The White Working Class, Authoritarianism, and the Future of the Democratic Party

Another interesting discussion. Jumps off from Bob's post on Thomas Frank's theory that a populist backlash against liberalism is going on. Should progressive Dems try to win back our authoritarian-leaning siblings in the interests of greater numerosity or should we say goodbye to them in the interests of greater ideological coherence? - promoted by hesterprynne

There’s been an interesting conversation going on here on BMG concerning Democrats and the working class (especially members of the white working class). A big part of the conversation is the claim, like that of Thomas Frank’s, that Democrats’ embrace of neoliberal policies has pushed away white working class voters and led at least some of them to the Republican Party. In a similar vein, a number of BMG’ers (including the always perceptive jconway) have argued that Democrats can — and must — win back these voters by doing more to seriously address their economic anxieties.

I agree that Democrats should pursue policies of social justice and take seriously the concerns of those who feel especially economically insecure. However, there is good reason to believe that much of the white working class that have abandoned the Democrats in recent years won’t be coming back anytime soon — and that we shouldn’t want them back. Backing up both of these claims is the real reason why so much of the white working class has abandoned Democrats. It’s not because of Democrats’ embrace of neoliberal policies (which Republicans have done to a greater extent), or because the Democrats have jettisoned their commitment to issues like the minimum wage, protection of Social Security, or trying to reign in health care costs (all of which are central parts of the Democratic platform). Instead, the real reason can be summarized in one word — authoritarianism.

Political scientists have done considerable work on Americans’ authoritarian tendencies in recent years. Amanda Traub of Vox summarized some of this recent work in a terrific piece last week: The Rise of American Authoritarianism. I’d encourage you to read the whole thing, if you haven’t already. But the main point is that there has long been an authoritarian streak in American politics. What do these American authoritarians want? Well, among other things, “authoritarians prioritize social order and hierarchies, which bring a sense of control to a chaotic world.” When there are challenges to that social order, authoritarians “favor forceful, decisive action against things they perceive as threats” and flock to leaders who promise decisive action. The article’s point is that Donald Trump has very much tapped into this authoritarian strain in this election.

But there’s a broader context too. In the past, American authoritarians (many in the Populist and Democratic Parties) may have been convinced that the threat was coming from bankers, capitalists, industrialists, Northerners, and so forth. This was likely the group leftist populist (and demagogue) Huey Long tapped into back in the 1930s, when he attacked FDR from the Left. But that’s not what motivates many American authoritarians today. Instead, as the Vox article illustrates, it is exaggerated fears of terrorism, of increasing racial diversity, and of social change more generally. It is these attributes that have driven many American authoritarians to Trump — who promises to “bomb the hell out of ISIS,” attack “P.C. culture,” and build a giant wall on the Mexican border to keep out Mexican rapists (which he and many supporters see as one and the same).

Thomas Frank says its the economy, not hate, that drives Trumpeteers

And he lays the blame at the feet of the Democratic Party, which he says has abandoned working people. “Millions of ordinary Americans support Donald Trump. Here’s why,” in the Guardian:

Left parties the world over were founded to advance the fortunes of working people. But our left party in America – one of our two monopoly parties – chose long ago to turn its back on these people’s concerns, making itself instead into the tribune of the enlightened professional class, a “creative class” that makes innovative things like derivative securities and smartphone apps. The working people that the party used to care about, Democrats figured, had nowhere else to go, in the famous Clinton-era expression. The party just didn’t need to listen to them any longer.

What Lewandowski and Nussbaum are saying, then, should be obvious to anyone who’s dipped a toe outside the prosperous enclaves on the two coasts. Ill-considered trade deals and generous bank bailouts and guaranteed profits for insurance companies but no recovery for average people, ever – these policies have taken their toll. As Trump says, “we have rebuilt China and yet our country is falling apart. Our infrastructure is falling apart. . . . Our airports are, like, Third World.”

Trump’s words articulate the populist backlash against liberalism that has been building slowly for decades and may very well occupy the White House itself, whereupon the entire world will be required to take seriously its demented ideas.

There’s some truth there, but it’s not the whole story, I’d say, as revealed in part by the discussion below about Clinton versus Sanders. What do you think?

It can't be true, can it be? I can't imagine, I will not see!

Many Clinton supporters acknowledge this distinction between the candidates. As I, for one, wrote in my endorsement of her (which, along with those of David and Charley no doubt made the razor-thin difference in MA -- heh, I jest!) "I prefer Sanders’ more Elizabeth Warren-esque combativeness toward Wall Street." But she has many constructive ideas about financial regulation, and Wall Street is not the only issue in the election. - promoted by Bob_Neer

It is undeniable that Secretary Clinton is accepting large donations from huge financial interests and millions of dollars from the health care corporations.  While it is also quite clear that Senator Sanders is not attracting capital from the aforementioned sources but instead, relying on donations from the laborers of the nation.   Yet somehow, supporters of the Secretary deny that this clear distinction means that their candidate will promote policy any different from the other. To hear them talk, real health care reform, health care as a human right and real financial reform that addresses the growing wealth disparity in the USA are at the forefront of both campaigns. The money does not matter!  It plays no role.  It simply cannot be!  Supporters of the Senator so not share this vision.  They are looking at the money along with the power and corruption that money brings.

The supporters of the Secretary reminds one of the moments after learning about sex and then the realization that ones parents had sex and are having sex.  One does not want to think about it, much less envision it and it’s best to just place it out of ones rational mind and into the cognitive dissonance file.    However, ones own existence is proof that it’s true.

Let them take Uber

On the one hand, it’s been good to have Governor Baker have to respond to constant questions about the MBTA. I like having it in the front of a Governor’s mind.

On the other hand, I shouldn’t be surprised that his administration is following a green-eyeshade bean-counter’s mentality of what the MBTA is supposed to do: Cut service — and make it more difficult to use. Raise fares. No more state revenue, in spite of the T’s obvious utility to both riders and non-riders. Do less, be less, to fewer people. This is “responsible management.”

Glad the Feds noticed, anyway:

Federal officials said the MBTA failed to follow civil rights guidelines that required the agency to fully examine whether the cancellation of late-night T service approved this week would disproportionately hurt minorities and low-income riders.

The MBTA said it began to conduct an analysis and its initial report suggested minorities and low-income riders would suffer from the cuts, but T officials never completed it because they decided that ending the service wasn’t a “major service change’’ that required a review.

The rebuke from the Federal Transit Administration comes as the MBTA’s board prepares to vote Monday to raise fares, a step many have decried as unfair to lower-income riders who are most dependent on the T. The T’s decision to forgo the civil rights analysis of the cutback was blasted by advocates who had argued that late-night service was an important service for riders who needed affordable transportation from night jobs.

via MBTA failed to consider impact of cutting late service on minorities and low-income residents, says federal agency – The Boston Globe.

The idea that this would disproportionately fall on the least wealthy and powerful either didn’t occur to the board; or it did, and they didn’t care because not enough people showed up at community meetings to complain. Maybe that’s because they were at work. Maybe it’s because these are the folks that have, like, three jobs.

And now we have a 10% fare increase — the first since 2014, so if you index that to inflation it’s not as bad as it sounds. But we don’t index the gas tax — per John and Jane Q. Public.

And the increase takes a huge chunk out of those folks from Lowell, Attleboro, and the like who take the commuter rail: Zone 10 riders are going to pay an extra $435 a year. The T provides a critical lifeline to jobs, and also provides those communities with a way to appeal to people with jobs in Boston who don’t want to live closer in, or can’t afford to.

This is gonna hurt:

Sorry to say it, but so far Governor Baker’s leadership on the T has been small-minded, blinkered. You’ve got to do more than make the numbers add up. You’ve got to serve the public better. That’s what it’s there for.  And if you don’t serve the public better, long-term, the numbers will never add up.

The shrinking of the MBTA is no favor, of course, to our gold-plated flagship industries. But particularly with inequality literally segregating the Commonwealth more and more, the T needs to be protected as a common asset — for everyone to use.

Tell Hollywood, Wahlberg and BPD That We Don't Want Their Marathon Bombing Movie

Is Mark Wahlberg trying to rewrite history? Why? - promoted by david

Okay, I tried this before with Howie Carr and it almost worked when people really thought I was Ernie Boch’s grandson. But the point was made.

Now it’s time to make another point. Nobody should be making a movie called Patriots Day which glorifies the way the police handled the situation after the first responders got everyone to the hospital.

But Mark Wahlberg is. Based on Ed Davis. Really Ed? Really?

No bows should be taken by anyone yet Wahlberg plans on spinning a fiction making local cops look like heroes.

If this movie is made the blow back will be swift. Everyone knows how much the police screwed up. No need for me to repeat what I’ve stated on here many times.

Harvard wrote a report detailing the ineptness and wondered how on earth the T cop was the only injury from the thousands of rounds of friendly fire during the two episodes.

I hate to break the news to you folks but every person in America west of exit 11 on the Mass Pike hates Boston; with a passion.

We have become the Donald Trump of American cities. Boasting, boasting, boasting. Nobody does it better than us. Boston Strong. Yankees Suck! Go Bruins, Southie, Kelly’s Roast Beef, three deckers, and even the faux Irish. I’m tired of it.

You know what? Nobody is more Boston than me and I really hate it now. Capiche?

Bernie: Just what the Democrats need

As a supporter of Secretary Clinton, I think it is hard to overestimate the value that Senator Sanders is providing to the Democrats in their bid to hold the White House: he is keeping the primary interesting, he is articulating a powerful challenge to the likely nominee centered on what is likely to be a core issue in the general election: economics, and he is doing it all in a civil but pointed manner.

Voters who might have tuned out, or even headed in desperation to the dark side, have remained engaged with the only passingly pragmatic political party in the nation. Bravo.

The likelihood that Clinton will be the nominee continues to increase day by day — ((calendar/(math + votes)) — but Sanders has done an excellent job, has gotten stronger as the campaign has continued, and was forceful in their latest debate. NYT:

Mr. Sanders, who has fallen far behind Mrs. Clinton in their all-important race to accumulate delegates to clinch the party’s nomination, has rarely been so aggressive. He portrayed Mrs. Clinton as an unapologetic champion of free trade for much of her career, in hopes of hurting her with Rust Belt Democrats. He tied her aggressively to the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mr. Clinton’s signature trade policy, and to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, President Obama’s 12-nation trade pact, which she supported as secretary of state but then denounced as a presidential candidate.

Mr. Sanders also attacked Mrs. Clinton’s support of the federal Export-Import Bank, the credit agency that antigovernment populists on both sides have called an instrument of “corporate welfare,” and he feigned amazement when she expressed criticism of some trade deals.

“Secretary Clinton has discovered religion on this issue, but it’s a little bit too late,” Mr. Sanders said. “I was on a picket line in the early 1990s against Nafta, because you didn’t need a Ph.D. in economics to understand that American workers should not be forced to compete against people in Mexico making 25 cents an hour.”

For the most part, Mrs. Clinton deftly parried her rival’s arguments, deriding many of them and agreeing with a few, and at times interrupting Mr. Sanders in hopes of provoking a testy explosion.

As an aside, it is vaguely amusing to see the NYT’s relentless partisanship for Clinton: the passage above starts with a reminder that she is ahead, and finishes the same way. All in a day’s work for the paper of record.

Joke Revue: Smiling Nation Takes Moment To Enjoy Thought Of What RNC Headquarters Like Right Now

Onion:

Smiling Nation Takes Moment To Enjoy Thought Of What RNC Headquarters Like Right Now

WASHINGTON—Smiling as they imagined dozens of flustered, shouting GOP operatives frantically strategizing ways to get a hold on their political party, citizens nationwide took a brief moment Wednesday to stop and really savor the thought of what the Republican National Committee headquarters must look like right now, sources confirmed. “Oh, man, just think of all the panicked meetings that are happening as we speak, and all the party officials who are probably clutching at their aching heads as they field irate phone calls from major donors—it’s so great,” said Tucson, AZ resident Melanie Berkley, just one of hundreds of millions of beaming citizens who reported feeling an intense sense of delight when picturing a conference room full of sleep-deprived campaign consultants yelling over one another about which candidate needs to drop out and when in order for the 162-year-old political party to remain intact. “You know there’s got to be at least one angry executive chewing everyone out about Marco Rubio losing Virginia right now, and probably a whole table of officials shooting each other terrified looks after someone angrily asks ‘Well, what do we do now?’ God, it’s such a wonderful thought. It really is a nice pick-me-up.” Berkley later reported that her reverie had been completely ruined by the thought of how smug everyone at the DNC headquarters must be right now.

Ben Carson Slowly Floats Away From Earth

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD—Steadily sailing higher and higher above the bewildered audience gathered outside at the Gaylord National Resort, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson slowly floated away from earth Friday, onlookers confirmed. Carson, who began levitating above the stage without any warning midway through his speech, reportedly appeared unfazed by the circumstances as he continued to quietly and calmly describe his views on taxation while gradually ascending into the air. Witnesses confirmed that attempts by frantic campaign aides to grab and retrieve the drifting candidate were abandoned after a gust of wind quickly swept Carson further upwards, his body rising past the treeline as he gently clasped his hands together while quoting Thomas Jefferson. The candidate’s soft voice reportedly continued to fade toward silence as his diminishing form climbed ever higher into the sky, eventually reducing in size to merely a dot on the horizon before disappearing into the cloud cover as stunned attendees looked on. At press time, crew members of the International Space Station had reported spotting the candidate smiling as he glided by the facility’s observatory module.

Borowitz:

Christie’s Endorsement of Trump Threatens to Overshadow Equally Prestigious Praise from David Duke

FORT WORTH, TX (The Borowitz Report)—Aides to the G.O.P. front-runner, Donald Trump, expressed concern on Friday that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s endorsement of their candidate might overshadow equally impressive words of praise that Trump received yesterday from the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

The scheduling of Christie’s endorsement just one day after the K.K.K. luminary’s boost was “obviously far from ideal,” the Trump aide Harland Dorrinson said.

“In a perfect world, you’d like some daylight between Christie’s endorsement and Duke’s statement of support, so they’d each have maximum impact,” he said. “As major as the Christie news is, we wouldn’t want the Duke thing to get lost in the shuffle.”

The aide said that the events of the past twenty-four hours have been “dizzying.” “When the Christie thing happened, we were still celebrating the David Duke thing,” he said. “It’s been crazy.”

Dorrinson said that the Trump campaign expects an avalanche of endorsements from G.O.P. leaders, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis in the days and weeks ahead….

Daniel Kurtzman:

“Today, Dr. Ben Carson dropped out of the presidential race after a dismal and ineffective campaign. He said, ‘The good news is, I’m ready to operate on your baby’s brain again!’” –Conan O’Brien

“Last night, Marco Rubio won his first state with a victory in the Minnesota primary. It was such a big night, Rubio’s parents let him stay up and watch the returns come in.” –Conan O’Brien

“The biggest story yesterday wasn’t about Trump or Clinton victories. It was Chris Christie’s face during Donald Trump’s victory speech. He looks like he had amnesia for a week and just remembered who Donald Trump was.” –James Corden

“Chris Christie flew all the way to Florida to stand behind Donald Trump supporting him. Throughout the speech, he looks genuinely miserable. He looks like he saw the bottom of a supposedly bottomless pasta bowl at Olive Garden. He looks as though someone just told him butterscotch causes cancer.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“The Supreme Court had a power outage during one of its cases yesterday, and justices reportedly continued to ask questions in the dark. Questions like, ‘Whose hand is that?’ and ‘Well then whose hand is THAT?’” –Seth Meyers

“Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke during oral arguments yesterday for the first time in over 10 years. I guess his exact words were, ‘Damn, that was some good weed.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“This Super Tuesday could be the day that Trump running for president becomes officially not funny anymore.” –James Corden

“Politico isn’t claiming that Hillary Clinton named her cat after ISIS. We have to leave open the possibility that ISIS named themselves after Hillary’s cat.” –Stephen Colbert

“Last night, John Kasich said his favorite president was George Washington because he could have been president forever but stepped down after two terms. While Trump said his favorite president was George Washington ’cause he also wore a fantastic wig.” –Jimmy Fallon

“In a new interview, Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, said that she speaks English, Italian, French, and German. Which is good ’cause if she ever becomes first lady she’ll need to apologize for her husband in at least those four languages.” –Jimmy Fallon

The Price of Forgiveness: Troubling Bipartisan Support for Corporate Give Away

Indeed. A sorry commentary. - promoted by david

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

–Gandhi

Opining on the state of the Republican Party and its presidential primary frontrunner, the inimitable Charlie Pierce writes

He. Trump is the most ghastly creature ever to rise from the swamps of democracy, a lying, thieving con-man who’d steal soup if he had rubber pockets, but of course they’ll all support him in November because socialism! Dear god, it’s going to be a hoot.

Trump may indeed be the guy who would steal soup, or maybe rubber pocket liners embossed with his name, but who needs Trump when we have a corporate America that would charge us for the stolen soup? William Greider writes:

The multinationals are waiting for Congress to forgive them their debts.

That is, the US companies insist they won’t bring the money home and pay the taxes they owe until Washington pols steeply reduce the rate to bargain-basement levels. That’s tax “forgiveness” on a grand scale. What the companies also demand is a permanently lowered tax rate on their future earnings. Some leading Republicans advocate eliminating taxation of foreign corporate income entirely.

Imagine if average citizens were given this kind of discretion for their personal income tax. You could tell the IRS you regard your tax liability as unfair, so you’re not going to pay it until Congress enacts a lower rate. Don’t try this dodge in real life. They will come after you.

Many politicians are attracted to cutting a deal with the corporations because they’re in a bind of their own. Given the intense budget battles, the House and Senate often can’t even agree on how to pay for essential government projects and services. The tax-forgiveness scheme could bring home hundreds of billions in supposedly “new” revenue for those vital projects.

And just who are those multinationals?

The top 10 multinationals that would reap the largest boodle from this deal are Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, Citigroup, Amgen, Qualcomm, JPMorgan Chase, Gilead Sciences, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, these 10 collectively owe $162 billion in unpaid taxes on the $540 billion in profits they’ve parked offshore.

Elizabeth Warren is already on the job. * But Our presidential candidates should be are also on the same page. This issue is made for Bernie Sanders has filed legislation on shifting tax burdens of shore (See The Best Defense’s comment below), but and Hillary Clinton can afford to join them. has spoken publicly about inversion and profit stripping. Barbara Boxer evidently isn’t on the same page, but neither, it seems, is the press.

Not only does this issue matter across the board, it’s what this election is about. Corporations legally cheat us on tax revenue earned overseas, agree to repatriate the money if we cut them taxes for the long-term. Bernie has yet to mention this on the campaign trail. It is important that both he and Hillary do so. This is not the direction we want our country headed.

* Edited to reflect the positions of our presidential candidates.

President Obama's best chance to replace Justice Scalia

Bumped, for the Court. Vice President Biden has an op-ed on this subject in today's NYT. - promoted by david

Much of the discussion on how President Obama could get the Senate to vote on a Supreme Court nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia centers on shaming.  Tell the Senate to do its constitutional duty!  Send them a nominee they already voted for – surely they’d be embarrassed to vote the other way this time!  Or nominate a Senator – they’d never filibuster one of their own!

But shame is unlikely to work in this situation – or, at least, it’s unlikely to be enough.  The stakes for this nomination are too high, and long-time Washington insiders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are too accustomed to being called unprincipled, for shaming to persuade McConnell that he should fold his cards and permit a vote on an Obama nominee to go ahead.  Any “traditional” nominee, like a highly-qualified federal appeals court judge, or a law professor, or even a moderate Republican Governor, seems very likely to go nowhere under the present unusual circumstances.

Rather than shaming, the White House should treat this like any other negotiation: offer the other side something they want in exchange for what you want, and try to come to an agreement.  So.  What does Mitch McConnell want?

That question is easy to answer: McConnell wants to keep his job. And, to keep his job, Republicans have to keep control of the Senate.  It follows that Obama should nominate someone whose joining the Court would make continued Republican control of the Senate more likely.  In exchange, McConnell would allow the nomination to come to a vote.

What sort of nominee would that be?  One possible answer is a sitting Democratic Senator from a state where, should that Senator resign, the state’s Republican Governor has the power to name an interim Senator to serve until the next election.  In that scenario, upon the nominee’s resignation from the Senate to join the Supreme Court, McConnell would gain one more Republican vote immediately (assuming that the Republican Governor names a Republican as interim Senator), and there would be a chance that the Senate seat would stay in Republican hands post-election.

In other words, putting such a person on the Supreme Court would allow Obama to replace Scalia with a Democrat, and would also help McConnell keep his job.  At least three sitting Senators with solid legal qualifications meet this description: Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (both already mentioned elsewhere as possible candidates), and Tom Udall of New Mexico.  Of those three, Booker, who is 20 years younger than the other two, African-American, and recently refused to rule it out, strikes me as the most likely candidate.

Many on the left will hate the idea of giving up a safe Senate seat in a year when Democrats have a decent chance of taking control of the Senate.  But we have had over 40 years of a Supreme Court with five conservative Justices and four liberals, and the cost to voting rights and campaign finance regulation (to name only two of many possible examples) has been great.  The risk to Democrats of making a “safe” nomination is that the nominee goes nowhere, and then a Republican wins the presidency, in which case the opportunity to shift the ideological balance on the Supreme Court could be lost for decades.  Niccolò Machiavelli said that “all courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively.”  In this case, the “Machiavellian” course of action may be the right one.

If Trump spoke at Gettysburg

A new genre -- Trump channels the presidents! Jessefell's got Lincoln. I think Trump would offer up something like this for JFK: "Let the word go forth from this time and place that the torch has been passed to a new caste of Americans—born in the last century, tempered by nothing whatsoever, cossetted by undeserved riches, proud of our uncouth heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of the culture of narcissistic celebrity to which we are committed." Who else can we add? - promoted by hesterprynne

OK, it was 87 years ago … you know, 87 years ago, 87 years, that’s a long time ago …a very long time … our forefathers made this government setup and it was the best that’s ever been  … nobody’s ever beat it … not even close … listen to me: not even close …you understand that? … not even close … but Jeff Davis didn’t understand that … you know why?  … because Jeff Davis is a loser .. he is a loser and he is this very low energy guy … you call that leadership?  … that’s not what I call leadership … leadership is not low energy … I am leadership … so there was this fight here, a very bad fight … lots of guys died … I walked around the battlefield … very bad, very bad … lots of guys died you can go see for yourself … and now they are all here … and they did this thing that was huge … really huge … we thank them for saving our government setup … which is the best ever, like I said … and what makes it the best ever? … I mean ever? … because what it sets up is government of the Donald, by the Donald, and for the Donald.  Thank you.  I love all of you.  I mean it!

Trump had a lousy debate last night. He still won.

Trump really wasn’t that great in last night’s debate, though he did have some good moments.  He and Rubio spent a lot of time shouting over each other, and Trump’s name-calling routine is indeed wearing thin.  Trump’s failure to grasp the basics of policy was once again laid bare.  Trump also pretty much announced that he would require the military to commit war crimes … maybe that won’t have an impact on his primary voters, but it should give potential general election voters pause [UPDATE: Today, Trump modified or reversed this position.].  Oh, and of course, Trump bragged about the size of his penis.  Rubio looked ridiculous too (he’s really bad in the attack dog role), but Ted Cruz actually had a pretty good debate, as did John Kasich.

And none of that mattered.  Because at the end of the debate, each candidate (other than Trump) was asked whether he would support Donald Trump for president, should Trump gain the party’s nomination.  Each one of them answered, unequivocally, yes he would.

This, after Rubio had called Trump a con man, and had accused him of knowing nothing about foreign policy.  This, after Cruz had repeatedly accused Trump of being a secret liberal who has supported Democrats for years.  And this, after Mitt Romney put whatever is left of his credibility on the line by declaring Trump unfit to be president, and urging Republicans to adopt an “anyone but Trump” strategy designed to lead to a brokered convention.

The candidates’ embrace of Trump at the end of the debate cut the heart out of the #NeverTrump movement, which had seemed to be gathering steam among Republicans.  It also gave the lie to pretty much everything Rubio, Cruz, and Kasich (who didn’t actually attack much) had said about Trump the entire rest of the evening.  Because if they’d still back him for president, they can’t really have meant any of it.  As one wag on Twitter put it, “To review: Trump spent 2 hours calling his opponents small-dicked liars. At the end, every one of them knelt and kissed the ring.”

Overall, the debate was the most embarrassing display yet in a series of embarrassing affairs that have the Republican establishment in an ever-increasing state of panic.  But, to me anyway, the shocking display at the end in which the non-Trump candidates all agreed they’d support his nomination for president was pretty much game over for all of them.  If they can’t agree that Trump isn’t suitable to be president … well, why should Republican voters do so?

Mitt Romney flip-flops on Donald Trump

Poor Mitt Romney.  Even when he’s not running for office, he just can’t help himself.

Four years ago, Romney had this to say about Donald Trump, who had just endorsed him for president:

There are some things that you just can’t imagine happening in your life. This is one of them.  Being in Donald Trump’s magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight.  I’m so honored and pleased to have his endorsement…. Donald Trump has shown an extraordinary ability to understand how our economy works, and to create jobs for the American people.  He’s done it here in Nevada,  he’s done it across the country.  He understands that our economy is facing threats from abroad.  He’s one of the few people who stood up and said, you know what, China has been cheating.  They’ve taken jobs from Americans, they haven’t played fair.  We have to have a president who will stand up to cheaters.  We believe in free trade and free enterprise, but we don’t believe in allowing people to cheat day in and day out…. I’ve spent my life in the private sector.  Not quite as successful as this guy [gesturing to Trump], but successful nonetheless…. So I want to say thank you to Donald Trump for his endorsement.  It means a great deal to me to have the endorsement of Mr. Trump and people across this country who care about the future of America…. I will dramatically change the way this government is working. And I will also stand up for our friends abroad and make sure that America remains the shining city on a hill.

Today, apparently, he’ll be singing a different tune.

“Here’s what I know: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,” Romney plans to say, according to excerpts from his prepared remarks. “His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.”

The speech, delivered at the University of Utah several hours before Republicans gather in Michigan for another debate, marks a new and more aggressive phase for Romney as the Republican establishment desperately tries to halt Trump’s momentum.

“His domestic policies would lead to recession,” Romney plans to say. “His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president. And his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.”

Of course, Trump has not changed in the last four years.  He’s the same guy he’s always been.  The change has come in Mitt Romney, who four years ago saw Trump’s endorsement as part of his quest to “make sure that America remains the shining city on a hill”; now, apparently, Trump’s rise “would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.”  A remarkable turnabout.  I wonder if he even realizes he’s using the same metaphor.

Here’s Romney accepting Trump’s endorsement four years ago.