Politics, et Cetera

A publication from The Political Forum, LLC

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

They Said It:

A Shepherd Boy tended his master’s Sheep near a dark forest not far from the village. Soon he found life in the pasture very dull. All he could do to amuse himself was to talk to his dog or play on his shepherd’s pipe.

One day as he sat watching the Sheep and the quiet forest, and thinking what he would do should he see a Wolf, he thought of a plan to amuse himself.

His Master had told him to call for help should a Wolf attack the flock, and the Villagers would drive it away. So now, though he had not seen anything that even looked like a Wolf, he ran toward the village shouting at the top of his voice, “Wolf! Wolf!”

As he expected, the Villagers who heard the cry dropped their work and ran in great excitement to the pasture. But when they got there they found the Boy doubled up with laughter at the trick he had played on them.

A few days later the Shepherd Boy again shouted, “Wolf! Wolf!” Again the Villagers ran to help him, only to be laughed at again.

Then one evening as the sun was setting behind the forest and the shadows were creeping out over the pasture, a Wolf really did spring from the underbrush and fall upon the Sheep.

In terror the Boy ran toward the village shouting “Wolf! Wolf!” But though the Villagers heard the cry, they did not run to help him as they had before. “He cannot fool us again,” they said.

The Wolf killed a great many of the Boy’s sheep and then slipped away into the forest.

Liars are not believed even when they speak the truth.

“The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf,” The Aesop for Children, presented by The Library of Congress.

 

TRUMP, WOLVES, AND THE MORAL OF THE STORY.

Among the better known of Aesop’s fables is “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” (or “The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf,” as per the version above).  It is about a shepherd boy who, “to amuse himself,” repeatedly tricks the townsfolk into believing that his sheep are under attack by a wolf.  And as every schoolboy knows, the story ends with the appearance of a real wolf, which eats the sheep and, depending on the version of the fable, eats the boy as well.  No one, the moral of the tale puts it, will or should believe a known liar, even when he is telling the truth.

Interestingly, this fable has become a staple among right-wing pundits of late, as they try to explain the 2016 presidential election.  And surprisingly, their interest has (almost) nothing at all to do with Hillary Clinton, a woman who has been famous for the past 20 years or so for her manifest dishonesty.

Rather, in this case, the liar – i.e. the “boy” who cried wolf – is the entire liberal establishment, including both Democratic politicians and especially the mainstream media.  According to the right-leaning pundits, the members of the liberal establishment have spent the last several decades saying terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things about ALL Republican politicians, even the insipid ones.  And now they find themselves facing a real-life terrible, horrible, no good, very bad man – Donald Trump – only to discover that no one believes them.  The wolf is eating the sheeple and our dear shepherds are shocked and horrified that they can do nothing to stop it!

As best we can tell, the whole “boy who cried wolf” meme started, as so many of the anti-Trump themes do, with National Review and specifically with its “editor at large” Jonah Goldberg.  Two weeks ago, in his syndicated column, Goldberg put it this way:

Dear Mainstream Media and Democrats: It’s your turn.  Now that Donald Trump has been formally nominated, the formal responsibility to stop him passes from the Right to the Left, from Republicans to Democrats and the journalists who amplify their values.

You’re going to find it a very tough slog.  And it’s your own damn fault.

Only slowly have the media come around to the realization that Trump is an actual threat, but now it may be too late because they have a serious “cry wolf” problem.  Millions of Americans firmly believe that journalists are water carriers for the Democrats and will tune out much of what they have to say about Trump now that he’s the nominee.

You can start the timeline as far back as the World War II era.  In 1944, Franklin Roosevelt told the country that if Republicans were returned to power, “even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of fascism here at home.”  The press nodded along.

In 1964, CBS News’s Daniel Schorr claimed that Barry Goldwater’s planned post-convention vacation in Europe was really an effort to coordinate with “right-wing Germans” in “Hitler’s one-time stomping ground.” . . .

Every election cycle, the GOP nominee is smeared as a racist by the Democrats or the press — or both.  Representative John Lewis of Georgia trades in a bit more of his hard-earned moral authority each time he insinuates that the GOP nominee is like George Wallace or wants to bring back Jim Crow, and political columnists relinquish a bit more of their claim to objectivity each time they let his comments pass without condemnation or criticism.

Goldberg’s meme caught on quickly.  The day after his column appeared, as Hillary Clinton took to the dais at the Democratic National Convention to denounce Trump, various conservatives mocked her, her party, and their state-controlled media for “crying wolf.”  The inimitable Megan McCardle tweeted the thought during the Democratic hopeful’s speech.  Others agreed and piled on.  And then, late last week, Karol Markowitz penned a piece for the normally left-leaning Daily Beast, the introduction to which made the point in vivid detail.  To wit:

His convention was called “one of the worst ever.”  Chris Matthews deemed him “dangerous” and “scary,” Ellen DeGeneres said “If you’re a woman, you should be very, very scared.”  His opponent ran an ad against him portraying him as uniquely dangerous for women.  “I’ve never felt this way before, but it’s a scary time to be a woman,” said a woman in the ad.

He was frequently called a “bully,” “anti-immigrant,” “racist,” “stupid,” and “unfit” to be president.

I’m referring, obviously, to the terrifying Mitt Romney.

New Republic article proclaimed “Yes, Romney’s Vision for America Really Is That Scary” and the Huffington Post headline read “The Severe Danger of a Romney Presidency.”  Rolling Stone explained “Why ‘President Romney’ Would Be a Disaster for Women” and Nick Kristof in The New York Times pontificated on “How Romney Would Treat Women” (spoiler alert: not well).

Four years ago, Mitt Romney was a terrible sexist who had “binders full of women.”  And remember Joe Biden?  He told the NAACP that Mitt Romney’s Republicans wanted to “put y’all back in chains.”  But then, as Goldberg notes, so has it gone for most of the last seventy-five years or more.  Heck, almost twenty years ago exactly, we ourselves wrote a piece called “The Coming Republican Apocalypse,” in which we detailed the horrific and irreparable damage that would be done the nation, and especially to its “young women,” if Bob Dole were to win the White House, giving Republicans total control of Washington.  Fortunately for everyone, we never had to live through that apocalypse.  Dole lost, of course, to the current Democratic nominee’s husband.  And as a result, the young women of the country remained safe.  (“Safe,” naturally, being a relative term, dependent on said young women’s proximity to the current Democratic nominee’s husband.)

Our point here is twofold.  On the one hand, we agree with Goldberg et al, that the mainstream media and the Democrats bear a great deal of responsibility for the electorate’s unwillingness to hear the truth about Trump.  Normal people – even politically active people – tuned out the mainstream press and the Democrats long ago.  They’re tiresome.  They’re hyperbolic.  They’re rude and condescending.  Why should anyone listen to what they say about any Republican?

On the other hand, there is something a bit bothersome about the “boy who cried wolf” terminology.  To be blunt, we don’t like the analogy.  We know that Goldberg chose it because it’s easy to understand and makes his point clearly, not because he thought the comparison was perfect.  And he’s right; his point – that the Democratic establishment is complicit here – is clear.

At the same time, though, we think it’s important to point out that the difference between the Democratic/media establishment and the boy who cried wolf is that the latter did so because he wanted “to amuse himself,” which is to say that he made up the wolf, at least initially.  The same cannot be said for our friends in the Democratic party and the mainstream press.  They weren’t joking about Mitt Romney.  They weren’t joking about Ronald Reagan – or the Georges Bush, or any of the Republicans they have labeled racist/sexist/homophobic.  They meant it.  Unlike the little shepherd boy, they actually believed that they saw wolves, EVERY SINGLE TIME.

The liberal establishment takes it as indisputable fact that the contemporary Republican party is built on the “Southern Strategy” first employed by Nixon, but exploited effectively ever since.  The Republicans, they sincerely believe, are the majority party in Congress today and are at least nominally competitive in presidential campaigns because they exploit “white rage” in the South and have done so since the passage of the Civil Rights Acts.  Moreover, they believe that the Republicans appeal to white racists by using loaded but coded terms like “states’ rights,” thus managing to acquire and maintain power through racism.

It doesn’t really matter to the liberal establishment that the Southern Strategy has been exposed as a myth countless times by countless social scientists using countless arguments to debunk the whole mess.  As it turns out, if one looks at the evidence, Southern whites began moving toward the GOP during the period in which the Democrats still represented the face of segregation, which was long before the Civil Rights Acts.  Indeed, if one looks at the evidence, the white migration to the GOP didn’t happen all at once, as if in response to an event such as the passage of civil rights legislation; whites moved to the GOP over a period of decades, from the 1940s, right up through the 1980s.  It also turns out, if one looks at the evidence, that economic factors and cultural factors – e.g. abortion and guns – have far more to do with the Southern white migration to the GOP than do any notions of race or so-called racial “dog whistles.”

The Democrats and mainstream media types cling to this myth of the Southern Strategy, however, because it makes them feel righteous.  It confirms for them their moral superiority.  It explains away their political shortcomings while rationalizing and justifying their animosity toward their former political clients.  The Southern Strategy myth is, in short, a tenet of faith and nothing more.  Republicans are racists.  ALL Republicans are racists.  And they only have power because they are racists.  This the liberal establishmentarians believe with all their hearts and all their souls, and nothing can ever convince them otherwise.

Likewise, when Ronald Reagan campaigned at the Neshoba (Mississippi) County Fair in 1980, the Democrats lost their minds – and have yet to get it back.  You see, Neshoba is only seven miles from Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers were infamously murdered by white supremacists in 1964.  Moreover, Reagan mentioned “states’ rights” in the speech, which every good and loyal leftist knows is code for . . . well . . . for something racist.  And since he chose to launch his campaign there, that means Reagan was Jeff Davis reincarnated.  Or something.

Of course, the “Reagan in Philadelphia” narrative is undercut by a whole variety of inconvenient facts.  Reagan did NOT launch his campaign there.  He did NOT use states’ rights as an applause line, but mentioned it only briefly as part of his standard stump speech.  He campaigned in the urban north for a week afterward, making his pitch to the Urban League.  The Neshoba County Fair is NOT Philadelphia.  Moreover, Neshoba is NOT Tuscambia, Alabama, the place where the onetime segregationist Jimmy Carter launched his general election campaign that year and the then home of the KKK.  Etc., etc. ad infinitum.

Of course, none of this means anything to the members of the Democrat-Media complex.  They know what they know, facts be damned.  And what they know is that any politician who would campaign at the Neshoba County Fair is a full-blown, Klan-loving, Confederacy-supporting racist.  Unless that politician happens to be named Michael Dukakis, in which case, his 1988 campaign appearance at the fair is thoroughly unremarkable, dontcha know.  He doesn’t have an (R) after his name, after all, which means that the faith doesn’t certify his racism.  Indeed, as a matter of faith it absolves him of the charge.

Now, if all of this sounds a little familiar, that’s because it is.  This is the standard emotive politics of the contemporary Left.  This is the Left’s religion in all its glory.

As we have noted countless times in these pages, the great contribution made by the moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre involves our understanding of the collapse of the moral framework in the wake of the Enlightenment. MacIntyre argues that the Enlightenment mission of destroying the traditional, religiously based moral scheme and replacing it with one based exclusively on reason was doomed from its inception and left the very notion of morality shattered.

Without a teleological framework, MacIntyre argued, “the whole project of morality becomes unintelligible,” and moral philosophy becomes nothing more than an arena for competing notions that have no basis other than “logic,” which is, of course, subjective.

The ultimate end of all of this, MacIntyre writes, is a civil order in which the traditional moral code has been eroded but has been replaced by nothing of any substance or meaning, which, in turn, breeds moral chaos. The modern, liberal society, in turn, is one in which the meanings of such words as right, wrong, moral, immoral, truth, lie, justice and injustice are entirely capricious and contextual. In such a society, MacIntyre notes, the statement “This is good” comes to mean nothing more than “Hurrah for this!”

To the contemporary Left, being “of the Left” is in and of itself moral.  And being “of the Right” is in and of itself immoral.  Being of the Right connotes racism, sexism, and all the other “-isms” that are anathema to an open, accepting, multicultural society.  Being of the Right is enough to undermine a person’s moral character, to make him evil, to make him Hitler.  Simply put, ALL Republicans are, by definition, wolves, seeking to devour the shepherd boy’s sheep and possibly the boy himself.

Why does any of this matter?  Well, it matters because it exposes the inadequacy of the “boy who cried wolf” terminology and, in so doing, exposes the parallel inadequacy of the NeverTrump crowd that still seeks to salvage something of the old Republican Party from the chaos created by its current presidential nominee.

Right now, the “respectable” people in the Republican Party are contemplating the future of their organization and trying to figure out how best to distance themselves and said organization from the electoral disaster that they expect Trump to suffer in three months.  The standard plan for the NeverTrumpers – including ex-Republicans like George Will and elected officials like Senator Susan Collins of Maine – is to distance themselves as much from the candidate as possible, hoping that he fails and that they can pick up the pieces of the party afterward.  They want to “stand up” to Trump.  They want to call him out for his chicanery.  They want to join the Democrats in calling him a racist, sexist buffoon.  They want to be the “honorable” conservatives.  And once they’ve done that, then they can reconstitute a “real” conservative party, and nominate a “real” conservative candidate in 2020, and beat the pantsuit off of the hopelessly in-over-her-head Hillary Clinton.

Forgive us for questioning such learned and erudite souls, but just how they expect any of this to happen is beyond us.  In an anti-establishment election, these establishmentarians want to undermine the anti-establishment candidate in the most damaging manner possible, leading to the election of the most establishmenty of all establishment candidates.  And when her presidency proves awful, they expect the disgruntled anti-establishmentarians, plus the rest of the now depressed establishment, to turn to them and say, “we’re sorry we doubted you!  You were right all along!  How could we not have seen that your efforts to undermine our candidate and to help elect the establishment candidate, who wound up hurting us more than even the previous guy, was all just your way of looking out for us dumb-dumbs.  How could we not have known that you were just doing what was best for us but which we were too dumb to know.  Thank you.  Thank you.  A thousand times, thank you.”

Guess what?  That’s not going to happen.  And you know why that’s not going to happen?  In part because the American people aren’t idiots.  And in part because the Democrats and the media aren’t about to give up their religion for anything, not even for someone who does them – and, by extension, the whole country – a huge favor by identifying Donald Trump as a wolf.

You remember a guy named Ted Cruz?  Ted Cruz is anything but an establishment guy, but he nevertheless did what the establishment folks say they want Republicans to do.  He stood up there on the stage at the Republican convention and stuck his thumb in Donald Trump’s eye.  And how was he rewarded for his “bravery?”  Just as you’d expect he would be.  He was roundly criticized as a big ol’ jerk, a self-absorbed hack who thinks only of himself and who is, therefore every bit as horrible and terrible as Donald Trump.  You see, Trump may be a wolf, but then, so is Cruz.

The other plan of action for the NeverTrumpers is to figure out a way to get Trump out of the GOP NOW, thereby convincing him to get out of the election.  This strategy was spelled out in some (but not much) detail late last week by the aforementioned Jonah Goldberg, ironically enough.  He put it this way:

If you take it as a given that Trump cannot and will not change, you need to ask yourself: What should we do?

To me the answer is obvious: Excise the tumor, close the doors, blow the mine shaft.  Democrats do this kind of thing all the time, though not yet in a presidential election.  If the only way to stop the virus from escaping the lab is to implement the Torricelli Protocol, then that’s what you have to do.

Personally, I think a last-minute substitute could actually win, particularly if Trump cooperated.  Hillary Clinton is still a terrible candidate and profoundly unpopular.  Trump may not be a Democratic plant, but a Democratic plant couldn’t be nearly as effective as Donald Trump has been.

Back during Hugh Hewitt’s brief Trump-realism phase, he compared nominating Trump to a plane heading into a mountain.  You gotta do whatever you can, no matter how improbable or difficult, to change course.  You need “new pilots,” he said.

“It’s like ignoring stage-four cancer.  You can’t do it, you gotta go attack it,” Hugh said displaying a Goldbergian penchant for mixing metaphors.  And he was right.

There are only two problems with this strategy, the first of which Goldberg himself identifies:

How do we get rid of Trump?  I don’t know.  Apparently party rules do allow for dumping Trump, but that would obviously be horribly ugly — if Trump didn’t play along.  In a normal time with a normal person, the right people would appeal to Trump’s party loyalty, but he has none.  That would be like asking a pope to step down for the good of the Presbyterians.  One could appeal to Trump’s patriotism, but there too, his tank is, if not empty, then certainly running on fumes.

We think this is an obvious point.  Trump is not going to cooperate with these people.  We don’t know why he wanted the Republican nomination, but he did.  And he’s never ever going to give it up voluntarily.

But let’s just stipulate, for the sake of argument, that one could get Trump to bow out now and to do so gracefully.  What then?  Goldberg thinks that a new candidate could beat Hillary, and maybe he’s right.  Still, it strikes us that he’s forgetting about that nutty, religious-freak of a shepherd boy he mentioned.

The catch in all of this is that the Democrats and the media don’t just think that every Republican politician is a racist, sexist wolf.  They think – or rather believe, with all their hearts – that all Republican voters and even Republican sympathizers are the same.  Everyone is a wolf.  Trump didn’t come out of nowhere, they insist.  Somebody enabled him.  Somebody voted for him.  And those somebodies are every bit as guilty as he is.

Consider the following, penned for the Charlotte Observer by somebody called Walker Lundy, a former Observer metro editor and Philadelphia Inquirer executive editor.  Lundy believes that he knows where to place the blame for Trump’s rise, and he’s unashamed to say it.  Here, he indulges Goldberg’s fantasy:

In a turn of events that shocked the political world and threw the presidential race into unprecedented turmoil, Donald J. Trump announced yesterday that he is quitting the race and endorsing Hillary Clinton.

Trump said the only point of his campaign was to show how stupid and gullible many Republican voters are.

“I’ve been a Democrat all of my adult life,” Trump told a packed and boisterous news conference.  “But I knew if I ran as a Republican and said increasingly ridiculous, idiotic, racist and sexist things that I would get a lot of votes.”

But he said he had no idea he would be able to win the Republican nomination and poll 40 percent or better in a national race against Clinton. . . .

Trump said he wanted to show just how gullible the far-right wing was and how weak-kneed Republican leaders were.

“Even after I made racist statements about that judge and attacked a Gold Star family, the Republican leadership continued to endorse me,” Trump said.  “Man, what does it take to get tossed out of the Republican Party?”…

Asked if he felt any remorse about fooling so many people, Trump answered in typical Trumpian style: “No. They’re all losers.”

Lundy doesn’t call Republicans “evil” per se, but he comes as close as he can, calling them every other name in the book:  stupid, gullible, ridiculous, idiotic, racist, sexist, losers.  This is what he believes, clearly.  This is how he feels about the domestic political opposition.  And he’s hardly alone.  Indeed, in this, he’s perfectly representative of the Democrat-Media Complex.

What this tells us, in turn, is that even without Trump in the race, the Democrats and the media would still insist that the Republican candidate is a racist, sexist fiend supported by a racist, sexist electorate.  And they would not be doing so “to amuse” themselves, but because they actually believe it.  And they actually believe that they are the only ones preventing these evil hordes from taking control of the country and literally “putting y’all back in chains.”

As regular readers know, we write a great deal about esoteric-seeming subjects like the clash of moral codes, post-modernism and the collapse of moral absolutes, and MacIntyre’s description of the post-teleological moral chaos.  We do not do so just to indulge our philosophical vanity.  We do so, rather, because this stuff matters a great deal.  And the prospects for a post-Trump Republican party demonstrate why.

The moral “othering” of Trump may well be justified.  We don’t know, frankly.  We do know, though, that if it is, the Democratic-media establishment bear a great deal of responsibility for causing voters to ignore Trump’s failings.  The contemporary Left has staked its entire political program on the moral othering of those who have the gall not to share their political sentiments.  It should therefore come as no surprise that their protestations about Trump are, more or less, falling on deaf ears.  As others have noted, if everyone is Hitler, then no one is.  And to the Left, every Republican is Hitler.

Does that mean that the Left is the boy who cried wolf?  Well, yes and no.  Certainly they’ve been shrieking and hollering a great deal, but that’s only because they see wolves everywhere.  We’d try our best to explain to them that they’re missing the moral of the story, but we understand the futility in doing so.  After all, their morals are different from ours.  And that’s the problem.

Copyright 2016. The Political Forum. 3350 Longview Ct., Lincoln NE  68506, tel. 402-261-3175, fax 402-261-3175. All rights reserved. Information contained herein is based on data obtained from recognized services, issuer reports or communications, or other sources believed to be reliable. However, such information has not been verified by us, and we do not make any representations as to its accuracy or completeness, and we are not responsible for typographical errors. Any statements nonfactual in nature constitute only current opinions which are subject to change without notice.