Thoughts on an Election

-I confess I am disappointed that Hillary Clinton was not given a third term as president.

-There is something deeply annoying about a person who supported a populist candidate on the Left, and yet cannot wrap their head around a populist candidate on the Right.

-A recipe: propose legislation popular with your base that will either be voted down in Congress or else overturned by the Courts. Broil for four years. Serves a second term.

-It was Toby Ziegler who said, “A funny thing happened when the White House got demystified. The impression was left that anybody could [be president].”

But it goes deeper than that. This isn’t just the result of tell-all books and fireside chats. It is the result of decades of deliberate political action, taken almost exclusively by the Democratic Party.

First it was about birth and breeding. That was chipped away when a haberdasher dropped an atomic bomb, when the rich Harvard war hero happened to be Catholic. At last background was minimized, but it was replaced in large part by morality. Was he a veteran. Did he have religion. Was he faithful to his wife.

The Right emphasized these traits because they were strong in them. So the Democrats responded by saying, “Ignore birth and breeding. Ignore religion, or even character. Focus on the issues. Think about the issues! Smart people understand the issues. We have a monopoly on smart.”

Then came a candidate of no character at all, and he got an electoral majority to agree with him on the issues.

This is our fault.

-Universal prosperity requires either preposterous wealth in general, or socialist wealth distribution. If we’re going to push for the latter then we should push for it, and if not we should stop trying to sneak it in.

-Some people think that the former is satisfied by a booming economy. I submit that, over the last several decades, every ‘booming economy’ has turned out to be a bubble – the bursting of which has often injured everyone, but has always injured the working class.

-A person living in the Rust Belt (etc etc) has not seen their lives improve, or the direction of the country change, under eight years of a Clinton presidency, eight years of an Obama presidency, or eight years of a Bush presidency. They have no reason whatsoever to think that an additional Clinton presidency – bestriding the political middle like a colossus – will be any different. Needing change, they voted for a complete unknown – because though he did not offer the likelihood of change, he offered the possibility where she did not. A remote possibility is better than an impossibility. As a result a vote for Donald Trump was not irrational, nor unreasonable.

That does not make it right. What it makes it is the greatest tragedy since the Depression. No good and decent American should have stood in a voting booth and known that they had to choose between a game of Russian Roulette with six bullets in the chamber, or an idiot offering a pair of loaded dice.

-Regarding the Supreme Court: The fear currently being experienced by the Left is precisely identical to the fear experienced these last eight years by the Right. True progress is not achieved by action supported by anything other than a political mandate. The result of Obergefell (etc etc) should not have been celebration; it should have been the beginning of a massive mechanism of persuasion. For if you give a person no voice or impact, but they still have the vote, do not be surprised when they brandish that vote like a flaming sword.

-The phrase “ban Muslims from entering the United States” should not be dismissed as racist. The people who agree with it should not be so dismissed either. Their logic is not facially unreasonable and not facially horrible: Islam is not a race; it is a religion. A portion of those who practice that religion are terrorists. Why should we take a chance on admitting a thousand peaceful people if that bring in one terrorist? Why is that worth the risk?

This is not a declaration of racism. It is a question. It needed to be answered and it was not.

The argument has to be:

1) There is a benefit to this country, and its citizens, to letting the citizens of other countries come to visit or to stay.  That is why it is worth the risk.

2) It is impossible to enforce such a proposition without acting in an un-American way towards Americans who are Muslim, or the Muslim spouses or children or co-workers or friends of Americans. That is why the alternative involves an even greater risk. (Risking a terrorist : Banning Muslims :: Risking a terrorist : Banning firearms.)

3) The screening process is absolutely fool-proof. As a result, there isn’t really any risk at all.

To establish these two points in the minds of voters would have been a success. To dismiss those voters as racist was a failure.

-You cannot meet a person in debate with the goal of proving that they are unfit to be at that debate. It begs the question. It destroys itself. The proper response is to say “fuck that guy” and stay home- or hold your own colloquy, make it even more fun to watch, and by doing so 1) beat him at his own game 2) start acting like you’re the President already.

-You can argue that a person is unqualified to be president before they have earned their party’s nomination. You cannot argue it thereafter; it is too late.

-There are a number of ways to respond to a scandal. You can address it directly. You can laugh it off. You can ignore it, hope it goes away. You can apologize. You can double down. This election introduced a new response; The Blitz.

It’s very simple. You are accused of something. There is clear evidence that the accusation is true. But you don’t apologize, or double down. You deny it – entirely – and never break stride.

It’s ludicrous. It’s insane. But it means that you never lose the initiative, never let someone else steer the conversation. Moreover, it appears strong. It appears in-charge and determined and cannot-be-turned-aside. It’s the final form of the pivot. It will not go away.

The proper response to this is not to ‘fact-check’ them. You have to walk up to them and say “You’re a lying sack of shit and SHUT UP.” Otherwise, by staying in the conversation – such as a presidential debate – you implicitly consent to their behavior. You cannot beat someone who isn’t playing the game.

-Regarding The Wall: the candidate 1) identified a phenomenon 2) declared it a problem 3) proposed a solution. Every candidate should present all their ideas in this way.

The arguments to The Wall must address one of these areas. They could say 1) this doesn’t actually exist, 2) it exists but it isn’t a problem, or 3) it’s a problem but I have a better solution.

Ms. Rodham’s arguments seemed to be 3) your solution is not very feasible, 1+2) White Liberal Guilt.

Both 1) and 2) were arguments, not of fact, but of scale. That’s pretty pithy stuff. When you’re arguing about scale, you’ve conceded the central argument – and it’s forgiveable for good people to stop listening.

3) is also a bad argument. It has to be a very close election for it to come down to, not whether something exists, or whether it is a problem, but on the precise feasibility of one proposed solution to that problem.

-Regarding Chyna: it is a fact that American jobs have gone to other countries (or at least, there are jobs being done There which could be done Here). Any candidate for high office needs to address this. They need to either say that this is actually a good thing, or else they know how to turn it into a good thing, or they need to oppose it. Ms. Rodham did a very bad job of the former.

-“He’s too dumb to be president” is not a winning strategy. It did not work in 2000 and it did not work in 2016. There is no middle ground to win; the people who will be swayed by this, have already noticed, and the people who haven’t noticed don’t care.

-A campaign is a mechanism of persuasion. Nobody is persuaded by being deplored.

-The proper end to the sentence “half of you are in a basket of deplorables” is “but the other half of you have legitimate grievances and concerns which cannot and should not be set aside.They have to be addressed. Any person running for this office has to address them or they are unworthy.” And then they should have been addressed, one by one.

-Us-and-them politics will always favor the populist. Say it with me now: elites are never the majority.

-A county-by-county electoral map is indistinguishable from a population density map. This phenomenon needed to be addressed directly and substantively. Perhaps Ms. Rodham could have said something like this:

“There is a reason that cities tend to be more liberal than small towns and America’s heartland. It’s not because city folk are smarter, or better educated, or more open-minded. And it’s not because townsfolk and country folk are more moral or more Godly or more patriotic. We are all good people. We are all decent Americans trying to make this country work and grow. The reason people cities tend to be more liberal is need.

“People in cities have different needs than people who aren’t in cities. A person who lives in a house with their family has different needs than a person who lives in an apartment with six people they met on Craigslist. A person whose home is surrounded by trees or fields or their family farm has very different needs than a person who lives a high-rise apartment building.

“When a person in the Heartland encounters a Muslim, chances are pretty good that it’s because the news is talking about a shooting or a bombing, an act of Islamic terrorism. But when a person in a city encounters a Muslim, chances are that it’s because their friend Abdullah just texted to say he’s gonna be late for the poker game.

“When a person in the Heartland thinks about gay marriage, they think about something that their town probably doesn’t have yet. When a person in a city thinks about gay marriage, they think about their friends Lisa and Mary who’ve been living together for twenty years. In the Heartland, gay marriage is a change. In the cities, it’s not change: it’s acknowledging something that’s been around for generations.

“A person in the city might say that they’re just working at Starbucks until they can find a real job. Where a person in the Heartland might think that a job means you’re working and it doesn’t matter what you do, and for the fifteen dollars an hour you get paid at Starbucks, they could raise a family.

“My campaign has one great promise, and that is to bring the two Americas together. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to get a farmer in Nebraska to agree with a programmer in Oakland. They live different lives. They have different needs. When I say that I’m going to bring the two Americas together, I mean that I am going to get them to understand each other. I am going to get them to respect each other. I am going to get people in the city to understand what life is like in America’s Heartland, and I am going to get people in the Heartland to understand that the crazy liberals in the cities are also good, decent Americans who just want to be safe and just want to be free.

“During this campaign, I am never going to tell someone what they need. I am never going to tell someone that what they need is wrong, or it’s racist, or it’s immoral, or that they’re immoral, or that they’re deplorable, or that what they need is less important than the needs of any other Americans. I will never do that.

“Some days, being President is about knowing what is right and what is wrong and doing what is needed to be done. But most days it’s about compromise. It’s about slow and careful progress towards the making of a more perfect union. It’s about looking at the needs of all Americans, not just the rich, not just famous, but all Americans, seeing what they need, and seeing how this country can work together, to be unified, to compromise so that nobody has a radical agenda forced upon them, so that nobody’s voice is ever taken away.

“That process starts today. A presidential campaign shouldn’t be about walking around talking about how great you are. It should be a chance to meet people, to listen to them, to make sure that you know what they need, and to figure out how to get it done. But more than that it should be a way to bring people together. During this campaign I will be going from one state to another, from one town to another, from sea to shining sea and to every single place in between. I will be an ambassador for all the different people in this country. I will come to your town and I will tell you what people need, people in Caribou Maine, people in Miami Florida, people in Missoula Montana, people in Brownsville Texas, people in Doniphan Missouri, people in Benson Arizona, people in Electric City Washington, people in Sunrise Alaska and on the beaches of Waikiki. We’re going to bring understanding. We’re going to build consensus. We’re going to reach compromises between all the peoples of this country so that we will not be a divided nation, we will be a united nation, and we will face the challenges of the future as one United States.

-A widget is made in America. It costs ten dollars and provides a job. It is moved to China. It now costs a dollar, which is great. Except that guy no longer has a job, and can’t afford a single widget, let alone ten.

One response to this is to bring back the making of the widget. But this is a bad response, because America prospers when we can get more stuff for less. No, the proper response is to achieve this in a way which doesn’t cause the worker to lose his job.

If this can’t be done, the other solution is to require that the laid-off worker should benefit from the outsourcing of his job. They all fall down to one form or another of making the company divest itself of some of the profits it generates from the outsourcing. This is a tax on profits and so offer no disincentive to the company to maximize profits, nor will it punish companies who go overseas only when their local operations have become unprofitable. Likewise, as a profit-sharing scheme, it is functionally equivalent to worker part-ownership of the corporation – not control of the means of production, but benefit therefrom, which is as good a definition as any I’ve heard of the difference between the Red and the Pink.

-This election was a tragedy of the red states. Now we face a tragedy of the blue. This is THE TIME for America to talk about socialism of this kind. And because the democrats are now terrified of losing power, they won’t do that. They won’t even mention it at all.

Worse, I expect they’ll move to the right, trying to pick up values voters by appealing to Our Town notions of ‘presidential character’. Thus driving the conversation deeper into the future.

-What role has the scandal in the modern world? For if the populace had been complacent, Nixon would have finished his second term. But if a guy on his la-z-boy can hear tidbits from the talking heads and think he can determine the innocence or guilt of a person, over the recommendations of professionals, than we have brought to law what Doctor Oz has brought to medicine. There must be a middle ground.

-Presenting someone as a frontrunner – or, worse, the preordained winner – garners no support, builds no momentum, provides not that grand democratic illusion that an individual vote can change the world. Remember what Will said about a frontrunner: “Everything to lose, nothing to gain, and don’t forget to tip the dealer.”

 

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~ by davekov on 22 November 2016.

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