Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The populist front

Two slightly connected observations.

1. It looks like an oversight that Donald Trump's seemingly abrupt outreach to Taiwan has not yet been linked to deep Republican lore, specifically the 1950s demands to "Unleash Chiang" so as to open up a reverse takeover of Red China by Taiwan, It was of course a preposterous vision, carried on in mocking fashion in a Bush family in-joke to nearly the present day. But someone in Trump's circle, or maybe Trump himself, doesn't get the joke.

2. For the last few weeks, pundits have been rushing to their keyboards to type up "Merkel is the liberal West's last hope" articles. Sceptics have therefore, rightly, been quick to draw attention to Merkel's promise in her CDU party speech today to ban wearing the burqa during public administrative transactions.

Anyway the point is that if Merkel wins next year's election -- which at this point she is likely to do -- it won't be because she fits some New Pundit definition of liberal, but because she knows how to maintain a moderate conservative electoral coalition large enough to give her space to implement moderate conservative policies.

Part of how she does this is being tactically astute. It's forgotten now, but Merkel saw the dangers of Davos attendance last January, an insight that still seems lost on the Thought-Leading Ted-Talking fools headed there again this year. Even her burqa ban might be more aimed at detaching herself from the Intellectual-Yet-Idiot choir than any substantive imposition on observant Muslim lifestyle in Germany.

In that same speech from which the burqa ban grapped all the attention, she also said --

Ehrlich gesagt: Wenn ein Freihandelsabkommen mit den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika Hunderttausende in Deutschland auf die Straße bringt, aber die so grausamen Bombardierungen auf Aleppo so gut wie keinen öffentlichen Protest auslösen, dann stimmt irgendetwas mit den politischen Maßstäben nicht mehr

Loosely: if a trade agreement with the USA can bring hundreds of thousands onto the streets in protest, but the cruel bombing of Aleppo brings almost no public protest, then something has changed in political standards.

That's an effective dig at the very selective nature of "outrage" as the currency of populism, just as Aleppo has been displaced from the news by whatever is the latest Trump tweet.

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