Trump isn't reducing government, but he's ruining Government's Godlike Magical Mystery Mojo, AKA "Statism"
I'd only add that his beliefs were deeply sincere, and not self-interested. He really thought a pro-business meritocracy would be better for everyone.
Legions of critics endlessly cite the logical flaws and dangers of "Identity Politics" on the left and even on the right, but as Mary Eberstadt points out, they overlook that emotionally, it's deeply authentic and heartfelt. Indeed, it has become the key to its believers' personal identities.
Now, in some ways, politics has always been about identity, but it's been based on identities that people could take for granted and don't have to prove and constantly have affirmed: first, family; then place, religion, and ethnicity. And Americans have always formed like-minded, politically-active voluntary groups, including ones based on minority race and ethnicity.
But looking for the causes of the surging rage and occasional mass hysteria that now swirls around I.P., Eberstadt notes that the normal sources of "identity" throughout history, especially family, have lost most of their power and permanence. We have far fewer people whom we consider "family" in the sense of loyalty, commonality, permanence, and identity. And you don't have to share Eberstadt's traditional Catholic views of sexual and family issues to be concerned about the breakdown of families and what rough beasts are emerging to replace them.
PC's main function is to keep the foot soldiers of the Left in line, and make them afraid to express any original thought or to even suggest being more tolerant or respectful of the enemy, or acknowledging any common ground. So if its own people fear it, as author Frances Lee does, that just means it's working as designed. Same reason infantry officers carry revolvers, not rifles. Perfect example from Lee's article:
"In response to the unrestrained use of callouts and unchecked self-righteousness by leftist activists, I spend enormous amounts of energy protecting my activist identity from attack. I self-police what I say when among other activists. If I’m not 100 percent sold on the reasons for a political protest, I keep those opinions to myself—though I might show up anyway. On social media, I’ve stopped commenting with thoughtful push back on popular social justice positions for fear of being called out. For example, even though some women at the 2017 women’s march reproduced the false and transmisogynistic idea that all women have vaginas ..."
Sounds like what I learned as a left-liberal would-be activist in college, except for that last bit. Great read though, and I'm glad this distress call made it through the censors -- for now. I'm including the whole text in case it somehow gets taken down in the future, if and when they get Lee to apologize, accept discipline and love Big Brother.
The article has many other uniquely well-expressed points about truly engaging and respecting adversaries based on common humanity instead of teh rhetoric of irreconcileable differences, knowing when to be soft and when to be hard, and owning one's own imperfection and responsilbilty for oppression without ceding one's right to talk about those things to others who claim absolute purity.
Callout culture. The quest for purity. Privilege theory taken to extremes. I’ve observed some of these questionable patterns in my activist communities over the past several years.
As an activist, I stand with others against white supremacy, anti-blackness, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, and imperialism. I am queer, trans, Chinese American, middle class, and able-bodied.
Holding these identities scattered across the spectrum of privilege, I have done my best to find my place in the movement, while educating myself on social justice issues to the best of my ability. But after witnessing countless people be ruthlessly torn apart in community for their mistakes and missteps, I started to fear my own comrades.
As a cultural studies scholar, I am interested in how that culture—as expressed through discourse and popular narratives—does the work of power. Many disciplinary practices of the activist culture succeed in curbing oppressive behaviors. Callouts, for example, are necessary for identifying and addressing problematic behavior. But have they become the default response to fending off harm? Shutting down racist, sexist, and similar conversations protects vulnerable participants. But has it devolved into simply shutting down all dissenting ideas? When these tactics are liberally applied, without limit, inside marginalized groups, I believe they hold back movements by alienating both potential allies and their own members.
In response to the unrestrained use of callouts and unchecked self-righteousness by leftist activists, I spend enormous amounts of energy protecting my activist identity from attack. I self-police what I say when among other activists. If I’m not 100 percent sold on the reasons for a political protest, I keep those opinions to myself—though I might show up anyway.
On social media, I’ve stopped commenting with thoughtful push back on popular social justice positions for fear of being called out. For example, even though some women at the 2017 women’s march reproduced the false and transmisogynistic idea that all women have vaginas, I still believe that the event was a critical win for the left and should not be written off so easily as it has been by some in my community.
Understand, even though I am using callouts as a prime example, I am not against them. Several times, I have been called out for ways I have carelessly exhibited ableism, transmisogyny, fatphobia, and xenophobia. I am able to rebound quickly when responding with openness to those situations. I am against a culture that encourages callouts conducted irresponsibly, ones that abandon the person being called out and ones done out of a desire to experience power by humiliating another community member.
I am also concerned about who controls the language of social justice, as I see it wielded as a weapon against community members who don’t have access to this rapidly evolving lexicon. Terms like “oppression,” “tone policing,” “emotional labor,” “diversity,” and “allyship” are all used in specific ways to draw attention to the plight of minoritized people. Yet their meanings can also be manipulated to attack and exclude.
Furthermore, most social justice 101 articles I see online are prescriptive checklists. Although these can be useful resources for someone who has little familiarity with these issues, I worry that this model of education contributes to the false idea that we have only one way to think about, talk about, and ultimately, do activism. I think that movements are able to fully breathe only when there is a plurality of tactics, and to some extent, of ideologies.
I am not the first nor the last to point out that these movements for liberation and justice are exhibiting the same oppressive patterns that we are fighting against in larger society. Rather than wallowing in critique or walking away from this work, I choose a third option—that we as a community slow down, acknowledge this pattern and develop an ethics of activism as a response.
I believe it’s sorely needed as we struggle to mobilize in a chaotic and unjust world.
What might an ethics of activism look like?
Knowing when to be hard and when to be soft
I believe that when confronting unjust situations and unjust people, sometimes hardness is necessary, and other times softness is appropriate. Gaining the discernment to know when to use each is a task for a lifetime. I have often seen a burning anger at the core of activism, especially for newer activists. Anger can be righteous, and it often is when stemming from marginalized peoples weary of being mistreated. And yet, I want to use my anger as a tool for reaching the deeper, healing powers I possess when carving out a path of sustainable activism. Black social justice facilitator and doula adrienne maree brown writes of her oppressors, “What if what’s needed isn’t sexy, intimidating or violent? What if what is needed is forgiveness?” I’ve spent a good deal of energy exercising my ability to speak truth to power and boldly naming my enemies. Perhaps it is time to massage my heart so that I can choose to be soft toward someone in community who is hurting me, and open up the possibility of mutual transformation.
Adopting a politics of imperfection and responsibility
I have been mulling over sociologist Alexis Shotwell’s call for the left to adopt a “politics of imperfection and responsibility” as one way to move forward toward action and away from purity. A politics of imperfection asks me to openly acknowledge the ways in which my family and I have benefited and continue to benefit from oppressive systems such as slavery, capitalism, and settler colonialism. This is an ongoing investigation into my own complicity. I am a Chinese American with immigrant parents, and my family has built economic stability by buying into the model minority myth, which is based largely in anti-blackness. As uninvited guests and visitors to this part of the world, we have claimed our new home on lands stolen from indigenous peoples. A politics of responsibility means that as I am complicit in harmful systems, I also possess full agency to do good. This allows me to commit to dismantling these systems and embracing centuries-long legacies of resistance. It means I am accountable in community spaces and do not destroy myself when others call me out on my errors. It means I practice a generosity of spirit and forgiveness towards myself and others. To do all this, I must publicly claim both imperfection and personal responsibility as an activist.
Tapping into our shared humanity
Marginalized people ask that privileged people look at them and see a human being, not a lesser-than being. Oppressive systems operate by systemically dehumanizing some groups for the benefit of others. On the flip side, I believe people with privilege are dehumanized when internalizing their societal supremacy over others. For example, the ethnographic studies that have been conducted to explain the election of Donald Trump have revealed the mass identity crisis in white America. We have seen poor and working class white Americans denounce people of color and diversity efforts because, sadly, they perceive them as threats to their historically established power and access. Rather than base cultural identities solely on power, could we tap into what we all have in common: our humanity, no matter how trampled it is? Black public theologianChristena Cleveland practices envisioning the humanity in those who challenge and attack her. According to her, training herself to cultivate love for her enemies makes it more effective for her to communicate and speak her truth into their hearts. She is as concerned about her well-being as she is about transforming antagonistic people in her life into “liberated oppressors.” Black elder activist Ruby Sales firmly tells her oppressors, with unyielding love in her voice: “You can’t make me hate you.”
These are suggestions that have aided me in navigating toxic social justice environments. In testing them out, I try to stay open to new tactics while understanding that I must remain flexible and responsive to the variable stages of justice work. If we as activists do not feel safe in our experimental microcosms of justice and liberation, what can we attempt to replicate across larger society?
George Will contrasts the legacies of Buckley and his friend Chambers
The phrase "corporations are people" deliberately conjures up images of huge money-grubbing businesses that don't care about people, getting favors from a government that cares more about them than people. It's widely known to come from from early, "Gilded Age" pro-business interpretations of the 14th Amendment. And yet the very name of the "Citizens United" case should be a giveaway that the freedom of non-profit groups of citizens, advocating about political issues, was at stake in the case. Do those who scoff at Citizens United, for supposedly saying corporations are people, really believe that civil rights groups, women's groups, antiwar groups, veterans' groups, and religious groups, have no Constitutional rights?
The second half of the case's name, "v. Federal Election Commission", is a big clue that 14th Amendment case law about "persons" has nothing to do with it. The part of the 14th Amendment about persons and rights, Section 1, solely restricts what states can do to people or "persons". It reads:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
But the First Amendment, which works directly on the federal government, and indirectly on states through the 14th Amendment, focuses on prohibiting the government from violating freedom of speech, press, or religion, with absolutely no exceptions concerning who or what is speaking, publishing, etc.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; ...
There is a reference to "the people" in the second half of it:
"... or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Justice Kennedy's majority opinion in Citizens United does not say corporations are people. Instead it points out that the First Amendment does not make exceptions for who is doing the speaking or publishing; that all effective speech costs money, and that an argument that "corporations aren't natural persons" is not wrong, but irrelevant to the First Amendment.
Joe Albanese pointed out this crucial but apparently never-noticed distinction today, reveling in the irony of Ben & Jerry's using its free-speech rights to argue against corporations having free-speech rights, in "Is Big Ice Cream Trying to Hijack Our Democracy?" Former Federal Election Commission member Brad Smith says more about groups' free speech rights, and another threat to them, in "Tester’s assault on corporate rights is an assault on people’s rights."
I wish people would read the case opinion before criticizing it, but if you don't do that, you could at least read the case's name and the most important sentence in our Constitution.
Since the 1970s, the non-political media has taught us that everyone is essentially a consumer, not a producer or a citizen; men and masculinity are silly, and women are super-competent. The 80s added safety-mania to this mix. And that children (the ultimate consumers) are superior to adults and nothing's more important than focusing on children, no matter how excessively nor what else we sacrifice for what kids supposedly need or want.
This article by Carrie Gress reminds us how such ideas spread, and how often we need to notice and resist them, instead of passively absorbing them from sources that we don't think are selling ideology. That's extremely important even though I don't necessarily agree with most of her perspectives on such issues.
Also, this process happens even when there's no top-down conspiracy to spread ideas -- advertisers and entertainment producers use these common themes because they want to be fashionable, soft-newsworthy, and "relevant", to flatter their target audience, and not to shock or alienate them (except for faux-shocking that's actually conformist).
Of course it can be intentional and coordinated, like the Clinton administration's stealth attack on Congressional "economic extremists" via the women's magazines, supposedly non-political because they were reporting on threats to government spending programs that they pretended were non-political. This at a time when the administration felt too weak to attack the new Republican majority in Washington or in the political media, but they instead laid the groundwork for the lasting unpopularity of fiscal conservatism. Even while flattering Gingrich that he had won and that "the era of big government is over."
Slavery. Necessary for the safe existence of the African race in America. Beneficial to both races. Authorized by "the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations".
"Slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization."
Free speech, press, and association (against slavery): "They have, through the mails and hired emissaries, sent seditious pamphlets and papers among us to stir up servile insurrection and bring blood and carnage to our firesides."
"Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection."
Politicking (against slavery): "By consolidating their strength, they have placed the slave-holding States in a hopeless minority in the federal congress, and rendered representation of no avail in protecting Southern rights against their exactions and encroachments."
"In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color-- a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law."
Electing an antislavery President who says a half-slave nation cannot last.
"The party of Lincoln, called the Republican party, under its present name and organization, is of recent origin. It is admitted to be an anti-slavery party. While it attracts to itself by its creed the scattered advocates of exploded political heresies, of condemned theories in political economy, the advocates of commercial restrictions, of protection, of special privileges, of waste and corruption in the administration of Government, anti-slavery is its mission and its purpose. By anti-slavery it is made a power in the state."
Economic policies: protectionism, corporate welfare, monopolies, pork-barrel spending, etc.:
"In the first years of the Republic the navigating, commercial, and manufacturing interests of the North began to seek profit and aggrandizement at the expense of the agricultural interests. Even the owners of fishing smacks sought and obtained bounties for pursuing their own business (which yet continue), and $500,000 is now paid them annually out of the Treasury. The navigating interests begged for protection against foreign shipbuilders and against competition in the coasting trade."
"Congress granted both requests, and by prohibitory acts gave an absolute monopoly of this business to each of their interests, which they enjoy without diminution to this day. Not content with these great and unjust advantages, they have sought to throw the legitimate burden of their business as much as possible upon the public; they have succeeded in throwing the cost of light-houses, buoys, and the maintenance of their seamen upon the Treasury, and the Government now pays above $2,000,000 annually for the support of these objects. Theses interests, in connection with the commercial and manufacturing classes, have also succeeded, by means of subventions to mail steamers and the reduction in postage, in relieving their business from the payment of about $7,000,000 annually, throwing it upon the public Treasury under the name of postal deficiency."
"The manufacturing interests entered into the same struggle early, and has clamored steadily for Government bounties and special favors. This interest was confined mainly to the Eastern and Middle non-slave-holding States. Wielding these great States it held great power and influence, and its demands were in full proportion to its power. The manufacturers and miners wisely based their demands upon special facts and reasons rather than upon general principles, and thereby mollified much of the opposition of the opposing interest. They pleaded in their favor the infancy of their business in this country, the scarcity of labor and capital, the hostile legislation of other countries toward them, the great necessity of their fabrics in the time of war, and the necessity of high duties to pay the debt incurred in our war for independence. These reasons prevailed, and they received for many years enormous bounties by the general acquiescence of the whole country."
"But when these reasons ceased they were no less clamorous for Government protection, but their clamors were less heeded-- the country had put the principle of protection upon trial and condemned it. After having enjoyed protection to the extent of from 15 to 200 per cent. upon their entire business for above thirty years, the act of 1846 was passed. It avoided sudden change, but the principle was settled, and free trade, low duties, and economy in public expenditures was the verdict of the American people. The South and the Northwestern States sustained this policy. There was but small hope of its reversal; upon the direct issue, none at all."
"All these classes saw this and felt it and cast about for new allies. The anti-slavery sentiment of the North offered the best chance for success. ..."
"They have impoverished the slave-holding States by unequal and partial legislation, thereby enriching themselves by draining our substance."
- "It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst."
- "It has enlisted its press, its pulpit and its schools against us, until the whole popular mind of the North is excited and inflamed with prejudice."
- "It has made combinations and formed associations to carry out its schemes of emancipation in the States and wherever else slavery exists."
- "It seeks not to elevate or to support the slave, but to destroy his present condition without providing a better."
- "It has invaded a State, and invested with the honors of martyrdom the wretch whose purpose was to apply flames to our dwellings, and the weapons of destruction to our lives."
- "It has given indubitable evidence of its design to ruin our agriculture, to prostrate our industrial pursuits and to destroy our social system."
Not cooperating with return of fugitive slaves.
"In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia."
"They have sent hired emissaries among us to burn our towns and distribute arms and poison to our slaves for the same purpose."
U.S. not protecting us from attacks of "savage Indians" and "Mexican banditti."
Some states have given citizenship to certain people in violation of the Constitution, and their votes helped turn the federal government against slavery.
Our original ratification said we could revoke it when the U.S. government's delegated powers were perverted to our injury and oppression, and now it's oppressing all the "Southern Slaveholding States".
With our neighbors seceding we must choose a side.
"Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England."
Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language -- so the argument runs -- must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.
Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.
These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially bad -- I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen -- but because they illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly representative examples. I number them so that I can refer back to them when necessary:
Professor Harold Laski (Essay in Freedom of Expression)
Professor Lancelot Hogben (Interglossa)
Essay on psychology in Politics (New York)
Letter in Tribune
Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse. I list below, with notes and examples, various of the tricks by means of which the work of prose construction is habitually dodged:
Dying metaphors. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically "dead" (e.g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles' heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a "rift," for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning without those who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is sometimes written as tow the line. Another example is the hammer and the anvil, now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid perverting the original phrase.
Operators or verbal false limbs. These save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry. Characteristic phrases are render inoperative, militate against, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of, etc., etc. The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single word, such as break, stop, spoil, mend, kill, a verb becomes a phrase, made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purpose verb such as prove, serve, form, play, render. In addition, the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of by examining). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the-ize and de- formations, and the banal statements are given an appearance of profundity by means of the not un- formation. Simple conjunctions and prepositions are replaced by such phrases as with respect to, having regard to, the fact that, by dint of, in view of, in the interests of, on the hypothesis that; and the ends of sentences are saved by anticlimax by such resounding commonplaces as greatly to be desired, cannot be left out of account, a development to be expected in the near future, deserving of serious consideration, brought to a satisfactory conclusion, and so on and so forth.
Pretentious diction. Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate, are used to dress up a simple statement and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements. Adjectives like epoch-making, epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable, inexorable, veritable, are used to dignify the sordid process of international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on an archaic color, its characteristic words being: realm, throne, chariot, mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler, banner, jackboot, clarion. Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien regime, deus exmachina, mutatis mutandis, status quo, gleichschaltung, weltanschauung, are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Except for the useful abbreviations i.e., e.g., and etc., there is no real need for any of the hundreds of foreign phrases now current in the English language. Bad writers, and especially scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous, and hundreds of others constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon numbers.* The jargon peculiar to
*An interesting illustration of this is the way in which English flower names were in use till very recently are being ousted by Greek ones, Snapdragon becoming antirrhinum, forget-me-not becoming myosotis, etc. It is hard to see any practical reason for this change of fashion: it is probably due to an instinctive turning away from the more homely word and a vague feeling that the Greek word is scientific.
Marxist writing (hyena, hangman, cannibal, petty bourgeois, these gentry, lackey, flunkey, mad dog, White Guard, etc.) consists largely of words translated from Russian, German, or French; but the normal way of coining a new word is to use Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the size formation. It is often easier to make up words of this kind (deregionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentary and so forth) than to think up the English words that will cover one's meaning. The result, in general, is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness.
Meaningless words. In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.† Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in
† Example: Comfort's catholicity of perception and image, strangely Whitmanesque in range, almost the exact opposite in aesthetic compulsion, continues to evoke that trembling atmospheric accumulative hinting at a cruel, an inexorably serene timelessness . . .Wrey Gardiner scores by aiming at simple bull's-eyes with precision. Only they are not so simple, and through this contented sadness runs more than the surface bittersweet of resignation." (Poetry Quarterly)
the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, "The outstanding feature of Mr. X's work is its living quality," while another writes, "The immediately striking thing about Mr. X's work is its peculiar deadness," the reader accepts this as a simple difference of opinion. If words like black and white were involved, instead of the jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable." The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word likedemocracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Pétain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.
Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse fromEcclesiastes:
I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Here it is in modern English:
Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.
This is a parody, but not a very gross one. Exhibit (3) above, for instance, contains several patches of the same kind of English. It will be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning and ending of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely, but in the middle the concrete illustrations -- race, battle, bread -- dissolve into the vague phrases "success or failure in competitive activities." This had to be so, because no modern writer of the kind I am discussing -- no one capable of using phrases like "objective considerations of contemporary phenomena" -- would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed way. The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness. Now analyze these two sentences a little more closely. The first contains forty-nine words but only sixty syllables, and all its words are those of everyday life. The second contains thirty-eight words of ninety syllables: eighteen of those words are from Latin roots, and one from Greek. The first sentence contains six vivid images, and only one phrase ("time and chance") that could be called vague. The second contains not a single fresh, arresting phrase, and in spite of its ninety syllables it gives only a shortened version of the meaning contained in the first. Yet without a doubt it is the second kind of sentence that is gaining ground in modern English. I do not want to exaggerate. This kind of writing is not yet universal, and outcrops of simplicity will occur here and there in the worst-written page. Still, if you or I were told to write a few lines on the uncertainty of human fortunes, we should probably come much nearer to my imaginary sentence than to the one from Ecclesiastes.
As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier -- even quicker, once you have the habit -- to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to sayI think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don't have to hunt about for the words; you also don't have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious. When you are composing in a hurry -- when you are dictating to a stenographer, for instance, or making a public speech -- it is natural to fall into a pretentious, Latinized style. Tags like a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind or a conclusion to which all of us would readily assent will save many a sentence from coming down with a bump. By using stale metaphors, similes, and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images clash -- as in The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot -- it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking. Look again at the examples I gave at the beginning of this essay. Professor Laski (1) uses five negatives in fifty three words. One of these is superfluous, making nonsense of the whole passage, and in addition there is the slip -- alien for akin -- making further nonsense, and several avoidable pieces of clumsiness which increase the general vagueness. Professor Hogben (2) plays ducks and drakes with a battery which is able to write prescriptions, and, while disapproving of the everyday phrase put up with, is unwilling to look egregious up in the dictionary and see what it means; (3), if one takes an uncharitable attitude towards it, is simply meaningless: probably one could work out its intended meaning by reading the whole of the article in which it occurs. In (4), the writer knows more or less what he wants to say, but an accumulation of stale phrases chokes him like tea leaves blocking a sink. In (5), words and meaning have almost parted company. People who write in this manner usually have a general emotional meaning -- they dislike one thing and want to express solidarity with another -- but they are not interested in the detail of what they are saying. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: 1. Could I put it more shortly? 2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you -- even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent -- and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.
In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a "party line." Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, White papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases -- bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder -- one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.
In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population orrectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:
"While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement."
The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find -- this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify -- that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.
But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. The debased language that I have been discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind, are a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one's elbow. Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against. By this morning's post I have received a pamphlet dealing with conditions in Germany. The author tells me that he "felt impelled" to write it. I open it at random, and here is almost the first sentence I see: "[The Allies] have an opportunity not only of achieving a radical transformation of Germany's social and political structure in such a way as to avoid a nationalistic reaction in Germany itself, but at the same time of laying the foundations of a co-operative and unified Europe." You see, he "feels impelled" to write -- feels, presumably, that he has something new to say -- and yet his words, like cavalry horses answering the bugle, group themselves automatically into the familiar dreary pattern. This invasion of one's mind by ready-made phrases (lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one's brain.
I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all, that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words and constructions. So far as the general tone or spirit of a language goes, this may be true, but it is not true in detail. Silly words and expressions have often disappeared, not through any evolutionary process but owing to the conscious action of a minority. Two recent examples were explore every avenue and leave no stone unturned, which were killed by the jeers of a few journalists. There is a long list of flyblown metaphors which could similarly be got rid of if enough people would interest themselves in the job; and it should also be possible to laugh the not un-formation out of existence*, to reduce the amount of Latin and Greek in the average sentence, to drive out foreign phrases
*One can cure oneself of the not un- formation by memorizing this sentence: A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a not ungreen field.
and strayed scientific words, and, in general, to make pretentiousness unfashionable. But all these are minor points. The defense of the English language implies more than this, and perhaps it is best to start by saying what it does not imply.
To begin with it has nothing to do with archaism, with the salvaging of obsolete words and turns of speech, or with the setting up of a "standard English" which must never be departed from. On the contrary, it is especially concerned with the scrapping of every word or idiom which has outworn its usefulness. It has nothing to do with correct grammar and syntax, which are of no importance so long as one makes one's meaning clear, or with the avoidance of Americanisms, or with having what is called a "good prose style." On the other hand, it is not concerned with fake simplicity and the attempt to make written English colloquial. Nor does it even imply in every case preferring the Saxon word to the Latin one, though it does imply using the fewest and shortest words that will cover one's meaning. What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them. When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing you probably hunt about until you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one's meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations. Afterward one can choose -- not simply accept -- the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions one's words are likely to make on another person. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:
(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English, but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in those five specimens at the beginning of this article.
I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don't know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase -- some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse -- into the dustbin, where it belongs.
“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive ... . Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”
That's thoroughly presidential, something that has needed to be said for decades, and yet it's also true to what Trump seems to stand for. (And for the record I've never been a Trump fan."
"The president made his sharpest criticism of Moscow since taking office, urging Russia to “cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes, including Syria and Iran,” and asserting that it must “instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself.”
"And Mr. Trump moved to reassure Poland and other allies fretful about Russia’s aggression, making a full-throated endorsement of the collective defense principle that undergirds NATO, something he was unwilling to do during his first trip to Europe as president in May.
“The United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment,” Mr. Trump said."
By JAMES SHANAHAN, on THE CONVERSATION and SALON.COM
Whatever you think about the merits of the issues, you've got to admire gun controllers' and other social-change movements' strategy and tactics, but also recognize their dishonesty -- their eternal cycle or ratchet between "This legislation merely imposes slight restrictions that hardly inconvenience any reasonable person, we would never try to take away your rights", and "That legislation has failed to seriously reduce the underlying problem and it's time to just ban everything" -- as Daniel Payne does in "Gun Controllers Know Their Policies Won’t Stop Murder. They’re Playing A Different Game", at The Federalist:
... If their proposed remedies would be so obviously and demonstrably unlikely to solve the very problems they claim to intend to solve, then why do gun controllers keep advocating these ridiculous and counterintuitive laws?
The answer is not hard to see. Gun control advocates, like most political actors, are pragmatic and practical. They understand that certain legislative goals and ambitions must play out over a period of time rather than in a political instant. You can see this type of long-game strategy in, say, the American health-care debate: after seven years of Obamacare, Democrats are increasingly pursuing single-payer, something that was much less feasible before the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, Sen. Harry Reid has explicitly stated that Obamacare is intended solely to be “a step in the right direction” towards single-payer, nothing more.
So it is with gun control: liberals propose these useless laws and regulations not in an attempt to honestly curb gun violence but rather in a long-form attempt to pass other laws down the road. It will be much easier to ban large classes of semiautomatic rifles, after all, after five or ten years of banning scary-looking AR-style “assault weapons.” It will be far easier, too, to sharply restrict firearm purchases after a decade of regulating ammunition sales, the latter of which will soon begin in California.
This doesn’t have to be some grand conspiracy theory or dark, shadowy intrigue. Gun controllers are not stupid. They understand long-form political action as well as anyone. They do not like guns and they are more than patient enough to play the drawn-out politics necessary to curtail American gun rights.
... To be fair, I get it: if the situation were reversed, and I were starting from a legal position in which gun rights were severely restricted in this country, I would play the same game if necessary. It’s the smart thing to do.
I notice that now that the chronic con artist Brianna Wu is running for Congress in the Boston area, the New York Times seizes the opportunity to define Gamergate as simply an Internet harassment campaign -- no debate necessary, I guess -- and CNN casually describes Gamergate (inaccurately) as a movement that believes there should be no women in gaming.
Disturbingly, the establishment left is perfectly willing to just ride out the storm and then carve its lies in stone once everyone's attention has moved elsewhere. I'm not sure how people interested in telling the truth can match that relentless, tireless evil.
That's how they do. That's one of the parts of politics that I learned on the playground: people's reality is what they start repeating because it's what people are saying and what they think people want to hear them say.
The greatest example of this silent switcheroo that I've witnessed is how in the early 90s, the Soviet Union fell, a wider swath of policymakers and educated people learned about market economics, and everyone conceded that socialism didn't work. Democratic President Bill Clinton proclaimed, "The Era of Big Government is Over." Newt Gingrich took over Congress and for a couple years, no one in Washington told him he wasn't the best and the brightest. Ever since the backlash from his hubris in the 1995 government shutdown (which White House chief of staff Leon Panetta later bragged about orchestrating on NPR), the GOP has been afraid to make public arguments for why free markets work, fearing to scare away some fraction of its precarious majority coalition. In that vacuum, leftist academics, writers and politicians rushed back in like the tide, teaching whole generations that market economics was totally disproven. Not by actually engaging with what free-market economists and philosophers actually taught, but just by sidestepping it and repeating that all of that had been discredited at some point.
'...There’s something deadening about religiously following“current” affairs, because remaining current precludes getting in-depth background knowledge. Reading the newspaper becomes ritualistic rather than useful or educational. It’s always funny that the more time you spend trying to “stay informed,” the less informed you actually become compared with someone who doesn’t stay informed but goes out and learns untimely things.)'
It took a Brit to have the daring, and the permission, to effectively poke a hole in the American media's universal chorus about how Londoners are Reeling, Traumatized, Quivering, Disoriented, Shell-Shocked, Incapacitated and Under Siege.
Because in Britain you can straightforwardly argue for Fabian Socialism or whatever Oliver believes, without having to convince yourself that you speak for a consensus of all responsible and respectable members of the community. But in the US, generations of progressives have learned not to advocate socialism directly, or at least to dare not speak its name, when addressing the general public. Instead, around 1970 the media started talking to us as if we were not citizens but a mass of passive Consumers, overwhelmed by events too large for individuals or voluntary groups to handle. A view of ourselves that typical Americans had always vehemently rejected, but it was central to the views of Progressive-Era leaders, New Dealers, and establishment leftists.
Not all leftists -- the old Populist farmers, the Civil Rights organizers, and many 60s radicals believed in self-help and self-organizing. But the Progressive leftists, who already dominated all mainstream social institutions, feared and loathed as "false consciousness" anything that made individuals feel self-sufficient, empowered, free, etc. Everything from driving cars instead of relying on public transportation, to civilians owning weapons, to any way of providing for our needs or wants that was not governmental or government-dependent.
So the media started pounding us with one too-big-to-comprehend Crisis after another: Gas shortages. Random terrorism. Inflation. Unpredictable "lone gunman" assassins. Global Cooling. The Population Bomb. Random Urban Violence. Drug Epidemics. (I'm not saying they conspired or fabricated these things; it's about how they began to portray them, which was based on, and/or encouraged, the Progressive view of individuals and "Society".) What could an individual do about anything? Wait for government experts to solve the problem. And tie a yellow ribbon on something -- we only started doing that sort of thing during the 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis, and we're still at it.
Little things that reinforce that view of mankind still bug some of us. Everything from the ribbons being yellow to the obvious connotation of pronouncing the Sept. 11 attacks "Nine-Eleven". Needlessly shortening "terrorism" to "terror" probably has something to do with it too.
9/11 seemed to radically dethrone this paradigm, at least for a while. It began with World Trade Center management telling everyone to stay at their desks until safety officials assessed and determined, etc. It ended with passengers organizing an unarmed assault and making their 737 explode in a field before it could kamikaze the White House. But the herd mentality is strong, the left-wing "hive" endures for generations and knows when to tactically retreat or change the subject temporarily, and they've trained us to want what they're selling.
Oliver has given us a widely-publicized chance to re-evaluate the whole passivity paradigm. I hope we'll take it. After all, from the time of the Battle of Britain through the Berlin Airlift, the news spin about our allies under attack was completely different.
And on the eve of WWI it was even differenter: the English were proud of their resistance and their Reeling, with more than one beer in hand:
Required reading. Canonical.
Related post, from Whig Out Facebook page:
Why does the Daily Show get so much respect when their pre-taped interviews are just as faked (dishonestly edited) as those videos of Planned Parenthood and Democratic voter-turnouters allegedly were? .... the show absolutely represents that the interviews are genuine; the jokes are all made in response to them, necessarily based on that representation of accuracy. ... (See more)
I've heard good arguments for both sides about United bumping the passenger off the flight, IF it was the only flight, on any airline, that could get the pilots to where they needed to be so that whole planeloads of passengers could fly as scheduled. For picking people to bump at random instead of calling for volunteers, and calling police and dragging a guy off, a doctor whose patients would be waiting for him, not so much.
But the CEO's non-apology does something that we allow far too many people in power and authority to get away with: Talking as if they had no choice in what they did to someone, as if their victim was a free agent who could choose differently, but their own response was an automatic consequence, an impersonal force of nature, etc.
I've finally encountered one of those alt-right people -- so they aren't a myth after all. A Facebook commenter talking about "Cucks" and leaving a picture of their Egyptian frog god, Kek AKA Kuk AKA Pepe. I decided to look it up to see what on earth it was all about, and it just left me feeling soiled and stupider than before. It's mostly defined in even more obscure and irrelevant terms, in the language of guys who feel they have no stake in society and just want to spout abuse. Also numerology and "magick". But it kept dimly reminding me of something, and after a few days, I remembered what it is. The Pogo series about the "Kluck Klams" may be the most heartstring-tugging Pogo strips ever. Not because of the unrealistically easy happy ending. Certainly not the stuff about "Go away, you frighten our children", which has long since become a sick, control-freaky liberal cliché, and just makes me mutter, "You wish your children were scared!" What gets to me -- and did even when I first read it back in grade school, when I had hardly any ability to pick up on emotions in other people, or in books -- is the smart, plucky little boy's unquestioning devotion to his horribly misguided, quite likely evil and criminal, father ...
I long ago signed up for the Johnson campaign's Facebook feed and e-mails, and curiously, nearly all of them seemed tin-eared and off-note, to be participating in a barely relevant conversation. Many had a content-free student-government-elections vibe, essentially, "Why not try a third party?" pointlessly saying a two-party system wasn't fair, etc. The ones that attacked Trump and Clinton just repeated the same old accusations people have already heard a million times, and in Hillary's case, the non-ideological "Crooked Hillary" stuff or the left-wing attack on her as an insider. I can't recall ever seeing an attack on her far-left, progressive-elitist IDEOLOGY, including her hostility to the traditional American libertarian ideals shared by many conservatives, moderates, and even many liberals (anyone remember Civil Libertarians?).
Professor and former Federal Election Commissioner Brad Smith discussed this in depth in a brilliant public post on Facebook. My only quibbles with him are:
I think basically the strategy was to try to present themselves as the "moderate, sane alternative," and to appeal to millenials, who are more likely to pull the third party lever. The hope was to peel off a bit from the left, and a bit from the right, and get into the debates with 15%. To do this they heavily emphasized social issues, to the point of abandoning tradition libertarian and Libertarian positions, such as supporting freedom of association, and viewing private anti-discrimination laws as a rare exception to be used only in rare situations. Instead, they aggressively attacked the idea that religious people (or others) should be free not to provide services for same sex marriages, etc.. They devoted considerable effort to courting Clinton and Sanders voters. They also talked quite a bit about foreign policy, a very unwise decision given Johnson's apparent lack of prep there, but they wanted to court anti-war voters.
In my view, the only real hope for a third party is always to become viewed as the alternative to one of the major parties. Otherwise, "don't waste your vote" mentality kicks in (and it is a logical mentality), and third party support always drifts away.
Their smart play, therefore, would have been not to campaign as the moderate alternative to Corrupt Hillary and Crazy Donald, but as the Republican alternative to Trump, much as Evan McMullen has done in his 1 state campaign in Utah. As two former GOP governors, this would have made sense and had some credibility. Further, Republicans who don't like Trump tend to not like him because he is not libertarian enough (this is not true of the neocons, but it is true of the free traders, the pro-immigration voters, and much of the limited government crowd. Liberals dissatisfied with Hillary tend not to like her because she's not statist enough--the Bernie voters. There's really no room to her left on the social issues that Johnson/Weld wanted to emphasize, and on economics, their libertarian views are as much or more a turnoff to the Sanders/Warren left as Hillary's cronyism.
Rather than Weld citing Breyer as a great Supreme Court justice, they should have been on one page that they would support people like Thomas, who is very popular with Republicans and probably the most libertarian justice on the Court. They should have finessed abortion through a federalism argument and aggressively defending the Hyde Amendment and attacking efforts to fund Planned Parenthood (a good libertarian position, defunding most any private group), require employers to provide particular coverages in health plans, or require individuals to perform non-essential services (the traditional libertarian position). Most importantly, they should have pounded on regulation and the growth of government and executive power. The idea would be to become (as McMullen has become in Utah) a credible alternative for conservative voters. As we see with McMullen, his support is not fading in Utah in part because he is seen as an electable alternative to Clinton.
Would such a strategy have worked? Probably not. Always a longshot, right? But I think they played a strategy to maximize their minimum, when this was the election for the LP to try to maximize its maximum.
Or as Matthew Finn put it in a comment:
He misidentified which demographic his campaign should've been targeting. Trump is enormously unpopular with small government conservatives. Thesevoters would've been ripe for picking. Yet Johnson seemed to snub them in favor of running a campaign targeted at youthful millennial voters and, oddly enough, the Sanders sect of the Democratic Party (who are, by nature, ideologically opposite of Johnson). In doing so, he created an image (and remember, perception is truth in politics), of a half-baked, middle aged stoner who is treating running for president with the same amount of seriousness that he would treat running a fantasy football league. That alienated a good portion of his ideal demographic (small government conservatives) who tend to be older and, to an extent, value based voters. In short, rather than painting himself as a sensible conservative alternative to Trump, he painted himself as a wacky caricature and in doing so alienated the voters who could have actually put him in the national discussion.
The most important reason to vote the Libertarian presidential ticket the other candidates' hostility to the First Amendment -- positions that are neither extreme liberalism nor extreme conservatism, as we have usually understood those terms, but are all the more extreme for being totally unplugged from liberal or conservative traditions.
As for everything else, a lot of the imperfections of Hillary and Gary are things we've had before in presidents; obviously she's not the first big-gov't economic lefty, nor the first to tactically hatemonger and demonize her fellow-citizens who disagree with her on that. I don't remember how Wilson, FDR, Truman, Johnson & Nixon did that, but Bill & Obama at least sounded like they still valued all Americans and beckoned the misguided back to the fold, while the media happily did the dirtier work for them. They usually singled out legislators & advocacy group leaders as the evil extremists. HRC, on the other hand, pretty clearly indicates that if you're opposing or obstructing anything, then none of your rights or interests matter, you don't matter, and you should just get swept off the chessboard.
But that's not what disqualifies her: it's the hostility to the First Amendment and her vow to amend it. First there's all the attacks on people's right to morally disapprove of, and choose not to participate in, certain actions that their religion has disapproved of for millennia. That's already been going on in the Obama administration and at every level of government. And the campaign finance reform, extending the notion not just to giving money to officeholders and candidates, but against any political speech against candidates, or even about referenda, if the speech costs money or involves banding together in groups, e.g. Citizens United. Which means any speech that's significant & effective enough to make any difference.
The First Amendment is what makes us America. We'll always have differences about where to draw lines in the gray areas around it, but somehow liberalism has turned around 180 degrees from when I was a proudly liberal Democrat in the 70s and 80s, and wants to cut out the heart of the 1st Amendment as it has always been understood from the founding up through the present: political speech and freedom of conscience.
That puts Clinton and Trump way too far out on the un-American extremes to consider voting for them. Johnson and Weld don't have to be perfect, they just have to be not as dangerous as Clinton or Trump. And they are a lot better on this and a great many other issues and measures, though of course not perfect.
"It’s worth noting ... that the North Carolina town Trump spoke in was named for a man from a slaveholding family,"
Wait -- you better not say anything about this if you're in Washington, DC, Washington State, Washington County, Jacksonville, Madison, Monrovia, Leesburg, Jefferson City, Fairfax County, Carroll County, Henry County, Polk County, Van Buren County, Cobb County, Clay County, Bolivar Heights, Bolivia, Grant Park, Hannibal, Hancock, Houston, or at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology, George Washington University, or George Mason University. Or at Little Caesar's. Or in July or August. Or at the Errol Flynn Marina or Brown University, named for self-confessed slave traders.
But ... those places weren't named for those guys BECAUSE of their slaveowning or slave-trading. Well, neither was Kenansville. What -- you thought they named it for Kenan when he made it into Slaveowner Magazine's annual "Top 40 Slaveowners" feature? Actually, James Kenan was an early leader of Stamp Act protests and the prewar Committees of Safety, a state militia general, sheriff, state senator, and state-constitution convention delegate. He was also a delegate to a 1774 provincial convention that banned the slave trade. In the state's U.S. Constitution ratifying convention, he chaired the crucial "committee of the whole" that studied debated, and put together the final Report on the Constitution, amendments, and on the dicey, crucial question of how to hold out for what became the Bill of Rights without abandoning the Union.
Just goes to show, you can be as right and pure and as good as they come and your opponent may be every depraved varmint in "Would You Like to Swing On a Star" rolled into one, but just shoot one cheap shot from your glass house, and that's all that some people will focus on, completely devaluing and discrediting all your valid arguments, and it'll all come down to this:
I know this column by Jeffrey Varasano is accurate -- even though the web site where Christopher Buckley found it looks sketchy -- because in college I worked closely with the people he's describing and heard their reasoning first-hand.
"Republicans think that the battle with the left is over issues like these:
Pork Barrel Spending
War & Peace
(But)... these are debated WITHIN a constitutional system. This is the game on the surface. The left is playing on a different level. They are not debating policy within the system, they are trying to alter the system itself.
The REAL game is a list of issues about the system itself. This second list shows a much deeper level of understanding of the left and it’s tactics - a reality that many on the center right won’t name or acknowledge. The right mocks the left because they can’t call Islamic Terrorism, Islamic Terrorism, and then we turn around and won’t use the correct words to label leftism. These issues are not what’s debated in the mainstream media, but what leftist activists debate and study among themselves. How many of these terms are elected republicans familiar with? Not just a dictionary definition. If I asked republican officials to explain these terms and what they mean to the left and how this affects their strategy and tactics and how they relate to one another, could these officials do so without further research?
Cultural Marxism, Marcuse & The Frankfurt School
Hegemony (Patriarchy, White Privilege, Cisgender, etc)
Critical Race Theory
Liberation from Oppression
Structural Functionalism - Systems of Oppression
Social Justice - Food Justice, environmental Justice, etc.
Agenda 21 - Sustainability
Hegel & the Dialectic / Dialectic materialism
Long March thru the Institutions
For example, Gay marriage appears to be an issue of Civil rights - an end in and of itself. But actually to the hard left, it's a an issue of Critical Theory and Social Justice. Not an end, but a tactic of attack against the foundations of the Republic.
Few republicans could explain what I just said. They just haven't studied Marxist tactics enough to know. It's filled with jargon, front groups, front issues.
So, no I don't blame Trump for not knowing this. I think dozens of friends of mine on facebook could answer a quiz on the above topics better than EVERY elected republican in congress.
But whereas they all cave to it, Trump instinctively fights back. Not intellectually, but on a gut level that he's on the right side."
– From "DEAR GOP: This Is WHY We Lose – We Don’t UNDERSTAND The Left’s ‘Game’", By Jeffrey Varasano on Clash Daily, via Christopher Buckley
My friend Woody Wood, a textile lobbyist, and I were pondering our presidential choices. When we came to Johnson, he said he said something like, "Well, in a purely, perfectly, libertarian society, . . . "
I can't tell you the rest of what he said, because it started me thinking -- we don't refuse to consider liberal or conservative candidates because of what we imagine pure liberalism, or pure conservatism, might be. Indeed hardly any of us even try to imagine those things, because they're so unlikely they're irrelevant. We vote for parties and candidates to move the ball in our preferred direction, not to go all the way with it. And sometimes our vote is more for the party, or for a particular wing of the party, than for our ideal candidate.
Johnson and Weld are pretty great candidates with a lot of experience in and out of government, but neither of them is libertarian on everything, any more than I am. But that means the Libertarian Party is maturing into a real, functioning, electoral political party, just when the Republican Party seems to have entered its second childhood -- OK, to be frank, it entered it somewhere around the Palin nomination and now with the Trump nomination its aging process has left the cute codger phase and gone into the nasty, belligerent, feces-flinging throes of full-blown senile dementia, the kind where you no longer recognize your friends and relations, and invest all your hope and trust into intimate, intricate imaginary relationships with strangers or people who don't even exist.
Anyhow, back to the serious candidates and parties. Jack Hunter spells out all the ways in which --
By Jack Hunter on rare.us
Best headline I've seen in a long time. Good solid article too, though I've never heard of the source, The Arkansas Project.
I found this by way of ex-State Rep. Dan Greenberg's posting of another Arkansas Project article, about sadly much-needed legislation protecting the right to photograph or video the police interacting with citizens.
One of my all-time favorite political texts, as timely now as when it appeared in 1999, is Paul Greenberg's short column, "The Problem With the Right." And likewise, his "The Problem With the Left."
Many of our current problems arise not so much from being too conservative or insufficiently conservative, or too socially versus economically conservative or vice-versa, as from the bad habits that Greenberg identified, and which Obama provides such a glaring contrast to.
I often feel like the Transcendentalist who lamented of the Whigs and the Jacksonian Democrats, “One party has all the good men, the other has all the good principles.” Our party nominates sneering bullies who value their own power over principles; longtime election losers who believe that it’s “their turn”; and easily corruptible guys with no principles whatsoever; and in 2006 we really started getting punished for it. But that's not all the Greenberg has to say. Read it and weep for your country.
Bruce Kesler, blogging on "Maggie's Farm", makes a great and essential point about strategy -- to pick issues that unite and expand the coalition -- although I'm not sure how well his actual picks of issues will work out.
"The argument devolves into whether the Party should be with libertarians or traditionalists, economic or social conservatives, Hispanics or Southerners, and so forth. In other words, the arguments are for further splitting asunder the Reagan coalition. Insane.
"Instead, the discussion should be on how to not only rebuild the Reagan coalition but how to enlarge it.
"There were five primary slippages in Republican votes during this election. [He lists them, including the Boomers' children, the working middle class, business interests, and "the aspiring poor", to whom McCain offered no vision to aspire to.]
"New leadership ... must be willing to confront entrenched interests, including within the Republican Party who have gone along to get along. Rank and file conservatives, whether libertarian, national security, or social traditionalists can come together and join with these now Democrat-leaning voters by focusing on an issue that negatively affects them all.
These have many good points and the Whitman piece, particularly, calls on us to face some tough mathematical/geopolitical truths about the party's future. However, a long-standing problem with leading GOP moderates is that most of them don't seem to be conservative, or even any different from liberals, on ANYTHING -- at least not on any issue the left and the media really care about and want to play hardball about. Oh, maybe on old-timey conservative issues like crime and national security, but those are issues where the Democrats have said "me too" since around 1990. I think most of my positions are moderate, but the problem is that the liberal establishment can pick any issue and force you to choose between abandoning your position or getting labeled an extremist. Like with the ca. 1995 sudden invention of "economic extremists."
Blueprint for a comeback -- baltimoresun.com.By Chrysovalantis Kefalas.
Free the GOP: The Party Won't Win Back the Middle as Long As It's Hostage to Social Fundamentalists, By Christine Todd Whitman and Robert M. Bostock
Historian and blogger Steve Casburn, writing before the election, gives an overview of the last four major party realignments and eras of dominance. All driven by "widespread visceral fear or disgust; a widely held sense that the party in power has failed beyond redemption." ... "A generation of new voters associates the GOP with recklessness, stupidity and deadly incompetence, and will vote Democratic by a wide margin for the rest of their lives. As soon as that generation begins voting in large enough numbers to outweigh the dying generation shaped by the 1960s, the realignment will happen. Heckuva job, Karl Rove."
The rest, which is great reading, is at Will the cycle be unbroken?