Monday, January 30, 2017

The Permanent Protest

If it's Tuesday, it must be a march for/against (fill in the blank).

The fact is, liberals like being out of power, at least on an emotional level. They need somewhere to direct their permanent state of outrage. It was always a little odd when protests like, say, Occupy, or Black Lives Matter, railed against The Man, when The Man, was, arguably Barack Obama.


But for liberals, virtue signaling is as important as breathing, and taking to the streets is the quickest way to get a good selfie for your like-minded friends on Facebook and Instagram. Even during the Obama years, this impulse could not be contained. Oddly, Obama even encouraged it, as if the center of power was somewhere else.

And Obama, like any good liberal, liked to vigorously employ the levers of power. But you could tell that the hard, detailed work of governance wasn't particularly fun for him, not like the good ol' days, hanging with Bill Ayers, spreading the word about American imperialism. Saul Alinsky had lots to say about how to burn down power structures, but little to say about what to do when the power structure was yours. It's a confused dog that actually catches the bus.

But now, oh yes, oh yes, oh yes, The Man has a new face:

Let the good times roll! Let's march!

One key reason libs are happier out of power is that they can just fall back on bumper sticker aphorisms...


Dissent is the Highest Form of Patriotism!

Earth First!

Love Trumps Hate!

No need to flesh out any nuance or policy detail (boring!) when you're chanting at a rally.

But the sad fact is that the Left in America has lost the ability to express itself in any coherent way. They are vacuum-sealed in their insularity, and it's rendered them intellectually inert. It's certainly why they were utterly shocked by the election. 

To understand why, let's start with geography:

The left lives in a faint archipelago of densely populated urban areas that gave huge margins to Hillary Clinton.

And then there's the media...

...which skews wildly left. I don't think even libs are trying to argue otherwise anymore. Yes, there's Fox, and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal (sort of), but everybody else, well, let's just say that 96% of media donations went to Hillary. As a conservative, you can't avoid hearing liberal spin on just about everything. It permeates the air like oxygen. As a liberal, though, it's quite easy to avoid hearing the other side. Simply avoiding Fox and some talk radio gets the job done, for the most part, and you probably dumped your last conservative friend on Facebook a while ago.

And, of course, there are the schools...

I can only assume you've heard about "safe spaces," where students are protected from hearing viewpoints they find upsetting. They're not likely to hear them much, because conservatives at most colleges have learned to keep their mouths shut, lest they have no friends and provoke their professors' ire. Thus, debate is virtually non-existent. I've been told it would be completely impossible to hold a formal debate at Harvard these days on something like a border wall because even if you found students to take the affirmative, protests would shut the whole thing down. Visiting conservative speakers are also routinely shouted down, assuming they make it to campus in the first place.

The only open debates on campus any more are between degrees of progressivism, like the Leninists and Trotskyites of old.

All this results in a progressive movement that's not particularly good at defending itself. If you don't expose your ideas to criticism, you'll have no idea what their weaknesses are, or even their strengths. Which brings me back to...

...the permanent protest.

It's so much easier. No one calls you out in the middle of a march. No one asks for a white paper when you're busy chanting. No one asks you to explain why "dissent is the highest form of patriotism" signs only seem to come out during Republican administrations. No one throws the flag when you use your third Hitler reference of the day.

I'm not, for the record, suggesting liberals are stupid. Many of them are extremely intelligent, and many remain my friends. But where critical thinking and reasoned argument are concerned, they are woefully out of practice, and they do not seem inclined to address the problem. The fact is, if you live in a bubble, forever protected from hard questions, you won't ever be able to answer them when they come.

But, whatever, shut up, man. Gotta go make a sign!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Of Stinkin' Badges - Pre-Inaugural Thoughts

So, I was walking in front of Trump Tower a few days ago, where a motley collection of 200-300 protesters was chanting, "Love trumps hate!" over and over. As I walked beside them, disdain likely visible on my face, one woman yelled, "F**k you, old white guy!"

Old? I'm hurt. Did I mention they were chanting "Love trumps hate?" 


I haven't posted in some time. I've been too busy, in part, but also digesting. Pigs fly, hell freezes, and the American Left is having an emotional breakdown of epic proportions. It's been great fun to watch, can't lie, although it now grows tiresome.

A few months ago, I advocated voting Trump as I thought there was a slight (25%) chance of his being a good president, versus the big, fat zero chance for...what was her name, again? Well, I'm up to 75%. To be clear, I was no Trump fan, he wasn't even in my Top 10 in the GOP field. Let's face it, he's a deeply odd man, narcissistic, confrontational, tacky. His behavior towards women, while probably not as bad as Bill Clinton's, leaves much to be desired. And he can't string together a single goddamn sentence without a syntax error. C'mon, Donald, you went to Penn! What's up with that?

Regardless, I have been profoundly impressed since election night, beyond anything I could have imagined. His cabinet, in my view, is a home run, up and down the line (with the notable exception of Elaine Chao). One of my abiding concerns about Trump was his lack of a core ideology, but his cabinet is solidly conservative. (Here's wishing them luck dealing with the tens of thousands of bureaucrats who will stymie their every move.)

Then there's the deals he's been cutting with Carrier, Boeing, etc. I will go on the record as being against the sort of inside dealing that got Carrier to stay in Indiana, but wow, what a PR coup for a guy who had been president-elect for mere days. I've never seen anything like it.

Did you see his press conference the other day? What got all the headlines was Trump's (rightful) dressing down of the CNN reporter, which is no surprise given the self-absorption of the media, but the real story was elsewhere, which is to say that Trump wasn't backing down on a damn thing. 

This is quite unusual. Lots of candidates promise lots of things, but usually start hedging once elected as the difficulty of following through becomes manifest. Not so, Trump. The Wall, Obamacare, he's not backing off anything. Reality, and Congress, might conspire against him, but I'm not so sure. When the House stupidly voted to eliminate the Ethics Board, a single tweet from Trump had them scurrying away in fright, reversing their decision.

Oh, yeah, the tweeting. Get used to that. One thing that we can be sure of is that Donald Trump is going to carve a presidency like no other. The rules will all be re-written. Badges? Trump don't need no stinkin' badges. This fills many with profound dread. To them, I say: How well was it working before? 

What fills me with weariness is the near constant display of outrage from the left that I don't expect to abate anytime soon. Of course, the Left exercised perpetual outrage during every GOP presidency since Reagan's, but ironically, under eight years of Obama, a time when things were demonstrably going their way, the outrage only got worse. If it's Tuesday, it must be pipeline protest day! 

Feeling and expressing outrage is now a way of life for the American Left, like 16 year-olds when told they can't borrow the car.  Making sure the rest of us have to see these fits of pique every day has become the job of the media.

Throw a Republican president in the mix? Scream even louder. Call someone a racist! Throw Donald Trump in the mix? Holy crap, it's now the World Series and Super Bowl of outrages. Spleens are bursting in every faculty lounge.

Except, the World Series and the Super Bowl end. This won't. It will be constant, and CNN, NPR, and Vox will make sure none of us can quietly go about our lives without hearing the cacaphony. But here's the thing: while this might bother you and me, Trump doesn't give a crap. He may be the only Republican, ever, about whom you could say that. 

For years, we've witnessed a parade of Republicans who have operated under the illusion that they could get the press or, say, Congressional Democrats, to like them.

Sure, they'll pretend. The press pretended to like John McCain (He's a maverick!) right up until the point he was nominated for president. Ted Kennedy pretended to like George Bush just long enough to get No Child Left Behind passed. I could go on, it's a time-honored scam.

But Trump? He doesn't need you to be his friend. He's got a hot wife, smart kids, and he's moving his chintz to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He doesn't need your stinkin' badge.

This is going to get very interesting.

Electoral Model Follow Up: the election put my electoral model to shame, although I must say it had a pretty good run. The model had Hillary winning 302 electoral votes and in the end, Trump won 306. As you may know, the model is based on prediction markets, which, while better than polls, are still fallible. The Wisdom of the Crowds wasn't so wise this time. Still, I haven't found a better system.