Regarding Trump’s new pro-life stance: Catholics recognize a con man when they see one

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By now, I think we all know that Donald Trump would hock his kids’ kidneys to win this election. I’m probably being over fastidious, then, to note that I find his most recent attempt to exploit the painfully wrenching issue of abortion particularly offensive. I use the adjective wrenching, I suppose, because I’m a Catholic who personally opposes most therapeutic pregnancy terminations, but still supports the woman’s right to choose. I do so, in part, because the question of abortion’s morality hinges on a question to which we currently have no convincing scientific answer: At what point does life begin? Given our ...

Surveys Show the Trump Campaign’s Real Fuel is Old-Fashioned Racial Resentment

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If you’re someone who thinks and writes about politics, as I have for more than four decades, this election cycle has been—by turns—perplexing, humbling and terrifying. More than once over the past months, I’ve found myself watching the primary returns and wondering whether I really know this country or its people anymore? Virtually no serious analyst foresaw the sequence of improbable events and subterranean eddies of popular sentiment that now have put Donald Trump within reach of the White House. It sometimes seems nowadays that the this vulgar bully may be just one more Hillary Clinton scandal from the Oval Office—and God ...

Like a dead snake, a defeated Trump could still be a poisonous presence

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More than once when I was analyzing events for my city’s newspapers, I pointed out that the essential paradox of Los Angeles’ politics was that its leaders are elected by one city to govern another. The city that elects office-holders—older, whiter and far more affluent than LA as a whole—has interests; that city that’s governed—younger, poorer, more Latino, African American and Asian—has needs. The friction between those needs and interests, I’ve always argued, is what gives LA’s civic life the wary, edge-of-the-razor quality that has erupted in violence twice in my lifetime. Now, I’ve begun to wonder whether Donald Trump’s bizarre insurgent ...

Trump hasn’t just trashed the GOP, but presidential campaigning itself

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It now is a commonplace to observe that Clinton and Trump are the two most disliked candidates ever to contest the Oval Office. While her favorable poll ratings are slightly higher than his, both are viewed unfavorably by more than half of those surveyed. Still, barring some unforeseen campaign calamity or tragedy, one of them will be the next president of the United States. That noted, it also is true that their campaigns could not be more different. That difference is more than her optimistic view of the American future versus his dystopian fulminations concerning a country in decay, more than ...

Trump’s Reckless Response to Russia’s DNC Hacking Demonstrates How Dangerous He Is

As his recklessly ignorant response to Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails demonstrates anew, Donald Trump is the most dangerous man ever to be this close to America’s presidential power. The fact that the Republican Party offered its nomination to this preening narcissist, this loose-lipped vulgar bully, this ill-informed wannabe caudillo, this cheap card room hustler in an undertaker’s suit is an affront to the memories of Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower and an indelible stain on the historic reputations of this generation’s GOP leaders. Every one of them who has endorsed Trump—however reluctantly—stands indicted for putting party and ...

Nationalism and Nativism Not Populism Fuel the Trump and Brexit Insurgencies

What does Brexit have in common with Donald Trump’s instantaneous denunciation of the FBI’s announcement that it found nothing criminal in Hillary Clinton’s handling of State Department emails? Two things: Both are rooted in the notion that, as the presumptive Republican nominee put it, “the system is rigged;” In both instances, that perception is part of a fundamental political realignment in which the old divisions between right and left are blurring into illegibility. We are only beginning to discern some of the implications of such a shift—and none so far are heartening. The continuing chaos that has followed Britain’s vote to bolt the ...

GOP Leaders Can’t Denounce Trump’s Rhetoric, But Embrace His Candidacy

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Even Woodrow Wilson, the most overtly racist president of the past 150 years, felt the need to hide his inclinations while running for office. While campaigning, he promised African Americans that he would “advance the interests of your race” if elected and, as a consequence, received more black votes than any previous Democratic candidate. White supremacist son of the Old Confederacy that he was, Wilson promptly repaid that support by purging the previously integrated federal bureaucracy of all but a tiny handful of its African American supervisors, rigidly segregating all Washington’s integrated federal offices and encouraging the state branches of federal ...

Trump and Sanders both deliberately undermine our Democratic system’s legitimacy

Few things are as lethal for the healthy conduct of democratic politics as a crisis of legitimacy. As far back as the Classical Era, Aristotle argued that a state’s legitimacy hinged on the stability created by distributive justice, which is to say, the equitable distribution of society’s material rewards according to individual merit. More recently, the German political philosopher Jurgen Habermas has identified what he calls a “legitimization crisis,” which occurs when the state structures legally endowed with administrative powers “do not succeed in maintaining the requisite level of mass loyalties” allowing them to exercise those powers.  Among the results, he argues, ...