Saturday, November 19, 2016

Reaction to Hillary Clinton’s loss exposed the impotent elitism of liberalism

Donald Trump in February 2009
Donald Trump in February 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You vowed to leave if Donald Trump won the White House. Leave. Please. Go. Be gone with you and all of your snobbery, your condescension, your identity politics.

The rest of us have work to do!

People from marginalized communities cannot pick up and leave the United States. And where would they go? Where would you go? France, where head coverings are banned? Germany, where anti-Semites are out in public again? Where is this mythical better place?

A progressive friend posted that people struggling should move from places like Youngstown, Ohio, or rural West Virginia. Let me understand how that works. You have no money. You lost your job, might be on public assistance, have minimal technical skills.... Surely you can move to an expensive city with no problem.

No. Most of us have to stick around. We have to gather up our resistance to a Pres. Trump and develop a more coherent strategy to salvange what moderates exist in two political parties. For libertarians like me, that means resisting every civil rights violation proposed by Trump, the extremists in the GOP, and (yes) many Democrats. Individual liberty must be defended, and that means staying engaged, not running away.

This Salon column has it right:
Neoliberalism’s epic fail: The reaction to Hillary Clinton’s loss exposed the impotent elitism of liberalism -
SATURDAY, NOV 19, 2016 06:00 AM EST

Hearts pounded, stomachs turned and some of the more privileged liberals started seriously considering whether to flee the country in the face of a national nightmare that had just become a reality (privileged, because the average American doesn’t have the resources to just pack up and run at will).

The surreal night concluded with Canada’s immigration website crashing from too much traffic, as if every alt-right Twitter troll’s fantasy had come true.

Although the instinct to flee from a Trump presidency is understandable, it reveals a great deal about the impotence of modern liberalism and its monumental failure to stop an unhinged and thoroughly unqualified demagogue like Trump.

Elite liberals who vowed to leave America if Trump was elected, which includes a slew of celebrities, are those who would be most insulated from the impact of a Trump presidency — unlike working people and seniors who stand to lose their healthcare, children of immigrants who may soon see their families torn apart, or poor people of color who could face heightened persecution under the already racist criminal justice system. Sadly, fleeing is not an option for the most vulnerable Americans. Their only option is to keep fighting; yet the first impulse that many of their professed allies felt was to do the exact opposite: to escape.

Of course, most of the “limousine liberals” who promised to leave America before the election didn’t actually believe that Trump could win. It was an impossibility. Not in their wildest dreams could the racist, sexist, misogynistic and xenophobic buffoon defeat the most qualified and deserving presidential candidate in history — no less the first women candidate. He had denigrated women, scapegoated minorities and immigrants, offended veterans and mocked the disabled. Not only that, but it was her turn! “It was supposed to be her job. She worked her whole life for the job. It’s her job,” wrote Clinton surrogate Lena Dunham (who had said she would move to Canada if Trump won) in a recent article recounting her grief-stricken reaction to the election, in which she admitted she “never truly believed” that Trump could win. 
I resist the policies of the left, because they forget that expanded government for "good" can and will be quickly misused. Good ideas under one leader became dangerous under another. I hope Democrats regret changing filibuster rules, for example. There was good reason to require supermajority votes in the Senate.

Policies get out of control, too. Control health care? What happens when choices have to be made, including what won't be covered? What happens when sugar or chocolate is declared a health hazard? What happens to genetic data? Sorry, but I don't trust big government. They have the powers to tax, fine, and imprison.

When progressives complain about the police, the courts, the military... Those are the symbols of government power. I actually wonder what would happen if most (not all) police were armed only with non-lethal force. I wonder what would happen without minimum sentencing of any kind in our courts. I wonder how much better off we would be with less military intervention elsewhere.

No, I'm not about to become "progressive" in response to Trump. I'm going to be all the more dedicated to individual liberty and restrained federal power.

The End of Identity Liberalism - The New York Times

When you group people and make everything about race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and a checklist of other "differences" you are also creating and reinforcing the "Working-Class White Male Christian" grouping. That really is not helpful.

Even a few of the New York Times' writers are starting to understand this. Create groups at your own peril, progressives. You might find it doesn't help create a national identity or unity.
The End of Identity Liberalism - The New York Times:  
By MARK LILLA — NOV. 18, 2016
The whitelash thesis is convenient because it absolves liberals of not recognizing how their own obsession with diversity has encouraged white, rural, religious Americans to think of themselves as a disadvantaged group whose identity is being threatened or ignored. Such people are not actually reacting against the reality of our diverse America (they tend, after all, to live in homogeneous areas of the country). But they are reacting against the omnipresent rhetoric of identity, which is what they mean by “political correctness.” Liberals should bear in mind that the first identity movement in American politics was the Ku Klux Klan, which still exists. Those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it.
We start early, telling young children all about differences... and I wonder how is that helpful when children do not see through adult, prejudiced lenses. We create groups and then encourage people to engage in victimhood competition. My marginalization is worse than yours!

Too often my liberal and progressive friends tear at each other, complaining that one person has too much privilege to understand group X, Y, or Z. The response is "Oh yeah? I belong to groups A, B, and C, and I'm therefore marginalized in soooo many ways!"

Stop it. Get over it.

Address serious, real racism, sexism, and so on. But stop making such big productions about how marginalized groups deserve automatic sainthood. No. They don't. Making it sound like oppression is somehow a baptism that purifies the soul is as absurd as assuming that belonging to the groups in power makes a person evil.

This is a lousy time in the United States, created by two political parties playing groups against each other. And don't claim I'm guilty of unfair equivalence. The progressive movement has, in fact, done serious harm to groups by emphasizing checklists of people and caring more about those factors than anything else.

Was Pres. Barak Obama the first black president? Yes. Okay. Great. Now move on. He seemed to be more ready to move on and do his job than some of the white academic progressives I know.

Would Hillary Clinton have been the first female president? Yes. But that's not a reason to elect her. I opposed Trump, but I was not going to vote for anyone based on superficial traits. Yes, I used the word superficial because that's how the fawning over Hillary started to sound. Focusing on her qualification and her skills would have been much better and maybe more persuasive.
Read Mark Lilla's column. It's thoughtful and offers a moment of reflection for liberals / progressives wondering why their identity politics backfired.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Standing Up to the President-Elect

English: Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in...
English: Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Republicans in the House and Senate, especially the leadership of the GOP, must at least symbolically reject the president-elects choices for his inner circle of advisors. Though some of these posts do not require Senate confirmation, the Senate should and must demand that Donald Trump remove some members of his transition team and his "kitchen cabinet" of conspiracy nuts.

I never imagined as a libertarian that my worst nightmare might be a Republican president. The following individuals should be nowhere near the White House: Stephen K. Bannon and Frank Gaffney. This should not be open to debate. The Senate should refuse to confirm any cabinet secretary until these two men are shown the door.

Yes, I understand that Bannon and Roger Ailes advised and helped control Trump during the campaign. I don't care. These are not the sorts of people with whom the GOP should be associated.

Standing up to Donald Trump will not be easy for the Republicans. Their voters elected Trump. But at some point, the GOP has to consider the long-term implications of embracing radical fringe zealots. You cannot claim to be a party of merit and individualism and then allow the president to surround himself with men of demonstrable prejudice.

By indicating they will not accept anyone the president wants with a rubber stamp voter, the Republicans would earn some respect. They also need to vocally reject some of the ideals and theories of the fringe that claims to be "alt right" when it is actually "alt lunatic."

I could not vote for Hillary. I certainly could not vote for Donald Trump.

The Republican Party must not acquiesce. Stand up for what the party was founded to be.

Too bad I expect this blog post to be like the writings of so many conservative and libertarian thought leaders… ignored.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The GOP - Stuck in the Middle

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students...
Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students from the Kansas University School of Business (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"A review of the 20 richest Americans, as listed by Forbes Magazine, found that 60 percent affiliate with the Democratic Party, including the top three individuals: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison. Among the richest families, the Democratic advantage rises even higher, to 75 percent."

Just think about that and the paradox of the top of the top (the 0.1%) typically voting for and sometimes running for office as Democrats (FDR, JFK). The GOP holds the $75,000 to $187,000 range and starts to lose ground quickly at $200,000 -- the same line that marks most people with graduate or professional degrees.

The Democrats have been, since about 1948, the party of the elites and the poor. The GOP has had a narrow window of voters in the white, high-school graduate and non-elite university bachelor's degree holder categories.

It's almost stunning how you can map the Democrats by urban density, college density, technical employers, financial centers, and so on. The GOP has the middle... of everything. Middle class. Middle of the map. Middle of the educational range. Even "middle-aged" voters for a time.

Yes, the Republican Party is considered the party of the wealthy, and there are some notable wealthy Republicans (and libertarians), but overall the division between graduate degree holders and everyone else almost ensures the Democrats have the majority of top income earners within their voting ranks.

That's not bad or good. My point is that the reality of who votes for whom isn't the stereotype.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election 2016 Thoughts

The election is over, thank goodness.

I see social media posts suggesting we "relax" - but that's not what anyone should do, no matter who is in office. Both parties need vigilant voters to ensure there are checks and balances.

Do things. Write. Blog. Create art. Criticize the powerful. Engage in dialogue with your neighbors and beyond. Get out of whatever bubbles you might be in, and we are all in bubbles, to find common ground with people of other ideologies.

When I read some of the claims about Pres. Obama, I remind friends I side with socialist Cornel West and libertarians against extra-judicial use of drones, expansion of wire-tapping, the selling military "surplus" to police forces, the highest rate of deportations in U.S. history, and many other policies we have had during this time. How many bankers went to prison?

I respect Pres. Obama more than I will ever respect a Trump or Pence. But I'm not going to waive my moral and ethical compass on issues for any leader. Always hold leaders accountable.

I'm sorry, but we must never dismiss the "wrongs" of any side, even when it could be worse. When you tolerate bad policies, because they seem pragmatically the best, that just continues the system.

Trump must be held accountable. Don't hide away, don't panic, don't retreat.

I remain opposed to the same things I was opposed to yesterday and last week, as a small-l J. S. Mill libertarian. I remain opposed to police with too much power, a demonstrably biased judicial system, easy wiretaps, access to electronic messages, anything regulating how adults live in private, and many other things.

I remain opposed to moral relativism and tolerance if it means accepting the bigotries in other nations. Sorry, but I believe in lecturing other nations about mutilating women, stoning LBGTQ people, executing apostates, and so on. I will continue to call out injustices beyond our borders, because that's the right thing to do.

I remain opposed to many laws and regulations that have unintended consequences. I oppose the "reforms" that have weakened political parties (we need those moderate elites of the past). The primaries are a disaster. Redistricting is a mess. (But remember, the Senate is not gerrymandered, and it is more radical than the House.)

It bothers me that only a third of people voting can name the Vice President. Half cannot name their two Senators. More than two-thirds of self-described "progressives" say they cannot be friends with conservatives or libertarians.

I often read someone post or hear someone say, "Well, he is okay. But he's not really a libertarian." Yes, I am. I can give you lots of reasons not to trust any government, especially when it comes to how our government has treated marginalized groups: slavery, internment, medical experiments, sterilization, and codifying prejudices. I distrust government funding of the arts and any media because then those artists end up being regulated via taxpayer pressure (or must be "apolitical" - which is impossible). (I strongly support donation-supported arts and media. I don't create some works to make money. And I might offend political leaders!)

I believe we need a Bill of Rights and we need Amendments to the Constitution because I do not trust the vagaries of elections. Free speech, citizenship, voting rights... these are not negotiable, no matter what a majority wants. No, we must be protected from "too much democracy" and we must protect our fellow citizens. When I fail to protect the rights of others, I am enabling the loss of my own rights.

The most sickening moments of last night were when Republicans called for the closure of voting locations because some time was hit on a clock. Laws, government regulations, were being used to deny rights. I will stand up, always, for people wanting to be heard. Including people with whom I disagree. The GOP has crossed a line on the voting rights issue. It offends me.

The GOP must be watched. Their lack of respect for their historical founders and purposes upsets me. The GOP opposed slavery, supported the suffragists, and warned of the military-industrial complex. They supported term limits and restrictions on power. They were historically linked to the Federalists and the Jeffersonian Democrats. The GOP created National Parks, the EPA, OSHA, and the Clean Water Act. The 1956 GOP platform reads like a "leftist" pledge to protect individual rights from government and corporations. The Voting Rights Act passed thanks to Northern ("Moderate") Republicans. That GOP wing is on life support, sadly.

We, as a people, must insist that the GOP respect individual rights and liberties while ensuring that our choices do no harm to others. That's what J. S. Mill and Adam Smith wrote: I should be free and sovereign as a human, that I should have all rights over my own body and mind. But, Smith eloquently said that when my choices exploit others and when I negotiate in bad faith, I should be held accountable by the law.

Do not relax. Do not panic. Engage with the system and with people across the ideological spectrum. We need each other.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Lousy Choices

Do we vote our consciouses? Do we vote pragmatically? Do we vote for our "cause" (party) even when the candidate falls short of our ideals? Why and how to vote are serious questions we should consider. Yet, I'm unconvinced there are "right" answers philosophically.

Myself, I cannot vote for a person with whom I disagree or distrust significantly. That's a moral centering I cannot violate, even when it proves to be less than pragmatic. And in this presidential year, I disagree with and distrust all four major-minor candidates. That's depressing.

David Frum offered "A Guide for Undecided Republicans⁠⁠: Choosing a president isn't easy in this election, but here are three ways a principled conservative might vote."

It isn't a satisfying read, if only because it reminds us how lost the Republican Party and the Libertarian Party are. It reminds us that we have no good choices, only less painful choices.

I've already indicated that I cannot, will not, support the election of Donald Trump. Maybe if you live in a "safe" state for Hillary Clinton you can cast a protest vote. If you live in a stage "safe" for Trump (is there such a state?) you can protest with a vote for anyone else.

Hillary Clinton is qualified. I don't question that. I simply disagree with her on everything from economic policies to foreign engagements. She is a calculating politician (which national politicians are not?) willing to use race, gender, class, and any other forms of envy. By comparison, Trump uses the fear of other races, gender anxieties, religious intolerance…. You get the idea.

The Clintons are about the Clintons. Bill Clinton's triangulation did work well for the national economy during his time in office. If we believe that self-interest can serve the public good (wow, is that an Ayn Rand concept), then Hillary's desire to be president and to be re-elected could guide her to make bargains better for the majority. But, as I've noted previously, I'm not a huge fan of anything by Rand other than The Fountainhead. Morality matters to me.

For once, I'm not even sure that you "must" vote to express a valid perspective. Maybe not voting is a valid form of protest, at least until we have some "None of the Above" rule that the winner must win 51 percent of the popular vote. At this point, I'd simply like to start the primary process (a lousy process that favors the fringes, by the way) all over again.

At least somebody will lose the election. Too bad all four major-minor candidates deserve to lose. But, I will say that some (Trump, Stein) deserve to lose more than the other two.

We need an intellectual, merit-focused, freedom-centered, anti-hate, libertarian set of voices. And even if we had those voices, I'm sure they'd lose the public arguments. But at least we'd have something worth supporting for those of us outside the mainstream.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Election Depression

One good sign from this election year: none of my close friends has made a stink and defriended me for not agreeing with X, Y, or Z and not being a vocal supporter of Candidate A, B, or C.

I never felt embarrassed to have this president and his family represent the United States, despite not agreeing with him on several core issues. For eight years we've had a president with whom I disagree but consider a decent father, good role model, and generally well-intentioned human. (Foreign affairs, generally disappointed by both parties since 2001.)

For eight years, the big change was health care. Did anything else change? I'm not sure. I wish we had seen some Big Bank CEOs in prison (capitalism without the rule of law doesn't work), a reworking of corporate and personal tax systems (simplify, close loopholes, end "targetted" breaks), and a willingness to confront long-term infrastructure issues while interest rates are low.

We need an educated, moral, persuasive, libertarian (small L), classically liberal, set of voices willing to explain how and why limited, restrained government is valuable. We need to explain with examples people understand, such as the militarization of our police forces and a broken justice system - government with too much power and causing great harm. Until we can frame discussions of freedom in terms that counter claims that libertarians and conservatives defend and support racism, classism, sexism, and other -isms, we will lose elections and surrender our moral authority.

I am disappointed in the conservative and libertarian leaders in the United States. They not only allowed a Donald Trump to rise to power, but their choices and political ineptitude helped ensure he or someone like him would rise to power.

The great failure of Goldwater was refusing to state the obvious: racists were using "states' rights" to intermingle racism with federalism. The great failure of the Republican Party during the last eight years was again rejecting clearly racist and bigoted motivations behind various state actions. These state actions set the tone of the national party and national elections.

As a libertarian, I cannot and will not support the Republican party. It has not done enough to stand up to hate and too often allows the purveyors of hate to use "conservative" ideals as defenses.

President Obama should be someone we honor as he prepares to leave office. A failure to treat him with the respect he deserves only reinforces the idea that the opposition isn't based on theories and ideals, but on hatreds.

And now, we will have a family in the White House, regardless of how the election ends, that will not be as easy to respect. We brought this upon ourselves as a nation, and I largely blame the Republican Party and libertarians for not offering anything better.