It’s the sur­vival of the wit­less as Trump sucks the life out of a dy­ing po­lit­i­cal coali­tion

The Buffalo News - - OPINION - Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group Mid­dle­port Wind tur­bines worth it for slow­ing cli­mate change Buf­falo

WASH­ING­TON – They wan­der the halls of pub­lic build­ings and haunt re­cep­tions like the ghosts of the GOP past – the co­hort of Repub­li­can sen­a­tors and House mem­bers who will be leav­ing of­fice with the ar­rival of the new Congress. Some chose re­tire­ment be­cause they did not want to do what is nec­es­sary to keep of­fice in Don­ald Trump’s party. Oth­ers were forcibly re­tired by the Demo­cratic midterm wave.

The class of de­part­ing Repub­li­cans in­cludes a few who won’t be missed. (Hint: One has a last name start­ing “Rohrabache-”.) But many of the House losses came in sub­ur­ban dis­tricts that re­quired outreach be­yond the Trump­in­tox­i­cated base. Na­tion­ally, Democrats won about 70 per­cent of votes in sub­ur­ban House dis­tricts. This means the grim po­lit­i­cal reaper came for some of the most rea­son­able el­e­ments of the party. This process is the re­verse of nat­u­ral se­lec­tion – call it the sur­vival of the wit­less.

Un­der typ­i­cal cir­cum­stances, de­part­ing Repub­li­can of­fice­hold­ers would be ob­vi­ous re­cruits for ad­min­is­tra­tion jobs. Is there any doubt that re­tir­ing Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., would have been a prime can­di­date for sec­re­tary of state in a more nor­mal GOP ad­min­is­tra­tion? Oth­ers would be nat­u­ral fits for the lesser Cab­i­net jobs. But as Trump’s party pu­ri­fies it­self, true tal­ent be­comes a waste prod­uct.

In an in­com­plete, un­rep­re­sen­ta­tive sur­vey, con­ducted at think tank events and in buf­fet lines, de­part­ing mem­bers have told me a few things. They uni­formly won­der why a pres­i­dent pre­sid­ing over a 4 per­cent un­em­ploy­ment rate made im­mi­gra­tion – ac­tu­ally, brown peo­ple in­vad­ing the coun­try who needed to be stopped by a de­ploy­ment of the U.S. mil­i­tary – the sub­stance of his midterm ap­peal. This strat­egy did noth­ing to an­swer the flood of Demo­cratic at­tack ads on health care.

De­part­ing GOP mem­bers also won­der why Trump na­tion­al­ized a midterm elec­tion that could have been bet­ter fought on lo­cal is­sues and con­di­tions. More than two-thirds of Amer­i­cans cast their midterm votes to send a mes­sage about the pres­i­dent, ei­ther pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive – a re­cent record. It was once said of Teddy Roo­sevelt that he wanted to be “the bride at ev­ery wed­ding.”

Trump seems com­pelled to be bride, groom, minister, wed­ding singer and drunken guy giv­ing the off-color cham­pagne toast.

And de­part­ing mem­bers re­port that the most ac­tive Repub­li­can par­ti­sans in their state be­lieve that there is noth­ing – ab­so­lutely noth­ing – wrong with a po­lit­i­cal party that lost 40 House seats in a time of rel­a­tive peace and un­prece­dented pros­per­ity. If any­thing, one soon-to-be-for­mer mem­ber told me, the Repub­li­can base be­lieves its party lost ground be­cause it wasn’t true enough to Trump’s agenda. In this par­al­lel po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity, build­ing the border wall would have stopped the Demo­cratic wave.

So where does this leave Amer­i­can pol­i­tics headed into the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion? Trump’s party – pre­dom­i­nantly based in ru­ral, small-town and smaller city Amer­ica, and dis­pro­por­tion­ately older, male, less ed­u­cated and white – is gen­uinely en­thu­si­as­tic about its dis­rup­tive leader. Ur­ban and (in­creas­ingly) sub­ur­ban Amer­i­cans – dis­pro­por­tion­ately younger, fe­male, more ed­u­cated and mul­ti­cul­tural – are fi­nally get­ting the pic­ture that they are Trump­ism’s foils. And mea­sured by Demo­cratic do­na­tions and turnout, they aren’t happy about it.

This leaves a few of us en­tirely home­less in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. If you had asked me 10 years ago, when I left gov­ern­ment, if the Repub­li­can Party could be won and ral­lied with Ge­orge Wal­lace’s cam­paign themes, I would have thought you ridicu­lous. Now it is my naivete that de­serves ridicule. If a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the GOP finds this equally dis­ori­ent­ing, it is be­ing dis­ori­ented in si­lence.

Trump is a politi­cian fa­mous for fol­low­ing his “gut” to some odd and sketchy places. But the po­lit­i­cal ques­tion of the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is quite prac­ti­cal: Can Trump keep Michi­gan, Wis­con­sin or Penn­syl­va­nia (he doesn’t need them all) while avoid­ing any de­fec­tions in Sun­belt states such as Ari­zona? The an­swer: With a flawed enough Demo­cratic can­di­date, yes he can. If Demo­cratic pri­mary vot­ers view Trump’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity as an op­por­tu­nity to get all the ide­o­log­i­cal good­ies they’ve ever wanted, rather than a rare chance to ex­pand their coali­tion to mod­er­ate vot­ers, they would again op­pose a weak can­di­date with a weaker one. And they would re-elect the least fit pres­i­dent in Amer­i­can his­tory.

Given the so­cial and de­mo­graphic trends of the coun­try, it will soon be im­pos­si­ble to win a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion with an ethno-na­tion­al­ist ap­peal. But we aren’t there yet. Mean­while, Trump com­mits po­lit­i­cal vam­pirism – suck­ing the last re­main­ing life from a dy­ing coali­tion.

Michael Ger­son Trump’s be­hav­iors are sel­dom God-like

To the per­son who thinks Pres­i­dent Trump was sent by God, look at the facts.

Did God turn away the hun­gry, the poor, the home­less and the lame?

Did God mock women, chil­dren and the ill?

Did God at­tack or talk against the peo­ple who crit­i­cized him?

I don’t think so, but look what Pres­i­dent Trump does more closely.

Richard T. Kurek

An in­ter­est­ing con­trast of opin­ions ap­peared in Wed­nes­day’s edi­to­rial page pit­ting the com­ments of con­ser­va­tive opin­ion writer Max Boot, a self-de­scribed for­mer “cli­mate change skep­tic,” and a let­ter writer com­plain­ing about the im­pact of wind tur­bines.

Specif­i­cally, wind tur­bines re­sult in “clear­ing land ... cre­at­ing ac­cess roads ... con­stant noise ... res­i­dents sub­jected to flick­ers caus­ing a mo­men­tary black­out ef­fect,” while global warm­ing causes “flood­ing events along the U.S. coast­line, ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion and for­est fires” plus “a world of wors­en­ing food short­ages and wild­fires and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040.”

There is no longer any doubt that cli­mate change is hap­pen­ing “pri­mar­ily as a re­sult of hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties” (U.S. gov­ern­ment’s Na­tional Cli­mate As­sess­ment Re­port). The five warm­est years on record have all oc­curred since 2010. If no ac­tion is taken, by 2100 the tem­per­a­ture could in­crease by 9 de­grees and the sea level rise could ex­ceed 4 feet.

The U.S. is the big­gest car­bon pol­luter in his­tory yet, on a na­tional level our most re­cent ac­tiv­ity has been to with­draw from

Se­cu­rity cams are use­less with­out en­force­ment

The NFTA is con­duct­ing pub­lic meet­ings on ex­tend­ing light rail into the sub­urbs. Liv­ing in Buf­falo and watch­ing the city’s pre­cip­i­tous de­cent into drug abuse I cau­tion against such a reck­less ven­ture.

Re­cently I used the Metro Rail sys­tem and upon walk­ing up from track level to street level I found my­self in the pres­ence of three in­di­vid­u­als who were smok­ing crack while a crazed woman was rant­ing and rav­ing in­co­her­ently.

This oc­curred in­side the Metro Rail sta­tion where there are sup­pos­edly func­tion­ing se­cu­rity cams. But alas there was no sign of any NFTA se­cu­rity or Buf­falo po­lice. I had to wait for a con­nect­ing bus for an­other 20 min­utes and there was still no po­lice ac­tion forth­com­ing and the drug ad­dicts con­tin­ued their de­bauch­ery un­abated.

The Buf­falo po­lice are pre­par­ing to mount body cam­eras on ev­ery of­fi­cer, while the city has al­ready mounted “body cam­eras” on prac­ti­cally ev­ery street light. Added to this are all the se­cu­rity cam­eras in­side the Metro Rail sys­tem and still there are ram­pant signs of bureau­cratic in­dif­fer­ence through­out the sys­tem.

This all re­minds me of an old Chi­nese proverb that stated, “You can’t wake a per­son who is pre­tend­ing to be asleep.” All of these pub­lic meet­ings are do­ing just that with the ob­vi­ous fu­tile re­sults.

Matthew R. Powen­ski

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