Today’s Hot Reads

There are several articles up just now that deserve more than just a nod in our “Picks” banner. Start with The Week’s Damon Linker, a center-left writer usually worth reading for his straight shooting self-criticism of liberalism. His latest column dissents from the liberal line that the nationalism evinced by Donald Trump is solely and purely racist:

[The] perfect distillation of liberalism in 2016: Trump voters and their analogues overseas have “regressive attitudes.” They’re motivated by bigotry, fear, and selfishness, all of which makes them angry that various outsiders are threatening to take away their abundant “privileges.” They certainly have no justification — economic or otherwise — for their grievances. . .

[T]he real problem with the way Beauchamp and so many others on the center-left talk about those on the nationalist right is that it displays outright contempt for particularistic instincts that are not and should not be considered morally and politically beyond the pale. On the contrary, a very good case can be made that these instincts are natural to human beings and even coeval with political life as such — and that it is the universalistic cosmopolitanism of humanitarian liberalism (or progressivism) that, as much as anything, has provoked the right-wing backlash in the first place. . .

Underlying liberal denigration of the new nationalism — the tendency of progressives to describe it as nothing but “racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia” — is the desire to delegitimize any particularistic attachment or form of solidarity, be it national, linguistic, religious, territorial, or ethnic. As I explained shortly after the Brexit vote, cosmopolitan liberals presume that all particularistic forms of solidarity must be superseded by a love of humanity in general, and indeed that these particularistic attachments will be superseded by humanitarianism before long, as part of the inevitable unfolding of human progress.

The liberal attitude Linker describes is not new: it is what the French Hegelian-Stalinist philosopher Alexandre Kojeve described more than 50 years ago as the vision of the “universal homogenous state.” Some other time I’ll go into why the universalism of liberal globalism is at war with its operating premises of identity politics.

Second, over at Politico, former Bush speechwriter Matt Latimer points out the deeper reasons for the success of Trump that track closely with what I had to say here last week:

At one level, Trump’s survival, so far, is less a testament to his shrewdness—though it is a disservice to claim he hasn’t been shrewd—than it is to Washington’s studied cowardice. Trump is not only making gaffes, he’s brashly owning them, daring the political gods to smite him in what has become an epic rebuke to the dull, predictable, cautious political culture that everyone outside the Beltway has learned to recognize and abhor. In terror of the gaffe, candidates have increasingly immersed their true selves behind carefully vetted talking points, anodyne scripts, and cynical consultants, all with the primary purpose of suffocating in its cradle anything approaching a cavalier statement, never mind a surprising or provocative thought.

The culmination of this effort is before us: the enthusiasm-starved campaign of Hillary Clinton, who over her decades in politics has perfected the talent of making even the most cutting-edge idea immediately sound like a cliche. Set against this apotheosis of safe, gaffe-free politics, millions have delightedly embraced a man who seems to recognize their appetite for something recognizably real, even if it’s vulgar and offensive. His gaffes aren’t a sideshow: they’re integral to his pitch. For this cohort, a vote for Trump is a vote to make the safe, protected, consultant-scripted lives of everyone in D.C. miserable every single day, because they’ve earned it.

Finally, Hadley Arkes writes well in First Things of the dilemma facing conservative voters:

I yield to no one in my recoil from Donald Trump. But for anyone who shares the perspectives of the Republican Party, far more is involved here than aversion to an implausible candidate. A conservative should have an interest in repealing and replacing Obamacare, a program that tends inexorably to the political control of medicine, with everything drawn into a national budget, subject to national rationing by a federal commission. A conservative should have an interest in repealing the Dodd-Frank Act, with its heavy toll of regulation, suffocating private businesses with vast new expenses in paperwork and compliance. He might have an interest also in scaling back the corporate tax rate, which leads to “inversions” and reduces the incentive to invest and create new jobs.

None of these things can be accomplished without a Republican president to sign such measures, passed by a Republican Congress. These are the issues that can win for a conservative candidate, and yet the conservative party has at its head the only Republican candidate who seems incapable of explaining them.

Is there a confidence-building step Trump could take? Hadley offers this thought:

Perhaps the only thing that can rescue Trump at this moment is that expectation that he will be working hand-in-hand with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to enact that Republican program, beginning with the repeal of Obamacare, the reduction of taxes, the scaling back of regulations. But all of this would require Trump to meet with Congressional leaders and convey those central points. And yes, for Trump that would require a self-effacement as uncommon as it is wrenching: the confession that the election is finally about something more than himself.