Tag: Hillary Clinton

Brazile Spills

When it comes to the Russia collusion thing, I find myself thinking two related thoughts:

  • There was definitely an effort by the Russians to at least cause disruption in our election. It’s worth investigating. And anyone who worked with the Russians should be run out of politics.
  • I seriously doubta few facebook memes and a Wikileaks e-mail trove that no one outside of Washington cared about decided this election. Or even had a big impact.
  • I think the attention on Russia’s influence is, to a significant extent, driven by the Democrats’ need to distract from their own incompetence. Indeed, accounts of the election night indicate that Clinton decided quickly to blame the loss on the Russians, rather than her own mismanagement.

That latter point just got a big jolt of support:

The Saturday morning after the convention in July, I called Gary Gensler, the chief financial officer of Hillary’s campaign. He wasted no words. He told me the Democratic Party was broke and $2 million in debt.

“What?” I screamed. “I am an officer of the party and they’ve been telling us everything is fine and they were raising money with no problems.”

That wasn’t true, he said. Officials from Hillary’s campaign had taken a look at the DNC’s books. Obama left the party $24 million in debt—$15 million in bank debt and more than $8 million owed to vendors after the 2012 campaign—and had been paying that off very slowly. Obama’s campaign was not scheduled to pay it off until 2016. Hillary for America (the campaign) and the Hillary Victory Fund (its joint fundraising vehicle with the DNC) had taken care of 80 percent of the remaining debt in 2016, about $10 million, and had placed the party on an allowance.

In return for this bailout, the Clinton campaign basically took over the DNC’s finances and strategy. It’s normal for Presidential campaigns to joint fundraise with the Party to bypass campaign finance limits. And it’s normal for the Presidential nominee to fill the DNC with their own people. But this began in 2015, long before she was officially the nominee. And the Clinton campaign canted the DNC’s strategies to favor Clinton and, instead of sharing money with the state committed, funneled almost all the money the Democratic Party was raising into Clinton’s presidential campaign. In short, the Democratic Party spent over a year serving as nothing more than a vehicle to advance Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, the rest of the country be damned.

You should read the whole thing, which is from Donna Brazile, current interim DNC chair. Brazile, of course, has her own history here: she was fired by CNN for feeding primary debate questions to Clinton. And this crosses me an effort to throw Wasserman-Schulz and Clinton under the bus to conceal her own perfidy. Althouse wonders if campaign finance laws were broken, which is a very good question.

We periodically get these reminders that, as bad as Trump is, Hillary Clinton was no panacea. Right now, her cultish followers are screaming sexism and crying, “Well, the DNC didn’t actually force people to vote for Clinton so the election wasn’t rigged!” But the DNC canted the entire process toward her. And she deprived them of any resources they needed for the kind of national presence that might have sustained her momentum. And then she went out and, despite these advantages, lost to her hand-picked tangerine opponent.

I said at the very beginning of the 2016 election that Hillary Clinton was bad at politics and the Democrats were going to be reminded of this in the hardest way possible. This decision to route all the money to her campaign wasn’t just corrupt and unethical, it was stupid. The Republican Party has as national presence; the Democratic Party does not. And decisions like this are why that is so. Even if Clinton had won, her burning of the party to support her own ambitions would have deprived her of the coattails needed to get a compliant Congress. Instead of Trump rage-tweeting about Congress, we’d have Clinton throwing lamps in the Oval Office. I guess that’d be an improvement, but not much of one.

The Clinton Files

Remember the Steele dossier? Sure you do. This was the file that Buzzfeed ran back in January detailing a mix of rumors and innuendo about Trump’s ties to Russia. At the time, it wasn’t clear where this came from. The dossier was compiled by Christopher Steele working for a company called Fusion GPS. But who hired them to compile that dossier?

Turns out: the Clintons.

Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research.

After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the firm in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Prior to that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by a still unknown Republican client during the GOP primary.

The Clinton campaign and the DNC, through the law firm, continued to fund Fusion GPS’s research through the end of October 2016, days before Election Day.

So no deep state. No Obama coup. Just the Clintons up to their usual shit, trying to smear their opponent. The Clintons have a long history here, highlighted by things like Alma Powell’s struggles with depression suddenly becoming news, Newt Gingrich’s first divorce morphing into him serving papers to his sick wife, Bush’s DWI arrested coming to light days before the 2000 election, the sudden interest in Jeremiah Wright, Bernie Sanders’ 40-year old essays, etc., etc. The curious thing was that they couldn’t get the media to bite. As I noted in post above, this dossier was shopped around to the media but they refused to run it because so little of it could be verified. Some of it has since been verified (the conversations with Russian officials) but not the more dramatic allegations (financial ties, peeing hookers).

This is just a reminder that while Trump may be a dumpster fire, his opponent was hardly a shining bastion of decency and decorum. The Clintons spent real money trying to get dirt on Trump and then tried to shop around a file containing spectacular but unsubstantiated allegations. They tried to shop around a file so speculative that the media, all of whom hated Trump, refused to touch it. Do we have any doubts as to what Clinton would be doing right now where she in office with the powers of the FBI, NSA and CIA at her disposal?

Cersei Clinton

Hillary Clinton has a book coming out blaming everyone but herself for her loss in 2016. It’s mostly an academic exercise. The election was so closely decided — 70,000 votes in three states — that you could literally blame it on anything you want. Comey’s letter? Yeah, that might have moved the polls less than a percent. Sexism? Sure. Bernie? Of course. Russia? Fine. In the end, however, she won the popular vote. She lost the election because three states she was supposed to win easily — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — went to Trump by tiny margins. And she barely campaigned in those states. Everything else — Comey, Russia, Bernie, sexism, Mars being in the house of the ram — were not things she could control. The one thing she could control — campaigning in those states — was the thing she didn’t do.

Anyway, excerpts from the book are coming out now and some of them just make you say … Wut?

In the book, Clinton manages to work in references to both Game of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel that is now a hit Hulu drama. Because Clinton is down with the kids.

“Crowds at Trump rallies called for my imprisonment more times than I can count,” Clinton writes. “They shouted, ‘Guilty! Guilty!’ like the religious zealots in Game of Thrones chanting ‘Shame! Shame!’ while Cersei Lannister walked back to the Red Keep.”

Clinton refers to GoT’s Season 5 finale, “Mother’s Mercy,” in which Cersei—confessing to adultery—is forced to walk, naked, through King’s Landing to atone for her sins under the radical Faith Militant religious group’s regime. All the while, Septa Unella, walks behind her ringing a bell and chanting “Shame,” while passersby heckle and spit at her.

This is … not a comparison Clinton should be making (assuming it’s genuine and not just made up for gits and shiggles). First of all, Cersei was guilty of adultery. And incest. And treason. And everything else under the sun. Second, Cersei became queen, which Clinton never managed to do. Third, just … seriously? I can’t put it better than Robby Soave:

What’s the difference between Game of Thrones character Cersei Lannister and failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton? One is an entitled narcissist who quietly supported her lecherous husband (whom she clearly loathed) when it was politically convenient, then insisted it was her turn to rule (even though it wasn’t), chose boot-lickers, ass-kissers, and elitist bankers as her advisors while alienating more competent and better-liked people who might have helped her, exacted petty vengeance on imagined enemies, escaped justice and the judgment of the people by destroying her main rival—the charismatic, income-inequality obsessed populist—with an explosive cheat, and was left confused why so many people in her country would rather be ruled by a complete political unknown who tells it like it is.

The other fucks her twin brother.

I suspect this was inserted by a ghost writer or someone who wasn’t terribly familiar with the series. I’m reminded of Joe Posnanski writing about Ted Cruz (who had his own hilarity today):

One of my dream jobs is to become a political sports consultant. It works pretty simply. Let’s say that Carly Fiorina decides during her Iowa caucus campaigning to send what she might later call a “tongue-in-cheek” tweet about how she loves her alma mater Stanford, but she’s “rooting for a Hawkeyes win today” in the Rose Bowl.

I would tell her: Don’t do it. That’s all. If it is a joke, nobody will get the joke. And if it’s a pander, hey, that’s fine, but it’s a terrible pander. No real sports fan in Iowa would expect you to root against your alma mater in a bowl game.

I bring this up now, obviously, because I sure as heck wish that presidential candidate Ted Cruz had come to me first. He was in the gym where they filmed much of the movie “Hoosiers,” and he was referring to the scene where coach Norman Dale has his players use a tape measure to show that the rim is the same height in Indianapolis as it was in little ol’ Hickory.

“The amazing thing is,” Cruz said, “that basketball ring in Indiana, it’s the same height as it is in New York City and every other place in this country.”

Basketball ring. He called it a basketball ring.

“Fortunately,” the writer Anthony Castrovince tweets, “It was in Indiana. Not a big basketball state.”

Great “Spinal Tap” reference. Anyway, I feel like one of those “superheroes” who helplessly watches a senseless calamity. I could have stopped him.

It’s hard to know exactly where “basketball ring” falls in the list of awkward sports talk by politicians. At first glance, it seems like THE most awkward because, honestly, nobody on planet earth has ever referred to a “basketball ring” except when pointing out that Carmelo Anthony hasn’t won one. Put it this way: My 14-year-old daughter laughed, and she actively loathes sports.

Politicians desperately need a position of “pop culture advisor” who will keep them from doing things like comparing themselves to the biggest villain in a popular TV series or urging their supporter to “Pokemon Go” to the polls.

Empathy Part II: Why Trump Won

So, a few weeks ago, I wrote about how a lack of empathy has wrecked our political system. There was an aspect of political empathy, however, that didn’t fit into that post and that I wanted to riff on. It’s the role that empathy plays in the success of politicians rather than in political discourse.

One of the big realizations of 2016 for me was that issues don’t matter as much as we’d like to think. Oh, they matter … on the edges. But our politics have become so tribal that 60 million Republicans would happily vote for a big-government authoritarian and 60 million Democrats would happily vote for globalist darling of Wall Street. There is a growing body of evidence that people define themselves by their political party, not their philosophy. And when that party changes its views, they change with the party. So suddenly, Democrats favored free trade while Republicans opposed it. Democrats though Russia was the quintessence of evil while Republicans thought they were misunderstood. An amoral sexual predator became an acceptable political leader for Republicans and an amoral money grubber became an acceptable political leader for Democrats … as long as they beat the other side’s amoral pig.

But while tribalism is an appealing and glib explanation for 2016, I think there’s more to it than that. One of the things that doesn’t get talked about too much is the importance of the perception — however flawed — that a party is listening to your concerns and cares about your concerns regardless of whether or not they have a solution for them. That is, that the party shows empathy to its constituents.

Every year, African-Americans voter overwhelmingly Democratic, despite the failure of the Democratic party to deliver anything resembling prosperity. Democrats have avidly supported policies — urban renewal, the welfare state, the War on Drugs — that I believe have made things worse for black people. So why do black people vote for them? Because Democrats listen to them. Because they go to churches and local meetings and listen. And even if they don’t do anything about black people’s concerns, the fact that they are being listened to matters. Remember when Rand Paul spoke at an historically black college? The media mocked him for making a few faux pas. But the students liked it. They were happy that a Republican was trying to reach out to them. Even if they disagreed with him, the fact that he made an effort and listened to them mattered. And if the GOP continued on that effort, they would start getting black votes. Because when the GOP does not try to get black votes, that sends a message too: “We don’t give a damn about you.”

And there’s a flip side to that, one that reared it’s head strongly in 2016. Every year, pundits wonder “what’s the matter with Kansas?” — why do rural voters vote “against their economic interests”. I’ll put aside the idea that wealth redistribution and big welfare states are “in people’s interests”. The real reason that rural voters support Republicans is because Republicans listen to them and Democrats don’t. Republicans may not have solutions to the problems of rural voters. But on many rural voters’ concerns — immigration, outsourcing, drugs, etc. — Republicans listen. And listening is far more important, politically, than solving.

We all used to joke about Bill Clinton saying “I feel your pain”. But we shouldn’t have. That was Bill Clinton’s greatest strength as a politician. He may have been a liar with the sexual habits of a Delta Tau Chi toga party. But he was probably the best President in my lifetime at making people feel like he understood, like he knew what they were going through. And a lot of the time that’s all people want, to feel like their concerns are not just being ignored, even if they aren’t or can’t be addressed.

The 2016 election puzzled a lot of people because Donald Trump won traditional Democratic constituencies in the midwest. But it was no puzzle to me. In “Shattered”, the authors note that Clinton did not want to campaign in the Midwest because she knew her pro-trade stance was unpopular. But by not campaigning, she gave a much worse message: “I don’t give a damn about you.”

Now imagine an alternative universe where Clinton gave a series of speeches like so:

Yes, I supported NAFTA. And I still think it was a good call. On balance, it has benefited our nation immensely. But over the last two decades, we’ve found that it didn’t benefit everyone. Some communities got hit very hard by it. This is why I changed my position on TPP. Because I want to make sure that this time we get it right and we take care of the communities that will be hurt before we sign the deal.

That wouldn’t necessarily have been truthful. But if she’d given something like that speech, she’d be President today. Because even if she didn’t have a solution to the problems of unemployment, drugs and crime hitting rural communities, she’d at least have given the impression that she cared.

We know that because that’s why Trump is President. Because for all the sexism and bigotry and pussy-groping and incoherence, Trump gave the impression, in his clumsy way, that he felt people’s pain. That he was aware of how people felt about trade and immigration and crime and Washington corruption. And while his policies were nonsense and he’s doing little to help people in rural America, they voted for him because at least he seemed to give a damn, no matter authentic you think that damn was. A good politician would have torn him apart, of course. But Clinton was such a poor politician, she made Donald Trump look like the caring sympathetic one.

(As an aside, this is one of the reasons why libertarianism will always be a niche political philosophy and a big reason why it tends to be male-dominated. It is filled to the brim with theoreticians who have all the ideas in the world but little understanding of human nature.)

Empathy matters. Being listened to matters. It’s matters in our politics; it matters in our elections. And until the Democrats start to empathize with unwashed masses between the coasts, they will continue to lose elections.

The Holdout Soldiers

Speaking of tribalism …

Daou has become a reliable holdout soldier for Clinton, constantly insisting that she’s really awesome, trying to tie every story back to her and demanding that the world embrace her. But this tweet (and the sentiment behind it) is illustrative of something deeply stupid in American politics and in the Democratic Party in particular.

I was recently chatting with a British friend about the snap election. He predicted that Theresa May would be out of power by Christmas at the latest, July at the earliest. The reason, he said, is that the Conservatives tend to be fairly ruthless about leadership. When a politician leads them to disaster — as May has — that politician does not tend to last very long.

I agree with the prediction but I wouldn’t use the word “ruthless”. I would use the word “smart”. Parties have limited political capital. When a politician starts becoming a liability, the party should not expend one ounce of that capital propping that wounded duck up. Dump them and invest that energy in someone new. It doesn’t matter if the damage to the politician is “fair” or not. What matters is that you are wasting time and energy complaining to the refs instead of trying to move the ball downfield.

Maybe the criticism of Clinton and Pelosi is unfair (I happen to think it’s very fair). But that doesn’t matter a wit. Neither of them is a young once-in-a-generation political talent. Or a political talent at all. Defending them isn’t about fairness or political wisdom. It’s about tribalism. It’s about defending “their side” from the awful awful Republicans. It’s about not letting the Republicans “win” by not letting them dictate who runs your party.

But here’s the thing … denying the Republicans a “win” on Pelosi and the Democratic leadership has given the Republicans win after win at the ballot box. The Democratic leadership is old and out of touch. The most popular Presidential candidates right now — Warren, Pelosi, Clinton, Biden, Sanders — are all on the wrong side of 70 and have big political liabilities. This leadership, which the base seems to love so much, has led the Democrats to one of the lowest political ebbs in history — Republicans in both houses, Trump in the White House, most state legislatures and governorships controlled by Republicans, a party confined almost entirely to big cities and the coasts. For Pete’s sake, why are you wasting energy defending these people? The batting coach of the Tampa Bay Rays is held more accountable than these jack-a-napes.

Granted, some of the young Democrats — Preening Preet Bharara, Fascist Kamela Harris, Dumbell Andrew Cuomo — aren’t exactly inspiring. But there have got to be young political talents out there who can rebuild the Democratic brand. Take Jon Ossoff. He was wet-behind-the-ears but he moderated a bit and could get elected (maybe in the district he lives in). In my own state, Tom Wolf just worked with Republicans to pass what was once unthinkable: a massive reform of state employee pensions that will cap our future liabilities and keep us from becoming Illinois with mountains. There are thousands of Democratic politicians out there and 60 million people who voted for them. There’s got to be someone better than these old farts.

If there were any accountability in the Democratic Party, Pelosi would have been forced out after 2010 and the entirety of the leadership would have been forced out after 2016’s disaster. But the Democrats don’t seem to want to face reality.

One of the reasons the Republican Party has been successful is that they’ve been better at holding their leadership accountable for what happens in the polls. Newt, for example, was forced out in 1998 after a poor mid-term performance. They’re not perfect — there’s far too many former whatevers running around Fox News. But they are better. And they have been way better at promoting the young wave of conservatives like Rubio, Haley, Martinez and Jindal.

Look, I’ve been following politics for a long time and I know how the Cult of Personality works. But the Cult of Personality afflicting the Democrats right now is deeply deranged. It’s one thing to have a Cult of Personality around successful politicians like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. But building one around losers like Pelosi, Hillary and Schumer? What the hell is that even about?

Around the country, Democrats are lamenting their losses, wondering why they can’t win. They’ve resorted to blaming Republicans and voters for being awful people. They’ve been throwing up their hands and saying, “How can you appeal to racist sexist bigots?” That’s comforting, I guess. But the country isn’t really that awful. Your leadership is.

Empathy in Politics

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how bad things have gotten in politics. When I started this blogging thing back in 2004, blogging about politics was a lot of fun. It wasn’t just that “my guy” was in the White House, if Bush was ever “my guy”. It was that the internet had opened up a million voices. It could allow someone like Lee to rise to some degree of prominence by making smart, focused and often hilarious arguments in favor of his beliefs.

Over time, however, a lot of that has curdled. Not just on the internet but everywhere. The most powerful voices are, often as not, those that demonize the opposition. Arguments tend to be less about facts than name-calling. Liberals are dysfunctional snowflakes who are, nevertheless, turning America into Nazi Germany. Conservatives are mindless thugs who are also turning America into Nazi Germany. It’s a big reason why I blog less and have been engaging less on Twitter. And it’s odd (or maybe not so odd) that the tone has gotten so bad considering that the policy differences between our two major parties are smaller than they were when I was coming of age in the 70’s and 80’s.

I’m used to a bit of crazy in politics, especially from the side out of power. Megan McArdle long ago coined Jane’s Law: “The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.” But what’s distressing is that we’re now seeing insanity from the devotees of the party that is in power. We saw some of this with Obama but it’s been ratcheted up to 11 with Trump. Charles Skye has a great piece on conservatism and how it has lost its way:

If there was one principle that used to unite conservatives, it was respect for the rule of law. Not long ago, conservatives would have been horrified at wholesale violations of the norms and traditions of our political system, and would have been appalled by a president who showed overt contempt for the separation of powers.

But this week, as if on cue, most of the conservative media fell into line, celebrating President Trump’s abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, and dismissing the fact that Mr. Comey was leading an investigation into the Trump campaign and its ties to Russia.

While there are those like Sean Hannity who are reliable cheerleaders for all things President Trump, much of the conservative news media is now less pro-Trump than it is anti-anti-Trump. The distinction is important, because anti-anti-Trumpism has become the new safe space for the right.

Here is how it works: Rather than defend President Trump’s specific actions, his conservative champions change the subject to (1) the biased “fake news” media, (2) over-the-top liberals, (3) hypocrites on the left, (4) anyone else victimizing Mr. Trump or his supporters and (5) whataboutism, as in “What about Obama?” “What about Clinton?”

For the anti-anti-Trump pundit, whatever the allegation against Mr. Trump, whatever his blunders or foibles, the other side is always worse.

But the real heart of anti-anti-Trumpism is the delight in the frustration and anger of his opponents. Mr. Trump’s base is unlikely to hold him either to promises or tangible achievements, because conservative politics is now less about ideas or accomplishments than it is about making the right enemies cry out in anguish.

That’s the conservative side. But I would argue that the liberal side has gotten just as bad if not worse. The entirety of the Left Wing media has lost its damned mind. I’ve backed off of all the late-night TV shows except Oliver (on occasion) because the tone has gotten so bitter and angry. We are constantly deluged with outrages Trump has committed. And while some of those are indeed outrageous, others are stuff Obama did (executive orders), stuff every President does (Loyalty Day) or stuff that did not, in fact, actually happen (the MLK bust removal). Despite no evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians and little evidence that anyone in his campaign did, it’s routine to see him denounced as a traitor and to hear Republicans denounced as complicit because they haven’t impeached him yet. And it culminated last week with a Democrat — one who loved Maddow and Maher and belonged to Facebook groups calling for revolution — taking shots at a bunch of Republicans.

Look at the comments section of any liberal blog or even a New York Times article on bad rhetoric. Republicans are routinely denounced as, in one of the top-rated comments, “ignorant, mean-spirited, inhumane, racist, misogynist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, culturally backward and/or downright stupid.” And if you have the temerity to point this out, you are blasted for “false equivalence”. We’re told MSNBC isn’t as bad as Fox News or that Colbert isn’t as bad a Limbaugh. Maybe. But which side rioted in the streets after an election? Which side has Antifa thugs punching people, looting stores and shouting down speakers? Which side is turning places like Evergreen College into Mickey Maoist clubs?

None of these points are new. The press, the media and the pundits have been talking about the extreme partisanship for some time. But I think they have tended to misjudge the problem. Most of the time, they simply decry “partisanship” or “rhetoric”. But … we’ve always had that. And frankly, it doesn’t bother me that much. I want people to be passionate for and motivated by the things they believe in. If you think abortion is a modern-day holocaust, I don’t think you should feel any compunction about saying so. And if you think abortion restrictions make women slaves to their wombs, don’t hold back. I want people to speak powerfully for what they believe to be right. If you remember Lee, you’ll know he wasn’t one to pull punches at all. That’s what I liked about him.

In fact, partisanship can be a good thing. McArdle points out one of the blind spots in policy wonkage — people don’t look too hard for evidence that invalidates their pet theories. Partisanship, however, becomes a natural balance to this:

The idea of perfectly neutral arbiters looking for “just the facts, ma’am” is an illusion; we are all human, fallible, and more than occasionally blind. Ideological diversity within a group means that even if the individuals are blind in different spots, at least the collective has a decent panoramic view.

That base, irrational, often angry “I know that’s wrong!” feeling that people get when reading an op-ed by the other team is actually the start of something wonderful: the search for disconfirming evidence that can falsify bad theories (the other team’s, of course), and refine good ones (yours, of course). So that bit by bit, jab by jab, we get closer to the whole picture.

So I don’t mind partisanship. Debate and argument are not just “not bad”; they’re essential for the proper functioning of a democracy. Partisan opposition killed some of the worst parts of Obamacare. Partisanship brought us a balanced budget back in the 90’s. Often, when we’ve blundered, it’s because of a lack of opposition. “Partisanship” usually translates out of Punditese as “people disagreeing with me” and calls to end “partisanship” are often misguided calls for one side to just concede.

No, partisanship qua partisanship isn’t bad; what’s bad is the lack of empathy for the other side. The problem is that both sides have decided that the opposition is not just wrong, but evil. That every argument “they” make is a disingenuous front to conceal their real motives. So the pro-life side can’t honestly be concerned about what they see as the extinguishing of millions of lives; no, that’s just a front to conceal their hatred of women and desire to control their bodies. And the pro-choice side can’t honestly believe women should control their own bodies; they want a hedonistic society in which sex doesn’t have consequences. We’ve defined each side not by the millions of reasonable people but by the thousands of crazy assholes. We don’t just hate politicians; we hate everyone who supports them.

Look at our current healthcare debate. One side is telling us that the Republicans want to literally murder millions of people so that rich people can get tax cuts. The other side insists Obamacare is the step to fascist welfare state. Never can it can be considered that maybe Republicans honestly think handouts are a bad idea and maybe Democrats honestly think people shouldn’t be terrified of losing their insurance.

We can’t bring ourselves to think that gun controllers may not want to create a policy state or that second amendment advocates may care about gun violence but don’t see gun control as the answer.

We can’t admit that maybe thawing our relationship with Iran is a good thing. Or that maybe getting close to another terror state is bad thing. Or that maybe we should be less involved with NATO. Or maybe NATO is more important now than ever.

We can’t admit that a lot of this nation’s poverty is a result of people making bad life decisions. Or we can’t admit that it’s easier to make the right decisions (and recover from bad ones) if you’re not born into poverty in the first place.

This, of course, has been fed by a media and social media machine that insists on a constant cycle of outrage. They define the other “side” entirely by their worst imaginings. And every misstep — be it a comedian’s bad joke or a politician’s awkward quip — is recast into some peek into their inner awfulness.

But it’s a deeper even than that. It’s a cliche to say that our debates suffer from an unwillingness to listen to the other side and that we all live in “bubbles” of websites, blogs and news stations that agree with us. That’s true enough but those bubbles are not some law of nature; they are created on purpose. They are a result of our need to divide the world into “our” tribe of decent people and the “other” tribe of bad people. And in this, they reflect a deeper and more malignant ill that is afflicting our culture: an inability to empathize with anyone beyond our own social circle.

The great advice columnist Amy Alkon has written about this many times — that we have minds evolved for the stone age functioning in a modern world. We tend to see people close to us — usually limited to a couple of hundred people — as human and fallible. When they make mistakes or have misfortunes, we sympathize. When they make arguments we think are wrong, we engage them honestly. But we regard those outside of that small circle as alien and view them with suspicion. This is why we tend to be rude to strangers, why we scream at cars in traffic, why we get furious at people we don’t even know. It explains why we so readily form internet shame mobs: because we understand if your uncle makes a racist joke he’s just making a bad joke. But if someone we don’t know does it, they’re a vile person. If your sister leaves her children in the car for ten seconds, she’s just being practical. If a stranger does, they’re endangering their kid. And so we quickly revert to our primal need to stone foreign devils.

Returning to politics, the 2016 election was the eruption of this malignancy into the political sphere. The primary qualification of both candidates was their ability to enrage the other side. Democrats loved that Republicans hated Hillary Clinton. And Republicans loved that Democrats hated Trump. And now it has progressed to where what Democrats most love is hating Trump and what Republicans most love is Democrats hating Trump.

We need to get past this is we’re going to be a functional society. It’s not just a need to listen to the other side; it’s that we need to empathize: to see their politics from their point of view. You can still think they’re full of shit (and you’ll probably be right because almost everyone is full of shit about something). But we have to engage them on the arguments they are making not the arguments we wish they were making (typically because those arguments would cast them in a bad light or are easy to rebut). We have to remember that, if we’d been born in a different place or raised in a different environment, we’d probably have the same views. We have to imagine that their views are held by someone we deeply care about and respect. Because inevitably they are held by someone that someone loves and respects.

(I’m as bad at this as anyone. I try to be better, mostly because I have good friends and family members in both ideological camps. It bothers me to see them at each other’s throats, mainly because of scrounging carnival barkers persuading them that the other camp is filled with vile uncaring monsters. But it’s hard not to just write off whole masses of the body politic.)

There are people who don’t have any political principles, of course. Both the 2016 candidates come to mind. But we can’t let them define our country. As much as I despised Clinton, her supporters were fundamentally decent people. And as much as I despise Trump, his supporters are fundamentally decent people. Almost everyone is fundamentally decent, regardless of their politics. Yeah, there are the deplorables — on both sides. Antifa and the Alt-Right crowds come to mind. But they are a tiny, tiny fraction of this country and even their ranks are filled more with misguided idiots than evil zealots. We can’t let our politics be defined by such debris. And until we stop, until we stop defining political success entirely as “winning” one from that awful awful other side, our politics will continue to get not only more nasty but more dysfunctional.

Comey Fired

Trump has apparently fired James Comey, the head of the FBI. Comey has been a lightning rod lately with allegations that he “threw” the election to Clinton, a (possibly false) claim that Huma Abedin forward classified e-mails to her husband and an ongoing investigation into Russia. But it is apparently his failure to file charges in the e-mail scandal that precipitated this.

Updates to follow.

The Clinton Apologia

There are many things in our political system I will never understand. And one of those is the Cult of Hillary Clinton.
It’s been almost six months since the election. We’re slowly getting a little more information about what went on in the disastrous Clinton campaign. And Hillary has apparently gotten a book deal to blame everyone but herself for the loss. It seems pretty clear that her campaign was sunk by a combination of bad tactical decisions, a public distaste for her, a profound sense of entitlement and, perhaps, an unfortunately-timed development in the e-mail scandal in the form of the Comey letter.

Nevertheless, there is a large cadre of people who refuse to believe that her defeat was anything besides a sexist conspiracy by government insiders, Russian agents and the media. And what strikes me over and over is the need to portray Hillary Clinton as a victim. To wit:

The theme is the same: Hillary Clinton was a selfless absurdly qualified public servant who the Republicans chased with 25 years of pseudo-scandals until finally a Russian-FBI-media cabal brought her down. They wonder if she’s doing all right and hope that she will stay in the public sphere, even suggesting she run for Mayor of New York.

Andrew Sullivan takes the wind out of this line of nonsense. And I’m going to do a long quote here because it’s beautiful.

And everywhere you see not an excoriation of one of the worst campaigns in recent history, leading to the Trump nightmare, but an attempt to blame anyone or anything but Clinton herself for the epic fail. It wasn’t Clinton’s fault, we’re told. It never is. It was the voters’ — those ungrateful, deplorable know-nothings! Their sexism defeated her (despite a majority of white women voting for Trump). A wave of misogyny defeated her (ditto). James Comey is to blame. Bernie Sanders’s campaign — because it highlighted her enmeshment with Wall Street, her brain-dead interventionism and her rapacious money-grubbing since she left the State Department — was the problem. Millennial feminists were guilty as well, for not seeing what an amazing crusader for their cause this candidate was. And this, of course, is how Clinton sees it as well: She wasn’t responsible for her own campaign — her staffers were. As a new book on her campaign notes, after Clinton lost the Michigan primary to Sanders, “The blame belonged to her campaign team, she believed, for failing to hone her message, energize important constituencies, and take care of business in getting voters to the polls.” So by the time the general-election campaign came round, they’d fix that and win Michigan, right?

Let us review the facts: Clinton had the backing of the entire Democratic establishment, including the president (his biggest mistake in eight years by far), and was even married to the last, popular Democratic president. As in 2008, when she managed to lose to a neophyte whose middle name was Hussein, everything was stacked in her favor. In fact, the Clintons so intimidated other potential candidates and donors, she had the nomination all but wrapped up before she even started. And yet she was so bad a candidate, she still only managed to squeak through in the primaries against an elderly, stopped-clock socialist who wasn’t even in her party, and who spent his honeymoon in the Soviet Union. She ran with a popular Democratic incumbent president in the White House in a growing economy. She had the extra allure of possibly breaking a glass ceiling that — with any other female candidate — would have been as inspiring as the election of the first black president. In the general election, she was running against a malevolent buffoon with no political experience, with a deeply divided party behind him, and whose negatives were stratospheric. She outspent him by almost two-to-one. Her convention was far more impressive than his. The demographics favored her. And yet she still managed to lose!

“But … but … but …” her deluded fans insist, “she won the popular vote!” But that’s precisely my point. Any candidate who can win the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes and still manage to lose the Electoral College by 304 to 227 is so profoundly incompetent, so miserably useless as a politician, she should be drummed out of the party under a welter of derision. Compare her electoral college result with Al Gore’s, who also won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College: 271 to 266. For that matter, compare hers with John Kerry’s, who lost the popular vote by 1.5 percent — 286 to 241. She couldn’t even find a halfway-decent speechwriter for her convention speech. The week before the election, she was campaigning in Arizona, for Pete’s sake. And she took off chunks of the summer, fundraising (at one point, in the swing states of Fire Island and Provincetown). Whenever she gave a speech, you could hear the air sucking out of the room minutes after she started. In the middle of an election campaign, she dismissed half of the Republican voters as “deplorable.” She lost Wisconsin, which she didn’t visit once. I could go on.

I can understand why people are disappointed in Trump’s victory. But I can not understand the sympathy and moaning over Clinton. The Clintons have made $153 million in speaking fees since Bill left office. They’ve made $23 million in books deals and that was before Clinton’s newest deal. They have a daughter, two grandchildren and a host of glitterati friends. They spent 25 years as two of the most powerful people in the world. Why in the name of Satan’s balls would you feel sorry for them?

Hillary Clinton lost won of the most winnable elections in history. She lost against her dream candidate, the one that she desperately wanted to oppose. And the main reason she lost it was because of her own damned self. Yes, you can excoriate Trump voters if you want — keeping in mind that about a two-thirds of the electorate would vote for their party even if Satan were the nominee. But Barack Obama faced many of the same or worse headwinds Clinton did and won twice. Handily.

Here, in no particular order, are ten reasons why Clinton lost the election that have nothing to do with sexism, James Comey or evil media cabals.

Read more… »

How Trump Won

This is amazing. A couple of college professors did an experiment where they recreated the 2016 debates with actors replicating the exact words and gestures of the candidates. But there was one twist: Trump was played by a woman and Clinton by a man. They wanted to see how sexism played into our perception of the debates.

Yeah, it’s not how you’re thinking:

We heard a lot of “now I understand how this happened”—meaning how Trump won the election. People got upset. There was a guy two rows in front of me who was literally holding his head in his hands, and the person with him was rubbing his back. The simplicity of Trump’s message became easier for people to hear when it was coming from a woman—that was a theme. One person said, “I’m just so struck by how precise Trump’s technique is.” Another—a musical theater composer, actually—said that Trump created “hummable lyrics,” while Clinton talked a lot, and everything she was was true and factual, but there was no “hook” to it. Another theme was about not liking either candidate—you know, “I wouldn’t vote for either one.” Someone said that Jonathan Gordon [the male Hillary Clinton] was “really punchable” because of all the smiling. And a lot of people were just very surprised by the way it upended their expectations about what they thought they would feel or experience. There was someone who described Brenda King [the female Donald Trump] as his Jewish aunt who would take care of him, even though he might not like his aunt. Someone else described her as the middle school principal who you don’t like, but you know is doing good things for you.

This reflects something I heard from a lot of my friends and family who supported Trump. All the pundits (including me) concluded that Trump’s debate performances were disastrous. And certainly there were times when he flailed badly. His grasp of facts was non-existent. Had this been a high-school debate team match, he would have lost.

But this wasn’t a high-school debate. This was two highly unlikable candidates trying to win our trust. And for all of Trump’s bumbling, he was straight-forward and had a clear message. Clinton had reams of policy details but no real message other than, as Dave Barry noted, “I’m a woman and I will fight for families or something”.

Here is a clip.

I always disliked Clinton and found her debate performances to be poor. I couldn’t understand how the media proclaimed her to be such a great politician and the clear winner of each debate. Having a male actor play her enhances my perception, driving home why I dislike her performance. She was smug, entitled and disconnected from ordinary concerns. It jumps a little more strongly when the opponent isn’t an asshole as well.

But what surprises me is how much this changes my perception of Trump. With his personal baggage removed, his message becomes much clearer. I still disagree with it but I can understand why it appealed to people and why many could overlook his personal/political/financial shortcomings.

There are caveats here: it’s only one experiment and could be entirely a result of the actor and actress chosen for the roles. Perhaps, with different actors, we would perceive it differently. But even with those caveats, I think it’s an astonishing result. It shows just how thick the liberal bubble was and just how much their perception of Clinton was shaded by their hatred of Trump and their heartfelt desire to see a woman become President. It really illustrates a point one Trump supporter made to me right before the election: if you took away Clinton’s gender, what was left? An ethically-dubious philosophically-muddled long-time political insider who couldn’t understand why the country was so angry.

How Clinton Failed

Politico has a really good article detailing how Hillary Clinton lost the most winnable Presidential campaign in history:

Everybody could see Hillary Clinton was cooked in Iowa. So when, a week-and-a-half out, the Service Employees International Union started hearing anxiety out of Michigan, union officials decided to reroute their volunteers, giving a desperate team on the ground around Detroit some hope.

They started prepping meals and organizing hotel rooms.

SEIU — which had wanted to go to Michigan from the beginning, but been ordered not to — dialed Clinton’s top campaign aides to tell them about the new plan. According to several people familiar with the call, Brooklyn was furious.

Turn that bus around, the Clinton team ordered SEIU. Those volunteers needed to stay in Iowa to fool Donald Trump into competing there, not drive to Michigan, where the Democrat’s models projected a 5-point win through the morning of Election Day.

Michigan organizers were shocked. It was the latest case of Brooklyn ignoring on-the-ground intel and pleas for help in a race that they felt slipping away at the end.

“They believed they were more experienced, which they were. They believed they were smarter, which they weren’t,” said Donnie Fowler, who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee during the final months of the campaign. “They believed they had better information, which they didn’t.”

The article isn’t long and is worth a read. Basically, Clinton abandoned critical states, putting her faith in models that projected them to be safe because they had a lead of … five whole points. Volunteers were ignored. Literature was never handed out. Door-to-door campaigning, the lifeblood of any political campaign, was seen as passe. It’s incredibly damning of the Clinton campaign and of Clinton herself.

Over the last few weeks, we have been hearing a litany of excuses for why Hillary Clinton lost: it was the Comey letter, it was the Russians, it was Fox News, it was “fake news”, it was the Russians. But there’s a problem with this. Even if you assume that the Comey letter had an impact or the Podesta leaks mattered — huge assumptions, in my view — the race should not have been close enough for them to matter. When the race began, Clinton started with high positives and the entire Democratic Party and media establishment behind her. That was not going to last — Clinton had a long history of bad policy and corruption dating back to Arkansas. But she still should have been able to mop the floor with Trump, who wasn’t clear on whether he wanted to be President and stomped on every political mine in the field. Clinton had her dream candidate and she still lost.

And now we’re seeing why: bad management, poor decision-making and a sense of entitlement to victory. Instead of making sure she had the critical rust belt states in the bag, Clinton got greedy and tried to snatch states like Iowa away, hoping for a landslide. She outgamed herself, withholding resources from Michigan because she hoped she could bluff Trump into not fighting for the state.

(The stupidity of that last can not be overstated. Trump could not win without Michigan. One of the things that got discussed endlessly in the run-up to the election was that Trump has very few paths to victory. He essentially had to run the table on swing states and then steal a few “lean” states away from Clinton, particularly in the Rust Belt. This is, of course, precisely what he did. That Clinton did not throw everything into blocking his only route to victory show not only political idiocy but the kind of basic strategic blundering we saw as Secretary of State and I’m sure we would have seen has she been elected.)

This is not unprecedented. In 2000, Clinton, handed a Senate seat on a golden platter by a popular outgoing Senator, won her race by ten points in a state Gore won by 25. She was losing at points in the race and might have lost on election day had Rick Lazio not faceplanted.

Handed the Presidential race in 2008, she lost to a two-year Senator whose middle name was Hussein. And the reason she lost was the same: taking states for granted, assuming she would win, outgaming herself.

I lived in Texas at the time and it was the first time in many years that Texas was contested. Obama lost the primary but ended up with more delegates because he won the caucuses. I wasn’t a Democrat so didn’t attend the caucuses. But you could see this was going to happen because Obama’s people were fucking everywhere. They were knocking on doors, they were at the polls, they were running commercials. And on election day, they were always reminding people to come back that evening for the caucus. Obama has visited the state earlier. And he didn’t just pop into Austin, give a speech and jet out. He met with people, he shook a million hands and he listened. Obama fought hard and fought well to win Texas, despite everyone’s assurance that no black man could win the state. And that’s why he ended up edging her both in the Texas delegate count and the overall count.

Since 2009, I have lived in Pennsylvania. More to the point, I live in a college town. In 2008, while visiting for job interviews, I saw Obama signs everywhere. In 2012, Obama signs were everywhere and the place was crawling with canvassers making sure they got out the vote. This year … I actually saw more Trump signs. In a college town. I saw one lonely canvasser working our neighborhood the day before the election. In a college town. The Trump people were handing out signs and stickers on campus when Clinton people were few and far between. In a college town. After the election, there were lots of protests. Before … nothing. No big rallies. Few events. Being in academia, almost everyone I know voted for Clinton. But the lack of enthusiasm was palpable.

This is how you lose an election. The Left is making a big deal of the Clinton winning the popular vote by three million votes — a larger margin than many Presidents who won their elections. But they’re missing the point of that. A three million vote advantage in the popular vote should have easily translated to an electoral college victory. It didn’t. And the reason it didn’t isn’t because of shady conspiracies and Russian hackers. The reason is because Trump (and Conway) refused to concede the election before the votes were cast. And Clinton thought she’d already won. And, equally important, she thought just showing up and having a vile opponent was enough.

It wasn’t. It never would have been. She had to fight for it. She had to listen to people in the field. And she had to give people something to vote for. As much as I dislike Trump, he campaigned his heart out, he fought for states that the experts were writing off and, however much I might have disagreed with him, you knew what he was campaigning on. That’s why he’s assembling his cabinet right now and Clinton is wandering in the woods, taking selfies with disappointed supporters.

Addendum: And as long as we’re on the subject …

A lot of people are talking about the Electoral College and whether we should ditch it as outdated (on the days when they are not calling for it to rebel against Trump and save our democracy). Let’s put aside the practical considerations — you would need a Constitutional Amendment or interstate agreement that swing states would never support. Let’s put aside the voter considerations — you would create a race to the bottom as states tried to expand their voting rolls as much as possible. And let’s put aside the political considerations — support for the EC has risen sharply. Here’s the gripping hand about the 2016 election:

I think the Electoral College just functioned exactly as intended.

The idea of the College is to balance the power of states with high populations against those with lower populations. Practically, this has balanced the political power of cities against rural areas. It has prevented Democrats from winning the White House by running up giant margins in cities and forced them to at least pay lip service to rural areas. And vice versa for Republicans.

Right now, everyone is talking about why the rural Rust Belt areas abandoned the Democrats. Suddenly, we’re noticing that the economy is doing well … if you live in a coastal city or have a college degree. We’re noticing that while free trade has benefited the country enormously, specific communities have been hit hard. We’re noticing the epidemic of unemployment and opiate abuse that is crushing small towns.

None of this conversation would be happening without the Electoral College. If this election had been decided by popular vote, Hillary would have coasted to victory on the support of coastal cities and the rest of the country would be left to rot.

A lot has been made of the fact that two of the last five election have ended in an electoral-popular split. And, more to the point, that reflects a growing divide in which Democrats are winning the White House popular vote based on California and New York and losing it everywhere else. This is important. It is telling us that something has gone deeply wrong in our political system.

Trump doesn’t really know how to address this. Cutting off free trade and immigration will just make things worse. But neither does Clinton, who thinks that cities living through an ongoing depression can magically afford $15-an-hour jobs. Until we figure out how to build prosperity for everyone, we will continue to have these divides.

The split between the electoral college and the popular vote is a warning sign of a growing divide in the country. Let’s not kill the messenger.