Author: E.J. Dionne Jr.

Christian leaders call out the heresy of Trumpism

Maybe it takes a royal wedding to offer lessons in what a good sermon sounds like. Maybe it takes one of the world’s most elitist institutions — a monarchy, for goodness’ sake — to provide a view of Christianity rooted not in conservative cultural warfare (or unrelenting support for President Trump) but in an egalitarian love that will “let justice roll down like a mighty stream.” And the Most Rev. Michael Curry, who preached for a royal couple and the world last Saturday, isn’t finished with us yet. On Thursday, a group of Christians will march to the White...

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Will the GOP be the pro-Putin party?

By E.J. Dionne Jr., Beneath the surface of the controversy over Russia’s efforts to help Donald Trump become president is a dramatic reconfiguration of opinion on foreign policy. Many Republicans who had long been critical of Vladimir Putin’s despotic rule are adjusting their positions to accord with Trump’s more sympathetic views. Others are hanging back, fearful of picking a fight with their party’s incoming president or undermining the legitimacy of his election. At the same time, Putin’s fiercest Republican critics, including leading neoconservatives, find themselves allied with Hillary Clinton’s supporters. They are calling out the Kremlin’s interference with the election and demanding a full accounting of what happened. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey O. Graham have been among the most outspoken. While some on the left worry about starting a new Cold War, there has been a broad toughening of liberal and Democratic opinion toward Russia. This shift owes in part to outrage over Putin’s efforts to sabotage Clinton, but the roots of the mistrust of Putin can be traced back several years. Putin’s hostility toward Clinton is widely seen as a response to her criticism of the 2011 Russian elections, a point she underscored herself last week. Mass protests broke out against what the opposition saw as Putin’s vote rigging. At the time, he blamed Clinton and the American government for the uprising. Putin fumed that Clinton had...

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What Democrats owe the country

By E.J. Dionne Jr., Senate Democrats think they can hold Donald Trump accountable by challenging him to deliver on issues where he has made populist noises. Supporters of this strategy insist that offering to work with Trump where he shares Democratic goals is the best way to split the Republican Party or, alternatively, to expose Trump’s flimflam if he fails to deliver for working-class Americans whose cause he rhetorically championed. In normal circumstances, this approach might be just the ticket. Unfortunately, this moment is anything but normal. Millions feel vulnerable to Trump’s moves on immigration and doubt his commitment to equality before the law. We should be alarmed by his flouting of widely accepted norms governing conflicts of interest and the right to dissent. There is good reason to ask Democratic leaders to send unambiguous signals of resistance. His selection of right-wing figures such as Stephen K. Bannon and Michael Flynn for White House posts and of longtime civil rights foe Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general only feed legitimate demands for a strong pushback. It is not a form of paranoia to worry about our basic liberties under the rule of a thin-skinned and vindictive man who lashes out at even the restrained criticism issued by the “Hamilton” cast on Friday. “This should not happen!” tweeted the birther who spent years questioning Barack Obama’s legal right to be...

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Donald Trump is a phony outsider

By E.J. Dionne Jr., KANSAS CITY, Mo. Will Missouri be the one state next Tuesday that produces an anti-establishment trifecta? And will we ever get to exploring how Donald Trump, who has trafficked with old-style politicians all his life, has gotten away with casting himself as the year’s premier outsider? Missouri was, as recently as 2008, a presidential swing state. This year, it’s Trump Country. But when it comes to control of the U.S. Senate, the state is living up to its old reputation as a decider. Thanks to the political advertisement of the year and a relentless focus on the Republican incumbent’s reputation as an insider, Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander, a 35-year-old Army National Guard veteran who served in Afghanistan, is within a whisker of upsetting Sen. Roy Blunt. Blunt, who served 14 years in the House before winning election to the Senate in 2010, is a courtly, old-fashioned politician who is proud of his skills as a vote-counter and touts his abilities as a bipartisan dealmaker. Such credentials might be assets in another year. But in 2016, Blunt’s establishmentarianism is under attack as Kander reminds voters that Blunt’s wife, daughter and two of his sons are all lobbyists. And the Democrat grabbed attention nationwide with a television commercial in which he wears a blindfold and assembles an AR-15 assault rifle while declaring his support for...

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How the GOP’s Big Tent turned into a house of horrors

By E.J. Dionne Jr., What is the Republican Party? Suddenly, this has become one of the central questions of the 2016 campaign. It’s not simply a matter of whether the GOP is the party of Donald Trump or the party of Paul D. Ryan. It is also an issue of whether Republican congressional leaders have any connection with the seething grass roots whose anger they stoked during the Obama years but always hoped to contain. Trump is the product of their colossal miscalculations. And then there are the ruminations of millions of quiet Republicans — local business people and doctors and lawyers and coaches and teachers. They are looking on as the political institution to which they have long been loyal is refashioned into a house of bizarre horrors so utterly distant from their sober, community-minded and, in the truest sense of the word, conservative approach to life. This election has been transformed. Its trajectory will now be divided between Before the Video (BV) and After the Video (AV). Hillary Clinton was always likely to win, but BV, it seemed she would have to scratch out a normal, and perhaps even narrow, victory. AV, Republicans all the way down the ticket are running for their lives. Clinton has already started to divert some of her rhetorical energy to helping Democrats in Senate and House races, and Democratic money sources...

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Trump’s incredible immigration act

Carlo Allegri/Reuters By E.J. Dionne Jr., Only the naive have ever believed that democracy is solely a noble contest over competing ideas, proposals and solutions. Emotion looms large in every human decision, including how we cast our ballots, and smart politicians have always blended appeals to the heart and the gut with their entreaties to reason. We cherish what might be called the Lincoln-Douglas approach to politics, inspired by the 1858 debates between Honest Abe and “The Little Giant,” Stephen Douglas, when the two candidates went from place to place in Illinois arguing with great eloquence about the future of slavery. But we forget that even in those debates, emotion was often in the saddle. Racism was at work, and so was a passionate anger at “the Slave Power,” the popular term in the North for the domination of the federal government by Southern planters. For decades, political scientists have blasted away at electoral models based primarily on the idea of rational choice. In the most recent and sophisticated entry in the field, “Democracy for Realists,” Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels argue that even well-informed and politically engaged voters mostly choose candidates based on their social identities and partisan loyalties. Judging from the 2016 polls, that theory looks pretty good. And in a brilliant article for Vox, Lee Drutman of the New America Foundation shows how Donald Trump, far...

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The Republican Party has lost its soul

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. (Michael Reynolds/EPA) By E.J. Dionne Jr., “What does this say about your party that this is your standard-bearer?” The headlines from President Obama’s excoriation of Donald Trump on Tuesday rightly highlighted his flat declaration that the Republican nominee is “unfit to serve as president.” But the challenge to Republican leaders who fell in line behind Trump was even more devastating. Obama was not simply condemning a man whose brutal cruelty finally came home to anyone with a heart after Trump’s attacks on a Gold Star family. The president was also indicting the entire GOP leadership for courting the extremism that led to Trump and for acquiescing in his nomination. Let’s focus on the most revealing aspect of this week’s turmoil within a party now aghast over the unstable egotist at the top of its ticket. Trump could falsely claim that Obama was born abroad, but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could call Mexican immigrants “rapists,” but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could lie repeatedly — about, for example, whether he had met Vladimir Putin and whether he had opposed the Iraq War — but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could call for a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States, but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could make degrading comments about women and mock...

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Learning from Britain’s unnecessary crisis

James McNels hands out copies of the Evening Standard newspaper to London commuters. (Shannon Jensen Wedgwood/For the Washington Post) By E.J. Dionne Jr., Elites are in trouble. High levels of immigration are destabilizing our democracies. Politicians who put their short-term political interests over their countries’ needs reap the whirlwind — for themselves but, more importantly, for their nations. Citizens who live in the economically ailing peripheries of wealthy nations are in revolt against well-off and cosmopolitan metropolitan areas. Older voters lock in decisions that young voters reject. Traditional political parties on the left and right are being torn asunder. One of the few good things about Britain’s vote to leave the European Union is the rich curriculum of lessons it offers leaders and electorates in other democracies. History is unlikely to be kind to British Prime Minister David Cameron. Last week’s referendum was not the product of broad popular demand. Cameron called it to solve a short-term political problem and get through an election. His Conservative Party was split on Europe and feared hemorrhaging votes to the right-wing, anti-Europe, anti-immigrant U.K. Independence Party (UKIP). Cameron figured that kicking his troubles down the road by promising a future plebiscite on Europe could make them go away. Instead, he turned a normal electoral challenge into a profound crisis that could lead to the breakup of his country while threatening Europe’s future....

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