A Smart, Informed Journalist Interviews Hillary Clinton

Ezra Klein, the editor-in-chief of Vox, interviewed Hillary Clinton for 51 minutes this week. I thought she avoided answering one question. It was something like, how would you rate American voters in general? Aside from that, I was tremendously impressed. It is a tragedy that she lost.

A few topics discussed:

16:00  How the media handled the presidential campaign

17:45  Healthcare, including the important distinction between universal care, which should be our goal, and single-payer, which is only one way, and probably not the best way, to get universal care

26:30  American politics today

36:00  The 2016 election

42:00  How women voted

44:50   The effect of the Comey letter plus the Electoral College, voter suppression and dangers ahead.

 

If You’re a Russian Twitter Bot, What’s On Your Mind?

In 1972, the German government founded the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), a foundation and think tank in Washington. It was a gift to the American people in recognition of how the Marshall Plan helped rebuild Germany after World War 2.

The GMF has now created Hamilton 68, a site that allows “tracking Russian influence operations on Twitter”. (The name refers to Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Papers No. 68, in which he discussed foreign meddling in our elections.) If you visit the new Disinformation Dashboard, you can see what stories and topics Russia is pushing today. From today’s “Top Themes”:

The networks we track are engaged in disinformation. They amplify legitimate reporting when the content suits them, and they promote alternative media outlets that seemingly specialize in the production of disinformation, whether or not the outlets are controlled by the Kremlin. These outlets assemble stories from found objects – bits of information that may have some basis in reality. The final product will leap to conclusions the components of the story do not necessarily support, but which promote a distorted view of events to the Kremlin’s benefit. This past week we have seen Kremlin-oriented Twitter promoting content regarding non-lethal U.S. military assistance to Ukraine. Reality: the U.S. Navy is helping construct a naval operations center at Ochakiv. The promoted stories at Stalker Zone and Strategic Culture turn that into: “The Entire Black Sea Coast of Ukraine Will Become a U.S. Military Base” and “U.S. Military to be Permanently Stationed on [Ukraine] Soil” respectively. Such stories are produced continuously. Their effectiveness is based on cumulative impact.

Side note: A coherent response to events on the weekend in Charlottesville has not yet emerged (as of August 16), though we continue to watch for one.

They’re currently monitoring 600 Twitter users, “properly understood as a network of accounts linked to and participating in Russian influence campaigns”, officially or unofficially, knowingly or unknowingly. These include:

  • Accounts likely controlled by Russian government influence operations.
  • Accounts for “patriotic” pro-Russia users that are loosely connected or unconnected to the Russian government, but which amplify themes promoted by Russian government media.
  • Accounts for users who have been influenced by the first two groups and who are extremely active in amplifying Russian media themes. These users may or may not understand themselves to be part of a pro-Russian social network. 

Today’s top Russian tweet, according to the Disinformation Dashboard, happens to be from the government-run RT network (formerly Russia Today):

Twitter user avatar @RT_com
Petition urges Trump to recognize Antifa as terrorists, reaches 55,000 signatures in 2 days https://t.co/toDhxusjll https://t.co/SV3TfIxVUD
Retweeted 566 times

The top Russia hashtags for the past 48 hours have been “antifa” (anti-fascist), “maga” (Make America Great…), “boston”, “syria”, “isis” and “altleft”. 

By the way, according to something called TwitterAudit.com, roughly 40% of DT’s 36 million followers are automated (i.e. fake).

Shining light on Russia’s propaganda efforts is a good thing, but I’d feel better if the president* and his minions were doing something to protect our upcoming elections. They’re not, because Russia is on their side.

Dashboard

Note: Whoever designed this graphic for GMF showing Putin releasing all those Twitter birds might as well have left the birds blue. Russia isn’t a Communist country anymore. It’s a right-wing kleptocracy, which is why the president* and other right-wing fanatics are so pro-Russia now. Putin leads the kind of government they aspire to.

This Chart Shows Who’s Winning at Capitalism

Capitalism involves competition. Competition involves winning. This chart shows who’s winning. Unless we change the rules, it shows who’s already won.

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The gray line represents inflation-adjusted income growth in the U.S. between 1946 and 1980. The gray line is higher on the left side of the chart than on the right, because, in those years, annual income growth for low-income people (the people on the left of the chart) was higher than income growth for high-income people (the ones on the right). That meant people who made less money were gaining (however slowly) on people who made more.

As you can see, the red line goes in the other direction. It shows income growth between 1980 and 2014. The red line is higher, in fact way higher, on the right than on the left because income growth for high-income people (the ones on the right) was much higher than for low-income people (the ones on the left).

In other words, since 1980, people who made more money pulled away from people who made less. The fact that the red line goes straight up at the end shows that the people who made the most money (not just the 1% but the 0.1%, 0.01% and 0.001%) pulled away even faster. Thus, since 1980 (when Ronald Reagan was elected), the better off you were, the better off you’ve done. And the worse off you were, the worse off you’ve done.

The chart is from a column by David Leonhardt of The New York Times. He goes into some of the nuances and suggests ways to fix this growing inequality:

Different policies could produce a different outcome. My list would start with a tax code that does less to favor the affluent, a better-functioning education system, more bargaining power for workers and less tolerance for corporate consolidation.

He also notes that the president* and his Republican co-conspirators are trying to make the situation even worse. They want the opposite of what’s needed: even lower taxes for the rich, less money for public education, weaker unions and less competition for big corporations.

So the chart shows who’s been winning. What it doesn’t show is that the game may already be over. Increased wealth translates into increased political power. But the more power you have, the easier it is to change the rules so that you can accumulate even more wealth (viz. the Citizens United decision). From the point of view of the upper 0.001%, it’s a virtuous circle. For the rest of us, it’s vicious.

Unless we fight back – which means being more politically active, as in voting every chance we get – it will become even vicious-er. 

A National Moratorium to End This Presidency

Will Bunch writes a column for Philly.com, the website for what’s left of Philadelphia’s daily newspapers. This week he called for a Moratorium to End the Trump Presidency:

“Do you remember your first political protest? I remember mine, even if it comes with a big asterisk. It happened on Oct. 15, 1969, and it was called the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam. The asterisk is that I really didn’t do much — not even march in the streets or carry a peace flag. All I did, actually, was ride in the backseat of our family’s Ford Country Squire station wagon with our headlights on during broad daylight — a sign that you were against the war. For those who cruised America’s highways that Wednesday, the sight of so many other headlights was a close encounter of the first kind, meaning you were not alone … in wanting the troops to come home from Southeast Asia.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the 1969 moratorium — especially since about noon or so on  Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. Of course, it was just the next day that America saw the Women’s March, a 4-million-participant warning shot across the bow of the Trump presidency, and that has been followed by other protests, including targeted efforts that have played a role in so far blocking any efforts to repeal Obamacare. And yet the broader protest fervor seems to have waned even as the threat that Trump and his team pose to America’s democratic norms has grown in recent weeks. Is there a lesson for today’s Trump Resistance in a wildly successful protest that took place nearly 48 years ago?

I think so. The strategy of the Vietnam moratorium … was brilliant. Some activists thought the next step in antiwar protest should be a general strike, but [others] had a better idea. Plan the kind of inclusive event where every American who opposed the war — not just crazy campus radicals with their Viet Cong flags, but churchgoing suburbanites and baseball moms and your next-door neighbor — could find some way, big or small, to take part.

Hold up a candle at a vigil. Attend a rally or a “teach-in” at your town square or in your church. Call in sick from work or stay out of school to march in a protest. Or, failing that, at least take two seconds to flip on your headlights. Anything that would prove that opposition to the Vietnam War was not only nonviolent, but moral and middle-class. And, most important, mainstream. The first round of coast-to-coast protests that October drummed up support for a mass march on Washington exactly one month later that drew an eye-popping 500,000 people….

It’s easy to dismiss the moratorium because — as history showed us — the Vietnam War didn’t end right away in 1969. The final U.S. combat troops didn’t come home until the winter of early 1973. But in other ways, the protest effort was a stunning success. October 1969 marked the first time the Gallup Poll showed a majority of Americans believed the war was a mistake. President Richard M. Nixon felt that heat inside the White House, where that fall, he addressed the public to insist that a so-called silent majority supported his policies. But Nixon also speeded up the pace of troop withdrawals, and Congress eventually moved to pass the War Powers Act, seeking to restrict presidents’ ability to launch another Vietnam. It didn’t last, but U.S. foreign policy was arguably more restrained and wiser over the next decade or two — all because everyday citizens had taken action.

What happened in 1969 is more proof that citizen action — or inaction — is the tipping point between democracy and authoritarianism. The largest wrench in the would-be despot’s toolbox is apathy — a dazed and confused populace that sits on its hands when a self-proclaimed strongman moves to restrict the freedom of the press or curb the power of the judiciary or independent prosecutors or strip people of voting rights. The flip side is that it’s remarkable what a truly engaged citizenry can accomplish.

In South Korea, during the same weeks that Trump was transitioning into the presidency, as many as 1.7 million people at a time flooded the streets of downtown Seoul to protest corruption by their country’s then-president, Park Geun-hye, in demonstrations the Washington Post described as a “democratic, peaceful and even joyous assembly, demanding the president’s ouster.” And ousted Park was. In Poland, democracy seemed to be hanging by a thread last month as the ruling party sat poised to crush that nation’s independent judiciary — until the masses took to the streets of Warsaw.

The bottom line is that government does respond to the people, but only when the people respond to the government. When Trump fires the FBI director who’s probing his campaign or calls the free press “the enemy of the American people,” right now he doesn’t see 1.7 million people outside his bedroom window. He sees only the prattling heads on Fox & Friends — and so it’s only going to get worse, especially with the new report that special prosecutor Robert Mueller is bringing evidence before a grand jury. Now is the time for America to show its inner Seoul.

A long time ago, I chose a keyboard over marching boots. But today, I’m using my keyboard and my platform as an opinion writer to offer this opinion: What America needs right now is a Moratorium to End the Trump Presidency — a mass event that will show the world a not-so-silent majority of Americans does not support an uncouth and irrational wannabe despot in the Oval Office. It’s great that 61 percent of the public can tell a pollster they disapprove of Trump’s presidency. But now we need 61 percent of Americans to tell that to their neighbors, to their local communities, and to the world, in a public display of disaffection.

When? Why not Oct. 15, 2017, the 48th anniversary of the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, when the weather is good and the kids on campus have settled in for the fall semester? What? Whatever it takes to show people that decent Americans want this nightmare to end…. Why? Because it’s going to take more than 140 characters or your most impassioned Facebook rant to change America for good. Then, a month later — say Nov. 18, 2017, a Saturday — converge 1.7 million, give or take a few, of those people in front of Trump’s White House fence. And watch to see who will be the first Republican congressman from a swing district to endorse impeachment.

You know, moratorium, at first blush, seems like an odd thing to call a protest. But the definition of moratorium is “a temporary prohibition” of a regular activity. For the last 28 weeks, America has endured a president who is, in the words of the Twitter hashtag,  #NotNormal. Maybe mixing up our routines for a couple of days this fall is the best way to get our nation back to, you know … normal.

End quote.

Twenty-Four Later, A Few Angry Observations

Now that the legislative assault on the Affordable Care Act has ended for the time being, I’d like to take a break from thinking about politics. I hope the members of Congress feel the same way. 

I can’t move on, however, without sharing some choice words I read today. First, Paul Waldman of The Washington Post wrote “This Is What You Get When You Vote For Republicans”:

“It goes much further than their repugnant and disastrous effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but all the contemporary GOP’s pathologies could be seen there: their outright malice toward ordinary people, their indifference to the suffering of their fellow citizens, their blazing incompetence, their contempt for democratic norms, their shameless hypocrisy, their gleeful ignorance about policy, their utter dishonesty and bad faith, their pure cynicism, and their complete inability to perform anything that resembles governing. It was the perfect Republican spectacle.

It’s remarkable to consider that there was a time not too long ago when the Grand Old Party was known for being serious, sober, a little boring, but above all, responsible. They were conservative in the traditional sense: wanting to conserve what they thought was good and fearful of rapid change. You might not have agreed with them, but there were limits to the damage they could do.

The devolution from that Republican Party to the one we see today took a couple of decades and had many sources, but its fullest expression was reached with the lifting up of Donald J. Trump to the presidency, this contemptible buffoon who may have been literally the single worst prominent American they could have chosen to be their standard-bearer. I mean that seriously. Can you think of a single person who might have run for president who is more ignorant, more impulsive, more vindictive and more generally dangerous than Donald Trump? And yet they rallied around him with near-unanimity, a worried shake of the head to his endless stream of atrocious statements and actions the strongest dissent most of them could muster.”

Waldman then reviews other recent travesties I won’t bother listing. He concludes:

“I could go on and delve into the president’s plan to blow up the Iran nuclear deal, or the climate-denial initiative at the Environmental Protection Agency, or all the fossil-fuel lobbyists now staffing the Interior Department, or any of a hundred abominable policies and programs. But the point is, we’re getting just what we should have expected. Donald Trump isn’t an aberration, he’s the apotheosis of contemporary Republicanism.

Republicans don’t care about making an honest case for their priorities; Trump lies nearly every time he opens his mouth. They’re unconcerned about the details of policy; he knows less about how government works than your average sixth-grader. They’re indifferent to human suffering; he literally advocates destroying the individual health-care market so he can blame Barack Obama for the lives that wind up ruined. They advocate a mindless anti-government philosophy; he has so much contempt for governing that he puts his son-in-law in charge of everything from solving the opioid crisis to achieving Middle East peace. They whine endlessly about the liberal media; he spends hours every day watching “Fox & Friends” and takes advice from Sean Hannity. Trump is the essence of the GOP, distilled down to its depraved and odious core.

America was given a reprieve last night, saved from the Republicans’ cruelest plans by a Democratic Party that stood strong, thousands of activists and ordinary citizens who organized in opposition and the GOP’s own incompetence. But this what you get when you give today’s Republican Party complete control of the government.”

Second, Eric Levitz of New York Magazine points out a big story that isn’t getting much attention today: 

“On Friday morning, the big story is that three Republicans voted no, and spared the individual insurance market from the threat of imminent collapse. But in the long run, the more significant development may be that 49 voted yes — and kicked out another chunk of concrete from the crumbling foundation of our (sorry excuse for a) representative democracy….

[The] threat to our republic has not been quarantined in the White House.

The congressional GOP has spent most of the past six months trying to cut nearly $800 billion out of a half-century-old program that 70 million Americans rely on for basic health care. They have also worked to erode protections for people with preexisting conditions; increase the average deductible on insurance plans sold over the individual market; and drastically raise premiums for a large swath of their own base, all for the sake of maximizing the amount of tax cuts they can deliver to multi-millionaires.

They have done all this while explicitly promising their own voters that they were trying to do the opposite…. Republican lawmakers knew that their policy goals lacked the support of their own voters. But [that] merely led them to try and obscure [their goals]…. They lied and hid, and hid and lied, until, finally, their mendacious cowardice reached its tragicomic apotheosis, and three U.S. senators publicly announced that they would vote for a “disaster” bill — but disavowed all responsibility for the effects it would have if passed into law, because they officially opposed it.

Trumpcare may be dead. But the libertarian plutocrats who bankroll the Republican Party are not. The Kochs, Mercers, and their ilk are not going to stop fighting for their agenda. And so long as an overwhelming majority of Americans do not want to live in Ayn Rand’s utopia, advancing their aims will require undermining responsive government in the United States. Earlier this month, House Republicans released a “budget blueprint,” which functioned as a formal declaration of the party’s long-term fiscal goals. Those included $500 billion worth of cuts to Medicare, $1.5 trillion in cuts to Medicaid, and the utter decimation of food aid and tax credits for the working poor. Few, if any, Republicans won election by publicly touting such plans. The party’s standard-bearer won the White House by promising to protect — and expand — the welfare state. They know they aren’t going to realize their vision through the power of persuasion.

But if they can pass enough voter-suppression laws to fine-tune the electorate; sow enough fatalistic cynicism about our political system to get ordinary Americans to tune out; buy up enough local television stations to deliver conservative propaganda to 70 percent of U.S. households; supply enough campaign contributions to insulate GOP incumbents from democratic rebuke; and eliminate enough transparency from the legislative process to leave the public incapable of comprehending what their representatives do and don’t support, maybe, just maybe, they can substitute their will for the majority’s.

Last night, they came one vote short. That’s a relief. But it’s also a crisis.”

Random Roundup, or We Did Pretty Well for 230 Years

Reader alert:

You can read what I’ve written below or look at Will Bunch’s column “America’s Democracy Doomsday Clock Just Hit 11:58” at Philly.com instead. I read his column after I was almost done writing this post. To borrow a phrase from a President who doesn’t seem so bad these days: “I could refer to Bunch’s column only after you read what I wrote – I could do that – but it would be wrong”.

Or you could read both, since they don’t overlap completely!

So to begin:

The U.S. Senate, which some observers used to seriously call the “World’s Greatest Deliberative Body”, is desperately trying to find 50 Republican votes to pass something, anything, to use as a vehicle to repeal and/or replace the Affordable Care Act. If that happens this week, members of the Senate and House will then get together and discuss how best to cut taxes for the wealthy and health insurance for the non-wealthy. If they can agree on something, both houses of Congress will vote again. You can see the latest developments at The Washington Post and ThinkProgress (the latter is a “latest news first” page).

For a summary of the current healthcare “state of play”, see Paul Waldman’s excellent column: “Trump and Republicans Treat Their Voters Like Morons”. The main point he makes: 

In other words, their current position is, “We know how catastrophic this bill would be. But we got here by lying to these knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers for years, and if we don’t follow through, they’ll punish us”.

… There’s one other path open to them, which is to pass “skinny repeal” [which would only repeal a few parts of the ACA], then go to a conference committee with the House, in which an entirely new bill would be written incorporating the other things Republicans want to do. That bill could then be presented to both houses as a last chance to repeal the hated Obamacare, in the hopes that members would vote for it despite its inevitable unpopularity and cataclysmic consequences for Americans’ health care.

If and when that happens, Republicans will make that same calculation again: This thing is terrible and most everyone hates it, but we have to pass something because we fooled our base into thinking this would all be simple and we could give them everything they want. Or as Trump said during the campaign, “You’re going to have such great healthcare at a tiny fraction of the cost, and it is going to be so easy.”

That was just one of the many lies they were told, and they ate it up. 

I believe their attempt to repeal/replace the ACA is doomed, but I’m not a member of Congress. By the way, we are still being encouraged to contact Republican legislators on this issue. That’s because most members of the House and Senate are toddlers with extremely short attention spans. They need constant reinforcement in order to behave properly.

On Monday, DT (if only his middle name had been “Dennis” or “Darren”) tried to turn the Boy Scout Jamboree into a Hitler, excuse me, Drumpf Youth rally. New York Magazine has the story, including their “14 most inappropriate moments”. Digby comments:

It makes me feel like crying. The celebration of rank stupidity, the crude brutality, the incessant bragging, the whining and the lying in front of a bunch of cheering and jeering boy scouts is almost physically painful to watch. 

That’s being imprinted on this next generation as leadership. 

Meanwhile, DT is trying to get the Attorney General, old-style racist Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (aka “the nation’s top law enforcement officer”) to resign because Sessions hasn’t lied and obstructed justice enough on DT’s behalf. In itself, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Back to Paul Waldman for a summary of the AG’s first six months in office:

Jeff Sessions is a uniquely odious figure, perhaps the most malevolent force within the Trump administration. His most visible actions as head of the Justice Department have included shutting down oversight of local police departments accused of misconduct; renewing an ’80s-style “war on drugs”; advocating for asset forfeiture programs that literally steal money and property from people who are not even accused of a crime, let alone convicted; promoting mandatory minimum sentencing that members of both parties have come to see as cruel, unjust, and counterproductive; and rolling back civil rights protections for transgender children. While some Trump appointees have been most notable for their incompetence, if he gets his way Sessions will have a profoundly malignant impact on the nation.

DT wants Sessions to fire the Special Counsel who’s investigating DT’s criminal activities. Ideally, if Sessions were to go (hooray!), Congress would keep the Special Counsel’s investigation on track, which would be easy for them to do. But again, I’m not a member of Congress. (Don’t worry: To quote a true American hero, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman: “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected”. And he really could have been president if he’d wanted the job.)

Finally, the author of The Washington Post‘s “Right Turn” blog (“Jennifer Rubin’s take from a conservative perspective”) has a good suggestion:

A large segment of Republican voters should try turning off Fox News and allowing reality to permeate the shell they’ve constructed to keep out ideas that interfere with their prejudices and abject ignorance. Unfair? Take a look at the latest poll to suggest that Trump voters like their cult hero feel compelled to label inconvenient facts “fake news.” Morning Consult reports: “A plurality of Republicans say President Donald Trump received more of the popular vote in 2016 than his Democratic rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton….

The report continues: “Allan Lichtman, a professor of history at American University, said … Tuesday that Trump has “perfected the technique of the Big Lie” — which, as he wrote in an op-ed last fall, is to “repeat a lie loudly, over and over until people come to believe it. These results show that again that like ‘Birtherism,’ which launched Trump’s political career, the Big Lie continues to work, at least among those who want to believe it’.”

If these voters do not know or cannot accept something as simple as vote totals, do we really expect they will be amenable to reason on immigration (sorry, but illegal immigrants aren’t causing a crime wave), global warning (sorry, it’s not a hoax) or uncontroverted evidence of Russian meddling in the election? I’m sure all this makes the Trump staff and surrogates laugh uproariously as they admire their handiwork in bamboozling the angry mob. But they and the network of right-wing enablers have done real damage to our society and politics, making differences impossible to bridge and reasoned debate nearly impossible….

Democracy presupposes a minimally informed, responsible adult electorate. Right now it is clear the GOP is dominated by fact-deniers and willfully ignorant folk…

But here’s the thing: The rest of the country should empathize with their economic plight and sense of alienation, but that does not mean we should coddle them in their ignorance nor defer to judgments based on fabrication. They feel “disrespected” when fellow Americans point to reality? Trumpkins think elites are condescending when they call them “low information” voters? (It should be non-information voters.) Sorry, economic hardship does not bestow moral authority to lie, invent facts, smear opponents, blame foreigners or support lawlessness. And for elected Republicans to defer to the ignorant, beguiled voters is an abdication of their role and oaths.

However many years it’s been, 230 or 240 or some other number depending on how you count, we had a pretty good run. (Oh, sure, it can all turn around if people get out and vote, but, oh brother, this is bad.)

Update:

Brian Beutler predicts that Senate Republican will simply vote to remove the “individual mandate” portion of the Affordable Care Act, the rule that says people must buy health insurance or pay a penalty, and that the House will accept that change without further negotiation. Doing this would throw the health insurance market into chaos. Millions of relatively young or healthy Americans would decide not to pay for insurance until they needed it. As a result, millions of relatively old or sick Americans wouldn’t be able to afford coverage because of rising premiums.

He Doesn’t Have a Clue. Neither Do They.

This piece by Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine very nicely explains some of the Orange Menace’s appeal. He is the apotheosis of the Low Information Voter, the citizens who are conscientious enough to register and cast a ballot, but who have trouble deciding who to vote for, not so much because they’re “centrists” with “moderate” views, but because they don’t have a fucking clue:

It is widely known that [DT] — whose political profile over the decades has vacillated from liberal to conservative to moderate to populist, and supported and opposed abortion rights, higher taxes on the rich, and universal health care — does not care very much about political ideas. This explanation is true, but incomplete. The president also does not know very much about political ideas. And it is not merely the details of policy that he lacks. Trump has no context for processing ideas. He does not understand which kinds of ideas imply support for which kinds of policies, nor why political figures tend to believe what they do, nor why they agree or disagree with one another. He is capable of forming strongly held beliefs about people in politics, but he does so in entirely personal terms. Trump’s flamboyant, weird ignorance reveals a distinct pattern. He is not so much non-ideological as sub-ideological.

It is common to attribute Trump’s protean identity as simple self-interest: He has aligned himself with whichever party seemed to benefit him at any given moment. And surely calculation plays a role. But it cannot explain all his puzzling statements about politics. Sometimes he expresses openness about unpopular policies his administration and party would never go for (like a higher tax on gasoline). Trump constantly relates questions about politics back to himself and his alleged deal-making genius not only because he’s a narcissist, but because the contest of political debate remains largely mysterious to him.

Many Americans share Trump’s lack of ideological sophistication. High-information voters tend to clump at the ends of the political spectrum. They may not have sophisticated beliefs, but their identification with one of the party coalitions is a tool they use to make sense of individual issues. Low-information voters tend to have a weak understanding of what the political parties stand for and how those positions relate to each other. These voters can be roughly categorized as “centrist” because they don’t line up neatly with one party platform or the other. But, rather than a consistently moderate outlook, they share a mishmash of extreme and frequently uninformed beliefs. Because they don’t understand the philosophical basis for disagreements, they assume the two parties ought to naturally cooperate, and tend to see partisan bickering as a failure and an indication of personal fault by politicians.

Trump thinks about politics like a low-information voter, which enabled him to speak their language naturally. His stated belief during the campaign that he could expertly craft a series of popular deals — “it’s going to be so easy” — appealed to low-information voters because it earnestly described the political world as they see it. Trump’s experience as a developer and professional celebrity have put a narcissistic gloss on Trump’s low-information worldview. He sees politics as a variation of real estate or reality television — a field where the players are sorted not so much as combatants on opposing teams (though they may compete at times) but on a hierarchy of success, with the big stars at the top sharing interests in common. His vague boasts that his presidency would create terrific things that everybody loves and is winning again is a version of how he truly sees the world….

Politics is a strange institution that forces committed professionals who have coherent philosophical beliefs to persuade voters who mostly do not. Barack Obama accomplished this in highbrow fashion. His characteristic political style was to incorporate the values of both left and right and try to … synthesize the perspectives together. (“There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America.”) Trump accomplishes it in lowbrow style, by literally not understanding the source of the disagreement.

On that note, perhaps a bit of humor will help. Here’s Tom Tomorrow of This Modern World from back in 2004. That was the election that pitted the dim-witted, semi-competent incumbent, President George W. Bush, who had already screwed up one way and another for four years, against John Kerry, the respected but boring Senator and future Secretary of State who had married an heiress and wasn’t a “regular guy”:

themodernworld-theundecidedvoter