Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
They Said It:
A fundamental difference between modem dictatorships and all other tyrannies of the past is that terror is no longer used as a means to exterminate and frighten opponents, but as an instrument to rule masses of people who are perfectly obedient. Terror as we know it today strikes without any preliminary provocation, its victims are innocent even from the point of view of the persecutor. This was the case in Nazi Germany when full terror was directed against Jews, i.e., against people with certain common characteristics which were independent of their specific behavior. In Soviet Russia the situation is more confused, but the facts, unfortunately, are only too obvious. On the one hand, the Bolshevik system, unlike the Nazi, never admitted theoretically that it could practice terror against innocent people, and though in view of certain practices this may look like hypocrisy, it makes quite a difference. Russian practice, on the other hand, is even more “advanced” than the German in one respect: arbitrariness of terror is not even limited by racial differentiation, while the old class categories have long since been discarded, so that anybody in Russia may suddenly become a victim of the police terror. We are not concerned here with the ultimate consequence of rule by terror – namely, that nobody, not even the executors, can ever be free of fear; in our context we are dealing merely with the arbitrariness by which victims are chosen, and for this it is decisive that they are objectively innocent, that they are chosen regardless of what they may or may not have done.
Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1951.
WAGING WAR AGAINST THE UNBEARABLE WHITENESS OF TRUMP.
In 2008, after losing everything – or almost everything – the GOP embarked on a mission of soul-searching. The Republicans knew well that they deserved to lose the election and that they would continue losing until they corrected the problems that contributed to their unpopularity among a majority of voters.
A scant four years later, the GOP lost almost everything again, this time in even more heartbreaking and breathtaking fashion. This second time around, the Republicans really thought they were going to win. The sitting president was unpopular. His signature domestic policy achievement was even less well liked, loathed one might say. His governing ethos had contributed to a surprising midterm landslide two years earlier. Additionally, the party had nominated a normal, good-looking, likable family man, just the type of guy who could comfort a frazzled nation. The stars, as they say, were aligned. And yet, somehow, the election results were still devastating.
So the Republicans did some even more intense soul-searching, creating an actual council of elders and experts to analyze the election results and to make recommendations. This much-ballyhooed GOP “post-mortem” was an intense and in-depth study of the causes of the GOP loss and therefore constituted a blueprint for future Republican campaigns. Or so we were told.
As you may know, it turned out that the Republican post-mortem report was a ridiculous and myopic effort, which only makes sense, since it was conducted by ridiculous and myopic men, the elders and experts of the Republican establishment. Briefly stated, the report urged GOP elected officials and wannabe elected officials not to strengthen their core beliefs and principles, but to abandon them and to pander to swiftly expanding blocs of minority voters, to adopt the Washington consensus and to figure out how to package that consensus more appealingly. As such, it was useless as a campaign guide, but by exposing the gaping rift between the party’s rank-and-file – i.e. its voters – and its elected elites, it was immeasurably valuable as the starting point for a discussion about the party and its future.
In fact, the rift it identified was exploited by a sizeable number of the Republican presidential hopefuls, including the campaign’s two most successful participants – Ted Cruz and President-elect Donald Trump – who discovered within its wreckage the fundamental themes of their respective campaigns. All of which is to say that the Republican post-election introspection yielded significant if inadvertent dividends.
Given this, one would think that the Democrats would find a valuable precedent in the GOP’s post-election soul-searching. After all, a mere eight years after losing almost everything, the GOP has, today, reduced its partisan opponent to a regional, rump party. Indeed, the Democratic losses are far more serious, far more damaging, and far more unexpected than anything Republicans endured. Think about it: a full one-third of the party’s Congressional Representatives, hail from just three states – New York, California, and Maryland.
But that’s not what appears to be happening. Instead, it looks as if the Democrats will be content to throw a seemingly endless number of highly public temper tantrums. Rather than look within to find the source of their failures, they appear to have decided instead to blame the electorate for its failures.
Now, to a normal, outside observer, this seems insane. Why would anyone respond to a shocking and thorough rejection by ignoring its causes? Or more accurately, why would anyone respond to such rejection by exacerbating it, by doing those things that caused the rejection in the first place?
Believe it or not, the truth of the matter is that neither the far Left nor the mainstream Democratic Party is acting crazy here. They’re actually behaving quite rationally – given what they believe. Let us explain.
Many conservatives were surprised and frustrated last week when President Obama flatly refused to tell the protesters and rioters to get a hold of themselves and to accept the results of the election. They shouldn’t have been. If you believe what Barack Obama believes; if you believe what Bernie Sanders believes; if you believe what Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, and Keith Ellison believe, then the post-election reaction by activists, students, and others is not merely tolerable or understandable, it is entirely necessary and perfectly rational.
Note than when we say that the Democrats are behaving rationally, we do not mean that they are using calm, reasoned, logical thinking to assess their behavior. Rather, we mean simply that they are acting in their self-interest as they understand it. And there are countless reasons why the Democrats believe that the protests and the general attitude of violent hostility to Trump are in their best interests.
For starters, the Democrats think that they are on the verge of a demographic transformation that will soon render election results like those posted two weeks ago relics of history. Indeed, they have believed this for the better part of the last quarter century at least. The “emerging Democratic majority” as the political scientist Ruy Teixeira calls it, will be composed of Hispanics, blacks, wealthy and well educated whites, gay voters, and various other identity groups. The Democrats don’t believe that they need to be nice to, responsive to, or even tolerant of white middle- and working-class voters because those voters will soon be unable to do what they did on November 8th. They will be unable to elevate a Donald Trump – or any Republican, for that matter – to the presidency. In a post-election essay, Teixeira, who predicted this “emerging majority” just after George W. Bush was elected, put it this way:
Looking back from 2032, we are far more likely to view the 2016 election as the last stand of America’s white working class, dreaming of a past that no longer exists, than as a fundamental transformation of the political system. . .
Here’s what all this means concretely, applied just one election ahead. If we assume that the support patterns from 2016, with their astronomically high white-working class support rates for Trump and relatively weak minority support rates for the Democratic candidate, hold in 2020, projected demographic shifts in the electorate would still, by themselves, produce a very different outcome.
The Democrats’ advantage in the national popular vote would bump up from a little more than 1 point to 3 points. Critically, this change would flip the Rust Belt trio of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — plus Florida — back to the Democrats, producing a 303-235 victory for the Democratic candidate, even with the white working-class surge toward Trump replicated in 2020. In addition, Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina, already very competitive in the 2016 election, would become even more contestable under this scenario.
And this is just one election ahead. Naturally, the effects of demographic change will be magnified the further away we get from 2016.
Some years ago, the Stalinist playwright Bertolt Brecht summed up this strategy beautifully in a poem entitled “The Solution.”
After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
Of course, no sane person has ever taken this advice literally . . . until now. Now, the Democrats believe that this is precisely what they are about to do, “elect another people.” In the face of defeat, they appear to believe that their only recourse is to dig in their heels and wait for this other people to arrive and save them from the current people. In the meantime, if they convince this new people that Democrats are willing to fight for them – even literally! – then all the better. Lock in their support now and then just sit back and wait.
A second reason that the Democrat establishment thinks that its best, most rational course of action now is to attack the still-emerging Trump administration and its voters is its belief that Clausewitz had it precisely backward: politics, the Leftists believe, is merely war by other means.
Once upon a time, it would have been unserious, to say the very least, to suggest that the Democratic Party viewed the partisan give-and-take as a “war,” a struggle to the death in which “all is fair.” But that time is long past us, and the Democrats now firmly and steadfastly believe not just that the personal is political, but that the political is all that matters. This is, we suppose, partly a function of the Leftist belief that the state can and should be the arbiter of all matters, that any injustice – real or perceived – should be addressed by the state and its multifarious apparatuses. If, for example, you believe that the state should be the ultimate judge as to which relationships are legitimate and which are not, then you believe that the state should be capable of and empowered to do almost anything.
A bigger part of the reason for the Left’s warrior mentality, however, is the influence that radicalism and community organization have had on their political beliefs and tactics over the last half-century. As our friend Roger Kimball pointed out, when the brain-surgeon and erstwhile presidential wannabe Ben Carson spoke at the Republican National Convention this past summer, his address generated more than few titters.
Carson noted that Hillary Clinton had a particular affinity for the radical author and community organizer Saul Alinsky and then noted that Alinsky had a particular affinity for the devil himself. He asked, “So are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer?” The media and the political establishments ate it up – but at Carson’s expense. Crazy Ol’ Ben was at it again, they chuckled. What a nut. The interesting thing is that Carson meant it. The even more interesting thing is that he was right. Kimball continued:
Anyone who has actually read Alinsky, I believe, would have to take the question seriously. Alinsky’s most famous book, the 1971 Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, includes a dedication to “the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.”
As for Clinton, there is no doubt that she was deeply impressed by Alinsky’s work. In 1969, she wrote “‘There Is Only the Fight …’: An Analysis of the Alinsky Model,” a 92-page senior thesis at Wellesley College on the elder radical’s tactics. At the Clintons’ request, the thesis was embargoed until after they left the White House . . .
One of the most eye-opening chapters of Rules for Radicals is given over to a meditation on means and ends. Does the end justify the means? That depends, Alinsky says. He then provides a chilling anatomy of that calculus that winds up justifying the use of any means provided that the desired end can be obtained.
He admiringly cites Lenin’s observation that the Bolsheviks “stood for getting power through the ballot, but would reconsider after they got the guns.” . . .
The prime Alinskyite supposition is that “all life is partisan. There is no dispassionate objectivity.” One might — in fact, one should — mouth various nostrums about the welfare of children, access to healthcare, etc.; one might rail against inequality, sexism, racism, homophobia, etc., but at the end of the day, politics was all about the acquisition of power and life was all about politics . . .
You do not seek to convince or persuade enemies. You seek to destroy them . . .
One last Alinsky tactic: A leader, he writes, “must assume that his cause is 100 percent positive and the opposition 100 percent negative.”
As Kimball notes, Hillary wrote her senior thesis on Alinsky. Obama too considers himself a disciple of Alinsky, though he talks about it rarely. Specifically, Obama thinks that Alinksy was right about the necessity of power and the critical importance of using politics to advance self-interest. In a 2007 interview with The New Republic’s Ryan Lizza, Obama proved to be what Lizza calls “a fan of Alinsky’s realistic streak.” Specifically, Obama told Lizza about his community organizing days: “The key to creating successful organizations was making sure people’s self-interest was met and not just basing it on pie-in- the-sky idealism. So there were some basic principles that remained powerful then, and in fact I still believe in.”
In practice, of course, the entire Democratic establishment – including its media arm – is Alinskyite to the core. As countless conservative observers have noted in the past several days, the Left’s treatment of both Trump and his staff/cabinet appointments has been right out of the Rules for Radicals. Rule 13, for example, tells organizers to “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it.” The idea here is to attack individuals, not organizations, not ideologies, not ideas. Attack the target (a term of war, incidentally) at the personal level. Don’t attack his ideas. Attack his character. Attack him at the core, fundamental level. Attack who and what he is.
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. Moreover, we prefer to talk about his alleged connections to and promotion of the so-called “alt-right” in more detail at a later date. Still, it 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.
Of course, 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. He doesn’t care what they think. He doesn’t care what they do. He doesn’t care what their media courtiers say about him. He will not give them their way. And that drives them NUTS. They can’t stand it. Their “targets” are supposed to respond to being pressured and polarized. They are supposed to care what the beautiful people think of them. It’s always worked before. The fact that it doesn’t with this guy, that he both knows of and has neutralized their battle tactics just makes it all the worse for them. Moreover, it drives them to even greater excess in pursuit of their ends, pushes them even further down the rabbit hole.
You have to remember something here. To the Left, this is not just a matter of tax policy or health insurance reform or foreign affairs. This is something far more serious. After all, you don’t wage war on a lark. You wage war only in the direst of circumstances, only when you believe your way of life, your entire belief system is at stake. You only engage an enemy in battle if you feel battle is the last, best hope to achieve that which you believe is moral and righteous.
This last thought, we’ll concede, constitutes a vast vein of ideas just waiting to be mined. We’ve visited this topic countless times before, and we’re sure to visit it again. But it explains so much about our politics, especially in this case. The Left’s unwillingness/inability to surrender power peaceably to a man like Donald Trump, elected by voters like Trump’s voters, can only be understood as part of a great moral struggle.
Longtime readers know that we have discussed both the moral aspects of the clash between Right and Left and the Left’s abandonment of reality countless times before. Nevertheless, this election adds new layers of depth to our understanding of the clash and of the Left’s need to try to mold reality to fit its narrative.
In brief, the Left’s contemporary history starts with Rousseau, who, among other things, insisted that man himself was not flawed, but that his institutions are. Man is noble by nature, free of the heinous lie known as original sin, and is corrupted by the institutions of power, particularly those created to maintain and protect private property.
Seventy-five years later, Marx came along and tried to rationalize and systematize Rousseau’s hatred of the institutions. Marx’s “scientific socialism” proposed not only to explain the rise and fall of man’s corrupt institutions, but to forecast the end of them as well. Marx’s appropriation of Hegel’s dialectic and his use of that dialectic to simulate a technical pattern by which private property would be destroyed and man’s institutions would be perfected served as the canon for a new, global secular religion that promised and forecast an end to suffering, misery, and especially inequality.
Unfortunately, reality got in the way of this grand religious experiment. Not only were man’s institutions not perfected, but everywhere he tried to perfect them, even greater misery ensued. As a result, the Left did what all self-respecting religious fanatics would do. They abandoned reality. As we have noted before, Stephen Hicks does a fantastic job of describing all of this in his classic Explaining Postmodernism. To wit:
In the past two centuries, many strategies have been pursued by socialists the world over. Socialists have tried waiting for the masses to achieve socialism from the bottom up, and they have tried imposing socialism from the top down. They have tried to achieve it by evolution and revolution. They have tried versions of socialism that emphasize industrialization, and they have tried those that are agrarian. They have waited for capitalism to collapse by itself, and when that did not happen they have tried to destroy capitalism by peaceful means. And when that did not work some tried to destroy it by terrorism.
But capitalism continues to do well and socialism has been a disaster. In modern times there have been over two centuries of socialist theory and practice, and the preponderance of logic and evidence has gone against socialism. There is accordingly a choice about what lesson to learn from history. If one is interested in truth, the one’s rational response to a failing theory is as follows:
One breaks the theory down to its constituent premises.
One questions its premises vigorously and checks the logic that integrates them.
One seeks out alternatives to the most questionable premises.
One accepts moral responsibility for any bad consequences of putting the false theory into practice.
This is not what we find in postmodern reflections on contemporary politics. [Instead] Truth and rationality are subjected to attack . . .
In the past, we have noted that this break from reality, this adoption of a “new” reality required a new vocabulary. And that need for a new vocabulary helps explain in part the rise of political correctness – a topic we will discuss again in the near future. Of course, in addition to a new vocabulary, the new reality required a new moral code, one which accounted and adjusted for the abject failure of the class struggle prophesied by Marx.
Way back in 1998, we described this postmodern moral code as one in which the “only sin” is “making judgments about the choices of others . . . neither society nor any person has a right to “judge” those decisions.” Over the years, we have amended this definition when necessary, and it is necessary to do so again now, given the events of the last 18 months or so.
We will clarify here that this amendment to the Leftist moral code applies not to the Left in its entirety, but only to certain factions on the Left. It just so happens, of course, that those factions are the loudest, the most boisterous, and the most intent on waging the permanent war against Donald Trump and his voters. They are comprised of intellectuals and academics, of the student guinea pigs of said academics, of the media, of social Leftists who see bogeymen behind every altar and every priestly collar. In short, they are not the whole of the Democratic Party, but they are its ascendant blocs.
In their attempt to salvage reality and to maintain some semblance of devotion to the Marxist dialectic, the ascendant blocs have, ironically enough, discarded their intellectual heritage, abandoning the mysticism of their founding spirt, Jean Jacques Rousseau, in favor of the pragmatism of their contemporary patron, the aforementioned Saul Alinsky. They have picked a target and they have personalized their attack on it. And, in so doing, they have also abandoned the foundational idea that original sin is a bogus and treacherous concept. In a fantastic essay for Spiked, the magazine’s editor, Brendan O’Neill, helped detail the nature of this original sin. He wrote:
In the week since Trump’s victory, all eyes, and bared teeth and claws, have been on white people. Fifty-eight per cent of white voters, including 53 per cent of female white voters, went for Trump. Cue rage against white folks. ‘Dear White People’ letters, easily the most grating trend in modern journalism, quickly appeared. One reminded Trump voters who think of themselves as ‘good white folks’ that ‘human history is full of examples where “good” people . . . did wicked things to their fellow citizens’. So you might actually be evil, you just don’t know it, because you’re stupid.
Others bemoaned the ‘white male rage’ that brought Trump to the White House. There’s been widespread tut-tutting over ‘white privilege’, of course, the buzz phrase of our age, which suggests that history has gifted to white people a sense of superiority over all others. The term ‘whitelash’ has entered everyday media talk: apparently the vote for Trump was a backlash by non-blacks against social progress. . .
That many of these attacks on white people are coming from white people is revealing. This doesn’t only point to a weird self-hatred among white leftists and white observers. More importantly it tells us that the term ‘white people’ doesn’t actually refer to individuals who happen to have white skin, who are Caucasian. No, ‘white people’ is a highly moralised category, a profoundly charged term, not a descriptive one. ‘White people’ is more akin to ‘underclass’, ‘untermenschen’, in that while it presents itself as merely an identifying phrase it is in fact underpinned by prejudice and fear and loathing. It’s not a factual term; it’s a hateful one. . .
‘White people’, in its political rather than descriptive sense, is such a perverse phrase. As if the white man who owns a bank is indistinguishable from the Rust Belt white guy who works on a production line. As if the white man who runs the European Commission is the same as the white men who must trek from the east of the EU to the west just to find some (hard) work. Radicals’ obsession with whiteness speaks to their utter abandonment of the idea of class, and of any attempt to analyse and rethink social relations. They now prefer to mystify power, to turn it from a real, lived, analysable thing into a kind of magic that is passed between white-skinned people through history and through culture and the internet. . .
The white-people obsession turns whiteness into a kind of original sin, a marker for wickedness. To be white is to be corrupted — from the moment of birth — and so one must spend one’s time atoning and apologising. This is why we have the cult of white privilege-checking, where well-educated, racially minded ‘progressive’ whites will ostentatiously watch what they say around blacks, take a back seat in debates about race and power, and preface their every utterance with the words ‘I know I’m white, so this might be invalid, but . . .’.
This privilege-checking is best understood as a performance of sensitivity, of heightened awareness – of superiority, ironically. The message is that I, unlike other whites, have managed to a certain extent to overcome my historically determined privilege. It’s a statement of superiority over bad whites, uneducated whites, ‘trolling’ whites, Trump-supporting whites – what one commentator this week referred to as ‘low-information white people’, which is just PC for ‘untermenschen’.
We have, for years, noted that the postmodern moral code has done its very best to pin the world’s ailments on “Western culture,” and specifically Anglo-American culture. The new, post-Trump addendum to the code is more specific and therefore rougher and more prone to excess, including inter-civilizational violence. It is one thing for someone like Edward Said to insist that the West and its “orientalism” have enslaved and abused non-Western civilizations since time immemorial and thereby to justify anti-Western warfare. It is something else altogether to locate the source of all evil within one’s own culture and among a population that ineluctably bears the mark of that evil. This justifies not just anger, frustration, and politically motivated hostility, but literal warfare, justifiable moral action waged against an enemy whose ranks must be thinned since they cannot be reformed.
All of this leaves us with two powerful and important ironies. First, the Left, whose entire history and political purpose has been dedicated to the “class struggle,” appears to have given up that fight. It has abandoned the case made by Rousseau, reformulated by Marx, and implemented, to one degree or another, by the likes of Lenin, Stalin, FDR, and LBJ. In its place, the Left has substituted an even more stilted and haphazard struggle based principally on culture and skin color. We understand why the Left had to make this change. A political ideology that rails against wealth and property, even as it is buttressed and subsidized by a majority of the nation’s millionaires and billionaires, is too pathetic to last. Still, we question the long-term viability of the new moral hierarchy and note that it would be unrecognizable to any of the movement’s elders.
Second, the Left has spent the better part of the last eighteen months fear-mongering the rise of the “new Hitler,” when, in fact, it is the Left that has adopted a moral perspective that justifies – and indeed mandates – ostensibly race-based aggression and violence.
The good news in all of this is that this war appears to be one that principally pampered white Leftists wish to fight. They are despondent at the idea of whiteness playing such a huge role in the assembly of the present government and are therefore determined to preach hate against that government. Thus far, however, they stand alone, making a great deal of noise, but doing little else. The “noble underclass,” which is to say the minority populations for whom the pampered white Leftists purport to fight, want little to do with this war. Outside of the establishmentarian minority leaders who have no choice but to “fight” the fight against the unbearable whiteness of Trump, most minorities seem content to welcome the new president and to give him a chance to keep the promises he has made, particularly with respect to economic progress.
Last week, we predicted that race relations would actually be one of President Trump’s greatest successes. If we are right about this, then the overt racialization of the postmodern moral code will prove to be one of the oppositional Left’s greatest missteps. We understand why the highbrow Leftist establishment feels it necessary to wage a war over their electoral losses. We’ve even gone so far as to acknowledge such a war’s rationality, given said establishment’s beliefs. But that doesn’t mean that we think this war will be successful. Indeed, we doubt it will be. Fighting an illusory enemy in response to exaggerated offenses rarely is. Eventually, the dream world collapses and reality intrudes once again. Therefore, we counsel patience.
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.