I’m not a man of principles. That’s not to say that there aren’t things that I believe that are near universal, but it’s just that I don’t tend to view policy decisions and other things through the lens of principles. It seems we get ourselves into trouble when we do that, and I wonder if there’s some kind of a liberal/conservative divide on how we let principles guide us. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit in the Trump era (which I hope won’t be a real era, but nevertheless feels like one already).
Predicting the future is very difficult. I’m doing this for fun, not because there’s any reward for being right or wrong, but just because I’m having this thought this morning, and it would be a lot of fun if I nailed it (OK, not fun, because it’s not a rosy prediction). Here it is:
I really do not like President Trump. I don’t know him personally, but I don’t like what I see on TV and on Twitter. I don’t like what I read, and I don’t like what I hear. He doesn’t seem like somebody I would want to spend much or any time with, and I’m sure if he worked in my department I would want little or nothing to do with him. I find him very self-centered, with a narcissistic personality disorder vibe. I don’t like his speech pattern, and an article from Vox in October 2016 sheds some light on how unusual it is. I don’t like many of his policies, but I am even more bothered by his unpredictability and the lack of clarity that he thrives on related to what his policies actually are. He generates a real visceral disgust in me, and I am looking forward to the day his presidency is over, whenever that may be. People clearly felt a similar disgust over Obama. It makes me think about the differences.
I spend a lot of time writing about politics, thinking about politics, and conversing about politics in person and on social media. I am liberal in my approach to most things, and I almost always prefer the candidate from the democratic party over the candidate from the republican party. The things I write about, and comment about on social media, have a pretty clear left lean to them. Even if you don’t know me, and haven’t read anything else I’ve ever written, you would probably guess that I’m pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-immigration, pro-universal health care coverage, I support safety net programs to help those in need, and I am against tax cuts for the rich. I fit the identity in many ways. You’d be wrong to guess that I was vegan (I love to eat, and love to eat a variety of foods, including meat), and you’d be wrong if you guessed that I was against agricultural innovations like GMOs. But here’s what got me thinking about the topic of this post: I don’t feel the need to hide it when I disagree with the democratic party, or when I disagree with something said by a politician that I otherwise support. I also don’t feel the need to hide it when I agree with something said by a politician that I otherwise loathe. That doesn’t seem like it should be shocking to anybody, but I’m not sure that it’s the norm.
I’m a stickler for using the “right” words for things. I’m sure I get it wrong myself, especially when speaking, but I try. There are a few things that I find particularly bothersome (perhaps because of their widespread use). Students I mentor have to deal with my routine correction of them, and they often pick the “incorrect” usage just to tease me, which is fun, but the poor usage bothers me when it’s not an attempt at humor. This is, admittedly, pedantic in some respects, but I think it matters, and I’ll explain why, after describing some of these nuisances.
Trump took to Twitter this morning to share some thoughts about Amazon. He doesn’t like Amazon. My guess is that he doesn’t like Jeff Bezos, because Jeff Bezos leans liberal. There’s not much out there on his political views, but when he bought the Washington Post, there was some reporting on it, and there’s not much evidence for any support for traditional conservative/republican causes. So, like most things with Trump, my guess is that this is a personal, and petty, feud, with no principled structure at all. But Trump is still out for Amazon. And that’s going to be a big point of conflict for the Cult of Trump, who show their true colors over and over when it comes to going against their proclaimed values to follow their cult leader.
There are conflicting narratives in the political world. This has likely always been true, but the separation of the narratives feels more palpable than any other time in my life. Sure, we’ve had conflicting narratives before: Reagan painted a picture of a world where the poor were living large on the handouts of the rich, and the counter-narrative was that nobody is “living large” and that people need help. There has been the belief that deregulation is good for us because regulations provide a costly burden, and this is countered by the cost is worth the protection that regulations provide. But these were issues of perspective, not issues of mutually exclusive views of the world. That feels quite different from what we have now, especially when it comes to Trump and Russia.