Monday, February 29, 2016

Conservative? Liberal? No. AMERICAN!

I'm not much for labels, and lately have developed an aversion to "conservatives" who, when faced with a power struggle in the GOP, feel called to adhere to a set of ivory tower principles, and damn the election consequences.

And here I thought it was a political party, focused on winning elections! Silly, silly me. Now I know, and I won't make that mistake again.

It has become obvious over the years that Ronald Reagan won those elections based on his charisma and communication skills. He was a once in a lifetime - in a country's lifetime, perhaps - kind of president. Conservatism was just one arrow in his quiver, and the idea that conservatism independent of the charisma and speechifying of a Reagan is powerful enough as a coherent philosophy to motivate voters and deliver presidents to the GOP is, I think, a fantasy. As much as I would *like* it to be true, I prefer facing facts.

Anyway, this excellent short essay by Gerard Van Der Leun at American Digest, Bigger Tents: On Rebranding "CONSERVATIVE" and "REPUBLICAN" with "AMERICAN", does a nice job of reframing the debate, and I agree completely:
What we need to do is a little “rebranding” of our own in order to blunt the brain-dead attacks that keep coming from the attack poodles of the left. Attacks that when examined are all aimed at the label “Conservative” or “Republican.”

"Conservative." "Liberals." These two categories are not the same. Not all “Conservatives” are “Republicans,” and – unfortunately for the life expectancy of the Republican party – not all “Republicans” are “Conservative.”

Let's dump both brands.

I don't know about you, but I do not consider myself either a “Conservative” or a “Republican.” Never have. I consider myself to be one thing and one thing only: I AM AN AMERICAN.

Always have been.

Always will be.

Nothing less.

Couldn't be anything more.

To call me a Conservative is to miss the point.

To call me a Republican is to mistake me by a mile.

To call me an AMERICAN is to know me down to the bone.
Read the whole thing, as they say.

Trump complaints

Rule #1 of criticizing people is stop and think about what you're saying, and see if it applies to others equally. Like, any current politicians, or, you know, sitting presidents.

Because if it does, that means it applies to several people, or even an entire group. And that makes it not very useful as a criticism of an individual.

And please note my Trump disclaimer: I'm not so much a Trump "fan" who blindly worships his every word, as an interested observer who sees blatant hypocrisy all around me, and is willing to listen to Trump's side of any argument because the current political class largely sucks. So the bar is, admittedly, pretty low. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

Let's make a list of some of these complaints.
  1. Not conservative enough, or at all
  2. Authoritarian strongman
  3. Racist xenophobic hater
  4. Rude and disrespectful
  5. Dumb reality show clown
  6. Billionaire who only pretends to care about our problems
  7. Weak and vague on policy details
  8. Cannot win the general election because appeal is limited 
  9. Hates / wants to deport Muslims
  10. Won't disavow endorsements from undesirables 
I will write about some of these topics over the coming weeks. Most of them are a little silly, and several apply to our sitting president. All of them can be applied to any number of politicians today, or are exaggerations of his actual quotes or positions.

For instance, #2. Anybody who voted for Obama but wants to express indignant outrage that electing Trump would be electing an authoritarian strongman, i.e. the "Mussolini" argument, is not paying enough attention to the guy in office right now. And by the way, the supposed Mussolini quote that Trump re-tweeted over the weekend, is not actually a Mussolini quote. It's from WWI. 1918. And it's a damn good quote, even if Mussolini appropriated it later, and if he did that, it doesn't render the quote any less true. What kind of argument is that, anyway? "A bad guy said something timeless and true, so that poisons the meaning forever"? What?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Let the blogging begin, 2016 edition. Or, why social media blows chunks.

Well, I'm back again. You can thank me later.

After starting my first blog in ... 2002 I think (on Blogger/Blogspot, and here I am back again!) ... and putting in a good ten years at various spots, I saw the writing on the wall re: social media taking over. So I took a 3-4 year break and tried social media for a while.

Social media kinda sucks, as it turns out. Maybe you've heard. At least, it sucks for people like me, who enjoy writing and reading the good writing of others. Social media is *too* social; it's like junior high school, or Lord of the Flies, where small-minded social climbers use gang warfare to isolate, belittle, and silence those they disagree with. Good to know. Thanks for clearing that up, Twitter and Facebook users.

I have tried it, and found it wanting. Most social media yahoos are too lazy and partisan to bother reading anything resembling a decent argument against their views, much less argue back against it. I, on the other hand, have spent the last 15 years of my life reading news-oriented blogs that analyze and examine news coverage, from a mostly oppositional viewpoint. And as a result, I have been able to not just understand those who disagree with me, but to develop serious, informed, and usually devastating arguments to refute those viewpoints. It's called intellectual rigor, and few people, I find, are capable of it, and even fewer are informed enough to try it.

Anyway, enough of this bitching. I need something to blog about tomorrow, ya know.