Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Donald Trump

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why It’s Wrong to Vilify Trump and the Folks Who Work for Him

The right believes that people are personally responsible for where they end up in life. If you end up in a bad job or with no job at all, it’s because you did something wrong. If you have immoral beliefs, it’s because you choose to have them. It’s never because of the system or the structure–to the right, that’s just making excuses. The thing that’s cool about the left is that the left understands that we don’t have the freedom to choose to be successful people. There are only so many good jobs. Some people are bound to end up without one. We pick up our beliefs from our education system, from the people around us and from the conditions we find ourselves in. People don’t just choose to have crummy beliefs or to end up poor or homeless. We collectively create people in an imperfect way, and those imperfections produce beliefs and behaviours that are symptoms of our failures. This is why we show compassion to people whose lives have turned out poorly–because we as a society are collectively responsible for their condition and owe them our help. The right doesn’t think it owes marginalised people compassion because the right thinks the marginalised are to blame for their condition. This is a core difference between the left and the right. For the left, it takes a village to raise a child, and every person reflects on the character of the society from which they come. But over the last few decades, the left has increasingly gotten away from this. Today, many on the left only afford this compassion and understanding selectively, to people in designated marginalised groups. They forget that the systems and structures which produce marginalisation also afflict those who do the marginalising. And so increasingly they tell us that the specific individuals who work for the Trump administration–whether in ICE or in any other role–deserve retribution. In recent days, this has ranged from asking Trump employees to leave restaurants to doxxing ICE agents. But we also see it within the left, in its ever-increasing penchant for hurling accusations of individual moral failing at those within the church who sin–and to many left-wing eyes, we are all sinners.

Read the rest of this entry »