Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Personal Note on Super Tuesday: No More Know-Nothings

Note: This is a statement of opinion informed by fact - it contains my political stance and should be taken as such, and as an exceptional statement rather than my normal information-only work.  Thank you for your toleration. 


Well, it is Super Tuesday and there are a lot of interesting questions coming my way.  Okay, one interesting question.  Over and over.

Can Trump actually get the Republican nomination?

Well, I’m shocked to say, yeah, he can.  It blows my mind.  I would never have predicted he’d even still be in the race at this point.  He has no political experience, has more bankruptcies under his belt than Detroit, says anything that is on his mind the moment it is on its mind (I don’t believe he believes in writing speeches), and really likes to gild things.  He bombastic, hawkish, anti-intellectual, an American white-guy pseudo-conservative Hugo Chavez who thinks the Cold War is still on.  He is a living rebirth of the old Nativist Party, better known as the Know-Nothings.  And the sonufabitch may get a nomination for the presidential run from one of the two major parties.

The party of Abraham Lincoln, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and George Herbert Walker Bush – three of the great presidents, in my eyes: intellectuals, subtle, decent, and egalitarian – Trump is a possible nominee by the party that claims them.  I cannot understand this.

Well, I can.

See there are a lot of people who sense that their way of life is changing and they are scared.

America, they feel, isn’t as wealthy as once was, they feel – this isn’t true, but there is greater income inequality than in decades and decades.  There are people to get mad at, who warrant our collective anger, but more than that there are institutions and systems that need reform, serious, well thought out, careful reform that preserves and expands the middle-class and focuses on the need to, insofar as possible, end corporate welfare.  Our budget is out of control, our debt enormous, but there are ways to fix this – cut military spending, increase taxes, and develop strategies to pay for the Baby Boomers in their retirement.  Anything else won’t do a damn thing.

America, they feel, isn’t as powerful or influential as it once was internationally – this isn’t true either – we are still easily the most powerful nation on earth, our military absorbing half – yes, half – of the global military budget.  Our international prestige has suffered some in recent years, but that is largely because America increasingly started openly flaunting the international laws and norms it fought to create and inculcate in the world, and because we have increasingly shifted away from leading and towards commanding.  The world still, by and large, loves Americans, but they increasingly don’t understand why we do what we do, the fights we pick, the reasons we give for ignoring some problems (such as climate change) and creating others (like the second war in Iraq).

American isn’t as safe, they assert – this isn’t true either – we simply report crime, terrorism, and war constantly and on a 24-hour news cycle that frightens us without giving us a sense of scale.  There has never been a better time to be alive, ever, if you your goal is to be safe from violent crime or war.

America will lose everything, they insist, if our economy becomes post-heavy industrial.  This is wrong – in no small part because most of America already is post-industrial, and the parts of the Union that are doing the worst are those parts whose leaders demand we stick to economic models a century old, including swaths of the Rust Belt, the Deep South, and my beloved Appalachia.

America is becoming “different” they whisper – too many not-Europeans, not-male, not-Protestants, not-heterosexuals.  Well, yeah.  We’re an immigrant nation, and immigrants come from places doing less well than us.  If they accept our political values it doesn’t matter if they’re from the moon.  We’re finally emerging from hundreds of years of racism, thousands of years sexism, and our damn country was, to a substantial degree, founded on the principle of your social values are your damn business – we call it freedom.  Also, screw walls that won’t work.  Why not try immigration reform that makes it elegant and inexpensive to become a legal worker with a track to citizenship, putting immigrants on the books and paying taxes?

I could go on, but I hope what I am trying to illustrate is clear.  Most Americans who support Trump are scared, but often their fears are misdirected and, equally, often they hope for a messiah-figure, a panacea of yelling.  This is a mistake.  It is unwise, it is lazy, it is bigoted, and it is wrong both practically and ethically.

If you’re reading this and you’re Trump supporter, you may be dismissing me as a hater or an ideologue.  I am not.  I’m an independent, a moderate, and principally concern with practical aspects of politics.  The presidents I most admire in the post-World War II world are Truman, Eisenhower, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton – all flawed men, but all damned successful and effective presidents. I hope you do not dismiss this missive on assumptions about my beliefs that are not true.  But, as you vote today, or in the future, please, let your mind be your principle guide, not your fears.  And please, don’t vote for the Know-Nothings.

God Save the Union.