When they ask me, “What are you looking at?”

26 05 2016

So, two months with the smart phone, and. . . all right, it’s all right.

Mostly, because I’m paying less with this phone plan than I did with the last one, but also, those weather and MTA apps are pretty darned convenient. And it’s nice that my friends are no longer harassing me to, y’know, get a smart phone.

Oh, it’s also useful for another thing: Twitter.

I’d read tweets online, Twitter-er by Twitter-er, but with the Twitter app, I’m just reading them as they all come up. And while I thought I would find tweeting addictive, it’s actually the reading of tweets that I can’t quit.

It’s mostly a nifty diversion, a few minutes here and there (and, yeah, here and there and here and there) to check Jamelle Bouie and Jeet Heer and Dick Nixon (who’s far more entertaining dead than he ever was alive), and, occasionally, to plink out a few thoughts of my own. Harmless, mostly.

But, it must be said, people can also be really fucking stupid and mean, too. I know: shocking. I’m not talking about the racists and anti-Semites and misogynists (who litter others’ feeds), however, but the puerile shit tossed around by and at folks on the left side of the line—not least over who “deserves” to stand left of center.

I am adamantly not a boundary enforcer. Yes, I can perhaps see some small point to having someone patrol the line, but ye gads, only if that patrolman or -woman is unarmed and otherwise unable to do much but yell “Trespasser!”

Left Twitter is full of boundary cops, they’re all armed, and they want nothing better than to hold you up and demand the secret password, and to shoot if you can’t be bothered to mouth the right words.

It is contemptible, and exhausting.

My fatigued disgust (or disgusted fatigue, take  yer pick), is almost certainly because I am old and crabby and do not have time for this shit. Yes, when I was younger I would have FUCKIN’ LOVED to have jumped into every single feed and fight and throw punches and stomp and whoo-hoo!

I think. Maybe.

Or not. You see, when I was high-school young, I WAS the leftist, and if I fought (using my words, not my fists), I fought with the guy who was conservative. There weren’t that many people in my high school who cared about politics at all, so it’s not like there were a lot of people on my side I could go after (or who could go after me) for insufficient purity.

College? Well, plenty of leftists and liberals, but even there I don’t recall much interest in calling out others for their insufficient commitment to The Cause—and not a little irritation when I was called out. I don’t know, maybe it’s just not in me.

The boundary patrolling, I mean. Fighting the right? I’m all over that.

And that, in the end, is what I’ll do. As I said, I’m old and tired and have only a limited amount of energy to hoist up my rifle and take aim, so I’m not going to waste that energy taking potshots at folks more-or-less on my side of the line.

Especially now—not with an orange-colored Stay Puft Marshmallow Man about to stomp his way across the country.

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Circus Maximus MMXVI: And you try to run but he’s got a gun

22 05 2016

I can’t be the only who, when she saw this:

Trump guns

 

. . . immediately though of this:

 





Circus Maximus MMXVI: You’re so nice

21 05 2016

When I lived in Minneapolis I used to gripe about “Minnesota Nice” by quoting the lines from Sondheim’s Into the Woods:

You’re so nice.
You’re not good,
You’re not bad,
You’re just nice.

Fake, I’d mutter, it’s all so fake. Nice is overrated.

Now, I have since come around somewhat to the notion of ‘It’s nice to be nice’, but only somewhat, and not particularly in politics.

Oh, sure, avoid, as Machiavelli warned, being hated (something Ted Cruz couldn’t manage to do), but virtù beats nice every time.

Thus, Hillary Clinton should take to heart the next lines—

I’m not good,
I’m not nice,
I’m just right.

—and go full hard-ass on the road.

Now, I do understand that Clinton has the reputation of being great one-on-one: warm, gracious, attentive, and wonderful at drawing people in. In front of a crowd, however, she lacks the looseness which would ingratiate her to that crowd. She’s fine, she rarely messes up, but she also rarely inspires or impresses.

So she should stop trying to impress anyone, and just go full on “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass and I am all out of bubblegum.

As to her opponent, well, Trump is a bullshitter, and as I’ve noted a couple of times previously, it is tremendously hard to respond to or pin any kind of responsibility on a bullshitter. Instead of going after the bullshitter—which forces you on to his territory—you just reject him outright.

You say “Nah”, and refuse to engage; roll your eyes and laugh; toss his words back at him with a heaping dose of “really?”

The great strength of the bullshitter is the unwillingness to  take anything seriously; it is also a weakness which can be turned against him.

So Clinton should go full “No Bullshit”. It gives  her a way to blunt Trump’s mad libs, and coolly to deride his seriousness while signalling her own, very serious, approach to politics.

It also allows her to admit “Nope, I’m probably not going to bring tears to your eyes, but you can bet your sweet bippy that Imma get the job done.”

And that might actually impress.

(ETA: credit for Into the Woods lyrics)





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Hold me closer, tiny dancer

11 05 2016

So, a coupla’ months ago I wondered why those who saw the Republican party as dysfunctional didn’t think to connect this dysfunction to an inability for the party to ‘decide’ on an acceptable nominee.

Which is a long way of saying: why didn’t any of us see Trump coming?

Apparently, one guy did: Norm Ornstein.

I had focused for so long on the growing dysfunction inside the Republican Party, and I believed that its leaders had generated an awful lot of the anger out there. And eventually, I combined that with the set of polls that we began to see that showed 60 to 70 percent support for outsiders and insurgents.

He lays Tiny Hands Trump’s triumph squarely at the feet of Republican leaders, where it belongs:

[I]f you forced me to pick one factor explaining what’s happened, I would say this is a self-inflicted wound by Republican leaders.

Over many years, they’ve adopted strategies that have trivialized and delegitimized government. They were willing to play to a nativist element. And they tried to use, instead of stand up to, the apocalyptic visions and extremism of some cable television, talk radio, and other media outlets on the right.

And add to that, they’ve delegitimized President Obama, but they’ve failed to succeed with any of the promises they’ve made to their rank and file voters, or Tea Party adherents. So when I looked at that, my view was, “what makes you think, after all of these failures, that you’re going to have a group of compliant people who are just going to fall in line behind an establishment figure?”

He traces the problem back to Newt Gingrich and his efforts to tear down Congress; I’d guess the problem goes back at least to Reagan—“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”—if not further, but clearly the Republican establishment’s willingness to rip apart the establishment goes back a ways.

What’s the appropriate cliché, here? Came back to bite ’em in the ass? Fanned the flames of a fire that consumed them? Something something boomerang something?

Whatever.

When you basically move dramatically away from what we call the regular order, when you almost debase your own institutions — you’re gonna find an opening for somebody who’s never been a part of it and who can offer you very, very simplistic answers.

It’s not that I blame the GOPper bosses wholly for Trump’s popularity—I think he did hit on some kind of whacked-out beat that got a lot of people clapping—but that they couldn’t be bothered to take him out when the taking was good.

And now they—and we—are stuck with him. Sad!

Ornstein also kicks at our profession:

Political scientists in some ways, just like journalists, pursue false equivalence. They do not want to suggest anything flatly or that one party is to blame. There’s a kinda cynicism whenever you suggest something might be different than it was in the past. “Oh, no, it’s always the same.”

[…]

And there’s a herd mentality too, I think. People glom onto The Party Decides and you look like a fool if you say, “Well, no, that’s not right” — because everybody believes it! I don’t know if I would call this a black swan moment, but people’s unwillingness to take a risk of breaking from consensus or believing that it will come out differently than it has before is pervasive.

Yeah, I followed that pretty much down the line. In my defense, I’m a political theorist, not an Americanist—but that line could also be turned against me: why so willing to follow along?

And I (still) do follow Jonathan Bernstein‘s admonition that any major party candidate, by virtue of being a major party candidate, has a shot at winning the presidency. As Ornstein notes

We do know that straight-ticket voting has increased dramatically. This to me suggests we’re not gonna have a 45-state blowout like Goldwater faced, or a 49-state one like Mondale or McGovern had. You’re gonna start with some states and you’re gonna start with 45 percent of the votes. Most Republicans are gonna come back into the fold.

Yep. And, Oh god.