Saturday, March 05, 2016

The Care of Devils

It goes almost without saying that a huge part of me is equally revolted and angered at the ridiculous carny show that has become the Republican Party and its loathsome Presidential candidate field. Krugman is perfectly correct; the obviously lunatic, con-man, and carny currently running ahead of the rest of the klowns is only less acceptable as the potential Chief Executive of the most powerful polity in the Western world because of the obvious unmoored insanity of his personality, not his "political positions" (such as they are) which are, in many cases, mildly less loathsome than those of his supposedly more conventional competitors.
But, much as I hate to admit this, the current widespread enthusiasm for the vulgar talking yam - among both the public and among the press - is horribly fascinating as a glimpse into mind (also such as it is...) the American public.

The degree to which the Presidency of Barak Obama has completely unhinged a certain proportion of the public has always amazed me. Here's a guy who is pretty much a 1950's Eisenhower Republican or, at least, has governed as such...and, yet, I have heard from friends whose relatives, or acquaintances, or casual correspondents hate Obama, hatehatehate him with a passionate intensity.

It's not like I don't understand "passionate hatred" for politicians; I've loathed a few myself.
But Obama? Obama?

I can't imagine a more perfectly innocuous corporate suit, whether it's his personal style or his governing. He's...well, he's kind of a suit.

And yet, I read people saying they HATE Obama so much (or Clinton, another perfect corporate suit) that even though they admit, or even insist, that Trump is, indeed, a dangerously mendacious fool that they will vote for him when he receives the GOP nomination. I find this literally incomprehensible; it's like saying "Well, the food at that Korean joint was pretty awful, so instead let's just stay home tonight and eat a big ol' bag of camel shit."
Obviously most of these sorts of people don't admit that Trump is an unhinged looney. They say he's a "truth-teller" or not hidebound by "political correctness", as if lying was some sort of version of saying unsayable truth.

But he clearly is, and their kidding themselves is patently ridiculous.

And herein lies the most incredible aspect of this election.

If you had tried; if you had carefully, deliberately, painstakingly crafted the most perfectly disastrous sort of human being to be placed in a position of immense power I cannot imagine crafting someone more catastrophic than Donald Trump. He's like one of those the wartime caricatures of Hitler, or Tojo, or Mussolini; an embodiment of everything utterly incompetent put in charge of a Great Power.
It doesn't matter WHO his opponent is, outside of zombie Iosef Stalin or Satan or another equally gross cartoon villain. There's just no reason any sane person would vote for Donald Trump for President if the alternative wasn't a bloody-handed mass murderer.

So this November will of interest to me only in what it will reveal about my "fellow citizens".

The percentage of the general public who will vote for this scumbag is directly proportionate to the percentage who are utterly unfit to be citizens of a self-governing republic. They are sheep who would vote to make the wolf their king because they are afraid and he is "strong". They are the slaves who would vote to make the slavedriver their king because they want to hate the Others and he is "honest" enough to say so out loud.

And I very much fear, that in the words of Mr. Paine, that I am infidel enough " to suppose that He has relinquished the government of the world, and given us up to the care of devils..."


Ael said...

Chief: I think you are fear mongering. I am not so sure that Mr Trump is deeply different from what has gone before.

Yes, if you look at Obama, Clinton, Bush, etc, they are all "suits". But they are "suits" who are owned by the billionaires: Koch, Walton, Adelson, Saban, etc. etc.
Their policies are carefully designed to enrich their masters. The welfare of the citizens comes a poor second place. Look at Obamacare. By all reports it has doing real good, however the drug and insurance companies have done extremely well by it. But note that Obamacare does not address the problem that the USA pays *three* times the price that many European coutnries pay for a poorer health care system than Costa Rica!

We are talking grift on a *stupendous* scale. Moving to a more efficient single payer system is deprecated because it is not politically "practical". It isn't practical because of the steel lock on politics by the owning class.

Talk about "iron fist in velvet glove".

Therefore the difference between The Donald and the Koch's, Waltons, etc etc. is simply onto which accounting sheet the money accumulates.

In my opinion, Mr Trump's primary advantage (ahem) is his breaching of political norms. His semi-coherent rants dispense with "coded language". This frees other people to talk directly about all sorts of things that were referred to with winks and nods. In the very recent past, people who tried to talk about these things were not taken seriously. Not so much today. Who needs that velvet glove anyway.

To me, this breaching of political norms is blowing fresh air into all sorts of dank festering corners. Actual participation of Republican voters is much higher this year, than the last few go rounds. This active participation inevitably means less power to the oligarchs as a class. Over the middle haul, this will improve the republican party as it is forced to address the needs of its supporters and not its funders.

Alas, the democrats are putting forward another corporate "suit". They will have to confront their own festering corners later.

FDChief said...

I've heard this "heighten the contradictions" stuff before, Ael, and I don't buy it now anymore than I bought it when the Naderites used it in 2000. Trump's genius, such as it is, is to be completely unhinged, utterly lunatic, and unmoored from reality. So by voting for a Trump a U.S. citizen wouldn't be "breaching political norms", they will be throwing the norms away. It won't force the parties to address the needs of their supporters so much as it will free them to follow the most bizarre, destructive urges of their most nihilist adherents.

The "benefits" of a suit are just what you'd think; acceptance of the status quo, willingness to work "within the rules". The rules and status quo may suck, but the implication is that the rules are THERE, and that by working within the system that the voter and the politician have the possibility to change the rules and the status quo. This election, OTOH, offers a pretty stark choice; between U.S. politics as it has been played since the Great Depression and...something else.

By voting for a Trump the voter isn't "improving the Republican Party" but, rather, shoving the GOP over into a sort of post-republican wasteland. The "Republican votors" turning out this year are appalling. Racist, xenophobic, stupid, economically and politically incohereent, raging fools made of pure ID released by their Leader's embrace of open hatred and stupidity.

This isn't "fresh air", this is balefire.

Trumpism is the American voter more or less giving up on the idea that ANY sort of conventional political action will change the rules or the status quo in his or her favor. Sanders is "fresh air", a chance to move the existing system more towards Joe and Molly Lunchpail. Trumpism is nihilism - I think that the main REASON that the Democrats are going with the suit is the fear, no, the KNOWLEDGE, that the GOP will both cohere behind Trumpism and use Bernie's "socialism" to smear the change-from-within campaigners as dirty red Commies and fear losing to the Darkness more than they fear the suit.

In a weird, "well, that sucks but it's a relief" kind of way the "good" part about this is that this is the political equivalent of killing Nazis in the old WW2 movies. There's no real "gray" area here.

Since 2008 everyone to the Right of David Brooks has accused us liberals of "fearmongering" about the CHUDs of the Teabagging Right, about our warnings that the GOP and their enablers in the Wingnut Pretty Hate Machine has been building a consciousless authoritarian monster that, given the choice between "liberty" and "authority" and between "compromise" and "self-destruction" would choose the latter if it meant destroying the fundamental norms of American self-government.

Well, in Trump the choice is here. If you are SO raging, if you feel that you've been screwed so hard, if you are SO willing to destroy the oligarch/suit class that you don't mind burning down your own house to do so, the choice is upon you.

If I thought that we "deserved" any better I'd call my own words "fear-mongering". But as it is we're simply reaping what We the People, in our sloth and ignorance, in our indifference to the corruption of the media and the corridors of power, in our abandonment of self-government, have sowed. It's not fear. Oddly, it's a sort of satisfaction that the Gods of Republican Politics have shown that they cannot be scorned forever.

FDChief said...

Note: the "r" in "republican" in the final sentence should be a small-r.

Also, looking back, I think I have a simpler TL:DR version of the comment above, and that's that - regardless of the failings or shortcomings of the U.S. political system circa 2016, Trump is a) not the solution and b) DEEPLY different from "what has gone before"; not in the sense that he's a moron-grade populist demagogue (Huey Long, Bishop Sheen, Joe McCarthy) but in the sense that he's SO obviously incompetent even at that.

It's like the U.S. electorate had a choice between Huey Long and FDR in 1932, only Long was visibly LESS coherent and LESS moored-to-reality. It's not that FDR would be the obvious "good"'s that Long - or Trump - is so obviously the "bad" choice.

It's not that being revolted with the way the system works is bad. It's that "Being so revolted with the way the system works as to dig holes around my house and fill them with explosives than light fires in all the landscape bushes" is a bad way to deal with that revulsion.

Ael said...

I see no evidence that Mr. Trump's cult of personality, if he gets elected, will be more powerful than America's governing institutions. His freedom of movement will be severely limited. If he is bad for the country he can be voted out after 4 years and will be tossed out, in any case, after 8.

In the meantime, perhaps, he can de-ossify some ancient political logjams. He may initially knock some pendulums in the wrong direction, but I have hope that they will swing back (and go further than their present location).

Of course, I can freely say these things, given that, as a Canadian, I have limited skin in the game.

paintedjaguar said...

I think you understate the damage done by the "suits", as well as their willingness to shed blood and the extent to which the status quo "rules" are effective in preventing any positive change. A lot of people have managed to connect these dots and are frothing in anger.

Re Huey Long, it's not at all clear that for people on the bottom he was "obviously bad". Here's some info from an excellent Sam Smith article on Populism --

In his four-year term as governor, Long increased the mileage of paved highways in Louisiana from 331 to 2,301, plus an additional 4,508 2,816 miles of gravel roads. By 1936, the infrastructure program begun by Long had [doubled] the state's road system. He built 111 bridges, and started construction on the first bridge over the lower Mississippi. He built the new Louisiana State Capitol, at the time the tallest building in the South. All of these construction projects provided thousands of much-needed jobs during the Great Depression. . .

Long's free textbooks, school-building program, and free busing improved and expanded the public education system, and his night schools taught 100,000 adults to read. He greatly expanded funding for LSU, lowered tuition, established scholarships for poor students, and founded the LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans. He also doubled funding for the public Charity Hospital System, built a new Charity Hospital building for New Orleans, and reformed and increased funding for the state's mental institutions. His administration funded the piping of natural gas to New Orleans and other cities and built the seven-mile Lake Pontchartrain seawall and New Orleans airport. Long slashed personal property taxes and reduced utility rates. His repeal of the poll tax in 1935 increased voter registration by 76 percent in one year. . .

As an alternative to what he called the conservatism of the New Deal, Long proposed legislation capping personal fortunes, income and inheritances. . . In 1934, he unveiled an economic plan he called Share Our Wealth. Long argued there was enough wealth in the country for every individual to enjoy a comfortable standard of living, but that it was unfairly concentrated in the hands of a few millionaire bankers, businessmen and industrialists.

Long proposed a new tax code which would limit personal fortunes to $50 million, annual income to $1 million (or 300 times the income of the average family), and inheritances to $5 million. The resulting funds would be used to guarantee every family a basic household grant of $5,000 and a minimum annual income of $2,000-3,000 (or one-third the average family income). Long supplemented his plan with proposals for free primary and college education, old-age pensions, veterans' benefits, federal assistance to farmers, public works projects, and limiting the work week to thirty hours. . .

FDChief said...

Ael: Trumpsim is nihilism. It's really that simple. It will "clear away some ancient ploitical logjams" in the sense that dynamiting the Hoover Dam will clear some silt out of the Colorado River system.

Good analysis of the actual sort of "logjams" the people who want Trump would like to clear here:

It's really that simple. No matter who ELSE you vote for, a vote for Trump, now, is a vote for dynamiting the American experiment to build something - who knows what - authoritarian on its ruins.

paintedjaguar: ...and "anger", as a political force, has always been constructive, as the outcomes of the French and Russian (and Chinese) revolutions showed, right?

No argument that the "suits" are a problem. No argument that people are getting shafted and are getting mad. A Sanders presidency would be a sane sort of angry response to that shafting and those problems. Trump? Don't make me laugh. The simple fact of his ascension tells me that the problems we've been letting take control of our country since we let Reagan bamboozle us are leading to the Man on Horseback, just as I've feared.

I will admit to vilifying Long to make a point. A lot of his actual policies were pretty benign, especially in the context of hte punitive capitalism of the Thirties.

Ael said...

Chief: I have a high regard that America's democratic institutions would withstand a Trump presidency. He would be limited in the actions he can take domestically and, for all his obvious faults, I don't see him starting a shooting war with anyone (unlike *all* of his compatriots and the democratic front runner, who all seem to think that the US Military is the solution to whatever foreign policy challenge they face.)

If Trump tries to do outlandish things, he will find that the bureaucracy turns in his hands, cutting him. Alternatively, it will simply sulk and move slowly, waiting him and his 4 or 8 years out. In the meantime, the Republican party as we know it will have been shattered for good. Is that not a worthy objective?

FDChief said...

No. America needs a "conservative" party, one with an interest in governing. I agree that it does not need the GOP it has, but Trump's ascension won't "fix" that, it will break it.

And the problem with Trump is that there is no guarantee that he will not take the nation places where his ego chooses to take it and that the traditional powers of the office will prevent these "democratic institutions" you invoke from kicking in and putting the blocks to him. He himself has no internal mores, obviously, just a massive greed and lust for recognition.

He's NOT Hitler...but the the opportunities and dangers he presents are, in many ways, similar to those Hitler presented to the Germans of his day. The "suits" and bureaucrats hoped to rule through him and co-opt him, the haters and crazies wanted him to smash everything. But the real lesson of Hitler, IMO, is that the real danger of handing the levers of power of a modern industrial democracy to an unmoored egotist is that you will ALWAYS underestimate the crazy that will appeal to the egotist and that the egotist will ALWAYS know that.

The ;ast forty years have done a LOT of damage to the "democratic institutions" put in place during the New Deal that prevented the open oligarchy and plutocracy of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era. I think that the U.S. if more fragile than it looks, and that this is no time to be trusting to luck and the good angels of a massively egotistial moron not to test that fragility.

FDChief said...

Bottom line: there is no rational justification for voting for Trump. Even if you're livid with rage against the current New Gilded Age...Trump promises no real improvement and a huge prospect of horrific black swans.

If you want to ragequit the current US political system the "correct" nuclear button is the Sanders one, and that option is already on the table.

There's just no excuse for Trumpism. None. It's just monkey rage.

Ael said...

I am greatly saddened to learn that American democracy may not be able to withstand the blows of a proto-fascist demagogue with a talent for show business.

I will have to rethink some things.

Ael said...

An insightful take on what may motivate Trump supporters.

Pluto said...

Chief: "The last forty years have done a LOT of damage to the "democratic institutions" put in place during the New Deal that prevented the open oligarchy and plutocracy of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era. I think that the U.S. if more fragile than it looks, and that this is no time to be trusting to luck and the good angels of a massively egotistical moron not to test that fragility."

To illuminate on the Chief's comments with a real world example:
In the 1990's, the two major political parties in Minnesota put forth candidates that were well past their freshness date and basically told the electorate that they had to pick one of them. Jesse Ventura, at the time a talk radio host in Minnesota, joined the race for the fledgling Independence party and won.

Ventura is NOT Trump, he was also a political neophyte but he avoided insulting people. This is about how the system responded to Ventura, not about Ventura.

For the first two years the 3 way power-sharing system worked fairly well with the R's and the D's trying to compete with each other for the popular vote and for the Governor's support. Quite a few good little things came from that period.

The second two years were the opposite. The parties suddenly realized that Ventura could win reelection if they didn't start cooperating. They went overboard in making sure that Ventura's life was as miserable as possible. Coincidentally they made life in Minnesota miserable but they succeeded in their goal. But the parties miscalculated again, somebody needed to rule after Ventura left.

This led to the rise of Tim Pawlenty (think Rubio without a tan) and some really ugly paralysis politics, which for a time, made Minnesota one of the worst governed states in the union. After 8 years of this nonsense the Democrats decided to run a populist candidate with a long family history of public service (think FDR without the wheelchair or the ability to speak a coherent sentence). He brought the best of the ideas suggested during Ventura's last two years with him and the Democrats won a landslide. Things have been pretty good ever since (with some caveats).

The key aspects of the story for Trump are:
1. Ventura was a bit of a jerk but he was a lot nicer and dumber than Trump
2. The political establishment turned against Ventura (as it will turn against Trump) and discovered the power of lousy government
3. Minnesotans, used to good-to-excellent government, threw out the broken political establishment. They were able to do this for a lot of reasons that don't really apply to the Federal government:
a) A recent history of good government. The last semi-good government we had was Bill Clinton pre-Monica, that is almost 20 years ago now
b) One political party had the wit to find a good candidate, I'm not sure the national parties have that much talent left, they drive out the good people and keep the enduring mediocre ones.
c) Minnesotans are, by and large, MUCH more involved in running their state than the national average
d) The Minnesotan 1% did not fight Dayton very hard because they trusted him to not bash business too much. And he didn't. Find me a member of the national Democratic party who has similar trust from the 1%.

FDChief said...

Pluto: Good summary, and as I said; there IS a national candidate that pretty much gives We the People that Ventura-with-safeguards option, and that's Sanders.

Even HRC, as corporatist as she is, would be non-trivially less awful for those of us not in the two-yacht demographic than pretty much ANYthing the GOP is offering.

But look south of you, at what Jindal has done to Louisiana, what Brownback has done to Kansas, what Snyder is doing to Michigan and Walker to Wisconsin. No happy endings there. We the People of those states voted, and continued to vote, for people who are actively doing them harm and for many of the same reasons that the people of Minnesota voted first for Ventura and then for Pawlenty...

And that's really the main point; the GOP really IS awful at this point. Kasich, the supposedly "sane" one, clings to the same ridiculous Norquistian economic bullshit and neofeudal political ideals the rest of them do.

Trump is just all that with an extra added "blow the roof off the muthasucka" and a massively unmoored ego.

Voting Republican at this time is really just being a massive dick. But voting Trump is being a massive dick AND voting to dynamite your own house. Neither will produce a good outcome...the latter just is much closer to the danger inherent in any sort of nihilist violence; that what emerges from the abyss you gaze into will be something incalculably more horrific than you imagined.

Pluto said...

In my analysis of the difference between Minnesota and the national scene, I should also give credit to the 8 outstanding years of leadership by the non-traditional Arne Carlson (originally from NYC in spite of the spelling of the first name) who was governor prior to Jesse and the 2 really good years from Jesse before reality set in.

Minnesota voters were naive to let Pawlenty into office the first time (although his democratic rival would also have been a bad choice) and just plain dumb to re-elect Pawlenty but that is where the stupidity ended.

The Independence party, which rode Ventura's coattails to power, found themselves very effectively cut out of the political power sharing process after Ventura's first two years. They did not have the ground organization and the fund-raising tools to compete with the other two parties and the other parties cooperated to make sure that the Independence party could never get a foothold at the state level in spite of the Independence party nominating a remarkable number of highly qualified leaders who had been alienated or ejected by the other two parties.

Fifteen years after the Jesse experiment, the Independence party is once again on the rise. They started by targeting selected city government races, which are ignored by the other two parties, and concentrating in cities where the party had done well in the past. They also concentrated on quality, not quantity. These people have done their jobs well and have easily won re-election. The Independence party is using these successes to build laterally into adjacent cities. Eventually they will try for state leadership again when they have got a solid base of support. So far the other two parties are ignoring them and focusing on the state and national level so it might succeed.