Friday, March 04, 2016

Home Truth

We'll start this morning with Walter Russell Mead, and I can't argue with a word of it:
The Republicans are suffering from an establishment power vacuum that has allowed a demagogue to very nearly take control of the party; and the Democratic establishment, constantly trailed by an air of scandal and suspicion, is unable to engender much enthusiasm from its base. It’s still not clear which of the two parties will win the demolition derby that the 2016 election has become. But it’s looking more and more that no matter which party ‘wins’ this bizarre election contest, the clear loser is the United States.

Our political system is in deep trouble, and while one can think of some procedural fixes that could help (superdelegates on the Republican side, stronger and more impartial enforcement of government rules on information security and conflict of interest in the case of the Clinton machine) the real problems are more dangerous and harder to treat: A moral and spiritual collapse that has frayed the bonds between the country’s ordinary people and those who seek to lead them, a hollowing out of institutions from Congress and political parties to local churches and civic life, and the disintegration of a shared national intellectual and cultural framework for discussing the issues that confront us. As we approach a critical presidential election at a time of global turmoil and disorder, the state of our union is not strong.
I take that back -- I can argue one point. The last thing the Republicans need is superdelegates. In fact, that would simply reinforce the most legitimate concern for many supporters of the Donald and his campaign: the sense that the elites within the party haven't been listening to the voters, and won't unless they get an outer borough 2x4 upside their heads.

Other than that... well, it's spot-on. Consider the likely alternatives for the fall: a combover putz who likes to talk about his schwanz, facing off against the most thoroughly corrupt politician on the American stage. It's amazing that our political process can deliver such a freak show, yet here we are.

As for the debate last night, I doubt much changed. Ted Cruz was good and "Little Marco" had his moments, but there was nothing either candidate said that is likely to move people off their current positions. There also seemed to be some guy from Ohio on the stage, but I'm not sure who he was. He wasn't wearing a scarlet sweater vest, so it probably wasn't Jim Tressel. I'll have to do some research and get back to you.

As for Mitt Romney's cri de coeur? Useless. In fact, probably worse than useless, because it once again reinforced the Trump argument about out-of-touch elites lecturing the huddled masses, yearning to breathe something yuuge. Mitt Romney is correct in everything he said. No one cares.

 It's no good, of course. None of it is. You can't change the list of particulars that Mead identified overnight. The hollowing out of our institutions has been a long, relentless process of rot, much of it going on for a half century or more. We're not going to be able to fix it from Washington. We need to look closer to home.


R.A. Crankbait said...

Everything in business is about "disruptive innovation" these days; new ideas and technologies that bypass the infrastructure and flank the legacy advantages of the big boys. Politics shouldn't be immune to this, and in fact is probably riper for it than many businesses. We're already seeing a falling away of involvement and election turnout unless there's a hot button; people have convinced themselves that politics doesn't effect them, or that they can't effect politics. If someone shows them that doesn't have to be the case, it could shake things up and when the pieces (and constituencies) fall back together they're not likely to be in the same place.

From a hastily typed comment I left on FB last night:

I think there's a chance this election breaks both parties, though the Dems may be slower to realize it. The constituencies aren't what they used to be for either party. When (if) people of all ages and backgrounds stop to think, "Why am I voting for Clown X?" there is going to be some recalibration.

A more libertarian conservatism - anti-war, pro-weed to use one caricature - will make more sense to younger voters, and there are studies showing that people in their 20s and 30s are becoming more conservative in attitudes without thinking of themselves as "conservative", especially if conservative means religious in their mind. Still, they are seeing that more and more wealth is collecting with fewer and fewer, and they want it and are willing to work for it rather than have it handed out if they are given a chance. They may be quicker to follow utopian visions initially but they are also the first to realize the lie when reality shows up (ever wonder why it was college students on the barricades in Germany, Hungary, Prague?) They see the long-term is no future for them; the middle-aged see the same thing but hope they can ride out the status quo til they die.

The apparatchiks at heart (in both parties) will gravitate to where they see a path to power, and that may be in the more traditional sense of our political culture. The "religious right" is seeing that as more and more of the religious trappings of the culture are stripped away that they can still function and even thrive in their faith without the false crutches of societal acceptance (the Church has always thrived under persecution anyway). They are seeing that Liberty is Liberty, religious or otherwise, and is to be prized.

As for the so-called "dependent class"? They've been fed even more crap than the religious folks. How long can they be conned? LBJ thought 200 years, but those Black Lives Matter folks aren't marching against Republican mayors and governors, are they? The pie they want may be more political than economic, but they're not happy with the slice they've been rationed.

This is all a very fast and thin sketch, of course, but when the dust (or ashes) from this election settles, the words Democrat and Republican are going to leave a very bad taste in all mouths. Voter participation has been dropping for years, while the caucus response the other night shows that people can still be galvanized. Some people will never change (there are communists, and children of communists, in the Czech Republic still longing for the return of the good old days) but I think a surprising realignment of thought and affinity could well be at hand.

Mr. D said...

I think a surprising realignment of thought and affinity could well be at hand.

Yes. And to your point, it's going to take a while to sort out, but the sorting is underway. Great comment, R.A.!

R.A. Crankbait said...

Thanks, D. It's a human condition, not just a Communist one, that the Elites get tripped up by their hubris. In the Eastern bloc the leaders assumed they could continue to hold power through terror and endless indoctrination in the schools. Even with those messages, though, the people were able to tell sh*t from Shinola, especially when they had no shoes to put Shinola on. They could tell that the glorious promises of socialism were not being delivered. Thanks to a few bloodbaths, the elites maintained control - until suddenly they didn't.

In the West, Shinola has transitioned from shoe-polish to becoming a brand of high-quality, luxury goods such as watches and leather accessories. As our blue-collar pundit Gino can point out, there are many in our system now who see a lot of Shinola on the wrists of those in charge, and plenty of that other stuff on their plate. They're not buying into anything when they can barely buy groceries. So a shift is coming. I don't think it will be a socialist shift, as shiny as that always appears at first. The bases are changing, though. I think we can find statistics showing both union and church memberships are down; but the people are still there. Where will they go, and who will they vote for?