Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Donald Trump

McCain, Cuomo, and Trump all Misunderstand American Greatness

At the late Senator John McCain’s funeral, daughter Meghan McCain went after President Trump, claiming that “America was always great”. She has largely drawn plaudits for this, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo draws derision for his line–that America “was never that great”. But both of these responses to the “Make America Great Again” slogan are badly flawed because both make indefensible reductions about American greatness. By claiming that American greatness is always present or always absent, both McCain and Cuomo draw no distinction between the America that helped defeat Hitler and created Social Security and Medicare from the America which tolerated slavery and continues to tolerate homelessness, poverty, and exploitation even amid unprecedented national affluence. Both responses are self-evidently ridiculous. The “MAGA” slogan misleads, but its political strength comes from how difficult this is to quickly and decisively demonstrate.

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How to Argue With an Old Conservative

Over at the The Wall Street Journal, Crispin Sartwell recently offered an argument against Sanders-style democratic socialism. Titled “How to Argue With a Young Socialist,” Sartwell clearly believes his argument to be a good one. The editors of the WSJ op-ed page certainly seem to have thought it’s worth printing. So I was shocked by just how poorly constructed it is.

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Why Every President Tries to Make Nice With Russia and Why It Never Works

One of the things I find odd about the way the press is covering the Trump/Putin relationship is how devoid of context and historical memory it is. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, four new presidents have come to power, and each has tried to create a good relationship with Russia. Bill Clinton was briefly successful, but the way Clinton used his success poisoned the well and made it very difficult for his successors to replicate his performance. Today I’ll tell you the story of how America has tried to turn Russia into an ally and why this effort has yet to succeed.

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The Collapse of Artistic Criticism Under Trump

The Trump presidency has been bad for art and the way we evaluate it. Yes, there’s newfound popularity for far right art forms that speak to dark impulses. “Martial industrial” music–often set to images of Nazis marching–is spooky stuff, and in the last few years it’s quietly spread all over YouTube:

But mainstream art critics have mostly ignored the niches of material which are nakedly far right. They prefer to focus on more popular stuff. And here they have done us a number of disservices, aiding the right even as they attempt to resist it.

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The Decline of the 20th Century Political Campaign

Political campaigns started getting expensive in the 1960s, when television advertising became the next big thing in campaigning. Even before TV, reaching people was hard work. You needed to knock on doors, phone bank, and send out mailings. All of this required a lot of dedicated activists and dedicated dollars. And so politicians depended very heavily on the activists and donors who could provide these things. All of this is in the process of changing. Activists and dollars are becoming less important than they used to be. They still matter, but not as much. And as time goes on, they grow weaker.

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