Or Not

Ted Cruz has knelt before Zod. I hope Hillary Clinton spends the next eight years literally liquidating the Kulaks, because there is literally no one in America who deserves to stop her. I give up on this country. This is my final blog post. Goodbye everyone.

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Story of An Election

It’s a contentious election year. The Republican party is deeply divided. An insurgent conservative is trying desperately to become the Republican nominee for President, but the odds are long against him. In a late, some say desperate move, and at any rate an unusual one, he’s named his preferred Vice Presidential running mate before he has secured the nomination. His opponent’s point man on stopping that insurgent campaign is Kremlin stooge and career criminal Paul Manafort. Does this all sound familiar?

I am, in fact, describing 1976.

If I were the sort of religious man who didn’t believe in coincidences, I’d be one hundred percent convinced that if this isn’t Ted Cruz’s year, then in 2020, he will be elected President of the United States, just as Reagan was four years after narrowly losing the nomination to Gerald Ford. The circumstances are all strikingly similar. Indeed, I wonder if Cruz is evoking the circumstances of 1976 on purpose, since he is I think the sort of guy less inclined than I am to believe in coincidences.

As it stands, I am not yet ready to write this election year off. I still hope that Hillary Clinton isn’t elected President of the United States, and I especially hope that she is not elected President of the United States in July, by just under thirteen hundred Republicans. But on the unlikely chance Donald Trump, the likely nominee, somehow defeats Clinton, he will do so without my help or my vote. Or indeed the votes of any of my immediate family members. The Republican party is not entitled to my vote, and I will never be brow-beaten into voting for an unacceptable nominee again. I hated Mitt Romney and John McCain, but they were at least Republicans. It was often hard to understand why but they were, of a sort anyway. Donald Trump defies ideological description, indeed he has contempt for the idea of having ideas-that’s not what “winners” do you see. Winners “make deals.” More over, he has clearly signaled that he will not work with conservatives. He will however work with the Mitch McConnells of the world to continue screwing over the American people. But that’s mostly moot. Donald Trump will not be President, and you should probably bet money on that, to anyone who will take you up on the offer.

I do, however, feel that even when we are ready to write this election off, we should not abandon all hope. Reagan’s comeback after 1976 just for years later provides a useful model for the potential future of the conservative movement. Twelve straight years of bad left wing policies will inevitably produce disastrous results. But what really finished Carter in 1980 was a combination of a weakening economy and the Iranian hostage crisis. That Hillary Clinton will continue the sort of feckless interventionism in foreign policy of Obama, that has all the negatives of both adventurism-neoconservatism and none of the countervailing positives of actual direction and purpose and, you know, that quaint notion of American interest, is basically beyond doubt. That style of foreign policy was invented by the Clinton administration. So that she will likely have equivalent problems to the hostage crisis tp deal with, is fairly easy to see. An increasingly isolationist American public may find arguments from a Rand Paul type Republican more amenable on those issues, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that less libertarian Republicans can credibly attack her on those issues in 2020. More importantly, there are good reasons to think Hillary Clinton may contend with a bad recession in the middle of her Presidency, and she will certainly not pursue policies that will actually be helpful in alleviating it. Even if she did, getting reelected in the near immediate aftermath of a bad recession, without the ability to credibly blame the economic crisis on the opposition, is a tall order. If there is a recession in 2018 or there abouts, I expect 2020 to be a Republican year.

For many of you, this message that we must remain in the political wilderness a bit longer, will be a bitter pill to swallow. But during that time, we may begin to regard this as strong, hopeful medicine.

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The Great Blogroll Purge

I regret to say that the time has come yet again to remove a large number of blogs and websites from my blogroll. In some cases, this is simply because the blog has not been active in a long time, and removal is simply long overdue. But sadly, many are being removed because I cannot, in good conscience, encourage the five or six people who have ever read this blog, to read websites which promote Trumpism.

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Advice and Affirmative Consent

(Before we begin, a bit of housekeeping. I have said all that I want to say, all that any should ever need to say, about Donald Trump. I shall speak of him no more in this post, and never again if I can help it.)

(And I know, I know what my maybe half of half a dozen readers are thinking (“Andrew! Where have you been in these dark times when we really need you!”~ Nobody) and I can assure you that if there was any reason to think we aren’t in the metaphorical end times of politics, a metaphorical Tribulation in which as a metaphorical Catholic I do not metaphorically believe, I’d probably post a lot more to try and reassure you. There’s nothing to be reassured about. It is that bad.)

There is much to say, and much has already been said, about the death of Supreme Court Justice and legal-theory giant Antonin Scalia. About the event itself it is probably best to say nothing at all. The cynical mind would perhaps think it awfully convenient for the left that Obama get one last chance inflict generational damage on the structure of America itself. But We All Agree that to even wonder whether anything nefarious might be at work is to flirt with insanity itself. And remember, it is what We All Agree To which determines what truth is, and surely not anything else.

But least you think my protestations a bit much, I am not here to talk about today whether a President who has said he’s good at killing people is above applying that to his domestic enemies when not above applying it to foreign civilians presumed guilty until proven innocent (no really, the way the Obama administration counts civilian casualties in drone strikes is by considering every military aged male an enemy combatant until intelligence posthumously exonerates them. I did not make that up. The New York Times may have.)

Instead I’m here to talk about consent. It’s a popular topic these days, especially among feminists, who are probably especially eager to see Scalia replaced with someone more willing to see rights to murder and free birth control where none plainly exist. These Social Justice Warriors who wax eloquent about the pervasive rape culture which literally tells young men that one of the most heinous crimes a person can commit is a perfectly okay thing to do-through such blatantly pro-rape things as that ancient, and clearly outmoded legal principle; Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat. Perhaps, however, before claiming that President Obama has a right to appoint whoever he wants to the Supreme Court, they ought to reconsider. Despite what some twitter leftist apparently believe, nominate and appoint are not words with identical meanings, which is perhaps why, you know, the Constitution refers to both separately. More to the point, however, the appropriate clause of the Constitution is the Advice and Consent clause (“[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint […] judges of the Supreme Court”), and Social Justice Warrior feminists who embrace a very strict notion of affirmative consent-whereby sex or intimate activity in effect requires a notary public to verify in writing that both parties agree to whatever actions will be undertaken by them, and even the reason as to why, before they occur, lest the male party later be legally considered guilty of rape or sexual assault, and again, I am not making this up, as a quick google search would verify)-ought to take note how quickly their male colleagues in the ongoing march of Progress now embrace the doctrine that a man is entitled to consent-As long as that man is Barack Obama.

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Donald Trump Is The Republican Obama

I remarked to my mother a few weeks (a month or so?) ago, that Donald Trump is “The Republican Candidate for the Low Information Voter.” In retrospect I believe I’ve underestimated him. Trump is something even more insidious than that. Donald Trump represents, I now believe, two distinct phenomena in the modern Republican Party, neither of which seem like good developments no matter how you look at it-at least, assuming you come at it from a perspective that cares even a bit about either the Republican Party or the Lockean political tradition in America (I care increasingly more about the latter than the former). The first, I do not wish to dwell on here, except to make a quip of it: Donald Trump is, for some on the American Right, their “Then Let Me Be Evil” moment. The second is more interesting, and disturbing. Dilbert comic creator Scott Adams, who seems to be a bit of Trump fan, has highlighted what I want to note specifically:

Now review Trump’s empty sentence: We need to take America back.

From whom? Notice the intentional lack of detail? In this case, the lack of detail is the powerful part of the sentence.

The media’s political filter automatically goes to immigration, and that interpretation is probably somewhat right. The problem is that it is only 10% of the explanation. The other 90% is what is happening in voters’ heads when they get an open-ended suggestion that someone has somehow stolen the country.

Who did this awful thing???

Is it the top one-percenters who stole all the country’s money?

Is it the liberals?

Is it the politically-correct people?

Is it the immigrants who are taking jobs?

Is it the wrong-headed people in general?

Is it the minorities? The women?

Is it just our reputation in the world that we lost?

Was it our former greatness we lost?

See how the open-ended suggestion works? Every voter is free to fill in the topic of their own greatest fear. Your brain is a movie that creates your personal history, and when the movie finds a gap, your imagination fills it in. It happens automatically and bypasses rational thought. As with the salesperson who has already made the sale, Trump says nothing you can dislike while giving you the freedom to fill in the blanks in the way that influences you the most.

Frighteningly true. But doesn’t this pattern sound eerily familiar? It should. This was the exact implicit strategy behind the “Hope and Change” campaign of Obama in 2008. Adams doesn’t point this out, and I’m not sure he’s even realized it (probably hasn’t?) but the Obama strategy was pretty much exactly to say things that allowed people to impute to Obama all their own grievances and preferred solutions, to imagine that what he meant by change was changing the things they felt needed changing. To fill in the blanks in the way that influences them the most while saying nothing they can dislike.

As it turns out the average Republican voter has nothing to be smug about over the libtards and low-fo voters after all. Trump is the Republican Obama, and Republicans are as effectively duped as everyone else. Doubt me? There’s some disturbing proof.

As noted by Hotair’s Allahpundit, polling proves that the mere imprimatur of Trump is all that it would take to turn a sizeable portion of the Republican electorate on to the non-existent merits of socialist medical care-among rather a lot else. In this respect Trump is like Obama in yet another way. For Trump’s supporters, his positions and policies, what he is actually after are unimportant, in much the same way it isn’t important what Indiana Jones is after in Raiders or Temple of Doom. For Trump’s supporters he is the protagonist, the hero of the great epic of our time, and it’s more important that he’s fighting the “bad guys” and winning than it is what he’s actually fighting for. To criticize Trump, even from the perspective of one who disdains “The Establishment” is to be, in the eyes of his supporters, part and parcel thereof. And why, exactly? Well, because The Establishment is also against Trump. Well I suspect the Republican Establishment-The “Washington Cartel” to borrow the phraseology of Senator Ted Cruz-is opposed to many people. That the enemy of thine enemy is ipso facto thy friend is in fact a very dangerous fallacy.

I want to say something else, though, too. There is something to be said for having this effective of a political entrepreneur on the Right. Donald Trump is not on the Right, but nevermind that. If Donald Trump is the only person who has learned anything from the Obama strategy, then the shame is on the rest of us, not on him. Sure he’s a clownish buffoon, and worse than that, a Leftist, but rather than play “ain’t it awful” about the stupidity of the American electorate imagine what other Republicans might have accomplished if they’d realized what he has-how to manipulate people. Oh, sure I can hear some of you thinking, it’s morally wrong to manipulate people. And I agree. But morality is not a suicide pact. Some on the Right should at least consider the idea rather than ride the moral high ground straight to abysmal depths-if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor. And here’s the problem I have with some of the smartest observers on the Right: they have either been taken in by Trump completely (See Ann Coulter, who, in 2011, seemed to recognize Trump as, at least, a political non-starter on par with Newt Gingrich) or they reserve for him such a degree of vitriol-combined unfortunately with an understandable singlemindedness that nevertheless recalls Churchill’s definition of a fanatic-as one scarcely sees from even them for all but the most contemptible of Democrats (See, for example, in an otherwise good column by Jonah Goldberg, the er, colorful suggestive that Trump has a reversed digestive tract, almost anything written lately by Kevin D Williamson (even though again, these are usually quite good), or George Will’s virtual paean to open borders which makes essentially zero effort to disguise basically calling Trump a Nazi-a piece of essentially no redeeming value whatsoever, from the Elder Statesman of Libertarian Conservatism no less). To me this seems the entirely wrong approach to dealing with the Trump phenomenon, but I sadly admit to not knowing the right way. The more unhinged Trump’s opponents on the Right sound, the more desperately the flail to bring their friends and fellow travelers back to sanity, the more they raise suspicion in the eyes of Trump supporters, and the less they listen. Again, the right way to deal with this I do not know.

On an un-Trump related note, kind of, but giving you more reason to be pessimistic: I don’t think the Republicans are going to win this next election. Not just that there’s an out-sized chance they won’t deserve to (though there is, since if ever there was someone who deserves to join the esteemed ranks of failed Presidential Candidates it is Jeb Bush) but that the prediction markets seem to be fairly confident that the odds favor the Democrats at this point, and they have been confident and consistent on the degree to which this is true for some time. Why exactly? If I had to guess it looks like the markets believe the Republicans are more likely to nominate a candidate with poor chances of winning than they are someone with good chances of winning. I say that because there are candidates individually that the markets think could, if nominated, win (unfortunately, Jeb Bush is, in fact, one of them, which suggests a good mantra for the Republican Establishment: vote for the least conservative candidate who can win-but on the other hand, Rand Paul’s odds of winning on the slim chance he is nominated are also better than not, which suggests he is, in fact, the Most Conservative Candidate Who Can Win). What candidate who can’t win might they think the Republicans likely to nominate?

Oh yeah.

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In Praise of Libertarian Cosmopolitanism

While I have no patience whatsoever for those libertarians who advocate for unrestricted immigration into the United States of the present day, I want to be clear that I am not opposed to freedom of human movement in general. In fact I quite support it. Communist China in the present and the Soviet Union in the not to distant past are countries that would have benefited greatly-if not their governments-from open borders. Indeed, any country which does not have some form of democratic government-whether a representative republic or a direct democracy-never has any good reason for not permitting essentially totally free migration across its national boundaries. And my patriotism is not nationalism, I am instead fundamentally loyal to a set of philosophical ideas-the closest to the platonic ideal of which ever extant in this world is more or less embodied in the Constitution of the United States of America. I call this “Conservatism”-but not because I am a Status Quoist. The most direct cause for my insistence on using “Conservative” to describe a set of ideals which at their earliest articulation in the English Language would have been called “Liberal” is that is what my mother taught me to call them. Who taught her? Ronald Reagan. There’s a chain of such usage I could probably trace back through many people, among them Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley. But I think only my mother uses “Conservative” in precisely the sense I mean it. But I strongly identify with many libertarians or libertarian leaning individuals who prefer to call themselves “liberal” or “classical liberal,” harkening back to an older use of the term. And I believe that sound economic reasoning has proved for centuries that the restrain of trade in the name of National Wealth improvishes both the nation exercising it and the people of the world as a whole. More than that, I agree with the libertarians in their economic cosmopolitanism-their moral critique of economic nationalism; attempting to gain as a nation at the expense of the people of the rest of the world is morally wrong. The economic well-being of all human beings has equal claim on our attention, morally and as a matter of thoughtful analysis. So can only respond to Mr. Dinerman’s call for a little less internationalism, a little more “pro-America” interventionism, on the part of “Conservatives” with open contempt. Protectionism, f**k no.

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Let’s Teach Michael Barone How To Rig A Majority Vote

I tried to read this article, I really did, but I couldn’t make it past this huge non sequitur:

Why do Republicans have so many candidates and Democrats so few? That’s directly contrary to the conventional wisdom that Republicans nominate the next guy in line, while Democrats tend to have multi-candidate brawls.
Mr. Barone seems to be under the impression that a field with a large number of candidates is somehow more difficult for the Republican Party Establishment to rig in favor of the one guy they want to win, and will get to win. Let’s teach him how to rig a majority vote.
Imagine for a moment that I have two friends. Let’s call them my Establishment Friend and my Low Information Friend. We’ve decided we want to all pitch in to pay for dinner for the three of us. We all agree to hold a series of votes between each of our preferences in pairs. But my Establishment friend is devious and clever: for some reason, I’ve given him the power to decide in what order we vote on our options. Moreover, he knows that I most prefer Hamburgers, but prefer Pizza to Tacos, but my low information friend prefers Pizza, but prefers Tacos to Hamburgers. Here’s how he insures that Tacos wins: First of all, the rule will be that we will vote on two pairs of options, and the loser of each vote drops out-notice that this is more or less how the primary process works. So he says we’ll vote on Hamburgers versus Pizza first. He votes with me and Hamburgers wins out over Pizza, so Pizza drops out of the race. Next we vote on Hamburgers versus Tacos. This time, my establishment friend votes against Hamburgers in favor of Tacos, knowing that this is my low information friend’s preference if he can’t have Pizza, who has already dropped out of the race. So, naturally Tacos wins. This is called the Condorcet Paradox, but the important thing that Michael Barone needs to know about the Condorcet Paradox is this: The Minimum Necessary Number Of Candidates For This To Occur Is Three. In other words, a greater number of candidates increases the ability of the savvy vote order setter to rig the outcome, because no candidate has a clear majority of support as anyone’s top preference.
If irrefutable mathematics and logic is a little too abstract for Mr Barone, however, perhaps I can lay out a highly probable real life scenario: suppose that in the first several primaries, Donald Trump runs away with the Low Information Republican vote, and gradually the better conservative alternatives drop out of the race, having divided their support. The Establishment simply tells their preferred candidate to hang in there, make solid showings in these early states but they don’t really need to win them. Once all the better alternatives have dropped out, the Republican party is faced with a choice: Donald Trump, or the Establishment candidate. The vast majority of Republicans can’t stand Trump, the predictable result will be that the Establishment candidate defeats Trump and secures the nomination. Gosh, does that sound a little plausible? More than a little really.
Mr. Barone: The notion that Republicans simply nominate the Next Guy In Line is based on strong observational evidence and historical precedent. It’s based on actually examining the outcomes of the primary processes! You are evidently very impressed with the sideshow of the process itself. When the Establishment nominates it’s preferred candidate, however, you will deny that your mental model of how the primary process works (“We had a lot of options! The system works!”) has been proven wrong, using the same arguments you’re making now. You’ve already decided the process isn’t rigged and will be impervious to evidence, since you clearly are already. But sadly, you’re just wrong. The primary election process is nothing but elaborate legerdemain, and it always has been.

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