Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Silver Lining

Even before Donald Trump won the presidential election last month, he had already made America a much worse place.  Trump’s emergence over the past 18th months have made our political discourse much more hostile and much less coherent.  Presidential campaigns have always suffered from lack of substance, but Trump’s mere existence as a topic stripped the entire 2016 season of whatever ideological clash it might have otherwise offered.  His racism, misogyny, and lack of filter for either goaded our sensationalist media into handing him much more free airtime than he deserved, creating a constant and insufferable distraction from anything important or newsworthy in American politics over the past year.  He incited violence by both his supporters and his opposition. He stoked racial tensions and polarized our country like never before in my memory.  And beyond our nation’s borders, he has already done incalculable damage to America’s image and reputation as a leader worth turning to for guidance and example.

Now that he’s won, the next four years will surely bring much worse.  With Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress, Trump may attempt to deport millions of illegal immigrants, ripping mostly innocent parents from their wholly innocent children as punishment for victimless crimes.  He will likely attempt to make most Muslim immigrants register on a database, even those who have lived here peacefully for years, and deport any who do not comply. He has appointed a cabinet full of war hawks, drug hawks, authoritarians, labor protectionists, climate change deniers and racists, plus an Attorney General who’s all of the above. He may be able to impose abortion restrictions, and perhaps even appoint judges willing to overturn Roe v. Wade.  His foreign policy remains unclear, but vaguely ominous, having floated support for multiple war crimes during the campaign. He will almost certainly expand domestic surveillance, expand detentions at Guantanamo, and expand a unilateral drone program that already had far too few limitations or checks. He has threatened to censor media outlets which criticized him. Although the Supreme Court will almost certainly disallow some of this, the disastrous spectacle of the President openly defying their rulings has never seemed so plausible.

With such frightening possibilities on the immediate horizon, I am reluctant to write this entry at all. Optimism seems irresponsible at the present moment.  It is not the time for libertarians to shrug, laugh it off and hope for the best.  This is a time for libertarians to re-forge their Bush-era allegiance with the left, and to focus our combined energies on four years’ worth of resistance and disruption strategies.  Make no mistake: the glass is more than half-empty.

Nevertheless, I see reason for hope over the long-term, and for the next few years to be bearable libertarians will need to cling to it.  The silver lining is this: Trump’s rise to power will cause millions of people to drastically reconsider their views on democracy, the state, and its proper role in our lives, in ways which stand to benefit libertarian efforts to constrain those institutions.  For all the damage Trump has done and will continue to do to both our discourse and our policy, his presidency may have a sobering effect on political insiders from both the right and the left that makes it easier to improve those institutions after he’s gone.

On the right, Trump has done the political dialogue a tremendous service by teasing out what’s rotten from what’s worth keeping.  Specifically, he has teased out the racism from the libertarianism, such that libertarians have an opportunity to shed the oft-hurled accusation of racism so long as we consistently and passionately oppose Trump.

The libertarian label has long been an appealing hiding spot for racists in disguise.  From Goldwater’s segregationists to Ron Paul’s newsletters, the Alex-Jones crowd has polluted our tolerant individualist ideology with a hateful collectivist strain. But Trump’s emergence has temporarily solved this problem by forcing self-labeled libertarians to choose between ideologically consistent small-government conservatism on one hand, or white-resentment and animosity towards racial minorities on the other.  Which side you picked determines where your allegiances truly lie.

Consequently, the so-called “alt-right” has emerged as its own ideological affiliation, recognizably distinct from libertarianism, whereas its members would formerly get lumped together and give libertarians a bad name.  As I wrote months ago, “In destroying the Republican Party, [Trump] has demolished the dual hiding place of nativists pretending to be intellectuals, and intellectuals pretending half the country agreed with them.” As it turned out, the Republican Party may not be dead quite yet, but even so my point stands.  Conservative intellectuals appalled by racism, who had formerly supported the Republican Party without qualm, must now take a hard look in the mirror as they reexamine their political bedfellows.  Meanwhile, those libertarians who remain unbranded by the scarlet letter of Trump support will have an easier time convincing audiences of their intentions and credibility moving forward – especially now that Trump’s victory prevents conservatives from abandoning him and pretending he never existed.

Perhaps more importantly, though, Trump’s presidency stands to deal a devastating and long-overdue blow to left-wing people’s faith in government at large.  That faith has always been misplaced, and we’re about to witness why.  The 2016 election has already rattled people’s faith in democracy, including even that puny smidge of it my cynical heart had left.  With any luck, his administration it produces will only continue to weaken people’s confidence in the state as the proper mechanism for achieving social change.  If that lesson sticks, it will be very good for liberty in the long-run.

All through primary school, Americans are taught a series of comforting myths about our political system.  In fact, instilling these myths was one of the primary purposes for which public schooling was originally created. There is no grand conspiracy behind it, but that purpose remains alive and well today, at least subliminally.  Nation-centric history books teach us one-sided fables about how the government was founded, how it has governed since then, and how it works today.  We are taught nursery rhymes about our founding story and the legislative process.  We’re taught that democratic government is “all of us,” and can therefore be trusted; that “We the People” call the shots.  We’re even made to stand in unison and recite a creepy pledge to a piece of fabric each morning in which we remind ourselves that OUR government offers “liberty and justice to all.”  We play the national anthem before every sports game from middle-school up, and expect everyone to stand silently for its duration: motionless and hat-less, heads bowed as if in prayer to some revered entity.  Politicians of all parties reinforce these themes every chance they get.

All of this is intended to make you believe that our government is three things: legitimate, morally authoritative, and a noble instrument for social change.  Decades of subliminal indoctrination aim to convince you that the state operates “with the consent of the governed” – that you and your neighbors have a meaningful say in shaping the law, which you should be both proud of and contented with.  From there, the argument is made that the law is a moral authority: because the law arises from the bottom up, from the people, it allegedly follows that the law is righteous, the law is just, and we have a sacred obligation to obey the law.  And finally, the leap of logic is made in our imaginations that because the law is the arbiter of right and wrong, whenever we detect something wrong in the world, we should turn to the state to make it right.  We fantasize that this government of ours, which we’ve been taught is so unique and so virtuous and such a courageous experiment in “self-rule,” is THE essential tool for solving our society’s problems – perhaps even the world’s problems. 

All politicians want you to buy-in to these three beliefs, because these three beliefs have implications on which their power depends.  The implication of legitimacy is that you should vote, encourage others to vote, shame those who don’t vote, and then accept whatever governing decisions your voting produces as a rough approximation of what most people want.  The implication of moral authority is that after you’ve voted, you have an obligation to obey even those laws which you personally opposed.  And the implication of government being an instrument for social change is that the whole endeavor of governance is transformed from the relatively simple one of protecting our most basic rights, and creating the conditions necessary for human progress to emerge through peaceful means, into one in which the state itself must hire men with guns to spearhead our personal moral crusades if any progress is to be made at all.

The beauty of Donald Trump’s victory this November is that the most educated among us can no longer square these myths with the reality before them.  It is very difficult to claim President Trump’s every opinion represents the legitimate will of the American people when his favorability ratings hover at 37%; or when only 55% of Americans voted, and only 46% of those who voted picked him; or when he lost the popular vote to one of the least popular candidates in US history.  It is very difficult for thinking people to believe that majority rule is morally authoritative when anything close to a majority has supported someone as plainly immoral as Donald J. Trump.  And it is darn-near impossible to view the American as a harbinger for social progress when that system stands to undo so many decades of progress in a single election.

The truth is that our government – and all governments – are nothing close to the patriotic pornography that the West Wing opening credits would have you believe.  Government is ugly.  It is clumsy, it is heated, it is inherently violent, it is lethal, it is unconvincing, and 99 times out of 100 it is ill-suited to making the world a better place.  There’s nothing poetic about it.  Donald Trump’s opinions do not represent the “will of the people,” and neither did Obama’s nor any president before him.  On the contrary, his opinions render obvious, to any progressive for which it wasn’t obvious already, that democracy it isn’t all of us deciding things together, nor even most of us.  It is only some of us, appointed by others of us, and no matter how many elections they win they shouldn’t get to tell the rest of us how to live.

Just as Trumps candidacy forced conservatives to choose between racial resentment and small-government idealism, Trump’s presidency will force progressives to choose between advancing progress and statism.  I hope the choice is apparent.  Democracy is not sacred, and neither are its verdicts.  That’s not a comforting realization for the millions of Americans which have come to fetishize it, but it is an overdue one.

The next four years will cause more and more Americans to dispel, one and for all, with these fictions [sic]. As more and more become disillusioned with the state, libertarians need to have answers ready for the questions they will start to ask: what caused this?  How did things get so fucked up?  What lessons can we learn from it?  How can we make the best of it while it lasts, and how can we prevent it from happening again?  If we can publicize compelling answers to those questions, we will be in line to snatch up millions of new votes by the time we do another one of these damn elections.  

But more importantly, we’ll have finally gotten through to people about the absurdity of it all. When people come to see the state for what it is – not a battleground for the fate of humanity, but a necessary evil for a narrow function – they’ll stop letting political affairs have such power over their very self-identity.  They won’t be sucked in so gullibly to these 18-month media melodramas over which inflated personality caricature will “rule the free world!” next, but will instead seek to reduce the role this outsized and outdated institution plays in their lives so they can get on with living them.

The law is an opinion with a gun; resist it when you can, ignore it when you can’t.  The next four years will be embarrassing and will hurt lots of people, but they won’t be Armageddon.  Life will move on.  The greatest joys in life have nothing to do with the state, and nor do the most exciting ways in which the world is getting better. We don’t need government to improve the world, so let’s not wait until 2020 to start trying.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Please avoid vague, ambiguous, inflammatory buzzwords

There’s been a lot of talk recently about why our country is so divided and what we can do to create a healthier political climate.  I have lots of ideas on this, many of which I have written about before on this blog (even long before Trump began his ugly campaign). Today, I will expand on just one of those topics in particular: how to avoid talking past one another.

Part of the challenge of discussing politics with people who disagree with you is that in addition to differences in values, information and experiences, people also have different mental dictionaries.  Certain words in our political discourse can mean vastly different things to different people, which makes it difficult to find an agreeable starting point from which any conversation could proceed. My advice for those hoping to have productive conversations with the other side is to spot such words, refrain from using them as much as possible, and clarify which meaning is intended if they are used.  This is especially important for words that can be perceived as insults and spark defensive reactions in others.

A few examples: “socialist,” “isolationist,” “radical,” “corrupt”.  These words each have a vaguely negative association.  But they’re also very broad; each could describe a wide range of different beliefs and behaviors, some of which are much more offensive to the average American than others.  Most Americans would reject full-blown Soviet or Marxist style socialism – but they rather like certain programs (like Social Security) that have socialist elements. Most Americans think we should trade with the world and sign international treaties and conduct diplomacy and defend our allies when they are attacked, but far fewer would object to scaling back our interventions abroad.  Almost all Americans abhor corruption in principle, but if campaign finance disputes are any indication, they don’t always agree on what it looks like in practice.

For decades, hyper-partisan people have strategically used words like these to describe the other side, without specifying which severity-level of the insult they are alleging, nor even acknowledging that there’s any nuance to the terms at all. The strategy essentially allows the speaker to spread misinformation and hyperbole without technically having said anything demonstrably false. By exploiting the ambiguity of such broad terms, partisans can rally people who feel angered or threatened by the most severe meaning, and then piggyback off the moral outrage produced by such offensive connotations to advance their political aims.  And of course, our increasingly sensationalist media eats it right up.  Over the short term, it can be quite an effective strategy. (Socrates might have called this “sophistry”: a method of argumentation that deceptive and unhelpful towards the pursuit of truth, but nevertheless carries great rhetorical effect with a crowd.)

Over the long term, though, using these buzzwords so flippantly has catastrophic consequences for the constructiveness of our discourse.  First, it causes confusion and anger on both sides, which hampers our ability to truly listen to and understand people with different opinions.  Second, overusing these words makes them almost meaningless, which eventually causes people to tune-out; this deprives activists of the lexicon they need to draw attention to important underlying issues.  And thirdly, this mass indifference in turn creates a “boy who cried wolf” syndrome, where cases that actually ARE the most-severe-possible version of the buzzword, and actually DO warrant moral outrage, are met with a shrug and a yawn.

Nowhere is this clearer than it is with perhaps the most ambiguous and widespread political attack word of modern times: racist.

I have called Donald Trump racist on several occasions. I do not retract it; it seems clear to me that Trump and most his supporters are driven in part by white resentment towards minorities, or at least by a statistically unfounded distrust of them.  It also seems abundantly clear to me that whatever his motivation, and however innocuous his intent, his policies will worsen the de facto conditions of racial oppression.  By my understanding of the word, that’s enough to qualify him as a racist man.

And yet, I found myself feverishly nodding along with every word of this fantastic post by Scott Alexander. It is long but worth it; a meticulous, compelling, 8,000 word smackdown of the apoplectic racial hyperbole that surrounded Donald Trump from the moment he announced his candidacy.  If you read nothing else about politics this week, follow that hyperlink; conservatives, because you will want to stand up and applaud, and liberals because you might just need a reality check.  In case you don't follow my advice, here's a one-sentence summary: the exaggeration of Donald Trump’s racism over the past year has been absolutely unreal, and almost completely unchecked. Too many people (myself included) let it slide because it was an election year, and he was the bad guy, and we didn’t want to make it seem as if we were at all sympathetic to him or his policies.  That was cowardly of us.

You can call me privileged until you’re blue in the face, but it won’t change the truth that not all racism is equally horrid.  The preference for a tougher criminal justice system is not akin to the explicit belief that some races are superior to others.  Anxiety about immigrants from certain Muslim majority nations, in which we have been fighting wars for decades, is less reprehensible than Nazi-style anti-Semitism.  If you’re going to define racism so broadly as the left has chosen to define it, the tradeoff to that is you can no longer demand people respond to the entire, growing list of things you call racist with the same level of outrage they formerly reserved for Klansmen lynch mobs.  The larger and larger your conception of institutional racism becomes, the more ethically distinct behaviors it encompasses.  Those distinctions matter, and glossing over them is counterproductive.

This doesn’t mean you can’t call racism racism.  Just like economics and foreign policy and corruption, racism is important and needs to be talked about.  Sometimes you can’t discuss these topics without using the overused word in question, and I’m not suggesting we forego those conversations just to prevent confusion or offense.  Just remember that for the conversation to be worth having in the first place, for it to be at all constructive, the parties to the conversation need to settle on a fixed, mutual understanding of the terms they use before they go on using them.  

Don’t be a sophist.  Be a responsible steward of the American political lexicon, and isolate the thing you are referencing from whatever additional baggage its label might imply.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A heartfelt message from a swing-state third-party voter who preferred Clinton to Trump

I’d like to begin this post with a pretty sobering confession.  I am a college graduate whose home-of-record is in swing-state Pennsylvania. I have been politically active for my entire adult life.  This year, like most educated, politically active people, I recognized that Hillary Clinton would make a better president than Donald Trump – and then I voted for Gary Johnson anyway. 

At the time, I reckoned this was a pretty safe gamble.  The polls had Clinton leading Pennsylvania pretty comfortably, and most experts I read online expected Clinton to win the presidency in a landslide.  Why not vote my conscience, I thought?  It probably wouldn't matter anyway.

To my horror, the polls were wrong.  As it turned out, Trump won Pennsylvania by a narrow margin (about 68,000 votes, compared to the 142,000 Johnson received in PA) and it was this very state which (chronologically) nudged him over the 270 Electoral College voters he needed to win the presidency.

Having glumly reflected on my role in all this for almost a week now, I’d like to own up and say a few words to Hillary Clinton and her supporters.  They come from the heart, and while I cannot speak for everyone who voted for Gary Johnson (we libertarians are notoriously resistant to being collectivized) I do suspect that most of those four-million Americans would say the same to you, if they could:

You’re welcome.

You’re WELCOME, Clinton fans, that our joint efforts to get Gary Johnson on the ballot in all 50 states allowed you and your corrupt, warmongering, universally despised candidate to save face by winning the popular vote.

Now, thanks all the votes we drew away from Trump, you can continue to lie to yourselves and the world in asserting that Hillary Clinton was the true “people’s choice.” Now, thanks to us, you can assuage your troubled heart with the consolation prize of feeling slighted by an antiquated system.  Now, thanks to us, you can attack a tired scapegoat for a little while longer before being made to confront the deep-rooted failings in both your 2016 candidate and your long-term strategy for enacting social change.

Oh - was that not what the message you were expecting?

If not, perhaps you read Jezebel’s headlines the morning after election day – “Fuck Gary Johnson” followed by “Oh, and Fuck Jill Stein too” – and in your anger, eagerly surmised from this that they had crunched the numbers and determined third-parties cost Hillary Clinton the election.  If so, fret not: your truth-seeking skills are no worse than those of the inquiring journalists at CNN, whose headlines reported this same finding as fact (leaving it to the reader to fill in the F-bomb implications). 

Or perhaps you listened to Rachel Maddow – who basically brought libertarian VP nominee Bill Weld on her show for the explicit purpose of getting him to convince his own supporters not to vote for him – when she lashed out at those who ignored her advice on election night. True to form, a dude on her NBC blog followed up with an argument that “third-party voters had an enormous, Nader-like impact” on the 2016 election” on the logic if 100% of Stein and 50% of Johnson’s voters had voted for Clinton without ANY Johnson voters voting for Trump! – it would have been enough for her to take the presidency. Within hours, this faulty reasoning had become “proof” that Jill Stein and Gary Johnson made the difference, and by the following day Vanity Fair was so certain of this that they called it “undeniable that third-party voters cost Clinton the election.

With all this talk of undeniable proof, you’d be forgiven for declining to check the numbers yourself.  That would be time-consuming, and surely our media wouldn’t dare report it if it weren’t true, right? Surely they’re much too invested in their sterling reputation as dispassionate fact-finders to risk whipping-up unfounded partisan mud-slinging at such a time as this.  That would be irresponsible of them, especially at a moment of fierce national tension, when everybody’s looking for something or someone to blame!

But for whatever reason, a nagging voice in my head told me to go check it out with my own two eyes.  So I did.  And because I’m a nerd who gets excited by Excel, I made a nice little color-coded project out of it that took up my entire afternoon.  You can see my full handiwork here. If you’re short on time, though, I’ll save you the hassle: it’s all bullshit.  Third-party voters might have swung Michigan from Clinton to Trump, and they might have swung New Hampshire from Trump to Clinton, but no other states would likely have been flipped in a world with neither Johnson nor Stein on the ballot.  In order for Clinton to have won the election in that world, even assuming 100% voter turnout among those disillusioned third-party voters (which is preposterous), she’d have needed 100% of would-be Stein voters to prefer her (unlikely) and 57% of would-be Johnson voters to prefer her (absurd).  In fact, when you isolate the effects of my candidate, you find that Donald Trump would probably have won the popular vote too had there been no Libertarian on the ballot.  So again, you’re welcome.

Listen, the left is right to be angry by what happened on Tuesday.  I sure as hell am.  But that doesn’t make this recurring myth of a scapegoat any less pathetic.  It is the height of illogic to blame Gary Johnson or Jill Stein for who won the White House last week. Period.  Even supposing Johnson drew evenly from both sides (an eyebrow-raising assumption for anyone familiar with the conservative tendencies of most libertarians) there was simply no plausible mechanism by which to peel off half of Gary Johnson’s supporters towards Clinton without sending the other half scurrying to Trump.  Maddow tried, to be sure, but that blew up in Weld’s face. You can’t implore an entire class of people to abandon their preferred candidate for one with a chance to win, unless they would otherwise prefer the opposite candidate from you, in which case they should totally stick with the guy with no chance to win. There is no actual world in which your strategic voting could have been applied by only that half of Johnson supporters who preferred your candidate.

Many commentators wouldn’t even settle for half, anyway.  I am sincerely amazed by how many imbeciles on my timeline are simply looking at the margin of victory in battleground states, noting that third-party vote totals exceeded that margin, and then literally just ADDING that figure to Clinton’s totals to conclude that third-parties cost Clinton the White House.  Since when has libertarianism EVER been a left-wing ideology?  Since when has the left EVER been expecting our votes?  And if they were hoping for our vote this time around, when did they EVER indicate that to us beforehand?

My hypothetical conversation with any Democrat frustrated by libertarians voting for the libertarian candidate would go something like this:

Democrats: “God, why didn’t libertarians grow-up and vote for Clinton???”

Me: “Did you ever try to draw them into your coalition?”

Democrats: “No, I called them all assholes, but they should have got the message!”

Hillary Clinton’s vote was never mine to lose.  I would not have bothered to request, fill out and mail-in an absentee ballot from halfway across the world had she been the best option on that ballot, and I won’t be guilt-tripped into regretting that based on faulty logic.  I, on an individual level, could not have changed the outcome by strategically voting for my preferred major party candidate.  And we, as both Johnson voters and third-party voters on a collective level, could also not have changed the outcome by strategically voting for our preferred major party candidates.  There’s no story here.

I started off this post by confessing that a week ago today, I never expected my vote would make a difference.  Sure enough, it fucking didn’t.

Friday, November 11, 2016

It doesn't matter who won the popular vote

For these four reasons:

1. The Electoral College suppresses voter turnout in non-swing states, such that we can’t know if the popular vote outcome would have been the same without the Electoral College.  Voting is a pretty irrational waste of time to begin with from any one individual’s perspective (even in swing states, your vote is essentially meaningless, and has less chance of swinging the election than you do of dying in a car crash on the way to the polling place) but this is especially true in states whose electoral college votes are essentially already allocated.  As such, many politically engaged people in “safe states” like Texas and California nevertheless stay home during presidential elections, because practically every pundit and news station gives them daily reminders that their state’s outcome is a foregone conclusion. If they had known the president would be elected by popular vote, however, many of these people would have voted after all, and perhaps their input would have flipped the popular vote winner.

2. Both candidates knew the Electoral College was all that mattered from the outset, and they campaigned accordingly.  Had the campaign season begun under a different set of rules, the entire strategy of both campaigns would have shifted.  Both would have spent more time in urban areas and less time in rural areas.  Both would have adjusted their policy pitches and perhaps even their policy positions.  All of this would have influenced who voted, in what numbers, and for whom. They might not have even been the same candidates!  The current system of state-by-state primaries and caucuses only developed in response to the reality of the Electoral College. Who knows who the Republican and Democratic parties would have nominated, or what rules they would use to do so, if the name of the game were switched to popular vote victory?  You can’t claim the right to rule because your candidate won by a metric that neither candidate was trying to win by.  It would be equivalent to Arsenal complaining that they deserve to be the TRUE Premier League champions from last season, because the off-sides rule is stupid, and Leicester City only had such successful defense by playing the offside trap. Even if the off-sides rule is stupid, obviously the teams would have used different strategies all along had they know they were playing without it, and obviously that would have influenced the outcome in ways hindsight will never know.

3. The opinions of voters are not more morally significant than the opinions of non-voters.  As I’ve explained above, voting is so irrational that nobody can be rightfully blamed for not doing it. Whatever it was these people were doing instead of voting was almost definitely more productive and helpful to the world than what you and I were doing standing in line to vote.  Imagine: if everyone who voted this week had instead spent 5 minutes online donating $5 to a charity of their choosing, they would each have saved a lot of time and frustration, and we collectively have done a lot more good for the world to the tune of some $650 million.  In fact, by choosing to spend an hour or so of your day voting INSTEAD of spending it volunteering at a local charity, we rather selfishly prioritized out own personal feelings of civic pride over the wellbeing of all those we might have helped!  Why should us selfish ones be the only Americans whose “consent” is taken into account by our government?  I’m partly joking, of course, but in all seriousness, a government’s legitimacy cannot solely be measured through elections. There’s no way to tell which of the two candidates the 46.9% of American adults who rationally decided to stay home would have preferred and by what numbers, and only 25.6% of American adults voted for Clinton. That’s not enough to unequivocally claim she is the people’s champion.

4. The disparity in vote totals is so puny as to be completely morally irrelevant.  Democracy is the least bad form of choosing leaders I know of, but it’s still a completely arbitrary and subjective method. I’ve said before on this blog that I don’t think majority rule is morally authoritative EVEN in cases of a landslide; even if Donald Trump had got 70% of the vote and Hillary Clinton only 30%, from my view he would have no greater right to impose his will on those 30% than he does now.  But when one candidate gets 47.7% of the vote and the other gets 47.5%, neither even securing a majority, it’s just preposterous to claim that either of them has a clear “public mandate” to foist their will on the rest of the country!  121 million people voted, and the top two vote getters were separated by less than 400,000. That’s as close to a tie as you can get. For all intents and purposes, their supporters voted at a 1:1 ratio. If the people’s voice was truly “heard” in this election, it came out pretty garbled. Under such conditions, a society needs a set of rules in place to determine who the winner is, and merely counting who has more is no less crude nor arbitrary a method than the Electoral College.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Two thoughts after election day

1. I used to have sincere confidence in the safeguards of the U.S. constitution, and a naïve trust that my countrymen would never render me an agent of oppression. The past six years have made me more cynical, and yesterday was a dismaying wake-up call that this trust was misplaced.

It’s going to be an embarrassing few years for an American living abroad.  I know not what is about to come, but whatever it is, I’m so sorry.

2. Donald Trump is many things.  He is racist.  He is misogynistic.  He is hateful – callous and meanspirited towards the plight of those less fortunate than he.  He is narcissistic beyond measure. He is a pompous douchebag and lots of other unsavory adjectives.

But let it never again be scoffed that Donald Trump is an idiot, because he proved last night that he is smarter than most of us.  He is a marketing genius. He understands brand control better than anyone.  He understands human nature, and for the past 18 months has had his finger on the pulse of this nation more closely than any pollster or pundit. Practically every major newspaper, website, politician, polling agency, government official, political party, celebrity and foreign government the world over pulled out the works to stop this guy, and he outsmarted all of them.

You don’t have to like the guy to acknowledge and remark upon the enormity of that accomplishment. Donald Trump may be an asshole, but he’s also a fucking badass.