Thursday, November 5, 2020

Less Politics, Please

I am sure that we all agree with Jonah Goldberg. (via Maggie’s Farm)  We need a lot less politics in our lives. We also need a lot fewer politicians, and a lot fewer bureaucrats, lawyers, activists and agitators.

If the nation’s survival, to say nothing of the planet’s, is hanging on a chad, or on the result of an election, then the American political system is clearly not working. It is not as though we are choosing between different candidates or different policies. We are deciding the fate of the world-- because apparently, by today’s calculus, the future of humanity lies in the balance, depending on our votes.

You will have noticed that we have made ourselves monumentally important. We think that we Americans are the center of the world and that we are deciding the fate of the known universe. Dare we mention that people around the world, noting that America has fallen into chaos, are laughing at us. When they look at some of the people we elect, they are concluding that, as a great civilization, America is an also-ran.

We are so full of self-esteem that we have not noticed that we are increasingly having difficulty competing against the rising nations of Asia. Trump seems to have been the one candidate who understood this. Joe Biden, as has been perfectly self-evident, does not know what day it is. 

We have made politics the be-all and end-all of our lives, to our eternal detriment. From which we must conclude that we exercise less influence than we did previously. When you are in charge you act like you are in charge. We are acting like we are the entertainment, not world leaders.

Most people understand this, and many of them blame Donald Trump. If he were not around they would have to blame themselves, and, as you know, they will never do that. The NeverTrump crowd and the Resistance, led by Nancy Pelosi and the Squad damaged so much of American credibility over the past four years that we are going to have a devilishly difficult time digging our way out of it. By acting like a disloyal opposition they did serious damage to the system. By acting like petulant brats who had to get their way they seriously undermined American leadership around the world. 

No president can exercise leadership on the world when half the country is in mutiny against him. That does not mean that Trump would not have done himself a great favor if he had understood that his communication skills were very limited.

Anyway, we have also damaged our everyday lives, by politicizing even our family relationships.

Goldberg explains:

The day before Election Day, Reuters ran a story about the personal toll politics has taken on some peoples’ lives. Mayra Gomez told her 21-year-old son she’d be voting for Trump. He essentially disowned his own mother in response: “You are no longer my mother.” Gayle McCormick, a 77-year-old woman, left her husband because he voted for Trump.

As suggested, this appalling state of affairs derives from an old feminist adage: the personal is political. By that we were supposed to turn our personal lives into fronts in the ongoing war against the capitalist patriarchy. It’s warmed-over Marxism. It will work as well as the other variety, that is, not at all.

And, of course, politics, as Goldberg notes, has become our religion. So much for the Enlightenment. 

What vexes me most about these stories of families being torn apart by partisan politics is the underlying assumption shared by both sides. It’s a worldview that elevates politics — national politics — to the primary source of meaning in people’s lives. It reminds me less of the 1850s in America than of the 1860s in England. Catholics felt that a Protestant on the throne would overturn everything they believed about their country, and vice versa. Today, we talk about a Republican or Democrat in office as if they were monarchs with control over the nation’s soul.

But, why do some people make politics the sole source of meaning in their lives. Let’s try out a hypothesis. And let’s note, if only in passing, that the American left is far more interested in politicizing everything than is the American right. True, the right reacts, but it is not driving the train.

Leftist politics, contaminated, perhaps forever, by Marxist and socialist thinking, wants to have the government control the markets and the economy. It believes that this is the only way we can eliminate the inequalities that capitalism and competition foist on the nation. It believes in the politics of income redistribution, high taxes, greater regulation, diversity quotas and so on.

By this political theory the government’s primary job is to care for the citizens. It is the work of the Mommy state, the Girl Party, to cure the nation’s diseases, especially its pandemics. In the most recent election the Trump administration handling of the coronavirus was the most powerful argument the left had going for it. It appealed especially to women, notably the more caring and compassionate and empathetic sex.

When it comes to the clash of civilizations or to competition in world markets, all of this sentimentality does not add up to victory. In a democratic election, it just might.

Anyway, the people who vote Democratic and who believe that their lives are on the line in an election are saying that they cannot succeed in a fair competition. They want the government to reward them with every manner of emolument, even when they did not earn it. They think they deserve it. Of course, not to be overly obvious, but if that is your attitude, you are not likely to put enough effort into your daily occupation to excel at it.

The alternative, most often represented by the Republican Party, aka the Boy Party, values competition. It values competition in the marketplace, the workplace, the arena and even the battlefield. In such environments empathy is not your friend. If you feel the pain you want to inflict on your opponent, you are not going to be a very successful competitor. 

Obviously, and we should not have to say so, but the free market is not a free-for-all. Participants are free to play by the rules but they are not free to break the rules. It is more like a chess game than a dog-eat-dog world. Governmental agencies may play a role in keeping the game fair, but they are not designed to produce outcomes that fulfill the terms of anyone’s ideology. The nation owes us all a fair shot. It does not owe us all a trophy.

As you know, today’s highly fashionable anti-racism theory insists that unequal outcomes can only be proof of bigotry. 

The larger extension of these two positions-- only one of which is driven by ideology-- is that some people excel at building things while others are only capable of tearing things down. The grand wizard behind this theory was one Barack Obama, who declared: You didn’t build that. 

In geopolitical terms, we should note a longstanding conflict between a group of people who built a great nation, almost out of nothing, who excel at competition in world markets, and even on the battlefield-- and its enemy, a group of people who want nothing more than to destroy what the first nation built.

The latter group has no interest in building anything. It has no interest in competing in the world markets. It has wanted to advance a cause, presumably regarding what it considers an inalienable right to occupy land that it does not occupy. It has sacrificed generations of its children to the notion that it must destroy what others have built. Why? Because if feels shame for having failed at competition. And it does not know how to deal with it.

Evidently, I am referring to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people. Israel has built a great nation. The Palestinians have instituted terrorism in order to destroy what Israel has built. 

Most of those on the political left must sympathize with the Palestinian cause. They believe that building a nation and destroying what others have built are equally valid. As it happened, the Trump administration was the first American administration to dispense with the fiction that building and destroying are of equal validity. It has produced a strategic realignment between Israel and the Gulf Arab states.

But now, the Democratic party, led by Kamala Harris, is proposing to restore funding to the Palestinian authority, so that they will have more money to launch terrorist attacks against Israel and will have less incentive to make peace. Even Joe Biden has suggested that he will bring the United States back into the Iranian nuclear deal, the better to help it to fund anti-Israeli and anti-American terrorism throughout the region.

Of course, one policy represents the values that the Democratic Party holds dear. Beyond the fact that it has cornered the market in anti-Semitism, by refusing to expel its anti-Semitic members, Democrats must believe that if Israel has been so successful while the Palestinians have been such failures, the reason can only be-- bigotry. By this reasoning, the Israelis are crypto-Nazis.

And thus, many American Jews cast their votes against a man who the prime minister of Israel called a friend to Israel and a friend to the Jewish people. Some threw enormous amounts of money into political races designed to overthrow a man who was a great friend to the Jewish people.

Some, like hedge fund tycoon Leon Cooperman, claimed that the Biden ticket represented their values. Which values might that have been-- the value of the Palestinian cause, the value of the Iranian intention to destroy Israel, the value of government interference in the markets, the value of the war against bigotry.

Or was Cooperman joining Michael Bloomberg in handing out large sums of money, not to advance America, but to save the planet? Then again, for all I know, they are both just cowards, afraid to stand up for the system that made them rich-- lest they be denounced as racists. In today’s American, that seems to be the only value that keeps the mob at bay.


trigger warning said...

People can say what they want (for now), but please don't dismiss the groundbreaking path we've taken if Biden wins the election. If elected, he will be our First Differently-Abled President - one small, doddering step for a man, one giant step for the ascendance of non-toxic mask-affinity.

David Foster said...

I think there are a couple of things going on here:

First: as government controls more and more aspects of life, then elections become all-important.

Second: there are people, and a nontrivial number of them, who get their sense of meaning from involvement in political causes. Sebastian Haffner, who wrote an important memoir of life in Germany between the wars, noted that when the political, economic, and social situation began to significantly stabilize, most people were happy that they could "concentrate on their personal lives, to arrange their affairs according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness."

...but not *everybody* was happy:

"A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddeny ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk."


"To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion. There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live. they began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities. It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis."

I think we have a lot of people in America today who have "become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions."

See also my 2014 post Life in the Fully Politicized Society:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ares Olympus said...

Yes, politics will soon return to the "experts" while the rest of us can go back to sleep. Elections at least have take up too much attention. Maybe we need a rule that news organizations are not allowed public speculation on candidates for 2024 until November 2023, but even 12 months is way too long.

It looks like the markets are happy at least with the dumping of tweety Trump while Republicans will keep the majority in the Senate. Biden will soon appoint some never-Trump Republicans to reward them and take credit for the deregulated Trump economy, and new multi-trillion dollar noncompetitive stimulus will reward billionaires under the new spirit of bipartisan cooperation. The Far-right and Far-left populism have both been contained for the moment.

The biggest problem is how we unite again after we've become used to News-You-Agree-With and Choose-Your-Own-Facts news streams. Can any MSM regain trust as a Fair-and-Balanced source of news when people clearly prefer partisan news to tell us what we want to hear?

Sam L. said...

I have given up on Jonah; well, I did that in 2015 when he and NR went all NEVER-TRUMPER. I just can't believe him.