Hillbilly elegy: Attention, une relégation sociale peut en cacher une autre ! (It’s the culture, stupid !)

17 septembre, 2017

Aux États-Unis, les plus opulents citoyens ont bien soin de ne point s’isoler du peuple ; au contraire, ils s’en rapprochent sans cesse, ils l’écoutent volontiers et lui parlent tous les jours. Alexis de Tocqueville
Toutes les stratégies que les intellectuels et les artistes produisent contre les « bourgeois » tendent inévitablement, en dehors de toute intention expresse et en vertu même de la structure de l’espace dans lequel elles s’engendrent, à être à double effet et dirigées indistinctement contre toutes les formes de soumission aux intérêts matériels, populaires aussi bien que bourgeoises.  Bourdieu
On brode beaucoup sur la non intégration des jeunes de banlieue. En réalité, ils sont totalement intégrés culturellement. Leur culture, comme le rap, sert de référence à toute la jeunesse. Ils sont bien sûr confrontés à de nombreux problèmes mais sont dans une logique d’intégration culturelle à la société monde. Les jeunes ruraux, dont les loisirs se résument souvent à la bagnole, le foot et l’alcool, vivent dans une marginalité culturelle. En feignant de croire que l’immigration ne participe pas à la déstructuration des plus modestes (Français ou immigrés), la gauche accentue la fracture qui la sépare des catégories populaires. Fracture d’autant plus forte qu’une partie de la gauche continue d’associer cette France précarisée qui demande à être protégée de la mondialisation et de l’immigration à la « France raciste ». Dans le même temps, presque malgré elle, la gauche est de plus en plus plébiscitée par une « autre France », celle des grands centres urbains les plus actifs, les plus riches et les mieux intégrés à l’économie-monde ; sur ces territoires où se retrouvent les extrêmes de l’éventail social (du bobo à l’immigré), la mondialisation est une bénédiction. Christophe Guilluy
La focalisation sur le « problème des banlieues » fait oublier un fait majeur : 61 % de la population française vit aujourd’hui hors des grandes agglomérations. Les classes populaires se concentrent dorénavant dans les espaces périphériques : villes petites et moyennes, certains espaces périurbains et la France rurale. En outre, les banlieues sensibles ne sont nullement « abandonnées » par l’État. Comme l’a établi le sociologue Dominique Lorrain, les investissements publics dans le quartier des Hautes Noues à Villiers-sur-Marne (Val-de-Marne) sont mille fois supérieurs à ceux consentis en faveur d’un quartier modeste de la périphérie de Verdun (Meuse), qui n’a jamais attiré l’attention des médias. Pourtant, le revenu moyen par habitant de ce quartier de Villiers-sur-Marne est de 20 % supérieur à celui de Verdun. Bien sûr, c’est un exemple extrême. Il reste que, à l’échelle de la France, 85 % des ménages pauvres (qui gagnent moins de 993 € par mois, soit moins de 60 % du salaire médian, NDLR) ne vivent pas dans les quartiers « sensibles ». Si l’on retient le critère du PIB, la Seine-Saint-Denis est plus aisée que la Meuse ou l’Ariège. Le 93 n’est pas un espace de relégation, mais le cœur de l’aire parisienne. (…)  En se désindustrialisant, les grandes villes ont besoin de beaucoup moins d’employés et d’ouvriers mais de davantage de cadres. C’est ce qu’on appelle la gentrification des grandes villes, symbolisée par la figure du fameux « bobo », partisan de l’ouverture dans tous les domaines. Confrontées à la flambée des prix dans le parc privé, les catégories populaires, pour leur part, cherchent des logements en dehors des grandes agglomérations. En outre, l’immobilier social, dernier parc accessible aux catégories populaires de ces métropoles, s’est spécialisé dans l’accueil des populations immigrées. Les catégories populaires d’origine européenne et qui sont éligibles au parc social s’efforcent d’éviter les quartiers où les HLM sont nombreux. Elles préfèrent déménager en grande banlieue, dans les petites villes ou les zones rurales pour accéder à la propriété et acquérir un pavillon. On assiste ainsi à l’émergence de « villes monde » très inégalitaires où se concentrent à la fois cadres et catégories populaires issues de l’immigration récente. Ce phénomène n’est pas limité à Paris. Il se constate dans toutes les agglomérations de France (Lyon, Bordeaux, Nantes, Lille, Grenoble), hormis Marseille. (…) On a du mal à formuler certains faits en France. Dans le vocabulaire de la politique de la ville, « classes moyennes » signifie en réalité « population d’origine européenne ». Or les HLM ne font plus coexister ces deux populations. L’immigration récente, pour l’essentiel familiale, s’est concentrée dans les quartiers de logements sociaux des grandes agglomérations, notamment les moins valorisés. Les derniers rapports de l’observatoire national des zones urbaines sensibles (ZUS) montrent qu’aujourd’hui 52 % des habitants des ZUS sont immigrés, chiffre qui atteint 64 % en Île-de-France. Cette spécialisation tend à se renforcer. La fin de la mixité dans les HLM n’est pas imputable aux bailleurs sociaux, qui font souvent beaucoup d’efforts. Mais on ne peut pas forcer des personnes qui ne le souhaitent pas à vivre ensemble. L’étalement urbain se poursuit parce que les habitants veulent se séparer, même si ça les fragilise économiquement. Par ailleurs, dans les territoires où se côtoient populations d’origine européenne et populations d’immigration extra-européenne, la fin du modèle assimilationniste suscite beaucoup d’inquiétudes. L’autre ne devient plus soi. Une société multiculturelle émerge. Minorités et majorités sont désormais relatives. (…)  ces personnes habitent là où on produit les deux tiers du PIB du pays et où se crée l’essentiel des emplois, c’est-à-dire dans les métropoles. Une petite bourgeoisie issue de l’immigration maghrébine et africaine est ainsi apparue. Dans les ZUS, il existe une vraie mobilité géographique et sociale : les gens arrivent et partent. Ces quartiers servent de sas entre le Nord et le Sud. Ce constat ruine l’image misérabiliste d’une banlieue ghetto où seraient parqués des habitants condamnés à la pauvreté. À bien des égards, la politique de la ville est donc un grand succès. Les seuls phénomènes actuels d’ascension sociale dans les milieux populaires se constatent dans les catégories immigrées des métropoles. Cadres ou immigrés, tous les habitants des grandes agglomérations tirent bénéfice d’y vivre – chacun à leur échelle. En Grande-Bretagne, en 2013, le secrétaire d’État chargé des Universités et de la Science de l’époque, David Willetts, s’est même déclaré favorable à une politique de discrimination positive en faveur des jeunes hommes blancs de la « working class » car leur taux d’accès à l’université s’est effondré et est inférieur à celui des enfants d’immigrés. (…) Le problème social et politique majeur de la France, c’est que, pour la première fois depuis la révolution industrielle, la majeure partie des catégories populaires ne vit plus là où se crée la richesse. Au XIXe siècle, lors de la révolution industrielle, on a fait venir les paysans dans les grandes villes pour travailler en usine. Aujourd’hui, on les fait repartir à la « campagne ». C’est un retour en arrière de deux siècles. Le projet économique du pays, tourné vers la mondialisation, n’a plus besoin des catégories populaires, en quelque sorte. (…) L’absence d’intégration économique des catégories modestes explique le paradoxe français : un pays qui redistribue beaucoup de ses richesses mais dont une majorité d’habitants considèrent à juste titre qu’ils sont de plus en plus fragiles et déclassés. (…) Les catégories populaires qui vivent dans ces territoires sont d’autant plus attachées à leur environnement local qu’elles sont, en quelque sorte, assignées à résidence. Elles réagissent en portant une grande attention à ce que j’appelle le «village» : sa maison, son quartier, son territoire, son identité culturelle, qui représentent un capital social. La contre-société s’affirme aussi dans le domaine des valeurs. La France périphérique est attachée à l’ordre républicain, réservée envers les réformes de société et critique sur l’assistanat. L’accusation de «populisme» ne l’émeut guère. Elle ne supporte plus aucune forme de tutorat – ni politique, ni intellectuel – de la part de ceux qui se croient «éclairés». (…) Il devient très difficile de fédérer et de satisfaire tous les électorats à la fois. Dans un monde parfait, il faudrait pouvoir combiner le libéralisme économique et culturel dans les agglomérations et le protectionnisme, le refus du multiculturalisme et l’attachement aux valeurs traditionnelles dans la France périphérique. Mais c’est utopique. C’est pourquoi ces deux France décrivent les nouvelles fractures politiques, présentes et à venir. Christophe Guilluy
Parler de relégation sociale n’a pas grand sens quand on est à dix minutes du métro et au coeur d’un marché de l’emploi gigantesque. Christophe Guilluy
J’ai suivi cette campagne avec un sentiment de malaise franchement (…) qui s’est peu à peu transformé en honte.  (…) Malaise parce que la deuxième France, dont vous parlez, la France qui est périphérique, qui hésite entre Marine Le Pen et rien,  je me suis rendu compte que je ne la comprenais pas, que je ne la voyais pas, que j’avais perdu le contact. Et ça, quand on veut écrire des romans, je trouve que c’est une faute professionnelle assez lourde.  (….) Parce que je ne la vois plus, je fais partie de l’élite mondialisée, maintenant. (…) Et pourtant, je viens de cette France. (…) Elle habite pas dans les mêmes quartiers que moi. Elle habite pas à Paris. A Paris, Le Pen n’existe pas. Elle habite dans des zones périphériques décrites par Christophe Guilluy. Des zones mal connues. (…) Mais le fait est que j’ai perdu le contact. (…) Non, je la comprends pas suffisamment, je veux dire, je pourrais pas écrire dessus. C’est ça qui me gêne, c’est pour ça que suis mal à l’aise. (…) Non, je suis pas dans la même situation. Moi, je ne crois pas au vote idéologique, je crois au vote de classe. Bien que le mot est démodé. Il y a une classe qui vote Le Pen, une classe qui vote Macron, une classe qui vote Fillon. Facilement identifiables et on le voit tout de suite. Et que je le veuille ou non, je fais partie de la France qui vote Macron. Parce que je suis trop riche pour voter Le Pen ou Mélenchon. Et parce que je suis pas un hériter, donc je suis pas la classe qui vote Fillon. (…) Ce qui est apparu et qui est très surprenant – alors, ça, c’est vraiment un phénomène imprévu – c’est un véritable parti confessionnel, précisément catholique. Dans tout ce que j’ai suivi – et, je vous dis, j’ai tout suivi  – Jean-Frédéric Poisson était quand même le plus étonnant. (…) Une espèce d’impavidité et une défense des valeurs catholiques qui est inhabituelle pour un parti politique. (….) Ca m’a interloqué parce que je croyais le catholicisme mourant. (…) [Macron] L’axe de sa  campagne, j’ai l’impression que c’est une espèce de thérapie de groupe pour convertir les Français à l’optimisme. Michel Houellebecq
Marine Le Pen aurait pu être la porte-parole du parti de l’inquiétude, elle aurait pu faire venir sur le plateau l’humeur de cette partie du pays qui voit sa disparition programmée et s’en désole. Elle aurait pu évoquer le séparatisme islamiste et l’immense tâche qui nous attend consistant à convaincre des dizaines, peut-être des centaines, de milliers de jeunes Français de l’excellence de leur pays, de ses arts, ses armes et ses lois. Or, du début à la fin, elle a paru retourner à son adversaire le procès en légitimité dont elle est sans cesse l’objet. Incapable de lui concéder le moindre point, autant que de lui opposer une véritable vision, elle a ânonné des mots-clefs comme « UOIF » et « banquier », croyant sans doute que cela suffirait à faire pleuvoir les votes, ce qui laisse penser qu’elle tient ses électeurs en piètre estime. Les insinuations sur l’argent de son adversaire, sa façon de dire à demi-mot au téléspectateur « si vous êtes dans la mouise, c’est parce que lui et ses amis se goinfrent », m’ont rappelé les heures sombres de l’affaire Fillon, quand des journalistes répétaient en boucle le même appel au ressentiment. L’autre France, celle qui n’a pas envie de l’avenir mondialisé et multiculti qu’on lui promet, mérite mieux que ce populisme ras des pâquerettes. (…) On n’est pas obligé, cependant, de hurler avec les bisounours. Quoi que répètent fiévreusement ceux qui adorent voler au secours des victoires, un faux pas, même de taille, ne suffit pas à faire de Marine Le Pen quelqu’un d’infréquentable. À la différence de l’intégralité de mes confrères qui se frottent les mains sur l’air de « je vous l’avais bien dit ! », je ne suis pas sûre qu’elle ait « montré son vrai visage ». L’ayant interviewée à plusieurs reprises, nous avons eu avec elles des engueulades homériques : jamais je ne l’ai vue, dans ces circonstances, faire preuve de la mauvaise foi fielleuse qu’elle a opposée à son adversaire – et je ne lui avais jamais vu, même sur un plateau, ce masque sarcastique. Avait-elle en quelque sorte intégré sa propre illégitimité, a-t-elle été mal conseillée par son cher Florian Philippot ou était-elle décidément très mal préparée à la fonction qu’elle briguait ? Toujours est-il qu’elle a raté son rendez-vous avec le peuple français. (…) Il faudra bien résoudre un jour ce petit problème de logique : il existe chez nous un parti que les tribunaux ne peuvent pas interdire, qui a le droit de se présenter aux élections, mais les électeurs n’ont pas le droit de voter pour lui et ses dirigeants n’ont pas le droit de gagner. Ce qui, on en conviendra, est assez pratique pour ceux qui l’affrontent en duel. On me dit qu’il respecte le cadre de la République, mais pas ses fameuses valeurs. Sauf que, pardon, qui est arbitre des valeurs, Le Monde, les Inrocks, Jacques Attali ? N’est-ce pas une façon bien commode d’exclure de la compétition ceux qui vous déplaisent ? Je ne me résous pas à vivre dans un monde où il y a une seule politique possible, un seul vote raisonnable et un seul point de vue acceptable. (…) Post Scriptum : je viens d’entendre un bout de la chronique de François Morel, l’un des papes du comico-conformisme sur France Inter. Il comparait – ou assimilait je ne sais – Marine Le Pen à une primate: Taubira, c’était dégueulasse; mais pour une Le Pen, c’est normal. Digne conclusion de la quinzaine de la haine (et de l’antifascisme nigaud) que nous a offerte la radio publique. Elisabeth Lévy
The paradox of France is that it is desperate for reform — and desperate not to be reformed. It wants the benefits of a job-producing competitive economy but fears relinquishing a job-protecting uncompetitive one. A Macron presidency will have to devote its intellectual and rhetorical energies to explaining that it can be one or the other, but not both. I don’t want to close this column without allowing for the awful chance that Le Pen might win. That would be a moral tragedy for France and a probable disaster for Europe. But it would also be a reminder that chronic economic stagnation inevitably begets nationalist furies. In the United States, a complacent left acquits itself too easily of its role in paving the way to the Trump presidency. Many of Le Pen’s supporters might be bigots, but their case against the self-satisfaction, self-dealing, moral preening and economic incompetence of the French ruling classes is nearly impeccable. Bret Stephens
Nous qui vivons dans les régions côtières des villes bleues, nous lisons plus de livres et nous allons plus souvent au théâtre que ceux qui vivent au fin fond du pays. Nous sommes à la fois plus sophistiqués et plus cosmopolites – parlez-nous de nos voyages scolaires en Chine et en Provence ou, par exemple, de notre intérêt pour le bouddhisme. Mais par pitié, ne nous demandez pas à quoi ressemble la vie dans l’Amérique rouge. Nous n’en savons rien. Nous ne savons pas qui sont Tim LaHaye et Jerry B. Jenkins. […] Nous ne savons pas ce que peut bien dire James Dobson dans son émission de radio écoutée par des millions d’auditeurs. Nous ne savons rien de Reba et Travis. […] Nous sommes très peu nombreux à savoir ce qu’il se passe à Branson dans le Missouri, même si cette ville reçoit quelque sept millions de touristes par an; pas plus que nous ne pouvons nommer ne serait-ce que cinq pilotes de stock-car. […] Nous ne savons pas tirer au fusil ni même en nettoyer un, ni reconnaître le grade d’un officier rien qu’à son insigne. Quant à savoir à quoi ressemble une graine de soja poussée dans un champ… David Brooks
Vous allez dans certaines petites villes de Pennsylvanie où, comme ans beaucoup de petites villes du Middle West, les emplois ont disparu depuis maintenant 25 ans et n’ont été remplacés par rien d’autre (…) Et il n’est pas surprenant qu’ils deviennent pleins d’amertume, qu’ils s’accrochent aux armes à feu ou à la religion, ou à leur antipathie pour ceux qui ne sont pas comme eux, ou encore à un sentiment d’hostilité envers les immigrants. Barack Hussein Obama (2008)
Pour généraliser, en gros, vous pouvez placer la moitié des partisans de Trump dans ce que j’appelle le panier des pitoyables. Les racistes, sexistes, homophobes, xénophobes, islamophobes. A vous de choisir. Hillary Clinton
America is coming apart. For most of our nation’s history, whatever the inequality in wealth between the richest and poorest citizens, we maintained a cultural equality known nowhere else in the world—for whites, anyway. (…) But t’s not true anymore, and it has been progressively less true since the 1960s. People are starting to notice the great divide. The tea party sees the aloofness in a political elite that thinks it knows best and orders the rest of America to fall in line. The Occupy movement sees it in an economic elite that lives in mansions and flies on private jets. Each is right about an aspect of the problem, but that problem is more pervasive than either political or economic inequality. What we now face is a problem of cultural inequality. When Americans used to brag about « the American way of life »—a phrase still in common use in 1960—they were talking about a civic culture that swept an extremely large proportion of Americans of all classes into its embrace. It was a culture encompassing shared experiences of daily life and shared assumptions about central American values involving marriage, honesty, hard work and religiosity. Over the past 50 years, that common civic culture has unraveled. We have developed a new upper class with advanced educations, often obtained at elite schools, sharing tastes and preferences that set them apart from mainstream America. At the same time, we have developed a new lower class, characterized not by poverty but by withdrawal from America’s core cultural institutions. (…) Why have these new lower and upper classes emerged? For explaining the formation of the new lower class, the easy explanations from the left don’t withstand scrutiny. It’s not that white working class males can no longer make a « family wage » that enables them to marry. The average male employed in a working-class occupation earned as much in 2010 as he did in 1960. It’s not that a bad job market led discouraged men to drop out of the labor force. Labor-force dropout increased just as fast during the boom years of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s as it did during bad years. (…) As I’ve argued in much of my previous work, I think that the reforms of the 1960s jump-started the deterioration. Changes in social policy during the 1960s made it economically more feasible to have a child without having a husband if you were a woman or to get along without a job if you were a man; safer to commit crimes without suffering consequences; and easier to let the government deal with problems in your community that you and your neighbors formerly had to take care of. But, for practical purposes, understanding why the new lower class got started isn’t especially important. Once the deterioration was under way, a self-reinforcing loop took hold as traditionally powerful social norms broke down. Because the process has become self-reinforcing, repealing the reforms of the 1960s (something that’s not going to happen) would change the trends slowly at best. Meanwhile, the formation of the new upper class has been driven by forces that are nobody’s fault and resist manipulation. The economic value of brains in the marketplace will continue to increase no matter what, and the most successful of each generation will tend to marry each other no matter what. As a result, the most successful Americans will continue to trend toward consolidation and isolation as a class. Changes in marginal tax rates on the wealthy won’t make a difference. Increasing scholarships for working-class children won’t make a difference. The only thing that can make a difference is the recognition among Americans of all classes that a problem of cultural inequality exists and that something has to be done about it. That « something » has nothing to do with new government programs or regulations. Public policy has certainly affected the culture, unfortunately, but unintended consequences have been as grimly inevitable for conservative social engineering as for liberal social engineering. The « something » that I have in mind has to be defined in terms of individual American families acting in their own interests and the interests of their children. Doing that in Fishtown requires support from outside. There remains a core of civic virtue and involvement in working-class America that could make headway against its problems if the people who are trying to do the right things get the reinforcement they need—not in the form of government assistance, but in validation of the values and standards they continue to uphold. The best thing that the new upper class can do to provide that reinforcement is to drop its condescending « nonjudgmentalism. » Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn’t hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms. When it comes to marriage and the work ethic, the new upper class must start preaching what it practices. Charles Murray
Murray, the W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, contends that before the 1960s, Americans of all classes participated in a traditional common culture of civic and social engagement that valued marriage, industriousness, honesty and religiosity — credited as « American exceptionalism » by Alexis de Tocqueville in his 19th century classic « Democracy in America. » Today, that culture persists among highly educated elites, winners in globalization’s economic redistribution, but those vigorous virtues are dissolving among globalization’s losers, the 21st century working class. Increased demographic segregation means that the elites who run the nation know little about the ominous cultural breakdown creeping up the socioeconomic ladder. Murray describes a new, highly educated upper class of the most successful 5% of professionals and managers who direct the nation’s major institutions. Most reside in high-income, socially homogeneous « super ZIP Codes » near urban power centers. Exclusivity is self-reinforcing: Elites socialize primarily with and marry one another (« homogamy »), ensuring their children’s future dominance based on genetic intelligence, other inherited talents and a high-achievement culture nourished by access to elite educational institutions. To emphasize that the new cultural divide is largely based on class, not race/ethnicity, Murray confines core sections of « Coming Apart » to comparing socio-cultural differences among middle-aged whites (age 30-49) in two communities: upper-middle-class Belmont, Mass., and working-class Fishtown, Pa. (Murray builds somewhat « fictionalized » versions of these communities through statistically adjusted models that control for age, race, income and occupation to heighten the contrasts between them.) Belmont represents perhaps 20% of the total U.S. population; Fishtown, about 30%. Murray reveals alarming levels of social isolation and disengagement among Fishtown’s working-class whites. By the early 2000s, only 48% were married, down from 84% in 1960; children living in households with both biological parents fell from 96% to 37%; the number of disabled quintupled from 2% to 10%; arrest rates for violent crime quadrupled from 125 to 592 per 100,000 people; and the percent attending church only once a year nearly doubled from 35% to 59%. In 2008, almost 12% of prime-age males with a high school diploma were « not in the labor force » — quadruple the percentage from the all-time low of 3% in 1968. The well-educated, upper-middle-class whites in Murray’s Belmont model fare far better: 83% are married; 84% of children reside in two-biological-parent homes; less than 1% are on disability, though nearly 40% attend church only once a year. Nearly all adult males are in the workforce. The primary problem with « Coming Apart » is that Murray’s focus on a cultural divide among whites obscures something else: The destruction of values, economic sectors and entire occupational classes by automation and outsourcing. And don’t forget the massive movements of cheap legal and illegal immigrant labor: This factor sets up a classic conflict, the ethnically split labor market, in which you find unionized working-class whites pitted against minority newcomers who are willing to work for less (sometimes « off the books » and under abysmal conditions). Frederick Lynch
Experts have warned for years now that our rates of geographic mobility have fallen to troubling lows. Given that some areas have unemployment rates around 2 percent and others many times that, this lack of movement may mean joblessness for those who could otherwise work. But from the community’s perspective, mobility can be a problem. The economist Matthew Kahn has shown that in Appalachia, for instance, the highly skilled are much likelier to leave not just their hometowns but also the region as a whole. This is the classic “brain drain” problem: Those who are able to leave very often do. The brain drain also encourages a uniquely modern form of cultural detachment. Eventually, the young people who’ve moved out marry — typically to partners with similar economic prospects. They raise children in increasingly segregated neighborhoods, giving rise to something the conservative scholar Charles Murray calls “super ZIPs.” These super ZIPs are veritable bastions of opportunity and optimism, places where divorce and joblessness are rare. As one of my college professors recently told me about higher education, “The sociological role we play is to suck talent out of small towns and redistribute it to big cities.” There have always been regional and class inequalities in our society, but the data tells us that we’re living through a unique period of segregation. This has consequences beyond the purely material. Jesse Sussell and James A. Thomson of the RAND Corporation argue that this geographic sorting has heightened the polarization that now animates politics. This polarization reflects itself not just in our voting patterns, but also in our political culture: Not long before the election, a friend forwarded me a conspiracy theory about Bill and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in a pedophilia ring and asked me whether it was true. It’s easy to dismiss these questions as the ramblings of “fake news” consumers. But the more difficult truth is that people naturally trust the people they know — their friend sharing a story on Facebook — more than strangers who work for faraway institutions. And when we’re surrounded by polarized, ideologically homogeneous crowds, whether online or off, it becomes easier to believe bizarre things about them. This problem runs in both directions: I’ve heard ugly words uttered about “flyover country” and some of its inhabitants from well-educated, generally well-meaning people. I’ve long worried whether I’ve become a part of this problem. For two years, I’d lived in Silicon Valley, surrounded by other highly educated transplants with seemingly perfect lives. It’s jarring to live in a world where every person feels his life will only get better when you came from a world where many rightfully believe that things have become worse. And I’ve suspected that this optimism blinds many in Silicon Valley to the real struggles in other parts of the country. So I decided to move home, to Ohio. (…) we often frame civic responsibility in terms of government taxes and transfer payments, so that our society’s least fortunate families are able to provide basic necessities. But this focus can miss something important: that what many communities need most is not just financial support, but talent and energy and committed citizens to build viable businesses and other civic institutions. Of course, not every town can or should be saved. Many people should leave struggling places in search of economic opportunity, and many of them won’t be able to return. Some people will move back to their hometowns; others, like me, will move back to their home state. The calculation will undoubtedly differ for each person, as it should. But those of us who are lucky enough to choose where we live would do well to ask ourselves, as part of that calculation, whether the choices we make for ourselves are necessarily the best for our home communities — and for the country. J. D. Vance
“ Hillbilly Elegy ” is a very important book and it also resonated with me in a very personal way because I also experienced the problems of rural poverty. I grew up in a small town in Western Pennsylvania. My father was a coal miner. He worked in these coal mines of Western Pennsylvania and occasionally he worked in steel mills in Western Pennsylvania. He died at the age of 39, with a lung disease. Left my mother with six kids and I was the oldest at 12 years of age. My father had a 10th grade education, my mother had a 10th grade education. My mother who lived to the ripe old age of 94, raised us by cleaning house occasionally. Initially we were on relief. We call it welfare now. She got off welfare and supported us by cleaning house; and what I distinctly remember about growing up in rural poverty is hunger. (…) Now, given my family background, black person, black family in rural poverty; as one of my colleagues at Harvard told me, the odds that I would end up at Harvard as a University professor and capital U on University, are very nearly zero. Like J.D. I’m an outlier. An outlier in — Malcolm Gladwell says in his book “ Outlier, The Study of Success. ” We are both outliers; but it’s interesting that J.D. never talks about holding himself up by his own bootstraps, and that’s something that I reject. I don’t refer to myself that way, because both J.D. and I, were in the right places at the right times, and we had significant individuals who were there to rescue us from poverty and enabled us to escape. We are the outliers being at the right place at the right time, and when I think about your question, that’s one thing I think about; how lucky I was. I had some significant individuals who helped me escape poverty. (…) ointing out some differences that I have with J.D. It’s really kind of a matter of emphasis. Not that we differ, it’s just a matter of emphasis. First of all, we both agree that too many liberal social scientists focus on social structure and ignore cultural conditions. You know, they talk about poverty, joblessness and discrimination, but they also don’t talk about some of the cultural conditions, that grow out of these situations, in response to these situations. Too many conservatives focus on cultural forces and ignore structural factors. Now J.D. has made the same point in “ Hillbilly Elegy ” and you also have made the same point in some subsequent interviews talking about the book. Now where we disagree and this relates back to your question, Camille, is in the interpretation of these cultural factors. J.D. places a lot of emphasis on agency. That people even in the most impoverished circumstances have choices that can either improve or exacerbate their situation, their predicaments. And I also think that a gency is important and should not be ignored, even in situations where individuals confront overwhelming structural impediments. But what J.D., and I’d like to hear your response to this J.D., wha t you don’t make explicit or emphasize enough from my point of view, is that agency is also constrained by these structural factors, even among people who you know, make positive choices to improve their lives, there are still constraints and I maintain th at the part of your book where you talking about agency, really cries out for a deeper interrogation. A deeper interrogation of how personal a gency is expanded or inhibited by the circumstance that the poor or working classes confront, including you know, their interactions and families, social networks , and institutions, in these distressed communities. In other words, what I’m trying to suggest is that personal agency is recursively associated with the structural forces within which it operates. And here you know, it’s sort of insightful to talk about intermediaries and insightful to talk about people who aid, who help you in making choices, and you do that well in the book. But here’s the point, given the American belief system on poverty and welfare in which Americans as you point out Camille, place far greater emphasis on personal shortcomings as opposed to structural barriers and especially when you’re talking about the behavior of African Americans. I believe that explanations that focus — don’t get me wrong, you don’t even talk about African Americans in the sense, I’m talking about people out there in the general public. Given this focus on personal shortcomings as opposed to structural barriers in a common for outcomes, I believe that explanations that focus on agency are likely to overshadow explanations that focus on structural impediments. Some people read a book, but they’re not that sophisticated, the take away will be those personal factors and you know, I would have liked to have seen you sort of try to put things in context you know. Talk about the constraints that people have. Now this relates to the second point I want to make. In addition, to feeling that they have little control over themselves, that is lack of agency. You point out that the individuals in these hillbilly communities tend to blame themselves — I’m sorry, blame everyone but themselves, and the term you used to explain this phenomenon is cognitive dissonance, when our beliefs are not consistent with our behaviors. And I agree, and many people often do tend to blame others and not themselves, but I think that when we talk about cognitive dissonance, we also have to recognize that individuals in these communities do indeed have some complaints, some justifiable complaints, including complaints about industries that have pulled off stakes and relocated to cheaper labor areas overseas and in the process, have devastated communities like Middletown, Ohio. Including complaints about automation replacing the jobs of cashiers and parking lot attendants. Including the complaints that government and corporate actions have undermined unions and therefore led to a decrease in the wages or workers in Middletown. (…) And let me also point out, here’s where we really do agree. We both agree that there are cultural practices within families and so on and in communities that reinforce problems created by the structural barriers. (…) Practiced behaviors that perpetuate poverty and disadvantage. So, this we agree. Too often liberals ignore the role of these cultural forces in perpetuating or reinforcing conditions associated with poverty or concentrated (inaudible). (…) even in extreme property, my mother kept telling me, you’re going to college. And my Aunt Janice also reinforced — my Aunt Janice was the first person in my extended family who got a college education, and I used to go to New York to visit her during the summer months, and I said you know, I want to be like Aunt Janice, you know? (…) you really see this when you look at neighborhoods. Neighborhoods in which an overwhelming majority of the population are poor, but employed are entirely different from neighborhoods in which people are poor but jobless. Jobless neighborhoods trigger all kinds of problems. Crime, drug addiction, gang behavior, violence. And one of the things that I had focused on when I wrote my book, When Work Disappears is what happens to intercity neighborhoods that experience increasing levels of joblessness. And we did some research in Chicago and it was really you know, sad, talking to some of the mothers who were just fearful about allowing their children to go outside because the neighborhood was so incredibly dangerous. And I remember talking with one woman and she says — who was obese and she says you know, I went to the doctor he said that I should go out and exercise. Can you imagine jogging in this neighborhood? Because the joblessness had created problems among young people who were trying to make ends meet and they’re involved in crime and drugs and so on. So, I would say that if you want to focus on improving neighborhoods, the first thing that I would do would try to increase or enhance employment opportunities. (…) I don’t know if the conditions have changed that much, since I wrote The Truly Disadvantaged. The one big difference is that I think there’s increasing technology and automation that has created problems for a lot of low skilled workers. You know, I mentioned automation replacing jobs that cashiers held, and parking lot attendants held. So, you have a combination not only of the relocation of industries overseas, that I talked about in The Truly Disadvantaged; but now you have increasing automation and technology replacing jobs, and this worries me because I think that people who have poor education are going to be in difficult situations increasingly down the road. You look at intercity schools, not only schools in intercities, but in many other neighborhoods, and kids are not being properly educated. So, they’re not being prepared for the changes that are occurring in the economy. I remember one social scientist saying that it’s as if — talking about the black population. It’s as if racism and racial discrimination put black people in their place only to watch increasing technology and automation destroy that place. So, the one significant difference from the time I wrote The Truly Disadvantaged in 1987, is the growing problems created by increasing technology for the poor.(…) it seems that poor whites right now are more pessimistic than any group, and the question is why. I was sort of impressed with your analysis of the white working class in the age of Trump. You know, you pointed out that when Barack Obama became president there were a lot of people in your community who were really struggling and who believe that the modern American meritocracy did not seem to apply to them. These people were not doing well, and then you have this black president who’s a successful product of meritocracy who has raised the hope of African Americans and he represented every positive thing that these working-class folks that you write about did not possess or lacked. And Trump emerged as candidate who sort of spoke to these people. What is interesting is that if you look at the Pew Research polls, recent Pew Research polls, I think you pointed this out in your book, the working-class whites right now are more pessimistic than any other group about their economic future and their children’s future. Now is that pessimism justified? I think they’re overly pessimistic. I still maintain that to be black, poor and jobless is worse than being white, poor and jobless, okay? But, for some reason, the white poor is more pessimistic. Now I think with respect to the black poor and working class has kind of an Obama effect you know. I think that may wear off and then blacks will become even more equally as pessimistic as whites in a few years. (this reminds me of your points J.D., reminds me of a paper that Robert Sampson, a colleague at Harvard and I wrote in 1995 entitled Toward a Theory of Race, Crime and Urban Inequality. A paper that has become a classic actually in the field of criminology because it’s generated dozens of research studies. Our basic thesis we were addressing you know, race and violent crime, is that racial disparities and violent crime are attributable in large part to the persistent structural disadvantages that are disproportionately concentrated in African American urban communities. Nonetheless, we argue that the ultimate cause of crime were similar for both whites and blacks, and we pose a central question. In American cities, it is possible to reproduce in white communities the structural circumstances under which many blacks live. You know, the whites haven’t fully experienced the structural reality that blacks have experienced does not negate the power of our theory because we argue had whites been exposed to the same structural conditions as blacks then white communities would behave – – the crime rate would be in the predicted direction. And then we had an epiphany. What about the rural white communities that you talk about. Where you’re not only talking about joblessness, you’re not only talking about poverty, but you’re also talking about family structure. So, here in Appalachia, you could reproduce some of the conditions that exist in intercity neighborhoods and therefore it would be good to test our theory in these areas because we’d be looking at the family structure. The rates of single parent families. We’d be looking at joblessness, we’d be loo king at poverty. So, we need to move beyond the urban areas and see if we can look at communities that come close to approximating or even worse in some cases, and some intercity neighborhoods. (…) Mark Lilla and a number of other post-election analysts observed that as you point out that the Democrats should not make the same mistake that they made in the last election, namely an attempt to mobilize people of color, women, immigrants and the LGBT community with identity politics. They tended to ignore the problems of poor white Americans. I was watching the Democratic convention with my wife on a cruise to Alaska, and one concern I had was there did not seem to be any representatives on the stage representing poor white America. I could just see some of these poor whites saying they don’t care about us. They’ve got all these blacks, they’ve got immigrants, they’ve got (inaudible), but you don’t have any of us on the stage. Maybe I’m overstating the point, but I was concerned about that. Now one notable exception, critics like Mark Lilla point out was Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders had a progressive and unifying populous economic message in the Democratic primaries. A message that resonated with a significant segment of the white lower-class population. Lower class, working class populations. Bernie Sanders was not the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump was able to, as we all know, capture notable support from these populations with a divisive not unifying populous message. I agree with Mark Lilla that we don’t want to make the same mistake again. We’ve go to reach out to all groups. We’ve got to start to focus on coalition politics. We have to develop a sense of interdependence where groups come to recognize that they can’t accomplish goals without the support of other groups. We have to frame issues differently. We can’t go the same route. We can’t give up on the white working class. (…) Addressing the question of increase in economic segregation. People don’t realize that racial segregation is on the decline, while economic segregation is a segregation of families by income is on the increase. William Julius Wilson
I’m a bit of a fan boy of William Julius Wilson as I wrote Hillbilly Elegy, so it was real exciting to be able to get him to sign this book.  (…) Culture (…) is a really, really, difficult and amorphous concept to define, and one of the things that I was trying to do with “ Hillbilly Elegy ” is try to in some ways draw the discussion away from this structure versus personal responsibility narrative and convince us to look at culture as a third and I think very important variable. I often think that the way that conservatives, and I’m a conservative, talk about culture is in some ways an excuse to end the conversation instead of starting a much more important conversation. It’s look at their bad culture, look at their deficient culture, we can’t do anything to help them; instead of trying to understand culture as this much bigger social and institutional force that really is important that some cases can come from problems related to poverty and some cases can come from a host of different factors that are difficult to understand. So, here’s what I mean by that. One of the most important I think cultural problems that I talk about is the prevalence of family and stability and family trauma in some of the communities that I write about; and I take it as a given that that trauma and that instability is really bad, that it has really negative downstream effects on whether children are able to get an education, whether their able to enter the workforce, whether they’re  able to raise and maintain successful families themselves. I think it’s tempting to sort of look at the problems of family instability and families like mine and say there’s a structural problem if only people had access to better economic opportunities, they wouldn’t have this problem. I think that’s partially true, but also consequently partially false. I think there’s a tendency on the right to look at that and say these parents need to take better care of their families and of their children, and unless they do it, there’s nothing that we can do. And I think again, that is maybe partially true, but it’s also very significantly false. What I’m trying to point to in this concept of culture, is we know that when children grow up in very unstable families that it has important cognitive effects, we know that it has important psychological effects, and unless we understand the problem of family instability and trauma, not just as a structural problem, or problem with personal responsibility, but as a long-term problem, in some cases inherited from multiple generations back, then we’re not going to be able to appreciate what’s really going on in some of these families and why family instability and trauma is so durable and so difficult to actually solve. So, I tend to think of culture as in some ways, this way to sum all of the things that are neither structural nor individual. What is it that’s going on in people’s environments good and bad that make it difficult for them to climb out of poverty. What are the things that they inherit. It’s not just from their own families, but from multiple generations back. Behaviors, expectations, environmental attitudes that make it really hard for them to succeed and do well. That’s the concept of culture that I think is most important, and also frankly that I think is missing a little bit from our political conversation when we talk about these questions of poverty, we’re really comfortable talking about personal responsibility, we’re really comfortable talking about structural problems. We don’t often talk about culture in this way that I’m trying to talk about it, in “ Hillbilly Elegy. ” (…) the second point that I wanted to make (…) is this question of Agency and whether I overemphasize the role of Agency. I think that for me, this is a really tough line to tow because I’m sort of writing about these problems you know, having in my personal memory, I’m not that far removed from a lot of them. I know that myself, one of the biggest problems that I faced was that I really did start to give up on myself early in high school, and I think that’s a really significant problem. At the same time, I understand and recognize the problem that Bill mentions which is that we have this tendency to sort of overemphasize Personal Agency and to proverbially blame the victim for a lot of these problems. So, what I was trying to do with this discussion of Personal Agency in the book, and I may have failed, but this is the effort, this is what I’m really trying to accomplish. Is that the first instance, I do think that it’s important for kids like me in circumstances like mine, to pick up the book and to have at least some reinforcement of the Agency that they have. I do think that’s a significant problem from the prospective of kids who grew up in communities like mine. The second thing that I’m trying to do, is talk about Personal Agency, not jus t from the prospective of individual poor people, but from the entire community that surrounds them. So, one of the things that I talk about is as religious communities in these areas, do they have the, as I say in the book, toughness to build Churches that encourage more social engagement as opposed to more social disaffection. I think that’s a question of Personal Agency, not from the perspective of the impoverished kid, but from a religious leader and community leaders that exist in their neighborhood. So, I think that sense of Personal Agency is really important. One of the worries that I have, is that when we talk about the problems of impoverished kids and this is especially true amongst sort of my generation, so this is — I’m a tail end of t he millennials here, is that we tend to think about helping people, 10 million people at a time a very superficial level, and one of the calls to action that I make in the book with this — by pointing out to Personal Agency is the idea that it can be really impactful to make a difference in 10 lives at a very deep level at the community level. And I think that sometimes is missing from these conversations. And then, the final point that I’ll make is that there’s a difference between recognizing the importance of Personal Agency and I think ignoring the role of structural factors in some of these problems, right? So, the example that I used to highlight this in the book is this question of addiction. So, there’s some interesting research that suggests that people who believe inherently that their addiction is a disease, show slightly less proclivity to actually fight that addiction and overcome that addiction. So, that creates sort of a catch 22, because we know there are biological components to addiction. We know that there are these sorts of structural non-personal decision-making drivers of addiction, and yet, if you totally buy in to the non-individual choice explanation for addiction, you show less of a proclivity to fight it. So, I think that there is this really tough under current to some of our discussions on these issues, where as a society we want to simultaneously recognize the barriers that people face, but also encourage them not to play a terrible hand in a terrible way, and that’s what I’m trying to do with this discussion of Personal Agency. The final point that I’ll make on that, is that the person who towed that line better than anyone I’ve ever known was my Grandma, my Ma’ma who I think is in some ways the hero of the book. She always told me. Look J.D., like is unfair for us, but don’t be like those people who think the deck is hopelessly stacked against them. I think that’s a sentiment that you hear far too infrequently among America’s elites. This simultaneous recognition that life is unfair for a lot of poor Americans, but that we still have to emphasize the role of individual agency in spite of that unfairness and I think that’s again a difficult balancing act. I may not have struck that balancing act perfectly in the book, but that was the intention. (…) the first thing is definitely you know, going back to my grandma. I think if anybody had a reason for pessimism and cynicism about the future, it was her. It’s sort of difficult to imagine a woman who had lived a more difficult life and yet ma’ma had this constant optimism about the future, in the sense that we had to do better because that was just the way that America worked. I mean I think that she was this woman who had this deep and abiding faith in the American dream in a way that is obviously disappearing And in fact, as I wrote about in the book, was I started to see disappearing even you know, when I was a young kid in my early 20’s. So, I think that my grandma was a huge part of that. I also think that the Marine Corp was a really huge part of that, and this is sort of a transformational experience that I write about in the book. The military is this really remarkable institution. It brings people from diverse backgrounds together, gets them on the same team. Gets them marching proverbially and literally towards the same goal, and for a kid who had grown up in a community that was starting to lose faith in that American dream, I think that the military was a really useful way to, as I say in the book, teach a certain amount of willfulness as opposed to despair and hopelessness. So, I think that was a really critical piece of it. (…) On the other hand, one thing I really worried about and one thing that I increasingly worried about as I actually did research for the book, is this idea of faith and religion, not just as something that people believe in, but as an actual positive institutional and social role player in their lives. And one of the things you do see, that this is something that Charles Murray’s written about, is that you see the institutions of faith declining in some of these lower income communities faster than you do in middle and upper income communities. I don’t think you have to be a person of faith to think that that’s worrisome. I think you can just read a paper by Jonathan Gruber that talks about all of these really positive social impacts of being a regular participatory Church member. So, you know, I think I was lucky in that sense, but a lot of folks, and when I look at the community right now, it worries me a little bit that you don’t see these robust social institutions in the same way that you certainly did 30, 40 years ago, and even when I was growing up in Middletown. The last point that I’ll make about that, is that (…) these trends often take half a century or more to really reveal themselves and I do sometimes see signs of resilience in some of these communities that I sort of didn’t fully anticipate and didn’t expect when the book was published. So, one of the things I’ve started to realize for example is when we talk about the decline of institutional faith, even though I continue to worry about that, one of the institutions that’s actually picked up the slack are groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. They almost have this faith effect. It brings people together. There’s even a sort of liturgical element to some of these meetings that I find really, really fascinating and interesting. So, people try to find and replace community when it’s lost but you know, clearly, they haven’t at least as of yet, replaced it even remotely to the degree that it has been lost which is why I think you see some of the issues that we do. (…) on this question of identity politics, I think that what worries me is that a lot — it’s not a recognition that there are disadvantaged non-white groups that need some help or there needs to be some closing of the gap you know. When I talk to folks back home, very conservative people, they’re actually pretty open-minded if you talk about the problems that exist in the black ghetto because of problems of concentrated poverty and the fact that the black ghetto was in some ways created by housing policy. It was the choice of black Americans. It was in some ways created by housing policy. I find actually a lot of openness when I talk to friends and family about that. What I find no openness about is when somebody who they don’t know, and who they think judges them, points at them and says you need to apologize for your white privilege. So, I think that in some ways making these questions of disadvantage zero sum, is really toxic, but I think that’s one way that the Democrats really lost the white working class in the 2016 election. The second piece that occurs to me, and this applies across the political spectrum, is that what we’re trying to do in the United States, it’s very easy to be cynical about American politics, but we’re rying to build a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation, not just a conglomeration, an actual nation of people from all of these different tribes and unify them around a common creed. I think that’s really delicate. It’s basically never been done success fully over a long period in human history and I think it requires a certain amount of rhetorical finesse that we don’t see from many of our politicians on either side these days and that really, really worries me. (…) my general worry with the college education in the book at large is sort of two things. So, the first is that, I think we’ve constructed a society effectively in which a college education is now the only pathway to the middle class, and I think that’s a real failure on our part. It’s not something you see in every country, and I don’t think it necessarily has to be the case here. There are other ways to get post-secondary education and I absolutely think that we have to make that easier, and I really see this as sort of the defining policy challenge of the next 10 years is to create more of those pathways; because the second born on this is that college is a really, really culturally terrifying place for a lot of working class people. We can try to make it less culturally terrifying, we can try to make for the elites of our universities a little bit more welcoming to folks like me, and this is something that I wrote about in the book, really feeling like a true outsider at Yale for the first time, in an educational institution. I think that we also have to acknowledge that part of the reason that people feel like cultural outsiders is for reasons that aren’t necessarily going to be easy to fix, and if we don’t create more pathways for these folks, we shouldn’t be surprised that a lot of them aren’t going to take the one pathway that’s there, that effectively runs through a culturally alien institution.  (…) in certain areas, especially in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and so forth. I think the biggest under reported problem for the baby boomers is the fact that they are taking care of children that they didn’t necessarily anticipate taking care of because of the opioid crisis. This is the biggest dr iver of elder poverty in the State of Ohio, is that you have entire families that have been transplanted from one generation to the next. They were planning for retirement based on one social security income, and now all of a sudden, they have two, three additional mouths to feed. I think my concern for the baby boom generation is especially those folks of course because it’s not just bad for them, it’s bad for these children who are all of a sudden thrown into poverty because of the opioid addition of that middle generation of the parents, of the kids and the sons and daughters of the grandkids. And then the very last question, culture, I think of as a way to understand the sum of the environmental impacts that you can’t necessarily define as structural rights, so the effects of family instability and trauma that exists in people, the effects of social capital and social networks in people’s lives, You know, all of these things I think add up to a broad set of variables that can either promote upward mobility or inhibit upward mobility; and again I think we very often talk about job opportunities and educational opportunities, we very often talk about individual responsibility and Personal Agency. We very rarely I think talk about those middle layers and those institutional factors that in a lot of ways are the real drivers of this problem. (…) on the inequality and concentration wealth, the top thing, I’ll say this one area where I actually think conservative senator Mike Leaf from Utah has had some really, really, interesting ideas. One of the tax reform proposals Senator Leaf has advocated for is actually setting the capital taxation rate at the same rate as the ordinary income rate. Because that’s what’s really driving this difference, right. It’s not ordinary income earners. It’s not salaried professionals. Those Richard Reeve says that’s a problem. It’s primarily actually that folks in the global economy, especially the ultra-elite, folks in the global economy have achieved some sort of economic lift off from the rest of the country and I think that in light of that, it doesn’t make a ton of sense that we continue to have the taxation policy that we do. Frankly, that’s one of the reasons why I am sort of so conflicted about President Trump because I think in some ways instinctively at least the President recognizes this, but we’ll see what actually happens with tax reform over the next few months. The question about job competition is absolutely correct. You can’t just have a better educated workforce but hold the number of workers constant. At the same time, I do think there’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem here right because you know, while the skills gap is overplayed and while it violates all of these rules of Econ 101, one of the things you hear pretty consistently from folks who would l ike to expand, would like to hire more, would like to produce more, is that there are real labor force constraints, especially in what might be called non-cognitive skills, right; and this is a thing that you hear a lot. In my home state if you really want to hire more, and you really want to produce more, and sell more, then the problem is the opioid epidemic has effectively thinned the pool of people who were even able to work. So, I do think that productivity is really important, but I also think that we tend to think of these things in too mathematical and sort of hyper-rational ways, but part of the reason productivity is held back, is because we have real problems in the labor market, and if you fix one, you could help another, and they may create a virtuous cycle. J.D. Vance
It is immoral because it perpetuates a lie: that the white working class that finds itself attracted to Trump has been victimized by outside forces. It hasn’t. The white middle class may like the idea of Trump as a giant pulsing humanoid middle finger held up in the face of the Cathedral, they may sing hymns to Trump the destroyer and whisper darkly about “globalists” and — odious, stupid term — “the Establishment,” but nobody did this to them. They failed themselves. If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy — which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog — you will come to an awful realization. It wasn’t Beijing. It wasn’t even Washington, as bad as Washington can be. It wasn’t immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn’t any of that. Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence — and the incomprehensible malice — of poor white America. So the gypsum business in Garbutt ain’t what it used to be. There is more to life in the 21st century than wallboard and cheap sentimentality about how the Man closed the factories down. The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your goddamned gypsum, and, if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul. Williamson
This book is about (…) what goes on in the lives of real people when the industrial economy goes south. It’s about reacting to bad circumstances in the worst way possible. It’s about a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it. The problems that I saw at the tile warehouse run far deeper than macroeconomic trends and policy. too many young men immune to hard work. Good jobs impossible to fill for any length of time. And a young man [one of Vance’s co-workers] with every reason to work — a wife-to-be to support and a baby on the way — carelessly tossing aside a good job with excellent health insurance. More troublingly, when it was all over, he thought something had been done to him. There is a lack of agency here — a feeling that you have little control over your life and a willingness to blame everyone but yourself. This is distinct from the larger economic landscape of modern America. (…) People talk about hard work all the time in places like Middletown [where Vance grew up]. You can walk through a town where 30 percent of the young men work fewer than twenty hours a week and find not a single person aware of his own laziness. (…) I learned little else about what masculinity required of me other than drinking beer and screaming at a woman when she screamed at you. In the end, the only lesson that took was that you can’t depend on people. “I learned that men will disappear at the drop of a hat,” Lindsay [his half-sister] once said. “They don’t care about their kids; they don’t provide; they just disappear, and it’s not that hard to make them go.” (…) Dad’s church offered something desperately needed by people like me. For alcoholics, it gave them a community of support and a sense that they weren’t fighting addiction alone. For expectant mothers, it offered a free home with job training and parenting classes. When someone needed a job, church friends could either provide one or make introductions. When Dad faced financial troubles, his church banded together and purchased a used car for the family. In the broken world I saw around me — and for the people struggling in that world — religion offered tangible assistance to keep the faithful on track. (…) Why didn’t our neighbor leave that abusive man? Why did she spend her money on drugs? Why couldn’t she see that her behavior was destroying her daughter? Why were all of these things happening not just to our neighbor but to my mom? It would be years before I learned that no single book, or expert, or field could fully explain the problems of hillbillies in modern America. Our elegy is a sociological one, yes, but it is also about psychology and community and culture and faith. During my junior year of high school, our neighbor Pattie called her landlord to report a leaky roof. The landlord arrived and found Pattie topless, stoned, and unconscious on her living room couch. Upstairs the bathtub was overflowing — hence, the leaking roof. Pattie had apparently drawn herself a bath, taken a few prescription painkillers, and passed out. The top floor of her home and many of her family’s possessions were ruined. This is the reality of our community. It’s about a naked druggie destroying what little of value exists in her life. It’s about children who lose their toys and clothes to a mother’s addiction. This was my world: a world of truly irrational behavior. We spend our way into the poorhouse. We buy giant TVs and iPads. Our children wear nice clothes thanks to high-interest credit cards and payday loans. We purchase homes we don’t need, refinance them for more spending money, and declare bankruptcy, often leaving them full of garbage in our wake. Thrift is inimical to our being. We spend to pretend that we’re upper class. And when the dust clears — when bankruptcy hits or a family member bails us out of our stupidity — there’s nothing left over. Nothing for the kids’ college tuition, no investment to grow our wealth, no rainy-day fund if someone loses her job. We know we shouldn’t spend like this. Sometimes we beat ourselves up over it, but we do it anyway. (…) Our homes are a chaotic mess. We scream and yell at each other like we’re spectators at a football game. At least one member of the family uses drugs — sometimes the father, sometimes both. At especially stressful times, we’ll hit and punch each other, all in front of the rest of the family, including young children; much of the time, the neighbors hear what’s happening. A bad day is when the neighbors call the police to stop the drama. Our kids go to foster care but never stay for long. We apologize to our kids. The kids believe we’re really sorry, and we are. But then we act just as mean a few days later. (…) I once ran into an old acquaintance at a Middletown bar who told me that he had recently quit his job because he was sick of waking up early I later saw him complaining on Facebook about the “Obama economy” and how it had affected his life. I don’t doubt that the Obama economy has affected many, but this man is assuredly not among them. His status in life is directly attributable to the choices he’s made, and his life will improve only through better decisions. But for him to make better choices, he needs to live in an environment that forces him to ask tough questions about himself. There is a cultural movement in the white working class to blame problems on society or the government, and that movement gains adherents by the day. (…) The wealthy and the powerful aren’t just wealthy and powerful; they follow a different set of norms and mores. … It was at this meal, on the first of five grueling days of [law school job] interviews, that I began to understand that I was seeing the inner workings of a system that lay hidden to most of my kind. … That week of interviews showed me that successful people are playing an entirely different game. (…) I believe we hillbillies are the toughest goddamned people on this earth. … But are we tough enough to do what needs to be done to help a kid like Brian? Are we tough enough to build a church that forces kids like me to engage with the world rather than withdraw from it? Are we tough enough to look ourselves in the mirror and admit that our conduct harms our children? Public policy can help, but there is no government that can fix these problems for us. These problems were not created by governments or corporations or anyone else. We created them, and only we can fix them. (…) I believe we hillbillies are the toughest god—-ed people on this earth. But are we tough enough to look ourselves in the mirror and admit that our conduct harms our children? Public policy can help, but there is no government that can fix these problems for us. . . . I don’t know what the answer is precisely, but I know it starts when we stop blaming Obama or Bush or faceless companies and ask ourselves what we can do to make things better.” J.D. Vance
This is the heart of Hillbilly Elegy: how hillbilly white culture fails its children, and how the greatest disadvantages it imparts to its youth are the life of violence and chaos in which they are raised, and the closely related problem of a lack of moral agency. Young Vance was on a road to ruin until certain people — including the US Marine Corps — showed him that his choices mattered, and that he had a lot more control over his fate than he thought. Vance talks about how, in his youth, there was a lot of hardscrabble poverty among his people, but nothing like today, dominated by the devastation of drug addiction. Everything we are accustomed to hearing about black inner city social dysfunction is fully present among these white hillbillies, as Vance documents in great detail. He writes that “hillbillies learn from an early age to deal with uncomfortable truths by avoiding them, or by pretending better truths exist. This tendency might make for psychological resilience, but it also makes it hard for Appalachians to look at themselves honestly.” (…) Vance talks about the hillbilly habit of stigmatizing people who leave the hollers as “too big for your britches” — meaning that you got above yourself. It doesn’t matter that they may have left to find work, and that they’re living a fairly poor life not too far away, in Ohio. The point is, they left, and that is a hard sin to forgive. What, we weren’t good enough for you?  This is the white-people version of “acting white,” if you follow me: the same stigma and shame that poor black people deploy against other poor black people who want to better themselves with education and so on. (…) Vance plainly loves his people, and because he loves them, he tells hard truths about them. He talks about how cultural fatalism destroys initiative. When hillbillies run up against adversity, they tend to assume that they can’t do anything about it. To the hillbilly mind, people who “make it” are either born to wealth, or were born with uncanny talent, winning the genetic lottery. The connection between self-discipline and hard work, and success, is invisible to them. (…) Vance was born into a world of chaos. It takes concentration to follow the trail of family connections. Women give birth out of wedlock, having children by different men. Marriages rarely last, and informal partnerings are more common. Vance has half-siblings by his mom’s different husbands (she has had five to date). In his generation, Vance says, grandparents are often having to raise their grandchildren, because those grandparents, however impoverished and messy their own lives may be, offer a more stable alternative than the incredible instability of the kids’ parents (or more likely, parent). (…) This is what happens in inner-city black culture, as has been exhaustively documented. But these are rural and small-town white people. This dysfunction is not color-based, but cultural. I could not do justice here to describe the violence, emotional and physical, that characterizes everyday life in Vance’s childhood culture, and the instability in people’s outer lives and inner lives. To read in such detail what life is like as a child formed by communities like that is to gain a sense of why it is so difficult to escape from the malign gravity of that way of life. You can’t imagine that life could be any different. Religion among the hillbillies is not much help. Vance says that hillbillies love to talk about Jesus, but they don’t go to church, and Christianity doesn’t seem to have much effect at all on their behavior. Vance’s biological father is an exception. He belonged to a strict fundamentalist church, one that helped him beat his alcoholism and gave him the severe structure he needed to keep his life from going off track. (…) Vance says the best thing about life in his dad’s house was how boring it was. It was predictable. It was a respite from the constant chaos. On the other hand, the religion most hillbillies espouse is a rusticated form of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. God seems to exist only as a guarantor of ultimate order, and ultimate justice; Jesus is there to assuage one’s pain. Except for those who commit to churchgoing — and believe it or not, this is one of the least churched parts of the US — Christianity is a ghost. (…) One of the most important contributions Vance makes to our understanding of American poverty is how little public policy can affect the cultural habits that keep people poor. He talks about education policy, saying that the elite discussion of how to help schools focuses entirely on reforming institutions. “As a teacher at my old high school told me recently, ‘They want us to be shepherds to these kids. But no one wants to talk about the fact that many of them are raised by wolves.” (…) Vance says his people lie to themselves about the reality of their condition, and their own personal responsibility for their degradation. He says that not all working-class white hillbillies are like this. There are those who work hard, stay faithful, and are self-reliant — people like Mamaw and Papaw. Their kids stand a good chance of making it; in fact, Vance says friends of his who grew up like this are doing pretty well for themselves. Unfortunately, most of the people in Vance’s neighborhood were like his mom: “consumerist, isolated, angry, distrustful.” (…) As I said earlier, the two things that saved Vance were going to live full time with his Mamaw (therefore getting out of the insanity of his mom’s home), and later, going into the US Marine Corps. I’ve already written at too much length about Vance’s story, so I won’t belabor this much longer. Suffice it to say that as imperfect as she was, Mamaw gave young Vance the stability he needed to start succeeding in school. And she wouldn’t let him slack off on his studies. She taught him the value of hard work, and of moral agency. The Marine Corps remade J.D. Vance. It pulverized his inner hillbilly fatalism, and gave him a sense that he had control over his life, and that his choices mattered.  (…) Anyway, Vance talks about how the contemporary hillbilly mindset renders them unfit for participation in life outside their own ghetto. They don’t trust anybody, and are willing to believe outlandish conspiracy theories, particularly if those theories absolve them from responsibility. Hence the enormous popularity of Donald Trump among the white working class. Here’s a guy who will believe and say anything, and who blames Mexicans, Chinese, and Muslims for America’s problems. The elites hate him, so he’s made the right enemies, as far as the white working class is concerned. And his “Make America Great Again” slogan speaks to the deep patriotism that Vance says is virtually a religion among hillbillies. (…) The sense of inner order and discipline Vance learned in the Marine Corps allowed his natural intelligence to blossom. The poor hillbilly kid with the druggie mom ends up at Yale Law School. He says he felt like an outsider there, but it was a serious education in more than the law (…) What he’s talking about is social capital, and how critically important it is to success. Poor white kids don’t have it (neither do poor black or Hispanic kids). You’re never going to teach a kid from the trailer park or the housing project the secrets of the upper middle class, but you can give them what kids like me had: a basic understanding of work, discipline, confidence, good manners, and an eagerness to learn. A big part of the problem for his people, says Vance, is the shocking degree of family instability among the American poor. “Chaos begets chaos. Instability begets instability. Welcome to family life for the American hillbilly.” (…) The worst problems of his culture, the things that held kids like him back, are not things a government program can fix. For example, as a child, his culture taught him that doing well in school made you a “sissy.” Vance says the home is the source of the worst of these problems. There simply is not a policy fix for families and family systems that have collapsed. (…) Voting for Trump is not going to fix these problems. For the black community, protesting against police brutality on the streets is not going to fix their most pressing problems. It’s not that the problems Trump points to aren’t real, and it’s not that police brutality, especially towards minorities, isn’t a problem. It’s that these serve as distractions from the core realities that keep poor white and black people down. A missionary to inner-city Dallas once told me that the greatest obstacle the black and Latino kids he helped out had was their rock-solid conviction that nothing could change for them, and that people who succeeded got that way because they were born white, or rich, or just got lucky. Until these things are honestly and effectively addressed by families, communities, and their institutions, nothing will change. (…) If white lives matter — and they do, because all lives matter — then sentimentality and more government programs aren’t going to rescue these poor people. Vance puts it more delicately than Williamson, but getting a U-Haul and getting away from other poor people — or at least finding some way to get their kids out of there, to a place where people aren’t so fatalistic, lazy, and paranoid — is their best hope. And that is surely true no matter what your race. Rod Dreher
I believe, and so does J.D., that government really does have a meaningful role to play in ameliorating the problems of the poor. But there will never be a government program capable of compensating for the loss of stable family structures, the loss of community, the loss of a sense of moral agency, and the loss of a sense of meaning in the lives of the poor. The solution, insofar as there is a “solution,” is not an either-or (that is, either culture or government), but a both-and. (…) The loss of industrial jobs plays a big role in the catastrophe. J.D. Vance acknowledges that plainly in his book. But it’s not the whole story. The wounds are partly self-inflicted. The working class, he argues, has lost its sense of agency and taste for hard work. In one illuminating anecdote, he writes about his summer job at the local tile factory, lugging 60-pound pallets around. It paid $13 an hour with good benefits and opportunities for advancement. A full-time employee could earn a salary well above the poverty line. That should have made the gig an easy sell. Yet the factory’s owner had trouble filling jobs. During Vance’s summer stint, three people left, including a man he calls Bob, a 19-year-old with a pregnant girlfriend. Bob was chronically late to work, when he showed up at all. He frequently took 45-minute bathroom breaks. Still, when he got fired, he raged against the managers who did it, refusing to acknowledge the impact of his own bad choices. “He thought something had been done to him,” Vance writes. “There is a lack of agency here — a feeling that you have little control over your life and a willingness to blame everyone but yourself.” (…)  JDV openly credits his Mamaw and the Marine Corps with making him the man he is today. He does not claim he got there entirely on his own, by bootstrapping it. The American conservative
A harrowing portrait of the plight of the white working class J. D. Vance’s new book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis couldn’t have been better timed. For the past year, as Donald Trump has defied political gravity to seize the Republican nomination and transform American politics, those who are repelled by Trump have been accused of insensitivity to the concerns of the white working class. For Trump skeptics, this charge seems to come from left field, and I use that term advisedly. By declaring that a particular class and race has been “ignored” or “neglected,” the Right (or better “right”) has taken a momentous step in the Left’s direction. With the ease of a thrown switch, people once considered conservative have embraced the kind of interest-group politics they only yesterday rejected as a matter of principle. It was the Democrats who urged specific payoffs, er, policies to aid this or that constituency. Conservatives wanted government to withdraw from the redistribution and favor-conferring business to the greatest possible degree. If this was imperfectly achieved, it was still the goal — because it was just. Using government to benefit some groups comes at the expense of all. While not inevitably corrupt, the whole transactional nature of the business does easily tend toward corruption. Conservatives and Republicans understood, or seemed to, that in many cases, when government confers a benefit on one party, say sugar producers, in the form of a tariff on imported sugar, there’s a problem of concentrated benefits (sugar producers get a windfall) and dispersed costs (everyone pays more for sugar, but only a bit more, so they never complain). In the realm of race, sex, and class, the pandering to groups goes beyond bad economics and government waste — and even beyond the injustice of fleecing those who work to support those who choose not to — and into the dangerous territory of pitting Americans against one another. Democrats have mastered the art of sowing discord to reap votes. Powered by Now they have company in the Trumpites. Like Democrats who encourage their target constituencies to nurse grievances against “greedy” corporations, banks, Republicans, and government for their problems, Trump now encourages his voters to blame Mexicans, the Chinese, a “rigged system,” or stupid leaders for theirs. The problems of the white working class should concern every public-spirited American not because they’ve been forgotten or taken for granted — even those terms strike a false note for me — but because they are fellow Americans. How would one adjust public policy to benefit the white working class and not blacks, Hispanics, and others? How would that work? And who would shamelessly support policies based on tribal or regional loyalties and not the general welfare? As someone who has written — perhaps to the point of dull repetition — about the necessity for Republicans to focus less on entrepreneurs (as important as they are) and more on wage earners; as someone who has stressed the need for family-focused tax reform; as someone who has advocated education innovations that would reach beyond the traditional college customers and make education and training easier to obtain for struggling Americans; as someone who trumpeted the Reformicon proposals developed by a group of conservative intellectuals affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute and the Ethics and Public Policy Center; and finally, as someone who has shouted herself hoarse about the key role that family disintegration plays in many of our most pressing national problems, I cannot quite believe that I stand accused of indifference to the white working class. I said that Hillbilly Elegy could not have been better timed, and yes, that’s in part because it paints a picture of Americans who are certainly a key Trump constituency. Though the name Donald Trump is never mentioned, there is no doubt in the reader’s mind that the people who populate this book would be enthusiastic Trumpites. But the book is far deeper than an explanation of the Trump phenomenon (which it doesn’t, by the way, claim to be). It’s a harrowing portrait of much that has gone wrong in America over the past two generations. It’s Charles Murray’s “Fishtown” told in the first person. The community into which Vance was born — working-class whites from Kentucky (though transplanted to Ohio) — is more given over to drug abuse, welfare dependency, indifference to work, and utter hopelessness than statistics can fully convey. Vance’s mother was an addict who discarded husbands and boyfriends like Dixie cups, dragging her two children through endless screaming matches, bone-chilling threats, thrown plates and worse violence, and dizzying disorder. Every lapse was followed by abject apologies — and then the pattern repeated. His father gave him up for adoption (though that story is complicated), and social services would have removed him from his family entirely if he had not lied to a judge to avoid being parted from his grandmother, who provided the only stable presence in his life. Vance writes of his family and friends: “Nearly every person you will read about is deeply flawed. Some have tried to murder other people, and a few were successful. Some have abused their children, physically or emotionally.” His grandmother, the most vivid character in his tale (and, despite everything, a heroine) is as foul-mouthed as Tony Soprano and nearly as dangerous. She was the sort of woman who threatened to shoot strangers who placed a foot on her porch and meant it. Vance was battered and bruised by this rough start, but a combination of intellectual gifts — after a stint in the Marines he sailed through Ohio State in two years and then graduated from Yale Law — and the steady love of his grandparents helped him to leapfrog into America’s elite. This book is a memoir but also contains the sharp and unsentimental insights of a born sociologist. As André Malraux said to Whittaker Chambers under very different circumstances in 1952: “You have not come back from Hell with empty hands.” The troubles Vance depicts among the white working class, or at least that portion he calls “hillbillies,” are quite familiar to those who’ve followed the pathologies of the black poor, or Native Americans living on reservations. Disorganized family lives, multiple romantic partners, domestic violence and abuse, loose attachment to work, and drug and alcohol abuse. Children suffer from “Mountain Dew” mouth — severe tooth decay and loss because parents give their children, sometimes even infants with bottles, sugary sodas and fail to teach proper dental hygiene. “People talk about hard work all the time in places like Middletown [Ohio],” Vance writes. “You can walk through a town where 30 percent of the young men work fewer than 20 hours a week and find not a single person aware of his own laziness.” He worked in a floor-tile warehouse and witnessed the sort of shirking that is commonplace. One guy, I’ll call him Bob, joined the tile warehouse just a few months before I did. Bob was 19 with a pregnant girlfriend. The manager kindly offered the girlfriend a clerical position answering phones. Both of them were terrible workers. The girlfriend missed about every third day of work and never gave advance notice. Though warned to change her habits repeatedly, the girlfriend lasted no more than a few months. Bob missed work about once a week, and he was chronically late. On top of that, he often took three or four daily bathroom breaks, each over half an hour. . . . Eventually, Bob . . . was fired. When it happened, he lashed out at his manager: ‘How could you do this to me? Don’t you know I’ve a pregnant girlfriend?’ And he was not alone. . . . A young man with every reason to work . . . carelessly tossing aside a good job with excellent health insurance. More troublingly, when it was all over, he thought something had been done to him. The addiction, domestic violence, poverty, and ill health that plague these communities might be salved to some degree by active and vibrant churches. But as Vance notes, the attachment to church, like the attachment to work, is severely frayed. People say they are Christians. They even tell pollsters they attend church weekly. But “in the middle of the Bible belt, active church attendance is actually quite low.” After years of alcoholism, Vance’s biological father did join a serious church, and while Vance was skeptical about the church’s theology, he notes that membership did transform his father from a wastrel into a responsible father and husband to his new family. Teenaged Vance did a stint as a check-out clerk at a supermarket and kept his social-scientist eye peeled: I also learned how people gamed the welfare system. They’d buy two dozen packs of soda with food stamps and then sell them at a discount for cash. They’d ring up their orders separately, buying food with the food stamps, and beer, wine, and cigarettes with cash. They’d regularly go through the checkout line speaking on their cell phones. I could never understand why our lives felt like a struggle while those living off of government largesse enjoyed trinkets that I only dreamed about. . . . Perhaps if the schools were better, they would offer children from struggling families the leg up they so desperately need? Vance is unconvinced. The schools he attended were adequate, if not good, he recalls. But there were many times in his early life when his home was so chaotic — when he was kept awake all night by terrifying fights between his mother and her latest live-in boyfriend, for example — that he could not concentrate in school at all. For a while, he and his older sister lived by themselves while his mother underwent a stint in rehab. They concealed this embarrassing situation as best they could. But they were children. Alone. A teacher at his Ohio high school summed up the expectations imposed on teachers this way: “They want us to be shepherds to these kids. But no one wants to talk about the fact that many of them are raised by wolves.” Hillbilly Elegy is an honest look at the dysfunction that afflicts too many working-class Americans. But despite the foregoing, it isn’t an indictment. Vance loves his family and admires some of its strengths. Among these are fierce patriotism, loyalty, and toughness. But even regarding patriotism (his grandmother’s “two gods” were Jesus Christ and the United States of America), this former Marine strikes a melancholy note. His family and community have lost their heroes. We loved the military but had no George S. Patton figure in the modern army. . . . The space program, long a source of pride, had gone the way of the dodo, and with it the celebrity astronauts. Nothing united us with the core fabric of American society. Conspiracy theories abound in Appalachia. People do not believe anything the press reports: “We can’t trust the evening news. We can’t trust our politicians. Our universities, the gateway to a better life, are rigged against us. We can’t get jobs.” Conspiracy theories abound in Appalachia. Sound familiar? The white working class has followed the black underclass and Native Americans not just into family disintegration, addiction, and other pathologies, but also perhaps into the most important self-sabotage of all, the crippling delusion that they cannot improve their lot by their own effort. This is where the rise of Trump becomes both understandable and deeply destructive. He ratifies every conspiracy theory in circulation and adds news ones. He encourages the tribal grievances of the white working class and promises that salvation will come — not through their own agency and sensible government reforms — but only through his head-knocking leadership. He calls this greatness, but it’s the exact reverse. A great people does not turn to a strongman. The American character has been corrupted by multiple generations of government dependency and the loss of bourgeois virtues like self-control, delayed gratification, family stability, thrift, and industriousness. Vance has risen out of chaos to the heights of stability, success, and happiness. He is fundamentally optimistic about the chances for the nation to do the same. Whether his optimism is justified or not is unknowable, but his brilliant book is a signal flashing danger. Mona Charen
To further quell their culpability and show that the American Dream still functions as advertised, conservatives are fond of trotting out success stories — people who prove that pulling one’s self up by one’s bootstraps is still a possibility and, by extension, that those who don’t succeed must own their shortcomings. Lately, the right has found nobody more useful, both during the presidential election and after, than their modern-day Horatio Alger spokesperson, J. D. Vance, whose bestselling book “Hillbilly Elegy” chronicled his journey from Appalachia to the hallowed halls of the Ivy League, while championing the hard work necessary to overcome the pitfalls of poverty. Traditionally this would’ve been a Fox News kind of book — the network featured an excerpt on their site that focused on Vance’s introduction to “elite culture” during his time at Yale — but Vance’s glorified self-help tome was also forwarded by networks and pundits desperate to understand the Donald Trump phenomenon, and the author was essentially transformed into Privileged America’s Sherpa into the ravages of Post-Recession U.S.A. Trumpeted as a glimpse into an America elites have neglected for years, I first read “Hillbilly Elegy” with hope. I’d been told this might be the book that finally shed light on problems that’d been killing my family for generations. I’d watched my grandparents and parents, all of them factory workers, suffer backbreaking labor and then be virtually forgotten by the political establishment until the GOP needed their vote and stoked their social and racial anxieties to turn them into political pawns. In the beginning, I felt a kinship to Vance. His dysfunctional childhood looked a lot like my own. There was substance abuse. Knockdown, drag-out fights. A feeling that people just couldn’t get ahead no matter what they did. And then the narrative took a turn. Due to references he downplays, not to mention his middle-class grandmother’s shielding and encouragement, Vance was able to lift himself out of the despair of impoverishment and escaped to Yale and eventually Silicon Valley, where he was able to look back on his upbringing with a new perspective. (…) The thesis at the heart of “Hillbilly Elegy” is that anybody who isn’t able to escape the working class is essentially at fault. Sure, there’s a culture of fatalism and “learned helplessness,” but the onus falls on the individual. (…) Oh, the working class and their aversion to difficulty. If only they, like Vance, could take the challenge head on and rise above their circumstances. If only they, like Vance, weren’t so worried about material things like iPhones or the “giant TVs and iPads” the author says his people buy for themselves instead of saving for the future. This generalization is not the only problematic oversimplification in Vance’s book — he totally discounts the role racism played in the white working class’s opposition to President Obama and says, instead, it was because Obama dressed well, was a good father, and because Michelle Obama advocated eating healthy food — but it would be hard to understate what role Vance has played in reinvigorating the conservative bootstraps narrative for a new generation and, thus, emboldening Republican ideology. To Vance’s credit, he has been critical of Donald Trump, calling the working class’s support of the billionaire a result of a “false sense of purpose,” but Vance’s portrait of poor Americans is alarmingly in lockstep with the philosophy of Republicans who are shamefully using Trump’s presidency to forward their own agenda of economic warfare. (…) The message is loud and clear: Help is on the way, but only to those who “deserve” it. And how does one deserve it? By working hard. And the only metric to show that one has worked sufficiently hard enough is to look at their income, at how successful they are, because, in Vance’s and the Republican’s America, the only one to blame if you’re not wealthy is yourself. Never mind how legislation like this healthcare bill, cuts in education funding, continued decreases in after-school and school lunch programs, not to mention a lack of access to mental health care or career counseling, disadvantages the poor. Jared Yates Sexton (Assistant Professor of Creative Writing)
Hillbilly Elégie, qui vient de paraître aux éditions Globe traduit de l’anglais (américain) (…) est l’un des best-sellers de l’année aux Etats-Unis et son adaptation cinématographique est déjà en cours de tournage sous la direction de Ron Howard. Rien que ça ! Ensuite, c’est un livre hors du commun, qui a été salué avec un bel ensemble par la presse intellectuelle américaine, tant du côté conservateur que du côté libéral. On a beaucoup écrit qu’il constituait, en effet, l’une des clefs de cet événement tellement improbable : l’élection à la présidence des Etats-Unis « du Donald ». Ce n’est pourtant pas un essai politique. Il a été écrit avant que « le Donald » ne soit désigné comme candidat par les primaires républicaines. Et cependant, oui, il donne les clefs d’un facteur décisif ayant entraîné la victoire de Trump : le basculement de son côté de ces petits blancs, électeurs des Etats ravagés par le démantèlement des vieilles industries : Michigan, Pennsylvanie, Wisconsin, Ohio, ce qui reste de la Rust Belt, la ceinture de rouille. Rappelons que Trump a bénéficié massivement du « vote blanc ». Il est majoritaire dans cet électorat, même chez les femmes, alors qu’il affrontait, lui, le macho sans vergogne, la première candidate à la présidence de l’histoire des Etats-Unis. Mais ce qui est révélateur, c’est que Trump a obtenu ses meilleurs scores, chez les blancs qui n’ont pas fait d’études universitaires : 72 %, pour les hommes et 62 % chez les femmes. (…) Hillbilly Elégie est impressionnant parce que c’est un livre d’une rare honnêteté intellectuelle, alors qu’il est écrit depuis l’autre côté de la rive : son auteur, J.D. Vance s’est extrait de son milieu d’origine. Il a cessé d’être un hillbilly – autrement dit un crétin des collines, un plouc, un péquenaud – le vrai sens du mot hillbilly. Par un heureux concours de circonstances (son dressage chez les Marines) et grâce à une volonté de fer et une puissance de travail très américaines, il a intégré l’une des universités les plus prestigieuses du pays, Yale, et il est diplômé dans l’un des départements les plus prestigieux de cette université, son Ecole de droit. Né dans la classe ouvrière, il donc a rejoint les rangs de la grande bourgeoisie en devenant un avocat d’affaires renommé. (…) C’est un livre âpre, lucide, sans complaisance, écrit par un homme qui est, certes, passé de l’autre côté de la barrière des classes, mais qui garde une grande tendresse pour sa « communauté » d’origine. Et il se conclut par une série de recommandations sur la meilleure manière de remédier à la misère, tant matérielle que morale, où les siens se sont enfoncés. A travers son témoignage personnel, il nous livre une véritable enquête sur cette réalité sociale peu connue : le déclin de l’ancienne classe ouvrière blanche américaine. Son livre est d’un grand intérêt pour quiconque s’intéresse aux Etats-Unis ; mais il comporte aussi des leçons pour tous les pays anciennement industrialisés qui ont vu, comme le nôtre, fermer les usines et se désertifier certains territoires. Et d’abord son nom, Vance : il le porte par hasard. C’est celui de son géniteur, un chrétien évangéliste du Sud, alcoolique repenti, avec qui il n’a jamais eu le moindre contact avant son adolescence. Sa mère, en effet, est allée, durant toute sa vie d’homme en homme et de drogue en drogue. Comme beaucoup d’enfants de ce milieu, il a été traumatisé par la succession de ses « beaux-pères » de six mois ou d’un an. En quête d’un modèle masculin auquel s’identifier, il est passé de l’un à l’autre. Et l’instabilité à la fois géographique et affective de sa jeunesse en a fait un être angoissé. Première leçon de Hillbilly Elégie : être né dans une famille stable dont les membres adultes ne se hurlent pas après tous les soirs en se jetant à la figure tout ce qui leur tombe sous la main est un atout formidable pour réussir dans la vie…. La vraie famille de J.D., c’étaient ses grands-parents, d’authentiques hillbillies, eux, venus de leur Kentucky natal dans les années 1950 pour travailler dans l’Ohio voisin, où il y avait des mines et des aciéries. Mais Papaw et Mamaw (c’est comme ça qu’on dit Papy et Mamie chez les hillbillies) n’ont jamais oublié leur Kentucky natal, cette région des Appalaches connue pour la beauté de ses paysages… et l’arriération de ses habitants. Délivrance, le film de John Boorman, se passe, on s’en souvient, dans une région des Appalaches et donne de ses habitants une image assez peu flatteuse. Papaw et Mamaw, qui ne voyageaient jamais sans une arme à feu dans leur voiture, ont emporté dans leur Ohio d’adoption leur culture « hillbilly » des collines du Kentucky. Une culture que partageaient beaucoup de familles ouvrières originaires des Appalaches et qui imprègnent encore aujourd’hui les mentalités de leurs descendants. Papaw, ouvrier dans la grande aciérie locale et mécanicien apprécié, était un partisan du Parti démocrate, « le parti qui – je cite – défendait les travailleurs ». On était démocrate parce qu’on était ouvrier. Et c’est précisément cela qui a changé. Brice Couturier
En juin 2016, en pleine campagne présidentielle américaine, paraissait Hillbilly Elegy, un récit autobiographique signé d’un illustre inconnu. Il y racontait son enfance dans la « Rust Belt », cette large région industrielle du nord-est des Etats-Unis, touchée de plein fouet par les crises successives. Quelques semaines plus tard, un long entretien publié sur le site The American Conservative propulsait J.D. Vance au rang de phénomène : l’auteur y défendait la candidature de Trump, qui avait, selon lui, « le mérite d’essayer » de s’adresser aux Blancs les plus pauvres, d’en appeler à leur « fierté » et de vilipender cette « élite » honnie, incarnée par Barack Obama et par Hillary Clinton. Le discours frontal et brutal de la droite, la condescendance embarrassée de la gauche… Dans ce récit à la première personne, publié cette semaine en France (éditions Globe), l’écrivain pointait du doigt ce qui amènerait Donald Trump au pouvoir. (…) Hillbilly Elegy est une plongée dans ses racines, son enfance, son ascension sociale. Vance est né et a grandi entre le Kentucky et l’Ohio, dans cette région des Appalaches dont on entend régulièrement parler tantôt comme le siège de la pire épidémie d’addiction aux opiacés qu’ait connue le pays ces dernières années, tantôt comme cette zone dévastée par le chômage lié à la fermeture des mines de charbon. Vance, lui, s’en est tiré : après un passage dans les Marines, il a quitté son patelin pour partir étudier, d’abord à l’université d’Etat de l’Ohio, puis à la très réputée Yale, dans le Connecticut. A force de volonté, et avec le soutien d’une grand-mère exceptionnelle qui a pallié jusqu’à sa mort les manquements de ses parents (un père « qu’[il] connaissai [t] à peine » et une mère qu’il aurait « préféré ne pas connaître », écrit-il), Vance a réussi ce que peu parviennent à accomplir : il a changé de classe sociale. Il est, écrit-il, un « émigré culturel », qui affirme cependant être resté, au fond de lui, un « hillbilly », un Américain « qui [se] reconnaî [t] dans les millions de Blancs d’origine irlando-écossaise de la classe ouvrière américaine qui n’ont pas de diplôme universitaire ». Se réappropriant au passage ce terme popularisé pendant la grande dépression pour qualifier les migrants économiques venus de la campagne, et devenu depuis franchement péjoratif. Hillbilly Elegy se lit comme un document sur la pauvreté blanche en Amérique. Vance y décrit de l’intérieur une communauté qui vit d’aides alimentaires tout en se plaignant d’un Etat incompétent, passe « plus de temps à parler de travail qu’à travailler réellement », apprend à ses enfants « la valeur de la loyauté, de l’honneur, ainsi qu’à être dur au mal », mais persiste à confondre, chez ses petits, « intelligence et savoir », faisant passer pour idiots des gamins éduqués de manière inefficace. Parce qu’il parle des siens, le jeune homme dresse un constat très rude, dénonce la « fainéantise » de ses anciens semblables tout en appelant le monde politique à « juger moins et [à] comprendre plus ». En mars dernier, dans un éditorial du New York Times intitulé « Pourquoi je rentre chez moi », Vance annonçait sa décision de quitter la Californie pour retourner dans les Appalaches, où il a créé une association de lutte contre la conduite addictive aux opiacés et a participé, au cours des derniers mois, à de nombreux meetings du Parti républicain.M le magazine du Monde

Attention: une relégation sociale peut en cacher une autre ! (It’s the culture, stupid !)

« Amers, accros des armes et de la religion » (Obama), « pitoyables « Hillary Clinton), « sans-dents » (Hollande), « fainéants » (Macron) …

Quatre mois après l’élection volée que l’on sait …

Qui a vu suite à l’assassinat médiatico-politique du candidat de l’alternance …

Et au fourvoiement et auto-sabordement – jusqu’à en oublier son texte – de la candidate des victimes de l’immigration sauvage et de l’insécurité culturelle …

L’élection par défaut d’un candidat qui au-delà de sa réelle volonté de réformer une France jusqu’ici irréformable …

Ne prend même plus la peine, à l’instar de ses prédécesseurs américains ou français, de cacher son mépris pour les « gens qui ne sont rien » et autres « illettrés » ou « fainéants »  …

Et en ces temps où après la passion que l’on sait pour les immigrés et en gommant du coup toute la dimension délictuelle, nos belles âmes n’ont que le mot « migrant » à la bouche …

Comment ne pas voir …

Alors que sort la traduction française du livre de « l’auteur américain qui avait vu venir Trump » (Hillbilly elegy, J.D. Vance) …

Et après la revanche de ces véritables « immigrés de l’intérieur » …

Qui aux Etats-Unis ont largement contribué à la victoire de Trump

Celle qui pourrait bien venir

De tous ceux qui au-delà des cas extrêmes de familles déstructurées, de fatalisme social et d’addictions aux opiacés de la Rust belt américaine dont parle Vance …

Mais à l’instar des vraies victimes de la mondialisation de la « France périphérique » évoqués par le géographe Christophe Guilly …

Ne se résignent pas, face au rouleau compresseur de la prétendue « modernité » et du « progrès », à la disparition programmée de leur culture nationale ?

J.D. Vance, l’auteur américain qui avait vu venir Trump

Publié pendant la campagne présidentielle, « Hillbilly Elegy » est devenu un best-seller. J.D. Vance, 33 ans, y raconte cette Amérique blanche et pauvre dont il est issu. Et qui a porté Trump au pouvoir.

M le magazine du Monde

Clémentine Goldszal

04.09.2017

En juin 2016, en pleine campagne présidentielle américaine, paraissait Hillbilly Elegy, un récit autobiographique signé d’un illustre inconnu. Il y racontait son enfance dans la « Rust Belt », cette large région industrielle du nord-est des Etats-Unis, touchée de plein fouet par les crises successives. Quelques semaines plus tard, un long entretien publié sur le site The American Conservative propulsait J.D. Vance au rang de phénomène : l’auteur y défendait la candidature de Trump, qui avait, selon lui, « le mérite d’essayer » de s’adresser aux Blancs les plus pauvres, d’en appeler à leur « fierté » et de vilipender cette « élite » honnie, incarnée par Barack Obama et par Hillary Clinton.

Le discours frontal et brutal de la droite, la condescendance embarrassée de la gauche… Dans ce récit à la première personne, publié cette semaine en France (éditions Globe), l’écrivain pointait du doigt ce qui amènerait Donald Trump au pouvoir. En août 2016, Hillbilly Elegy entrait dans la liste des meilleures ventes du New York Times (il y figure encore aujourd’hui). Cinq mois plus tard, au lendemain de l’élection, les ventes faisaient un nouveau bond. Sous le choc, les progressistes américains cherchaient à comprendreceux qui avaient porté Trump au pouvoir : traditionnellement démocrates, les Etats de la Rust Belt avaient cette fois-ci largement soutenu le candidat républicain.

L’histoire d’une ascension sociale

J.D. Vance a 33 ans, le visage rond, la raie sur le côté, les yeux bleus. Il s’exprime bien, et son livre est remarquablement écrit. Pas de la grande littérature, mais un ton sans détour, qui lui permet d’exprimer avec une grande clarté sa pensée complexe. Il est marié – à une jeune femme rencontrée durant ses études de droit à Yale – et, à la sortie de son livre, vivait encore à San Francisco, où il gagnait très bien sa vie dans la finance.

Hillbilly Elegy est une plongée dans ses racines, son enfance, son ascension sociale. Vance est né et a grandi entre le Kentucky et l’Ohio, dans cette région des Appalaches dont on entend régulièrement parler tantôt comme le siège de la pire épidémie d’addiction aux opiacés qu’ait connue le pays ces dernières années, tantôt comme cette zone dévastée par le chômage lié à la fermeture des mines de charbon.

J.D. Vance parle de « la classe ouvrière américaine oubliée »

Vance, lui, s’en est tiré : après un passage dans les Marines, il a quitté son patelin pour partir étudier, d’abord à l’université d’Etat de l’Ohio, puis à la très réputée Yale, dans le Connecticut. A force de volonté, et avec le soutien d’une grand-mère exceptionnelle qui a pallié jusqu’à sa mort les manquements de ses parents (un père « qu’[il] connaissai [t] à peine » et une mère qu’il aurait « préféré ne pas connaître », écrit-il), Vance a réussi ce que peu parviennent à accomplir : il a changé de classe sociale.

Il est, écrit-il, un « émigré culturel », qui affirme cependant être resté, au fond de lui, un « hillbilly », un Américain « qui [se] reconnaî [t] dans les millions de Blancs d’origine irlando-écossaise de la classe ouvrière américaine qui n’ont pas de diplôme universitaire ». Se réappropriant au passage ce terme popularisé pendant la grande dépression pour qualifier les migrants économiques venus de la campagne, et devenu depuis franchement péjoratif.

Hillbilly Elegy se lit comme un document sur la pauvreté blanche en Amérique. Vance y décrit de l’intérieur une communauté qui vit d’aides alimentaires tout en se plaignant d’un Etat incompétent, passe « plus de temps à parler de travail qu’à travailler réellement », apprend à ses enfants « la valeur de la loyauté, de l’honneur, ainsi qu’à être dur au mal », mais persiste à confondre, chez ses petits, « intelligence et savoir », faisant passer pour idiots des gamins éduqués de manière inefficace. Parce qu’il parle des siens, le jeune homme dresse un constat très rude, dénonce la « fainéantise » de ses anciens semblables tout en appelant le monde politique à « juger moins et [à] comprendre plus ».

Une parole conservatrice audible

En mars dernier, dans un éditorial du New York Times intitulé « Pourquoi je rentre chez moi », Vance annonçait sa décision de quitter la Californie pour retourner dans les Appalaches, où il a créé une association de lutte contre la conduite addictive aux opiacés et a participé, au cours des derniers mois, à de nombreux meetings du Parti républicain.

Depuis le printemps, les ténors du parti ont d’ailleurs multiplié les appels du pied pour le convaincre de se présenter aux élections sénatoriales, qui se tiendront en novembre. Son nom est devenu familier des lecteurs de la presse quotidienne, son visage apparaît souvent à la télévision (il est devenu éditorialiste pour CNN, en janvier, et signe régulièrement dans les colonnes du New York Times). Plus d’un million d’exemplaires de son livre ont déjà été écoulés, et les droits ont été vendus à plus d’une dizaine de pays.

Les médias semblent avoir trouvé en J.D. Vance une parole conservatrice audible, reçue comme l’émanation articulée de la rage confusément exprimée par les Blancs les plus pauvres d’Amérique. En mai dernier, Bill Gates recommandait même sur son blog la lecture d’Hillbilly Elegy, affirmant y avoir trouvé « des informations nouvelles sur les facteurs culturels et familiaux qui contribuent à la pauvreté ».

 Voir aussi:

La grande colère des petits Blancs américains

Brice Coutourier
France Culture
15/09/2017

Voir de même:

Why I’m Moving Home

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In recent months, I’ve frequently found myself in places hit hard by manufacturing job losses, speaking to people affected in various ways. Sometimes, the conversation turns to the conflict people feel between the love of their home and the desire to leave in search of better work.

It’s a conflict I know well: I left my home state, Ohio, for the Marine Corps when I was 19. And while I’ve returned home for months or even years at a time, job opportunities often pull me away.

Experts have warned for years now that our rates of geographic mobility have fallen to troubling lows. Given that some areas have unemployment rates around 2 percent and others many times that, this lack of movement may mean joblessness for those who could otherwise work.

But from the community’s perspective, mobility can be a problem. The economist Matthew Kahn has shown that in Appalachia, for instance, the highly skilled are much likelier to leave not just their hometowns but also the region as a whole. This is the classic “brain drain” problem: Those who are able to leave very often do.

The brain drain also encourages a uniquely modern form of cultural detachment. Eventually, the young people who’ve moved out marry — typically to partners with similar economic prospects. They raise children in increasingly segregated neighborhoods, giving rise to something the conservative scholar Charles Murray calls “super ZIPs.” These super ZIPs are veritable bastions of opportunity and optimism, places where divorce and joblessness are rare.

As one of my college professors recently told me about higher education, “The sociological role we play is to suck talent out of small towns and redistribute it to big cities.” There have always been regional and class inequalities in our society, but the data tells us that we’re living through a unique period of segregation.

This has consequences beyond the purely material. Jesse Sussell and James A. Thomson of the RAND Corporation argue that this geographic sorting has heightened the polarization that now animates politics. This polarization reflects itself not just in our voting patterns, but also in our political culture: Not long before the election, a friend forwarded me a conspiracy theory about Bill and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in a pedophilia ring and asked me whether it was true.

It’s easy to dismiss these questions as the ramblings of “fake news” consumers. But the more difficult truth is that people naturally trust the people they know — their friend sharing a story on Facebook — more than strangers who work for faraway institutions. And when we’re surrounded by polarized, ideologically homogeneous crowds, whether online or off, it becomes easier to believe bizarre things about them. This problem runs in both directions: I’ve heard ugly words uttered about “flyover country” and some of its inhabitants from well-educated, generally well-meaning people.

I’ve long worried whether I’ve become a part of this problem. For two years, I’d lived in Silicon Valley, surrounded by other highly educated transplants with seemingly perfect lives. It’s jarring to live in a world where every person feels his life will only get better when you came from a world where many rightfully believe that things have become worse. And I’ve suspected that this optimism blinds many in Silicon Valley to the real struggles in other parts of the country. So I decided to move home, to Ohio.

It wasn’t an easy choice. I scaled back my commitments to a job I love because of the relocation. My wife and I worry about the quality of local public schools, and whether she (a San Diego native) could stand the unpredictable weather.

But there were practical reasons to move: I’m founding an organization to combat Ohio’s opioid epidemic. We chose Columbus because I travel a lot, and I need to be centrally located in the state and close to an airport. And the truth is that not every motivation is rational: Part of me loves Ohio simply because it’s home.

I recently asked a friend, Ami Vitori Kimener, how she thought about her own return home. A Georgetown graduate, Ami left a successful career in Washington to start new businesses in Middletown, Ohio. Middletown is in some ways a classic Midwestern city: Once thriving, it was hit hard by the decline of the region’s manufacturing base in recent decades. But the town is showing early signs of revitalization, thanks in part to the efforts of those like Ami.

Talking with Ami, I realized that we often frame civic responsibility in terms of government taxes and transfer payments, so that our society’s least fortunate families are able to provide basic necessities. But this focus can miss something important: that what many communities need most is not just financial support, but talent and energy and committed citizens to build viable businesses and other civic institutions.

Of course, not every town can or should be saved. Many people should leave struggling places in search of economic opportunity, and many of them won’t be able to return. Some people will move back to their hometowns; others, like me, will move back to their home state. The calculation will undoubtedly differ for each person, as it should. But those of us who are lucky enough to choose where we live would do well to ask ourselves, as part of that calculation, whether the choices we make for ourselves are necessarily the best for our home communities — and for the country.

 Voir encore:

Hillbilly America: Do White Lives Matter?

Yesterday I read J.D. Vance’s new book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture In Crisis. Well, “read” is not quite the word. I devoured the thing in a single gulp. If you want to understand America in 2016, Hillbilly Elegy is a must-read. I will be thinking about this book for a long, long time. Here are my impressions.

The book is an autobiographical account by a lawyer (Yale Law School graduate) and sometime conservative writer who grew up in a poor and chaotic Appalachian household. He’s a hillbilly, in other words, and is not ashamed of the term. Vance reflects on his childhood, and how he escaped the miserable fate (broken families, drugs, etc) of so many white working class and poor people around whom he grew up. And he draws conclusions from it, conclusions that may be hard for some people to take. But Vance has earned the right to make those judgments. This was his life. He speaks with authority that has been extremely hard won.

Forgive the rambling nature of this post. I’m still trying to process this extraordinary book.

Vance’s people come from Kentucky and southern Ohio, a deeply depressed region filled with hard-bitten but proud Scots-Irish folks. He begins by talking about how, as a young man, he got a job working in a warehouse, doing hard work for extra money. He writes about how even though the work was physically demanding, the pay wasn’t bad, and it came with benefits. Yet the warehouse struggled to keep people employed. Vance says his book is about macroeconomic trends — outsourcing jobs overseas — but not only that:

But this book is about something else: what goes on in the lives of real people when the industrial economy goes south. It’s about reacting to bad circumstances in the worst way possible. It’s about a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it. The problems that I saw at the tile warehouse run far deeper than macroeconomic trends and policy. too many young men immune to hard work. Good jobs impossible to fill for any length of time. And a young man [one of Vance’s co-workers] with every reason to work — a wife-to-be to support and a baby on the way — carelessly tossing aside a good job with excellent health insurance. More troublingly, when it was all over, he thought something had been done to him. There is a lack of agency here — a feeling that you have little control over your life and a willingness to blame everyone but yourself. This is distinct from the larger economic landscape of modern America.

This is the heart of Hillbilly Elegy: how hillbilly white culture fails its children, and how the greatest disadvantages it imparts to its youth are the life of violence and chaos in which they are raised, and the closely related problem of a lack of moral agency. Young Vance was on a road to ruin until certain people — including the US Marine Corps — showed him that his choices mattered, and that he had a lot more control over his fate than he thought.

Vance talks about how, in his youth, there was a lot of hardscrabble poverty among his people, but nothing like today, dominated by the devastation of drug addiction. Everything we are accustomed to hearing about black inner city social dysfunction is fully present among these white hillbillies, as Vance documents in great detail. He writes that “hillbillies learn from an early age to deal with uncomfortable truths by avoiding them, or by pretending better truths exist. This tendency might make for psychological resilience, but it also makes it hard for Appalachians to look at themselves honestly.”

This was one of many points at which Vance’s experience converged somewhat with mine. My people are not hillbillies per se, but I come from working-class Southern country white people. Many of the cultural traits Vance describes are present in a more diluted way in my own family. That fierce pride, a pride that would rather see everything go to hell than admit error. This, I think, has something to do with why Southern Protestant Christianity has traditionally been more Stoic than Christian. Real Christianity has as its heart humility. That’s not a characteristic Scots-Irish people hold dear.

Vance talks about the hillbilly habit of stigmatizing people who leave the hollers as “too big for your britches” — meaning that you got above yourself. It doesn’t matter that they may have left to find work, and that they’re living a fairly poor life not too far away, in Ohio. The point is, they left, and that is a hard sin to forgive. What, we weren’t good enough for you?

This is the white-people version of “acting white,” if you follow me: the same stigma and shame that poor black people deploy against other poor black people who want to better themselves with education and so on.

The most important figure in Vance’s life is his Mamaw (pron. “MAM-maw”), Bonnie Vance, a kind of hillbilly Catherine the Great. She was a phenomenally tough woman. She knew how to use a gun, she had a staggeringly foul mouth, she smoked menthols and stood ready to fight at the drop of a hat. And she saved Vance’s life.

Vance plainly loves his people, and because he loves them, he tells hard truths about them. He talks about how cultural fatalism destroys initiative. When hillbillies run up against adversity, they tend to assume that they can’t do anything about it. To the hillbilly mind, people who “make it” are either born to wealth, or were born with uncanny talent, winning the genetic lottery. The connection between self-discipline and hard work, and success, is invisible to them. Vance:

People talk about hard work all the time in places like Middletown [where Vance grew up]. You can walk through a town where 30 percent of the young men work fewer than twenty hours a week and find not a single person aware of his own laziness.

Vance was born into a world of chaos. It takes concentration to follow the trail of family connections. Women give birth out of wedlock, having children by different men. Marriages rarely last, and informal partnerings are more common. Vance has half-siblings by his mom’s different husbands (she has had five to date). In his generation, Vance says, grandparents are often having to raise their grandchildren, because those grandparents, however impoverished and messy their own lives may be, offer a more stable alternative than the incredible instability of the kids’ parents (or more likely, parent).

Vance scarcely knew his biological father until he was a bit older, and lived with his mom and her rotating cast of boyfriends and husbands. Here’s Vance on models of manhood:

I learned little else about what masculinity required of me other than drinking beer and screaming at a woman when she screamed at you. In the end, the only lesson that took was that you can’t depend on people. “I learned that men will disappear at the drop of a hat,” Lindsay [his half-sister] once said. “They don’t care about their kids; they don’t provide; they just disappear, and it’s not that hard to make them go.”

This is what happens in inner-city black culture, as has been exhaustively documented. But these are rural and small-town white people. This dysfunction is not color-based, but cultural.

I could not do justice here to describe the violence, emotional and physical, that characterizes everyday life in Vance’s childhood culture, and the instability in people’s outer lives and inner lives. To read in such detail what life is like as a child formed by communities like that is to gain a sense of why it is so difficult to escape from the malign gravity of that way of life. You can’t imagine that life could be any different.

Religion among the hillbillies is not much help. Vance says that hillbillies love to talk about Jesus, but they don’t go to church, and Christianity doesn’t seem to have much effect at all on their behavior. Vance’s biological father is an exception. He belonged to a strict fundamentalist church, one that helped him beat his alcoholism and gave him the severe structure he needed to keep his life from going off track. Vance:

Dad’s church offered something desperately needed by people like me. For alcoholics, it gave them a community of support and a sense that they weren’t fighting addiction alone. For expectant mothers, it offered a free home with job training and parenting classes. When someone needed a job, church friends could either provide one or make introductions. When Dad faced financial troubles, his church banded together and purchased a used car for the family. In the broken world I saw around me — and for the people struggling in that world — religion offered tangible assistance to keep the faithful on track.

Vance says the best thing about life in his dad’s house was how boring it was. It was predictable. It was a respite from the constant chaos.

On the other hand, the religion most hillbillies espouse is a rusticated form of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. God seems to exist only as a guarantor of ultimate order, and ultimate justice; Jesus is there to assuage one’s pain. Except for those who commit to churchgoing — and believe it or not, this is one of the least churched parts of the US — Christianity is a ghost.

About Vance’s father’s fundamentalism, I got more details about what this blog’s reader Turmarion, who lives in Appalachia, keeps telling me about that region’s fundamentalism. Even though I live in the rural Deep South, this form of Christianity is alien to me. When he went to live with his dad for a time as an adolescent (if I have my chronology correct), Vance was exposed for the first time to church. He appreciated very much the structure, but noticed that the spirituality on offer was fear-based and paranoid. “[T]he deeper I immersed myself in evangelical theology, the more I felt compelled to mistrust many sectors of society. Evolution and the Big Bang became ideologies to confront, not theories to understand … In my new church … I heard more about the gay lobby and the war on Christmas than about any particular character trait that a Christian should aspire to have.”

This was yet another reminder of why so many Evangelicals react strongly against the Benedict Option. As I often say, I have no experience of this extreme siege mentality in Christianity. In fact, my experience is entirely the opposite. I believe that some Christians coming out of fundamentalism may react so strongly against their miserable, unhappy background that they don’t appreciate the extent to which there really are people and forces out to “get” them. When you have lived almost all your Christian life among highly assimilated Christians who generally don’t pay attention to these things, their complacency can drive you crazy. But Vance helps me to understand how someone who grew up in its opposite would find even the slightest hint of siege Christianity to be anathema.

One of the most important contributions Vance makes to our understanding of American poverty is how little public policy can affect the cultural habits that keep people poor. He talks about education policy, saying that the elite discussion of how to help schools focuses entirely on reforming institutions. “As a teacher at my old high school told me recently, ‘They want us to be shepherds to these kids. But no one wants to talk about the fact that many of them are raised by wolves.”

He continues:

Why didn’t our neighbor leave that abusive man? Why did she spend her money on drugs? Why couldn’t she see that her behavior was destroying her daughter? Why were all of these things happening not just to our neighbor but to my mom? It would be years before I learned that no single book, or expert, or field could fully explain the problems of hillbillies in modern America. Our elegy is a sociological one, yes, but it is also about psychology and community and culture and faith. During my junior year of high school, our neighbor Pattie called her landlord to report a leaky roof. The landlord arrived and found Pattie topless, stoned, and unconscious on her living room couch. Upstairs the bathtub was overflowing — hence, the leaking roof. Pattie had apparently drawn herself a bath, taken a few prescription painkillers, and passed out. The top floor of her home and many of her family’s possessions were ruined. This is the reality of our community. It’s about a naked druggie destroying what little of value exists in her life. It’s about children who lose their toys and clothes to a mother’s addiction.

This was my world: a world of truly irrational behavior. We spend our way into the poorhouse. We buy giant TVs and iPads. Our children wear nice clothes thanks to high-interest credit cards and payday loans. We purchase homes we don’t need, refinance them for more spending money, and declare bankruptcy, often leaving them full of garbage in our wake. Thrift is inimical to our being. We spend to pretend that we’re upper class. And when the dust clears — when bankruptcy hits or a family member bails us out of our stupidity — there’s nothing left over. Nothing for the kids’ college tuition, no investment to grow our wealth, no rainy-day fund if someone loses her job. We know we shouldn’t spend like this. Sometimes we beat ourselves up over it, but we do it anyway.

More:

Our homes are a chaotic mess. We scream and yell at each other like we’re spectators at a football game. At least one member of the family uses drugs — sometimes the father, sometimes both. At especially stressful times, we’ll hit and punch each other, all in front of the rest of the family, including young children; much of the time, the neighbors hear what’s happening. A bad day is when the neighbors call the police to stop the drama. Our kids go to foster care but never stay for long. We apologize to our kids. The kids believe we’re really sorry, and we are. But then we act just as mean a few days later.

And on and on. Vance says his people lie to themselves about the reality of their condition, and their own personal responsibility for their degradation. He says that not all working-class white hillbillies are like this. There are those who work hard, stay faithful, and are self-reliant — people like Mamaw and Papaw. Their kids stand a good chance of making it; in fact, Vance says friends of his who grew up like this are doing pretty well for themselves. Unfortunately, most of the people in Vance’s neighborhood were like his mom: “consumerist, isolated, angry, distrustful.”

As I said earlier, the two things that saved Vance were going to live full time with his Mamaw (therefore getting out of the insanity of his mom’s home), and later, going into the US Marine Corps. I’ve already written at too much length about Vance’s story, so I won’t belabor this much longer. Suffice it to say that as imperfect as she was, Mamaw gave young Vance the stability he needed to start succeeding in school. And she wouldn’t let him slack off on his studies. She taught him the value of hard work, and of moral agency.

The Marine Corps remade J.D. Vance. It pulverized his inner hillbilly fatalism, and gave him a sense that he had control over his life, and that his choices mattered. This was news to him. Reading this was a revelation to me. I was raised by parents who grew up poor, but who taught my sister and me from the very start that we were responsible for ourselves. Hard work, self-respect, and self-discipline were at the core of my dad’s ethic, for sure. There was no more despicable person in my dad’s way of seeing the world than the sumbitch who won’t work. I doubt that I’ve ever known a man more willing to do hard physical labor than my father was. Knowing what he came from, and knowing how any progress he made came from the sweat of his brow and self-discipline on spending, he had no tolerance for people who were lazy and blamed everybody else for their problems. This is true whether they were poor, middle class, or rich (but especially if they were rich).

Anyway, Vance talks about how the contemporary hillbilly mindset renders them unfit for participation in life outside their own ghetto. They don’t trust anybody, and are willing to believe outlandish conspiracy theories, particularly if those theories absolve them from responsibility.

I once ran into an old acquaintance at a Middletown bar who told me that he had recently quit his job because he was sick of waking up early I later saw him complaining on Facebook about the “Obama economy” and how it had affected his life. I don’t doubt that the Obama economy has affected many, but this man is assuredly not among them. His status in life is directly attributable to the choices he’s made, and his life will improve only through better decisions. But for him to make better choices, he needs to live in an environment that forces him to ask tough questions about himself. There is a cultural movement in the white working class to blame problems on society or the government, and that movement gains adherents by the day.

Hence the enormous popularity of Donald Trump among the white working class. Here’s a guy who will believe and say anything, and who blames Mexicans, Chinese, and Muslims for America’s problems. The elites hate him, so he’s made the right enemies, as far as the white working class is concerned. And his “Make America Great Again” slogan speaks to the deep patriotism that Vance says is virtually a religion among hillbillies.

Trump doesn’t come up in Vance’s narrative, but in truth, he’s all over it. Vance is telling his personal story, not analyzing US politics and culture broadly. It’s also true, however, that the GOP elites set themselves up for their current disaster, by listening to theories that absolved themselves of any responsibility for problems in this country from immigration and free trade (Trump is not all wrong about this).

The sense of inner order and discipline Vance learned in the Marine Corps allowed his natural intelligence to blossom. The poor hillbilly kid with the druggie mom ends up at Yale Law School. He says he felt like an outsider there, but it was a serious education in more than the law:

The wealthy and the powerful aren’t just wealthy and powerful; they follow a different set of norms and mores. … It was at this meal, on the first of five grueling days of [law school job] interviews, that I began to understand that I was seeing the inner workings of a system that lay hidden to most of my kind. … That week of interviews showed me that successful people are playing an entirely different game.

What he’s talking about is social capital, and how critically important it is to success. Poor white kids don’t have it (neither do poor black or Hispanic kids). You’re never going to teach a kid from the trailer park or the housing project the secrets of the upper middle class, but you can give them what kids like me had: a basic understanding of work, discipline, confidence, good manners, and an eagerness to learn. A big part of the problem for his people, says Vance, is the shocking degree of family instability among the American poor. “Chaos begets chaos. Instability begets instability. Welcome to family life for the American hillbilly.”

Vance is admirably humble about how the only reason he got out was because key people along the way helped him climb out of the hole his culture dug for him. When Vance talks about how to fix these problems, he strikes a strong skeptical note. The worst problems of his culture, the things that held kids like him back, are not things a government program can fix. For example, as a child, his culture taught him that doing well in school made you a “sissy.” Vance says the home is the source of the worst of these problems. There simply is not a policy fix for families and family systems that have collapsed.

I believe we hillbillies are the toughest goddamned people on this earth. … But are we tough enough to do what needs to be done to help a kid like Brian? Are we tough enough to build a church that forces kids like me to engage with the world rather than withdraw from it? Are we tough enough to look ourselves in the mirror and admit that our conduct harms our children? Public policy can help, but there is no government that can fix these problems for us. These problems were not created by governments or corporations or anyone else. We created them, and only we can fix them.

Voting for Trump is not going to fix these problems. For the black community, protesting against police brutality on the streets is not going to fix their most pressing problems. It’s not that the problems Trump points to aren’t real, and it’s not that police brutality, especially towards minorities, isn’t a problem. It’s that these serve as distractions from the core realities that keep poor white and black people down. A missionary to inner-city Dallas once told me that the greatest obstacle the black and Latino kids he helped out had was their rock-solid conviction that nothing could change for them, and that people who succeeded got that way because they were born white, or rich, or just got lucky.

Until these things are honestly and effectively addressed by families, communities, and their institutions, nothing will change.

Is there a black J.D. Vance? I wonder. I mean, I know there are African-Americans who have done what he has done. But are there any who will write about it? Clarence Thomas did, in his autobiography. Who else? Anybody know?

Vance’s book sends me back to Kevin D. Williamson’s stunning National Review piece on “The White Ghetto” — Appalachia, he means. This is the world J.D. Vance came out of, though he saw more good in it that Williams does in his journalistic tour. It also brings to mind Williamson’s highly controversial piece earlier this year (behind subscription paywall; David French excerpts the hottest part here) in which he said:

It is immoral because it perpetuates a lie: that the white working class that finds itself attracted to Trump has been victimized by outside forces. It hasn’t. The white middle class may like the idea of Trump as a giant pulsing humanoid middle finger held up in the face of the Cathedral, they may sing hymns to Trump the destroyer and whisper darkly about “globalists” and — odious, stupid term — “the Establishment,” but nobody did this to them. They failed themselves.

If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy — which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog — you will come to an awful realization. It wasn’t Beijing. It wasn’t even Washington, as bad as Washington can be. It wasn’t immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn’t any of that. Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence — and the incomprehensible malice — of poor white America. So the gypsum business in Garbutt ain’t what it used to be. There is more to life in the 21st century than wallboard and cheap sentimentality about how the Man closed the factories down. The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die.

Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your goddamned gypsum, and, if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.

I criticized Williamson at the time for his harshness. I still wouldn’t have put it the way he did, but reading Vance gives me reason to reconsider my earlier judgment. Vance writes from a much more loving and appreciative place than Williamson did (though I believe Williamson came from a similar rough background), but he affirms many of the same truths. If white lives matter — and they do, because all lives matter — then sentimentality and more government programs aren’t going to rescue these poor people. Vance puts it more delicately than Williamson, but getting a U-Haul and getting away from other poor people — or at least finding some way to get their kids out of there, to a place where people aren’t so fatalistic, lazy, and paranoid — is their best hope. And that is surely true no matter what your race.

The book is called Hillbilly Elegy, and I can’t recommend it to you strongly enough. It offers no easy answers. But it does tell the truth. I thank reader Surly Temple for giving it to me.

UPDATE: Hello Browser readers. Glad to see traffic from one of my favorite websites. If you found this piece interesting, I strongly encourage you to take a look at the subsequent interview I did with J.D. Vance about the book. I posted it last Friday, and it has gone viral. This past weekend was a record-setting one for TAC; Vance’s interview was so popular it crashed our server. Take a look at the piece and you’ll understand why. This extraordinary young writer is tapping into something very, very deep in American life right now. I’ve been getting plenty of e-mails from liberals saying how much they appreciated the piece, because Vance tells difficult truths that both liberals and conservatives need to hear.

Voir aussi:

Why Liberals Love ‘Hillbilly Elegy’

My friend Matt Sitman tweets:

Yes, but the more interesting question, at least to me, is why so many liberals like it — or at least why they are writing to me in droves saying how the interview J.D. Vance did with me deeply resonated with them, and inspired them to buy the book. (By the way, that interview was published two weeks ago today, and it’s still drawing so much web traffic to this site that our servers are struggling to handle it.) I’ll give you a sample below of the kind of correspondence I’m getting (with a couple of tweaks to protect privacy). There’s lots of it just like these below:

Mr. Dreher, this article was fantastic.

I grew up in rural Alabama, proudly declared myself “politically somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun”, and enlisted when I was 17. I had a difficult time getting out at 23 years old, several states away from my family, with a grownup’s bills to pay but an MOS that didn’t match the career I was suited for or needed as a civilian. I spent the next several years desperately poor but “self-sufficient” – as far as I knew, anyway.

In reality, of course, I had zero understanding of how taxes work. I saw about a 28% bite taken out of my paycheck, and didn’t understand that FICA/SS didn’t ultimately go to anybody but me, myself, and I, and that I wasn’t actually paying any income tax. I also had heard of but didn’t really understand or care about things like “every federal tax dollar that leaves SC has three federal tax dollars pass by it coming in.”

Truth be told, I wasn’t just unaware, I actively disbelieved that I wasn’t “self sufficient” at all, and I naively thought that I was paying for the “welfare” that the tiny, tiny portion of the population “poorer than me” was getting. I was also completely unaware that I was “desperately poor” at all. I was making $6/hr and I thought I was middle class! I knew people who made $10/hr, and I thought they were on the low end of upper class!
Eventually I made a real career for myself, started my own business, and spent less time scratching and kicking and fighting just to stay alive. The more time and resources I had, the more I learned about how the world, and politics, worked, and the more progressive I became. I am not, today, someone who would normally read articles from a site called “American Conservative”.

But I read yours, and I’m glad I did. What you and J.D. Vance had to say in that article are exactly what I want to hear from the conservative wing of American politics. Speaking candidly, I’m unlikely to be a “conservative” again – I’m a progressive, and likely to stay that way. But what you and Vance said was thoughtful, and reasonable, and – like I try to very publicly be myself, having “been there and done that” – understanding of the realities of the working poor. It’s the real and sensible ballast that even the best of real and sensible balloons (if you’ll permit the analogy between conservative and progressive, and we can both agree to handwave away the fact that the current DNC is neither as real or as sensible as it should be) needs.

That’s probably way too much to slog through, but seriously: thank you.

Another one:

I thoroughly enjoyed this article! The conversation is not one that I have witnessed anyone else having. It is so easy to dismiss people as racist without ever considering from where their views and positions are derived. I am certainly going to read Hillbilly Elegy and look forward to reading more of your articles, By the way I am black, liberal, I most often vote Democrat and I don’t like Trump (for Reasons too high in number to state). I enjoy intelligent conversation and debate and have learned to carefully listen to and understand those who I may disagree with, so I might be educated fully on the issue not just entrenched in my beliefs.

Thank you for a refreshing read in a sea partisan sludge.

Another one, this from a reader who mistakenly believed that J.D. Vance’s experiences were mine. Still, his letter is fascinating:

I wandered in on this article today… and couldn’t stop reading. I’m Californian, a progressive and a Sanders supporter, a former Nader supporter, a former UAW organizer, currently a medical
devices engineer in [state], and have a Ph.D. in engineering. I grew up in a town 5 miles north of the Mexican border in south San Diego, and grew up among Mexican immigrants, many of whom were undocumented… they were my neighbors, my friends, my elders. I myself am an immigrant, came here as a kid with my parents, who were liberals who wanted something better than that right-wing dictatorship in [another country].

But I did grow up around the poverty line. My parents fought hard to stay out of welfare, to stay together, and to teach us the value of work. At 43, I have always worked since I was 14, and have always associated these traits with working-class liberal values… and was quite surprised many election cycles ago to hear silver-spooned class enemies in the GOP pick that up. What did these bastards know about real work? But it also pains me to see the elites, especially the East Coast elites, take over the Democratic Party.

I’m sorry to hear about your experiences at Yale Law. And I’m glad that I didn’t go to a private school, or a school in the East Coast. After moving to [my current state] 3 years ago I’ve found that liberals “out east” (east of the Sierra Nevadas) seem to come from privilege, are more dogmatic, disconnected from the working class, and can be super competitive and vindictive. I even remember starting out as an undergrad and scholarship kid at UC San Diego, how I felt the sting of class. I felt disconnected culturally from the liberals. It wasn’t until friends from high school began shipping back from Desert Storm all crazy and screwed up that I found common cause with these liberals.

As with the folks of Appalachia (I was a member of the Southern Baptist Church… it was a big military town), the defense of our neighborhoods was also paramount to us. What south San Diegans were seeing during the 90s was an entire generation deployed to guard oil fields in Iraq while the princelings of Kuwait lived it up in night clubs, and folks in Sacramento setting up laws that attack immigrants as a cheap shot to get elected. Everything was fine at the border until these demagogues (Republicans in this case) started showing up in our town in staged photo-ops.

Trump does have that appeal of at least pretending to listen to the
broken and forgotten. But just as we were about to forget the vengeance we swore against those who hurt our town, Trump comes by and reopens all the wounds, reminding us that while we might hold some conservative values, Republicans will always see us as sub-human.

I do think dialog and empathy are something of a short supply in
American politics today. The neoliberal policies and unfair trade pacts supported by both parties have been crushing our respective beloved hometowns. And we have a lot more in common than what these entrenched political entities say that we do. I’ve read “Rivethead” and “Deer Hunting with Jesus” and felt this familiarity. I will look for your book.

And here’s another one:

I just wanted to write and tell you that I was fascinated by your interview with the author JD Vance, and I speak as a socialist, agnostic, gay white male who’s never voted Republican in all his years! As a lifelong resident of the suburbs of Houston, Texas, it’s long occurred to me how insulated I am from the struggles of poor and working-class folks today; however my family started out poor, with my parents divorcing when I was six. Luckily our mother was strong enough to help us make it out of the hole by excelling in her profession as a nurse. I remember her telling me that in the days when my sister and I were very young, for Christmas she’d spend $20 on each of us at the dollar store, and she always hoped that we enjoyed our presents. That made me love my mom so much more, and I realized how lucky we’d been to have her, given how things might have turned out. In Houston as you probably know there is a staggering number of people of every imaginable type, and my school years were spent among kids from every walk of life, of every ethnicity and persuasion you can imagine. As an outsider myself, being gay and openly agnostic in an environment where neither was considered acceptable (high school was in the late 90s), I can identify with the feeling of seeming hopelessness, isolation, and fear for the future that Mr Vance describes, though certainly on a different level and for different reasons. I also feel a greater understanding now of the appeal of Trump to certain strata within our society…along with a renewed sense of how dangerous he really is to all of us (not to mention the rest of the world)! I would like to feel as hopeful for the future as Mr Vance seems to, but I’m afraid that until November (though hopefully not after!) I’ll be suffering a case of non-stop indigestion. Maybe we could all use a touch of that hillbilly idealism in our lives.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling out of me. Cheers for an excellent interview, and congratulations for gaining a new reader of the blue persuasion!

I could go on and on. I’m getting so many e-mails like these above that I can’t begin to respond to them all. I’m passing every one of them on to J.D. Vance, though. Interestingly, if I’ve received a single e-mail from a conservative about the interview, I can’t remember it.

I’m genuinely surprised and grateful for all these generous e-mails, and I’m sure J.D. is too. What I find so hopeful about it is that someone has finally found a voice with which to talk substantively about an important economic and cultural issue, but without antagonizing the other side. JDV identifies as a conservative, but his story challenges right-wing free-market pieties. And I’ve gotten plenty of e-mails from liberals who either come from poverty or who work with poor people for a living, who praise JDV’s points about the poor needing to understand that whatever structural problems they face, they retain moral agency.

What do you think, readers? Do you think the runaway success of Hillbilly Elegy, and the powerfully positive response from liberals to a book about class written by a conservative, bodes well for the possibility of constructive engagement around issues of class and poverty? To be sure, I’ve received a handful of letters from angry liberal readers who reject the idea that there’s anything wrong with poor and working class white people that government action can’t solve. I believe, and so does J.D., that government really does have a meaningful role to play in ameliorating the problems of the poor. But there will never be a government program capable of compensating for the loss of stable family structures, the loss of community, the loss of a sense of moral agency, and the loss of a sense of meaning in the lives of the poor. The solution, insofar as there is a “solution,” is not an either-or (that is, either culture or government), but a both-and. From a Washington Post review of the book:

The wounds are partly self-inflicted. The working class, he argues, has lost its sense of agency and taste for hard work. In one illuminating anecdote, he writes about his summer job at the local tile factory, lugging 60-pound pallets around. It paid $13 an hour with good benefits and opportunities for advancement. A full-time employee could earn a salary well above the poverty line.

That should have made the gig an easy sell. Yet the factory’s owner had trouble filling jobs. During Vance’s summer stint, three people left, including a man he calls Bob, a 19-year-old with a pregnant girlfriend. Bob was chronically late to work, when he showed up at all. He frequently took 45-minute bathroom breaks. Still, when he got fired, he raged against the managers who did it, refusing to acknowledge the impact of his own bad choices.

“He thought something had been done to him,” Vance writes. “There is a lack of agency here — a feeling that you have little control over your life and a willingness to blame everyone but yourself.”

Perhaps Vance’s key to success is a simple one: that he just powered through his difficulties instead of giving up or blaming someone else.

“I believe we hillbillies are the toughest god—-ed people on this earth,” he concludes. “But are we tough enough to look ourselves in the mirror and admit that our conduct harms our children? Public policy can help, but there is no government that can fix these problems for us. . . . I don’t know what the answer is precisely, but I know it starts when we stop blaming Obama or Bush or faceless companies and ask ourselves what we can do to make things better.”

The loss of industrial jobs plays a big role in the catastrophe. J.D. Vance acknowledges that plainly in his book. But it’s not the whole story. Anybody who comes to Hillbilly Elegy thinking that it’s going to tell a story that affirms the pre-conceived beliefs of mainstream conservatives or liberals is going to be surprised and challenged — in a good way.

By the way, the viral nature of the TAC interview with J.D. Vance has pushed Hillbilly Elegy onto the bestseller list (more details of which will be available shortly). It’s No. 4 on Amazon’s own list as of this morning. They can barely keep enough in stock. It really is that good, folks. All this success could not have happened to a nicer man. Credit for this spark goes to reader Surly Temple, who gave me my copy of Hillbilly Elegy.

UPDATE: A reader writes to point out:

The Washington Post review you quote states, Perhaps Vance’s key to success is a simple one: that he just powered through his difficulties instead of giving up or blaming someone else.” I think that misses the point of the book. J.D. fully acknowledges the importance of his Mamaw, Marine Corps drill instructors, and wife in changing his outcomes.

My takeaway from the book is that we can help these communities and people, but not from a distance. It takes unconditional, sacrificial love.

He’s right about that, and I shouldn’t have posted that WaPo review without commenting. JDV openly credits his Mamaw and the Marine Corps with making him the man he is today. He does not claim he got there entirely on his own, by bootstrapping it.

Voir également:

RACE, CLASS, AND CULTURE: A CONVERSATION WITH WILLIAM JULIUS WILSON AND J.D. VANCE
THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION
Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, September 5, 2017

MS. BUSETTE: Thanks Richard. I’m indebted to Richard who had the foresight to invite Bill and J.D. for this conversation well before I arrived at Brookings (…) Today we’re going to be covering some very timely and sensitive topics. Topics that explore who we are as Americans and why we are still struggling with entrenched poverty increasing in equality and the tragic waste of significant human potential; some 30 years after Bill Wilson first published his watershed book, “ The Truly Disadvantaged. ” As we begin this conversation, I want our audience to understand the personal experiences you both bring to your perspectives on poor Americans. Bill and J.D., I’d like each of you to share with us a personal experience from your childhood that had a profound impact on you and your perspectives on poverty, and Bill I’m going to ask you to go first.

MR. WILSON: Thank you. So, in answer to that challenging question, I should point out first of all that “ Hillbilly Elegy ” is a very important book and it also resonated with me in a very personal way because I also experienced the problems of rural poverty. I grew up in a small town in Western Pennsylvania. My father was a coal miner. He worked in these coal mines of Western Pennsylvania and oc casionally he worked in steel mills in Western Pennsylvania. He died at the age of 39, with a lung disease. Left my mother with six kids and I was the oldest at 12 years of age. My father had a 10 th grade education, my mother had a 10 th grade education. My mother who lived to the ripe old age of 94, raised us by cleaning house occasionally. Initially we were on r elief. We call it w elfare now. She got off w elfare and supported us by cleaning house; and what I distinctly remember about growing up in ru ral poverty is hunger. You know, I reviewed a book in the New York Times, Kathy Edin and Luke Shaefer’s book, “ Two Dollars a Day, Living on Almost Nothing in America. ” That book really captured my experiences, and I distinctly remember the times when we went hungry because my mother did not have any money and it was during the winter time and sometimes she had to use her own creativity in coming up with food because she couldn’t draw from the garden.

Now, given my family background, black person, black family in rural poverty; as one of my colleagues at Harvard told me, the odds that I would end up at Harvard as a University p rofessor and capital U on University, are very nearly zero. Like J.D. I’m an outlier. An outlier in — Malcolm Gladwell says in his book “ Outlier, The Study of Success. ” We are both outliers; but it’s interesting that J.D. never talks about holding himself up by his own bootstraps, and that’s something that I reject. I don’t refer to myself that way, because both J.D. and I, were in the right places at the right times, and we had significant individuals who were there to rescue us from poverty and enabled us to escape. We are the outliers being at the right place at the right time, and when I think about your question, that’s one thing I think about; how lucky I was. I had some significant individuals who helped me escape poverty.

MS. BUSETTE: Thank you Bill. J.D.?

MR. VANCE: Well first, thanks Camille, thanks Richard for hosting this. It’s really wonderful to be here and I’m a bit of a fan boy of William Julius Wilson as I wrote Hillbilly Elegy, so it was real exciting to be able to get him to sign this book. I think that the story that stands out to me is, and there’s a bit of a background here which is that you know, I was six or seven years old, and I remember my mom who was trying to get some sort of certification to become a nurse; and eventually after a couple of years, I remember being old enough that she sort of had to test how to draw blood on me, and that was sort of something I volunteered for because I thought it was really cool, because I was a weird kid; and I remember that eventually she made it and she was able to work as a nurse for a couple of years, and this just so happened to overlap with a period w here she was married to a truck driver. A guy who hadn’t graduated from high school, but was able to drive a truck and so you think about those two incomes together, there was this period where I felt like we had genuinely made it where we had this financial stability that was pretty remarkable given the history of my family. And I think the way that it fell apart so quickly and the way that even in the midst of that financial security, life was so chaotic and so unstable and eventually when that very precarious middle – class lifestyle fell apart economically, all of the instability that existed in our home sort of came crashing down upon us; and so, it felt like after this two-year period, we were in an even worse situation than we were going into it. I think you know, one of the things that taught me, and one of the ways I think it influenced the way that I think about poverty and inequality and upward mobility, is that the problems that a lot of poor families face aren’t purely income related. That some of the lessons that you learn, some of the things that you acquire when you are really struggling, they follow you even when you’re not struggling in a purely material sense. And then when a material sense returns, it can make all of those non-material things that much worse off, and I think that way of understanding these problems has really influenced the way that I think about a lot of the problems that I write about in the book.

MS. BUSETTE: Great, thank you very much. Thank you both very much. You know I want to talk a little bit about the place of poverty in the American narrative. And that narrative is complicated. In a recent survey conducted by The American Enterprise Institute and the Los Angeles Times, white Americans linked poverty with laziness and lack of ambition, and when we think of the welfare reform debates from the 1990’s, there were ungenerous terms used to describe the poor. The National Opinion Research Center also released a survey that shows that over the last two d ecades, there has never been such a bigger divide between white Republicans and white Democrats when it comes to the views of the intelligence and work ethic of African Americans. More generally, Americans think of poverty as an individual failure, and i ts opposite financial success is the result of hard work and smarts. I want each of you to reflect on these narratives of poverty and give us your perspective. Bill, I’m going to start with you.

MR. WILSON: Okay, that’s a very challenging question and I ‘m going to try to answer it by also pointing out some differences that I have with J.D. It’s really kind of a matter of emphasis. Not that we differ, it’s just a matter of emphasis. First of all, we both agree that too many liberal social scientists focus on social structure and ignore cultural conditions. You know, they talk about poverty, joblessness and discrimination, but they also don’t talk about some of the cultural conditions, that grow out of these situations, in response to these situations. Too many conservatives focus on cultural forces and ignore structural factors. Now J.D. has made the same point in “ Hillbilly Elegy ” and you also have made the same point in some subsequent interviews talking about the book. Now where we disagree and this relates back to your question, Camille, is in the interpretation of these cultural factors. J.D. places a lot of emphasis on agency. That people even in the most impoverished circumstances have choices that can either improve or exacerbate their situation, their predicaments. And I also think that a gency is important and should not be ignored, even in situations where individuals confront overwhelming structural impediments. But what J.D., and I’d like to hear your response to this J.D., wha t you don’t make explicit or emphasize enough from my point of view, is that agency is also constrained by these structural factors, even among people who you know, make positive choices to improve their lives, there are still constraints and I maintain th at the part of your book where you talking about agency, really cries out for a deeper interrogation. A deeper interrogation of how personal a gency is expanded or inhibited by the circumstance that the poor or working classes confront, including you know, their interactions and families, social networks , and institutions, in these distressed communities. In other words, what I’m trying to suggest is that personal agency is recursively associated with the structural forces within which it operates. And here you know, it’s sort of insightful to talk about intermediaries and insightful to talk about people who aid, who help you in making choices, and you do that well in the book. But here’s the point, given the American belief system on poverty and welfare in which Americans as you point out Camille, place far greater emphasis on personal shortcomings as opposed to structural barriers and especially when you’re talking about the behavior of African Americans. I believe that explanations that focus — don’t get me wrong, you don’t even talk about African Americans in the sense, I’m talking about people out there in the general public. Given this focus on personal shortcomings as opposed to structural barriers in a common for outcomes, I believe that explanations that focus on agency are likely to overshadow explanations that focus on structural impediments. Some people read a book, but they’re not that sophisticated, the take away will be those personal factors and you know, I would have liked to have seen you sort of try to put things in context you know. Talk about the constraints that people have. Now this relates to the second point I want to make. In addition, to feeling that they have little control over themselves, that is lack of agency. You point out that the individuals in these hillbilly communities tend to blame themselves — I’m sorry, blame everyone but themselves, and the term you used to explain this phenomenon is cognitive dissonance, when our beliefs are not consistent with our behaviors. And I agree, and many people often do tend to blame others and not themselves, but I think that when we talk about cognitive dissonance, we also have to recognize that individuals in these communities do indeed have some complaints, some justifiable complaints, including complaints about industries that have pulled off stakes and relocated to cheaper labor areas overseas and in the process, have devastated communities like Middletown, Ohio. Including complaints about automation replacing the jobs of cashiers and parking lot attendants. Including the complaints that government and corporate actions have undermined unions and therefore led to a decrease in the wages or workers in Middletown. You know, I just , I’m sorry, I’m going on too far, I’ll let you respond.

MS. BUSETTE: That was interesting. Now, here’s your chance.

MR. VANCE: Sure. So, I’ll make two broad points. One hopefully more responsive to your initial question, second more responsive to Bill’s concerns. So, first this point about culture, which is a really, really, difficult and amorphous concept to define, and one of the things that I was trying to do with “ Hillbilly Elegy ” is try to in some ways draw the discussion away from this structure versus personal responsibility narrative and convince us to look at culture as a third and I think very important variable. I often think that the way that conservatives, and I’m a conservative, talk about culture is in some ways an excuse to end the conversation instead of starti ng a much more important conversation. It’s look at their bad culture, look at their deficient culture, we can’t do anything to help them; instead of trying to understand culture as this much bigger social and institutional force that really is important that some cases can come from problems related to poverty and some cases can come from a host of different factors that are difficult to understand. So, here’s what I mean by that. One of the most important I think cultural problems that I talk about is the prevalence of family and stability and family trauma in some of the communities that I write about; and I take it as a given that that trauma and that instability is really bad, that it has really negative downstream effects on whether children are able to get an education, whether their able to enter the workforce, whether their able to raise and maintain successful families themselves. I think it’s tempting to sort of look at the problems of family instability and families like mine and say the re’s a structural problem if only people had access to better economic opportunities, they wouldn’t have this problem. I think that’s partially true, but also consequently partially false. I think there’s a tendency on the right to look at that and say these parents need to take better care of their families and of their children, and unless they do it, there’s nothing that we can do. And I think again, that is maybe partially true, but it’s also very significantly false. What I’m trying to point to in this concept of culture, is we know that when children grow up in very unstable families that it has important cognitive effects, we know that it has important psychological effects, and unless we understand the problem of family instability and trauma, not just as a structural problem, or problem with personal responsibility, but as a long – term problem, in some cases inherited from multiple generations back, then we’re not going to be able to appreciate what’s really going on in some of these families a nd why family instability and trauma is so durable and so difficult to actually solve. So, I tend to think of culture as in some ways, this way to sum all of the things that are neither structural nor individual. What is it that’s going on in people’s environments good and bad that make it difficult for them to climb out of poverty. What are the things that they inherit. It’s not just from their own families, but from multiple generations back. Behaviors, expectations, environmental attitudes that mak e is really hard for them to succeed and do well. That’s the concept of culture that I think is most important, and also frankly that I think is missing a little bit from our political conversation when we talk about these questions of poverty, we’re real ly comfortable talking about personal responsibility, we’re really comfortable talking about structural problems. We don’t often talk about culture in this way that I’m trying to talk about it, in “ Hillbilly Elegy. ”

MR. WILSON: Can I just —

MR. VANCE : Sure.

MR. WILSON: No, go ahead J.D.

MR. VANCE: (laughing)

MR. WILSON: No, no, I agree. It’s a matter of emphasis, that’s all I’m saying.

MR. VANCE: So this, yeah.

MR. WILSON: And let me also point out, here’s where we really do agree. We both agree that there are cultural practices within families and so on and in communities that reinforce problems created by the structural barriers.

MR. VANCE: Absolutely.

MR. WILSON: Reinforce. Practiced behaviors that perpetuate poverty and disadvantage. So, this we agree. Too often liberals ignore the role of these cultural forces in perpetuating or reinforcing conditions associated with poverty or concentrated (inaudible).

MS. BUSETTE: So —

MR. VANCE: Absolutely. So, the second point that I wanted to make, and I’ll try to be brief is this question of Agency and whether I overemphasize the role of Agency. I think that for me, this is a really tough line to tow because I’m sort of writing about these problems you know, having in my personal memory, I’m not that far removed from a lot of them. I know that myself, one of the biggest problems that I faced was that I really did start to give up on myself early in high school, and I think that’s a really significant problem. At the same time, I understand and recognize the problem that Bill mentions which is that we have this tendency to sort of overemphasize Personal Agency and to proverbially blame the victim for a lot of these problems. So, what I was trying to do with this discussion of Personal Agency in the book, and I may have failed, but this is the effort, this is what I’m really trying to accomplish. Is that the first instance, I do think that it’s important for kids like me in circumstances like mine, to pick up the book and to have at least some reinforcement of the Agency that they have. I do think that’s a significant problem from the prospective of kids who grew up in communities like mine. The second thing that I’m trying to do, is talk about Personal Agency, not jus t from the prospective of individual poor people, but from the entire community that surrounds them. So, one of the things that I talk about is as religious communities in these areas, do they have the, as I say in the book, toughness to build Churches that encourage more social engagement as opposed to more social disaffection. I think that’s a question of Personal Agency, not from the perspective of the impoverished kid, but from a religious leader and community leaders that exist in their neighborho od. So, I think that sense of Personal Agency is really important. One of the worries that I have, is that when we talk about the problems of impoverished kids and this is especially true amongst sort of my generation, so this is — I’m a tail end of t he millennials here, is that we tend to think about helping people, 10 million people at a time a very superficial level, and one of the calls to action that I make in the book with this — by pointing out to Personal Agency is the idea that it can be real ly impactful to make a difference in 10 lives at a very deep level at the community level. And I think that sometimes is missing from these conversations. And then, the final point that I’ll make is that there’s a difference between recognizing the impo rtance of Personal Agency and I think ignoring the role of structural factors in some of these problems, right? So, the example that I used to highlight this in the book is this question of addiction. So, there’s some interesting research that suggests t hat people who believe inherently that their addiction is a disease, show slightly less proclivity to actually fight that addiction and overcome that addiction. So, that creates sort of a catch 22, because we know there are biological components to add iction. We know that there are these sorts of structural non – personal decision – making drivers of addiction, and yet, if you totally buy in to the non – individual choice explanation for addiction, you show less of a proclivity to fight it. So, I think that there is this really tough under current to some of our discussions on these issues, where as a society we want to simultaneously recognize the barriers that people face, but also encourage them not to play a terrible hand in a terrible way, and that’s wh at I’m trying to do with this discussion of Personal Agency. The final point that I’ll make on that, is that the person who towed that line better than anyone I’ve ever known was my Grandma, my Ma’ma who I think is in some ways the hero of the book. She always told me. Look J.D., like is unfair for us, but don’t be like those people who think the deck is hopelessly stacked against them. I think that’s a sentiment that you hear far too infrequently among America’s elites. This simultaneous recogniti on that life is unfair for a lot of poor Americans, but that we still have to emphasize the role of individual agency in spite of that unfairness and I think that’s again a difficult balancing act. I may not have struck that balancing act perfectly in the book, but that was the intention.

MS. BUSETTE: Thank you.

MR. WILSON: Camille, do you mind if I follow – up because I mean this is an interesting conversation and you just raised a point there about optimism which I think is very, very important. Because you know, one point that resonated with me in your book is that you pointed out, I think it was 2010 – 2011, by the way, I read your book twice you know so (laughter) that’s how I remembered it, and I enjoyed it both times. I’m going to say —

MR. VANCE: That’s good.

MR. WILSON: — it’s a great book. You pointed out that in 2010 or 2011, you were overwhelmingly hopeful about the future, and that for the first time in your life, you felt like an outsider in Middletown, Ohio. And what made you feel like an alien as you put it, was your optimism. And I think that that’s the key. People who have some hope for the future behave differently. And I think that if there were some way to generate hope and optimism among people in Appalachia, or among the Appalachian transplants, you would see a change in their behavior, and this argument applies not only to those in distress rural communities, but also distressed urban communities. And I think immediately of the Harlem Children Zone. The kids who are lucky enough to be a part of — I assume all of you know about the Harlem Children’s Zone. The kids who are lucky enough to be a part of the Harlem Children’s Zone, are kids who develop in the process a hopeful feeling. A feeling that they have a future, and therefore they’re not going to do anything to jeopardize that future. You became optimistic. What factors led you to develop that optimism?

MR. VANCE: Yeah, that’s a good question. I might ask you the same question when I’m done answering —

MR. WILSON: Right.

MR. VANCE: — but you know, the first thing is definitely you know, going back to my grandma. I think if anybody had a reason for pessimism and cynicism about the future, it was her. It’s sort of difficult to imagine a woman who had lived a more difficult life and yet ma’ma had this constant optimism about the future, in the sense that we had to do better because that was just the way that America worked. I mean I think that she was this woman who had this deep and abiding faith in the American dream in a way that is obviously disappearing And in fact, as I wrote about in the book, was I started to see disappearing even you know, when I was a young kid in my early 20’s. So, I think that my grandma was a huge part of that. I also think that the Marine Corp was a really huge part of that, and this is sort of a transformational experience that I write about in the book. The military is this really remarkable institution. It brings people from diverse backgrounds together, gets them on the same team. Gets them marching proverbially and literally towards the same goal, and for a kid who had grown up in a community that was starting to lose faith in that American dream, I think that the military was a really useful way to, as I say in the book, teach a certain amount of willfulness as opposed to despair and hopelessness. So, I think that was a really critical piece of it. You know, at some level, in some cases I think it’s impossible to reconstruct that in the past. I knew that I was a really hopeless and in some cases detached kid early in high school. I knew that by 2010, I was feeling really optimistic about the future and I do sometimes wonder how easy it is to reconstruct what took me from point A to point B, but those two factors are my best guess.

MS. BUSETTE: Did you want to answer his question.

MR. WILSON: You know, even in extreme property, my mother kept telling me, you’re going to college. And my Aunt Janice also reinforced — my Aunt Janice was the first person in my extended family who got a college education, and I used to go to New York to visit her during the summer months, and I said you know, I want to be like Aunt Janice, you know?

MR. VANCE: Sure.

MR. WILSON: Key people in our lives —

MR. VANCE: Absolutely.

MR. WILSON: We are the outliers J.D.

MR. VANCE: Yep.

MR. WILSON: And Malcom Gladwell since.

MS. BUSETTE: Thank you both for that interchange. I think that was incredibly interesting and very illuminating. I want to go back to something you mentioned J.D., which is this question of culture. You know Bill, I know that the term cultural poverty has a very divisive history and still conjures up very vitriolic debates today. But Bill, you have over an extraordinary career, created meaningful distinctions about poverty and within that jargon of poverty and you’ve also situated jobless poverty in particular within changes in the economy. Could you tell us what the experiential differences are between jobless poverty and the employed poor?

MR. WILSON: Well you really see this when you look at neighborhoods. Neighborhoods in which an overwhelming majority of the population are poor, but employed is entirely different from neighborhoods in which people are poor but jobless. Jobless neighborhoods trigger all kinds of problems. Crime, drug addiction, gang behavior, violence. And one of the things that I had focused on when I wrote my book, When Work Disappears is what happens to intercity neighborhoods that experience increasing le vels of joblessness. And we did some research in Chicago and it was really you know, sad, talking to some of the mothers who were just fearful about allowing their children to go outside because the neighborhood was so incredibly dangerous. And I remember talking with one woman and she says — who was obese and she says you know, I went to the doctor he said that I should go out and exercise. Can you imagine jogging in this neighborhood? Because the joblessness had created problems among young people who were trying to make ends meet and they’re involved in crime and drugs and so on. So, I would say that if you want to focus on improving neighborhoods, the first thing that I would do would try to increase or enhance employment opportunities.

MS. BUSETTE: Great, thank you.

MR. WILSON: I have another story. This just reminds me. I was talking with a mother, young mother. Actually, she’s young now from my point of view, middle 30’s and her son had just been shot in the neighborhood, killed. Str ay bullet from a gang fight. She said her son was not a member of the gang, that’s one of the reasons why she was so fearful, so concerned about keeping her children indoors. She said you know Mr. Wilson, no one cared that my son died. His death was not reported in any of the newspapers. It wasn’t reported on the radio, TV. No one cared Mr. Wilson that my son died. And I just keep thinking about these families who live in these dangerous jobless neighborhoods and what they have to endure.

MS. BUSETTE: Thank you. One of the things that comes out clearly from your work Bill, and from your book J.D., is the erosion of social networks and social capital. J.D., your book is really an extended love letter to your grandparents who raised you. Can you tell us a little bit about how the social connections that they had were important to their resilience they showed as parents, as your parents?

MR. VANCE: Sure. So, my grandparents lived in, I think grew up in a little town that had much more robust communities than the town that I grew up in. And so, a lot of the relationships they developed, my grandfather was a 35-year union welder, at Armco. Later, A.K. Steel. My grandmother was a little bit more socially isolated than my grandfather but still had built up a network of friends over that time, and you know, going back to Bill’s point about having diverse networks of people who actually give you a sense of what’s possible and what’s out there, that was really, really, powerful for me, right. So, you know, of my grandparents three kids, one obviously is my mom, but my uncle and aunt were doing pretty well when I was a young kid, and so that gave me this sense of what’s out there, what’s possible. That’s really powerful. My grandfather had a number of friends most of whom were working class like him, but some of whom you know, owned the local businesses or owned local stores or mechanic shops, things like that. So that also gave me the sense of what was possible. And I think ultimately though I went to the Marine Corps and then off to college. I also think the obvious implication is that some of those social networks and connections would have had really powerful economic benefits if I had eventually tried to rely on them. I think that what was so wonderful about my grandparent’s social networks is that they were intact enough for me to still have relied upon them. On the other hand, one thing I really worried about and one thing that I increasingly worried about as I actually did research for the book, is this idea of faith and religion, not just as something that people believe in, but as an actual positive institutional and social role player in their lives. And one of the things you do see, that this is something that Charles Murray’s written about, is that you see the institutions of faith declining in some of these lower income communities faster than you do in middle and upper income communities. I don’t think you have to be a person of faith to think that that’s worrisome. I think you can just read a paper by Jonathan Gruber that talks about all of these really positive social impacts of being a regular participatory Church member. So, you know, I think I was lucky in that sense, but a lot of folks, and when I look at the community right now, it worries me a little bit that you don’t see these robust social institutions in the same way that you certainly did 30, 40 years ago, and even when I was growing up in Middletown. The last point that I’ll make about that, is that (…) these trends often take half a century or more to really reveal themselves and I do sometimes see signs of resilience in some of these communities that I sort of didn’t fully anticipate and didn’t expect when the book was published. So, one of the things I’ve started to realize for example is when we talk about the decline of institutional faith, even though I continue to worry about that, one of the institutions that’s actually picked up the slack are groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. They almost have this faith effect. It brings people together. There’s even a sort of liturgical element to some of these meetings that I find really, really fascinating and interesting. So, people try to find and replace community when it’s lost but you know, clearly, they haven’t at least as of yet, replaced it even remotely to the degree that it has been lost which is why I think you see some of the issues that we do.

MS. BUSETTE: Alright, thank you. Bill, I know you have something to say on that —

MR. WILSON: Sure.

MS. BUSETTE: — but I wanted to kind of position the question in a slightly different way than I did for J.D. The economy certainly became significantly since you first penned The Truly Disadvantaged. And what, from your perspective, what effects have those changes had on social organization and poverty?

MR. WILSON: Well, I don’t know if the conditions have changed that much, since I wrote The Truly Disadvantaged. The one big difference is that I think there’s increasing technology and automation that has created problems for a lot of low skilled workers. You know, I mentioned automation replacing jobs that cashiers held, and parking lot attendants held. So, you have a combination not only of the relocation of industries overseas, that I talked about in The Truly Disadvantaged; but now you have increasing automation and technology replacing jobs, and this worries me because I think that people who have poor education are going to be in difficult situations increasingly down the road. You look at intercity schools, not only schools in intercities, but in many other neighborhoods, and kids are not being properly educated. So, they’re not being prepared for the changes that are occurring in the economy. I remember one social scientist saying that it’s as if — talking about the black population. It’s as if racism and racial discrimination put black people in their place only to watch increasing technology and automation destroy that place. So, the one significant difference from the time I wrote The Truly Disadvantaged in 1987, is the growing problems created by increasing technology for the poor.

MR. VANCE: Bill, could I ask a question —

MR. WILSON: Sure.

MR. VANCE: — because this is something I was you know, looking through your book on my Kendall earlier today, and I kept on coming back to this question, and I’m curious what you think. Which is if the civil rights movement had happened in the early 20th century as opposed to the mid-20th century, do you think that black Americans would be more caught up than they are right now? In other words, do you think that it happened, the civil rights advancements happened at a time when technology was just really starting to hammer the economies that they relied on, and if it happened in an area where there weren’t quite the same premiums on human capital, that maybe they could have caught up a little bit better than they have over the past 50 years?

MR. WILSON: So what you’re saying is that if civil rights movement had happened at this time?

MR. VANCE: Sorry, the early 20th century?

MR. WILSON: Oh, the early 20th century

MR. VANCE: Yeah, that’s right.

MR. WILSON: Right.

MR. VANCE: So, if it had happened when we were just transitioning from the proverbial farm to the factory, do you think it would have had a significant difference?

MR. WILSON: I’m not sure.

MR. VANCE: Right, what else can you say.

MR. WILSON: What do you think?

MR. VANCE: — reading The Truly Disadvantaged today, I was thinking maybe the answer is yes, because part of what happened, with the civil rights movement is that the economy was rapidly changing just to some of these legal structures were you know, as black Americans were freed from some of these legal structures. And I do wonder if the economy — it was in some ways as these legal changes were happening in a very positive way, the economy hit black Americans super hard, and I wonder if those legal structures would have fallen at a time when the economy wasn’t changing so rapidly. Maybe things would be a little bit different today?

MR. WILSON: This reminds me of the point that Bayard Rustin raised in the early 1960’s. He said, you know, it’s great to outlaw discrimination and prejudice, but it’s also important to recognize that if you have a referee in the ring, and you say there will be no discrimination, but one fighter has had all of the training and the other fighter has not, which fighter is going to come out ahead? And so, he says much more emphasis has now got to be placed on dealing with these basic economic problems and he told Martin Luther King, Jr. he said look, he says what good is it to be allowed to eat in a restaurant if you can’t afford a hamburger; so, we’re going to have to address some of these fundamental economic problems —

MR. VANCE: Sure.

MR. WILSON: — that are devastating the community. So that reinforces your point too.

MS. BUSETTE: That is a perfect segue to a set of questions that I want to ask you both. It’s about the question of Race in America. We know that racism and discrimination have a long history in the U.S., and that the effects of that history are still experienced by individuals on a daily basis today. When those experiences are aggregated, we can see large mobility, wealth and income gaps between white Americans and African Americans. We are also hearing, and reading and seeing about the culture of the sphere, the opioid epidemic and the disability culture in rural and Rust belt America. So, I’m going to ask a sensitive question. Are there differences between being black, jobless and poor, and being white jobless and poor? And if so, what are they and why? Bill, I’m going to give you the honor of tackling that first (laughter).

MR. WILSON: You know, that’s a very interesting question because I was just — you know J.D. you wrote in your book about the problems of poor whites and it seems that poor whites right now are more pessimistic than any group, and the question is why. I was sort of impressed with your analysis of the white working class and the age of Trump. You know, you pointed out that when Barack Obama became president there were a lot of people in your community who were really struggling and who believe that the modern American meritocracy did not seem to apply to them. These people were not doing well, and then you have this black president who’s a successful product of meritocracy who has raised the hope of African Americans and he represented every positive thing that these working-class folks that you write about did not possess or lacked. And Trump emerged as candidate who sort of spoke to these people. What is interesting is that if you look at the Pew Research Polls, recent Pew Research polls, I think you pointed this out in your book, the working – class whites right now are more pessimistic than any other group about their economic future and their children’s future. Now is that pessimism justified? I think they’re overly pessimistic. I still maintain that to be black, poor and jobless is worse than being white, poor and jobless, okay? But, for some reason, the white poor is more pessimistic. Now I think with respect to the black poor and working class has kind of an Obama effect you kn ow. I think that may wear off and then blacks will become even more equally as pessimistic as whites in a few years.

MR. VANCE: I’d really like for you to run those numbers right now, and see if the rates among pessimism among working class blacks are changed or inverted relative to where they were a couple of years ago. You know, people ask me what I see as the similarities between working class blacks and working-class whites, and what the differences are, and whenever they ask me what the differences are I always say, talk to Bill Wilson, he’s a lot smarter about this stuff than I am. But the thing that jumps out to me most when I think about the differences, is that housing policy, especially housing policy back in the 50’s and 60’s affects modern day black Americans much more than it does modern day white Americans. Especially the working and non-working poor. What I mean by that is that I think that you know, partially because of research that Bill has done and partially for research that a lot of other folks have done. Concentrated poverty is really bad. It’s worse than just being poor. To be sort of socially isolated in these islands of all the other poor people and I think that’s a much more common experience among black Americans because of the residuals effects of housing policy in the 50’s and 60’s, so I think that to me, if I was going to pick one single factor, that was driving the continued difference, I would probably say housing policy. The sort of question of how to you know, is it better or worse to be working-class or sort of poor, jobless and white, versus poor, jobless and black. I think all things being equal certainly poor jobless and black is sort of worse off if you look at wealth numbers, if you look at income numbers, that’s still the case. I do worry a little bit that we don’t have the vocabulary to really talk about the full measure of disadvantage in the country right now. What I mean by that is that we’re pretty comfortable talking about class, we’re pretty comfortable talking about gender, we’re reasonably comfortable talking about race, but when we talk about things like single parent families, family trauma, concentrated poverty. All of these things that would go into what I would call the disadvantage bucket or the privileged bucket, it’s not those three factors, it’s probably two dozen or three dozen factors. We’re really bad about talking about everything except for race, class and gender. And I think that’s one way that the conversation has really broken down, especially in the past few years.

MS. BUSETTE: Alright, thank you.

MR. WILSON: So, this reminds me of your points J.D., reminds me of a paper that Robert Sampson, a colleague at Harvard and I wrote in 1995 entitled Toward a Theory of Race, Crime and Urban Inequality. A paper that has become a classic actually in the field of criminology because it’s generated dozens of research studies. Our basic thesis we were addressing you know, race and violent crime, is that racial disparities and violent crime are attributable in large part to the persistent structural disadvantages that are disproportionately concentrated in African American urban communities. Nonetheless, we argue that the ultimate cause of crime were similar for both whites and blacks, and we pose a central question. In American cities, it is possible to reproduce in white communities the structural circumstances under which many blacks live. You know, the whites haven’t fully experienced the structural reality that blacks have experienced does not negate the power of our theory because we argue had whites been exposed to the same structural conditions as blacks then white communities would behave – – the crime rate would be in the predicted direction. And then we had an epiphany. What about the rural white communities that you talk about. Where you’re not only talking about joblessness, you’re not only talking about poverty, but you’re also talking about family structure. So, here in Appalachia, you could reproduce some of the conditions that exist in intercity neighborhoods and therefore it would be good to test our theory in these areas because we’d be looking at the family structure. The rates of single parent families. We’d be looking at joblessness, we’d be loo king at poverty. So, we need to move beyond the urban areas and see if we can look at communities that come close to approximating or even worse in some cases, and some intercity neighborhoods. This reminds me, I was reading an interview, excellent interview. Remember I wrote to you that first time I read this interview, it was before I even read Hillbilly Elegy and I went and read the book after reading this interview; or maybe it was in Hillbilly Elegy where you refer to the research of the economist Raj Chetty who did some path breaking research on concentrated poverty, single parent families and mobility.

MR. VANCE: Yep.

MR. WILSON: And the reports in the newspapers focused on concentrated poverty and then talk about rates of single parent families which he also emphasized, you see.

MR. VANCE: Yep.

MR. WILSON: But if you want to capture both, it might be good to focus on rural areas like the ones you wrote about, and see if some of the same factors are reproduced that I read about in The Truly Disadvantaged.

MS. BUSETTE: Oh there’s no second book for you (laughter). So, my colleague Richard Reeves has recently published a piece that demonstrated that there’s a century economic mobility gap between black and white men. So, in a sense, the historically lower rates of upward mobility have delayed the economic ascent of black men by a century. Should we be concerned?

MR. WILSON: Could you repeat that?

MS. BUSETTE: Yeah. The historically lower rates of upward mobility have delayed for black men, have delayed the economic ascent of black men by a century compared to white men. So, the question is, should we be concerned, and do we need differentiated sets of policies to address black economic mobility and on the other hand, white economic mobility?

J.D., I’m going to give that to you first (laughter).

MR. WILSON: You should have sent these questions to us ahead of time (laughter) —

MS. BUSETTE: No, no.

MR. WILSON: — so we could have thought —

MS. BUSETTE: That’s the fun (laughter). Yeah, no fun in that.

MR. VANCE: Well, I think you asked two questions. The first was should we be concerned. My answer to that is yes, and I’ll let Bill take the second question (laughter). So, you know, this question of should we have differentiated policies. I think it depends on what we mean by differentiated right. So, to take Bill’s — something he said earlier, this question of technological change and the way that it’s impacting these communities, I think that requires us to fundamentally rethink the way that we approach higher education. That’s been my persistent frustration, thinking about policy over the past couple of years. Is we have this rapidly changing economy. We haven’t changed our institutions or even our institutional thinking to match up to that rapidly changing economy. But if you’re focused on sort of correcting those gaps or if you’re just basically focused on giving help to the people who need it, then you’re going to have a differentiated application of help because black Americans need it, you know, maybe on average more than white Americans. If we talk about sort of the negative effects for example of concentrated poverty, this is something that I really worry about, and back to Raj Chetty, a different paper that he published show that there are these really interesting positive effects of the Moving to Opportunity Study. But my guess is that concentrated poverty equally hurts black and white Americans, it’s just that black Americans experience it more. So, there’s going to be a differentiated effect if you try to rectify that problem, but not because you say we’re going to try to help black people more than white people, just because you’re going to say, I want to help the problem of concentrated poverty and because they’re suffering from it more. That effect will at least be differentiated. But I don’t know, I haven’t thought about sort of whether you should go into it sort of before the fact and try to apply these things differently. My guess is that that’s probably politically not a great idea, and may not be necessary from a moral perspective either, but I’m curious as to what Bill thinks.

MR. WILSON: I agree. Certainly, in this day and age it’s not a good idea. But, if you ask me, what am I most concerned about right now in addressing problems of poverty and so on. I’m concerned about jobs. Although I wouldn’t phrase it this way, I wouldn’t say that we need public sector jobs for black males, I would say we need public sector jobs for people who live in concentrated poverty and that would apply to white males, not only males, but females as well. As well as blacks. But which group would benefit disproportionately from a public sector’s jobs program. It would be black males, because black males have these high prison records; and therefore because of their prison records, many of them find it extremely difficult because of the incarceration rates, many of them find it extremely difficult to find jobs in the private sector. Therefore, at least as a temporary as opposed to a permanent solution, I would like to see public sector job creation for those who have difficulty finding employment in the private sector. When I speak of public sector jobs, I mean the type of jobs provided by the WPA during the Great Depression. Jobs that would improve the infrastructure in our communities, including the under-funded National Park Service, state and local park districts. I just feel that public sector jobs are very, very important particularly for black adults who have been stigmatized by prison records and who thus find it virtually impossible to find jobs in the private sector. Now, saying that. I’m on to no illusion that these programs and a program like public sector job program would garner widespread support in the current political climate, but I feel that we have to start thinking seriously, about what should be done when we have a more favorable political climate, and when people from both parties are willing to consider seriously policies that could make a difference.

MS. BUSETTE: We have time for one more question, and I’m going to start, J.D., with you. So, in a paper by Richard Reeves and another colleague of mine, Eleanor Krouse, that was released today, the evidence is that rural areas with the best rates of upward mobility are the ones with the highest rates of out migration, especially among young people. Should we just accept that some communities are essentially dying, and focus our efforts on helping people move on to other places with more opportunity, or should we be trying to turnaround these blighted areas?

MR. VANCE: That is a really tough one. So, I’m going to try to judicially split the baby here and I’ll probably fail but — (laughter). When I think about should we try to fix these blighted areas, I think that it depends on how we define area, right? Because my concern with some of these out-migration arguments is that we say, if you can’t find a good job in West Virginia, you should move to San Francisco, California, and they’re two concerns with that. The first is that try to convince somebody that they could afford a place in San Francisco, California when it’s a two-bedroom apartment costs you $4,500 a month. So, I think that again, going back to housing policy, that really makes this out migration pretty difficult. The second thing is that you really do — I think we have to understand there’s a difference between out migration from let’s say Eastern Kentucky to Southwestern Ohio verses Eastern Kentucky to San Diego, California, because the former allows you to preserve some important social contacts and social connections. It is cheaper to move there, it’s less culturally intimidating to move there. I mean I cannot imagine what my grandparents would have said if you would have told them in the 1940’s that they had to move to modern day San Francisco. It really would have been, you need to move to an entirely different country. Maybe an entirely different planet. And I think that’s important. So, the way that I think about this problem is that we have to accept that while out migration has to be a part of the solution, we can’t just say every single person in Breathitt County Kentucky has to leave, and Breathitt County Kentucky gets to close up shop. But if we can regionally develop big cities like Lexington, like Pittsburgh, like Columbus, Ohio, that obviously has downstream effects and that allows you to have out migration to places that isn’t so culturally foreign and enables people to maintain those social connections even as they move to areas with higher employment; and oh, by the way, still play a positive role in the communities back home. I think that’s the way that I approach that particular problem.

MS. BUSETTE: Alright, thank you.

MR. WILSON: You know my colleague at Harvard, Robert Sampson and former student Patrick Sharkey who is at NYU have argued for durable investments in disadvantaged neighborhoods to counter the persistent disinvestments in such neighborhoods, and I was wondering if you use that argument and focus on Appalachia for example, what would investments look like? And I’m going to put this question to you J.D., if you’re talking about investments in these communities, would it include such things as hospitals, clinics, road construction, shopping centers, daycare centers, these kinds of things. Would that be helpful? Would those things be helpful?

MR. VANCE: Yes, so I think it would definitely be helpful. One of the concerns I have with what we’ve seen with regional economic development is that it very often happens through the avenue of let me provide you tax credit so that you can open up new retail, right? I don’t think that’s especially durable economic development, right. I mean, I think we have to think of local economies as sort of a pyramid. You need real industries, manufacturing, then you have retail on top of it, but you can’t really rebuild some of these economic centers with just retail. There is actually an interesting bill that’s moving through Congress right now, that would in some ways place long-term capital investment at parity with short-term capital investment like tax credits. That would allow things like Venture Capital investment and much bigger longer – term patient capital to invest in some of these areas and create you know, more durable jobs in more durable sectors. But I also think, and my thinking honestly has probably changed in the past few years, though maybe change isn’t the right word, as I start to think about this a little bit more seriously. When I look at you know, some of the work David Autor has done about the China Shock and the way that it’s impacted some of these areas. I do think that we’ve been so caught up in thinking about long term well-being as purely as a function of consumption, that we haven’t thought about the fact that if you pay three cents less for a widget at Walmart, but half of your community just lost its job, your purchasing power is slightly greater, but your community has lost something really significant. I think that’s been missing from our conversations about economics in jobs, especially on the right, but I really think across the spectrum we focus too little on bringing good durable, high paying work into some of these areas. And consequently, if you look at just a policy across the board, we’ve congratulated ourselves, because purchasing power, even among the low income has gone up, not recognizing the purchasing power that comes from a government transfer is a lot different from purchasing power that comes from a good job.

MS. BUSETTE: Great. Thank you both very much. We are now going to take questions from the audience. So, (inaudible) from Brookings. So, I’d like everybody to be able to say who they are and the organization they’re coming from, and then ask your question please. Thank you. And I’ll take a couple of these. I’ll take yours first and then we’ll take a few more.

SPEAKER: First thing I want to do is thank both of you for such a thoughtful conversation. I mean Camille asked you really tough provocative questions, so it was a great conversation. I think I want to add to the provocative question list here. We haven’t talked much about our politics going forward and how they may play out in terms of things that you both might be in favor of. Bill, you say you’re for a public jobs program, but obviously that’s politically going to be extremely difficult to convince much of the public including many of the so-called white working class that J.D. has been studying. They don’t like government programs. They don’t like handouts. They want I think, as I read it, the literature, including your book, they want real jobs, not government jobs. In fact, they really dislike a lot that they see in first line government workers. With that background and thinking about you know, where does our politics go from here, I happened to have read this weekend, a new small essay by Mark Lilla who is arguing quite controversially that the Democratic party needs to put less emphasis on identity politics. That means staying away presumably from racial divides and culture and all of that. And, do you have any thoughts about generally how we bring the country back together again politically and specifically this notion that maybe the Democratic party is losing the white working-class by putting too much emphasis on immigrants, minorities, women etcetera?

MS. BUSETTE: I’ll let you Gabby — I’ll let you gather your thoughts there.

MR. WILSON: I’ll take a shot —

MS. BUSETTE: Wow, a brave man.

MR. VANCE: I hope that there’s vodka in this (laughter).

MR. WILSON: So you know, I blurbed Mark Lilla’s book.

SPEAKER: Oh, did you? That’s right, I remember.

MR. WILSON: I blurbed it. What’s the title of the book ?

SPEAKER: The Once in a Future Liberal.

SPEAKER: That’s right.

MR. WILSON: The Once in a Future Liberal. Yeah, I blurbed the book. You know, Mark Lilla and a number of other post-election analysts observed that as you point out that the Democrats should not make the same mistake that they made in the last election, namely an attempt to mobilize people of color, women, immigrants and the LGBT community with identity politics. They tended to ignore the problems of poor white Americans. I was watching the Democratic convention with my wife on a cruise to Alaska, and one concern I had was there did not seem to be any representatives on the stage representing poor white America. I could just see some of these poor whites saying they don’t care about us. They’ve got all these blacks, they’ve got immigrants, they’ve got (inaudible), but you don’t have any of us on the stage. Maybe I’m overstating the point, but I was concerned about that. Now one notable exception, critics like Mark Lilla point out was Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders had a progressive and unifying populous economic message in the Democratic primaries. A message that resonated with a significant segment of the white lower-class population. Lower class, working class populations. Bernie Sanders was not the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump was able to, as we all know, capture notable support from these populations with a divisive not unifying populous message. I agree with Mark Lilla that we don’t want to make the same mistake again. We’ve go to reach out to all groups. We’ve got to start to focus on coalition politics. We have to develop a sense of interdependence where groups come to recognize that they can’t accomplish goals without the support of other groups. We have to frame issues differently. We can’t go the same route. We can’t give up on the white working class.

MS. BUSETTE: Okay, J.D., did you want to tackle that or —

MR. VANCE: Yeah, sure I’ll —

MS. BUSETTE: — shall we go for other questions?

MR. VANCE: — I can briefly answer. I mean as a Republican who is deeply worried about the American right, this gives me a great chance to rift on the other side. So, just a couple of thoughts as you ask the question and as Bill was responding. The first is that on this question of identity politics, I think that what worries me is that a lot — it’s not a recognition that there are disadvantaged non-white groups that need some help or there needs to be some closing of the gap you know. When I talk to folks back home, very conservative people, they’re actually pretty open-minded if you talk about the problems that exist in the black ghetto because of problems of concentrated poverty and the fact that the black ghetto was in some ways created by housing policy. It was the choice of black Americans. It was in some ways created by housing policy. I find actually a lot of openness when I talk to friends and family about that. What I find no openness about is when somebody who they don’t know, and who they think judges them, points at them and says you need to apologize for your white privilege. So, I think that in some ways making these questions of disadvantage zero sum, is really toxic, but I think that’s one way that the Democrats really lost the white working class in the 2016 election. The second piece that occurs to me, and this applies across the political spectrum, is that what we’re trying to do in the United States, it’s very easy to be cynical about American politics, but we’re rying to build a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation, not just a conglomeration, an actual nation of people from all of these different tribes and unify them around a common creed. I think that’s really delicate. It’s basically never been done success fully over a long period in human history and I think it requires a certain amount of rhetorical finesse that we don’t see from many of our politicians on either side these days and that really, really worries me.

MS. BUSETTE: Okay, thank you both. I ‘m going to take three other questions and then we can answer them. So, this gentleman here, young lady here with her hand up, and then I’ll take yeah, the person right in the back there. Okay, yeah, on this side first.

SPEAKER: Thank you very much. I’ve known Bill Wilson for years, I’ve known J.D. over the telephone (overlapping conversations) all over town.

MR. VANCE: A fellow Middletonian.

SPEAKER: Yes, I tried to catch you at the book fair on Saturday. The line, for those of you who weren ‘t there, stretched all the way out of the DC Convention Center and down (inaudible) Avenue. I’ve never seen anything like it since the Beatles came to town (laughter). But anyway, yes, I’m a fellow middie, and from class of 65, so I went there before you were born. We just had our 50th anniversary reunion here a couple of years ago. I’m delighted by your book. Folks ask me if I ever thought of writing a memoir, and I said my life was too dull, my (inaudible) was too quiet. When I grew up we were an all-American city. You may have read that in your history books. Back in the 50’s we were one of the all-American cities in America. A few years ago, Forbes chose Middletown as one of 10 fastest dying cities in America. This tells you what’s happened over time. So, I have a lot of things I’d love to inject, but I’m just going to ask one question. As you know I’ve talked before about when I came out of Middletown High in 65 I was able to work at the steel mill at Armco, and make enough money to pay my tuition at Ohio University, go Bobcats. For tuition in 1965 at Ohio U was $770. With room and board $1,240. It wasn’t hard for me, the son of a mother who was a cook and a father who was a factory worker to move up to the middle class, thanks to Ohio’s excellent higher education system. Years later of course you went to the Marines to get a scholarship to go to Ohio State —

MR. VANCE: True.

SPEAKER: — and so it was possible, but it certainly is tougher now to go from working class Middletown, we don’t have the steel mill jobs in the summer anymore. The five paper mills that we used to have are all gone. All the industries up and down I – 75, all the way to Detroit, General Motors, Frigidaire, GM, Delco Battery, Huffy Bicycle, National Cash Register, and I could go on and on and on, but what Bill Wilson writes about in the you know they’ve gone overseas or other types of chains have gone on. We were talking about automation back in the 50’s, and the 60’s and of course we see what has happened, and it’s still happening. But my question really is we haven’t talked much about those front row kids like yourself there who had a chance to go to college and found a way there. That route has gotten tougher. Do you think we need to do something to make it easier to get higher education? Some schooling beyond high school?

MS. BUSETTE: Okay great, thank you. This woman here with the red sweater. Please, thank you.

MS. RISER : Thank you gentleman, it’s extremely challenging —

MS. BUSETTE: Can you say your name please.

MS. RISER: I will say my name. It’s Mindy Riser and I have worked and continued to with a number of NGO’s across the world concerned with social justice. My question is about a segment of the American population, you haven’t talked about, and that is the aging baby boomers who come in all colors, shapes and sizes. Some of these folks will have social security, which isn’t very much, some will not at all. We’ve talked about the challenges of jobs. What is going to happen to these people, some of whom will not get jobs and will rely on diminishing social security and that is not exactly assured anymore either. So, I’d like you to address that part of the population whose future does not look all that bright.

MS. BUSETTE: Great, thank you. And then we have one way in the back there. She has her hand up. Thank you

MS. LEO: Hi, my name is Chin Leo and I’m a correspondent from China’s Nu Hahn News Agency. Actually, I have two questions for J.D. One is that you mentioned about (inaudible) which could be the third important element from the personal structural agencies to have those poverties. So, I just wanted to maybe categorize say more about this (inaudible) so what it could include. Because when I just read about your book, first I thought it maybe something related to the peace treaty of American, like those people who used to work in the hill. The mountain or the farmers, but it turns out, maybe there is something more or different from that, so can you just say more about it. And second question is about the globalization. I think both of the speakers just mentioned that the process of globalization just, the country being so large to the poverty or just make it a faster pace, for those working class in America no matter white or black to become obvious problem. So, do you think what could be the solution for this or is it really necessary just like President Trump said that anti-globalization could be one of the solutions or a necessary one. Thank you.

MS. BUSETTE: Thank you. So, we have a question on ways to make it easier to get a higher education, what about job opportunities for aging baby boomers and then a special set just for you, where you can you know, if you’d like to, maybe go into a little more about what you meant by culture, and then for both of you if you want to discussion globalization and its effect on poverty in the U.S.

MR. WILSON: Well I just — to answer your question very quickly, forget the political climate, but I’d like to see us increase the Pell Grants to make it possible for folks who don’t have much income, increase the Pell Grants.

MS. BUSETTE: Okay great. J.D., do you want to address any of these?

MR. VANCE: Yes, so my general worry with the college education in the book at large is sort of two things. So, the first is that, I think we’ve constructed a society effectively in which a college education is now the only pathway to the middle class, and I think that’s a real failure on our part. It’s not something you see in every country, and I don’t think it necessarily has to be the case here. There are other ways to get post-secondary education and I absolutely think that we have to make that easier, and I really see this as sort of the defining policy challenge of the next 10 years is to create more of those pathways; because the second born on this is that college is a really, really culturally terrifying place for a lot of working class people. We can try to make it less culturally terrifying, we can try to make for the elites of our universities a little bit more welcoming to folks like me, and this is something that I wrote about in the book, really feeling like a true outsider at Yale for the first time, in an educational institution. I think that we also have to acknowledge that part of the reason that people feel like cultural outsiders is for reasons that aren’t necessarily going to be easy to fix, and if we don’t create more pathways for these folks, we shouldn’t be surprised that a lot of them aren’t going to take the one pathway that’s there, that effectively runs through a culturally alien institution.

MS. BUSETTE: Thank you. Other questions.

MR. WILSON: Yeah, we have to —

MR. VANCE: Oh yeah sorry. There’s a couple of others so yeah, on the baby boomer question I’ll try to be very quick but I don’t necessarily have a fantastic answer to this, but let me add one thought that I had while you were asking that question, which is that in certain areas, especially in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and so forth. I think the biggest under reported problem for the baby boomers is the fact that they are taking care of children that they didn’t necessarily anticipate taking care of because of the opioid crisis. This is the biggest dr iver of elder poverty in the State of Ohio, is that you have entire families that have been transplanted from one generation to the next. They were planning for retirement based on one social security income, and now all of a sudden, they have two, three additional mouths to feed. I think my concern for the baby boom generation is especially those folks of course because it’s not just bad for them, it’s bad for these children who are all of a sudden thrown into poverty because of the opioid addition of that middle generation of the parents, of the kids and the sons and daughters of the grandkids. And then the very last question, culture, I think of as a way to understand the sum of the environmental impacts that you can’t necessarily define as structural rights, so the effects of family instability and trauma that exists in people, the effects of social capital and social networks in people’s lives, You know, all of these things I think add up to a broad set of variables that can either promote upward mobility or inhibit upward mobility; and again I think we very often talk about job opportunities and educational opportunities, we very often talk about individual responsibility and Personal Agency. We very rarely I think talk about those middle layers and those institutional factors that in a lot of ways are the real drivers of this problem.

MR. WILSON: I just want to add just one point. I think that this is too radical to seriously consider right now, but at some point, I think we’re going to hav e to think about it, and that is to give cash assistance to reduce the tax rate for those who are experiencing compounded deprivation. At some point, we’re going to be faced with a problem. We’re going to have to rescue people and some economists are talking about the negative income tax and so on, but it’s something that we’re going to have to be thinking about.

MS. BUSETTE: Great. Thank you. I’m going to take three more. This gentleman here, this lady here. Ignacio?

MR. AARON: I’m Henry Aaron Brookings. My question is for J.D. Vance, I’ve heard in your comments what strikes me as a genuine and heartfelt sympathy for the economic and social circumstances, not only of blue whites in Appalachia, but also for the concentrated poverty in urban areas. You have a genuine sympathy for both. You also stated that you come to this concern as a conservative and as a Republican. Now, in looking at the current political environment, which is I think where we need to start rather that our aspirations for a different environment, we would really like it in the future. Starting from the current economic environment, I note that we’ve spent all of 2017 on a political debate which now seems, from my standpoint mercifully to be coming to an end about doing away with The Affordable Care Act. We are about to have a month long high stakes debate about the child health insurance program which President Trump’s budget proposes significantly to cut. We are confronting the possibility of a major fight over the national debt cap which at least some elements in Congress would like to use as a pressure tool to reduce the size and scope of the federal government. We are debating whether to reform entitlement programs and notably disability insurance, which if one looks at a map of where disability benefits are most received, looks like the map for your book actually. Kentucky, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania. My question is, as a conservative Republican, how do you reconcile the concern you’ve expressed with the apparent agenda from those with whom you identify politically.

MS. BUSETTE: Okay, so we’re going to take two more questions (laughter) in this round. This lady right here and then Ignacio.

MS. DANIELS: Hello, my name is Samara Robard Daniels, I actually married into an Appalachian family myself, so I’ve had a close look at the situation myself. I’m wondering if you had to sort of envision of not being a political leader, but maybe a more philosophical substantive role model, what qualities aside from the typical like you know, honesty and so forth. I mean what would be the sort of gestalt of that leader that would perhaps you know, mobilize. I mean that can happen, but because of the technological age, we don’t have that sort of, you know, more renaissance minded philosophical temperament is not sort of percolating and I’m wondering if you had to envision it, what would be a role model, and similarly for you, what do you see? What would be the gestalt of that leader?

MS. BUSET TE: Alright, thank you. Ignacio?

MR. PESO: Hello, thank you the three of you for the discussion, it was very fascinating.

MS. BUSETTE: Can you say your name?

MR. PESO: My name is Ignacio Peso and my question actually starts with an article I read in the New York Times a few days ago. Maybe it was two days ago. It’s about like the role of private firms also. It was a comparison between the job conditions and years ago, with a lady from Kodak who was able to rise and get an opportune job, get an education, and then in the end the same private firm rising to her position, and right now janitor in Apple, right. I think in this conversation we talk a lot about like the power of stories and how they convey mobilities and talk about like more structural aspects. I was wondering, what is your opinion about like how — what’s the role of private firms in this discussion, and what sort of policies can you envision regarding that. Thank you.

MS. BUSETTE: Okay, thank you. So, we have a question about reconciling your concerns with concentrated poverty with the served agenda of the GOP. A question around what do role models who are sort of embodying you know an un-way out sort of; and when we think about the poverty debate what do those people look like. And then what’s the role of private firms in economic mobility for poor and low-income Americans.

MR. WILSON: Could you repeat the second question?

MS. BUSETTE: What does a leader look like who could possibly lead us towards a set of solutions when we think about poverty in the US ?

MR. VANCE: I guess I’ll start because the question about I think the GOP is directed specifically at me. The first thing that I’ll say about that is that I agree with many of the conservative critiques that are levied sort of against some Democratic policy. I very rarely, at least if we’re defining Republican policies or what comes out of Congress, I very rarely agree with Republican Congress about how to answer those critiques. The way that I broadly look at this philosophically is that there is a distinction and an important one between libertarianism and conservatism. So, I will partially try to answer your question about outsourcing. I think that for example on this question of labor unions, I think that the sort of classic libertarian answer to this question which is really dominant on the right for the past 30 years, is that effectively for a whole host of reasons, labor unions are anti-competitive, they’re bad for non – members and they’re bad for actual firms. Consequently, for cartel reasons, they’re sort of bad from a public policies perspective. I think a better conservative answer to the fact that we’ve gone from 35 percent private labor participation to 6 percent private labor participation, is to recognize that labor unions can be economically destructive to recognize that labor unions as Burke would say, could also be incredibly important social institutions that play a positive role in communities, and so the question is not how do we destroy labor unions, but it’s how do we reform labor unions so they actually work in the 21st century and I think that would answer partially your question about outsourcing. There’s a really fascinating article by Oren Cass of the Manhattan Institute of Conservative Think Tank about how we might reform labor unions so that they actually accomplish something economically important, so that they can rebuild themselves and increase private participation, but I think that’s a conservative idea. Has it come from a Republican Congress? No, it has not. Have I been a constant critic of Republican domestic policy for the past five years, because I think we’re not thinking about these issues; absolutely. The flip side of it, is that I think that much of what I see on the left is or at least sometimes thinks that these cultural problems that I write about and care about, are invisible and don’t actually exist. Now, does that mean that sort of very thoughtful left of center think tank fellows don’t care about these problems? Does that mean that Bill Wilson doesn’t think about these problems? No, but I certainly think that the Democratic party in some ways thinks that these questions of culture and long-term multi-generational environmental effects are sort of inv isible to a lot of their policy making. So, I agree with the conservative critique there and I think the conservatives have to offer some alternative vision which we have failed to do, for not just the past five years, but maybe for a little bit longer than that. So, you know my view of my role in this ecosystem is to try to take us from criticizing a lot of what’s been done in the past that’s wrong, and a lot of those criticisms I agree with, to actually doing something that’s different. But I do think, the last point I’ll make about this, the fundamental hell that we have to get over. The fundamental problem that conservatives have to accept is that sometimes you have to spend money to solve social problems. Not always does that mean that government is always the answer. Certainly, it doesn’t, but I think this sort of baseline constant refusal to accept that sometimes you have to spend money is at the core of our real problem, and if we can get past that, I actually think there might be some good ideas coming out of the right and hopefully I can be a part of that.

MR. WILSON: Let me address the question about the ideal leader. The leader (inaudible) move us forward. For me, a role model would be one who would use the bully pulpit to reinforce and promote the principle of equality of life chances. The philosopher James Fiscan coined the notion principle of equality of live chances, and according to this principle if we can predict with a high degree of accuracy, where individuals end up in the competition for preferred positions, merely by knowing, their race, class, gender and family background, then the conditions under which their motivations and talents have developed must be utterly unfair. Supporters of this principle believe that a person should not be able to enter a hospital ward of healthy newborn babies and predict with considerable accuracy where they will end up in life, simply by knowing their race, class, gender, family background, or the ecological areas where their parents reside. I repeat, for me, a rural ideal role model would be one who would use the bully pulpit to reinforce and promote the principle of equality of live chances.

MS. BUSETTE: Great. Thank you both. We’re going to take a few more questions. The gentleman in the back. The gentleman with the glasses and next to him the gentleman with the orange shirt.

MR. RAWLINS: Quincy Rawlins with the Institute for Educational Leadership here in Washington D.C. You’ve addressed this tangentially, but I wonder, it seems that this may be overly simplistic, by the flip side of extreme poverty seems to be extreme concentration of wealth. Not only in this country but obviously across the world, and I wonder if we can address any of the problems that you guys have talked about without directly addressing the concentration of wealth, and the fact that many corporations and super rich in this country are not paying their fair share of taxes in my view.

MS. BUSETTE: So, we have the gentleman in the glasses and the suit here, next to the gentleman with the orange T – shirt.

MR. COLLENBERG: Hi, Richard Collenberg with the Century Foundation. You both have talked about the effects of concentrated poverty, and I’m wondering what you would advocate in terms of public policy, and I’ll throw out one idea that Bill and I have talked about a little bit. You know, in 1968, 50 years ago, we saw the passage of the Fair Housing Act and since then, racial segregation has declined to a similarity index of 79 to 59. So, a hundred would be pure segregation, zero would be perfectly integrated. Meanwhile we’ve seen an increase in economic segregation, and I’m wondering what you all would think about an Economic Fair Housing Act that would go after the issue of concentrated poverty by addressing the discrimination that goes on in terms of exclusionary zoning, where certain neighborhoods are basically off limits for working class people because of apartment buildings or townhouses aren’t allowed to be built there.

MS. BUSETTE: Thank you.

MR. ASHANAGA: Michael Ashanaga Trans Union. Mr. Vance, you’ve put forward several different roads out of poverty. You know, better education, cultural change, job training, cheaper colleges I guess. But the problem is I see that that does not create jobs. That just creates competition for jobs, so at the end of the day, even if everyone is well educated, wouldn’t there still be a lot of poverty?

MS. BUSETTE: Okay, so we have our question on the concentration of wealth in the U.S., a question about an economic fair housing kind of policy to address concentrated poverty, and then finally, whether the policy prescriptions around creating a better and more educated — more skilled and education workforce actually addresses the true cause of poverty.

MR. WILSON: Let me just say that addressing the problem of concentration of wealth and inequality, that is a major problem that we have to confront. I would say yes, we have to deal with that problem. That has to be high on our agenda, on the public agenda. That’s all I want to say about that, because we could go on and on talking about that. Addressing the question of increase in economic segregation. People don’t realize that racial segregation is on the decline, while economic segregation is a segregation of families by income is on the increase. So yes, I would support your proposal of dealing with exclusivity zoning. Say a little bit more about that. I mean, you just probably said I’ll bet piece on that so we (laughter).

MR. COLLENBERG: Well the basic notion is that you know, here we had some success through a legal policy The Fair Housing Act where we’ve seen this decline in racial segregation, and yet what replaced kind of the old racial zoning from the 1920’s has been economic zoning, and so, it seems to me, that just as it should be shameful to exclude people from entire neighborhoods based on race, it ought to be as concerning to us in our culture and in our policy to have laws that in essence are excluding people based on class. In Montgomery County Maryland where I live, there is an alternative to that policy. It’s called Inclusionary Zoning, where the notion was that if people are good enough to, you know, take care of resident’s kids, if they’re able to teach the children, if they’re able to take care of the lawns, they ought to be good enough to live in these communities as well.

MR. WILSON: That’s why I wanted to give you the floor Rick (laughter).

MS. BUSETTE: Thank you very much. So, J.D., did you want to address any of these questions around concentrated poverty, the Economic Fair Housing kind of Act —

MR. VANCE: Sure.

MS. BUSETTE: — and creating a better skilled and you know, more education workforce, but whether or not that addresses the true cause of poverty in the US.

MR. VANCE: So, on the inequality and concentration wealth, the top thing, I’ll say this one area where I actually think conservative senator Mike Leaf from Utah has had some really, really, interesting ideas. One of the tax reform proposals Senator Leaf has advocated for is actually setting the capital taxation rate at the same rate as the ordinary income rate. Because that’s what’s really driving this difference, right. It’s not ordinary income earners. It’s not salaried professionals. Those Richard Reeve says that’s a problem. It’s primarily actually that folks in the global economy, especially the ultra-elite, folks in the global economy have achieved some sort of economic lift off from the rest of the country and I think that in light of that, it doesn’t make a ton of sense that we continue to have the taxation policy that we do. Frankly, that’s one of the reasons why I am sort of so conflicted about President Trump because I think in some ways instinctively at least the President recognizes this, but we’ll see what actually happens with tax reform over the next few months. The question about job competition is absolutely correct. You can’t just have a better educated workforce but hold the number of workers constant. At the same time, I do think there’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem here right because you know, while the skills gap is overplayed and while it violates all of these rules of Econ 101, one of the things you hear pretty consistently from folks who would l ike to expand, would like to hire more, would like to produce more, is that there are real labor force constraints, especially in what might be called non-cognitive skills, right; and this is a thing that you hear a lot. In my home state if you really want to hire more, and you really want to produce more, and sell more, then the problem is the opioid epidemic has effectively thinned the pool of people who were even able to work. So, I do think that productivity is really important, but I also think that we tend to think of these things in too mathematical and sort of hyper-rational ways, but part of the reason productivity is held back, is because we have real problems in the labor market, and if you fix one, you could help another, and they may create a virtuous cycle.

MS. BUSETTE: Thank you both …

Voir encore:

What Hillbilly Elegy Reveals About Trump and America

Mona Charen

July 28, 2016

A harrowing portrait of the plight of the white working class J. D. Vance’s new book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis couldn’t have been better timed. For the past year, as Donald Trump has defied political gravity to seize the Republican nomination and transform American politics, those who are repelled by Trump have been accused of insensitivity to the concerns of the white working class. For Trump skeptics, this charge seems to come from left field, and I use that term advisedly. By declaring that a particular class and race has been “ignored” or “neglected,” the Right (or better “right”) has taken a momentous step in the Left’s direction. With the ease of a thrown switch, people once considered conservative have embraced the kind of interest-group politics they only yesterday rejected as a matter of principle. It was the Democrats who urged specific payoffs, er, policies to aid this or that constituency. Conservatives wanted government to withdraw from the redistribution and favor-conferring business to the greatest possible degree. If this was imperfectly achieved, it was still the goal — because it was just. Using government to benefit some groups comes at the expense of all. While not inevitably corrupt, the whole transactional nature of the business does easily tend toward corruption.

Conservatives and Republicans understood, or seemed to, that in many cases, when government confers a benefit on one party, say sugar producers, in the form of a tariff on imported sugar, there’s a problem of concentrated benefits (sugar producers get a windfall) and dispersed costs (everyone pays more for sugar, but only a bit more, so they never complain). In the realm of race, sex, and class, the pandering to groups goes beyond bad economics and government waste — and even beyond the injustice of fleecing those who work to support those who choose not to — and into the dangerous territory of pitting Americans against one another. Democrats have mastered the art of sowing discord to reap votes. Powered by Now they have company in the Trumpites.

Like Democrats who encourage their target constituencies to nurse grievances against “greedy” corporations, banks, Republicans, and government for their problems, Trump now encourages his voters to blame Mexicans, the Chinese, a “rigged system,” or stupid leaders for theirs. The problems of the white working class should concern every public-spirited American not because they’ve been forgotten or taken for granted — even those terms strike a false note for me — but because they are fellow Americans. How would one adjust public policy to benefit the white working class and not blacks, Hispanics, and others? How would that work? And who would shamelessly support policies based on tribal or regional loyalties and not the general welfare?

As someone who has written — perhaps to the point of dull repetition — about the necessity for Republicans to focus less on entrepreneurs (as important as they are) and more on wage earners; as someone who has stressed the need for family-focused tax reform; as someone who has advocated education innovations that would reach beyond the traditional college customers and make education and training easier to obtain for struggling Americans; as someone who trumpeted the Reformicon proposals developed by a group of conservative intellectuals affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute and the Ethics and Public Policy Center; and finally, as someone who has shouted herself hoarse about the key role that family disintegration plays in many of our most pressing national problems, I cannot quite believe that I stand accused of indifference to the white working class.

I said that Hillbilly Elegy could not have been better timed, and yes, that’s in part because it paints a picture of Americans who are certainly a key Trump constituency. Though the name Donald Trump is never mentioned, there is no doubt in the reader’s mind that the people who populate this book would be enthusiastic Trumpites. But the book is far deeper than an explanation of the Trump phenomenon (which it doesn’t, by the way, claim to be). It’s a harrowing portrait of much that has gone wrong in America over the past two generations. It’s Charles Murray’s “Fishtown” told in the first person. The community into which Vance was born — working-class whites from Kentucky (though transplanted to Ohio) — is more given over to drug abuse, welfare dependency, indifference to work, and utter hopelessness than statistics can fully convey. Vance’s mother was an addict who discarded husbands and boyfriends like Dixie cups, dragging her two children through endless screaming matches, bone-chilling threats, thrown plates and worse violence, and dizzying disorder. Every lapse was followed by abject apologies — and then the pattern repeated. His father gave him up for adoption (though that story is complicated), and social services would have removed him from his family entirely if he had not lied to a judge to avoid being parted from his grandmother, who provided the only stable presence in his life.

Vance writes of his family and friends: “Nearly every person you will read about is deeply flawed. Some have tried to murder other people, and a few were successful. Some have abused their children, physically or emotionally.” His grandmother, the most vivid character in his tale (and, despite everything, a heroine) is as foul-mouthed as Tony Soprano and nearly as dangerous. She was the sort of woman who threatened to shoot strangers who placed a foot on her porch and meant it. Vance was battered and bruised by this rough start, but a combination of intellectual gifts — after a stint in the Marines he sailed through Ohio State in two years and then graduated from Yale Law — and the steady love of his grandparents helped him to leapfrog into America’s elite.

This book is a memoir but also contains the sharp and unsentimental insights of a born sociologist. As André Malraux said to Whittaker Chambers under very different circumstances in 1952: “You have not come back from Hell with empty hands.” The troubles Vance depicts among the white working class, or at least that portion he calls “hillbillies,” are quite familiar to those who’ve followed the pathologies of the black poor, or Native Americans living on reservations. Disorganized family lives, multiple romantic partners, domestic violence and abuse, loose attachment to work, and drug and alcohol abuse. Children suffer from “Mountain Dew” mouth — severe tooth decay and loss because parents give their children, sometimes even infants with bottles, sugary sodas and fail to teach proper dental hygiene.

“People talk about hard work all the time in places like Middletown [Ohio],” Vance writes. “You can walk through a town where 30 percent of the young men work fewer than 20 hours a week and find not a single person aware of his own laziness.” He worked in a floor-tile warehouse and witnessed the sort of shirking that is commonplace. One guy, I’ll call him Bob, joined the tile warehouse just a few months before I did. Bob was 19 with a pregnant girlfriend. The manager kindly offered the girlfriend a clerical position answering phones. Both of them were terrible workers. The girlfriend missed about every third day of work and never gave advance notice. Though warned to change her habits repeatedly, the girlfriend lasted no more than a few months. Bob missed work about once a week, and he was chronically late. On top of that, he often took three or four daily bathroom breaks, each over half an hour. . . . Eventually, Bob . . . was fired. When it happened, he lashed out at his manager: ‘How could you do this to me? Don’t you know I’ve a pregnant girlfriend?’ And he was not alone. . . . A young man with every reason to work . . . carelessly tossing aside a good job with excellent health insurance. More troublingly, when it was all over, he thought something had been done to him. The addiction, domestic violence, poverty, and ill health that plague these communities might be salved to some degree by active and vibrant churches.

But as Vance notes, the attachment to church, like the attachment to work, is severely frayed. People say they are Christians. They even tell pollsters they attend church weekly. But “in the middle of the Bible belt, active church attendance is actually quite low.” After years of alcoholism, Vance’s biological father did join a serious church, and while Vance was skeptical about the church’s theology, he notes that membership did transform his father from a wastrel into a responsible father and husband to his new family. Teenaged Vance did a stint as a check-out clerk at a supermarket and kept his social-scientist eye peeled: I also learned how people gamed the welfare system. They’d buy two dozen packs of soda with food stamps and then sell them at a discount for cash. They’d ring up their orders separately, buying food with the food stamps, and beer, wine, and cigarettes with cash. They’d regularly go through the checkout line speaking on their cell phones. I could never understand why our lives felt like a struggle while those living off of government largesse enjoyed trinkets that I only dreamed about. . . . Perhaps if the schools were better, they would offer children from struggling families the leg up they so desperately need?

Vance is unconvinced. The schools he attended were adequate, if not good, he recalls. But there were many times in his early life when his home was so chaotic — when he was kept awake all night by terrifying fights between his mother and her latest live-in boyfriend, for example — that he could not concentrate in school at all. For a while, he and his older sister lived by themselves while his mother underwent a stint in rehab. They concealed this embarrassing situation as best they could. But they were children. Alone. A teacher at his Ohio high school summed up the expectations imposed on teachers this way: “They want us to be shepherds to these kids. But no one wants to talk about the fact that many of them are raised by wolves.”

Hillbilly Elegy is an honest look at the dysfunction that afflicts too many working-class Americans. But despite the foregoing, it isn’t an indictment. Vance loves his family and admires some of its strengths. Among these are fierce patriotism, loyalty, and toughness. But even regarding patriotism (his grandmother’s “two gods” were Jesus Christ and the United States of America), this former Marine strikes a melancholy note. His family and community have lost their heroes. We loved the military but had no George S. Patton figure in the modern army. . . . The space program, long a source of pride, had gone the way of the dodo, and with it the celebrity astronauts. Nothing united us with the core fabric of American society. Conspiracy theories abound in Appalachia. People do not believe anything the press reports: “We can’t trust the evening news. We can’t trust our politicians. Our universities, the gateway to a better life, are rigged against us. We can’t get jobs.”

Conspiracy theories abound in Appalachia. Sound familiar? The white working class has followed the black underclass and Native Americans not just into family disintegration, addiction, and other pathologies, but also perhaps into the most important self-sabotage of all, the crippling delusion that they cannot improve their lot by their own effort. This is where the rise of Trump becomes both understandable and deeply destructive. He ratifies every conspiracy theory in circulation and adds new ones. He encourages the tribal grievances of the white working class and promises that salvation will come — not through their own agency and sensible government reforms — but only through his head-knocking leadership. He calls this greatness, but it’s the exact reverse. A great people does not turn to a strongman.

The American character has been corrupted by multiple generations of government dependency and the loss of bourgeois virtues like self-control, delayed gratification, family stability, thrift, and industriousness. Vance has risen out of chaos to the heights of stability, success, and happiness. He is fundamentally optimistic about the chances for the nation to do the same. Whether his optimism is justified or not is unknowable, but his brilliant book is a signal flashing danger.

— Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Voir enfin:

Hillbilly sellout: The politics of J. D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy” are already being used to gut the working poor

Conservatives and the media treated Vance’s memoir like « Poor People for Dummies. » Watch his damaging rhetoric work

When Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz took to the airwaves Tuesday to defend his party’s flailing Affordable Care Act replacement plan, he told CNN, “Americans have choices … so, maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love, and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own healthcare.” Pushback was swift as many were quick to point out the Congressman was equating a $700 phone to healthcare costs that can often spiral into six figures, but some were equally shocked by the callousness of his remarks.

Was Chaffetz insinuating that the poor would rather spend money on frivolous things than their own self-care?

To people like myself, who grew up poor, this criticism is certainly nothing new. In conversations with Republicans about the challenges facing my working-class family, I’ve gotten used to being asked how many TVs my parents own, or what kind of cars they drive. At the heart of those questions is a lurking assumption that Chaffetz brought into the light: Maybe the poor deserve their lot in life.

This philosophy, while absurd on its face, effectively cripples any momentum toward helping suffering populations and is an old favorite of the Republican Party. It’s the same reasoning that led Ronald Reagan to decry “welfare queens” and Fox News to continually criticize people on assistance for buying shrimp, soft drinks, “junk food,” and crab legs. It gives those disinclined to part with their own money an excuse not to feel guilty about their own greed.

To further quell their culpability and show that the American Dream still functions as advertised, conservatives are fond of trotting out success stories — people who prove that pulling one’s self up by one’s bootstraps is still a possibility and, by extension, that those who don’t succeed must own their shortcomings. Lately, the right has found nobody more useful, both during the presidential election and after, than their modern-day Horatio Alger spokesperson, J. D. Vance, whose bestselling book “Hillbilly Elegy” chronicled his journey from Appalachia to the hallowed halls of the Ivy League, while championing the hard work necessary to overcome the pitfalls of poverty.
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Traditionally this would’ve been a Fox News kind of book — the network featured an excerpt on their site that focused on Vance’s introduction to “elite culture” during his time at Yale — but Vance’s glorified self-help tome was also forwarded by networks and pundits desperate to understand the Donald Trump phenomenon, and the author was essentially transformed into Privileged America’s Sherpa into the ravages of Post-Recession U.S.A.

Trumpeted as a glimpse into an America elites have neglected for years, I first read “Hillbilly Elegy” with hope. I’d been told this might be the book that finally shed light on problems that’d been killing my family for generations. I’d watched my grandparents and parents, all of them factory workers, suffer backbreaking labor and then be virtually forgotten by the political establishment until the GOP needed their vote and stoked their social and racial anxieties to turn them into political pawns.

In the beginning, I felt a kinship to Vance. His dysfunctional childhood looked a lot like my own. There was substance abuse. Knockdown, drag-out fights. A feeling that people just couldn’t get ahead no matter what they did.

And then the narrative took a turn.

Due to references he downplays, not to mention his middle-class grandmother’s shielding and encouragement, Vance was able to lift himself out of the despair of impoverishment and escaped to Yale and eventually Silicon Valley, where he was able to look back on his upbringing with a new perspective.

“Whenever people ask me what I’d most like to change about the white working class,” he writes, “I say, ‘the feeling that our choices don’t matter.’”

The thesis at the heart of “Hillbilly Elegy” is that anybody who isn’t able to escape the working class is essentially at fault. Sure, there’s a culture of fatalism and “learned helplessness,” but the onus falls on the individual.

As Vance writes: “I’ve seen far too many people awash in genuine desire to change only to lose their mettle when they realized just how difficult change actually is.”

Oh, the working class and their aversion to difficulty.

If only they, like Vance, could take the challenge head on and rise above their circumstances. If only they, like Vance, weren’t so worried about material things like iPhones or the “giant TVs and iPads” the author says his people buy for themselves instead of saving for the future.

This generalization is not the only problematic oversimplification in Vance’s book — he totally discounts the role racism played in the white working class’s opposition to President Obama and says, instead, it was because Obama dressed well, was a good father, and because Michelle Obama advocated eating healthy food — but it would be hard to understate what role Vance has played in reinvigorating the conservative bootstraps narrative for a new generation and, thus, emboldening Republican ideology.

To Vance’s credit, he has been critical of Donald Trump, calling the working class’s support of the billionaire a result of a “false sense of purpose,” but Vance’s portrait of poor Americans is alarmingly in lockstep with the philosophy of Republicans who are shamefully using Trump’s presidency to forward their own agenda of economic warfare. Certainly Jason Chaffetz’s comments are fueled by the same low opinion of the poor as Vance’s, as is Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s legislative agenda, which is focused on disabling the social safety net.

Though Vance’s name doesn’t appear in the Republican ACA replacement bill, the philosophy at the heart of it is certainly in tune. While the proposed bill would cost millions of Americans their access to care — Vance himself tweeted a link Tuesday to a Forbes article that stated as much while lauding the legislation — it makes sure to benefit the wealthy, gives a tax break to insurance CEOs and moves the focus of health care in America to an age-based model instead of income.

The message is loud and clear: Help is on the way, but only to those who “deserve” it.

And how does one deserve it?

By working hard. And the only metric to show that one has worked sufficiently hard enough is to look at their income, at how successful they are, because, in Vance’s and the Republican’s America, the only one to blame if you’re not wealthy is yourself. Never mind how legislation like this healthcare bill, cuts in education funding, continued decreases in after-school and school lunch programs, not to mention a lack of access to mental health care or career counseling, disadvantages the poor.

Of the problems facing working-class America, Vance writes in “Hillbilly Elegy,” “There is no government that can fix these problems for us.”

And, at least partially, one has to agree.

There is no government that can fix these problems, or at least, no government we have now.

Jared Yates Sexton is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing. His campaign book « The People Are Going To Rise Like The Waters Upon Your Shore » is out now from Counterpoint Press.

Voir enfin:

J.D. Vance, the False Prophet of Blue America

The bestselling author of « Hillbilly Elegy » has emerged as the liberal media’s favorite white trash–splainer. But he is offering all the wrong lessons.

J.D. Vance is the man of the hour, maybe the year. His memoir Hillbilly Elegy is a New York Times bestseller, acclaimed for its colorful and at times moving account of life in a dysfunctional clan of eastern Kentucky natives. It has received positive reviews across the board, with the Times calling it “a compassionate, discerning sociological analysis of the white underclass.” In the rise of Donald Trump, it has become a kind of Rosetta Stone for blue America to interpret that most mysterious of species: the economically precarious white voter.

Vance’s influence has been everywhere this campaign season, shaping our conception of what motivates these voters. And it is already playing a role in how liberals are responding to Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, which was accomplished in part by a defection of downscale whites from the Democratic Party. Appalachia overwhelmingly voted for Trump, and Vance has since emerged as one of the media’s favorite Trump explainers. The problem is that he is a flawed guide to this world, and there is a danger that Democrats are learning all the wrong lessons from the election.

Elegy is little more than a list of myths about welfare queens repackaged as a primer on the white working class. Vance’s central argument is that hillbillies themselves are to blame for their troubles. “Our religion has changed,” he laments, to a version “heavy on emotional rhetoric” and “light on the kind of social support” that he needed as a child. He also faults “a peculiar crisis of masculinity.” This brave new world, in sore need of that old time religion and manly men, is apparently to blame for everything from his mother’s drug addiction to the region’s economic crisis.

“We spend our way to the poorhouse,” he writes. “We buy giant TVs and iPads. Our children wear nice clothes thanks to high-interest credit cards and payday loans. We purchase homes we don’t need, refinance them for more spending money, and declare bankruptcy, often leaving them full of garbage in our wake. Thrift is inimical to our being.”

And he isn’t interested in government solutions. All hillbillies need to do is work hard, maybe do a stint in the military, and they can end up at Yale Law School like he did. “Public policy can help,” he writes, “but there is no government that can fix these problems for us … it starts when we stop blaming Obama or Bush or faceless companies and ask ourselves what we can do to make things better.”

Set aside the anti-government bromides that could have been ripped from a random page of National Review, where Vance is a regular contributor. There is a more sinister thesis at work here, one that dovetails with many liberal views of Appalachia and its problems. Vance assures readers that an emphasis on Appalachia’s economic insecurity is “incomplete” without a critical examination of its culture. His great takeaway from life in America’s underclass is: Pull up those bootstraps. Don’t question elites. Don’t ask if they erred by granting people mortgages and lines of credit they couldn’t afford to repay. Don’t call it what it is—corporate deception—or admit that it plunged this country into one of the worst economic crises it’s ever experienced.

No wonder Peter Thiel, the almost comically evil Silicon Valley libertarian, endorsed the book. (Vance also works for Thiel’s Mithril Capital Management.) The question is why so many liberals are doing the same.


In many ways, I should appreciate Elegy. I grew up poor on the border of southwest Virginia and east Tennessee. My parents are the sort of god-fearing hard workers that conservatives like Vance fetishize. I attended an out-of-state Christian college thanks to scholarships, and had to raise money to even buy a plane ticket to attend grad school. My rare genetic disease didn’t get diagnosed until I was 21 because I lacked consistent access to health care. I’m one of the few members of my high school class who earned a bachelor’s degree, one of the fewer still who earned a master’s degree, and one of maybe three or four who left the area for good.

But unlike Vance, I look at my home and see a region abandoned by the government elected to serve it. My public high school didn’t have enough textbooks and half our science lab equipment didn’t work. Some of my classmates did not have enough to eat; others wore the same clothes every day. Sometimes this happened because their addict parents spent money on drugs. But the state was no help here either. Its solution to our opioid epidemic has been incarceration, not rehabilitation. Addicts with additional psychiatric conditions are particularly vulnerable. There aren’t enough beds in psychiatric hospitals to serve the region—the same reason Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds (D) nearly died at the hands of his mentally ill son in 2013.

And then there is welfare. In Elegy, Vance complains about hillbillies who he believes purchased cellphones with welfare funds. But data makes it clear that our current welfare system is too limited to lift depressed regions out of poverty.

Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer reported earlier this year that the number of families surviving on $2 a day grew by 130 percent between 1996 and 2011. Blacks and Latinos are still disproportionately more likely to live under the poverty line, but predominately white Appalachia hasn’t been spared the scourge either. And while Obamacare has significantly reduced the number of uninsured Americans, its premiums are still often expensive and are set to rise. Organizations like Remote Access Medical (RAM) have been forced to make up the difference: Back home, people start lining up at 4 a.m. for a chance to access RAM’s free healthcare clinics. From 2007 to 2011, the lifespans of eastern Kentucky women declined by 13 months even as they rose for women in the rest of the country.

According to the Economic Innovation Group, my home congressional district—Virginia’s Ninth—is one of the poorest in the country. Fifty-one percent of adults are unemployed; 19 percent lack a high school diploma. EIG estimates that fully half of its 722,810 residents are in economic distress.

As I noted in Scalawag earlier this year, the Ninth is not an outlier for the region. On EIG’s interactive map, central Appalachia is a sea of distress. If you are born where I grew up, you have to travel hundreds of miles to find a prosperous America. How do you get off the dole when there’s not enough work to go around? Frequently, you don’t. Until you lose your benefits entirely: The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF), passed by Bill Clinton and supported by Hillary Clinton, boots parents off welfare if they’re out of work.


At various points in this election cycle, liberal journalists have sounded quite a bit like Vance. “‘Economic anxiety’ as a campaign issue has always been a red herring,” Kevin Drum declared in Mother Jones. “If you want to get to the root of this white anxiety, you have to go to its roots. It’s cultural, not economic.”

At Vox, Dylan Matthews argued that while Trump voters deserved to be taken seriously, most were actually fairly well-off, with a median household income of $72,000. The influence of economic anxiety, he concluded, had been exaggerated.

Neither Drum or Matthews accounted for regional disparities in white poverty rates, and they failed to anticipate how those disparities would impact the election. Trump supporters were wealthier than Clinton supporters overall, but Trump’s victories in battleground states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio correlated to high foreclosure rates. In Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, Trump outperformed Mitt Romney with the white working class and flipped certain strategic counties red.

But Matthews was right in at least one sense: Trump Country has always been bigger than Appalachia and the white working class itself. You just wouldn’t know this from reading the news.

In March, Trump won nearly 70 percent of the Republican primary vote in Virginia’s Buchanan County. At the time, it was his widest margin of victory, and no one seemed surprised that this deeply conservative and impoverished pocket in southwest Virginia’s coal country handed him such decisive success. And no one seemed to realize Buchanan County had once been a Democratic stronghold.

A glossy Wall Street Journal package labeled it “The Place That Wants Donald Trump The Most” and promised readers that understanding Buchanan County was key to understanding the “source” of Trump’s popularity. The Financial Times profiled a local young man who fled this dystopia for the University of Virginia; it titled the piece “The Boy Who Escaped Trump Country.” And then there was Bloomberg View: “Coal County is Desperate for Donald Trump.” (The same piece said the county seat, Grundy, “looks as if it fell into a crevice and got stuck.”)

And then Staten Island went to the polls. A full 82 percent of Staten Island Republicans voted to give Trump the party’s nomination, wresting the title of Trumpiest County away from Buchanan. The two locations have little in common aside from Trump. Staten Island, population 472,621, is New York City’s wealthiest borough. Its median household income is $70,295, a figure not far off from the figure Matthews cites as the median income of the average Trump supporter. Buchanan County, population 23,597, has a median household income of $27,328 and the highest unemployment rate in Virginia. Staten Island, then, tracks closer to the Trumpist norm, but it received a fraction of the coverage.

No one wrote escape narratives about Staten Island. Few plumbed the psyches of suburban Trumpists. And no one examined why Democratic Buchanan County had become Republican. Instead, the media class fixated on the spectacle of white trash Appalachia, with Vance as its representative-in-exile.


“A preoccupation with penalizing poor whites reveals an uneasy tension between what Americans are taught to think the country promises—the dream of upward mobility—and the less appealing truth that class barriers almost invariably make that dream unobtainable,” Nancy Isenberg wrote in the preface to her book White Trash. If the system worked for you, you’re not likely to blame it for the plight of poor whites. Far easier instead to believe that poor whites are poor because they deserve to be.

But now we see the consequences of this class blindness. The media and the establishment figures who run the Democratic Party both had a responsibility to properly identify and indict the system’s failures. They abdicated that responsibility. Donald Trump took it up—if not always in the form of policy, then in his burn-it-all-down posture.

No analysis of Trumpism is complete without a reckoning of its white supremacy and misogyny. Appalachia is, like so many other places, a deeply racist and sexist place. It is not a coincidence that Trumpist bastions, from Buchanan County to Staten Island, are predominately white, or that Trump rode a tide of xenophobia to power. Economic hardship isn’t unique to white members of the working class, either. Blacks, Latinos, and Natives occupy a far more precarious economic position overall. White supremacy is indeed the overarching theme of Trumpism.

But that doesn’t mean we should repeat the establishment failures of this election cycle and minimize the influence of economic precarity. Trump is a racist and a sexist, but his victory is not due only to racism or sexism any more than it is due only to classism: He still won white women and a number of counties that had voted for Obama twice. This is not a simple story, and it never really has been.

We don’t need to normalize Trumpism or empathize with white supremacy to reach these voters. They weren’t destined to vote for Trump; many were Democratic voters. They aren’t destined to stay loyal to him in the future. To win them back, we must address their material concerns, and we can do that without coddling their prejudices. After all, America’s most famous progressive populist—Bernie Sanders—won many of the counties Clinton lost to Trump.

There’s danger ahead if Democrats don’t act quickly. The Traditionalist Worker’s Party has already announced plans for an outreach push in greater Appalachia. The American Nazi Party promoted “free health care for the white working class” in literature it distributed in Missoula, Montana, last Friday. If Democrats have any hope of establishing themselves as the populist alternative to Trump, they can’t allow American Nazis to fall to their left on health care for any population.

By electing Trump, my community has condemned itself to further suffering. The lines for RAM will get longer. Our schools will get poorer and our children hungrier. It will be one catastrophic tragedy out of the many a Trump presidency will generate. So yes, be angry with the white working class’s political choices. I certainly am; home will never feel like home again.

But don’t emulate Vance in your rage. Give the white working class the progressive populism it needs to survive, and invest in the areas the Democratic Party has neglected. Remember that bootstraps are for people with boots. And elegies are no use to the living.

Publicités

Syrie: Obama a menti, des milliers ont péri (With Syria and Iran, we’re coming to grips with the human and strategic price of the Obama administration’s mendacity)

13 avril, 2017

Bush a menti, des milliers ont péri. Slogan bien connu (2003)
Il est 3 heures du matin, le téléphone sonne à la Maison Blanche. Qui voulez-vous voir au bout du fil ? Hillary Clinton
Chemical and biological weapons which Saddam is endeavoring to conceal have been moved from Iraq to Syria. Ariel Sharon (Israel’s Channel 2, Dec. 23, 2002)
Dans l’immédiat, notre attention doit se porter en priorité sur les domaines biologique et chimique. C’est là que nos présomptions vis-à-vis de l’Iraq sont les plus significatives : sur le chimique, nous avons des indices d’une capacité de production de VX et d’ypérite ; sur le biologique, nos indices portent sur la détention possible de stocks significatifs de bacille du charbon et de toxine botulique, et une éventuelle capacité de production.  Dominique De Villepin (05.02.2003)
Damascus has an active CW development and testing program that relies on foreign suppliers for key controlled chemicals suitable for producing CW. George Tenet (CIA, March 2004)
Saddam transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria. No one went to Syria to find it. Lieutenant General Moshe Yaalon
There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands. I am confident they were taken over. (…) Saddam realized, this time, the Americans are coming. They handed over the weapons of mass destruction to the Syrians. General Georges Sada (2006)
Comme l’exemple d’usage chimique contre les populations kurdes de 1987-1988 en avait apporté la preuve, ces armes avaient aussi un usage interne. Thérèse Delpech (mars 2003)
Les inspecteurs n’ont jamais pu vérifier ce qu’il était advenu de 3,9 tonnes de VX (…) dont la production entre 1988 et 1990 a été reconnue par l’Irak. Bagdad a déclaré que les destructions avaient eu lieu en 1990 mais n’en a pas fourni de preuves. En février 2003 (…) un document a été fourni [par Bagdad] à l’Unmovic pour tenter d’expliquer le devenir d’environ 63 % du VX manquant. Auparavant, les Irakiens prétendaient ne pas détenir un tel document. » Idem pour l’anthrax, dont l’Irak affirmait avoir détruit le stock en 1991. Mais, « en mars 2003, l’Unmovic concluait qu’il existait toujours, très probablement, 10 000 litres d’anthrax non détruits par l’Irak... Comme pour le VX, l’Irak a fourni à l’ONU, en février 2003, un document sur ce sujet qui ne pouvait permettre de conclure quelles quantités avaient été détruites … Thérèse Delpech (2004)
While Western governments were able to pressure Moscow to alter its weapons shipments, Bashar al-Assad may not have limited himself to over-the-counter weapons purchases. The Syrian military’s unconventional weapons arsenal already has a significant stockpile of sarin. The Syrian regime has also attempted to produce other toxic agents in order to advance its inventory of biological weapons. Several different intelligence sources raised red flags about suspicious truck convoys from Iraq to Syria in the days, weeks, and months prior to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. These concerns first became public when, on December 23, 2002, Ariel Sharon stated on Israeli television, « Chemical and biological weapons which Saddam is endeavoring to conceal have been moved from Iraq to Syria. » About three weeks later, Israel’s foreign minister repeated the accusation. The U.S., British, and Australian governments issued similar statements. The Syrian foreign minister dismissed such charges as a U.S. attempt to divert attention from its problems in Iraq. But even if the Syrian regime were sincere, Bashar al-Assad’s previous statement— »I don’t do everything in this country, »—suggested that Iraqi chemical or biological weapons could cross the Syrian frontier without regime consent. Rather than exculpate the Syrian regime, such a scenario makes the presence of Iraqi weapons in Syria more worrisome, for it suggests that Assad might either eschew responsibility for their ultimate custody or may not actually be able to prevent their transfer to terrorist groups that enjoy close relations with officials in his regime. Two former United Nations weapon inspectors in Iraq reinforced concerns about illicit transfer of weapon components into Syria in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s fall. Richard Butler viewed overhead imagery and other intelligence suggesting that Iraqis transported some weapons components into Syria. Butler did not think « the Iraqis wanted to give them to Syria, but … just wanted to get them out of the territory, out of the range of our inspections. Syria was prepared to be the custodian of them. » Former Iraq Survey Group head David Kay obtained corroborating information from the interrogation of former Iraqi officials. He said that the missing components were small in quantity, but he, nevertheless, felt that U.S. intelligence officials needed to determine what reached Syria. Baghdad and Damascus may have long been rivals, but there was precedent for such Iraqi cooperation with regional competitors when faced with an outside threat. In the run-up to the 1991 Operation Desert Storm and the liberation of Kuwait, the Iraqi regime flew many of its jets to Iran, with which, just three years previous, it had been engaged in bitter trench warfare. Subsequent reports by the Iraq Survey Group at first glance threw cold water on some speculation about the fate of missing Iraqi weapons, but a closer read suggests that questions about a possible transfer to Syria remain open. The September 30, 2004 Duelfer report, while inconclusive, left open such a possibility. While Duelfer dismissed reports of official transfer of weapons material from Iraq into Syria, the Iraq Survey Group was not able to discount the unofficial movement of limited material. Duelfer described weapons smuggling between both countries prior to Saddam’s ouster. In one incident detailed by a leading British newspaper, intelligence sources assigned to monitor Baghdad’s air traffic raised suspicions that Iraqi authorities had smuggled centrifuge components out of Syria in June 2002. The parts were initially stored in the Syrian port of Tartus before being transported to Damascus International Airport. The transfer allegedly occurred when Iraqi authorities sent twenty-four planes with humanitarian assistance into Syria after a dam collapsed in June 2002, killing twenty people and leaving some 30,000 others homeless. Intelligence officials do not believe these planes returned to Iraq empty. Regardless of the merits of this one particular episode, it is well documented that Syria became the main conduit in Saddam Hussein’s attempt to rebuild his military under the 1990-2003 United Nations sanctions, and so the necessary contacts between regimes and along the border would already have been in place. Indeed, according to U.S. Defense Department sources, the weapons smuggling held such importance for the Syrian regime that the trade included Assad’s older sister and his brother-in-law, Assaf Shawqat, deputy chief of Syria’s military intelligence organization. Numerous reports also implicate Shawqat’s two brothers who participated in the Syrian-Iraqi trade during the two years before Saddam’s ouster. While the Duelfer report was inconclusive, part of its failure to tie up all loose ends was due to declining security conditions in Iraq, which forced the Iraq Survey Group to curtail its operations. The cloud of suspicion over the Syrian regime’s role in smuggling Iraq’s weapons—and speculation as to the nature of those weapons—will not dissipate until Damascus reveals the contents of truck convoys spotted entering Syria from Iraq in the run-up to the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. U.S. intelligence officials and policymakers also will not be able to end speculation until Bashar al-Assad completely and unconditionally allows international inspectors to search suspected depots and interview key participants in the Syrian-Iraqi weapons trade. Four repositories in Syria remain under suspicion. Anonymous U.S. sources have suggested that some components may have been kept in an ammunition facility adjacent to a military base close to Khan Abu Shamat, 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Damascus. In addition, three sites in the western part of central Syria, an area where support for the Assad regime is strong, are reputed to house suspicious weapons components. These sites include an air force factory in the village of Tall as-Sinan; a mountainous tunnel near Al-Baydah, less than five miles from Al-Masyaf (Masyaf); and another location near Shanshar. While the Western media often focus on the fate of Iraqi weapons components, just as important to Syrian proliferation efforts has been the influx of Iraqi weapons scientists. The Daily Telegraph reported prior to the 2003 Iraq war that Iraq’s former special security organization and Shawqat arranged for the transfer into Syria of twelve mid-level Iraqi weapons specialists, along with their families and compact disks full of research material on their country’s nuclear initiatives. According to unnamed Western intelligence officials cited in the report, Assad turned around and offered to relocate the scientists to Iran, on the condition that Tehran would share the fruits of their research with Damascus. The Middle East Quarterly (Fall 2005)
Syria’s President Bashir al-Asad is in secret negotiations with Iran to secure a safe haven for a group of Iraqi nuclear scientists who were sent to Damascus before last year’s war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Western intelligence officials believe that President Asad is desperate to get the Iraqi scientists out of his country before their presence prompts America to target Syria as part of the war on terrorism.The issue of moving the Iraqi scientists to Iran was raised when President Asad made a visit to Teheran in July. Intelligence officials understand that the Iranians have still to respond to the Syrian leader’s request.  A group of about 12 middle-ranking Iraqi nuclear technicians and their families were transported to Syria before the collapse of Saddam’s regime. The transfer was arranged under a combined operation by Saddam’s now defunct Special Security Organisation and Syrian Military Security, which is headed by Arif Shawqat, the Syrian president’s brother-in-law. The Iraqis, who brought with them CDs crammed with research data on Saddam’s nuclear programme, were given new identities, including Syrian citizenship papers and falsified birth, education and health certificates. Since then they have been hidden away at a secret Syrian military installation where they have been conducting research on behalf of their hosts. Growing political concern in Washington about Syria’s undeclared weapons of mass destruction programmes, however, has prompted President Asad to reconsider harbouring the Iraqis. American intelligence officials are concerned that Syria is secretly working on a number of WMD programmes. They have also uncovered evidence that Damascus has acquired a number of gas centrifuges – probably from North Korea – that can be used to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb. Relations between Washington and Damascus have been strained since last year’s war in Iraq, with American commanders accusing the Syrians of allowing foreign fighters to cross the border into Iraq, where they carry out terrorist attacks against coalition forces. (…) Under the terms of the deal President Asad offered the Iranians, the Iraqi scientists and their families would be transferred to Teheran together with a small amount of essential materials. The Iraqi team would then assist Iranian scientists to develop a nuclear weapon. Apart from paying the relocation expenses, President Asad also wants the Iranians to agree to share the results of their atomic weapons research with Damascus. The Syrian offer comes at a time when Iran is under close scrutiny from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which is investigating claims that Iran is maintaining a secret nuclear bomb programme.  The Daily Telegraph
The pilots told Mr. Sada that two Iraqi Airways Boeings were converted to cargo planes by removing the seats, Mr. Sada said. Then Special Republican Guard brigades loaded materials onto the planes, he said, including « yellow barrels with skull and crossbones on each barrel. » The pilots said there was also a ground convoy of trucks. The flights – 56 in total, Mr. Sada said – attracted little notice because they were thought to be civilian flights providing relief from Iraq to Syria, which had suffered a flood after a dam collapse in June of 2002. (…) Mr. Sada said that the Iraqi official responsible for transferring the weapons was a cousin of Saddam Hussein named Ali Hussein al-Majid, known as « Chemical Ali. » The Syrian official responsible for receiving them was a cousin of Bashar Assad who is known variously as General Abu Ali, Abu Himma, or Zulhimawe. (…) Syria is one of only eight countries that has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, a treaty that obligates nations not to stockpile or use chemical weapons. Syria’s chemical warfare program, apart from any weapons that may have been received from Iraq, has long been the source of concern to America, Israel, and Lebanon. The NY Sun
Even when viewed through a post-war lens, documentary evidence of messages are consistent with the Iraqi Survey Group’s conclusion that Saddam was at least keeping a WMD program primed for a quick re-start the moment the UN Security Council lifted sanctions. Iraqi Perpectives Project (March 2006)
By late 2003, even the Bush White House’s staunchest defenders were starting to give up on the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But WikiLeaks’ newly-released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction. Wired magazine (2010)
It’s more than a little ironic that, with its newest document dump from the Iraq campaign, WikiLeaks may have just bolstered one of the Bush administration’s most controversial claims about the Iraq war: that Iran supplied many of the Iraq insurgency’s deadliest weapons and worked hand-in-glove with some of its most lethal militias. The documents indicate that Iran was a major combatant in the Iraq war, as its elite Quds Force trained Iraqi Shiite insurgents and imported deadly weapons like the shape-charged Explosively Formed Projectile bombs into Iraq for use against civilians, Sunni militants and U.S. troops. A report from 2006 claims “neuroparalytic” chemical weapons from Iran were smuggled into Iraq. (It’s one of many, many documents recounting WMD efforts in Iraq.) Others indicate that Iran flooded Iraq with guns and rockets, including the Misagh-1 surface-to-air missile, .50 caliber rifles, rockets and much more. As the New York Times observes, Iranian agents plotted to kidnap U.S. troops from out of their Humvees — something that occurred in Karbala in 2007, leaving five U.S. troops dead. (It’s still not totally clear if the Iranians were responsible.) Wired (2010)
Les lamentations sur ce qui est advenu de la politique étrangère américaine au Moyen-Orient passent à côté de l’essentiel. Le plus remarquable concernant la diplomatie du président Obama dans la région, c’est qu’elle est revenue au point de départ – jusqu’au début de sa présidence. La promesse d’ « ouverture » vers l’Iran, l’indulgence envers la tyrannie de Bashar Assad en Syrie, l’abandon des gains américains en Irak et le malaise systématique à l’égard d’Israël — tels étaient les traits distinctifs de l’approche du nouveau président en politique étrangère. A présent, nous ne faisons qu’assister aux conséquences alarmantes d’une perspective aussi malavisée que naïve. Fouad Ajami (oct. 2013)
The policy of “leading from behind” and the crudity of “We came, we saw, he [Qaddafi] died” have left a human tragedy in Libya. Backing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was an inexplicable choice, and it almost ruined the country. The United States did not need to hound and jail an innocent video maker in order to concoct a myth to cover up the culpable lax security in Benghazi. Yemen was strangely declared a model of our anti-terrorism efforts — just weeks before it ignited into another Somalia or Congo. ISIS was airily written off as a jayvee bunch as it spread beyond Syria and Iraq. There is little need to do a detailed comparison of Iraq now and Iraq in February 2009 (when it was soon to be the administration’s “greatest achievement,” a “stable” and “self-reliant” nation); the mess in between is attributable to Obama’s use of the aftermath of the Iraq War for pre-election positioning. Ordering Assad to flee while ignoring the violence in Syria and proclaiming a faux red line has now tragically led to a million refugees in Europe (and another 4 million in the neighborhood) and more than 200,000 dead. Israel is now considered not an ally, not even a neutral, but apparently a hostile state worthy of more presidential invective than is Iran. We have few if any reliable friends any more in the Gulf. Iran will become a nuclear power. The only mystery over how that will happen is whether Obama was inept or whether he deliberately sought to make the theocracy some sort of a strategic power and U.S. ally. The Middle East over the next decade may see three or four additional new nuclear powers. The Russia of kleptocrat Vladimir Putin is seen in the region as a better friend than is the U.S. — and certainly a far more dangerous enemy to provoke. There is no easy cure for all this; it will take years just to sort out the mess. Victor Davis Hanson
Ce que les Rosenberg avaient fait pour Staline, Obama le fait aujourd’hui pour l’ayatollah Khamenei. Le méprisable accord nucléaire d’Obama avec l’Iran a déjà précipité l’agression iranienne dans la région. En réponse aux concessions faites par Obama, Hillary Clinton et John Kerry, l’Iran raidissait son attitude et devenait plus agressif. À l’heure actuelle, l’Iran est impliqué dans des guerres dans la région, entrainant déjà les États-Unis dans leur sillage. Si l’Iran se dote de l’arme nucléaire, ces guerres s’aggraveront et deviendront beaucoup plus dévastatrices. Ce n’est pas seulement Chamberlain. C’est Quisling et Philippe Pétain. Il ne s’agit nullement d’un mauvais jugement. Il s’agit d’une trahison. (…) En ouvrant à l’Iran la voie vers la bombe nucléaire, Obama a transformé les conflits lents du terrorisme classique en crise de civilisations catastrophique. Une bombe nucléaire iranienne ne se faufilera pas discrètement comme le fait la crise démographique de la migration musulmane avec son complément de terrorisme. Ce ne sera pas un problème progressif. Une course aux armes nucléaires entre sunnites et chiites impliquant des terroristes des deux côtés qui emploient des armes nucléaires rendra insoutenable toute la structure de la civilisation occidentale. L’attaque du 11/9 a vu l’usage de quelques jets pour dévaster une ville. La prochaine vague d’armes pourrait tuer des millions, pas des milliers. Les traîtres qui ont fait de l’URSS une puissance capable de détruire le monde étaient motivés par le même agenda caché des partisans à l’accord nucléaire iranien. Ils croyaient que le monopole nucléaire américain conduirait à l’arrogance et au bellicisme. Ils étaient convaincus que la puissance américaine devrait être surveillée en s’assurant que l’union soviétique puisse égaler l’oncle Sam, nucléaire pour nucléaire. Ceux qui ont ouvert les portes du nucléaire à Téhéran aujourd’hui croient qu’un Iran nucléaire aura un effet dissuasif contre l’impérialisme américain dans la région. Leur nombre inclut Barack Obama.(…) Obama a trahi l’Amérique. Il a trahi les victimes américaines du terrorisme iranien. Il a trahi les soldats américains qui ont été assassinés, mutilés et torturés par les armées terroristes iraniennes. Il a trahi des centaines de millions d’Américains dans leur patrie, et qui seront contraints d’élever leurs enfants sous l’égide de la terreur nucléaire iranienne. Sa trahison nucléaire est non seulement une trahison de l’Amérique. Pour la première fois depuis la fin de la guerre froide, elle ouvre les portes de l’assassinat en masse de millions d’américains par un ennemi vicieux. Obama a appauvri des millions d’Américains, il a le sang des soldats et des policiers sur ses mains, mais son héritage final peut être la collaboration dans un acte d’assassinat en masse qui pourrait rivaliser avec Adolf Hitler. Daniel Greenfield
Pour nous, la ligne rouge, c’est l’utilisation d’armes chimiques  ; ça changerait ma vision des choses. Barack Hussein Obama
Je suis convaincu que si cet accord-cadre mène à un accord total et définitif, notre pays, nos alliés et le monde seront plus en sécurité. L’Iran sera « plus inspecté que n’importe quel autre pays dans le monde. Si l’Iran triche, le monde le saura. Si nous voyons quelque chose de louche, nous mènerons des inspections.  Cet accord n’est pas basé sur la confiance, il est basé sur des vérifications sans précédent. Barack Hussein Obama (2015)
Il y a un manuel de stratégie à Washington que les présidents sont censés utiliser. (…) Et le manuel de stratégie prescrit des réponses aux différents événements, et ces réponses ont tendance à être des réponses militarisées. (…) Au milieu d’un défi international comme la Syrie, vous êtes jugé sévèrement si vous ne suivez pas le manuel de stratégie, même s’il y a de bonnes raisons. (…) Je suis très fier de ce moment.  Le poids écrasant de la sagesse conventionnelle et la machinerie de notre appareil de sécurité nationale était allés assez loin. La perception était que ma crédibilité était en jeu, que la crédibilité de l’Amérique était en jeu. Et donc pour moi d’appuyer sur le bouton arrêt à ce moment-là, je le savais, me coûterait cher politiquement. Le fait que je pouvais me débarrasser des pressions immédiates et réfléchir sur ce qui  était dans l’intérêt de l’Amérique, non seulement à l’égard de la Syrie, mais aussi à l’égard de notre démocratie, a été une décision très difficile – et je crois que finalement, ce fut la bonne décision à prendre. (…) Je suppose que vous pourriez me qualifier de réaliste qui croit que nous ne pouvons pas soulager toute la misère du monde. Barack Hussein Obama (2016)
Je ne regrette pas du tout d’avoir dit que si je voyais Bachar al-Assad utiliser des armes chimiques contre son peuple, cela changerait mon évaluation sur ce que nous étions prêts à faire ou pas en Syrie. J’aurais fait une plus grande erreur si j’avais dit ‘Eh, des armes chimiques. Ça ne change pas vraiment mes calculs’. Je pense qu’il était important pour moi en tant que président des États-Unis d’envoyer le message qu’il y a bien quelque chose de différent sur les armes chimiques. Et malgré la façon dont ça s’est fini (…) ce qui est vrai c’est qu’Assad s’est débarrassé de ses armes chimiques. Barack Hussein Obama (15.01.2017)
Nous avons réussi à faire en sorte que le gouvernement syrien abandonne volontairement et de manière évidente son stock d’armes chimiques. Susan Rice (16.01.2017)
Cette interrogation n’en finit pas de tourmenter  Barack Obama. A-t-il pris, ce jour-là, la bonne décision  ? De cette décision il a affirmé être  « fier », mais il a aussi assuré, dans une même interview, que  le dossier syrien est  «  son plus grand regret  ».  Par prudence, mieux vaut dire tout et son contraire, car il  sait ce qu’on en pense  : sa décision a changé la face  du monde. La plus grave attaque chimique depuis  la Seconde Guerre mondiale demeurée impunie  ? La  victoire de Bachar el-Assad  ? L’ascension des djihadistes  ? La montée en puissance des Russes au Moyen- Orient, en Europe et au-delà  ? L’effacement de l’Occident  ? Peut-être même la victoire de Donald Trump  ?  Tout partirait de son choix, de cette journée-là. Le 30 août 2013 (…) Le matin même,  il a annoncé publiquement réfléchir à  «  une action limitée contre Bachar  ».  Ses alliés français, la Ligue arabe,  l’Australie fourbissent leurs armes. Kerry a quasiment  annoncé la réplique américaine  :  « La crédibilité du président comme celle des Etats-Unis sont engagées.  »  Et même  :  « L’Histoire nous jugerait sévèrement si on ne faisait rien » … A  vrai  dire,  il  n’aurait  jamais  pensé  se  retrouver  dans cette situation. Autour de la table, chacun a en  tête  sa  conférence  de  presse  donnée  un  an  auparavant, presque jour pour jour, le 20 août 2012, et une  phrase. Un journaliste lui avait demandé ce qui pourrait infléchir sa position, pour le moins prudente, sur  le conflit syrien, lui qui refuse d’armer les rebelles.  «  Pour nous, la ligne rouge, c’est l’utilisation d’armes chimiques  ; ça changerait ma vision des choses  »,  avait-il  répondu. A question imprévue réponse non préparée. Ses  conseillers avaient été interloqués. Certes, El-Assad  avait été mis en garde par des canaux discrets, mais  rendre  publique  une  ligne  rouge  n’est  jamais  une   bonne chose. On s’était promptement rassuré  ; le régime  syrien  semblait  tellement  affaibli  qu’il  n’oserait pas s’attirer les foudres du président des Etats-Unis. Il a pourtant osé, comme en témoignent les schémas et les photos satellites qu’on diffuse dans la salle  de crise. Il y a eu d’abord de petites attaques chimiques  au printemps. Puis, devant l’absence de réactions, le  21 août 2013, cette attaque d’ampleur dans la banlieue  de Damas, plus tard contestée  (…).  Bachar  a-t-il voulu tester les Etats-Unis  ? Ou, simplement, son  armée n’avait-elle pas d’autres moyens de terrifier sa  population insurgée  ? On ne sait pas. Auprès de Philip Gordon, Obama a insisté  :  «  Il nous faut des preuves.  »  «  Le président était hanté par l’Irak et ne voulait pas entrer  en  guerre  sur  la  base  de  simples  suspicions» ,  témoigne   Gordon. Mais les preuves sont là. Les obus au gaz sarin tirés par le camp loyaliste ont tué environ 1  400  personnes, dont beaucoup d’enfants, selon une note de  la CIA dont chacun, dans la pièce, a reçu une copie.  Plus  contraignantes  que  les  preuves,  les  images.   Atroces, elles ont fait le tour du monde. Ce père qui  tient sa fillette morte dans les bras et qui l’interpelle,  lui, le président des Etats-Unis  :  «  Je vous en prie  ! Ce  ne sont que des enfants  ! Ils n’ont encore rien vu de la vie.  Du chimique ! »  Il est contraint de répondre. Un tabou,  depuis la Seconde Guerre mondiale, a été transgressé,  les traités internationaux ont été violés, l’ordre du  monde menacé, l’Amérique défiée. (….) Tout le pousse à intervenir… Mais… Le Parlement  britannique  a  mis  son  veto  la  veille.  C’est  une  première alerte. (…) Il converse  pendant trois quarts d’heure avec son plus proche allié,  le  Français  François  Hollande,  dont  les  Rafale   chargent leurs missiles de croisière Scalp. Il l’assure  que rien n’est changé. L’après-midi s’achève. (…) Il n’aime guère  les  choix  tranchés,  préférant  le  consensus. (…) Il propose à un homme  de confiance d’aller se promener dans le jardin de la  Maison-Blanche. Cet homme, c’est son chef de l’ad ministration, Denis McDonough  : ni un militaire ni  un diplomate, mais son collaborateur le plus loyal.  Pendant une heure, il lui livre ses doutes. Tout cela  est trop incertain. Ne va-t-il pas engager son pays dans  une nouvelle guerre alors qu’il a été élu pour se dé sengager de conflits coûteux  ? Et puis, cela ne risque- t-il pas de mettre en péril son grand œuvre, l’accord  nucléaire avec l’Iran  ? Trop de risques. Il teste une idée  auprès de McDonough  : demander une autorisation  préalable au Congrès. Une manière de reculer, car chacun sait qu’un soutien du Congrès est plus qu’incertain. (…) En  début  de  soirée,  il  convoque  à  nouveau  ses   conseillers dans son bureau. L’ambiance est décontractée. Il leur annonce la nouvelle. Ils n’en reviennent  pas. Ils insistent  :  «  Ce sera dévastateur pour votre autorité politique »,  le préviennent-ils. Il tient bon. Gordon  nous avoue avoir été estomaqué. Devant lui, Obama  raisonne en politique  :  «  Si ça ne dissuade pas Assad de  recommencer, si des inspecteurs de l’Onu sont pris comme  boucliers humains, si on perd un pilote, j’aurai l’opinion,  le Congrès sur le dos. On me reprochera tout et son contraire,  d’être intervenu, de ne pas être intervenu plus fortement,  de ne pas être intervenu plus légèrement.  »  Gordon se souvient  d’un  autre  argument  du  président   :  le  risque   d’engrenage.  Si  Assad  ou  ses  parrains  russes  et  iraniens  décidaient  d’une  nouvelle  attaque  chimique   «  trois semaines plus tard  »,  alors  «  on devrait frapper de nouveau, et plus fort, et ainsi de suite  ».  Il ne serait plus  maître du processus, craint-il, alors qu’Assad le serait.  Cela, cet homme qui veut tout contrôler ne peut l’accepter. Et rien n’est moins contrôlable qu’une guerre. (…) Il prévient Kerry, qui est furieux.  «  L’Histoire nous jugera  avec une sévérité extrême  »,  lâche ce dernier à ses collaborateurs et à certains de ses homologues étrangers.  Le lendemain, à 18 heures, quelques heures avant l’attaque, il contacte aussi Hollande, qui tombe de haut.  (…) Puis (…) sur le perron de la Maison-Blanche, Barack Obama tient une conférence de presse  : « J’ai décidé d’intervenir,  proclame-t-il, avant d’ajouter  :  mais je demanderai que cet usage de la force soit approuvé par le Congrès.  »  Il s’est donné du temps. C’est fini. Il vient de changer l’ordre du monde sans pouvoir, à cet instant, le  deviner.  Certains  comprennent  en  revanche  que  rien ne sera plus comme avant. Sur les hauteurs de Damas, Bachar el-Assad comprend qu’il n’a plus rien à craindre des Occidentaux.  Il se paiera même le luxe d’utiliser de nouveau des  armes  chimiques  deux  ans  plus  tard.  L’opposition   «  modérée  », autour de l’Armée syrienne libre, sent  que l’Occident l’abandonne. Les djihadistes, mieux  armés, recrutent les déçus et montent en puissance,  scellant le piège qui permettra au président syrien de se présenter comme rempart contre le chaos. Au Kremlin, Vladimir Poutine se jette sur l’occasion. Aux Américains il offre de convaincre El-Assad  de  détruire  ses  armes  chimiques  contre  l’abandon  de tout projet d’intervention. Comment refuser, après  avoir reculé le 30 août  ? La Russie prend la main en  Syrie.  Plus  tard,  Poutine  estimera  ne  rien  redouter  du  président  américain  et  envahira  la  Crimée.  Les   Républicains et un certain Donald Trump, admirateur  de  Poutine,  ne  cesseront  de  dénoncer  ce  nouveau  Munich  et  ce  président  qui  a  affaibli  une   Amérique qu’il faudrait rendre  « great  again ». Il ne lui reste que des questions sans réponses. Que  se serait-il passé s’il avait frappé  ? Ce 30 août 2013 est-il  le jour où Obama a mis fin au règne des Etats-Unis  comme seule superpuissance mondiale  ? Le jour où  le  camp  des  démocraties  a  dû  renoncer  à  se  battre  pour ses valeurs  ? Antoine Vatkine
This is the president’s mendacity continuing to a degree that is really quite remarkable. « There are people on both sides and beyond » – so he means Republicans at home and Israelis – « who are against the diplomatic resolution ». That’s a lie. They are against this diplomatic resolution, the deal he’s doing, that any observer will tell you paves the road to an Iranian nuclear weapon that is legitimate and accepted by the international community. It is a disaster. That’s why it is opposed. People are not opposed to diplomacy, they are opposed to a specific deal. And to address this to Iranians as if Iran is a democracy when it’s a dictatorship that put down a democratic revolution in 2009 of which he turned his face and never supported is disgraceful. Charles Krauthammer
The disgusting aspect of the last eight years is that Obama mistook the sidelines for the moral high ground. So he would use all this lofty rhetoric about red lines and he would stand there would be people killing each other, slaughtering each other, dead babies and he’d stand there with his hand on his hip giving a speech. And he stripped words of their meaning. And Trump isn’t as articulate. He isn’t as polished but his words have meaning. And to do that while is he having dinner with the Chinese. You said did he tell him over the salad bowl, as I understand it, he told him over the creme brulee or the tiramisu. How cool is that to actually make the Chinese politburo sit through a night of American targeted bombing? I think he’s accomplished certain things. He sent a message to the Chinese as they are sitting across the dinner table from him. He sent a message to Putin, and, thereby, incidentally also made all these stupid investigations of investigations of investigations that the Senate and the House are chasing their tails and look absolutely ridiculous. You know, he has picked a fight with Putin at a when Congress has spent and Susan Rice has spent a year investigating whether he is Putin stooge. How stupid do they look? I think they understand this is really — last night was inauguration day. That America is back in the world. Mark Steyn
L’actualité de ces dernières semaines a mené certains à douter de la maîtrise de Trump sur son personnel et sur sa politique intérieure, tandis que d’autres le disaient carrément indifférent aux affaires étrangères. D’abord le fiasco Ryancare. Fidèle à ses promesses, Trump a voulu abroger l’Obamacare, mais mal lui en a pris de faire confiance au si peu fiable Speaker de la Chambre, Paul Ryan, et de s’engager à ses côtés, croyant pouvoir ainsi gagner des votes démocrates. Le « plan en 3 phases » du technocrate Ryan, trop compliqué et n’abrogeant pas les pires mesures de la loi d’Obama, ne pouvait que rencontrer l’opposition ferme du Freedom Caucus, la trentaine de représentants les plus conservateurs de la base électorale de Trump. L’échec est pour Ryan. Trump s’en sort plutôt bien, même si le poids fiscal d’Obamacare perdure et va donc le gêner dans sa réforme fiscale d’envergure. Au moins a-t-il appris, sur le tas, qu’il ne servait à rien de courtiser des démocrates obtus et qu’il valait mieux pour lui s’impliquer le moins possible dans les jeux du Congrès. Puis, font désordre les disputes de personnel au sein des divers ministères et le fait que Trump, soi-disant complètement ballotté entre des avis divergents, tarderait à débarrasser son administration « des restes d’Obama », même à des postes élevés, parce que, en gros, il subirait l’influence de Tillerson, Mattis, McMaster et Kushner (le « Premier Gendre »), tous des centristes-interventionnistes, en opposition radicale au nationaliste-isolationniste Bannon… Tout cela sur fond de l’exécrable Russiagate, servi tous les jours par les démocrates dans l’espoir de délégitimer Trump et de l’empêcher de gouverner. Lassant, le feuilleton se retourne contre ses auteurs avec le scandale des écoutes de l’équipe de transition de Trump : ex-ambassadeur à l’ONU et ex-Conseiller à la Sécurité nationale, l’incroyable Susan Rice, après avoir nié (ce n’était jamais que la 4e fois qu’elle mentait pour protéger Obama), reconnaît avoir « dévoilé » l’identité de plusieurs personnes et autorisé des fuites à la presse… Rappelons que les démocrates ne s’émouvaient pas des ingérences russes lorsque celles-ci semblaient favoriser leur candidate et que ce sont eux qui ont un long passé de connivence avec la Russie : de Roosevelt et Staline aux espions à la solde de l’URSS sous Truman, jusqu’à la « flexibilité » promise par Obama en 2012 à Medvedev, concrétisée en 2013 par l’abandon pur et simple de ses responsabilités au Moyen-Orient à Poutine… La réalité est que Trump peuple ses agences de gens d’avis opposés, exprès, afin d’appréhender toutes les possibilités pour trancher par lui-même. Pragmatique, mais n’hésitant pas à prendre des risques, il vient de prouver qu’il était bien maître à bord. Tous les pourparlers à l’amiable ayant échoué, Trump riposte à l’intolérable par les frappes de 59 missiles Tomahawk sur la base syrienne de Shayrat, chargée du largage de gaz sarin. Fait remarquable : sans toucher aux 5 autres bases aériennes de l’armée syrienne et sans causer le moindre dommage aux installations russes. Simple avertissement, parfaitement ciblé et mesuré, destiné à protéger les quelque mille militaires américains présents sur le théâtre d’opérations et à montrer que l’Amérique est de retour et qu’il faut désormais compter avec sa détermination. La Syrie et l’État islamique, mais aussi la Chine, la Russie, l’Iran, la Corée du Nord peuvent en prendre note, tandis que les alliés traditionnels au Moyen-Orient et en Asie se rassurent, comme devraient se rassurer les Européens s’il leur restait quelque bon sens. Et c’est tout ! Il n’y a pas d’escalade, ni d’intention de régler les affaires de la Syrie, ni (hélas !) de reprendre le bâton de policier du monde. Seulement l’intention de ne plus rester passif face aux agressions… Evelyne Joslain
Syria is weird for reasons that transcend even the bizarre situation of bombing an abhorrent Bashar al-Assad who was bombing an abhorrent ISIS — as we de facto ally with Iran, the greater strategic threat, to defeat the more odious, but less long-term strategic threat, ISIS. Trump apparently hit a Syrian airfield to express Western outrage over the likely Syrian use of chemical weapons. Just as likely, he also sought to remind China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea that he is unpredictable and not restrained by self-imposed cultural, political, and ethical bridles that seemed to ensure that Obama would never do much over Chinese and Russian cyber-warfare, or Iranian interception of a U.S. warship or the ISIS terror campaign in the West or North Korea’s increasingly creepy and dangerous behavior. But the strike also raised as many questions as it may have answered. (…) Trump campaigned on not getting involved in Syria, deriding the Iraq War, and questioning the Afghan effort. Does his sudden strike signal a Jacksonian effort to hit back enemies if the mood comes upon us — and therefore acceptable to his base as a sort of one-off, don’t-tread-on-me hiss and rattle? Or does the strike that was so welcomed by the foreign-policy establishment worry his supporters that Trump is now putting his suddenly neocon nose in someone’s else’s business? And doing so without congressional authorizations or much exegesis? Does the Left trash Trump for using force or keep quiet, given the ostensible humanitarian basis for the strike, and the embarrassing contrast with Obama, whose reset with Russia led to inviting Putin into the Middle East to solve the WMD problem that we could not, and which Obama and Susan Rice not long ago assured us was indeed solved by our de facto friend at the time Putin? These dilemmas, apart from Obama’s prior confusion about Syria and Russia, arise in part because Trump never thought it wise or necessary to resolve contradictions in Trumpism — especially at what point the long overdue need to restore U.S. respect and deterrence to end “lead from behind” appeasement becomes overseas entanglements not commensurate with Trump’s “America First” assurances. Victor Davis Hanson
Now we’re coming to grips with the human and strategic price of the Obama administration’s mendacity. The sham agreement gave Assad confidence that he could continue to murder his opponents indefinitely without fear of Western reprisal. It fostered the view that his regime was preferable to its opponents. It showed Tehran that it could drive a hard diplomatic bargain over its nuclear file, given that the administration was so plainly desperate for face-saving excuses for inaction. And it left Mr. Obama’s successor with a lousy set of options. Rex Tillerson and Nikki Haley erred badly by announcing, just days before last week’s sarin attack, that the Trump administration had no plans to depose Assad. They gave the dictator reason to believe he had as little to fear from this U.S. president as he did from the last one. But, unlike their predecessors, the secretary of state and U.N. ambassador deserve credit for learning from that mistake—as does the president they serve. The core of the problem in Syria isn’t Islamic State, dreadful as it is. It’s a regime whose appetite for unlimited violence is one of the main reasons ISIS has thrived. To say there is no easy cure for Syria should not obscure the fact that there won’t be any possibility of a cure until Assad falls. Mr. Obama and his advisers will never run out of self-justifications for their policy in Syria. They can’t outrun responsibility for the consequences of their lies. Bret Stephens

Attention: un mensonge peut en cacher un autre !

Au terme d’une semaine à donner le tournis …

Où l’on redécouvre non seulement en Syrie les armes chimiques soi-disant inexistantes de Saddam Hussein

Mais où après avoir tant critiqué les guerres d’Irak – prétendus mensonges sur les ADM compris – et d’Afghanistan ou appelé à la retenue sur la Syrie …

Le champion de l’Amérique d’abord et de la non-ingérence surprend tout son monde …

Avec le bombardement d’une base aérienne syrienne d’où aurait été lancé une attaque chimique de populations civiles …

Comment au-delà des nombreuses questions que soulève le revirement du président Trump …

Ne pas voir l’incroyable propension au mensonge d’une Administration …

Qui sans compter la mise sur écoutes et l’autorisation de fuites à la presse concernant l’équipe de son futur successeur …

Se vantait jusqu’il y a trois mois de son accord d’élimination des ADM syriennes ?

Et surtout ne pas s’inquiéter de l’autre grand motif de fierté de ladite administration Obama …

A savoir l’accord prétendument sans faille sur le nucléaire iranien ?

The Price of Obama’s Mendacity
The consequences of his administration’s lies about Syria are becoming clear
Bret Stephens
The Wall Street Journal
April 10, 2017

Last week’s cruise-missile strike against a Syrian air base in response to Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons has reopened debate about the wisdom of Barack Obama’s decision to forgo a similar strike, under similar circumstances, in 2013.

But the real issue isn’t about wisdom. It’s about honesty.

On Sept. 10, 2013, President Obama delivered a televised address in which he warned of the dangers of not acting against Assad’s use of sarin gas, which had killed some 1,400 civilians in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta the previous month.

“If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons,” Mr. Obama said. “As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas, and using them. Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical weapons on the battlefield. And it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons, and use them to attack civilians.”

It was a high-minded case for action that the president immediately disavowed for the least high-minded reason: It was politically unpopular. The administration punted a vote to an unwilling Congress. It punted a fix to the all-too-willing Russians. And it spent the rest of its time in office crowing about its success.

In July 2014 Secretary of State John Kerry claimed “we got 100% of the chemical weapons out.” In May 2015 Mr. Obama boasted that “Assad gave up his chemical weapons. That’s not speculation on our part. That, in fact, has been confirmed by the organization internationally that is charged with eliminating chemical weapons.” This January, then-National Security Adviser Susan Rice said “we were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.”

Today we know all this was untrue. Or, rather, now all of us know it. Anyone paying even slight attention has known it for years.

In June 2014 U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power noted “discrepancies and omissions related to the Syrian government’s declaration of its chemical weapons program.” But that hint of unease didn’t prevent her from celebrating the removal “of the final 8% of chemical weapons materials in Syria’s declaration” of its overall stockpile.

The following summer, The Wall Street Journal’s Adam Entous and Naftali Bendavid reported “U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the [Assad] regime didn’t give up all of the chemical weapons it was supposed to.” In February 2016, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed the Journal’s story, telling Congress “Syria has not declared all the elements of its chemical weapons program.”

Why did Mr. Obama and his senior officials stick to a script that they knew was untethered from the facts? Let’s speculate. They thought the gap between Assad’s “declared” and actual stockpile was close enough for government work. They figured a credulous press wouldn’t work up a sweat pointing out the difference. They didn’t imagine Assad would use what was left of his chemical arsenal for fear of provoking the U.S.

And they didn’t want to disturb the public narrative that multilateral diplomacy was a surer way than military action to disarm rogue Middle Eastern regimes of their illicit weapons. Two months after Mr. Obama’s climb-down with Syria, he signed on to the interim nuclear deal with Iran. The remainder of his term was spent trying not to upset the fragile beauty of his nuclear diplomacy.

Now we’re coming to grips with the human and strategic price of the Obama administration’s mendacity. The sham agreement gave Assad confidence that he could continue to murder his opponents indefinitely without fear of Western reprisal. It fostered the view that his regime was preferable to its opponents. It showed Tehran that it could drive a hard diplomatic bargain over its nuclear file, given that the administration was so plainly desperate for face-saving excuses for inaction.

And it left Mr. Obama’s successor with a lousy set of options.

Rex Tillerson and Nikki Haley erred badly by announcing, just days before last week’s sarin attack, that the Trump administration had no plans to depose Assad. They gave the dictator reason to believe he had as little to fear from this U.S. president as he did from the last one.

But, unlike their predecessors, the secretary of state and U.N. ambassador deserve credit for learning from that mistake—as does the president they serve. The core of the problem in Syria isn’t Islamic State, dreadful as it is. It’s a regime whose appetite for unlimited violence is one of the main reasons ISIS has thrived. To say there is no easy cure for Syria should not obscure the fact that there won’t be any possibility of a cure until Assad falls.

Mr. Obama and his advisers will never run out of self-justifications for their policy in Syria. They can’t outrun responsibility for the consequences of their lies.

Voir aussi:

Hall of Mirrors in Syria
Victor Davis Hanson
The National Review Corner
April 10, 2017

Syria is weird for reasons that transcend even the bizarre situation of bombing an abhorrent Bashar al-Assad who was bombing an abhorrent ISIS — as we de facto ally with Iran, the greater strategic threat, to defeat the more odious, but less long-term strategic threat, ISIS.

Trump apparently hit a Syrian airfield to express Western outrage over the likely Syrian use of chemical weapons. Just as likely, he also sought to remind China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea that he is unpredictable and not restrained by self-imposed cultural, political, and ethical bridles that seemed to ensure that Obama would never do much over Chinese and Russian cyber-warfare, or Iranian interception of a U.S. warship or the ISIS terror campaign in the West or North Korea’s increasingly creepy and dangerous behavior.

But the strike also raised as many questions as it may have answered.

Is Trump saying that he can send off a few missiles anywhere and anytime rogues go too far? If so, does that willingness to use force enhance deterrence? (probably); does it also risk further escalation to be effective? (perhaps); and does it solve the problem of an Assad or someone similar committing more atrocities? (no).

Was the reason we hit Assad, then, because he is an especially odious dictator and kills his own, or that the manner in which he did so was cruel and barbaric (after all, ISIS burns, drowns, and cuts apart its victims without much Western reprisals until recently)? Or is the reason instead that he used WMD, and since 1918 with a few exceptions (largely in the Middle East), “poison” gas has been a taboo weapon among the international community? (Had Assad publicly beheaded the same number who were gassed, would we have intervened?)

Do we continue to sort of allow ISIS to fight it out with Syria/Iran/Hezbollah in the manner of our shrug during the Iran-Iraq War and in the fashion until Pearl Harbor that we were okay with the Wehrmacht and the Red Army killing each other en masse for over five months in Russia? Or do we say to do so cynically dooms innocents in a fashion that they are not quite as doomed elsewhere, or at least not doomed without chance of help as is true in North Korea?

Trump campaigned on not getting involved in Syria, deriding the Iraq War, and questioning the Afghan effort. Does his sudden strike signal a Jacksonian effort to hit back enemies if the mood comes upon us — and therefore acceptable to his base as a sort of one-off, don’t-tread-on-me hiss and rattle?

Or does the strike that was so welcomed by the foreign-policy establishment worry his supporters that Trump is now putting his suddenly neocon nose in someone’s else’s business? And doing so without congressional authorizations or much exegesis?

Does the Left trash Trump for using force or keep quiet, given the ostensible humanitarian basis for the strike, and the embarrassing contrast with Obama, whose reset with Russia led to inviting Putin into the Middle East to solve the WMD problem that we could not, and which Obama and Susan Rice not long ago assured us was indeed solved by our de facto friend at the time Putin?

These dilemmas, apart from Obama’s prior confusion about Syria and Russia, arise in part because Trump never thought it wise or necessary to resolve contradictions in Trumpism — especially at what point the long overdue need to restore U.S. respect and deterrence to end “lead from behind” appeasement becomes overseas entanglements not commensurate with Trump’s “America First” assurances. At some point, does talking and tweeting toughly (“bomb the sh** out of ISIS”) require a Tomahawk missile to retain credibility? And does “Jacksonianism” still allow blowing some stuff up, but not doing so at great cost and for the ideals of consensual government rather than immediate U.S. security?

Most likely for now, Trump’s strike resembles Reagan’s 1986 Libyan bombing that expressed U.S. outrage over Libyan support for then recent attacks on Americans in Berlin. But Reagan’s dramatic act (in pursuit of U.S. interests, not international norms) did not really stop Moammar Qaddafi’s support for terrorists (cf. the 1988 likely Libyan-inspired retaliatory Lockerbie bombing) or do much else to muzzle Qaddafi.

About all we can say, then, about Trump’s action was that he felt like it was overdue — or like a high-school friend once put to me after unexpectedly unloading on a school bully who daily picked on weaklings, “It seemed a good idea at the time.”

Voir également:

La semaine de Trump.Virage à 180 degrés sur la Syrie
Gabriel Hassan
Courrier international
07/04/2017

Attaque à l’arme chimique en Syrie, rencontres avec les présidents égyptien et chinois : la semaine de Donald Trump a été très chargée sur le front diplomatique. Avec des déclarations à donner le tournis.

Le départ de Bachar El-Assad de Syrie ne faisait pas partie jusqu’ici des priorités du président Trump. L’attaque chimique qui a eu lieu dans la région d’Idlib pourrait changer les choses.

  • Les États-Unis attaquent Bachar El-Assad

Donald Trump change de cap. Trois jours après l’attaque chimique à Khan Cheikhoun, dans la région d’Idlib (nord-ouest de la Syrie), le président américain a ordonné le bombardement d’une base aérienne syrienne.

Dans la nuit de jeudi à vendredi – vers 20 h 40 heure de Washington – 59 missiles Tomahawk ont été tirés par la marine américaine. Il s’agit de “la première attaque américaine contre le régime de Bachar El-Assad depuis le début de la guerre en Syrie”, il y a six ans, souligne The Washington Post. Et de la première intervention militaire de la présidence Trump.

Le président américain a déclaré cette nuit qu’“il [était] dans l’intérêt national et vital des États-Unis de prévenir et de décourager la propagation et le recours aux armes chimiques mortelles”, rapporte The New York Times.

Réuni en urgence à l’Organisation des Nations unies mercredi soir, le Conseil de sécurité avait, à l’exception de la Russie, fermement condamné le régime de Bachar El-Assad. Brandissant des photos de victimes, l’ambassadrice américaine Nikki Haley avait assuré que les États-Unis étaient prêts à agir unilatéralement en cas de mésentente.

L’opération militaire de la nuit dernière constitue un revirement important. Il y a une semaine, Nikki Haley avait laissé entendre que Washington s’accommoderait de Bachar El-Assad, mais l’attaque à l’arme chimique perpétrée près d’Idlib, qui a fait des dizaines de victimes, semble avoir tout remis en question. Le 5 avril, Trump a déclaré que le président syrien avait franchi “beaucoup, beaucoup de lignes”, laissant ainsi entendre qu’il devrait peut-être partir.

  • Deux hommes forts en visite

Le président égyptien Abdelfattah Al-Sissi en début de semaine à la Maison-Blanche, le président chinois Xi Jinping jeudi 6 et vendredi 7 avril à Mar-a-Lago, en Floride : Trump aura reçu en quelques jours deux présidents très autoritaires.

Le dirigeant américain a fait un véritable éloge du leader égyptien, saluant son “boulot fantastique, dans une situation très difficile”. Pour une large partie de la presse américaine, ce soutien affiché à un régime brutal est une erreur, qui ne sert qu’en apparence les intérêts américains.

Les discussions s’annonçaient plus difficiles avec le président chinois, accueilli dans la résidence personnelle de Donald Trump en Floride. Sur Twitter, avant leur rencontre, le locataire de la Maison-Blanche avait mis la pression, car il a besoin de la coopération de Pékin en matière commerciale, et surtout concernant le brûlant dossier nord-coréen. Xi Jinping avait donc beaucoup de cartes en main. Et Trump ne pouvait pas cette fois pratiquer la “diplomatie du golf”, un sport mal vu chez les officiels chinois.

  • Lutte de clans à la Maison-Blanche

L’influence de Steve Bannon, l’éminence grise de Trump, n’est apparemment plus sans limite. Le stratège en chef de Donald Trump a été évincé le 5 avril du Conseil de sécurité nationale, où sa nomination avait fait polémique. Une victoire pour le conseiller de Trump pour la sécurité nationale, le lieutenant général H. R. McMaster.

À travers lui, c’est le clan des “nationalistes économiques”, tenants d’une ligne populiste, qui essuie un revers.

À l’inverse, Jared Kushner, gendre de Trump et membre, selon un chroniqueur du Washington Post, du clan des “New-Yorkais” ou “démocrates”, n’en finit plus d’accumuler les missions. À son programme : réformer l’État fédéral, instaurer la paix au Proche-Orient, servir d’intermédiaire avec la Chine ou le Mexique. Rien que cela… En visite en Irak en début de semaine, l’époux d’Ivanka Trump a même devancé le secrétaire d’État américain sur ce terrain hautement stratégique dans la lutte contre Daech.

  • Encore des accusations

Rares sont les semaines où Trump ne fait pas de déclaration polémique. Le président a encore émis des accusations sans preuve, visant cette fois Susan Rice, conseillère de Barack Obama pour la sécurité nationale. D’après lui, cette dernière pourrait avoir commis un crime en demandant à ce que soient dévoilés les noms de collaborateurs de Trump mentionnés de manière incidente dans des communications interceptées lors de la présidence d’Obama. Reprenant à son compte des accusations lancées par des médias conservateurs, Trump a déclaré au New York Times :

C’est une affaire tellement importante pour notre pays et pour le monde. C’est une des grandes affaires de notre temps.”

Pour ses détracteurs, cette assertion n’est que la dernière tentative en date pour détourner l’attention des questions au sujet des liens de son entourage avec la Russie. En mars, Trump avait accusé Obama de l’avoir “mis sur écoute” à la Trump Tower durant la campagne présidentielle.

  • Neil Gorsuch élu à la Cour suprême

C’était une promesse du candidat républicain Donald Trump : “Neil Gorsuch est devenu, vendredi 7 avril, le neuvième juge de la Cour suprême”, annonce le NewYork Times.

Depuis plus d’un an, démocrates et républicains s’opposaient sur le remplacement du juge Antonin Scalia, décédé soudainement en février 2016. Quelques jours après son investiture, le président américain avait annoncé la nomination de M. Gorsuch à laquelle s’opposaient farouchement les démocrates.

Minoritaires au Sénat – composé de 52 démocrates et 48 républicains – les partisans de Donald Trump avaient prévenu qu’ils passeraient en force. Chose faite ce vendredi : les républicains ont abaissé la majorité requise pour permettre ce scrutin, un changement historique des règles, explique le quotidien américain.

Favorables aux armes à feu et fermement opposé à l’avortement, Neil Gorsuch siégera donc dans la chambre haute du Congrès à partir de la mi-avril. Il a été nommé à vie.

  • Twitter poursuit Washington en justice

Le bras de fer se poursuit entre la Maison-Blanche et Twitter. Il y a quelques semaines, le président américain demandait au réseau social de lui fournir les données et l’identité des personnes qui se cachaient derrière les comptes hostiles à sa politique.

Mais, jeudi 6 avril, Twitter, refusant de fournir une quelconque information, a saisi la justice. La plateforme, citée par The Washington Post, rappelle que “les droits à la liberté d’expression accordés aux utilisateurs de Twitter et à Twitter lui-même en vertu du premier amendement de la Constitution incluent un droit à diffuser des propos politiques anonymes ou sous pseudonyme”. Donald Trump n’a, pour l’heure, pas rétorqué.

 Voir encore:

Trump peut-il gouverner ?
Evelyne Joslain
Les 4 vérités
10 avril, 2017

L’actualité de ces dernières semaines a mené certains à douter de la maîtrise de Trump sur son personnel et sur sa politique intérieure, tandis que d’autres le disaient carrément indifférent aux affaires étrangères.

D’abord le fiasco Ryancare. Fidèle à ses promesses, Trump a voulu abroger l’Obamacare, mais mal lui en a pris de faire confiance au si peu fiable Speaker de la Chambre, Paul Ryan, et de s’engager à ses côtés, croyant pouvoir ainsi gagner des votes démocrates.

Le « plan en 3 phases » du technocrate Ryan, trop compliqué et n’abrogeant pas les pires mesures de la loi d’Obama, ne pouvait que rencontrer l’opposition ferme du Freedom Caucus, la trentaine de représentants les plus conservateurs de la base électorale de Trump.

L’échec est pour Ryan. Trump s’en sort plutôt bien, même si le poids fiscal d’Obamacare perdure et va donc le gêner dans sa réforme fiscale d’envergure.

Au moins a-t-il appris, sur le tas, qu’il ne servait à rien de courtiser des démocrates obtus et qu’il valait mieux pour lui s’impliquer le moins possible dans les jeux du Congrès.

Puis, font désordre les disputes de personnel au sein des divers ministères et le fait que Trump, soi-disant complètement ballotté entre des avis divergents, tarderait à débarrasser son administration « des restes d’Obama », même à des postes élevés, parce que, en gros, il subirait l’influence de Tillerson, Mattis, McMaster et Kushner (le « Premier Gendre »), tous des centristes-interventionnistes, en opposition radicale au nationaliste-isolationniste Bannon…

Tout cela sur fond de l’exécrable Russiagate, servi tous les jours par les démocrates dans l’espoir de délégitimer Trump et de l’empêcher de gouverner. Lassant, le feuilleton se retourne contre ses auteurs avec le scandale des écoutes de l’équipe de transition de Trump : ex-ambassadeur à l’ONU et ex-Conseiller à la Sécurité nationale, l’incroyable Susan Rice, après avoir nié (ce n’était jamais que la 4e fois qu’elle mentait pour protéger Obama), reconnaît avoir « dévoilé » l’identité de plusieurs personnes et autorisé des fuites à la presse… Rappelons que les démocrates ne s’émouvaient pas des ingérences russes lorsque celles-ci semblaient favoriser leur candidate et que ce sont eux qui ont un long passé de connivence avec la Russie : de Roosevelt et Staline aux espions à la solde de l’URSS sous Truman, jusqu’à la « flexibilité » promise par Obama en 2012 à Medvedev, concrétisée en 2013 par l’abandon pur et simple de ses responsabilités au Moyen-Orient à Poutine…

La réalité est que Trump peuple ses agences de gens d’avis opposés, exprès, afin d’appréhender toutes les possibilités pour trancher par lui-même.

Pragmatique, mais n’hésitant pas à prendre des risques, il vient de prouver qu’il était bien maître à bord. Tous les pourparlers à l’amiable ayant échoué, Trump riposte à l’intolérable par les frappes de 59 missiles Tomahawk sur la base syrienne de Shayrat, chargée du largage de gaz sarin. Fait remarquable : sans toucher aux 5 autres bases aériennes de l’armée syrienne et sans causer le moindre dommage aux installations russes.

Simple avertissement, parfaitement ciblé et mesuré, destiné à protéger les quelque mille militaires américains présents sur le théâtre d’opérations et à montrer que l’Amérique est de retour et qu’il faut désormais compter avec sa détermination.

La Syrie et l’État islamique, mais aussi la Chine, la Russie, l’Iran, la Corée du Nord peuvent en prendre note, tandis que les alliés traditionnels au Moyen-Orient et en Asie se rassurent, comme devraient se rassurer les Européens s’il leur restait quelque bon sens.

Et c’est tout ! Il n’y a pas d’escalade, ni d’intention de régler les affaires de la Syrie, ni (hélas !) de reprendre le bâton de policier du monde. Seulement l’intention de ne plus rester passif face aux agressions…

Et Trump gouverne bel et bien, malgré les obstacles et les commentaires malveillants.

La liste de ses accomplissements est déjà longue. Signe de confiance, les indices boursiers sont bons. Les emplois reviennent grâce aux dérégulations signées par décret exécutif. Les syndicats du privé sont apaisés et le climat est redevenu favorable aux petites entreprises, tandis que sont mis en œuvre des moyens nouveaux pour réduire le poids de l’État fédéral. Des milliers de récidivistes illégaux ont été déportés, 1 500 hackers pédophiles arrêtés…

En fait, les bonnes nouvelles n’arrêtent pas !

Voir par ailleurs:

Le jour où Obama a flanché
Exclusif.  En 2013, l’ex-président américain renonçait, au dernier  moment et malgré sa promesse, à frapper El-Assad. Le documentariste  Antoine Vitkine nous révèle les coulisses de cette volte-face
Antoine Vitkine
Le Point
13 avril 2017

Cette interrogation n’en finit pas de tourmenter  Barack Obama. A-t-il pris, ce jour-là, la bonne décision  ? De cette décision il a affirmé être  « fier », mais il a aussi assuré, dans une même interview, que  le dossier syrien est  «  son plus grand regret  ».  Par prudence, mieux vaut dire tout et son contraire, car il  sait ce qu’on en pense  : sa décision a changé la face  du monde. La plus grave attaque chimique depuis  la Seconde Guerre mondiale demeurée impunie  ? La  victoire de Bachar el-Assad  ? L’ascension des djihadistes  ? La montée en puissance des Russes au Moyen- Orient, en Europe et au-delà  ? L’effacement de l’Occident  ? Peut-être même la victoire de Donald Trump  ?  Tout partirait de son choix, de cette journée-là.

Le 30 août 2013, l’été s’achève à Washington dans  une épuisante touffeur. Tout juste rentré de quelques  jours de vacances sur l’île de Martha’s Vineyard, où il  a fait du VTT avec Michelle, il lui faut de nouveau assumer une charge harassante. A quoi bon cette réunion  ? Le sort n’en est-il pas jeté  ? Ce vendredi, en début  d’après-midi, dans la salle de crise de la Maison-Blanche,  il participe à une ultime réunion du Conseil de sécurité consacrée à l’intervention militaire contre le régime syrien. Autour de lui, ses conseillers, dont Philip   Gordon, qui s’occupe du Moyen-Orient,  les dirigeants de l’armée, ses ministres les plus importants, dont John Kerry, son secrétaire d’Etat. Pour tous,  l’intervention ne fait aucun doute. Le matin même,  il a annoncé publiquement réfléchir à  «  une action limitée contre Bachar  ».  Ses alliés français, la Ligue arabe,  l’Australie fourbissent leurs armes. Kerry a quasiment  annoncé la réplique américaine  :  « La crédibilité du président comme celle des Etats-Unis sont engagées.  »  Et même  :  « L’Histoire nous jugerait sévèrement si on ne faisait rien » …

A  vrai  dire,  il  n’aurait  jamais  pensé  se  retrouver   dans cette situation. Autour de la table, chacun a en  tête  sa  conférence  de  presse  donnée  un  an  auparavant, presque jour pour jour, le 20 août 2012, et une  phrase. Un journaliste lui avait demandé ce qui pourrait infléchir sa position, pour le moins prudente, sur  le conflit syrien, lui qui refuse d’armer les rebelles.  «  Pour nous, la ligne rouge, c’est l’utilisation d’armes chimiques  ; ça changerait ma vision des choses  »,  avait-il  répondu. A question imprévue réponse non préparée. Ses  conseillers avaient été interloqués. Certes, El-Assad  avait été mis en garde par des canaux discrets, mais  rendre  publique  une  ligne  rouge  n’est  jamais  une   bonne chose. On s’était promptement rassuré  ; le régime  syrien  semblait  tellement  affaibli  qu’il  n’oserait pas s’attirer les foudres du président des Etats-Unis.

Il a pourtant osé, comme en témoignent les schémas et les photos satellites qu’on diffuse dans la salle  de crise. Il y a eu d’abord de petites attaques chimiques  au printemps. Puis, devant l’absence de réactions, le  21 août 2013, cette attaque d’ampleur dans la banlieue  de Damas, plus tard contestée  (voir ci-contre).  Bachar  a-t-il voulu tester les Etats-Unis  ? Ou, simplement, son  armée n’avait-elle pas d’autres moyens de terrifier sa  population insurgée  ? On ne sait pas. Auprès de Philip Gordon, Obama a insisté  :  «  Il nous faut des preuves.  »  «  Le président était hanté par l’Irak et ne voulait pas entrer  en  guerre  sur  la  base  de  simples  suspicions» ,  témoigne   Gordon. Mais les preuves sont là. Les obus au gaz sarin tirés par le camp loyaliste ont tué environ 1  400  personnes, dont beaucoup d’enfants, selon une note de  la CIA dont chacun, dans la pièce, a reçu une copie.  Plus  contraignantes  que  les  preuves,  les  images.   Atroces, elles ont fait le tour du monde. Ce père qui  tient sa fillette morte dans les bras et qui l’interpelle,  lui, le président des Etats-Unis  :  «  Je vous en prie  ! Ce  ne sont que des enfants  ! Ils n’ont encore rien vu de la vie.  Du chimique ! »  Il est contraint de répondre. Un tabou,  depuis la Seconde Guerre mondiale, a été transgressé,  les traités internationaux ont été violés, l’ordre du  monde menacé, l’Amérique défiée.

Devant ses conseillers, il assume sa phrase.  «  Il nous  a dit  : “Quand j’ai parlé d’une ligne rouge, c’est vraiment  ce  que  je  voulais  dire”   »,   se  souvient  Gordon.  Tous  le   poussent à agir, et d’abord les plus proches, les plus réalistes, Gordon, justement, ou l’avisé Antony Blinken, qui lâche  :  «  Une superpuissance ne bluffe pas.  » « La  frappe doit servir d’avertissement à l’Iran, au Hezbollah  ou à la Corée du Nord si un jour ils songeaient à recourir  à des armes de destruction massive  » , déclare pour sa part  Kerry. Ils lui présentent les différentes options. Le général Flynn, alors chef du renseignement militaire, a  participé à la sélection des cibles  : aéroports, centres  de commandement, bases militaires, dépôts d’armes.  «  Cela aurait été dévastateur et aurait considérablement  atténué la capacité du régime à frapper des non-combattants »,   nous  déclare-t-il.  Autour  de  la  table,  Martin   Dempsey, chef d’état-major, fait savoir  :  «  On a le doigt  sur la détente.  »  Faut-il une journée de frappes ou plusieurs  ? Les militaires prônent plusieurs jours d’intervention.  Il  suit  leur  avis.  Des  frappes  aériennes  en   Syrie seront déclenchées le lendemain dans la nuit, à  3  heures GMT. La réunion s’achève : les derniers choix  militaires  sont  arrêtés.  Les  conseillers  quittent  les   lieux. Remarquent-ils qu’il n’a pas donné d’ordre, qu’il  n’a pas dit  « allez-y »  et n’a pas encore signé d’ordre  ? Il  a laissé la décision se prendre toute seule, portée par  sa propre logique, se contentant de suivre l’avis géné ral. Il n’a rien dit des doutes qui l’assaillent.

Tout le pousse à intervenir… Mais… Le Parlement  britannique  a  mis  son  veto  la  veille.  C’est  une  première alerte. Et si le régime s’effondrait à la suite des  frappes  ? L’Amérique deviendrait responsable du chaos  qui pourrait en résulter, après l’Irak, après la Libye. Il  a entre les mains des rapports indiquant que le régime  syrien est plus fébrile que jamais. Des officiers expédient leurs familles hors de Damas. Les opposants se  disent prêts à fondre sur la capitale si le pouvoir, déjà  affaibli, flanchait. Quelle est l’alternative politique au  régime  ? Depuis plusieurs jours, les partisans du soutien à la rébellion ne ménagent pas leurs efforts pour  le rallier à leurs vues, comme Robert Ford, ex-ambassadeur américain à Damas  :  «  Au sein de l’administration,  certains  craignaient  que  les  djihadistes  prennent  le   pouvoir à Damas. Je n’y croyais pas. Les modérés étaient,  à ce moment-là, les plus forts  »,  explique-t-il. Quelques  jours plus tôt, il a rencontré Obama pour le persuader que  «  frapper convaincra le régime de négocier vraiment  à  Genève   ».   Ford  a  l’impression  d’avoir  réussi…   Gordon,  lui  aussi,  s’est  voulu  rassurant   :   « Quelques  jours de frappes ne suffiront pas à décapiter un régime qui  s’accroche au pouvoir.  »  Mais comment en être sûr  ?

L’agenda se rappelle à Barack Obama. Il converse  pendant trois quarts d’heure avec son plus proche allié,  le  Français  François  Hollande,  dont  les  Rafale   chargent leurs missiles de croisière Scalp. Il l’assure  que rien n’est changé. L’après-midi s’achève. Son emploi du temps lui laisse enfin un répit. Il n’aime guère  les  choix  tranchés,  préférant  le  consensus.  Mais  la   machine est lancée. Il est président, il peut encore faire marche arrière, mais il faut aller vite  et, cette fois, se décider.  «  J’ai dit  : “Pause. On réfléchit.  J’ai voulu m’extraire des pressions”  »,  confiera-t-il en 2016  au  journaliste  Jeffrey  Goldberg.  Il  a  besoin  de  marcher pour avoir les idées claires. Il propose à un homme  de confiance d’aller se promener dans le jardin de la  Maison-Blanche. Cet homme, c’est son chef de l’ad ministration, Denis McDonough  : ni un militaire ni  un diplomate, mais son collaborateur le plus loyal.  Pendant une heure, il lui livre ses doutes. Tout cela  est trop incertain. Ne va-t-il pas engager son pays dans  une nouvelle guerre alors qu’il a été élu pour se dé sengager de conflits coûteux  ? Et puis, cela ne risque- t-il pas de mettre en péril son grand œuvre, l’accord  nucléaire avec l’Iran  ? Trop de risques. Il teste une idée  auprès de McDonough  : demander une autorisation  préalable au Congrès. Une manière de reculer, car chacun sait qu’un soutien du Congrès est plus qu’incertain. McDonough approuve la prudence de son boss.

En  début  de  soirée,  il  convoque  à  nouveau  ses   conseillers dans son bureau. L’ambiance est décontractée. Il leur annonce la nouvelle. Ils n’en reviennent  pas. Ils insistent  :  «  Ce sera dévastateur pour votre autorité politique »,  le préviennent-ils. Il tient bon. Gordon  nous avoue avoir été estomaqué. Devant lui, Obama  raisonne en politique  :  «  Si ça ne dissuade pas Assad de  recommencer, si des inspecteurs de l’Onu sont pris comme  boucliers humains, si on perd un pilote, j’aurai l’opinion,  le Congrès sur le dos. On me reprochera tout et son contraire,  d’être intervenu, de ne pas être intervenu plus fortement,  de ne pas être intervenu plus légèrement.  »  Gordon se souvient  d’un  autre  argument  du  président   :  le  risque   d’engrenage.  Si  Assad  ou  ses  parrains  russes  et  iraniens  décidaient  d’une  nouvelle  attaque  chimique   «  trois semaines plus tard  »,  alors  «  on devrait frapper de nouveau, et plus fort, et ainsi de suite  ».  Il ne serait plus  maître du processus, craint-il, alors qu’Assad le serait.  Cela, cet homme qui veut tout contrôler ne peut l’accepter. Et rien n’est moins contrôlable qu’une guerre.

Il a désormais quelques annonces délicates à faire.  Il prévient Kerry, qui est furieux.  «  L’Histoire nous jugera  avec une sévérité extrême  »,  lâche ce dernier à ses collaborateurs et à certains de ses homologues étrangers.  Le lendemain, à 18 heures, quelques heures avant l’attaque, il contacte aussi Hollande, qui tombe de haut.  Présent, Laurent Fabius, ministre des Affaires étrangères, nous résume le contenu de la conversation  :  « Il  nous a dit  : c’est plus difficile que prévu, il faut que je consulte…  Bref, plus de ligne rouge. Il n’était pas question pour la  France d’agir seule. Le château de cartes s’est effondré.  » Puis, dans la fournaise d’une fin de journée d’été,  sur le perron de la Maison-Blanche, Barack Obama  tient une conférence de presse  : « J’ai décidé d’intervenir,  proclame-t-il, avant d’ajouter  :  mais je demanderai que cet usage de la force soit approuvé par le Congrès.  »  Il s’est donné du temps. C’est fini. Il vient de changer l’ordre du monde sans pouvoir, à cet instant, le  deviner.  Certains  comprennent  en  revanche  que  rien ne sera plus comme avant.

Sur les hauteurs de Damas, Bachar el-Assad comprend qu’il n’a plus rien à craindre des Occidentaux.  Il se paiera même le luxe d’utiliser de nouveau des  armes  chimiques  deux  ans  plus  tard.  L’opposition   «  modérée  », autour de l’Armée syrienne libre, sent  que l’Occident l’abandonne. Les djihadistes, mieux  armés, recrutent les déçus et montent en puissance,  scellant le piège qui permettra au président syrien de se présenter comme rempart contre le chaos.

Au Kremlin, Vladimir Poutine se jette sur l’occasion. Aux Américains il offre de convaincre El-Assad  de  détruire  ses  armes  chimiques  contre  l’abandon  de tout projet d’intervention. Comment refuser, après  avoir reculé le 30 août  ? La Russie prend la main en  Syrie.  Plus  tard,  Poutine  estimera  ne  rien  redouter  du  président  américain  et  envahira  la  Crimée.  Les   Républicains et un certain Donald Trump, admirateur  de  Poutine,  ne  cesseront  de  dénoncer  ce  nouveau  Munich  et  ce  président  qui  a  affaibli  une   Amérique qu’il faudrait rendre  « great  again ».

Il ne lui reste que des questions sans réponses. Que  se serait-il passé s’il avait frappé  ? Ce 30 août 2013 est-il  le jour où Obama a mis fin au règne des Etats-Unis  comme seule superpuissance mondiale  ? Le jour où  le  camp  des  démocraties  a  dû  renoncer  à  se  battre  pour ses valeurs  ? A-t-il été trop raisonnable dans une  période troublée où un homme d’Etat ne devrait pas  l’être  ? Ou bien est-ce le jour où lui, un sage président,  a évité au Moyen-Orient de vivre un chaos supplémentaire et à l’Amérique de s’y trouver empêtrée  ?

* Ecrivain, documentariste, a réalisé «  Bachar, moi ou le chaos. »


Baisse de la natalité: Pourquoi il faut voter Fillon (After France, America faces unexpected baby bust)

1 avril, 2017
 
millennials living at home4Fertility Rate

The western world is going out of business because it’s given up having babies. The 20th century welfare state, with its hitherto unknown concepts such as spending a third of your adult lifetime in « retirement », is premised on the basis that there will be enough new citizens to support the old. But there won’t be. Lazy critics of my thesis thought that I was making a « prediction », and that my predictions were no more reliable than Al Gore’s or Michael Mann’s on the looming eco-apocalypse. I tried to explain that it’s not really a prediction at all: When it comes to forecasting the future, the birthrate is the nearest thing to hard numbers. If only a million babies are born in 2006, it’s hard to have two million adults enter the workforce in 2026 (or 2033, or 2037, or whenever they get around to finishing their Anger Management and Queer Studies degrees). And the hard data on babies around the Western world is that they’re running out a lot faster than the oil is. « Replacement » fertility rate–i.e., the number you need for merely a stable population, not getting any bigger, not getting any smaller–is 2.1 babies per woman. Some countries are well above that: the global fertility leader, Somalia, is 6.91, Niger 6.83, Afghanistan 6.78, Yemen 6.75. Notice what those nations have in common? Scroll way down to the bottom of the Hot One Hundred top breeders and you’ll eventually find the United States, hovering just at replacement rate with 2.07 births per woman. Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76. But Canada’s fertility rate is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That’s to say, Spain’s population is halving every generation. By 2050, Italy’s population will have fallen by 22%. (…) Enter Islam, which sportingly volunteered to be the children we couldn’t be bothered having ourselves, and which kind offer was somewhat carelessly taken up by the post-Christian west. As I wrote a decade ago: The design flaw of the secular social-democratic state is that it requires a religious-society birthrate to sustain it. Post-Christian hyperrationalism is, in the objective sense, a lot less rational than Catholicism or Mormonism. Indeed, in its reliance on immigration to ensure its future, the European Union has adopted a 21st-century variation on the strategy of the Shakers, who were forbidden from reproducing and thus could increase their numbers only by conversion. That didn’t work out too great for the Shakers, but the Europeans figured it would be a piece of cake for them: « westernization » is so seductive, so appealing that, notwithstanding the occasional frothing imam and burka-bagged crone, their young Muslims would fall for the siren song of secular progressivism just like they themselves had. So, as long as you kept the immigrants coming, there would be no problem – as long as you oomphed up the scale of the solution. As I put it: To avoid collapse, European nations will need to take in immigrants at a rate no stable society has ever attempted. Last year, Angela Merkel decided to attempt it. The German Chancellor cut to the chase and imported in twelve months 1.1 million Muslim « refugees ». That doesn’t sound an awful lot out of 80 million Germans, but, in fact, the 1.1 million Muslim are overwhelmingly (80 per cent plus) fit, virile, young men. Germany has fewer than ten million people in the same population cohort, among whom Muslims are already over-represented: the median age of Germans as a whole is 46, the median age of German Muslims is 34. But let’s keep the numbers simple, and assume that of those ten million young Germans half of them are ethnic German males. Frau Merkel is still planning to bring in another million « refugees » this year. So by the end of 2016 she will have imported a population equivalent to 40 per cent of Germany’s existing young male cohort. The future is here now: It’s not about « predictions ». On standard patterns of « family reunification », these two million « refugees » will eventually bring another four or five persons each from their native lands – or another eight-to-ten million. In the meantime, they have the needs of all young lads, and no one around to gratify them except the local womenfolk. Hence, New Year’s Eve in Cologne, and across the southern border the Vienna police chief warning women not to go out unaccompanied, and across the northern border: Danish nightclubs demand guests have to speak Danish, English or German to be allowed in after ‘foreign men in groups’ attack female revellers But don’t worry, it won’t be a problem for long: On the German and Swedish « migrant » numbers, there won’t be a lot of « female revelry » in Europe’s future. The formerly firebreathing feminists at The Guardian and the BBC are already falling as mute as battered wives – saying nothing, looking away, making excuses, clutching at rationalizations… (…)  A few weeks before The Wall Street Journal published my piece, I discussed its themes at an event in New York whose speakers included Douglas Murray. Douglas was more optimistic: He suggested that Muslim populations in Europe were still small, and immigration policy could be changed: Easier said than done. My essay and book were so influential that in the decade since, the rate of Islamization in the west has increased – via all three principal methods: Muslim immigration, Muslim birthrates of those already here, Muslim conversion of the infidels. David Goldman thinks aging, childless Germany has embraced civilizational suicide as redemption for their blood-soaked sins. Maybe. But it is less clear why the Continent’s less tainted polities – impeccably « neutral » Sweden, for example – are so eager to join them. (…) Somewhere, deep down, the European political class understands that the Great Migrations have accelerated the future I outlined way back when (…) It’s the biggest story of our time, and, ten years on, Europe’s leaders still can’t talk about it, not to their own peoples, not honestly. For all the « human rights » complaints, and death threats from halfwits, and subtler rejections from old friends who feel I’m no longer quite respectable, I’m glad I brought it up. And it’s well past time for others to speak out. Mark Steyn
For over a century, social scientists have predicted declines in religious beliefs and their replacement with more scientific/naturalistic outlooks, a prediction known as the secularization hypothesis. However, skepticism surrounding this hypothesis has been expressed by some researchers in recent decades. After reviewing the pertinent evidence and arguments, we examined some aspects of the secularization hypothesis from what is termed a biologically informed perspective. Based on large samples of college students in Malaysia and the USA, religiosity, religious affiliation, and parental fertility were measured using self-reports. Three religiosity indicators were factor analyzed, resulting in an index for religiosity. Results reveal that average parental fertility varied considerably according to religious groups, with Muslims being the most religious and the most fertile and Jews and Buddhists being the least. Within most religious groupings, religiosity was positively associated with parental fertility. While cross-sectional in nature, when our results are combined with evidence that both religiosity and fertility are substantially heritable traits, findings are consistent with view that earlier trends toward secularization (due to science education surrounding advancements in science) are currently being counter-balanced by genetic and reproductive forces. We also propose that the inverse association between intelligence and religiosity, and the inverse correlation between intelligence and fertility lead to predictions of a decline in secularism in the foreseeable future. A contra-secularization hypothesis is proposed and defended in the discussion. It states that secularism is likely to undergo a decline throughout the remainder of the twenty-first century, including Europe and other industrial societies.’ Lee Ellis, Anthony W. Hoskin, Edward Dutton and Helmuth Nyborg
Secularization is not likely to replace the popularity of religions. ‘Instead, over the long term, we predict that the most religious ‘shall inherit the earth,’ so to speak’. ‘This is especially so for the most fertile religious groups – Islam’. Lee Ellis, Anthony W. Hoskin, Edward Dutton and Helmuth Nyborg
En 100 ans à peine, les pays musulmans ont reproduit la multiplication par dix que l’Europe a réalisée entre 1500 et 1900. Au cours du dernier siècle, la population musulmane a grimpé en flèche de 140 millions à 1.4 milliard. Si l’Europe était parvenue à la multiplication par quatre observée aux États-unis (de 75 millions à 300 millions entre 1900 et 2006), les 1.6 milliards d’habitants de son continent auraient fait paraître bien chétives la Chine de 1.3 milliards et l’Inde de 1.1 milliards. Cependant, la part de l’Europe dans la population mondiale des hommes en âge de combattre, qui était de 27% en 1914, est aujourd’hui, avec 9%, inférieure aux 11% de 1500. Ainsi, les nouveaux habits du « pacifisme européen » et du « soft power » sont les cache-sexe de son impuissance. Gunnar Heinsohn
Depuis plusieurs années, l’Unaf met en avant les atteintes à la politique familiale. Et ce, dans une réflexion transpartisane. « La baisse du quotient familial et la réduction du congé parental depuis le 1er janvier 2015 » sont les principales mesures dénoncées. « Les familles s’interrogent. La confiance est perdue », poursuit Marie-Andrée Blanc en brandissant un chiffre clé : d’après une enquête de 2013, le désir d’enfant des Français est de 2,37 enfants par famille. Il est donc bien plus important que le nombre effectif d’enfants. Cet écart peut s’expliquer par la situation économique des ménages en temps de crise. Avoir plusieurs enfants demande généralement une stabilité concernant le logement, l’emploi, les revenus. Le pouvoir d’achat des familles n’étant pas extensible, le choix d’une deuxième naissance serait de moins en moins évident. « C’est inquiétant car un pays avec des enfants est un pays qui consomme et finance ses retraites. » L’argument économique est également validé par le démographe. Même s’il le nuance légèrement. « On sait qu’en période de croissance du chômage, il y a moins de naissances, note Laurent Toulemon. Mais je ne crois pas que l’affaiblissement de la politique familiale puisse avoir un impact. On n’a pas encore de données précises. » Le chercheur pense notamment à la récente restriction d’allocations pour les familles aisées (+ de 6.000 euros de revenus). Il valide en revanche une autre piste liée à la baisse du nombre de mariages depuis 1970. «Les couples mariés ont plus d’enfants que les autres. Et quand les couples mariés font peu d’enfants, la fécondité baisse.» Enfin à moyen terme, le déficit de naissances peut s’expliquer par la baisse du nombre de couples en âge d’avoir des enfants. La deuxième vague du baby-boom ayant déjà eu des enfants, il faudra peut-être attendre que la troisième génération se fasse appeler papa et maman. 20 minutes
I fail to see why any economist should be surprised by this. A record number of millennials are living at home. Unless the millennials… Shed student debt Move out on their own Get a job that supports raising a family No longer have to take care of their aging parents Have a significant change in attitudes about homes, families, debt, and mobility …. economists will still be wondering “what happened” years from now. Zero edge
Attention: une chute peut en cacher une autre !
Crise économique, explosion des déficits publics et de la dette privée, multiplication des Tanguy, banalisation du divorce, de l’avortement et du mariage homosexuel, dévalorisation des mâles et de la religion …
Et après, les mêmes causes produisant les mêmes effets, celle de la France il y a un an …
Chute record et inattendue de la natalité aux Etats-Unis six mois après !

Baisse de la natalité: Pourquoi les Français font moins d’enfants

POPULATION La France a enregistré 19.000 naissances de moins en 2015 qu’en 2014…

20 minutes

21.01.2016

Moins de biberons ou de tétées en pleine nuit, moins de couches, mais aussi moins de premiers sourires et de dents qui poussent. C’est d’une certaine manière le bilan comptable des familles françaises l’année dernière puisque celles-ci ont fait 19.000 enfants de moins qu’en 2014. Les derniers chiffres publiés par l’Insee révèlent une baisse de la natalité de 2,3 %, ce qui porte le nombre de naissances à son plus bas niveau depuis 10 ans.

La chute est conséquente, mais n’a rien d’alarmant selon Laurent Toulemon, démographe spécialiste de la fécondité. « On revient autour de 800.000 naissances par an. Ce sont des niveaux moyens sur 40 ans. En fait, il y a eu une fécondité très élevée entre 2006 et 2014. Ça relativise un peu la baisse. » Par ailleurs, avec un taux de 1,96 enfants par femme, la France fait toujours figure de bonne élève face à ses voisins européens qui tournent autour d’1,5.

Baisse du quotient familial et réduction du congé parental

Pas de quoi s’affoler, donc, mais il ne faudrait pas que la chute se poursuive dans les années à venir. « On doit garder ce taux de fécondité, c’est indicateur du bien-être des familles » prévient Marie-Andrée Blanc, la présidente de l’Union nationale des Associations Familiales (Unaf), associations apolitique et aconfessionnel représentant les 18 millions de familles sur le territoire français.

Pour elle, ce tassement de la natalité n’est pas surprenant. Depuis plusieurs années, l’Unaf met en avant les atteintes à la politique familiale. Et ce, dans une réflexion transpartisane. « La baisse du quotient familial et la réduction du congé parental depuis le 1er janvier 2015 » sont les principales mesures dénoncées. « Les familles s’interrogent. La confiance est perdue », poursuit Marie-Andrée Blanc en brandissant un chiffre clé : d’après une enquête de 2013, le désir d’enfant des Français est de 2,37 enfants par famille. Il est donc bien plus important que le nombre effectif d’enfants.

Le chômage responsable ?

Cet écart peut s’expliquer par la situation économique des ménages en temps de crise. Avoir plusieurs enfants demande généralement une stabilité concernant le logement, l’emploi, les revenus. Le pouvoir d’achat des familles n’étant pas extensible, le choix d’une deuxième naissance serait de moins en moins évident. « C’est inquiétant car un pays avec des enfants est un pays qui consomme et finance ses retraites. »

L’argument économique est également validé par le démographe. Même s’il le nuance légèrement. « On sait qu’en période de croissance du chômage, il y a moins de naissances, note Laurent Toulemon. Mais je ne crois pas que l’affaiblissement de la politique familiale puisse avoir un impact. On n’a pas encore de données précises. » Le chercheur pense notamment à la récente restriction d’allocations pour les familles aisées (+ de 6.000 euros de revenus).

En attente de la 3e vague du baby-boom

Il valide en revanche une autre piste liée à la baisse du nombre de mariages depuis 1970. «Les couples mariés ont plus d’enfants que les autres. Et quand les couples mariés font peu d’enfants, la fécondité baisse.» Enfin à moyen terme, le déficit de naissances peut s’expliquer par la baisse du nombre de couples en âge d’avoir des enfants. La deuxième vague du baby-boom ayant déjà eu des enfants, il faudra peut-être attendre que la troisième génération se fasse appeler papa et maman.

Natalité/fécondité: La natalité est l’étude du nombre de naissances au sein d’une population. Il ne faut pas la confondre avec la fécondité qui est l’étude du nombre des naissances par femme en âge de procréer.

Voir aussi:

Baby Bust: US Fertility Rate Unexpectedly Drops To Lowest On Record

Submitted by Michael Shedlock via MishTalk.com,

Economists figured the recovery would bring about increased confidence and a rise in the birth rate.

Instead, the rate dropped into a tie with the lowest birth rate on record.

This is yet another surprise for economists to ponder.

Please consider the Wall Street Journal report Behind the Ongoing U.S. Baby Bust.

The newest official tally  from the National Center for Health Statistics showed an unexpected drop in the number of babies born in the U.S. in 2015. The report was a surprise: Demographers had generally expected the number of births to rise in 2015, as it had in 2014. Instead, the U.S. appears to still be stuck in something of an ongoing “baby bust” that started with the recession and housing collapse and has yet to reverse.

The Wall Street Journal concludes “There’s still good reason to believe the birth rate will pick up in coming years. After slumping for nearly a decade into the 1970s, births picked up in the 1980s and 1990s (giving us the generation known as millennials.) The most common age in America is 24 or 25, meaning there’s a very large cohort of these millennials who are about to hit the years that people are most likely to become parents.”

No Mystery

I fail to see why any economist should be surprised by this. A record number of millennials are living at home.

This is simply too obvious. So I have two questions:

  1. Do economists read anything or do they just believe in their models?
  2. If they do read, how come they cannot grasp simple, easy to understand ideas?

Economists who could not figure any of this out now place their faith in the fact “a very large cohort of these millennials who are about to hit the years that people are most likely to become parents.

Mish’s Alternate View

Unless the millennials…

  1. Shed student debt
  2. Move out on their own
  3. Get a job that supports raising a family
  4. No longer have to take care of their aging parents
  5. Have a significant change in attitudes about homes, families, debt, and mobility ….

…economists will still be wondering “what happened” years from now.

Voir également:

Voir par ailleurs:

Mormons more likely to marry, have more children than other U.S. religious groups

The share of Americans who identify as Mormons has roughly held steady even as the percentage of Christians in the U.S. has declined dramatically in recent years, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study. And the study found Mormons stand out in other ways: They have higher fertility rates and are far more likely than members of most other major religious traditions to be married – especially to other Mormons.

Mormons made up 1.6% of the American adult population in 2014, little changed from 2007 (1.7%), the last time a similar survey was conducted. By contrast, the percentage of Christians in the U.S. has dropped from 78.4% to 70.6% during the same time period.

Two-thirds (66%) of U.S. Mormon adults are currently married, down slightly from 71% in 2007 – but still high compared with current rates among Christians overall (52%) and U.S. adults overall (48%). (Marriage rates are lower across the board than they were several years ago.) 

Compared with many other religious groups, Mormons who are married are especially likely to have spouses who share their faith. Eight-in-ten Mormons who are married or living with a partner (82%) have a Mormon spouse or partner; among religious traditions, only Hindus have a higher rate of “in-marriage” (91%).

Mormons also tend to have more children than other groups. Mormons ages 40-59 have had an average of 3.4 children in their lifetime, well above the comparable figure for all Americans in that age range (2.1) and higher than any other religious group. Overall, Mormon adults have an average of 1.1 children currently living at home, nearly double the national average (0.6).

These findings line up with U.S. Mormons’ priorities as expressed in a 2011 Pew Research survey of the group. In that survey, 73% of U.S. Mormons said that having a successful marriage is “one of the most important things in life,” and 81% said the same about being a good parent. Among the general public, half or fewer call each of these life goals “one of the most important things in life.”

Some other findings about U.S. Mormons from the 2014 study include:

  • Most adults who were raised as Mormons still identify as Mormons today (64%), a retention rate roughly on par with that of evangelical Protestants (65%) and slightly above that of Catholics (59%). Among those who were raised as Mormons but have left the church, most are now religiously unaffiliated (21% of all those who were raised Mormon).
  • About as many people have joined the Mormon faith after being raised in another religious tradition (0.5% of U.S. adults) as have left the church after being raised Mormon (0.6%).
  • While the U.S. population has become more racially and ethnically diverse in recent years, the racial and ethnic composition of Mormons has not changed much; Mormons remain overwhelmingly white. Mormons were 14% non-white in 2007 and 15% non-white in 2014; Christians overall were 29% non-white in 2007 and 34% non-white in 2014.
  • Utah still has by far the biggest share of Mormon residents of any state (55%), a percentage that has changed little in recent years.

Présidence Trump: Attention un président peut en cacher un autre (The Ronald was once a Donald too)

12 mars, 2017

Governor Reagan does not dye his hair. He is just turning prematurely orange. Gerald Ford (Gridiron Dinner, 1974)
Au cours de ces 100 premiers jours, qu’est-ce qui vous a le plus surpris sur la présidence ? Qu’est-ce qui vous a le plus enchanté ? Vous a ramené à la réalité ? Et vous a le plus inquiété ? Jeff Zeleney
Vous avez accumulé beaucoup de victoires au cours des dernières semaines que beaucoup de gens pensaient difficiles. Êtes-vous prêt à vous appeler le  »comeback kid’ ? Carry Bohan
You racked up a lot of wins in the last few weeks that a lot of people thought would be difficult to come by. Are you ready to call yourself the ‘comeback kid’ ? Carry Bohan
During these first 100 days, what has surprised you the most about this office? Enchanted you the most from serving in this office? Humbled you the most? And troubled you the most? Jeff Zeleney (the New York Times)
Ronald Reagan has absolutely confounded prediction… Today, at the age of 77, he relinquishes the office so many people thought he never could get, being, it was said eight years ago, too old, too ideological, too conservative, too poorly informed, too politically marginal — in short, too out of it. But there he is, going out in a rare end-of-the-term surge of good feeling, his critics — on key issues, we are emphatically among them — still at a loss as to how to assess and finally even understand this man. The Washington Post (1989)
With a year left in the Gipper’s administration, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote that the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker scandal signaled “the end of the Age of Reagan” and his time in Washington was marked by “more disgraces than can fit in a nursery rhyme. (…) Before he went to Washington, and after he left Washington, the dominant culture loathed Ronald Reagan, had always loathed Reagan, would always loathe Reagan, and spent many an hour trying to tear him down. Simply understood, Ronald Reagan had made a lifetime of challenging conventional wisdom. Even in the hours after his death, they attacked and criticized him, even taking time to lambaste his movie career, which had ended exactly fifty years earlier in 1964. Craig Shirley
There are a lot of people who have a lot of reason to be fearful of him, mad at him. But that was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics, period. And he did something extraordinary, and for people who have been hoping that he would become unifying, hoping that he might find some way to become presidential, they should be happy with that moment. For people who have been hoping that he would remain a divisive cartoon, which he often does, they should be a little worried tonight. That thing you just saw him do, if he finds way to do that over and over again, he’ll be there eight years. There was a lot he said in that speech that was counter-factual, not true, not right, and I oppose and will oppose, but he did something you can’t take away from him, he became president of the United States. Van Jones
Clashes among staff are common in the opening days of every administration, but they have seldom been so public and so pronounced this early. “This is a president who came to Washington vowing to shake up the establishment, and this is what it looks like. It’s going to be a little sloppy, there are going to be conflicts,” said Ari Fleischer, President George W. Bush’s first press secretary. All this is happening as Mr. Trump, a man of flexible ideology but fixed habits, adjusts to a new job, life and city. Cloistered in the White House, he now has little access to his fans and supporters — an important source of feedback and validation — and feels increasingly pinched by the pressures of the job and the constant presence of protests, one of the reasons he was forced to scrap a planned trip to Milwaukee last week. NYT
The media suffer the lowest approval numbers in nearly a half-century. In a recent Emerson College poll, 49 percent of American voters termed the Trump administration “truthful”; yet only 39 percent believed the same about the news media. Every president needs media audit. The role of journalists in a free society is to act as disinterested censors of government power—neither going on witch-hunts against political opponents nor deifying ideological fellow-travelers. Sadly, the contemporary mainstream media—the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN), the traditional blue-chip newspapers (Washington Post, New York Times), and the public affiliates (NPR, PBS)—have lost credibility. They are no more reliable critics of President Trump’s excesses than they were believable cheerleaders for Barack Obama’s policies. Trump may have a habit of exaggeration and gratuitous feuding that could cause problems with his presidency. But we would never quite know that from the media. In just his first month in office, reporters have already peddled dozens of fake news stories designed to discredit the President—to such a degree that little they now write or say can be taken at face value. No, Trump did not have any plans to invade Mexico, as Buzzfeed and the Associated Press alleged. No, Trump’s father did not run for Mayor of New York by peddling racist television ads, as reported by Sidney Blumenthal. No, there were not mass resignations at the State Department in protest of its new leaders, as was reported by the Washington Post. No, Trump’s attorney did not cut a deal with the Russians in Prague. Nor did Trump indulge in sexual escapades in Moscow. Buzzfeed again peddled those fake news stories. No, a supposedly racist Trump did not remove the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the White House, as a Time Magazine reporter claimed. No, election results in three states were not altered by hackers or computer criminals to give Trump the election, as implied by New York Magazine. No, Michael Flynn did not tweet that he was a scapegoat. That was a media fantasy endorsed by Nancy Pelosi. (…) We would like to believe writers for the New York Times or Washington Post when they warn us about the new president’s overreach. But how can we do so when they have lost all credibility—either by colluding with the Obama presidency and the Hillary Clinton campaign, or by creating false narratives to ensure that Trump fails? (…) There are various explanations for the loss of media credibility. First, the world of New York and Washington DC journalism is incestuous. Reporters share a number of social connections, marriages, and kin relationships with liberal politicians, making independence nearly culturally impossible. More importantly, the election in 2008 of Barack Obama marked a watershed, when a traditionally liberal media abandoned prior pretenses of objectivity and actively promoted the candidacy and presidency of their preferred candidate. The media practically pronounced him god, the smartest man ever to enter the presidency, and capable of creating electric sensations down the legs of reporters. (…)  Obama, as the first African-American president—along with his progressive politics that were to the left of traditional Democratic policies—enraptured reporters who felt disinterested coverage might endanger what otherwise was a rare and perhaps not-to-be-repeated moment. We are now in a media arena where there are no rules. The New York Times is no longer any more credible than talk radio; CNN—whose reporters have compared Trump to Hitler and gleefully joked about his plane crashing—should be no more believed than a blogger’s website. Buzzfeed has become like the National Inquirer. Trump now communicates, often raucously and unfiltered, directly with the American people, to ensure his message is not distorted and massaged by reporters who have a history of doing just that. Unfortunately, it is up to the American people now to audit their own president’s assertions. The problem is not just that the media is often not reliable, but that it is predictably unreliable. It has ceased to exist as an auditor of government. Ironically the media that sacrificed its reputation to glorify Obama and demonize Trump has empowered the new President in a way never quite seen before. At least for now, Trump can say or do almost anything he wishes without media scrutiny—given that reporters have far less credibility than does Trump. Trump is the media’s Nemesis—payback for its own hubris. Victor Davis Hanson
The final irony? The supposedly narcissistic and self-absorbed Trump ran a campaign that addressed in undeniably sincere fashion the dilemmas of a lost hinterland. And he did so after supposedly more moral Republicans had all but written off the rubes as either politically irrelevant or beyond the hope of salvation in a globalized world. How a brutal Manhattan developer, who thrived on self-centered controversy and even scandal, proved singularly empathetic to millions of the forgotten is apparently still not fully understood. Victor Davis Hanson
In its most recent attack on Donald Trump and his supporters by the Wall Street Journal editorial page, one of its leading columnists, Peggy Noonan, asserted that Trump supporters are historically inaccurate in comparing Trump to the late President. She described Trump-Reagan comparisons as “desperate” and those who draw them as “idiots” and historical “illiterates.” She questions the level of competence of Trump but ignores that Reagan was also regarded as grossly incompetent — by media and GOP establishment hard-losers and spoilers, not Republican voters —and especially dangerous in foreign policy, which, presumably, only elites can understand foreign. Reagan was depicted as some sort of cowboy B-rated-film-star yahoo and loose cannon by the “chattering class” of 1980, one who might be tolerable as a governor, but who was definitely not sophisticated enough to comprehend let alone conduct foreign policy. Peggy Noonan relates in her column an adoring revisionist depiction of Ronald Reagan, as he has come to be appreciated today in the retrospective light of history. The Ronald Reagan she summons to make her case, however, is far from the Ronald Reagan of historical accuracy. The Ronald Reagan of the 1970s and 1980s was derided as inept and a potential disaster by status quo apologists, much as Donald Trump is being mocked today. (…) Like Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan was an entrepreneur – an aspiring broadcast sports reporter and film actor. He had to face the brutal competition of Hollywood, a place in which most aspirants to stardom failed. He started by himself, by selling his brand, just as Donald Trump started building hotels and golf courses by himself, also selling his brand (and did not squander his money, as young people from means often do, but multiplied it a thousand fold – and more — making the correct plans and decisions in difficult situations, and plain hard work). Reagan had to sell himself as a labor union leader, too – to character actors and extras in the movie industry, not just stars. He was not involved with any governmental entity early in his career. Later, he worked for General Electric, one of the largest capitalist success stories in the U.S. at the time. Before he became governor of California, he was a man of business in the entertainment industry, climbing up the ladder of success in radio, movies, and television completely on his own. Ronald Reagan believed in free market capitalism and would have been deeply impressed, I believe, by the business accomplishments and acumen of Donald Trump. Ronald Reagan knew the core greatness of the U.S. lies not in government and the wisdom of professional politicians but in that very private sector in which Donald Trump has thrived and achieved an extraordinary level of success. Donald Trump’s children, obviously well brought up, appear to be following in his footsteps. (…) Ronald Reagan knew the sting of being called a “light weight” movie star, a graduate of rural Midwestern Eureka College which no one among the elite had ever heard of. And doubtless ad hominem attacks detracted from, and damaged in some respects, his core message of more limited government and defeat of the Soviet empire. But he persisted despite the snide heckling of the arrogant establishment of the time, and he communicated his message honestly and directly – and, turns out, successfully — to the American people, thereby, accomplishing much good for the nation. Yes, and he also gave wings to a powerful political force, conservatism, which today, I suggest, finds its relevant fresh champion, however odd and imperfect the fit might seem at times, in the likes of a populist New York billionaire businessman who has a propensity to communicate his message of a better life and more secure future for Americans, directly and honestly, and with conviction, to the American body politic. Ronald Reagan as President of the United States? NEVER, they said. But the people voted, the nation spoke, and so, they were wrong. Today, despite differences over style and some issues, one thing we can all agree on: Hillary Clinton is no Ronald Reagan.  Ambassador Faith Whittlesey
Trump is a unique figure in American political history, but the nature of his singularity is not necessarily appreciated. He appalls people on both ends of the spectrum because his behavior and statements are not what we expect from our political leaders. His vulgarity, lack of impulse control, and willingness to ignore the truth and to spew abuse at anyone who criticizes him are — in the context of normative conduct among our power elites, let alone polite society — abnormal. His stubborn refusal to conform to conventional ideas about how leaders should behave still shocks those who consider themselves the gatekeepers of American politics. It isn’t so much that Trump is wrong on the issues in the eyes of those gatekeepers; it’s that they think his behavior makes him unfit for the presidency. While we give lip service to the notion that class distinctions shouldn’t matter, what is truly galling about Trump is that he won’t bow to the expectations of the powerful; instead, he has refused to assimilate into their culture. When they suggest that democracy is failing or accuse of Trump of being authoritarian or even anti-Semitic, what they are really doing is voicing dismay at the way he breaks the rules they hold sacred. What they are not doing is credibly asserting that he is a threat. But Trump’s refusal to live by the behavioral rules of our governing class heightens his appeal to many Americans who are sick of conventional politicians and the culture that produced them. He is a living, breathing rebuke to the deadening hand of political correctness that has gained such a grip on public discourse for just about everyone except Donald Trump. (…) Trump didn’t come to politics through the usual paths of law school, issues advocacy, or low-level political involvement, during the course of which standard-issue politicians learn how to behave in the manner we expect from members of the governing and chattering classes. He comes from great wealth and attended elite institutions, but he is the product of outer-borough New York, with its chip-on-the-shoulder sensibility, and the rough-and-tumble of the real-estate business. He spent the decades before his presidential campaign running a high-stakes business that placed him in the unorthodox worlds of the gaming industry and entertainment, not the corridors of political power. His niche was in celebrity culture, where people who more or less own permanent space in the gossip pages of New York tabloids, as Trump did throughout much of his adult life, might mix with those who run the country and sometimes donate to their campaigns but are not considered their peers. It might seem odd to claim that a billionaire who lived in a gold-plated Fifth Avenue penthouse has more in common with blue-collar Americans than with the country’s elites. But this is exactly the way Trump is perceived; it is also the way he acts. Despite the vituperation against his immigration policies or the effort to inflate alleged Russian connections into a new Watergate, it is this class factor that is at the heart of anti-Trump sentiment. If you are a member of our educated professional classes, Trump’s manners and statements appall you no matter where you stand on the political spectrum. They might also lead you to believe that his refusal to abide by the accepted rules of public discourse constitutes an encouragement of bigots — the tiny number of Americans who dwell in the political fever swamps and think Trump’s intemperate statements echo their own hate. But the belief that Trump is “dog whistling” to hate groups makes his critics largely blind to their own misjudgment: They cannot distinguish between, on one hand, their disgust with his manners and, on the other, policy disagreements with Trump, even though he is advocating either traditional conservative beliefs or populist stands that are likely to generate significant support across the political spectrum. Tuesday’s speech to Congress was not the beginning of the “pivot” that pundits have talked about since he started running for president. Trump will always be Trump in that he will never entirely conform to the cultural norms of the governing class, and its members within the media and the bureaucracy will continue trying to undermine him every chance they get. Yet his performance illustrates that he can also play the Washington game. And he can play it in a manner that could marginalize those who are still convulsed by the mad rage he generates in those who are offended by his conduct. Stories about Trump’s alleged ties to Russia help Democrats keep the national conversation focused on the administration’s illegitimacy. As long as such stories are front and center, Democrats can avoid confronting the source of their anger at him. Yet the shock when he speaks in a way that reassures the country that he can govern — as he did in Congress –unnerves his opponents because it illustrates that he can transcend class differences. And it’s Trump’s non-elite class affiliations that make them think they can eventually cast him out of power without having to appeal to the voters who put him in the White House. Unless the Russia stories become a genuine scandal that undoes his administration, a few more such presidential moments point the way to a Trump presidency that could be more successful than either his liberal or conservative critics could have imagined. Jonathan S. Tobin
Reagan’s and Trump’s opposing styles belie their similarities of substance. Both have marketed the same brand of outrage to the same angry segments of the electorate, faced the same jeering press, attracted some of the same battlefront allies (Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Phyllis Schlafly), offended the same elites (including two generations of Bushes), outmaneuvered similar political adversaries, and espoused the same conservative populism built broadly on the pillars of jingoistic nationalism, nostalgia, contempt for Washington, and racial resentment. They’ve even endured the same wisecracks about their unnatural coiffures. (…) Though Reagan’s 1980 campaign slogan (“Let’s Make America Great Again”) is one word longer than Trump’s, that word reflects a contrast in their personalities — the avuncular versus the autocratic — but not in message. Reagan’s apocalyptic theme, “The Empire is in decline,” is interchangeable with Trump’s, even if the Gipper delivered it with a smile.  (…) Grassroots Republicans, whom Reagan had been courting for years with speeches, radio addresses, and opinion pieces beneath the mainstream media’s radar, were indeed in his camp. But aside from a lone operative (John Sears) (…) “the other major GOP players — especially Easterners and moderates — thought Reagan was a certified yahoo.” (…) Only a single Republican senator, Paul Laxalt of Nevada, signed on to Reagan’s presidential quest from the start, a solitary role that has been played in the Trump campaign by Jeff Sessions of Alabama. What put off Reagan’s fellow Republicans will sound very familiar. He proposed an economic program — 30 percent tax cuts, increased military spending, a balanced budget — whose math was voodoo and then some. He prided himself on not being “a part of the Washington Establishment” and mocked Capitol Hill’s “buddy system” and its collusion with “the forces that have brought us our problems—the Congress, the bureaucracy, the lobbyists, big business, and big labor.” He kept a light campaign schedule, regarded debates as optional, wouldn’t sit still to read briefing books, and often either improvised his speeches or worked off index cards that contained anecdotes and statistics gleaned from Reader’s Digest and the right-wing journal Human Events — sources hardly more elevated or reliable than the television talk shows and tabloids that feed Trump’s erroneous and incendiary pronouncements. Like Trump but unlike most of his (and Trump’s) political rivals, Reagan was accessible to the press and public. His spontaneity in give-and-takes with reporters and voters played well but also gave him plenty of space to disgorge fantasies and factual errors so prolific and often outrageous that he single-handedly made the word gaffe a permanent fixture in America’s political vernacular. He confused Pakistan with Afghanistan. He claimed that trees contributed 93 percent of the atmosphere’s nitrous oxide and that pollution in America was “substantially under control” even as his hometown of Los Angeles was suffocating in smog. He said that the “finest oil geologists in the world” had found that there were more oil reserves in Alaska than Saudi Arabia. He said the federal government spent $3 for each dollar it distributed in welfare benefits, when the actual amount was 12 cents. He also mythologized his own personal history in proto-Trump style. As Garry Wills has pointed out, Reagan referred to himself as one of “the soldiers who came back” when speaking plaintively of his return to civilian life after World War II — even though he had come back only from Culver City, where his wartime duty was making Air Force films at the old Hal Roach Studio. Once in office, he told the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir that he had filmed the liberated Nazi death camps, when in reality he had not seen them, let alone (as he claimed) squirreled away a reel of film as an antidote to potential Holocaust deniers. For his part, Trump has purported that his enrollment at the New York Military Academy, a prep school, amounted to Vietnam-era military service, and has borne historical witness to the urban legend of “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in Jersey City celebrating the 9/11 attacks. Even when these ruses are exposed, Trump follows the Reagan template of doubling down on mistakes rather than conceding them. Nor was Reagan a consistent conservative. He deviated from party orthodoxy to both the left and the right. He had been by his own account a “near hopeless hemophilic liberal” for much of his adult life, having campaigned for Truman in 1948 and for Helen Gahagan Douglas in her senatorial race against Nixon in California in 1950. He didn’t switch his registration to Republican until he was 51. As California governor, he signed one of America’s strongest gun-control laws and its most liberal abortion law (both in 1967). His vocal opposition helped kill California’s 1978 Briggs Initiative, which would have banned openly gay teachers at public schools. As a 1980 presidential candidate, he flip-flopped to endorse bailouts for both New York City and the Chrysler Corporation. Reagan may be revered now as a free-trade absolutist in contrast to Trump, but in that winning campaign he called for halting the “deluge” of Japanese car imports raining down on Detroit. “If Japan keeps on doing everything that it’s doing, what they’re doing, obviously, there’s going to be what you call protectionism,” he said. Republican leaders blasted Reagan as a trigger-happy warmonger. Much as Trump now threatens to downsize NATO and start a trade war with China, so Reagan attacked Ford, the sitting Republican president he ran against in the 1976 primary, and Henry Kissinger for their pursuit of the bipartisan policies of détente and Chinese engagement. The sole benefit of détente, Reagan said, was to give America “the right to sell Pepsi-Cola in Siberia.” For good measure, he stoked an international dispute by vowing to upend a treaty ceding American control over the Panama Canal. “We bought it, we paid for it, it’s ours, and we’re going to keep it!” he bellowed with an America First truculence reminiscent of Trump’s calls for our allies to foot the bill for American military protection. Even his own party’s hawks, like William F. Buckley Jr. and his pal John Wayne, protested. Goldwater, of all people, inveighed against Reagan’s “gross factual errors” and warned he might “take rash action” and “needlessly lead this country into open military conflict.” Trump’s signature cause of immigration was not a hot-button issue during Reagan’s campaigns. In the White House, he signed a bill granting “amnesty” (Reagan used the now politically incorrect word) to 1.7 million undocumented immigrants. But if Reagan was free of Trump’s bigoted nativism, he had his own racially tinged strategy for wooing disaffected white working-class Americans fearful that liberals in government were bestowing favors on freeloading, lawbreaking minorities at their expense. Taking a leaf from George Wallace’s populist campaigns, Reagan scapegoated “welfare chiselers” like the nameless “strapping young buck” he claimed used food stamps to buy steak. His favorite villain was a Chicago “welfare queen” who, in his telling, “had 80 names, 30 addresses, and 12 Social Security cards, and is collecting veterans’ benefits on four nonexistent deceased husbands” to loot the American taxpayer of over $150,000 of “tax-free cash income” a year. Never mind that she was actually charged with using four aliases and had netted $8,000: Reagan continued to hammer in this hyperbolic parable with a vengeance that rivals Trump’s insistence that Mexico will pay for a wall to fend off Hispanic rapists. The Republican elites of Reagan’s day were as blindsided by him as their counterparts have been by Trump. Though Reagan came close to toppling the incumbent president at the contested Kansas City convention in 1976, the Ford forces didn’t realize they could lose until the devil was at the door. A “President Ford Committee” campaign statement had maintained that Reagan could “not defeat any candidate the Democrats put up” because his “constituency is much too narrow, even within the Republican party” and because he lacked “the critical national and international experience that President Ford has gained through 25 years of public service.” In Ford’s memoirs, written after he lost the election to Jimmy Carter, he wrote that he hadn’t taken the Reagan threat seriously because he “didn’t take Reagan seriously.” Reagan, he said, had a “penchant for offering simplistic solutions to hideously complex problems” and a stubborn insistence that he was “always right in every argument.” Even so, a Ford-campaign memo had correctly identified one ominous sign during primary season: a rising turnout of Reagan voters who were “not loyal Republicans or Democrats” and were “alienated from both parties because neither takes a sympathetic view toward their issues.” To these voters, the disdain Reagan drew from the GOP elites was a badge of honor. During the primary campaign, Times columnist William Safire reported with astonishment that Kissinger’s speeches championing Ford and attacking Reagan were helping Reagan, not Ford — a precursor of how attacks by Trump’s Establishment adversaries have backfired 40 years later. Much of the press was slow to catch up, too. A typical liberal-Establishment take on Reagan could be found in Harper’s, which called him Ronald Duck, “the Candidate from Disneyland.” That he had come to be deemed “a serious candidate for president,” the magazine intoned, was “a shame and embarrassment for the country.” But some reporters who tracked Reagan on the campaign trail sensed that many voters didn’t care if he came from Hollywood, if his policies didn’t add up, if his facts were bogus, or if he was condescended to by Republican leaders or pundits. As Elizabeth Drew of The New Yorker observed in 1976, his appeal “has to do not with competence at governing but with the emotion he evokes.” As she put it, “Reagan lets people get out their anger and frustration, their feeling of being misunderstood and mishandled by those who have run our government, their impatience with taxes and with the poor and the weak, their impulse to deal with the world’s troublemakers by employing the stratagem of a punch in the nose.” The power of that appeal was underestimated by his Democratic foes in 1980 even though Carter, too, had run as a populist and attracted some Wallace voters when beating Ford in 1976.  (…) Voters wanted to “follow some authority figure,” he theorized — a “leader who can take charge with authority; return a sense of discipline to our government; and, manifest the willpower needed to get this country back on track.” Or at least a leader from outside Washington, like Reagan and now Trump, who projects that image (“You’re fired!”) whether he has the ability to deliver on it or not. (…) Were Trump to gain entry to the White House, it’s impossible to say whether he would or could follow Reagan’s example and function within the political norms of Washington. His burlesque efforts to appear “presidential” are intended to make that case: His constant promise to practice “the art of the deal” echoes Reagan’s campaign boast of having forged compromises with California’s Democratic legislature while governor. More likely a Trump presidency would be the train wreck largely predicted, an amalgam of the blunderbuss shoot-from-the-hip recklessness of George W. Bush and the randy corruption of Warren Harding, both of whom were easily manipulated by their own top brass. The love child of Hitler and Mussolini Trump is not. He lacks the discipline and zeal to be a successful fascist. The good news for those who look with understandable horror on the prospect of a Trump victory is that the national demographic math is different now from Reagan’s day. The nonwhite electorate, only 12 percent in 1980, was 28 percent in 2012 and could hit 30 percent this year. Few number crunchers buy the Trump camp’s spin that the GOP can reclaim solidly Democratic territory like Pennsylvania and Michigan — states where many white working-class voters, soon to be christened “Reagan Democrats,” crossed over to vote Republican in Reagan’s 1984 landslide. Many of those voters are dead; their epicenter, Macomb County, Michigan, was won by Barack Obama in 2008. Nor is there now the ’70s level of discontent that gave oxygen to Reagan’s insurgency. President Obama’s approval numbers are lapping above 50 percent. Both unemployment and gas prices are low, hardly the dire straits of Carter’s America. Trump’s gift for repelling women would also seem to be an asset for Democrats, creating a gender gap far exceeding the one that confronted Reagan, who was hostile to the Equal Rights Amendment. And yet, to quote the headline of an Economist cover story on Reagan in 1980: It’s time to think the unthinkable. Trump and Bernie Sanders didn’t surge in a vacuum. This is a volatile nation. Polls consistently find that some two-thirds of the country thinks the country is on the wrong track. The economically squeezed middle class rightly feels it has been abandoned by both parties. The national suicide rate is at a 30-year high. Anything can happen in an election where the presumptive candidates of both parties are loathed by a majority of their fellow Americans, a first in the history of modern polling. It’s not reassuring that some of those minimizing Trump’s chances are the experts who saw no path for Trump to the Republican nomination. There could be a July surprise in which party divisions capsize the Democratic convention rather than, as once expected, the GOP’s. An October surprise could come in the form of a terrorist incident that panics American voters much as the Iranian hostage crisis is thought to have sealed Carter’s doom in 1980. Frank Rich
Et si comme le Ronald avant lui le Donald faisait un bon président ?
Même âge avancé, même situation maritale douteuse, même orange décrié des cheveux teints, (quasi) identique slogan de campagne, même passage dans le monde du spectacle, mêmes changements d’étiquettes politiques, même opposition y compris des caciques de son propre parti, même succession à une présidence faible et largement catastrophique, mêmes moqueries continuelles, (quasi) identique surnom dévalorisant, menaces d’assassinat, même retrait du diner annuel des correspondants  …
A l’heure où malgré un premier discours au Congrès pour une fois salué par tous
Vite éclipsé certes par ses allégations sur la surveillance de ses communications pendant sa campagne électorale de la part d’une Administration Obama …

Qui en son temps n’avait pas hésité à lancer le fisc sur ses ennemis ou faire écouter certains journalistes …

Se confirme, jour après jour et fuite après fuite, la véritable campagne de déstabilisation de la nouvelle administration américaine par la collusion des services secrets et de la presse …

Qui se souvient encore …
Contrastant avec l’étrange complaisance qui avait accueilli son prédécesseur …
Et au-delà d’une évidente différence d’expérience politique et de style …
Des moqueries et de l’opposition qu’avait attiré lui aussi à ses débuts …

Jusqu’à une tentative d’assassinat le privant notamment pour la première fois d’assister au fameux diner annuel des correspondants

Avant de devenir le président respecté des historiens aujourd’hui…
Celui que l’on qualifiait alors méchamment de… « le Ronald » ?
Ronald Reagan Was Once Donald Trump
What The Donald Shares With The Ronald
The Trump candidacy looks a lot more like Reagan’s than anyone might care to notice
Frank Rich
NY magazine
June 1, 2016
In an election cycle that has brought unending surprises, let it be said that one time-honored tradition has been upheld: the Republican presidential contenders’ quadrennial tug-of-war to seize the mantle of Ronald Reagan. John Kasich, gesturing toward the Air Force One on display at the Reagan-library debate, said, « I think I actually flew on this plane with Ronald Reagan when I was a congressman. » Rand Paul claimed to have met Reagan as a child; Ben Carson said he switched parties because of Reagan; Chris Christie said he cast his first vote for Reagan; Ted Cruz cheered Reagan for having defeated Soviet Communism and vowed, for nonsensical good measure, to « do the same thing. » And then there was Donald Trump, never one to be outdone by the nobodies in any competition. « I helped him, » he said of Reagan on NBC last fall. « I knew him. He liked me and I liked him. »The Reagan archives show no indication that the two men had anything more than a receiving-line acquaintanceship; Trump doesn’t appear in the president’s voluminous diaries. But of all the empty boasts that have marked Trump’s successful pursuit of the Republican nomination, his affinity to Reagan may have the most validity and the most pertinence to 2016. To understand how Trump has advanced to where he is now, and why he has been underestimated at almost every step, and why he has a shot at vanquishing Hillary Clinton in November, few road maps are more illuminating than Reagan’s unlikely path to the White House. One is almost tempted to say that Trump has been studying the Reagan playbook — but to do so would be to suggest that he actually might have read a book, another Trumpian claim for which there is scant evidence.

Before the fierce defenders of the Reagan faith collapse into seizures at the bracketing of their hero with the crudest and most vacuous presidential candidate in human memory, let me stipulate that I am not talking about Reagan the president in drawing this parallel, or about Reagan the man. I am talking about Reagan the candidate, the canny politician who, after a dozen years of failed efforts attended by nonstop ridicule, ended up leading the 1980 GOP ticket at the same age Trump is now (69) and who, like his present-day counterpart, was best known to much of the electorate up until then as a B-list show-business personality.

It’s true that Reagan, unlike Trump, did hold public office before seeking the presidency (though he’d been out of government for six years when he won). But Trump would no doubt argue that his executive experience atop the august Trump Organization more than compensates for Reagan’s two terms in Sacramento. (Trump would also argue, courtesy of Arnold Schwarzenegger, that serving as governor of California is merely a bush-league audition for the far greater responsibilities of hosting Celebrity Apprentice.) It’s also true that Reagan forged a (fairly) consistent ideology to address late-20th-century issues that are no longer extant: the Cold War, a federal government that feasted on a top income-tax bracket of 70 percent, and runaway inflation. Trump has no core conviction beyond gratifying his own bottomless ego.

Remarkably, though, the Reagan model has proved quite adaptable both to Trump and to our different times. Trump’s tenure as an NBC reality-show host is comparable to Reagan’s stint hosting the highly rated but disposable General Electric Theater for CBS in the Ed Sullivan era. Trump’s embarrassing turn as a supporting player in a 1990 Bo Derek movie (Ghosts Can’t Do It) is no more egregious than Reagan’s starring opposite a chimp in Hollywood’s Bedtime for Bonzo of 1951. While Trump has owned tacky, bankrupt casinos in Atlantic City, Reagan was a mere casino serf — the emcee of a flop nightclub revue featuring barbershop harmonizing and soft-shoe dancing at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas in 1954. While Trump would be the first president to have been married three times, here, too, he is simply updating his antecedent, who broke a cultural barrier by becoming the first White House occupant to have divorced and remarried. Neither Reagan nor Trump paid any price with the Evangelical right for deviations from the family-values norm; they respectively snared the endorsements of Jerry Falwell and Jerry Falwell Jr.

Reflecting the contrasting pop cultures of their times, Reagan’s and Trump’s performance styles are antithetical. Reagan’s cool persona of genial optimism was forged by his stints as a radio baseball broadcaster and a movie-studio utility player, and finally by his emergence on television when it was ruled by the soothing suburban patriarchs of Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best, and Leave It to Beaver. Trump’s hot shtick, his scowling bombast and put-downs, is tailor-made for a culture that favors conflict over consensus, musical invective over easy listening, and exhibitionism over decorum in prime time. The two men’s representative celebrity endorsers — Jimmy Stewart and Pat Boone for Reagan, Hulk Hogan and Bobby Knight for Trump — belong to two different American civilizations.

But Reagan’s and Trump’s opposing styles belie their similarities of substance. Both have marketed the same brand of outrage to the same angry segments of the electorate, faced the same jeering press, attracted some of the same battlefront allies (Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Phyllis Schlafly), offended the same elites (including two generations of Bushes), outmaneuvered similar political adversaries, and espoused the same conservative populism built broadly on the pillars of jingoistic nationalism, nostalgia, contempt for Washington, and racial resentment. They’ve even endured the same wisecracks about their unnatural coiffures. “Governor Reagan does not dye his hair,” said Gerald Ford at a Gridiron Dinner in 1974. “He is just turning prematurely orange.” Though Reagan’s 1980 campaign slogan (“Let’s Make America Great Again”) is one word longer than Trump’s, that word reflects a contrast in their personalities — the avuncular versus the autocratic — but not in message. Reagan’s apocalyptic theme, “The Empire is in decline,” is interchangeable with Trump’s, even if the Gipper delivered it with a smile.

Craig Shirley, a longtime Republican political consultant and Reagan acolyte, has written authoritative books on the presidential campaigns of 1976 and 1980 that serve as correctives to the sentimental revisionist history that would have us believe that Reagan was cheered on as a conquering hero by GOP elites during his long climb to national power. To hear the right’s triumphalism of recent years, you’d think that only smug Democrats were appalled by Reagan while Republicans quickly recognized that their party, decimated by Richard Nixon and Watergate, had found its savior.

Grassroots Republicans, whom Reagan had been courting for years with speeches, radio addresses, and opinion pieces beneath the mainstream media’s radar, were indeed in his camp. But aside from a lone operative (John Sears), Shirley wrote, “the other major GOP players — especially Easterners and moderates — thought Reagan was a certified yahoo.” By his death in 2004, “they would profess their love and devotion to Reagan and claim they were there from the beginning in 1974, which was a load of horse manure.” Even after his election in 1980, Shirley adds, “Reagan was never much loved” by his own party’s leaders. After GOP setbacks in the 1982 midterms, “a Republican National Committee functionary taped a piece of paper to her door announcing the sign-up for the 1984 Bush for President campaign.”

Shirley’s memories are corroborated by reportage contemporaneous with Reagan’s last two presidential runs. (There was also an abortive run in 1968.) A poll in 1976 found that 90 percent of Republican state chairmen judged Reagan guilty of “simplistic approaches,” with “no depth in federal government administration” and “no experience in foreign affairs.” It was little different in January 1980, when a U.S. News and World Report survey of 475 national and state Republican chairmen found they preferred George H.W. Bush to Reagan. One state chairman presumably spoke for many when he told the magazine that Reagan’s intellect was “thinner than spit on a slate rock.” As Rick Perlstein writes in The Invisible Bridge, the third and latest volume of his epic chronicle of the rise of the conservative movement, both Nixon and Ford dismissed Reagan as a lightweight. Barry Goldwater endorsed Ford over Reagan in 1976 despite the fact that Reagan’s legendary speech on behalf of Goldwater’s presidential campaign in October 1964, “A Time for Choosing,” was the biggest boost that his kamikaze candidacy received. Only a single Republican senator, Paul Laxalt of Nevada, signed on to Reagan’s presidential quest from the start, a solitary role that has been played in the Trump campaign by Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

What put off Reagan’s fellow Republicans will sound very familiar. He proposed an economic program — 30 percent tax cuts, increased military spending, a balanced budget — whose math was voodoo and then some. He prided himself on not being “a part of the Washington Establishment” and mocked Capitol Hill’s “buddy system” and its collusion with “the forces that have brought us our problems—the Congress, the bureaucracy, the lobbyists, big business, and big labor.” He kept a light campaign schedule, regarded debates as optional, wouldn’t sit still to read briefing books, and often either improvised his speeches or worked off index cards that contained anecdotes and statistics gleaned from Reader’s Digest and the right-wing journal Human Events — sources hardly more elevated or reliable than the television talk shows and tabloids that feed Trump’s erroneous and incendiary pronouncements.

Like Trump but unlike most of his (and Trump’s) political rivals, Reagan was accessible to the press and public. His spontaneity in give-and-takes with reporters and voters played well but also gave him plenty of space to disgorge fantasies and factual errors so prolific and often outrageous that he single-handedly made the word gaffe a permanent fixture in America’s political vernacular. He confused Pakistan with Afghanistan. He claimed that trees contributed 93 percent of the atmosphere’s nitrous oxide and that pollution in America was “substantially under control” even as his hometown of Los Angeles was suffocating in smog. He said that the “finest oil geologists in the world” had found that there were more oil reserves in Alaska than Saudi Arabia. He said the federal government spent $3 for each dollar it distributed in welfare benefits, when the actual amount was 12 cents.

He also mythologized his own personal history in proto-Trump style. As Garry Wills has pointed out, Reagan referred to himself as one of “the soldiers who came back” when speaking plaintively of his return to civilian life after World War II — even though he had come back only from Culver City, where his wartime duty was making Air Force films at the old Hal Roach Studio. Once in office, he told the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir that he had filmed the liberated Nazi death camps, when in reality he had not seen them, let alone (as he claimed) squirreled away a reel of film as an antidote to potential Holocaust deniers. For his part, Trump has purported that his enrollment at the New York Military Academy, a prep school, amounted to Vietnam-era military service, and has borne historical witness to the urban legend of “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in Jersey City celebrating the 9/11 attacks. Even when these ruses are exposed, Trump follows the Reagan template of doubling down on mistakes rather than conceding them.

Nor was Reagan a consistent conservative. He deviated from party orthodoxy to both the left and the right. He had been by his own account a “near hopeless hemophilic liberal” for much of his adult life, having campaigned for Truman in 1948 and for Helen Gahagan Douglas in her senatorial race against Nixon in California in 1950. He didn’t switch his registration to Republican until he was 51. As California governor, he signed one of America’s strongest gun-control laws and its most liberal abortion law (both in 1967). His vocal opposition helped kill California’s 1978 Briggs Initiative, which would have banned openly gay teachers at public schools. As a 1980 presidential candidate, he flip-flopped to endorse bailouts for both New York City and the Chrysler Corporation. Reagan may be revered now as a free-trade absolutist in contrast to Trump, but in that winning campaign he called for halting the “deluge” of Japanese car imports raining down on Detroit. “If Japan keeps on doing everything that it’s doing, what they’re doing, obviously, there’s going to be what you call protectionism,” he said.

Republican leaders blasted Reagan as a trigger-happy warmonger. Much as Trump now threatens to downsize NATO and start a trade war with China, so Reagan attacked Ford, the sitting Republican president he ran against in the 1976 primary, and Henry Kissinger for their pursuit of the bipartisan policies of détente and Chinese engagement. The sole benefit of détente, Reagan said, was to give America “the right to sell Pepsi-Cola in Siberia.” For good measure, he stoked an international dispute by vowing to upend a treaty ceding American control over the Panama Canal. “We bought it, we paid for it, it’s ours, and we’re going to keep it!” he bellowed with an America First truculence reminiscent of Trump’s calls for our allies to foot the bill for American military protection. Even his own party’s hawks, like William F. Buckley Jr. and his pal John Wayne, protested. Goldwater, of all people, inveighed against Reagan’s “gross factual errors” and warned he might “take rash action” and “needlessly lead this country into open military conflict.”

Trump’s signature cause of immigration was not a hot-button issue during Reagan’s campaigns. In the White House, he signed a bill granting “amnesty” (Reagan used the now politically incorrect word) to 1.7 million undocumented immigrants. But if Reagan was free of Trump’s bigoted nativism, he had his own racially tinged strategy for wooing disaffected white working-class Americans fearful that liberals in government were bestowing favors on freeloading, lawbreaking minorities at their expense. Taking a leaf from George Wallace’s populist campaigns, Reagan scapegoated “welfare chiselers” like the nameless “strapping young buck” he claimed used food stamps to buy steak. His favorite villain was a Chicago “welfare queen” who, in his telling, “had 80 names, 30 addresses, and 12 Social Security cards, and is collecting veterans’ benefits on four nonexistent deceased husbands” to loot the American taxpayer of over $150,000 of “tax-free cash income” a year. Never mind that she was actually charged with using four aliases and had netted $8,000: Reagan continued to hammer in this hyperbolic parable with a vengeance that rivals Trump’s insistence that Mexico will pay for a wall to fend off Hispanic rapists.

The Republican elites of Reagan’s day were as blindsided by him as their counterparts have been by Trump. Though Reagan came close to toppling the incumbent president at the contested Kansas City convention in 1976, the Ford forces didn’t realize they could lose until the devil was at the door. A “President Ford Committee” campaign statement had maintained that Reagan could “not defeat any candidate the Democrats put up” because his “constituency is much too narrow, even within the Republican party” and because he lacked “the critical national and international experience that President Ford has gained through 25 years of public service.” In Ford’s memoirs, written after he lost the election to Jimmy Carter, he wrote that he hadn’t taken the Reagan threat seriously because he “didn’t take Reagan seriously.” Reagan, he said, had a “penchant for offering simplistic solutions to hideously complex problems” and a stubborn insistence that he was “always right in every argument.” Even so, a Ford-campaign memo had correctly identified one ominous sign during primary season: a rising turnout of Reagan voters who were “not loyal Republicans or Democrats” and were “alienated from both parties because neither takes a sympathetic view toward their issues.” To these voters, the disdain Reagan drew from the GOP elites was a badge of honor. During the primary campaign, Times columnist William Safire reported with astonishment that Kissinger’s speeches championing Ford and attacking Reagan were helping Reagan, not Ford — a precursor of how attacks by Trump’s Establishment adversaries have backfired 40 years later.

Much of the press was slow to catch up, too. A typical liberal-Establishment take on Reagan could be found in Harper’s, which called him Ronald Duck, “the Candidate from Disneyland.” That he had come to be deemed “a serious candidate for president,” the magazine intoned, was “a shame and embarrassment for the country.” But some reporters who tracked Reagan on the campaign trail sensed that many voters didn’t care if he came from Hollywood, if his policies didn’t add up, if his facts were bogus, or if he was condescended to by Republican leaders or pundits. As Elizabeth Drew of The New Yorker observed in 1976, his appeal “has to do not with competence at governing but with the emotion he evokes.” As she put it, “Reagan lets people get out their anger and frustration, their feeling of being misunderstood and mishandled by those who have run our government, their impatience with taxes and with the poor and the weak, their impulse to deal with the world’s troublemakers by employing the stratagem of a punch in the nose.”

The power of that appeal was underestimated by his Democratic foes in 1980 even though Carter, too, had run as a populist and attracted some Wallace voters when beating Ford in 1976. By the time he was up for reelection, Carter was an unpopular incumbent presiding over the Iranian hostage crisis, gas shortages, and a reeling economy, yet surely the Democrats would prevail over Ronald Duck anyway. A strategic memo by Carter’s pollster, Patrick Caddell, laid out the campaign against Reagan’s obvious vulnerabilities with bullet points: “Is Reagan Safe? … Shoots From the Hip … Over His Head … What Are His Solutions?” But it was the strategy of Caddell’s counterpart in the Reagan camp, the pollster Richard Wirthlin, that carried the day with the electorate. Voters wanted to “follow some authority figure,” he theorized — a “leader who can take charge with authority; return a sense of discipline to our government; and, manifest the willpower needed to get this country back on track.” Or at least a leader from outside Washington, like Reagan and now Trump, who projects that image (“You’re fired!”) whether he has the ability to deliver on it or not.

What we call the Reagan Revolution was the second wave of a right-wing populist revolution within the GOP that had first crested with the Goldwater campaign of 1964. After Lyndon Johnson whipped Goldwater in a historic landslide that year, it was assumed that the revolution had been vanquished. The conventional wisdom was framed by James Reston of the Times the morning after Election Day: “Barry Goldwater not only lost the presidential election yesterday but the conservative cause as well.” But the conservative cause hardly lost a step after Goldwater’s Waterloo; it would soon start to regather its strength out West under Reagan. It’s the moderate wing of the party, the GOP of Nelson Rockefeller and George Romney and Henry Cabot Lodge and William Scranton, that never recovered and whose last, long-smoldering embers were finally extinguished with a Jeb Bush campaign whose high-water mark in the Republican primaries was 11 percent of the vote in New Hampshire.

Mitt Romney and his ilk are far more conservative than that previous generation of ancien régime Republicans. But the Romney crowd is not going to have a restoration after the 2016 election any more than his father’s crowd did post-1964 — regardless of whether Trump is buried in an electoral avalanche, as Goldwater was, or wins big, as Reagan did against both Carter and Walter Mondale. Trump is far more representative of the GOP base than all the Establishment conservatives who are huffing and puffing that he is betraying the conservative movement and the spirit of Ronald Reagan. When the Bush family announces it will skip the Cleveland convention, the mainstream media dutifully report it as significant news. But there’s little evidence that many grassroots Republicans now give a damn what any Bush has to say about Trump or much else.

The only conservative columnist who seems to recognize this reality remains Peggy Noonan, who worked in the Reagan White House. As she pointed out in Wall Street Journal columns this spring, conservatism as “defined the past 15 years by Washington writers and thinkers” (i.e., since George W. Bush’s first inauguration) — “a neoconservative, functionally open borders, slash-the-entitlements party” — appears no longer to have any market in the Republican base. A telling poll by Public Policy Polling published in mid-May confirmed that the current GOP Washington leadership is not much more popular than the departed John Boehner and Eric Cantor: Only 40 percent of Republicans approve of the job performance of Paul Ryan, the Establishment wonder boy whose conservative catechism Noonan summarized, while 44 percent disapprove. Only 14 percent of Republicans approve of Mitch McConnell. This is Trump’s party now, and it was so well before he got there. It’s the populist-white-conservative party that Goldwater and Reagan built, with a hefty intervening assist from Nixon’s southern strategy, not the atavistic country-club Republicanism whose few surviving vestiges had their last hurrahs in the administrations of Bush père and fils. The third wave of the Reagan Revolution is here to stay.

Were Trump to gain entry to the White House, it’s impossible to say whether he would or could follow Reagan’s example and function within the political norms of Washington. His burlesque efforts to appear “presidential” are intended to make that case: His constant promise to practice “the art of the deal” echoes Reagan’s campaign boast of having forged compromises with California’s Democratic legislature while governor. More likely a Trump presidency would be the train wreck largely predicted, an amalgam of the blunderbuss shoot-from-the-hip recklessness of George W. Bush and the randy corruption of Warren Harding, both of whom were easily manipulated by their own top brass. The love child of Hitler and Mussolini Trump is not. He lacks the discipline and zeal to be a successful fascist.

The good news for those who look with understandable horror on the prospect of a Trump victory is that the national demographic math is different now from Reagan’s day. The nonwhite electorate, only 12 percent in 1980, was 28 percent in 2012 and could hit 30 percent this year. Few number crunchers buy the Trump camp’s spin that the GOP can reclaim solidly Democratic territory like Pennsylvania and Michigan — states where many white working-class voters, soon to be christened “Reagan Democrats,” crossed over to vote Republican in Reagan’s 1984 landslide. Many of those voters are dead; their epicenter, Macomb County, Michigan, was won by Barack Obama in 2008. Nor is there now the ’70s level of discontent that gave oxygen to Reagan’s insurgency. President Obama’s approval numbers are lapping above 50 percent. Both unemployment and gas prices are low, hardly the dire straits of Carter’s America. Trump’s gift for repelling women would also seem to be an asset for Democrats, creating a gender gap far exceeding the one that confronted Reagan, who was hostile to the Equal Rights Amendment.

And yet, to quote the headline of an Economist cover story on Reagan in 1980: It’s time to think the unthinkable. Trump and Bernie Sanders didn’t surge in a vacuum. This is a volatile nation. Polls consistently find that some two-thirds of the country thinks the country is on the wrong track. The economically squeezed middle class rightly feels it has been abandoned by both parties. The national suicide rate is at a 30-year high. Anything can happen in an election where the presumptive candidates of both parties are loathed by a majority of their fellow Americans, a first in the history of modern polling. It’s not reassuring that some of those minimizing Trump’s chances are the experts who saw no path for Trump to the Republican nomination. There could be a July surprise in which party divisions capsize the Democratic convention rather than, as once expected, the GOP’s. An October surprise could come in the form of a terrorist incident that panics American voters much as the Iranian hostage crisis is thought to have sealed Carter’s doom in 1980.*

While I did not rule out the possibility that Trump could win the Republican nomination as his campaign took off after Labor Day last year, I wrote that he had “no chance of ascending to the presidency.” Meanwhile, he was performing an unintended civic service: His bull-in-a-china-shop candidacy was exposing, however unintentionally, the sterility, corruption, and hypocrisy of our politics, from the consultant-and-focus-group-driven caution of candidates like Clinton to the toxic legacy of Sarah Palin on a GOP that now pretends it never invited her cancerous brand of bigoted populism into its midst. But I now realize I was as wrong as the Reagan naysayers in seeing no chance of Trump’s landing in the White House. I will henceforth defer to Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, one of the few Washington analysts who saw Trump’s breakthrough before the pack did. As of early May, he was giving Trump a 20 percent chance of victory in November.

What is to be done to lower those odds further still? Certainly the feeble efforts of the #NeverTrump Republicans continue to be, as Trump would say, Sad! Alumni from the Romney, Bush, and John McCain campaigns seem to think that writing progressively more enraged op-ed pieces about how Trump is a shame and embarrassment for the country will make a difference. David Brooks has called this a “Joe McCarthy moment” for the GOP — in the sense that history will judge poorly those who don’t stand up to the bully in the Fifth Avenue tower. But if you actually look at history, what it says is that there were no repercussions for Republicans who didn’t stand up to McCarthy — or, for that matter, to Nixon at the height of his criminality. William Buckley co-wrote a book defending McCarthy in 1954, and his career only blossomed thereafter. Goldwater was one of McCarthy’s most loyal defenders, and Reagan refused to condemn Nixon even after the Republican senatorial leadership had deserted him in the endgame of Watergate. Far from being shunned, both men ended up as their party’s presidential nominees, and one of them became president.

If today’s outraged Republican elites are seriously determined to derail Trump, they have a choice between two options: (1) Put their money and actions where their hashtags are and get a conservative third-party candidate on any state ballots they can, where a protest vote might have a spoiler effect on Trump’s chances; (2) Hold their nose and support Clinton. Both (1) and (2) would assure a Clinton presidency, so this would require those who feel that Trump will bring about America’s ruin to love their country more than they hate Clinton.

Dream on. That’s not happening. It’s easier to write op-ed pieces invoking Weimar Germany for audiences who already loathe Trump. Meanwhile, Republican grandees will continue to surrender to Trump no matter how much they’ve attacked him or he’s attacked them or how many high-minded editorials accuse them of failing a Joe McCarthy moral test. Just as Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus capitulated once Trump signed a worthless pledge of party loyalty last fall, so other GOP leaders are now citing Trump’s equally worthless list of potential Supreme Court nominees as a pretext for jumping on the bandwagon.

The handiest Reagan-era prototype for Christie, McCain, Nikki Haley, Peter King, Bobby Jindal, and all the other former Trump-haters who have now about-faced is Kissinger. Reagan had attacked him in the 1976 campaign for making America what Trump would call a loser — “No. 2” — to the Soviets in military might. Kissinger’s disdain of Reagan was such that, as Craig Shirley writes, he tried to persuade Ford to run again in 1980 so Reagan could be blocked. When that fizzled, Kissinger put out the word that Reagan was the only Republican contender he wouldn’t work with. But once Reagan had locked up the nomination, Kissinger declared him the “trustee of all our hopes” and lobbied to return to the White House as secretary of State. As I write these words, Kissinger is meeting with Trump.

And the Democrats? Hillary Clinton is to Trump what Carter and especially Mondale were to Reagan: a smart, mainstream liberal with a vast public-service résumé who stands for all good things without ever finding that one big thing that electrifies voters. No matter how many journalistic exposés are to follow on both candidates, it’s hard to believe that most Americans don’t already know which candidate they prefer when the choices are quantities as known as she and Trump. The real question is which one voters are actually going to show up and cast ballots for. Could America’s fading white majority make its last stand in 2016? All demographic and statistical logic says no. But as Reagan seduced voters and confounded the experts with his promise of Morning in America, we can’t entirely rule out the possibility that Trump might do the same with his stark, black-and-white entreaties to High Noon.

*This article appears in the May 30, 2016 issue of New York Magazine.

Voir aussi:

In its most recent attack on Donald Trump and his supporters by the Wall Street Journal editorial page, one of its leading columnists, Peggy Noonan, asserted that Trump supporters are historically inaccurate in comparing Trump to the late President. She described Trump-Reagan comparisons as “desperate” and those who draw them as “idiots” and historical “illiterates.”

She questions the level of competence of Trump but ignores that Reagan was also regarded as grossly incompetent — by media and GOP establishment hard-losers and spoilers, not Republican voters —and especially dangerous in foreign policy, which, presumably, only elites can understand foreign. Reagan was depicted as some sort of cowboy B-rated-film-star yahoo and loose cannon by the “chattering class” of 1980, one who might be tolerable as a governor, but who was definitely not sophisticated enough to comprehend let alone conduct foreign policy.

Peggy Noonan relates in her column an adoring revisionist depiction of Ronald Reagan, as he has come to be appreciated today in the retrospective light of history. The Ronald Reagan she summons to make her case, however, is far from the Ronald Reagan of historical accuracy. The Ronald Reagan of the 1970s and 1980s was derided as inept and a potential disaster by status quo apologists, much as Donald Trump is being mocked today.

Noonan also cites Reagan’s experience as president of a labor union as a qualification for the Presidency that candidate Reagan had, but that candidate Trump lacks. Taking away nothing from Ronald Reagan, I suggest that managing a multi-billion dollar business for decades, one that operates in practically every corner of the globe, as Donald Trump has done, might count as roughly equivalent to heading a Screen Actors Guild – and maybe even serving as a governor of California.

She also says Trump, unlike Reagan, is not a “leader of men.” Here, again, the columnist tries too hard to make her argument. Reagan “was the leader of an entire political movement,” Noonan writes. The people “elected him in landslides,” she asserts. Who does that sound like today? What political candidate in 2016 best resembles Reagan in both respects? Fortunately, voters create political verdicts, not columnists, and Donald Trump both leads a very substantial populist political movement and has won many primaries, often by unprecedented margins.

Noonan denigrates the historical comparison of Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan that Trump supporters often make. On closer inspection, it is she who is more historically “illiterate” or, to be kinder, “forgetful” — of the complete facts of Ronald Reagan’s rise to power, and how in so many respects that rise parallels Donald Trump’s emergence as a conservative challenger to the status quo.

Like Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan was an entrepreneur – an aspiring broadcast sports reporter and film actor. He had to face the brutal competition of Hollywood, a place in which most aspirants to stardom failed. He started by himself, by selling his brand, just as Donald Trump started building hotels and golf courses by himself, also selling his brand (and did not squander his money, as young people from means often do, but multiplied it a thousand fold – and more — making the correct plans and decisions in difficult situations, and plain hard work).

Reagan had to sell himself as a labor union leader, too – to character actors and extras in the movie industry, not just stars. He was not involved with any governmental entity early in his career. Later, he worked for General Electric, one of the largest capitalist success stories in the U.S. at the time. Before he became governor of California, he was a man of business in the entertainment industry, climbing up the ladder of success in radio, movies, and television completely on his own.

Ronald Reagan believed in free market capitalism and would have been deeply impressed, I believe, by the business accomplishments and acumen of Donald Trump. Ronald Reagan knew the core greatness of the U.S. lies not in government and the wisdom of professional politicians but in that very private sector in which Donald Trump has thrived and achieved an extraordinary level of success. Donald Trump’s children, obviously well brought up, appear to be following in his footsteps.

Do Mr. Trump’s business accomplishments count for so little at the Wall Street Journal? How many other men have tried and failed to do what Donald Trump has done in the private sector? Has his extraordinary success not won him some plaudits from a leading member of the conservative free market press? In her column, Noonan also makes numerous points about Trump’s lack of record as a proven governmental leader, as if this deficiency were disqualifying. Since when in the U.S. have we belittled a man of business accomplishments with such venom? Isn’t it entrepreneurs who built the prosperity of our great nation? The accusation Noonan levels against Donald Trump of “serving only himself” is the charge collectivists the world over frequently lodge against free market capitalists.

Ronald Reagan would never have discounted Donald Trump’s achievements, as the Wall Street Journal editorial page frequently does. Ronald Reagan was wiser than that. He would have praised them. He never would have said that because a man has not held elected office in this nation that he is, ipso facto, not a “leader of men.” A man who employs thousands (22,500 at last report) is not a “leader of men”? Someone who has built an enormous international business that brings him into contact on any given day with foreign leaders, both business and political, is not a leader? To recall a touch more history, the Founding Fathers were overwhelmingly men of property as well as “citizen leaders” like both Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. They were not career politicians.

Ronald Reagan knew the sting of being called a “light weight” movie star, a graduate of rural Midwestern Eureka College which no one among the elite had ever heard of. And doubtless ad hominem attacks detracted from, and damaged in some respects, his core message of more limited government and defeat of the Soviet empire. But he persisted despite the snide heckling of the arrogant establishment of the time, and he communicated his message honestly and directly – and, turns out, successfully — to the American people, thereby, accomplishing much good for the nation.

Yes, and he also gave wings to a powerful political force, conservatism, which today, I suggest, finds its relevant fresh champion, however odd and imperfect the fit might seem at times, in the likes of a populist New York billionaire businessman who has a propensity to communicate his message of a better life and more secure future for Americans, directly and honestly, and with conviction, to the American body politic.

Ronald Reagan as President of the United States? NEVER, they said. But the people voted, the nation spoke, and so, they were wrong.

Today, despite differences over style and some issues, one thing we can all agree on: Hillary Clinton is no Ronald Reagan.

Ambassador Faith Whittlesey served as White House Director of the Office of Public Liaison from 1983 to 1985 and twice, from 1981 to 1983 and again from 1985 to 1988, as U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland. She also was active in President Reagan’s unsuccessful 1976 campaign and was Co-chairman of President Reagan’s Pennsylvania campaign in 1980.

Voir également:

Deja Vu All Over Again?

‘Ronald’ Trump: Why 2016 Is Looking a Lot Like 1980

In memory, Reagan’s victory seems easy and inevitable. It was anything but. And the parallels to today are a little creepy.

Meg Jacobs

The Daily Beast

05.24.16

It’s 1980 all over again. A media celebrity runs for the GOP nomination—something he has been planning for years—and sweeps the primaries, rattling the Republican establishment along the way. That’s the story of Ronald Reagan as he mobilized for what would be his landslide 1980 victory. And it is the story of Donald Trump too.

Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan met in an effort to heal the wounds that have opened up in this brutal primary. Come convention time, if history is any indicator, they will join together. But it is likely to be a rocky road. The same was true in 1980.

Today Republicans lionize Reagan and remember him as the quintessential coalition-builder. He brought the Republican Party together, unlike Donald Trump, who spent the spring tearing the GOP apart. But the truth is that in real time in 1980, Reagan was seen as the outside antiestablishment candidate. He was also seen as less than a serious contender, even when it looked like he would secure the nomination.When the Republican primary season started out, he was the only one out of seven candidates who had not held a government position inside Washington, a roster that included two senators, three congressmen, and a Treasury Secretary. Instead, Reagan was best known for his starring roles in middle-brow American movies, a career he parlayed into a run as California governor. When he announced his candidacy, critics derided him as the “celebrity in chief.”

Reagan held himself up as the icon of conservatism but, much like Trump, his past suggested a history of political flexibility if not outright liberalism. He had once been a Roosevelt Democrat. By the 1964 presidential race, he’d endorsed the GOP’s Senator Barry Goldwater and made his conversion to full-fledged conservative.

Still, in his years in the California governorship, Reagan continued to demonstrate political flexibility. He supported abortion rights, welfare spending, and, when necessary, tax increases. True, he called for cracking down on campus unrest. And by now his hallmark issue was fierce anticommunism as well as anti taxation. But Reagan understood that he governed in a state where ideological purity would not have secured for him the office he sought given that Democrats greatly outnumbered Republicans.

And yet in 1980 Reagan ran as the standard bearer of the Republican Party. Throughout the primary season, there was deep skepticism. George H.W. Bush was the presumptive establishment candidate. He had been a congressman, the Republican National chairman, an ambassador to the UN and China, and the CIA director. Bush’s early victory in the Iowa caucus suggested that voters were not sold on the movie star.

But Reagan was onto something, much the same way that Trump is. After a decade of slow growth, declining productivity, double-digit inflation—and an energy crisis that graphically demonstrated the government’s incapacity to solve problems—America was eager for solutions. What people hungered for more than anything else was leadership. Jerry Rafshoon, President Carter’s adviser, told him, ”People want you to act like a leader.”

And that is what Reagan understood. In short, digestible sound bites, he promised Americans that they would once again be great. On foreign policy, he would bring peace through strength. If Trump promises to build a wall, Reagan would tear one down. And on domestic policy, he would cut taxes. To Trump’s protectionism, Reagan offered supply-side economics. The master of media knew a winning platform when he saw it.

The establishment was slow to rally behind him. With the disastrous memory of 1964, when Barry Goldwater and his brand of conservatism lost in a landslide, Reagan seemed too risky. Moderates worried that his fierce anticommunist rhetoric would escalate tensions with the Soviet Union—even Barry Goldwater called him “trigger happy”—while mainstream fiscal conservatives said his budget numbers did not add up. Bush denounced this policy as “voodoo economics.”

Gerald Ford called Reagan “unelectable” in late March. Many Washington insiders and party regulars saw Reagan as too extreme and hoped that the former president would throw his hat in. Indeed, early polls showed Ford with greater appeal than Reagan among Democrats, a serious liability in a race where Republicans would need to attract cross-over voters to win. In early match ups, Ted Kennedy, who was challenging Carter from the left in the Democratic primary, beat Reagan by as much as 64 to 34 percent.

And age seemed a problem too. Reagan turned 69 a month into the primaries and, if elected, would surpass William Henry Harrison as the oldest president, who in 1841 caught a cold delivering his inaugural address, developed pneumonia, and died a month later. A Newsday reporter said Reagan was in a “race against time.”

He was also vulnerable as a celebrity. Reagan was, as one commentator explained, a “the end product of television politics . . . It is a show and he’s a star actor.” That was not a compliment.

Reagan won in New Hampshire, but the primary season was long and drawn out. In Massachusetts, he came in third behind Bush and John Anderson, the Illinois Senator who dropped out of the Republican contest and ran as an Independent. The conventional wisdom maintained that Anderson would draw votes from Carter as a moderate alternative, but nevertheless, his presence in the race suggested that the electorate might not be ready for Reagan’s brand of conservatism.

Indeed, Bush scored important victories in Pennsylvania and in Michigan. As Bush did well, some rallied behind Reagan, including Senator Howard Baker, who dropped out of the race, saying: “Only divisions from within our party can keep us from benefiting from the bitter divisions within the Democratic Party. The time has come to give Ronald Reagan our prayers, our nomination, our enthusiastic support.”

But the primary season did not come to an end until late May when, at last, Reagan secured enough delegates to win the nomination. And even then, many embraced Reagan only as an act of political pragmatism. As Ohio Governor James Rhodes explained, “I love George Bush. I love Gerald Ford. I love Ronald Reagan. Sometimes in love you have to make your choice. My choice is Ronald Reagan.”

As the GOP convention drew closer, other leading Republicans fell in line, among them the most senior liberal Republican, Senator Jacob Javits. He had refused to endorse Goldwater in 1964, but now he cast his lot with Reagan. With the endorsement, Javits would be a delegate at large. “I felt it was important for me to have an input,” he said, “and I knew I couldn’t have it unless I cast my vote for Reagan.” The New York senator was up for reelection, and he also believed that the GOP had a chance, with Reagan at the head of the ticket, to reclaim the Senate. (It did, but without him—Javits was upset in the Republican primary by the more conservative Al D’Amato)

But the prospect of party disunity did not end at the convention. Now it was the Republican right’s turn to fret about its candidate. When Reagan announced that he was selecting George Bush as his running mate, a decision that came only at the end of the convention and after much media speculation, the right threatened to walk. In 1976, Reagan had subverted his effort to win the Republican nomination over President Gerald Ford when he announced that his running mate would be Pennsylvania Republican Richard Schweiker, a liberal Republican who was antithetical to Reagan’s conservative claims. Now he seemed to be toying with moderation once again.

With evangelical voters mobilizing at the grassroots and many entering electoral politics for the first time, the leaders of this new social force wanted someone who would fight for their causes. Paul Weyrich, the head of right-wing Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, was angry. “I feel no need obligation to bring about our own destruction,” Weyrich thundered. “I won’t support a Reagan-Bush ticket.”

Reagan attempted to appease the right by signing onto a platform that dropped the ERA and called for an anti-abortion amendment. He also called evolution just a “theory” and expressed skepticism about the man-made causes of pollution. But the establishment was still worried. Texas Senator John Tower, who chaired the convention’s platform committee, warned his colleagues, “Republicans have a singular facility sometimes for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Disunity has cost us elections in the past.” Nevada Senator Paul Laxalt said the new right is “afraid of Ron.”

The general election was far from a shoo-in. The polls were all over the place, including placing President Carter ahead of the insurgent candidate. In the end, Reagan scored a decisive victory. But his success, and the ingredients that allowed for this landslide victory, were clear only in hindsight. A week before the election, it was too close to call.

Rather than moderating his rhetoric and toning down his platform in the general election, Reagan stepped up his game. He blamed Carter personally for the gas lines that had signaled the decline of American strength and prosperity. It was Carter’s fault that Iranian terrorists seized the American embassy in Teheran and held American hostages. And Carter’s efforts to negotiate nuclear deals with the Soviets were a disaster.

Reagan was a master of the sound bite: « A recession is when you lose your job, a depression is when your neighbor does, and a recovery is when Jimmy Carter does.” And he told a narrative that simultaneously devastated Carter while instilling confidence in him. His signature campaign slogan captured it all: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

These messages appealed to independent voters and white working-class voters, the so-called Reagan Democrats, who were suffering from slow growth and stagnant wages as they saw jobs disappearing overseas.
Reagan also eagerly embraced the race card. He went after white voters in the South, saying he was a defender of states’ rights near where civil rights workers had been brutally murdered in 1964. He denounced “welfare queens in fashion jeans” as the embodiment of excessive government waste, another not so subtly coded racial message.

1980 was also the first gender gap election when there was a clear discrepancy between how men and women voted. Reagan’s cowboy swagger and tough sounding rhetoric appealed to men. Lee Atwater explained it wasn’t so much that women didn’t like Reagan, it was just that men liked him so much.

If 1980 is any indicator of how an unlikely outspoken conservative candidate with a liberal background could win, Trump is well on his way. And Reagan did not just win; he won in a landslide, one that many did not see coming, and one that severely weakened much of the liberal agenda and put the country on a rightward path that still shapes politics today. Like Reagan, Trump has dominated the primaries, worried the establishment, and yet reveals himself to have deep-seated support. Like Reagan, he is the master of a new media to mobilize and rally supporters, especially white men. In spite of the media criticism he receives as running a post-policy campaign, his supporters feel he provides solutions and refreshingly says what he wants.

Just as Reagan did, Trump has had his eye set on the White House for a long time. In a 1990 Playboy interview, he said, “I hate seeing this country go to hell. We are laughed at by the rest of the world.” He also said, “Vision is my best asset. I know what sells and I know what people want.” Like Reagan, he has spent decades crafting his message. And so far his strategy seems to be working.

Voir encore:

Liberals sneered at Reagan yet he stunned the world. Don’t laugh, but Trump could too, says Justin Webb

‘He’s a lightweight, not someone to be considered seriously.’ It could have been the judgment of the world on Donald Trump. But, actually, it wasn’t. It was Ronald Reagan (pictured)

The verdict is unambiguous: ‘He’s a lightweight, not someone to be considered seriously.’ It could have been the judgement of the world on Donald Trump. But, actually, it wasn’t.

These words were spoken by President Richard Nixon about Ronald Reagan in the Seventies. Nixon added, for good measure, that Reagan was ‘shallow’ and of ‘limited mental capacity’.

Gerald Ford, who took over the presidency when Nixon had to resign after the Watergate scandal, was no less dismissive.

In a 1976 press release when Reagan announced he would challenge Ford as Republican nominee for the White House, Ford stated: ‘The simple political fact is that he cannot defeat any candidates the Democrats put up. Reagan’s constituency is much too narrow, even within the Republican Party.’

The Democrats were equally nonplussed. Those who did not write him off him as a man itching to start World War III, saw Reagan as merely useless —a B-list Hollywood actor whose best film was called Bedtime For Bonzo and starred a monkey.

Dunce

Washington grandee Clark Clifford — who was an adviser to four Democrat Presidents including JFK — simply called Reagan ‘an amiable dunce’.

Yet Reagan not only won the election in 1980 and 1984; he went on to become one of the 20th century’s towering figures.

Today, many of the U.S.’s brightest and best are once again united in their view: the man the Republicans have chosen as Presidential candidate is so unqualified for the job that this was — in effect — the week Hillary Clinton became the 45th president.

Yes, she has to see off her pesky Left-wing challenger Bernie Sanders before she can win her party’s official nomination.

But that’s almost done. And the rest is easy. Come the November presidential poll, she will face a man so barmy, so extreme, so utterly unpresidential, that she can’t lose. A dunce who is not even amiable. Donald Trump is going to gift Hillary Clinton the White House.

But some serious U.S. commentators are questioning conventional wisdom and citing Reagan’s rise to the White House all those years ago as a possible portent of things to come.

They are chastened by how wrong so many pundits have already been over ‘The Donald’, how he was written off from the start — only to come out with the Republican nomination.

They are seriously starting to wonder if he could go all the way and win the U.S. election in November.

Likewise, some in the British Establishment now fear David Cameron will have to work hard to patch things up with Trump after saying the tycoon’s suggested ban on Muslims was ‘divisive, stupid and wrong’ — and that if Trump ‘came to visit our country he’d unite us all against him’.

Could ‘The Donald’ really make the White House? If so, what kind of President would he be?

Let’s be blunt about the task Trump faces. He is massively unpopular. A Washington Post/ABC News poll last month found 67 per cent of likely voters had an unfavourable opinion of him.

Could ‘The Donald’ really make the White House? If so, what kind of President would he be?

Among most Americans he is only slightly less popular than Vladimir Putin (who comes in at around 70 per cent unfavourable). And in certain key groups, Hispanics, women, the young, he is off the scale — properly detested, even feared.

But American presidents are not elected in a single nationwide contest. And it is because of this that he could secure victory.

Under its Electoral College system, the people don’t actually vote directly for the President; they vote for a group of electors in their own state.

And these electors — 538 in total — then cast their votes to decide who enters the White House. The point is that in the U.S. Presidential election of 2012, if just 64 electors’ votes had gone to the other side, the Republican candidate Mitt Romney would have beaten Barack Obama.

Since most states are already firmly in the Republican or Democrat camp, it is these few votes at the margins that count.

And Trump, with his hugely resourced campaign and outrageous populist pledges, could swing them his way.

Moreover, he represents the anti-Establishment, a no-nonsense change for those fed up with the entire political class.

In New York a few weeks ago, I met Carl Paladino, who ran for the New York state governorship for the Republicans in 2010.

He is a Trump man now, and waves aside what he regards as old-fashioned talk of Democrats and Republicans and party allegiances.

‘Imagine you are a carpenter on a building site,’ he told me, ‘you sweat all day and get wet and cold. You don’t care about party. You want a champion. That’s Trump. It’s about him.’

The carpenters, united, could swing it Trump’s way. They would need help from fitters and joiners and other men (yes, his supporters are almost entirely men) who work with their hands. But it could be done.

The so-called rust belt states — in the north-east and midwest — are ripe for the picking. Trump does best in areas where the death rate among white people under 49 is highest — the downtrodden working class.

Megalomaniac

Many of these people traditionally vote Democrat, but they have been voting for Bernie Sanders — Hillary Clinton’s Left-wing rival for the Democrat nomination — rather than Hillary herself. She lost the Michigan contest to Sanders, just as she lost Indiana to him this week.

Yes, Sanders is a socialist and Trump a billionaire plutocrat. But on trade — protection of American jobs — Sanders and Trump are on the same page.

Add a dash of Trump’s xenophobia and he’s in business.

Those who voted for Sanders because he speaks up for the little guy might well feel that Trump is closer to their hearts than Hillary.

The so-called rust belt states — in the north-east and midwest — are ripe for the picking. Many of these people traditionally vote Democrat, but they have been voting for Bernie Sanders — Hillary Clinton’s Left-wing rival for the Democrat nomination — rather than Hillary herself

So President Trump is not a fantasy. There is a path for him.

Not an easy one, but a path nonetheless.

But if he won, what then?

Again, the conventional wisdom might well be wrong. He is portrayed as a dictator. A megalomaniac. A man who has taken over a political party for his own crazed purposes.

All of which might be true.

But if Trump seriously thinks he can run America as he runs Trump Casinos, he has a shock coming. America was designed to be ungovernable without the consent of Congress.

Trump may have pledged to build a wall with Mexico, but he could never get that passed, still less a scheme to keep Muslims out of America.

He would need Congress on his side. He would need the Supreme Court to agree that it was constitutional.

Defeat

Remember the key Obama policy of closing Guantanamo Bay was stymied not by Republicans but by members of his own party in Congress? He said: ‘DO IT’. They said no. And Guantanamo is still open.

Even in foreign affairs, where presidents can make quite a splash, the system is likely to defeat him. Trump seems, for instance, to be in favour of torture and has said that, as President, he’d authorise ‘worse than waterboarding’ against suspected terrorist captives.

But already John Rizzo, a top lawyer at the CIA when the agency employed so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, has pointed out that President Trump would face a revolt by his own staff.

It would be carnage if he tried to implement his preferred torture measures. Not for the captives, but for the President.

But would he care? Would he not just shrug and move on?

Perhaps the greatest oddness of Trump is that his core supporters are a fading and old-fashioned constituency — angry white people — but his politics are uber-modern.

He has no ideology. He believes in what works, and is, in some ways, surprisingly Left-wing.

He will fight a dizzying campaign this summer, coming at Hillary Clinton from the Right and from the Left. He will even accuse her of sexism for sticking up for Bill during his ‘bimbo eruptions’. He’ll dodge and weave, confuse and outrage, and generally shake up the nation.

He is no Ronald Reagan — at least not yet. But who knows, Donald Trump could yet surprise everyone and end up as the most unexpected President the White House has ever seen.

Voir par ailleurs:

Très attendue, l’intervention du président américain face à un Congrès au grand complet lui a permis d’endosser un ton rassembleur, sans pour autant préciser clairement les priorités et le chiffrage de sa politique ambitieuse.

C’était il y a plus de cinq semaines, le 20 janvier dernier. Lors de son investiture sur les marches du capitole, à Washington, Donald Trump était apparu à la tribune poing levé, et avait tenu un premier discours de président particulièrement sombre, évoquant un « carnage américain » dont sont victimes « trop de nos concitoyens ». Et promis d’y mettre fin « ici et maintenant », assurant que « chaque décision sur le commerce, les impôts, l’immigration, les affaires étrangères sera prise pour le bénéfice des familles et des travailleurs américains ».

C’est dire si, cinq semaines plus tard, sa première intervention solennelle devant le Congrès était attendue. Surtout après plus d’un mois passé à la Maison-Blanche, au cours duquel le 45e président des États-Unis a multiplié les annonces et déclarations qui ont jeté le flou sur sa capacité à endosser son costume présidentiel et à fixer des priorités dans sa politique.

Cravate bleue rayée et ton solennel

Sur la forme, Donald Trump, ce mardi 28 février au soir, devant un Congrès au grand complet, où siégeaient pour la circonstance les représentants, sénateurs, ministres et juges de la Cour suprême, a tenu sans doute son discours le plus « présidentiel », le plus modéré, le moins provocateur.

Apparu à la tribune, pour une fois, paré d’une cravate bleue rayée, comme pour rompre également avec son style habituel sur le plan vestimentaire, le président américain a fait une déclaration plus solennelle et optimiste, sans doute, saluant l’émergence d’une « nouvelle fierté nationale », saluant « un nouveau chapitre de la grandeur américaine (qui) débute », plaidant pour un « renouveau de l’esprit américain » indissociable, selon lui, d’une grande fermeté sur l’immigration, l’un des thèmes qu’il a le plus développés lors de son intervention.

Au cours de son discours, qu’il a voulu rassembleur, il a également à plusieurs reprises salué la présence de « témoins » dans l’assistance, auxquels il a rendu hommage, chacun venant incarner un chapitre de la politique qu’il entendait mettre en œuvre : une personne ayant subi une agression de la part d’un immigré en situation irrégulière sur le sol américain, les parents de policiers tués dans leur mission…

Hommage unanime à la veuve d’un soldat tué au Yémen

Ou encore la veuve du soldat Ryan Owens, membre des forces spéciales américaines, tué le 29 janvier dernier au cours d’une opération au Yémen. Assise aux côtés d’Ivanka Trump, fille du président, Carryn Owens, émue aux larmes a été longuement ovationnée par l’ensemble du congrès, offrant à cette cérémonie un moment d’unité nationale inédit depuis la prise de fonction de Donald Trump.

Sur le fond, le 45e président américain a repris nombre de ses thèmes favoris, promettant en particulier de ramener « des millions d’emplois » aux Américains ou dénonçant les accords de libre-échange. Il a fait peu de nouvelles annonces, et est resté pour l’heure en deçà des attentes sur ce que seraient véritablement ses priorités, ainsi que le financement de ses différentes mesures. Le discours, sur ce plan, s’annonce comme un prélude à la bataille pour le budget 2018 qui s’ouvre au Congrès, où les alliés républicains du président sont majoritaires.

Les premiers mots de son discours ont rendu hommage aux « célébrations du mois de l’Histoire des Noirs » et ont donné au président l’occasion de condamner solennellement « les dernières menaces en date visant des centres de la communauté juive et le vandalisme contre des cimetières juifs ». Il a également dénoncé une attaque raciste visant deux ressortissants indiens, dont l’un a été tué, une semaine plus tôt dans le Kansas.

Un effort de « reconstruction nationale »

Sur le plan économique, Donald Trump a énoncé deux principes qui reprennent ceux de son discours du 20 janvier : « achetez américain, engagez américain ». Il est revenu pour s’en féliciter sur les annonces d’investissement aux États-Unis de la part de plusieurs constructeurs automobiles, qui doivent selon lui mener à la création de nombreux emplois. Il a aussi salué la reprise des travaux des oléoducs Keystone XL et Dakota Access Pipeline.

Il en a également appelé à un effort de « reconstruction nationale » : « Pour lancer la reconstruction du pays, je vais demander au Congrès d’approuver une législation qui déclenchera des investissements de mille milliards de dollars pour les infrastructures aux États-Unis, financés grâce à des capitaux à la fois publics et privés, et créera des millions d’emplois », a-t-il déclaré, non sans déplorer que son pays ait dépensé jusqu’ici « des milliards et des milliards de dollars à l’étranger ».

Donald Trump a également évoqué son projet de réforme fiscale sans s’appesantir : « Notre équipe économique est en train de préparer une réforme fiscale historique qui réduira le montant des impôts de nos entreprises pour qu’elles puissent concurrencer n’importe qui et prospérer n’importe où et avec n’importe qui. En même temps, nous réduirons de manière massive les impôts pour la classe moyenne. » « Nous devons faire en sorte qu’il soit plus facile pour nos entreprises de faire des affaires aux États-Unis et plus difficile pour elles de partir », a-t-il aussi martelé.

Il a aussi demandé au Congrès de promulguer une loi afin de remplacer l’Obamacare, la loi sur la santé emblématique de Barack Obama, appelant de ses vœux « des réformes qui étendront le choix, donneront un meilleur accès (aux soins) et réduiront les coûts ».

Immigration : un système « basé sur le mérite »

Le président américain a abordé le sujet de l’immigration, un thème sur lequel il était très attendu, d’autant que, peu avant son allocution, lors d’une rencontre avec des journalistes de télévision à la Maison-Blanche, il avait provoqué la surprise en évoquant la possibilité d’une loi de régularisation pour les sans-papiers n’ayant pas commis de délit.

Il n’en a toutefois pas été question lors du discours au Congrès, du moins pas ouvertement. Mais Donald Trump a évoqué une réforme législative et proposé d’abandonner le système actuel, pour adopter à la place « un système basé sur le mérite ».

« Je pense qu’une réelle réforme positive de l’immigration est possible, pour autant que nous nous concentrons sur les objectifs suivants : améliorer l’emploi et les salaires des Américains, renforcer la sécurité de notre pays et restaurer le respect de nos lois », a-t-il aussi déclaré, confirmant par la même occasion son intention de construire un mur à la frontière avec le Mexique, ainsi que l’imminence d’un nouveau décret après l’échec du premier, bloqué par la justice.

Sur ce thème de l’immigration, il a encore annoncé la création d’un bureau spécial pour les victimes de crimes « d’immigration », baptisé VOICE (Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement). « Nous donnons une voix à ceux qui sont ignorés par les médias et réduits au silence par les intérêts particuliers », a affirmé Donald Trump dans une de ses rares piques hostiles aux médias.

« Représenter les États-Unis d’Amérique » plutôt que « le monde »

Enfin, Donald Trump est revenu sur sa demande au Congrès, annoncée la veille, de valider une hausse des dépenses militaires de 54 milliards de dollars. Il a toutefois précisé que son rôle n’était pas « de représenter le monde mais de représenter les États-Unis d’Amérique ». Sans donner de précision sur sa politique étrangère, il a prôné « l’harmonie et la stabilité », plutôt que « des guerres et des conflits », et réaffirmé son attachement à l’Otan, mis en doute par des déclarations antérieures évoquant obsolescence de l’Alliance.

Les représentants démocrates sont restés pour la plupart assis dans leurs sièges, visage fermé et bras croisés après ce discours. En signe de protestation silencieuse, une quarantaine d’élues démocrates s’étaient habillées en blanc, la couleur symbolisant la défense des droits des femmes.

La chaîne d’information CNN a pour sa part publié un sondage peu après le discours : une majorité de téléspectateurs y ont réagi positivement.

Voir aussi:
The Metaphysics of Trump
 Paradox: How does a supposedly bad man appoint good people eager to advance a conservative agenda that supposedly more moral Republicans failed to realize?
Victor Davis Hanson
National Review
February 28, 2017

We variously read that Trump should be impeached, removed, neutralized — or worse. But until he is, are his appointments, executive orders, and impending legislative agenda equally abhorrent? General acclamation followed the Trump appointments of retired Generals H. R. McMaster as national-security adviser, James Mattis as defense secretary, and John Kelly to head Homeland Security. The brief celebration of Trump’s selections was almost as loud as the otherwise daily denunciations of Trump himself. Trump’s equally inspired decisions, such as the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and Jeff Sessions as attorney general, presented the same ironies.

Most of these and other fine appointments came amid a near historic pushback against Trump, mostly over what he has said rather than what he’s done. But again, do the appointments create a dilemma for his existential critics who have gone beyond the traditional media audit of a public official and instead descended into calls for his removal — or worse?

Indeed, removal chic is now widespread, as even conservatives ponder impeachment, invoking the 25th Amendment for mental unfitness, while the more radical (here and abroad and both Right and Left) either abstractly or concretely ponder a coup or some other road to his demise.

How do his opponents square such excellent appointments with Trump himself? Even bad people can occasionally do good?

Are his Cabinet secretaries patriotically (as I believe) serving their president, even if prepared at times to nudge him away from what they might feel are occasional unwise detours? Appointees of the caliber of a Mattis, McMaster, or Kelly do not go to work for any president with the likelihood of becoming undercover actors — undercutting his authority, or posing to the press that they are the moral superior to their boss, or leaking information to massage favorable accounts of their superior savvy or morality at the president’s expense. No, they serve the president because they want their country to prosper and think that it can if their commander in chief (whose agendas for the most part they share) is successful.

Or do critics argue that such fine men and women are “selling out” by putting careers before principled resistance to a president who will supposedly usher in unprecedented disasters? So far, even the most vehement Trump censors have not faulted these fine appointees for supposedly being soiled by association with Trump, whom they have otherwise accused, in varying degrees, of partaking of fascism, Stalinism, and Hitlerism.

Again, the point is, How do critics square the circle of damning Trump as singularly unfit while simultaneously praising his inspired appointees, who, if they were to adopt a similar mindset, would never set foot in a Trump White House? How does someone so unqualified still manage to listen to advice or follow his own instincts to appoint so many willing, gifted public servants — at a time, we are told, when nearly the entire diplomatic and security establishment in Washington refuses to work for such a reprobate?

The same disconnect holds true for Trump’s executive orders. Except for the rocky rollout of the temporary ban on immigration — since rectified and reformulated — his executive orders seem inspired and likely to restore the rule of law, curb endless and burdensome new regulations, address revolving-door ethics, enhance the economy, halt federal bloat, promote energy production, and create jobs. Without the Trump victory, the Paul Ryan agenda — radical tax reform and deregulation — that has been comatose for a decade would never have become viable. So, is the position of the conservative rejectionists something like the following: “I detest Trump because even his positive agendas are spoiled by his sponsorship?”

Or do they reason that because his views deviate from free-market economics (when he jawbones companies and aims to renegotiate bilateral rather than multi-country trade deals, or use quid pro quo import taxes), so too his otherwise conservative positions on social issues, school choice, Obamacare’s repeal, defense spending, and tax reform are likewise suspect or irrelevant? Of course, his leftist critics face no such dilemmas and are far more consistent: They hate the Trump the man, and they hate Trump’s initiatives, and the two to them are inseparable and logical consequences of each other.

I thought that both Bush presidents were fine and good men and their agendas far preferable to the alternative. But was either in a political position to effect (or perhaps even willing to embrace) the sort of conservative change that the supposedly “not a conservative” Trump might well attempt? That irony too raises another metaphysical question: Does the Trump moment come despite or because of his take-no-prisoners rhetorical style?

In some sense (to adopt a taboo military metaphor) is Trump a sort of shaped charge? That is, is Trump’s combative coarseness the radiant outer shell that is necessary to melt through the deep state and bureaucratic armor so that the inner explosive of a conservative revolutionary agenda may reach its target intact? Given the hysterical and entrenched opposition, I’m not sure that John McCain or Mitt Romney would have enforced immigration law, frozen government hiring, or embraced Reagan-like tax and regulatory reform, although to be sure, McCain and Romney would have avoided Trump’s rhetorical excesses, his Twitter storms, and his occasional coarseness.

Which should properly be more exasperating: Trump’s over-the-top rhetoric that accompanies a possibly revolutionary and realized conservative agenda, or McCain and Romney’s sober and judicious failures at pushing a mostly Bush-like agenda? By not fighting back in take-no-prisoner terms, both Republican candidates failed, ensuring eight years of Obama — years that in my view have done far more damage to the country than anything envisioned by Trump’s first administration.

Even conservatives sometimes seem more bothered by Trump’s raw uncouthness in service to a conservative agenda than they were by Obama’s sautéed orneriness in advancing progressive hope and change. Years of the Cairo Speech, the apology tours, the Iran deal, the Iraq pullout, Obamacare, record debt and low growth — editorialized by chronic attacks on Fox News, along with “you didn’t build that,” “punish our enemies,” and “I won” putdowns from Obama — never prompted calls for the 25th Amendment like those in some anti-Trump tweets. Is the difference predicated on class, accent, education, tone, appearance, tastes, comportment, or the idea that a shared Beltway culture trumps diverse politics? If a polished and now-president Marco Rubio had the same agendas as Trump, but avoided his rhetoric and bluster, would anti-Trump conservatives be pro-Rubio? And would Rubio’s personality and cunning have ensured his election and confidence in steamrolling such an agenda through the Congress?

I don’t have easy answers to any of these paradoxes but will only suggest that in the last 40 years, despite three different Republican administrations, frequent GOP control of the House and Senate, and ostensible Republican majorities on the Supreme Court, the universities have eroded, the borders have evaporated, the government has grown, the debt has soared, the red–blue divide has intensified, identity politics have become surreal, the nation’s infrastructure has crumbled, the undeniable benefits from globalism have increasingly blessed mostly an entrenched elite, the culture has grown more crass and intolerant, the redistributive deep state has spread, and the middle classes have seen their purchasing power and quality of life either stagnate or decline.

In sum, it is far more difficult in 2017 to enact conservative change than it was 40 years ago — not necessarily because the message is less popular, but because government is far more deeply embedded in our lives, the Left is far more sophisticated in its political efforts to advance a message that otherwise has no real record of providing prosperity and security, and the Right had avoided the bare-knuckles brawling of the Left and instead grown accustomed to losing in a dignified fashion.

To the losers of globalization, the half-employed, and the hopelessly deplorable and irredeemable, lectures from the Republican establishment about reductions in capital-gain taxes, more free-trade agreements, and de facto amnesties, were never going to win the Electoral College the way that Trump did when he used the plural personal pronoun (“We love our miners, farmers, vets”) and promised to jawbone industries to help rust-belt workers.

The final irony? The supposedly narcissistic and self-absorbed Trump ran a campaign that addressed in undeniably sincere fashion the dilemmas of a lost hinterland. And he did so after supposedly more moral Republicans had all but written off the rubes as either politically irrelevant or beyond the hope of salvation in a globalized world. How a brutal Manhattan developer, who thrived on self-centered controversy and even scandal, proved singularly empathetic to millions of the forgotten is apparently still not fully understood.

Presidential Payback for Media Hubris
Victor Davis Hanson
Defining Ideas
Hoover institution
March 2, 2017

Donald Trump conducted a press conference recently as if he were a loud circus ringmaster whipping the media circus animals into shape. The establishment thought the performance was a window into an unhinged mind; half the country thought it was a long overdue media comeuppance.

The media suffer the lowest approval numbers in nearly a half-century. In a recent Emerson College poll, 49 percent of American voters termed the Trump administration “truthful”; yet only 39 percent believed the same about the news media.

Every president needs media audit. The role of journalists in a free society is to act as disinterested censors of government power—neither going on witch-hunts against political opponents nor deifying ideological fellow-travelers.

Sadly, the contemporary mainstream media—the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN), the traditional blue-chip newspapers (Washington Post, New York Times), and the public affiliates (NPR, PBS)—have lost credibility. They are no more reliable critics of President Trump’s excesses than they were believable cheerleaders for Barack Obama’s policies.

Trump may have a habit of exaggeration and gratuitous feuding that could cause problems with his presidency. But we would never quite know that from the media. In just his first month in office, reporters have already peddled dozens of fake news stories designed to discredit the President—to such a degree that little they now write or say can be taken at face value.

No, Trump did not have any plans to invade Mexico, as Buzzfeed and the Associated Press alleged.

No, Trump’s father did not run for Mayor of New York by peddling racist television ads, as reported by Sidney Blumenthal.

No, there were not mass resignations at the State Department in protest of its new leaders, as was reported by the Washington Post.

No, Trump’s attorney did not cut a deal with the Russians in Prague. Nor did Trump indulge in sexual escapades in Moscow. Buzzfeed again peddled those fake news stories.

No, a supposedly racist Trump did not remove the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the White House, as a Time Magazine reporter claimed.

No, election results in three states were not altered by hackers or computer criminals to give Trump the election, as implied by New York Magazine.

No, Michael Flynn did not tweet that he was a scapegoat. That was a media fantasy endorsed by Nancy Pelosi.

In fact, Daniel Payne of the Federalist has compiled a lengthy list of sensational stories about Trump’s supposed buffooneries, mistakes, and crudities that all proved either outright lies or were gross exaggerations and distortions.

We would like to believe writers for the New York Times or Washington Post when they warn us about the new president’s overreach. But how can we do so when they have lost all credibility—either by colluding with the Obama presidency and the Hillary Clinton campaign, or by creating false narratives to ensure that Trump fails?

Ezra Klein at Vox just wrote a warning about the autocratic tendencies of Donald Trump. Should we believe him? Perhaps not. Klein was the originator of Journolist, a “left-leaning” private online chat room of journalists that was designed to coordinate media narratives that would enhance Democratic politicians and in particular Barack Obama. Such past collusion begs the question of whether Klein is really disinterested now in the fashion that he certainly was not during the Obama administration.

Recently, New York Times White House correspondent Glenn Thrush coauthored a report about initial chaos among the Trump White House staff, replete with unidentified sources. Should we believe Thrush’s largely negative story?

Perhaps. But then again, Thrush not so long ago turned up in the Wikileaks troves as sending a story to Hillary Clinton aide John Podesta for prepublication audit. Thrush was his own honest critic, admitting to Podesta: “Because I have become a hack I will send u the whole section that pertains to u. Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this Tell me if I f**ked up anything.”

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post has become a fierce critic of President Trump. Are his writs accurate? Milbank also appeared in Wikileaks, asking the Democratic National Committee to provide him with free opposition research for a negative column he was writing about candidate Trump. Are Milbank’s latest attacks his own—or once again coordinated with Democratic researchers?

The Washington Post censor Glenn Kessler posted the yarn about Trump’s father’s racist campaign for New York mayor—until he finally fact-checked his own fake news and deleted his tweet.

Sometimes the line between journalism and politicians is no line at all. Recently, former Obama deputy National Security advisor Ben Rhodes (brother of CBS news president David Rhodes) took to Twitter to blast the Trump administration’s opposition to the Iran Deal, brokered in large part by Rhodes himself. “Everything Trump says here,” Rhodes stormed, “is false.”

Should we believe Rhodes’s charges that Trump is now lying about the details of the Iran Deal?

Who knows, given that Rhodes himself not long ago bragged to the New York Times of his role in massaging reporters to reverberate an administration narrative: “We created an echo chamber They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.” Rhodes also had no respect for the very journalists that he had manipulated: “The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

Is Rhodes now being disinterested or once again creating an “echo chamber”?

His boss, former UN Ambassador and National Security Advisor in the Obama administration, Susan Rice (married to Ian Cameron, a former producer at ABC news), likewise went on Twitter to blast the Trump administration’s decision to include presidential advisor Steven Bannon in meetings of the National Security Council: “This is stone cold crazy,” Rice asserted, “After a week of crazy.”

Is Rice (who has no military experience) correct that the former naval officer Bannon has no business participating in such high strategy meetings?

In September 2012, Rice went on television on five separate occasions to insist falsely to the nation that the attacks on the Benghazi consulate were the work of spontaneous rioters and not a preplanned hit by an al Qaeda franchise. Her own quite crazy stories proved a convenient administration reelection narrative of Al Qaeda on the run, but there were already sufficient sources available to Rice to contradict her false news talking points.

There are various explanations for the loss of media credibility.

First, the world of New York and Washington DC journalism is incestuous. Reporters share a number of social connections, marriages, and kin relationships with liberal politicians, making independence nearly culturally impossible.

More importantly, the election in 2008 of Barack Obama marked a watershed, when a traditionally liberal media abandoned prior pretenses of objectivity and actively promoted the candidacy and presidency of their preferred candidate. The media practically pronounced him god, the smartest man ever to enter the presidency, and capable of creating electric sensations down the legs of reporters. The supposedly hard-hitting press corps asked Obama questions such as, “During these first 100 days, what has …enchanted you the most from serving in this office? Humbled you the most…?”

Obama, as the first African-American president—along with his progressive politics that were to the left of traditional Democratic policies—enraptured reporters who felt disinterested coverage might endanger what otherwise was a rare and perhaps not-to-be-repeated moment.

We are now in a media arena where there are no rules. The New York Times is no longer any more credible than talk radio; CNN—whose reporters have compared Trump to Hitler and gleefully joked about his plane crashing—should be no more believed than a blogger’s website. Buzzfeed has become like the National Inquirer.

Trump now communicates, often raucously and unfiltered, directly with the American people, to ensure his message is not distorted and massaged by reporters who have a history of doing just that. Unfortunately, it is up to the American people now to audit their own president’s assertions. The problem is not just that the media is often not reliable, but that it is predictably unreliable. It has ceased to exist as an auditor of government. Ironically the media that sacrificed its reputation to glorify Obama and demonize Trump has empowered the new President in a way never quite seen before. At least for now, Trump can say or do almost anything he wishes without media scrutiny—given that reporters have far less credibility than does Trump.

Trump is the media’s Nemesis—payback for its own hubris.

As soon as President Trump began fielding press questions, liberal reporters started developing a new pastime: balking at their conservative counterparts for lobbing « softball questions. » But a quick review of the record reveals that journalism’s strike zone has narrowed suddenly and significantly. The mainstream media certainly wasn’t pitching heat during President Barack Obama’s first couple press conferences.

While some straight-laced newspapermen threw fastballs, plenty of reporters from well-respected outlets were more than happy to let the Democratic president tee-off. Anyone who doubts that should rewind the highlights from Obama’s early months in office.

When Obama called on Jeff Zeleney back in May 2009, the New York Times reporter didn’t get the president on the record about the state of national security or the worsening fiscal crisis. Instead, the writer wondered if the leader of the free world felt magical.

« During these first 100 days, » he asked, « what has surprised you the most about this office? Enchanted you the most from serving in this office? Humbled you the most? And troubled you the most? »

More than happy to oblige, Obama hammered the four-point question. But the press didn’t balk. They were enthralled. And for the next eight years, that episode would repeat itself again and again.

Even after Democrats got hammered in the 2010 midterms, the rigor of questions didn’t improve. Instead, respected journalists from respectable outlets kept up their game of soft toss. Normally, the press is supposed to be a bit adversarial with their sources. But Carry Bohan of Reuters was downright congratulatory about a bipartisan tax deal forged with Republicans.

« You racked up a lot of wins in the last few weeks that a lot of people thought would be difficult to come by, » Bohan asked Obama. « Are you ready to call yourself the ‘comeback kid?' »

Sometimes, the press openly batted for Democrats. During the 2011 Republican primary, CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian asked Obama if he thought the GOP candidates were « uninformed, out of touch, or irresponsible. »

Only when Obama headed for the exit did it seem like journalists really started to dig deep. Before Trump set up shop in the Oval Office, the press corps went on the offensive. During Obama’s final presser, six of the eight questions were about Obama’s successor.

If hatred of Trump is rooted in class rather than ideology, more civility from the president will undo the ‘resistance.’

Jonathan S. Tobin
The Weekly standard
March 2, 2017

Terrorisme: Attention, un aveuglement peut en cacher un autre (Rhetorical tricks aside, the reality is that during Obama’s tenure scores of innocent Americans have been murdered on U.S. soil by jihadists, mostly inspired by or acting under the direction of foreign terror groups)

26 février, 2017
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Daech dispose d’équipements militaires nombreux, rustiques mais aussi lourds et sophistiqués. Plus que d’une mouvance terroriste, nous sommes confrontés à une véritable armée encadrée par des militaires professionnels. Quel est le docteur Frankenstein qui a créé ce monstre ? Affirmons-le clairement, parce que cela a des conséquences : ce sont les États-Unis. Par intérêt politique à court terme, d’autres acteurs – dont certains s’affichent en amis de l’Occident – d’autres acteurs donc, par complaisance ou par volonté délibérée, ont contribué à cette construction et à son renforcement. Mais les premiers responsables sont les Etats-Unis. Général Vincent Desportes (17.12.2014)
We should take great pride in the progress that we’ve made over the last eight years. That’s the bottom line. No foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland. (…) The most deadly attacks on the homeland over the last eight years have not been carried out by operatives with sophisticated networks or equipment directed from abroad. “They’ve been carried out by home-grown and largely isolated individuals who were radicalized online. Barack Hussein Obama (MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Fla., Dec. 6, 2016)
L’Amérique est un endroit meilleur et plus fort qu’il ne l’était quand nous avons commencé. (…) Si je vous avais dit il y a huit ans que l’Amérique renverserait une grande récession, redémarrerait notre industrie automobile et entammerait la plus longue période de création d’emplois de notre histoire … si je vous avais dit que nous ouvririons un nouveau chapitre avec le peuple cubain , que nous fermerions le programme d’armes nucléaires de l’Iran sans tirer un coup de feu, et tuer le cerveau des attentats du 9/11 … si je vous avais dit que nous gagnerions l’égalité au mariage et le droit à l’assurance maladie pour 20 millions de nos concitoyens – Vous auriez pu dire que nos objectifs étaient un peu trop élevés. (…) Les relations raciales sont meilleures qu’avant, croyez-moi, mais nous se sommes pas encore où nous devons être. (…) En raison de l’extraordinaire courage de nos hommes et de nos femmes en uniforme, des officiers du renseignement, des forces de l’ordre et des diplomates qui les soutiennent, aucune organisation terroriste étrangère n’a planifié et exécuté avec succès une attaque dans notre pays ces huit dernières années. Et bien que Boston et Orlando nous rappellent à quel point la radicalisation peut être dangereuse, nos forces de l’ordre sont plus efficaces et plus vigilantes que jamais. Barack Hussein Obama (Chicago, 10.01.2017)
Regardez ce qui se passe en Allemagne, regardez ce qui s’est passé hier soir en Suède. La Suède, qui l’aurait cru ? La Suède. Ils ont accueilli beaucoup de réfugiés, et maintenant ils ont des problèmes comme ils ne l’auraient jamais pensé. Donald Trump
La sécurité nationale commence par la sécurité aux frontières. Les terroristes étrangers ne pourront pas frapper l’Amérique s’ils ne peuvent entrer dans notre pays. Regardez ce qui se passe en Europe! Regardez ce qui passe en Europe! J’adore la Suède mais les gens là-bas comprennent que j’ai raison. J’ai un ami, c’est quelqu’un de très très important. Il adore la Ville lumière. Pendant des années, tous les étés, il allait à Paris, avec sa femme et sa famille. Je ne l’avais pas vu depuis longtemps et j’ai dit “Jim, comment va Paris?”; “Je n’y vais plus. Paris n’est plus Paris. Il n’aurait jamais raté une occasion. Aujourd’hui, il n’envisage même plus d’y aller. Donald Trump
Je ne ferai pas de comparaison, mais ici il n’y a pas de circulation d’armes, il n’y a pas de personnes qui prennent des armes pour tirer dans la foule. François Hollande
Examinant mon passeport, il relève que j’ai bénéficié récemment d’un visa « J1 », accordé notamment aux universitaires. J’ai été, en effet, professeur invité à l’Université Columbia de New York, de septembre 2016 à janvier 2017. Il conclut que je suis donc revenu travailler « illégalement » avec un visa expiré. J’ai beau expliquer que ma situation n’a rien d’anormal, sinon l’université n’aurait pas pu m’inviter, rien n’y fait. N’étant pas en possession d’un document fédéral m’autorisant à travailler aux États-Unis, je suis en infraction. La décision sera confirmée plus tard par son supérieur hiérarchique – que je n’aurai pas la possibilité de rencontrer. (…) Vers 21h, il reste une demi-douzaine de personnes, somnolentes et inquiètes, un Africain ne parlant pas bien l’anglais, les autres sans doute d’origine latino-américaine. Je suis apparemment le seul Européen – le seul « blanc ». Arrivent alors deux officiers de police. Ils se dirigent vers le monsieur assis devant moi, peut-être un Mexicain, bien mis de sa personne. Ils lui montrent un billet d’avion et lui disent qu’ils vont l’emmener. Invité à se lever, il est alors menotté, enchaîné à la taille, et entravé aux chevilles. Je n’en crois pas mes yeux. Des images d’esclaves me traversent l’esprit: la policière qui lui met les fers aux pieds est une Africaine-Américaine, vaguement gênée. J’imagine le temps qu’il va mettre pour rejoindre la porte d’embarquement. Je me demande surtout si c’est le même sort qui nous attend. Je préfère croire que lui a commis un délit sérieux. J’apprendrai par la suite que « c’est la procédure ». Cette façon de faire – proprement indigne – serait exigée par les compagnies aériennes. Je ne suis pas sûr, au demeurant, que les conditions d’expulsion soient plus humaines chez nous.A 1h 30 du matin – cela fait plus de 26 heures que j’ai quitté mon domicile parisien – je vois une certaine agitation. Une policière vient vers moi et me demande quelle est ma destination finale aux États-Unis et si quelqu’un m’attend à l’aéroport. (…) Quelques minutes plus tard, un policier au ton cette fois amical me rend mon téléphone et mon passeport, dûment tamponné, et me déclare autorisé à entrer aux États-Unis. Les restrictions qui m’ont été imposées sont levées, ajoute-t-il, sans que je puisse savoir ce qui va rester dans leurs fichiers. Il m’explique que le fonctionnaire qui a examiné mon dossier était « inexpérimenté » et ne savait pas que certaines activités, dont celles liées à la recherche et à l’enseignement, bénéficiaient d’un régime d’exception et pouvaient parfaitement être menées avec un simple visa touristique. « Il ne savait pas ». Abasourdi, je lui demande, ou plutôt je déclare que c’était donc une erreur. Il ne me répond pas. Il me laisse simplement entendre qu’ayant, lui, une longue expérience, il a vu le problème en prenant son poste en début de nuit. Il aura l’amabilité de me raccompagner à la sortie d’un aéroport totalement désert, m’indiquant l’adresse d’un hôtel dans la zone portuaire. À aucun moment, ni lui, ni ses collègues ne se sont excusés. En réalité, ma libération n’a rien eu de fortuit. Elle est la conséquence de l’intervention de mon collègue auprès du président de l’université Texas A & M, d’une professeure de droit chargée des questions d’immigration, et de plusieurs avocats. Sans eux, j’aurais été conduit menotté, enchaîné, et entravé à l’embarquement pour Paris. Historien de métier, je me méfie des interprétations hâtives. Cet incident a occasionné pour moi un certain inconfort, difficile de le nier. Je ne peux, cependant, m’empêcher de penser à tous ceux qui subissent ces humiliations et cette violence légale sans les protections dont j’ai pu bénéficier. J’y pense d’autant plus que j’ai connu l’expulsion et l’exil dans mon enfance. Pour expliquer ce qui s’est passé, j’en suis rendu aux conjectures. Pourquoi le contrôle aléatoire est-il tombé sur moi? Je ne le sais pas mais ce n’est pas le fruit du hasard. Mon « cas » présentait un problème avant même l’examen approfondi de mon visa. Peut-être est-ce mon lieu de naissance, l’Egypte, peut-être ma qualité d’universitaire, peut-être mon récent visa de travail expiré, pourtant sans objet ici, peut-être aussi ma nationalité française. Peut-être aussi le contexte. Quand bien même aurais-je commis une erreur, ce qui n’est pas le cas, cela méritait-il pareil traitement? Comment expliquer ce zèle, évident, de la part du policier qui m’a examiné et de son supérieur hiérarchique sinon par le souci de faire du chiffre et de justifier, au passage, ces contrôles accrus? J’étais d’autant plus « intéressant » que je ne tombais pas dans la catégorie habituelle des « déportables ». Telle est donc la situation aujourd’hui. Il faut désormais faire face outre-Atlantique à l’arbitraire et à l’incompétence la plus totale. Je ne sais ce qui est le pire. Ce que je sais, aimant ce pays depuis toujours, c’est que les États-Unis ne sont plus tout à fait les États-Unis. Henry Rousso
La chancelière allemande Angela Merkel et les Premiers ministres des 16 Landers allemands ont conclu jeudi un accord visant à faciliter les expulsions de réfugiés dont la demande d’asile a été rejetée. Les expulsions sont normalement du ressort des landers, mais Merkel souhaite coordonner un certain nombre de choses au niveau fédéral pour accélérer les procédures. Le gouvernement fédéral veut s’accaparer plus de pouvoirs pour refuser des permis de séjour et effectuer lui-même les expulsions. L’un des objectifs centraux du plan en 16 points est de construire un centre de rapatriement à Potsdam (Berlin) qui comptera un représentant pour chaque lander. En outre, il prévoit la création de centres d’expulsion à proximité des aéroports pour faciliter les expulsions collectives. Un autre objectif est de faciliter l’expulsion des immigrants qui présentent un danger pour la sécurité du pays et de favoriser les «retours volontaires» d’autres migrants par le biais d’incitations financières s’ils acceptent de quitter le pays avant qu’une décision ait été prise au regard de leur demande d’asile. Une somme de 40 millions d’euros est consacrée à ce projet. Selon le ministère allemand de l’Intérieur, 280.000 migrants ont sollicité l’asile en Allemagne en 2016. C’est trois fois moins que les 890.000 de l’année précédente, au plus fort de la crise des réfugiés en Europe. Près de 430 000 demandes d’asile sont encore en cours d’instruction. L’Express
When President Trump last week raised Sweden’s problematic experience with open door immigration, skeptics were quick to dismiss his claims. Two days later an immigrant suburb of Stockholm was racked by another riot. No one was seriously injured, though the crowd burned cars and hurled stones at police officers. Mr. Trump did not exaggerate Sweden’s current problems. If anything, he understated them. Sweden took in about 275,000 asylum-seekers from 2014-16—more per capita than any other European country. Eighty percent of those who came in 2015 lacked passports and identification, but a majority come from Muslim nations. Islam has become Sweden’s second-largest religion. In Malmö, our third-largest city, Mohamed is the most common name for baby boys. The effects are palpable, starting with national security. An estimated 300 Swedish citizens with immigrant backgrounds have traveled to the Middle East to fight for Islamic State. Many are now returning to Sweden and are being welcomed back with open arms by our socialist government. In December 2010 we had our first suicide attack on Swedish soil, when an Islamic terrorist tried to blow up hundreds of civilians in central Stockholm while they were shopping for Christmas presents. Thankfully the bomber killed only himself. Riots and social unrest have become a part of everyday life. Police officers, firefighters and ambulance personnel are regularly attacked. Serious riots in 2013, involving many suburbs with large immigrant populations, lasted for almost a week. Gang violence is booming. Despite very strict firearm laws, gun violence is five times as common in Sweden, in total, as in the capital cities of our three Nordic neighbors combined. Anti-Semitism has risen. Jews in Malmö are threatened, harassed and assaulted in the streets. Many have left the city, becoming internal refugees in their country of birth. The number of sex crimes nearly doubled from 2014-15, according to surveys by the Swedish government body for crime statistics. One-third of Swedish women report that they no longer feel secure in their own neighborhoods, and 12% say they don’t feel safe going out alone after dark. A 1996 report from the same government body found that immigrant men were far likelier to commit rape than Swedish men.  (…) Our nation’s culture hasn’t been spared either. Artists accused of insulting Islam live under death threats. Dance performances and art exhibitions have been called off for fear of angering Islamists. Schools have prohibited the singing of traditional Christian hymns because they don’t want to “insult” non-Christian immigrants. Yet reports made with hidden cameras by journalists from Swedish public media show mosques teaching fundamentalist interpretations of Islam. Sweden’s government now spends an incredible amount of money caring for newly arrived immigrants each year. The unemployment rate among immigrants is five times as high as that of native Swedes. Among some groups, such as Somalis, in places like Malmö unemployment reaches 80%. Jimmie Åkesson and Mattias Karlsson
Sweden has the highest rape rate in Europe, author Naomi Wolf said on the BBC’s Newsnight programme recently. (…) The Swedish police recorded the highest number of offences – about 63 per 100,000 inhabitants – of any force in Europe, in 2010. The second-highest in the world. This was three times higher than the number of cases in the same year in Sweden’s next-door neighbour, Norway, and twice the rate in the United States and the UK. It was more than 30 times the number in India, which recorded about two offences per 100,000 people. On the face of it, it would seem Sweden is a much more dangerous place than these other countries. But that is a misconception, according to Klara Selin, a sociologist at the National Council for Crime Prevention in Stockholm. She says you cannot compare countries’ records, because police procedures and legal definitions vary widely. « In Sweden there has been this ambition explicitly to record every case of sexual violence separately, to make it visible in the statistics, » she says. « So, for instance, when a woman comes to the police and she says my husband or my fiance raped me almost every day during the last year, the police have to record each of these events, which might be more than 300 events. In many other countries it would just be one record – one victim, one type of crime, one record. » The thing is, the number of reported rapes has been going up in Sweden – it’s almost trebled in just the last seven years. In 2003, about 2,200 offences were reported by the police, compared to nearly 6,000 in 2010. So something’s going on. But Klara Selin says the statistics don’t represent a major crime epidemic, rather a shift in attitudes. The public debate about this sort of crime in Sweden over the past two decades has had the effect of raising awareness, she says, and encouraging women to go to the police if they have been attacked. The police have also made efforts to improve their handling of cases, she suggests, though she doesn’t deny that there has been some real increase in the number of attacks taking place – a concern also outlined in an Amnesty International report in 2010. « There might also be some increase in actual crime because of societal changes. Due to the internet, for example, it’s much easier these days to meet somebody, just the same evening if you want to. Also, alcohol consumption has increased quite a lot during this period. « But the major explanation is partly that people go to the police more often, but also the fact that in 2005 there has been reform in the sex crime legislation, which made the legal definition of rape much wider than before. » The change in law meant that cases where the victim was asleep or intoxicated are now included in the figures. Previously they’d been recorded as another category of crime. BBC
Comment se fait-il, alors, qu’en 2008, le Danemark, voisin de la Suède, avait seulement 7,3 viols pour cent mille habitants par rapport à 53,2 en Suède ? La législation danoise n’est pas très différente de celle de la Suède et il n’y a aucune raison évidente pour laquelle les femmes danoises auraient moins tendance à signaler un viol que les femmes suédoises. En 2011, six mille cinq cent neuf viols ont été signalés à la police suédoise – mais seulement trois cent quatre vingt douze au Danemark. La population du Danemark est d’environ la moitié de celle de Suède et, même ajustée à ces chiffres, la différence est donc significative. En Suède, les autorités font ce qu’elles peuvent pour dissimuler l’origine des violeurs. Au Danemark, l’Office Statistique Officiel de l’État, Statistics Denmark, a révélé qu’en 2010, plus de la moitié des violeurs condamnés étaient issus de l’immigration. Depuis 2000, il n’y a eu qu’un seul rapport de recherche sur la criminalité des immigrants. Cela a été fait en 2006 par Ann-Christine Hjelm de l’Université Karlstads. Il est apparu que, en 2002, 85% des personnes condamnées à au moins deux ans de prison pour viol par Svea hovrätt, une cour d’appel, étaient nées à l’étranger ou étaient des immigrants de deuxième génération. Un rapport de 1996 du Conseil National Suédois pour la Prévention du Crime est arrivé à la conclusion que les immigrants en provenance d’Afrique du Nord (Algérie, Libye, Maroc et Tunisie) étaient vingt-trois fois plus susceptibles de commettre des viols que les Suédois. Les chiffres pour les hommes venus d’Irak, de Bulgarie et de Roumanie étaient, respectivement de vingt, dix-huit et dix-huit. Les hommes venant du reste de l’Afrique étaient seize fois plus susceptibles de commettre un viol ; et les hommes originaires d’Iran, du Pérou, de l’Équateur et de Bolivie, dix fois plus enclins à en commettre que les Suédois. Une nouvelle tendance a frappé la Suède de plein fouet au cours des dernières décennies : le viol collectif – pratiquement inconnu auparavant dans l’histoire criminelle suédoise. Le nombre de viols collectifs a augmenté de façon spectaculaire entre 1995 et 2006. Depuis lors, aucune étude n’a été faite à ce sujet. L’un des pires cas s’est produit en 2012, quand une femme de trente ans a été violée par huit hommes dans une cité pour demandeurs d’asile, dans la petite ville de Mariannelund. Cette femme était une connaissance d’un Afghan qui avait vécu en Suède pendant un certain nombre d’années. Il l’a invitée à sortir avec lui. Elle avait accepté. Cet Afghan l’avait emmenée dans une cité pour réfugiés et l’y avait laissée, sans défense. Pendant la nuit, elle a été violée à plusieurs reprises par des demandeurs d’asile et quand son « ami » est revenu, il l’a violée aussi. Le lendemain matin, elle a réussi à appeler la police. Le Procureur de la Suède a qualifié cet incident de « pire crime de viol de l’histoire criminelle suédoise. » Gatestone institute
Depuis les Attentats du 11 septembre 2001, la France doit faire face, comme d’autres pays, à une menace plus diffuse et qui n’émane plus d’États bien identifiés. Les attentats les plus récents sont généralement revendiqués par l’État islamique. Eric Denécé évalue à 102 morts le nombre de victimes françaises du terrorisme islamiste entre 2001 et le 5 mai 20156. Les tueries de mars 2012 à Toulouse et Montauban font un total de 8 morts dont l’agresseur. Les attentats de janvier 2015 à Paris et dans sa région (au siège de Charlie Hebdo, à Montrouge, à Dammartin-en-Goële et la prise d’otages du magasin Hyper Cacher de la porte de Vincennes) font un total de 20 morts dont les trois terroristes. Le 19 avril 2015 Sid Ahmed Ghlam assassine Aurélie Châtelain à Villejuif et se blesse avant de pouvoir attaquer plusieurs églises. Le 26 juin 2015, attentat de Saint-Quentin-Fallavier: Yassin Salhi décapite son patron et fait deux blessés. Il se suicide en prison 6 mois plus tard. Lors des attentats du 13 novembre 2015 en France, deux kamikazes font détoner leur ceinture d’explosifs au Stade de France, faisant une victime ; en même temps, diverses fusillades à la Kalachnikov visent des restaurants situés dans le 10e et 11e arrondissements de Paris, suivies d’une nouvelle fusillade puis d’une prise d’otages au Bataclan, qui se soldera après assaut des forces de l’ordre par la mort de 89 otages et des trois terroristes impliqués. Au total, le bilan s’élève à 130 morts et 415 blessés7. Les attentats seront revendiqués par l’État islamique8. Tous les terroristes sont abattus par les forces de l’ordre ou meurent dans ce qui sont les premiers attentats suicides en France, sauf Salah Abdeslam qui sera capturé 4 mois plus tard en Belgique Le 13 juin 2016, un terroriste, Larossi Abballa (Français d’origine marocaine), ayant fait allégeance à l’État islamique perpètre un double meurtre sur des fonctionnaires de police, un commandant et sa compagne, agent administratif, par arme blanche, à leur domicile9. Le bilan est de trois morts, dont l’assassin, abattu lors de l’assaut du RAID. Le couple laisse un jeune enfant. Lors de l’attentat du 14 juillet 2016 à Nice, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel fonce délibérément sur la promenade des Anglais à Nice, au volant d’un poids lourd de 19 tonnes avec lequel il écrase de nombreux passants qui regardaient la fin du feu d’artifice lors de la fête nationale française. L’attentat fait 86 morts et 434 blessés, dont de nombreux enfants. Le terroriste est abattu par la police à bord de son véhicule. Le père Jacques Hamel est égorgé le mardi 26 juillet 2016 lors de l’attentat de l’église de Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, ses deux assassins sont abattus par la police alors qu’il sortaient avec des otages. Le 3 février 2017 se déroule une attaque au Musée du Louvre à Paris. Des militaires sont agressés par un homme les attaquant avec deux machettes. L’un d’eux est légèrement blessé et ses camarades neutralisent l’assaillant en ouvrant le feu. Plusieurs projets d’attentats sont déjoués en 2015, notamment contre des églises et des bases militaires10. Le plus spectaculaire est l’attentat du train Thalys le 21 août 2015 où Ayoub El Khazzani est arrêté dans sa tentative par un français et des militaires américains en permission. Une tentative d’attentat de la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris par des femmes est déjoué en septembre 2016. En 2016, de nombreux projets sont également déjoués dans le pays11. En France, la région parisienne, la région Rhône-Alpes et l’agglomération Roubaix-Tourcoing sont considérées comme des « viviers du terrorisme islamique » selon Claude Moniquet, codirecteur de l’European strategic Intelligence and Security Center. En France, environ 5000 personnes font l’objet d’une fiche « S » (Sûreté de l’État) et la majorité des terroristes de la seconde vague d’attentats qui ont touché la France étaient fichés « S » eux aussi. Wikipedia
Les déclarations controversées de Donald Trump associant immigration et criminalité en Suède ont involontairement ravivé le débat dans le pays scandinave sur les réussites et les échecs de sa politique d’intégration. Deux jours après les propos du président américain samedi en Floride, des émeutes dans un quartier nord de Stockholm où vit une majorité de personnes issues de l’immigration ont semblé mettre en pièces l’argumentaire déployé pour lui répondre. (…) Lundi soir en effet, plusieurs dizaines de jeunes ont affronté les policiers venus procéder à l’arrestation d’un trafiquant de drogue, incendiant des voitures, pillant des commerces. Les forces de l’ordre ont effectué un tir à balles réelles pour se dégager, a indiqué à l’AFP Lars Byström, porte-parole de la police de la capitale. Les images ont fait le tour du monde, brouillant la réponse des autorités suédoises à Donald Trump et à la chaîne Fox News qui a diffusé un reportage sur l’insécurité en Suède dont le président républicain s’était inspiré. Pour Tove Lifvendahl, éditorialiste du quotidien Svenska Dagbladet, il existe bel et bien « une once de vérité dans ce qu’a dit Trump ». « Que cela nous plaise ou non, c’est l’occasion de se demander si la perception que l’étranger a de nous et la perception que nous avons de nous-mêmes coïncident », écrivait-elle mercredi. Les contradicteurs de M. Trump font valoir que la Suède n’a pas connu d’attentat depuis 2010, qu’elle n’enregistre pas d’inflation criminelle depuis l’accueil de 244.000 migrants en 2014 et 2015 –un record en Europe par habitant –, et qu’elle demeure au total un pays parmi les plus sûrs du monde. Parmi les plus riches aussi. Si la Suède n’est pas épargnée par les difficultés de l’intégration, elle est loin de connaître les tensions entre communautés, les inégalités, la pauvreté et la violence à l’oeuvre aux États-Unis, soulignent-ils. Une autre vision met en avant la surreprésentation des personnes d’origine étrangère dans les statistiques de la délinquance, leur sous-activité professionnelle, les règlements de compte, les quelque 300 jeunes partis faire le jihad en Syrie et en Irak, le repli religieux, l’existence présumée de zones de non-droit… (…) Benjamin Dousa, un élu local conservateur d’origine turque, dénonce lui dans une tribune « une émeute par mois, un incendie de voitures par jour et le plus fort taux d’homicides par balles au niveau national » par habitant. En tout état de cause, le président américain a tort de stigmatiser une population en raison de son origine ethnique ou religieuse, estiment les sociologues Susanne Urban et Oskar Adenfelt. La clé de l’intégration est sociale et passe par « l’accès à l’État-providence, aux services sociaux, à l’emploi, à une école de qualité, à la mixité et au droit de peser sur la vie locale », défendaient-ils mercredi dans le grand quotidien Dagens Nyheter. Le Point/AFP

Attention: un aveuglement peut en cacher un autre !

Alors qu’après ses récentes allusions aux problèmes soulevés par l’immigration et le terrorisme islamiques en Europe nos médias se sont dument gaussés de la prétendue ignorance du président Trump …

Inspiré certes pour la Suède d’un reportage quelque peu sensationaliste sur un pays qui, sans compter un attentat-suicide d’un immigré irakien heureusement sans victimes il y a sept ans, tout en ayant apparemment dramatiquement sa définition du viol se trouve avoir ces dernières années le record du nombre de viols comme de migrants par habitant …

Et que refusant toute « comparaison » après, sans parler il y a deux mois ou encore hier en une Allemagne en pleine révision de sa politique migratoire, la quarantaine d’attentats et projets d’attentats islamistes depuis 2012 pour quelque 240 morts et 800 blessés, un président français nous assure qu’ « ici (…) il n’y a pas de personnes qui prennent des armes pour tirer dans la foule »

Pendant qu’apparemment victime du zèle d’un employé inexpérimenté et d’un contrôle de sécurité prolongé à un aéroport américain un mois à peine après un attentat à l’aéroport de Fort Lauderdale ayant fait cinq morts et six blessés, un universitaire français né en Egypte, porteur d’un ancien visa de travail et en route pour une conférence rémunérée se fend d’une tribune entière déplorant avec force « images d’esclaves » que « les États-Unis ne sont plus tout à fait les États-Unis » …

Comment ne pas repenser à un autre président américain

Qui au terme de deux mandats qui, suite à l’abandon d’un Irak alors sécurisé, ont vu pas moins de 124 attentats ou tentatives d’attentats islamiques

Dont une douzaine, entre Little Rock, Fort Hood, Boston, Moore (Oklahoma), Queens, Brooklyn, Garland, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, Orlando, St. Cloud (Minnesota), New York,  Columbus, d’attaques majeures …

Nous annonçait tranquillement il y a un mois qu’ « aucune organisation terroriste étrangère n’a planifié et exécuté avec succès une attaque dans notre pays ces huit dernières années » ?

A Complete List of Radical Islamic Terror Attacks on U.S. Soil Under Obama

James Barrett

Dailywire
December 7, 2016

In a speech at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday, President Obama declared that « [n]o foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland. » The claim earned perfunctory applause, but a closer look at the reaction of many of the servicemen and women there made clear what they really thought about the administration’s handling of national security.

The President’s claim — which he has repeated in some form or fashion over the last few years — is an obvious rhetorical attempt to gloss over the reality of the threat of radical Islamic terror on American soil. The attempt to disconnect « lone wolf » terrorists from the terror organizations who often inspire them does nothing to alleviate the pain of those who have suffered at the hands of jihadists and only hurts prevention efforts. Rhetorical tricks aside, the reality is that during Obama’s tenure scores of innocent Americans have been murdered on U.S. soil by jihadists, most of whom were inspired by or acting under the direction of foreign terror groups, particularly the Islamic state.

Below is a list of the major, verifiable radical Islamic terror attacks « successfully planned and executed » on U.S. soil since Obama first took office in 2009 (the first section provided by Daily Wire’s Aaron Bandler):

Little Rock, Arkansas, June 1, 2009. Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad shot and murdered one soldier, Army Pvt. William Andrew Long, and injured another, Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula, at a military recruiting station in Little Rock. Muhammad reportedly converted to Islam in college and was on the FBI’s radar after being arrested in Yemen–a hotbed of radical Islamic terrorism–for using a Somali passport, even though he was a U.S. citizen. In a note to an Arkansas judge, Muhammad claimed to be a member of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, the terror group’s Yemen chapter.

Fort Hood, Texas, November 5, 2009. Major Nidal Malik Hasan shot up a military base in Fort Hood and murdered 14 people. Hasan was in contact with al-Qaeda terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki prior to the attack and shouted « Allahu Akbar! » as he fired upon the soldiers on the Fort Hood base. After being sentenced to death, Hasan requested to join ISIS while on death row. It took six years for Obama to acknowledge the shooting as a terror attack instead of « workplace violence. »

Boston, Massachusetts, April 15, 2013. Tamerlan and Dhozkar Tsarnaev set off two bombs at the 2013 Boston marathon, killing three and injuring over 260 people. The Tsarnaev brothers later shot and murdered Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier. The Tsarnaev brothers were self-radicalized through online jihadist propaganda and through a mosque with ties to al-Qaeda.

Moore, Oklahoma, September 24, 2014. Alton Nolen beheaded a woman, Colleen Huff, at a Vaughan Foods plant and stabbed and injured another person. While Nolen’s motives are unclear, he appears to have been another radicalized Muslim who was obsessed with beheadings.

Queens, New York, October 23, 2014. Zale Thompson, another self-radicalized Muslim, injured two police officers with a hatchet before being shot dead by other cops. Thompson reportedly indoctrinated himself with ISIS, al-Qaeda and al-Shabab–a Somali jihadist terror group–websites and was a lone wolf attacker.

Brooklyn, New York, December 20, 2014. Ismaayil Brinsley shot and murdered two police officers execution-style and his Facebook page featured jihadist postings and had ties to a terror-linked mosque.

Garland, Texas, May 3, 2015. Two gunmen shot up the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, where a Mohammed cartoon contest was taking place, and were killed by a police officer. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 16, 2015. Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez shot and killed four Marines and a sailor at a military base in Chattanooga and was believed to have been inspired by ISIS.

San Bernardino, California, December 14, 2015. Two radical Islamists, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, shot and murdered 14 people and injured 22 others at an office holiday party.

Orlando, Florida, June 12, 2016. Omar Mateen, 29, opened fire at a gay nightclub, killing 49 and injuring 53. The FBI investigated Mateen twice before his rampage, but did not take any substantive action. Officials believe Mateen was self-radicalized but he pledged fealty to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before his death. « The real muslims will never accept the filthy ways of the west, » Mateen posted on his Facebook page after committing his heinous act at Pulse nightclub. « I pledge my alliance to (ISIS leader) abu bakr al Baghdadi..may Allah accept me, » he wrote.

St. Cloud, Minnesota, September 17, 2016. Dahir Ahmed Adan, a 20-year-old Somali refugee, began hacking at people with a steak knife at a Minnesota mall, injuring nine people before he was shot dead by off-duty police officer Jason Falconer. The FBI said numerous witnesses heard Adan yelling « Allahu akbar! » and « Islam! Islam! » during the rampage. He also asked potential victims if they were Muslims before inflicting wounds in their heads, necks, and chests. The FBI believe he had recently become self-radicalized. (As the Daily Wire highlighted, the Minneapolis Star Tribune attempted to blame « anti-Muslim tensions » for his murderous actions.)

New York City/New Jersey, September 17, 2016. Ahmad Khan Rahami, a 28-year-old naturalized citizen from Afghanistan, set off multiple bombs in New York and New Jersey. In Chelsea, his bomb resulted in the injury of over 30 people. Rahami wrote in his journal that he was connected to « terrorist leaders, » and appears to have been heavily influenced by Sheikh Anwar, Anwar al-Awlaki, Nidal Hassan, and Osama bin Laden. « I pray to the beautiful wise ALLAH, [d]o not take JIHAD away from me, » Rahami wrote. « You [USA Government] continue your [unintelligible] slaught[er] » against the holy warriors, « be it Afghanistan, Iraq, Sham [Syria], Palestine … « 

Columbus, Ohio, November 28, 2016. Abdul Razak Ali Artan, an ISIS-inspired 20-year-old Somali refugee who had been granted permanent legal residence in 2014 after living in Pakistan for 7  years, attempted to run over his fellow Ohio State students on campus. After his car was stopped by a barrier, he got out of the vehicle and began hacking at people with a butcher knife before being shot dead by a campus police officer. He injured 11 people, one critically. ISIS took credit for the attack, describing Artan as their « soldier. » Just three minutes before his rampage, Artan posted a warning to America on Facebook that the « lone wolf attacks » will continue until America « give[s] peace to the Muslims. » He also praised deceased al-Qaeda cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki as a « hero. »

Voir aussi:

Les États-Unis sont-ils encore les États-Unis?
Il faut désormais faire face outre-Atlantique à l’arbitraire et à l’incompétence la plus totale.
Henry Rousso
Historien, directeur de recherches au CNRS (Institut d’histoire du temps présent)
Le Hugffington Post

26.02.2017

Le 22 février dernier, j’ai atterri vers 14h30 à l’aéroport de Houston, aux États-Unis, en provenance de Paris. Je devais me rendre à un colloque de la Texas A&M University (College Station), où j’ai été invité à plusieurs reprises ces dernières années. Au guichet de l’immigration, une fonctionnaire me refuse l’entrée et m’emmène dans une salle attenante pour contrôle, sans explications. Une trentaine de personnes y attendent que l’on statue sur leur sort. J’observe machinalement une certaine fréquence dans les entrées et sorties. Au bout de trois quarts d’heure, alors que la plupart de ceux qui attendent repartent sans problèmes, un jeune officier de police me demande de le suivre dans un bureau particulier. Commence alors un interrogatoire informel. Je lui demande ce qui me vaut d’être là. Il me répond : « contrôle aléatoire » (random check). Il me demande ce que je viens faire aux États-Unis. Je lui présente alors la lettre d’invitation de l’université. Cette intervention doit-elle être rémunérée ? Je confirme – c’est la règle dans beaucoup universités Nord-américaines. Il m’objecte alors que je n’ai qu’un visa touristique et non un visa spécifique de travail. Je lui réponds que je n’en ai pas besoin, que l’université s’est occupée comme d’habitude des formalités et, surtout, que je fais cela depuis plus de trente ans sans jamais avoir eu le moindre ennui. Son attitude se fait alors encore plus suspicieuse. Examinant mon passeport, il relève que j’ai bénéficié récemment d’un visa « J1 », accordé notamment aux universitaires. J’ai été, en effet, professeur invité à l’Université Columbia de New York, de septembre 2016 à janvier 2017. Il conclut que je suis donc revenu travailler « illégalement » avec un visa expiré. J’ai beau expliquer que ma situation n’a rien d’anormal, sinon l’université n’aurait pas pu m’inviter, rien n’y fait. N’étant pas en possession d’un document fédéral m’autorisant à travailler aux États-Unis, je suis en infraction. La décision sera confirmée plus tard par son supérieur hiérarchique – que je n’aurai pas la possibilité de rencontrer.

On bascule alors dans une autre dimension. Le policier me fait prêter serment et me soumet à un interrogatoire étendu : questions sur mon père, ma mère, ma situation familiale, me posant près d’une dizaine de fois les mêmes questions: qui m’emploie, où j’habite, etc. J’ai la copie du procès-verbal. Il relève toutes mes empreintes digitales, pourtant déjà enregistrées dans le système comme pour tous les visiteurs. Il opère une fouille au corps en règle, malgré mes protestations. « C’est la procédure », me rétorque-t-il. Il m’informe ensuite que je vais être refoulé (deported) et mis dans le prochain avion en partance pour Paris. Il ajoute que je ne pourrai plus jamais entrer dans le pays sans un visa particulier. Je suis stupéfait mais ne peux rien faire sinon prévenir mon collègue de l’université. Le policier me demande si je veux contacter le Consulat de France à Houston. Je réponds par l’affirmative mais c’est lui qui se charge de composer le numéro, plusieurs heures après, aux alentours de 19h, appelant le standard et non le numéro d’urgence, donc sans résultat. Il m’indique également qu’il n’arrive pas à contacter Air France pour mon billet. Cela fait déjà près de cinq heures que je suis détenu et je comprends alors que rien ne se passera avant le lendemain.

Je m’apprête donc à passer encore entre une dizaine ou une vingtaine d’heures installé sur une chaise, sans téléphone – l’usage en est interdit –, avant de pouvoir occuper un fauteuil un peu plus adapté à la situation de personnes ayant effectué un long voyage. Toutes les heures, un fonctionnaire vient nous proposer à boire ou à manger, et nous fait signer un registre comme quoi nous avons accepté ou refusé. Malgré la tension, j’observe ce qui se passe dans ce lieu insolite, à la fois salle d’attente anodine et zone de rétention. Si la plupart des policiers adoptent un ton réglementaire, non discourtois, quelques-uns ricanent discrètement en observant cette population hétéroclite sous leur contrôle. Une policière engueule une femme dont le garçon de trois ans court dans tous les sens. Un homme se lève pour demander ce qu’il en est de sa situation. Trois policiers lui hurlent de s’asseoir immédiatement.

Vers 21h, il reste une demi-douzaine de personnes, somnolentes et inquiètes, un Africain ne parlant pas bien l’anglais, les autres sans doute d’origine latino-américaine. Je suis apparemment le seul Européen – le seul « blanc ». Arrivent alors deux officiers de police. Ils se dirigent vers le monsieur assis devant moi, peut-être un Mexicain, bien mis de sa personne. Ils lui montrent un billet d’avion et lui disent qu’ils vont l’emmener. Invité à se lever, il est alors menotté, enchaîné à la taille, et entravé aux chevilles. Je n’en crois pas mes yeux. Des images d’esclaves me traversent l’esprit: la policière qui lui met les fers aux pieds est une Africaine-Américaine, vaguement gênée. J’imagine le temps qu’il va mettre pour rejoindre la porte d’embarquement. Je me demande surtout si c’est le même sort qui nous attend. Je préfère croire que lui a commis un délit sérieux. J’apprendrai par la suite que « c’est la procédure ». Cette façon de faire – proprement indigne – serait exigée par les compagnies aériennes. Je ne suis pas sûr, au demeurant, que les conditions d’expulsion soient plus humaines chez nous.

L’attente continue, cette fois avec une réelle angoisse. A 1h 30 du matin – cela fait plus de 26 heures que j’ai quitté mon domicile parisien – je vois une certaine agitation. Une policière vient vers moi et me demande quelle est ma destination finale aux États-Unis et si quelqu’un m’attend à l’aéroport. Je réponds avec un début d’énervement – à éviter absolument dans ce genre de situations – que le chauffeur de l’université, qui se trouve à deux heures de route, est sans doute reparti… Elle me prie alors de ne pas me rendormir car je vais être appelé. Quelques minutes plus tard, un policier au ton cette fois amical me rend mon téléphone et mon passeport, dûment tamponné, et me déclare autorisé à entrer aux États-Unis. Les restrictions qui m’ont été imposées sont levées, ajoute-t-il, sans que je puisse savoir ce qui va rester dans leurs fichiers. Il m’explique que le fonctionnaire qui a examiné mon dossier était « inexpérimenté » et ne savait pas que certaines activités, dont celles liées à la recherche et à l’enseignement, bénéficiaient d’un régime d’exception et pouvaient parfaitement être menées avec un simple visa touristique. « Il ne savait pas ». Abasourdi, je lui demande, ou plutôt je déclare que c’était donc une erreur. Il ne me répond pas. Il me laisse simplement entendre qu’ayant, lui, une longue expérience, il a vu le problème en prenant son poste en début de nuit. Il aura l’amabilité de me raccompagner à la sortie d’un aéroport totalement désert, m’indiquant l’adresse d’un hôtel dans la zone portuaire. À aucun moment, ni lui, ni ses collègues ne se sont excusés.

En réalité, ma libération n’a rien eu de fortuit. Elle est la conséquence de l’intervention de mon collègue auprès du président de l’université Texas A & M, d’une professeure de droit chargée des questions d’immigration, et de plusieurs avocats. Sans eux, j’aurais été conduit menotté, enchaîné, et entravé à l’embarquement pour Paris.

Historien de métier, je me méfie des interprétations hâtives. Cet incident a occasionné pour moi un certain inconfort, difficile de le nier. Je ne peux, cependant, m’empêcher de penser à tous ceux qui subissent ces humiliations et cette violence légale sans les protections dont j’ai pu bénéficier. J’y pense d’autant plus que j’ai connu l’expulsion et l’exil dans mon enfance. Pour expliquer ce qui s’est passé, j’en suis rendu aux conjectures. Pourquoi le contrôle aléatoire est-il tombé sur moi? Je ne le sais pas mais ce n’est pas le fruit du hasard. Mon « cas » présentait un problème avant même l’examen approfondi de mon visa. Peut-être est-ce mon lieu de naissance, l’Egypte, peut-être ma qualité d’universitaire, peut-être mon récent visa de travail expiré, pourtant sans objet ici, peut-être aussi ma nationalité française. Peut-être aussi le contexte. Quand bien même aurais-je commis une erreur, ce qui n’est pas le cas, cela méritait-il pareil traitement? Comment expliquer ce zèle, évident, de la part du policier qui m’a examiné et de son supérieur hiérarchique sinon par le souci de faire du chiffre et de justifier, au passage, ces contrôles accrus? J’étais d’autant plus « intéressant » que je ne tombais pas dans la catégorie habituelle des « déportables ». Telle est donc la situation aujourd’hui. Il faut désormais faire face outre-Atlantique à l’arbitraire et à l’incompétence la plus totale. Je ne sais ce qui est le pire. Ce que je sais, aimant ce pays depuis toujours, c’est que les États-Unis ne sont plus tout à fait les États-Unis.

 Voir aussi:
Valeurs actuelles

25 février 2017 

Irrespect. Suite à une nouvelle critique du président américain sur la situation sécuritaire de la France et de sa capitale, François Hollande a de nouveau dérapé. Une faute que la droite n’a pas manqué de souligner.

François Hollande a sans doute la mémoire courte. Alors que Donald Trump citait vendredi “un ami” effrayé par l’insécurité qui règne à Paris, le chef de l’État a tenté de répliquer, samedi 25 février, affirmant qu’en France il “n’y a pas de circulation d’armes, il n’y a pas de personnes qui prennent des armes pour tirer dans la foule”.

“Comment François Hollande peut-il ainsi effacer les victimes ?”

Passablement remontée contre cette réponse fallacieuse, qui fait fi des dizaines de victimes récentes du terrorisme dans l’Hexagone, la droite a confronté le président socialiste à ses incohérences. François Fillon a par exemple rappelé les drames de “Toulouse, Charlie, Bataclan, Nice” et dénoncé un “effacement” des victimes.

Du côté du Front national, Florian Philippot s’est insurgé contre le “manque de respect pour les familles des victimes des attentats” et l’“indécence” du locataire de l’Élysée, quand Nicolas Bay a fustigé un “oubli [des victimes] du Bataclan et de Charlie Hebdo”.

Voir également:

L’effet Trump? La Suède s’interroge sur sa politique d’intégration

Le Point/ AFP

22/02/2017