Burn It All Down

You hear it frequently from angry voters, many of whom did, and continue to, support Trump. Burn it all down. They are disgusted with both sides, they feel the American Dream has passed them by, and they think government is the problem. Burn it all down. Since the government hasn’t fixed the problem, we’d be better off without them. Burn it all down.

The frustration is real, and understandable. The American Dream remains a largely unfulfilled promise to millions of citizens. However, for most of these folks, giving in to the emotional satisfaction of a scorched-earth solution is predicated on a fireproof-floor view of the world.

The fireproof-floor view supposes that a state of completely non-functional government is one in which basic services that have long sense faded into the background remain a given. It posits there is a floor below which even anarchy will not fall. That the cleansing flames of the American phoenix cannot damage this base platform as it is consumed and born anew.

Baby Boomers and those who came after have always lived in a society where seniors get Social Security and Medicare. Kids go to public schools. 24×7 electricity and fresh water are available to any home. Food is plentiful and safe to eat. Roads are paved and bridges kept in good repair. Overtime is paid. Workplaces have an obligation toward the safety of employees. And it’s safe to walk the streets. This is the floor onto which we were born, and the floor which it’s hard to fathom falling beneath.

It’s easy to overlook how unusual this floor is in the history of the world. Or in how many places on the planet today it doesn’t yet exist. It’s easy to forget how many people struggled and even died to build this floor. And there is absolutely no reason to assume it’s fireproof.

Before you join this modern-day Nero, dancing to his lyre as the flames ravage Rome, be mindful that fire has no conscience. Once lit, it consumes indiscriminately. It burns all of us, and the floor we are standing on. You may feel like there’s nowhere to fall… but that is a failure of imagination.


Should You Vote Third-Party?

JohnsonSteinIn short, no. That is, unless you’re truly fine with either a Trump or a Clinton Presidency. Here’s why.

The appeal of a third-party vote is understandable. Neither Trump or Clinton are particularly compelling candidates. But it’s important to recognize that while voting for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein may feel good, and may be dutifully registering your protest, at the end of the day, either Trump or Clinton will still be President. This is not just a matter of resignation, but a matter of the structure of American government. Our winner-take-all approach to elections assures there will never be more than two major parties. Who those parties are may change. After all, before Republicans we had Whigs. What those parties represent may change. I’m pretty sure Lincoln’s GOP wouldn’t recognize today’s platform as the same party in anything but name. But in a twist on The Highlander, “There can be only two.” It’s fundamental to the design laid out in the Constitution. Short of changing that document, we are not, and will not be, a multi-party system like the Parliamentary forms of government found in Canada, Australia, and most of Europe.

Further, bear in mind that the best possible outcome of having a popular third-party candidate is that no one gets 270 electoral votes in November. But this means that the House now gets to elect the President from among the top three finishers. The House is presently controlled by the GOP. You do the math.

So if you believe neither party represents you, work to change one of them, or even to supplant one. But supplanting a party doesn’t start at the top. Electing a Green Party or Libertarian President provides no support for that party’s platform in the other branches of government. The Congress, the courts, the states are still all controlled by Democrats or Republicans. So even if they were to win, for Stein or Johnson to actually accomplish anything, they’d need to align with one party or other and settle for nudging that party’s platform a wee bit in their direction.  Otherwise, they’d just sit out their term tilting at windmills. Until we start seeing Libertarian, Green, or other party controlled states electing that party’s people to Congress, a third-party Presidential candidate is just a show pony. It’s a target for your protest vote and nothing more.

The reality, like it or not, is there will be a President Clinton or a President Trump in January, 2017. You may have very well-founded reasons why you can’t stand either of them, but it boarders on inconceivable that you would be equally content with either outcome. There couldn’t be more daylight between the positions these two and their parties are taking in this election.  If you’re truly ambivalent, then you are either too ill-informed or too apathetic to bother voting at all.

It may well be that you only care who doesn’t become President. But you care. Post your protests on Facebook and Twitter, but when you walk into that voting booth in November, make a useful decision. Suck it up. You don’t need to admit it to anyone else. It’s a secret you can take to your grave. But make a difference. Make your vote count. The stakes have never been higher.


My Very Long Week at Church

Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump

I have a confession. I get it. I watched most all of the GOP Convention this week, and I think I understand the appeal of the message. These people don’t want to elect a President, they are voting for their savior.

I’ve come to understand there’s an almost religious theme to Trump. And this may be behind his somewhat inexplicable appeal to Evangelicals. On the Christian fringe, the religion is not so much about lifestyle, conduct, or even community. It’s about a man. Have you found Jesus and accepted him as your savior? He will make everything okay. You don’t need to know His plan. In fact, you can’t know His plan–it’s beyond you. Just rest in His arms and have faith that He will save you from the evils of the world.

This is essentially Trump’s message. He will save you. You don’t need to know how, just have faith. Know that Trump is powerful and will set everything right. Trump will smite your enemies. In his kingdom your family will prosper under his protection, but only if you are one of the flock.

In many ways the #RNCinCLE had far more of the trappings of a religious revival than a political convention. There was little to no policy discussion. Instead, the evils and sins of the mortal world we live in were enumerated and cataloged. Satan was trotted out frequently. We were warned against believing her lies, and there were frequent calls to cast her out. The future was painted in unspecific themes of freedom, prosperity, self-determination, justice, and safety. The broad themes inherently invited everyone to impress some level of personal desire onto them. But the path to them, the path to realize your desires, was through one man. Do you have faith in him? Do you believe? The Trump welcomes everyone, and wants us to be one, but only if we are believers. Heretics and dissidents will be punished.

I rather doubt most Trumpians have made this connection. I don’t think they are aware of the religious subtexts to Trump’s rise and their support for it. Rather, the campaign is plucking the same religious strings their pastors do, and it is resonating with the faithful in a compelling, albeit unconscious, way. But make no mistake, Trump would be more than happy to be elected God.


Conservatives Evolutionists vs Progressive Intelligent Designers

TLS-ColbertSmall “c” conservatives are, by definition, ideologically committed to preventing or slowing the rate of change. The essential premise is that things are better the way they are, or maybe even the way they were, but definitely not the way they are going. Bill O’Reilly asserted the futility of this last night on The Late Show when saying to Stephen Colbert that conservatives believe they are losing the culture war to progressives. In response, Colbert noted that conservatism is always a losing battle because the culture always changes.

In a similar vein, Vox’s Matt Yglesias penned an interesting article about small conservative communities desperate to preserve the status quo. They are often resistant to new industry and new development coming to town for fear of what outside elements might come along with it. He noted the brutal truth that change was going to happen to these towns either way. By resisting the influx of outside influences, they were instead suffering the withering death of attrition as their young people went off to college and never came home.

In both cases, the conservative path is to ultimately have change thrust upon them by outside forces they don’t control and didn’t influence. In this way, conservatives are embracing a sort of cultural evolution. After all, in the natural world, evolution is simply the change induced by random events. It’s not directed. It’s not controlled. It’s not inherently good or bad. It just happens.

In contrast, small “p” progressives not only accept that change will happen, they advocate for it. They try to control and direct it. This doesn’t mean all progressive changes are good, but it at least means they were thought out and intended. They are open for debate, refinement, and improvement. Ironically, this puts progressives in the position of advocating for cultural intelligent design.

Go figure…


Left vs. Right – A Clash of Worldviews

left-vs-right-politicsThis editorial piece by author William Voegeli in The Daily Signal is somewhat ineptly titled, “MSNBC Shrill Is No Accident. It’s How Liberals Really Think.” It’s intended as a take-down of liberals and liberalism as a danger to America. In that regard, it’s kind of standard political blather.

However, in the last two paragraphs (feel free to skip straight there), Voegeli offers up some interesting contrasting perspectives on liberals vs. conservatives that at least to my mind don’t shine as favorably on conservatives as I think he intended. To wit:

Liberalism exists to solve problems, and liberals regard every source of dissatisfaction or discord as a problem, not an aspect of the human condition that we must always contend with but can never sanely hope to eradicate.

It seems what he’s saying here is that conservatives have bonded with the reality that human misery, misfortune, and suffering are just things we have to live with, and since we can never hope to eliminate them, it’s insane to try.  He goes on to say:

…the conservative belief that constraining human wickedness through stern disincentives is plausible, but solving it therapeutically through social work is deluded […] Liberal disdain for the wary view of human nature, which is conservatism’s foundation, turns out to be of one piece with the “idealism” and “compassion” that culminates in governmental malpractice […]

This would seem to say that conservatism is all about sticks, while liberalism is all about carrots.

This reads to me like an assertion that conservative ideology stems from a recognition that, at their core, people are mean-spirited self-indulgent asshats. Conservatism is all about tamping down, containing, and punishing those inherent aspects of this “wary” human nature. Meanwhile, liberals are just nice people who want the world to be a nicer place, and liberalism proceeds from an assumption that people are worth investing in.

Given the intent of the article, it’s understandable that Voegeli would create a caricature of the left as close-minded, silly, and naive. But for the same reason, we assume he’s trying to paint the right in the best possible light, which is more than a little disconcerting. He’s painted the right as believing that giving hungry people food is misguided and destructive. The proper course is a zero-tolerance policy on bread theft so the miscreants are motivated to teach themselves to read and then go get a job before they starve to death.

It’s hard to read this article and imagine coming away as proud to be a conservative. But apparently that’s not a problem everyone in my social media circle is experiencing.