Robert George here is right– click through because this is a great storm by @sethamandel. Before I comment: remember I voted against and worked against Trump. And no “but TRUMP!” thinking while reading it, either. Practice some open mindedness and imagine this all from another POV.
I see this now because I saw it before the election. I even argued about it with friends. There is a portion of traditional, conservative America that felt their government was no longer going to even preserve their right to have their own beliefs and values. Every time someone was forced from a job because they gave to the wrong candidate or cause, every time someone was forced to choose between making a cake for a wedding when they didn’t want to or having their business squashed by the government, and every time they were told they couldn’t engage in legal activities without the possibility of being forced into hiding by the Mob, they wondered why isn’t my government protecting me?
Instead, courts and government and popular will told them otherwise: agree or pay the cost.
So they pushed back. And they were called “a basket of deplorables,” all of them were seen to be bigots and racists and idiots. But they pushed back by voting. Not only did they push back, not only did they make a statement, but they WON. Somehow.
And what happened? Their opponents, who told them that they just absolutely had to deal with the results even if they didn’t like them, did everything they could to de-legitimize the election. They lashed out violently. They sulked.
Note: I’m not talking about peaceful demonstrations. I appreciate (and support) the right of the people to assemble and speak out.
But the Trump supporters won a legitimate election.
Set down the craziness, people, and let’s deal with that fact. Let’s deal with it with wisdom and intelligence and an understanding that (and this is the important part): WE DON’T ALWAYS GET OUR WAY. But we’ll survive. The country will survive. Our opportunity to vote again will survive. The only way it doesn’t is if we, the People, break the system by refusing to let it to work the way it was designed. So, let’s take a moment to re-assess ourselves and our systems.
Seriously: we don’t have to stop pushing back against the worst of Trump, but this might be the chance we need to fix some of what is broken.
Trump, being a symptom of a larger sickness in our land, proves to me that if there were a public wisdom, that light has been exhausted. We’ve forgotten those lessons of the past and are eager to fail in brave old ways once again. Which is to say, Trump is hardly Trump’s fault. He’s the fault of those who voted for him and for all of us who have passively let our culture slip to such a state that he seems like a reasonable answer to a very serious question: how do we set right the many problems facing modern America?
I don’t pretend to know that answer, but I do know one thing: it wouldn’t hurt to start teaching some of the old things that worked so well to impart a kind of baseline cultural wisdom for so many generations. Things like Aesop’s Fables.
Most of you will remember Aesop’s Fables; they are very short stories told with the goal of imparting some moral, life less, or political understanding to the listener. Indeed, television shows like Leave it to Beaver and the Andy Griffith Show were similar: short, simple stories that could make you laugh and think, but that always had a moral to impart. What I’m going to do is work to find a series of things, like those fables, that can help us understand the world around us and make better decisions.
Fables, of course, won’t save us from the rise of Trumps now or in the future, but maybe they’ll help us understand that rise.
First up is one of Aesop’s Fables (and my apologies for the small changes I’ve made in the language– they don’t change the lessons to be learned). This one is, in particular, for the Trump voters (and Trump) who took so much pleasure in abusing opponents during his rise and now complain that those voters aren’t supporting him in the general election.
The Sick Kite
A kite, sick and dying, said to his mother: “Mother, don’t mourn me, but pray to the gods that my life might be saved!”
She replied, “Alas, my son, which of the gods do you think will pity you? Is there one who you haven’t angered by stealing offerings from their altars?”
Make friends in prosperity if you would have friends in adversity.
America simply doesn’t like these candidates and feel increasingly abused by their own parties.
Now, this is the good bit. Here’s the punchline:
America will still vote for one of those candidates. America is convinced that the President has to have an R or a D next to their name and would rather despise the person in the White House than to look around for a better, more trustworthy, more qualified option outside of the orthodoxy.
Jeb addresses his Bush issue and, of course, gets it all wrong.
Jeb Bush said on Saturday that people who have a problem voting for him because of his last name “need to get therapy.”
The former Florida governor has struggled to gain traction in the Republican presidential race in part because many voters are leery of electing three presidents from the same family.
“The Bush thing, people are just going to have to get over it, alright?” a defiant Bush said at a townhall gathering at the McKelvie Intermediate School gym here ahead of tonight’s GOP debate.
“Everybody knows I’m in the Establishment, because my brother was a president and my dad was a president,” Bush said, raising his fingers to make air quotes as he said the word “Establishment” mockingly.
Anyone who knows and understands the history of the United States of America will understand our citizens’ discomfort with dynastic politics. Sure, serial governors and senators and representatives aren’t so surprising, the idea that one family should own the highest office in the country for 3 of the last 5 presidencies makes folks queasy. And it should: most folks don’t consider politics to be a legitimate family business. Sure, a handful of families have made it their business– and made a whole hell of a lot of money in the business– this was just too much. And Jeb’s seeming sense of entitlement just makes it worse.
But it doesn’t stop there, the idea that “people are just going to have to get over it” is arrogant in the extreme. No, Jeb, I don’t have to get over it; no, Jeb, you aren’t the only option on this menu. Indeed, your insistence that people should get over it is part of the problem: your job was to convince us to get around your name issue, not to merely insist on our compliance.
And he simply hasn’t convinced people that he’s the best option in the field.
As I said in a series of Tweets earlier this week:
That Jeb remains in the race is a testimony to something nasty in his personality (vindictiveness? a sense of entitlement?). Realizing this, if Jeb truly wanted to advocate for policies or ideas, he should do so by supporting others not further splintering the GOP. Jeb doesn’t seem to get that Americans don’t want such a bluntly dynastic flavor at the presidential level. He can’t win.
I happily stand by that. The more most of us see of Jeb, the less we want to see of him. The more he insists that we fall in line, the more I know I’ll fight to see someone else in that office.
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This National Review piece paints as bleak a picture as you’re likely to find about the future of conservatives and the Republican party.
There’s no shortage of reasons for the fact that the Right is at war over whether or not to take a flier on Trump. All of the various establishments and the counter-establishments overpromised and underdelivered in recent years. Congressional leaders talked a big game while campaigning but played small ball once reelected. Cruz and his supporters accused his fellow politicians of being corrupt sellouts, and so many people believed him, they’d now rather take a gamble on Trump than back Cruz, a mere politician.
What it doesn’t mention is that the distrust has been leveraged by a bunch of white nationalists who hope to burn down the GOP and rebuild the party in their image. This isn’t simply conservative vs. conservative, this is a free fire zone where many of the participants have no desire to save the Republican party.
I don’t doubt Limbaugh’s good will, for example, or many of the people who I know who have ended up supporting Trump. I know that they want to save the country and they believe that an old fashioned strong man is the type to do the job. I don’t question their motives, but I do question their judgement.
That doesn’t leave me blind to this stuff, though:
I am a conservative and it looks like I have no home (politically speaking).
The Republican party is in the process of being overrun by a mad mix of altconservatives, Neoreactionaries, “race realists,” white nationalists, and angry Republicans who feel so disenfranchised by the “establishment” GOP that they are willing to support a man like Donald Trump for the highest, most consequential political office in the nation. After years of complaining about the cult of personality that lead to the blind embrace of a man like Obama, these folks are willing to blindly (more on that later) embrace a volatile, divisive figure like Trump, willing to put the fate of our nation in the hands of a man whose policy knowledge is shallow and whose policy prescriptions are almost whimsically foolish.
And I cannot follow down that path.
One of the worst aspects of this mindless rage for the outsider is that no one can say with certainty what a Donald Trump presidency would look like or what a President Trump would stand for; I’d suggest that even Trump doesn’t know the answers to those questions in any meaningful way. His answer would almost undoubtedly revolve around “making America great again” and “winning so much that we’d get tired of winning”– and that’s just meaningless marketing talk. No candidate is running on the idea that they want to make America less great or that they wanted to win only enough that it wasn’t unseemly. His candidacy is based on a fragile frame of meaningless prattle, and his believers are blindly supposing that he will be our national salvation.
What we know of his political beliefs, assuming that he has anything resembling a coherent ideology, is that he has leaned strongly to the left for a good portion of his life in both cultural and economic terms. For folks who claim to be conservatives, this should be a red flag; but a good chunk of his support is coming from those groups who have no claim to be conservatives. These are folks who want to blow up the GOP and American conservatism to replace it with white nationalism, so Trump’s support of non-conservative ideas is no strong roadblock to support. The fact that Trumps strongest policy stand revolves around keeping foreigners out of the US and having Mexico build us a wall on the southern border, it’s not surprising that the “race realists” have rallied to his cause.
The GOP is running one of the most ideologically diverse groups in my lifetime. Kasich and Bush are the Rockefeller Republicans; Rand Paul represents the libertarian-conservative strand that grew over the last few decades and has distinct foreign policy and social ideas; Carly and Rubio represent a sort of Reagan fusionism; Cruz and Christie represent Republican populism at, respectively, the more conservative and more liberal ends of the Republican spectrum; there’s a mess of other candidates who sort of fill the spaces in between; and then, alone at the top, stands Trump, who isn’t any kind of a traditional Republican or conservative and who represents only one thing: destruction of the establishment.
And that destruction is seen as being a good thing.
I get the anger and even the sense of betrayal. Some of that is well-earned on behalf of Republicans who haven’t done the job we wanted them to do, but some of it is also based on some juvenile view of politics as being something where extreme changes can be wrought almost single-handedly by having a simple majority in the House and Senate. That’s foolish, of course, and some of those biggest changes are things that require years or strategy and work, not a handful of junior Representatives with loud voices.
Just as I look at Obama and see doubling down on the worst of both the Bush II and Clinton presidencies (over-reliance on executive action, an unfocused foreign policy that has made bad situations worse, wildly divisive in dealings with the opposition, and a belief that more government, more regulations, and more taxation are the solutions to our problems), I look to Trump and I see someone who will carry those beliefs even further and in the service of no discernible policy beliefs (again, outside of the promised closing of borders). How is that a good thing? One of the things that I want from a candidate in this cycle is someone willing to walk away from the blunt weapon that Obama has used in his flurry of executive orders and a return to doing things the old fashioned way: with dialog, leadership, persuasion, and, where necessary, compromise.
That, in and of itself, would begin to build bridges to span those divisions that have been widening over nearly two decades.
Is that the picture of a Trump presidency? Or would Trump be more likely to continue dividing the electorate, issuing executive orders to achieve his goals, and further alienating his political opponents? Would Trump make America great again or would he just further the rot?
Yes, I get the anger, but Trump is not the answer. Trump, like Occupy Wall Street and the inexplicable idea that Bernie Sanders is gaining in popularity, is just another symptom of a broken, angry nation that is struggling to find its way.
And if Trump is the answer for where the GOP is heading, then I have no home in the GOP.
This, Palin Broke His Heart, would be an interesting read no matter what, but I think it touches on something that it fails to expand upon: that the mob is becoming central to contemporary political and cultural expression.
One of the shibboleths of American politics that is getting eviscerated this election cycle is that The People Are Always Right. It was never true for anybody; certainly any conservative knows, or should know, that a crowd can easily turn into a mob, and a mob is always a destructive force. We may be seeing this year the political equivalent of a mob.
But mobs don’t come from nowhere. It’s very easy to look at Trump voters and dismiss them as thoughtless vulgarians who vote their prejudices, and who therefore can be dismissed as too morally compromised to take seriously: in other words, not just wrong, but bad. I would ask you, though: is this the way the media and others regarded the mob of Ferguson rioters? No: we had a long, loooooong national conversation on the roots of Ferguson’s rage. And we ought to have had that conversation, however ideologically constrained it may have been.
If we see the Trump moment as not just a populist movement, but as more of an uprising and a mob of angry voters supporting the most visceral and outrageous candidate available, then the mob is becoming the preferred bludgeon for political advancement in the U.S. That fits in with the outraged mobs that flock to and fro on social media, crucifying anyone who dares disagree with their deeply held beliefs. This fits in with the idea that we no longer seem to believe that private opinions and political acts, which cause no direct harm to anyone, are reasons to disqualify a person from a job or a business from operating.
5 Facts of the Age of Outrage
Everything is political. Everything. The things you buy, whether you let your kids walk home from school alone, the movies you watch, and the car you drive, the way you do (or don’t) worship, the microagressions you suddenly notice in movies that you used to love as a kid…you get the picture. Everything in America is seen through the lens of political preference.
Everything is judged. Everything. See above and understand that since everything around you and everything you do is a political statement (even if it is an accidental political statement), that everything is being judged by the hunkering masses on social media and around you with their smart phones and instantly available cameras.
And everything is seen. No transgressions seem to go unnoticed: no accidents or bad days or bad moods or bad moments can excuse away your social and political sins. Someone will post the video or the picture or the scan of the credit card receipt and the outrage machine will grind into motion. And while your family might work to protect you, don’t expect your friends to save you. While some may remain true, may stay in your corner, I’ve also seen folks who have known each other for years turn on each other and unleash crazed mobs.
The mob is power. Unleash the mob, watch the opposition crumble, and know this truth: the mob is political and social power. While it’s easy to see this as a tool of the so-called “social justice warrior,” the truth is that it is everywhere. It is the Trump voters demanding political change and reveling in the overthrow of contemporary conservatism. It is Occupy Wall Street in all its incoherent, shitting on cop cars rage. It is the black lives matter folks shutting down highways, disrupting libraries, and “taking back” Martin Luther King Day. It is every upheaval on Twitter when someone does something stupid, catching the baleful eye of the monster, finding targets in the young, old, and middle aged, rich, poor, and middle class, right, left, and somewhere in between. The mob is dumb, dangerous, raging, and unpredictable.
The only safe place is in the mob. And that’s why so many people find a safe place in the mob. If they just follow along, then the eye of the beast isn’t on them. The rage isn’t targeting them. The jobs lost, the reputations ruined, the people hurt– well, if you’re in the mob, it’s not your damage.
This, of course, is unsustainable. We cannot continue as a country, working side by side, raising kids, going to church, seeing movies, paying taxes, dealing with every day life if we grow so fearful that we cannot speak and so hateful of our countrymen that we stop caring for their well being.
This, of course, is unsustainable.
But how much damage will we endure and how will we find a way to heal the divisions? It’s time for a new social contract and new social standards to help us curtail the worst of our own natures, but where is the leader who will show us the path? There are very real problems facing our country and we’ve chosen this moment to magnify them with a social movement based almost purely on the politics of destruction. We better start remembering what is important or we will lose this nation and all the good that its future could hold.
This is stitched together from a series of tweets that I made earlier this morning. It’s been cleaned up and changed a touch, but the flavor and the point remains.
I probably won’t gain any fans from this next series of tweets and might even lose a few folks along the way. That is as it may be…
I don’t much care that Palin trotted out her Mama Bear persona and her special brand of outrage to pump up Donald Trump. She isn’t someone I look to for political guidance. I didn’t like some of the media treatment of her and her family during the election, that is true, but I found her to be disappointing during the election and doubly so afterward. At best she puts voice to my concerns, but I’ve I’ve never seen her put that same voice to offering meaningful policy ideas, political insight, or solutions.
So no, I don’t care who she supports.
I do care about policy, thoughtfulness, communication, and solutions. I care about American culture and the idea of tolerance. I want to support someone who won’t deepen the divide between us, who is principled but not blindly dogmatic. I want to support someone who will start moving the ship back in the right direction, but will take the time to do it right. Not with fragile, blunt tools that are built to impermanence, but with leadership, persuasion, compromise when required, and adherence to the rule of law and the traditions that once made our political system something other than a series of executive decisions and decrees from un-elected agency heads.
I want wisdom and thoughtfulness. Trump fans want outrage and outrageous pronouncements.
All of that leads to one question: who do I support?
I could vote Rand Paul, although I disagree with him on some important issues, but Rand is already out of the race. He just hasn’t noticed yet. Similarly, Carly is someone that I like quite a bit but she had no chance. Not in this election, not with Trump taking up all the available space and dominating the news cycle. No, Carly never had a chance.
I have a mad dislike of Jeb. As a politician, I find him grating, but even more I don’t want America held hostage to some new aristocracy and the presidency isn’t a thing to be handed back and forth between two families every eight years or so.
Imagine how I feel about Hillary.
Kasich, Christie, and the rest of the second tier are just background noise. The greatest service they could do for their country now would be to exit the race and let their support go to folks who might actually win the office. But that isn’t the path of politicians.
Bernie’s beliefs and policies are so far from my own that the idea of supporting him is, for me, laughable.
And that leaves just two.
I’ll vote for either Rubio or Cruz when the time comes, but I have a strong preference between the two. And this isn’t about electability……neither, for that matter, is it purely policy. There are real differences between them but those differences are relatively small. Neither of them represents me on all the issues, neither is a perfect candidate, and, in some areas, I would end up opposing either in their presidency. But on many important issues (taxes, economy, the proper role of gov’t), I find common ground. That’s important, but one step beyond that is important to me, too: what kind of person do I want to vote for?
I want to vote for someone who can show grace and kindness even in disagreement. I want to vote for someone who can distinguish between the argument and the person. Which sounds small, but leads folks to treat others very differently.
I want to vote for someone who has the generosity of spirit to accept differences while maintaining their own beliefs. Which is a stronger expression of principle than the brittle, unyielding kind of stand that most people take on cultural and political issues. And while I’d vote for a atheist or Jew or, yes, even a Muslim for the job if I thought they had the right policies and patriotic spirit……I cannot deny that my Christianity also guides me to look for someone who embodies the values that I hold dear. Not necessarily……that they themselves are Christian, understand, but that they embody those values.
Do you see the distinction?
What is that thing that I’m looking for right now? That answer came to me earlier today as an embodiment of some of those values: grace.
Grace in the sense that a person can show kindness, generosity, and caring even when faced with profound disagreements. I really don’t want to vote for someone who will tell half the country to get to the back of the bus. Whoever we elect will be representing all of us– not just a tiny slice of one demographic. All of us. There are very few one size fits all solutions in a nation of more than 300 million varied so much by custom, religion, region, race, and political belief. And I don’t want the person I vote for to treat the other side of the electorate as conquered foes.
So, Rubio is my guy. I’ll disagree with (and push against) him on a myriad of social issues, but I believe that he has the temperament to help guide us in a positive direction. At least, that is my most sincere hope.
In the end, though, America will vote and we will get the President that we most deserve. The one who mirrors our own face.
Last thought: if we truly get the president we deserve, would you rather it be a mirror of our outrage? Or should it be something better?
It’s not an endlessly expanding list of rights — the ‘right’ to education, the ‘right’ to health care, the ‘right’ to food and housing. That’s not freedom, that’s dependency. Those aren’t rights, those are the rations of slavery — hay and a barn for human cattle.