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

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Did It Land?

Look, we all remember 2000, right?  Gore cleaned the floor with Bush; it was a game changer!  But then everyone became obsessed with Gore sighing and being snobby about facts and stuff, and eight years later, C-Plus Augustus had launched a terrible war, let a city drown and triggered a global economic meltdown.

Good times.

Last night, Clinton was smooth, polished and on-point.  She didn't make any gaffes; she smiled; she didn't take the bait; and she effortlessly stuck the shiv into Trump where you couldn't see the bleeding, but you could hear the howls.

Trump started strong and on-message, but as soon as Clinton started needling him about inheriting all his money, you could see the volcano brewing.  When she suggested his taxes might reveal he wasn't rich, he blew.  From there on, the debate was a meaningless word salad of incoherent boasting and hurt fee-fees.  When Trump said he had the "best temperament" the audience laughed out loud.

Last night was Trump in all his Trumpiness.  Here was the economic nationalist.  Here was the emotive demagogue.  Here was the person who would say the things you weren't supposed to say.

Here, also, was the guy who can't tell the truth.  Here was the misogynist.  Here was the guy who couldn't be bothered to prepare for a fact-based debate.

The idea that anyone above the 27% Crazification Factor would look at that trembling, sniffling pile of rage, grievance and hair product and conclude that he should be put in charge of anything more important than a beauty pageant...Wait, he shouldn't even be put in charge of THOSE!

Clinton, the old pro, got in the dig about Alicia Machado right at the end.  Then her campaign followed it up with a video.

Trump, being Trump, called into Fox News and called her fat again.

As I told my classes, debates are attempts to do two things: fire up your supporters and win over those fickle undecideds.  To a certain degree, Trump probably fired up his supporters, though even some conservatives admit he was weak.  I think Clinton probably smoothed the frazzled nerves of her supporters who have watched the polls narrow.

As for those undecideds...really, people?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Seriously, Enough With The Panic

Jon Chait says to panic.

Look, if you lived through the Bush Regency, it is understandable to feel panicky.  Nick Kristoff worries that this feels like another lead-up to the Iraq War, when people were flummoxed that this was happening and no one could stop it.  How could you look at Dubya and think he was presidential material?  Yet he won because people liked him more than Gore.  How could you reward him with a second term?  And we did.

So it's sort of  built in that Democrats panic.  We are pre-disposed to think that disaster is right around the corner.  We lived through Gore's sighing and Kerry's swift-boating.

But panic works better on the Right than on the Left.  The Left will respond to stirring, aspirational visions (see Obama, Barack), but fear and doom and gloom tends to work against liberals.  It's at the center of Trump's appeal and the appeal of authoritarianism in general.  "Only Trump can save us" is effectively the campaign slogan of his supporters.

If panic helps get out the vote, if it fills the campaign coffers, if it gets Hillary to 270 electoral votes...OK.  Certainly, if you're black or Hispanic, you should be afraid of what Trump would unleash on your communities.

But this election will be won or lost among Republican leaning women in the suburbs of Denver and Philly and Charlotte.  Maybe panic is the right tactic, but part of me doubts it.

Don't Panic, Vote

Yes, we are once again on a pendulum swing towards a tied race.

Marshall's conclusion is worth repeating here:

An additional thing to consider is that in recent cycles the out-party usually drives an advantage from the first debate but generally isn't able to hold that advantage through election day. In this case, Trump is the out-party. But there are so many wildcards going into this debate, I'd be slightly less confident that history is any guide. It is worth remembering that Mitt Romney moved into a tiny lead after the first presidential debate in 2012 and held that until the last week of October. The PollTracker Average had Obama moving back into a minuscule lead on October 25th. On election day he was .7 percentage points ahead of Romney. In the event, he significantly outperformed that average, beating Romney by a 3.9 percentage point margin.

The critical thing is that last sentence.  In 2012, Obama was basically neck and neck with Romney yet he won comfortably.  In large part, that was because Obama got his voters to the polls.  Clinton has basically taken over Obama's old GOTV machinery.  So, if 2012 is a guide, she very well could outperform her polls.  Or not.  She could have a Martha Coakley problem, where she simply can't get over the hump as a somewhat colorless female politician, even with an electorate that might agree with her on the issues.

Tonight?  Who knows?  Her best option is to sell her vision for what she would like to do as president and let Trump lie and bluster.  Attack him only on the issues, not his personality. Make a substantive case for her to be president, and if that doesn't work, you have two more debates to sew the land with salt.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

One Day More

Yes, the debates are tomorrow, but so is Falcons-Saints.  Priorities.

Debates rarely make much difference.  We like to think that they do, but they don't.  Not in the long run.  I suppose Trump could come out and sound like a policy briefing or urinate all over himself and light the stage on fire.  Neither one of those things is likely.

Debates suck, because they are designed to suck.  The idea that you shouldn't fact-check the candidates is so absurd that I scarcely no where to start.  Candy Crowley caught shit in 2012 for pointing out an obvious fact that was a fact.  But that's not what the moderators want to do, which is absurd.

When the media create a universe of "both sides do it" and "he said-she said" and then expect the candidates to fact check each other....What the fuck is their job?

So, bad news, tomorrow night will likely be either boring or infuriating.  The good news is that it's unlikely to matter much.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Million Dollar Question

Longman observes how the Trump phenomenon grew from the appeal to white ethno-nationalism that preceded his ascendancy in the GOP.  Left unstated is the question about what exactly IS the electoral coalition of the Republican Party.

If the old GOP consisted of the lunatic John Birch fringe, the God bothering Bible Humpers, the white ethno-nationalists (racists), the neo-conservative American Triumphalists and Wall Street, then who really benefited from that coalition over the past 45 years?

The John Birch fringe can never be appeased, so whatever.

The God Bothering Bible Humpers got rhetorical red meat, but in the end, you've got all that glittery, icky gay stuff happening.  You've still got Planned Parenthood making baby sacrifices to Ba'al.  And the god damned barista at Starbucks just said, "Happy Holidays."  They enjoyed a brief moment of ascendancy during the Bush years, but what have Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan done for them?

The Neo-Cons have abandoned Trump in droves.  Even Lindsay Graham has drawn the line.  The Neo-Cons got to run things during the Bush Regency and they screwed everything up in Iraq.  They are Case A1 in the argument that elites shouldn't be trusted with sharp objects or open flames.  But they are the intellectual ballast of the GOP.  Where, exactly, is their home?

Wall Street could jump to the Libertarians.  Especially those narcissistic Silicon Valley asshats, who see themselves as Randian Ubermensch.

Trump has exposed how potent the white ethno-nationalist (racist) faction is within the GOP.  He rode them to victory in a fractured field.  But demographically, there weren't enough votes in that cohort to elect McCain or Romney.  Why should there be enough votes now, with Trump bleeding support among white Republican women in the suburbs?

Ever since the race moved to a virtual tie, Clinton has slowly been rebounding.  Recent credible polls have her up 6-7 points.  The fact is she could be winning by 10 points, and that would STILL be too close for us to feel good about the American polity.  If Trump wins more than 35% of the popular vote, that says something terrible about us as a country.

So, Who's Corrupt Again?

Jesus, this guy.

The more you look, the worse Trump appears.  To a certain degree the opposite is true of Clinton.  Shit sounds bad, but once you dig a little deeper, there's not much there.  I mean, check out this language.

And yet, Trump is seen as the more honest and trustworthy of the two.  Good job, Media.

Jon Chait explains how pervasive and damaging this has been.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Someone Finally Took My Advice

Back with the Clinton Foundation nontroversy sprung up, I argued that the Clinton Campaign get out in front of this story and make a compelling case for why the Clinton Foundation was a global force for good.  Finally, we have a comprehensive take on that.

The press coverage of the Foundation is simply taking the status quo - wealthy and powerful people hang out with wealthy and powerful people - and turning it into something that has a whiff of scandal about it.  Absolutely no wrong doing has ever come up, that I am aware of.  Instead, we have the "Clinton Rules" in place, where there is a presumption of sleaziness, because Clintons.

The conclusion makes this critical point:

There is little to no evidence that anyone received meaningful favors from the Clintons in exchange for donating to the foundation. There is definitely no evidence that Hillary Clinton altered her policies as secretary of state in reaction to donations. There’s no evidence that the Clintons or their foundation engaged in some of the more egregious activities of Trump’s foundation, like donating to a state attorney general to deter her from an investigation into Trump’s activities, or giving to a nonprofit to fund a lawsuit against another state AG who did opt to investigate, or even paying off the legal bills of his for-profit businesses.
But there is considerable evidence that the Clinton Foundation has saved millions of lives. And there’s evidence that Bill Clinton’s work with the group would make him more useful as first spouse. Presidents rely heavily on special envoys tasked with making deals to resolve prisoner disputes, facilitate peace processes, and the like. Clinton’s time with the foundation exhibited the exact set of skills necessary for a role like that. His presence could greatly expand the diplomatic bandwidth of his wife’s administration.
The fact that Hillary Clinton’s association with a group, and a husband, with that track record has become a liability rather than an asset is a deep indictment of how skewed the press’s priorities in covering this election have become.

Interesting

If Trump represents a fundamental fracturing of the bonds between "movement conservatism" and the Republican Party as an institution - if Trumpism has succeeded Reaganism as the ideology of the GOP - then what comes next?

Here's a really interesting response.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pendulums

Martin Longman amazingly favorably discusses Ross Douthat's latest column.  Amazingly, because Douthat is usually so flamboyantly wrong.  Notably, Douthat was wrong about Trump taking over the GOP.  His latest conclusion is interesting, as we have seen it in other forms from other voices of the Center Right (to the degree such a thing exists anymore).

Basically, liberal created Trump by being all...liberal.  Some of this I am sympathetic towards.  For instance, I'm not a fan of speech codes or safe zones (beyond personal space) or trigger warnings.  I don't think there are a ton of those, but I'm also not on college campuses.  And I also acknowledge that taking certain words and putting them beyond the Pale has a cognitive effect on people.  If you can't say the N-Word, you are less likely to believe in the logic that creates that word.

There is also no doubt that the ascendancy of cultural liberalism is very much at the root of Trump's appeal to "make America great again."  Multi-cultural, multi-racial, sexually tolerant culture threatens the hell out of older, whiter and more rural Americans.  The economic anxiety is there.  And Longman has recently been beating the drum about the complete discrediting of elites.  But so much of Trump's appeal is cultural.  He has no policies, he has no experience: he has only cultural grievance.

And Douthat notes that the last time this happened, it created the cultural backlash that gave us Nixon and Reagan.

Arthur Schlesinger argued that American history happens in cycles of reform.  Three steps forward, two steps back.  The pendulum swings towards reform and "liberals" and then back towards conservatism, even reactionary politics.  The Reconstruction becomes the Gilded Age; Progressivism becomes the Roaring Twenties; the New Deal becomes the placid '50s; the Sixties gives us Reagan.

That is true, as far as it goes.  But even during these periods of retrenchment - Douthat references Crane Brinton's term Thermidor - progress continues.  Of course, what makes Trump different from Reagan is that Trump threatens many of our democratic institutions.

At some point, ascendant cultural liberalism could create the necessary backlash to overcome the demographic changes that are swamping the GOP.  Younger people are simply more tolerant than any comparable cohort.  Many that came of age in the '70s came to revile cultural liberalism and those Boomers became the Reagan Democrats.  As they pass from this earth, that will have an effect on our politics that could cement certain culturally liberal ideas.

If anything, the threat to the Center Left seems more likely to come from the Populist Far Left as from the Populist Far Right.  Though in the end they are pretty close together, when you think about it.

Awesome


Monday, September 19, 2016

This Is Bad

We are in the middle of a full-on freakout by white men in the developed world, because they are losing their economic and political primacy.  Trump is only the American iteration of a trend across the "global north."

One of the biggest jobs in America in terms of people who are employed is truck driving.  Adding automated vehicles would destroy those jobs.

Right now, those blue collar workers who lost their factory jobs are misdirecting their anger and NAFTA and immigrants, when arguably the biggest culprit is increased automation.  So a guy who used to work on a factory floor is now driving a truck.

Take that away from him and what does he have left?

Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should.

The Zombie-Eyed Granny Starver

Paul Ryan is a fucking fraud.

Moron

Luckily no one was killed in what was clearly the work of a seriously JV terrorist.