Bad things happen. Tragedies happen. When they happen, it’s good to help those affected, and it’s good to think about ways to prevent those things from happening again. If they can’t be prevented, it’s good to think about ways to protect us from the damage they cause in the future. These seem like normal responses, yet so often, doing these things gets blasted as an attempt to politicize a tragedy. I really don’t like that critique, and the critique itself seems to be more “political” than actually talking about solutions and prevention.
I’m not a historian, and I don’t know one well enough to ask, but it seems like the illegitimate president is a modern trend. Even if we’ve had one or two before, my guess is that we haven’t had three, could be four, in a row. What do I mean by an illegitimate president? A president who a large swath of Americans reject as the legitimate president because of one thing or another. Clinton, failed to get a majority of the vote. Bush, had a presidency that was decided by a Supreme Court case (which, in my non-legal expert opinion, was decided against the ideology of every single Justice on the bench). Obama’s citizenship, or fraudulent citizenship, made him illegitimate, and now, the election is rigged, so if Clinton wins, her presidency will have the illegitimate label also. Let’s look at each of these in a rational manner.
Eugene Slaven wrote a piece at the American Thinker that set me off, big time. I ranted about it on Facebook a few days ago, and intended to cross-post it here, but never got around to it. Better late than never.
The piece, “Since when does the American left believe America is great?” incited this rant from me, that, in hindsight, wasn’t even harsh enough.
This. This is the kind of shit that makes me so angry. Rush Limbaugh and his kin like to talk about angry liberals…if he’s talking about people like me, we’re only angry because of bullshit like this.
A lot is said about republicans and what they do and do not believe. We can consider how many republicans do and do not agree with certain things, but in the end, the party has a platform, and the platform is on record now. I think it’s worth taking a look…and doing a little fisking (actually pseudofisking, there’s no way I’m covering every single phrase in the damn thing, it’s just too long and a lot of it doesn’t warrant comment anyway). Here goes!
When I talk to people who support a candidate like Donald Trump, they seem almost completely driven by this crippling fear that the world is on fire, that the United States is falling apart, and that Washington is either helping this happen, or not effectively doing anything about it. I have to say that if I believed all of that was true, I could imagine the appeal of a candidate like Donald Trump. The problem is this: almost none of the fears that these people have are rooted in reality. Let’s take a bit to look at some things that might frighten us.
I love a good price fixe tasting menu. At a good restaurant, I don’t need many choices. I want to know what the chef thinks is his/her best, and I want to eat it. It helps that I love food, and am not in any way a picky eater, so these kinds of menus make me happy. For others, these menus are a nightmare. Sometimes they have an appetizer that sounds good, but nothing on the main courses, and other times there’s a good sounding main course, but the appetizers all sound awful. For many, this is a perfect metaphor for politicians.
Although the menu metaphor is all mine, I can’t take credit for this morning’s realization, it comes entirely from my lovely wife. For a long time, I have known many people who considered themselves fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Last spring, the conservative Cato Institute released a report arguing that this type of thinking was on the rise. This sentiment is found in Gallup polling also, with people more likely to say that they are liberal on social issues than fiscal issues, and more likely to self-identify as conservative on fiscal issues than on social issues. For many people, this left them having to pick one or the other, because most candidates didn’t offer that combination they sought. Candidates were either liberal (fiscally and socially) or conservative (fiscally and socially), and people were left feeling like no candidate represented them very well. Living in a state like New York, this seems to be the majority of GOP voters that I know personally. Those who think that gay marriage is probably fine, civil rights are important, death penalty is not a good idea, and they might even be pro-choice (at least to some degree), but they want lower taxes and less spending on things they deem wasteful, and have a philosophical aversion to government taking from them to give to others against their will. For them, they’ve voted republican and swallowed the bitter pill of social conservativism* (see note on my usage) in order to get the desired fiscal conservativism. There are other voters who might benefit from a fiscal liberal, but they vote conservative, likely because they are aligned with the social issues, and were willing to accept the fiscal conservativism, or even found ways to rationalize it (it’s just fair, keep government off all our backs, I might be a millionaire one day, etc). Having spent some time at Catholic schools, I have friends that fit this mold too. Some who consider themselves consistently pro-life, which, for them means being anti-abortion, but also anti-death penalty, pro-social welfare programs, pro-immigration. For many of these voters, they voted republican because of the abortion issue, but longed for a candidate who would be more aligned with them on the social issues that they believe fit better with their Catholic values. In all of these cases, for a long time, we’ve had conflicted voters who needed to sacrifice one thing to get the other, and had to pick which was more important. Then, for many of them, along came Trump.
Jeb Bush has dropped out of the GOP primary, leaving behind Ohio Governor John Kasich as the last of the more “establishment” choices in the GOP primary. Some might say that Rubio is “establishment,” but he’s not your typical GOP presidential candidate — maybe more like the typical candidate than Trump or Cruz is, but a young Senator like Rubio doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of the GOP standard bearer like Bush, Dole, McCain, or Romney. It’s a different year indeed. George Will wrote a piece not too long ago accusing Trump of damaging the GOP. I can see Will’s point, and I sympathize with him, but I don’t think that Trump’s message would resonate if the support for it didn’t already exist. I think Trump is revealing something that already exists in the party, but I don’t think he deserves credit for actually causing the damage. I think that rests on the heads of the party itself, particularly in the way they’ve acted over the past seven years. Let’s go deeper.
Our government has failed us numerous times, and it’s safe to bet that it will fail us again. What happened with the poisoned water in Flint Michigan is a recent example, and a horrible one, but it is just one example. The Brookings Institution created the dismal graphic above, showing government failures and plotting the size/impact/type of the failures [edit, 10.6.16: the link to the image died, but the interactive is here]. There is no question that our government is imperfect, and that there is reason to be disappointed. The way each of us thinks we should respond to that disappointment is what seems to divide us, and I just don’t understand the logic behind some that fall on the other side of this.
I saw the image above posted on Facebook the other day. The idea that government should be run like a business seems to get a lot of support from voters. Candidates often tout their private sector experience and how well they ran their businesses, and others (e.g., Carly Fiorina) are criticized for poor performance. Yes, I know that there are multiple ways to evaluate Fiorina’s time at HP, but putting that debate aside, the importance of business experience clearly resonates for many, especially GOP voters. This seems so wrong to me.