Best columns: The U.S.
The GOP’s identity crisis
“What does it mean to be a conservative Republican in the age of Trump?” No one knows, said Josh Kraushaar, as President Trump’s unorthodox and rapidly shifting policies have left Republi cans with a serious identity crisis. That confusion was on display in the recent special election to fill a House vacancy in Georgia, where the Republican nominee, Karen Handel, ran as an orthodox conservative who kept an arm’s-length distance from Trump. Two Republicans who identified themselves as Trump supporters, meanwhile, “performed dismally,” getting less than 1 percent of the vote each. Most of the enthusiasm in the conservative district was for Democrat Jon Ossoff, who nearly got a majority of votes. Republican voters seem to be demoralized by the party’s lack of legislative accomplishments during Trump’s first 100 days; Trump’s constant changes of position suggest to many Republicans that he “doesn’t seem to know what he stands for anymore.” That impression has emboldened many Republicans in Congress to distance themselves from the president. The danger is that if the GOP goes into the 2018 midterm elections divided, defensive, and with no clear message, it will give Democrats “a path to winning back control of the House.”
Ted Nugent in the Oval Office
When a beaming President Trump posed with Sarah Palin, Kid Rock, and Ted Nugent in the Oval Office last week, said Jamelle Bouie, it sent a very distinct message. Every president tells us something about the image he wants to project through the entertainers, celebrities, and sports figures he invites to the White House. Harry Truman played host to Duke Ellington, John Kennedy to Frank Sinatra, and Richard Nixon to Elvis Presley; Barack Obama brought “a rotation of popular and esteemed black artists.” What do Trump’s visitors tell us? A hard rocker beloved in red states, Kid Rock has defiantly flown the Confederate flag and told black protesters to “kiss my ass.” The openly racist Nugent denounced Obama as “a subhuman mongrel,” called his supporters “pimps, whores, and welfare brats,” and has said the Confederacy should have won the Civil War. Palin has repeatedly attacked Obama as an un-American radical who “palled around with terrorists.” All three stand for “reactionary white rage.” By inviting Rock, Nugent, and Palin to the Oval Office, Trump was declaring victory and taunting his enemies: “We took our country back and now you have to live with it.”
Connection can breed contempt
The Boston Globe
The global village, it turns out, “is a nasty place,” said Nicholas Carr. Mark Zuckerberg and the other digital zealots have long promised that bringing humanity together in a giant communications network would create “a more harmonious world.” But rather than triggering “a planetary outbreak of peace, love, and understanding,” Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and other internet communities have splintered the U.S. and the Western world into angry factions, and filled public discourse with “vitriol and insult.” This actually shouldn’t surprise us: Social research has found abundant evidence that the more close contact we have with other people, the more we become irritated by their different ideas, preferences, and habits. Indeed, the constant avalanche of online selfdisclosure can create “an oppressive sense of ‘digital crowding,’” British researchers have found—making people prone to lashing out at those who overshare. The internet’s faceless mode of interaction also serves as a lure to antisocial sadists who enjoy inflicting psychic pain. More than two decades into the internet revolution, we now know that “technology is an amplifier” for humanity’s worst traits as well as our best. “What it doesn’t do is make us better people.” ■