Monday, May 23, 2016

Thank you, "Vox" - A little tribute

By Patrick

When I started blogging in 2009, it was a different world, as far as blogs and news websites were concerned. Outside the mainstream news websites, the choice of liberal and progressive websites was rather limited. Back then, my "first choice of the day" usually was the good old "Huffington Post." There was "Alternet", there was "Think Progress", and as far as I can remember, "Raw Story", today a pretty important website, was still quite small back then. 

These days, there is much more choice, and not just that. I think that the "quality" of liberal news has increased over time as well. Not only have some websites become much more professional in my opinion, like "Raw Story", but several new websites have been added to the mix. One of the most remarkable of these new websites is "Vox", which was only founded in April 2014, so it is still very young in comparison. But its contributions have already been excellent, and especially the emphasis on science and data differentiates "Vox" from the competition, The website already "left a mark."

So it seems appropriate to highlight this website in a post, especially since they recently published some very good articles about the rise of "American authoritarianism", and about Donald Trump, and that's exactly what we need these days, because knowledge is power.

One of the most important quotes in my opinion:

Norm Ornstein: When you look at populism over the longer course of both American history and other countries that have suffered economic traumas as a result of financial collapse, you’re gonna get the emergence of some leaders who exploit nativism, protectionism, and isolationism. They’re components — sometimes greater, sometimes lesser — that are baked into the process. So you’ve got a bit of that.

But if you forced me to pick one factor explaining what's happened, I would say this is a self-inflicted wound by Republican leaders.

Over many years, they've adopted strategies that have trivialized and delegitimized government. They were willing to play to a nativist element. And they tried to use, instead of stand up to, the apocalyptic visions and extremism of some cable television, talk radio, and other media outlets on the right.

And add to that, they've delegitimized President Obama, but they've failed to succeed with any of the promises they've made to their rank and file voters, or Tea Party adherents. So when I looked at that, my view was, "what makes you think, after all of these failures, that you're going to have a group of compliant people who are just going to fall in line behind an establishment figure?"

Trump clearly had a brilliant capacity to channel that discontent among Republican voters — to figure out the issues that’ll work, like immigration, and the ways in which populist anger and partisan tribalism can be exploited. So of course, to me, he became a logical contender.

This is exactly "it." Donald Trump did not come from "nowhere", but he benefited from a Republican strategy that existed for many years - I would call it "making a mockery out of Democracy." Ultimately, the country will pay to price for disrespecting the democratic institutions, rules and culture.

Another groundbreaking article at "Vox" filled with research and data: "The rise of American authoritarianism - A niche group of political scientists may have uncovered what's driving Donald Trump's ascent. What they found has implications that go well beyond 2016."


Perhaps strangest of all, it wasn't just Trump but his supporters who seemed to have come out of nowhere, suddenly expressing, in large numbers, ideas far more extreme than anything that has risen to such popularity in recent memory. In South Carolina, a CBS News exit poll found that 75 percent of Republican voters supported banning Muslims from the United States. A PPP poll found that a third of Trump voters support banning gays and lesbians from the country. Twenty percent said Lincoln shouldn't have freed the slaves.

Last September, a PhD student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst named Matthew MacWilliams realized that his dissertation research might hold the answer to not just one but all three of these mysteries.

MacWilliams studies authoritarianism — not actual dictators, but rather a psychological profile of individual voters that is characterized by a desire for order and a fear of outsiders. People who score high in authoritarianism, when they feel threatened, look for strong leaders who promise to take whatever action necessary to protect them from outsiders and prevent the changes they fear.

So MacWilliams naturally wondered if authoritarianism might correlate with support for Trump.

He polled a large sample of likely voters, looking for correlations between support for Trump and views that align with authoritarianism. What he found was astonishing: Not only did authoritarianism correlate, but it seemed to predict support for Trump more reliably than virtually any other indicator.

"Vox" published a follow-up several weeks later: "After Trump: how authoritarian voters will change American politics."


The Republican party thought, in 2012, that its challenge would be to expand its coalition of voters enough to make the party nationally viable again. But it turns out to be facing an even worse and more urgent problem: the coalition it already has.

That coalition is dividing in two, split between Republicans as we typically know them — social conservatives who believe in small government, low taxes, and limited regulation — and a newly active block of voters known as authoritarians, defined not by demographics but by psychological profile. Authoritarians are hostile to outgroups and embrace aggressive, punitive policies toward them, including harsh anti-immigration laws and aggressive, militaristic foreign policy. But they aren't particularly interested in the traditional Republican economic agenda. Indeed, they're uninterested in tax cuts, protective of entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, and skeptical of foreign trade.

The GOP is essentially now two parties in a shaky, contentious coalition. These two factions want different policies and different kinds of politics. Their split has made the 2016 GOP primary one of the strangest and most shocking political developments in a generation, but there is more to come.

The authoritarians, in the coming years, will not break the GOP, but they will deeply alter its electoral politics. They will likely put the White House out of Republicans' reach. In Congress and in state legislatures, they will make GOP caucuses more unruly and more extreme, worsening polarization and gridlock. They will weaken the party as an institution, opening up more right-wing primary challenges and an even greater role for outside donors.

They could bring, in other words, an era of Republican politics that combines the disruption and chaos of the Tea Party with the divisive, xenophobic policies and politics of Donald Trump playing out across the electoral map.

Another very informative article, based on political science: "I asked 5 fascism experts whether Donald Trump is a fascist. Here's what they said."


The University of Wisconsin's Stanley Payne, author of Fascism: Comparison and Definition and A History of Fascism, 1914–1945, emphasizes that fascism is a "revolutionary nationalist project. Not just a nationalist project, but a nationalist project that is revolutionary and breaks down all the standards and the barriers." Trump and other far-right populists don't count.

"It's what you'd call a right-wing populist movement," he says of the Trump campaign. "They take conservative positions that were very common, say, 75 years ago or 100 years ago, and not at all common now. … You can call them more genuinely reactionary in their discourse. They go back to older kinds of political and social values that have been discarded. That would be a more accurate characterization than calling them fascist."

Payne also notes that Trump lacks a connection to the pro-violence philosophy at the heart of fascism. This dates back to Georges Sorel, a French syndicalist philosopher who was revered by Mussolini and the Italian fascists. Sorel praised violence as a necessary tool of the class struggle. "Proletarian violence … appears thus as a very fine and heroic thing," he writes. "It is at the service of the immemorial interests of civilization; it is not perhaps the most appropriate method of obtaining immediate material advantages, but it may save the world from barbarism." King's College London's Jeremy Jennings, in an introduction to a recent edition of Sorel's Reflections on Violence, writes that Sorel is "prepared to equate [violence] with life, creativity, and virtue."

While fascists obviously don't share Sorel's interest in the class struggle, this valorization of violence carried over. Fascism, Payne says, requires "a philosophical valuing of violence, of Sorelian violence. [Fascists believe] that violence is really good for you, that it's the sort of thing that makes you a vital, alive, dedicated person, that it creates commitment. You make violence not just a political strategy but a philosophical principle. That's unique to fascism."

Just a few days ago, "Vox" published another very good article, together with an excellent short clip, which is a must see: "The rise of American authoritarianism, explained in 6 minutes."

Here is the clip:


Well, we talked a lot about Donald Trump. Yes, we are all sick of him, but it is still necessary to examine the reasons for his success. Finally, we have something more uplifting. Just today, "Vox" published another great article, together with another excellent clip: "Barack Obama is officially one of the most consequential presidents in American history."

Here is the clip:

Thank you, "Vox", for your tireless efforts to educate us, and to preserve our sanity.

Good night, and good luck!

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