TRUMPED

Posted in Rants on February 22nd, 2016 by Ed

For what seems like forever we have been waiting for the Trump campaign to come to an end, to reach the point at which the joke will be over and the GOP will pick a real candidate. As you may recall I thought the end of his campaign would come when the actual voting began and the lack of a ground game and professional campaign organization would catch up with him. Unfortunately to knock Trump off his perch there is another necessary ingredient that has not materialized: an alternative candidate who isn't complete garbage. There remains a chance that Republicans can rally around one of the others – most likely Rubio, whom I argued five years ago was the only candidate in their field with any semblance of personal appeal. But the window in which that could happen is diminishing.

In the future we may look back at the Jeb! campaign as one of the most spectacular failures in the history of American politics. One got the impression all along that he was their Mitt Romney-esque fallback option, that if none of the other candidates caught fire the big money people behind the party could go with Jeb! and at the very least feel confident that he wouldn't screw anything up too badly. His ineptitude as a candidate took everyone by surprise. He proved incapable of generating any momentum despite his massive bank account and near-universal name recognition. Imagine Hillary Clinton spending $150 million and never finishing better than 4th in a primary and you get the picture of what Bush managed to do.

The stunning failure of their empty vessel / cipher / hereditary heir apparent has left the GOP scrambling, though. Trump's level of support is what it is, and if the party could unify behind one other candidate he remains beatable. But which one? Jeb! was abysmal. Rand Paul was a non-starter. Recycled evangelical puds like Santorum and Huckabee never got off the ground. Christie was never taken seriously. Fiorina sounded good on paper but whenever she opened her mouth everything in the room died. Kasich is far too dull and too "liberal" (the imaginary GOP version of liberal) to appease competing factions in the party. Carson really isn't even running. That leaves Cruz, who looks like a cut-rate mortician and sounds like the lunatic he is, and Rubio, who can't seem to do anything except repeat canned phrases interminably.

Now that we are down to four candidates (excluding Carson) and one of them is not acceptable to the GOP base (Kasich), look for the big right wing donors and the RNC leadership to throw their weight behind Rubio, or perhaps Cruz, in a last ditch effort to save themselves from Trump. The more they dither on choosing between the two, the higher the chance that it will be too late by the time they act. In an ideal GOP scenario, Cruz would accept some kind of concession to drop out and leave Rubio as the last man standing in opposition to Trump. If the political class was able to sell George W. Bush as a bootstrap-pulling cowboy then there is no reason they won't be able to sell Rubio as some sort of charismatic young go-getter.

There is no reason at all to feel sympathy for them; metaphors about reaping and sowing come to mind. The GOP establishment made Donald Trump. It had dozens of opportunities to push back against the insanity of some of their supporters and they chose instead to fan the flames for short-term benefits. That paid off in 2010, but now the true long-term costs are becoming apparent. Couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch of hacks.

By the way, on the point of timelines: if an independent candidate wants to enter the race that decision will have to come very soon. Ballot access rules vary by state but some deadlines for appearing on the November ballot are approaching. Jumping through the many hoops set out to disadvantage third party and independent candidates takes time, and in most states a candidate would have to get tens of thousands of signatures very quickly. If that decision hasn't been made by March 1 the window in which it could be practical may close.

WUSS EPIDEMIC

Posted in Rants on February 22nd, 2016 by Ed

At regular intervals Americans work themselves into a frenzy about the insidious creeping Pussification of America. The evidence is everywhere: the Political Correctness police have taken away our god-given right to use ethnic slurs, schools are now concerned exclusively with inclusiveness (the grammatical irony of which is underappreciated), violence is unfairly slandered, and so on. Essentially, everywhere one turns there is mounting evidence that Americans are a bunch of whining, emotionally fragile wusses. Some college sophomore getting upset over a word someone used is the harbinger of the downfall of Western Civilization. In the glorious past, by contrast, people were Tough and didn't stand for This Nonsense. People had strong backbones and didn't let mere words hurt their feelings, and if someone insulted you, you (choose one: Took the high road and won through your superior principles / Punched them in the nose, an act roundly approved of by onlookers since the speaker Had It Coming).

You know the narrative.

There is no doubt that examples can be mined in this age of limitless information and habitual exhibitionism of individuals being Too Sensitive. The problem is the broad conclusions drawn from these incidents about Society writ large and the failure to recognize that finding the balance between free expression and an environment of hostility toward people of certain social categories is one that takes time and some trial and error. Few Americans seem capable of agreeing upon the point at which forms of expression become harmful to others, but there is more or less unanimous agreement that most of us need to grow thicker skin.

Except cops. Cops can react like histrionic preteens to the slightest criticism without anyone telling them to Grow a Pair or stop Overreacting or Man Up or Quit Whining or any of the other comment section favorites. The rules for non-police are clear: Whether someone uses a word that makes you uncomfortable or plants a burning cross in your front lawn you must shrug it off. For cops, conversely, any comment consisting of anything less than fawning praise is not only to be brought up repeatedly until the end of time but is justification for reacting like an inconsolable toddler.

In any other context something as utterly irrelevant and insubstantial as a Super Bowl halftime show would bring forth a torrent of words lecturing us about how easily offended we are and if you don't like it, just ignore it and all that. But we are now entering week three of police unions wailing about how badly their fee-fees were hurt by the mean singing lady. Where are all the old white local newspaper columnists telling them to shut up and grow a pair? To ignore her if they don't like what she has to say? Where are the philosophical defenses of her basic right of expression? Isn't this the advice routinely given to people who have the temerity to point out when things are, you know, racist or whatever?

If the tables were turned – and if cops had the heroic toughness we are obligated as a nation to point out regularly – it seems that the police union would be instructed to respond along the lines of "I guess she's entitled to her opinion" or "We're professional public servants, we do our job protecting people who don't like us as well as we do for people who love us." Or maybe something nice and flippant like "Who's Beyonce?" or "I didn't watch her show, it was too boring." There might even be scattered calls to take the high road and make no response at all to underscore her insignificance. Isn't that how Tough people would respond, in the traditional narrative?

Instead they're still bleating about how terribly their feelings were hurt by a song-and-dance number characterized as "anti-police" by people who seem to believe that without constant, lavish praise a police officer cannot perform his or her professional duties. To its credit, the media is not giving the non-story of their outrage much in terms of legs, but it would be nice if somebody pointed out, for example, how different the reactions were when University of Missouri students dared to complain that pickup trucks full of white students were driving around campus screaming racial slurs at black students who were such whiners for trying to make such a big deal out of it.