Saturday, August 1, 2015

An Unruly Mob vs. a Regimented Army

Some of this you have heard about this before. In fact, you have heard some of it here.

In one previous post I noted that the Republican Party had so many vanity candidates for president that it risked becoming the vanity party. I was right about that, even though I did not foresee the ascent of the ultimate vanity candidate: Donald Trump.

A month later I took a cue from Peggy Noonan and contrasted the Democratic nominating process with its Republican counterpart. Republicans seem to believe that being the party of freedom means making the nominating process into a free-for-all. It did not seem like the best way to go about doing things then. It still does not.

Being the vanity party makes it look like you do not respect the office of the presidency. Making your nominating process into a free-for-all suggests that your candidates do not have sufficient gravitas to govern. Do both and you damage your brand.

With that preamble, I turn to a column Michael Barone wrote yesterday for National Review. (Via Maggie's Farm)

In it he said:

Republican voters have been seething with discontent toward their party’s officeholders and have not become enchanted with any one of 15 more or less conventional politicians who are running. Democratic voters support their officeholders with lockstep loyalty and seem untroubled by the serious flaws of their party’s clear frontrunner.

He continues:

… while virtually no Democrats express negative feelings about their party, many Republicans do. 

One might say that Republicans are free thinkers while Democrats have been turned into human automatons, uncritically toeing the party line.

Strangely enough, for her many flaws, Hillary Clinton continues to receive overwhelming support from core Democratic constituencies. (Think about Mitt Romney on the 47%). This means that she only needs to peel off a few Republicans and Independents to win the election.

Hillary Clinton is in more trouble than Obama with Independents and Republicans, but continues to receive high approval ratings from every Democratic Party core constituency — blacks, gentry liberals, and Hispanics. Even the Birkenstock Belt folks (dovish, environment-conscious, concentrated in university towns and rural ecotopias), who are boosting Bernie Sanders’ numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire polls, still give Clinton overwhelmingly favorable ratings.

Barone understands that a significant segment of the Republican electorate is flocking to Donald Trump because Trump has been calling out the media for its flagrant hypocrisy:

Donald Trump’s incendiary statements on immigration appealed to voters tired of being told that Arizona’s attempt to enforce federal immigration laws was bad and San Francisco’s attempt to block these laws (with “sanctuary cities”) was good.

And yet, diehard conservatives are supporting a candidate who has never really been a conservative. They are trashing Gov. John Kasich for allowing Medicaid expansion in Ohio, but are giving Trump a pass on his liberal past. Keep in mind, Kasich has a great resume and will almost assuredly deliver Ohio in the presidential election. 

Barone writes:

So conservative pundits eager to sniff out any departure from conservative principle by conventional candidates are championing a candidate who has been anything but a consistent conservative over the years and is a prime example of crony capitalism. He got his start in Manhattan real estate with help from state and city governments after he and his family made the second largest contributions (after the candidate’s brother) to Hugh Carey’s underdog 1974 Democratic primary campaign for governor. 

Surely, conservative pundits and talk show hosts have never ceased to criticize Barack Obama. And yet, their habit of critical thinking seems now to have gotten a life of its own. It is now being used against other Republicans.

Talk radio, conservative websites, and Fox News bristle with criticism of Republican officeholders and complaints about their squishiness. That helps sustain a critical frame of mind and a sense, particularly outside metropolitan centers, that ordinary people’s concerns are being ignored by a manipulative establishment.

No one, certainly not yours truly, is surprised to see that Democrats, especially left-leaning intellectuals are addicted to group think. If I may, many years ago I wrote that: New York is a city full of free thinkers, all of whom think exactly the same thing:

In contrast, Democrats, who fancy themselves as critical thinkers, are comfortable consumers of “mainstream” media in which their “smelly little orthodoxies” (George Orwell’s term) are rarely challenged.

Of course, this also suggests that Democrats are especially thin-skinned ideologues, incapable of engaging in sustained and substantive debates. It means that Republicans are more comfortable in the marketplace of ideas, which is surely a good thing.

The problem is: it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Clear thinking can degenerate into mindless attacks on those who deviate from the current orthodoxy.

In the case of Mr. Trump, one understands-- one wrote about it yesterday-- that the psychological need to balance the weakness of Obama with a candidate who is brutally tough must be balanced with the need to find a candidate who really is tough, who has shown it in the trenches of governance… and, of course, who can win. All signs today suggest that Trump cannot fulfill the latter, essential function of a candidate.

From Barone’s perspective Democrats are positioning themselves to win an election. Republicans, not so much.

And yet, it is ironic that the party that offers the most serious support for the military is not manifesting the kind of discipline and self-control that characterizes victorious armies. And it is even more ironic that it is flocking to a candidate who never served in the military and who trashed the “war hero” status of John McCain.

Surely, Barone has a point when he says that the Republicans look like an unruly mob while the Democrats--the anti-war party--looks like a regimented army. For all I know the qualities the Democrats present in their nominating process makes them look stronger and tougher than they are. An unruly mob can cause a lot of damage, but it is not going to win any wars.


Katielee4211 said...

I would tend to agree. The freedom and diversity of Republicans, Independents & Conservatives (really I wonder how many even consider themselves Republican anymore) is its own downfall. I've said every election we'll never agree on everything, but we need to provider a united front and stand firm.Swallow the bitter, embrace the suck - whatever.
However, the Republican leadership isn't doing anything people want to rally for& unfortunately Trump is filling the void. Like him or not, he's providing a toughness and a stand on issue's that matter. Issue's the Republican Party is either doing nothing on, or caving on. They'd do well to smarten up - or Trump up although sadly after the betrayal's following the 2014 elections, who would believe them?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"A month later I took a cue from Peggy Noonan and contrasted the Democratic nominating process with its Republican counterpart. Republicans seem to believe that being the party of freedom means making the nominating process into a free-for-all. It did not seem like the best way to go about doing things then. It still does not."

This analysis seems to overlook the fact that the Republicans do not have an "inevitable" candidate. The Democrats had an "inevitable" candidate in 2008 -- who did not get the nomination -- and another today in 2016. Hillary Clinton is not going to get the Democratic nomination. The empress has no clothes. Her "inevitability" is a charade encased in deceit, groupthink and money. Democratic primary voters are as disenchanted with her this time around as it turns out they were the last time around with Obama. She has HUGE negatives with independent voters.

Contrast that with the Republicans. The Republican Party has no clear leader -- no one who speaks for the party, much less someone who is "inevitable." The number of candidates may indicate some vanity, but a number of candidates like Graham, Santorum, et al are staking out positions more than pursuing a viable candidacy. That's what primaries are like. Some people know they'll never win (Gingrich in the last cycle), but they want to shape the debate, agenda and platform in specific ways. Santorum is clearly the best example of this. Fiorina is likely staking a claim for a key cabinet position, or even a VP nod. How about Carson as head of HHS? Cruz as Attorney General? Kasich at OMB? Rubio as Secretary of State? Bush strikes me as the only likely guy who will pick up his football and go home if he doesn't get the nomination. There are all kinds of roles for people, all kinds of possibilities. Not that they will happen, but mere plausible explanations.

What the Democrats have exposed is that they have no bench depth whatsoever. Hillary is a disaster of a candidate, with enough baggage to fill the Titanic... and probably headed for the same result. Sanders is a gadfly. O'Malley will tax us into oblivion. Chafee doesn't know who he is, and wants to finally gift us our greatest national priority: the metric system. This is what they've got. They've lost so many state legislatures and governorships. You can carbon date their Senators and key Congressional leaders. The press goes to Pelosi and Schumer for comments. It's a mess. And now Hillary is "inevitable." Ha! You've got to be kidding... she's all they've got. And she's vulnerable. She got beat by a first-term Senator from Illinois last time around. It can happen again. I'm not sure people remember the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, but the Democrats had 8 candidates! I'll post the link in a separate comment.

The Republicans are playing in a vacuum, and have been since the general election catastrophe in 2008. I still believe that the Republican gains in 2010 and 2014 were voted against Obama more than they were votes for the Reoublican agenda. There's no clear leader, and the party needs a clear communicator with a vision. That's why there are a lot of candidates. And they're green... they need a solid primary run to get in shape and hone their stump and debate skills. And when we have this insane front loading strategy to get a nominee with enough time to solidify everything before the convention, this is the logical result. It will all pan out. We will all survive Trump and live to see the beautiful blue light of his implosion.

It's early. I am optimistic.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

2008 Iowa Caucuses results:

Stuart Schneiderman said...

What bothers me here is that a majority of the current crop of Republican candidates have no real business running for president. Obviously, this requires a certain amount of self-discipline and humility... but these are not on prominent display in the field.

priss rules said...

More like inanity than vanity.

They are all 'cuckservatives'.

Malcolm said...

Ted Cruz/Carly Fiorina

Anonymous said...

So many problems & crises in all areas. Economy. Immigration. Jobs. Foreign policy. Jihadism. Govt. incompetence, corruption, & fecklessness (I say that as a proud vet & Civil Servant of 38 years).

Loss of confidence in our Elites. Racial polarization. Crumbling infrastructure. Wall Street cupidity. On & on. Whew.

In WSJ I read a review of book that posits we're on the verge of a 3d American Revolution. 1. War of Independence & establishment of a new govt. 2. Civil War. 3. See above.

I hope I'm not a hysterical alarmist. But, as Lincoln said, "As the times are new, we must act anew." -- Rich Lara

Ares Olympus said...

It is curious as we could go back 10-20 years and this is the same sort of thing that democrats were saying about republicans, that they were disciplined, carefully crafting their image and focus group language (Frank Luntz "Death taxes") with their kingmakers and all.

What was it, the 4 G's - "God, Guns, Gays & Gynecology", or maybe that was the mocked version of the toed-line, but it was real - school prayer, second amendment, and family values, and protect those unborn. And the faithful really believed it would turn around our country by this careful agenda.

But I wonder if the best way to explain our miserable presidential process is due to the fact that it is an miserable process, and no self-respecting man or woman would ever willingly agree to the process. Candidates want to be recruited like sports stars, not pandering to self-interested voters and irrational slogans that sound just good enough to stop people from thinking

Or we could claim hardship and difficulty builds character or something, that there is a real psychological testing to the process, and passionate people may arise early in the process, but they expose their inability to take unfair criticism, or know how to pick the right fights, while more cool and collected figures can sort of sit back and let the fools expose themselves without much work.

So by that logic, this clownshow going on now is not designed to pick the strongest candidates, but to make everyone so miserable that when someone quietly waits his turn to speak and can provide a calm and reasoned position, people will be amazed, while if we didn't have the clown show, it would just be boring, like proper politics ought to be.

So perhaps grandfatherish Biden will jump into the ring in November, after properly mourning for his son, and have lost nothing and the gravity of moratality on his side for a country that needs more soberness.

And Scott Walker can bid his time as well, merely show himself as a competent speaker when called upon, and wait for the big mouths to fall from favor.

I wonder as well if the unsettled republicans is largely due to only having ONE majority presidential winner in 30 years. (2012 Romney 47.2%, 2008 McCain 45.7%, 2004 Bush 50.7%, 2000 Bush 47.9%, 1996 Dole 40.7%, 1992 Bush 37.5%, 1988 Bush 53.4%)

No wonder why Republican want to Saint Ronald Reagan's 1984 victory 58.8% for beating my home state of Minnesota Walter Mondale, 40.6%, a loser for daring to say we need to raise taxes. (I figure that's where the Democrats decided truthtelling in politics was a no-no)

But strangely it was Reagan's Morning in America that helped encourage our dependence upon debt fund everything, and let the next generation pay for it. And everyone was happy, or at least when they were in power. Deficit control is only a matter for the minority party to complain about.

But now the Republican party is the part of the old white males, and they may keep voting, but they are also dying, and they've left a world of government debt, and only blame the other side for too much social spending. Its just not an attractive position to 20-somethings on their parents health insurance. Free stuff sounds pretty good, and the Democrats got all the candy.

The only problem is the republican keep shutting the candy purse, hoping the young people will become so angry that they stop voting all together.

So the republicans can only win a presidential election if the vast majority of youth are too disgusted to vote at all.

And so back to the 17 clown show, perhaps its all making sense now? Is Hillary really going to sell enough "Hope" that they'll come out to vote?

And so it looks like we're stuck with a permanent Democrat president, and Republican house, and gridlock forever. Why should we vote for more gridlock?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

That's fine, Stuart. I understand what you're saying. What I'm saying is that the Republicans needn't follow the Democrats' lead. I think the Democrats have a supremely weak bench. They have a speedy, front loaded primary/caucus process because they have nothing to debate. They're all hard left, left or Clintonian. There's nothing to discuss or debate. They're in it to win. The Republicans are in it to be reasonable. I see some silver lining in a 15 candidate race because it seems somewhat unreasonable. Being unreasonable is what it's going to take to WIN.

The Republicans can expect terrible coverage, media-generated sensationalism over non-issues, and other nonsense from the mainstream news media. The holy left-wing alliance with mediadom is really the Democrats' greatest advantage. In the realm of ideas, it's the only advantage they have because the media runs interference for the fact that Democrats have no new ideas. None. In fact l, their ideas about subsidizing people not working look wackier and wackier.

Trump's best quality (perhaps his only positive quality) is that he doesn't cower to this media narrative on which the establishment Republican candidates have learned to tightrope walk on. Trump could be showing a bold opening to move forward if any of the other Republican candidates have the spine for it. Not being caustic like Trump, but at least challenging the mainstream media narrative with the mainstream media slant. The Republican campaign consultants are so gun-shy and silly, seeking not to make waves. Romney surged after he took it to Obama in the first debate, and then his campaign went into "play it safe" mode. It was a debacle. His campaign manager should never work for anyone again.

Whoever wins in 2016 will likely define the Supreme Court majority for at least a generation. There's a lot at stake. There are things worth fighting for. And as an aside: if the Republicans allow one of those big media morons like Candy Crowley or Gwen Ifill moderate the debates, I'll scream. Republicans have a track record of defying the odds and finishing the loser. The reason: they try to be "reasonable," and that's a bad, bad game to play.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @August 1 at 11:11 AM:

"Free stuff sounds pretty good, and the Democrats got all the candy."

Aren't you the guy who's always complaining about deficit spending? You said Walter Mondale was a "truth-teller" for calling for more taxes? For what? The government is collecting record sums of our money. It's going to entitlements, which are ballooning out of control. We can't even keep up with the current entitlements, and we're creating more. We have ambulance chasers on billboards offering to help with (what have been heretofore fraudulent) SSI claims. We have new entitlements like ObamaCare, a program with a spending projection that is mercilessly laughable. We have the government advertising entitlement programs, effectively telling people to come get part of Uncle Sam's big stash. Where do you think these deficits come from? Defense spending? Nope, shrunk and sequestered. We're not building assets like infrastructure, we're doing transfer payments, which is all the Social Security "lock box" is. It's all a lie. Who wins? The government gets bigger and bigger every year.

So you favor the political party operating the candy store as an election strategy, while carping that we're stealing from our kids. It's astounding. You can blame it on Reagan all you want, but if you track historical U.S. deficut spending, it's been going on a long time. Liberal hero LBJ believed we could have "guns and butter," and a Great Society the States will pay for. It doesn't work.

You can't get something from nothing. Yet that's the Democrat's strategy every time. All the Slugworth Sizzlers you want, rain or shine, night and day. "You're not responsible for anything. Grandma Hillary will take care of you!"

And you'll go back and forth in this comment section, and we'll end up at your tired, usual ending: that we're doomed as a nation with our deficits, oil, climate change and whatever else. And everybody's a straw man but you, Ares, who pronounces truth from high on Mt. Olympus. That's your perennial prescription: inevitable doom. You're simply a critic, Ares... you have nothing to contribute except by being a pest, the kind of nuisance side character who's busy chiding others while the boat sinks, saying you knew it would sink all along. What a profile in courage. To channel a little Mondale Minnesota Nice, whenever I read your criticism about what you see in this blog, I find myself wondering "Where's the beef?"

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @August 1, 2015 at 11:11 AM:

"Why should we vote for more gridlock?"

Because gridlock works. Nothing can get done, when people are honest players. It's the American way.

Why do you think Obama uses so many unconstitutional executive orders? Because he can't function on the up-and-up within a constitutionally-limited federal republic. Such a system constrains his vision for America... damn everyone else. He's a tyrant.

Anonymous said...

Based on number of "unconstitutional" executive orders issued historically Obama appears to be one of the lesser tyrants of recent history:

Republicans are going to ride their one-trick pony, don't tax the rich!, until it dies along with the middle class and character of the country or dies because we realize the only way to sustain a middle class in capitalism is via progressive taxes and a government that redistributes income via a variety of mechanisms.

The federal debt is no more burden on the next generation then the private debts that are authorized to increase via credit deals made by managers of banks and other financial intermediaries. In fact, when nonbanks would not rollover debt in the markets to provide liquidity to banks and other financial intermediaries, the solution was for the central bank and Treasury to keep cash flowing by quantitative easing and deficit spending. So in a system without a strong federal government the rich would take a "haircut" by having debts go bad in a systemic financial crisis. The deficit driven bailout prevents ordinary pension holders and wealthy families from taking a loss on financial assets in a market crisis.

If the government would simply tax those with highest income it would not have to increase the deficit quite so much in times when the unstable financial system threatens to create massive unemployment and systemic bankruptcy, but the deficit is still a useful tool to stabilize the financial system. Republicans get all of this wrong and Democrats have not come up with sensible ways to tax the highest income units progressively, as in the past, and to allocate cash flow insurance between military and necessary economic development and social programs.

Larry Sheldon said...

I have not read the article completely not have I read all of the comments yet, but I am pretty sure an important point was missed.

Some of us think the GOP puts up the people whose turn it is who match most closely what the Democrats put up AND who sell the Democratic platform better than the Democrats do.

And some of us have decided that going along with the program has destroyed the United States.

And some of us are not going to vote for unsatisfactory people just because the GOP put them up.

If they (you) don't like Trump, put up somebody you like that promises to deal with the issues we want dealt-with in place of the Soros-Cloward-Piven insanity that the GOP has been supporting.

Dennis said...


Much of what you imply is incorrect and would do little to lessen the deficit, et al. In fact it do far more damage. This is not to even consider the amount of money that would find its way into off shore investments, et al. One only has to look at what happened to France when they tried to do the same thing.’t-tax-the-rich-enough-to-close-the-deficit/

I would suggest that thinking about why, how and where we utilize money, what things have a multiplicative affect on the growth of money throughout the economy and employment, and actually have any meaningful affect. I can understand how envy and the desire to punish those who do well might make one happy, but the divisiveness and class warfare engendered by the democrat party only hurts everyone and does not do a thing to solve problems. I would posit that is what the democrat party wants because it keeps people on the "Plantation." If one assumes I am a Republican then on is in error. I am an Independent precisely because I think that the leadership of both parties are corrupt. The republicans less so, but it is a close second. It is the reason so many people find Trump a bit of fresh air.

One of the ways to lower the deficit is to remove many of the functions that the federal government has centralized in Washington DC. Most of them like the Department of Education have done far more damage than good. It should not surprise anyone that the areas with the highest incomes are around DC. To believe that there is only one solution that is taxing the rich is a short sighted approach that denotes not really understanding how every thing works together. Please don't quote Krugman because he has switched economic ideas as his politics changed. he could not even effectively state why the Swedish people have done so well. It is because of a long held concept of hard work and a belief in capitalism much hidden by the "media."

Suffice it to state there is not enough money held by the rich to have a meaningful affect on the deficit despite what the NYTimes attempts to imply. I have never understood how the idea of socialism can be tried and failed so many times still hold sway with those who think they are better than others and always know whats best for the "unwashed." If people spent as much time improving themselves as they spend in perpetuating envy and class warfare we would be a far better country with a true low unemployment rate. A mind suffused with Marxism is a terrible thing to waste.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Anonymous @August 1, 2015 at 8:17 PM:

"... we realize the only way to sustain a middle class in capitalism is via progressive taxes and a government that redistributes income via a variety of mechanisms."

Progressive taxes do not create, nor sustain, a middle class. Universal taxes are transfer payments to mass entitlements like Social Security, while the poor are subsidized through safety net programs. The core problem is that the middle class is left out.

There isn't enough upper income -- and there will never be enough upper income -- to have any meaningful impact on the middle class through a redistributive, progressive tax system. It creates moral hazard everywhere, destroying the incentive to be upwardly mobile, work hard and save money.

There's no way to get something for nothing. Progressive taxation creates (and supports) the belief that there is some mysterious money pot in the sky that "the rich" magically fund with their arbitrage dollars, automatically deducted from dividend checks they receive on their yacht. It's not true, never has been true, and never will be true.

The best way to deal with all this is to eliminate deductions and institute a flat tax in some form. But that takes influence away from politicians (control over our Byzantine tax code) and populist fantasy (that government policy can stick it to "the rich"). That's what got is the Sixteenth Amendment and the Alterntaive Minimum Tax in the first place: this idea that the majority of voters can stick it to "the man." It never works out that way.

Even when the FDR-era tax rates were targeted at "the rich," those wealthy people never paid 95% marginal rates... not a chance. "The rich" put their money into investments and financial instruments that were tax deductible or sheltered from taxable income... T-bills were perfect for this during the inflation era of the1970s.

Just when Progressives think they have it all figured out, "the rich" find ways to deploy their wealth in order to protect it. Whether that's through their lawyers, bankers, accountants, etc. And nowadays, these same "rich" people vote Democrat because they want to feel better about themselves. After all, they have nothing to fear, given their no-lose financial strategy. They get to talk to their children who languish amidst the middle class financial squeeze, and grandchildren who are coming back from college spouting all the trendy Leftist pieties... and agree with them. After all, who wants to spoil Thanksgiving dinner? Yet all the while, they know what's being bandied about is crazy, because that's not how they got wealthy... they were upwardly mobile, worked hard, and saved. They know that you can't get something for nothing. It's not magic. Progressive taxation schemes ignore this.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is...

priss rules said...

Jeb Bush: illegal immigration is an act of love.

So, illegal entry is an act of love.

He might as well say rape is an act of love.

Anonymous said...

Dennis & IAC,

Progressive taxes certainly do close the budget gap because the deficit is the difference between taxes and spending. Only those who have high incomes can afford to pay taxes to reduce the deficit.

I am not saying a fiat sovereign country should not run a deficit, I am saying the size of the deficit is reduced, and the financial system is probably much more stable, with progressive taxes. This is the system in place after World War 2 when middle class prosperity reached its zenith.

France has given up the power to deficit spend in its own currency when it became part of the monetary union. The economic literature which predicts problems in the monetary union is based on studies of fiscal federalism (redistribution) and multi-level governance such as developed in the United Kingdom, United States, and post war Japan.

In aggregate the working class must borrow to clear markets at a profit. This is because the cost of goods and services includes wages of the working class, other input costs, and the price markup to allocate profits to business owners. The accumulation of debt on the working class is unsustainable as a matter of observation in financial history.

The government deficit is sustainable in Japan, UK, and US as a matter of observation of recent history. Some historians say the Roman Empire crumbled primarily when it lost the power to tax the rich in distant lands. The US, UK, and Japan (among other fiat sovereign nations) are more like an international bank than a tax-based system. The deficit provides cash flow to favored interests and industries and stabilizes the retirement savings of the older generation and of wealthy families.

The proper role of federal government in a country which values human liberty is to allocate secure cash flow for the good of society and to avoid capture by oligarchs. The best way to keep oligarchs from capturing the government is to limit their wealth by forcing them to labor under a salary cap. Otherwise the rising deficit is just a way for rich families to lend to poor and middle class via government, and the government becomes a perverse financial intermediary, since it punishes those who are financially less fortunate to guarantee savings and income to the more fortunate.