Wednesday, May 11, 2016
We Don't Need No Stinking Badges
One of the best blogs I've found is called Gin and Tacos, written by a political scientist professor. Here's what he said recently about Trump:
The most incredible thing about the Trump campaign from an academic / political science perspective is that we have the rare opportunity to observe a major party campaign with no ideological content whatsoever. There is no coherence to anything about Trump, policy-wise, and this reflects his supporters' similar lack of meaningful ideology. On what rare occasions that he does put forth an actual idea it 1) makes no sense and 2) bears no identifiable relationship to any other idea he mentioned before or since. It is the definition of random. His appeal, in the eyes of his supporters, is that he is Tough or Bold or some personal characteristic that one could only get from watching and listening to Trump if one does not understand what anything in the realm of ideas in American politics actually means. Moreover, one must explicitly not care what any of it means.
For example, Trump recently stated that his bold plan for dealing with the national debt was that, as a brilliant negotiator, he would convince holders of Treasury obligations to take a haircut – in other words, to accept fifty cents on the dollar or something like that, as a bankruptcy court might force creditors to do during a liquidation or reorganization. This is almost too stupid to bother explaining why it is stupid, as though the Treasury of the largest economy on the planet is no different than a failing casino trying to talk down its debts to a bunch of Mustache Petes who put up the initial investment. It is such a stupid idea that it falls short of qualifying as an idea; it's the kind of thing someone who has absolutely no idea how anything related to the economy works would think is a really brilliant solution.
The problem, from Trump's perspective, is that there simply aren't enough such people in the electorate. Converse estimated (again, his estimates have been subject to much debate) that no more than 1 in 5 voters fall into this category, and since then most analyses have treated that as incautiously high. If there's one thing academics like more than calling people stupid, it's rationalizing ways that apparently stupid people are actually smart. Regardless, on the rare occasions that Trump says anything policy-related my mind automatically goes to Converse, because nothing he says bears any resemblance to a definable political ideology. And that's what Trump supporters like about it. To them it sounds brilliant, because they don't even understand the issues well enough to understand why his proposals are ridiculous.
Believe it or not, the conclusion per se is optimistic for the survival of the republic. It suggests that there are not enough idiots in the electorate to actually elect Mr. Trump. But in this post Mr. Tacos has not addressed the other factor in this coming election: the credibility of anything at all Mrs. Clinton actually says. We're in the very odd situation of ending up with two candidates who are, neither, credible, although for different reasons. Apparently the big money is going to favor Mrs. Clinton, as it has already in the sense that the big money is willing to pay her half a mil to give a speech of an afternoon. People who already support Mrs. Clinton, and desperately want Mr. Sanders to just STFU and go away, seem to daily find new brightness in her "positions." Today I notice that she's opening the door to an early age medicare opt in, which is a kind of single payer position. Great. Very much fine with me. I can assure you that once you are out of the work force (however that is defined), you are on your fucking own, buddy.
But campaign positions are notoriously ineffable. And Mrs. Clinton (and her husband, the co-President to be) are notoriously ineffable. Nothing in Mrs. Clinton's campaign speech, or in the Democratic Party Platform to be negotiated in July, is law or policy. The Clintons, throughout their long career in politics, have always been willing to sacrifice principle when it was politically expedient. There was a retarded man executed in Arkansas during the campaign of '92 solely to inoculate Bill and Hil from the charge that they might be somehow "soft" on the death penalty. This poor victim of the Clinton ambition told his executioners that he'd like them to save his piece of pecan pie for later, after the execution, because he was full.
Mrs. Clinton will not reduce the value of United States treasuries. That we can be sure of. And that's a plus I think. As far as your social security check? I don't think I'd trust either of them with it if it was already endorsed. What we're watching is the self-destruction of the basic system for finding a President. It's an important job, but one of the parties entrusted to running the machinery now has the official position, held and acted on since Reagan, that government is "the problem." If you start out with a contradiction, it's you who have the serious problem. The other party distrusts democracy more implicitly. My former Governor, Jim Hunt, invented the so-called "super delegate" category in 1982 to protect the Democratic Party from democracy. Back in the middle of 2014 or so, the most powerful faction in the Democratic Party--the Clintons--made sure that the super-delegates were on their side, and that no one of note would run against them. The best Sanders can do is make things look sort of sticky for Mrs. Clinton by managing to win a majority of state primaries. This seems to be happening. If Sanders wins California, he could look a lot like "the popular" choice. But the super-delegates will counteract that illusion, and the Clinton faction will be correct when they say that they are just playing by the rules.
After the election, Mr. and Mrs. Clinton will continue to have the ear of the "job makers," and vice versa. The job makers will continue to live a life of stability. A continuation of the Obama administration, but with a bit more steel where the Middle East is concerned, is likely. Interest rates will remain at or near record lows. There will be ups and downs in the markets. And over where my bronze star holding World War II 92-year-old veteran father-in-law spends his days watching a blur of TV, because his eyes and his mind are both fading away, the minimal attending staff gladly takes up our offer to bring them a Big Mac and a soft-serve hot fudge sundae for their supper. No doubt the corporation that owns his facility and hundreds of other facilities scattered across many states is holding its own on Wall Street. Hey, the attendants have Jobs! And here in NC, the issue of the moment isn't the chronic and on-going erosion of middle class life, it's the idiotic bathroom law which forces people to actually visit the wrong bathroom, while claiming to do the exact opposite. A corollary of Orwell's Law might well be the rise in apoplexy amongst the more cogent and observant class. This, in turn, will slowly raise the percentages of likely Trump voters through attrition. Ultimately, more money will be made. As Bob Dylan said, "I can't help it if I'm lucky." We are indeed in an idiot wind.