Paul Krugman on How Trump Is a Direct Descendant of 'W'


The Republican establishment needs to stop pretending that Donald Trump is some weird aberration for the party, Paul Krugman writes in Monday's column. You can pretty much trace his lineage directly from the dumbing down that started with George W. Bush. And it's not just Trump who engages in belligerent fact-free argumentation, of course. "The triumvirate of trash-talk," Krugman notes,  "Mr. Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz — now commands the support of roughly 60 percent of the primary electorate." The question is, why don't Republican voters care that the candidates they support routinely make false claims, and refuse to acknowledge error ever?

"Well, part of the answer has to be that the party taught them not to care," Krugman answers his own question. "Bluster and belligerence as substitutes for analysis, disdain for any kind of measured response, dismissal of inconvenient facts reported by the 'liberal media' didn’t suddenly arrive on the Republican scene last summer. On the contrary, they have long been key elements of the party brand."

Certainly this has been true since George W., who was inititally sold as a likable guy, not long on intelligence, who you'd like to have a beer with instead of that wonkish, knowledgeable Al Gore. Krugman:

Then came 9/11, and the affable guy was repackaged as a war leader. But the repackaging was never framed in terms of substantive arguments over foreign policy. Instead, Mr. Bush and his handlers sold swagger. He was the man you could trust to keep us safe because he talked tough and dressed up as a fighter pilot. He proudly declared that he was the “decider” — and that he made his decisions based on his “gut.”

The subtext was that real leaders don’t waste time on hard thinking, that listening to experts is a sign of weakness, that attitude is all you need. And while Mr. Bush’s debacles in Iraq and New Orleans eventually ended America’s faith in his personal gut, the elevation of attitude over analysis only tightened its grip on his party, an evolution highlighted when John McCain, who once upon a time had a reputation for policy independence, chose the eminently unqualified Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Trump expressing admiration for Vladimir Putin? Totally consistent with the rest of his party.

And spare us the argument that the so-called "establishment" candidates are substantively different, Krugman points out. Jeb!? Nah. "Remember, back when he was the presumed front-runner, Jeb Bush assembled a team of foreign-policy 'experts,'" Krugman reminds. "People who had academic credentials and chairs at right-wing think tanks. But the team was dominated by neoconservative hard-liners, people committed, despite past failures, to the belief that shock and awe solve all problems."

It is, as Krugman points out, "belligerence with a thin veneer of respectability." And golden boy Marco Rubio is much the same.

Krugman has been accused of being partisan, but  the difference with the Democrats is stark, you have to admit. He concludes:

"When Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders debate, say, financial regulation, it’s a real discussion, with both candidates evidently well informed about the issues. American political discourse as a whole hasn’t been dumbed down, just its conservative wing."

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