New Year’s Reads: Things Can Only Get Better!Posted: January 1, 2016
I’m still recovering from whatever flu virus hit me last weekend. I do have my voice back and I’m coughing a bit less so I’m beginning to catch up with reading this and that. I stayed in bed with hot tea and a marathon of “Drunk History” while trying to figure out if the noise I was hearing last night was gunfire or fireworks. I have no idea what the mix of one to the other was. That’s one of those things that keeps me indoors on NY’s Eve because I really don’t want to be the one out there gathering the data. Most folks try not to think about about it.
One of the things that always amazes me is how vulnerable people are to wishful thinking and things easily demonstrated to be complete bullshit. I suppose I suffer the hubris of the scholar on this account. I didn’t have access to the internet in my home until 1980 but you generally could find me in whichever library housed the government documents drop. Yes, the University of Nebraska libraries had huge basements dedicated to the stuff at one time and I was a basement dweller. Now it’s all on spreadsheets on my hard drive. It really doesn’t take much to figure out what is what. However, everything experiences variation and intellect and curiosity are no different.
I guess the same thing that makes folks vulnerable to religion also makes them vulnerable to political myth. My first experience with all the ploy to keep people well-behaved and hopeful was as a child when I learned my parents were deliberately lying to me about Santa Claus for my sister’s sake. I later studied 3rd and 4th century Roman history and lost religion. It’s basically the same MO but with much better data. But the Santa episode really sunk in. I went to the basement, screamed at myself for being so stupid then wondered what else they’d been lying to me about. Well, it turned out that it was about a lot of things that I could easily find out about in my handy dandy local library’s reference section. I’ve spent my professional and personal life gleaning through data looking for truths. I hate being taken in.
We’ve all been stumped about why Donald Trump could gain ground in any national level political race. He says things that are blatantly hateful and false, yet he gains ground. Polls showing his demographics illustrate his base. It’s basically the ugly underbelly of the US that shows up in our history quite frequently. These folks love being taken in.
He is strongest among Republicans who are less affluent, less educated and less likely to turn out to vote. His very best voters are self-identified Republicans who nonetheless are registered as Democrats. It’s a coalition that’s concentrated in the South, Appalachia and the industrial North, according to data provided to The Upshot by Civis Analytics, a Democratic data firm.
Mr. Trump’s huge advantage among these groups poses a challenge for his campaign, because it may not have the turnout operation necessary to mobilize irregular voters
The Civis estimates are based on interviews with more than 11,000 Republican-leaning respondents since August. The large sample, combined with statistical modeling techniques, presents the most detailed examination yet of the contours of Mr. Trump’s unusual coalition.
We’ve seen this set of nutcases before. It appears to be the return of the Reagan coalition. This turns my mind back to the Santa Claus story, and for that matter, any particular dead religious figure you can conjure up that people have turned into something not quite like the original narrative. Ronald Reagan was an affable fool. Any economist that has studied the time period and his policies will tell you a completely different, data-based narrative than most of the people taken in by him. BB sent me this link a few days ago. I’ve only been able to really digest it today.
Any of us that have intensely studied some aspect of his regime–in my case the economic data–know that the myth is no where close to the truth. These narratives always seem to serve the current group of rich, powerful, assholes. It doesn’t matter if you’re told to submit yourself to your husband or master or render unto Rome, it’s pretty much the same thing. These so-called populist heroes lead sheep to slaughter.
Ronald Reagan was not only intellectually ungifted, he was incurious and ignorant about the details of the day. It’s amazing to me that as historians go back and sift through their form of data on the ground, so little of it manages to take down the public id. The link to Salon takes you to an excerpt from “The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton” by WILLIAM LEUCHTENBURG whose thesis on Reagan is summed up thusily: “No one ever entered the White House so grossily ill-informed”. This says a lot given he was followed relatively shortly by Dubya Bush who didn’t even appear to have a command of his primary language let alone nuanced policy. Remember, Dubya’s the guy that declared war on a lot of Muslim-majority countries without a real grasp of the difference between Sunni and Shia let alone the minority ones.
No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed. At presidential news conferences, especially in his first year, Ronald Reagan embarrassed himself. On one occasion, asked why he advocated putting missiles in vulnerable places, he responded, his face registering bewilderment, “I don’t know but what maybe you haven’t gotten into the area that I’m going to turn over to the secretary of defense.” Frequently, he knew nothing about events that had been headlined in the morning newspaper. In 1984, when asked a question he should have fielded easily, Reagan looked befuddled, and his wife had to step in to rescue him. “Doing everything we can,” she whispered. “Doing everything we can,” the president echoed. To be sure, his detractors sometimes exaggerated his ignorance. The publication of his radio addresses of the 1950s revealed a considerable command of facts, though in a narrow range. But nothing suggested profundity. “You could walk through Ronald Reagan’s deepest thoughts,” a California legislator said, “and not get your ankles wet.”In all fields of public affairs—from diplomacy to the economy—the president stunned Washington policymakers by how little basic information he commanded. His mind, said the well-disposed Peggy Noonan, was “barren terrain.” Speaking of one far-ranging discussion on the MX missile, the Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, an authority on national defense, reported, “Reagan’s only contribution throughout the entire hour and a half was to interrupt somewhere at midpoint to tell us he’d watched a movie the night before, and he gave us the plot from War Games.” The president “cut ribbons and made speeches. He did these things beautifully,” Congressman Jim Wright of Texas acknowledged. “But he never knew frijoles from pralines about the substantive facts of issues.” Some thought him to be not only ignorant but, in the word of a former CIA director, “stupid.” Clark Clifford called the president an “amiable dunce,” and the usually restrained columnist David Broder wrote, “The task of watering the arid desert between Reagan’s ears is a challenging one for his aides.”
I actually was convinced that Reagan was so obviously ignorant and wrong about so many things that you could run any one against him and he’d never get a second term. I was obviously young and not jaded enough to grasp the demographic that supported him because they believed what they wanted to believe because he told them so in such a “nice” way. Now, this same group of yahoos is angry and they believe what Donald Trump tells them because they believe what they want to believe because he tells them in such an “angry” way. ‘Morning in America’ does sound an awful lot like ‘Make America Great Again’ doesn’t it? All of this is basically code for ‘Save White Privilege’ even if I don’t really benefit that much from it. As long you as you can make me feel superior to (fill in the blank), I’ll wishfully hope and then vote for you.
I try to tell myself that there’s no way that Donald Trump could ever be elected but then I would not be learning from my obviously wrong hypothesis that Ronald Reagan could ever get a second term. Reagan raised taxes. He ran up the deficit hugely. There’s the Reagan “recession” and there was Iran Contra which all of these folks conveniently never heard about or forgot when they voted for the affable buffoon. The same demographic could care less about Trump’s lies and the tremendous internet base of fact checking.
But in this year’s presidential campaign, the fact checkers say one candidate has achieved truth-bending royalty.
“This is the first time we have named someone the ‘King of Whoppers,'” Eugene Kiely of FactCheck.org said.
Donald Trump earned that crown with the biggest whopper of 2015:
“I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down,” he said in a Birmingham, Alabama, rally in November 21.
The fact checkers found evidence of just a few people celebrating. But that wasn’t the only tall Trump tale of the year.
“He’s certainly keeping us busy… It is the worst that we have seen in the 12 years we have been doing this,” Kiely said.
“You know, the president’s thinking about signing an executive order where he wants to take your guns away,” Trump said at a South Carolina rally on October 19.
Then in New Hampshire, on September 30: “You know, it started off with 10,000. The other day I heard 200,000. We are going to take in 200,000 Syrians or wherever they come from,” Trump said.
“It’s just way over what the actual number is,” Kiely explains.
It’s not like this isn’t pointed out daily in places other than newspapers that none of Trump’s demographic appear to read. Bernie Sanders mentioned it just a few days ago.
“It appears that Donald Trump, a pathological liar, simply cannot control himself. He lies, lies and lies again. Today, he repeated his lie that I want to raise taxes to 90 percent. Totally untrue. And PolitiFact gave Trump’s same statement last October a ‘Pants-on-Fire’ rating.
Even Trumps Republican opponents point this out. Unfortunately, the most verbal are Kasich and Jeb who appear to be on their way out the door.
Bush talked to CNN on Wednesday and reinforced his point from the debate that Trump is “not a serious candidate.”
“I got to post up against Donald Trump,” Bush said. “I don’t think he’s a serious candidate.”
He added, “And I don’t know why others don’t feel compelled to point that out, but I did. And I think I got a chance to express my views and compare them to someone who talks a big game but really hasn’t thought it through.”
But, again, the only candidates gaining traction in the Republican field are the “know nothings”. This includes Marco Rubio who has to be as intellectually ungifted as the gipper and is taken somewhat seriously despite the stupid and despite a very shady history of deal making for shady people.
Didn’t we say all this about a gawky rogue presidential candidate named Barack Obama? Sure. But Obama had the advantage of not looking and sounding like a complete fucking idiot. Obama was on the Harvard Law Review, not the Santa Fe Community College football team. Then again, that’s not really fair to community collegians and football players: Plenty of each are smart enough to run the country. It just so happens that Rubio isn’t one of them.
For proof, simply look to Rubio’s campaign message, a bizarre simulacrum of “hope and change” focus-grouped by Red Stripe-swilling blue blazers who are slightly scared of hope and change because they’ve witnessed its power but never fully understood its appeal, like those crouched simians sizing up the galactic monolith in 2001.
I will also admit that I didn’t think Obama was going to be as good of a President as he has turned out to be. I really thought he’d continue to let the Republicans play him like a violin, but he learned, and learned well. His last few years defy the lame duck theory.
So, I’m doing a mea culpa on the two failed hypotheses today just because I do not want to be lulled into a third one. We clearly have one great candidate that is experienced, flawed, and capable. Then, we have a set of figures that look religiously mythical, are supported by people who have a lot to gain from populist ignorance, and appear to be impossibly unqualified for making national policy on all levels. They may have one area upon which they are knowledgeable but most have absolutely nothing but being able to say blatantly wrong things because they have no clue how wrong they actually are.
Work in the right campaigns and vote in 2016. Don’t make me write another mea culpa in 2017. Please.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
And, have a great NEW YEAR!!! I love you all!!!
Thirty years ago from 1985 and deep from Reagan d0o d0o land.