Home / World News / Opinion | ‘The 46th’: Will Georgia’s Races Change the Senate?

Opinion | ‘The 46th’: Will Georgia’s Races Change the Senate?

michelle goldberg

I’m Michelle Goldberg.

ross douthat

I’m Ross Douthat. And this is “The Argument“. [MUSIC PLAYING]

Today, we continue our series, The 46th, looking at this strange transition period to the Biden presidency and the forces that might shape his first 100 days. And to that end, we’re taking a look at the runoff elections in Georgia, which will actually determine much of what Biden is able to accomplish. Then, as the electoral college seals Biden’s victory, Michelle and I will take one more look back on all the arguments about the meaning of Donald Trump and how he was ultimately defeated.

A contested presidential election and a historically speedy vaccine approval have overshadowed the upcoming runoff for two Senate seats in the state of Georgia, but it’s likely to be the main political excitement over the Christmas holidays and also an incredibly influential event for the next two years, since the outcome will determine what kind of Senate landscape Joe Biden faces and what from his official campaign agenda might actually be able to be passed. To dive a little deeper into those races, what’s going on in Georgia, and what it will mean for not just the state, but the country at large, we have our regular guest and fellow op-ed columnist Jamelle Bouie joining us. Jamelle, how are you?

jamelle bouie

I’m good. Thank you for having me.

ross douthat

It’s always a pleasure to have you. So let’s start with Georgia itself. Georgia is a state in transition, a state that went for Joe Biden by the narrowest of margins. So why don’t you talk a little bit about how Georgia has changed and how that sets up these two Senate races in two weeks?

jamelle bouie

Georgia has gone through, I think, many of the same changes that some of its neighbors have undergone over the last 10 or 15 years. Virginia and North Carolina, to sort of a lesser degree, but not entirely separately. All of these states have major metro areas. And in Georgia, it’s the Atlanta suburbs. It’s the Atlanta metro area, which is where the bulk of the population lives, which has been growing rapidly. And the population influx is both college educated whites, and then also African-Americans and Hispanics and Asian-Americans. This influx of people, the changing political composition of those people, has sort of begun to make these places more competitive. The other part of the story is, in Georgia specifically, there has been an effort over the last three or four years, famously spearheaded by Stacey Abrams, to break the Democratic Party and the state away from its strategy of kind of nominating inoffensive centrists, under the idea that, A, you can mobilize a new coalition using kind of exciting, nontraditional candidates, and B, the Democratic Party’s brand in these states is actually not great in that in a kind of ironic way, nominating generic candidates only reinforces the brand problems because they are generic candidates. And so, if you find distinctive people to run, you may be able to overcome some of the brand problem to win.

ross douthat

But so, I mean, what’s fascinating to me about this race is that because it’s a double run-off, you actually have versions of both Democratic strategies on the ballot, right?

jamelle bouie

You have kind of a natural experiment going on.

ross douthat

Right, you’ve got Raphael Warnock, who is an African-American pastor, who is, I think, the definition of an interesting candidate, who wouldn’t be nominated by a party that’s just trying to be as inoffensive as possible. And then, you have Jon Ossoff, where one of the websites, The Onion or one of them, had the joke that he was grown in some sort of Democratic National Committee laboratory to be the sort of inoffensive centrist for suburban voters, Panera Bread Democrats, whatever you want to call them. And they’re both running. Am I being unfair to Jon Ossoff, Michelle?

michelle goldberg

Honestly, I think it’s a little unfair to Jon Ossoff.

ross douthat

OK, probably. I’m sure he’s interesting at some level.

michelle goldberg

I think he’s genuinely charismatic. And if you look at the district where he came from, he came from a district full of Panera Bread Democrats. I talked to him and listened to him a lot when he was running in 2017, the sort of runoff that kicked off the resistance electoral strategy to Trump. I think he excited a lot of people. And he worked his heart out for that. And although he didn’t win, it laid the foundation for Lucy McBath, who was ultimately able to flip that seat, and not just flip it, but then, amazingly, turn it into a somewhat safe Democratic seat, even among the red wave that we saw in a lot of right-leaning house seats in 2020. So I don’t know. I think Jon Ossoff is pretty impressive.

ross douthat

To be fair, I’m calling him boring, but in fact, one of the arguments surrounding Biden’s very, very, very, very, very narrow victory in Georgia is that, in fact, it was a victory for boringness, right? He seemed to win as much through flipping more Republicans into Panera Bread Democrats than he did via the kind of massive new electorate scenario that Stacey Abrams had been working for. Or do you guys think that’s right?

jamelle bouie

I don’t think you have to put those things against each other, right? The ground on which a Biden victory happened, I don’t think happens without the past several years of party building by Stacey Abrams types on that kind of theory. Because even if Biden is a kind of boring, traditional Democrat, his coalition looks like that college-educated, white, affluent suburban, also African-American, also Hispanic and Asian-American coalition that Abrams et al. have been trying to kind of birth into existence as a majority coalition. So if you kind of look at, right, sort of the totals for Georgia Democrats over the past six years since 2014, over the past eight years since 2012, what you see is, kind of, Georgia Democrats stalling out at 45%. And then in ‘18, all of a sudden, you have to jump to Stacy Abrams nearly winning the governorship by a slim margin, and then Biden basically winning by the margin that Brian Kemp won the governorship in 2018.

ross douthat

Do you guys think that you could get serious ticket splitting in this race? On the one hand, are there African-American voters in particular, for instance, who would turn out for Warnock, but, for whatever reason, take a pass on voting for Ossoff? Alternatively, maybe more plausibly, are there suburban white moderates who vote for Ossoff, but also vote for Kelly Loeffler?

michelle goldberg

So it could just be people who know one candidate or the other, right? I would guess that there are people who know Warnock and don’t know Ossoff. He’s obviously a very well-known Black pastor, right? I’m sure that there is big parts of Black Georgia that knows a lot more about Raphael Warnock than about Jon Ossoff, just because Jon Ossoff became a minor national political celebrity because of the high profile race in Georgia 6.

jamelle bouie

Yeah, I can attest to that a little bit, just because half my family is in Southern Georgia, and I have spent quite a bit of time there. And, A, people just know — I mean, it’s MLK’s church. People know that church very well, even if not in Atlanta. Yeah, people know who Warnock is. He’s this celebrity Black pastor in Georgia. If you are a regular churchgoer, if you belong to an African-American Baptist nomination in the state, you’ve probably heard of him.

ross douthat

Two things, I want to talk about that. On the Black pastor point, I mean, I think the assumption that Republicans are making is similar to the assumptions that Democrats make when there is any kind of outspoken religious conservative in the race, which is that Americans like Christianity in a very generic way and get uncomfortable when people start sounding too much like an Old Testament prophet. And so, for instance, one of the sermons that was quoted, right, is him analogizing Republicans who didn’t vote for a budget that included stuff for kids, basically, children’s healthcare, that kind of thing, to King Herod, right? And if you know anything about the Black church, obviously, that’s a totally normal sermon to give. But in the same way, if you had a conservative megachurch pastor, who was going around, giving sermons comparing pro-choice Democrats to King Herod, which, obviously, there are pastors —

michelle goldberg

They do.

ross douthat

— who do that, right? And if you were running for office in a swing state, I would totally expect Democrats to focus on that. So I don’t think it’s surprising. I think the Republican bet is the same as the Democratic bet in any kind of statewide — against a Rick Santorum, anybody like that.

michelle goldberg

No, Ross, I think —

ross douthat

That Americans — and I say this unhappily, but Americans, there’s a lot of American swing voters who don’t like people who talk too much like an Old Testament prophet from either political party.

michelle goldberg

No, I think that that — I don’t think you can make that analogy. Because, to me, that analogy just ignores the role of race in this, right? I mean, the argument against Warnock or the implicit argument against Warnock is not that he’s a religious extremist, and it’s not that he takes positions. When Democrats run against, say, a Todd Akin, right — not that Todd Akin’s a preacher, but run against somebody who’s seen as an anti-abortion extremist or run against a Roy Moore, it’s that those positions are sort of very unpopular positions. Funding all of these children’s programs are very popular positions. So I don’t see the attack on Warnock as saying, this is a religious nut who’s out of the mainstream. It’s this is a Black radical.

ross douthat

Well, no, I agree that race is woven into it. But I think, then, the unpopular positions that Warnock has actually taken are more likely to be on basically foreign policy stuff, right, that, again, are not surprising for someone with any connection to liberation theology or anything in the Black church, but are, I think, relatively unpopular positions. But I agree there are differences. I just think there are also some similarities when people start quoting religious rhetoric. But let’s talk for a minute about the challenge to the vote in Georgia because it does create this really strange dynamic. I mean, Michelle, you raised the — it’s interesting to imagine this driving voter turnout higher among people who are sort of not Republicans who are offended by these arguments or horrified by them. It’s also there’s been a lot of talk on the right about does this depress turnout? Because people think, oh, the last election was stolen. This one will be stolen, too. And literally, some of the more absurd voter fraud characters, like this lawyer, Lin Wood, have been basically suggesting that Republicans shouldn’t vote because it’s all fixed.

michelle goldberg

Right.

ross douthat

Does any of that —

michelle goldberg

I kind of think it’s liberal wish casting to think that people will stay home. I think that to be a Republican in 2020 means being able to hold contradictory ideas in your head at the same time. Even though that was somebody’s definition of genius, I think it might also be my definition of cognitive dissonance. So I am not sure that that many people are going to say, I’m staying home because I don’t trust the voting machines or because I want to show my anger over these candidates not doing enough to install our dear leader for another four years.

jamelle bouie

I would say that I also think it’s sort of liberal wish casting to think this will make any difference even on the margins. So part of what Trump does to generate turnout, not even from people who don’t traditionally vote for Republicans, but just from people who don’t vote, right, sort of just nonvoters who are attracted to Trump, part of what he does is take his sort of existential resentment at everything and make it a thing that other people can attach to, right? Sort of like you can be resentful on Trump’s behalf as well. And railing against Georgia, yelling that it’s rigged, that it’s been stolen, it’s kind of a way of doing that, right, by sort of giving his voters an object for their resentment. And it’s voting to affirm Trump’s own resentment as much as anything else that that might happen here, right? People are going to turn out to vote for Loeffler and — what’s the other guy’s name? The other guy —

michelle goldberg

Perdue.

jamelle bouie

— I had literally — Perdue, thank you.

ross douthat

Yes, he’s a vivid character.

jamelle bouie

Anyway, I think that’s the hook, right? You’re not voting for Trump. But you are voting to kind of affirm Trump’s view of the world. And that might work.

ross douthat

So but now that Joe Biden is almost president, obviously, the real resistance will become the conservative and Republican resistance. So let’s just talk for a minute about the macro level implications of these races, which have the potential to give the Democrats a Vice President Harris-led majority in the Senate or to confirm Republican control of the Senate. How big a deal is that difference for the Biden era and for Republican resistance to his agenda?

michelle goldberg

I mean, I think that it’s existential, right? I think it’s the difference between being able to govern and not being able to govern. And either he kind of gets things done in the first two years, or Democrats get massacred in 2022. And I don’t see any incentive that a Mitch McConnell-led Senate has to let Biden do anything, no matter how desperate the situation in the country is. And then I think the other part is what this means for Trumpism, right? So there has been — and one of the things that has been so heartrending about the way the 2012 election turned out is that it wasn’t the sort of comprehensive repudiation of Trumpism that I think the country needed. If they lose these two Senate seats after, again, Trump kind of saying that Georgia’s governor should be in jail, after this barrage of death threats against Republican electoral officials in Georgia, and after these seditious attempts to throw out all of Georgia’s votes, I think that that is the kind of thing that could lead the Republican Party to start to think that their alliance with Donald Trump is not to their benefit.

ross douthat

Oh, I don’t know about that.

michelle goldberg

You don’t?

ross douthat

I mean, I don’t —

michelle goldberg

I mean, how do you think the right would interpret a loss in Georgia?

ross douthat

I mean, I think that the position that Republicans are in vis a vis Donald Trump, I don’t think is going to be dramatically affected by the outcome in Georgia. I think it will be dramatically affected by something that’s a little bit unknowable at the moment, which is just how much presence and influence Trump retains once he’s no longer in the Oval Office. And we won’t know that for a year or so. But I mean, let me argue the other way, which is that, in fact — well, one, I think we are likely to get a COVID relief bill through right now. So there will be some kind of COVID relief bill in the next month or two. When we have a vaccine, it seems pretty likely that 2021 and 2022 will be strong economic years. And in a scenario where Republicans hold the Senate 50 to 48, that group of senators you describe still has a lot of power. They have less procedural power because Mitch McConnell will be the majority leader.

jamelle bouie

I mean, that’s just sort of —

ross douthat

But they still will effectively maintain an ideological balance in the Senate. And presumably, it will still be possible if Mitt Romney and Murkowski and Collins really want to do something for it to potentially happen. It’s not —

jamelle bouie

It’s Mitch McConnell’s procedural control that’s the thing, right? Sort of, McConnell, essentially, you’re having total control over what really happens on the floor, is the obstacle to doing things. Take away McConnell, right? Let’s just say that we’re in a Senate for this very little floor control, and individual senators can put — things can go into committee, come out of committee, go to the floor, and just come up for a vote as natural, as designed, right? I think even if this were still a 52-48 Republican Senate, I think it would be a much more productive Senate, right? I think that McConnell, not just for liberals, but for conservatives who want to do things, McConnell ends up being the principal obstacle, precisely because his only apparent interest seems to be in winning elections and is largely indifferent to the job of legislating.

ross douthat

OK, but let’s talk about that interest for a minute, right? So again, in this scenario, it’s 2021, 2022. The Republican Party is defending several Senate seats in which the GOP will be vulnerable, including North Carolina, Pennsylvania, probably Wisconsin as well. Donald Trump will be running around, doing the Donald Trump show throughout, in ways that probably won’t redound the national GOP’s popularity. And Biden, who has good favorable numbers now, will be able to claim credit for this — again, this is all hypothetical, but this kind of economic surge, which will put him in a totally different position than Barack Obama was in, in 2009, 2010, dealing with this incredible hangover from the financial crisis. It seems to me that that is — again, it’s not a position where Democrats are going to get a ton of stuff through the Senate. It does seem like a position where McConnell will feel some pressure to let vulnerable members of the Senate make some deals in order to claim credit for things. And this also seems like a position that far from the existential crisis that Michelle is describing, where the Democrats will be in pretty good shape. In certain ways, I think you could argue they’ll have a better chance of picking up seats in 2022 if they don’t have control of the Senate in 2020. Because Biden can say, there was Republican obstructionism. He won’t have any pressure from his left flank to push through anything that sort of seems left wing and unpopular because everyone knows that won’t happen. But he’ll still be able to mobilize —

michelle goldberg

I don’t know. I think the lesson from the Obama years is that people blame the president for things that happened, things that are in his control and things that aren’t in his control, and that there is not a lot of penalty for naked obstructionism.

jamelle bouie

And I think the lesson from the Trump years is that I vastly overrate McConnell’s willingness to do this. I mean, the story of 2017, 2018 is that with a Senate majority in a House majority and Trump in the White House, the McConnell Senate was still sluggish. I mean, I always hesitate to attribute too much influence to an individual actor, but I do think Mitch McConnell is unique in that he’s not interested in legislating. And even if he’ll feel free to let members make deals and vote for things, I think it’s still distinct from just letting the Senate — letting things bubble up themselves and not having so much floor control. And I think it’s good for the House, too. I think Pelosi’s control of the floor in the House, it’s just as damaging the policymaking. Maybe not just as —

michelle goldberg

No, come on.

jamelle bouie

I just corrected myself, Michelle.

ross douthat

Don’t go too far there, Jamelle.

michelle goldberg

Well, no, I just want to say because —

jamelle bouie

But let me just finish the thought. I think Pelosi’s floor control in the House is a problem for policymaking in the same way that McConnell’s control in the Senate is a problem for policymaking. And loosening that control I think is an important project for those of us who actually want the government to do things.

michelle goldberg

Yeah, no, I think, look, I totally agree with you about Pelosi’s control and the sort of disempowerment of most of the members of the House. But I just think the fundamental difference is that Pelosi’s basic self conception is as a master legislator, right? That’s how she’s described herself. She wants to legislate. And so, she wants to legislate even when it helps Trump and possibly damages the Democrats. It’s just kind of what she sees herself as being there to do. And that creates —

ross douthat

Well, up to a point, except that there probably would have been a COVID relief bill before the election if Pelosi had been willing to accept the much smaller bill that now is actually looks like is going to be a version of what passes, right? I mean, she still had asks and goals and wasn’t just there to cut a deal.

michelle goldberg

She has asks and goals, though. She’s not just — right. Her answer isn’t just no. She still wants to pass something. That’s very different than McConnell, who just wants to say no.

ross douthat

Well, I think we can — there’s a longer segment to be done about some of these questions, but I need to pull us back and finish up by asking you guys to actually make predictions, which I know the result is going to be 50.2 to 49.7, so predictions are sort of irrelevant. But still, what do you guys think is going to happen in Georgia?

jamelle bouie

I think if Democrats pull out something, it’ll be a Warnock win and an Ossoff loss.

michelle goldberg

Which will be fascinating.

ross douthat

That’s fascinating.

jamelle bouie

Which in terms of candidate strength, it would be Perdue being kind of like the one with the most electoral experience winning his race, and then Warnock, who I think is the next strongest candidate on the board, winning his, and then the two weaker ones lose.

michelle goldberg

I can’t make predictions because my ability to feel hope has been murdered by this year. And so —

ross douthat

All right, I’ll make a prediction. I will go out on a limb. I think both the Democrats will win.

michelle goldberg

Oh my god, from your lips to God’s ear.

ross douthat

How about that? But I’ll probably be wrong. [MUSIC PLAYING] Michelle and I will be right back, but thank you so much, Jamelle, for dropping in. And we hope to talk to you again soon.

michelle goldberg

Yeah, thank you, Jamelle.

jamelle bouie

Thank you for having me.

ross douthat

And we’re back. Last week, the Supreme Court shot down the long shot challenge to the election outcome. And this week, the electoral college confirmed Joe Biden’s victory in the November 3rd presidential election. But just because Trump is going away, or going away from Washington, at least, doesn’t mean we’re going to stop arguing about what he represented — fascism, low comedy, something in between. And Michelle, you and I both wrote columns this week sort of looking back over some of those arguments about the meaning of Trumpism, the strategies his opponents used. So why don’t we start with you talking a little bit about your piece and the arguments on the left over how to think about what Trump represented?

michelle goldberg

Right, well, there’s been an argument on the left about kind of Trump and fascism that sort of played out in parallel to the argument between left and right. And I think that the most high profile left-wing figures, as I said in the piece, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Noam Chomsky, all see Trump as an authoritarian threat. There’s always been this strain of left-wing opinion that thinks all of his fascist gestures are performative, that he’s actually a very weak president, and that resent arguments about fascism, I think, because they see them as a cudgel that’s meant to force the left into a kind of popular front coalition with the center and the center right.

ross douthat

The evil center.

michelle goldberg

Well, and also that —

ross douthat

And the never Trumpers.

michelle goldberg

And the never Trumpers.

ross douthat

Yeah, the real worst of the worst.

michelle goldberg

Right, and as they see it, if George W. Bush was more of an authoritarian menace than Donald Trump, then it makes no sense to form a coalition with the people who supported and enabled George W. Bush to stand against fascism.

ross douthat

I’ve sort of participated in this argument as a weird right of center adjunct to it, right? Because a big swath of my fellow conservatives who didn’t vote for Trump agreed with at least some of the fascism discourse, right? Which is one reason why people on the left were so suspicious of it because it was bringing in Bill Kristol, these kind of figures from the Bush era, into the left-wing coalition. And instead of Bill Kristol worrying about Islamofascism in the Middle East, he is worried about it at home, and shouldn’t we be skeptical of that and so on? And I was closer to the left position in this, in the sense that I agreed with, for instance, the political theorist Corey Robin wrote a bunch of pieces talking about Trump’s weakness and analogizing him to Jimmy Carter as this sort of transitional figure between dispensations. And I thought that got a lot of things about the Trump era right. I think you can acknowledge Trump’s sort of performative authoritarianism and authoritarian tendencies and also recognize his very substantial political weakness relative to most US presidents, including most recent Republican presidents, and also the extent to which, when given opportunities, to sort of manifest a kind of right authoritarianism, he tended to sort of retreat or be pulled back into a very different strain of right-wing politics, this sort of hyper libertarian, folk libertarian view of the world that manifested itself most strongly in the response to the coronavirus, right? Which was like the Reichstag fire moment that Trump just totally ignored.

michelle goldberg

Part of the reason I feel like sometimes people are talking past each other in this debate is that there’s a difference between whether you have a fascist ideology and whether you are having any success in enacting it. To me, there is no question that Trump is sort of — ideology might be the wrong word for someone as kind of disordered as him, but that he’s temperamentally fascist, that his movement is fascist. If you look at classic definitions of fascism from Roger Griffin, from Robert O. Paxton — in my piece, I quote Roger Griffin from The Nature of Fascism. He calls it palingenetic ultra nationalism. I didn’t get into the definition of that, but the quote is —

ross douthat

That’s a great word.

michelle goldberg

Yes, what it basically means is, quote, “the national community rising phoenix-like after a period of encroaching decadence, which all but destroyed it,” which is really a fancy way of saying MAGA. And then, Robert Paxton in “The Anatomy of Fascism” has a whole kind of list of constituent parts of fascism, I think most of which you can apply to Trump in his movement, particularly the obsession with humiliation and victimization and the concomitant cult of strength. To me, that is Trump’s movement. And where I think he was successful was not, in general, harnessing the power of the state, but infiltrating the state, placing people throughout the government, who have this sort of counter ideology, right? Who kind of incarnate the alternative reality of Trumpism and using it to gnaw away, termite-like, at the foundation of liberal governance, right? So that you have this dream world politicization of every single institution of American government. And this, to me, is how modern authoritarianism often works, right? It tends to, in many countries, not be tanks in the streets, but be a slow and sustained assault on the institutions of liberal governance, sometimes through kind of legitimate electoral means, but then to assault the institutions, to cement power and make defeat through normal elections less and less likely. And thank god Trump was defeated this time. But I think that if he had stayed in for another four years, there would have been even more judges upholding even greater restrictions on the franchise. There would have been the greater politicization of every single institution of government, the transformation of the voice of America into a really egregious propaganda arm, until slowly, as in Hungary and Poland, you might have elections, but the deck is so stacked that there’s not meaningful competition.

ross douthat

Yeah, so a few things, right? I mean, one, I think the challenge, especially speaking as a conservative, right, is that some of the definitional terms used by liberal and left-wing scholars of fascism just sound to me — sometimes, they just sound to me like definitions of any kind of anti-elite populism in a democratic society, which is sort of an inevitable feature of democracy.

michelle goldberg

Wait, can I just back up for one second? Because one of the ironies about you agreeing with Corey Robin is that Corey Robin, who wrote this great book called The Reactionary Mind, is basically saying that Trump is normal conservative.

ross douthat

Yeah, and some of the things that Trump does are normal conservative things. I mean, there are two things, right? So, one, all democracy by its nature conjures up these sort of weird rebellions against whatever institutional forces end up empowered in the Capitol. If you look at American history and figures as diverse as Huey Long and William Jennings Bryan and Ross Perot and all these kind of figures, they all have some of these features you’re describing, right? If Ross Perot had got elected president, he would have done a lot of very bizarre things, I’m sure, and installed a lot of weird people in positions and sort of ended up doing things that were seen by people in the DC establishment as sort of challenges to the normal order of the administrative state and so on. But I don’t think that means it makes sense to talk about — I guess, I’m saying I think, one, you have to have a category of populism that is not the same or not coterminous with Hitler and Mussolini, right? So that’s one point. A second point is that, yeah, there are some things that are just, to me, just sound like conservatism, right? A nation rising phoenix-like after a period of decadence, I mean, I just wrote a book about decadence, right? And I would not mind a politician who wanted America to rise phoenix-like from a period of economic stagnation.

michelle goldberg

Right, and we differ about the implications of that big wish.

ross douthat

But I mean — right. But if I ran for president — perish the thought, right? Let’s say I ran a campaign that said we need to rebuild American industry and spend money, more money on families to encourage a higher American birth rate and so on down a list of things —

michelle goldberg

That would be that, and that is very different from the enemies of the people.

ross douthat

Well, no, you know that you know me and like me, Michelle, so you don’t think I’m a fascist. But there are people who would write pieces saying, you know, Douthat 2028 is running these classical fascist tropes, right?

michelle goldberg

I think that —

ross douthat

Like the birthrate. I mean, that’s — I guess I’m just saying there’s a lot of stuff in conservatism in any kind of sort of normal conservatism that partakes of some of those definitions.

michelle goldberg

Look, part of this is a question of degree, right? One thing I think that you, Ross, would not do if you ran for president is the total severing of his movement of large parts of the American populace from any kind of common sense of reality. And this is where I think Trump is, again, a big departure from Bush and Reagan. And the example I give is that they’ll say, well, look, Trump lies a lot. George W. Bush lied us into this calamitous war, a war whose calamities far outstripped the damage that Trump did, certainly at least until coronavirus. And then, I think you can argue about who did more damage after that. But what I would say is that and what I say in this column is that when there was no weapons of mass destruction found, except for, I guess, a couple of nuts on the fringe, the administration does not look at the American people and say, we found the weapons of mass destruction. And I think there’s no doubt that that’s what Trump would have done, right? There was some concession to reality. And it was that concession to reality that allowed the country to move on, to reckon with the failures of the George W. Bush administration. When you have no concession to reality, when you still believe that Donald Trump won the election, and when there’s no connection between the things that actually happen in governance and what the administration says is happening, right, when it’s much more kind of Soviet style in terms of Chernobyl or something, then I think you have a difference in kind, not just a difference in degree.

ross douthat

Just to play devil’s advocate, I think the equivalent — the denial of reality of the Bush era was less about the WMD and more that sort of period where the Bush administration and conservative media were obsessed with the idea that the rest of the media wasn’t reporting the good news from Iraq, where sort of there was this period where conservatives sort of spun themselves into a fantasy of what was happening in Iraq. But then that, too, eventually broke down, which is how you actually got the surge, the real policy pivot in Bush’s final couple of years that was a sort of pretty normal strategic adaptation to reality, and to my surprise, at the time, a more successful one than I expected. I think that it’s definitely true that Trumpism represents a sort of expansion of the role that fantasy and sort of simulation and partisan virtual reality plays in American politics. So we’ll end the segment there. And to close us out, Michelle, I think you have a recommendation.

michelle goldberg

I do, and it’s New York specific, although maybe there are analogs in other cities. But I recently discovered this website shop in NYC and its shopin.nyc. And it’s basically a lot of local stores that you can use this one website to buy stuff from these stores and get either same-day delivery or next day delivery. And so, instead of using Amazon for both your sort of day-to-day lockdown grocery shopping and also for the holidays, you can do your part to keep alive these local businesses that are really, really struggling. I used it for a last minute Hanukkah present for my daughter because Hanukkah really crept up on us this year. But you can use it for a lot of different things. And I’m planning on using it for as much as possible.

ross douthat

Yes, and since we are both, in addition to our many duties at The Times, authors of books, it’s probably worth stressing in particular that in the next two weeks, whether it’s via something like what Michelle just recommended or just putting on your mask and going to the bookstore, buying from bookstores rather than Amazon is a really good thing to do, not just to support the bookstores themselves, but to support writers like us, whose future capacity to write books is intimately linked to the continued survival of a real world infrastructure for selling them. All right, Michelle, one more time, what’s the recommendation?

michelle goldberg

It is shopin.nyc.

ross douthat

Terrific. [MUSIC PLAYING] And that’s it for today’s show. Thank you so much for listening, and a very happy holidays to everyone. The Argument is a production of The New York Times Opinion section. Our team includes Alison Bruzek, Vishakha Darbha, Elisa Gutierrez, Phoebe Lett, Isaac Jones, Paula Szuchman, Kate Sinclair, and Kathy Tu. Thank you all again, and we’ll be dropping our next episode on New Year’s Day, 2021. Ugh, it’s going to be a long January.

About brandsauthority

Check Also

Review sets terms for respect and dignity

WHAT THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF PARLIAMENT’S WORKPLACES AND STAFF WILL AND WON’T DO * Led …

%d bloggers like this: