TIRED, TIRED, TIRED OF WAITING

Posted in Rants on April 25th, 2016 by Ed

Election fatigue is a real thing. In fact it is several things. In political science it most often refers to the inverse relationship between the frequency of elections and voter turnout. American elections are numerous and frequent, and since most citizens are not terribly committed to the act of voting they are highly unlikely to do it repeatedly. That's why we get "high" voter turnout between 55% and 60% for presidential elections but something in the mid-thirties for off-year elections like 2014. For things like primaries and local elections, turnout in the single digits is not at all uncommon.

The more colloquial sense of the term "fatigue" also applies, though. Election fatigue also is a real thing in the sense that we just get sick of hearing about it after a while, even if it is an election in which we intend to participate. With the nomination process and the presidential election "pregame" starting earlier every election cycle, the opportunity to be bored with it before the actual election has even started is ample. I know you find politics interesting; otherwise it's highly unlikely that you would be a visitor here. Now be honest: you're pretty sick of this election already, right? The last dozen or so articles to flit across your field of vision didn't give you the slightest urge to read them, I'm guessing. Blah blah Trump, blah blah brokered convention, blah blah Bernie Something, blah blah Hillary Clinton sucks, and on and on it goes.

It's possible that I'm projecting my own fatigue here. My perception that most people have very little left to say about the election that has not already been beaten to death is backed up by some simple data, though. After peaking early in March, Google Trends for "Trump" and "Bernie" have cratered in April. It stands to reason, as most people with any non-zero amount of interest in politics have almost certainly had all the opportunities to learn about these candidates that they need. What is left to say about any of them? In theory the GOP nomination process, which is as occluded as any recent major party nomination has ever been this late in the primary season, should have our interest peaking. Instead we're not much interested in hearing any more about a "brokered convention."

This would be fine if not for the fact that we have six full months to go, and it isn't clear how a loss of interest this early in the year will affect outcomes if at all. Many scholars of campaign effects argue that voters generally start paying attention to the election six to eight weeks before the November finish line, and perhaps that will happen once again this year. Given the overall distasteful nature of the two likely nominees, that can't be taken for granted. There is no way to test this hypothesis, but I'm confident that we could hold a Trump-Clinton general election tomorrow and achieve a result no different than we will see when it happens in November. The odds that we will learn anything new, or be paying sufficient attention to these ass clowns to notice if anything new comes up, are long.

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL

Posted in Rants on April 20th, 2016 by Ed

Occasionally I'll use this space to offer book suggestions in case you find yourself in need of reading material. This is less a suggestion than an assignment. This will be on the test.

Mike Konczal gave me a heads-up on Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, a non-fiction tale of people in Milwaukee living on the bottom rung of the housing market: black families in the north side ghetto and white families in a trailer park that sits literally atop a biohazard. For a casual reader this book is a Rorschach Test, a study in confirmation bias; whatever your existing beliefs about the root causes of poverty and the underclass, you will find ample evidence to support it here. The most remarkable achievement is the ability of these stories to make the reader sympathize with everyone involved. You feel for the poor single parent living in a house with no refrigerator; then you feel for the landlord who stopped putting in refrigerators after six of them were destroyed or sold for beer money. You feel for the people who have to clean up foreclosed, abandoned, or evicted houses that resemble landfills. For a few pages I even felt bad for the cops – Milwaukee cops.

I've never read anything that had me teetering back and forth quite like this. You understand why people feel less than human living in an apartment with no appliances and no front door; a paragraph later, you understand the frustration of replacing the front door 17 times in 5 years for tenants who pay rent a few times annually at best and will end up destroying anything you put in the apartment. The tenants give up. The landlords give up. The agencies intended to deal with these social problems give up. And eviction, which used to be about as common as a solar eclipse fifty years ago, becomes so common and frequent as to be routine. If you believe the system is the problem, this book will reinforce that. If you believe individual responsibility is the problem, this book will do the same for you.

The obvious poverty red flags are well represented: joblessness, the paltry income afforded by what jobs are found (either fast food, nursing home cleanup, or cash-in-hand day labor are about it), the drugs – alcohol – cigarettes troika that eats up so much money, bad personal decisions, and lack of education. Rather than beat those dead horses, there are two things that have been on my mind since reading this.

One, and there's no way to say this without sounding like a judgmental asshole, is the role of family planning in exacerbating the already dire situations in which these people find themselves. You practically want to scream at the pages, please stop having more kids. There are numerous tales of people living on something like $650/month in total income…and they have three kids, and they have more kids as the story unfolds. There are a lot of issues balled up here: lack of effective sex education (in or out of school), lack of sufficient access to methods of birth control, and using children to fill an emotional void or try to hold onto a relationship partner. I can't put myself in the position of anyone in this book, and I have no idea what I'd do if I were. But if there's one thing the people described here are good at, it's figuring out how to survive. In many ways they are highly rational and they make decisions that eliminate anything that isn't absolutely essential. In that light, it's confusing to try to understand why "I shouldn't pay this month's rent because I'm about to be evicted anyway" makes sense (and it does) but "I shouldn't have a fifth child" does not.

The second is another foreign concept to me because I have an extremely small family. I have one sibling, no living grandparents, one aunt, and no cousins. In many of these (often enormous) poor families, there is a moral dilemma facing the one or two people who become financially stable. I can see how compassion fatigue would set in. How many times do you pay the past-due rent for your brother, knowing that in three months he'll be back asking for it again? You'd either become a hard-hearted bastard, telling your own immediate family members to piss off, or you'd help out until inevitably your relatives pulled you right back down into poverty with them. You can only hand over $500 for emergencies so many times before you have your own emergencies and find yourself without a safety net. These stories made me very thankful to never be put in that situation, and even more empathetic toward friends who regularly are in it. How many times can you hand over what ends up being beer money? And how do you sleep at night after you stop doing it?

It's not a fun read, but it's an excellent one. Most people do not realize – and here I do have a tiny bit of insight, having spent three years working in debt collection – that there is an entire Poverty Industry built up around extracting money from people in desperate situations. You need $100 in the next hour to keep your house? Payday loan at 25%. You've been evicted? Your stuff will be taken to storage and it'll run you $500 to get it back. You're at the end of your rope? Don't worry, there's a liquor store on every corner; sometimes two. You finally have some work? Well since you live in squalor and around constant violence, here are some expensive medical problems.

It is a machine, and nobody who gets caught in the gears ever gets out. You might be fooling yourself if you think you have any idea how to begin fixing this.

EMPATHY DEFICIT

Posted in Rants on April 17th, 2016 by Ed

Of all the hypocrisies commonly associated with American conservatives the best contender for the worst is the tendency to deny the existence of systemic problems but flip-flop when they are affected personally. My go-to example is Randy Cunningham (who ended up in prison himself in short order) temporarily setting aside his cheerleading for the War on Drugs to beg a judge to be lenient on his son, who was repeatedly busted for selling cocaine and heroin. "He's a good kid, he just made mistakes," said the former Congressman, applying logic he was unable to understand in any situation not involving himself or his kids in a courtroom. As a bonus, his own experience in prison caused him suddenly to recant his previous statements about the value and fairness about the War on Drugs. If only there were some way to reach the conclusion that the entire justice system is being undermined without actually going to prison oneself.

Another classic example is Senator Rob Portman's 180 on gay marriage when he found out his son is gay. It's almost as if – almost! – these people are unable to feel empathy, or that they don't really care about anyone except themselves. They don't bat an eye when the people affected by their ideology are nameless strangers. The inability to exercise enough forethought to consider something basic like, "What if this decision affected my family?" before legislating their ideology is baffling to the point of incredulity. Isn't that one of the most fundamental ways that the human mind creates a framework for understanding the rest of the world? It's as strange as if they couldn't do something as simple as, for example, learn from previous experience.

Wait…

Despite the repeated insistence that voting is as easy as pie and that the law imposes no barrier to participation, we've recently learned that registration procedures are "onerous" when a member of the Trump family finds out that they can't vote in their state's primary. Anybody else who fails to register properly is stupid, lazy, and responsible for their own disenfranchisement. However, since they are unable to accept responsibility for their own actions – Isn't that a key trait of sociopathy? I'm sure it's unrelated. – a failure on their part is an indictment of the system.

But I don't suppose it matters much that one half of our political system is composed of and supported by people who are entirely devoid of a key component of a healthy adult's psychological makeup.

AFFIRMING THE CONSEQUENT

Posted in Rants on April 12th, 2016 by Ed

It's OK if you've never heard of Fritz Zwicky. He was an astronomer and physicist, a contemporary and colleague of people like Robert Oppenheimer. Zwicky was unquestionably brilliant; he was the first person to conceptualize and explain supernovas. He theorized dark matter decades before anyone else. He discovered neutron stars. He invented some of the earliest practical jet engines. Despite all this is little known and not well respected today. The problem with Fritz Zwicky is that he was an asshole. An asshole of generational talent, a once-in-a-lifetime prodigy laying claim to the coveted title of Worst Person on Earth. Nobody could stand this guy. The only person who did, his gentle co-author Walter Baade, refused to be alone with Zwicky because he was so violent, aggressive, and unpredictable. Oh, and he regularly made death threats to Baade. And that guy was his friend.

Oppenheimer hated him so much that despite having an office just down the hall, he cited Zwicky's undeniably groundbreaking neutron star work when he published his own papers on that subject. Zwicky insulted, irritated, and generally made himself loathsome to everyone he encountered throughout his career. Yet universities and, no matter how much they complained, other scientists grudgingly tolerated, even demanded, his presence. This was so because Zwicky was brilliant. In academia, and particularly in science, and even more particularly (it seems) in physics, where some concepts are so bizarre that only a lunatic could devise them, if you are sufficiently brilliant people will put up with the fact that you are insufferable. You will be suffered.

Zwicky is far from the only example of this phenomenon. No less a figure than Isaac Newton could be maddeningly difficult to interact with, and the legendary Hungarian mathematician Paul ErdÅ‘s seemed to do little else besides publish prolifically, cram amphetamines into his body in legitimately alarming quantities, and devise new ways to be weird. The problem this image – the "mad scientist" or the brilliant eccentric – has created in academia is clear to most of us who are in it. Too many people associate brilliance with eccentricity, being a total asshole, or both. And they make a crucial but basic logical error; they assume "if A then B, so, if B then A." If being brilliant means that a horrible personality will be tolerated, they figure that acting like a dick will somehow affirm and provide evidence of their brilliance.

Tenure is not what most non-academics think it is, but it is indeed part of the problem in this specific case. You can be fired for cause, but being so annoying or rude that people scramble into bathrooms to avoid you in the hallway is not cause. Unfortunately in this line of work and many others, you have the right to be extremely irritating if you don't mind the high probability that everyone is going to hate you. And it's truly remarkable how many academics do not seem to mind this at all.

The decent, friendly people in my field outnumber the assholes and the weirdos considerably. At a recent professional conference, nearly every person I met – friends, old colleagues, acquaintances, new faces I'd never previously met – left me feeling better than I had felt before getting to share their company. "How can I help?" was the most common response when I explained professional difficulties and obstacles that worry me at present. That said, there are still some remarkably awful people in the field. Many of them are tolerated because they have or had strokes of brilliance, or because they have been commendably productive in our perilous publication process (being prolific is a suitable substitute for being a genius). I, like everyone else, put up with some people because it is worth knowing them and their success gives them extra leeway for personality shortcomings. But the people who skip the success / brilliance / productivity parts and go straight to being dicks…they are quite another story. Like actors who demand "star treatment" in the hope that this will make them a star somehow, people who think that being a dick will somehow confer upon themselves the insight of a Fritz Zwicky is one of the more powerfully annoying realities of this profession.

Oh, and for god's sake buy some new clothes once every 10 years. Dressing like a 1940s used book merchant doesn't make you any smarter either.

I GUESS POWELL SAID NO AGAIN

Posted in Rants on April 11th, 2016 by Ed

In the annals of American presidential elections there have been some truly harebrained schemes, candidates, and movements. And on occasion some legitimately improbable things have happened, like Ross Perot winning almost 20% of the popular vote as an independent candidate in 1992 or the election of Richard Mentor Johnson as vice-president in 1836. Most seemingly implausible ideas end up where they belong: relegated to the fringes of the process and amounting to little more than the occasional amusing but nonviable independent campaign like that of John Anderson (1980). Most daydreamed proposals – "unity tickets" and surprise candidates chosen by brokered conventions – are little more than interesting barroom hypotheticals at best.

It has to count as the strangest story of 2016, an election hardly lacking in the absurd, that on Sunday major online media outlets were suddenly reporting the (obviously, transparently planted) "story" of a supposed effort by "conservative billionaires" to draft retired Marine Corps general James Mattis for an independent presidential run.
I'll pause while you try to figure out who in the hell James Mattis is. Other than Mrs. Mattis and possibly some of their children, no one has ever heard of James Mattis. This story could not be any more ridiculous had a name been chosen from the phone book at random. There might as well be a secret campaign to draft Leon Smerczynski, a Paterson, NJ carpet layer, for an independent run.

Not to go full House of Cards here, but clearly someone who is very good pals with Tim Mak (the Daily Beast correspondent who was the first, and for a while only, "real" media outlet to give this the time of day, although we certainly could debate the description of Tina Brown's Puke Funnel as a "real" media outlet) asked Timmy to do them a solid and plant the seed to give legitimacy to an idea so astronomically stupid that it strains credulity to believe that it isn't an elaborate prank. An absolute nobody with no political experience, openly backed by shadowy, probably-Koch "conservative billionaires" is going to put together an independent presidential campaign less than 8 weeks before the deadline for ballot access in several important states? To whom exactly is this cipher going to appeal, even in theory? The most optimistic view of such a scheme is that it would fail miserably; in reality it is unlikely even to get off the ground if it is tried.

If any part of this is true, it is damning evidence of how completely conservatives are giving in to panic, irrationality, and magical thinking. Most likely it is yet another trial balloon being floated in a desperate attempt to derail the Trump Train before it can destroy the entire GOP, possibly with the intention of making whatever lunatic move they are planning next look sane in comparison.

MY LAWN

Posted in Rants on April 7th, 2016 by Ed

Regular readers who have also enjoyed the work of Bill Bryson likely have noticed that I am also a fan. The man is a very good writer, and I've learned more than a few things about putting sarcasm into print from his work over the years. You can imagine how disappointed I was, then, to read his latest. It's terrible.

Bryson, 64, mis-titled the book. It should have been called "Things were all better back in my day!" or "Old Man Bitches About Everything." I don't know what happened – perhaps it is a simple function of age – but there's no humor or no pleasure in this. It's a man touring England complaining about everything. Literally everything. All the shops in this town are closed! Everything costs too much! That sign has a grammatical error in it because everybody is stupid now! The kid at McDonald's asked me if I wanted fries, and if I wanted fries I would have fucking told him I wanted fries! This museum is just a big gift shop now! Who are these "celebrities" and why are they famous when they have no talent! Kids are so disrespectful these days!

I have no doubt that it is hard to age, to see things change, to wake up one day and realize that the world you live in is no longer the one you know best and with which you are most comfortable. Readers of any age can have some sympathy for it. There is little joy or interest in reading someone go through the process, though.

The thing I wish older people complaining about the state of the world would more often recognize is that choices made by the same generations currently complaining are largely responsible for all that now bothers them. Kids are stupid and don't know how to speak? Well, look what has happened to public education since the 1970s. Yeah, kids with no job prospects will probably just sit around and drink all day. All the cute little shops are gone, replaced by soulless chain stores? Well, changes to the economy and wage stagnation more than explain why people prioritize low prices and convenience/speed (got to make it to that second job on time!) above all else. Your favorite seaside or countryside town is a fraction of what it used to be? Well, all the sources of employment are gone. Why would anyone stay? People are less friendly now? Well, maybe that's because the world is shitty and there's little for them to be happy about.

And that's the part that kills me about When I Was Your Age rants – they're not wrong. I have no doubt that for the modal American, the country was a less shitty place in the past. This argument of course overlooks great advances that have been made in the rights and lives of women, minorities, gays and lesbians, and other people for whom The Good Old Days were not quite so Good. But in terms of the state of the country, I have no doubt that people were generally less miserable and our towns and cities looked less sad and run down Back in the Day. Back when our society was one of generally shared prosperity – again, not without exceptions – and people could get half-decently paying jobs without having to experience lightning-strike luck, I'm sure everyone smiled and said Hello more often. I'm sure people were happier back when the places they live did not look like setpieces for post-apocalypse action movies. Everything is dirty, falling apart, and empty. Boarded-up windows and empty Main Streets don't make people feel cheerful.

If Bill Bryson reads this (that was a joke, relax), yes, you're right. Everything sucks now. Believe me, we know. We get it. It seems like an intelligent person could readily identify the causes, though, and perhaps at least nod at them while cataloging all of one's gripes about the corporate- and gift shop-funded museum world in which we find ourselves. You personally may not bear direct responsibility for creating it, but it didn't happen by accident. Previous generations – your generation – made choices that led to it. I'm sorry you're unhappy with it, but trust me that the young man at McDonald's isn't exactly loving this world either.

HANDFUL OF POCKETS

Posted in Rants on April 3rd, 2016 by Ed

Statistically, I live in an extremely dangerous city. Yet I spend exactly none of my time worrying about being a victim of crime. Part of that is my attitude; generally I believe that if a lightning bolt is going to hit you there isn't much you can do about it. Sure, you wouldn't want to increase your chances of being struck by running around an open field waving a lightning rod during a thunderstorm. But there's only so much you can do. Either they've got your name on them or they don't.

Aside from taking reasonable precautions, the other reason never to worry about it is that crime in the city is heavily ghettoized. This calendar year promises to break all previous records for shootings and gun-related murders in Chicago, but it doesn't take complex geospatial analysis to see the patterns when they're mapped out.

shootings april1

This quote is telling: "Police said the disturbing rise in violence is driven by gangs and mostly contained to a handful of pockets on the city's South and West sides."

Oh, OK then. As long as the people shooting each other are all in the same place.

That quote is accurate but belies the fact that this is not a natural disaster. The police, and most Chicagoans, talk about it like it just happened this way or, among the Trump crowd, is an artifact of race in the most violent areas. The reality is that the police adopted a strategy of confinement, not crime prevention or community service. Just make sure that the borders of "Chiraq" don't extend east of Western Ave. or north of Pershing and everyone can call that a win. If the parts of the city with money are safe, or have what would be considered a normal level of crime for a major city, the police and city leaders don't much worry about the other parts. The CPD has for the last few years adopted a strategy in areas like Austin and South Shore of, "Just call us when we need to come pick up the bodies."

It's nearly impossible to construct an explanation that doesn't involve racism. There's no getting around the fact that the shitty neighborhoods are black and the white and Hispanic parts of the city are safer and more actively policed. The police cite "gang problems" as if white and Hispanic people don't have gangs or drugs. That's not to say that with just a little more effort the police could equalize crime rates everywhere in the city. The problem is that nobody's even trying.

To listen to the national news talk about Chicago you'd think it's Sarajevo in the 90s and we all have to run from building to building in a low, serpentine manner to arrive at the office alive. That isn't reality for most of us. But for some people it is, and we're all uncomfortably satisfied with that.

GOOD NEWS, SORT OF

Posted in Rants on March 30th, 2016 by Ed

Amid Trump hysteria it has not attracted much notice that Bernie Sanders has won five straight Democratic contests. Granted, that comes after a string of seven straight Clinton wins so it's not champagne time by any stretch of the imagination. But five wins beats five losses.

The problem is that those five victories did not do a lot to the numbers because few delegates represent those states. Compare the seven won by Clinton (her delegate count is in the left column, pledged only) to the five won by Sanders (right column) and it's clear that not all wins are created equal in this process.

uhoh

What his campaign is banking on is that the worst is over and the election now moves into their candidate's wheelhouse. The Alabamas and Utahs and Texases of the primary process are done with and the remaining states are solid Blue on the whole. If he's gonna do well anywhere, this is where you would expect it. Here's an overview of the remaining contests. In this table and throughout this post we're going to ignore the superdelegates in parenthesis; they're likely to support whoever wins the majority of pledged delegates, just as they did in 2008. For now they are sticking with Clinton. If Sanders catches her, most of them will jump ship once again.

The Democratic Party process has 4051 total pledged delegates (PD), meaning the magic number for a majority is 2026. Currently Sanders has 980 and Clinton has 1243. It's not a small margin, but neither is it insurmountably large. To win the majority of the 4051 total PD count Sanders would need 57.22% of the remaining 1898 PD as of today's date. He's been winning with large percentage majorities in the recent races. Can he keep it up? If he doesn't, he's going to be in trouble by the end of April.

Dem Del

There are two contests before April 19 – WY and WI – with 100 combined PD. For the sake of argument let's say the candidates split those 60 (Sanders) and 40 (Clinton). That would keep the status quo in place until April 19-26, during which six races will occur. Two of the states, NY and PA, are very large with 247 and 189 PD respectively. If Sanders does not win 60%-plus of the delegates available on April 19 and 26 the math for catching Clinton becomes very difficult. California and New Jersey would represent almost all of the remaining PD after April 26.

The Democrats do not use Winner-take-All rules, so the reality is that both candidates' PD total will inch steadily higher as these races unfold. If Clinton scores a decisive win in a large state at this point, though, it would not be the end of Sanders but the odds would start looking very long. On the other hand, wins in places like New York (where Clinton currently leads significantly in an admittedly small sample of polls). He not only needs to find a way to win, but he needs to win by a margin large enough to start catching up. California is narrowing but Clinton leads there as well.

Without those two, the road to a majority is hard to see. Not only winning but winning by a 3/5 majority is a tall order for any candidate. Stranger things have happened, though, and despite falling onto the back burner over the past few weeks the race is far from over. By the end of the day on April 26 we should have a very good idea of how realistic it is for Sanders to catch up. I wouldn't bet my paycheck on that happening, but I wouldn't bet it on Clinton either at this point.

DON'T LET IT BE A BLACK AND A WHITE ONE

Posted in Rants on March 29th, 2016 by Ed

Ice Cube, before he became a comic prop in family vacation movies, understood a fundamental truth about race and law enforcement 30 years ago that still has not sunk in with a lot of Americans.

Ready? All of the issues with race and law enforcement apply regardless of the race of a particular officer. Cops use more force against black suspects. White cops. Black cops. Male cops. Female cops. Cops. That's the point – it's a systemic problem, not a "Few bad apples" problem.

And on the other hand, without a gun they can't get none
But don't let it be a black and a white one
Cause they'll slam ya down to the street top
Black police showing out for the white cop

Sure, it would be a good idea (for any number of reasons) for police departments to hire a diverse group of officers. But "We have black cops too" doesn't mean that issues of race and law enforcement go away. It's still there. If cops generally perceive that black male suspects are a threat, that can go as well for non-white cops as for white ones. Three of the cops who beat Freddie Gray to death, to cite just one example, were black. They didn't stand there and watch the three white cops beat him. They didn't say "Hey you know this seems to be an excessive amount of force." They participated. Whether they were "showing out for the white cops" or behaving how they would have behaved if all of the cops involved were black is conjecture. What isn't conjecture is that black cops, like white, Hispanic, Asian, left-handed, and Turkish-Romanian cops, were part of the problem. Because the problem is bigger than cops. The problem is with the system. We repeat the lie that it's just a few bad apples, one or two loose cannons here and there, because it transfers responsibility from the system to the individual. And when the problem is the individual…oh well, what are you gonna do, right? See also: mass shootings.

Cities are racing to appoint black cops to top positions in troubled departments. Chicago recently jumped on the bandwagon, appointing an unknown, inexperienced (administratively) beat cop named Eddie Johnson as Superintendent in response to public uproar that has already taken down the Cook County State's Attorney in the recent Democratic primary. Look, it makes no sense to begrudge the city promoting a beat cop, a black cop, or a black beat cop to a position of authority. It's probably not a bad idea. The problem is that when these appointments are made, it's not hard to picture everyone in the Mayor's office and Police HQ slapping their hands together and exclaiming, "Problem solved!"

It's not a solution. It is, at worst, window dressing and, at best, a red herring. The problem in Chicago is not that there weren't or aren't enough black cops in the upper ranks. The problem in Chicago is that the police department has proven itself totally rotten, corrupt, conspiratorial, and willing to go to any length to protect its own. Top to bottom. The whole thing. Maybe Eddie Johnson will be a good Super, maybe he'll be gone in six months. Who knows. The point is that appointing him, or anyone else, does not solve the problem. And these appointments of black cops to high ranking position at a time when police departments are reeling from being asked to answer for the massive numbers of unarmed black suspects they bring to the morgue feels a lot less like a legitimate effort to bring diversity to leadership positions and a lot more like a cynical PR ploy to allow the old, white, reactionary base on which urban politics still depends to say "We appointed a colored, what more do you want."

BEYOND DESCRIPTION

Posted in Rants on March 27th, 2016 by Ed

The "Anybody but Hillary" defense of voting for Trump is already bubbling to the surface. It's unsurprising, since it sounds much better than "I don't like brown people but I'm smart enough not to admit it." It will be popular among the usual suspects who were going to vote Republican no matter what despite protests about evaluating the candidates on their merits. You know. Old white people.

In the long run it isn't consequential because 2012 already proved that there aren't enough of them to win an election. The logic, or the implied logic, is pretty interesting though. Whenever I encounter someone who talks about what a nightmare the Bill Clinton years were, I really push them on specifics. Was it the rapid economic growth? The balanced budget? The lack of full-scale wars? Of course Bill wasn't personally responsible for everything positive that happened during his two terms. I'm just trying to wrap my head around what exactly was so bad. It inevitably boils down to 1) He banged an intern, which is important because Reasons, and 2) He humiliated the country by using diplomacy with other nations rather than pulling his dick out and waving it around screaming AMERICA #1 SUCK IT. Nothing rankles these people like a perceived lack of Ass-Kickin' toughness.

Policy-wise, about the worst thing old white people could expect during a Hillary Clinton presidency is for personal income tax levels to stay where they are (Let's briefly ignore the fact that in the name of the god Centrism, she'll probably sign a few gratuitous tax cuts just because). It is very difficult to wrap my head around a level of narcissism and a provincialism of worldview that could leave someone unable to conceive of anything worse than…not getting more tax cuts. But probably getting more tax cuts anyway.

Really? You can't think of anything worse? You'll vote for literally anyone to avoid voting for someone with a proven track record of blowing up small countries (Which Old White People like!) and a level of fiscal liberalism about as powerful as Ronald Reagan's? I mean, I can think of much worse things than that. War. Famine. Genocide. Destruction of the planet. The breakdown of civil order. Worsening economic and social inequality. The loss of personal freedoms in the name of religious dogma. Paying full sticker price for a Dodge Charger. Really, any remotely imaginative person should be able to think of hundreds of worse things than four bland, middlebrow years of Hillary Clinton protecting the status quo.

But not your parents. For them, nothing could equal that horror. For some reason. Look, it can't be explained. Just because. Go clean your room.