The left-right confusion of Trump

Prepare for the era of cognitive dissonance. Or maybe it’s the ultimate test of compartmentalization.

Whatever one calls it, Democrats are trying mightily to figure out how it works and how they might not only play on the new terrain but even make some gains — a goal that seems more attainable in light of the fact that there just isn’t much farther for them to fall.

The two-track approach to Trump is captured by Democrats’ reaction to his naming of a right-wing zealot as his chief White House advisor and the talk of massive infrastructure spending as an early domestic policy priority.

More than 150 House Democrats signed a letter this week calling on Trump to rescind his appointment as senior White House strategist of Stephen Bannon, the former chief of Breitbart News, favorite outlet of the “alt-right” movement. At the same time, today’s New York Times reports that Senate Democrats see an opening to align with Trump on infrastructure spending as well as paid maternity leave, trade agreements, and other issues in a way that could create tensions for Republicans between siding with their new president and sticking with the party’s traditional free-market views, positions that he often eschews.

The Democratic pondering is also playing out in a possible showdown over the House minority leader position long held by Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco. House Democrats opted to hold off on selecting a leader until after Thanksgiving following a call by Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton and several colleagues to consider a change at the top.

One potential challenger to Pelosi, reports the Times, is Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, whose selection would send a clear signal of the party’s recognition of its need to do better among white working-class voters.

The party needs someone “like me, who has constituents and friends who are steelworkers or work in construction,” Ryan told The Youngstown Vindicator. “The economy and blue-collar jobs are important for us as a party. We need leaders who can go into these Great Lakes districts.”

Eric Fehrnstrom writes in today’s Globe that Democrats are doomed unless they respond to the two big forces that he says tipped the race to Trump: white working-class anger about a “hollowed-out economy” and anger of religious voters at the “cultural elite.”

When Fehrnstrom digs into the economy, however, he starts to trip over the left-right confusion that the election has spawned.

Fehrnstrom says Hillary Clinton ignored working-class concerns about a hollowed-out Rust Belt economy and tacked too hard to the left instead of taking a centrist page from her husband’s successful playbook that gave him two terms in the White House. But that is the same husband whose trade policies took centerstage in Trump’s anger-fueled campaign that blamed NAFTA and other economic programs for the woes of the working class.

It is the Democrats’ left flank, led by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, that often seems more in synch with the protectionist policies Trump has pushed as the cure for a withered working class.

The Times story says, “Some Democrats are even co-opting Mr. Trump’s language from the campaign. ‘Every single person in our caucus agrees the system is rigged,’ said Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan.”

Of course, Warren was talking about a rigged system long before Trump descended from his Manhattan tower and decided to embrace it as the theme of his race.

Trump’s mix of right-wing xenophobia and economic populism makes it hard to pigeonhole him.

President Obama gave it whirl at his press conference on Monday.

“I also think that he is coming to this office with fewer set hard-and-fast policy prescriptions than a lot of other presidents might be arriving with. I don’t think he is ideological,” said Obama. “I think ultimately he is pragmatic in that way. And that can serve him well as long as he has got good people around him and he has a clear sense of direction.”

Of course there are plenty of questions about the people Trump is surrounding himself with and about whether he has a clear sense of direction.

Otherwise, things seem to be going great.



Christopher Barry-Smith, a top aide to Attorney General Maura Healey wins a judgeship on a 5-3 vote by the Governor’s Council, despite strong opposition from gun owner groups. (State House News)

Airbnb, the home-sharing app, launches an ad campaign suggesting it wants to be taxed in Massachusetts. (State House News)


Wary of President-elect Donald Trump’s threat to halt federal funds to sanctuary cities, the Brockton City Council put off action on the Trust Act, which would restrict police from holding undocumented aliens and turning them over to federal officials. (The Enterprise)


Gov. Charlie Baker urges a wait-and-see approach on Trump. (WBUR) Attorney General Maura Healey says Baker’s silence on the appointment of Steve Bannon, who she describes as a white supremacist, is concerning. (State House News)  Chris Fauske, who teaches at Salem State University, slams Baker and US Sen. Susan Collins of Maine for their “genuinely chilling” silence on Trump. (Salem News)

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a longtime Democrat who became one of Trump’s most vocal supporters, is the leading candidate to become national security advisor. (National Review)

Completing the Patriots Trump trifecta, team owner Robert Kraft pays a visit to Trump Tower.

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which released thousands of hacked emails that damaged Hillary Clinton, may ask Trump to have have a federal investigation of him dropped. (Boston Herald)

Drones are here to stay as a weapon. (U.S. News & World Report)


An Eastham resident who won election to the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates through a write-in campaign was able to avoid public examination about his past which includes multiple arrests for drunken driving because there were no other challengers for the job. (Cape Cod Times)


Circling back to an issue it raised before last week’s election, Moody’s Investor Service said the rejection by voters of a ballot question to raise the cap on charter schools was “credit positive” for the state’s cities, whose school budgets could have faced new pressures if the measure passed. (Boston Globe)

Federal regulators are pursuing a national crackdown on “pay to play” schemes involving beer taps that first surfaced in Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)


To avoid a state takeover, the Boston School Committee approves a plan to close the problem-plagued Mattahunt Elementary school. (WBUR)

The New Bedford School Committee approved a plan to redesign the city’s struggling middle schools and place them in an “innovation zone” but the teachers’ union, which would have to sign off on the plan, said such a district was unnecessary. (Standard-Times)

Lawrence schools are plagued first by fire and then by a leaky water main that needed to be replaced. (Eagle-Tribune)

Maureen Binienda, the superintendent of schools in Worcester, receives a Gateway Cities innovation award from MassINC. (MassLive)

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is placing a big bet on biosciences. (Boston Globe)

Foreign students are reconsidering studying at American colleges out of concern for their safety in the wake of Trump’s victory. (New York Times)


Harvard health policy professor — and regular CommonWealth contributor — John McDonough answers questions on what Trump’s election is likely to mean for health issues, including the Affordable Care Act.

A bid by Spectrum Health Systems to open a methadone clinic has drawn opposition in Millbury, but police chiefs in other towns, including Milford, say similar clinics in their communities have not been a problem. (Telegram & Gazette)

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Lahey Health are in merger talks again — for the fourth time in five years. (Boston Globe)

SSTAR, a Fall River-based drug treatment program, is planning to build a research center with inpatient beds and an out-patient clinic. (Herald News)

Drug prices have not budged in the past two years despite pressure and shaming of manufacturers by Congress. (Associated Press)


Colorado is preparing to begin a four-month test of a vehicle-miles-traveled fee to see whether it should replace the state’s gasoline tax. (Denver Post)


The Supreme Judicial Court weighs whether to throw out as many as 24,000 drug cases tainted by scandal at the state drug lab. (Salem News)

Two men arrested in Framingham for attempted murder when they allegedly sliced another man’s throat are in the country illegally and one of the suspects had previously been ordered to be deported. (MetroWest Daily News)

A South Carolina man reported to Hingham District Court to resolve a drunken driving charge — 22 years after he was arrested. (Patriot Ledger)


Donald Trump’s gripes about the New York Times are usually about stories that are accurate. (Washington Post)

Oxford Dictionaries says the word “post-truth” is its choice for word of the year. (Time)

Facebook and Google vow to crack down on fake news sites — after an election in which they reaped huge advertising revenue through sites trafficking in lies about the race. (Boston Globe)