On Paul Krugman, and a Little Bit o’ Populism

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Paul Krugman weighs in today on the subject that has to be uppermost in the minds of progressives: why did so many Trump supporters vote against their own interests?

Was it because of our message? Or because they didn’t hear our message because the news media didn’t convey our message? Because they have hate in their hearts? Or because, in their delusion, they bought into Trump’s magical thinking and his cult of personality? Some of all of these things?

Krugman concludes on a tepidly pessimistic note:

One thing is clear . . . : Democrats have to figure out why the white working class just voted overwhelmingly against its own economic interests, not pretend that a bit more populism would solve the problem.

Aardvark begs to differ. He is unaware of the identity(ies) of those who “pretend that a big more populism would solve the problem.” My opinion is that the only course of action that might work is full throated advocacy of a program to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Not, in other words, a bit of populism, but instead, a lot of populism.

Let’s war game out the alternative, folks. Krugman focuses on coal country, where Trump has promised magically to bring back the mining jobs that he has no way in hell of actually bringing back.

What happens who he fails, and the former miners grasp that their savior has deserted them? “Maybe a Trump administration can keep its supporters on board, not by improving their lives, but by feeding their sense of resentment,” Krugman writes. I don’t know whether he can do that, but I am highly confident he’s going to try–aided and abetted by his buddies in the Kremlin, who will ramp up their already successful fake news program.

Resentment? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

The question is which way the mob will march, and who will be in front of it.

Smiting the Pointy Headed Postmodernists

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A few weeks ago the Aardvarks were dining here at Happy Acres with their learned friend Iakovos Fahrbahn and Mrs. Fahrbahn. I regaled them with the story of how, many years ago, I took a course at Ivy University from Professor Richard Rorty. I think it was about metaphysics. Whatever it was about, Aardvark grasped nothing, absolutely nothing, of what Rorty was trying to convey to the unwashed. How surprised I was to learn last year that Rorty was to be found among the Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition. That discovery explained a lot about my experience back at Ivy U.

Now, after the election, Iakovos has kindly shared these observations from Rorty, writing in 1998:

[M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. …

One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past 40 years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. … All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.

Alas, these thoughts are all too understandable.

But here’s what we don’t understand. When—not if, but when—the unskilled workers of whom Rorty spoke grasp that they have been conned yet again in the greatest political con of all times, will they once again retire from politics? Or will they elect someone worse in 2020—a truly competent authoritarian?

No more water. The fire next time.

 

Inside Trump’s Mind—13 Working Hypotheses

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Aardvark finds it highly distasteful spending time inside Donald’s mind. If Donald lived here at Happy Acres, he is not the sort of person whom the Aardvarks would invite to sit with them in the dining room. We would not invite him to our next cocktail party. If he showed up anyway, we would both develop stomach flu and declare the party over. If we saw him walking toward us in the hallway, we would turn quickly and escape down another corridor.

All that said, he is the president of all of us, Aardvarks included, and we have to spend some time trying to figure out this disturbed person whom we have unwisely elected. So, as Aardvark writes on November 23, 2016, the day after the New York Times interview, he offers these 13 working hypotheses about the mind of Minority President-Elect Trump.

  1. Trump is a breathtakingly insecure person, who craves adulation and validation like an addict craves booze or heroin.
  2. Trump craves wealth, but mainly as a means of getting veneration.
  3. Trump craves beautiful women, but mainly, in all probability, more for the purpose of stroking his ego than for stroking his penis.
  4. Trump craves power, but mainly for the purpose of receiving adoration, as distinguished from actually doing any particular thing with that power.
  5. Trump is credulous, devoid of intellectual curiosity, and possessed of a minute attention span.
  6. In consequence of the above points, Trump has a very strong tendency to believe the last person who spoke to him.
  7. To achieve his unwisely chosen life goals, Trump views an essential tool in his toolkit as the spreading of bullshit indiscriminately and in all directions.
  8. He believes, accurately, that all “winners” (in his definition of “winners”) are bullshit artists, but inaccurately believes that all “winners” spread bullshit shamelessly and indiscriminately, 100 percent of the time. Like a color blind person who cannot tell the difference between red and green, Trump cannot tell the difference between evidence based advocacy and just making stuff up.
  9. In consequence of this mental deficiency, Trump feels shock and surprise, combined with a deep sense of grievance, when called out on his bullshit. That’s because he thinks he is just doing the same thing everyone else does—or at least what every “winner” does.
  10. Despite all of this, Trump believes some part of what he says. But because of all of this, one cannot say what part he deeply believes, what part he knows is bullshit, and what part he thinks might be true, at least based on what he was told by the last person he spoke to, before he speaks to someone else who will tell him differently. His changing views on the efficacy of waterboarding being an example of the latter.
  11. Because we cannot know what Trump will likely do, based on what has come out of his mouth, we must instead be guided by scripture. Paraphrasing Matthew 7:16, by his fruits shall ye know Trump.
  12. If a thing cannot possibly happen, then that thing will not in fact happen. Bannon, the Trump Whisperer, wants to improve the economic lot of the working class and thus build an enduring constituency for ethno-nationalism. Ryan and his merry band of Ayn Rand disciples want to adopt drastic changes in public policy whose objective effect would impoverish the working class—whatever the merry band may believe, or claim to believe. Both policies cannot happen. Therefore both policies will not be implemented.
  13. What policies will actually be adopted is unknown and unknowable at the present time. However, Trump may well figure out that the Ayn Randers would be highly counterproductive to his desire for working class adulation. If Aardvark were a betting man, he would bet on Bannon, the Trump Whisperer.

Breaking News! Breaking News!

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From God’s lips to Morning Joe’s ears: TRUMP WON’T PROSECUTE CROOKED HILLARY!

Here’s a thought for progressives. We need to do what we can to separate Trump from his base. So, this Thanksgiving, when your crazy uncle Bill starts basking in Trump’s triumph as he chows down, ask him about Trump’s breaking his promise to appoint a special prosector.

Remind him that Marco Rubio said that Trump is a con man. Remind him that Little Marco was right: Trump is a con man.

Ask uncle Bill how many more of Trump’s promises are likely to be broken. Ask him how many broken promises he would forgive—and which broken promises he would not accept.

While you’re at it, ask uncle Bill if it’s OK for Trump, Giuliani, and Flynn to make money from their dealings with foreign governments. Ask him why they’re not like Crooked Hillary. Does he think maybe Trump was concerned that sauce for the goose might turn out to be sauce for the dander?

If he yells, don’t yell back. Listen. And check out Fellow Trump Critics, Maybe Try a Little Listening.)

Tell uncle Bill you look forward to continuing the conversation.

George Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport

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Gentlemen:

While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.

If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy — a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington

What Do We Tell the Children?

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After the election my old friend Lobo Loup sent an email blast containing A Special Message for the Children of America, giving a sarcastic earful of advice from Trump on how to become president. I reproduce it below.

Thinking along the same lines, my friend Vasari shared this Post-Election College Paper Grading Rubric by Daveena Tauber. It’s a hoot, and a must read.

With no children of their own, Aardvark and Dr. Aardvark are, naturally, great experts on child rearing. So here is my opinion. When all else fails, tell the truth, even to children.

And here is the truth, or at least I think it is the truth. Lying, bullying, and other despicable behavior can sometimes lead to great success, at least for a time. But people like that will inevitably wear out their welcome. And the problem with habitual lying is that in time no one will believe you, even when you are telling the truth.

Not only is truth telling the right thing to do, but it is also, as Lincoln liked to say, the best policy.

* * *

Dear Children of America,

Gather round and heed my words, for now we have seen they are true. 

As you go through life:

DO:

  • lie
  • cheat
  • exploit your fellow man, including people you might hire
  • spew racist venom and carry out/promote/enforce racist policies, as an employee or employer
  • engage in illegal sexual predatory behavior
  • consort with and welcome the support of anti-Semites, anti-Muslims, anti-ANYBODY ‘OTHER’
  • encourage your supporters, if you ever run for an election — even in school! — when they cry out, “kill [the opponent], string [him/her] up” because that will whip them up into a fury and drive up your vote
  • declaim your views in sound bites with absolutely no substance, verification or regard for the truth, because winning at all costs is ‘all’
  • hold yourself above the law in all other respects, and aspire to one day loudly declaim that you ‘could stand on Fifth Avenue and kill somebody and get away with it’, because people will admire that as a sign of strength
  • blithely ignore the disastrous warming of the planet and promote policies to make it worse
  • surround yourself with ‘yes-men’ (and maybe a few women)
  • con, con, con everyone around you, because it’s all about you
  • suck up to the rich while paying lip-service to the needs and cares of the rest of society

DO NOT

  • study hard and learn your subjects
  • read deeply and grapple with complexity 
  • pay taxes or
  • really give a damn about anything or anybody except yourself, as long as you can FAKE IT and pretend that you do 

AND YOU, TOO, CAN BECOME PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!

And if all this advice seems to contradict everything your parents ever taught you, just tell them — “Hey!  I’m just following the example of Donald Trump, President of the United States!”

– Donald Trump, Making America Great Again.