A week ago you compared ugly Donald Trump with ugly Hillary Clinton and declared them a visual tie. That matters because our visual ďbrainĒ generally wins against whatever part of the brain is pretending to be logical that day. But once we got a look at the entire Trump family, acting as a group, our visual brains started seeing them as a package deal. And when you compare the entire Trump familyís visual appeal to the entire Clinton familyís visual imagery itís a massacre.
Would you prefer seeing Bill and Hillary Clinton decompose in front of your eyes for eight years, or watch the Trump family develop their dynasty? Entertainment-wise, thatís no contest. And people usually vote for entertainment over policy. They just donít realize it. Thatís the biggest news from the convention, and you wonít see it in any headline.
People are way less rational in their political thinking than they'll admit to. They are also way way less rational than open borders supporters assume. The wheels would definitely fall off given circumstances that our elites and libertarians would like to create.
The American Left has painted itself into a difficult position. It has spent decades looking down at lower class whites. Those who were condescended to certainly noticed - for decades. The American Right has done the same. It took those lower class whites for granted while it globalized the economy (with plenty of bipartisan help from Bill Clinton and even Barack Obama). The Republican calculation was that those lower classes were so demonized by the Democrats where else did they have to go for a political party? But now someone comes along and expresses real affection for them and this guy happens to be a master persuader. Oops.
It occasionally happens that the personalities and skills of individual political actors matter a lot. I think that happens less often than political junkies imagine. For example, Reagan's deregulation really got started under Carter with deregulation of aircraft, trains, and trucks. A Republican or Democrat in the White House was going to sign world trade deals in the 1990s. The Presidents aren't as different as they are made out to be. But Trump is a wild card. He's really moved the Overton Window on a few big issues, especially if he gets elected.
Adams thinks Clinton's pick of Tim Kaine reeks of beta boy husband who gets verbal tongue-lashings from his wife. So Kaine will make it even harder for Hillary to get men to vote for her.
But the persuasion filter says the real reason men donít like Clinton is that they canít stand listening to her. Her speaking style reminds men of every bad relationship they have ever had with a woman. Weíre all irrational sexists on some level, and Clinton sounds to many male ears like a disgruntled ex-wife, or perhaps your mom who had a really bad day. Thatís a problem if you need the male vote. Now add Tim Kaine to the mix. In our irrational minds Ė where we compare everything to our personal experience Ė Kaine will play the part of the beta male husband whose wife canít stop complaining about her terrible co-worker, Donald Trump. No guy wants to hear eight years of that. They get enough of it at home.
Suppose Hillary chose a hot woman as her running mate. Probably would have hurt her with older women. But would have helped her with men. Problem is that the hot political chick with right background for Hillary to choose her and old enough for the VP slot probably doesn't exist. The Democrats don't seem to have an ideologically acceptable alpha male for the VP slot either.
I think Trump has gotten what he needs from the "bull in a china shop" phase. He is going to play a much calmer game until election day. But if he's elected then I think he may find the need to do more Overton Window shifting and massive persuasion just to prevent the MSM from reestablishing control of the narrative. So I think we'll see him do more rampaging thru china shops if he makes it into the Oval Office.
Edward Luttwak, who literally wrote the book on Coup dí…tats. points out the incompetence of Turkey's coup leaders: Why Turkeyís Coup dí…tat Failed And why Recep Tayyip Erdoganís craven excesses made it so inevitable.
But perhaps that scarcely mattered because they had already violated Rule No. 1, which is to seize the head of the government before doing anything else, or at least to kill him.
The countryís president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was left free to call out his followers to resist the attempted military coup, first by iPhone and then in something resembling a televised press conference at Istanbulís airport.
Idiots. Read Luttwak's full take on Erdogan. It is devastating.
Erdogan's Turkey is already headed in a bad direction. Turkey is in 9th place for ratio of jailed journalists to total population. All those journalists sitting in jail have got to be thinking they've missed out on a great reporting opportunity. But perhaps they'll get to interview some coup leaders in jail.
Andrew Finkel argues Turkey was already undergoing a slow-motion coup Ė by Erdoğan, not the army. This is true. Erdogan is now speeding up this process, imprisoning thousands of judges, prosecutors, and others who are opposed to his rule.
The Gulenists are going down. Not sure if they are better or worse than Erdogan. My guess is they are better because they were holding power more diffusely. Now it is getting concentrated. Turkey is becoming more Islamic both because Erdogan is concentrating power and because the Muslims are making more babies than the secularists. The secularists are clearly big losers. The Kurds too and other non-Turkish minorities.
Will recent events cause Angela Merkel to think twice about letting Turkey into the EU? She seems immune from learning she's made mistakes and so I do not expect she'll alter course.
Turkey should serve as a reminder that liberal universalism is a delusional fantasy. Some countries and some parts of other countries are an unavoidable tragedy.
Ross Douthat wants to know Are We Unraveling? He slices and dices the question. But before I get to that I'd like to discuss my reading style. I cycle around between a few hundred ebooks and read them in parallel. I highly recommend trying this. Causes all sorts of mental connections. It expands my awareness about a wide range of topics. Though some of these books will only get finished if I live a long time. One of my many partially read books in my tablets describes a previous period that seemed like it might lead to a societal unraveling.
Bryan Burroughs, in his Days Of Rage describes how back in the 1970s lots of groups were trying to spur a revolution. Also, starting in the 1960s crime surged. America was quite crazy in the 1970s in ways that younger generations seem oblivious to. From Burroughs:
Between 1964 and 1969, assaults on Los Angeles patrolmen quintupled. Between 1967 and 1969, attacks on officers in New Jersey leaped by 41 percent. In Detroit they rose 70 percent in 1969 alone. In congressional testimony and press interviews, police officials in cities across the country blamed the rise in violence squarely on the Panthers and their ultraviolent rhetoric.
So I think we've seen worse than what we are seeing lately. Granted, 5 police officeres were just gunned down by a black sniper in Dallas (and the press helped create the environment that'll cause the easily excitable to do this sort of thing). But I bet being a police officer today is much safer than being one in 1969. One of the reasons for this: The population is much older today. The young men with surging testosterone are a lot fewer in number. Plus, we lock up a much larger fraction of the violent population (though the Left is trying to reverse this). What's different today is that not only the revolutionaries but also even the mainstream liberal press see the general public as less morally legitimate.
Back in the 1970s our angry people thought they could bring the masses over to their point of view. We had lots of political bombings but few deaths. Unlike today, the revolutionaries identified with the American population and the revolutionaries were trying to inspire the masses to rise up (really). What they did was amazingly crazy:
The underground bombings of the 1970s were far more widespread and and far less lethal. During an eighteen-month period in 1971 and 1972, the FBI reported more than 2,500 bombings on U.S. soil, nearly 5 a day. Yet less than 1 percent of the 1970s-era bombings led to a fatality; the single deadliest radical-underground attack of the decade killed four people. Most bombings were followed by communiques denouncing some aspect of the American condition; bombs basically functioned as exploding press releases.
What has changed since the 1970s? Many things. An aging of the population makes revolution less likely. Old people are more set in their ways. Plus, they are heavily dependent on entitlements programs. But there been (and continues to be) a long term decline in trust in institutions. A widening gap of interests has risen between the transnational elite and the people who live in particular places (accompanied by a great deal of elite condescension and moral delegitimizing of their opponents). Conflicts of values between different civilizations, in particular between Islam and everyone else, as Samuel Huntington expected.
A big development has occurred within American society: A rise in identity politics. We have witnessed The Big Sort (see Bill Bishop's book by that title) where the Republicans and Democrats moved to separate neighborhoods, cities, states, regions and have less experience with each other and more distrust and dislike of each other. We also have a nation where the Democrats are trying to win a permanent electoral majority through immigration. Looks like they'll succeed too. What the Dems do with that majority will make the other side even more bitter even as the Dems cheer on development of resentments and Dems in the academy teach the politics of grievance in their own coalition.
So what happens next? What's noteworthy is that many of our trends that are creating the fracturing haven't run their full course yet. Universities are still moving left. Identity politics of many types (and a feeling of grievance of many of those types) is celebrated by our Left. We are way past the age of the world working class. Now its people of color as victims. Feminism as demonization of men. Trust is still declining.The population is still aging. The nationalist-transnationalist fight is escalating with the reaction taking such forms as Brexit and Trump.The elites can't buy off unhappy factions because they've tied up so much spending in entitlements that all other forms of spending are shrinking.
Seemingly as an aside the elites have decided to push some (high crime) people out of urban areas so (upper class and educated) others can move in. This is driven by the preferences of upper class liberals who are playing their part in the Big Sort.
At some point the reactions to these battles have got to start taking new forms. Other trends will kick in. I'm not sure which ones they'll be but I think communications tech and smart machines will play big roles. I see a few possibilities. One is the use of information technology to opt out and make private cultures and private trading networks. Bitcoin might allow traders to escape dependence on government currencies. Some of the transnational workers might cluster outside of the big powers and create clusterings of different kinds of like minds (e.g. libertarians or conservatives or transhumanists). Robots might so break the connection between capital and large working classes that the capitalists will abandon the very Western nations they now seek to control. The lower classes left behind could be quite enraged as they take control of hollow husks of former greatness.
Update: I think the current form of national/transnational split such as the London-vs-England split over Brexit is a more dilute form of some of the splits to expect in the future. Technological advances will change the nature of the divisions by reducing the number of lower class workers needed in the knowledge worker cities. Back in the 1940s and 1950s the engineers and factory workers lived in proximity by necessity. The engineers and managers needed large staffs of workers to build what they designed. But the factory workers are gradually getting replaced by robots.
Blue collar workers still repair cars, stock grocery store shelves, collect the trash, and provide other services to knowledge workers. But the blue collar service workforce is going to get automated out of most of their jobs just as the blue collar factory workforce has been. The dependence of office knowledge workers on blue collar workers will therefore plummet and their need for geographic proximity will plummet as well.
It seems to me the knowledge workers could become a lot more mobile, fleeing the blue collar workers to go live in places the blue collar workers can't go. The nature of that flight will depend on whether existing political entities can secede from their nation states (e.g. independent London) or whether an industry could take over a small country and help its lower classes to move somewhere else. Panama? French Guyana? Or settle for Iceland with a native population that isn't poor and has very low crime? High housing prices are another way to separate groups. It falls short of political secession and short of a formal border but very definitely separates out people. San Francisco is very popular for this purpose and the liberal upper classes love it. But it comes with very high taxes.
Will robots make the welfare state sufficiently affordable that the upper classes will remain in the same countries as the lower classes? Or will the upper classes use either secession or immigration to separate themselves into their own states and city-states?
Note: I do not ask any of these questions in order to advocate for a particular future. I am trying to guess how various factions and groups will view their options and interests 10-20-30 years from now. What seem like not legitimate choices today could become very legitimate choices in the future. For example, I see groups that today do not see themselves as candidates for international migrations going thru a big shift in perspective in the future. A lot of alignments and loyalties will be broken and new ones will form. So I'm thinking we could witness the birth of new polities and new and novel alliances. Some of the rare political situations of today (e.g. Singapore) could become a lot more common in the future.