Friday, 2/12/16

  1. Tucker Carlson on Trump
  2. How to make a liberal
  3. The good old days
  4. Fallows vs. Kunstler
  5. Scott McConnell on Kasich

1

It turns out the GOP wasn’t simply out of touch with its voters; the party had no idea who its voters were or what they believed. For decades, party leaders and intellectuals imagined that most Republicans were broadly libertarian on economics and basically neoconservative on foreign policy.

(Tucker Carlson on the Trump phenomenon)

I hate to disagree with Carlson, but I think the GOP was right about those voters as recently as 10-20 years ago. But then people got mugged by two realities:

  1. Our domestic economic sector produces shockingly little stuff, but is now skewed toward financial manipulations instead, with burst bubbles and bailouts now an unavoidable bug of this feature-laden Ponzi Scheme.
  2. Our foreign policy often results in worse evils than we’re trying to cure (e.g., authoritarian order replaced by chaos replaced by ISIS) and makes the world hate us.

That’s my personal story anyway.

If you live in an affluent ZIP code, it’s hard to see a downside to mass low-wage immigration. Your kids don’t go to public school. You don’t take the bus or use the emergency room for health care. No immigrant is competing for your job. (The day Hondurans start getting hired as green energy lobbyists is the day my neighbors become nativists.) Plus, you get cheap servants, and get to feel welcoming and virtuous while paying them less per hour than your kids make at a summer job on Nantucket. It’s all good.

I doubt there are many Christian voters who think Trump could recite the Nicene Creed, or even identify it. Evangelicals have given up trying to elect one of their own. What they’re looking for is a bodyguard, someone to shield them from mounting (and real) threats to their freedom of speech and worship. Trump fits that role nicely, better in fact than many church-going Republicans. For eight years, there was a born-again in the White House. How’d that work out for Christians, here and in Iraq?

(Carlson, emphasis added)

Those two paragraphs are not my personal story; I don’t support Trump and don’t consider him a plausible answer to these real problems.

But I’ll grudgingly say that this is a plausible account of his popularity:

When was the last time you stopped yourself from saying something you believed to be true for fear of being punished or criticized for saying it? If you live in America, it probably hasn’t been long. That’s not just a talking point about political correctness. It’s the central problem with our national conversation, the main reason our debates are so stilted and useless. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t have the words to describe it. You can’t even think about it clearly.

This depressing fact made Trump’s political career. In a country where almost everyone in public life lies reflexively, it’s thrilling to hear someone say what he really thinks, even if you believe he’s wrong. It’s especially exciting when you suspect he’s right.

(Emphasis added)

2

Analyzing political spin is fun.

Wall Street Journal says

New Hampshire shows that [Obama’s] Presidency has been a hot-house garden for nurturing progressives. According to the exit polls, nearly seven in 10 Democrats described themselves as liberal, up from 56% in 2008. Roughly a quarter described themselves as “very liberal” ….

I suspect that the state of “conservatism” may be more responsible for the newfound respectability of the “liberal” label than is President Obama.

That’s how I spin it, anyway. The WSJ acknowledges none of the rot that Tucker Carlson nails, a version of which feeds Bernie Sanders’ popularity, too.

3

[B]lack history in the first half of the 20th century is a history of tremendous progress despite overwhelming odds. During a period of legal discrimination and violent hostility to their advancement, blacks managed to make unprecedented gains that have never been repeated. Black poverty fell to 47% from 87% between 1940 and 1960—before the implementation of Great Society programs that receive so much credit for poverty reduction. The percentage of black white-collar workers quadrupled between 1940 and 1970—before the implementation of affirmative-action policies that supposedly produced today’s black middle class.

In New York City, the earnings of black workers tripled between 1940 and 1950, and over the next decade the city saw a 55% increase in the number of black lawyers, a 56% increase in the number of black doctors and a 125% increase in the number of black teachers, according to political scientist Michael Javen Fortner’s new book, “Black Silent Majority.” The number of black nurses, accountants and engineers grew at an even faster clip over the same period. “There are signs that the Negro has begun to develop a large, strong middle class,” wrote Time magazine in 1953.

You don’t hear much about this black history during Black History Month (or any other month, for that matter) because it undercuts the dominant narrative pushed by the political left and accepted uncritically by the media ….

(Jason L. Riley, An Alternative Black History Month, at the Wall Street Journal)

4

If James Fallows has an active Twitter account, I’d be surprised. The James Fallows I’m familiar with writes thoughtful long-form essays.

In his latest, he presents as a kind of reverse mirror image of James Howard Kunstler, whose story arc is decline where Fallows’ is renewal:

A coast-to-coast drive across America has its tedious stretches, and the teeming interstate corridors, from I-95 in the east to I-5 in the west, can lead to the despairing conclusion that the country is made of gas stations, burger stands, and big-box malls. From only 2,500 feet higher up, the interstates look like ribbons that trace narrow paths across landscape that is mostly far beyond the reach of any road. From ground level, America is mainly road—after all, that’s where cars can take you. From the sky, America is mainly forest in the eastern third, farmland in the middle, then mountain and desert in the west, before the strip of intense development along the California coast. It’s also full of features obvious from the sky that are much harder to notice from the ground (and difficult to pick out from six miles up in an airliner): quarries at the edge of most towns, to provide gravel for roads and construction sites; prisons, instantly identifiable by their fencing (though some mega high schools can look similar), usually miles from the nearest town or tucked in locations where normal traffic won’t pass by. I never tire of the view from this height, as different from the normal, grim airliner perspective as scuba diving is from traveling on a container ship.

The edification comes from lessons in history, geography, urban planning, and environmental protection and despoliation that are inescapably obvious from above. Why is St. Louis where it is? Ah, of course! It’s where the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers come together. Why were mill towns built along the fall line of the Appalachians? Because of the long north-to-south series of waterfalls. As you cross South Dakota from east to west, from the big city of Sioux Falls at the Iowa and Minnesota borders toward Rapid City and the Black Hills and beyond, you can see the terrain change sharply. In the East River portion of the state, between Sioux Falls and the Missouri, you see flat, well-watered farmlands and small farming towns. Then past Pierre you reach West River, with rough, dry badlands, some grazing cattle, and very few structures. Everyone who has looked at a map “knows” about the effect of topography and rainfall, but it means something different as it unfolds below you, like a real-world Google Earth.

(How American is Putting Itself Back Together)

In fairness to both Kunstler and Fallows, they may differ mostly in where they think we are along an arc that descends and then turns back upward. Fallows admits the decline, while Kunstler has his dystopian-looking World Made By Hand novels (1, 2, 3, 4), that notably are about people reinventing something more sustainable. They only look dystopian because of Kunstler’s conviction, which I share, that if something can’t go on forever, it won’t.

5

I’ve seen John Kasich five times now, including tonight. He campaigns as a moderate conservative who can work with Democrats across the aisle, as a governor who knows how to balance budgets. He’s occasionally said some hawkish stuff, but essentially he is the only other non-neoconservative remaining in the GOP race. I’ve written before that I believe his endorsement of James Baker as a model secretary of state is significant as an indication of his foreign policy inclinations, realist and not neocon.

But the unexpected thing at a Kasich event is his sweet side, which seems so unlike the other Republicans. In his celebration of his second-place finish, he used his time before the national cameras to describe moments from his town hall meeting which sounded evangelical, though without any references to scripture. He recalled people in pain who came to him during a town hall, suffering from illness or grief, and how he responded, with words, or embraces. It might easily have seemed treacly, and was unusual for an election night speech. But with Kasich it seemed authentic, and it worked.

(Scott McConnell) I’ll tip my hand a little by saying that I like just about everything I recall about Kasich. Should he miraculously get the nomination, I could imagine voting for him. Not so any of the people who promise aggressively to wreak more havoc in the Middle East, turning more Christians into refugees. (No, that’s not how they say it, but they’re fools if they haven’t figured out yet that it’s the reality.)

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.