Donald Trump

It's Political Spot-Changing Season!

When the White House switches teams, the reaction by opportunists and short-term thinkers can be unintentionally hilarious


December is always a fun month after party-changing presidential elections. Take a cross-section from the political commentary of December 2008, 2000, 1992, 1980, 1976, 1968, 1960 on backward, and you are certain to capture hypocrites, opportunists, self-identified pragmatists, and everyday voters in mid-transformation between yesterday's deeply held conviction and tomorrow's opposite positioning.

As I write in today's L.A. Times, such moments are fine occasions to reflect on the underrated virtues of political ideology, as well as to point and laugh. Excerpt:

Republican public opinion on Vladimir Putin has been jerked like a needle across vinyl. Since July 2016, when Trump was coronated as leader of the GOP, Putin's net favorability among Republicans has increased by a stunning 56 percentage points, according to an Economist/YouGov poll released this month. […]

Remember when Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president"? Democrats claimed that was just about the most egregious example of premeditated obstructionism they'd ever heard — until they found themselves bereft of executive power. According to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): "Past is present, and what goes around comes around." Also, same to you, but more of it.

It really wasn't that long ago, to cite another rapidly changing value, that liberals thought bigotry lurked behind state-government opposition to federal mandates. As a February 2016 Vox headline informed us, the term "states' rights" is part of the "sneaky language today's politicians use to get away with racism and sexism." Yet that same website this month exulted that: "We're about to see states' rights used defensively against Trump."

Read the whole thing, including shout-outs to the libertarian-flavored pushback to proposed Trumpian overreach, here.

I discussed political shapeshifting season, among many other topics, on this week's episode of The Fifth Column podcast, which you can listen to here:

NEXT: What Critics of the FBI's Clinton Investigation Get Right

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  1. For example: many of this very comentariat

    1. Crusty never changes.

    2. I for one, hated eminent domain, and other various and sundry abuses of government power right up until November 9th, 2016. Now, however, I think you should be shot for your opinions.


      1. People can still support Trump’s potentially good agendas while railing on his bad agendas. Pushing for more eminent domain is a bad agenda and should be unilaterally opposed. Trump gutting and/or closing down most of the federal agencies is a good agenda.

    3. Are you taking all the relishing proggy tears to be gushing Trump support?

      Lots of tried-and-true libertarians still here. It’s just that the unprecedented wailing and literal crying from the left is too delicious to ignore. I’ve seen epic tantrums, but the scale of this one is mind-blowing. We still don’t have our guy in, so what else can we do until the new boss takes the place of the old boss? Might as well twist the nipples of every raging proggie.

      1. I understand the relishing of prog tears. Some need to watch out though. Pros cry about almost everything and if we don’t watch ourselves we could be criticizing them where they have valid concerns.

        1. Progs not pros

        2. What kind of “valid concerns”?

          Even where their (stated) goals overlap with those of libertarians, the solution on how to get there tend to favor force rather than voluntary choice. And more often than not, once their preferred solution is in place, it becomes a springboard to force more “solutions” on people who don’t want or need them.

  2. Interesting piece Matt. “We need to avoid engaging in opportunistic spot-changing of our own.” Amen.

    PS. please never use “coronated” again. I cannot express how massively irritating it is. People in real monarchies say “crowned”.

    1. I thought it was, “That bitch got pwned”.

    2. We talk different for a reason.

      1. What reason would that be, Matt? “Crowned” is the correct term. “coronated” sounds like you’re talking about Mexican beer.


        1. Reason being that I do not take my language rules either from monarchists or Hit & Run buzzkills.

          1. Hurrah, I’m a Hit & Run buzzkill! I can die happy

          2. Hit & Run buzzkills.

            Now we finally have a name for our intramural Jugger team

  3. disappeared as if by magic. As did the tea party movement itself, in any meaningful sense.

    That Tea Party sure is dead. The GOP establishment has put their hand-picked hacks over in every election since 2013.

  4. Congrats, Matt, you’ve found steady employment. You can rewrite this column with new examples every week for the next 4 years. My favorite (because I detest Hannity) is the turnabout re Assange. But the double-whammy is Trump’s stimulus/infrastructure spending that has Rush Limbaugh and Paul Krugman swapping philosophies. It’s going to be an entertaining few years.

  5. So, you’re telling us that the parting on the left is now parting on the right? Hmm…needs moar guitars and primal screams.

  6. When did this podcast get released? I see it was recorded Tuesday MORNING, but I didn’t notice it in my queue until THIS morning.

    In other words, I smell a rat.

  7. To clarify – are we at war with Eurasia or not?
    This is really important since I’m ordering some whores.

  8. Found this paragraph ruminating on a possible H. Clinton win in Paul Krugman’s November 7th column. It is just sooooo delicious.

    “If she does [win], you know what will happen. Republicans will, of course, deny her legitimacy from day one, just as they did for the last two Democratic presidents. But there will also ? you can count on it ? be a lot of deprecation and sneering from mainstream pundits and many in the media, lots of denial that she has a “mandate” (whatever that means), because some other Republican would supposedly have beaten her, she should have won by more, or something.”…..collection

    1. Would it be worse if Krugman was completely ignorant of all facts, or knew them and wrote this dreck anyway?

    2. I’m sorry. Anytime I hear or read the words “Paul Krugman said…” I tune out whatever follows.

    3. Even Krugabe’s cat hates him.

  9. It would be nice if some of the shape-shifting reflected learning. For example, the new embrace of states rights by the dems or the vow to be more critical of the presidency by the press, but I am afraid that too many people can totally switch their positions and fail to remember their past positions or reconcile them. The press did not wake up to their proper role in the system, they just hate Trump. Their positions do not reflect consistent ideological positions. It is just expediency.

  10. The chattering class and our political overlords lack principles and convictions. Vox is a cesspool of retardation. I know.

  11. I missed the part where the first 15 mins transitioned from “acceptable* drugs”…

    (*and is it ok to take ritalin, but NOT OK to crush it up and snort it at parties? I think that’s worth its own side-debate)

    …to “defrocked* journalists”.

    (*there needs to be some other term than “frocked” for professional accreditation. i can’t hear it without remembering my friends’ halloween costume, which was a priests outfit with a stuffed seabird on his shoulder and bird poop running down one side = “A Frock of Seagulls”)

    Kmele needs to ring a bell or something when topics change. Or maybe just put some text in the description noting the rough post-facto map of the discussion (e.g. 0:00 “gettin high”, 10:00 “Stephen Glass aint so bad”, 20:00 “Keith Olbermann/Russian whores”)

  12. Matt on Trump =

    “Since the election… he has been very skillfully, through his appointment process and deliberation process, quietly co-opting planet conservative…. at least in how he’s filling out his cabinet. He’s nominating people who are going to do things that Conservatives haven’t even attempted to do in generations.

    Sadly, the convo seemed to transition again right after that. I was sort of interested in hear what some of those things are. I have my own short-list, but i wonder if yours is different.

    1. Well, I haven’t really reported any of that out, and am on vacation, so your blanks-filling is likely superior to mine. But, DeVos, Price, Pruitt, Perry, Puzder — these aren’t necessarily go along/get along types. My hypothesis is that to the surprise of many, Republicans are discovering they elected (a weird version of) Scott Walker, after all.

      1. Republicans are discovering they elected (a weird version of) Scott Walker, after all.

        yes. i think a lot of it might even be surprising to Trump supporters.

        This “these aren’t necessarily go along/get along types“-thing…. it seems like something that deserves a longer piece.

        Of course its all based on nothing but the characters & backgrounds of the people he’s chosen, and no one has any idea what anyone’s actually going to do, but the thing that seems interesting is that there’s *an actual consistent theme* to his nominations.

        they’re not just political hacks who talk a big “slash and burn government”-game, but can otherwise be expected to perform as commanded, running the administrative shadow-government in ways that best benefit the GOP politically….

        They all seem to be actual ‘doers’ with very specific ideas about how stuff *should* work better. A lot of Military & business people in places career political people have typically ruled.

        The prevailing assumption has always been that Trump was just a pitch-man who bullshitted his way into office, and once there would basically run a very conventional republican presidency… because he’s not very bright and has no real ‘ideas’ about government. His picks suggest he’s far more interested in the *substance* of transforming government rather than the mere spectacle of it.

        1. I agree that this is very worthy of exploration, and will almost surely do so once I’ve had enough foie gras and vrais champagne & the like.

      2. You may be right. However I still remember when Greenspan was an objectivist but turned out to be just another chicken-shit bureaucrat. And Reagan was OK with it.

  13. NYT does a fascinating long piece on Steve Kerr and his dad – who, unbeknownst to me, was the president of American University in Beirut, and was assassinated in the early 1980s during the civil war there.

    it thankfully avoids letting Steve talk about contemporary politics; its mostly about his family history, which is pretty amazing and interesting.

  14. Moynihan calls lawyers in California the “lowest form of pond scum”? I’m a lawyer in California. Fuck you, you fucking mick cunt. You don’t know me you fucking sod.

    1. most lawyers i know tend to nod and agree when people characterize their profession as ‘making crack-whores look respectable’.

      what sort of law do you do?

      1. Class actions, PI, trust and estates, contracts, and general civil litigation (plaintiff and defense). I’m a sole practitioner, so I wear many hats.

        About lawyers – yes, there are some shady lawyers. There are also shady mechanics and plumbers and contractors. But I wouldn’t say that the proportion of bad lawyers is any greater than in any other profession.

        1. Class actions

          You put the ‘class’ in…. oh, forget it.

          look, i’d love to play the world’s smallest fiddle for you, but it doesn’t work via-typing.

          Do you think people who work on Wall St like being characterized in the media as the antithesis of ‘main street’, social-parasites who are the enemy of working people everywhere? people who “create nothing”?

          if you are overly sensitive about the way your profession has been characterized (*for centuries, i might add), maybe you should have chosen a different field.

          1. Meh, I’m used to it. I like lawyer jokes, too. I’m just busting balls, tit for tat.

            And about the Wall Street people, it’s the same sort of stupidity. People who don’t understand the profession have a knee-jerk reaction to it, without thinking about the necessity of it or what the world would be like without it. Wall Street people perform a great service by allocating capital efficiently. Lawyers reduce transaction costs. A world without Wall Street (or its equivalent) looks like North Korea or the USSR. A world without lawyers looks like contract enforcement amongst drug cartels.

    2. You made his point. – fellow mick

  15. Mike M. =

    “Apoplexy Overload”

    – the forthcoming EP from his Boston-based Punk band

  16. Matt =

    “the American press doesn’t cover governance, it covers Politics”

    that seems to be the sort of thing that needs to be repeated every day, because people only remember it for about 30 seconds.

  17. Thank you, Mike, for the Brendan O’Neill suggestion.

    Kmele = Happy *HOLIDAYS*??!?? (head explodes)

    in parting-shot, 5th Column declares scorched-earth war on Christmas

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