Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Friedman Unloads on the GOP

Tom Friedman wants a new conservative party:
We know just how little they are attached to any principles, because today’s Republican Party’s elders have told us so by (with a few notable exceptions) being so willing to throw their support behind a presidential candidate whom they know is utterly ignorant of policy, has done no homework, has engaged in racist attacks on a sitting judge, has mocked a disabled reporter, has impugned an entire religious community, and has tossed off ignorant proposals for walls, for letting allies go it alone and go nuclear and for overturning trade treaties, rules of war and nuclear agreements in ways that would be wildly destabilizing if he took office.

Despite that, all top G.O.P. leaders say they will still support Donald Trump — even if he’s dabbled in a “textbook definition” of racism, as House Speaker Paul Ryan described it — because he will sign off on their agenda and can do only limited damage given our checks and balances.

Really? Mr. Speaker, your agenda is a mess, Trump will pay even less attention to you if he is president and, as Senator Lindsey Graham rightly put it, there has to be a time “when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”

Will it ever be that time with this version of the G.O.P.?

Et tu, John McCain? You didn’t break under torture from the North Vietnamese, but your hunger for re-election is so great that you don’t dare raise your voice against Trump? I hope you lose. You deserve to. Marco Rubio? You called Trump “a con man,” he insults your very being and you still endorse him? Good riddance.

Chris Christie, have you not an ounce of self-respect? You’re serving as the valet to a man who claimed, falsely, that on 9/11, in Jersey City, home to many Arab-Americans, “thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.” Christie is backing a man who made up a baldfaced lie about residents of his own state so that maybe he can be his vice president. Contemptible.

This is exactly why so many Republican voters opted for Trump in the first place. They intuited that the only thing these G.O.P. politicians were interested in was holding onto their seats in office — and they were right. It made voters so utterly cynical that many figured, Why not inflict Trump on them? It’s all just a con game anyway. And at least Trump sticks it to all of those politically correct liberals. And anyway, governing doesn’t matter — only attitude.

And who taught them that?
Friedman may by right in a lot of ways here, and so far I am hearing from my own Republican friends that many will vote for Hillary or sit this election out.

But Friedman has never understood American democracy. He is a policy guy, and an internationalist, somebody who cares deeply about the details of trade deals and infrastructure finance plans. Most people are not like that. Most people pay no attention to that sort of wonkery. Most people vote their identities; they vote for the party and the politician who seems most firmly on their side. This goes for both parties; the Democrats have voters who are progressives because they think it's cool to be trans or eat organic. Obama didn't get such amazing turnout from black voters because of his health care plan. And most American conservatives aren't really much invested in trade policy or Wall Street deregulation. I often think about Rick Perry in this connection, a man who got into conservative politics because he loved the Boy Scouts so much, just they way they were in the Texas town where he grew up.

No political party can win a majority just from voters who support their policies. To win a majority you need the votes of millions who couldn't tell you a thing about what laws their party plans to pass. You need to appeal to their emotions. Tom Friedman wants a coldly technocratic Republican party dedicated to regulatory reform and "market based solutions." Fine, that's his choice. But a party like that could never get more than 25 percent of the vote. Many professional politicians are supporting Trump because they understand this. They know that half of their own votes come from people who don't much care about tax reform or defense policy and just want to keep liberal ideas out of their towns. You can't win elections by refusing to accept the support of jerks, losers, sexist pigs, racists, stoners, effete snobs, and every other sort of fool, because collectively they make up a big part of the electorate.

Tom Friedman doesn't have to run for office, so he doesn't need the support of the average conservative-leaning voter. If people who do need that support are grudgingly taking sides with Trump, maybe Friedman should rethink what is is that ordinary people really want, and what sort of politics are possible in a democracy.

7 comments:

Shadow Flutter said...

"Chris Christie, have you not an ounce of self-respect? You’re serving as the valet to a man who claimed..."

"Valet." Nice euphemism. One of my concerns is Chris Christie becoming U.S. attorney-general.

pithom said...

"He is a policy guy, and an internationalist, somebody who cares deeply about the details of trade deals and infrastructure finance plans."

-[citation needed]. I voted for Trump precisely because of his policies. I support Making America Great Again. Fortunately, the voters picked Trump, rather than some disgusting, warmongering loser like Christie, Kasich, or Rubio.

G. Verloren said...

Something that occassionally creeps into the back of my mind is that maybe universal suffrage isn't the greatest idea in the world.

Democracy simply doesn't work very well if too much of your voterbase is too ignorant to cast meaningful votes. And part of me wonders if maybe we should consider keeping voting eligible to everyone, but with the new caveat that they have to demonstrate basic competancy of politics and government.

Of course, that would require government level testing and licensing across the nation, potentially both tricky and expensive to implement. And it would likely reduce voter turnout even more than it already is. Moreover, there's the potential for the very idea to be wildly unpopular - people are resistant to change, especially when it makes something they take for granted more difficult or less accessible. So all in in, tricky.

But I always come back to the same nagging question - should a vote cast by an ignoramus have the same value as a vote cast by a highly educated individual? If someone doesn't have the slightest clue what they're really voting for, should they be allowed to vote at all?

Isaac Asmiov famously said, "There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."" I can't help but feel he gets exactly to the heart of the issue, and touches upon precisely what bothers me most about the way we run our country.

Should we institute a "driver's license" for voters? Should we require people to demonstrate the most basic level of competancy, show that they know how to find the brake pedal and make a three point turn without hitting any cones and whatnot? Could we even? Would the very notion be rejected outright as "elitist", or "Un-American", or otherwise?

pithom said...

Verloren is right again. However, as I have seen how intellectuals snubbed the most competent candidates, Trump and Cruz, and generally tend to be gay, I support the following qualifications for suffrage

*Being White (non-Mestizo)

*Being Male

*Being under 30

That seems like the Ron Paul/Bernie Sanders revolutionary forward-looking change demographic, so that's where I'd like America to go.

I don't think literacy tests are legal; they were used to disenfranchise Blacks in the 1880s-1960s and would undoubtedly have the same effect today. And I don't know whether a literate populace would govern better than a less literate one. I'd just rather be more explicit and implement direct age, sex, and race qualifications. Maybe a felony one, as well, to make sure young White criminals won't vote for loose-on-crime policies.

"If someone doesn't have the slightest clue what they're really voting for, should they be allowed to vote at all?"

-I agree. The best way to implement Verloren's idea without overt race, sex, and age restrictions is for the candidates to come up with a list of policies that they would definitely support, and get voters to answer questions about candidates' stances on foreign, immigration, trade, internal economic, social, and other policies. Of course, this would seriously be trouble for politicians' intellectual flexibility, which isn't good.

Sometimes, the strongest candidate is better than the most honest candidate. In that case, mere knowledge would be of little value for voting qualifications.

pithom said...

I honestly think tests of candidates' stances on the issues would have boosted Trump's vote share, lowered Cruz's, and dropped Kasich's, Christie's, and Rubio's to near zero. Of course, I have a terrible grasp of the voting public, so what I think and what the truth is are not fully correlated.

G. Verloren said...

Despite your delusions, you and I are not remotely in agreement.

I posited suffrage for everyone, provided they can demonstrate the most basic understanding of the nature of politics. You took that and somehow immediately twisted it into a call for racism, sexism, and ageism of the most disgusting and blatant kind.

I spoke from a position of semi-intellectualism and the belief that all people can be rational agents if properly educated and incentivized. You spoke from a position of complete anti-intellectualism and a twisted might-makes-right barbarism.

I asked a largely academic question put forth primarily as a thought experiment. You made an outright claim of direct personal support for an irrational, draconian, and utterly anti-democratic proposition.

This sort of knee jerk reactionary behavior is why I'm terrified of developments in genetics - for every person who might want to ask what the potential applications and consequences of a certain modification might be, there's always someone waiting in the wings to springboard straight from such a question into fevered calls for forced eugenics and ethnic cleansing.

This sort of reflexive, opportunistic championing of such monstrous behavior makes it nearly impossible to have calm, rational discussions about even remotely controversial subjects. Please stop.

pithom said...

Verloren, you are assuming government excluding the ignorant (in areas relevant to government) would be superior to government excluding only non-Whites, non-men, and those over 30. You don't make an argument for why this would be the case. So there's not exactly much for me to work with here.

"I spoke from a position of semi-intellectualism and the belief that all people can be rational agents if properly educated and incentivized."

-Riiight. More likely they'd know the minimum required for the literacy test and nothing more.

"I asked a largely academic question put forth primarily as a thought experiment. You made an outright claim of direct personal support for an irrational, draconian, and utterly anti-democratic proposition."

-It's perfectly rational. Again, who is most likely to support Ron Paul (of whom I am a big fan) and Bernie Sanders (whom I clearly saw as vastly preferable to Hillary Clinton, even though he would have made a horrid president)? Young White men. So I see nothing wrong with restricting the franchise to only these individuals.

I wrote a post ridiculing the common concept of democracy here:

https://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/nobody-in-america-really-believes-in-democracy/

"You spoke from a position of complete anti-intellectualism"

-Yup, for good reason. Intellectuals tended to favor Marco Rubio, the candidate most likely to get the U.S. into a third world war -and lose.

"and a twisted might-makes-right barbarism."

-Might does not always make right (cf., Obama's re-creation of the Islamic State just because he was the President of the United States). But I see nothing wrong with might being used for right. There's nothing twisted or barbaric about that.


"This sort of knee jerk reactionary behavior is why I'm terrified of developments in genetics - for every person who might want to ask what the potential applications and consequences of a certain modification might be, there's always someone waiting in the wings to springboard straight from such a question into fevered calls for forced eugenics and ethnic cleansing."

-Down's Syndrome babies are already ~90% aborted, Verloren. And if the idiocracy scenario is correct (not saying it is), then what is there left to call for other than forced eugenics (preferably done, of course, via taxes and subsidies)? Ethnic cleansing, of course, would be a beneficial byproduct of that. It is not good for factions to form on the bases of races with unequal distributions of abilities. Nevertheless, they are oftentimes sadly necessary, and exist all too often.

"This sort of reflexive, opportunistic championing of such monstrous behavior makes it nearly impossible to have calm, rational discussions about even remotely controversial subjects. Please stop."

-Check your premises. I'm only using them for the direction I want the world to move. If you fear your premises' consequences, I suggest you re-evaluate your fear. Or your premises.