Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Lots of Republicans...

... will vote for Hillary, not just sit it out. While Dems may feel very uncomfortable as bedfellows with neocons like Kagan, or with centrists like Scowcroft and Salter, we should recognize this as an opportunity to move them to the left on social issues. The Republican Party is dissolving, and we're entering a new political era. It has plenty of dangers -- we don't know what the end of the two-party system will look like. But as that works its way through future history, we should welcome the shift of the Overton Window.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

He's bored

Donald Trump is bored. It's his primary (pun intended) characteristic. It's why he has long since stopped actually putting up buildings -- too much process, too many considerations, too much actually to operate -- and instead turned his business model into licensing his name to others, who do the actual work. It's also why he hasn't set up an actual campaign operation. How boring is that?

Donald Trump isn't just a little bit bored, or periodically bored. He's deeply bored. He's always bored. He's essentially retired from the real estate business, and his boredom has increased exponentially -- as it does for many retirees -- as he runs away from actual work or any demands from the actual world... from reality itself, in its endless, inescapable boredom. Fantasy is much more entertaining. He's even bored with the project of building those temples to boredom, golf courses.

This is, however, a perfect emotional fuel for a reality TV celebrity/host/impressario. It gives him a perfect ear for what will bring in continued ratings. He himself is a programming weathervane for the boredom of the depressed white no-longer-working class, people who despair of having a trajectory in their lives and desperately crave a stimulus to distract them from the depressing subject of trajectory entirely... the people who are killing themselves in record numbers. Trump is reality TV -- an endless stream of superficial-stimulus drugs.

And, by the way, this is also why the television news media has eaten him like cotton candy throughout the primaries. Boredom is their principal fuel, too. And Trump is a walking, breathing news feed. But it's also why they have now turned on him and will work to destroy his legitimacy. Because he's a threat to them -- as any drug on which one overdoses is. He exposes their own ADHD. They depend on the premise that reality is real, and substantive and mostly boring... and that their job is to go meta on that. If everything is stimulus, then the whole thing becomes meta and floats off into the ether. They need a tether. They didn't understand at first that Trump wasn't of the world, but of them, so he perplexed and fascinated and played them for a year. That's over now.

Anyway, bottom line -- Trump isn't running to become president. He's running to run. And when he suffers a crushing defeat -- well, that won't be boring, will it? In fact, there's nothing to stop him from continuing his "campaign" against boredom indefinitely, in public view, on satellite TV and radio. Hillary will actually have to be president -- and bless her heart, she actually craves that. She gets off on real thinking, real work, on setting up and running operations. Whether she governs in prose or poetry, she'll be putting her whole and true self into it. Meanwhile, The Donald will help her by making sure there isn't a five-minute stretch in which either her name or his is not trending.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Hillary's convention speech

Brexit notwithstanding, I'm feeling pretty confident that Hillary's got the election in the bag. And I've been thinking about her acceptance speech in that context.

Trump is self-destructing every day. By late July he’ll be a puddle on the floor. Hillary was right to attack him vigorously at first – and her San Diego evisceration of him was both the beginning and the end of the campaign. But the convention speech represents an opportunity to pivot from campaigning to governing. Only, in this case, the person who is stereotyped as entirely prosaic will govern in poetry. 

She will use the hook of FDR’s famous 1936 acceptance speech – “Rendezvous with Destiny” – also in Philadelphia, 60 years ago. The thrust of the speech will be to lay out her vision of the future – a country and a planet of complex systems that invite and require a new kind of smart, activist government based not on fantasies of control but on engagement with a newly activist citizenry. She will co-opt Bernie’s activist army but give it something actually to do – a Peace Corps-esque generation of service that will be mobilized and paid for through a New New Deal. 

This will be a spectrum of programs funded by the Infrastructure Bank and other similar mechanisms, which will draw on activist citizen power to tackle rebuilding our physical infrastructure (as in the WPA), cleaning up and greening up the environment (cf. CCC), reinventing education (doubling the nation’s teaching corps), tackling the "last mile" of community health, etc. This will directly and materially impact employment, and it will also build a 21st century foundation for America’s competitiveness in the global economy. And there will be a regulatory component – the new sheriff we needed in 08, extending Dodd Frank.

This will reveal a dimension of Hillary few have seen – her intellectual and emotional ambition, her profound capacity to dream and to inspire. Everyone thinks she’s a boring, dogged wonk. But with this speech, she will, for the first time, unveil the historic world-changing leader she has always been inside. It will be grounded in a feminist view of the world – a collaborative, tolerant, low-ego, hard-working approach to problem-solving, the “it takes a village” approach. If she had had a real opponent in the election, she probably would have needed to run as Hillary the Fighter. But because it’s Trump, she can take her toughness for granted, and dare to go deeper. She already owns the fact that she’s a safe choice – vs. putting Claribel the Fascist anywhere near the button. Now she can surprise the world by dreaming big.

She will emerge here as the leader of a true movement – not the ephemeral cult of personality that was Bernie’s “movement.” Indeed, this speech will be the kickoff not of a campaign, but of a new idea of America, a woman’s America, an America that nurtures and listens to and relies upon its people. That’s why it’s a new New Deal. FDR was a classic alpha male – he did stuff for us. Hillary will be a Mrs. Ramsay – she will enlist us to do stuff for each other.

The result of the speech will be that people will immediately be impatient for this new era to begin.

The vision will also be seriously wonky – though artfully so. For those inclined to think in this way, it will offer a compelling worldview – a complex systems understanding of the world. It will be entirely compatible with her smart power past – her m.o. of studying systems and making forceful but thoughtful interventions. Her bias for action is real, but it isn’t a bias for control. Also, it is very different from Trump’s and Bernie’s isolationism.

The philosophy that will emerge is of government-as-catalyst, rather than either government-as-bystander or government-as-dictator. Maybe she returns at the end to FDR’s speech, which explicitly and at length described a philosophy of government, derived both from America’s origins and from the trauma of the Depression: 
“The defeats and victories of these years have given to us as a people a new understanding of our government and of ourselves…. We seek not merely to make government a mechanical implement, but to give it the vibrant personal character that is the very embodiment of human charity.”

Harbinger

This seems right to me -- Brexit, as disturbing as it is, is not a preview of the election here. What it certainly is, however, is a loud warning bell for Hillary's presidency.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Whither CNN?

Classing up the joint, eh? From mud-slinging to mud-wrestling in the newsroom.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Whither the GOP?

As is their wont, 538 has a valuable analysis of the outlook for the House. Bottom line: It won't flip to the Dems this cycle, but it will shift significantly, enough to make a material difference in legislative outcomes. And the chances for the flip in 2018 and 2020 look quite strong.

Stepping back from this election, what's interesting about this picture is the questions it raises about where the GOP is headed. Its current position as a local, rather than national, Congressional rather than presidential, party is almost entirely a function of latency in the system -- of the territory it secured over the years through Karl Rove's master plan. The longer-term secular shifts -- in demographics, in social mores, in economics -- all favor the Dems. And despite the very deliberate and aggressive work over decades to institutionalize the Reagan era, those institutions have almost entirely dissolved before our eyes. There is no longer any ideological glue, nor even any professional discipline to keep the ship in one piece, much less afloat. 

Will it become a nativist rightwing party, a la Le Pen? Will it become a loosely tied network of red state governments -- and can such an inherently fragmented existence last? Will a libertarian party -- either the actually existing one, or a newly reformed GOP -- emerge in its place?

In other words, how long can latencies survive in a complex, emergent system when they are not grounded in actual ideas or broadly compelling goals? The GOP today looks like a fragile shell of its former self, almost incapable of action or coordination or even enlightened self-interest. Krugman's analogy to the Soviet Union in 1989 is persuasive.

Of course, that also begs the question: Whither the Democratic Party? What does it become without a serious antagonist? I expect Hillary's first term to be a spectacular success -- but what then? It's non-trivial for the winner, as well as for the loser, to evolve in a constructive way after total victory.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dowd cloud

This piece tells you everything you need to know about Maureen Dowd. Her celebrity obsession, her self-deluding faux irony, her intellectual vacuity. Trump gave her access a few months ago, and pulled the wool over her eyes. She's just now waking up to what every intelligent person has known for decades -- that he is a narcissistic phony, America's asshole laureate. No, his ideas do not make sense. No, trade deals have not left swaths of America devastated. No, our allies do not importantly take advantage of us. Trump isn't just -- mysteriously to Dowd -- spoiling his real chance and soiling his real smarts. He never had either smarts or a chance.

When Dowd writes about Hillary, she reveals how desperately she is in need of psychotherapy. When she writes about Trump, she reveals how painfully gullible she is. In either case, she remains a public embarrassment in America's paper of record.