Baffled by politics in the last four years or so, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this Bagehot column in The Economist from 21 Dec 2019.
It’s probably behind a paywall for non-subscribers, but I’ll try and give the jist. In the 20th and (so far) 21st centuries the Conservatives have been in power for longer than any other party. Why?
It’s because the Conservative Party views their job as being in power. That’s it. That’s their meaning and their purpose. The Conservative Party is not guided by any principles or beliefs or philosophies. It may pretend to be, individual members may be, that might be part of the whole stew, but the job of the party is to be in power.
Evelyn Waugh once complained that the Tories had never succeeded in turning the clock back for a single minute. But this is exactly why they have been so successful. The party has demonstrated a genius for anticipating what Harold Macmillan once called “the winds of change”, and harnessing those winds to its own purposes.
They keep their eyes on the mission:
The Conservatives have always been quick to dump people or principles when they become obstacles to the successful pursuit of power. Theresa May immediately sacked her two chief advisers, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, after the party’s poor performance in 2017, whereas Jeremy Corbyn is still clinging on to Karie Murphy and Seumas Milne after Labour’s devastating failure last week.
Mr. Johnson keeps with this tradition:
He succeeded in this where Mrs May failed because he possessed the other great Tory weapons. He has been willing to sacrifice anything in the pursuit of office. Beneath the bumbling exterior lies a ruthless, power-seeking machine. His withdrawal of the whip from 21 colleagues (some of them close friends) in September made Macmillan’s “night of the long knives” in 1962 look tame.
When I try to think about American politics, it helps to imagine that the Republican Party understands its job: getting power, keeping power, staying in power. The issues are irrelevant as long as they serve this goal. That’s why various attacks about the absolute hypocrisy of “pro life”ideas, or pretend deficit hawkishness, or “small government” –> enormous bailouts whenever necessary, etc etc just don’t stick or have any meaning. You’re falling for the game if you fall for that.
Now, what the point of the Democratic Party is I’m not sure. It might be “losing nobly,” or something, as evidenced by the career of this longtime Democratic operative and summed up by this speech. Or maybe it’s “not appearing too extreme.” Or “making people feel ok about themselves.” In any case, it’s not as focused a mission, and it’s not gonna be as successful until it gets figured out.
Maybe the Democrats need to remember what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s supposed mentor, Saul Alinsky, put bluntly:
Horwitt says that, when Alinsky would ask new students why they wanted to organize, they would invariably respond with selfless bromides about wanting to help others. Alinsky would then scream back at them that there was a one-word answer: “You want to organize for power!“
Source on that.
You’re the Speaker of the House, you’re eighty years old, two trillion dollars on the line, and the problem is someone might “cause a scene.”
The idea of “causing a scene worth thinking about!
sometimes I’m just like, haven’t we seen this before?
Now we finally have a former casino operator as our President. It was inevitable. Gambling is really at the heart of America, IMO. Even in the ancient myths of the desert Southwest we hear of The Gambler. The thing is, this isn’t really a country, it’s a casino. Anybody* can come here and take their chances. Any immigrant to America was weighing the odds and taking a big chance. If you win big, congratulations, if you crap out that’s on you. Maybe that’s why we don’t have nationalized health insurance, and why we tolerate rule by billionaires. It’s a feature, not a bug. Social safety nets for societies. Casinos don’t have a safety net.
Before Trump, Bill Clinton might have been our most casino-adjacent president. He liked to describe himself as the man from Hope, but he was really from Hot Springs, a kind of local Arkansas Las Vegas from before the age of Southwest Airlines. His mother spent her time at the race track and the house where young Bill spent his time had “a bar on which stood a rotating cage with two huge dice in it.”
I’m not saying I love that America is more of a casino than a country, but let’s accept that reality. Maybe a winning political messaging could come out of something like “MAKE THE CASINO FAIR” or “A FAIR CASINO FOR ALL!” It’s hard to look around and not think the casino is at least a little rigged, or at the very least that current management is crooked.
Or how about CLEAN UP THE CASINO! or EVEN THE ODDS!
Shouldn’t you be allowed to vote for whoever you want?
I remember the anger at the people who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000. I get it. I voted for Al Gore, I loved Al Gore, Al Gore is like my dream politician (boring experienced intellectual veteran centrist conservationist globalist). But the people who voted for Nader get to vote for Nader! Al Gore didn’t earn their vote. They don’t owe Al Gore a rotten fig. You can’t be mad at the people who voted for someone else for not cynically falling into line to vote for an establishment centrist they didn’t prefer.
Same deal with Susan Sarandon! She can vote for whomever she wants, cool for her for having interesting choices. You’re gonna blame her for Trump? Blame the woman who had an absolute slam dunk layup election on her hands, who had many advantages, enormous amounts of money, her husband was a very popular President of the United States two Presidents ago, for failing to convince enough voters to vote for her.
Dr. Jill Biden, in New Hampshire, says:
You have to swallow a little bit and say, ok, I personally like so and so better, but your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump.
If you check out the video you can also see Joe Biden’s first campaign ad, which highlights how “all the polls agree” Joe Biden is the best candidate to beat Trump.
Quit your thinkin’, voter, this one’s been decided for you. Who’re you gonna believe, your judgment or some polls we pulled together?
The whole premise of the Biden campaign makes me sick. This is a guy who was a weak, confused candidate who couldn’t stop himself from making stuff up and plagiarizing not just speeches but the family histories of other politicians when he was in his prime! And now he is… guess how old Joe Biden is.
Did you guess 72? 74?
Joe Biden is seventy-six years old! He will be seventy-eight if he takes the oath of office in Jan 2021. Eighty-two at the end of his first term.
What has Joe Biden done with his life? I get that he was Obama’s pretend best friend, but really, who is a person who in Joe Biden’s thirty-eight some years of public life he really helped? Uplifted?
(skimming his Wikipedia page)
OK I guess he did stand up for Delaware’s chicken farmers, Delaware’s banks, and in many ways benefitted the people of Delaware (by getting them federal taxpayer money). He was an advocate for Delaware, a state with a population of about one-quarter of the city of Los Angeles.
Where has he been on the big issues? He voted against the “good” Iraq War, the one we won, and for the bad one, the one that was a stupid, deceitful, horrible disaster from start to… finish? I guess it’s over? For us?
(Oh no wait we still have five thousand troops there.)
Joe Biden is sometimes said to know a lot about foreign policy but he was exactly wrong on the biggest American disaster of my lifetime.
Biden has said, “I consider the Violence Against Women Act the single most significant legislation that I’ve crafted during my 35-year tenure in the Senate.”
OK, well that is cool, but didn’t the same bill also eliminate higher education for inmates and create new death penalty offenses?
The argument I hear for Joe Biden is that white Rust Belt working class men, who are alleged to have cost Hillary Clinton the election in Wisconsin, Ohio, etc, like him. Well, I don’t know if that’s true, I am not a white Rust Belt working class man.
I do think that:
1) the group credited with “swinging” the last election is never the group credited with swinging the next one
2) it’s not my job as a voter to put myself in the hypothetical mindset of some possible swing voter in another state and attempt to pander to their whims in order to take out the current whim-panderer.
It’s my job to choose the candidate who I try and suss out has the best character, judgment, and policy understandings and preferences to be the President of the United States.
For a campaign to suggest anything else, to suggest five months before the first primary/caucus that voters should shut up and get in line, that this is your only option, is so insulting I can scarcely believe it.
We try not to be all negative at Helytimes, so in the interest of saying something nice about Joe Biden he does have a great smile.
Thought of this photo today.
(what’s David Gergen doing there? sometimes I’ve been that guy).
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It started when Greens leader Richard Di Natale called Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan an “absolute pig”, after the Senator said there was a “bit of Nick Xenophon in” Ms Hanson-Young.
“He’s an absolute pig. He should be booted out. He’s a disgrace,” Mr Di Natale shouted across the chamber. “You grub.”
An emotional Senator Hanson-Young said Senator O’Sullivan and conservative independents Fraser Anning, Cory Bernardi and David Leyonhjelm were “cowards” who had spent months levelling slurs at her.
“You are not fit to be in this chamber. You are not fit to call yourselves men,” Senator Hanson-Young said.
She backed the Greens leader for calling out Senator O’Sullivan’s “reprehensible” remarks.
“That is what real men do. Real men don’t insult and threaten women,” Senator Hanson-Young said.
Enjoy reading news stories about the goings-on in other English speaking countries, you usually have to fill in the gaps just enough to piece together what’s happening.
(thanks to our Sydney correspondent for the link and background)