Issue 8: Sept 23-Sept 29, 2017

 THE WEEK IN TRUMP

Weekend Warrior: Trump said that NFL players who kneel during the national anthem should be fired, spurring more players to take a knee in protest. Trump’s intervention turned Colin Kaepernick’s original protest against police abuse of African Americans into a much larger debate about Trump himself and the meaning of free speech and patriotism. NYT’s Ross Douthat noted that “now we’re ‘arguing’ (I use the term loosely) about everything [but] the specific issue that Kaepernick intended to raise, police misconduct…”

Health and Taxes: The effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act was pronounced dead yet again after John McCain and Susan Collins said they wouldn’t vote for the Graham-Cassidy bill, leading the White House and congressional Republicans to shift their focus to taxes. A NYT fact-check of the Republicans’ vaguely outlined tax reform proposal said it would benefit the wealthiest.

Puerto Rico Struggles: On Thursday, after much criticism for not acting sooner, Trump waived the Jones Act for Puerto Rico, making it easier to ship relief supplies to the island. A poll indicated that almost half of Americans don’t know that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens—and that those who do know are much more likely to support aid.

Travel Ban Sequel: The White House announced a new version of the travel ban, adding North Korea and Chad to the previous list, which originally included only Muslim-majority nations. The NYT reported that the inclusion of Chad came at the request of the acting Homeland Security secretary and adviser Stephen Miller, but “over the objections of Pentagon and State Department officials, who argued that alienating the nation, one of America’s more reliable counterterrorism allies in Africa, risked harming long-term national security interests.”

Trumpism Defeats Trump: In Alabama, Luther Strange, the GOP establishment candidate, lost to Roy Moore in the GOP primary for Jeff Sessions’s old seat. Trump, succumbing to establishment pressure, had supported Strange, but Moore was seen by many, including vocal supporter Steve Bannon, as more representative than Strange of the spirit of Trump’s presidential campaign. Bannon is looking to further rattle the Republican establishment by recruiting primary challengers in other states, reports Politico.

Frequent Flier Fired: Or, strictly speaking, he resigned—he being Tom Price, the Secretary of Health and Human Services who had drawn fire for spending $400,000 of government money on charter flights rather than fly on commercial airlines.

 

HOW TO BE A MINDFUL RESISTER

This is the eighth issue of the Mindful Resistance Newsletter, and we just realized that we’ve spent the first seven issues failing to spell out what exactly it means to be a Mindful Resister! So we’ve decided to start spelling that out. This week’s object lesson in mindful resistance comes via Jon Lovett, host of the highly popular and highly regarded anti-Trump podcast Pod Save America. Lovett is not—in this case, at least—an example of a mindful resister, but, rather, an example of someone who should be resisted.

This week he tweeted the following:

“The president is a terrible person surrounded by terrible people stoking the terrible instincts of terrible followers for terrible purposes.”

It would be only natural, if you came across that tweet, to feel the righteous urge that, at last count, had led 7,800 people to retweet it. And this would be largely defensible—since, after all, most of the tweet is on target. But if you observe the tweet mindfully—that is, if you don’t view it through the prism of your natural emotional reaction to it, but appraise it more objectively—you may feel some questions well up: Given that many Trump followers are motivated partly by their sense that coastal elites have contempt for them, isn’t it counterproductive for coastal elite Jon Lovett to call them all “terrible”? And, even if Lovett means that just some of them are terrible, can we really expect many Trump supporters to assume as much when they read that tweet? And, against this apparent downside of amplifying the tweet, what’s the counterbalancing upside?

If such questions lead you to not click ‘retweet,’ then you’ve just committed an act of mindful resistance! In fact, it’s a double act of mindful resistance: you’ve resisted the urge to retweet, and in doing that you’ve helped resist Trump!

Granted, it’s a pretty small increment of help. But it’s not nothing. One reason some media elites write hyperbolic and counterproductive tweets is that they get positive reinforcement in the form of retweets. So every time you choose whether to retweet, you’re casting a vote that helps shape elite discourse. In a sense you’re casting more than one vote, since any of your retweets might in turn be retweeted by others.

If you want to have a slightly different kind of influence, and perhaps a more powerful kind, you could go so far as to reply to Lovett on Twitter, politely expressing the view that these kinds of undiscerning indictments of Trump followers actually help Trump. Feedback like this can have an effect—Lovett, like many other media elites, sometimes reads and responds to twitter replies.

Of course, even if you do this robust version of mindful resistance—refrain from retweeting and issue a mild reprimand—it’s unlikely that you will have singlehandedly saved America. But the more of us there are who are exercising such discernment, and offering such feedback, the bigger the overall effect will be. So it’s good news that this weekly newsletter’s subscriber base has grown by more than 100 subscribers per week. And next week we’ll add a feature that makes it easier to tell your friends about the newsletter. Feel the momentum? If not, give it time.

BACKGROUND

WaPo reports that at least 50 professional sports teams, including 18 NFL teams, have been paid by the Department of Defense for patriotic displays at games.

Trump wants to “enact sanctions that would isolate Iran’s economy as much as it was seven or eight years ago,” but there are “internal divisions” over this on his foreign policy team, reports Bloomberg.

Former Vice-President Joe Biden is staking out “anti-populist” turf in advance of a possible presidential bid, according to Politico Magazine’s Bill Scher.

DEEP BACKGROUND

Lee Drutman, at Vox, argues that the Republican Party has become “insane” in part because saner Republicans are “stuck” in a two-party system.

Twitter is insulating journalists from America, argues Chris Arnade: “Many journalists don’t understand how bubbled they are, and sadly Twitter is only making everyone, and them, more bubbled.”

NYT Magazine explores the ramifications of the Breitbart-fueled conspiracy theory that Twin Falls, Idaho officials protected Muslim refugees who committed rapes.

Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov lays out a vision for “hybrid cooperation” between Russia and the EU, in commentary for the Carnegie
Moscow Center:
“the White House is losing its ability to conduct any sort of consistent foreign policy … Europe, on the other hand, offers Russia more opportunities…”

WaPo chronicles an amazing confab at a Dairy Queen between two anti-Islamic militiamen and two Richardson, TX mosque members.

—by Aryeh Cohen-Wade and Robert Wright with contributions from Nikita Petrov and Brian Degenhart