Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson is executive editor of The American Prospect. His email is hmeyerson@prospect.org.

Recent Articles

Trump Didn't Flout GOP Norms — He Epitomized Them

When the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed, the American Right was faced with a conundrum. For most of the 20th century, it had defined itself by its anti-communism, the sole idea on which all wings of the disparate conservative community could agree. Moreover, anti-communism gave the Republicans a handy club with which to beat Democrats, since they could always attack the Democrats for being either soft on communism or, since Democrats believed in a mixed economy, being closet communists themselves. Then as now, Republicans were seldom deterred by an absence of evidence.

But with the 1991-1992 dissolution of the Soviet Union, the barbarians were no longer at the gate. The immediate beneficiary of this brave new world was presidential candidate Bill Clinton, whom the Republicans couldn’t attack, in the sudden absence of communism, for being soft on communism. There was still China, of course, but Republicans in those days and for some time thereafter liked China as a place where American corporations could do business.

Over the past quarter-century, however, Republicans have risen to the occasion: They have invented an enemy within whose purported terrors still drive GOP voters to the polls. The process began right after the Commies disappeared, in the 1992 Republican primaries, when Pat Buchanan proclaimed a culture war on liberals, minorities, and modernity itself—that is, on his fellow Americans. By 1994, Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh were singing from the same foul hymnal, and one year later Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes came along to swell the chorus. From that time forth, the Republican mantra was established: The enemy was here; the enemy was modernity; the enemy was the Democrats.

Then, a decade ago, Buchanan struck again. In his columns, he began noting that Vladimir Putin, while a onetime KGB-nik, was also becoming the leading figure on the world scene to oppose homosexuality and other egalitarian liberal deviations. Putin’s our guy, Buchanan concluded, waging the kind of war for traditional patriarchal authority and against his liberals that we Republicans need to wage against ours. (Having grown up in a household that vehemently supported Francisco Franco’s fascists in the Spanish Civil War, Buchanan had a chronic soft spot for authoritarians.)

Yesterday, what was once Buchanan’s eccentricity became the official policy of the president of the United States. Trump probably doesn’t give a hoot about Putin’s leadership of the war on gays, but as a nationalist patriarchal authoritarian thug, Putin is Trump’s kind of guy. Yes, Trump believes that he needs to back Putin up on the electoral interference question because it calls into question his victory; yes, perhaps Trump fears that Putin and his comrades have got the goods on him and he’d better go along with whatever they say.

But what we saw yesterday was also the reductio-ad-absurdum of the great Republican switcheroo: With the Communists gone, our real enemy is the enemy at home. And so a KGB thug with blood on his hands is the Republican president’s man, while Robert Mueller and the FBI are the cancer growing within. This is completely nuts, but it is also the logical culmination of the last 25 years of Republican evolution.

Bank Workers Rising

Last week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed a city ordinance that sought to do something no other U.S.-based government had done before: Insulate bank employees—and through them, the bank’s depositors—from their bank’s high-pressure sales tactics. The ordinance stipulated that in order for the city to deposit its funds in a bank, that bank would have to produce documents demonstrating that it wasn’t linking its employees’ pay, or continued employment, to the sale of products that its depositors might—or might not—want or need. There was ample reason why it was Los Angeles that produced the first such ordinance, for it was in Los Angeles that the first major Wells Fargo scandal (there have been several since) came to light. Faced with demands that they prod depositors to open additional accounts, Wells employees fabricated at least 3.4 million such accounts. The practice, which had been particularly pervasive in Southern California...

Questions for Kavanaugh

(Alex Edelman/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
From what we’re now learning about Brett Kavanaugh, it’s clear he thinks indicting a sitting conservative president would be a disaster. Whether he feels that way about a sitting liberal pope—in this case, Francis—isn’t so clear. President Trump’s pick to succeed Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court has written a great deal about how our system needs to defer to presidential power, and it’s also apparent that he’s a charter member of the Antonin Scalia/Pope Benedict Society for the Preservation of Patriarchal Norms (the Older, the Better). One newer norm that Kavanaugh looks poised to uphold is that of answering no substantive questions during his upcoming Senate confirmation hearings. A newly released study documents that Trump’s previous court pick, Neil Gorsuch, set the record for the highest percent of questions evaded during his hearings. Kavanaugh may well try to shatter Gorsuch’s record, but if the senators on the...

Janus: Son of Bush v. Gore

I. Son of Bush v. Gore Mitch McConnell is a big winner today. His refusal to let the Senate consider Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court seat opened by Antonin Scalia’s death led to Neil Gorsuch’s accession to Scalia’s seat, which in turn led to the spate of reactionary decisions the Court has since delivered. But no decision has mattered more to McConnell than today’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME , for this decision has a direct and immediate effect on the partisan balance of power. By stripping public-sector unions of the right to collect the fees from non-members they are obligated to represent in bargaining and grievance procedures, the five Republicans on the high court have effectively compelled the unions, which constitute some of the largest and most effective election-time campaigners for progressive causes and candidates, to lose the resources that enable them to do what they do. And what is it that the major public-...

Barbarians in Robes

The Committee to Defend Rich, Bigoted Old White Men (Preferably Patriarchal in the Pope Benedict Mode, and Zealously Republican)—otherwise known as the five Republican justices on the Supreme Court—is on a roll. The Committee is closing out this session with a bang, delivering a satchel of decisions that harks back in its economics to the Lochner court of 1905 (which struck down New York’s law that said bakers couldn’t be made to work more than ten hours a day or 60 hours a week, because it violated the free speech of employers) and in its racial attitudes to the Dred Scott court of 1857 (slightly updated for appearances' sake). This spring, the Committee ruled that employers could force their workers to resolve disputes with their employer by going through an employer-dominated arbitration process, rather than go to court via class-action suits. The decision flatly ignored the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which gives all employees, union or not, the...