Malacandra.me

It’s all transactional by @BloggersRUs

It's all transactional

by Tom Sullivan

Non-political people just adopt a sports team or follow around their favorite band.

"A longing for validation is underrated as a political motivator," explains Michelle Goldberg, exploring the seamy side of political social climbing.

Exhibit A is the "tawdry, shallow memoir" of a Jewish former employee of the Christian right:

It’s not exactly a secret that politics is full of amoral careerists lusting — literally or figuratively — for access to power. Still, if you’re interested in politics because of values and ideas, it can be easier to understand people who have foul ideologies than those who don’t have ideologies at all. Steve Bannon, a quasi-fascist with delusions of grandeur, makes more sense to me than Anthony Scaramucci, a political cipher who likes to be on TV. I don’t think I’m alone. Consider all the energy spent trying to figure out Ivanka Trump’s true beliefs, when she’s shown that what she believes most is that she’s entitled to power and prestige.

Baron’s book, “Life of the Party: A Political Press Tart Bares All,” is useful because it is a self-portrait of a cynical, fame-hungry narcissist, a common type but one underrepresented in the stories we tell about partisan combat. A person of limited self-awareness — she seemed to think readers would find her right-wing exploits plucky and cute — Baron became Reed’s communications director because she saw it as a steppingstone to her dream job, White House press secretary, a position she envisioned in mostly sartorial terms. (“Outfits would be planned around the news of the day,” she wrote.) Reading Baron’s story helped me realize emotionally something I knew intellectually. It’s tempting for those of us who interpret politics for a living to overstate the importance of competing philosophies. We shouldn't forget the enduring role of sheer vanity.

Goldberg includes other Trump-era figures, "the immoral and the amoral," whose politics she sees as more transactional than ideological, and frustratingly insincere.

Confirming Goldberg's take, Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) in her concession speech Monday told supporters her eyes were opened by the president's blaming her loss on being insufficiently fawning towards him:

Trump’s comments about her and her overall experience during the election “shine a spotlight on the problem Washington politicians have with minorities and black Americans,” she continued. “It’s transactional. It’s not personal.”
His/their relationship with the law and the Constitution is also transactional, and more about social power and status than principle.

Immigration opponents’ insistence migrants seek asylum the “right” way (at an American embassy or consulate, they insist wrongly) echoes T-party howls from a 2012 recount a Democrat here won by 18 votes. T-partiers objected to counting votes of college students, even though Symm v. United States settled that question in 1979.

GOP activists argued students’ votes shouldn’t count because the students didn’t really live at their school addresses. The Board of Elections chair read them the statute aloud from the code book. They were unfazed. The law should be what they wanted it to be. What the law actually said didn’t matter.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services states (emphasis mine): “To obtain asylum ... you must be physically present in the United States. You may apply for asylum status regardless of how you arrived in the United States or your current immigration status.”

Immigration opponents do not care what the law actually says. The law is supposed to be what they feel it should be. The law carries weight only so long as it serves them.

As if to reinforce the point, Axios reporter Jonathan Swan told MSNBC on Sunday the president flies into a rage when staffers tell him what he wants to do about immigrants violates the law. Trump is "raging hot angry at Kirstjen Nielsen," staffers tell Swan:

Swan noted that Trump doesn’t want to hear anyone say that he can’t do something. In fact, every time someone says “the lawyers won’t allow it,” the president is more likely to do it anyway to prove he can.

“So when you hear ‘legalistic,’ he goes into a rage,” Swan continued. “And he doesn’t want to hear it. He wants to hear, ‘No, it’s our land. It’s our border, blunt force, stop them.’ And whenever [Nielsen] comes back with, ‘Well, Mr. President, there are these laws,’ he shuts down. He’s frustrated."

Posturing about the rule of law, then, is another example of the affect Goldberg perceives:
In many ways, the insincere Trumpists are the most frustrating. Because they don’t really believe in Trump’s belligerent nationalism and racist conspiracy theories, we keep expecting them to feel shame or remorse. But they’re not insincere because they believe in something better than Trumpism. Rather, they believe in very little. They are transactional in a way that makes no psychological sense to those of us who see politics as a moral drama; they might as well all be wearing jackets saying, “I really don’t care, do u?”
Not if it does not preserve or enhance their standing, no.

Update:

As I was saying,