Friday, April 17, 2015

Do We Deserve Hillary?

Soon after she was hired by Scott Walker's presidential campaign, Liz Mair’s tweets about Iowa came back and bit her. She summarily resigned.

Politico described what happened:

Only a day after being announced as an aide to Gov. Scott Walker’s political operation, Liz Mair told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she was resigning. Mair took considerable heat for her frank Twitter criticism of Iowa’s early role in the presidential nomination process.

“The tone of some of my tweets concerning Iowa was at odds with that which Gov. Walker has always encouraged in political discourse,” Mair said in a statement to the AP in which she announced her immediate resignation. “I wish Gov. Walker and his team all the best.”

“Morons across America are astounded to learn that people from *IOWA* grow up rather government-dependent. #agsubsidies #ethanol #brainless,” she tweeted on Jan. 22.

Two days later, she fired another missive against the Hawkeye State’s political status.

“The sooner we remove Iowa’s frontrunning status, the better off American politics and policy will be,” Mair tweeted on Jan. 24.

We conclude that Mair is incisive and insightful.

This morning she has written a column for the The Daily Beast. Her topic: what the Hillary Clinton candidacy tells us about America.

In her words:

Americans want to believe that we’re a nation of risk-takers, pioneers, people willing to cast comfort and safety aside to achieve a dream, tell the truth, and change the world. Some of us still are those things, too. But in reality, a lot of us have become something else in recent years: narcissistic, overly-cautious, superficial, reality-disconnected, and above all, very, very boring.

Another example: we think that we are very hard working and that we respect those who work to achieve. And yet, we voted twice for a president who, on the basis of his work experience, was manifestly unqualified.

Now, many Americans say they will vote for a feminist champion who owes her career to her husband.

Better yet, while feminists express their outrage over “rape culture,” they thrill to the chance of voting for a woman who has enabled her husband’s predatory sexual behavior—including serious accusations of sexual harassment and rape.

Does it mean that they are hypocrites? Yes and No. It means that their outrage is a calculated political gesture designed to manipulate the minds of certain groups of voters.

Camille Paglia said that we have become soft and decadent. That means that we live lives that are long on pleasure and short on risk.

Mair expresses it well:

We have fallen in love with so-called “reality television,” which—surprise!—is often scripted and directed. We freak out about allowing 10-year-olds to play in the park unsupervised. We are obsessed with social media, posting selfies, and racking up followers, friends, and fans.

We frequently reject fully experiencing events and occasions in favor of documenting them, or more accurately documenting ourselves looking hot or cool at or during them. We veer toward what is comfortable and easy, just like Hillary and the Chipotle visit.

The intellectual environment (that is, the marketplace of ideas) has been so thoroughly fouled that candidates (and staff) are disqualified for the least offensive utterance.

In her words:

We avoid expressing any opinions that could be deemed “controversial” because it could impede our quest for popularity and acceptance. When someone ruffles feathers even just a little, our tendency is toward outrage, boycotts (or buy-ins), public humiliation, and pushing for firings.

This means that political campaigns are more about appearance than substance:

We reject substance, preferring to focus on things like the optics of taking a sip of water, or being photographed looking at a smartphone. We wear modern versions of girdles and package-accentuating underwear so we can show off our “best selves.”

This also implies that we are less interested in getting an education than in getting a diploma. We feel entitled to jobs and raises and promotions. If anyone deprives us of what we feel entitled to receive, we will sue. We are not just ready for Hillary. Many of us are already living in Hillaryland.

Mair writes:

Many of us are concerned less with actual learning than just getting a good grade or diploma that we can show off. We think we deserve automatic promotions just for having been around or putting up with some nonsense or other, much as Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters (and perhaps even the candidate herself) seem to think she does. Not for all of us, but for many of us, we are the campaign and the campaign is us.

Not that this will stop the whining.

Mair knows whereof she speaks:

When we have a choice between the more open, straight-talking candidate or the one that does everything through self-managed media so that they can control the message to the maximum conceivable degree, we go for the latter.

When we have a choice between uncomfortable substance and truth on the one hand, and reality or feel-good talking points and make-believe on the other, we reject the former.

When we have a choice between airbrushed images in magazines or seeing the way people actually look, we want the Photoshop.

When we have a choice between meeting people in real life, with all the potential awkwardness that might entail, or just sitting around texting and Facebook messaging, more and more, we seem to go for the “virtual.” We don’t want the sacrifices or pain entailed to really achieve; we prefer the comfort of telling ourselves that we are excelling, even when any objective analysis would show that is at best a half-truth. We don’t actually want reality, whether in our entertainment, our jobs, our education, our lives, or our politics. We just want something that kind of looks like it.

From a slightly different angle, did you believe that the financial crisis of 2007-08 came about because America is a racist country? Did you believe that it could be solved by a grandiose act of expiating our sins by electing the first African-American president?

If America did not believe this, why did it vote for Barack Obama?

As for Hillary, Mair summarizes:

Hillary Clinton may appear past her political prime: a constructed, fake and self-obsessed persona; a boring, risk-averse, default option for a party out of touch with many of its would-be constituents and lacking in creativity and ambition.

But given the way many Americans lead our lives now, she may also be exactly what we deserve.

Hillary Clinton’s career is about what you can get away with. She does not, as many have pointed out, follow the rules. Apparently, people admire her for getting away with lying and cheating.

By Mair’s reasoning, this suggests that more than a few Americans see life, not in terms of what they can achieve, not in terms of the good example they set for others, not in terms of decency, decorum and dignity… but in terms of what they can get away with.

It’s a sign of an entitled, hyper-regulated political culture.


Jim Sweeney said...

And, of course, she's right. It's the entitlement issue which is the root of much of our malaise. People unentitled to free stuff work for it. I literally started work at 11 as a bicycle-riding delivery boy for a local vegetable store in The Bronx. Remember those big-basket bikes? Drove all over the neighboorhood, unsupervised, carried cash for change and more. Switched to a butcher shop and did the same thing until, at 14, I got a Summer job in the local cemetery earning $55 a week - more than my post office working Dad. I paid "rent" and food money to my folks. Can you imagine that today in terms of freedom alone? And I'm still working, full-time, 73 years after starting my first job. We were all like that then. And right there in New York City.

We were a better citizenry then and a better country because of it.

Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ares Olympus said...

"Deserve" is really an excellent word to focus attension. And it is two-sided, like karma, you work hard and you deserve success, and you act like an entitled child, and you deserve failure. Life is simple when you know who deserves what.

I confess I'm fully lost to know what sort of president we "deserve". If I think we're a country of entitled children, they obviously we deserve failure, and so a compentent president would spoil our just punishment.

Jim Sweeney talks about riding a bike for his job at age 11. I got my first paper route at age 12, and earned money for my first 10-speed bike, and my telescope I still use, and my first computer. Life is good when you're young and have 100% disposable income.

I tend towards the Jimmy Carter defensive moralism of turning down the thermostat and putting on a sweater, and I'm still riding a bike for the majority of my travel, although I'm not 84, we'll see how long my health lasts me with that daily exercise promise from a couple days ago, I deserve a long life, right?

Elizabeth Warren gave a good speech in June 2007 about the "Collapse of the middle class"

Of course if you're on the right, her arguments are wrong. Its not that the system is stacked against people, its because people are lazy. You have to believe that, especially if you find yourself on the upside of the current system, knowing you worked hard and got what you deserved, so that must be true for everyone.

So I do tend to think America is a land of the spoiled, but it was hard not to, since we "inherited" a land of such wealth. We produced oil for the world up through 1970, and we've always been the top consumer of oil, so naturally eventually we needed all of it for ourselves, and more, which is why the 1970's were so messy, and why even Dovey President Carter was willing to use military force against OPEC cutting oil production when we needed more.

So what do we deserve? If we're a country than took 50 million years of oil and burned it in 100 years, what do our descendents deserve when we can't keep burning more and more?

Is there any evidence we can survive, if the global economy as we know it survive without oil for transportation? What do we deserve if we build a civilization on a one-time inheritance we can burn up in a lifetime?

I wish I had answer to what a president should say, but you know someone running for office can't tell the whole truth, the parts that talk about limits primarily.

Imagine a family of 10 kids where the kids got to vote every year which parent, the mama or the papa would be president? How would that turn out?

If the mama and papa were mature adults, it would turn out well, and the parents would conspire in secret, and agree what the "unspeakable" issues are that the children won't be ready for, and when those issues arise, they can offer a mature united view, and not let the kids manipulate them into 3 desserts every night.

But if one parent is a little insecure, a little immature and gives one small token issue to gain affection, perhaps that slippery slope enables the other parent to do the same thing, and pander some other token issue of no real consequence. And eventually the parents start feeling they are in competition for scarce love, and stop talking in private aboud issues that require unity of mature adults.

So a family apparently can't be a democracy, but if you're 18, you have equal rights to vote for whomever promises you the biggest lollipops, or the best propaganda, and once you're bought, then you take the side of your favored parent, and you're sure the other parent must be evil, and must be stopped at any cost.

So partisanship means if nothing else, that we all get what we deserve, no matter what your leanings or refusal to lean, we're all responsible regardless.

Ares Olympus said...

re: It’s a sign of an entitled, hyper-regulated political culture.

Minnesota's Eric Black wrote about a speech given this week by Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein.

Maybe its worth reading since it mentions the Clintons in a negative light? But he also singles out Fox news, so we'd better not trust his opinions.
On stage in Minneapolis Thursday night at the great Westminster Town Hall Forum, Bernstein introduced the phrase “the best obtainable version of the truth” (hereafter TBOVOTT) early in the talk and then circled back to it again and again as the summary of what journalism should but too often does not produce and what the public should but does not want.

“People are not looking for the best obtainable version of the truth,” he said, because much of the audience for news and information cares less about reading or hearing TBVOTT than on having its ideological biases confirmed. And “journalism is not committed to the presentation of the best obtainable version of the truth.”

As a result, “we can’t have a fact-based debate in this country,” he said. We have lost “the ability of each side to accept the sincerity and good will of the other. “ As a result, “Congress is totally dysfunctional” and there is “no good will” across partisan or ideological lines, and little ability to compromise for the greater good. Forty years of “scorched earth politics” and “culture war,” Bernstein said, “has depleted us.” As a result, he said, “I’m not optimistic about what is going on in the politics of this country.”
Bernstein did single out Fox News as the leading factor that led the nation’s news consumers astray. He acknowledged that there are leftier versions of biased journalism, but Fox was the pioneer and Fox is “the most potent political force” to come onto the scene over the past 30 years even though, he added, Fox often reports information that is “demonstrably untrue.”
Bernstein mentioned just two ideas for making things better. He would favor a constitutional amendment that would overrule the Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court and impose limits on campaign spending, and he would favor the creation of a “compulsory program of national service for all young people.”

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen a word about Sadistic Reality Shows. I watched one episode of "Survivor" years ago. My gorge rose in disgust and horror.

Now there are many such, and they're Worse. You're Fired? Women naked in the jungle? Insects poured on people in coffins? I know there's more, but I avoid the ads.

I'm not dogmatic. But I'm pretty sure it's a sign of a "sick society". -- RichLara

sestamibi said...

Can anyone say that this is not the result of the ascendancy of women to positions of power in politics, academia, and corporate America?

Dennis said...

A gathering of Hillary supporters:

David Foster said...

Liz Mair: "We wear modern versions of girdles and package-accentuating underwear so we can show off our “best selves.”

A focus on opposed to people in what country in what time period? Surely she knows about corset-wearing in the Victorian era, Chinese foot-binding, etc. Men, also, have in many place/times engaged in peacocking that equals or exceeds that of the modern metrosexual.

There is much truth in what Mair says, but she goes overboard in her broad-spectrum denunciation of the American populace. Generally, I find, it is *leftists* who sneer about "Americans do X" or "Americans do Y," when X and Y are really pretty common forms of human behavior across time, space, and culture.

Sam L. said...

We do not deserve a dominatrix who believes we deserve her.