You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em

24 07 2019

I would give five bucks to the candidate who’s willing to say: “Hell, yeah, I’m a politician—and a damned good one!”

I know, I know, we’re all supposed to hate politicians and love the mavericks and outsiders and ‘jes plain folks’ who’ll stand up to the corrupt and immoral insiders.

Blah blah blah.

This is of the same piece as “those who can’t do, teach”, which, yeah, as someone who teaches, I find irksome. But more than the personal jibe at such a non-doer as myself, I’m irked at the falseness of the statement: teaching is doing, and it’s hard.

I work at it—the syllabus, the readings, the assignments, the lectures and discussions, all of it—and some days I’m great and some days I’m not; overall I’d give myself a B+. I wouldn’t mind taking a class from someone like me, but, honestly, I’d also want professors who were better than me.

And you, the dumb-ass who thinks teaching is nothing? You know nothing.

You see where I’m going with this, right? Being an effective politician is hard. Politics is a (sometimes glorious, sometimes fetid) mess, and being able to balance all of the competing concerns and different interests and principles and practicalities and rules and ratfuckers and flying monkeys to get anything done requires more skills than are dreamt of in such casual dismissal of the role.

So I want to vote for someone who embraces that role, who gets that just because anyone can run for the job—which is great thing, really—doesn’t mean that anyone can do the job. And to do the job well? You gotta learn, get better, become a pro—become a politician.

That’s a good thing, and should be recognized as such.

Not gonna happen, tho’, I know.

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You see, got my brother down cause it’s nothing to me

16 07 2019

I have nothing to say about the racist bag of maggots currently befouling the White House—nothing beyond curses and sputtering, that is.

He’s a terrible man and a terrible president with terrible policies enabling the worst of us. And that he has a good shot at re-upping his tenure is really more than I can handle right now.

I don’t follow any pro-Trumpers on Twitter—Twitter is my junk food, and I prefer my snacks in salty left-wing, artistic, academic, or animal form—but I do run across them online, and, honestly, . . . huh.

The outright racists who love him, okay, that makes sense. While I only understand racism on an intellectual level—I don’t get on the gut-level why anyone would want to be supremacist—I can identify it as an interest that the maggoty misogynist meets. And the cynics, like Mitch McConnell, who’ll excuse anything to get what they want (tax cuts, 19th-century judges): again, the interests intersect.

But the people who consider themselves principled, moral, who support him? Are they just lying to themselves about their morality? Are they in denial about the awfulness of The Donald?

There’s a fair amount of anger I hear from them, and fear about coming breakdown/SJW totalitarian takeover, and it’s not hard to read that anger-fear as its own justification. It’s also a handy way to deflect responsibility from one’s own actions: Look what you made me do!

That doesn’t seem enough, though, to explain how we could look at the same Tweets or hear the same speech or at fucking children in cages and reach such radically different conclusions about them. It’s ideological, yeah, but that’s hardly a sufficient explanation.

This might be where political psychology comes in, which is extremely not my bag. I don’t have anything against it in general, but it’s always seemed to me that the ‘political’ piece loses out to the ‘psychological’; since I want to understand political phenomenon as political, I’ve been leery of anything (incl economics or orthodox Marxism) which reduces the political to mere epiphenomenon.

Still, since I take politics as necessarily a scavenger field, dragging in economics and culture and religion and passion and psychology, etc, perhaps I simply need to get to diggin’ in other areas of this messy yard. I might never get it, but at least I’d have a better sense of the disconnect itself.





Into the breach! 2020

27 06 2019

ETA: It’s unto the breach! UNTO! Goddammit.

Yeah, I’ve pretty much landed on that for the theme. Works.

Anyway, I’ve said I’m not going to say much about the primaries and. . .  I’m not. I like Warren for her plans and Harris for her knife skills; I think Julián Castro would make a fine veep, and while I’m sorry she’s not doing better, I appreciate Gillibrand pounding away on women’s issues.

Regardless, and as ever, I’ll vote for the nominee.

Anyway, the real reason I’m bringing up the primaries is because the last two nights I followed the debates on twitter and oh, is that an exercise in meta-analysis: what one person adores another abhors.

Same as it ever was, I’d guess, but it’s a lesson I keep forgetting.

I mean, this isn’t about Dems vs GOPpers, or even lefties vs liberals vs moderates—the ideological disputes I get—but about tone and style and emphasis, about one person saying about a slip-up, Eh, it happens and another OMFG! Doomed!

Again, t’ain’t nothin’ new about that, but I can’t help but notice it every time.

Anyway, this is why I’m confining myself at this point to meta- than actual analysis: I get as caught up in this tonal shit as anyone, and thus don’t trust that I’m in any position to say Ooo, this’ll play well or Sadly, no.

That’ll be less of an issue during the general election campaign, because at that point it’s less about impressing those willing to give you a look-see and more about straight beating the shit out of the other guy.

But in the meantime? Meta.





In the end the rain comes down

4 06 2019

Oh, what’s a conservative to do?

Yes, I’ve been following the Ahmari-French “whither conservatism?” dust-up with some professional interest and personal amusement. (You can find links, along with Rod Dreher’s usual voluminous commentary, to the whole schmatta here, here, here, and here)

As a political theorist, I’m interested in how ideology shakes out; as a leftist, I’m a bystander, as I have no interest in making conservatism stronger. And even if I did want to contribute, I don’t know why any conservative would want to take my thoughts under advisement: I’m sure as hell skeptical as hell of anyone from the other side telling those on my side how to do better.

That said, I will offer this one nugget of analysis: none of these arguments are going to go anywhere unless they can find a way to contend with both capitalism and climate change.

I know Dreher likes to go on and on and on and on about politics-being-downstream-from-culture, which, fine, the relationship between politics and culture is fraught, but to think that either of these realms can be dealt with apart from the material conditions under which they manifest is to fail at thinking.

Now, I’m a bad marxist and am allergic to any kind of determinism, but Jesus, Mary, and Adam Smith how can you have a version of the Good Society without some sense of the economics of that society? I’m not saying you have to go commie—I mean, 20th-century American conservatism has pretty much been defined as against that—but you gotta do more than vaguely wave toward God-and-markets and away global warming.

What ought they do? Again, that’s for them to work out—and if they don’t, well, then none of what they’re saying will matter.





Into the breach 2020?

8 05 2019

I just though of that; I think I like it. Yeah, I think so.

Maybe I’ll add an “!” after the breach; maybe I’ll choose something else, but I think this might be a winner.

And while I hear Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V‘s in this, there’s also a little bit of LEEROY JENKINS! in this, don’t you think? Or is that just me?

Eh, both work.





And all the men would come around and lay their money down

6 05 2019

For better and for worse, the 2020 presidential campaign is upon us. This means I have to come up with a theme for campaign-related posts.

I’m a little leery of doing this, given that my jokey “Circus Maximus” theme turned out to be horrifyingly on the nose. Also, this next campaign is going to be a shitstorm (“Shitstorm 2020”?), and, man, coming up with something that doesn’t make me wail or want to defenestrate my computer is going to take some work.

I have no real ideas at this point. Final Countdown? Apocalyptic, sure, but without that soupçon of wit to lighten it all up. Maybe something from REM’s “End of the World”. . . ? Nah. And, actually, just typing that, I realize that I don’t want anything apocalyptic. Yeah, things suck, but compared to climate change, the stakes of this election are. . . less.

How’s that for perspective? “We’re killing our planet and its creatures, so the fuckery of the Republicans is comparatively minor.”

So I’ll need something serious, mostly-but-not-completely earnest. Mordant. I’ll think of something.

~~~

As for the primary, I’m not planning to say much about it beyond the fact that I don’t fucking want to hear one second more of the Bernie/Hillary rehash. Enough. Both candidates lost. Next!

~~~

I have little faith that the (mainstream) media will do a decent job of covering the elections, and if people are treating the polls as anything other than a nerd-game at this point, well, I don’t know what to say to that.

~~~

I stated back in 2016 that the election broke me, and, yep, still broken. I will make no predictions, and will remain leery (which I failed to do the last time around) of those who do. I’ll pay attention to the polls once 2020 rolls around and listen to smart people say smart things, and, yeah, I’ll consider the odds, but I ain’t laying any bets down.

Honestly, I don’t know how I’ll cover the elections. That my old knowledge has shattered doesn’t mean every piece was wrong, but I don’t know how, or how far I’ll go, to put them together.

On y va.

 





IMPEACH

22 04 2019

No, the Senate won’t convict—remember, impeachment is only the first part of the process to remove a president—but that a conviction is unlikely does not mean no investigation or vote should take place.

I’ve often snarked on tactics and consequentialism and overall Machiavellianism, but even at my bitchiest, I’ve never gone full nihilist. Politics matters, and elemental to that politics is some understanding of principle.

Political principle isn’t a pure thing, but at its root are two lines: This must be done and This must not be done. Where you draw those lines, how much space is between them, what you think is justified inside of those lines, are all at play in politics, but if you don’t have any lines at all, then what you’re talking about isn’t politics, but something else entirely.

I understand the concerns that House Dems have about backlash and every other downside to impeachment proceedings, but, goddammit, if protecting our (shabby) democracy and trying to expose and inoculate against (further) corruption of our elections isn’t worth the risk, then what the hell is even the point of being in politics?

Oh, and yeah, this goes for Republicans too, but good fucking luck finding any at the federal level who haven’t gone full nullification.

So this falls to House Democrats. Some may be afraid, some may not see the point, but let there be enough to say: This must be done.