-life leader who tried to run a business that way would quickly fail, he added.

Trump fired back, insulting Sonnenfeld as a know-nothing academic. But he also tried to win him over, offering Sonnenfeld the presidency of Trump University, which he turned down, and an invitation to his Westchester golf club, which he accepted. Over lunch, Sonnenfeld said he’d stop criticizing the show if the players were cranky B-list celebrities instead of earnest young strivers. Trump liked the idea, and the following season he transitioned to an all-celebrity cast.

Sonnenfeld finally gave in to Trump’s pestering and invited him to one of his CEO summits at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. “You would have thought it was the Pope, people were so amazed,” Sonnenfeld recalls. “But at the same time, the top tier of CEOs told me, ‘When he walks in, we’re walking out.’ And they did.” After Trump won the presidency, Sonnenfeld paid him a visit at Trump Tower and reminded him of the incident. “Funny thing about that, Jeff,” Trump said, “they’re all coming by here now.”

Over the course of the 2016 campaign, Sonnenfeld’s surveys of his seminar participants found that although around 75% identified as Republicans, 75% to 80% supported Hillary Clinton, he says. And while many were optimistic about Trump’s pro-business Administration, their enthusiasm soon dimmed. It wasn’t just the chaotic way he operated; he seemed determined to pit them against one another. “I started hearing from the CEOs of Lockheed and Boeing, saying, ‘Wait, he’s trying, over chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago, to get a fight going between us over the cost of a fighter jet,’” Sonnenfeld recalls. It was the same with Ford vs. GM, Pfizer vs. Merck.

Sonnenfeld realized Trump was repeating the tactics from The Apprentice,the same zero-sum mentality that had buoyed him to political success: divide and conquer. “Trump’s whole modus operandi, his one trick his whole life, is to break collective action,” Sonnenfeld says. “The whole NAFTA battle was pitting Canada against Mexico. He constantly tried to divide France and Germany, the U.K. vs. the E.U., Russia vs. China. He tried to build up Bernie vs. Hillary, just like he did with the Republican primary candidates. As pathetically puerile a device as it is, with the GOP it worked magnificently well.”

But business leaders, unlike the Republicans, banded together to resist. In August 2017, when Trump opined that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the deadly white-supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, who is Black, announced that he would step down from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council. Others—some prodded by Sonnenfeld behind the scenes—quickly followed. Within a few days, that council, along with another business advisory group, had disbanded. It was, Sonnenfeld says, the first time in history that the business community turned its back on a President’s call to service.

“He lost the business community in Charlottesville,” says Matthias Berninger, who heads public affairs for Bayer. “Ken leaving his council, that was the starting point of everything that followed.” Deregulatory actions Trump expected Big Business to appreciate were rebuffed: oil and gas companies publicly opposed his repeal of methane regulations, and many utilities shrugged off his rollback of CO₂ limits. The auto industry united against Trump’s attempt to eliminate mileage standards, only to be investigated by the Department of Justice.

Trump’s antagonism to immigration and free trade ran counter to business’s interests, says the D.C. corporate fixer and former GOP strategist Juleanna Glover. “Many corporations and CEOs had an abiding fear of being attacked in a Trump tweet, so staying out of Washington was a good risk-mitigation strategy,” she says. “The Republicans have largely abandoned their pro-business values, and it’s hard to negotiate in good faith when one of the parties is seen as continuing to undermine democratic values.”

Trump may have been the catalyst. But the recent shift of the corporate class is only the latest in the long history of Big Business’s dance with Washington.

While many remember the robber barons of the Gilded Age, the same era produced a generation of innovative entrepreneurs (Thomas Edison, Luther Burbank) who were folk heroes. “The business leaders of the early to mid-1900s were the original ‘progressives,’” Sonnenfeld says. “They were for infrastructure, sustainability, safe workplaces, urban beautification, immigration.” Midcentury CEOs saw themselves as patriotic industrialists, allies of government and builders of society. During- the World Wars, they famously answered the call to contribute. Republican President Dwight Eisenhower appointed three sitting CEOs to his Cabinet.

By the 1970s, pollution and price-fixing scandals had tanked Big Business’s image. A few CEOs decided to break with the conservative politics of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers and came together to found the BRT. But the succeeding generation, in Sonnenfeld’s view, didn’t live up to the BRT’s original promise of civic virtue, focusing instead on attacking government interference and avoiding taxation. “It wasn’t that we had a few bad apples,” Sonnenfeld says. “There’s something wrong with the whole orchard in that period.”

The tech bust, corporate scandals such as Enron and the 2008 financial crisispushed Americans’ esteem of business to historic lows. When the Obama Administration tried to get health care companies on board with the Affordable Care Act, not a single member of the industry came to the table. “They were like little kids throwing stones and hiding in the hedges,” Sonnenfeld says. “The business community was not trying to solve problems.”

But over the past decade, Sonnenfeld believes, a new generation of leaders has stepped into the public sphere to do well by doing good. In 2015, opposition from corporations like Eli Lilly and Anthem helped kill a proposed Indiana state law that would have allowed businesses to refuse to serve gay people. The following year, American Airlines, Microsoft and GE were among the companies protesting a North Carolina ordinance barring transgender people from using their preferred bathrooms. Similar bills were defeated in Texas and Arkansas. The business leaders who thwarted these efforts weren’t just stereotypically “liberal” corporate behemoths like Apple, Starbucks and Nike, Sonnenfeld notes. “It was the bedrock of traditional American industry in the heartland: UPS, Walmart, AT&T. They’re the ones who led the charge, saying, ‘This is not America. We don’t want our workforces divided over this.’”

Today, Wall Street firms grade companies on their climate and diversity initiatives as well as their balance sheets. In the wake of the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., both Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart announced they would no longer sell assault weapons or ammunition. Dozens of companies cut ties with the NRA. In 2019, the BRT revised its charter to redefine “the purpose of a corporation,” saying companies should be accountable not only to their shareholders but also to the wider array of “stakeholders,” including customers, employees, suppliers and communities.

“The role of the CEO has changed, and I don’t think anyone can sit on the sidelines,” says Paul Polman, the London-based former CEO of the consumer-goods giant Unilever, whose new book, Net Positive, argues that sustainability can go hand in hand with profit—one of a raft of recent do-gooder tomes by CEOs (including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, the co-owner of TIME). Under Polman’s leadership, Unilever set ambitious climate goals and sought to improve its human-rights record, lobbying against the death penalty for gay people in Uganda and deforestation in Brazil. “Smart CEOs realize that their business cannot function in societies that don’t function,” Polman tells TIME. “We have to be responsible and speak up, not just lobby in our own self-interest.”

Skeptics on the left see this kind of talk as cynical posturing. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren denounced the BRT’s “stakeholder” announcement as an “empty gesture,” and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich called it a “con.” Many of the statement’s signatories, liberals note, still preside over abysmal working conditions, environmental violations and racially segregated workplaces, while employing armies of lobbyists to resist government attempts to hold them accountable.

The right has revolted as well. GOP Senator Marco Rubio decries “woke corporate hypocrites,” while Trump has taken up the slogan “Go woke, go broke!” In the new book Woke, Inc., Vivek Ramaswamy, a tech entrepreneur turned self-styled class traitor, decries “corporate America’s game of pretending to care about justice in order to make money.”

The public, too, appears skeptical. In recent research conducted by Edelman, 44% of Americans say they trust CEOs to do the right thing, about on par with government leaders (42%) but lagging behind clergy (49%) and journalists (50%). A far greater share, nearly three-quarters of employees, trust the CEO of the company they work for.

In the spring of 2020, as the spread of COVID and Trump’s attempt to undermine the vote began to raise fears of an election meltdown, Sonnenfeld began privately raising the issue with prominent CEOs. He urged them to promote political participation to their employees and customers. For the first time, thousands of companies gave millions of workers paid time off to vote and volunteer at the polls. By October 2020, you could scarcely visit a retailer or open a mobile app without encountering a pro-voting, nonpartisan corporate message.

After the CEOs’ Nov. 7 statement, many—including Sonnenfeld—assumed their work was done. Despite Trump’s refusal to concede, dozens of courts rejected his challenges, all 50 states certified their electoral votes, and the presidential transition began. But on Jan. 3, the Washington Post published a recording of Trump’s phone call to Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, in which he cajoled and berated the election official to “find” the nearly 12,000 votes it would take to reverse his loss of the state.

So on Jan. 5, Sonnenfeld reconvened his executives. This Zoom was better attended than the first, with nearly 60 CEOs—and more concerned. Nobody quibbled with the “coup” terminology this time. There were CEOs Sonnenfeld had never met who had demanded invites after hearing about the November call. There were right-wing executives and former Obama and Bush Cabinet secretaries. The group voted unanimously to suspend donations to the GOP members of Congress who contested the election.

The next day, Jan. 6, validated their fears. In the aftermath of the Capitol riot, the group met again, and this time, 100% of the CEOs favored impeachment, Sonnenfeld says. The National Association of Manufacturers, known as the most conservative of the major trade lobbies, subsequently called for impeachment publicly, to the political world’s astonishment. Nearly a year later, 78% of the companies that pledged to withhold donations have kept true to their word, according to Sonnenfeld’s analysis of the latest campaign-finance data. One D.C.-based fundraiser for Republican candidates tells TIME she has virtually given up seeking money from corporate PACs as a result.

Sonnenfeld’s efforts didn’t end with Biden’s Inauguration. He was particularly disturbed by the election law the Georgia legislature began considering in the spring, one of many GOP-backed measures to make it harder to vote and easier to interfere with vote counting in future elections. In 1964, it was the former president of Coca-Cola who publicly shamed the white Atlanta business community into honoring Martin Luther King Jr. after he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Now Georgia’s 34 Fortune 1000 companies were largely silent in the face of a modern civil rights issue. In late March, Sonnenfeld and a former UPS executive penned a joint Newsweek op-ed calling out their “cowardice.”

On a subsequent Zoom, two leading Black executives, Merck’s Frazier and Kenneth Chenault of American Express, got more than 100 fellow CEOs to sign on to a statement opposing the Georgia voting law, which was published as a full-page ad in the New York Times and Washington Post.“The people who signed the letter did so because they didn’t see it as a partisan issue,” Frazier tells TIME. “They felt, as business leaders, that they shouldn’t stand on the sideline when our fundamental rights as Americans are at stake.”

But these moves also sparked a political backlash. Executives who had interceded during the election’s aftermath began to fall away from the group, leery of liberal activists seeking to apply similar pressure on other issues, like Texas’ new abortion law. The coalition that rallied with such alacrity to defend American democracy now appears splintered, unsure of the extent of the continuing threat or how to confront it.

“I really thought Jan. 6 was a turning point, a tipping point, but now I think maybe it was just an inflection point,” says Mia Mends, the Houston-based CEO of Impact Ventures at global food–services giant Sodexo. Companies including hers that spoke out against voting restrictions in Texas faced threats of retaliation from state GOP officials. “When that day of reckoning comes, on what side will you be? On what side were you?”

There have been no more pop-up Zooms. Sonnenfeld is back to his old grind, gathering CEOs and nudging them toward public-spiritedness. On a recent Tuesday in New Haven, he led a frenetic virtual discussion with the leaders of Starbucks, United, Xerox, Dell, Pepsi, Kellogg’s, Duke Energy and others, along with members of Congress and current and former Administration officials from both parties. Adam Aron, the CEO of AMC Entertainment, dialed in from his bedroom, looking disheveled, only to be hit with an aggressive Sonnenfeld question about whether the tech-stock mania that had sent his company’s value skyrocketing was really a scam.

Sonnenfeld understands that the CEOs feel whipsawed by the political chaos. “They’re being pelted with so many different causes,” he tells me after the Zoom, his town car speeding to the airport so he can make a board meeting in Miami. But he is scathing in his contempt for financiers who have ostentatiously embraced socially conscious investing while failing to speak up on voting and democracy issues. “The sheer, screaming cowardice of these institutional investors—they own 80% of corporate America, and they never miss a stage to proclaim their commitments to [environmental and social justice],” he says. “Where are they now? Why are they the last to take a stand?”

Yet Sonnenfeld has no doubt that having stepped up for democracy at a crucial time, the CEOs would do it again. “The GOP has created these wedge issues to divide society, and the business community is saying, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not us, those are not our interests,’” he says. “That doesn’t mean they’re going to rush off and support Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Party. But they’re trying to break free and find their own way.”

Source: How Big Business Got Woke and Dumped Trump

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.


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