Tuesday’s post took longer to write than expected, so today’s post is being told entirely in images:
As I mentioned yesterday, among many important things, Scott’s post on Cost Disease explains (IMO) the rise of the Alt-Right (VERY broadly defined) and Trump’s victory in a way that I don’t think any mainstream publication can. (Not explicitly, mind.)
“Cost disease” is Scott’s (and others’) term for “things getting more expensive without any increase in quality or quantity.”
Over the past 40 years or so, some of the most expensive–and important–things in life like housing, education, health care, and infrastructure have doubled, tripled, or dectupled in price with very little improvement to show for it (except maybe in healthcare, where we are in fact living longer.)
Getting less bang for your buck is downright frustrating.
Now let’s suppose you’re an American conservative of some stripe. Maybe you think abortion is immoral. It’s been about 40 years since Roe V. Wade, and abortion is still legal. Maybe you’re opposed to gay marriage. Sorry, that horse has left the closet. Did you hope to bring democracy and freedom to the people of Iraq? Yeah… Good luck with that.
Maybe you’d just like to live in a community full of people who share your religious beliefs and cultural norms, like the average person actually did back in 1950 and before. Well, demographics have not been on your side for a long time–not only have whites gone from about 88% of the country to <50% of babies and thus soon a minority overall, but the whole country is becoming increasingly atheistic.
Or perhaps you’d just like to get an entry-level job without going 100k into debt and having your entire paycheck cleaned out by health insurance and rent, in which case you and Scott are on the same page.
So what, exactly, have Republicans been “conserving” all this time? Tax cuts for the wealthy? Hell, they didn’t even succeed at building a democracy in Iraq, and they spent trillions of dollars on it! And that’s our money, not theirs! They killed a bunch of people in the process, too.
Looking back, the two biggest Republican victories (that I can see) in my life time have been “getting tough on crime” and overseeing the Fall of the Soviet Union. That one was basically a coincidence, rather than the results of any specific Reagan/Bush I policies, but they do generally get credit for the Tough on Crime business. Note that this is all stuff that happened in the 80s and early 90s; for the past 20 years
And come this election (2016,) who were they running? JEB BUSH. Yes, little brother of the last Bush. You might as well make his campaign slogan “Just like last time, but with more Mexicans!”
Disclaimer: I understand wanting the Mexican vote. I understand wanting to appeal to Hispanics. They live here, they’re a huge voting block, (most of them are great people,) and I hear they’re not really down with the whole SJW agenda thingie.
But do you know the problem with Bush II?
It was pouring our money into a black hole in Iraq, inflating housing prices, and then crashing the economy. It was the general progression of every single thing outlined above that has made life harder for everyday Americans.
Maybe I’m missing some finer details here, but “not enough Mexicans” was not even remotely on the list of complaints.
The folk running the Republican Party had their heads so far up their asses they thought they could just play demographic games (“It works for the Democrats!”) without offering a plan to actually CONSERVE anything.
Okay, I am pissed that these incompetents have any role in our politics.
I’ve noticed that people tend to be liberal when they’re young and become more conservative as they age, essentially locking in the liberalism of their college years but then erecting barriers against the liberalism of college students a decade younger than themselves. While this is natural and probably sensible in many ways, it leads to certain inconsistencies, like people who champion “women’s lib” but criticize “feminism.” Um. So many of the older conservatives I know basically just want to return to sometime in the late 70s/early 80s–you know, the cusp of the AIDs epidemic, the crack wars, rising crime turning America’s cities into burnt-out shells, etc. Great times!
Some people try to correct for this by invoking their grandarents’ or great-grandparents’ time–as though anyone were actually eager to re-live WW2 and the Great Depression. I don’t know about you, but I hear those times were pretty awful. And if we go back further than that, we start hitting things like “Massive epidemics kill millions of people.”
Simply trying to rewind the clock to some earlier year doesn’t solve today’s problems, but I understand the urge to conserve the things you value and love about your own society, childhood, culture, etc.–and the Neocons/Mainstream Republicans have failed miserably at that.
Trump’s message–and the “alt-right,” broadly–has focused on Law and Order; safety (from Terrorism;) jobs (“it’s the economy, stupid;) Cost Disease (“repeal two regulations for every new one” and “repeal Obamacare;”) and the general preservation of Americans as a people/culture (by limiting immigration, especially from groups that didn’t contribute to America’s founding stock.)
Meanwhile, mainstream Republicans are still kicking and screaming that what the country really needs is more Bush II policies.
Hello, everyone! Today we have a guest post, How the Winds Change, about social signaling, the Federal Government, the Cathedral, and Title IX–and how these things may change:
After the election we’ve seen a lot of liberals express the fear that LGBTQ people and Muslims and other minorities will be rounded up and become victim to horrible things, as this blog has noted. It’s kind of a weird paranoia. Even if Trump was as evil as they say, liberals still have a solid 47% of the populace opposed to him – even up to 90% in their cities. How would you get the people on board with stigmatizing minorities when so, so many people oppose it? In order to enact this sort of draconian social change, you’d really need the masses to buy into it.
I think this fear comes from social justice advocates realizing, somewhere deep down, that their hold on the Cathedral is in some ways quite tenuous. There are a lot of true believers, but there are even more people just along for the ride, who see the best way to get status is to play along with progressive orthodoxy. If the best way to get status and to protect your position becomes “follow the Trump party line,” then those activists currently in the vanguard could find themselves losing a lot of their influence.
The government can do that. Usually in the culture wars the government is a passive beast, something to be fought over and not really a driver of people’s opinions. This is particularly true in liberal democracy, which used to be one of the best things about the US democracy. But, the government has a lot of money, and a lot of power, and if it wants to start really, seriously swaying the elites, status-seeking people will follow it.
Here’s an example. How many of you have heard of the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights? Not many of you probably, as it’s a fairly small office. It’s headed by the Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights. No one famous, not someone you see in endless clickbait articles or cable news debates. She doesn’t even have her own Wikipedia page! She’s just in charge of making sure that schools that receive federal funds (mostly universities) are in compliance with civil rights laws.
But with this administration, the Assistant Secretary of this office cares a lot about progressive social change. And she believes very strongly that sexual assault in our culture is a major problem, and she wants to raise awareness of it (backed by a White House Task Force) . This is no grand conspiracy, this is one person caring about a cause a lot, with only a little bit of federal power behind them, all out in the open.
Now, if found in violation of their civil rights requirements, a university could lose Title IX funding, which is a lot of money. But that sort of hammer can only be used so much, and it’s not even clear how you could prove harassment on campus was the fault of the university in such an investigation.
So instead, the OCR has taken a much more ambiguous approach. Whenever a sexual assault investigation on campus is in the news, they would send a Dear Colleague letter to the university, announcing it was investigating their response. Eventually, the OCR publicly released a list of 55 schools under investigation for how they handle sexual assault accusations.
There is no way that the federal government could pull Title IX funding from 55 major institutions. As a whole the threat was entirely a paper tiger. But whooo boy, no university wants to be on that List. No admissions counselor wants to explain to student’s parents what that List means. No fundraising officer wants to explain to alumni why they are on this List of schools under investigation, before asking them for five figure donations.
So the school does everything they can to comply with the OCR, and make clear they are on the right side of history. In practice, this means putting the rights of the accused last, the rights of the victim second, and the interests of the OCR first. It also means a lot of campus publicity that isn’t shown to reduce sexual assault, but looks like they are doing something.
You may have noticed that within feminism, the problem of “sexual assault on college campuses” has received a ton of attention. Part of the reason for that is universities falling over themselves to appease this office with its vague requirements. As the old saying goes “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
That’s the system. The government vaguely threatens people who get a lot of money from them. Those people with a lot of money jump in line. Other elites look to the people with money as sources of moral authority and take their cues from them. And the masses worry about what the elites are chattering about so much. This is pretty much the definition of the Cathedral after all.
Ordinarily the US government isn’t very involved in the culture wars, so the cultural opinions of the elite are unlikely to turn on a dime. But as we’ve seen, with some issues the federal government does get involved. And I think a lot of the social justice fear is that a Trump administration will get much more actively involved in trying to sway opinion on his issues.
First of all, they’ll stop doing what the current OCR is doing. They may even do the reverse, and starting making a list of schools who they think have been too hard on defendants. Then other bureaucrats in their various niches can begin pursuing investigations designed to “raise awareness” of their pet issue. And before you know it, all the high status intellectuals in your society are apologizing for their past stances and trying to sound like they agreed with Donald Trump all along.
It’s a pretty frightening image, and a good wake up call to just how much power the government has to bend the course of our moral culture when it wants to. No political group on either side should be comfortable with this.
The anti-Trump riots/protests going on right now seem at first glance, to be highly counter-productive: most of the rioters live in highly liberal areas, so the majority of people they intimidate, assault, or rob are not Trump supporters, but actually on their own side.
Remember when a black cop shot a black criminal and blacks rioted, looting their own stores, and the criminal’s sister scolded them, telling them to “take that shit to the suburbs” because “we need our weaves!”?
Or when the citizens of Detroit rioted, burning down 2,000 buildings, thus driving out small businesses and the entire middle class base and sending the city into an economic death spiral?
Just as when watching small children run and scream on the playground, I am reminded here of Jane Goodall’s descriptions of chimpanzees, especially their dominance displays. Here is an account of one that went awry:
Just then Flint, six months older than Goblin, came bouncing up and the two children began to play, both showing their lower teeth in the chimpanzee’s playful smile. Flo was reclining nearby grooming Figan; Goblin’s mother, Melissa, was a little farther away, also grooming. It was so peaceful…. All at once a series of pant-hoots announced the arrival of more chimpanzees, and there was instant commotion in the group. Flint pulled away from the game and hurried to jump onto Flo’s back as she moved for safety halfway up a palm tree. I saw Mike with his hair on end beginning to hoot; I knew he was about to display. So did the other chimpanzees of his group–all were alert, prepared to dash out of the way or to join in the displaying. All, that is, save Goblin. He seemed totally unconcerned and, incredibly, began to totter toward Mike. Melissa, squeaking with fear, was hurrying toward her son, but she was too late. Mike began his charge, and as he passed Goblin seized him up as though he were a branch and dragged him along the ground.
Since you don’t have the benefit of having the entire book in front of you, I’ll explain what’s going on, just in case you’re confused: when two groups of chimps meet, or a male chimp enters a group of other chimps, it’s very normal for the males to engage in dominance displays (or just “display,” as Jane puts it.) These displays are aggressive and involve a lot of running around, waving and shaking branches at each other, and making noise, but don’t generally involve actual violence. By making it clear which chimp is the strongest, weaker chimps simply back down without getting into an actual fight.
When the males are about to display, all of the females, being smaller and weaker, grab their kids and get out of the way. Chimpanzee aggression is not normally aimed at chimpanzee children, who of course are helpless against a full-grown male. However, in this case, little Goblin didn’t realize what was going on, and Mike, in his all-consuming rage at the newcomers, didn’t realize that he had grabbed Goblin instead of a tree branch.
An then the normally fearful, cautious Melissa, frantic for her child, hurled herself at Mike. It was unprecedented behavior, and she got severely beaten up for her interference, but she did succeed in rescuing Goblin–the infant lay, pressed close to the ground and screaming, where the dominant male had dropped him. Even before Mike had ceased his attack on Melissa the old male Huxley had seized Goblin from the ground. I felt sure he too was going to display with the infant, but he remained quite still, holding the child and staring down at him almost, it seemed in bewilderment. Then as Melissa, screaming and bleeding, escaped from Mike, Huxley set the infant on the ground. As his mother hurried up to him Goblin leaped into her arms…
Normally, small infants are shown almost unlimited tolerance from all other members of the community; it almost seem as though the adult male may lose many of his social inhibitions during his charging display.”
Note that Mike is not normally aggressive toward infants–at another time, when Goblin got lost, Mike actually rescued him and stayed with him until Melissa returned for him. Chimps don’t really pair bond and so they don’t have “fathers” who care for their young the way their mothers do, devotedly, for years, but all of the males in a troop are likely to be related to the young in the troop in some manner, either as brothers or uncles or cousins or fathers, and so quite sensibly they do not generally try to kill their own relatives.
Mike’s urge to display in front of these newcomers was so strong that it completely overwhelmed his normal senses. The aggressive instinct is no mere luxury–showing that he is stronger than the other chimps is how Mike keeps his own troop safe.
Well, Hillary Clinton’s soldiers have refused to accept the headcount. They refuse to accept their new alpha chimp, and they are out there, rioting, protesting, displaying their strength. It doesn’t matter whether they display by grabbing a branch, an infant, or a smashed window. It doesn’t matter if they loot their own neighborhoods and light their own cars on fire. The message is still the same: We are Strong. We are violent. Don’t fuck with us.
As I noted before, when the chimps Jane was studying in the Gombe split into two groups, the chimpanzees of the Kahama region of the Gombe Stream went to war against the chimps of Kasakala in 1974:
The two [groups] had previously been a single, unified community, but by 1974 researcher Jane Goodall, who was observing the community, first noticed the chimps dividing themselves into northern and southern sub-groups. …
The Kahama group, in the south, consisted of six adult males (among them the chimpanzees known to Goodall as “Hugh”, “Charlie”, and “Goliath”), three adult females and their young, and an adolescent male (known as “Sniff”). The larger Kasakela group, meanwhile, consisted of twelve adult females and their young, and eight adult males. …
The first outbreak of violence occurred on January 7, 1974, when a party of six adult Kasakela males attacked and killed “Godi”, a young Kahama male …
Over the next four years, all six of the adult male members of the Kahama were killed by the Kasakela males. Of the females from Kahama, one was killed, two went missing, and three were beaten and kidnapped by the Kasakela males. The Kasakela then succeeded in taking over the Kahama’s former territory.
I have the luxury of reading this account after already hearing, at least vaguely, that chimps wage war on each other. To Jane–despite having observed chimpanzee belligerence for years–it came as a surprise:
The outbreak of the war came as a disturbing shock to Goodall, who had previously considered chimpanzees to be, although similar to human beings, “rather ‘nicer’” in their behavior. Coupled with the observation in 1975 of cannibalistic infanticide by a high-ranking female in the community, the violence of the Gombe war first revealed to Goodall the “dark side” of chimpanzee behavior. She was profoundly disturbed by this revelation; in her memoir Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe, she wrote:
“For several years I struggled to come to terms with this new knowledge. Often when I woke in the night, horrific pictures sprang unbidden to my mind—Satan [one of the apes], cupping his hand below Sniff’s chin to drink the blood that welled from a great wound on his face; old Rodolf, usually so benign, standing upright to hurl a four-pound rock at Godi’s prostrate body; Jomeo tearing a strip of skin from Dé’s thigh; Figan, charging and hitting, again and again, the stricken, quivering body of Goliath, one of his childhood heroes. ”
It is worrying indeed that we have drifted so far apart that liberals are violently displaying against conservatives, treating them like an entirely separate tribe to be beaten, dismembered, and destroyed.
And especially foolish since conservatives have the vast majority of guns and ammunition.
Those of you who remember history may recall that the South used to vote solidly Democrat. FDR and his ilk represented an alliance of poor southern farmers and norther factory workers against rich capitalists. This was the triumph of American socialism, the proletariat united against the bourgeois.
This worked until LBJ, with the Civil Rights act and Immigration Act. After LBJ, southern whites began voting Republican. Democrats haven’t gotten a majority of the white vote since LBJ. Republicans became an alliance of rural, poor, morally-oriented Christians and rich, war-mongering assholes like George W. Bush. Dems have often questioned this coalition.
Dems have been an alliance of working-class unions, college-educated, and minorities.
Trump captured the Dem’s working-class whites, who have felt increasingly alienated in a party that has been focusing on “white privilege” to the exclusion of “poor people’s economic problems.”
Whites are a steadily decreasing % of the population, and they’ll be a minority first in the Democratic party. Traditional white union concerns, exemplified by Sanders, lost out to racial politics, exemplified by Hillary’s “If we took down the banks, it still wouldn’t end systemic racism,” speech.
Trump didn’t capture a significantly larger share of the white vote than Romney did, and Romeny lost. He did snag disaffected white-collar voters in swing states who had previously voted for Obama. He simultaneously lost well-off whites, like the entire neocon establishment.
Hillary couldn’t drive turnout the way Obama did because she isn’t black or POC, and her party’s strength is now dependent on getting out the non-white vote. The Dems are increasingly, like South Africa, a party where the leaders are an ethnic minority with little legitimacy in the eyes of their base. Dems need candidates who energize their base to get the turnout they need.
(Funny that when Christian whites vote in favor of Christianity and we end up destroying Iraq, that’s sort of okay, but when poor whites vote in favor of their economic interests, that’s suddenly “racist” and people are protesting in the streets.)
Hillary lost twice now (to Obama in ’08 and Trump in ’16,) not because Americans are sexist, but because she is white.
Trump has re-forged the old Democratic alliance of FDR, and he’s done it in the ruins of the Republican party.
Americans have a reputation for being loud, rude, warmongers–basically some of the last people you might want to have nukes.
And while we are definitely loud and probably rude, ironically, we’ve been trying to get OUT of wars since at least 1945.
Remember Truman? He succeeded to the presidency on Roosevelt II’s death in ’45, then
was narrowly defeated by Dewy in ’49. Then, after 20 straight years of Democrat rule, the Republican Ike (whom everyone liked) was elected in ’53.
Truman oversaw the surrender of Nazi Germany (on his birthday, no less,) the conclusion of the Pacific war (by dropping atomic bombs on Japan,) and America’s return to peace. Nonetheless, his popularity plummeted from 85% (in 1946) to 22% (1952)–making him possibly the least popular president in history (even Nixon had a 24% approval rating when he resigned.)
Truman had a genuinely rough job: he had to oversee the end of a colossal war, then the demilitarization of the US and its economy and the return of our troops, and navigate an entirely novel role for the US, as one of the world’s two remaining superpowers. Should we prepare for nuclear war with the Soviets? Would communism consume Europe and China? Should the US help Europe and China rebuild? What about Turkey? And on top of that, North Korea went and invaded South Korea.
For the first century or so of America’s existence, such an invasion would have been none of our business–indeed, the average American likely would have heard nothing about it. Now, as the world’s only counter to Soviet hegemony, Truman thought we had to do something–and so began the terribly unpopular Korean War (1950-1953.)
Ordinary people understood very well why we entered WWII–the Japanese bombed us, an event that is still seared into our national conscience, and then Germany declared war on us. But the North Koreans weren’t attacking us–they just wanted South Korea. Yes, you can make some intellectual justification about stopping the spread of communism, but as far as the average Joe is concerned, Koreans ain’t us and their war was, therefore, none of our damn business.
When the war began, 78% of Americans approved of Truman’s decision. By 1952, only 37% agreed. The war only received the support of half the American people again when it ended.
The war’s unpopularity was Truman’s.
Eisenhower ran against the Korean War and won with an electoral margin of 442 to 89, (though the popular vote was closer.) In ’53, he brought the war to an end. According to Wikipedia, “Since the late 20th century, consensus among Western scholars has consistently held Eisenhower as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.”
All went well until Kennedy (’61-63.) His term opened with the disastrous, CIA-run Bay of Pigs invasion. By the Cuban Missile Crisis (’62,) fallout shelters were common, schools were running nuclear attack dills, and people were convinced there was a very high chance we were all going to die. (The state of Florida was particularly terrified.)
Kennedy almost immediately changed Ike’s policy on Laos & Vietnam, and one month after the Bay of Pigs went south, formally committed America to a more active role in Vietnam.
In ’63, Kennedy was assassinated by a homegrown communist and Johnson took office. Kennedy has been glorified because of his death; it is hard to speak ill of a man who was murdered by your enemies for trying to defend you, even if his policies were not the greatest.
Johnson enjoys no such halo. He increased the American presence in Vietnam from 16,000 non-combat advisors in 1963, to 550,000, mostly troops, in 1968. Crime (which people tend not to like) also soared under LBJ’s tenure, due to scaleback in policing and general integration of African Americans into US cities.
1968 is known as the year America went crazy. Students at Stanford rioted, striked, burned down buildings, torched the president’s office, and fought with the police:
April 29: Cambodia invasion protested… a day-long sit-in at the Old Union erupts into a rock-throwing, club-wielding battle between several hundred students and more than 250 police.
April 30: ROTC, Cambodia protest… demonstrators demanding immediate elimination of ROTC battle police… Property damage for the moth is estimated at $100,000, with 73 injuries in the past two nights.
Say what you will for student protesters, draft dodgers, or Marxists, America had no business being in Vietnam (we could barely scrounge up a single American who spoke Vietnamese to translate for us!) I have multiple relatives who were drafted or volunteered for service in Vietnam and one who died there, so I have opinions on the matter.
Oh, and a Palestinian Christian assassinated Kennedy’s little brother, RFK, for helping the Israeli military.
One of the most tumultuous primary election seasons ever began as the Tet Offensive was launched, followed by the withdrawal of President Johnson as a candidate after doing unexpectedly poorly in the New Hampshire primary; it concluded with the assassination of one of the Democratic candidates, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, just moments after his victory in the California primary. …
Nixon’s Democratic opponent in the general election was Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who was nominated at a convention marked by violent protests. Throughout the campaign, Nixon portrayed himself as a figure of stability during a period of national unrest and upheaval. …
He stressed that the crime rate was too high, and attacked what he perceived as a surrender by the Democrats of the United States’ nuclear superiority. Nixon promised “peace with honor” in the Vietnam War and proclaimed that “new leadership will end the war and win the peace in the Pacific”.
Nixon came into power, ended the Vietnam War, ended the draft, and opened peaceful relations with China (a major pivot from America’s previous stance.) He was reelected in one of the largest landslides in US history, before the WaPo and Judge Sirica decided to destroy him.
After the Nixon fiasco, Americans elected Carter, one of the peaciest of peaceful guys ever to peace in the White House. Carter, though well-liked as a person, had, shall we say, bad luck: the oil embargo, Iran hostage crisis, economic troubles at home. He was replaced by Reagan, who, despite his tough rhetoric got the Iranian hostages released and negotiated nuclear arms reduction treaties with the Soviets.
Bush I, Reagan’s VP and successor, won handily in ’89 and oversaw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. He entered into a new kind of warfare, the UN-backed, fast in-and-out, minimal American death removal of Saddam from Kuwait. Americans do not mind wars so long as they are fast, relatively bloodless, and we win.
Bush got done in by economic troubles and lost to Clinton, who oversaw prosperity at home and tried to broker peace abroad, from the Oslo Peace Accords to UN “peacekeepers” in the former Yugoslavia. Clinton was popular despite Republicans’ best efforts to sabotage him.
Clinton was not eligible to run in 2000, but the Republican candidate, Bush II, positioned himself in opposition to Clinton’s “nation building” and advocated for a more isolationist, less interventionist American foreign policy.
Bush turned out to be a liar. He was just telling people what they wanted to hear, and then he went and spent trillions of dollars and got thousands of Americans killed in Iraq.
Yes, Americans supported the war in Afghanistan, because they blamed Afghanistan (or at least people in Afghanistan,) for the attack on 9-11. But support waned quickly for the Iraq War II, Bush II became hugely unpopular, and the current Republican candidate, Trump, is running on his opposition to the war vs. the Democratic candidate’s support for it.
Obama ran on “Hope and Change”–a promise to pivot foreign policy away from Bush’s disastrous wars. His campaign was so successful, he was almost immediately awarded a Nobel Peace Prize (though by Swedes, not by Americans.)
In our current election, people on both sides of the political aisle are concerned that the other side’s candidate is a war-monger who will get us into another war. Trump’s supporters are concerned about Hillary’s history/support for violence in Libya, Benghazi, and Syria, not to mention her aggressive stance toward Putin, leader of the world’s other nuclear superpower. Not to put too fine a point on it, I’m concerned about Hillary starting a war with Russia, something Americans have been trying to avoid since 1945.
And the pro-Hillary side is concerned that Trump is a violent hothead who will send US troops to Syria, get embroiled in a bunch of costly wars like Bush II did, and maybe launch off some nukes just for the fun of it. And they’re concerned that he’ll put illegal immigrants in concentration camps and make Muslims wear yellow crescents on their clothes.
Regardless of which side you think is right, both are trying to avoid being killed in yet another stupid war that has nothing to do with our actual interests.
America might fight a lot of wars, but we sure as hell don’t want to.
Oh, and apparently you can buy countryball plushies.
Is the darn thing over yet?
American politics are deeply, fundamentally classist.
Those who want to sound high-class (or are) adopt the rhetoric of the liberals. The working class go Republican.
You know what? Screw it, I don’t even want to pull up data on this. If you don’t believe me, go stick your head back in the sand and believe whatever you want. Tell yourself that you despise conservatives because they are Bad People and not because they are Low Class and not Good People Like You. And conservatives can tell themselves that they hate liberals because liberals are Bad People who Hate Americans.
In reality, of course, most people are good people (except for the one who work in HR, who should all be shot–NAHRALT, of course.)
When people hear that I write about “politics” they tend to assume that this means that I enjoy reading/debating about electoral politics. The truth is that I basically hate electoral politics.
Most of what passes for “political debate” is really just tribal signalling. Tribal signaling need not be wise, thoughtful, or factually correct; it need only signal “my tribe is better than your tribe.” I might be able to stand this kind of inanity if I felt comfortably a member of one of the big tribes and basically hated (or had no friends in) the other tribe. Of course, I have to have friends from across the economic system.
Working class and prole whites are convinced that elite whites hate them. Elite whites are convinced that prole whites hate just about everyone. And blacks, Muslims, etc., are probably pretty concerned about proles hating them, too. Family members are voting for the people they think are on their side against those bad people on the other side. Friends are voting for different people whom they think are on their side against those bad people on the other side.
Almost no one I’ve talked to is voting for a particular side because they’ve undertaken a careful study of the particular issues under discussion and decided that one of the candidates has the best policies. How many Democratic voters agree with Hillary’s stance on the Iraq War? How many Republicans agree with Trump’s opinion on the same?
The most vocal Trump supporter I know was talking about how we need to do more for immigrant children coming from Latin America just last year, and has told me that they don’t actually want to see anyone deported. They just hate liberals, and they are voting for Trump to stick it to the liberals.
No matter how I vote, someone gets fucked.
The rules of Liberal Club:
(I am aware that “outgroup” and “ingroup” are not necessarily the best words here, because liberals use a funny definition of “ingroup” that is more “ingroup to America” than “ingroup to themselves.” We could also phrase this as “dominant majority” vs. “less-powerful minority,” or just “cis-het WASP males,” but there are issues with this phrasing, as well.)
I’m not sure what the rules of Conservative Club are, as it is much harder to inspire an angry conservative Twitter mob than a liberal one. Likewise, liberals (or at least Democrats) are the folk who’ve been violently attacking people at political rallies, not conservatives:
So the best I’ve come up with so far is that outgroups don’t get to criticize the ingroup, as exemplified in the re-branding of “french fries” as “freedom fries” following French criticism of the US plan to bomb Iraq. In general, conservatives believe that it is acceptable to say negative things about others so long as they are true, and it often doesn’t occur to them that others might think elsewise. (This leads to the perception that conservatives are rude.)
(Hrm. I think in general, conservatives respond more strongly to [perceived] physical threats, eg, Bush launching the War on Terror following the 9-11 attack vs. Bill Clinton not bombing anything after the first Al Qaeda bombing of the WTC, or the recent hoopla over Target letting trans people use the bathroom they self-identify with.)
The liberal demand that you never, ever say anything bad about the outgroups explains some otherwise inexplicable results, like Scott Alexander–an LGBT friendly, polyamorous, asexual, atheist Jew who basically agrees with basic SJW theses that blacks and women are oppressed in various ways–getting called “right wing” just because he is willing to say that sometimes SJWs are really mean to people who probably don’t deserve it and critically examine the data on black crime rates. Since “SJW mobs are sometimes mean” and “blacks commit disproportionate quantities of crime” are both statements that reflect negatively on these groups, they are forbidden under #1.
See also the liberals’ response that Donald Trump is “racist” for saying negative things about illegal aliens, like that they have broken the law. To say anything negative about outgroups is “victim blaming.”
This also explains why attempting to be a “moderate” doesn’t work with liberals–if you say something like, “I think both sides have their good and bad points,” then you have again violated rule #1. Conservatives, however, tend to be okay with such statements.
Conservatives tend to disagree with the liberal belief that there exists an “outgroup”–they believe that whites and blacks, men and women, etc., are basically treated equally in modern America. Some of them think that liberals are unfair to conservatives, eg, people who sue bakers for declining to bake gay marriage cakes.
Scotts argument against SJWs is simply that they are not nice to other marginalized groups, like autistic shut-ins or lower-class whites. (Actually, I don’t remember if Scott has specifically argued that SJWs are against low-class whites, but the argument has been made rather abundantly in various places.) This argument works if one is truly committed to helping all outgroups, but fails if the outgroup is specifically defined as “not whites/men” (see rule #3.)
Rule #2 is a more recent innovation, but follows obviously from #1. It explains, for example, why liberals have become reluctant to say anything positive about whites, especially historical ones, unless they can simultaneously also say something positive about women and/or minorities.
For example, any book of notable scientists/inventors/innovators must now include Ada Lovelace, who single-handedly built the first iMac; Jane Goodall, who discovered gorillas; and Amelia Earheart, airplane-crashing pioneer; but you are unlikely to find the names of Niels Bohr, the nobel prize winning father of quantum physics who helped 7,000 people escape from the Nazis and helped build the first atomic bombs; Ignaz Semmelweis, who saved the lives of millions of women by discovering that doctors were infecting by examining them with dirty hands after dissecting corpses; or even Jonas Salk, the guy who cured polio.
On a recent family trip, Suzanne Sherman discovered that slavery, rather than historical contributions, has become the dominant tour-guide narrative at landmarks like Monticello, Montpelier, and Colonial Williamsburg:
While waiting outside of the Peyton Randolph House, we were informed that the tour would cover the home itself, its rooms, architecture, and a brief description of the family who lived there. After that, the tour would concentrate on the many slaves who served the Randolph family, what life was like for them, and the hardships they were forced to endure.
When I inquired if the tour guide would inform us of the philosophical and numerous political contributions the Randolph family made in Colonial Virginia and in the founding of the American republic, the guide shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, indicating he would not. One of the other guides, a man portraying a slave, admonished me, “We’re not gonna sugarcoat anything.”
Peyton Randolph … presided over the first Continental Congress, was a leading figure opposing the Stamp Act and was the first American to be called “Father of his Country.” …
Edmund Randolph … became the aide-de-camp for General Washington, served in the Continental Congress, and was the Governor of Virginia during the Philadelphia Convention. He was one of the drafters of the Virginia Plan, served as attorney general under President Washington, and was secretary of state after Jefferson resigned. I find it incredible that this family was not worthy of discussion.
Similarly, last fall, the Freshman class at Yale was greeted by Dean Holloway and President Salovey, with tales of the sinfulness of Elihu Yale, without whose money Yale might not exist, and John C. Calhoun:
In all of the paintings Elihu Yale is wearing and surrounded by sumptuous fabrics. … In the second and third paintings we see an unidentified attendant. Much like the wearing of exquisite clothes suggested, placing a servant in a portrait was an articulation of standing and wealth. But when we look more carefully at these two paintings we notice that in addition to the fine clothes the servant and page are wearing they also happen to have metal collars and clasps around their necks. What we are seeing in each painting, then, isn’t a servant or a page, but a slave.
We are fairly certain that Elihu Yale did not own any slaves himself, but there’s no doubting the fact that he participated in the slave trade, profiting from the sale of humans just as he profited from the sale of so many actual objects that were part of the East India trade empire. … In fact, when we look at the paintings it is safe to assume that Elihu Yale was a willing participant in that economy. Since he could have selected anything to represent him in these paintings we can conclude that he chose to be depicted with enslaved people because he believed this narrative would best signify his wealth, power, and worldliness. …
Good morning and welcome, Class of 2019, family members, and colleagues sharing the stage with me. …
About one in twelve of you has been assigned to Calhoun College, named, when the college system was instituted in the 1930s, for John C. Calhoun—a graduate of the Yale College Class of 1804 who achieved extremely high prominence in the early nineteenth century as a notable political theorist, a vice president to two different US presidents, a secretary of war and of state, and a congressman and senator representing South Carolina. …
Calhoun mounted the most powerful and influential defense of his day for slavery.
Yale has no heroes to be proud of or to inspire its students to emulate, only bad people whose portraits must be hidden away and whose names must be publicly excoriated.
The demand that you never say anything bad about the outgoup leads to some odd responses, especially when two outgroups are in conflict. “Muslims” and “gay people” are both outgroups, and Muslims tend not to approve of gay marriage (by a tremendous margin,) but to say so is considered saying something negative about Muslims (even though Muslims themselves probably don’t think so.)
In response to the recent murder of 49 gay people by a Muslim, a liberal friend brought up Christians who kill people or commit terrorism (eg, the IRA,) and stated that we can’t judge an entire religion based on the actions of a few. The idea that, as a practical matter, these two groups might not get along very well simply isn’t considered.
The push to not say negative things about the outgroup probably increases in direct response to outgroup members doing something worth condemning, which may explain why both ends of the American political spectrum reported more favorable views toward Muslims after 9-11 than before it:
Since we happen to live in a democracy, if your first priority is gay rights, then you should logically be opposed to the immigration of future voters who are strongly opposed to gay rights. (Fred Phelps, on the other hand, ought to be thrilled.) But the LGBT coalition has hardly cast its lot in with Trump’s, eg, Donald Trump’s post-Olando appeal to LGBT voters roundly rejected:
Donald Trump’s appeal for support from LBGT voters after the Orlando terrorist attack fell flat with gay rights activists, who said his vows to protect them from homophobic Islamic terrorists were just more of the divisive and bigoted rhetoric they have come to expect from the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. …
Mr. Brown and other gay rights activists said all minority groups have to stick together in opposition to Mr. Trump.
“If you’re somebody who holds bigoted views about one minority, who’s to say that you won’t hold them about another minority?” he said. “Folks who deal with these issues, people in minority communities, have got to stand together. Muslims, gay people, African-Americans have got to stand against the disgusting views that Donald Trump holds.”
As a practical matter, Trump might think gays are AIDS-infected perverts, but I highly doubt he plans on rounding them up ISIS-style and executing them. At most, he might allow bakeries to turn down gay cake orders, a pretty minor issue in the grand scheme of things.
It’s no secret that politicians make a lot of campaign promises that they don’t keep. Bush Senior promised not to raise taxes; Bush Junior promised not to engage in nation building; Bill Clinton promised to give everyone health care; Ronald Reagan promised to abolish the Department of Education and not to deal with terrorists–like Nicaraguan Contras.
(Reagan apparently also once stated that “Trees cause more pollution than cars,” which makes me seriously concerned about the judgment of the American people.)
And Obama made promises like, “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what,” and “I don’t want to pit Red America against Blue America. I want to be the president of the United States of America.”
Obviously there are many reasons campaign promises get broken, from outright lying to naive overconfidence in the president’s powers.
But I was thinking today about campaign promises–and arguments–that people voting for the candidate outright treat as false. For example, when Bush Jr. promised not to engage in nation building, Republicans did not rear that he would actually refrain from invading other countries. To the extent that anyone thought much about this promise at all, it was probably taken more as a claim to dislike the way Bill Clinton went about intervening in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. (Interesting that in all three of these cases, Clinton intervened on behalf of Muslims,) rather than the entire idea of invading other countries.
Anyone who seriously believed that Al Gore would have been a country-invading hawk and Bush Jr. an isolationist dove based on “the legacy of Clintonian nation-building” vs. Bush’s campaign promises must have been sorely disappointed–but I have never met anyone who claims to have held such views.
More recently, I’ve seen Democrats arguing that Hillary Clinton is a “conservative hawk” for her support of the Iraq War and other military interventions in the Middle East, and “a Republican” for her speech on “super predators” during the ’90s crime wave, her support for anti-crime policies that lead to the mass incarceration of African-Americans, and ’90s support of DOMA,
Meanwhile, the Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, claims to have been against the Iraq war.
As I mentioned two posts ago, you can construct all sorts of “liberal” arguments in favor of Trump. “SJWs have been suppressing freedom of speech by suing bakers for refusing to bake gay marriage cakes, so Trump will restore free speech.” “Population growth => environmental destruction, and American population growth is being driven almost entirely by immigration. Therefore, if you care about Global Warming, we must Build the Wall.” “Racist, exploitative employers would rather hire illegal immigrants whom they can force to work at less than minimum wage without any benefits or safety precautions than hire blacks, whom they hate. Immigration has destroyed jobs and wages for America’s poorest and most discriminated against minorities so the 1% can get richer. Build the Wall!” “Jeb Bush wants to get into WWIII with Russia. Hillary Clinton supports the Iraq War. Only Trump will save us from nuclear armageddon!” “Amnesty for illegal immigrants punishes all of the legal immigrants for obeying the law.” “Muslims tend to favor very conservative stances on free speech, abortion, gay marriage, women, etc., so Trump’s plan to halt Muslim immigration is really in defense of liberalism.”
Of course, no one actually buys these arguments; certainly Trump’s supporters have no fear that he is secretly a raging SJW whose true concerns are the environment and African Americans. Likewise, no one on the liberal side is really afraid that Hillary Clinton will actually act like a Republican, launch Iraq 3 and promote an anti-gay and anti-black agenda. No one was really afraid that Bush Jr. would be a dove or that Obama wouldn’t help his fellow blacks. Come election day, Bernie Bros will turn out for Hillary, and Ted Cruz’s supporters will line up for Trump.
Why this disparity between what candidates say (or what people say about them) and what we actually believe?
I propose that the answer is fairly simple: tribalism. Once a candidate has established their tribalist credentials (or has the tribe securely arrayed behind them,) nothing they can say will convince members of the other tribe to vote for them, even if they are actually saying things that are explicitly meant to.
Die-hard Democrats aren’t going to vote for an evil Republican just because he happens to spout a few transparently glib platitudes on liberal values, nor will die-hard Republicans vote for an evil Democrat for the same reason.
But moderates can be swayed.
During the primaries, a candidate has to convince members of their own party to vote for them. At this stage, we should expect debates over who is the “true” liberal or “true conservative” as candidates try to outdo each other in a bid for their party’s dedicated, die-hard voters.
By the general election, candidates assume the support of their own party; they are now fighting for the nation’s moderates.
So Bush Jr. downplays his conservatism (branding himself a “compassionate conservative” and promising to eschew nation building,) in order to sound more like a moderate. The Gore campaign did similarly, leading Ralph Nader to loudly assert that there was no real difference between the two. Of course there was; in retrospect, it is almost unimaginable that a Gore presidency would have turned out identical to Bush’s.
Obama also campaigned as a moderate–he did not need to explicitly vow to pursue a pro-black agenda to get 99% of the black vote. Blacks already knew he was on their side; only moderates needed convincing.
Trump can take a position that is significantly more dovish than both the other major Republican primary candidates and Hillary Clinton and pundits still act like they think he is the most likely candidate to get into a major war, just because his personality yells “I will bomb my enemies back to the stone age.” (Meanwhile, no one takes seriously the other Republican primary candidates’ promises to get into WW3 with Russia–everyone assumes they are just lying to shore up support from their own side.)
Trump is not playing the primaries; as the front-runner, he is playing the election.
This brings us to the interesting dynamics of the Clinton/Sanders race. At the beginning of the primaries, Clinton likely believed, quite reasonably, that she was a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination. So Clinton has been playing her endgame for some time, trying to build up a record and reputation as a moderate–even a hawk–who can appeal to moderate conservatives.
Then came Sanders, who suddenly made her actually fight for the nomination. Sanders positioned himself as the “true liberal”–even a socialist–against Hillary’s supposed “conservatism.” The tactic has worked well for him; since Hillary can’t out-socialism Bernie, she has been forced to become more explicitly SJW as a result:
“If we broke up the big banks tomorrow — and I will, if they deserve it, if they pose a systemic risk, I will — would that end racism?”
“No!” shouted her audience.
“Would that end sexism?”
“Would that end discrimination against the LGBT community?”
“Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?”
“Would that solve our problem with voting rights, and Republicans who are trying to strip them away from people of color, the elderly, and the young?”
This isn’t Hillary claiming not to favor socialism so much as claiming to be even liberaler than Sanders.
Likewise, the Republican party establishment, before Trump entered the race, assumed that one of their front-runners would get the nomination, and so put their money behind three candidates with Hispanic credentials (Cruz and Rubio are actual Hispanics; Jeb is married to one and speaks Spanish,) in order to play the general election endgame and try to win the Hispanic vote away from the Democrats. This failed, however, to inspire Republican voters, who are rather crucial for wining the primaries.
Thus the eternal debate between candidates who appeal to their bases, and candidates who appeal to moderates. The more explicitly tribalist (Red Tribe or Blue Tribe) candidates motivate their base to turn out; the moderates attract more mainstream and cross-aisle votes.
Has anyone done a study on whether candidates with stronger support in the primaries (folks like Dean or Sanders, had they gotten the nomination,) do better or worse in the general election?
“But wait,” I hear you saying, “Isn’t this the beginning?”
Mainstream American conservatives (perhaps all conservatives) are essentially reactive. Not reactionary, mind. That word has a different meaning in this context. Just reactive.
Liberals come up with new ideas, and conservatives react by opposing them. Liberals are high-class, in-party; their ideas make it into university curricula and influence the nation’s movers and shakers. By the time conservatives (who do not usually run in liberal circles, nor read much from university presses,) notice a liberal idea, it has already become quite widespread. And nothing makes an idea seem old and passe quite like having it suddenly associated with the out-party, the politically low-class and uncool folks who vote Republican.
BTW, if you are the “homophobic uncle” or “racist grandma” at family functions, try to turn this into a secret power: make ideas sound bad just by talking about them. Global warming? Caused by immigrant-driven population growth! Rising wealth inequality? Clearly capitalists would rather hire illegal immigrants than pay blacks a living wage–build the wall! You support Hillary Clinton because she voted for the Iraq war! Etc.
Report back to me if it works. I’m curious.
But back on subject: the upshot of this is that by the time the Republicans notice something and start making a big deal out of it, it is already too late. The trends are already in place and moving inexorably against them.
Back in the ’80s, we witnessed the rise of the “Christian right;” throughout the 90s, “conservative” and “Republican” were synonymous with “Evangelical Christianity.” They ran on platforms that included banning abortion, reinstating prayer in school, replacing the theory of evolution with Biblical creationism in school textbooks, and general opposition to “Godless liberals.”
They have failed pretty spectacularly. While they have made some piecemeal hacks at abortion, it is still basically legal through out the country. Creationism and “Intelligent Design” have both been struck down as unconstitutional due to being blatantly religious. And you probably know the story on prayer in school even better than I do.
(This is a little disappointing coming out of a party that could count among its recent accomplishments normalizing relations with China, nuclear reduction treaties with the Soviets, and overseeing the peaceful collapse of the entire USSR.)
Conservatives of the ’80s and ’90s could tell that the country was becoming increasingly secular, and reacted accordingly by trying to force it back to religiosity. Unfortunately for them, increasingly religious => fewer and fewer people who are even interested in their religious agenda. Despite the fact that abortion is still legal and school prayer is still illegal, even conservatives have moved on to other priorities.
During Bush II, Republicans launched a big push to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The measure failed; gay marriage is now not only legal, but constitutionally protected.
No one bothered with passing an anti-gay marriage amendment back in the ’50s, when Republicans could have actually gotten the numbers necessary to do it. Since the vast majority of people thought homosexuality was immoral, there was no push to legalize gay marriage, and so no one would have bothered with passing amendments against it. Once enough people were in favor of gay marriage to put it on the national agenda, the trends were clear: soon the majority of people would favor gay marriage, and an amendment did not pass.
It was the last, desperate thrashing of a cornered beast.
Today, people have noticed–finally–that America’s demographics are changing.
Of course, the time to do something about this was before the demographics changed. In 1900, the US was about 88% white, 12% black, and <1% Hispanic. Today, whites are 64%, blacks are still 12%, and Hispanics are 16% of the population. (Asians and others comprise an additional 8%.)
According to the census bureau, in 2012, American infants were 50% white and 50% non-white–about 25% of American children are now Hispanic.
The time to care about changing US demographics was 1965, when LBJ and Ted Kennedy’s Immigration and Naturalization Act quadrupled the number of (legal) immigrants per year from 250,000 to 1 million. 1975 and 1985 would also have been good years to start caring.
In 1950, there were 500,000 Hispanics in the US. Today, there are 5o.5 million. Even if you built a wall between the US and Mexico yesterday and deported 11 million illegal immigrants, that would still leave 39 million newcomers and their children whom you cannot get rid of.
By 2050, the US will be less than half white, and American children will be only 40% white.
Interestingly, the last time a Democrat won a majority of white votes was 1964–LBJ. Republicans have been the “white” party–though they may not have realized it–since 1968.
But this does not mean that whites vote overwhelmingly for the Republicans. Even blacks occasionally vote for Republicans–about 5% of them voted for Bush II. As whites near 50%, even 10% voting for the Democrats will consign Republicans to the losers, while an identifiably “white” party will have difficulty attracting non-white voters.
No matter how much effort the Republicans put into attracting white voters (and likely they will put a great deal of effort into it over the next few elections,) the numbers are moving against them.
You can’t maintain a majority with a shrinking % of the population. (Though, of course, we are talking about a process that will take decades.)
But we live in a two-party system, and the system will re-assert itself with a new set of balanced coalitions that can win, perhaps a system that pits Hispanics and Asians against whites and blacks, or some other random thing. (I am not guessing.) But that won’t happen until the Republicans are weak enough that Democrats can safely split.