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.
November 19, 2015
October 25, 2015
“All that dangerous, dastardly outside money that people have been worrying about since the Citizens United decision? Stunningly irrelevant.”
Megan McArdle on the remarkable lack of impact of “outside money” on US election campaign financing:
“Money can’t buy you everything.”
“The best things in life are free.”
“I don’t care too much for money. … Money can’t buy me love.”
Turns out timeless clichés and the Beatles understood the 2016 election season before the rest of us did. All that dangerous, dastardly outside money that people have been worrying about since the Citizens United decision? Stunningly irrelevant.
The New York Times has a nice summary of campaign fundraising and spending to date.
Hillary Clinton has done well in both traditional and PAC fundraising, but that might be effect as much as cause: The obvious front-runner and already-crowned establishment candidate is going to do well in fundraising, even if the money isn’t needed. So let’s look at the Republican race.
By June, Jeb Bush was the GOP PACman; he had raised more than $100 million, and spent over $10 million of it. Second in such fundraising is Ted Cruz, who raised $38.4 million in outside money. The two of them together have 60 percent more cash than all the other candidates combined. They are currently tied for fourth place in polling.
Meanwhile, Scott Walker, who used to be running third in the PAC race, has already dropped out, as have Rick Perry and his $13.8 million worth of outside funds. Marco Rubio, with a comparatively dainty $17.3 million, is doing better than the three early leaders in outside fundraising — and yet he’s still being blown away in polling by Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who have raised, to a first approximation, zero in outside funds.
October 20, 2015
For the most part I agree with his take, although I’m a bit more worried that the new Liberal government is going to spend far more money than they should (after a decade away from the treasury, they’re going to be extra-enthusiastic to throw money at favourite causes):
As a civilization, we have largely abandoned churches, recoiled from traditional labour unions, psychically detached from our employers and anathematized even harmless forms of ethnic rivalry. The typical citizen no longer enjoys a lot of everyday opportunities to experience a sense of collective belonging. Elections provide one.
According to a famous principle of sociology, they become more convenient for this purpose, and increase in bitterness, as the actual stakes dwindle. As it happens, we are in a time of relatively inconsequential elections. The national-unity issue is mostly dormant. Our prime minister doesn’t carry a nuclear football or control the central bank. We discuss immigration knowing that every party will give us high levels of it, with minor differences in the sorting method; the wide Atlantic guarantees that there will be no uncontrolled deluge.
There is a free-trade deal on the table, raising the question whether the total number of countries we have such deals with shall be the existing 44, or something in the low 50s. Macroeconomists, appealed to for judgments on the programs of the major parties, issue the sophisticated equivalent of yawns. Tell me what world commodity prices will do, they say, and I will tell you how the Dominion fares.
Faced with a choice between two no-deficits parties and a small-deficit party, it is natural for voters to seize upon nugatory considerations of style — to reward, as we will on Monday, positivity and novelty and attitudinal correctness; to punish hints of callousness and cynicism. Overreacting to personalities and subtleties and infinitesimal linguistic cues is a luxury we have, and we use it. In truth, all our political parties are now prisoners of accountants; it is not a question of some sinister “neoliberal consensus” but of solvency. Ask the Greeks: a country can have just as much sovereignty as it can afford.
We are entering a period of demographic transition in which economic growth, as measured by traditional instruments like GDP, is likely to be low for awhile. At the same time, mind-shredding innovations are already reordering our lives in radical but less easily measured ways. The connected computer and the increasingly intelligent automaton have transformed the human condition without much permission or encouragement from politicians.
I have to admit, when I see a fellow columnist wringing his hands about the niqab or the Mike Duffy trial, my instinct is always to say: “Hey, you know they have self-driving cars now?”
Update: I missed Mark Steyn’s pre-election column that at least somewhat explains why even Conrad Black turned on Harper this time around:
Conrad actually makes a rather better case for Harper than the pro-Harper piece from Canadian Cincinnatus – before deciding it’s time to take a flyer on Justin. My old boss has (entirely legitimate) grievances against the Prime Minister that most of his critics do not. In recent weeks, two prominent conservative figures in the Canadian commentariat have remarked to me on Harper’s “coldness” even with friendly media types. That’s true, certainly when compared to his delightful and friendly missus, or to, say, the bonhomous Jason Kenney or Lisa Raitt, who manage to give the impression they enjoy even hostile interviews. Harper is a cold fish, and the coldness isn’t just a social affect. Last year, Harper had Conrad expelled from the Privy Council, as cold-hearted an act as one could devise to humiliate a man who played a crucial role in the glory days of The National Post in both the creation of the new Conservative Party and the rise of Harper to lead it. It was not merely unjust but unnecessary, coming years after Conrad’s stitch-up in a corrupt US court for a “crime” that does not exist in any other western nation. I have no idea why Harper felt he had to do it, and, all things considered, Conrad is extremely generous to him in his column. But I do wonder how many lesser known, broadly conservative persons are nursing various grievances against Harper this morning. That never helps in a close election.
In democratic societies, when a long governing party loses to its principal rival, it’s because the rival has been forced, in the interests of electoral viability, to meet you halfway – to steal at least some your clothes. Mrs Thatcher forced the Labour Party to change, and thus enabled it to anoint Tony Blair and return to power shorn of its worst impulses. Likewise, the Reagan-Bush years led to Bill Clinton and the “New Democrats”. Even in Canada, Brian Mulroney tamped down the Trudeaupian excesses of the Liberals and enabled Jean Chrétien to succeed as head a Nafta-supporting, debt-reducing ministry. Should tonight go badly, there will be no such consolations for Stephen Harper: Justin Trudeau, in all his shallow modish twerpery, represents everything he despises.
October 13, 2015
The US Libertarian Party’s nomination race won’t make much of a splash in the media (for the usual reasons all minor parties encounter), but if Gary Johnson wins the nomination again he might be the most normal candidate in 2016:
Gary Johnson, not yet an official 2016 Libertarian Party candidate for president, spoke to the two-day LibertyFest 2015 at the Warsaw hall in the Williamsburg neighborhood of New York City this weekend. He defended freedom in all its forms, from the unregulated entrepreneurship of Uber and Lyft to marijuana, reduced taxes, and reduced warfare.
Yet even I — an anarcho-capitalist, as you may recall — am beginning to wonder if it’s necessary to emphasize philosophy for Johnson to shine in the strange setting of the 2016 race. I mean, if the Republicans end up offering someone as odd as Trump or Carson, and the Democrats offer a criminal such as Clinton or a socialist such as Sanders … couldn’t Johnson plausibly just run as the non-weird candidate for whom America has been waiting?
And believe me, I know how strange it sounds to be talking about the Libertarian as the normal one for a change. (Jimmy McMillan, the “Rent Is Too Damn High” guy, spoke on the same stage a couple hours before Johnson, and it’s not clear McMillan is even a full-fledged libertarian — maybe more of a Georgist? Or just an interesting, earnest character?)
Let us assume for the sake of argument that Johnson beats other would-be Libertarian Party nominees including Austin Petersen, who gave an energetic LibertyFest speech about mobilizing libertarian activists as if for war and hopes he’ll one day get the chance to institute a flat tax. Much as Libertarians usually worry about having a candidate who lacks the guts to push their philosophy in a full-throated way (witness their occasional wariness about Rand Paul), might this be a good year in which to skip ideology and use mere sanity as a wedge issue?
October 6, 2015
Jay Currie has a bit of fun at the expense of poor folks suffering from sudden-onset Harper Derangement Syndrome:
Oh Dear the “yokels” and the “unwashed”, being thoroughly unenlightened, are failing in their duty to follow the lead of their betters and have noticed that there may be a few issues with mass Muslim immigration. Disgusting.
Worse, that spiv Harper doesn’t even have the grace and breeding to use dogwhistles in herding his flock. The dreadful man is throwing raw meat to the rubes and, to no one’s great surprise those Ill-educated reactionaries and rednecks are eating it up. There is, I fear, a very real danger that the 80% of bigoted Canadians (90% in the idiot reaches of Quebec) will take this opportunity to try to undo forty years of enlightened immigration and refugee policy by voting for those revolting CPC candidates.
The Wal-Mart classes are restless.Time to clutch the pink pearls and person the checkpoints surrounding the nicer, leafier, bastions of tolerance in Canada’s more sophisticated urban centers. Lock down the common rooms and charcuterie bars, disguise your Prius and avoid being seen with your Said (or books of any sort really): the proles are on the move.
The beast Harper looked vulnerable at the beginning of this campaign. After all, no one we knew would think of voting for the thug. But Harper has a low, animal, cunning. He is unafraid of the great white blob. He has been seen at hockey rinks at 6 in the morning and obviously buys his suits in some dreadful mall. His wife has stayed at home with the children. He is, obviously, one of them. He does not need to dogwhistle – the blob knows its own.
So, beware. The unwashed, the yokels, the bigots and the rubes have been summoned. All we can hope for is that, once they have vented their fury on niqab wearers they will resume their slumber. The alternative is simply too awful to contemplate.
October 4, 2015
In the Regina Leader-Post, Christine Whitaker talks about “life without fossil fuels” and what it might mean for Western Canada:
Author Naomi Klein and her supporters, promoting their Leap Manifesto (otherwise known as the “Tommunist Manifesto”), proudly assert that they now have 10,000 signatures to this document, most of which are “celebrities” and left-wing politicians, including, of course, David Suzuki.
This document starts from the premise that Canada is facing the deepest crisis in recent memory. The basic concept is that we must put an end to the use of fossil fuels; that we could live in a country powered only by renewable energy; that we could get 100 per cent of our electricity from renewable resources within the next two decades.
I wonder if these people realize that, to achieve this goal, there would need to be hundreds of thousands of wind turbines across the land. There would not be a single acre of rural Canada free of those monstrosities. Someone would also need to invent commercial airliners powered by clean energy, and there would no longer be any trucks to deliver food to the city stores. The whole manifesto is ridiculous.
So this is my counter-manifesto. It is equally silly, but I make no apologies. This is how Klein and company want our children and grandchildren to live.
Article 1: All persons who sign the Leap Manifesto, including Suzuki, should be immediately placed on an international no-fly list. They must never again be allowed to travel on planes powered by fossil fuels.
Article 2: All signatories will immediately have all their gasoline-powered vehicles confiscated.
Article 3: All public utilities (power, natural gas, water, telephone lines) will be disconnected from their homes.
As they say, read the whole thing.
Believe it or not, the end of the seemingly eternal federal election is finally in sight. We’re getting to the wind-up stage of the campaign and we can now expect certain evergreen political topics to be discussed as we wearily struggle down to the wire. Colby Cosh covers one of the biggest “issues” of every federal election:
The parties are running low on ammunition in the election that never ends, and I can sense, like a tracker laying an ear to the ground, the approach of conversations about demographics and the getting-out of the vote. With this campaign sub-season — suitably located in the autumn — will come talk of “gray power”; dread of the Conservative advantage among bigoted, ornery, vote-crazy oldies; and, above all, the suffocating hatred of the young toward the liver-spotted hands that grip our levers of power and ward off change.
I rarely speak of Baby Boomers without a generous helping of contemptuous spittle. But the great equalizers, pain and death and dementia and distraction, are now starting to take them. The people I call Turnout Nerds obsess over youth voting: it seems unnatural to them, even revolting, that fewer than half of people under 35 bother to struggle to the polls, choosing to deny us their breezy new ideas and their orientation toward the future. (Not that I can see much actual evidence of either quality.)
They do not talk much about what happens to voter turnout once Canadians have passed their peak propensity to vote, which arrives, according to the official estimates for the 2011 election, at the age of 67. The graph, it turns out, looks like a skewed triangle. Voters in the age cohorts from 20-25 had less than 40 per cent turnout in 2011. There is a slow linear climb from there; turnout passes 50 per cent in the mid-30s, 60 per cent in the mid-40s, 70 per cent on the cusp of age 60. It rises to above 75 per cent at about the traditional retirement age.
But the dropoff in turnout from there is steeper than the rise — and how else could it be, given arthritis and lumbago and the other cruel facts of late life? And by age 67, according to an insurance man’s icy “life tables,” more than one per cent of the population is dying every year. If you adjust for mortality, and imagine a hypothetical pool of Canadian voters starting out at age 18, the estimated age at which the highest number of the original group will be voting isn’t 67; it’s more like a flat peak between the ages of 59 and 64. After that, coronaries start taking away more voters than enthusiasm is adding.
October 1, 2015
At Ace of Spades H.Q., Ace responds to a recent Kevin Williamson post:
It is standard conservative theory that tax cuts and spending cuts go hand in hand. But after decades of ever-rising spending, coupled with occasional tax cuts, I’m not so certain of that any longer.
I believe it was after Reagan that Republican theorists began justifying his model of tax-cuts-now-spending-cuts-later as the “starve the beast” theory of limiting government — if we cut taxes, therefore cutting government’s resources, we should, logically, force the government to adapt itself to living with fewer taxpayer dollars. Ergo, spending should be forced down by the practicalities of the situation — either you start cutting spending, or else you start running up dangerous, Greece-level of debts.
The problem is that this country has always elected the “or else” part of this syllogism: We are racking up dangerous, Greece-levels of debts, and we’re barely even talking about that any longer.
The problem has grown so immense that we’ve decided to declare it officially a Non-Problem. (It will decide to re-assert itself as a Really Big Problem in a short period of time.)
So I no longer believe in the “starve the beast” theory, because the “starve the beast” theory relies upon Americans understanding the mid-to-longer term trajectory of their spending choices, which they plainly do not.
Since Americans are not capable of understanding the mid-to-longer term trajectory of their spending choices, it seems to me the only way to impose budget discipline and spending rollback is to offer Americans an immediate, as opposed to future, confrontation with reality: that is, if Americans wish to have so much government, they should be forced to pay for the level of government they are choosing, and not defer that payment (as they apparently will choose, every single time) into the future, to be imposed upon their children.
But, instead, they must be forced to reckon with the level of government they are choosing now by paying the full freight and cost of that government now.
That is to say: I believe that rolling back spending is only possible when Americans are made to feel the costs of the government they’re choosing, and that will only happen when they’re forced to actually pay for it.
The biggest hurdle, after the economic illiteracy of the voting public, is the starkly clear self-interest of the politicians: they can get re-elected only if they pander sufficiently to the voters. The voters, who do not understand how the government works (and refuse to believe it when you tell them) … want ever-more of it to benefit them as soon as possible. Telling the voters that you’ll not only not give them more but that you’ll be giving them significantly less is a great way to lose your next election (assuming you don’t get thrown out of office before that even comes up).
September 30, 2015
Colby Cosh on the sudden interest among the chattering classes about the role of the Governor General during election campaigns:
What’s with malcontent nitwit constitutional experts popping up in the newspaper to warn of “political instability” because we’re having a three-sided election? You know, this isn’t really that hard. The United Kingdom, a nuclear-armed power across the Atlantic that may be vaguely familiar, had an election in 2010 that failed to produce a majority. Its 650-seat House of Commons ended up with 306 Conservatives, 258 Labour MPs, 62 Liberal Democrats and a ragbag of deputies from nationalist and leftist parties.
If there is no majority party, that will involve tough decisions, most likely falling upon whomever finds himself in third place. But it should not end up with the governor general making some kind of awkward choice in a vacuum. The party leaders should feel enormous pressure to arrive at a decision between them, as if there were a taboo protecting the governor general’s door. The Privy Council Office is probably already creating that pressure. A governor general should never be presented with anything but a fait accompli. He plays the role of the Queen locally, and should be thought of like the Queen, as being above political decision-making.
The proper thing for constitutional pundits to be doing right now is to strengthen that taboo. Musings about imaginary scenarios in which the viceroy might have to involve himself in the selection of a government are fun — exactly the kind of thing I myself enjoy. But if you are cooking up such an op-ed, or giving quotes of that nature to a journalist, you are signing a license for party leaders to prolong the negotiation period that might follow our election, and encouraging them to make illicit use of sly appeals to the public about what the governor general ought to be doing.
In a minority situation, the temptation will be there: some leader will want to suggest that an arrangement for government that leaves him out has been arrived at unfairly. Or a third-place finisher who should be deciding the identity of a prime minister other than himself, and who has the real power to decide, might lose his nerve and start thinking he can evade the choice.
September 28, 2015
Jay Currie advises casual poll watchers to pretty much ignore the polls at the moment. Yes, those same polls the TV talking heads and the deep-thinkers at the major newspapers spend so much time “analyzing”: they are probably the least useful form of information in a Westminster-style election campaign like ours. A poll of a thousand “representative” Canadians doesn’t tell you anything about how the voters in any given riding are likely to vote, and that’s where the election is decided. I’ve been joking with my family that, based on the appearance of signs in our Whitby riding, the likely winner on October 19th will be the window cleaning firm “Men in Kilts”.
Here’s why Jay recommends just ignoring the “horse race” media coverage:
Canadian mainstream media knows only one way to cover an election: it is always a horse race with polls coming out weekly or even daily in which one party or another edges ahead or falls behind by less than the margin of error.
Polls are funny things: they give a particular picture of the race at a particular time without providing much by the way of explanation. And, in Canada, the most reported “national” polls measure a race which does not exist. We don’t vote nationally or even province by province: we vote riding by riding.
The bright boys in the Conservative and NDP war rooms know this and, apparently, someone has been kind enough to explain the rudiments to the geniuses surrounding Trudeau. The fact is that the election turns on, at most, 100 ridings scattered across Canada. Amusingly, these are not the same ridings for each party.
With less than a month to go to election day, but with a month of campaigning and polling behind them, each of the parties will be able to focus its efforts on a) marginal seats where that party’s sitting candidate may lose, b) competitive ridings where that party’s candidate might win a riding previously held by another party.
Talk of the Blue Wave or Orange Crush is like the English pre-WWI talking about rolling the Huns up by Christmas: now we are in trench warfare. And now, small differences are all that matter. Exciting as it may be for the Greens to run 5% nationally, they are running more or less even in Victoria which would up their seat count to 2 and knock an NDP held seat off Mulcair’s search for a plurality of House of Commons seats. And there are ridings like this across Canada.
At the same time, the trench war is influenced by the perception of who is actually winning the overall election. Political scientists talk about bandwagon effects. Here Harper has the huge advantage of incumbency. For every Harper Derangement Syndrome voter out there, there are at least one or two voters who, while they don’t love Harper, prefer the devil they know.
Canadian election analysis used to be pretty easy:
- How many seats are there in Quebec? Give 75% or more to the Liberals.
- How many seats are there in Alberta? Give 90% to the Progressive Conservatives.
- How many urban blue collar seats are there? Give 50% or more to the NDP.
- How many remaining seats are there in Ontario? Split the urban seats 65% Liberal and 30% NDP and the suburban and rural seats 55% PC and 35% Liberal.
- Finally, count out the few dozen remaining seats and guess which way they’ll go (and history matters … a seat that’s been in NDP hands since the CCF years will probably stay there, while a seat that flips regularly every election will probably flip again).
I’m joking, but not by a lot. However, that was then and this is a very different now. All those “rules” have been thrown out the window in the last decade and each party probably has a colour-coded map of the country which shows where it makes any political sense to expend time and resources to retain a friendly seat or steal an opposing seat. (Spoiler: those maps are nowhere near as accurate as the various parties are hoping.)
You (as a federal party official) don’t want to obviously give up on any seat, but you also don’t want to have all your heavy-hitters showing up for events in a riding you don’t have any realistic chance to win: not only is it a waste of time and resources, it can make you look desperate and that’s a very bad way to appear during an election campaign.
I’m not making any predictions about how the election will turn out … I don’t even know who I’ll be voting for on the day, but the folks in the expensive outfits on TV don’t know either. With the national polling being so close and no definite signs of a bandwagon forming, it could go almost any direction. Last time around we had the Crooks, the Fascists, the Commies, and the Traitors. This time the parties are not quite as mired in scandal, so we’ve got the Nice Hair Guy, the Bad Hair Guy, the Beardy Guy, and everyone else (let’s not pretend that the Greens or the Bloc are going to form a government this time around). You drop your ballot and you take your chances. See you on the other side.
September 27, 2015
In the Weekly Standard, P.J. O’Rourke discusses Ann Coulter’s recently expressed anti-semitic remarks during the Republican candidates’ debate:
She is young, scatter-brained, and heedless, but she is not an idiot. She graduated cum laude from Cornell and has a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School. But no intelligent hike through the Minotaur’s labyrinth of politics can be made in 140-character baby steps. Especially when you’re walking in clown shoes.
What Ann Coulter tweeted was:
Cruz, Huckabee Rubio all mentioned ISRAEL in their response to: “What will AMERICA look like after you are president.”
How many f—ing Jews do these people think there are in the United States?
Not anywhere near as many as there would and should be if FDR hadn’t been as much of a jerk about immigration as you are, Ann, you etiolated bean sprout butt trumpet.
As to why Israel is important, to paraphrase John F. Kennedy, “Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ikh bin a Ishral.’ ”
And I mean it, even if, pope-kissing Mick that I am, my Yiddish is maybe sketchy.
Partly this is personal, Ann, you jangle-tongue, you all-clapper-and-no-carillon, you crack in the Liberty Bell. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, “It’s not me, it’s you.”
But, first, my contempt is moral. Antisemitism is evil. Per se, as you lawyers like to put it. For the sake of argument, let us “stipulate” that you are not per se an antisemite. Instead of saying that’s true, let us stipulate it with all the snarky lawyer freight that “stipulating” carries.
Being so stipulated, you are damn rude. One does not say, “f—ing Jews.” One does not say “f—ing blacks” or “f—ing Latinos” or even “f—ing relentlessly self-promoting Presbyterian white women from New Canaan.”
Manners are the small change of morality. You, Ann, are nickel and diming yourself. And may all the coins in Scrooge McDuck’s money bin land on you and squash you flat. (Scrooge, by the way, is not a Jew, he’s a duck.)
September 16, 2015
September 14, 2015
At Ace of Spades H.Q. last week, Ace explained what might eventually be the kryptonite that allows someone to defeat “el Donaldo” in the Republican race:
There is a notion of Middle Class Respectability. This notion is important to most members of my (your?) class. It can be put aside by highly-committed partisans who are intensely in favor of Trump (and who therefore don’t sweat negative information about him), but not by most people.
I have said before, in a line that I quite like, that Donald Trump is gloriously unburdened by respectability. Respectability is both a blessing and a curse.
Respectability, obviously, grants you some respect; you behave properly, according to the code of the class, and therefore are considered a member in good standing of that class.
But it is also very limiting. Many people will point out that GOP/RINO “pussies” will buckle and apologize at the first dirty look from a member of the liberal establishment.
That is the downside of respectability — people are afraid to lose it, and will quickly apologize when The Mob threatens to withdraw respectability from them.
And in America 2015, public respectability is granted by — controlled by — the college-educated upper-middle-class Media Class which controls most everything related to morals and manners.
The fact that Trump is gloriously unburdened by respectability makes him willing/able to say things that no Respectability-Craving politician ever could, like that yes, we need a border wall, and yes, we are permitted to, and should, be outraged by foreign criminals murdering Americans who are permitted to be here by Democratic mayors and presidents.
But the downside of his contempt for respectability is that he will obliviously trample things that are very important to the people whose support he will ultimately need, if he wants to do more than blow hot air.
Whether or not Trump thinks that upper middle class suburban Republicans are silly or not, whether or not he thinks they’re “losers” or not for owning only two cars, he will need that one third of the party that is currently dead-set against him.
And while Trump seems to either have a problem with women (how long did he spend attacking Megyn Kelly, versus how long did he spend attacking Chris Wallace?) or is simply unburdened by the Middle Class Respectability code of gallantry towards women, It is making a very large and influential block of people absolutely disgusted by him, repelled by him not a political level (which could always later be finessed or papered over) but on a personal level (which can never be repaired).
I would venture to say he can’t stop — I would venture to say that in Trump’s world of yes-men and eternal entitlement, calling a woman ugly is just sort of something he casually does, and, like a high school super-jock who’s always been protected from the consequences of his actions, he just has never had reason to internalize that dismissing a woman as Sexually Not Up to My High Standards as an opening gambit in conversation is socially disfavored.
September 12, 2015
Grant McCracken explains why revelations of faults and gaffes not only don’t cost Donald Trump any support, they often increase his appeal to voters:
The answer, I think, is that his supporters don’t want a president. They want a fireship.
Fireships were instruments of destruction when the world was ruled by wooden ships. The idea was to pack a ship with flammables, set it ablaze, and send it in the direction of enemy ships in the hope that it would set these enemy ships ablaze. Fireships helped defeat the Spanish armada gathered in the English Channel.
Donald Trump promises to make a very good fireship. He lacks the subtlety, intelligence, breadth, and leadership we look for in a candidate. And that’s precisely what makes him such an effective instrument of political disruption.
Reckless, boorish, self centered? Perfect. Trump’s flaws make him a unassimilable. Washington is its own empire with formidable powers of hegemony. Many reformers go to Washington. Virtually all are claimed, colonized, incorporated. The Trumpians believes they have found a candidate so full of himself not even the Borg can absorb him. (If you can’t have incorruptible, unassimilable will have to do.)
But that’s just Step 1 of the Trump disruption, the passive play. Step 2, the active play, is a candidate who thinks he’s smarter than the system. Most Trumpians know that Trump isn’t smarter than the system. They just want him to act as if he is. That guarantees the destructive chaos they’re hoping for. I don’t think anyone doubts that Trump is a bully and a blow hard. They just want him to knock lots of things down when he throws his weight around. (If you can’t have cunning, clumsy will have to do.)
Trumpians don’t want a candidate. They want an agent of chaos. They don’t want to reform Washington. They want to burn it down.
Colby Cosh tries to explain some aspects of the ongoing Canadian federal election by pointing out parallels to the most recent British election (and aftermath) … and then must have dropped some acid to come up with this scenario:
The other day on Twitter you could catch some pundit types talking about Green Party Leader Elizabeth May becoming prime minister as an example of something zany that could absolutely never happen in Canadian politics. This raises an immediate question, for those of us who occasionally scan U.K. news: is May becoming prime minister any less likely than what is happening right now in the Labour Party?
Twenty weeks ago, Labour and its leader Ed Miliband were thought by pollsters to be slight favourites to win the May 7 national election. At noon yesterday, voting ended in the race to replace the defeated Miliband. The result will be announced Saturday. The almost certain winner — keeping in mind that Britain has deep betting markets, and punters are allowed to gamble unlimited sums on political outcomes — is Jeremy Corbyn, longtime MP for Islington North, an old Bennite ultra-radical who had attracted almost no public notice in British politics for the past 30 years.
So far, so reasonable, but then the rush hits:
I am not going to tell you to bet on Elizabeth May becoming prime minister of Canada. After all, in this country we don’t have betting shops on every corner — yet. What I notice we do have is a historically socialist party leading in the polls behind an awfully Blairish figure. All New Democrats are highly aware of Labour politics: Labour is their mother, in a way the Conservative and Unionist Party (U.K.) is not to our Conservatives. Although New Democrats may not admit it, the recent unearthing of Thomas Mulcair’s eulogy for Margaret Thatcher must have appalled and sickened many.
By opting for the ex-Liberal Mulcair as leader, the NDP chose the Blair approach to the future of the left. Mulcair now finds himself advancing a significantly more enthusiastic line on government austerity, somehow, than the Trudeau Liberals do. It is not clear who the NDP’s Corbyn might be if they had wanted one. But one notices that May is about the same age as Corbyn, and has the same kind of leftist street cred. She has spoken out for the same environmentalist and radically democratic principles over and over, grindingly, since she was a teenager.
You can already see the outlines of a political mini-thriller in this. Mulcair’s NDP is six or eight points ahead in the last polls before our October election. The pundits have the moving truck backed right up to 24 Sussex. But the Conservative get-out-the-vote machine proves itself again, as does the “shy Tory” polling effect. It’s a Harper landslide, bigger than before.
The recrimination within the New Democratic Party becomes general and open. Why, people ask, did we run to the right of Trudeau? Why did we choose a grumpy Thatcherite to challenge a grumpy Thatcherite government instead of keeping faith with our real identity? Insiders start to notice that Elizabeth May’s personal popularity is much greater than that of her kooky party. Someone buys the DraftLiz.com domain. May tells a reporter she would not be averse to talk of a merger, on her terms …
You can take it from there, can’t you? It’s a fantasy, of course. Such things never happen in the real world. Except when they do.