Monday, October 24, 2016

The Deplorables

Back about a decade ago I was trying to put together a book proposal for a satirical look at a branch of academic psychology that was focused on the abnormal psychology of political conservatives, which goes back to at least the 1950s.  The line of research has insights that ring true –but it goes astray in how it bends over backwards to classify as politically conservative any person or group with obviously nefarious character.  So the good guys were by definition liberal, and the bad guys were by definition politically conservative.  There was no set of ideological preferences that made you one or the other, so that the apparatchiks in Soviet Russia were, surprise surprise, politically conservative. 

Among the abnormal psychological traits ascribed to the politically conservative was a view of the world as consisting of insiders (us) pitted against outsiders (them).  The outside status made the “them” less deserving of respect or civil rights or you name it.  Power was rightfully vested with the insiders to be employed for the benefit of the insiders.  As an insight into human behavior in general, it has a lot to be said for it.  Any historically humanitarian tragedy – slavery or genocide – has generally been rationalized by the insiders who perpetrated it on the grounds that the victims were not fully human (slavery of African Americans), or were a cancer upon humanity (Jews in the Holocaust). 

The need to rationalize such barbaric cruelty is a strange back-handed compliment to humanity – we cannot stand the thought of being perceived as murderous or tortuous to others.  But the fact that we come up with a self-convincing rationale is problematic – the smartest among us can talk ourselves into believing anything.  Don’t believe me?  Eugenics was all the rage among the smartest biologists 100 years ago; it was also the driving motivation of Margaret Sanger’s founding of Planned Parenthood – i.e., now that we cannot enslave them, perhaps it would be best to just limit the inferior stock from within the species, which conveniently come in a different color for easy identification.

Ahh yes Hatcher, but we’ve evolved in our moral understanding of things.  No one advocates for slavery, or eugenics, or the Holocaust in America.  Sure, although in many Moslem countries they are batting two for three on these counts, and certainly at the heart of all terrorist activity is a distinction between the believer and the infidel, who in that worldview is entirely deserving of suffering a grisly fate.  

Want an example closer to home?  Look to the abortion debate.  Those on the pro-choice side have long argued that the fetus is just a clump of cells, and that “human” life is only achieved once the baby has checked off a list of arbitrarily defined criterion that you or I might fall short of on any given day.  Even the abortionists cannot proceed with any thought that they are ending innocent life – they rationalize the act to themselves by drawing a distinction between “us” (sentient human beings) and “them” (parasitic clumps of cells who won’t know what hit ‘em).  Again, it is to their credit that they know they need to make this rationalization; it is to their discredit that they so easily accept thinly constructed definitions to separate “them” from “us.”  Don’t think they are thinly constructed?  Take the most committed abortion advocate in the world, and as soon as she wants a baby and is blessed with a pregnancy, she will immediately begin to think of names, to imagine the birth, to envision that child’s future.  No one ever does this for a tapeworm.

But I digress.  The point of this particular post is to talk about the marginalization of one’s political opponents as “them” – something other than “us” – which of course goes hand in hand with thin rationalizations that justify disparate treatment of the “them.”  One might refer to the “them” as the “deplorables,” to pick a word out of thin air.  And, of course, if one were to choose this word from within the in-group as a description of those in the out-group, no one else in the in-group would really disagree.  They might rather you not say that straight to the deplorables’ faces in the month prior to an election where such deplorables (for now) have a right to vote the in-group out, but in their heart of hearts they tend to agree with the characterization.  And the agreement is not merely academic.  To the extent that any slavery advocate concerned himself over the question of the humanity of African-Americans, his position (that they were not fully human) was (not in-coincidentally) held in support of a very specific policy regime.

Any viewpoint that holds the “them” in contempt goes hand in hand with policies and governance that is generally bent on screwing the “them.”  The disparate rights and obligations of the in-group versus the out-group within a society need not be so extreme that the out group will either be enslaved or slaughtered; there are more benign forms of discrimination.  The screwing can come in two relatively benign forms.  First, the laws and policies themselves can be constructed in full knowledge that the “them” will suffer the full costs of said policies, with the “us” getting the full benefits.  Second, the enforcement of the laws themselves is applied unevenly under the thin pretense of prosecutorial discretion, in such a way that the full weight of the law comes down upon the “them” when they transgress it, whereas it is completely unapplied to the “us.”

The deplorable “them” that finds itself opposite both the Obama administration (“bitter clingers to their bible and guns”) and the Hillary candidacy are deplorable in the eyes of the in-group for their “ism-phobia” disease, which is a combination (at a minimum) of racism, sexism, homophobia, and Xenophobia.  It is important to emphasize that mere opposition to Obama or Hillary is in the minds of many from the in-group is all the evidence required to show one suffers from ism-phobia; it is inconceivable to the in-group that someone in this group just simply disagrees with leftist views.  Those afflicted with ism-phobia are so beyond the pale that they deserved all of the IRS harassment they received in efforts to establish their non-profit educational institutions, as everyone knows having the word “Constitution” somewhere in your organization title is codespeak for “Nigger go home.”  Though technically the IRS behavior was illegal and clear harassment intended to quash political expression and education, we must look the other way and not punish those within the IRS for the egregious mistreatment, because such laws and concepts are meant to protect the “in-group”, not the deplorables. 

Now, I know what you are thinking – Hatcher, c’mon dude, you gotta admit that Trump’s followers are pretty racist, which is why they are so hell bent on building a wall to keep Mexicans out etc.  Well, of course, that would be one reason why they might favor the Trump rhetoric regarding immigration.  But it’s not the only reason, and it is probably not the primary reason.  If we accept the theory that Trump’s base is mostly the lower middle-class whites, this is the set of people who are most negatively affected by immigration of low-skilled labor from South America.  They are affected in two direct ways – 1) they often are competing more directly against such labor for jobs, thus depressing wages, and 2) they are much more likely to live in communities where the influx of such immigration stretches public resources, stretching thin, as an example, the resources for public schools that find themselves having to integrate significant percentages of kids who don’t speak English.  (Sidwell Friends, the high school of choice for the Clintons and Obamas, is not having to scramble to figure out how to educate an influx of Syrian or South American refugees without diminishing the educational opportunities of its students.  They may take in a token refugee and give themselves a big old collective pat on their own backs for the broad-mindedness, but this will cost them and their school nothing.)  They don’t have to be racists to oppose a policy that is all downside for them. 

Moreover, rich liberals and conservatives alike, with their respective string of credentialed letters following their names, only benefit economically from having a large influx of nannies, house painters, landscapers, etc. lowering the cost of outsourcing these services.  Those crossing the border aren’t exactly competing for management jobs at Google.  It is highly convenient and self-serving for the well-off set to ascribe dissatisfaction with current immigration among poorer whites to racism rather economic self-interest; and to conversely ascribe their own tolerance of current immigration policies to some admirable embrace of multi-culturalism rather than their own economic self-interest. 

(You could say the same argument applies to lower income blacks, and I would agree with you that it should.  But this set is so misled by the likes of Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and others to believe that their economic troubles are first and foremost the result of racism, rather than policies like the mimimum wage or the current immigration non-enforcement, that any suggestion of racism motivating opposition to immigration makes them ignore the much more plausible economic reasons for such opposition.)

With respect to the issue of immigration and its disparate effects, the troubling politics of the issue is not so much that there is a policy that has winners and losers – most do; the troubling politics stems from the efforts to discredit and intimidate the losers from any ongoing opposition to the policy by branding them as a bunch of racist troglodytes.  These intimidation efforts are in large part successful with mainstream Republicans, who feel like they have to preface their beliefs with a twenty-minute apology.  This is in part why Trump has been so successful on the issue of immigration and trade – he makes no apologies because none are required – and those who support him do so in large part because he pays no lip service to the presumption of their guilt.  (I say that without necessarily agreeing with their policy preferences, especially with respect to trade.  No apology is necessary because it is valid for people to vote in their own economic self-interest.)

On the flip side of advocating policies that come at the cost of the “them,” there is the more troubling demonstration that laws – both formal and informal - are not meant to be evenly applied to the in and out groups.  In many ways, this is what political correctness amounts to – it is a shadow legal system that concerns itself with opinions and otherwise legal actions rather than crimes (which is what the formal legal system covers).  Political correctness uses social sanction to enforce approved behavior and opinions.  Some people get a pass from the full aggression of political correctness; others get no quarter.  Brendan Eich, as an example, was forced to resign as CEO of Mozilla when it came to light that he had made political donations to a ballot initiative to preserve traditional marriage.  Mozilla, during his tenure, was regarded as a very gay-friendly place to work, but that didn’t matter.  Eich’s clear policy preference was no different than the stated policy of the Clintons for just about forever, and for Obama up until the time Biden spilled the beans on what Obama really thought.   Three of these four in the minds of the in-group that relies upon political correctness deserve to be president; the fourth, clearly a member of the out-group, deserves to be denied employment anywhere. 

Political correctness, as obnoxious as it is, is at least not the instrument of a national government that was set up to provide citizens equal protection under the law.  The rule of law – the idea that no one is above the law, and that its application is independent from your circumstances as a citizen – is fundamental to trust in government.  In the wake of the obvious dereliction of duty on the part of the Department of Justice and the FBI regarding Hillary Clinton’s criminal negligence, no one can credibly claim that the in-group has not perverted the rule of law to favor one of its own.  And if you don’t believe that this has occurred, I encourage you to google Andrew McCarthy and read everything he has written on the subject – he is a former federal prosecutor who skewers every thin rationalization of both the highly unusual process of the “investigation” as well as its result. 

I can see why the left is scared of a Trump victory.  It would mean a crushing defeat to their status as the in-group for both its policy benefits and its “rules for thee and not for me” ethos.  But if Hillary ends up winning this, we can expect to see more of the same – slandering of any opposition, and four to eight years of an entire industry dedicated to soft-pedaling the shameless double standards the Clintons live by.  You may think Trump is a disaster, but if you don’t think of Hillary as a disaster in her own right, you are part of the problem.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

"I'm No Fan of Hillary, but ..."

“I am not a fan of Hillary, but …”  

Then follows an appeal to the principles of any Republican contemplating voting for Trump that implicitly leaves the conclusion that if you do vote for him you have no principles.  As far as a rhetorical technique, it lacks the “how to win friends and influence people” vibe, and in fact I’ve defriended Facebook friends who feel the need to pre-insult anyone who might vote for Trump as unprincipled on a daily basis.

Let’s get this on the table – it’s not sufficient that you are “not a fan of Hillary.”  Hillary is a crooked, incompetent, lying shrew.  The last genuine laugh she mustered was while describing getting a guy off on a rape charge of a twelve year-old girl.  But you know that already.  Or if you don’t, it’s because you refuse to look at the evidence.  You choose to remain blind to it, and instead chalk it to up to a vast right wing conspiracy (a term that is Hillary’s lone act of cleverness in her long corrupt and divisive career).  That term, initially used to deny allegations against her husband that she knew to be true, has nevertheless provided her and her husband with all the cover they’ve ever needed for every scandal that has followed.  And they owe that cover to people like you, sitting there telling people like me that we risk demonstrating a lack of principle.  

Admit a few things for me – you are a partisan who really doesn’t care about competence, principle, or the character of your candidate.  If Trump were your candidate (and he’s closer to your party than you think), none of his crazy assedness would matter to you.  What we would now be witnessing is the smearing of whoever the Republican candidate would be as a racist sexist troglodyte.  You’d be starting your Facebook posts, “I am not a fan of Trump, but …” and the rest of the content would be the same. 

So let’s just talk about principle.  Your candidate has amassed a fortune as a public speaker who has never had an original thought, and one shudders to think what fees she would have been able to garner if she had more than one tone of voice, or if that tone wasn’t that of a woman who seems to be perpetually auditioning for the role of Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  (I actually googled to make sure I got the correct spelling for Ratched and one of the autocompletes was Nurse Ratched Hillary – so much for what I thought was an original comparison).  I’d rather pay to attend a speaking event that consists entirely of a someone dragging fingernails down a chalk board for 30 minutes.  So, if the payee doesn’t expect to get any real insight out of such speeches, what do you think those speaking fees are for?  Now, you could say it is not her fault that people may have an unreasonable expectation of some undefined quid pro quo down the line.  But how could so many corporate organizations who’ve shelled out the big bucks for the a forty-minute snooze fest not have some inkling that they would realize some return beyond that mid-day snooze fest?

But it’s people like you who wake up in a cold sweat screaming about the Citizens United case.  In your eyes, corporate lobbying is the big boogeyman under the American political bed, unless of course it’s the incessant lobbying of the New York times or CBS news on behalf of your pet causes – oh, wait, sorry, I forgot, that’s journalism.  So let’s say we ban all corporate lobbying.  All that will do is raise the speaking fees for monotone simpletons who don’t know that “C” stands for classified, and the result will be the same, or even worse because said speaker can actually pocket those fees directly rather than laundering them through a campaign.  Want a candidate who amassed some riches without being able to sell political favors?  Trump’s your guy (although he probably bought a few favors that helped). 

So let’s talk about competence.  The great progressive lie is that there is no agenda to progressivism other than to bring competence to government.  Obama rode that wave in 2008 – he was, and would bring in, the best and the brightest.  All we needed was more Harvard guys, or gals, or guys who wanna be gals, or vice versa, and all in certain acceptable proportions, who know best.  I don’t want to open up a Bush vs. Obama discussion on comparative competence, but certainly no one can say that all of a sudden our government seems to be competently run.  The last eight years have been marked by scandals at the VA, the IRS, the Secret Service, and the State department, not to mention the incompetent rollout of and the beginnings of the (predictable) pending implosions of the private exchanges.  Our foreign policy is a shambles, with enemies emboldened, and allies disheartened.

And of course one of the scandals of incompetence is all centered around your candidate.  Now, you can chalk up all of the criminal allegations to the vast right wing conspiracy, and you probably will.  You will say shit like “move on” and “she hasn’t been convicted” and that all of these investigations “were a waste of taxpayer money,” but pause to remember how feverishly you wanted the government to pursue the leak of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA agent.  That was back when classified meant something to you. Here we are, thirty-thousand e-mails sent over a private unsecured server later by a simpleton who did all she could to erase any evidence of criminal negligence, and we are supposed to trust that our governance will be competent in her hands?  At best she’s a nincompoop; at worst she’s a lying criminal with wonton disregard for national security.  Take your pick.  Neither is very comforting.

At this point no doubt you’ve either stopped reading or some variant of “starting disastrous foreign wars on the pretense of WMDs” is spewing forth with a little spit from your lips as you feel your heart rate quicken.  This is your way of saying I really couldn’t care less about the character of the candidate – unless of course we are talking about the opposing candidate - it’s all about the policy.  And it’s not even about any policy being put forth by anyone – it’s about a policy put forth 13 years ago by a guy who’s not running.  Meanwhile, the chick who is running voted for that war, and the dude who is running thinks the President who initiated that war should be tried as a war criminal.  If you suffer from Bush derangement syndrome to this day (and clearly you do), Trump is your guy.

Meanwhile, your gal, at best, was hoodwinked into voting for the war by a guy you consider to have the IQ of an invertebrate.  But at least she was steadfastly against the surge.  Oops, that turned out to be a smashing success, so much so that Biden at one point tried to take credit for a stable and secure Iraq as the Obama administration’s greatest accomplishment.  Hillary seems to have a history of zigging when she should be zagging.  Good thing Hillary was on the job with Obama to sign that stay of forces agreement to maintain that success and not let any crazy practitioners of workplace violence or manmade disasters get a foothold from which to start beheading Christians.  Oh wait, I think I have that wrong again.

RACIST! RACIST! RACIST!  Ah, took you awhile to get there.  You were doing so well there for a while, what with your Citizens United reference and your incessant harkening back to the early Bush years as the explanation of everything that has ever gone bad before, during, or after that time.  Now we’re down to Peter in the forest crying wolf.  Can you name for me a Republican candidate in the last 60 years whom you haven’t called a racist?  Bush had the most diverse cabinet in history with Powell and Rice, and that didn’t spare him because the race police can dismiss their service under him to the selling out of a couple of Uncle Toms; Rice in particular was subjected to all manner of racist scorn from liberal Democrats.  The Republicans could clone MLK and have him run and he’d be tarred and feathered.

Maybe you do have a real live racist on your hands this time, but I doubt it.  And you would be the last to be able to identify one.  I’m sure you’ll scream that the policies he advocates, particularly with respect to immigration, are racist.  I’ll deal with that charge in a later post (it could be much later judging by the frequency of my blogs).  But putting that aside, if you asked a group of economists to pick a particular policy in place that is most likely to hurt the most vulnerable and at risk African Americans, I would bet that a plurality would choose the minimum wage.  In fact, if you had damaging that population as your primary goal, you would be hard-pressed to find a more insidiously effective policy.  Why?  Because a young male high school dropout’s chances of finding employment is effectively killed by the minimum wage – with little skill and no established work history, they are forced to compete at a wage that is too high. And it’s not about racism.  Denied that first rung on the ladder, the options and prospects are not good.  That’s not an opinion – it is an established scientific fact. 

Is Hillary Clinton, who is all on board for raising the minimum wage, a racist?  By your definition, with an understanding of the science (remember science - that thing you believe in so fervently when it suits you?), clearly she’s as racist as they come.  And you cannot protest that any failure to show evidence of personally racist behavior means she’s not a racist – you’ve dismissed that type of evidence as a non-issue for anyone who believes, for example, that affirmative action is fundamentally wrong.  If she successfully maintains or increases the federal minimum wage, she’ll do more harm to the black community than the grand wizard of the KKK could ever hope to.  And guess what – there is no way she is unaware of the effect of the minimum wage on African American employment.  She’s aware, but she’s made her political calculations and she knows that doing the right thing – educating her base of this fact – is not her best political move, as her union support is largely based on the federal minimum wage (unions who do work with the federal government have rates specified as a multiple of that federal minimum wage).

But I appreciate your concern for principles, and can happily tell you the reason I probably will vote for Trump relates specifically to principles.  Not to mine, mind you, but to yours. It’s your principles that trouble me, or at least how little they ever seem to mean to you.  For decades now you’ve been saying things like “it’s just about sex”, and now you are adding “it’s just about a few e-mails.”  The latter was about perjury in a context where the perjurer’s lies were meant to deny a citizen’s civil right to a fair civil trial over sexual harassment.  The former is about purposefully destroying evidence in a potential criminal investigation over matters of betraying national security, and repeatedly lying about it to at least the American public, if not the FBI (but of course she was never put under oath with the FBI, so she was free to lie).  Last I checked, your principles’ nominally include telling the truth, respecting other people’s civil rights, respecting the right of a woman to go to work without being harassed by a sexual predator, not laying out national security secrets for all eyes to see, etc. etc.  And when it is a Scooter Libby being sent to prison, or a General Petraus having to end his career in disgrace, your good by these principles.  But when push comes to shove in applying them across the board, you put that little smirk on your face and say “it’s just about sex.”  I really don’t relish the list of “it’s just about …” tut-tutting you’ll subject me to for the next eight years or beyond, as the Clintons continue to operate under their own set of rules. 

You see, it’s precisely the fact that I trust Republicans will hew to their principles and you won’t that makes a Hillary presidency a larger pending disaster.  We had a field of 14 candidates through most of the primaries, and the dynamics of that excuse the fact that Trump made it through.  Your party has no such excuse.  The fact that only one old socialist kook even tried to take her on is proof enough that principles ceased to matter to the Democratic party long ago.  Trump will be boxed in by many in his party who view him as a usurper, by the entire Democratic Party, and by the entire mainstream media.  Hillary will be boxed in only by Republicans, who may not manage to hold a majority in Congress.  

So I’ll leave you with this: I’m no fan of Trump, but …

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