Circus Maximus MMXVI: All this chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter

21 08 2016

Few bits:

I’m a fan of President Obama’s cool-competence approach to governing, and think he’s right to wait a bit before visiting flooded Louisiana (or burnt-over California): aid before optics.

That said, optics do matter, and some extended public remarks by the president (and candidate Clinton) about these disasters beyond a tweet or two wouldn’t interfere with the recovery, and might help to soothe some (although certainly not all) distressed people.

Material help matters, a lot, but so does recognition.

~~~

Is the Trump statue body-shaming?

Yeah, maybe, probably. From a cultural-studies point of view, the critics of the statue (and of many mirthful reactions to it) are likely correct.

But I’m reading this less from a cultural perspective than a political one, and that political one says, Look at this ridiculous man who thinks he should be president.

Is it nasty? Absolutely, as are the Hillary nutcrackers, as are most political paraphernalia  aimed at political opponents. They allow Us to smirk at Them, to cut them down, to reduce the other side’s champion to a joke; it’s not elevating, but then, put-downs rarely are.

There’s a lot that Carl Schmitt missed about politics, but he also nailed an aspect of it the more genteel would prefer to ignore: politics is a fight, and anything that can be weaponized, will be.

~~~

Have you listened to this old audio of Hillary Clinton’s Wellesley address?

She sounds so relaxed, so confident.

So unlike how she sounds today.

It was another online writer—who I can’t find—who first pointed out how at ease she was back then in front of a microphone. She was direct and open and conversational and even inspirational. She is as yet unbroken.

It’s tough to think of her, likely 45th president of the most powerful nation on earth, as broken, but I think the decades of political battering have shattered some bones. And while I admire those who, like Obama, seem to glide right past whatever hits are directed their way, there’s something to be said for the scrappers.

In any case, that she has been shattered doesn’t mean she hasn’t recovered: she is hardly fragile. But she is scarred, and that her experiences have toughened up has meant she’ll likely never be as easy and open as she was as that 21-year-old graduate.

There’s no tragedy in that—many of us grow wary as we grow older—nor any pity. It’s just the cost of experience.





What are words for?

19 07 2016

Sorry, little but little bits:

*I don’t care about Pokémon Go, and don’t care that others care about Pokémon Go.

*Melania Trump’s plagiarism was a) not that big a deal in and of itself, but because it was b) an easily avoidable error, it c) plays into an already-existing narrative that the Trump campaign is a mess. While this might not matter to his supporters, he can’t win the election unless he picks up new supporters, who might side-eye such chaos; thus, d) Melania Trumps plagiarism matters.

*That said, political scientists (yes, the same folks who argued that Trump wouldn’t win the nom, but, moving on. . .) aren’t sure how much campaigns matters.

*I like gin sours more than gin sours like me.

*PSCUNY has finally managed to wrest a contract from the state. Some are opposed, but, man, I don’t know that we can do better than this. It actually more of the past than the future—it deals with 2010-17—so whatever the weaknesses, well, the union’ll be back at the table for the next round soon enough. I’m voting yes.

*Unlike last year, I did stuff my air conditioner into the window and am using it—tho’ not enough to please my cats.

*I have no idea who Hillary Clinton will pick as VP. I’d like to see a pol (not a general), but I’m sure s/he’ll be fine.

*This will haunt me to the end of my days:

 





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Let’s get it on

8 06 2016

And now there are two.

Bernie Sanders put up a hell of a fight, and I don’t know that anyone, including he, thought he’d last into June. And if he wants to go thru the DC primary, well, why not? He’s earned it.

Side note1: Bernie gets to be a little pissed off about losing and given a little time to get over his pissiness. As others have pointed out, he ran a hell of a campaign, but wasn’t prepared to go the distance against someone who has been all kinds of prepared since long before 2008.

I was ambivalent, for different reasons, about both Sanders and Clinton, but of course I am not at all ambivalent about the choice between the two-time senator and former secretary of state and the burnt sweet-potato french fry and real estate brand man. There will be no reluctance whatsoever in ticking off her name in November.

I’m also about as worried about Bernie-or-busters as I was about the PUMAs in 2008: not at all. Sure, some will hold out, but most will shrug and sigh and maybe mutter a curse or two as they, too, pull the lever/punch the ticket/connect the arrow next to Clinton’s place on the ballot. Doesn’t matter: a reluctant vote counts as much as an enthusiastic one.

Side note2: Some political scientist have floated various voting reforms which would allow someone to register the intensity of the vote—say, give each voter 5 points and allow her to allot them as she sees fit. I don’t have an opinion one way or another about this, but, as every fervid backer of every losing candidate has been pained to discover, pulling that lever extra hard doesn’t make your vote count more than once.

Still, it sucks to lose, so I’ll wait a week or so before telling the Busters to pull their heads out of their asses and vote against the giant orange bathroom troll.

I have no idea what will happen over the summer or how the vote will go in the fall. I didn’t think Trump had the organizational stuff to pull off a nomination win, but he did, so I don’t know what to do with stories of his lack of organization for the general. I think it’ll matter, but how much? I ain’t guessing.

I do think Clinton will put together a pretty fucking good general campaign. Her husband was arguably a net negative during the primary—he can get surly when arguing with the left—but he’s golden when going after the right. I think Sanders will continue to burn it down in college towns, even if he mentions his own agenda more than Clinton.

And then there’s the little matter of a generally popular president who is crazy popular with the Left Set. If only out of self-interest (and I’d guess, probably a bit than that), he’ll campaign for the person who can protect and extend his achievements.

So: the preliminaries are over. Let the games begin.





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.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Glad I’m not a Kennedy

7 04 2016

Really, glad I’m not a Republican.

I’m mean—yeah, given my views, obviously—but at least I don’t think either of the Democratic candidates is a dumpster fire. I’m not particularly enthusiastic about either, but, like Rebecca Schoenkopf and the Wonketteers, I’m pretty much they’re both fine, they’re both good.

Which is to say: what I like about each is what I distrust about each: Clinton’s practicality and Sanders’s impracticality. I’d say Let’s try to merge ’em, but then we’d end up with someone like Rod Blagojevich: completely cynical and a little insane.

(As an aside: this horseshit about Clinton’s ambition to be president as somehow bad is, shall we say, pretty rich coming from the campaign of someone running for president. Yeah, I know this kind of petty shit crops up in all campaigns and from the best of candidates, but shees: still annoying.)

No, this is what we’ve got: two people who would have different styles of governing but who each a) care about good governance; and b) would accomplish about the same as the other. I’ve learned to keep my expectations low—please try not to make things worse and if you can make them even a little bit better that would be great, thanks—so unless Clinton or Sanders runs off screaming into the night, they’ll be fine.

Trump and Cruz, on the other hand, don’t meet even that basic non-screamer standard. Cruz creeps people out—his most enthusiastic non-paid supporters seem to be those who spend the least time with him—and Trump lacks even the barest competence.

Yes, Cruz is intelligent, and yes, Trump has a certain, um, panache, but when it comes to governing, neither much cares: Trump supporters want to burn everything in their quest for GREATNESS and Cruz’s, well, christ, those who aren’t supporting him merely to stop Trump are waiting on some kind of red-white-and-blue Rapture.

Which is to say, if I’m a Republican who wants a president who can actually preside, I’m lookin’ at these two and thinking, Oh, boy.

I’m not concern trolling: I think Republicans as a whole are getting exactly who they deserve, and if either of those whos didn’t have a shot at the presidency, i.e., a chance at wrecking things for the rest of us, I’d be clapping in glee.

Still, I do feel a bit of sympathy for the ordinary Republican who just wants someone who’s not a night-screamer, someone who’s just, y’know, fine.








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