Why Not Biden Again?

Published at 11:47 on 24 November 2022

Earlier this month I wrote (emphasis added):

DeSantis loses to whatever Democrat (hopefully not Biden, but more on that later) runs against him.

Why not? Mainly age. Biden was already the oldest presidential candidate ever last time. I appreciate that he’s done better than anticipated, but he’s still not getting any younger and I think the Democrats can manage better (and probably doing a better job of inspiring voter enthusiasm) than running an octogenarian who strongly hinted when he ran last time that he would only serve one term.

Time to step aside and let a new generation serve. Someone like Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, perhaps.

What DeSantis’ Landslide Says

Published at 09:14 on 20 November 2022

A few days ago, I wrote:

Already the knives are coming out for Trump in the GOP, with no shortage of suggestions that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (more later on what his victory in the Florida gubernatorial race says)…

DeSantis ran for governor against Charlie Crist, a man who previously served as Governor of Florida… as a Republican. He ran a typical, DNC-approved, milquetoast Mr. Nice Guy campaign, trying to run to the center and make a rational appeal to the supposed policy preferences of voters. And he lost. Big.

Contrast with Pennsylvania. In the Democratic Party primary, there were two candidates. The party establishment’s favourite was Conor Lamb, who ran a standard Mr. Nice Guy campaign. There was plenty of hand-wringing amongst that establishment when John Fetterman, who ran a scrappier and more populist campaign, prevailed in the primary. Yet Fetterman won, and won despite having his clock cleaned in a debate while still in recovery from a stroke he suffered.

DeSantis’ landslide illustrates just how poorly the traditional Democratic Party campaign strategy works, and just how out of touch with political reality it is.

So, He’s Running

Published at 20:10 on 15 November 2022

Really, this is so much not a surprise. This is Trump we are talking about. He’s always been a legend in his own mind. Anything bad that happens is always someone else’s fault — never his.

Of course he chose to run. This is the most predictable story since the sun rising this morning.

Could This Be the Beginning of the End?

Published at 19:35 on 9 November 2022

The beginning of the end of Trumpism, that is.

The dust has yet to fully settle on the midterm elections, but what we do know is that the standard shellacking of the in-party did not happen this time. Even Lindsey Graham has openly said so.

Already the knives are coming out for Trump in the GOP, with no shortage of suggestions that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (more later on what his victory in the Florida gubernatorial race says) would make a better standard-bearer for their party. (As unlikable as I find DeSantis, he’s still better than Trump.)

But here’s the thing: I have thought there would be such tipping points many times before, most recently after the failed coup attempt on January 6th. Every time, it did not happen. The GOP kissed and made up with Trump. Maybe this time is different, but I can’t get my hopes up.

Suppose for sake of argument, it actually is different this time. Then what?

First Trump is still Trump. He’s never had the emotional maturity to engage in honest self-assessment before, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that he has suddenly and for no explicable reason acquired this ability. Trump never thinks he is anything but the greatest ever. He never thinks anything is his fault.

If Trump doesn’t get the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, he will say it is because the whole process is rigged and it was unfairly stolen from him. Then he will run as an independent in all 50 states. His base of fanatical, sheep-like followers will vote for him and not the GOP.

Suppose that’s only 5 to 10 percent of the GOP. That’s still enough to doom them. DeSantis loses to whatever Democrat (hopefully not Biden, but more on that later) runs against him.

At that that point, the earliest the GOP can win back the White House is 2028. By then, Trump will either be dead or in the old folks’ home. For that matter, so will a significant chunk of his base, who leans to an older demographic. Those still alive will have the same short memory that most Americans have, and will have mostly forgotten about Trump.

As such, 2028 will be the first year the GOP can realistically hope to win back the White House. Even if they do, it will be with a more garden-variety conservative who does not pose such an existential threat to political democracy.

But, to reiterate, this only happens if the knives stay out for Trump. Also, GOP strategists have no doubt run just this scenario through their heads, and don’t much like the idea of waiting until 2028 to get the White House back. So the temptation to kiss and make up with Trump will be very real.

On the other hand, they just might go through with dumping Trump. Rage and the desire for revenge are very real things.

So yes, this might be the beginning of the end. But, to reiterate, I can’t get my hopes up.

Three Rules Regarding Haiti

Published at 09:25 on 6 November 2022

Rule No. 1: Stay Out

Odds disfavor a military whose official history glorifies itself from being able to honestly assess how a legacy of intervention in the Western Hemisphere, including in Haiti itself, presents serious obstacles when it comes to being trusted by the Haitians.

Odds get even worse when it comes to political maneuvering in Congress that will end up pressuring the military, and political maneuvering in an electorate (which will end up pressuring Congress) that understands history even worse than those in Congress and the military do.

“Stabilize Haiti” is a vague mission with no clear endgame. Any invading US troops will be asked to perform missions whose goals are increasingly implausible over time. It will turn into a quagmire that builds upon the already significant distrust of the United States in the Western Hemisphere and adds to it.

Rule No. 2: If You Ignore Rule No. 1, Keep It Simple and Get Out Fast

This is mentioned because the chattering classes are already cranking up their propaganda mills in favor of ignoring Rule No. 1, which is as a result likely to be ignored.

Don’t set out to “stabilize Haiti.” Set out to, for example, secure the port from the gangs stopping it from being used to import food and other needed items. When you accomplish that, declare your mission has been accomplished, congratulate yourself, and get out.

Rule No. 3: I Told You So

Because, face it, odds favor both Rules Nos. 1 and 2 being ignored.

Chaos and Surprises at Twitter

Published at 19:14 on 4 November 2022

So, we are getting the chaos and surprises I predicted earlier.

The predicted exodus of users hasn’t happened, though. What has happened is a bunch of advertisers putting their spending on pause and an (involuntary) exodus of employees. Or should I say the exodus hasn’t happened yet. It still might, if the user experience becomes as intolerable as the employee experience just has.

Regarding the latter, it is hard to imagine something more destructive and disruptive to a business than to suddenly lay off about half of your staff:

  1. Nobody was really planning for this, so it has doubtless thrown lots of plans into disarray. Projects that were near completion will now be put on hold, and likely end up totally unused. All the labor (labor that Twitter paid for) spent on them will have been wasted.
  2. If you lay off that many people in a hurry, you are not going to make very good decisions about who to lay off, for the simple reason that rushed decisions are seldom good decisions.
  3. Any set of layoffs tends to increase the overall fraction of waste and inefficiency in an organization. The waste and inefficiency often has power inside the bureaucracy, and acts to preserve itself. Cushy jobs are good for those who hold them, after all. It is possible to fight this tendency with good planning, but see point 2 above. There is not good planning here.
  4. Twitter has just become a horrible place to work at. Nobody likes to work in a horrible workplace. So some workers are going to quit and work elsewhere. Which workers can most easily quit and work elsewhere? Why, the most skilled and valuable ones, whose labor is in the most demand, of course. This is yet another factor that will act to decrease efficiency.
  5. Those who remain will be overworked. Tired, overworked workers tend to produce lower quality work. Yet another hit to overall efficiency.

And at the same time Musk is doing this, he is driving his advertisers, his main source of revenue, away.

It is almost as if being wealthy and famous does not automatically make one an expert at everything. Imagine that.

Ironically, this might all end up being Elon Musk’s gift to the world, just not in the way Musk intended: if Musk destroys Twitter (and unless he corrects course, he just might), maybe something better will replace it.

A Necessary Speech

Published at 19:43 on 2 November 2022

Biden’s speech was necessary. It wasn’t the speech I would give about the current situation, of course, but Biden is in a vastly different situation than I am in and his politics are not mine. That said, the basics were correct: the coming election is a choice between autocracy and democracy.

The question is: do enough Americans care enough about democracy? To paraphrase what I wrote in an earlier article, if we have a fascism-friendly public, then fascism becomes basically inevitable. I chose the term “fascism-friendly” deliberately; it is not necessary for the public to be majority fascist. All that is necessary is for enough of the public to be friendly to the idea of maybe giving fascism a little whirl and seeing how it goes.

Of course, the very concept that fascism can be given a little whirl is fatally flawed: once fascists get power, they don’t easily give it up. Then the regrets kick in, but it is too late.