• Trump’s presumptive choice takes the Republicans into the abyss

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    With the presumptive nomination of Donald Trump as its presidential candidate, the Republican Party has, in the words of the defeated and bitter Ted Cruz, plunged into “the abyss.” The GOP has we have known it since the Reagan Administration is shattered; it’s future shape, assuming it has one, is uncertain. The question now is whether a dysfunctional party of the white right that has collapsed under the weight of its own internal contradictions will drag our entire mechanism of electoral politics into the abyss with it? Trump, in fact, is a Republican through opportunity only. His selection will postpone—perhaps permanently—an answer ...

  • The Republicans: From party to primordial swamp

    It’s tempting to characterize the ongoing turmoil among Republicans as a partisan “civil war”—tempting, but incorrect. A civil war is a contest between factions for control of a coherent territory. What’s happing to the GOP is closer a shattered window, where dozens of fissures run in all directions and, sometimes, back onto themselves. At the moment, the Republicans’ intramural politics are a kind of primordial swamp with all sorts of toxic elements oozing from the cracks caused by the party’s own internal contradictions. The insurgent candidacies of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, however, are not the cause of the Republicans’ long, slow ...

  • Bernie Sanders and the vanity of old men

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    Few things open quite so broad a path to folly as the vanity of old men. Bernie Sanders needs to weigh that existential reality, along with the political ones, as he considers how to proceed from his decisive loss to Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s New York primary. There will be a batch of primaries next week—including key states like Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland—and, on June 7, another great prize in the suddenly relevant California contest. His prospects of elbowing Clinton aside and winning the Democrats’ nomination, however, now seem somewhere the other side of remote. Clinton’s camp is being careful not to ...

  • Bernie Sanders is a dangerous combination of idealist and fantasist

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    The problem Bernie Sanders poses for Democratic primary voters actually is an old one in public life: How are we to distinguish an idealist from a fantasist? Thursday night, in his Brooklyn Navy Yard debate with frontrunner Hillary Clinton, and Friday, when he addressed a Vatican conference marking the 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s social encyclical Centesimus Annus, the crusty Vermont senator came across as a bit of both. This only increases the problem he poses for the party and, particularly for younger Democrats. It’s also true that, when it comes to his electoral survival, Sanders converts rather conveniently to realpolitik. ...

  • State statues against gays are just homophobia masquerading as religious liberty

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    Late in one of the most remarkable of American lives, Thomas Jefferson wrote this to one of his many correspondents: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, ...

  • Beneath our angry politics exists a corrosive insecurity

    Even in this Alice In Wonderland electoral cycle, most analysts agree that the insurgent candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are fueled by deep fissures of heretofore underestimated anger among voters in both parties. There’s less agreement on the sources of that rage. Some, but not all, Trumpites are expressing racial animosity; others a mixture of that old bigotry with a new version of anti-immigrant Nativism. Still others, are gripped with a generalized antagonism toward so-called elites—political, financial, academic and journalistic. Correlations of census data with Trump’s support show that the person most likely to vote for him is an unemployed ...

  • Trump: A Different and Ugly Breed of American Political Demagogue

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    Rub Donald Trump’s rough week against President Barack Obama’s flintily pious remarks to a journalism awards dinner and you produce a couple of sparks that seem to illuminate this campaign in interesting ways. Trump has had a very rough week: He insulted his rival’s wife’s appearance in a vulgar tweet; his campaign manager was arrested for assaulting a young woman reporter; Trump made a stammering revelation that he doesn’t really understand the anti-abortion position he’s adopted out of partisan expediency; his unhinged series of foreign policy and defense pronouncements sent shudders through diplomats here and abroad. By week’s end, a range ...

  • Why so little outrage over ISIS genocide against Christians?

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    Easter Sunday’s terrorist attack on a Pakistani park that killed 72—25 of them children—and injured more than 300 was simply the latest incident in what ought to be recognized as an ongoing global pogrom against Christians. The park in Lahore, which is designed with play equipment for children, is a longtime favorite of the city’s Catholic and Protestant minority, who congregate there with picnic hampers following Easter services. According to the ISIS-affiliated faction of the Pakistani Taliban, which said it sent the suicide bomber wearing a ball-bearing filled explosive vest into the park, it was targeted because the terrorists wanted to ...

  • When it comes to the lesson of terrorism and fear, L.A. Times gets the example of Little Tokyo wrong

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    In the moments that follow events like those in Brussels, or San Bernardino we look to our news media in the hopes of finding clarity and context—sobriety and a hard-headed humanity when the ugliest passions seethe through our politics. Sometimes we get what we need, but far too often what we find is soft-headed, ill-informed, harmful and just plain wrong. Take, for example a piece that appeared on the Los Angeles’ Times front page the day after the Brussels terror atrocities.  Matt Pearce, one of the paper’s national reporters and Sheldon Chad, a Canadian screenwriter and journalist reporting as a stringer ...

  • Register, Press Enterprise Sale: Out of the Tribune pot and into the Digital First fire

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    Another dismal chapter in the tragic farce of Southern California newspaper journalism appears nearly over, as U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Mark Wallace Monday ruled that Freedom Communications—belly up for the second time in seven years—can sell the Orange County Register and Riverside Press Enterprise to Digital First Media. Tribune Publishing, which owns the Los Angeles Times and San Diego’s UT, was the high bidder in the auction for the two papers, but it ignored the Department of Justice’s warnings that its acquisition of the Freedom titles would create an illegal monopoly in violation of federal anti-trust laws. Last week, Federal District ...

  • Swimming with sharks: Breitbart in the tank for Trump

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    Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I first met Donald Trump’s voters while the bully boy developer still was content to feed his grotesque ego on doses of reality television. Since then, of course, he has decided that failing as a casino operator is precisely the preparation you need to occupy the position we used to call leader of the free world. What we’ll call it if Trump actually gets the job is anybody’s guess—but, right now, Il Duce seems like a good bet. I began to discern the outlines of what’s come to be Trump’s base while writing a ...

  • Trump playing with an element more dangerous than fire

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    Watching the escalating ugliness and violence surrounding Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, I’m sure I’m not the only one recalling George Wallace and the chaotic 1972 national election. That year, it was the Democrats who were fractured and in disarray after the party favorite—Ted Kennedy—declined to enter the race against the incumbent Richard Nixon, then at the height of his popularity. Wallace, an arch-segregationist while serving as governor of Alabama, charged into the field, melding a rancorous populism with a strident anti-busing message in a package that resonated with the disenchanted white working-class voters, who later became known as “Reagan Democrats.” Sound familiar? By ...