Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Radical Transparency

Here is what might be an interesting discussion on the WikiLeaks dumping of John Podesta's emails.  (I don't know, I'm proctoring an essay and can't listen to it.)

I will admit that I find Glenn Greenwald an insufferable douchecanoe who lives in the sort of Magical Unicorn Land of Brightly Colored Pixies that typifies a certain type of Libertarian Narcissist.
But I wanted to talk about the very idea of "radical transparency."  Klein, apparently, feels that there should be limits to this transparency, because - SURPRISE! - it might be applied to her.  It turns out that taking pot shots at the powerful isn't so much fun when you yourself become a public figure.

I would argue even further that the very idea of radical transparency is corrosive of democratic government.

By all means, government ACTIONS should be transparent.  Bills should not be forced through a vote in the middle of the night without sufficient public review.  The deliberation that go into writing a law absolutely should be secret.  The horse-trading and log-rolling that typified legislating prior to the Tea Party and the radical transparency movement is what made the whole freaking mess work.  American democracy didn't work because it was "super awesome with terrific sauce" but because it consisted - from the very drafting of the Constitution - in a series of backroom deals and compromises.

The radical transparency movement seeks to destroy that climate of private deal making.  This is the ultimate expression of purity politics.  We expect elected officials to agree with us all the time, and if they deviate from the One True Faith, we shall excommunicate and crucify them.  This is more true on the Tea Party right, but certainly represents a powerful force on Left.

Hillary Clinton is - in many ways - the perfect person for this moment.  She is very adept at backroom dealing and compromise. She's a doer.  And she's also completely out of fucks to give about how people view her.  She probably resents being called Killary or Shillary by her putative allies, but in the end, she's tougher than most people give her credit for.

I would love to see us return to a few more smoke filled rooms, a few more efforts at compromise legislation that don't get torpedoed by someone leaking the deliberations to the rapist in the Ecuadorian embassy.

Ultimately, I want politics to work again.  It doesn't have to be pure, and I don't have to agree with it.  I don't expect my politics to be like a Netflix cue where I hand select exactly the show I want to watch, while my son watches something else in the next room.  I expect it to be like family movie night where we argue and search for compromise and eventually wind up watching something we can all agree on.  The Netflix option is easier.  By far.

But family movie night is so much healthier and robust.  We've lost that capacity in our politics, and I would argue that while our a la carte approach to life in the Internet Age is partly to blame, the creed of radical transparency simply makes it worse.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Funny 'Cause It's True

SNL had a well-deserved bit of political humor, and it wasn't their hilarious take on the debates.

Jamelle Bouie explains.  Subtlety and sophistication aren't really hallmarks of SNL's political humor, but I think he's right.  This sketch really pulls off something observant and true.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Never Look At Just One Poll, But...

The ABC poll has some internals that Josh Marshall has flagged - rightly - as being significant.  The poll shows a collapse in voting enthusiasm among Republicans.  Here's the key finding:

The previous ABC/Post poll found a sharp 12-point decline in enthusiasm for Trump among his supporters, almost exclusively among those who’d preferred a different GOP nominee. Intended participation now has followed: The share of registered Republicans who are likely to vote is down 7 points since mid-October.

That is what creates a wave election.

Martin Longman notes that when the race is effectively over by 9PM EST, western Republicans will still be trying to get their voters to the polls.  This only combines with Trump's problems with Latino voters.

Maybe Clinton really is only up about 6 points.  I'm guessing it's more.  Because math.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Now, This Is A Story About Trump Voters That Is Important

Trump has lost each debate.  He has been hammered by controversies of his own making.  His party is close to open civil war over his candidacy.  And now he is basically turning his back on some basic political norms.

The result could very well be a very depressed turnout among Republican voters.  All of his statements about a rigged election, every unforced error that upsets normal people...all of these make it less likely that people will vote.

The single greatest advantage Republicans have had is that their voters always show up.  Midterms, presidential elections...those old GOP voters will show up.

If Trump significantly depresses GOP voting, that is what puts the House in play.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

What If He Won?

I mean, he won't.  But what if he did?

He gives every inclination of being a dictator, and this is only the latest in a long string of scary statements.

Maybe in 2020, the GOP will have an entrance exam before their primaries.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Seriously People?

"Where did Trump come from?"

I think we are all sick of that question.

Clearly, Trump voters and the Republican base has had a fractious relationship with facts since the creation of Fox News.  But it's not enough simply to misunderstand US trade policy or the nature of supply side economics.  There has to be more at work than simply not understanding policy.

In order to make a really bad decision, it helps to be afraid.

Vox has a sort of funny piece about how scared America is of clowns.  Ha ha!  And Topical!

What struck me was what Americans are scared of besides clowns.  Sixty-one percent of Americans are scared of corrupt government.


America does not have a "corrupt" government, if we are talking about officials enriching themselves off the state. You can make the Bernie argument that the system is corrupt simply because he doesn't get what he wants, but honestly, the idea that we have a hopelessly corrupt system is simply not borne out by the evidence.  American government may not give you the results that you want, but it isn't "corrupt" unless you define corruption as anything that doesn't meet your expectations.

It gets worse: 38% of American worry about their guns being taken away; 36% are afraid of Obamacare.  How the everloving fuck does one get to be afraid of health insurance subsidies and insurance exchanges?  Where are you getting your information that Obamacare represents a threat?

Biological warfare clocks in at 35%, whereas climate change only garners 32% on the fear-o-meter.

Roughly twice as many Americans are "afraid" of corrupt government - a thing which objectively doesn't really exist - than are afraid of the slow cooking of our planet - a thing which very much is happening.

Our news infrastructure revolves around getting eyeballs, and you get eyeballs by scaring people.

The result?  We are a stupider nation than we need to be.  And that stupidity has lead to Trump.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


One clear difference in Clinton as a candidate from 2008 to 2016 is how much more nimble the operation around her is.  In 2008, Mark Penn only figured out in March how the freaking delegate system worked.  This time around, before the Purell has dried from Clinton's hand from the post debate handshake, they have a Nasty Woman campaign going.

They used to say - somewhat derisively - that Obama played 11 dimensional chess while Romney and McCain played checkers.  Maybe it wasn't Obame but the organization he built and empowered; not the sclerotic old hacks like Penn, but media savvy youngs.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is playing Dodgeball against a mirrored wall.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


So, Trump once again proves he doesn't give a shit about democratic institutions.  This is because he is a combination of a cranky old fart writing threads in the Yahoo! comment thread and the fucking legacy kid who doesn't bother to do his homework in US history, because Daddy will loan him a few million bucks to get his company up and running.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Clinton nailed the policy stuff. Shocker.  Trump was once again exposed as a no-nothing hack.  Shocker.

But Trump has been dancing around this question of whether he would concede if he loses (which he will).  He can't do that.  And the Democrats will spend the next 72 hours hanging that statement around the neck of every Republican they can.

Finally, there is another woman coming forward with charges that Trump assaulted her.  Here's what I think the plan was/is:

1) Use the first debate to goad Trump into making self-defeating statements (Alicia Machado).

2) Release damaging video tapes that your opposition research team had on Trump.

3) Make the second debate about those tapes.

4) Manage the third debate by working to your strengths: steely strength and policy mastery.

5) Start a steady barrage of oppo research from now until election day.

Obviously the news media - well, OK, the Washington Post - has been finding stories about Trump on their own, but a lot of these hit pieces come from opposition research.  Given the trajectory of the campaign - Clinton winning bigly - the debate was the last chance Trump could use to turn it around.  He didn't.

Now that he's drowning, you throw him the anchor.  When the Billy Bush tape leaked, the rumor was that there was a worse one out there.  If that's true, you don't release that until after the last debate for two reasons.  One, you don't want to give Trump a chance to respond.  Two, you save it in case Clinton has a terrible performance.

My guess is that the fusillade of attacks on Trump isn't nearly done yet.  We've got 20 freaking days to go.

Lives Of Loud Desperation

Martin Longman quotes from a newsletter from Al Giordano:

When we see or hear fifty-year-old guys in the media threatening coups d’etat or assassination attempts against a Hillary presidency, keep in mind that these dudes couldn’t win an arm-wrestling contest. Theirs are expressions of profound impotence: a lament that their whiteness and maleness does not today infuse them with the automatic privilege and power they were promised as boys.
Such expressions – whether from some asshole on social media or a bitter relative at the family Thanksgiving table – are meant to inflame. They respond to social cues that the rest of us provide them. Guys like that figure out what words are likely to offend or traumatize others and they shout them precisely to upset. In their lives of loud desperation, the moment when they cause stress to others may be the only time anyone pays them any attention at all. It provides a fleeting illusion of the power that they thought was their birthright. Alone at twilight, many with a couple of divorces later, with kids that generally hate them, causing trauma is the only move left in their playbook to say: “I am,” and to be noticed at all.

Damn, as the kids say.  That leaves a mark.

Longman and others are beginning to predict a wave.  Those that are beginning to predict a wave are some of the more prescient commentators out there.  Longman predicted Trump in the summer.

The summer of 2012.

I'm not as sanguine.  I hope for a wave that sweeps away the GOP House majority, because I fear for what may come with a government divided between Democrats and Lunatics.

If the demographic waves doesn't get here soon, hopefully the meteor will.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Coming Crisis

Let's assume that Hillary Clinton is elected the 45th president of the United States.

Let's assume that the Republic survives whatever sore-loser outburst from Donald Trump that could undermine faith in our democracy.

Let's assume that we don't see a wave election that delivers the House to the Democrats.

What the hell happens next?  Martin Longman is usually right about this stuff, and he thinks Ryan is doomed.  Maybe he secretly wanted the job last time and his disavowals were just kabuki, but maybe he really doesn't want to herd the kittens of his caucus.

The GOP is splitting at the seams, but their crack-up could have profound implications for our government.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

If You Ask Me...

Hillary Clinton should schedule a trip to Hillsborough, NC and volunteer to help clean up the firebombed Republican Party office.  Don't just issue a statement, get in there and show what the words mean.

This election is mean and getting meaner.  Go high.

We're Screwed

At least that's the conclusion of this piece.  Now, that's an exaggeration, but the idea that people rationally choose whom to vote for has always been an ideal rather than a reality.  This piece unravels this well.

However, it also notes that people take their cues from elites.  If Barack Obama supports marriage equality, then suddenly so do most African Americans, who previously hadn't.

The good news is that there are more people taking their cues from Democrats these days.

The bad news is that there are millions of people taking their cues from Donald Trump.

That last one should worry us.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Toxic Masculinity

I've been thinking about this crisis in masculinity a lot recently.  As both a teacher and a father of boys, I wonder how to provide the context and wisdom to a generation of men who may harbor some archaic ways of thinking about women.  Last night, a colleague walked into a student room where a kid was saying, "I believe women should have equalish rights."  Equalish?  What does that mean?  Arguments that maybe women have it easier than men in certain settings?  I can see a 15 year old boy thinking that.  But how does anyone feels that women shouldn't have equal rights?

The world - despite what you see on your TV - is a gentler place than it was a decades ago.  And that gentleness redounds to women's benefit.  When you replace physical aggression with demonstrated ability, you advantage skill over brute strength.  And I am firm, also, in my belief that modern elementary education is a terrible model for boys.

But the result of allowing men to feel that they are the real victims is the rise of charlatans like Trump.  His narcissistic predations on women are a natural extension of this line of thinking.  If a woman is an object, she can be treated without considering her experience.  As Josh Marshall and others have pointed out, Trump's entire shtick is dominance.  And the people who want to dominate most - bullies - are often the most wounded and cowardly.

All of this makes Jamelle Bouie's piece important. Donald Trump will not be our next president.  That it will be Hillary Clinton that defeats him is perhaps perfect.

UPDATE: Of course, it's also about racism...