Quotulatiousness

February 10, 2016

“It is as if the world had suddenly, mysteriously, begun to clamour for Dumbledores and Gandalfs”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Colby Cosh suspects we’ve just hit “Peak Bernie”:

You are reading this on what is the probable date of Peak Bernie. Although you never know. The 74-year-old Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has become the unlikely sex symbol of American politics, fighting Hillary Clinton to a draw in last week’s Iowa Democratic caucus voting. Sanders has been in Congress for a quarter-century as an independent socialist who voted with the Democrats and participated in their seniority structure for the purpose of taking committee assignments.

[…]

What is the secret of Sanders’ success? It’s a combination, I think, of closely related phenomena that are hard to distinguish, and that are related to his advanced age. First, there’s what I like to call John Waters’ Law, after the movie director from Baltimore: if you do the same thing over and over again for long enough, people will reach the irresistible conclusion that you are a genius. Especially if you stay put in the same place.

But there is a form of this general principle specific to politics, which is, broadly, that what goes around comes around. It is close enough to the truth that there are no new ideas in politics — that we are just reiterating debates that were already stale in old Sumer. So if some idea seems temporarily discredited by experience — like democratic socialism! — you can just wait long enough, if you have the nerve and the time, for a bunch of people to be born who have not had that experience.

It is hardly a coincidence that Sanders is popular with young students, with his improvised nostrums for cheap health care and free education. Those fanbros don’t have a strong sense of how socialism makes the world drab and crummy and creates a civilization of queues, shortages and political pull. They certainly don’t know what a hundred different countries could tell them, if countries could speak, about how giving political authority to a fanciful, ambitious studentariat works out.

February 4, 2016

QotD: How to use your vote correctly

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

I won’t advise you on whether or not to vote. Libertarians are split pretty evenly between “Don’t vote, you are just giving authoritarianism your blessing”, “Vote Libertarian because it is a useful protest and message”, and “Vote for the major party candidate who has a hope of getting elected who is least bad.” I will leave parsing all that to you.

However, if you do vote, I have one bit of advice I always give on propositions: Your default vote for any proposition (as it should be for legislators) should be “no”. If its purpose is unclear, if you are not sure of the full implications, if you don’t know how it is funded, if you haven’t thought about unintended consequences, if you haven’t heard the pitch from both the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ camps — then vote no. Also beware that many Propositions that seem outwardly liberty-enhancing are actually Trojan Horses meant to be the opposite. Vote yes only if you have thought through all this and you are comfortable the new law would have a net positive benefit.

Warren Meyer, “Voting Advice”, Coyote Blog, 2014-11-03.

February 1, 2016

QotD: The usefulness of political polling

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Ten months before an election we have conjecture and nothing more. Pierre Trudeau was a political corpse 10 months before the 1980 election. Remember who won? The electorate has to be whipped, beaten and prodded to give a damn about politics even during the writ period. Had the pollster asked if Daffy Duck or Justin Trudeau should be the next Prime Minister, there’s a fair chance the media would be talking about whether a cartoon with a speech impediment can lead Canada. Oh wait.

Richard Anderson, “I Dream of Coalition Governments”, The Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2014-12-19.

January 31, 2016

The odd role of Iowa in the 2016 election

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Colby Cosh on the notion that the “typical state” of Iowa is being weirded by its unusual prominence every four years in the election cycle:

Iowa’s prominent place in the party primary system is often justified on the grounds that it is a highly typical U.S. state, a perfect measurement sample of middle American values. (No one ever works the word “white” in there when discussing Iowa or its partner, New Hampshire. That part is left implicit, just like the extra political power our Senate gives to the paler Canadian provinces.) But every student of physics knows that the act of measurement influences the experiment, and one can’t help suspecting that Iowa’s position in the American political process may actually be making the state weirder.

If you have watched the Iowa caucuses unfold live on C-Span, you know they reward fervour as much as organizational ability. A few people with fringe beliefs and free time may count for as much as a hundred names on a mailing list. As Santorum and Huckabee remind us, right-wing candidates who shrivel like vampires in the sun of other states often do well in Iowa.

Steve Forbes ran a very strong second there to G.W. Bush in 2000; the downright bizarre Alan Keyes finished third. Pat Robertson took 25 per cent of the votes in ’88. Ron Paul, outsider of outsiders, finished a bare smidgen behind Santorum. That bodes well for Donald Trump (and it offers hope to Ron Paul’s son Rand, who barely qualified for the main Fox News debate but brought the loudest following to the hall).

And on the “Trump as mass hypnotist” theme promulgated by Scott Adams:

It’s a strange election season, all right. Scott Adams, best known as the creator of Dilbert, has carved out a niche on his weblog as the leading expositor of Trumpian strategy. Adams believes Trump is literally hypnotizing the American public, using an arcana of powerful persuasion methods. The cartoonist disavows any claim to support Trump per se, but he has remained bullish even as other commentators predicted disaster after every grandiose halfwittery or scornful bon (?) mot.

Adams’ Trump-as-Master-Persuader schtick is becoming tacitly influential, I think, among chastened journalists who thought Trump would crash months ago. When the revered psephologist Nate Silver did a dramatic U-turn last week and admitted that he had harmed his prophetic bona fides by underestimating Trump, one could not help thinking of it as a surrender — could not help envisioning the sudden cinematic crumbling of a mighty fortification built out of Excel spreadsheets and wishful thinking. Silver almost seemed … relieved.

The problem with Adams’ analysis is that he never gets too specific about what Trump’s secret techniques actually are. In practice it seems to boil down to “Develop the conviction that you are a winner, whatever the evidence actually suggests, and pour that conviction into every word, gesture, and manoeuvre.”

That certainly accounts for much of Trump’s appeal to the American public. (As George S. Patton said, Americans love a winner.) Trump also infuriates the “right” people, and that will automatically attract a certain following. He has a starry-eyed following among neo-fascists and conspiracy theorists of various flavours, who would never otherwise venerate a billionaire advocate of single-payer medicare and corporate bailouts. They like him for explosively expanding the possibilities for what can be said out loud in politics.

A while back, it was becoming generally acknowledged that Trump had managed the unusual trick of moving the Overton Window well to the right. It’s probably now safe to say that he’s actually blown a huge hole in the wall where that window used to be: like it or hate it, a much wider range of topics are open for discussion than in any election campaign in generations.

January 30, 2016

The vast chasm between Trump supporters and the “conservative establishment”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In Politico, Tucker Carlson explains why the conservative establishment so badly misjudged the folks who are now vociferously supporting The Donald:

Consider the conservative nonprofit establishment, which seems to employ most right-of-center adults in Washington. Over the past 40 years, how much donated money have all those think tanks and foundations consumed? Billions, certainly. (Someone better at math and less prone to melancholy should probably figure out the precise number.) Has America become more conservative over that same period? Come on. Most of that cash went to self-perpetuation: Salaries, bonuses, retirement funds, medical, dental, lunches, car services, leases on high-end office space, retreats in Mexico, more fundraising. Unless you were the direct beneficiary of any of that, you’d have to consider it wasted.

Pretty embarrassing. And yet they’re not embarrassed. Many of those same overpaid, underperforming tax-exempt sinecure-holders are now demanding that Trump be stopped. Why? Because, as his critics have noted in a rising chorus of hysteria, Trump represents “an existential threat to conservatism.”

Let that sink in. Conservative voters are being scolded for supporting a candidate they consider conservative because it would be bad for conservatism? And by the way, the people doing the scolding? They’re the ones who’ve been advocating for open borders, and nation-building in countries whose populations hate us, and trade deals that eliminated jobs while enriching their donors, all while implicitly mocking the base for its worries about abortion and gay marriage and the pace of demographic change. Now they’re telling their voters to shut up and obey, and if they don’t, they’re liberal.

It turns out the GOP wasn’t simply out of touch with its voters; the party had no idea who its voters were or what they believed. For decades, party leaders and intellectuals imagined that most Republicans were broadly libertarian on economics and basically neoconservative on foreign policy. That may sound absurd now, after Trump has attacked nearly the entire Republican catechism (he savaged the Iraq War and hedge fund managers in the same debate) and been greatly rewarded for it, but that was the assumption the GOP brain trust operated under. They had no way of knowing otherwise. The only Republicans they talked to read the Wall Street Journal too.

On immigration policy, party elders were caught completely by surprise. Even canny operators like Ted Cruz didn’t appreciate the depth of voter anger on the subject. And why would they? If you live in an affluent ZIP code, it’s hard to see a downside to mass low-wage immigration. Your kids don’t go to public school. You don’t take the bus or use the emergency room for health care. No immigrant is competing for your job. (The day Hondurans start getting hired as green energy lobbyists is the day my neighbors become nativists.) Plus, you get cheap servants, and get to feel welcoming and virtuous while paying them less per hour than your kids make at a summer job on Nantucket. It’s all good.

Apart from his line about Mexican rapists early in the campaign, Trump hasn’t said anything especially shocking about immigration. Control the border, deport lawbreakers, try not to admit violent criminals — these are the ravings of a Nazi? This is the “ghost of George Wallace” that a Politico piece described last August? A lot of Republican leaders think so. No wonder their voters are rebelling.

January 28, 2016

It’s the new Republican way of politics: “Calling your own base a bunch of stupid hicks is not good strategy”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At Ace of Spades H.Q., Monty responds to what he calls a “feculent little bolus” of a political story:

May God save us all from the scourge of unintellectualism! It’s almost like these rubes don’t appreciate the unparalleled record of cultural and policy triumphs the GOP has accrued over the past two decades!

So…yeah. They really do think we’re stupid. Their Delphic prophecies and magisterial command of political philosophy flies right over our thick ape-like craniums. Their brilliance is wasted on us, and they would like nothing better than to trade us in for a smarter (or at least more pliable, and certainly less white and male) base. Alas, they need our votes for the foreseeable future, so they must bottle up their contempt as best they can and lie to us through fake smiles. But the bitterness and contempt is seeping through the facade, as it always does.

Calling your own base a bunch of stupid hicks is not good strategy (not to mention petty and rude) if you want them to vote for you or your preferred candidates. Mainly because the so-called “intellectuals” who have been driving GOP policy for the past two decades have done a spectacularly shitty job of it. If I’m forced to choose between the lumpenproles and the think-tank eggheads, I’ll throw my lot in with the peasants. They’re a lot smarter than the sneering elites give them credit for, and they don’t sit around all day inhaling their own ass-waft.

If the GOP brain-trust was arguing from a baseline of stellar success and policy wins, it’d be different. But the post-Reagan era has been an utter catastrophe in terms of actual conservative policy, and on all fronts: cultural, economic, foreign-policy, tax policy, you name it. The arrogance of these pissants is pretty rich, given their two-decade run of fecklessness and failure.

January 23, 2016

Scott Adams’ theory about Donald Trump is looking better all the time

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At the American Enterprise Institute blog, James Pethokoukis is starting to believe that Scott Adams has had Trump’s number this whole time:

Maybe all those explanations are necessary to fully understand the Trump phenomenon. But they may not be sufficient without one more, one that is both simple and sophisticated. The simple part: Trump is just a really, really good salesman. Or, as the campaign pros put it, a “political athlete.” The sophisticated part is how Trump is making that sale to voters. Consider the possibility that Trump — a billionaire businessman with an Ivy League MBA and a best-selling author on dealmaking — isn’t some blithering idiot blurting out populist nonsense. Instead, perhaps Trump is calculatedly using tried-and-true influencing and negotiating techniques — ones used by persuaders from carnival hypnotists to high-profile motivational speakers such as Tony Robbins — to literally mesmerize the GOP.

[…]

These and other of Trump’s “master persuader” tricks and techniques — including engineered insults like calling Jeb Bush “low energy” — have been outlined and explained since last summer in a series of prescient blog posts by cartoonist Scott Adams. Best known as creator of the Dilbert comic strip, Adams is also a Berkeley MBA and trained hypnotist. While many analysts dismiss Trump as an idiot clown benefiting from America’s anxious id, Adams sees Trump as a savvy communicator “highly trained in the art of persuasion [who] literally wrote the book on it …There is a reason Trump’s message penetrates the crowd noise” while the other candidates flounder.

Adams too points out that Trump is friends with Robbins, someone deeply studied in the art of persuasion and making emotional connections, including hypnotic techniques. Also keep in mind that while Adams may not be a member of the national pundit corp, he has been dead on in forecasting the seemingly inexorable rise of Trump, including Trump’s emerging acceptance from the GOP establishment.

Of course, maybe Adams is giving Trump more credit here than he deserves. Maybe Trump is just, as Adams puts it, a “lucky Hitler.” The wrong man at the right time to gain power. But if Adams is right, Trump is intentionally playing a different game than his rivals are, with their tired 30-second ads and think-tank approved policy agendas. And he’s winning that game by a landslide right now — which, by the way, is what Adams is predicting for November 2016.

January 16, 2016

QotD: The great Canadian menace

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Sure, Donald, sure. Ted Cruz is the Great Canadian Menace. After all those years of sitting above us, seeming so polite and hockey-obsessed, drinking their Molson’s and eating their Tim Horton’s doughnuts … the Canadians have been carrying out their elaborate ruse, lulling us into complacency while their sleeper agent gets into place. We’re on to their tricks! We know their bacon is just ordinary ham! Once President Cruz is in the Oval Office, they’ll take back the Washington Nationals, change Z to “Zed,” ban fourth down, blast Celine Dion from public loudspeakers, give us something to cry aboot! President Cruz will turn us into the “U.S. Eh”!

Jim Geraghty, “Trump: Hey, You Know Cruz Is a Canadian Ineligible for the Presidency, Right?”, National Review, 2016-01-06.

December 17, 2015

A slightly more plausible conspiracy theory about “The Donald”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle isn’t normally a spinner of conspiracy theories, but here’s one that might appeal to you if you’ve been feverishly searching for the reason behind the Trump Insurgency:

If the news media actually operated like the tacit conspiracy that many conservatives imagine, we would have all quietly gotten together and agreed to bury Trump. He could rant in the privacy of his own home, as reporters graciously declined to broadcast his latest pronouncements. Instead, every time he says something, everyone in the media rushes to condemn, fact-check, analyze, highlight, mutilate, fold and spindle it. All this media outrage, of course, only improves his ratings with people who believe in the conspiracy.

Why does this happen? It’s a collective action problem. If other people are reporting on Trump, then he’s news, which means you have to report on him too. Witness the fact that I am writing something like my sixth or seventh column on a man who I still don’t think will be the Republican nominee, much less the president of the United States.

It’s obvious that media moguls didn’t meet in a smoky back room to silence coverage of Trump. But there’s a slightly more plausible theory: That the Hillary Clinton supporters among the news media see Trump’s nomination as the best thing that could possibly happen for the Democratic Party. Unless the Grand Old Party nominated the disinterred corpse of Richard Nixon, there’s probably no surer path to Clinton’s victory.

Trump consistently underperforms folks like Marco Rubio in head-to-head matchups against Democratic candidates. As a nominee he would motivate massive turnout among Latinos who want to vote against him. And the party operation he’ll need to actually get supporters to the polls in November 2016 is not going to rally behind him with any great enthusiasm even if he somehow manages to secure the nomination. Trump supporters should be absolutely clear on this point: A vote for Trump in the primary is a vote for Clinton in the general.

It’s a slightly more plausible theory, but let’s get real: Journalists are covering Trump because he’s newsworthy. It’s an unintended side effect that coverage of Trump helps Clinton.

December 14, 2015

David Warren’s “On welcoming Muslims”

Filed under: History, Middle East, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

David Warren’s essay on the pending influx of tens of thousands of Muslim refugees from the Middle East and other areas covers a lot of territory, including the current stance of “The Donald”:

In fact, Trump is a typical liberal, and his “moratorium” a typical expression of asinine liberal thinking. That is to say: “Let us call a time out, while we find a way to fix this cock-up in our social engineering.”

That Trump is risking his own substantial business interests in the Middle East, is an indication that he sincerely intends to become President. It is this very sincerity that is making his “connexion” to the American masses. So note: he is not just a Clinton plant. Vice versa, when Hillary says that she fears him, she is not kidding, either. Any emotional connexion between Trump and voters endangers her own presidential prospects. The media say otherwise, but one must remember they are usually wrong; and always, when they are certain.

I think the chances Trump will become the next President are not high, but rising. He climbed another eight points after his “moratorium” suggestion. About ten more like that, and his bid is clinched.

Or put this another way. The “mainstream” politicians think the voters will swing back to them, when they realize how scary the “alternatives” are. One might describe this as the optimism of despair.

And the similarities and differences of Christians and Muslims in their religious observances:

The great majority of Muslims, like the great majority of Christians today, do not take their religion that seriously. They prefer it watered down, often to homaeopathic doses. And yet there will always be revivals and, contrary to the hopes of liberals, the “core teaching” of each religion remains, ever awaiting rediscovery.

At the Reformation, Christianity was not “reformed.” It was jarred and split, but then it reassembled. The Catholic teaching did not go away. With time, even the most radically schismatic sects returned to something like the Catholic teaching, or left Christianity altogether. By comparison, Islam was apparently shattered, when it came into collision with European modernity. But it has been reassembling, ever since.

The idea of spreading Islam through violence is not a deviation. Indeed, the founder of that religion preached violence against all “infidels,” and set a personal example in spreading Islam through Arabia, by the sword. His successors continued thus, spreading the new religion from Morocco to India. Later Caliphs have honoured this precedent through fourteen centuries. Islam is not and has never been a “religion of peace.” It is a religion of war, and peace through conquest. Liberals may deny that anything in history really happened, but this is what did.

They may on the contrary insist, like the delusional Barack Hussein Obama Soebarkah, that Christians were sometimes violent, too. Darn right, but if he ever gets around to consulting his New Testament, he will find that this is not doctrinal. A Christian could remain doctrinally sound, and go through his whole life without killing, or even promising to kill should the opportunity arise, a single person. He might even proselytize, without uttering mortal threats. So could a Jew, for that matter, a Hindu, Buddhist, or Confucian — so far as I can see from my (admittedly modest) forays into comparative religion. The criticism is Islam-specific.

Which leads to the third liberal argument: that we are prejudiced against Islam. This is quite true in my own case, and that of every other observant Christian. But we also observe the Christian distinction between sin and sinner.

Muslims, as all other humans, should be loved (which is not the same thing as “tolerated”). It is the religion, Islam, that we have always condemned, so fulsomely. I have met many fine Muslims, especially in those countries where I lived or travelled among them. I have heard or read many noble attempts to interpret Islam in a Sufi, spiritual way. I have observed that, “We have a religion that is better than we are, while they are often better than their religion.” I have admired the many, extraordinary feats in science, philosophy, and the arts, done by great Muslims in centuries gone by. I have also noticed that these accomplishments were sooner or later disowned, within the civilization itself, as being in conflict with Islamic teaching.

December 13, 2015

The “Overton Window” meets “The Donald”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

David French first introduces the political notion of the Overton Window and then describes the impact of Donald Trump on that window:

Here’s a term you need to know — the “Overton Window.” Developed by the late Joseph Overton, a former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the “window” refers to the range of acceptable political discourse on any given topic. As the Mackinac Center explains, “the ‘window’ of politically acceptable options is primarily defined not by what politicians prefer, but rather by what they believe they can support and still win re-election.” The key to shifting policy lies not so much in changing politicians but in changing the terms of the debate. In other words, “The window shifts to include different policy options not when ideas change among politicians, but when ideas change in the society that elects them.”

The Left — dominating the media, the academy, and pop culture — is unmatched at moving the Overton Window. Consider gay marriage, a subject once so far outside the mainstream that less than 20 years ago, Republicans and Democrats united to pass the Defense of Marriage Act to define marriage under federal law as the union of one man and one woman. Now? That view is such an anathema that it’s difficult to get — or retain — a job in entire sectors of the economy if you openly hold to the traditionalist position on marriage.

The Overton Window moved even faster on transgender rights. Ten years ago the notion that a man with emotional problems and breast implants could be named “Woman of the Year” was unthinkable. Now, in some quarters it’s just as unthinkable to refer to Bruce Jenner — Bruce Jenner! — as a man.

[…]

Then along came Donald Trump. On key issues, he didn’t just move the Overton Window, he smashed it, scattered the shards, and rolled over them with a steamroller. On issues like immigration, national security, and even the manner of political debate itself, there’s no window left. Registration of Muslims? On the table. Bans on Muslims entering the country? On the table. Mass deportation? On the table. Walling off our southern border at Mexico’s expense? On the table. The current GOP front-runner is advocating policies that represent the mirror-image extremism to the Left’s race and identity-soaked politics.

Critically, the Overton Window was smashed not by a politician but by a very American hybrid of corporate/entertainment titan — a man rich and powerful enough to be immune to elite condemnation and famous enough to dominate the news media. How many people can commandeer live television simply by picking up the phone and calling in? How many politicians can cause Twitter to detonate seemingly at will?

While many of Trump’s actual proposals are misguided, nonsensical, or untenable, by smashing the window, he’s begun the process of freeing the American people from the artificial and destructive constraints of Left-defined discourse. Serious and substantive politicians like Ted Cruz will get a more respectful hearing, and PC shibboleths about allegedly boundless virtues of Islam and immigration will be treated with the skepticism they deserve.

December 12, 2015

QotD: The economic non-issue of a “federal minimum wage”

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Government, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… the other new strategic wrinkle was much worse in that regard: the announcement of a policy for a restored “federal minimum wage.”

Provinces set minimum wages for most employees under the Constitution, but Ottawa has an unused right to set a national minimum in private industries regulated under Part III of the Canada Labour Code. The major categories are banking, interprovincial and international transport, and broadcasting. You may be wondering how many people in these technically complicated lines of business are actually making the minimum wage. In the most recent survey of the federal labour jurisdiction (taken in 2008), the answer arrived at by Statistics Canada was: 416 people. In the entire country.

The New Democrats were pretty clearly counting on the press to foul up the story, and it obliged. Some Postmedia newspapers, for example, wrote headlines implying that the new wage floor was for “federal workers.” Economists, who mostly dislike minimum wages anyway, will probably tear into the NDP for a misleading measure that, to a close approximation, helps nobody. And it probably won’t matter much, as New Democrats go on repeating the words “federal minimum wage” for a year.

Colby Cosh, “How to ignore the NDP’s new talking points”, Maclean’s, 2014-09-18.

December 10, 2015

“I rank the odds of a Trump presidency somewhere below the odds of my winning the lottery”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Megan McArdle has toyed with the idea of classifying Donald Trump as a fascist, but is unwilling to go there for good and proper reasons:

Should we hunker down for America’s version of Mussolini/Hitler-style fascism, a la It Can’t Happen Here? Not quite. Douthat wrote a second column, pointing out the ways in which Trump is different from typical fascist leaders. Classical fascism is obsessed with tradition and secret knowledge, which feels backward in our modernist, diverse country.

The more important distinction, to my mind, is that Trump doesn’t have an organization so much as a mood.

Actual fascists, let us remember, were born out of a brutal world war that resulted in territorial losses, and left a lot of demobilized soldiers running around with dim economic prospects. Whatever your opinions on the war on terror, it is not the same scale as World War I, and it has certainly not left the U.S. in the kind of parlous condition in which Hitler and Mussolini were able to grow smaller radical groups into national mass movements. Trump himself doesn’t have that kind of dedication to his cause; just try to imagine him leading a coup, landing in jail, angrily penning The Art of the Struggle.

Implausible. Trump has far too much to lose, and too little to gain, to embrace truly revolutionary fervor.

Nor is he operating in a weak state with a short and spotty democratic history. The U.S. government has ticked along for going on 250 years, through multiple crises and an armed insurrection. Americans are pretty emotionally attached to its institutions, for all the complaints about them, and precisely because we are ethnically diverse, we tend to rest our national identity heavily upon our political institutions: not the expansionist “Drang nach Osten,” but the Constitution … the huddled masses yearning to breathe free … life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have failed many times to live up to our ideals, but we have never stopped professing them.

All this matters. The main problem with fascists, after all, is not that they have creepy cartelist economic notions and uncharitable immigration policies; the problem with fascists is that they had a tendency to go on killing sprees against neighbors, internal minorities and their political enemies. I don’t like Trump’s economic pseudo-policies, or anti-immigrant sentiment. But they are so far from Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy as to be differences in kind as well as degree. And America has neither the weak institutions nor the revolutionary organizations necessary for a Trump Reich to fester.

December 9, 2015

Bernie and the Snake People

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Katherine Ernst on the odd match of Bernie Sanders and his Millennial Snake People supporters:

A friend, who like me straddles the demarcation line between Millennial and Gen-Xer, was being bombarded at her Millennial-filled office with endless pro-Bernie Sanders “memes.” Things had reached a comic nadir (or zenith, depending on your perspective) with the non-ironic electronic dissemination of a doctored image of Sanders — framed by a heavenly rainbow — with a kitten under each arm: “I FIGHT FOR THE 99 ‘PURR-CENT,’” the bold white letters proclaimed. Quipped my friend: “I eat lunch by myself most days now.”

I commiserated. The same stuff was spamming my social media feeds; Bernie-fever sometimes seemed more intense, more omnipresent than the Obama-gasms of seven years ago. “Feel the Bern” jokes abounded, as did links to left-wing philippics on how Bernie was going to right all capitalist and racist wrongs. Most common were pics of the candidate in heroic, Soviet-worker-like pose — made by his campaign for the express purpose of “grassroots” reposting — next to quotations such as, “I have opposed Keystone from day one.”

My friend and I were not imagining things: the millennial love affair with Sanders is real. A recent NBC News-Survey Monkey poll found that “Millennials … are more than twice as likely to vote for Sanders than Clinton, leading her 54 percent to 26 percent.” The Guardian notes that “On Facebook 1.8 million people like Sanders’s page, 0.6 million more than the Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, and 1.6 million more than Republican Jeb Bush.” The New Yorker concurs: “Today’s Millennials, who will make up thirty-six percent of eligible voters in 2016, have no such candidate to call their own, except for Sanders. If they were to vote at their capacity, they’d be the country’s largest voting bloc.”

None of this is lost on Sanders. Indeed, his whole campaign is about getting college kids frothed up on “revolution.” As he told Bill Maher: “[W]e’re being very aggressive in reaching out to young people … what we want to do is tap, Bill, the idealism of the kids. And what the kids are saying, for example, is that this country should lead the world in transforming our energy system and dealing with climate change.” Indeed, in successive debates — including one held 24 hours after the Isis attacks in Paris — Sanders identified climate change as our “greatest national security threat.”

November 19, 2015

QotD: The Kinsley Gaffe

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Michael Kinsley once famously defined a gaffe as when a politician says what he or she truly believes (i.e., “a gaffe occurs not when a politician lies, but when he tells the truth”), a formulation so iconic that it is now known in the trade as a “Kinsley Gaffe.” A special subcategory of Kinsley Gaffe is becoming more common in these days of ubiquitous personal electronics: “accidentally telling the truth without knowing a camera or a tape recorder was running.” This is the category where we’d put Obama’s remarks about “bitter” working-class voters who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them” and Mitt Romney’s complaint about “the 47 percent.”

Megan McArdle, “Simple Policies Win Elections”, Bloomberg View, 2014-11-11.

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