Wednesday, November 9, 2016
For those struggling for an explanation of what happened, here's the best I can come up with so far:
Obviously, Trump's election represents a rejection of the Establishment, of which Hillary Clinton is, in many ways, the perfect embodiment. But if that's what the voters of this country have rejected, what, exactly, are they *embracing* by selecting President Trump?
Contrary to many of my liberal friends, I don't think the fundamental is racism or sexism or bigotry or even nationalism or authoritarianism. Those are elements of Trump, to be sure, and they are things to be concerned about, but they don't represent the fundamental of what I see people who were enthusiastic about Trump in my own circles embracing. I don't think the Trump supporters among my friends are motivated primarily by hate (though some are far more tolerant of it than I would prefer).
I think the fundamental thing people are embracing is this: the arbitrary. Trump was the Arbitrariness Candidate. He may well be the Arbitrariness President.
The arbitrary is that which is put forth without any evidence. The putting forth and accepting of claims without evidence (or in contradiction of it) defined Trump's campaign and his supporters. He asserted things (e.g. Mexicans are rapists, Ted Cruz's father participated in the JFK assassination, he alone can fix our problems without articulating any realistic or specific solutions, etc.) and a large number of his supporters accepted them even when no evidence was provided, time and time again. Even the racism and sexism that so many liberals fear are based in the belief in the arbitrary: the belief that one race or gender is superior (a belief for which there is no evidence). It is the essence of the Trumpian 'believe me', which is code for 'take my word for it because I'm not going to give you any reason to actually believe me.'
And among his supporters, there is a widespread attitude of 'we know what Hillary represents: the Establishment'. This is true. But then it is quickly followed up by some version of 'Trump may not be perfect, but at least there is a chance that he will be better.' This belief, too, is rooted in accepting the arbitrary. Donald Trump has been in the public eye for many, many years. There is ample evidence to draw conclusions about what he will do as President. The inferences we might reasonably draw based on that evidence aren't guaranteed to be right, but they are at least reasonable, as contrasted with the belief that he will be consistently pro-freedom, conservative or, indeed, consistently anything, which is pure fantasy.
Pure fantasy is not worthy of the same cognitive consideration as a belief for which there is some evidence, however robust or scant. (This is the answer to the emerging group of non-enthusiastic Trump apologists who are starting to say 'Well, you don't know what he'll do as President. Maybe it will be ok." It's true that we don't know for certain, but just imagining that it might be ok without being aware of any specific reasons to think so doesn't count as a refutation of people's legitimate, evidence-based concerns.)
It is a grave, grave error to entertain the arbitrary in your thinking, even for a second. If someone puts something forth without any real claim at supporting it with evidence, there is no reason to even consider it possible. If one entertains every statement that someone puts forth as possible, even with no evidence, that does not constitute thinking. It constitutes engaging in a flight of fancy that one has mistaken for cognition. It is a recipe for the sort of cognitive fuzziness and paralysis that allow one to fall victim to the next charismatic figure who comes along who is capable of conjuring up those fantasies and evoking the emotions they connect with.
I think a good, day one answer to 'what do we do next?' is this: fight the arbitrary. Both in your own mind and in the public square. Demand of your friends, your leaders, your teachers and yourself that views be supported by evidence. Train yourself, and help train others, to identify when things are asserted arbitrarily and to reject them out of hand until and unless some actual reason to believe them is provided -- whether you are disinclined to agree with the assertion or, especially, if you are inclined to agree with it. Do not accept the common belief that because we can't be certain of something, we must entertain all possibilities. That attitude elevates ignorance to the status of cognitive gold standard and is a direct path to the destruction of the intellect.
Contrary to the prevailing cultural attitude, not all opinions are equally valid. If, as a people, we were as adept at detecting the arbitrary as we are at, say, detecting racism, I don't think we would have President Elect Trump, and I certainly don't think we would be as primed for abdicating our collective responsibility to think and judge and embracing an actual dictator as I fear we are.
Monday, November 7, 2016
There is no hope for the people who think that Trump is a steak dinner. They'll either figure out that he's poison eventually or they won't. But as amusing and sad as those people are, there just aren't enough of them to swing the election.
If Trump does win, it will be because a bunch of people at the margin are too ignorant, lazy, uncritical or habituated to voting Republican to appreciate the difference between a plate of food (however lousy) and rat poison.
If you still find yourself not knowing who to vote for but considering Trump, or have resigned to vote for him as the lesser of two evils, you are one of these people. You, and the system around you, have failed to prepare you to do your civic duty. If you see Trump and Hillary as basically equivalent, you don't understand what is going on or what is at stake, and those of us who have been trying to help you understand have also failed you. For that I am sorry. I tried my best.
If you are one of these people, my final request of you is this: please recognize that if you actually go and vote, you aren't doing your civic duty. You have already failed to do that (or are simply unable to do so under the circumstances). Casting an actual vote in this condition is like standing in the middle of the town square and firing a gun at anyone who looks vaguely suspicious because you are concerned about a recent rash of burglaries.
This election is a battle for the future of our country against someone who is trying to destroy it. If you see it as something other than that and are considering a vote for Trump, don't take the law into your own hands. On Election Day, please stay at home, shelter in place and let the police handle it.
Thursday, November 3, 2016
Hillary Clinton: going from 1 to 1.15 packs per day
What even Hillary's strongest supporters think she is: going from 1 to 1.15 packs per day but also going for a light jog
What Trump's more naive supporters have convinced themselves he is: removing cigarette from mouth and inserting a spoonful of plain old (but definitely vanilla) yogurt
Old version of what Trump actually is: trading in pack a day smoking habit for full blown heroin addiction
Improved version of what Trump actually is: removing cigarette and inserting a lit sick of dynamite while trying to convince others that this is beneficial to one's health
What the more self aware Trump supporters think they're doing: removing cigarette and inserting a lit sick of dynamite while trying to convince others that this is beneficial to one's health
Saturday, October 22, 2016
- Women who are strongly anti-abortion, recognize that Hillary Clinton is an extremely pro-choice candidate and believe that there is at least some chance Donald Trump would do things to reduce or restrict abortions (such as nominating anti-abortion justices).
- People who hate Hillary Clinton, the Clintons generally and/or the Democratic Party so much that they would vote for a Dark Lord of the Sith if he were running against her. In fact, some acknowledge that this is what they are doing in voting for Trump. Mix of genders.
- Men who believe the Establishment is destroying America. They see a vote for Trump as falling somewhere on the spectrum between registering a protest against this Establishment and an opportunity to actually burn this motherfucker down.
- Sense that something is very wrong with this country (e.g. a great injustice being done to the unborn, economy that doesn't work for the people, danger posed by HRC/Establishment/people who don't look like them and don't share American values);
- Skepticism or rejection of mainstream media or any information presented to them if derived from mainstream sources;
- Tendency to obtain/post news and opinions from sources that cater exclusively to people who share their ideological viewpoint (e.g. right wing media, Catholic publications, etc.) and being highly credulous when it comes to any information that comes from these sources;
- Among the 2nd and 3rd groups (less so the 1st), a tendency to see anyone who disagrees with, questions or challenges them as being hopelessly deluded into towing the Establishment line.
Friday, October 21, 2016
|Bad hombre puppets, which do not actually appear in this fable|
The country was an absolute disaster and a lot of people were unhappy.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
[reposted from Facebook]
The other thing about Trump refusing to state that he will accept the results of the election is that it is an admission that he has abandoned all hope of actually winning.
It is such an obscene statement that it is going to contribute to getting out the vote for Clinton from people who otherwise wouldn't have come out. It also creates a disincentive for his supporters to come out and vote: if the system is rigged against him and he's bound to lose, why waste your time voting for him? Both of those things increase his likelihood of losing.
It's another reason why I think destabilizing the country, rather than becoming President or even making up excuses for his loss, has become his actual goal. If he was just trying to protect his ego, he could have spun his likely impending defeat in a way that actually might improve his chances of winning ("Crooked Hillary and the liberal media are trying to steal the country from us. If you want to stop them, get out and vote for me!")
It's really borderline nihilism. He no longer thinks he can win. He doesn't care about winning anymore. He doesn't care about his supporters (or that they desperately want him to win). He just wants to pour the gasoline, light the match and watch it all burn.
There is no longer any question that Donald Trump -- a man who his supporters believe is trying to save the American system of government from a political establishment that has sold out its people -- is actually trying to destroy it. And this is why he must be stopped.
Beyond this, I believe the seriousness of the Trump threat also requires a stern rebuke of the party that has collaborated with him. In my view, this means consistently voting for down-ballot Democratic candidates at the federal, state and local levels over their Republican opponents, irrespective of the relative merits of the individual candidates and irrespective of the Republican candidate's level of support for or endorsement of Trump. To be clear, that last point includes voting against Republican candidates who have specifically renounced Trump and those who have remained neutral towards him, in addition to those who have expressed support for him. The Republican party, its leadership and its base had every opportunity to stop or repudiate Mr. Trump's candidacy. Instead they embraced it. They must be punished for doing this so that it is clear to future members of all American political parties that supporting would-be dictators is a path to nothing but a crushing electoral defeat.
Monday, October 10, 2016
I think a big part of understanding the answer to that question is understanding the concept of tribalism and how essential it is to the nature of Trumpism.
Tribalism is the basis of all the most primitive forms of collectivism such as racism and sexism (though it is broader and more fundamental than any of its specific forms). On the most basic level, it involves elevating allegiance to the group with which one identifies above all else.
Politically, we see this in the various Trumpian stances that attempt to single out and marginalize various groups who aren't on the 'approved' list: deporting illegal immigrants, objectifying women, banning Muslims from entering the country and infringing upon the rights of those who are already here, etc.
But there's a cognitive element to tribalism too: it consists of substituting group allegiance for one's actual thought and judgement.
Trump's supporters view themselves primarily as members of some group of which Trump himself is the standard bearer. How exactly that group is defined differs from supporter to supporter. It might be something like 'people who have gotten a raw deal at the hands of the establishment' or 'real Americans.' But however you define the group, its existence provides a handy cognitive shortcut: on any given issue or topic, you and the other Trumpies are right, and everyone else is wrong.
This substitution of group allegiance for rational, objective, principled thought explains a wide range of Trump supporter behavior -- including behavior that seems weirdly contradictory or hypocritical, for example
- Thinking that 'locker room talk' that objectifies women and even bragging about one's ability to sexually assault women with impunity is fine, yet having a problem if someone talked that way about your wife or daughter;
- Having a major problem with the serial infidelities of the spouse of your political opponent (and her alleged enabling thereof) while simultaneously supporting a candidate who is an open, unapologetic, serial philanderer;
- Being indifferent to Donald Trump's many documented lies and frauds while detesting Hillary Clinton for being 'deceitful';
- Embracing any conspiracy theory that tends to support your group's official line without any regard for standards of proof or evidence while simultaneously demanding evidence from your opponents ('show us your birth certificate!') that you are, in fact, determined to dismiss or ignore ('it's fake!');
- Expressing dismay at President Obama for overstepping his authority and dangerously increasing executive power while simultaneously supporting a man with obvious authoritarian views and tendencies who openly admires actual dictators;
- Heaping scorn upon Republicans who, whether for principled or pragmatic reasons, rescind their support for Trump while simultaneously giving Trump himself a free pass on the actions that caused them to regard continued support as untenable;
- Claiming to be a champion of American values while simultaneously advocating measures that would undermine them.
Friday, July 29, 2016
[I originally posted this on Facebook but I liked it so here it is for prosperity:]
I think the Democrats -- with whom I have many, many issues -- did an excellent job of articulating the essence of Trumpism in fundamental terms and framing the election as a referendum on it (which it is). That is almost unprecedented in contemporary politics and deserves high praise.
This was particularly true of POTUS' speech and the (sadly too few) good parts of HRC's acceptance speech. Way better stuff than anything the media has done in covering or analyzing Trumpism, where I find them to be at best superficial and at worst enabling of Trump.
I've been thinking about this and railing against Trumpism for a year, yet things they said genuinely helped me crystallize my own thinking. That's saying something. Specifically:
1. Great job (again, esp. by POTUS) referring to 'Trumpism' as a thing: a belief system shared by a group of people. It isn't just Trump coopting the Republican party and his supporters being bamboozled: this is an ideology embraced by his ardent supporters because they believe it.
2. Not only articulating what the core intellectual principles of Trumpism are -- nativist tribalism, protectionism and economic nationalism -- but also making it clear that those principles are unAmerican. Being a Trump supporter *means* you embrace those things. The enthusiastic ones embrace them proudly and the reluctant ones do so tacitly, but *that* is what it means to support or vote for Trump.
3. Recognizing that the nature of those beliefs *requires* totalitarianism. The Trumpies admire Trump's authoritarian tendencies because on some level they understand that bringing their fundamentally unAmerican ideals to this country requires us to abandon American principles -- individual rights, freedom of religion, acceptance of people with different ideas -- and replace them with a strong man who tells us what to do, because those things can't happen in a country where our form of Constitutional government functions. To paraphrase POTUS, these people want to be ruled.
4. They articulated much of this in simple, understandable terms (unlike what I just did), weaving in concrete examples, idealogical content and a sense of contrasting tone/worldview.
If the Democrats can keep this up and the election results in a rejection of the very essence of Trumpism, they will have done this country a great service.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
They're watching and they're learning the lessons that the electorate is teaching them during this election cycle, same as they always do. They're learning because when we support the candidates we do, we're continually sending the message "yes, please give us more of that." More candidates like that. More of that approach.
But this time around, I fear we've reached the tipping point, because the lessons we're teaching them sure aren't good. They're not good for constitutional government. They don't say good things about us as a people. They don't bode well for the future.
It may take the media and politicians a while to catch on, but here's what I think they'll figure out once they do, because this, is apparently, who we are and what we want more of:
You don't need to present policies or a vision -- It used to be that a Presidential candidate had to have a platform. It used to be that they at least had to pay lip service to the issues. They had to present a reason why you should vote for them. Not anymore. Trump paints a picture of a weak and damaged country that he can somehow "make great again," but offers nothing that stands up to even the most modest scrutiny in terms of how to do that. Hillary offers no compelling reason why she should be President other than A) She really wants to be and B) She isn't Trump. Both candidates' argument for why they should be elected amounts to "Vote for me because I want to be President and this is how I act," -- and, shockingly, that's going to be enough to get one of them elected.
We don't care if what you say is true -- We are so apathetic that we don't even make an attempt to check what the candidates are saying against reality. It doesn't matter if there is any data to support an assertion. It doesn't matter if you support an ideology that has failed historically and is failing spectacularly elsewhere in the world as we speak. We're not even going to look -- even in an age where it takes just a few seconds to verify information using Google. It used to be that you had to be at least a little concerned with the truth. Now, to succeed as a politician, you can get away with spouting utter BS: making statements that you know to be false while being indifferent to that fact because you know your base is equally indifferent.
It's all about tone -- A reality show performer locked up the Republican race long ago because a plurality of that party's voters respond to his pseudo-self confident "tough talk," in spite of his beliefs and policy positions (to the extent he has them) being outliers from the traditional Republican platform (e.g. limited government, Christian values, etc.). And Hillary has still failed to secure her party's nomination because of the widespread (and true) belief that she is a shifty, robotic opportunist who will say and do anything to become President. Sanders' slogan is so (I think unintentionally) telling: "Feel the Bern." The message is "Support Bernie because it feels right." We're evaluating the candidates based on how they strike us.
... and the tone we responded to is anger -- Bernie exploits popular anger against perceived Wall Street excesses and alleged responsibility for the Financial Crisis. The picture on the homepage of Bernie's supporters' website is portrait of righteous indignation. Trump galvanizes his supporters with nationalist, xenophobic rhetoric. And because the truth is unimportant (see above), this is what it's about: whipping people up into a frenzy and playing nakedly to anger, fear and resentment. This validates those emotions and, for many people, a candidate's "I acknowledge and share in your anger" is enough reason to support them.
We don't value freedom -- As catalogued elsewhere (including by me), Trump's policies are in conflict with a boatload of fundamental American principles, including those related to free speech, freedom of religion and personal liberty -- yet he's the candidate drawing supporters from what used to be the libertarian-leaning political party. Sanders and his supporters are the intellectual force behind the Democratic Party and they unapologetically advocate a doctrine based on the subordination or abolition of property rights and fundamental economic freedoms. On both sides of the aisle, we are not only indifferent to freedom: we're actively looking for folks who will throw it out the window if it means solving a problem, real or imagined, that we've been lead to believe is important.
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
I think I've made my own no-fan-of-Trump views clear, but that aside, I am dumbfounded that the mainstream media (who supposedly are anti-Trump) continue to laugh off his candidacy despite his continually proving them wrong. I don't think this is intentional or the result of some bias on their part: I think it's that they literally have no idea how to make sense of the Trump phenomenon because it is so unprecedented.
I'm not saying Trump is going to win. I am saying, though, that there are completely plausible, realistic scenarios in which he does. From the beginning of his candidacy, in fact, I've been saying that he was the only one in the Republican field who had a shot of beating Hillary due to his ability to mobilize non-traditional Republican voters (sorry John Kasich).
- He holds all the red states that Romney took in 2012. I think this is quite plausible. The only competitive red state in 2012 was North Carolina, where Obama lost by just 3% of the popular vote. In every other red state, Romney won by at least 8% (GA) and 10% or more everywhere else.
- He flips Florida, Ohio and Virginia (or, less plausibly, two of those plus PA), which all went to Obama narrowly in 2012. I think this is possible if Trump focuses on mobilizing his base in those states since the latest polling shows a dead heat in OH, PA and FL. All four of those states were decided by 5% or less of the popular vote in 2012.
- He also flips at least one of CO and NV. Both of these were decided by 6% or less of the popular vote in 2012, but it’s interesting given the Hispanic population in both states, who I understand are not Trump's biggest fans.
Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com
Not saying it’s going to happen, just saying it could…