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Fundamentally Transformed

Bitter and I were talking this morning about how this doesn’t feel like the same country as it was a decade ago. It’s easy to blame Obama, given his penchant for trolling middle America, but I think the problem goes deeper than that. It’s easy to blame Cable News and Talk Radio, but those all existed for several decades, and it didn’t make people all that much nastier. Some might argue that it’s the result of the self-esteem generation coming of age, but I don’t think things get this bad this quickly with generational turnover.

Early on in the Trump phenomena, I read “It’s like the comment sections of the Internet came alive and decided to run for President.” I think that in a strange way that is actually true, because what I blame for the divisiveness and nastiness in today’s society is Social Media. Mark Zuckerberg is probably just as much to blame as Barack Obama. The Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory is indisputably true. The polite term for this is the Online Disinhibition Effect. We’ve been dealing with this for longer than Twitter and Facebook have been around too, but what Twitter and Facebook do far better than any other predecessor is making it possible to keep in touch with your circles of friends, neighbors, co-workers and relatives without the need for face-to-face interaction.

Face-to-face you will probably be far more inclined to soften your views somewhat, and respond to non-verbal cues of the people on the other side of the conversation. They’ll also have a better read. The reason I think our politics is getting nasty is that we’re interacting with people face-to-face less, and online more. Almost everyone has an extreme view or two, and a many folks aren’t afraid to share it, rough edges in full view, to all their friends on Facebook. I think it’d probably go a long way to fixing political discourse, among other things, if we got off social media and started talking to people in person more often.

Campaign Against GOP Senators on Scalia Replacement Fizzling

Merrick GarlandThe campaign to pressure Republicans to confirm Merrick Garland seems to be fizzling. As Glenn Reynolds noted, “Because everyone knows the Dems would do the same thing if parties were reversed.”

This whole business is depressing. If the Dems win the White House in 2016, we’ll get worse, and that may be the end of a meaningful Second Amendment. I think we have two real votes for a meaningful Second Amendment on the court: Thomas and Alito. Scalia was the third, but he’s gone now. I didn’t think there was anything radical about the Alito and Thomas concurring opinion in the Stun Gun Case, yet it’s interesting that neither Kennedy nor Roberts joined it. My perception, I hope I’m wrong but fear I’m right, is that the reason there’s been no certiorari granted on any of the gun cases is because the Heller majority had two weak links. Heller and McDonald may very well be the best Scalia could extract from his colleagues who formed the five justice majority in those cases.

Our best case scenario is quickly shaping up to be President Trump picking Scalia’s replacement. I don’t know if that scares you, but it scares the hell out of me. Makes you think that maybe McCain & Romney weren’t such bad guys after all.

Why Not Reduce The Court to 7 Justices?

There’s a lot of concern that if Hillary, Bernie, or Joe Biden put in as pinch hitter for an indicted Hillary win in 2016, our goose is cooked as far as the Supreme Court go. But it’s not written in stone that the Supreme Court must have nine justices. Originally, there were six justices. Congress then added additional justices as we added federal circuit courts until it reached ten. Then in 1866, Congress passed the Judicial Circuits Act which said the next three justices to retire would not be replaced. That didn’t last long before in 1869, the number was returned to nine, which is where it remains today.

If the court were reduced back to 7, Scalia would not be replaced, and the next justice to die or retire likewise would not be replaced. You have two Dem appointees on the Court who are getting up there in the years (Breyer and Ginsburg), one Republican (Kennedy), and Thomas isn’t getting any younger either. It would seem to me that would preserve the balance on the court, and lower the stakes somewhat. But I think both sides like the high stakes, and therefore I don’t think this will ever happen.

Follow Up on Trump Poll

First let me apologize for my broken polling plugin. It works OK if you’re logged in, so I didn’t notice it was broken for those who were not logged in. A lot of WordPress plugins are hot garbage, unfortunately. But I wanted to follow up on some themes from Trump supporters. I am not becoming a Trump supporter myself. Both my preferred candidates are out of the race by this point, and I have no intention of voting for Trump (or perhaps anyone) in the primary because I just don’t trust him, and that’s a low bar as applied to politicians. But I do want to learn the lessons of the Trump phenomena, something that the GOP would be wise to do themselves.

I’ve come to believe the success of Trump in the GOP primary rests on three legs of a gold plated, terrific, really the best stool ever. The first is outrage with the left. A lot of working class voters were fooled by Obama, believing he’d improve their lot after the financial crisis. Eight years later, and it’s very good to be upper middle class, but for everyone else, things have only gotten worse. The people supporting this leg are rough-around-the edges-working class types, and they are not ideologues. These are the folks most receptive to anti-immigration anti-free-trade rhetoric. These are the people who didn’t show for Romney.

The second leg is outrage with the GOP beltway insiders. Even before Trump came along, I’ve long thought that the GOP would do itself a huge favor if it would hire a consultant to go down K street with a flamethrower, rather than hiring consultants to help talentless hacks lose elections. For better or worse, Trump is the first guy to come along in some time that actually has genuine raw political talent. Rubio has talent in abundance too, but Rubio also listened to a lot of talking heads and K-street hacks about how to brand himself for this race, and it was all wrong. A monkey could have told you it was all wrong. The GOP has not had anyone in the White House not named Bush since Reagan, and all the losing candidates have tried to follow the Bush model on how to win. I’ve never been of the opinion the Bush family have remarkable political talents and instincts. In fact, they are about as responsible for Trump as Obama.

The third leg is Trump enthusiastic rejection of political correctness. He says what he wants and gets away with it. There are a lot of people out there who have felt afraid to speak their mind because of the stifling conformity and groupthink demanded by the left. The downside to this is Trump has freed people to speak that I really wish wouldn’t (such as genuine racists and xenophobes). But I think supporters believe Trump is the path to ending the current wave of political correctness. They want to win back some legitimacy for their views.

Let me conclude that I don’t believe all the chicken little predictions that Trump will lose in a landslide to Hillary, and that he’ll throw all the down ticket races to the Democrats, and the seas will rise and skies will blacken. If Trump, or really anyone, can manage to win an election without K-street and the GOP think tanks in their corner (i.e. the real GOPe), they’re done, and they know it. There’s a lot of money made in losing elections for talentless hacks, and less but still good money in flushing real talent down the sewer with focus grouped poll tested bullshit (like they did with Rubio). You can bet they will stop at nothing to prevent anyone from strangling their golden egg laying goose. When he first appeared on the scene, I had hoped Rubio could be the guy who gave the finger to these hacks, and tried to go it on instinct, but unfortunately he disappointed.

Again, I am not a Trump supporter. I am interested in understanding his candidacy as someone who has followed politics closely for a long time.

Does Toomey Think He Can Survive As An Anti-Gun Republican?

I’ve about had my fill of this shit show of an election season, and here comes Pat Toomey trying to get votes from people who will never vote for him while actively working to piss off the people who worked hard to put him in the Senate:

Nancy Grogan is a Board member of CeaseFire, PA. I’d bet money she’s not voting for Pat Toomey in the general, regardless of her willingness to “reward” him for his loyalty.

A Trump Poll

I don’t really have Trump supporters in my circle, and I’ve been looking to understand the motivations of Trump supporters better. I’ve devised an informal poll. It’s anonymous, so you don’t have to worry, but if you’re OK speaking up in the comments, feel free. I will ask that everyone be respectful of each other, however.

What's the primary reason you're supporting Trump? Pick the reason closest to what really motivates you, even if others are also true.

View Results

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UPDATE: Apparently my polling plugin is broken. Not sure why. Feel free to answer in the comments.

Obama’s Scalia Replacement

President Obama will announce his nominee to replace Justice Scalia shortly. The press reports that it is Merrick Garland.

Not surprisingly, he’s got a record that does not point to a positive future for the Second Amendment if he is confirmed.

This article from Dave Kopel in 2008 warned of Garland on a short list to be appointed, and he cited red flags from Garland’s role in Parker v. District of Columbia and NRA v. Reno. Kopel summed it up this way:

Merrick Garland is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He could be counted on not only to oppose Second Amendment rights in general, but even to nullify explicit congressional statutes that protect those rights.

More recently, even National Review noted that Garland’s positions on the Second Amendment were enough cause for worry since the White House indicated they might choose someone “moderate,” and these aren’t signs of moderate positions on the right to keep and bear arms.

Media Matters had a post up early this morning trying to claim that these previous moves are “myths,” and that he’s not really anti-Second Amendment. I guess that means the White House knows it will be a problem. Now would be a great time to call your Senator and let them know what you think about this nominee.

Enhanced Preemption Probably Lost Due to Single Subject Requirement

Pennsylvania’s enhanced preemption measure, Act 192, got off to a rough start when it had to be attached to a metal theft bill at the last minute, and then quickly signed by the outgoing Governor Corbett. This happened because of Senator Greenleaf’s obstinance in committee. The only way to get it onto the Senate floor was to amend it to another bill.

The problem is that Pennsylvania has a single subject requirement for bills, and it’s a stretch to argue that metal theft and firearm preemption are the same subject. It was more than two years ago the lawsuits started. Now the case has been argued before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and it’s being noted that it doesn’t look good for Act 192. Act 192 has been unenforceable since a stay was issued in a lawsuit until the constitutionality of the act could be determined. Still, even if the Supreme Court refuses to  Act 192, the law still did some good during the time period when it hadn’t yet been challenged.

If we can get rid of Wolf in a few years, we might have another shot at this. I’m also at the point where I would even be willing to help out a leftist Dem challenger to Greenleaf just to get him off that committee chairmanship.

A New Party System?

US Map FlagThe United State is either on its fifth party system, or its sixth, depending on who you talk to. I accept the theory that the post 1968 realignment represented a new party system. I think we 2016 may, in fact, mark the end of the sixth party system, causing us to head into a seventh party system. I think this is what drives a lot of fear in regards to Trump. No one knows what the seventh party system looks like. I can safely say there are a few factors that will go into the realignment.

Both parties are experiencing populist uprisings. Other than the possibility the DOJ removes Hillary from the race, she’s still the presumptive nominee if she can hold the Dem super delegates, which she failed to do in 2008. Even minus the super delegates, she’s still leading Bernie. I think the Republicans stand a high likelihood of going into a brokered convention. As much as I do not want Trump, I think a brokered convention is a disaster for the party. How much of a disaster depends on whether the establishment types put their own guy in the race, or whether they remain committed to rallying for a candidate who at least ran this election cycle. I think the GOP are the more vulnerable party to the uprising because, frankly, most of the people in the GOP’s tent pretty much hate each other. Like Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman will always have Paris, the Dems will always have “free” shit.

The evangelical voters have shown their cards to a large degree in this election. Cruz was the perfectly tailored candidate to capture the evangelical vote. They couldn’t have asked for more. Yet going into South Carolina, more than half of evangelical voters were behind Trump. All the religious pandering, which Trump does not do, has the effect of turning off a lot of potential GOP voters outside the Bible Belt. After Trump, can there be any justification for politicians continuing to pander this way? Probably not if we’re looking at a completely new electoral map built around the Trump coalition.

Good manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back no matter who is President. A protectionist economy would be economically devastating to implement. Even if Trump can swing a few immigration restrictions, it’s not going to amount to much. The real long term threat to working class (and even some upper middle class) jobs is automation and robotics. Self-driving cars aren’t all that far off. Think about how many people are employed in trucking and transportation and you can see why this is going to be a huge problem. Short term we’ve put too much emphasis on college for people not well suited for it, at the expense of teaching skilled trades robots will have a hard time doing (for a while at least). I don’t know what the solution will be for the long term problem. What do we do when we have a huge robot labor force and humans just don’t have to work all that hard? Some people do well when they win the lottery, but for many, it destroys their lives. That kind of micro-economy is what we’d be dealing with at large. What’s the solution? One thing I know for certain is Donald Trump does not have the answer.

One thing pundits have been talking about is the turn of the “Reagan Democrat” in the Trump coalition. It’s also been called the Archie Bunker Vote, and some of them are paleocon Buchananites previously alienated from the GOP by the Bushs. The problem with building a coalition around this voting bloc is that it’s unreliable. They only tend to show up when they are angry. I wouldn’t expect whatever coalition Trump builds to last more than two or three cycles. Nixon’s coalition didn’t last. With the sixth party system smashed to bits, whatever coalition reforms on the other side will be different, and I suspect will reflect some of the realities here.

Michigan Apparently Felt the Bern

Michigan Primary

Maybe it turned out to be a bad idea for Hillary to go into Michigan and tell working-class primary voters she cared more about her wild-eyed gun control schemes than she did about good manufacturing jobs. I’m not saying that gun control is all that caused Bernie to overcome a 21 point deficit in the polls to take Michigan, but a talented politician would know you don’t go into a state that’s been hammered by the loss of manufacturing jobs and state there are some good manufacturing jobs (making firearms) that the country could do without. But as you all well know, I think Hillary’s got less political talent than your average high school class president.

Hillary’s strange obsession with the PLCAA isn’t doing her any favors. I think if Bernie backed away from more gun control, it might even help him gain. Remember, 20% of Dems own guns too.

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