Having undermined Americans’ trust in the media, the courts, public education, science and Congress, Republicans are now turning on one of the few institutions that still command wide respect: the FBI.
In their desperation to save Donald Trump from scandal, Republicans are concocting wild conspiracy theories of FBI agents scheming to overturn the 2016 election.
Political scientists Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein argue in The New York Times that the Democratic and Republican Parties don’t share the blame for the sorry state American politics are in.
Republicans are the ones who broke American politics, they write, in three ways:
By demonizing government: Republicans have for decades attacked and dismantled institutions and flouted the norms of lawmaking, undermining the public’s trust in government.
By opposing Barack Obama every step of the way: Even when he proposed policies Republicans once supported, like an individual health-insurance mandate. This radicalized conservative voters, who were told Republicans could bring the president to his knees if only they won a majority in Congress. The Obama effect had an ominous twist: an undercurrent of racism that was embodied in the “birther” movement led by Donald Trump.
By creating a conservative echo chamber: From the rise of talk radio in the 1980s, Fox News in the 90s, right-wing blogs in the early 2000s and social media in our time, conservatives have created a media ecosystem in which “alternative facts” thrive and hostility to the “establishment”, immigrations and Democrats boosts ratings. Read more “Republicans Broke American Politics in These Three Ways”
This isn’t quite the fall of the Trumpian house of cards. Paul Manafort’s indictment is very specific to him and his work in Ukraine. More information must come out before we can be certain this will lead to the White House. While the revelations of George Papadopoulos create the strongest link yet, they have not produced an indictment to date.
Yet there is an essential tale here: for the first time in modern American history, a foreign power has substantially interfered with a political campaign. It’s not that others haven’t tried. The Soviet Union tried several times to back favored candidates, especially in the turbulent 1960s and 70s. But in those Cold War cases, American candidates refused the help.
This is the first time it looks like someone said yes.
Nearly one in two Americans believe the news media fabricate stories about President Donald Trump. The number is 76 percent for Republicans. Only 11 percent of Republicans are confident the media report honestly. (Conor Friedersdorf’s latest in The Atlantic is worth reading in terms of this partisan divide.)
Half of all college students (62 percent of Democrats, 39 percent of Republicans) believe it is acceptable to shout down controversial speakers. One in five would even tolerate violence!
Larry Summers, a top economic advisor to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, tells Axios that today’s economic challenges — artificial intelligence, automation, globalization — require a leader on the scale of Germany’s Otto von Bismarck, England’s William Gladstone or America’s Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt:
I think it would be a gross misreading of history to think that a laissez-faire, preserve-what-is and don’t-add-anything-new in terms of public institutions and public programs will be sufficient to enable our societies to deal with these trends, which are very much under way.
But that assumes transformational leadership is a condition for transformational change, which is doubtful.
French presidential candidate François Fillon has gone down the same road as Brexiteers in the United Kingdom and Donald Trump in the United States by disparaging the institutions that stand in his way and appealing directly to “the people”.
Fillon, the center-right Republican candidate for the presidential elections in April and May, has dismissed charges that he paid his wife hundreds of thousands of euros over the years for a fictitious job as a “political assassination”.
Trust is one of those amorphous but important factors that make our society what it is. It’s hard to measure, but social science tells us that societies in which people are more likely to implicitly trust each other are on the whole more peaceful and more prosperous than those where trust is low.
Canada and Sweden, for example, are two countries where trust is high. In Italy and Morocco, by contrast, trust is lower.
Trust is not the only thing that accounts for the differences between those four countries. But it goes some way to explaining why the first two are wealthier and more caring and the last two have more corruption and crime.
Brexit’s erosive effect on British democracy continues.
Consider this recent story in The Telegraph, which takes the entire civil service to task for refusing to make Britain’s exit from the European Union a success.
The reality is that Britain’s civil servants are among the world’s most capable and that leaving the EU is going to be painful. There is no way to make Brexit a “success” by any objective measure.
As recently as a few months ago, serious Brexiteers recognized as much. They admitted that leaving the EU would have a negative effect on the economy, at least in the short term. But, they argued, independence from Brussels would make up for it in spirit.