Seriously, Gary. Come ON.

On Wednesday, Chris Matthews at MSNBC deigned to have the Libertarian presidential ticket of Gary Johnson and William Weld appear at 7 pm Eastern time at a town hall at the University of New Hampshire. While the ticket did take some time to dispel a few strawmen (Johnson DOES believe climate change is man-made, and does believe we should have an EPA), events did not all turn out well. Not only was Johnson a bit… agitated (at one point predicting that Hillary Clinton could ‘press the button’ in a war), he didn’t seem to get Matthews’ question as to why marijuana is called dope (answer: it makes you a dope), and there was one point Matthews held a lightning round, promising “maybe you’ll make some news.” He asked, “who’s your favorite foreign leader?” Johnson said Shimon Peres of Israel – who has just died. Matthews specified it had to be a living leader. Johnson confessed, “I guess I’m having an ‘Aleppo moment’ in the former president of Mexico.” (Vicente Fox, by the way.)

So out of all the other things (good and bad) that came out of Johnson’s mouth, GUESS WHAT WAS THE ONE THING THE PRESS WILL. NOT. SHUT. UP. ABOUT.

In one respect, this just confirms it’s a bad idea for libertarians to appear on MSNBC (or as I call it, MSDNC), given that most of their hosts, including Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow, love libertarianism the way an Orthodox rabbi loves bacon cheeseburgers, but really it confirms a point I’ve made here more than once: If a “third” party candidate wants to be taken seriously by the press, they need to ACT like a serious candidate and bone up. Again, you are NOT Donald Trump. People will not watch you do a spontaneous monologue from Ubu Roi on national TV and say, “Aw, that’s not fair, his mic was bad.”

Well, cheer up, liberals. If you’re a Clinton fan (or just someone who doesn’t want Trump to get elected and make his first executive order the restoration of droit du seigneur), Johnson’s apparent quest to destroy what credibility he might have had will greatly reduce the chances that a third-party vote will “spoil” a state for Hillary. But then, you won’t be able to blame Johnson if Hillary chokes anyway, so everything’s a tradeoff.

If however Johnson retains his previous poll numbers or actually increases them, it will mean that Gary Johnson has absorbed the primary lesson of the Donald Trump campaign, which is that people will vote for you if they identify with your ignorance. Either that, or Americans hate Hillary THAT FUCKING MUCH.

Meanwhile, the lesson I take from this, which the Libertarian Party should note for 2020, is that just because marijuana use should not be a bigger crime than armed robbery, that does not mean that you want a marijuana user to be your presidential nominee.

Just sayin’.

Good Fight, Good Night

Well. That was definitely a thing. I’m not sure what kind of thing it was, but it definitely was one.

The first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was actually very exciting and almost substantial. Here’s my short take.

Clinton: After being constantly told to smile more, Clinton seems to have overdid the advice a bit, smiling even when it was quite obvious that she wanted to go full Louis Black on Trump’s ass. It was still a pleasant contrast to Trump in split screen with his (sorry, feminists) Resting Bitch Face.

What actually impressed me is where she went after Trump on all the issues where people have been waiting on the press to grill him for years. Like, how can he say that he knows how to manage money when he’s stiffed most of his contractors in Atlantic City? She did defend her record – not that well, but less defensively than she did with Matt Lauer. And in head-to-head comparison with Trump, it wasn’t that hard to look good.


To me, Chump’s best moment was challenging Clinton on an email scandal where any other official in the same situation would have been at least censured. It was also a good ante to say he would (finally) release his tax returns IF Clinton releases the “33,000 deleted emails.” It’s just by this point, it comes off as Boy Who Cried Wolf. We already know how Trump reacts to a challenge. If the birther thing is any guide, if Hillary somehow releases deleted data, he’s gonna bullshit continuously for three more years regardless before finally conceding the issue in such a way as to blame the Democrats for him making himself look stupid in the first place.

The other problem being that half of what this guy says is what Freudians would call “projecting.” Trump says (with some accuracy) that Clinton and the Obama Administration didn’t stop the spread of ISIS, but his main policy seems to be hitting up allies like NATO and Japan for extra money to cover their treaty obligations or we’ll pull out of them. He said, “I also have a much better temperament than she has” – which might have been the biggest laugh line of the night. And then, apparently thinking that he’d hit on some magic mantra to invoke Clinton’s 9/11 collapse, he said, “She doesn’t have the Stamina. I said she doesn’t have the STAMINA. To be president, you have to have the STA-MI-NA.”

Yeah, whatever you say, Sniffy.

Sad thing (for anybody who has issues with the Democrats) is that Trump did, again, have the opportunity to score some serious points on Clinton, over the emails, over ISIS, and all he could do was bluster and insult without giving a serious answer as to what he would do better. But then when confronted with his own venality, Trump doesn’t rely on a Big Lie technique. He relies on a Golden BB technique. This is basically where you fire so much rapid-fire bullshit downrange that there’s no way anybody can dodge it all. The drawback is that people get a bit… tired of it. Like when Lester Holt said, “we need to move ON…” Whereas when confronted about her issues, Clinton downplays them. Like, “I did apologize for the term ‘superpredators’, let’s move on.” Or, “Yes, I voted for Iraq, and I helped President Obama stage a withdrawal. Let’s move on.” She has to do this, because apparently unlike Trump, she is aware that the press has this new Weird Science invention called videotape that they can use to compare what you just said to what you said then.

The media conventional wisdom was that Hillary just needed to be competent and professional and also pleasant in demeanor, while Trump just needed to speak words good not drool. My estimation is that Clinton somewhat exceeded expectations and Trump somewhat disappointed his.

Come On, MAN Revisited

Well, as it turns out, SINCE I went off on Gary Johnson’s “and what is Aleppo?” fiasco, he actually topped himself in a press conference where someone asked him to address global climate change and he said, “the long-term view is that in billions of years, the sun is going to actually grow and encompass the Earth, right. So global warming is in our future. ” Now, he’d said just before that, “I just argue that the result (of government spending on climate change) is completely inconsequential to the money that we would end up spending, and that we could direct those monies in other ways that would be much more beneficial to mankind.”  But that doesn’t really go into serious detail as to what should be done, if anything, and as we’ve seen, the same press that gives Donald Trump credit for walking on two legs and says that his not displaying symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome is “professionalism” will dive on any comment Johnson makes and make that a Libertarian Straw Man the size of Godzilla.

What’s weird is that despite Gary Johnson turning himself into the San Diego Chargers of political candidates, he’s still at least 8 percent in a lot of polls.  Which is to say, he hasn’t gone up any, but he hasn’t gone down either. Seriously, why is that? All I can say for myself is that Johnson’s comments ought to be disqualifying to any serious candidate for president. The problem is that at least one of the two “serious” parties doesn’t have a serious candidate for president. And no, liberals, this isn’t a “both sides are the same fallacy.” I know damn well that President Clinton would not be the same as President Trump. President Hillary Clinton would not mount a giant gold-plated T on the roof of the White House. President Hillary Clinton would not make Wednesdays Hot Oil Wrestling Night in the Blue Room. And Hillary Clinton did not say she would turn her business holdings over to her offspring as a “blind trust” the way Trump did –  even though many people have pointed out that having family in charge of the assets is the opposite of a “blind trust.”

That in itself should be enough reason to make sure Donald Trump does not become President. Another would be the use of donations from other people to his Trump Foundation charity for private purposes, buying personal gifts, and making political contributions  – which is not just skeevy or unethical but outright illegal. Yet, after crashing in the wake of the two party conventions, Trump is now leading polls over Clinton in several key states like Florida. And liberals are casting about looking for someone to blame, from “third” parties to double standards to the idea that anyone not bowing down to Hillary is being “unrealistic” because their candidate isn’t “perfect.” In fact, that’s the argument being puked out in multiple sources.  Do an internet search on “Hillary Clinton is flawed” and you’ll get Daily Kos going “Cause, you know, I’m flawed. And you are flawed. And Bernie Sanders is flawed and Barack Obama is flawed and even Michelle Obama is flawed. But the difference between all of them and me–and probably you, is that they have all given their flawed lives to public service. And now, they are all working together in their inevitably flawed ways, to save all of us, and the whole world from a sociopathic narcissist. ” Or Jonathan Chait going “Hillary Clinton Is a Flawed But Normal Politician. Why Can’t America See That?” This is a bullshit argument, and the fact that liberals seriously seem to think that this is the best they can say is proof of how defensive and desperate they are. Do you really think that Chump voters aren’t aware by now that their guy is “flawed”? When a car dealer wants to sell a Hyundai Elantra, he doesn’t start out by saying that it’s not a Lamborghini. All we want is a car that will get us to work and back without blowing up within two years. That’s the problem here. The whole country, Left and Right, is sick of business-as-usual, “Normal” politicians, and constant war.  We don’t know if Clinton will go full neocon or let her paranoia turn her into a left-wing Nixon.

Look: If we’re going to be “realistic” here – which is what all the liberals who are desperately afraid that their Perfect Inevitable Queen may lose are always telling me to do – then we first need to dismiss both Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. Because whatever their merits OR flaws, neither has the voter base necessary to get a majority or even a three-way plurality of votes, or even win on a state-by-state level, which is what is actually required for the Electoral College system. (That’s why Gore didn’t get elected, remember?) Then you have to consider that Donald Trump declares himself more disqualified to be president with every public appearance he makes, because apparently he just can’t help himself. So you’re left with the conclusion that Hillary Clinton is the inevitable president after all. So that means going over her record becomes that much more important for navigating the next four years, not less. Things being what we’ve seen, the second Clinton Administration may get itself into yet another paralyzing and possibly impeachment-worthy scandal, and it won’t necessarily ALL be the fault of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (TM) of Republican meanies.


Part of the issue is that when “first past the post” means that only two parties have a realistic chance of support, the issue of “can this candidate win?” takes almost exclusive precedence over what should be at least as important a question: “should this candidate win?” One of the problems with that mentality, as Hillary Clinton is discovering, is that not wanting Candidate B to win is not the same thing as wanting Candidate A to win.

In my example: I’d already decided that after George Herbert Walker Bush, I was never going to vote for another Bush on principle. (Even then, I didn’t realize that Bush Junior would make Senior look like Eisenhower.) That’s part of why I ended up supporting Libertarian candidates. But Michael Badnarik was appealing only insofar as he wasn’t Bush or Kerry. In 2008, the Libertarian Party nominated conservative ex-Republican Bob Barr while the Democrats picked Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, and Republicans nominated Senator John McCain – who’d picked Sarah Palin as his running mate, the woman who turned out to be the John the Baptist to Donald Trump’s Cheeto Jesus.

With that decision, I knew I couldn’t go Republican. I also didn’t trust Bob Barr, being one of those social conservatives who turned me off to the Republican Party in the first place. So in 2008, I voted for Obama. And not just as a “lesser evil.” Indeed, I think that was the only time I voted for a candidate that I liked AND that had at least an even chance to win. He didn’t have to be a doctrinaire libertarian; I wasn’t a doctrinaire libertarian. He just had to be good on balance, and I didn’t think Barr or McCain were.

Over the next four years of Obama’s first term, he was disappointing on a lot of issues, certainly on civil libertarian issues like Guantanamo detentions and the “War on Terror.” On the Affordable Care Act, the Administration was, depending on perspective, either too socialist or not socialist enough. By 2012, I wasn’t too enthused about Obama but I thought the Republicans (under Romney-Ryan) hadn’t learned anything. On the other hand, Gary Johnson had gained the Libertarian nomination, and as a former New Mexico governor who had successfully run things with a strong Democratic opposition, he seemed like the kind of practical right-winger that Republicans used to promote and have since actively rejected. So I voted for him.

Now, I continue to have serious issues with the Obama Administration, but I would actually rather have Barack Obama serve a third term than have either Clinton or Trump, two dysfunctional, power-hungry creatures, be president of the United States. And while Gary Johnson, with his increasingly dippy statements, is no longer somebody I would support over Obama, I would STILL rather have HIM as President than Clinton or Trump. Because if Johnson doesn’t know where Aleppo is, Clinton helped make Aleppo the way it is, and Trump would end up making a real estate deal with the Russians to buy Syria dirt cheap for hotel properties.

There are reasons why it normally doesn’t pay to vote third party. Constitutionally, we have a “first past the post” election system, not a runoff or parliamentary system. Politically, even beyond the constitutional structure, we have an entrenched duopoly that has ginned up the laws to force any possible competitors through a prohibitive series of legal hoops to cut off even the diminished level of dissent that they would normally have. However when people who apologize for the status quo (usually liberals) tell the rest of us this stuff, they’re “mansplaining” this to people who already KNOW that going “third” party is unproductive, if only because gross vote nationwide does not translate directly to Electoral College votes.   (Which is why Ross Perot never got Electoral College votes.)  But what it really comes down to is that the third parties are “third” because those few people who do look them up find their platforms too immoral, or too impractical, or they like the platform but don’t think enough people (in their state) will vote with them.

The problem with using that logic to support the status quo, though, is that it still applies to one of the major parties if it becomes unpopular enough in a certain state. If you live in California, voting for Trump is just as much a vain, throwaway vote as voting for Johnson or Stein. But if you’re in Georgia or Texas, voting for Clinton would be the equivalent of a “third” party vote.

A point that Clinton apologists either do not address or actively dodge.

The problem with “but the other candidate is worse!” point is that it reveals that the binary logic of the two-party system has already reached its terminal point of absurdity. The expected result of such a system would be polarization. But polarization pays off only if the whole voter base is polarized, and in equal degrees. In practice, when that doesn’t happen, one party polarizes by purging all of its “squish” voters and candidates, which means that all the relatively moderate people who have been made unwelcome by their old party are refugees who get scooped up by the other party without them having to change their positions much at all – even if ultimately those new people are really not a good fit. So when the Republicans purged all their Jon Huntsman moderates, their Gary Johnson libertarians, their Colin Powell neocons, their RINOs, their get-alongs-to-go-alongs, they were essentially left with either the kind of people who actually take Trump seriously and those who know better but want the votes of the former group. And that latter group, like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, are the next on the chopping block, whether they admit this to themselves or not. Meanwhile, all those other guys either became official Libertarians like Johnson, publicly decided to sit things out this time, or actively declared they were voting for Clinton. So these center-to-right people, by definition, are the kind of people who have already rejected the premise ‘You HAVE to vote for the Republican, because the Democrat is always worse!’ So why would you expect them to obey a faulty programming code just because you switched the nouns?

The people on the Right who accept that premise, like Ted Cruz, are the people who are trying to rationalize voting for Trump, even if (or especially if) they know better. They’re already rehearsing their rationalizations for 2020: “Look, our nominee may be a fire-breathing demon with acid for blood and maybe he just raped an entire orphanage including the nuns, but at least he’s not Hillary Clinton.”

So the irony is that if Trump DOES win the election, it will be mainly because the Republicans embrace liberal “logic” more than the Democrats do. Because the people in the middle that the Democrats need are the ones who reject binary partisanship, and the ones who embrace it are the wrong team.

What then of the largely “progressive” Millennials? You would think that they would accept the premise “You HAVE to vote for A because B is so much worse” if only because it is so undeniably true this time. But as I keep telling people,  it is not the Right that Hillary needs to worry about so much. The substantial complaints about her are from the Left. Hillary Clinton is not trusted, because she is not trustworthy. For Millennials and the Left, this does not have so much to do with Benghazi and emails as the fact that Hillary Clinton has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to every one of the “progressive” positions she currently (for the duration of expediency) holds. “Progressives” may be stupid about a lot of things, but not in this case. Again, even setting aside the constitutional and political reasons against voting for a third party, the reasons an individual doesn’t vote for one usually come to: The platform (or candidate) is immoral, the platform is impractical, or one thinks that the party won’t get enough votes. And while the Constitution effectively dictates that there can only be two effective parties, liberals do not (or will not) point out that they haven’t always been the same two parties in history. At some point in the cycle of absurdity, one of the two parties will be considered by the majority to be too immoral, too impractical, or too unpopular to get enough Electoral College votes. It’s just a question of which party that happens to first. So if enough people decide that Hillary Clinton is too immoral to support, or can’t get her platform through Congress, or think that she doesn’t have enough votes in their state…

Well, hi, liberals. Welcome to MY world. I don’t know why you’re not happy here, you did so much to create it.

Not like this is more than academic in my case. In recent weeks, polls in my home state of Nevada have brought Trump to competition or an outright lead over Clinton when after the conventions her margin in the state was about 60-40. So according to my own logic,  I have to vote for her if that trend keeps up. I still think that with the major “blue” states being near-impossible to dislodge from her bloc, Clinton will still ultimately win an Electoral College victory, but I still want to take my state away from Trump in order to prevent it from inflicting on itself a disgrace even worse than the Sharron Angle fiasco that we barely avoided not long ago.

Fuck this dumb-ass country and fuck my dumb-assed state. Because the ONE good thing about Trump getting elected would be the sense of Schadenfreude I would feel when the reality of Trump actually becoming president and having to take responsibility for something invokes a fit of whining, pants-shitting terror in the people I hate the most.

First and foremost of these being, Donald Trump.

My Questions for the Candidates

I was going to go over some more thoughts in the wake of Gary Johnson’s self-sabotage, namely on the point that despite that apparently reduced threat, Hillary Clinton is still losing her lead over Donald Trump. But in the midst of all the, uh, excitement surrounding this campaign, I forgot that the first presidential debate is September 26, or next Monday. At such occasions, the media will often pose questions from members of the audience. As I plan to be washing my hair and/or laundry that day, I do not expect to be present for the debate, but I did at least want to pose these questions for discussion.


Donald Trump

  1. Did you know that the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal does not involve China?
  2. Even if we renegotiate bad trade deals with China and other nations, what would your administration actually do to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States?
  3. In March, you posted a memo to the Washington Post saying that you would use the “know your customer” provisions of the Patriot Act to prevent wire transfers from Mexican workers in America to their families back home, in order to pressure the Mexican government into paying for the border wall. Was this how you were actually expecting to get Mexico to pay for the wall, and do you honestly think their government will take you seriously?
  4. In August 2015, you told a CNN interviewer that the secret to your success was that, quote, “I do whine because I want to win. And I’m not happy if I’m not winning. And I am a whiner. And I’m a whiner and I keep whining and whining until I win.”   Mr. Trump, I do not consider that a proper attitude for an ADULT, let alone the President of the United States, and that is one reason I will not vote for you, one reason of many.    What is your response to that statement?

Hillary Clinton

      1. Secretary Clinton, I ask you the same question I asked of Donald Trump: What would your economic policies do to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US?
      2. Secretary Clinton, when you did the “Commander in Chief” interview with Matt Lauer, you told the audience that we would never go back to having boots on the ground in Iraq. But several sources have confirmed that we do have special forces in both Iraq and Syria assisting against ISIS as well as official advisors to Iraqi forces, along with of course air support against the Assad regime. What would your policy be toward the region in general- specifically, what is your policy toward the Bashar al-Assad regime? Would you support it as the legitimate government of Syria or work to have him leave office? And in answering that question, how would your policy be supported by diplomatic and military means?
      3. Mrs. Clinton, FBI Director James Comey, in his report to Congress on the issue of your email account as Secretary of State, said that you and your staff were “extremely careless” with emails you later said were “retroactively classified.” At the Commander in Chief event, an audience member said he was a naval officer who had held a top secret clearance, and had he not communicated information according to protocols, he could have been prosecuted. Yet you are saying the nation’s top diplomatic official is under lesser restrictions, and that the system your department was using was unclassified, which is why you were using a separate system. Can you at least understand that this issue- among others- is a major example of why so many Americans think you ARE secretive, you are suspicious, you are controlling, you can’t be trusted, and – more important than such opinion – that the system IS rigged to protect people at the top, like you?


Thank you, and God bless America.


Come On, MAN

Today (September 8 2016) Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson actually got on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program, which would normally be great exposure, especially for a third party candidate trying to get into the national debates. But frequent panelist Mike Barnicle of The Daily Beast asked him at one point, what would you do about Aleppo? Johnson responded, “And what is Aleppo?”  And Barnicle said, “You’re kidding.” Host Joe Scarborough asked, rationally, “do you really think that foreign policy is so insignificant, that somebody running for president of the United States shouldn’t know what Aleppo is, where Aleppo is, why Aleppo is so important?” Johnson demurred, “I understand the crisis that is going on,” but at this point his stammering defense wasn’t convincing.

Never mind that Barnicle himself forgave Johnson’s flub,  apparently on grounds that not too many other people know what and where Aleppo is. For example, the reporters at The New York Times.  It doesn’t matter. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Not that I am much for public speaking myself, but if asked, I would probably say something like: “Aleppo is a humanitarian crisis. But it is a crisis because of Bashir Assad. As a libertarian, and believer in constitutional government, I think that America should only involve itself through humanitarian aid. But that may not be enough. If it is not enough, the president has to ask Congress if it is worth going to war against Assad. I don’t think it is, but I could make that case, because Assad’s war is the main cause of the refugee crisis that affects Greece, Turkey, and NATO partners further in Europe. If we withdraw, that situation will get worse, and Russia and Iran fill the vacuum. Any decision we make will have consequences, including the decision to do nothing. What we CANNOT do is do what Barack Obama did, which was to draw a line in the sand, and then do nothing when Assad crossed it. We cannot wash our hands of the thing and then act surprised when Russia brings Syria into their sphere of influence. And we cannot cluck that ‘someone needs to stop the bloodshed’ and then contribute to it without doing anything to conclude the war.”

One of the problems, if not the problem, with American politics is its tribalism. Rather than follow a party because it holds to your favorite policies, more and more, people change their policies to promote their party.  So I suppose one good thing about being a “third” party supporter whose candidates have slim to no chance of election is that we do not have to bend over backwards to pretend bending over backwards will help them. Unlike, say, Paul Ryan, we can call a spade a spade. So I’m glad that the libertarian community’s general reaction to Gary Johnson’s brainfart is about the same as everybody else’s.

You cannot ask to be on the same stage as the big kids and then, when asked a debate-level question, give a non-response that isn’t even Trump-level bullshit. This is why I have kept saying: If you’re in a third party you need to be able to answer the question of what you would do when you actually have power. Because not only are major-party candidates not sufficiently grilled on that matter themselves, the less serious the two major parties become, the more people will look for alternatives, and someday some journalist will actually come to you, Third-Party Candidate, and ask a serious policy question- in the expectation of a serious answer. And guess what? That someday was today. And as we have since observed, the media which pretended you didn’t exist no matter how much you jumped up and down for attention will give you ALL THE ATTENTION IN THE FUCKING WORLD as long as it causes the maximum embarrassment to you and your political movement.

Which goes to something else I’ve said:  Take the process seriously, so that people think you deserve to be elected. Because you will not be carried. There is a double standard against you. The system does not change, because various people, including the Beltway press and the Commission on Presidential Debates, make a living by not letting it change. You are PETA, and they are Colonel Sanders. Their people will be given every excuse, and they will damn you to Hell for one mistake. You are not “cool.” You are not Donald Trump. You will not be given credit for being the smartest paste-eater in the Special Ed class just because your daddy bought the school.

But speaking of which:

The biggest political news last night prior to the Johnson fiasco was the ultimately bigger fiasco with the “Commander-in-Chief Forum” hosted by a veterans’ organization and broadcast by the NBC networks. If there is anyone who has been more ridiculed than Gary Johnson, it is Today‘s Matt Lauer, who was hammered in real time by social media for being as hard on Hillary Clinton as he was easy on Donald Trump.  But while both Clinton and Trump were asked not asked about the city in Aleppo in particular, they were both asked about Middle East policy, and their answers were hardly more satisfying than Gary Johnson’s. I am not sure if that is consoling or depressing.

Hillary Clinton had to take questions from both military Right and pacifist Left members of the audience, and was at pains to stress why she had taken positions – especially on supporting the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq- that are now unpopular. While she now takes responsibility and regrets that mistake, she defended her more recent decision as Secretary of State to support the overthrow of Qaddafi in Libya, knowing that if the US did nothing, his regime would cause a humanitarian crisis. Which is a great point actually, but it doesn’t change the fact that, as with Iraq, we intervened and did not do a good job of helping to create a stable, effective and responsible civilian government for the country, even though the Libya rebellion was a spontaneous uprising and not an American takeover like the conquest of Iraq. And while Clinton defensively insisted that we will not go back to having boots on the ground, it’s been pointed out that the Obama Administration has already sent “advisors” and even Special Forces to help Iraq against ISIS on the Mosul front.

After that, Lauer started his interview with Trump, who boasted that unlike Hillary, he was always against the Iraq War – even though Clinton had warned Lauer minutes before that Trump was in fact in favor of the war at that time, and had said so in interviews with Howard Stern and others. And when Trump was sort of pressed on what he would do to defeat ISIS in Syria, Trump at first said he had a plan, but “I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is.”  Isn’t that like where Nancy Pelosi said, “we have to pass the bill so that we can find out what is in it“?  Oh, I forgot, it’s okay when YOUR party has the White House.

But that should give you an idea of how fucked America and the “international community” will be after this election: On the matter of Syria, Trump is doing his usual con man spiel, Clinton will “take responsibility” for her past policies but has no vision for how to resolve the conflict without getting us further involved, and Gary Johnson, the last hope of sensible people, has no grasp of the matter whatsoever.

The best a libertarian can say for Johnson – and this is charity – is that he is no more clueless than the two “respectable” party nominees, to say nothing of a superficial mainstream media that has decided for the rest of us which two candidates get to be “respectable” and which are beneath notice. But if you’re no less clueless than the establishment, that defeats the purpose of replacing it.

The Party Of Trump

Having gone over the problems with the current two-party setup, it gets to the matter of why we need to even consider alternative “third” parties. Why not just wait out this bad patch? Why not hope the Democrats and Republicans will just get back to normal? Well, as I’ve said, part of the issue with a two-party “first past the post” system is that if there is no motivation for anyone to vote for other than the two current ruling parties, likewise those parties have no motivation to seek votes from anyone other than those who already take their most partisan positions. This is part of why America has one of the lowest voter-participation levels of any democracy, because participation of the majority doesn’t matter, only the participation of those who are motivated to show up.

The usual result of this in politics is a “polarization” where the two parties operate at extremes – the Democrats were peaceniks who wanted a strong welfare state, Republicans were warhawks who wanted to do away with the safety net – but the result of the last few election cycles has been something similar but not identical to what is meant by polarization. The drive to the extreme has taken place mainly on the Republican side, as practicality is deemed inferior to ideological purity. This is where we get internal insults among conservatives like “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) or “cuckservative.” This is the cycle that got Republicans from the mainstream Right to the Tea Party to the “alt-right”, where “alt” is short for “alternative” and thus “alt-right” means “an alternative to being right.”

In turn, the result of that internal purge is that the Democratic Party looks more attractive to “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” ex-Republicans, or even some socially conservative voters who can no longer keep up with the Right’s version of political correctness. Being an essentially pragmatist party, the Democratic Party can handle “political immigration” better than the Republicans can. This has caused criticism within the more left-wing parts of the Democratic Party because of their leaders’ willingness to accommodate Big Business while dragging their feet on “progressive” social issues, but then, the Democrats are the ones winning presidential elections, and thus setting the national agenda. Their own internal weaknesses have caused them to fall behind in Congressional elections and state governors’ races, but as the Republican Party continues to make itself less attractive, even that disadvantage may lessen.

So if you’re a “progressive” or a Democrat who disagrees with the direction taken by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, you can still hope that the party’s gradualist approach will work in your favor, and that factors of social change will make the party take your position, as now seems to be happening with gay/trans issues.

If you’re a right-winger, whether libertarian or “True Conservative”, you have a much bigger problem, because “your” Republican Party doesn’t seem to be following the same direction as you whatsoever, and to the extent that it goes in any direction, it’s following the voters who are most likely to undermine the Party’s chances of electing candidates, and of getting legislation passed even if they do get elected.

And that’s because of a much deeper issue with what is called “conservatism.” The ideologues who bitch that hardcore, anti-abortion Republicans like John McCain and John Boehner are “RINOs” might be naive about what it takes for a political party to get things done, but they have a point. What IS it that Republicans want to get done? Why don’t they get serious about a constitutional amendment on abortion? What would promote American business, more freedom or more protectionism? If the Affordable Care Act is so horrible, what would they replace it with? Come to think of it, wasn’t Obamacare basically a national version of Romneycare in Massachusetts?

Conservatives don’t get anything done because they don’t know what they want. And they don’t know what they want because they don’t know what they ARE.

What does “conservatism” mean? What is it trying to “conserve? To the extent that the term has a common definition, it means not changing things, or not changing things more than required. The real problem here is that ultimately, conservatism is NOT a political philosophy. It is a governing approach TOWARDS a political philosophy. 

For example, when Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union, he was not trying to get rid of Leninist Communism. He was simply trying to reform it socially with “glasnost” and with greater economic freedoms (which the Soviets had actually experimented with before Stalin). But in this he was opposed by those in the Communist Party elite who preferred the previous centralized and undemocratic system. At the time, political analysts referred to this hardcore faction as “conservatives.” But doesn’t “conservatism” in America mean the exact opposite of Marxism-Leninism? Yes, in America. Because the American philosophy is liberal representative democracy, or at least what used to be called liberalism. The Soviet philosophy was Marxism-Leninism. Conservatism in Marxist-Leninist states means protecting the ideology against “reforms” that dilute its purity (in this respect, conservatives succeeded in Cuba and failed in China). So already, the fact that “conservatism” in America means protecting an essentially liberal political project creates a contradiction. (Part of which is based on how the term ‘liberal’ was co-opted by the American Left in the 20th Century before the Left decided to rebrand themselves as ‘progressives.’ More recently, though, right-wingers have been willing to say that things like opposing mandatory speech codes and religious dress codes are defenses of liberal Western civilization. Meanwhile, ‘progressives’ insist on using the term ‘neoliberal’ only in a pejorative sense, and often synonymously with the insult ‘neoconservative’, which demonstrates not only how vague and useless our political labels can be, but that the Left was probably not in favor of classical liberalism in the first place.)

Another contradiction is the idea of our free-market, classical liberal system being based in a religious conception of humanity, going so far as to being fundamentalist Christian. It is quite true that the Founding Fathers were if not Christians then at least deists who believed in God. It’s also true that their concept of God did not have much in common with the modern Republican one.  It’s even more true that the crowned heads of Europe were operating on a concept of Christianity that was that much more “conservative” than what Americans conceive of, and even then, the policies between Great Britain, Ancient Regime France, Protestant Prussia and autocratic Russia differed from each other greatly.

In short, even though religion is supposed to reflect an ultimate or universal value system, it is most often a subjective one that is applied subjectively. This is why the framers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights made “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” part of the First Amendment. The very fact that our government does not base its policies on theology is why pluralism and tolerance of different religions is possible.

This is one reason that “liberalism” (meaning, the mainstream Left ideology that Europeans would call social democracy) largely avoids basing its modern philosophy in theology, even though many of the great liberals, from the Kennedy family to Dr. Martin Luther King, were also devout Christians. And also huge philanderers, but I digress.

Where Ayn Rand would say that the fundamental contradiction of conservatism is its insistence on conflating religious altruism with secular capitalism, I would say the issue goes deeper. Again, it is a matter of our political system applying labels long past their point of usefulness. Just as the tag “liberal” is now associated with a large amount of politically correct, state capitalist and ultimately illiberal ideas, “conservative” is a tag associated with a grab bag of ideas that ultimately cannot work together, because their only common point is that they were once thought of as traditional practices – often at different times – and therefore must be conserved regardless of whether they work now, or ever did work.

Which is where the “alt-right” and Trump come in.

According to the Wikipedia article, “The alt-right has no official ideology. The Associated Press stated that there is “no one way to define its ideology” and the BBC has called it an “amorphous movement”. “Commonalities shared across the loosely-defined alt-right include disdain for mainstream politics and support for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.”

It seems like an incoherent mess fueled by resentment. And if that seems like a great description of Donald Trump, that may or may not be coincidence. Donald Trump is not exactly a theorist, but he just happens to be saying what many on the Right have been saying when not running in general elections. They’re against “crooked” politicians and financial elites, which is why they support Donald Trump, one of America’s most crooked financial elites. They don’t care so much about abortion or the welfare state, but they do care that immigrants are using the system. They don’t care too much about gays, but they’re saying that Muslims (even in assimilated families that have been here for generations) are a threat to American culture. And in regard to that culture, they’re willing to say the most sexist things about women, but still think they’re defending our values.

The secret to Donald Trump’s political success is that Donald Trump is what the average Donald Trump supporter would be if he had money.  That’s why he won against people who had lots of campaign funds and more conservative credentials.  He prevailed because he seized upon an opportunity to make personality and celebrity bigger factors than consistent ideology.  But that opportunity didn’t just arise out of nowhere.

Conor Friedersdorf had an excellent column in The Atlantic where he talked about how one of Rush Limbaugh’s own listeners (along with a columnist at RedState) called him on supporting Trump even when it was clear to many he would flip-flop on immigration, even when Rush said “I never took him seriously on this!”

But that’s something I picked up on a while ago. Back when I was still conservative enough to listen to Limbaugh’s show, I remembered that right up to the last week of Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign against Rick Fazio, he was predicting that she would find some reason to back out. Or that she would end up losing. Of course, she didn’t. I distinctly remember the day after the 2006 midterm elections (when Democrats under President George W. Bush regained the House) when Limbaugh angrily confessed,  “I feel liberated. … I no longer am gonna have to carry the water for people who I think don’t deserve having their water carried.” Heck, way back in 1992 (when Rush had a TV show) I remember a TV Guide cover with a blurb on an article, “Rush Limbaugh: I’m so-o-o happy Clinton won!

Other people have made this point, but whereas there used to be serious intellectual discussion in media like National Review, that has mostly degenerated to presenting politics as pure entertainment, with recognizable good guys and bad guys- much like pro wrestling- and the consequences of political action are not dwelled upon. In fact, we can see in Congress that Republicans (in direct contrast with the ‘Contract With America’ era) are not at all interested in initiating action or shifting the terms of political debate, only reacting against whatever President Obama wants, even if, as with Obamacare, it was largely their idea to start with. Even better, rather than be a party engaged in the political process (and thus either have the enemy take credit for your best ideas, or win a majority and actually have to take responsibility), always be a party in opposition so you can stoke resentment and righteous indignation. The Republicans have become like the hunter in that joke where the bear pokes the hunter in the shoulder and goes “You didn’t come here for the huntin’, didja?”

It’s almost as if a large part of the conservative base was conditioned by experience to conclude that politics is worthless, and every politician is a liar, and even when they aren’t, the system won’t let them get anything done.

Why not then vote for an outright joke? Why not vote for a candidate whose core dogmas (like ‘we’ll build a wall and get Mexico to pay for it’) cannot be taken seriously, even by conservative standards?
It’s basically the reason pro wrestling ate boxing’s audience: Everybody knows the fight is fixed, but they at least want it to be entertaining.

So if Trump has a “softening” on his core immigration policy,  and even Mr. Tell It Like It Is turns out to be a lying politician, then so much the better. If Republicans continue to follow him when they know he is lying, then their self-deception is just emulating their new role model.
Or as W.C. Fields put it, “you can’t cheat an honest man.”

Conservatism today is an essentially unserious, even nihilist approach to politics, that at worst regards the democratic process as inherently flawed compared to direct rulership by a strongman,  even when the strongman in this case is not very strong, intelligent or competent.

The Republicans cannot be called the GOP – Grand Old Party – any more. They are now the POT. Party Of Trump. (Which would make his supporters the POTheads.)

But in retrospect it’s not very surprising that things turned out like this, even if it is pathetic that Republican elites seem surprised that their racket got taken over by somebody who’s better at it than they are.

This attitude has been going on for quite some time, at least by the start of the second Obama term. The Republican Party has been Trump’s party for years. They were just waiting for him to show up.