Sunday, November 12, 2017

Political Correctness Run Amok Is Destroying Our Country!

This tweet by our Supreme Leader, the Protector of Democracy and the Savior of the American Worker, has sparked hilarity in the tweetosphere.  Which it should.  I mean, wotta snowflake, right?  Comrade Jong Un is just telling it like it is, instead of caving in to Political Correctness like some pussy-hat wearing, virtue-signalling Social Justice Warrior!  That's how he rolls.

Slightly more seriously, like others who found Trump's quotation entertaining, I can't help wondering what he was thinking.  For Trump to complain that Kim Jong Un was being mean to him is like Richard Dawkins complaining that Mary Midgley was mean to him, or like being accused of meanness and cynicism by Roy Edroso's commenters, or like Tony Blair defending Saudi Arabia as an oasis of tolerance in the Middle East as opposed to Iran, which has gone over to the Dark Side.  Or like people complaining about the presence of black people in Asgard in a movie which portrays Thor and the Hulk as BFFs flying from one fantasy sphere to another in a space ship.  Surreality leaves satire fallen flat on its face at the starting line once again.

But then Corey Robin posted some good stuff on Facebook.  (I'd already begun following him on Twitter and intend to get to his book The Reactionary Mind... well, sometime in this millennium.)  For example:
It's interesting to watch the mainstream commentariat—which initially was convinced that autocracy, authoritarianism, and fascism were imminent—inch its way toward a more realistic assessment of the Trump presidency, of how weak and constrained it's been.

In the spring, around the time of the healthcare debacle, Ezra Klein's line shifted from authoritarianism imminent to "yeah, he's being checked, but you won't like Donald Trump when he's checked; he's scary and authoritarian when he's checked." Now it's "Donald Trump may want to be an autocrat but he's too incompetent to deliver."

While the move to some greater apprehension of reality is welcome, the problem remains that the analysis is inordinately personal, not structural or institutional or political. You can see that in lines like these: "What if Trump were focused, disciplined, capable? What if his ends were the same but his means were changed? What if he worked assiduously to build relationships with the intelligence agencies, the military, and congressional leaders? What if he let illiberalism drive his actions even as he carefully chose his words? What if he was able to build a well-staffed executive branch where talented loyalists worked daily to achieve his goals?"

There was a candidate like that: his name was Ted Cruz. There's a reason the GOP rejected him. They loved the fact that Trump was undisciplined, uncouth, a total mess of a man. That was his appeal. So it's just silly to now imagine a Trump who isn't Trump.
This fits with my own take on Trump, and on liberals who concern-troll about his incompetence.  Also on the familiar liberal flip-flopping, which goes back to the beginning of his candidacy, between seeing him as a highly dangerous Supervillain about whom Something Must Be Done, and as a ridiculous orange clown who will inevitably self-destruct in a few Friedman Units from the crushing weight of his own sheer awfulness.

(I have to wonder, though: do liberals indulge in all that deranged ranting and abuse, not out of helpless irrationality but because they saw that it worked for Trump and think that if they make enough fag jokes about him, he'll disappear?  If so, they're even more stupid than I usually think.)

But I have to quibble over Robin's claim that the GOP "loved the fact that Trump was undisciplined, uncouth, a total mess of a man."  As Robin knows, Trump's fans, who indeed loved his lack of discipline and uncouthness, were not only Republicans, and the GOP establishment did not love him.  Just as the Democrats had assumed that the 2016 presidential nomination belonged to Hillary Clinton, the Republicans had assumed that their crown would go to Jeb Bush -- or failing that, to some other party regular.  Many mainstream Republicans repudiated Trump very strongly until he was elected, and then they hitched their stars to him in the largely correct belief that he would go along with their disaster-capitalist, shock-doctrine agenda.

I've been a bit puzzled by the way that many commentators, even on the left like Robin, seem to forget that Trump represented an insurgence within the GOP, just as Sanders did within the Democratic Party.  I gather that the comparison makes the more centrist among them uncomfortable, as though Sanders's message and program were the same as Trump's; though maybe that's because Sanders's mild social-democratic message and program was as outrageous in their eyes as it was in the GOP's.

In another Facebook post Robin pointed out:
As he nears the end of his first year in office, Trump has had the worst average approval ratings of any president since Truman. At the same time, his presidency has seen first-year gains in the stock market not matched by any president since World War II, save Kennedy and George HW Bush, and analysts predict at least another year of strong gains. The gains aren't because of any expectation of tax cuts (since the healthcare debacle, a lot of Wall Street has thought those cuts wouldn't come through) but because of strong corporate earnings and revenues.

So while analysts tell us that the political system is in complete meltdown—on the verge of some form of systemic collapse—profits, earnings, and stocks continue to grow apace. The combination of political anxiety and economic euphoria is interesting. And raises questions:
... which you should read the rest of the post to see.  What interested me first was that when Trump was elected, the stock market plunged, and numerous liberals thought that was great because it would punish Trump's supporters.  But very quickly the stock market rebounded, as Robin says, so are Trump's supporters being rewarded now?

The other thing that interested me was that Barack Obama's apologists cited, as evidence of his great work fixing the economy, the fabulous stock market numbers, the record corporate profits, the low unemployment, the many many jobs created -- just as we are now seeing under Trump, but do Democrats admit even grudgingly that by their own standards Trump is as great as Obama for the economy?  They do not.  There seems to be a rather embarrassed silence from them on the issue, except when they point to the Rust Belt, the opioid epidemic, and similar problems as evidence of Trump's failure (and as the just punishment of the fools who voted for him).  But all those problems are part of Obama's legacy, the other part of it, which affected the mass of Americans rather than Obama's corporate base.  Trump hasn't corrected them, and he won't, but neither did Obama, nor did he worry overmuch about them except to promise to fix them at election time.

Which brings me to a familiar paradox.  It's a commonplace among liberals and progressives that the mass of voters -- Them, the Sheeple -- neither know nor care about the Issues, only about Personalities and their primitive Tribal prejudices.  And yet, as such liberals and progressives also know, because from time to time they appeal to the fact, the overwhelming majority of American voters support progressive views and positions: Medicare for All or even a national health service, higher taxes for the rich, more social and less military spending, etc.  In the past day or two I happened on an article which connected these dots (I'll add the link when I find it), though I don't remember that it proposed any remedy for the problem.

It's pretty clear from such polling data that ordinary citizens do care about issues, and even have surprisingly leftish ideas on what to do about them.  Yet, the commonplace continues, they Vote Against Their Interests!  Why do they do that?  Why did they vote for Hillary instead of Bernie, and for Trump instead of Hillary?

Well, one fair answer would be that politicians have made pretty promises along those lines before, and broken them.  I've argued that Obama, probably more than any other American President, refuted the idea that we could make a better country by voting in more and better Democrats.  From the moment of his election in 2008 he made his dedication to the corporatist sector, to the attrition of civil liberties, and to endless war so clear that only pundits and party loyalists could miss it.  Clinton worked in the Obama tradition.  You could only vote for her to signify your opposition to Trump, not because you really believed she would do what most Americans wanted: decent health care, more social spending, higher taxes on the rich, less military spending and warfare, and so on.  It also was clear that even if Sanders really had no chance of winning the nomination, the Democratic Party made damn sure he wouldn't.

In the face of this, there was no self-delusion at all in voters not liking Clinton  -- though it must be stressed again, since even her most ardent apologists tend to forget it, that she won the popular vote decisively.  Most American voters voted for Clinton, against their interests, because they recognized how dangerous Trump was, and that he didn't stand for most voters any more than Clinton did.  Clinton lost the election because of an anti-democratic institution mandated by the Constitution itself, the Electoral College.  (One of the funniest -- not funny-haha but funny-ouch -- responses I saw to the outcome by liberals was one who wrote that the purpose of the Electoral College was to keep a total fascist moron from getting into the White House.  This, although the actual result of the 2016 election was that the Electoral College put a fascist moron into the White House.  It's the sort of thing that shows that liberals and progressives who jeer at the stupidity of the Sheeple need to curb their own arrogance.)  And given that, again, why should voters believe that Voting Rightly will get them what they want?