Holding Steady in Changing Winds

The state of Mississippi has removed a confederate symbol from its flag, the state of Oklahoma has voted to expand Medicaid coverage, Kansans are mostly willing to go along with mandatory face masks, and the latest polling also shows that such reliably Republican states as Georgia and North Carolina and Texas are up for grabs in the next presidential election. This should be frightening to President Donald Trump, but he’s still stubbornly defending the confederacy, trying to undo “Obamacare” and leave millions uninsured during a pandemic, and refusing to be seen in a face mask.
Trump has an undying faith in his gut instincts about public opinion, which made him a reality television star and somehow got him elected to the presidency despite losing the popular vote by some three million ballots, but his reelection strategy strikes us as counter-intuitive.
If the great state of Mississippi — or “Mississippi Goddamn,” as the great jazz singer Nina Simone called it — is abandoning the confederal cause, and so is the NASCAR stock car racing circuit and the Navy and Marines, we think that at long last the confederacy truly is a lost cause. There seems to be an emerging social consensus that black lives matter, and despite the sporadic violence that’s come of it Trump’s 1968-era “law and order” message isn’t playing well in 2020..
We had our clearly stated ideological objections to “Obamacare” when it barely won congressional approval and was signed into law, and to such big government programs in general, but at the moment even Oklahomans are wanting to expand health insurance to their fellow citizens. Trump promised to not only repeal “Obamacare” but replace it with something that would cover everybody at a greatly reduced cost, but he hasn’t announced it after three and a half years in office, and once again he seems out of step with these crazy times.
We hate wearing face masks as much as the next guy, and will miss the erotic frisson of full facial nudity, but the know-it-all experts say it will help us from getting infected and infecting others, so we’re willing to put up with it for a while. Even here in Kansas most of our fellow live-free-or-die citizens seem to agree, and we think there’s a chance the Democrats might pick up their firste Senate seat since the Great Depression. Trump moved the Republican convention from North Carolina to Florida because of face mask and social distancing rules, but Florida’s seen a very scary spike in coronavirus cases and now has similar rules, and Trump once again seems behind the news cycle.
Trump is still promising that the coronavirus will magically disappear, the economy will once again roar, and that America’s race problems can be “very quickly and easily solved,” but he only has four months to pull that off. Trump’s gut instincts not withstanding, it seems a risky strategy for reelection

— Bud Norman

Trump and the Changing Times

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Donald Trump’s attempts to dismantle President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects an estimated 650,000 “dreamers” who were illegally brought in the country as children from deportation, is itself illegal. If it had happened a few months earlier, we suspect, it would have been a bigger story.
Trump’s promise to rid the country of illegal immigrants by any means necessary helped him win his upset victory in the 2016 election, and had hoped it would help him win reelection, but the issue has lately faded from the news cycle. What with the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic catastrophe and all the protests and occasional riots about racism and police brutality, some 650,000 people who can’t be blamed for being here and have proved that they’re going to school or working at jobs and in many cases helping hospitals cope with the coronavirus don’t seem so scary.
Public opinion polling shows that most Americans — and even most Republicans — are sympathetic to the “dreamers” and not eager to deport them to countries they can’t remember and where they don’t speak the language, so Trump should be glad that the Supreme Court spared him all the heartbreaking stories that would have run in the media about mass deportations of well-scrubbed college kids and military veterans and emergency room workers. The big, beautiful border wall that Trump promised Mexico will pay for has a few hundred miles than American taxpayers have payed for, and drug gangs are sawing holes in it, and when was the last time you saw a story about that?
Instead, after losing a decision a day earlier that ruled it is illegal for employers to fire homosexual and transexual workers because of their homosexuality or transgenderism, Trump “tweeted” out “Do you get the impression the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?” and warned that if he doesn’t get another four years to appoint more justices the Second Amendment would also be threatened by a court of liberals and squishy moderates. That should rile up some of the faithful, but he’d be well advised not to press the “dreamers” issue, as it won’t win him any of the votes he lost time around.
In the wake of the biggest public health crisis since 1918 and the worst economy since the Great Depression and the most unrest in the streets since 1968, several of Trump’s favorite issues seem to have lost their salience. A couple of years ago Trump did well cussing about National Football League players who kneeled during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality, but after a couple of months of endlessly replayed videos showing blatantly racist police brutality the NFL has apologized for banning the protest and the protesters are polling better than Trump. For now, he’s losing the culture wars.
The president continues to defend honorifics to the Confederacy, even as the Marines and the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and even the good ol’ boys at the NASCAR stock racing circuit are banning displays of the Confederate battle flag. His tough-guy “law and order” rhetoric seems to be backfiring as well, with even some skittish Republican politicians criticizing him for using flash grenades and pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse a mostly peaceful protest in Lafayette Square to post for a photo with a Bible in his hand at a nearby church. Most people have become accustomed to having gay and lesbian co-workers, and only a very few know anybody transgendered, too, and most people currently have more pressing problems to worry about, so advocating for mass firings won’t win Trump many new votes.
Although he lost the popular vote by some three million ballots Trump was able to eke out an electoral college victory with an undeniably ingenious ability to discern the cultural climate, but it seems to be failing him this time around. He can order some rather half-hearted police reforms while praising most police officers, and decry racism while promising he can “quickly and easily” end it, but after so many years he’s ill-suited to the role of racial healer. It’s also a bit late for the boastfully pussy-grabbing politician to win back many of the suburban white women who have been abandoning the Republican party in droves, or convince any homosexuals that he’s a “friend of the family,” or win any non-white voters.
At this point Trump needs to make the coronavirus “magically disappear” as long promised, followed quickly by a V-shaped economy recovery like no one’s ever seen before, and hope that everyone’s so happy about it on Election Day they forget his past enthusiasm for Confederate-style racism and police “not being too nice” when arresting suspects. That’s going to be difficult to achieve in the next five months, though, and at the moment Trump is not even trying to pull it off. Instead he’s defying the wishes of local politicians and health officials by holding a crowded indoor rally in Oklahoma despite the past week’s doubling of coronavirus cases in the state, boasting that by moving the date one later he made the “Juneteenth” celebration of black slaves being belatedly emancipated more famous, and doing little about the economy other than signing off on unprecedented deficit spending.
There are a couple of well-regarded polls that correctly predicted the popular vote in the last which now show Trump losing to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 14 points, and the Fox News poll is similarly bleak, and even the Trump-friendly Rasmussen poll has him losing by 11 points. Trump’s instinct is to play to his diminishing base, but in these strange times he’ll likely need a lot more than that.

— Bud Norman

A Truly Lost Cause

One hundred and fifty-five years at Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses Grant at the courthouse in Appomattox, Virginia, the Confederacy is continuing to suffer defeats. Monuments to Confederate soldiers are being removed from public spaces, sometimes at the order of local officials and sometimes because of angry mobs tearing them down, and the Marines and the Navy and even the NASCAR racing circuit have recently banned the display of the Confederate battle flag.
The top military brass also want to change the names off 11 military installations that are for some reason named after Confederate soldiers, but President Donald Trump has declared he won’t even consider it. Trump has also oppose the removal of Confederate statues and monuments, and for a guy who grew up in New York City seems to have a certain affection for the Confederacy.
Perhaps it’s for political reasons, but if so we think it’s a miscalculation. The Confederacy sympathizers among Trump”s voters wouldn’t mind if he declared all the monument controversy a state and local issue he needn’t take sides in, and his stands on behalf of the “Lost Cause” are unlikely to win him any new voters. Most Americans have a very negative opinion of the Confederacy, are glad that it lost the Civil War, and don’t see why men who fought a war against the United States to preserve slavery are being honored.
Perhaps Trump’s defense of the Confederacy is for personal reasons, but we’d hate to think that.

— Bud Norman

How to Hate the Rich

We’ve decided to get with the times and start hating rich people. All the cool kids are doing it, so our previous attitude that thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house suddenly seems terribly old-fashioned.
Being au courant on the class envy craze is proving more difficult than anticipated, however, because it isn’t quite clear who the rich people are and which ones we are supposed to hate. The recent “fiscal cliff” agreement only raises the income tax rate for people earning more than $400,000 a year, for instance, but perhaps we should still be hating anyone raking in more than the $250,000 a year that the president has always set as a threshold for hatred. There are probably a lot of people out there making between $250,000 and $400,00 a year, so it would save us a lot of energy if we were to forgo hating them, but one can never be too careful when striving to be trendy.
That “fiscal cliff” agreement also contains several reminders that some rich people are to be hated more than others. Buried in the bill are numerous tax breaks for certain essential industries, such as stock car racing and Puerto Rican rum, but apparently the people enriched by such frivolous pursuits as energy, aviation, and agriculture are still to be punitively taxed. The motion picture industry is also exempted from any punitive taxation, of course, and as always the people who become rich by being pretty and able to convincingly pretend to be someone else are to be adored rather than hated. Perhaps this is because movie stars are exceptionally fine people who take time out from their busy schedules of making blood-splattered shoot-‘em-ups to demand that guns be taken from law-abiding citizens.
Such blatant hypocrisy always seems to confer an immunity from class hatred, somehow, although we’re still trying to discern all the subtleties. We see that Al Gore just picked up yet another $100 million by selling his stock in something called Current TV to the al-Jazeera network , making sure he got the sale done ahead of any tax hikes, but we expect that he’ll retain his membership in the un-hated rich. One hundred million bucks is a lot of money by anybody’s definition, and it’s coming from a network owned by dirty-oil-rich Qatar, which intends to use the little-seen network’s cable access to spread its pro-terrorism editorial policy, but so long as Gore flies on private jets from his opulent and energy-consuming mansion to spread the warning about global warming he will likely remain one of the officially designated good guys.
Gore was once a Democratic presidential nominee, too, and that also seems to mitigate the evil of wealth. The John Kerry-John Edwards ticket was by far the richest in the history of presidential politics, but we can’t recall anyone raising any of the moral objections so many people had to Mitt Romney’s much smaller fortune. Maybe that’s because marrying into money or ambulance-chasing malpractice suits that drive up the cost of medical care are more honorable occupations than rescuing companies and their workers from bankruptcy, which will surely screw somebody over at some point, but we suspect it has more to do with party affiliation. To say that our current Democratic president lives like a king would understate the matter by many millions of dollars, judging by the difference in the American taxpayers’ cost of supporting their First Family and what the British spend on the royals, but so long as he’s willing to repay a small portion of it on tax day he’ll always be regarded as a righteous class warrior.
Lacking any information about a particular rich person’s voting registration, political ideology seems to be the most reliable indicator of how much we are supposed to hate them. Warren Buffett has become extremely wealthy by providing tax shelters for his fellow rich people, but he urges further tax hikes on the rich and thus his wealth can be forgiven. The Koch brothers have become extremely wealthy by providing the public with affordable refined gasoline, and then worsened the offense by using some of the money to promote free market capitalism, so of course they are to be hated with a special passion. “Pinch” Sulzberger has made his family less wealthy by turning its New York Times into an unreliable purveyor of left-wing propaganda, so we suppose he’s some sort of saint, but we can’t say for sure.
We’ll eventually figure out all the vexing rules of class envy, and then we’ll begin hating in earnest. It sounds like great fun, and if things keep going as they have been the past four years it might be the only entertainment we can afford.

— Bud Norman

The Lowdown On Low Info Voters

The most popular political cliché of the past election was “low information voter.” This newly identified category seems to have replaced “Soccer moms,” “NASCAR dads,” and “angry white men” as the hot bloc that every campaign simply must have.
Despite our usual aversion to neologisms we rather like this coinage, certainly more than any of its recent predecessors. We’ve never met anyone who could be adequately defined as a “Soccer mom” or “NASCAR dad,” and the many angry white men we’ve known are no angrier than the angry people of other races and sexes, but we’ve encountered so many low information voters over the years that it seems necessary they should have a name. “Low information voter” has a drearily sociological ring to it, and we would have preferred something more acerbic, but it will do.
The term is neatly self-explanatory, at least, describing someone who persists in exercising his franchise despite having little knowledge of the issues or candidates that he’s voting about. No one knows precisely how much of the electorate matches this description, but everyone agrees that it’s a sizeable share. There are enough of them, we’re sure, to determine the outcome of an election.
For many years it was the consensus of liberal opinion that the more ignorant voters were inclined to vote for Republican candidates, and such snobbery still stubbornly persists in some quarters The would-be wags at the Urban Dictionary site, for instance, define a low information voters as “One who votes based on information gleaned from other low information voters, rumors, viral emails, and FOX ‘News,’” and cites as an example someone who “will vote against labor unions” despite the unalloyed wonders wrought by the labor movement. Since the past election, however, even such impeccably liberal publications as The Hill were forced to admit that the Democrats are now winning the lion’s share of the low information voters.
Some Democratic partisans even point with pride to the Obama campaign’s careful courtship of the low information vote, a strategy that included the president’s penchant for appearing mainly on such entertainment shows as The View, Late Night with David Letterman, The Daily Show, and, as we never tire of mentioning, The Pimp With a Limp’s radio program. We stand by our frequent criticism that such appearances demean the dignity of the president and his office, but are now forced to concede that it is apparently shrewd politics.
Even without the president’s participation, though, the mass entertainment media that low information voters flock to provide a constant flow of propaganda that is helpful to the Democrats. Businessmen are almost invariably depicted as villains, religious people are routinely ridiculed, class resentments are encouraged, and everywhere a notion of “cool” explicitly associated with liberalism is celebrated. Most of the news media are just as bad, hyping every Republican misstep to a point that even the most determinedly uninformed voters will hear of it while avoiding any mention of the numerous Democratic scandals that would be front-page material if they had happened during an earlier administration. Those few outlets that do report information critical of Obama are easily ignored, and wind up with the word news put in sneering quote marks.
We’ve spoken with numerous Obama supporters who were blissfully unaware of the Fast and Furious fiasco or the Solyndra debacle, to mention just two of the embarrassing stories that somehow haven’t dogged the administration, and these people include regular readers of The New York Times and other supposedly respectable publications. More apolitical acquaintances of ours don’t know that the federal government has been borrowing a trillion dollars every nine months for the past four years, and when informed of the fact they don’t seem to understand that a trillion dollars is a significant amount of money. They feel entitled to revel in their intellectual superiority to Sarah Palin, though, and know all about the Republicans’ racist and sexist ways even if they can’t cite any examples of these character flaws.
Wooing these voters will be difficult for the Republicans. The Democrats’ tax-the-rich philosophy has a natural appeal to voters who have come through the egalitarian indoctrination of the public schools, for instance, and refuting it requires facts about the exceptionally progressive nature of the current tax system and talk of Laffer Curves and capital flight that seem to have a painful effect on the brain of a typical low information voter. Almost all of the arguments for conservatism are complex and often counter-intuitive, and none have the low-brow entertainment value of the President of the United States slow-jamming the news on the Jimmy Fallon show. The Democrats’ argument that they will give free stuff and the stingy Republicans won’t is quite simply understood, on the other hand, and the counter-argument involves less immediate consequences that the low information voter is content to wait for so long as the goodies keep coming.
So far the best advice the consultants can offer is that conservatives start schmoozing on the talk shows more often, and being as hip as possible when doing so, and that’s probably a good start so long as they don’t embarrass themselves in the process. A more effective solution will require changing the culture, though, and that’s going to be a lot more difficult than just enduring the company of the late night comedians who provide the low information to all those voters.

— Bud Norman