Tag Archives: presidential primary

Anti-establishment politiphobia

I think of these people as “politiphobes,” because they see the contentious give-and-take of politics as unnecessary and distasteful. Specifically, they believe that obvious, commonsense solutions to the country’s problems are out there for the plucking. The reason these obvious solutions are not enacted is that politicians are corrupt, or self-interested, or addicted to unnecessary partisan feuding. Not surprisingly, politiphobes think the obvious, commonsense solutions are the sorts of solutions that they themselves prefer. But the more important point is that they do not acknowledge that meaningful policy disagreement even exists. From that premise, they conclude that all the arguing and partisanship and horse-trading that go on in American politics are entirely unnecessary. Politicians could easily solve all our problems if they would only set aside their craven personal agendas.

 

Trump, Sanders, and Ted Cruz have in common that they are political sociopaths—meaning not that they are crazy, but that they don’t care what other politicians think about their behavior and they don’t need to care. That three of the four final presidential contenders in 2016 were political sociopaths is a sign of how far chaos syndrome has gone. The old, mediated system selected such people out. The new, disintermediated system seems to be selecting them in.

 

As soon became apparent, Boehner’s 2011 debacle was not a glitch but part of an emerging pattern. Two years later, the House’s conservative faction shut down the government with the connivance of Ted Cruz, the very last thing most Republicans wanted to happen. When Boehner was asked by Jay Leno why he had permitted what the speaker himself called a “very predictable disaster,” he replied, rather poignantly: “When I looked up, I saw my colleagues going this way. You learn that a leader without followers is simply a man taking a walk.”

 

Neurotic hatred of the political class is the country’s last universally acceptable form of bigotry. Because that problem is mental, not mechanical, it really is hard to remedy.

 

Populism, individualism, and a skeptical attitude toward politics are all healthy up to a point, but America has passed that point. Political professionals and parties have many shortcomings to answer for—including, primarily on the Republican side, their self-mutilating embrace of anti-establishment rhetoric—but relentlessly bashing them is no solution. You haven’t heard anyone say this, but it’s time someone did: Our most pressing political problem today is that the country abandoned the establishment, not the other way around.

–Jonathan Rauch, How American Politics Became So Ineffective

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Cause for alarm

He wants to lead the U.S. military. Yet he tells us that he had to act as he did partly because of a cartoon on the cover of a magazine. What could Vladimir Putin bait Donald Trump into doing with a strategic joke about his executive branch?

— Conor Friedersdorf, The Unnerving Insecurities of Donald Trump

It would indeed be troubling to watch Trump fall into the hands of a master baiter like Putin.


“If you think this country’s bad off now, just wait ’til I get through with it.”

I’ve written five separate posts on the primary election so far, and none of them has been clever or incisive enough to post. Therefore, Duck Soup. You’re welcome.


Aesthetic pleasure of the first order

“Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic.”

—Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Couldn’t help but think of the perennially-relevant Benjamin when I read Todd VanDerWerff’s analysis of Donald Trump’s mastery of reality TV and what it might mean for his candidacy.