Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
They Said It:
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.
Farewell Address, George Washington, September 19, 1796.
A TRUMP CHRISTMAS STORY.
For those of you have better things to do with your time than watch cable television, Chip and Joanna Gaines are pretty well known home renovators, thanks to their hit show on the Home and Garden Network (HGTV). Chip is a goofy yet skilled tradesman/builder, and his wife Joanna – who, for the record, is of both Arab-American and Asian-American descent – is an interior designer who specializes in refurbishing run-down properties. The two are both likable and telegenic, and their show is one of their network’s most successful shows.
Of course, they’re also Christians. And they’re from Waco, Texas, the home of Baylor University (a private Baptist school) and the erstwhile (almost) home of George W. Bush. All of which is to say that Chip and Joanna are not the kind of people that tolerant liberals wish to tolerate.
Last week, controversy engulfed the Gaines family after the quasi-news site Buzzfeed revealed that these Christians attend a Christian church – one where actual Christian teachings are taught! Buzzfeed didn’t actually know or report anything about the Gaineses or what they believe, think, or say. But they did discover that their pastor – the guy who runs their deplorable Christian Christian church – believes that marriage should be the union of one man and one woman. And this was enough to land Chip and Joanna on the Left’s Secular Non-Religious Winter Solstice Holiday naughty list.
Now, we know what you’re thinking: don’t the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the erstwhile Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Senator Tim Kaine, the Secretary of State John Kerry, and the current Vice President of the United States Joe Biden, among countless others, also attend churches at which the pastors believe and preach that marriage should be the union of one man and one woman? Moreover, don’t these same people attend churches at which the pastors believe and preach that abortion is not a human and constitutional right, but among the most heinous evils in the world? And if all of this is true – and we have it on good and/or papal authority that it is – then why do tolerant liberals tolerate these lowlifes but not Chip and Joanna?
The point here, of course, is that the cultural Left in this country doesn’t really care about morality, per se. It cares, rather, about bullying those whom it perceives as different or traditional or “resistant to change.” It doesn’t care about actually enforcing a definable moral code across all strata of society. It cares only about ensuring that traditional society and its institutions are delegitimized and, in turn, crushed.
Consider the other news on the cultural Left last week. Kellogg’s – the cereal company that owes its founding to a man obsessed with enemas – decided that it no longer wanted its brand advertised on the Breitbart.com web site. According to the company, Breitbart and its content “aren’t aligned with our values as a company.” Kellogg’s didn’t explain which values in particular Breitbart contradicted. It didn’t explain what content on the Breitbart site was out of alignment. To be blunt, the company didn’t really explain much of anything. It slammed Breitbart and moved on.
To make matters worse, Kellogg’s had to concede the fact that it didn’t even know that it advertised with Breitbart until recently, because it doesn’t actually advertise directly with web sites. Like many large corporations, Kellogg’s outsources its advertising to a third party, which places its – and countless others’ – ads on a variety of sites based on views, web traffic, and other of variables. That means that Kellogg’s didn’t simply terminate a contract with a vendor, it actually had to discover that it advertised with Breitbart, and then had to go out of its way to ask its third-party provider to create a new algorithm to ensure that its ads avoid Breitbart. Or to put it another way, Kellogg’s had to make a serious and concerted effort to fault a web site, but then wouldn’t or couldn’t explain what those faults were.
Why, pray tell, would Kellogg’s do such a thing, especially in light of the fact that doing so sparked a major backlash among conservative writers, bloggers, and web sites, who have decided that the only proper response now is to boycott Kellogg’s in return? Why would a major corporation decide to stop all advertising with a prominent, high-traffic web site, one which, moreover, now has a direct line to the corridors of power in the person of its former Executive Chairman, who is now a senior counselor to the President-elect of the United States?
Because it was coerced into doing so.
You see, that last bit above is the “tell.” This really isn’t about Breitbart.com so much as it is about Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. As we noted a few weeks ago, the Left truly hates Bannon, Trump’s right-hand man and a former bigwig at Breitbart. The Left has decided that Trump won the presidency simply because he appealed to the nation’s baser instincts, enticing voters with racism, sexism, and hatred, and he did so with Bannon’s aid. Therefore, anything and everything associated with Trump and/or Bannon must be destroyed. And how do you destroy a commercial news web site? By cutting off its access to advertisers. As Bloomberg News noted briefly and offhandedly in its write-up of Kellogg’s decision and announcement, “The creator of the Twitter account Sleeping Giants has been taking screen shots of ads appearing on Breitbart in an attempt to pressure those brands to take their ads down.” Remember, this isn’t about codifying morals and evangelizing values. It’s about destruction. Breitbarto delenda est – or something like that.
As you know, we have spent a great deal of time of time thinking about the evolution of the Left – and especially the cultural Left – over the past few years. And it strikes us that this clear and unabashed cultural bullying is the Left’s principal means by which it accomplishes its goals. Don’t want to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding? You will be destroyed, and others like you will be sent a warning. Make the mistake of donating to a legitimate political cause that happens to be on the Left’s kill list? Well . . . you too will be destroyed, fired from your own company. Step out of line on Twitter? Destroyed. Blog the wrong thing? Destroyed. Destroy, destroy, destroy.
A big part of the reason that the Left is in such a panic since November 8th, is because this tool – its principal means of cultural enforcement – failed in its greatest and thus far most important test. The Left tried to bully the American voters with its cries of “racism” and “misogyny” and “homophobia,” and “Islamophobia,” and “xenophobia,” but it failed. And now, the Left faces a very real and very serious threat to its entire political model.
Over the course of the campaign, the various parties involved spent a great a deal of time discussing the question of “political correctness.” For our part, we’ve promised to revisit the issue sometime in the near future with a piece on what it all means. But this is NOT that piece. This piece isn’t about political correctness so much as it is about the Left’s tactics in trying to foment cultural conformity and about the Trump campaign’s/administration’s response to those tactics.
Political correctness – as we will argue in more detail at some point in the future – is, in essence, a post-modern code of conduct. It is a definable canon of morality. But as we said above, that’s not the issue here. This election was NOT about “standing up” to this sometimes arbitrary code of conduct. Rather, it was about standing up to Leftist cultural intimidation, which is a different matter.
On the campaign trail, the President-elect liked to talk about political correctness and how he intended not just to violate it, but to terminate it as well. As the then-candidate himself put it, “I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t, frankly, have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time, either.”
That’s all well and good. And we suppose that Trump is right that many of his positions were indeed “politically incorrect.” Nevertheless, the bigger issue, we think, was Trump’s unwillingness to bow to the intimidation tactics of the Left. It’s not that he violated the Left’s moral precepts. It’s that he did so with impunity, and even with relish. Voters didn’t flock to Trump and support his candidacy because he was willing to stand up to the Washington consensus on immigration, for example. They flocked to him because he was unwilling to accept the Left’s and media’s insistence that such a position was racist. Trump’s actual position on the campaign trail was not much different from those of many of his Republican primary opponents. But while the other candidates were quiet, diplomatic, and flexible in the defense of their positions, Trump was loud, indiscreet, and unyielding. He refused, in short, to be intimidated. He refused to play the political insiders’ game, whereby candidates holding unorthodox views either abandon or minimize those issues. He was loud and proud.
We know that it may seem like we’re splitting hairs here; that it may appear that there is little difference between what Trump called “political correctness” and what we call Leftist intimidation. And we’ll concede that there is a great deal of overlap between the two. Still, we think that there is a difference and that it is important. In brief, “political correctness” seeks to ensure that some thoughts, some words, some actions are considered out of bounds. It attempts to evangelize a code of behavior that is, at least at a specific point in time, definable. Leftist intimidation, by contrast seeks nothing of the sort. Rather, it attempts simply to silence people, regardless of their beliefs, regardless of what they have thought, said, or done.
Think about the Gainses, for example. They didn’t do or say anything that might be termed “politically incorrect.” Heck, they didn’t do or say anything at all. And yet the Left decided that they had to be destroyed. They had to be made an example of. This is how the Left today operates. And it goes waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay beyond simply carving out a new, more “tolerant” moral code.
Consider as well the Trump transition effort and especially the cabinet and advisers that the President-elect has compiled over the past few weeks. If we were talking about political correctness here, then the question would be how many “disadvantaged” groups did Trump manage to represent in his cabinet? Did he have enough diversity? Enough minorities? Enough women? If this were about political correctness, then Trump would get some credit for picking Nikki Haley, Elaine Chao, and Seema Verma – all women of color – to serve in his administration. He would get credit for putting a black man in charge of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He would get credit for turning his campaign – and presumably much of his presidency – over to a woman, Kellyanne Conway.
But this isn’t about political correctness. It’s about Leftist intimidation. Instead of focusing on supposedly moral questions like diversity, the Left has been focusing these past few weeks on trying its best to intimidate the Trump transition team. The Democrats and the media truly hate some of Trump’s picks and they have therefore done their very best to intimidate Trump, to convince him that he will sacrifice all legitimacy if he surrounds himself with the “deplorable” sorts who supported his candidacy. As we noted two weeks ago, they did so especially in the case of Steve Bannon:
Now, we have no brief to offer in defense Steve Bannon, the erstwhile executive chairman of Breitbart News, the CEO of the Trump campaign, and now the President-elect’s Senior Counselor. Unlike many conservative commentators, we don’t know Bannon . . . [I]t is telling, we think, that among all of the charges hurled at the man about being an anti-Semite and a racist, no one has yet offered any first-hand examples of his racism or anti-Semitism. The claims are made: “He’s a lowlife! He’s a racialist and a White Nationalist! He hates minorities and will intentionally exacerbate racial tension in the hope of starting a race war.” The claims are not, however, substantiated. No one ever offers corroboration. No one ever cites ideas that he espouses and which promote racialism. No one ever does anything, save attack the man in broad, purely personal language. He has been targeted. He has been frozen. And if Trump’s opponents get their way, he will be isolated.
As we concluded, however, “Trump’s opponents won’t get their way. And that’s probably what they hate most about the man, the fact that he is genuinely impervious to their tactics.” Trump just doesn’t care if the Left hates Bannon and chooses to try to spread misinformation about him. And nor, for that matter, does he care if the Left hates General James Mattis, the Secretary of Defense-designate and chooses to spread misinformation about him. He doesn’t care if they think Ben Carson is an Uncle Tom. He doesn’t care if they think Mike Pompeo is “Islamophobic.” He doesn’t care that they believe Jeff Sessions is an inveterate racist. He doesn’t lose any sleep over the Left’s concerns about General Michael Flynn. He. Does. Not. Care.
Here’s the catch, though. It’s not just Trump who is unafraid of the Left and their intimidation tactics. It’s all of the people with whom he has surrounded himself. Bannon doesn’t care what they say about him. Nor does Mattis. Nor Sessions. Nor Carson. Nor Flynn. Like Trump, they’re over it. They’re too busy to worry about what the Left and the editorial board of the Washington Post think of them. They have better things to do with their time.
Last week, Kellyanne Conway attended an event hosted by Harvard’s Kennedy School on the recent election. And she put on quite a show. Every four years, after the election, Harvard gathers some of the big players together to have a nice, quiet, peaceful discussion about the campaign and the results. Only this time, it was different. The Daily Beast provides the gory details:
On Thursday afternoon, senior members of the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump campaigns met again face-to-face to look back on the race. That’s when matters descended into the kind of chaos fit for the kind of reality TV the Republican president-elect once starred in—this time between Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri . . .
[T]he bitterness and resentments still simmering in these professional political operatives was on full display on Thursday during an afternoon roundtable discussion in the fifth-floor conference room at the university’s Taubman Building.
The intention of the panel, moderated by journalists including BuzzFeed’s Katherine Miller and MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell, was to gather six senior members of Team Hillary and six from the Trump camp, have them sit directly across the room facing one another, and have a calm, collected conversation about the behind-the-scenes moments of the 2016 race.
Instead, the moderators had trouble even keeping the panelists focused on the questions at hand, because the two sides would not stop sniping at and taunting their political rivals during the event.
“I would rather lose than win the way you guys did!” Jennifer Palmieri, the communications director for Hillary for America, shot at the Trump team seated a few feet away.
“How exactly did we win, Jenn? How exactly?” Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway fired back, noting that “I have a smile on my face at all times.”
Palmieri proceeded to bash the Trump campaign and its chief executive (and Breitbart News honcho) Stephen K. Bannon as a vehicle and emboldening power for America’s “white supremacists and white nationalists.”
“Are you gonna look me in the face and say I ran a campaign that was a platform for white supremacists?” Conway angrily responded.
Palmieri told her, plainly, yes.
“Are you kidding me?” Conway asked incredulously.
“You guys are punching down, this is unbelievable,” David Bossie, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, exclaimed . . . Conway subsequently told the rival team, “You guys are bitter. We are being very gracious. You’re bitter.”
Kellyanne is right, of course. The Clinton folks are indeed bitter. But more than that, they’re afraid. Kellyanne Conway is no partisan hack. She is no bomb-throwing ideologue. She’s a pollster, for crying out loud. She’s a conservative, sure. But she did endless work for Republicans, for Democrats, for companies in no way affiliated with politics. She has always had a vested professional interest in being composed, reasonable, and perfectly amiable to everyone. And yet even she won’t stand for the Left’s puerile intimidation tactics. Even she has had enough and is willing to stand tall, speak loudly, and tell the Left that it’s full of it, and that normal Americans aren’t going to take it anymore.
This, we think, is the real challenge for the Left. Donald Trump is not the only person who has had enough of the Left’s cultural intimidation. He is surrounded by people who share both his exasperation and his daring in standing up to the Left. And they are setting an example for the rest of country.
It’s the Christmas season, so when we see what Trump, Conway, Bannon, et al. have done to the Left, we can’t help but think of little Ralphie Parker and his bully, Scut Farkus. As you well know – or should know – one day, after suffering enough abuse at the hands of his tormentor, Ralphie finally snaps and beats Farkus bloody. Farkus never bothers him again. He has lost his power. He can no longer intimidate. His reign of terror is over.
Only time will tell, of course, whether the Left’s reign of terror is also over. But what appears to frighten the Democrats is that for some people at least, it may as well be. These people are done with the whole business. More to the point, these people are now in charge, and they can’t be intimidated or bullied by the same old, tired slanders. Whatever else Trump may be or do during his tenure in office, this represents a significant cultural victory. Jennifer Palmieri is bitter. And understandably so. She is also frightened. The Right has taken her weapon away. Perhaps she should talk to the NRA.
PLAYING BY THEIR RULES.
Last week, the Washington Post did something that it hasn’t done in a long, long time, probably since Tony Kornheiser became a TV star and a golfing buddy of President Obama’s. It printed a truly hilarious column; one for the ages. Ruth Marcus, who has worked for the paper for some thirty-two years and, to our knowledge at least, has never once written a funny word, nevertheless produced this zinger of a piece:
Welcome to – brace yourself for – the post-truth presidency.
“Facts are stubborn things,” said John Adams in 1770, defending British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre, “and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
Or so we thought, until we elected to the presidency a man consistently heedless of truth and impervious to fact-checking.
Oxford Dictionaries last month selected post-truth – “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” – as the international word of the year, and for good reason.
The practice of post-truth – untrue assertion piled on untrue assertion – helped get Donald Trump to the White House. The more untruths he told, the more supporters rewarded him for, as they saw it, telling it like it is.
As Politico’s Susan Glasser wrote in a sobering assessment of election coverage for the Brookings Institution, “Even fact-checking perhaps the most untruthful candidate of our lifetime didn’t work; the more news outlets did it, the less the facts resonated.”
Indeed, Hannah Arendt, writing in 1967, presciently explained the basis for this phenomenon: “Since the liar is free to fashion his ‘facts’ to fit the profit and pleasure, or even the mere expectations, of his audience, the chances are that he will be more persuasive than the truth teller.”
The best part about this bit is that Marcus pulls it off with a straight face. She actually manages to get through the whole column without busting out laughing and admitting that she’s just kidding. We give her credit for that. Satire is difficult, and she pulls it off.
She had to work at it, of course. After all, she had to pretend that she didn’t know that the woman who ran against Trump is one of the most practiced and prolific liars in American political history – from her claim of having made big bucks on cattle futures by “reading The Wall Street Journal, to her insistence that she landed under sniper fire in Bosnia; from her denials regarding the missing Rose Law Firm billing records with her fingerprints on them to her insistence that Colin Powell told her to set up a private, unsanctioned email server. Marcus also had to pretend that she didn’t defend the guy who did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky and whose entire defense of his perjury hinged on the “what the definition of is is.” She even had to pretend that she didn’t know that Barack Obama’s life story was . . . ummm . . . shall we say . . . embellished? Here’s what Ben Smith – an Obama supporter and journalist – wrote about our soon-to-be-ex-President back in 2012, in his review of Pulitzer Prize winner David Maraniss’s book Barack Obama: The Story:
That the core narrative of Dreams could have survived this long into Obama’s public life is the product in part of an inadvertent conspiracy between the president and his enemies. His memoir evokes an angry, misspent youth; a deep and lifelong obsession with race; foreign and strongly Muslim heritage; and roots in the 20th Century’s self-consciously leftist anti-colonial struggle . . .
Maraniss’s deep and entertaining biography will serve as a corrective both to Obama’s mythmaking and his enemies’. Maraniss finds that Obama’s young life was basically conventional, his personal struggles prosaic and later exaggerated. He finds that race, central to Obama’s later thought and included in the subtitle of his memoir, wasn’t a central factor in his Hawaii youth or the existential struggles of his young adulthood. And he concludes that attempts, which Obama encouraged in his memoir, to view him through the prism of race “can lead to a misinterpretation” of the sense of “outsiderness” that Maraniss puts at the core of Obama’s identity and ambition. . .
“The character creations and rearrangements of the book are not merely a matter of style, devices of compression, but are also substantive,” Maraniss responds in his own introduction. The book belongs in the category of “literature and memoir, not history and autobiography,” he writes, and “the themes of the book control character and chronology.” . . .
Smith goes on . . . and on . . . and on, detailing the “myths” fabricated by Obama and his supporters, including made-up girlfriends to wildly exaggerated stories about colonial freedom-fighting ancestors. We quoted Smith at length in a 2012 piece called “A Very Brady Presidency,” which demonstrated rather conclusively that the Barack Obama of popular culture was, by and large, a fabrication. Strangely, though, we don’t recall Ruth Marcus ever making a big deal about it. Fancy that.
The bigger issue here, of course, is that the political Left has spent the last century or so insisting that facts don’t matter, indeed, that they don’t really exist at all, that “truth” is a bogus construct created by power-wielding oppressors to maintain and enhance their positions of dominance. And now they want to whine to us about Donald Trump and his somewhat dubious relationship with the truth. Thanks but no thanks.
We will admit that we have some misgivings about Trump’s “creativity” where facts are concerned. Unlike some on the Right who have bent over backward to defend the man and his clear disregard for facts, we’re concerned. Character counts, we’ve long insisted. And honesty is a big part of character.
That said, we will brook no complaint on the matter from the post-modern Left. The Left made this bed and it oughta damn well have to lie in it, which, as it turns out, will be a significant theme of the Trump presidency.
The Democrats spent the last twenty-five years insisting that a president could do just about anything he wanted to do, as long as he had a good reason for doing so. Back in 1998, then-Clinton aide Paul Begala enthused: “Stroke of the pen. Law of the Land. Pretty Cool.” Or as Barack Obama himself put it: “I’ve got a pen and a phone, and that’s all I need.” On immigration, on healthcare, on war powers, on a host of matters, Barack Obama expanded executive power wildly. But now the pen and the phone will be in Donald Trump’s hands, which is to say that this is another bed in which the Democrats will have to lie.
Obviously, we find Donald Trump’s pending presidency a bit of a paradox. On the one hand, we are concerned with some of what he has said, done, and will do. On the other hand, we love watching the Democrats and the media squirm as they watch a Republican play by the rules they created for themselves. As we noted in the above piece, one of the things that drives the Leftists battiest about Trump is his unwillingness to let them intimidate him. And this is another case in point. Trump won’t let the Left force him to play by the rules that they normally apply to conservatives. He’s going to play by the rules they play by themselves. And he’s going to do so unabashedly.
The next several months and years are going to be almost unprecedentedly dispiriting for the American Left. To put it in medical terms, the party has a long recovery period ahead of it, which is likely to be marked by periods of concern over its very survival. The first sign that recovery may be in the offing will be when it wakes up to the fact that socialism doesn’t work, that the problem is not the lack of a young and charismatic leader, but the sadly out of date product that they are trying to sell a public that is sick and tired of it. This realization will have to fight through decades of socialist nonsense that has taken on the cloak of a religion for several generations of Democrats.
In the meantime, pop open Ruth Marcus’s columns as often as you can. Laughing, they say, is like taking a little vacation. And Ruth Marcus is one helluva travel agent.
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.