Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
They Said It:
Ye cold advisers of yet colder kings,
To whose fell breast no passion virtue brings,
Who scheme, regardless of the poor man’s pang,
Who coolly sharpen misery’s sharpest fang,
Yourselves secure. Your’s is the power to breathe
O’er all the world the infectious blast of death,
To snatch at fame, to reap red murder’s spoil,
Receive the injured with a courtier’s smile,
Make a tired nation bless the oppressor’s name,
And for injustice snatch the meed of fame.
Were fetters made for anguish, for despair?
Must starving wretches torment, misery bear?
Who, mad with grief, have snatched from grandeur’s store,
What grandeur’s hand had snatched from them before.
Yet shall the vices of the great pass on,
Vices as glaring as the noon-day sun,
Shall rank corruption pass unheeded by,
Shall ﬂattery’s voice ascend the wearied sky;
And shall no patriot tear the veil away
Which hides these vices from the face of day?
Is public virtue dead?—is courage gone?
Bows its fair form at fell oppression’s throne?
Yes! it’s torn away—the crimes appear,
Expiring Freedom asks a parting tear,
A powerful hand unrolls the guilt-stain’d veil,
A powerful voice ﬂoats on the tainted gale,
Rising corruption’s error from beneath,
A shape of glory checks the course of death…
Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Political Essay on the Existing Sate of Things,” 1811.
THE RULING CLASS, REDUX.
Yesterday, as we awoke to the news that a deranged man had opened fire on an open-air music event in Las Vegas, killing more than 50 people, we had three thoughts. First, we thought about our families, our loved ones, and our friends, and we prayed that they would never be in such a terrible, horrifying, and deadly situation. Second, we thought of the victims and of their families, loved ones, and friends, who no longer can hope and pray for such an outcome and will forever be changed by the actions of one twisted psychopath. The thought of the mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, and especially the children who will mourn those killed is emotionally overwhelming, so much so that it almost seems unseemly even to write about it.
Our third thought, though, was the one that pushed us to mention it, in spite of the obvious raw emotional edge. This, we thought, is going to get stupid, quickly. And why, pray tell, would it get stupid? Sadly, tragically, horrifyingly, it would get stupid, we knew, because we, as Americans, have the worst ruling class in history. And they can’t help themselves.
Sadly, tragically, horrifyingly, we didn’t have to wait long before this last thought was proven correct. Almost immediately, the woman who could have been president took to Twitter to make a bold, brash, completely irrelevant and stupid statement about “silencers.” “The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots,” the former Secretary of State declared, “Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.” Even if one can stomach her inevitably ghoulish instinct to use the deaths of 50 people to make an unnecessary and silly political point, it’s hard to ignore the fact that this entire statement is completely made-up. As National Review’s Robert Verbruggen points out and as the copious video of the shooting confirms, the crowd did NOT flee immediately. Indeed, “the crowd mainly hunkered down in place rather than fleeing.” Additionally, Hillary apparently knows nothing about “suppressors,” how they work, or whether or not they would have made any difference in this case, not that any of that stopped her. She had something she needed to say and she was going to say it, whether it was self-serving, totally fabricated gibberish or not.
Mrs. Clinton wasn’t alone, of course. She had ample company, both among political players and in the mainstream media, upon which one can always count for hysterical, fact-free analysis. In this instance, Newsweek led the charge, publishing the following, which, like Mrs. Clinton’s tweet, is rubbish.
Initial reports on social media appear to have shown that lone-wolf shooter Stephen Paddock used a high-caliber automatic weapon in the Las Vegas shooting. In footage shared of the attack scores of rounds of ammunition can be heard going off in a matter of seconds.
Such weapons were previously prohibited under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban which expired in 2004. Several lawmakers have attempted to renew the ban, coming closest, but still failing, after the Newtown school shooting in 2012.
It’s almost impossible, frankly, for us to wrap our heads around the stupidity contained in these two paragraphs. For starters, as every schoolboy knows – or at least every schoolboy who doesn’t work at Newsweek – the sale of new automatic weapons has been illegal in this country for more than 30 years. The sale of existing automatic weapons, which is to say those guns manufactured before 1986, is highly regulated, well tracked, and rather expensive. Additionally, and most importantly, the use of automatic weapons in the commission of crimes is rarer than sightings of Bigfoot, Hollywood fantasies notwithstanding. As Charles CW Cooke noted on Twitter yesterday morning, legally owned fully automatic weapons have only been used in the commission of crimes three times since 1934. Three. The shooter at Newtown didn’t have an automatic weapon. In fact, NONE of the high-profile mass shootings over the last several years have involved automatic weapons. Until now.
All of this, we’re afraid, is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Before lunch, various Left-leaning celebrities were congratulating the shooter for killing country music fans, who are more likely than, say, hip-hop fans to be Trump voters. Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton (MA) announced publicly – because what would be the point in doing so privately? – that he would not join the rest of the House in observing a moment of silence for the victims in Las Vegas. Various media sources reported that “it is legal to own an automatic weapon in Nevada,” as if the federal regulations weren’t the actual barrier to such ownership. And on and on it went.
Now, truth be told, we had already started this week’s piece long before we learned of the shooting in Las Vegas. And we neither changed nor veered from the topic because of the shooting. The complete and utter uselessness and stupidity of our ruling class and the consequences of that uselessness and stupidity are the undeniable and unavoidable story of the last few weeks. The shooting in Las Vegas simply confirmed – yet again – the danger that all of this poses to regular Americans and to our political stability.
We’ll concede up front that we could be wrong about this, but by our calculations the “ruling class” as we know it can be divided into four principal subgroups, at least for our purposes today: the establishment Left; the new-new-new Left; the establishment Right; and the outliers, led by Donald Trump. Three of these four have been hopelessly and utterly incoherent in the face of the challenges that have been at the forefront of our politics over the last few weeks. To our minds, the NFL players’ protests and the hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico have been among the more telling events of the Trump presidency. We suspect that the Las Vegas shooting is one that we will add to the list, but unfortunately, the truly stupid part of that matter is yet to come and will linger long past the time we go to “print” with this issue.
Ever since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, just over two weeks ago, large swaths of our ruling class have been doing their very best to convince the people of that corrupt, poor, debt-riddled, infrastructure-deficient American territory that they would, indeed, be better off as an independent nation. Maria crushed Puerto Rico, knocking out power to the entire island, fostering conditions almost unfathomable in what is officially part of the richest nation on earth. And in response, the establishment Democrats decided that the only appropriate thing to do would be to run around like panicked school children shrieking about how it’s all Donald Trump’s fault.
Unfortunately, it didn’t start with Maria.
When Hurricanes Irma and Harvey hit Miami and Houston, respectively, the establishment Left also blamed Trump, not because he had done anything specifically, but because he refuses to toe the ruling-class line on climate change. You see how this works: Trump doesn’t “believe” in climate change. He threatens to pull out of global accords on climate change. He disbands government panels spending taxpayer money to talk about climate change. He nominates “deniers” to high positions in his administration. Therefore, it’s all his fault.
How is it his fault? Well . . . don’t ask. Just know that Houston and Miami would never have been hit by hurricanes if it weren’t for Donald Trump’s hatred for the planet. Or maybe they would have been hit, just not as hard. Or maybe they would be hit less often. Or . . . well , , , something. Trump’s purported antipathy to the environment drew rebukes from all corners. Democratic politicians, media figures, and especially Left-leaning quasi-scientist celebrities blamed him for the storms. Even the Pope got in on the act, declaring, in response to Harvey, that “You can see the effects of climate change with your own eyes,” and warning President Trump that “History will judge those decisions.”
When Maria hit Puerto Rico, however, the establishment Left changed its story a bit, but still built up to the same conclusion: It’s all Trump’s fault. This time, of course, it’s Trump’s fault because he’s a racist. Apparently, so the logic goes, Trump doesn’t like Puerto Ricans, and therefore he wants them to die. The alleged comedian John Oliver used several minutes of his show to rant about Trump’s racism and its effects on Puerto Rico. The alleged journalist (and fiancé of the former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough) tweeted that “Trump’s racism is costing lives.” Hillary Clinton’s former spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted that “Trump’s racist neglect of Puerto Rico is threatening lives.” His former boss – the woman who would have been president – also shared her feelings, but apparently missed the memo about the specifics of the racism charge. Instead of claiming that Trump was racist for having his hurricane army attack Puerto Rico, she claimed that he was ignoring Puerto Rico pen racist tweets about football layers. Nevertheless, she managed remind the President, as condescendingly as possible, that the people of Puerto Rico “are U.S. citizens.”
Of course, the best and most pointed “Trump is a racist” comments were made by Carmen Yulin Cruz, the Mayor of San Juan, the island’s capital and largest city. She – a supporter of the independence movement and of Hillary Clinton – went further than anyone, not simply calling Trump a racist, but suggesting that his racism had a deep, dark, fascist purpose. London’s Guardian newspaper reports:
The mayor of San Juan lashed out at Trump administration on Friday, decrying its relief effort in the wake of hurricanes Jose and Maria and saying if it doesn’t solve the logistics “what we we are going to see is something close to a genocide”.
“We are dying here,” Carmen Yulín Cruz said at a press conference, speaking with tears in her eyes. “I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out the logistics for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles. So, mayday, we are in trouble.”
Cruz appealed directly to the president, saying: “So, Mr Trump, I am begging you to take charge and save lives. After all, that is one of the founding principles of the United States of . . . America. If not, the world will see how we are treated not as second-class citizens but as animals that can be disposed of. Enough is enough.”
Yikes. Genocide. That’s what Trump is up to. Hitler he is, then.
Now, we know what you’re thinking: isn’t Houston the most ethnically diverse metropolitan area in the entire country? And isn’t Miami-Dade overwhelmingly Hispanic, with non-Hispanic whites (i.e. whites of European descent) making up a mere 12% of the population? And given all this, how does the devastation in Puerto Rico prove that Trump is a racist because he helped Miami and Houston more quickly and more efficiently?
For the establishment Left, the answers to these questions are all, “shut up.” Trump is a racist and . . . well . . . and nothing. That’s it. Trump is a racist. And that proves everything.
To be honest, we can kinda sorta understand why it is that the Leftist Baby Boomers who still comprise the establishment wing of the Democratic Party are obsessed with race. They witnessed the end of the Jim Crow era in the American South. They saw the rise of Martin Luther King and the passage of the Civil Rights Acts. They understand first-hand what it’s like to face real racial hatred head on and win. And this last bit – the winning part – is the most important. Whereas much of the rest of the country has moved on, taking the victory and relishing it, the Democratic establishment is unable to move on, having had a taste of victory and insisting that they deserve more. For more than a half-century, the Leftist Boomers have been fighting the same war, time and again, because they like the way that war turned out. They don’t want to get past it. They want to relive it.
Given this, the temptation on our part is to relish the notion that these Baby Boomer establishment sorts will soon be moving out of power in the Democratic Party, leaving the duties of ruining the country (and no, that’s not a typo) to a new generation. And then we realize that the new generation that will be replacing them, more or less, is comprised of their kids: the Baby Boom-echo generation, the millennials. And that scares us far more than we can express.
For the record, we don’t buy all of the stereotypes about the millennials. We identified their importance to politics almost twenty years ago, but we don’t think that they’re all up to no good. Indeed, it’s only a small faction of them – the elites, the sons and daughters of the establishment – who are the second sliver of the ruling class and who threaten to do real and serious damage to the nation. Unlike their parents, who were witness to the Civil Rights movement and saw the immense power of true liberty and equality, the younger leftists have been radicalized. They have been taught, almost from day one, that our differences, not out similarities, define us. And those differences must be adjusted for, usually by trying to handicap those who are perceived to have “privilege.” These are not just the Democratic establishment’s children, they are Antonio Gramsci’s children too, in that they are the product of a culture totally and radically changed by the Left’s takeover of the institutions.
For years, we have argued that a big part of the problem with our education system is that it doesn’t teach “critical thinking” skills. Truth be told, we’re not sure that the charge holds water, in the face of the new generation of activists who are hardly covering themselves in glory these days.
Like most people who use the term “critical thinking,” we have been careless with it, taking it to mean thought that is calm, rational, and discerning. In truth, the term implies much more, which is to say that it is tied by more than its name to the post-modern “critical theory” nonsense foisted upon the West by the Frankfurt School. In brief, what critical thinking, properly defined, and critical theory share is the belief that there is, under the social façade, a hidden reality that can only be accessed by those who are able to ignore the actuality of the false power structures used to obtain power and employ it to harm others. Or to put it another way, critical thinking as it has been taught to the millennial elites, dictates that contemporary society is always unfair and unequal and one must criticize that veneer to understand the real reality.
In this sense, then, when Donald Trump criticizes grown men who make tens of millions of dollars a year playing a kids’ game, the only possible explanation for his rebuke is his unrelenting racism and his desire to signal to other racists the threats embodied by “empowered” black men. Trevor Noah, the man who took over for Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show,” called Trump’s comments about NFL players “sneaky ass racism.” Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee parsed Trump’s words, determining that when he called Colin Kaepernick a “son of bitch,” he really and truly meant to call black women bitches, which, naturally, is racist. Never mind that Kaepernick’s mother is actually…uh…white. In any case, Jackson Lee responded to Trump’s “racism” by taking a knee on the house floor. California Congresswoman Maxine Waters insisted that Trump’s comments were “a dog whistle” to racists – something that only dogs and critical thinkers can hear, while the rest of us rubes sit in our ignorance – and called for the impeachment of the President over his remarks. Congressman Al Green of Texas said that the comments would prompt him to offer an impeachment resolution within the week. Whereas the flag protests were, once upon a time, about police shootings, they are now about systemic racism, all because Trump opposed them.
Before the initial fury over the comments had even died down, the two most popular players in the NBA – each worth well over $100 million – chimed in to say that Donald Trump was oppressing them. Others insisted that the national anthem too is racist and must be abandoned. And all of this was simply because Donald Trump had dared to open his mouth. Even NeverTrump conservatives joined in the act, agreeing that Trump’s offhand comments were proof positive that something is amiss in the world. Writing at National Review, David French – the man whom Bill Kristol wanted nominate to run against Trump as a “real” conservative – wrote the following:
In the space of less than 24 hours this weekend, the president of the United States did more to politicize sports than ESPN has done in a decade of biased, progressive programming. He singled out free speech he didn’t like, demanded that dissenters be fired, and then — when it became clear that private American citizens weren’t going to do what he demanded — he urged the economic boycott of their entire industry.
He told his political opponents on the football field — men who have defined their lives and careers by their mental and physical toughness — to essentially, “Do what I say or lose your job.” In so doing, he put them in straits far more difficult to navigate than anything Colin Kaepernick has wrought: Stand and they are seen to obey a man who just abused his office, and millions of Americans will view them as a sellout not just to the political cause they love but also to the Constitution itself; kneel and they defy a rogue president, but millions of Americans will view them as disrespecting the nation itself to score political points against a president those Americans happen to like . . . .
So, yes, I understand why they knelt. I understand why men who would never otherwise bring politics onto the playing field — and never had politicized sports before — felt that they could not be seen to comply with a demagogue’s demands. I understand why even owners who gave millions to Trump expressed solidarity with their players. I understand why even Trump supporters like Rex Ryan were appalled at the president’s actions.
And that brings us to the third of the factions of the ruling class that is behaving shabbily and destructively in the face of some very serious obstacle, the Republican establishment. David French’s rant about the flag and the President was, in essence, his declaration that he is too pure and clean to be on the same side of any issue with Trump. If Trump is for it, in essence, then I’m against it. Unfortunately, French is hardly alone in espousing this puerile version of anti-Trumpism. It permeates the entire Republican establishment. It’s become so prevalent in some circles – David French’s circles to be specific – that even some who agree with the NeverTrumpers in principle have noticed and grow weary of it. On the group blog of the magazine that he edits, National Review’s Rich Lowry called out his own writers, who are among the most influential on the Right. In a post colorfully titled “If Donald Trump Said Don’t Jump Off a F****** Bridge, Would You Do the Opposite?” he wrote:
I must rise to respectfully object to the pieces by David [French] and Jay [Nordlinger] on kneeling. They argue that Trump’s crude exhortation to stand during the National Anthem makes the kneelers understandable (David) or sympathetic (Jay). As Jay argues, Trump’s riff changed everything. Kneeling to protest police brutality is a bad idea, but kneeling to give “a big middle finger,” as Jay puts it, to the president of the United States is just fine.
If your objection to kneeling is merely situational, I would think kneeling to address alleged systemic racism would be a more worthy cause than simply doing it to spite Trump. But put that aside, because I don’t think disrespecting the flag is warranted in either circumstance, or any foreseeable circumstances. I understand NFL players feel offended, but there are all sorts of ways to hit back at Trump and vindicate your free speech that don’t involve slighting the flag — they can mock and attack Trump on Twitter, call him a bum, hold press conferences, give interviews, kneel before the Anthem or after the Anthem, or after touchdowns, or really any time they want except during the Anthem.
What’s the limiting principle, by the way, on the do-the-opposite-of-Trump view? What if Trump said, “I hate those dirty anti-fa bastards who, if it were up to me, would be thrown into jail for burning the American flag?” Would we turn around and say burning the flag is a great way for leftists to stick it to the Man?
Apparently lacking self-awareness on this matter – or simply being so overwhelmed by his dislike of Trump – National Review’s current best-known writer, Jonah Goldberg, responded, insisting that his boss was wrong, because . . . well . . . Trump! To wit:
Colin Kaepernick started the politicization of football (or at least he started this chapter), but Trump made the problem worse and I don’t see why it’s wrong to take that into account.
But it seems to me that Rich’s position is that Trump deserves support because he’s right on the issue itself. And he would certainly get mine in a private conversation. But that’s not the situation we are in. The notion that Trump made this a national controversy without any regard to his political self-interest or his addiction to being the center of every conversation is just farcical to me because it is contrary to almost every other needless uproar he has started. In other words, the issues involved are situational whether we like it or not.
Now, we know full well that the writers at National Review don’t necessarily speak for the elected Republicans who hold a majority in both the House and Senate. But then, no one really speaks for the Congressional Republicans, who have been almost entirely AWOL this entire year.
Some of the Republicans are too afraid of being tarred with the same brush as Trump and so they do and say as little as possible, hoping to go unnoticed for four years. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, we’re looking at you here. Others, like the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are comfortable where they are. They LIKE being the ruling class, and they have no intention of changing things. And if Trump is the agent of change, then to hell with him. Finally, there are some who actually relish tripping up the President. Senator John McCain, for example, ran for reelection promising that his first and only priority would be to repeal and replace Obamacare. Yet in practice, he has made a spectacle of himself twice, announcing publicly that he would, if necessary, be the deciding vote to kill any real reform plan. In general, we think it’s a bad idea to get between McCain and a TV camera, lest you get knocked on your keister, but this is more than McCain’s usual grandstanding. This is his revenge on Trump for saying nasty and stupid things about him during the campaign last year.
So that’s where we are now nine months into the Trump presidency. The establishment Left hates Trump and longs for the good old days. The younger factions on the Left hate Trump and will reflexively oppose anything he does as an attack someone more deserving of power than he. On the Right, Trump hatred and fear have fomented a seriously juvenile attitude in which right and wrong are determined exclusively in terms of Trump. They’re made of rubber and he’s made of glue. Or something like that.
What this means, in the end, is that we have no hope but Trump. How bizarre is it that a flashy, fast-talking, often vulgar real estate developer who knows little and cares even less about policy is now the “only adult in the room” when it comes to American politics? That may seem sad and frustrating, but that’s where we are as a nation. What we have to hope for is Trump’s success. If he fails too, the alternative, as we’ve noted before, will be far, far worse.
For the record, none of this should be construed as our unqualified support for President Trump. We don’t really take sides in these matters. The important thing about Trump is that he is, more or less, a populist, which is to say that he believes that power should devolve away from Washington and to the people. And THAT we support. The fact of the matter is that in all of these incidents over the past few weeks, the people – the much-maligned country class – have proven yet again to be the saving grace of this country. When Harvey flooded Houston the “Cajun Navy” showed up to save the day and as many people as possible. Two weeks ago, when an angry young man showed up at a Nashville church and started shooting, an usher confronted the man and got pistol-whipped for his trouble. The usher got back up, however, and went to his car, grabbed his own gun, and eventually held the shooter at bay until the police arrived.
Not to sound corny here, but if the United States is going to make it, if it is to survive as a nation of, by, and for the people, then that people will have to compensate for their ruling class’s frailties. And to that end, we will end today with this bit posted originally by Paul P. Murphy, a writer and producer at CNN. It’s about how two women at the Las Vegas music festival managed to survive Sunday night’s shooting. While the ruling class is debating the relative merits of super-double-secret background checks, real people are saving others:
Krystal Goddard, 35, is still in shock; she doesn’t know exactly what she saw. She does know she’s lucky.
Standing a tad back from the stage, they heard the start of the gunshots.
“As soon as we realized what was happening, we just dove underneath one of those tables,” says Goddard.
Packed in like sardines, gunfire surrounded them. Bullet after bullet after bullet whizzing by, Goddard kept saying over and over and over, “Everything is going to be okay.”
“I just felt that if we stayed there and we held each other,” she pauses. “I genuinely thought it was going to be okay.” Goddard held onto her roommate Amy McAslin. Amy held onto a man using his body to protect hers.
A complete stranger took an unknown number of bullets to save McAslin, 30, and Goddard.
“He told (McAslin] that he’d been shot,” says Goddard. “He had expressed to her that he didn’t think he was going to make it.”
As he bled out onto McAslin’s shirt, they both just held on tight, repeating their momentary mantra.
“Everything is going to be okay.” Chanting it over and over until the shooting stopped.
They don’t know that man’s name; they’re still too in shock to even remember what the man looked like.
They only think paramedics took him away on a stretcher.