A Wince-Worthy Debate

I hate to say it, but Tuesday night’s debate underscored just how good Trump’s chances are in 2020, assuming his term doesn’t end early.

Sanders and Warren

First, you had Sanders and particularly Warren evading the hard questions on single-payer health care. They’re liable to get eaten alive in 2020 if the Trump campaign raises the issues of how to pay for it or scare-mongers about taking away people’s private insurance. (And trust me, if it comes to that, it will.) Warren’s performance was particularly depressing given how well she did at the LGBTQ forum.

There are other hard single-payer questions to ask, of course (like how realistic it is to trust a broken political system with a health insurance monopoly), but that same broken system will ensure that one doesn’t get raised. Paying for it, and taking away people’s private insurance are the ones that can sink Sanders and Warren.

It is theoretically possible to resolve both the above problems with appropriate messaging, of course (single-payer has been successfully introduced in other countries). The rub is, I have as of yet seen no evidence that either Sanders or Warren are good enough at messaging to accomplish that.

Biden

That leaves Biden as the only likely eventual candidate who doesn’t have that liability. The trouble here is that Biden is an exemplar of the stereotypical Democratic Party failure-seeking missile of a candidate. Just like Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, and Hillary Clinton, he is a purportedly “safe, responsible” choice which is in fact neither, because he represents a failed status quo that for decades has seen the rich get richer while everyone else slips further behind.

The Democratic Party elite was sure that Barack Obama was unelectable in 2008, and threw its weight behind Hillary Clinton, yet Obama won that election handily. The party establishment prevailed in 2016 with Hillary, who lost against the weakest opponent any presidential candidate has faced in recent history. That alone should underscore how piss-poor the judgment of the party elite is about electability.

Nominate Biden and enough voters will choose to sit the election out to make another Trump win likely.

Buttigieg

He’s an interesting guy. Atypically for a political moderate, he’s actually a fearless thinker. As such, he is not afraid to embrace ideas from the left if his logic leads him there; he outright mentioned the Biden problem I touched on above. He also mentioned some of the single-payer pitfalls. The trouble is he’s not even 40 years old, and he has no political experience save being the mayor of a mid-sized Indiana city. Plus, at best he’s polling at just a hair above 5%. Odds are he’s an also-ran.

The Other Also-Rans

They are, well, also-rans. They’re not going to get the nomination, either.

The Depressing Take-Away

Simply, no candidate capable of winning the primary seems likely to prevail against Trump in November.

Democrats are Still Bringing Knives to Gun Fights

As soon as Trump decided to betray the Kurds, the House Democrats should have announced with much fanfare that they are adding an investigation of Trump’s dealings with Turkey to the list of impeachment investigations. After all, Trump is himself on record as saying in 2015:

I have a little conflict of interest ’cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul. It’s a tremendously successful job. It’s called Trump Towers—two towers, instead of one, not the usual one; it’s two… They have a strong leader.

To that add an investigation into Trump’s willful complicity with the genocide Saudi Arabia is currently committing in Yemen. Trump has business links with the House of Saud, too.

What’s particularly tragic about this failure is that carping on these issues could be expected to have a significant degree of cross-party appeal, and thus be able to peel off a fraction of the GOP vote. And it doesn’t require compromising any way on core principles, unless for some reason being weak on corruption is a core principle.

But, neither announcement happened. The institutional incompetence of the party that couldn’t win against a candidate as flawed as Trump marches on.

The LGBTQ Forum

In case you weren’t aware, was a Democratic Candidates’ forum in Iowa recently that specialized on LGBTQ issues.

Not a Shitshow

Many Republicans, even those of the Never Trump variety, found it wince-inducing. And yes, if you search through the whole 2½ hour forum, you can easily compile a video of the “worst of the worst” excerpts. That’s more a function of the length of the event than of how bad (or not) it was. Any 2½ hour forum is going to have its off moments.

Only to Be Expected

The LGBTQ community is one of the Democrat’s core constituencies, and it is an identity politics issue*. Thus, such issues can be brought up without the perceived risks of class politics, something the Establishment wing of the party is loathe to broach. Given that partywide consensus, such a forum is only to be expected.

* Note that labeling something “identity politics” is not a dismissal of it as an issue unworthy of concern. Most so-called identity politics is tightly bound to the cause of human liberation, and thus critically important. The rub is, so is class politics. Identity politics only becomes a problem when it is pursued in place of class politics, not in addition to class politics. Focusing on class politics without identity politics is as big and glaring an omission as is focusing on identity politics without class politics.

There Were Problems

There was little or no effort made to standardize any questions, making comparisons between the candidates more difficult. Moreover, the moderators really slipped up on the format, allowing Williamson to give an opening statement but not any other candidates.

Biden Did Poorly

He stumbled when he wasn’t allowed his opening statement. Clearly, candidates had been informed they were to give one, then the moderators slipped up. He should have been pushier. Then he really stumbled when his past record was brought up, in many cases trying to employ technicalities and weasel words to deny his past positions.

Look, Biden has a problem: no other candidate has held an an office as high as he has, and public attitudes on LGBTQ issues have shifted a lot in the past quarter century. To get where he did, he had to espouse ideas, whether he believed them or not, which are now considered unacceptably backward. Biden probably couldn’t be that frank, but he could have said that despite his age, he’s open to learning, and his evolution on LGBTQ issues is evidence of that. Instead, he came off as slimy and evasive.

Sanders Did Worst of All

He was a no-show. To reiterate, focusing on class politics without identity politics is as big and glaring an omission as is focusing on identity politics without class politics.

Warren Did Well

There wasn’t much schoolmarm on display that night. She really connected with her audience. Her answer on the marriage issue was a classic. If this is a representative sample of how Warren is now presenting herself, she is a much more viable candidate than she used to be, and probably now the most viable candidate, period.

Will Kurdistan be the Tipping Point?

It just might.

It’s such a heinously awful betrayal that it’s beyond sickening.

Genocide is the likely consequence.

Particularly if evidence of it starts showing up on TV, it just might underscore how with Trump, there simply is no bottom, in a way that’s sufficient to convince at least 20 Republican senators to vote to remove Trump from office.

It’s Biden Versus Warren Now

It’s official: Bernie Sanders suffered a heart attack earlier this week. That should serve to demonstrate that he is indeed personally past the age at which he has any business running for the most high-stakes and stressful job in the world.

As such, Elizabeth Warren now will enjoy a monopoly on the progressive vote, and none of the other candidates save for Joe Biden are polling high enough to be regarded as anything but also-rans.

If Anyone Says They Know What Will Happen, They Are Lying

Impeachment is an unusual process. There’s only three other ones in the past to look to for precedents. Moreover, none of those three had accusations as serious as the present one.

Of the three, only the Andrew Johnson impeachment happened in a situation anywhere near as polarized as the present one, and that one happened in an effectively less polarized situation, since (with the exception of Tennessee) the states which had seceded had not yet been readmitted to the Union and therefore had no formal representation in Congress.

We are, in other words, in uncharted territory. There is really no saying how this will all play out.

The Transcript

The main thing to keep in mind is not what it says, but where it comes from: the most lawless, secretive, and dishonest administration in U.S. history. As such, the accuracy of its contents is not to be trusted.

Alas, the media seems to be taking the whole thing much more at face value than it deserves. I will note that it is very early in the process (the alleged transcript was released only this morning), but this is still disturbing, as it amounts to intentionally inaccurate reporting in a way that benefits the Trump regime.

Given that the odds strongly favor the transcript being deliberately crafted to make the administration look good, anything it contains that does not make it look good should be taken as particularly damning, because it means that despite the Trump regime’s efforts to whitewash it, it is still clear that impeachable conduct occurred.

Whatever the transcript says, odds favor what was actually said was even worse.

Will the Democrats Wake Up? They Better.

  1. Trump cheated once, colluding with Russia to win the 2016 election.
  2. He just got caught cheating again, attempting to collude with Ukraine.
  3. These are just the instances of cheating we’ve heard about. There may well be others.
  4. He will certainly try to cheat again. Why shouldn’t he? Literally everything in his life up to this point (in both politics and business) has taught him he can get away with cheating.
  5. You think it’s bad now? It’s just the primaries. Wait until the final election.

More Democrats are thankfully getting it. But will Pelosi?

If she doesn’t, it’s past time to replace her with a speaker who is serious about acting like a member of the opposition in an open political system, instead of a victim with Stockholm syndrome.

Andrew Sullivan’s Brexit Blindness

In this collection of recent essays, Andrew Sullivan starts out by making a convincing case that just because blatant hypocrisy about racism and slavery is a narrative of U.S. history, this doesn’t necessarily make it the narrative.

Then, a few essays later, is a piece by Sullivan that makes a very similar error. It starts by presenting how being independent for over 1,000 years is a narrative of British history, then artfully slides into arguing as if it is the narrative that pertains to the Brexit issue. No mention is made of other factors, such as lying and conniving politicians, ones who recently passed off a Brexit bait-and-switch on the British people.

Bringing that factor into the picture suggests a completely different course of action: a Brexit referendum redo: now that you know what Brexit really entails, is it still worth it to proceed with the process? This doesn’t reject the narrative that Sullivan set forth, and if the redo vote comes out pro-Brexit, then it really should be game over for continued U.K. membership in the E.U. Likewise, if the Remain vote prevails in the redo, then it should be game over for Brexit.

But Sullivan apparently couldn’t see that, despite recently writing another essay where he easily perceived the same principle. It all goes to show how one’s own proclivities (conservative nationalism, in Sullivan’s case) can cloud one’s vision. Sullivan seems to have a measure of “Brexit Blindness” of his own.

Facts and Logic Are Overrated

Look, I don’t like the fact that people don’t politically act rationally very much, either.

The words in that opening paragraph were chosen carefully: “politically act rationally,” not “vote rationally.” Voting is merely one form of possible political action amongst many, and it’s questionable how rational being satisfied with the “choice” of voting for Establishment Candidate A versus Establishment Candidate B really is, anyhow.

But, to reiterate, people don’t politically act rationally very much. Not all people, of course, but most. It’s a general rule, and the exceptions prove the rule; they don’t refute it.

After all, if people acted rationally, class society would have died a long, long time (as in millennia) ago. But it didn’t. People do not by and large act in their rational self-interest; they tend to be quite willing to support authority hierarchies which are personally harmful to them. Like it or not, them’s the facts.

Faced with that, one must choose between making positive change with people as they actually are, or clinging to some comfortable myths about making change with people as one might hope they were. Yes, there’s the option of persuading people to change (and people have changed; slavery and feudalism were once considered inevitable), but that takes time, and we don’t have time. There’s a fascist (thankfully, an incompetent one, but he’s doing plenty of damage even so) in the White House and a climate crisis that’s getting worse with each passing year.

And it is in that light we come to some advice from former GOP political consultant Rick Wilson. I’m actually somewhat pleasantly surprised by how good most of the advice is; I was expecting him to waste much ink on his wincingly stupid “this is a referendum on Trump, nothing more” strategy. He didn’t.

Instead, he took issue with:

  1. The importance Democrats place on policies,
  2. The lack of importance Democrats place on the electoral college, and
  3. The importance the Democrats place on various shibboleths.

As he wrote, a good slogan or two is going to matter more than policy papers, no matter how logical and well-written the latter might be. People tend to vote based on emotions, not facts, and a well-chosen slogan can do a vastly better job of engaging emotions than the best possible policy paper can ever hope to do.

So far as the electoral college goes, it’s a hot mess, and no cogent argument exists for it continuing to exist; it just ended up facilitating the same intemperate extremism it was purportedly put in place to frustrate. But none of that matters: it’s in the United States Constitution, getting it out or neutering it is going to be a protracted process, and there’s absolutely no conceivable scenario for completing that process before the next presidential election. Like it or not, the 2020 election will happen via the electoral college. As such, it only makes sense to campaign in a way compatible with that fact.

And so far as the hot button issues go, most of them are either identity politics things which are nowhere near as important (or universally appealing) as class politics, or they’re just plain stupid things that miss the point. In the latter category we have the insistence on making health insurance government-run instead of making health care as universal and egalitarian as possible (don’t confuse ends with means, Democrats).

Then we have a recent article by Jennifer Rubin which goes into how Trump just pushed some big hot buttons for conservative and middle America types by stupidly planning to invite the Taliban to Camp David in the same week as the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

One could argue that it logically doesn’t much matter for the mechanics of negotiating a treaty, but this forgets the whole point of this essay: facts and logic are overrated when it comes to campaigns. Emotions matter a lot. Many people have a very negative gut reaction to what Trump just did. So why not capitalize on it and hit Trump hard where he’s weak?

Those who despise Trump might think the attacks a bit odd, but by and large we won’t be turned off by them. We’ll just think them odd, and vote to defeat Trump anyhow. Meanwhile, they might just persuade a few wavering both-sides-ists that the Democrats are better than the GOP (and to vote accordingly), as well as helping to demoralize a few Republicans into sitting this one out or casting a protest vote for a third party. And there’s only a few votes that need to be changed in a few key swing states to tilt the coming elections against Trump.

Yes, yes: This all sucks, and people arguably should approach things more logically. No arguments there. But, at this time, there is real value in hitting a reset button and getting a more sane Establishment (as opposed to a basically fascist one) in power. Therefore, there is real value in doing whatever it takes to unseat Trump, even if it means playing the standard stupid political games.