Subscribe to get tough, fair journalism seven days a week.
Subscribe today

Day: March 10, 2016

The demagogue that America’s founders feared


     “The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations.”
— Edmund Burke

     WASHINGTON — As the unthinkable becomes likely, the question arises: Who is really to blame for Donald Trump?

     The proximate answer is a durable plurality in the Republican primary electorate, concentrated among non-college-educated whites but not limited to them. They are applying Trump like a wrecking ball against the old political order. And it clearly does not matter to them if their instrument is qualified, honest, stable, knowledgeable, ethical, consistent or honorable.

     But why has this group of voters cohered, while other elements of the Republican coalition have fractured?

     Some blame compromised Republican leaders who have resolutely refused to do things — such as unilaterally overturning Obamacare — that they actually lack the constitutional power to do. Or maybe the establishment invited a backlash for insufficient toughness on illegal immigration — though it is hard to imagine why public urgency would spike just as the flow of illegal immigration has slowed to a trickle. Or maybe a parallel establishment of conservative talk radio, PACs and websites gains listeners, funds and clicks by inciting conservatives against Republicans.

     Or maybe, as reform conservatives have argued, Republicans have not adequately responded to 25 years of economic dislocation and wage stagnation — challenges faced by blue-collar families that simply don’t yield to a circa-1981 GOP agenda of tax cuts and deregulation.

     The problem? All these same arguments were being made by the same people before Trump arrived on the scene. A new and unexpected development in American politics has managed to confirm everything people already believed, suggesting that not much learning is taking place.

     Whoever else might be implicated, it is necessary to say that Trump is to blame for Trump. The fact that he is appealing to understandable concerns does not make him a valid or responsible voice. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, for example, President George W. Bush could have chosen to blame Islam and stir up prejudice. He didn’t. In the aftermath of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, Trump did, picking on a religious minority for self-serving political reasons.

     In a dangerous world, fear is natural. Cynically exploiting fear is an art. And Trump is a Rembrandt of demagoguery.

     But this does not release citizens from all responsibility. The theory that voters, like customers, are always right has little to do with the American form of government. The founders had little patience for “pure democracy,” which they found particularly vulnerable to demagogues. “Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs,” says Federalist 10, “may by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people.” A representative government is designed to frustrate sinister majorities (or committed pluralities), by mediating public views through “a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country.”

     Trump is the guy your Founding Fathers warned you about. “The question is not ‘Why Trump now?'” argues constitutional scholar Matthew Franck, “but rather ‘Why not a Trump before now?’ Perhaps some residual self-respect on the part of primary voters has driven them, up to now, to seek experience, knowledge of public policy, character, and responsibility in their candidates. The Trump phenomenon suggests that in a significant proportion of the (nominally) Republican electorate, this self-respect has decayed considerably.”

     With the theory of a presidential nominee as wrecking ball, we have reached the culmination of the founders’ fears: Democracy is producing a genuine threat to the American form of self-government. Trump imagines leadership as pure act, freed from reflection and restraint. He has expressed disdain for religious and ethnic minorities. He has proposed restrictions on press freedom and threatened political enemies with retribution. He offers himself as the embodiment of the national will, driven by an intuitive vision of greatness. None of this is hidden.

     The founders may not have imagined political parties as a check on public passions, but that is the role the GOP must now play — as important as any in its long history. It is late, but not too late. With losses in Ohio and Florida on March 15, Trump may well be held below a majority of delegates at the Cleveland convention. And then this chosen body of citizens should play its perfectly legitimate role and give its nomination to a constructive and responsible leader.

     Michael Gerson’s email address is [email protected].

     (c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

Hearing Michigan’s angry voices


      WASHINGTON — Tuesday in Michigan was brought to you by white working-class men and the people from little towns and small cities. The outcome of a primary that shook the certainties in the Democratic presidential race while also ratifying the ongoing power of Donald Trump’s coalition of discontent was determined by voters who don’t trust trade deals and don’t believe in the promises of the new economy.

     Trump and Bernie Sanders are as different as two politicians can be, yet both served as megaphones for a loud cry of protest from the long-suffering and the ignored.

     This year’s primaries can be seen as the end of 1980s conservatism in the Republican Party and 1990s moderation in the Democratic Party. The social compact that underwrote each party’s consensus was broken by the long-term effects of working-class income decline and the severe dislocations let loose by the financial collapse of 2008. Economic change has affected regions, states and localities very differently. Few states were as traumatized as Michigan.

     Thus did majorities in both parties in Michigan tell exit pollsters that trade takes away rather than creates U.S. jobs. The negative verdict among Republicans was 55 percent to 32 percent, as CNN reported; among Democrats, the figures were 57 percent to 30 percent. Both Trump and Sanders did far better with the critics of trade.

     The political crisis — and this is what it is — is especially acute in the Republican Party. For all of their differences, Sanders and Hillary Clinton both support more regulation of Wall Street, more progressive taxes, and government measures to ease economic dislocation and to provide broader social benefits. Clinton’s program already acknowledges the need for Democrats to go beyond the political approach crafted by her husband, even if her Michigan defeat is an important warning sign that many in her party are still unpersuaded.

     Moreover, both Democrats have embraced a multiracial America and courted African-Americans aggressively. Sanders’ ability to win a somewhat higher share of the black vote than he has so far contributed to his triumph.

     By contrast, the Republican leadership is as chained as ever to the conservatism of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. The incantations about smaller government, less regulation, and lower taxes (especially for the wealthy) are as familiar as the sonorous tones of Gregorian chant.

     Trump is a menace to the believers in free market doctrine because he pastes the conservative label on a package of views antithetical to it: He excoriates trade deals, attacks the pharmaceutical companies, pledges not to cut Social Security and Medicare and, in general, suggests that government itself — if led by him — can cure what ails the most angry (white) voters.

     Once again, they responded. Trump managed only 27 percent among Michigan primary voters who graduated from college, but 46 percent among those who didn’t. And the Trump constituency is very male: Men gave him 45 percent of their ballots, women only 29 percent.

     The gender gap would pose an enormous problem for Trump if he became the GOP nominee: The most recent Washington Post-ABC News Poll showed Clinton leading Trump in a hypothetical matchup among registered voters by 50 percent to 41 percent, based on a 21-point lead among women; Trump led by five points among men.

     But for now, facing a divided field, Trump has made his irate, masculine and ideologically polyglot constituency a real power in Republican politics. And Marco Rubio, the candidate who hews most closely to the establishment conservative line, finds himself isolated, his candidacy dependent on carrying his home state of Florida next week. Usually, presidential candidates can count on carrying their home states in primaries. That Rubio can harbor no such certainty speaks to the failure of his effort to be all things to all Republicans. He is bleeding more moderately conservative voters to John Kasich and the more ideologically and religiously fervent to Ted Cruz.

     But the Michigan Revolt should leave the traditional powers in both parties uneasy and the economically better-off with an intimation of how profoundly their comfort contrasts with the social and economic pain experienced by so many of their fellow citizens.

     Take a map of Michigan and draw a line across it at Grand Rapids. The vast majority of counties north of that line supported both Trump and Sanders.

     Voters who are geographically and instinctively distant from the power centers and the great metropolises feel ignored and forgotten. Democratic republics do not thrive when so many of their citizens are so alienated.

     E.J. Dionne’s email address is [email protected]. Twitter: @EJDionne.

     (c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

Carjacker caught after taking car from hotel

Keizer Police arrested Ryan Otero on March 9 after Otero carjacked this blue Subaru Outback and attempted to elude police. (Photo courtesy Keizer Police Department)
Keizer Police arrested Ryan Otero on March 9 after Otero carjacked this blue Subaru Outback and attempted to elude police. (Photo courtesy Keizer Police Department)

A 28-year-old Keizer man was arrested after a carjacking incident Wednesday morning.

Shortly before 11 a.m. March 9, Keizer Police Department officers were dispatched to a carjacking incident at the Keizer Quality Suites on Wittenberg Lane. According to a release from the Keizer Police Department, the 51-year-old male victim told police he had been pushed down by a man in his 20s, who then stole his blue 2015 Subaru Outback from the south parking lot of the hotel.

The victim suffered minor abrasions when he fell to the ground. The suspect was reported to be armed with a crow bar, or some similar tool. The suspect was later identified as Ryan Otero.

While officers searched the area, Sgt. Trevor Wenning spotted the Subaru going eastbound on Dearborn Avenue near Verda Lane. Wenning followed Otero as he drove east on Verda Lane.

Once other officers joined Wenning, a high risk traffic stop was initiated on Verda just west of the Salem Parkway. Otero pulled the vehicle over.

Initially Otero complied with verbal commands and exited the car with his hands up, but moments later he became defiant, reentering the vehicle and then exiting again with a crow bar. An officer deployed his Taser twice, but was ineffective both times in incapacitating Otero.

After the second Taser attempt, Otero threw the crow bar towards officers, got back into the Subaru and attempted to drive away. He was only able to drive about 50 yards before striking two police vehicles. There were no injuries, but all three vehicles sustained moderate damage and had to be towed away.

Following the crash, Otero was taken into custody without further incident. He was taken to the Marion County Correctional Facility and charged with one count each of first degree robbery, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, attempting to elude a police officer, third degree escape and first degree criminal mischief. The total bail was $75,000.

Members of the Salem Police Department and the Oregon State Police are conducting the investigation into the crash of the patrol vehicles, which is standard procedure in such an incident.

Anyone having additional information about this incident is asked to contact Officer Jeremie Fletcher at 503-390-3713 ext. 3467.

Seven Celtic scribes pen One Act Festival

Playwrights Alex deMeurers, Raina Hickman, Jaida Watson, David Henderson, Krystin Morrell, Abrianna Feinauer and Morgan Hoag all wrote one acts for McNary's upcoming festival.
Playwrights Alex deMeurers, Raina Hickman, Jaida Watson, David Henderson, Krystin Morrell, Abrianna Feinauer and Morgan Hoag all wrote one acts for McNary’s upcoming festival.

Of the Keizertimes

McNary High School senior Morgan Hoag gives the perfect reason why anyone should make sure they’re in the seats for the annual One Act Festival.

“It’s the one time you can come to a McNary play and the playwright is going to be in the audience with you,” Hoag said.

Hoag is one of seven Celtic writers who produced a microplay for the festival that takes the stage March 10, 11 and 12. Curtain time is 7 p.m. and tickets are $5.

In addition to being completely written by students for the first time, each one act is directed by another McNary student and features freshmen and sophomore actors. Each of the plays also ties into the drama department’s theme for the year: the many faces of love.

Seniors Alex deMeurers and Krystin Morrell opted to take on two roles in the production. Each wrote one of the one acts and each is directing the play written by the other.

deMeurers’ play is titled The Little Things.

“It’s a play about a couple at a coffee shop and the light fades up on them at different times in their relationship. It’s basically about watching them fall apart,” he said.

deMeurers enrolled in McNary’s playwriting class the past two years and said he found it easier to get words on the page this time around.

Morrell’s play is Through Blind Eyes and is the tale of a woman who has lost some of her perspective and the man who offers her some of his.

“I wrote it last summer and I always wanted to create a character that had lost one of their senses. I picked that character and then tried to figure out how his situation could help someone else,” Morell said.

deMeurers and Morrell chose each other’s play to direct after a blind reading.

“I’m just trying to take her work and make it my own while being respectful to what she wrote,” deMeurers said.

Morrell found an instant connection in The Little Things.

“I thought it was really funny and satirical. It was a play I could understand because of the conflicts happening,” Morrell said.

Sophomore Abrianna Feinauer’s inspiration came at 2 a.m. with a deadline looming and can be summed up in two words: undead love.

“It starts out with a zombie named Howard and his adventures finding love in a modern world. There’s troublesome girls, dating apps and oblivious friends who don’t understand that he’s a zombie,” Feinauer said.

The resulting play is titled Howard vs. Love and is directed by Cameron Engle. Feinauer just completed her first-ever creative writing class and she never quite expected to be picked for the festival.

“It was crazy, it was so exciting because every part of that play has a part of me in it,” she said.

If Feinauer was shooting for comedy, junior Raina Hickman ran in the opposite direction with Break Free directed by Gloria White.

“It starts out with the worst moment of an abusive relationship and then rewinds to earlier in the relationship showing how it got to that point,” Hickman said.

Her cast of characters includes the families of both the victim and the abuser in an attempt to show all sides. While it’s a heavy topic, she hopes the audience connects with the emotional center.

“I hope that people don’t relate to it but that they find it emotional,” Hickman said.

Senior Jaida Watson’s Ethan and Anna Travel Through the Universe is a delightful mouthful and follows the adventures of two friends in their quest to defeat the evil Dr. Obsidian.

“Part of the play takes place in their imaginations, but they end up with a real world problem that they have to deal with,” Watson said.

As with Feinauer, the muse arrived in the heat of the moment.

“I was sitting in class and I was one of the only people without an outline done. I plugged my headphones in and wrote it out in that moment,” Watson said.

Ethan and Anna is directed by Elise LeDuc.

McNary alum David Henderson wrote his play, Quester’s Delight, when he was still a senior. It’s directed by Osvaldo Torres.

“It’s a romance-comedy-tragedy,” Henderson said. “It’s about two characters who come together to play a video game, but they are fighting in real life over a girl and giving each other advice about what they should do.”

When Henderson found out his work had been selected for the festival via e-mail he decided it was best to just walk away from the computer for a while. He’s excited now.

“I’m excited to see what the audience thinks about it. I’m interested to see when they laugh and how they react to it,” he said. “This is something I created and now they are taking it a step further to make something else out of it.”

Hoag had a loaded schedule already when she signed up to take playwriting last fall. She was one of two writers to have a play produced for last year’s One Act Festival. Celt drama department director Dallas Myers tasked her with writing a comedy after a more serious piece last year. The result is Aimee’s Adventure directed by Dorothy Woolford.

“It’s about a little girl who goes to bed and finds her mom is gone. From that point on her stuffed animals come to life and it’s all about her journey to go and find her mom,” she said. “ I didn’t want to go for romantic love I wanted it to be like little kid love.”

She’s also part of a technical theater class this semester.

“I’m loving everything that’s going into it. I’m trying really hard not to act excited because I don’t want her to do things because I like them, but it’s hard because I love everything going into it,” Hoag said.