Two views on Anthemgate

Proving itself not a monolith, National Review has two different perspectives on Anthemgate.

First, David French defends the First Amendment against the man who swore Jan. 20 to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States””

Americans do not and should not worship idols. We do not and should not worship the flag. As a nation we stand in respect for the national anthem and stand in respect for the flag not simply because we were born here or because it’s our flag. We stand in respect because the flag represents a specific set of values and principles: that all men are created equal and that we are endowed with our Creator with certain unalienable rights. These

These ideals were articulated in the Declaration of Independence, codified in the Constitution, and defended with the blood of patriots. Central to them is the First Amendment, the guarantee of free expression against government interference and government reprisal that has made the United States unique among the world’s great powers. Arguably, it is the single most important liberty of all, because it enables the defense of all the others: Without the right to speak freely we cannot even begin to point out offenses against the rest of the Constitution.

Now, with that as a backdrop, which is the greater danger to the ideals embodied by the American flag, a few football players’ taking a knee at the national anthem or the most powerful man in the world’s demanding that they be fired and their livelihoods destroyed for engaging in speech he doesn’t like?

As my colleague Jim Geraghty notes this morning, too many in our polarized nation have lately developed a disturbing habit of zealously defending the free speech of people they like while working overtime to find reasons to justify censoring their ideological enemies. How many leftists who were yelling “free speech” yesterday are only too happy to sic the government on the tiny few bakers or florists who don’t want to use their artistic talents to celebrate events they find offensive? How many progressives who celebrated the First Amendment on Sunday sympathize with college students who chant “speech is violence” and seek to block conservatives from college campuses?

The hypocrisy runs the other way, too. I was startled to see many conservatives who decried Google’s termination of a young, dissenting software engineer work overtime yesterday to argue that Trump was somehow in the right. Yet Google is a private corporation and Trump is the most powerful government official in the land. The First Amendment applies to Trump, not Google, and his demands for reprisals are ultimately far more ominous, given his job, than even the actions of the largest corporations. Google, after all, has competitors. Google commands no police force. Everything it does is replaceable.

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.

At one stroke, thanks to an attempted vulgar display of strength, Trump changed the playing of the anthem and the display of the flag from a moment where all but the most radical Americans could unite to one where millions of well-meaning Americans could and did legitimately believe that the decision to kneel represented a defense of the ideals of the flag, not defiance of the nation they love.

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.

I fear that those who proclaimed [Monday’s] events a “win” for the president — after all, many of the players were booed for their stance, and in American politics you generally don’t want to be seen as taking sides against the flag — are missing the forest for the trees. If we lose respect for the First Amendment, then politics becomes purely about power. If we no longer fight to secure the same rights for others that we demand for ourselves, we become more tribal, and America becomes less exceptional.

I respect Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle (and former Army ranger) Alejandro Villanueva, who — alone among his teammates — came out of the locker room to stand for the pledge while the rest of his team remained off the field. I also respect players who reluctantly, but acting out of the conviction that they will not be bullied by the president, chose to kneel when they otherwise never would. I do not, however, respect the actions of Donald Trump. This weekend, he didn’t make America great. He made its politics worse.

When the history of this unfortunate, polarized era of American life is written, whether a man stood or knelt will matter far less than the values we all lived by. Americans who actually defend the letter and spirit of the First Amendment will stand (or kneel) proudly in the history books. Those who seek to punish their political opponents’ speech, on the other hand, can stand or kneel as they wish — so long as they hang their heads in shame.

Next, Kyle Smith decries how Trump politicized the NFL when he should have shut the hell up:

A few weeks ago, there was nothing left of Colin Kaepernick’s ill-advised national-anthem protest except a few dying embers. Now the twin bellows that are President Trump’s lungs have blown a blast of pure oxygen into the fire. Suddenly, it’s going stronger than ever.

If you’re an NFL fan, you can only be aghast at what Trump has done. His side — our side, the side that said you shouldn’t insult the flag because of the mistakes made by some police officers — was winning. All Trump had to do to secure this small but important victory was keep his mouth shut. Kaepernick had suffered the twin humiliations of being forced to recant his position last spring by promising to end his pregame protests and being snubbed by every NFL team this summer, which left him free to spend the opening weeks of the season protesting injustice from his couch. Copycat demonstrations were dwindling out.

Now, thanks to Trump, Sunday brought the spectacle of more dismaying national-anthem protests than ever before. Players were taking a knee from coast to coast. We were presented with the mind-boggling spectacle of Patriots players being booed by Patriots fans for being unpatriotic.

Or maybe they were just backing the First Amendment. Or expressing solidarity with fellow athletes such as NBA superstar Stephen Curry, whom Trump blasted in a tweet. Or simply expressing the sentiment that the president of the United States should stay out of their business. Trump gave them a pile of reasons to politicize the presentation of the flag.

How can anyone who wanted the NFL to shed its political baggage possibly back Trump this time? Football, and sports in general, had for many years served as a welcome refuge from questions about race. The link between Black Lives Matter and taking a knee during the National Anthem brought racial resentment to the field of play. Trump made that much, much worse.

Trump’s latest move may, as Rich Lowry has suggested, benefit him personally. Broadly speaking, he and the flag are on the same side. But it would benefit him personally if every American were forced to serve Trump-branded wine and steak for dinner once a week. What damage is he doing to the rest of us in the cause of furthering his own party-of-one agenda? If you wince at the way it seems that every awards show, late-night comic, and even horror story is obsessed with Trump, why would you back Trump baiting the NFL and the national anthem to also become all about him? “I never signed up for that,” said Trump supporter Rex Ryan, the former New York Jets and Buffalo Bills coach who is now an ESPN analyst.

Those of us who didn’t vote for Trump because we’re more conservative than he is — not to mention more patriotic, being appalled by his suggestion that John McCain is a loser for allowing himself to get captured — are in the position of perhaps being associated with him simply by standing for the national anthem. Now non-radical liberals, people who would never (as Kaepernick idiotically did) wear a Castro T-shirt or socks depicting police as pigs and who would ordinarily never show disrespect during the national anthem, are tempted to scowl at the flag because Trump has stamped his brand all over it. The simplest, most unifying things become divisive in the age of Trump. America is a lot surlier and more disputatious than it was just a few days ago. This is not progress.

Barack Obama was frequently, and rightly, criticized for wading into cultural areas he would have been better advised to avoid, as when he made himself part of the Trayvon Martin case by saying, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” He suggested Christians had little moral standing to oppose Islamist terror because of the Crusades. He repeatedly issued off-hand insults when saying things like, “Typically, when people feel stressed, they turn on others who don’t look like them.” The White House formed a partnership with the Academy Awards when Michelle Obama called the 2013 Oscar for Best Picture.

Trump has gone much farther down this road than Obama did. Comparing Obama’s culture war to Trump’s is like comparing a sword to a tank. One did real damage. The other is far worse. Obama chose to do the things that made him an incredibly divisive president. The response to that on the part of those who opposed him shouldn’t be, “Let’s have our guy be even more divisive.”

America doesn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be the case that we have a president who seizes on disputes from pop culture and entertainment and makes them into sources of national irritation. Football shouldn’t be a political football. May the next president have the wisdom to mollify, de-escalate, and lower the volume. May the next president make America normal again.

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Anthemgate

Rich Galen begins by telling the story of how we got to yesterday:

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to sit during the traditional playing of the National Anthem during last year’s pre-season games. Kaepernick said, when asked about his then one-man protest:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Over time, as happens so often, it is not the issue Kaepernick was protesting that has become the source of dispute, but the fact that he and others are protesting at all.

The thing about protests is, they don’t do much until they do become the focus of the discussion.

Rosa Parks first got thrown off a bus in 1943 for entering through the front, and not the rear, door.

But, we didn’t know about that at the time. In 1955 she was arrested for having violated Alabama law by refusing to give up her seat to a White man when the bus was full.

“I did not get on the bus to get arrested; I got on the bus to go home.”By then she was a member of the NAACP which took up her cause and the Civil Rights movement in the United States got a huge boost. And, the 1943 incident became part of the Rosa Parks story.

For the half-century since Rosa Parks was arrested, the Civil Rights Movement has been at least as much of a point of disagreement as civil rights themselves.

Is Colin Kaepernick the NFL equivalent of Rosa Parks? Those are the kinds of things you can’t know until well after the fact.

We do know that Kaepernick was not released by the 49ers for his actions. He, in effect, released himself this past March when he opted out of his contract to become a free agent.

Whether he is still a free agent because of his actions is a matter of some discussion on sports talk programs across the nation.

The other night – also in Alabama – Donald Trump told a political crowd, according to CNN’s report:

“Team owners should fire players for taking a knee during the national anthem. Trump added that if fans would ‘leave the stadium’ when players kneel in protest during the national anthem, ‘I guarantee, things will stop.'”

Sounded just like Voltaire.

Before Sunday’s early games just about every team had some players who stood, some who kneeled, some who sat on the bench and one – the Pittsburgh Steelers – stayed off the field until the Anthem was finished.

In the NFL game played in London (9:30 AM Eastern time) several players on both sides knelt for the National Anthem, but they all stood for “God Save the Queen.”

SIDEBAR

Maybe that’s the answer. Play “God Save the Queen” before every NFL Game just like they did before 1776.

END SIDEBAR

… Unlike Rosa Parks – and many other Civil Rights leaders – no NFL player is likely to be arrested, attacked with a fire hose, or lynched.

For his part, Donald Trump got back on Air Force One after his speech, glowing with self-appreciation on the ride back to Washington, DC, reinforced by his staff chattering like a group of bad angels perched on his shoulder: “You were terrific, tonight.”

Thus, reinforcing Trump’s bad behavior.

Do I agree with these protests? No. Nor, do I agree with Donald Trump’s taunting the players because of them.

I have, in fact, put my life at risk to defend the players’ right to protest, and for Donald Trump to be able to continue acting like Donald Trump.

And, so have many of you.

As far as Kaepernick and his lack of employment are concerned: Every time I see someone saying the NFL needs to stop blackballing Kaepernick, I ask whether that person would want his team to sign him. I have yet to get an answer.

This could be said to be one giant diversionary tactic on the part of Trump and the NFL. Trump is trying to rev up his base, perhaps to divert attention on what he hasn’t accomplished — the Mexican wall, immigration reform (whatever his position is on that today), ending ObamaCare, cutting taxes, cutting the federal debt, ending the North Korean and Iran threats, stomping out radical Islam, and all the other things he promised and has so far failed to deliver upon. (Those are Congress’ fault? That’s not something a leader would complain about.) Trump accomplished nothing to Make America Great Again through inserting himself into something he should have stayed out of.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said this …

“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month,” Goodell said in the statement.

“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”

… perhaps to get everyone’s attention away from the claim by the attorney for NFL tight end-turned-murderer Aaron Hernandez that he had severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which doesn’t put football in a very good light. The NFL is also being cynical by making players stand on the field for the National Anthem when it could deflate this issue by having the players in the locker room while it is played (as used to be the case).

Facebook Friend Kevin Binversie says:

No doubt most Americans agree with Mr. Trump that they don’t want their flag disrespected, especially by millionaire athletes. But Mr. Trump never stops at reasonable, and so he called for kneeling players to be fired or suspended, and if the league didn’t comply for fans to “boycott” the NFL.

He also plunged into the debate over head injuries without a speck of knowledge about the latest brain science, claiming that the NFL was “ruining the game” by trying to stop dangerous physical hits. This is the kind of rant you’d hear in a lousy sports bar.

Mr. Trump has managed to unite the players and owners against him, though several owners supported him for President and donated to his inaugural. The owners were almost obliged to defend their sport, even if their complaints that Mr. Trump was “divisive” ignored the divisive acts by Mr. Kaepernick and his media allies that injected politics into football in the first place.

Americans don’t begrudge athletes their free-speech rights—see the popularity of Charles Barkley —but disrespecting the national anthem puts partisanship above a symbol of nationhood that thousands have died for. Players who chose to kneel shouldn’t be surprised that fans around the country booed them on Sunday. This is the patriotic sentiment that they are helping Mr. Trump exploit for what he no doubt thinks is his own political advantage.

American democracy was healthier when politics at the ballpark was limited to fans booing politicians who threw out the first ball—almost as a bipartisan obligation. This showed a healthy skepticism toward the political class. But now the players want to be politicians and use their fame to lecture other Americans, the parsons of the press corps want to make them moral spokesmen, and the President wants to run against the players.

The losers are the millions of Americans who would rather cheer for their teams on Sunday as a respite from work and the other divisions of American life.

I understand that this is not technically a First Amendment issue, because the NFL is the employer of all the protesting players, and the First Amendment protects us from government abrogation of free expression. It is certainly an issue in the spirit of the First Amendment, however. (How many people would like to be fired from their employer for doing a non-work activity on work time, such as picking up a child from school, making a personal phone call, or, heaven forbid, making a social media post during work hours?) I also understand that the First Amendment doesn’t include protections from the consequences of someone’s free expression. But on the other hand, the First Amendment doesn’t protect anyone from being offended or feeling disrespected at someone else’s free expression.

Trump fails again here because, unlike everyone else in this idiocy, the president swears to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That includes the First Amendment rights of those who disagree with him.

It is also true that the U.S. flag is not Donald Trump. (Thank heavens.) I don’t think kneeling is necessarily disrespect. Sitting, as four Packer players did during the National Anthem before Sunday’s Bengals–Packers heart attack — I mean football game — is disrespect, intended or not.

The U.S. flag and the National Anthem frankly are less important than the U.S. Constitution is to this country. Ask yourself this question: What if the United States of America was a Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton/Charles Schumer/Nancy Pelosi wet dream, where the government took every dollar of our work, gave conservatives no right to free expression, allowed us no gun rights, gave us no rights against unreasonable search and seizure and self-incrimination, and didn’t let us elect our leaders? Would you still love your country if it wasn’t worth loving?

Facebook Friend Michael Smith lays out the myriad stupidities:

Fact 1: The “kneeling” fad started with the San Francisco 49ers and this “protest” has spread to the NBA via the Golden State Warriors and MLB’s Oakland A’s. What do all these teams have in common? They are all from California, specifically the San Francisco Bay Area, where social justice warrioring is less of a hobby and more of a full time job.

Fact 2: The paradox of the wealthy progressive is at play. The “protesters” are by and large, a very privileged group – being millionaire athletes. Their very existence disproves their premise that America is inherently racist.

Fact 3: These “protests” are narcissistic. The leader of the Golden State Social Justice Warrior basketball team’s opposition to “racism” is Steph Curry – the son of a millionaire former NBA player, Dell Curry. Steph went to private schools as a kid and to college on a full ride scholarship (even though his family was of significant financial means) due to his on-the-court skills and who, in June of this year, signed a 5-year, $201 million dollar deal. People accuse Trump of being a narcissist (with good reason) but these protests by highly compensated athletes reek of narcissism as well.

Fact 4: The “protesters” cannot seem to articulate what it is that they are actually protesting other than to mumble a bunch of generalities ending with the word “Trump.” The “protests” are also dripping in hypocrisy – athletes feel free to directly attack certain people but when they catch a little return fire, they claim to be the victims. Yesterday, Curry was quoted as saying:

“It’s surreal, to be honest. I don’t know why he feels the need to target certain individuals, rather than others. I have an idea of why, but it’s kind of beneath a leader of a country to go that route. That’s not what leaders do.”

These “protests” aren’t principled – they are purely political. Curry quipped, “I’ve played golf with President Obama,” Curry said. “I’m pretty sure I won’t get a tee time invite during this regime.”

No doubt where Steph stands.

Look, I sort of agree with Curry about one thing – that this is beneath the Presidency – what Steph Curry, Colin Kaepernick or Bruce Maxwell think should not occupy one second of his time. By and large, the professional sports market is just that, it is a market for people with very specific talents, primarily talents possessed by minorities but other than for entertainment, professional sports is inconsequential to the pressing issues of this country. That is why I think it was beneath the office for Trump to engage in a petty and stupid fight with privileged millionaire pro athletes about fake issues.

Facebook Friend Devin Rhys adds three more points:

1. A lot of people whining about have never been in the military and are using the military to justice their snowflake whining. We didnt serve to protect speech everyone loves. We served to protect the speech everyone hates.

2. A lot of people supporting the protests (players and such) arent brave. Doing something that everyone else is doing is being a sheep, not being brave. The Army ranger in Pittsburgh is more of a hero than anyone kneeling could ever be. …

4. President Trump was a jackass for making this bigger than it was. This entire weekend was his fault.

(Yes, the order was correct. Devin is a 49ers fan, and points three and five were about his sad-sack team.)

It was pointed out in our own house that all the NFL Anthem kneelers are accomplishing nothing by their protests. And they’re not. In fact, as Kennedy Democrat Vince Lombardi put it:

“Our society, at the present time, seems to have sympathy only for the misfit, the ne’er-do well, the maladjusted, the criminal, the loser. It is time to stand up for the doer, the achiever, the one who sets out to do something and does it. The one who recognizes the problems and opportunities at hand, and deals with them, and is successful, and is not worrying about the failings of others. The one who is constantly looking for more to do. The one who carries the work of the world on his shoulders.”

Protesters aren’t really doing that merely by protesting.

The real bottom line comes from Facebook Friend Nathan Schacht:

The Packers made $441 million in revenue last year, $244 million came from national TV revenue. Until those advertisers care, the NFL won’t.

Facebook Friend Jason Wisniewski adds (capital letters his):

Out of 1696 players in the NFL only 43 protest the national anthem. That is less than 3%. Over 97% of players DON’T protest. Teams like the VIKINGS, COWBOYS & LIONS to name a few have ZERO players protesting.

I am not going to let less than 3% of players ruin the sport I grew up on and love that keeps me sane. I will NOT boycott the entire NFL over this.

He lost his way by rooting for a Packer rival after that, but he started in the right direction. There is already too much politics in our world, and it’s quite unfortunate that Trump decided to insert more politics into sports.

My Facebook feed was full of promises Sunday to never watch the Packers or the NFL again. Why do you care? Why do you care what Kaepernick thinks, or any of the Packers, or Trump, or Goodell, or what any other celebrity (and politicians are unfortunately celebrities) thinks on this or any other issue? I honestly do not care what NFL players do during the National Anthem, or their reasons for standing, kneeling, sitting, raising fists or anything else.

This is the latest sad example of where we have sunk to as a country, when someone else’s free expression is an affront to yourself if it represents a point of view contrary to yours.

Irony Inc.

James Wigderson has some fun at a former daily newspaper’s expense:

“Profit? Fiscal year? Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Beware, my dear Zilkov. The virus of capitalism is highly infectious. Soon you’ll be lending money out at interest!” – Dr. Yen Lo, The Manchurian Candidate

The Capital Times was founded because the Wisconsin State Journal wasn’t left-leaning enough. Yes, wee know, that’s hard to picture, but that’s The Capital Times story and they’re sticking with it.

The newspaper was born in 1917 after the business manager of the Wisconsin State Journal, William T. Evjue, resigned over the paper’s increasingly strident attacks against U.S. Sen. Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette to create The Capital Times. As governor, later a senator and the founder of Wisconsin’s progressive movement, La Follette established a reputation as a champion of the underprivileged and an opponent of powerful business interests, but he came under attack like never before for his opposition to U.S. involvement in World War I.

Of course, The Capital Times supported the war anyway, as they remind us, but they were the good progressive newspaper. Just ask, Editor Emeritus Dave Zweifel,  wrote in his “Plain Talk” column in June:

As the founder of this paper, William T. Evjue, would often lament in his column years ago, “The trend toward the concentration of financial, economic, political and military power continues. Are we headed for a dictatorship of wealth?”

If Mr. Evjue only knew what’s going on today.

As readers of The Capital Times, we often ask the same question, “If Mr. Evjue only knew…”

We had some fun recently perusing The Capital Times’ 2015 IRS 990 form for the Evjue Charitable Trust. We were shocked, shocked to find capitalism going on there.

And we mean capitalism, starting with the granddaddy of them all, JP Morgan Chase & Co., founded by the great robber baron himself, JP Morgan. Old Evjue and Fighting Bob must be spinning in their graves faster than a high-speed Dremel Rotary Tool.

That was hardly the only investment that made us chuckle. The Capital Times may have been against war profiteers during World War I, but they’re investors in Halliburton, General Electric, and Raytheon now. And they love Big Oil, investing in Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell. They’re even invested in Phillip Morris and McDonalds for some healthy cash.

And for a relaxing Cap Times, they make it Suntory time.

There are also investments in drug companies, Amazon, Facebook, AT&T, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Wal-Mart Stores, and even Union Pacific Corp. You know, all those small mom & pop companies struggling to make their way in a brutal capitalist society.

Our favorite investment is in Tiffany & Co. Nothing says progressive values like being the Tiffany news company in Madison.

Associate Editor John Nichols recently wrote a column saying how socialists are free to be socialists again. The proof was the popularity of Senator Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign.

“His presidential candidacy confirmed the appeal of such a politics in a 21st century that has been characterized by rampant inequality and the corrupt excesses of crony capitalism,” Nichols wrote, in a publication fueled by wealth inequality and the corrupt excesses of crony capitalism.

The Madison Capital Times, one of the loudest voices of liberalism in the country, sounds a little different these days.

Struck by mechanical and editorial employees five weeks ago, the Capital Times stunned this liberal-oriented community by bodly advertising for reporters and editors to replace its striking employees and welcoming back into is newsroom strikers who broke from the picket lines to return to work.

This is the newspaper that in its 60 years of existence has been a colorful and aggressive foe of conservatism, governmental corruption and pettiness and individuals such as Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

This is the newspaper that led numerous fights for civil rights, including a wrenching battle for an open housing ordinance in Madison, that strongly advanced the progressivism of Sen. Robert M. LaFollette and that vigorously opposed U.S. involvement in Vietnam, well before that position became popular.

This, embarrassed liberals in Madison have noted, is the newspaper that has staunchly lined up with union leaders to lift workers into better living and working conditions.

“It is a great disappointment to see our own newspaper not offering protection, as it has done so often in the past, but actually collaborating in abuses against workers who built the Capital Times up to what it is,” said Ron McCrea, a striking copy reader and vice president of the Madison Newspaper Guild.

Ironically, the strike was not originally aimed at the Capital Times’ management. The strike began when, on Oct. 1, a union representing editorial employees struck the Wisconsin State Journal, the city’s morning paper, and the International Typographical Union struck Madison Newspaper, Inc., which owns the Capital Times and also owns the plant that prints both papers under a joint operating agreement.

Capital Times guild members, along with pressmen and mailers, walked out in sympathy.

However, about 60 per cent of the State Journal Association, the guild’s equivalent at that paper, have gone back to work, and the morning paper is now operating with most of its staff back on the job. And the printing plant is sufficiently automated to get along without the ITU.

But with the strike still nominally on, most of the Capital Times workers remain out.

The future of the Capital Times had been in question even before the strike.

The afternoon paper’s circulation has declined to about 39,000 from a peak of about 50,000 a generation ago. The State Journal, by contrast, circulates about 79,000 daily and 126,000 on Sunday, and management says the Sunday figure is up 4,000 from a year ago. In addition, the Capital Times has sold its radio station and entered the joint operating agreement under which its parents prints the State Journal.

Thus, to some, the Capital Times’ stance is no surprise.

“The problem is, basically simple: regardless of editorial orientation or ideology, if you get into a problem of [newspaper] economizing, the ideology is likely to make a marginal difference,” says one veteran labor economist in Madison.

In a lengthy, biting reflection on the strike printed last week, executive editor Elliott Maraniss said McCrea and his fellow strikers should stop invoking the heritage and traditions of the Times and build their own.

He speculated that the strikers had a death wish, either for the paper or the union, and used as an analogy a person who commits suicide because he or she fears murder.

At the same time the liberal Madison community does not appear overly concerned about the strike and its impact on the future of the paper. Miles Capital Times editor and publisher, expressed surprise that there has been so little mail decrying the possible fatal impact of the strike on the paper.

There is little solid evidence that circulation has dropped off substantially – spokesmen for the two papers say it is less than 1 per cent – and there is no noticeable drop in advertising.

One reason, according to some observers, is that the paper has lost some of its feistiness in recent years.

The liberal community was outraged last year, for example, at the papers tactics in helping to defeat a popular Democratic state representative who was speaker of the state assembly.

Following that, the paper switched positions on Archie Simonson, the judge who was recalled after his statements on the bench linking rape to sexual permissiveness and provocative women’s clothing. The paper first attacked him editorially, then expressed sympathetic concern for his right to make such statements.

Mayor Paul Soglin, a product of the campus radical movement, became a villain to the paper when he leaked his 1978 budget proposal to the Madison Press Connection, a weekly being produced by the strikers, and said he would not grant interviews to reporters who replaced them.The general softening of the liberal tone perhaps has been inevitable, said a University of Wisconsin professor who has watched Madison, politcal and social changes for years. he noted that the heroes and adversaries in past Capital Times news and editorial columns have gone and it is getting more difficult for the paper to identify their successors.To replace those past causes and personalities in order to hold its traditional readers, the professor said, the Capital Times apparently felt it had to appeal to the liberal and radical causes of a younger generation.Because of that, he suggested, the newspaper bean hiring from a generation of reporters arising from the campus unrest of the late 1960s. For the most part, he noted, they were hired from strongly left-leaning college newspapers and the underground press.

This also has brought, in the view of a Madison labor expert, a clash between reporters and management. He notes that union members perceive management as being ideologically akin to them and thus “soft” bargainers during labor negotiations.

Readers unfamiliar with the Madison media scene will note that The Capital Times is described as a daily newspaper in the Post story. That was then, this is, well, later then, as Isthmus reported:

“It’s been no fun dying on the vine,” says Ron McCrea, senior news editor of The Capital Times.

McCrea, 65, knows something about dying. He presided over the death of the strike paper known as the Madison Press Connection in 1980 and then went to work for the Washington Star, which abruptly shut down in 1981 after 128 years. …

Buoyant wouldn’t be the right word, but he was definitely upbeat about the paper’s announcement that it will cease publication as a daily on April 26 and shift to onilne publication and two weekly print editions (one news, one arts) to be distributed free in the Madison area.

“We took practically every step imaginable to sell the paper [to new readers] in the last few years, and it didn’t work,’ he says. The Capital Times, which approached 50,000 circulation in its heyday, has dropped to less than 17,000 and had become, in practical terms, a boutique journalistic product sustained by its very profitable half-ownership of the Capital Newspapers publishing conglomerate.

Things were getting so bad, McCrea says, that sources were becoming reluctant to give story tips to Cap Times reporters because the paper’s readership was so small and the larger papers might ignore its scoops.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the experience of talking to people about a great story we’ve had, and nobody has a clue that we published it,” he says.

Perhaps the low point was the paper’s failed attempt to woo new subscribers in Madison’s “blue” neighborhoods on the near-west and near-east sides.

The mass home delivery of free papers produced precious few subscriptions, despite these being strongholds of John Kerry and Ralph Nader voters who presumably share The Capital Times‘ liberal philosophy.

“We thought this would be a rich target for us to fill out our circulation, but people just weren’t buying,” he says. “Some people even complained that we were littering! They asked that we take the papers away.”

McCrea’s conclusion: “You can only do so much before you finally have to face reality.”

Reality is online publishing and those two weekly editions. The move will save Capital Newspapers a ton in newsprint costs and result in perhaps 15 of the paper’s 60 newsroom positions being eliminated, in addition to other job cuts in production and delivery.

“I do feel upbeat because I’ve been there when they’ve simply folded the paper and told people to go home,” he says. “This is war by other means. Online is clearly the future of journalism.”

McCrea says the paper is being “very, very humane” in handling the job cuts by offering a buyout package that includes from ten to 52 weeks of salary, depending on longevity, some health-insurance coverage and other benefits.

With a few exceptions, all employees will have to apply for newly posted jobs by Feb. 18, McCrea says. The new staff will be announced on March 10. Those who aren’t hired will receive the same severance package as the staffers who accepted the buyout.

McCrea’s endorsement of the impending changes carries weight, given his long history at The Capital Times. He was a strike leader in 1977, when five unions at what was then called Madison Newspapers Inc. walked out when management unilaterally introduced new printing technology in a particularly brutal fashion.

“Madison Newspapers laid off half off its printers in one blow, [regardless] of seniority, with women and the disabled first,” he recalls “Those who returned to work the next day were told that their pay was being cut by a third. They were just bleeding in total despair.”

The striking unions failed to shut down the two dailies, which doomed the strike from the beginning. McCrea became editor of the strike paper, the Madison Press Connection, whichnever rose higher than 12,000 in circulation and folded in 1980 after employees went payless for five months.

The strike formally ended in 1982 when the last two unions finally gave up. All five unions were decertified, though the strikers had the satisfaction of collecting $1.5 million from MNI as part of their settlements. The two papers remain union-free to this day.

McCrea went to work as press secretary for the newly elected Gov. Tony Earl in 1982, but when Earl lost his re-election bid in 1986, McCrea found himself unemployable in Madison. He left town to work at the New York edition of Newsday (since shuttered as well) before he made his peace with the Cap Times and returned to the paper in 1995.

There was no clearer sign than McCrea’s return that the extraordinary animosity of the strike had finally passed.

But the damage had been done. The strike had put the proudly progressive Capital Times on the same side with the then bluntly anti-union Lee Enterprises, which owns the other half of the publishing company. McCrea admits the strike cost the Cap Times readers it never regained.

The decision to cease daily publication was tightly compartmentalized within top management. The staff was kept in the dark until the announcement, and even senior news editor McCrea didn’t know it was coming. He says he had no role in drawing up the job descriptions for the new online paper and its weekly news and arts editions. …

A third-generation newsman, McCrea has the proverbial news ink in his veins. “I don’t have the warmth of feeling for Web readers that I do for newspaper readers,” he admits. “I tend to think that newspaper readers bring more worldliness and wider life experiences to their reading.”

The Cap Times has announced that the two weekly print editions, each with an expected circulation of 80,000, will be distributed free. Is the company’s goal to target Isthmus audience and advertisers?

McCrea says his bosses deny this. “We all love Isthmus,” he says. “We did focus groups a couple of years ago, when we were looking to refashion The Capital Times one more time. In the focus groups, everybody just loved Isthmus. Everything they wanted was already in Isthmus. We came away feeling a little dispirited.”

That doesn’t put such questions to rest. In the compartmentalized world of Capital Newspapers, advertising strategy wouldn’t be shared with editorial staffers like McCrea.

Yeah, well, every media outlet competes with every other media outlet for advertising and for eyeballs. That too is economic reality.

So is this: The aforementioned Madison Press Connection, according to the always-accurate (and never biased!) Wikipedia: …
… evolved from a strike paper to one of the few cooperatively organized and owned daily newspapers ever to exist in the United States. … The staff was initially made up entirely of striking employees of MNI, with the exception of cartoonist Pete Wagner, whose controversial work spurred his firing within two weeks of being hired, but who was rehired when the staff voted to keep him in spite of numerous cancellations by irate readers. Wagner left the paper after ten months and was later replaced by Mike Konopacki, who specialized in labor-related cartoons. The Press Connections cooperative structure was credited as the reason for numerous journalistic risks that corporate media avoided, including the publication in 1979 of an article purporting to provide the “secrets” of building an H-bomb.
… but, requoting from the Isthmus story …
… never rose higher than 12,000 in circulation and folded in 1980 after employees went payless for five months.
All of this, of course, is a demonstration that economic reality trumps (!) high-minded ideas about cooperative leadership, social justice, socially responsible investing, etc. The Press Connection died, and The Capital Times eliminated four of its editions, because as with any enterprise, for-profit or non-profit, if more money goes out than comes in, it’s not long for this world. As Margaret Thatcher was fond of saying, the facts of life are fundamentally conservative.

“Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together … mass hysteria!”

As recently as a couple of years ago, the next paragraph, from the (soon-to-be-defunct-because-she’s-retiring-at-the-end-of-September) Joy Cardin Show Facebook page, would not have been possible:

Why did conservatives support Donald Trump in the 2016 Election? Why don’t more conservatives reject his most controversial rhetoric today? What role did conservative media have in electing Trump? We’ll ask former WTMJ talk show host and author Charlie Sykes on Thursday from 8-9am. What questions do you have for him?
I posed this to someone with whom I’ve been on WPR before suggesting that this might be a sign of the end times (more on that in this space tomorrow), and he replied:
I doubt that. WPR has had YOU on and lived to tell.
I will have to listen at 8 a.m. As far as I know I might be the only, or at least the first, person on the planet who appeared on both “Sunday Insight with Charlie Sykes” …
The graphic appeared on a show after Marketplace Magazine ceased to exist. Oops.

Either because of sticking me at the end or because I was wearing lighter clothing than the others, this photo looks like a bad Photoshop job, where a larger photo of me was grafted to the photo of the other four.
Upon seeing me dressed like this frequent panelist Mikel Holt said that I had “dressed black.” No reason to take offense, though I wasn’t sure what of my clothing choices (olive?) fit his description.
I got the tie because of WFRV-TV anchor Tom Zalaski. I saw it and liked it, and sent an email to channel 5 asking where he got the tie. He called back, and I bought the tie.
This is actually my favorite Charlie Sykes photo. I had to take the boys with me for one show, and they watched off stage, then got to sit on the channel 4 news set.
… and Cardin’s show. (As well as the late Wisconsin Public Television show “WeekEnd,” which concluded with a pundit panel, on which I was the non-liberal non-Madisonian.) That’s unfortunate because increasingly liberals and conservatives listen only to views like their own, and don’t take on their ideological opponents, who might force them to question their own views.
Sykes, who during his varied print and broadcast career wrote a column for Isthmus, was recently profiled in Isthmus:

“Charlie ought to be going out in a wave of glory.”

So wrote fellow conservative Milwaukee radio host Mark Belling on the occasion of Charlie Sykes’ retirement from the airwaves last December. Belling noted that, as of Sykes’ final radio show, Republicans were about to take full control of both the federal and state governments for the first time since the 1950s. That fact should have made this moment the pinnacle of Sykes’ 23-year radio career.

Sykes’ final week of broadcasts on WTMJ-AM included tributes from virtually every Republican political star in Wisconsin. Ron Johnson jokingly blamed Sykes for his ascent to the U.S. Senate. And Gov. Scott Walker gushed, “You have had a tremendous impact … on the conservative movement, not just here in Milwaukee, but across the state.”

Despite the glorious send-off, the 62-year-old Sykes’ political identity was in a state of upheaval. Significant swaths of the once-cohesive Wisconsin conservative juggernaut, a group that he had both led and served for decades, were now ignoring him or, even, actively shunning him.

A bomb named Donald Trump had detonated within the GOP. And Sykes, who had believed for years that Trump would be an absolutely unacceptable leader of his party, was among its casualties.

The ideological and professional stability Sykes enjoyed through his decades on the air were a contrast to his peripatetic earlier life as a student and journalist. Before radio, he had bounced back and forth between liberalism and conservatism, and from publication to publication, working as a reporter, editor and columnist.

No one could have convinced me two years ago that, come 2017, Charlie Sykes and I would be on the same wavelength. But Donald Trump has left me politically homeless, too.

While I was not one of his listeners, Sykes loomed large within the Republican Party of Wisconsin, of which I was an active, but often malcontented, member. My fellow libertarian-leaning activists and I regarded him as an establishment shill, dedicated to the promotion and protection of an ossified party power structure. Belling’s overall assessment of Sykes’ career is positive, but he observes that Sykes “often seemed like a cheerleader rather than a commentator.”

If Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus and Ron Johnson were the party capos, then Sykes was their muscle. “If you went against the grain,” recalls longtime Sykes adversary Michael Murphy of the Republican Liberty Caucus, “Charlie would call you out.”

I also assumed Sykes was, stylistically, a local version of Rush Limbaugh, his shtick exploiting the darker corners of his listeners’ psyches. Though presumptuous, my distant read of Sykes was not entirely off base. Sykes himself has spent a good deal of time lately reassessing his radio career, and acknowledging mistakes he made.

In early October, Sykes’ ninth book, How the Right Lost Its Mind, will be published by St. Martin’s Press. The book chronicles the bizarre transformation the conservative movement has undergone since Donald Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015. But it’s also a personal story. The conservative movement has been so central to Sykes’ life, and he so central to it, that the book could hardly not be personal.

While Sykes has come a long way toward making sense of what happened, he is still somewhat bewildered by Trump’s decisive capture of the movement. From Sykes’ perspective, it was a hostile takeover, constituting a “repudiation of the conservative mind.” As Sykes writes in the book, Trump had tapped into “something disturbing that we had ignored and perhaps nurtured — a shift from an emphasis on freedom to authoritarianism and from American ‘exceptionalism’ to nativism.”

When I met with Sykes late this summer, he recalled the strong sense of loss he felt as the conservative movement slid into derangement, and the decision it forced him to make. “If I break with the movement,” he had asked himself, “have I squandered everything that I’ve spent 20 years working on?” Sykes says he understands others’ reluctance to break. “This is who you are, this is your identity, these are your friends. And if you break with them, are you repudiating a real large chunk of your own life?”

Despite the high price, “There was not a single moment when I thought, ‘maybe I should go along.’” Today, he adds, “The infrastructure that I had is completely gone.”

From a distance, Sykes’ decision might not seem so self-sacrificial. He has, since Trump’s election, had multiple op-eds published in The New York Times. He co-hosted Indivisible, a WNYC radio series that explored the early Trump administration’s impact on American life. And, most notably, he is now an official contributor on MSNBC. Would any of these opportunities with big-time media have come his way had he not so publicly and vehemently refused to board the Trump Train?

At the time of his retirement, Sykes told The Cap Times that he had decided to end his radio show over a year earlier. So throughout 2016, as he relentlessly bashed Trump, he knew that he would be scouting for new opportunities.

“Charlie looks out for Charlie,” says the Republican Liberty Caucus’ Murphy. “This latest act is just him hoping to stay relevant, and maybe even go national.” Others, like Isthmus columnist and Urban Milwaukee editor Bruce Murphy, assert that Sykes’ political beliefs have often tracked with career opportunities. The reality, Murphy wrote earlier this year, “is that Charlie Sykes has been changing his views, over and over, throughout his life, and has always been rewarded for it.”

Sykes seems dumbfounded by accusations that his steadfast opposition to Trump is driven by expediency. While people with whom he was closely associated — like Paul Ryan and Reince Priebus — moved into positions of great influence, Sykes’ uncompromising stance against Trump kept him out in the cold. “An opportunist goes with the power, not into exile.”

Sykes does appreciate the “strange new respect” he is getting from corners of the media world that used to dismiss him. But he is still quick to criticize the “liberal media,” arguing that their shabby treatment of conservatives fueled the rise of the right-wing propaganda machine. Conservative news-seekers, he writes, “were drawn to safe places, but also pushed.”

At some point, conservative talk radio hosts discovered that traditional news sources make perfect foils. So the talkers pounced, and kept pouncing, until, Sykes writes, “We had succeeded in convincing our audiences to ignore and discount any information whatsoever from the mainstream media.” He regrets that this strategy of delegitimization served to “destroy much of the right’s immunity to false information.”

Sykes devotes a substantial section of How the Right Lost Its Mind to the ascendance of “Alt-Reality” propaganda, how it nurtured “Post-Truth” politics, and its role in Trump’s electoral triumph.

It’s a chilling read. A sizable chunk of the American electorate is astonishingly susceptible to fabrications, even patently absurd ones. In Sykes telling, things got so weird during last year’s campaign that a cottage industry of fake fake news sprung up. Pranksters began fashioning reports just to test the limits of credulity. One tweeted out a contrived Clinton Foundation expense report that showed payees like ‘Sharia Law Center’ and ‘Bill Ayers,’ to see if the Twitterverse would bite. (Spoiler alert: the pranksters were unable to detect any limit to credulity.)

President Trump has, in a stroke of propaganda genius, co-opted the term “fake news,” applying it to legitimate media outlets that he considers unfriendly. In our conversation, Sykes noted that for each of his op-eds, The New York Times assigned a fact-checker. When he hears the president call the Times a “fake news joke,” he remembers the extreme rigor the paper has subjected his work to.

Toward the end of his book, Sykes urges fellow conservatives to “confront the conservative media that boosted and enabled Trumpism and created a toxic alternative reality bubble.” I asked him what non-conservatives might do to help. Because false beliefs are protected by extremely stubborn psychological barriers, Sykes thinks only “still-trusted conservative voices” have the power to stop the madness. “The right’s going to have to clean up its own house.” He laments that, as of now, “We’re not seeing a lot of that.”

I find it silly that Sykes is now being called a non-conservative for daring to criticize Trump (as did, by the way, every major conservative talk-show host in this state before the Wisconsin Republican primary, which is a major reason why Trump lost the GOP primary) and his hard-core supporters, or for appearing on public radio or TV or MSNBC. He’s been quoted frequently on this blog, and other than his non-support of Trump I challenge you to find non-conservative positions he’s taken, beyond possibly support for the taxpayer-funded Miller Park. Sykes has been one of the biggest supporters of Gov. Scott Walker from Walker’s days as Milwaukee County executive. Sykes led on-air support for Act 10. Sykes was a target at the biggest act of attempted censorship of political speech in this state, the Milwaukee County John Doe investigation. Sykes spoke at at least one county Republican Party Lincoln–Reagan Day dinner, which I know because I was there.

Regular readers know the first and foremost answer to Cardin’s question is that if the alternative choice was Hillary Clinton, virtually any Republican would have voted for Trump. (I’m not a Republican, so I didn’t.) As it turned out, a lot of independents in swing states must have voted for Trump as well, because, again, he wasn’t Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton demonstrates daily that if the November choice was Hillary or Trump, Trump was the better choice.

Having said that, it’s clear that Trump is a situational conservative, in that sense the Republicans’ answer to Bill Clinton. Trump, author of The Art of the Deal, deals with whoever (he thinks) is in charge. So he cozies up to Sen. Charles Schumer (D–New York) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D–California) on “Dreamers,” which is as Republican a thing to do as donating money to Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate campaigns. If Republicans lose control of Congress in the 2018 election, the resemblance between Trump and Republicans will disappear.

The answer to Cardin’s second question is answered in part because Trump has done conservative things (Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, undoing Obama regulations and executive orders, Monday’s United Nations speech), and in part by one of her Facebook commenters …

Why do we continue to ask the same question, and not accept the only answer? The answer is that every single Trump supporter is some combination of ignorant, intellectually incapable, morally bankrupt and hateful. It’s simply not possible to be a decent human being and support Donald Trump.

That Madison jackass demonstrates that liberals love every kind of diversity except diversity of opinion. Every time Trump supporters get criticized for supporting Trump, particularly when they’re accused of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, etc. (by the definition of the accuser), they support Trump more. Liberals are either too stupid or too hate-filled to grasp that.

As for Cardin’s third question … that’s in large part what Sykes’ book is about.

An UN-settling speech

Erick Erickson is a fan of Donald Trump’s United Nations speech Monday:

Quibble all you want with what he said or how he said it, I was only a kid when Ronald Reagan uttered the phrase “Evil Empire” and I still remember the press reaction. I was an adult when George W. Bush uttered the phrase “axis of evil” and I remember the press reaction. And I suspect that Donald Trump, like those two, will be vindicated against his critics for his tough stance at the United Nations.

What a politician says and what he really does or does not do are different things. But what President Trump said yesterday at the United Nations really restores a realistic approach to American foreign policy and a key, core sentiment that Ronald Reagan understood and the left decried: better our a**hole than their a**hole.

The fact is we cannot convert every country to our form of constitutional republic. And the fact is that there are always going to be third world hell holes from which terrorists might stage attacks or do bad things. It is far better for us to admit this and make sure those third world hell holes are controlled by allies who will help us destroy our enemies than by our enemies allies who will wage war against us.

The President’s bluntness may be off putting to some on this, but it was really telling yesterday when former Obama staffers were unable to reconcile how the President could say he will not impose our way of life on another country while also saying he would take action against Venezuela.

In the real world, the Venezuelan regime is destabilizing an entire region, sparking a humanitarian crisis, and ceding ground to nefarious groups including drug lords and terrorists. If the Venezuelan President could run his country without it collapsing into anarchy that will be taken advantage of by interests opposed to ours, President Trump would leave him alone. But because the Venezuelan President cannot do that, our President will act to keep us safe and his team is smart enough to know that acting today will prevent disaster tomorrow.

The same holds true with North Korea where this President is having to clean up the idealized vomit fest of three prior administrations and their “diplomatic” efforts that did nothing except buy North Korea time to make a nuke while learning the fine art of shake down saber rattling.

Whether this President lives up to his vision is another matter and will largely be for history to judge. But his stated foreign policy is mature, stable, and needed. It is grounded in historic American leadership around the world, not isolationism, and not multinational interventionism.

President Trump’s immediate predecessor took the world stage and often made it seem he though no nation was better or worse, but all were equal. Every nation said the same thing about how great their nation was and their nation was the best. We did it too as team sport, in Obama’s mind, but his policies were premised on us not being the best nation.

Yesterday at the United Nations, President Trump all but declared the United States actually really is the best damn nation that ever was, but is humble enough not to try to force everyone to our level.

I’ll take it!

If media reports that the Trump administration is trying to not back out of the horrible Paris economic-destruction — I mean climate change — treaty, I’ll be back to criticizing Trump again. Trump deserves credit for this speech to the relativist organization that believes that all countries are equal, including serial human rights abusers.

 

It takes a village to defeat Hillary

Dov Fischer has a few things to say to say to Hillary Clinton:

You see, Madame First Lady-U.S. Senator-Secretary of State-Perpetual Whiner (hereinafter “MFLUSSSOSPW”), no one vote alone elected Donald J. Trump the 45th President of the United States. Let us take, for example, Republican presidential voters in the great state of California. Under our electoral college system, votes for president cast by Republicans in California do not count. They count even less than do illegal votes, produced with forged drivers’ licenses, in New Hampshire. Nonetheless, California Republicans begrudgingly accept that their votes do not count because they respect the agreed-upon rules of the game, rules dating back more than 225 years. (U.S. Const. Art. II.) Under the rules of the Electoral College, the only way that a Republican presidential candidate will garner California’s electors in this era is if the other 48 states (Massachusetts does not count) vote Republican. It will take that kind of unilateral nationwide landslide for a Republican to win a majority of California’s voters in a Presidential contest. Therefore, California circa 2016 does not matter for a contemporary Republican Presidential candidate. He or she will win with current-day California only if he or she wins without it.

Alas, this reality also means that Republican presidential candidates will not expend preciously limited resources of time and money to beef-up their California votes for a November general election. It would be pointless, almost as pointless as a California Republican driving to a voting booth on Presidential election day, even if lured by a promise of free disposable plastic grocery bags. For the California Republican voter, the rhetorical question on election day has been asked eloquently once before in the presence of a United States Senate panel investigating the Benghazi disaster: What difference does it make?

So, with California explained, [w]hat exactly [h]appened? Well, it turns out that, beyond California, it took a village to elect Donald Trump President of the United States. A village comprised of the Deep South and the American heartland and a corridor running northward from Florida through Georgia and North Carolina, all the way up to Ohio. And The Village also branched east and west up north, through the Midwestern Rust Belt from Wisconsin to Michigan to Pennsylvania. It took a village.

Many wise observers of all political stripes perceived that Trump had no chance. He entered the race as an amateur. Coarse in language, brutally vicious in personal attack, impolitic beyond words, cartoonish in ways stemming from the hairstyle to the pigmentation. This guy is going to beat Senator Rubio by calling him “Little Marco”? Or defeat Sen. Cruz by mocking his magnificent wife — every public person has had photos snapped at inopportune moments — and intimating that Cruz’s dignified father somehow was associated with the murder of our 35th President? Ouch.

But the main reason that so many thought that MFLUSSSOSPW would defeat Donald Trump is that the electoral college seemed loaded for the Democrats from the get-go, as it has been for many recent years. It is they who begin each Presidential race with California (55 votes), New York (29), Illinois (20), Massachusetts (11), Washington (12), and New Jersey (14) locked up. Add after-thoughts like Oregon (7), Rhode Island (4), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), District of Columbia (3), Hawaii (4), and Vermont (3), and the Democrats begin the race with 172 electoral votes. The winning candidate needs 270 of the 538 total electors to win, so the race begins with the Democrat needing to secure only 98 of the remaining 366 to hit payday. Even if one concedes that Texas and smaller conservative states like Alabama, Mississippi, Idaho, and Montana are predetermined for the Republicans, the odds for a Democrat to win the electoral college from the remaining pot of states that legitimately remain “in play” remain overwhelming. Republicans mope with fellow conservatives over those odds every four years, viewing each approaching Presidential contest glumly. For those looking beyond the forthcoming bi-elections with 20/20 vision, it still seems unfair.

But those have been the rules for 228 years, and conservatives honor the rules. That is what conservatives do. The game starts with ground rules, and that defines how to proceed, fair and square. A hockey stick may not curve more than half an inch; if it does, any goal scored with it will be disallowed. A baseball bat may not have pine tar on it more than eighteen inches from its bottom. Rule 1.10(c). If it does, any home run hit with it may be disallowed. And it presently takes 270 electors to be chosen president of the United States.

So [w]hat [h]appened?

You, MFLUSSSOSPW, had been in public life post-Arkansas for 24 years. During that quarter century, we got to know your public persona. You truly may be a wonderful person to know privately. You may be someone who giggles softly, ruminates wisely, loves, shares, cares, devotes. But the public MFLUSSSOSPW that we of The Village cannot help but know — even without trying — is someone who is brazenly dishonest, cruel and hurtful, nasty, self-obsessed, manipulative and cunning (in the worst sense of that gerund), and someone narcissistic driven by a sincere tunnel belief, reinforced by decades of echo-chamber sycophancy, that she “deserves it” — whatever it is that she seeks at the moment — because, well, because she deserves it.

The Village does not trust you. If it had been only about The Server, you might have gotten a pass. But there had been cattle futures. Whitewater. The White House travel office. Filegate. That thing about having faced sniper fire when landing in Bosnia, even though the line of sweet little girls holding little flowers to greet you at that airport seemed impervious to Slobodan Milosevic’s perilous projectiles. That other thing about your Christian name having been conferred on you by your loving parents in honor of Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, the first confirmed climber of Mount Everest, whose achievement on May 29, 1953 came five years and seven months after you were born on October 26, 1947. The missing attorney-billing records from the Rose law firm. The Saul Alinsky bond. Sidney Blumenthal and the effort to character-assassinate Barack Obama. Your laughing over the acquittal of the child rapist you got freed. Benghazi: you telling the widows of the fallen martyrs that their loved heroes had died because of a dopey YouTube flick that no one could watch beyond three minutes, while secretly sharing with Chelsea that they actually had been murdered by Al Qaeda on the anniversary of Bin Laden’s 9/11 attacks. Those $250,000 speech honoraria for 15-minute closed-door shmoozes with Wall Street investors and Clinton donors. And stealing furniture from the White House. (C’mon, MFLUSSSOSPW: stealing furniture from the White House?)

The Village also remembered your role as a sexual predator’s full-time enabler. Maybe Gennifer Flowers had been consensual, but you publicly called her “trailer trash” and thereafter participated in hiring private investigators to dig up dirt on her. And the threats against Paula Corbin Jones. And Kathleen Willey. And Juanita Broaddrick. Sure, you told the media that you would not be like Tammy Wynette and “just stand by your man.” But, while Tammy ultimately walked out on George Jones, having stopped loving him that day, you instead shifted into battle mode. You mocked, insulted, and character-assassinated one female sexual-assault victim after another. You called Lewinsky a “nacissisic looney tune,” even though she was not the one wielding cigars.

The Village remembered. And that is why the email scandal buried you. Not because of Jim Comey. But because you had lost the public’s trust. The Village saw you as an irredeemable pathological liar. Then you started explaining that the emails you had wiped from your server — wiped like a waved dish rag, as you gesticulated to Fox’s Ed Henry — merely had been private communications about yoga classes and Chelsea’s wedding gown. The Village knew better, echoing in silent memory Ronald Reagan’s famous riposte to a more honest though equally incompetent Democrat: “There you go again!”

The problem is that, to the degree that the presidency is an encomium to be bequeathed rather than a position to be held in service to a nation, lots of other people also deserve it. Righteous people deserve it. Doctors and nurses who save lives deserve it. First responders who race into fires or face bullets amid confronting gang warfare to save innocent lives deserve it. As among politicians, John McCain also deserves it after the sacrifices he made as a war hero, absorbing torture and refusing freedom from Vietnamese incarceration without his men, and then devoting his life to national service. Mitt Romney deserves it after having lived a righteous life, not allowing his time as Governor of Massachusetts nor his status as a quarter-billionaire to divert him from personally delivering Thanksgiving dinners to the hungry nor from personally visiting people, outside of television cameras, in hospitals. Lots of people in The Village “deserve” it.

Beyond that, many of us Americans are concerned about our jobs, our national economy, taxes, our decaying infrastructure, and our porous Southern border through which illicit drugs that murder Americans permeate along with “coyotes” who smuggle undocumented human beings to their horrible deaths by suffocation, starvation, and worse. We are concerned about Iran developing nuclear weapons that can incinerate and obliterate parts of America, North Korea racing to attain the same level of criminally barbaric insanity, and Vladimir Putin outflanking freedom at every turn from the Crimea to the Ukraine to the Middle East. In other words, this is not a fun time when we blithely can hand over the Presidency to some empty-suit who imagines fancifully that his election will mark an end to the rising of the oceans (as in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean) and the healing of the planet, while one prominent magazine crowns him King Messiah, a television commentator experiences thrilling leg creep from watching him bloviate, and the character himself dances the salsa in front of a Dictator Castro while Europeans are being murdered that day by terrorists. This is not a time for someone who “deserves” the honor. It is a time for someone who potentially can do the job and can earn that trust by presenting a résumé rich with proven achievements.

During the presidential campaign, you spoke of your long public record, but your long public record condemned you. As First Lady, you inadvertently had sabotaged the Democrats’ decades-long stranglehold on the House of Representatives by leading your husband on one public policy disaster after another until the American electorate invited the then-hapless Congressional Republicans back into the majority to rein him in. HillaryCare was the straw that broke the donkey’s back, assuring the GOP a new era of House dominance beginning with Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract with America.” You built that. As a United States Senator, you had carpet-bagged yourself into a seat by donning a New York Yankees baseball cap, telling the starry-eyed Empire States voters that you, a child of Illinois and the wife of an Arkansas governor, always had rooted for the Bronx Bombers. Once elected, what accomplishments did you register in the upper chamber? We all remember historic legislation, even the bad enactments, by the names of the legislative greats of both parties whose visions changed America: the Carmack Amendment, the Taft-Hartley Act, the Boggs Act, the Byrd Amendment, the Mann Act, the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, Sarbanes-Oxley. What did you do? You got assistance for Manhattan after 9/11? Gee, whiz! How did you ever manage to persuade the Congress to do that?

And then you recorded a record as Secretary of State. Under your Russian Reset, the Crimea fell to Putin. Ukraine came under threat from Putin, even as the United States reneged on missile-defense security promises to Poland and the Czech Republic. You let the Iranian “Green Revolution” go to waste. You wasted the promise of the “Arab Spring,” putting the house money on the wrong horse: Mohamed Morsi and the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood. You screamed on the phone for an interminably long time at the Prime Minister of Israel. (Pssst! — Israel is on our side.) You staked out the position that Israel could not build homes for Jews in the heart of Jerusalem. Your husband and you somehow ended up with huge speaking fees — nearly a billion dollars worth — in Putin territory, and somehow Putin people ended up reciprocally owning tons of American uranium, approved by your State Department, suitable for destroying the free world with nuclear weapons.

And Benghazi.

In great measure, that is [w]hat [h]appened, MFLUSSSOSPW. Your public persona cultivated and crafted over a quarter century. Your résumé of actual performance. Your profound sense of entitlement. Your remarkably transparent Hansel-and-Gretel trail of lies leading from Arkansas to Wall Street to Bosnia to the Middle East to Mount Everest to Russia and back to the furniture moving truck and the bathroom where that server was stashed.

But there was more. Of course Jim Comey did not help. And yet he did. He really did let you off the hook even though any objective analysis of your violations of federal law would have required that a grand jury at least be convened to explore. Instead, the FBI director acted ultra vires, outside his area of authority, dropping the criminal matter for you. And the Attorney General met with your husband privately at that infamous Phoenix tarmac to discuss grandchildren and golf with him. (With respect, as much as grandkids and mulligans pushed the contours of credibility beyond the perimeters, no one in The Village would have believed that Bill and Loretta had been discussing yoga classes or wedding dresses.) Tellingly, Loretta Lynch’s clandestine tête-à-tête with President Bill was so politically sinister that it was the only time in your husband’s long and distinguished public career that no one in America — not a single person in The Village — entertained the suspicion that he had leveraged thirty minutes intimately alone with another woman-not-his-wife for physical hanky-panky. All knew it was substantive, not about multi-generational progeny, and not about selecting irons or woods.

And one more thing. That “basket full of deplorables” gambit. You played “Identity Politics” so brazenly, so wantonly, that you — a lifelong New York Yankees fanatic dating back presumbly to their Highlanders days — forgot something that Maury Wills, their cross-country 1960s Dodgers rival, once told the press. Wills, a remarkably successful base-stealer of historic achievement, once was asked how he managed to be so successful in stealing second base (from first base) against left-handed pitchers. (As you know from your many decades of rooting for the Yankees, MFLUSSSOSPW, the left-handed pitcher faces the runner on first base, in contradistinction to the rightie who necessarily stands on the pitcher’s mound with his back to that runner. Therefore, it typically is understood that a runner on first base is disadvantaged when seeking to “get a jump” and trying to get a head start on running to second base when the pitcher is a southpaw, a leftie, who is staring right at him.) So the reporter asked Maury Wills: “How is it that you run so freely against left-handers, given that they can stare at you carefully as they are pitching?” And Wills answered: “Because with righties, I can see only their backs, but with lefties I can stare at them carefully, too, as they are pitching.”

MFLUSSSOSPW, you diverted your campaign from a pursuit to lead our entire country as our Chief Executive. Instead, you brazenly promoted the most divisive and hurtful of Identity Politics. You publicly pursued women. While you were staring at women voters, male voters in Pennsylvania and North Carolina were staring carefully at you, and they saw. You publicly pursued Latinos. Non-Latino voters in Ohio and Iowa stared carefully and saw. You pursued African-Americans. Non-African-Americans in Michigan and Wisconsin stared carefully and saw. As you shamelessly and brazenly divided the American People into narrow classes of ethnic, racial, religious, gender slices of political pie, the other slices in The Village stared carefully and saw. Like a two-year-old hiding from Mommy and staring through waffled fingers, you thought that you could see them, but they could not see you. But they stared and saw — and they flowed out to vote by the basketfuls and basketsful. You had Lady Gaga and Madonna, Lena Dunham and Katy Perry, Beyoncé and LeBron. And yet The Villagers came out in the droves that John McCain and Mitt Romney could not inspire. They came out despite Jim Comey refusing to refer charges against you. They came out because, when you lumped them all into a basketful of deplorables, they grasped that, to save the country from further tragedy and cultural rupture, it would not be enough to “leave it to the other person” to vote. That, to save the country from you, it would take the whole damn village.

And so it did.

And that’s [w]hat [h]appened.

A (dis)credit to our profession

I cannot determine if what Newsbusters passes on, Dana Milbank’s Washington Post column, was satire or not:

President Trump is killing me.

No, really. He’s killing me.

I went for my annual physical last month, and, for the first time in my 49 years, I had to report that I’ve not been feeling well: fatigue, headaches, poor sleep, even some occasional chest pain. My doctor checked my blood pressure, which had always been normal before: alarmingly high

What could this mean? I don’t smoke, I’m not obese and I swim most days. The doctor hooked me up to electrodes and ran an EKG; it was normal. He suggested I try an ultra-low-sodium diet, and I spent a few weeks living on unsalted rice cakes, undressed salads and unappealing entrees; the pressure dropped a few points, but not enough. We could pretty much rule out sleep apnea and other things that can cause a spike in blood pressure. My doctor had me take a calcium CT scan of my heart, which filled me with enough radiation to melt s’mores but turned up nothing terrible.

At this point, I arrived at a self-diagnosis: I was suffering from Trump Hypertensive Unexplained Disorder, or THUD. For almost five decades, I had been the picture of health, but eight months into Trump’s presidency, I was suddenly ailing. Trump is the only variable, I told my doctor. “He sure is variable,” my doc replied, endorsing the diagnosis.

I know THUD is a real condition because I have a scientifically valid sample to prove it. I told my editor about my new medical state, and he reported that he, too, has been newly warned by his doctor that his blood pressure has become borderline, and things could go either way. Sort of like with the “dreamers” (although in my editor’s case, dealing with me may be the primary cause of illness).

I have a strong suspicion THUD is a widespread phenomenon. A dentist tells me orders have surged in the Washington area for night guards because more people are clenching and grinding their teeth in the Trump era. Psychotherapists tell me that they are unusually busy and that most clients are talking about Trump, who is exacerbating whatever neurosis, depression or other conditions they had. This is probably quantifiable, but I am too fatigued to do this work. My heart can only take so much.

It stands to reason that THUD is less pervasive in parts of the country that supported Trump: rural areas, the South, the industrial Midwest. Americans here are probably suffering no deleterious effects on their health as a result of Trump’s election.

I have addressed my case of Trump Hypertensive Unexplained Disorder in its early stages, and my doctor has started me on blood-pressure medication. My prescription is renewable until January 2021, at which point I expect it will no longer be medically necessary.

Milbank doesn’t have THUD. Assuming he’s serious about who is president affecting his health, he has Trump Derangement Syndrome, as numerous Trump opponents have. It is similar to Wisconsin’s Walker Derangement Syndrome and the 1980s’ Reagan Derangement Syndrome, in which opposition to who got elected drives you out of your mind. That is a real disease given previous reports of Hillary Clinton voters seeking psychiatric care.

Since I couldn’t determine if Milbank was being serious or not, I posted that question to the Fans of Best of the Web Today Facebook page. The responses are … unsympathetic to Milbank.

Other than to get a laugh, I don’t know why someone write something like this. Milbank, if serious, is admitting that his mental and emotional state is so fragile and delicate that his physical health is falling apart due to an election result. The only way this is funny is to make Milbank look like a coward and a wimp.

Since I have been of voting age I have lived through 16 years of the wrong president and 11 years of a bad governor. Neither affected my health at all. Nor did, or does, having the correct people in office. If either affects your health, I suggest you look at your values.

Trump, his supporters and DACA

Politico reports:

A majority of voters want Congress to pass legislation that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to become citizens if they meet certain requirements, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted following the Trump administration’s decision to wind down the program protecting these so-called Dreamers from deportation.

The poll — conducted in the days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the administration was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Sessions described as “unilateral executive amnesty” that “contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border” and “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans” — shows that 54 percent of voters want Congress to establish a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, and another 19 percent want Congress to allow them to stay without establishing citizenship.

“Not only do a majority, 73 percent, of voters want legislation protecting Dreamers from deportation, a majority want Congress to make that a priority,” said Kyle Dropp, Morning Consult’s co-founder and chief research officer. “Overall, 65 percent of voters say protecting Dreamers should be either an important or top priority for Congress.”

Just 35 percent say ending the DACA program was the right thing to do — fewer than the 45 percent who say it was the wrong thing to do. Two-in-10 voters are not sure.

Here is the most important paragraph:

In last week’s poll, 24 percent of Republicans thought DACA recipients should be deported; this week, 20 percent think Congress should codify that policy. Two-thirds of self-identified Trump voters wanted these immigrants to be allowed to stay in last week’s survey, and 68 percent of Trump voters want Congress to pass legislation that lets them remain in the U.S. in the new poll.

 

The gift that just keeps on giving

I’m not a Republican, but if I were, until the 2018 election I would keep passing out excerpts of Hillary Clinton’s What Happened, possibly renaming it What (Could Have) Happened.

Or, I suppose, what could still happen, based on this Facebook meme:

The latest example of Hillary’s state of internal depravity comes from the Daily Wire:

Hillary Clinton says she won’t be granting “absolution” to any person who now regrets staying home on Election Day.

According to a passage in Clinton’s new book, What Happened, she’s definitely adopted the Madeline Albright theory of women voters: the ones who didn’t cast their ballot for Hillary Clinton are doomed to a “special place in Hell” and their High Priestess will not step in to save them from it.

“Since November, more than two dozen women — of all ages, but mostly in their twenties — had approached me in restaurants, theaters, and stores to apologize for not voting or not doing more to help my campaign,” Clinton writes. “I responded with forced smiles and tight nods.”

These women probably didn’t do nothing, they just felt their sacrament of confession might be good for their soul and hers. They tried, they failed. They sought reconciliation. They were denied.

Things got worse when the confessions were forced, rather than voluntary. In one case, Clinton speaks of a woman who dragged her daughter over to Clinton and made her apologize for failing to vote on November 9th (which is weird to begin with, but whatever). With her “head bowed in contrition,” the girl admitted her sins, but while Clinton was outwardly forgiving, inwardly she was seething with rage.

“I wanted to stare right in her eyes and say, ‘You didn’t vote? How could you not vote?! You abdicated your responsibility as a citizen at the worst possible time! And now you want me to make you feel better?’”Clinton wrote. “Of course I didn’t say any of that.”

“These people were looking for absolution that I just couldn’t give.”

After all, it’s completely their fault, right? If only a few hundred women had turned out to the polls, Hillary would have achieved the victory that was rightfully hers!

The math, of course, doesn’t work out. Hillary’s core demographic, older white women, voted in smaller numbers for the “First Female President” than they did for Barack Obama. And Clinton’s fatal mistake was counting on free votes, even though voters clearly expected her to earn their allegiance. She simply took her people for granted. It’s not their fault they didn’t work harder; it’s her fault she didn’t work harder. She should be seeking absolution from them.

How much ego does this require? At this point one wonders if Hillary has a diagnosable personality disorder.

That’s assuming she wrote that, and based on one of the comments, did she?

I can’t believe she used that word. If you’ve never been Catholic…you have no idea how ridiculous, absurd, offensive the idea is that Hillary Clinton might offer the moral equivalent of the “Last Rites” to women who dared not vote for her corrupt, lying, truly wicked self.

More comes from the American Spectator:

She writes about her defeat with the emotional intensity of a parent who lost a child — a chilling and neurotic proof of her clawing, bottomless and now forever thwarted political ambition.

She is a failed Lady Macbeth, but a Lady Macbeth who wants us to feel sorry for her, what with her chardonnay-chugging and alternate nostril breathing after the election. She writes: “If you’ve never done alternate nostril breathing, it’s worth a try.… It may sound silly, but it works for me. It wasn’t all yoga and breathing: I also drank my share of chardonnay.”

But in the course of acknowledging her post-election emotional tailspin, she gets in a curious dig at her husband and friends. She wants us to know that she is not as screwed up as they are. “I remember when Bill lost his reelection as Governor of Arkansas. He was so distraught at the outcome that I had to go to the hotel where the election night party was held to speak to his supporters on his behalf,” she writes. “For a good while afterward, he was so depressed that he practically couldn’t get off the ground. That’s not me. I keep going.”

About her friends, she writes that they “advised me on the power of Xanax and raved about their amazing therapists.… But that wasn’t for me. Never has been.”

See, she is still the strong one! It is true that Bill did moon about after his defeat in 1980. He would hang out in grocery stores, following people to their cars as he explained why they should give him another shot. But it is not clear why Hillary thinks that is more pathetic than her frantic closet-cleaning, taking to her bed on election night (while her crying supporters sat stupidly at the Javits Center waiting for her to appear), or any of the other attempts at “self-care” that she reports in the book.

Hillary, when not insisting upon her own claimed superiority, sounds less like Lady Macbeth than Madame Bovary. Hillary, Bovary-like, cops to a frenzied attempt to find pleasure and meaning in the void of her denied dream, in everything from movies, plays, and evening soaps to sentimental books to even religion. “I prayed a lot,” she writes. “I can almost see the cynics rolling their eyes.”

They should, especially after she likens her defeat to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. She ludicrously quotes a Methodist minister who told her, “You are experiencing a Friday. But Sunday is coming!”

The book is full of inadvertent humor. She pats herself on the back for the generosity that she showed the “4,400 members of my campaign staff” in the midst of her grief, such as when she re-gifted 1,200 red roses to them that a woman’s advocacy group had delivered to her Chappaqua mansion. It sounded less like a gift than more closet-cleaning.

But Hillary’s grimly comic lack of self-awareness is most on display when she tries to explain why the peasants rejected her. She essentially recycles Obama’s claim that Americans are still clinging to their God and guns. She recounts Bill telling her an ominous story about an Arkansan store owner who was going to vote for Tom Cotton because the “Democrats want to take away my gun and make me go to a gay wedding.” Boy, how did he ever get that idea? Hillary, who ditched Arkansas for New York, pretends not to understand: “the politics of cultural identity and resentment were overwhelming evidence, reason, and personal experience.”

Hillary hasn’t even matured beyond her days as a brat at Wellesley who looked down upon Nixon-supporting hard hats. It was this infantile, egocentric liberalism that led her into the “deplorables” gaffe which she still can’t quite bring herself to regret. She continues to call Republican voters racists and libels Reagan (“It was no accident that Ronald Reagan launched his general election campaign near Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers had been murdered in 1964”).

The book rests on the absurd conceit that Americans chose a demagogue over a brave “policy wonk” unwilling to stoke the “rage” of the American people. This from a candidate who hired 4,400 people to push every special interest button imaginable. The book contains no evidence of any mental superiority. Hillary, like other pretentious baby boomers, thinks quoting books she hasn’t read and putting the platitudes of Maya Angelou and other “big names” (at the beginning of chapters) makes her deep. It only confirms her essential emptiness.

It is obvious from the windy acknowledgments that she relied upon a raft of ghostwriters to cobble the book together. The words are theirs; the whining is hers. One of the more extraordinary whines revolves around the media. She never once admits the enormous advantage she enjoyed as a result of an endless anti-Trump feeding frenzy. Instead, she bleats about those few moments when the media treated her with skepticism. Similarly, she rants and raves about Russia and Comey while ignoring that the only government we know with certainty that tried to tip the election was hers (there is no mention of the Obama administration’s political espionage against Trump).

In the closing stretch of the book, Hillary wallows in her self-pity, even lashing out at the founding fathers for the “archaic fluke” of the electoral college. She says that she “takes responsibility” for her defeat, then absolves herself of any in a fit of finger-pointing. In the end, she consoles herself with explanations she considers beyond her control. There is a lot of muttering about a nebulous “gender” anxiety. She even fantasizes about chewing out young women who didn’t vote for her.

Speaking of books Hillary has never read, Paul Bois adds:

George Orwell’s 1984 served as a cautionary tale for what happens when authority goes horribly wrong and when government intrudes into every aspect of its citizens life, including their own thoughts. It was a prophecy of what was (and is) to come if people did not fight back against the militant leftism – then the Soviet Union – that had ruled Eastern Europe with an iron fist.

However, the woman who should never be President (and thankfully never will be) believes that Orwell’s warning was about why people should trust authority: people like herself, the mainstream media, sycophantic journalists, Hollywood, etc.

In Hillary Clinton’s latest memoir What Happened, where she blames everyone but herself for her abysmal loss to President Trump this past election, the former First Lady explains how Trump is really the Big Brother of 1984 and that elitists like herself are the heroic Winston Smiths out to uncover the truth.

“Attempting to define reality is a core feature of authoritarianism,” she writes in her book. “This is what the Soviets did when they erased political dissidents from historical photos. This is what happens in George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, when a torturer holds up four fingers and delivers electric shocks until his prisoner sees five fingers as ordered.”

“The goal is to make you question logic and reason and to sow mistrust,” she continued. “For Trump, as with so much he does, it’s about simple dominance.”

Hillary then explains how Trump’s “war on Truth” will manifest in year’s to come. “If he stood up tomorrow and declared that the Earth is flat, his counselor Kellyanne Conway might just go on Fox News and defend it as an ‘alternative fact,’ and too many people would believe it,” she cautioned.

Just another reason, in a very long list of reasons, why Hillary should never be President. She claims that Trump has made us question “logic and reason” when her entire book cannot bring itself to point the finger at the most logical reason for her loss in 2016: herself.

As I write about most losers of elections: She lost. She deserved to lose.

The mess we live in

Russ Roberts:

The current state of the country and the current state of political and intellectual conversation depresses me in a way that it never has before. You have to understand — I’m never happy with the state of the country — that’s the inevitable fate of holding an ideological position that rarely gets any traction — I’m a classical liberal who’d like government to be dramatically smaller than it is now.

But the world today feels different. Everything feels angrier. I think of Yeats’s masterpiece, The Second Coming:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

Maybe it’s paranoia but it’s been a long time since I felt the thinness of the veneer of civilization and our vulnerability to a sequence of events that might threaten not just the policy positions I might favor but the very existence of the American experiment.

The main way I’ve been dealing with this feeling of despair is to stop paying close attention. I don’t know what depresses me more — the stupidities and dishonesty and tolerance of darkness that come out of the President’s mouth or the response from those that oppose him. Given that I don’t like the President, you’d think I find the response of his enemies inspiring or important. But the responses scare me too, the naked hatred of Trump or anyone who supports or likes him. And of course, it goes way beyond Trump and politics. The same level of vitriol and anger and unreason is happening on college campuses and at the dinner table when families gather to talk about the hot-button issues of the day. Everything seems magnified.

It feels as if we’re in a very dangerous moment. Not because I think that Donald Trump is going to declare himself emperor or that there are going to see riots in the streets until he’s impeached. I think we’re in a dangerous moment because of what we’ve learned from the response to the Trump candidacy and the Trump presidency. I feel as if a giant flat rock has been lifted up and what is suddenly made visible crawling around underneath has lots of legs and plenty of venom.

I’m not naive. I know there’s a lot of hatred in the human heart. It’s nothing new. But what appears to be new at least in America in my experience and I’m 62 years old, is a willingness to vocalize that hatred and to act on it. The only parallel in my lifetime is the 1960s. There are some obvious parallels, but once the Vietnam war ended, things settled down. I’m not sure the divisions and lack of respect we’re seeing now is going to fade away. Certainly not while Trump is president.

A part of me wants to go off to the 18th century and think some more about Adam Smith. But another part of me thinks that standing idly by is the wrong thing to do. It feels as if we are at crucial juncture. But what action are we to take, those of us who are alarmed at the state of the country? It’s not the heat of the political kitchen that is hard to take, it’s the hatred and anger and intolerance that is spilling out of the kitchen and out into the dining room and into the streets.

So running away, while appealing, is the wrong thing to do. But what is the right thing to do?

To figure that out, we have to have some diagnosis of what malaise or disease we’re trying to cure. Here are my thoughts on how we got here and why I’m so unmoored and alarmed by the current state of our country and then at the end I’ll suggest some steps individuals might take to improve matters.

The underlying problem is very old. Most of us know very little. The world is a complex place and it’s hard to know what is going on. So we grope around in the dark trying to make sense of what is happening and what explains what we observe. We manage to convince ourselves that we are seeking the truth and we have found it. Trump is evil or Hillary is evil. Black people are the victims of a conspiracy by white people to oppress them or white people are being marginalized as their majority status dwindles. The country is on the wrong track. (Everyone believes this one). And subtlety is not our strong suit as human beings. We like simple stories without too much nuance.

So we manage to convince ourselves that the evidence speaks so loudly, so emphatically, that we have no choice but to declare our allegiance to a particular tribe as a result of that evidence. The red tribe. Or the blue one. Or the white one. Or the black one. It rarely crosses our minds to notice that causation is probably going the opposite direction — the tribe we are in determines the evidence we notice and accept.

This is also very old. What is new is the confidence people have in the righteousness of their tribe. Certainly some of this is due to the echo chambers we frequently inhabit on the internet. We tend to visit websites and follow people on Twitter and Facebook who think the way we do and reinforce the narratives we tell ourselves.

The media is part of the problem. I follow a lot of mildy left-leaning journalists on Twitter who write for major publications and outlets. They are not fringe players. Their employers aren’t either. These reporters aren’t ideologues. They’re just right-thinking people who lean left. Somewhere along the line, they stopped pretending to be objective about Trump. They have decided he is dangerous and a liar and they write about it openly on Twitter. They mock him in a way they didn’t mock previous presidents who they didn’t particularly like. They may be right about the dangers posed by a Trump presidency. But their stance which violates long-standing norms of their profession amplifies the feelings of Trump supporters that those supporters are under attack from mainstream American culture.

Here’s a relatively benign but simple example. Trump says America is the most taxed nation in the world. This is not a true statement. But I suspect in Trump’s mind and the minds of his supporters, it’s not a lie. To them, Trump’s claim is a marketing statement, the way a real estate developer would tell you that this corner is the best location in the city. It’s enthusiasm to get you sympathetic to a tax cut.

Politicians lie and dissemble all the time. But they tend not to lie and dissemble about things that can be fact-checked. So this is new and it understandably outrages people and reporters. There is indeed something outrageous about this kind of hyperbole. So when a member of the media tweets or prints a chart showing Trump’s claim is totally incorrect, the chart reminds Haters of Trump that Trump is a buffoon and a liar. But it doesn’t convince the Lovers of Trump. Instead it confirms their view that the media is hostile to Trump. And as the media becomes more self-righteous in its denunciations of Trump, the Lovers of Trump see this as confirmation not of Trumps idiocy but of Trump as victim and the media as the enemy of their friend.

I am not suggesting that the media shouldn’t fact-check the President. But it’s a little like shooting fish in a barrel. And when its done with disdain or triumphalism it reinforces the view that Trump is embattled.

Jordan Peterson has pointed out that there’s a destructive positive feedback loop operating these days — my outrage doesn’t convince you to rethink your position, it only encourages you to ratchet up your own. He is on to something.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, deviationism from the party line is increasibly unacceptable. The extreme version of this is so-called intersectionality. If you’re a feminist, you also have to oppose Zionism. These kinds of litmus tests may be useful for political power. They aren’t good for nuance or independent thinking. But increasingly it seems people are uncomfortable failing these tests of ideological purity. They don’t want to lose their membership in the right tribe, the tribe that gives them a sense of identity.

The result is an unjustified confidence in one’s own side of the debate, whatever that debate is. Consider religion. I live a religious life as a Jew and have for about 30 years. Being a religious Jew or Christian in the academy was once merely a novelty. Now it’s a badge of shame. There’s a hostility to religion that goes beyond non-belief. People write me asking how I can be religious given that I’m so smart. Not sure there is a more back-handed compliment than that one. Now I’m well aware of the intellectual paradoxes of believing in a Creator and living one’s life according to an ancient set of precepts. Many of those make me uncomfortable. Many bring comfort. I fully understand how someone could reject them as irrrational or stultifying. What bothers me is that I don’t think many of those who are surprised or outraged at my leading a religious life could begin to explain its appeal to me. It is simply unimaginable to them that an educated person could be religious.

This lack of imagination is a common problem across most issues. People don’t just disagree with each other. They can’t imagine how a decent caring human being could disagree with their own view of race or the minimum wage or immigration or Trump. Being a member of the virtuous tribe means not only carrying the correct card in your wallet to reassure yourself. You have to also believe that the people carrying any other card are irrational, or worse, evil. They’re not people to engage in conversation with. They are barriers to be ignored or pushed aside on the virtuous path to paradise.

This intolerance and inability to imagine the virtue of the other side is the road to tyranny and chaos. It dehumanizes a good chunk of humanity and that in turn justifies the worst atrocities human beings are capable of. The increased tribalism of discourse today is leading to a lot more self-righteousness and intolerance. (This superb essay by Scott Alexander lays it out beautifully. Read it.) We all understand in some part of our being how dangerous self-righteousness can be. The left can point to the religious crusader who murders innocents in God’s name. The right can point to the millions murdered by Communists convinced they could remake humankind and bring heaven on earth. But somehow we think the problems are all on the other side.

One answer is Jordan Peterson’s. Here is how I would summarize what he has been suggesting: You want to improve the world? Improve yourself. Read history and understand the dangers of self-righteousness. Read literature and understand the human condition. Know who you are and the strengths and weaknesses of being a human being. Learn the limitations of reason. Be an exemplar of personal virtue.

This is good advice. It’s good for you. But it’s also good for the world even if you believe it oversells the possibility of individual action to ripple outward.

Unconvinced? Sure. I don’t blame you. It’s pretty unfashionable these days. So here are a few practical things I’d suggest for how to behave on Twitter, Facebook, and at social gatherings that are threatening to end in shouting matches or worse. I would summarize these suggestions as saying — when the world is increasingly uncivilized, take a step toward civility.

  1. Don’t be part of the positive feedback problem. When someone yells at you on the internet or in an email or across the dinner table, turn the volume down rather than up. Don’t respond in kind to the troll. Stay calm. It’s not as much fun as yelling or humiliating your opponent with a clever insult, but it’s not worth it. It takes a toll on you and it’s bad for the state of debate. And you might actually change someone’s mind.
  2. Be humble. Shakespeare had it right: There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy. You’re inevitably a cherry-picker, ignoring the facts and evidence that might challenge the certainty of your views. The world is a complex place. Truth is elusive. Don’t be so confident. You shouldn’t be.
  3. Imagine the possibility not just that you are wrong, but that the person you disagree with could be right. Try to imagine the best version of their views and not the straw man your side is constantly portraying. Imagine that it is possible that there is some virtue on the other side. We are all human beings, flawed, a mix of good and bad.

As best as I can remember, I only saw James Buchanan speak twice. The first time he changed the way I thought about trade. The second time I saw him speak, shortly before he passed away, he said something very deep and paradoxical. He said something like this: When I look to the future, I’m a pessimist. But when I look the past, I’m an optimist. What did he mean by that? He meant that right now, the future looks pretty bleak. But if we look to the past, we see times like the 1930s, when things must have looked a lot bleaker. Unemployment reached 25% in the United States and elsewhere. Fascism was on the rise around the world. And yet, the world recovered from those times and while things got worse, much worse before they got better, the resulting path was unimaginably more positive than could have been imagined at the time.

So maybe I am overreacting to the state of things today. But it doesn’t matter. The virtues of humility and decency are timeless. They are out of fashion today. Through our actions, maybe they can be fashionable once again.

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