A Few More Election Thoughts
Watching the descent of the Republican nominating process into schoolyard taunting has been both amusing and depressing. The worst part is that there is an audience for this sort of behavior. The astonishing size of that audience is a product of the American educational system, political corporate media, and elected leaders who rely on hyperbole and exaggeration to compete in the attention economy.
We can't fix any of those things in time to affect the election.
The Democrats are hardly any better. I'm surprised and thrilled at the relative success of Bernie Sanders. While the audience for juvenile behavior seems solidly Republican, an audience for liberal, progressive, even socialist policies still seems to live in the Democratic party. Who knew? I thought they were all just "Republican-lite." Their massive reform of the health care system is mostly a give-away to the insurance companies, and it was based on a Republican plan! About the most you could count on Democrats to be in favor of, in a liberal sense, is gay marriage and fighting a series of tactical retreats on abortion rights. Other than that, they're pretty much missing in action on everything Bernie Sanders has been talking about.
The Democratic party leadership is filled with people who have been cowed by years of Republican legislative dominance and bullying. Reid gets props for his political infighting, but he hasn't articulated a Democratic vision in any meaningful way. President Obama remains more of a disappointment than an inspiration. Elizabeth Warren seemed like a beacon of hope, and may someday be one, but I think she thought it was inappropriate to oppose Hillary on her quest for the White House.
In any event, this election cycle is going to be a disaster for both parties. Regardless of who gets the Republican nomination, and they're all horrible choices, the damage has been done to the brand. They're reaping as they've sown, and now it's plain for all to see what they've been sowing the last thirty years.
For the Democrats, it'll be a disaster because their anointed heir is damaged goods. Hillary will likely get the nomination, and she is going to be hammered over and over in the campaign. If her negatives are high now, wait until the far right gets through with her. I'm looking forward to the ad that asks what kind of message we're sending our daughters when a woman remains married to a serial philanderer because he was more valuable to her political career as her husband than as her ex-husband?
And the Democrats will rely on fear and anger to try to generate voter turnout. Fear and anger don't drive people to the polls, they drive them to exhaustion. Being afraid of a Trump or Cruz or Rubio presidency isn't going to motivate someone to stand in line to vote. Being angry that they've treated Hillary shabbily isn't going to motivate someone to send in an absentee ballot. Unrelieved fear and anger leads to depression; and it's going to depress turnout. There's nothing to vote for. The first woman president? Give me a break. Who cares? It's the same product the Republicans are selling, only now with one more x-chromosome!
The presidential campaign is mainly going to be about one issue, and that is who gets to nominate the next three Supreme Court justices. Those are pretty high stakes, both parties' candidates are deeply flawed and it will be a relentlessly negative campaign.
With low voter turnout, and nobody to vote for, I think it's hard to predict who's going to win.
Super Bowl Thoughts
Puppymonkeybaby must die.
That aside, I was happy with the result.
I really didn't care very much about either team, so what was interesting to me was the matchup between Peyton Manning and Cam Newton. Manning had been a thorn in the side of Jaguars fans for many years; but it's been kind of sad watching him the last couple of seasons. I like to see "old guys" keep suiting up and trying to be competitive, but there comes a point when it's just kind of foolish.
I was at the stadium to see Dan Marino play his last game. It was obvious there was nothing left in his arm, and it was painful to witness. (Watch the video. Good times.) I suspected Manning had entered the foolish phase, but the playoffs seemed to offer some room for doubt.
And Cam Newton. I don't like Cam Newton. I hesitate to say that because too many people immediately assume it's a race thing. Nothing I say here will change anyone's mind on that score, but I just don't like Cam Newton and it's for the same reason I don't like Colin Kaepernick, and why I didn't like Jim McMahon. Football is a team sport. Ego plays a role, it has to to endure the punishment the game dishes out. But you're only as good as the other ten guys around you. You can't take all the credit, and you don't get all the blame. The superhero antics are a distraction. Colin Kaepernick didn't look very heroic this year, and Cam Newton didn't look very heroic last night. Call it karma, maybe.
So I was happy with the result.
But it was a sloppy, ugly game on both sides. A bit less so on Denver's side, perhaps.
Clearly, at least to me, Peyton's career is over. He couldn't retire on a better note. The defense carried him on this one, and perhaps that's as it should be. It's a team effort.
Cam Newton is a gifted athlete, and a good quarterback, maybe a great quarterback. Only time will tell. But last night should have been an object lesson in the value of humility.
Update: Well, and then there's this.
My poor, neglected weblog! So many good intentions, so little output!
Anyway, some thoughts on the 2016 presidential election.
In my opinion, it's going to be important to elect a Democrat to the White House, because the House and the Senate are almost certainly going to retain Republican majorities. With a Republican president, there'll be no check on the right's agenda, and there'll likely be a couple more conservative justices appointed to the Supreme Court. Democrats in the Senate will do what they can with Senate procedural rules, but I rather expect that won't work for long.
Regarding whether Hillary or Bernie is the better candidate, it really doesn't matter. Personally, I prefer Bernie Sanders; but neither candidate will be able to advance any kind of progressive agenda. All they will be able to do is block the worst of Republican excesses in legislation and hopefully get a couple of liberal justices on the Supreme Court. I expect Ruth Bader Ginsberg will either retire or die (though I don't wish for either); and Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia will both be in their 80s during the next president's term of office, so it's somewhat possible one or both will either die or retire. (My guess is Scalia would rather die in office than retire with a Democrat in the White House.)
One of Hillary's supposed virtues over Sanders is that she knows how to "work" with Republicans. Well, Hillary is as anathema to the Republicans as Obama is, and I fully expect Mitch McConnell to utter something about his primary legislative goal being to make Hillary a one-term president. "Working" with Republicans means nothing less than ceding to their demands, in which case we might as well have a Republican president. There will be no "working" with Republican majorities in either chamber, they will simply make demands. The Senate should retain enough Democrats to prevent overrides of presidential vetoes, so the net result will be at least two more years of dysfunctional government.
During those two years, the only hope that we have is for the Democratic party to use the presidency as a bully pulpit, and craft an appealing national narrative regarding the role of government to counter the Republican narrative. If there's enough anger at two more years of getting nothing accomplished, the Democrats may be able to take over the Senate, and possibly, though less likely, the House.
If Trump, Cruz or Rubio is elected president, it'll be a catastrophe for the country. The good news is, we seem to learn from catastrophes. It may take a decade for the scope of the disaster to become apparent, but my guess is it'll still be pretty clear where the fault lies, and the country will take a hard left turn in its approach to government.
If Trump or Cruz are the Republican nominee, I think we've got a good chance of electing Hillary or Bernie. Trump would likely be a tougher candidate than Cruz, but he's still beatable in the general election.
If Rubio is the nominee, I think the Republicans have a decent shot at taking the White House. He's young and attractive, and that will make a lot of people at least pay attention to him. He's an air-head, but he'll be stage-managed at every single waking moment, so his obvious deficits will be hidden from view. The narrative will be "old, career politicians," versus "youth and energy!"
If we get a Democratic presidency, we've got at least two more years of dysfunctional government. More, if the Democrats can't get their act together and tell a compelling story why progressive policies are better for average Americans. If the Democratic party can't craft a narrative, then the only way the electorate will learn is from the consequences of Republican policies; and with a Democratic president vetoing the worst of them, that education will be postponed.
We're approaching a critical moment in American history. The world is more tightly-bound than ever, and irresponsible, laissez-faire domestic policies, and hawkish, militaristic foreign policies will have far-reaching and disastrous consequences. Wealth inequality will grow. The environment will suffer. Public lands will be handed over to private interests. Significant efforts at mitigating the effects of climate change will be reduced or neglected entirely. Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be abandoned, and the pace of global climate change may accelerate past our ability to cope with its effects. The social safety net will be shredded, and more people, especially the elderly, will be thrown into poverty. Healthcare will be a privilege for the wealthy few, and those lucky enough to retain employment-based coverage.
These effects won't be clearly visible in the first term of a Republican president, though they may begin to become visible in a second term. Within ten years, I'm fairly certain it will be clear that things have become dramatically and unequivocally worse. There'll be more Flints, more environmental disasters. We'll have a more visible and militaristic police state. The state security apparatus will have ubiquitous intrusive surveillance. There'll be financial losses that are punishing for small investors and personal retirement accounts, but just bumps in the road for the wealthy. There will be natural weather disasters costly in both lives and property that have been intensified by climate change, which will reveal the utter irresponsibility of our failure to acknowledge and act upon it. There will be global pandemics that we will be unprepared to fight, apart from imposing security responses like mandatory quarantine zones.
When things get bad enough, we'll realize where we went wrong.
In an ironic universe, a Republican president may be a good thing in the long run.
Then Bernie will get his revolution, but not before.