Endgame 2016: “Fuck You” is Not a Winning Strategy

These days, I’m reminded of something the writer John Scalzi said about liberals: that they’re…

Fractious and have no sense of loyalty; will publicly tear out the intestines of those closest to them at the most politically inopportune times. The attention spans of poultry; easily distracted from large, useful goals by pointless minutiae. Not only can’t see the forest for the trees, can’t see the trees for the pine needles. Deserve every bad thing that happens to them because they just can’t get their act together. Too bad those they presume to stand for get royally screwed as well.

Some of y’all need this carved in your bathroom mirror, if not your own viscera, so you can see it every day to remind you: You’re acting like an asshole, and you need to quit it, now.

At this point, Hillary Clinton is pretty much a shoo-in for the Democratic Party nominee for the 2016 election; I’d have preferred Bernie Sanders, to be honest, but, as the kids say, it is what it is.

Here’s the thing: what it is, is deeply uncertain. How many of the Bernie-or-Burn-It folks are going to hold their noses and vote for Hillary Clinton? Polls suggest a full quarter of Bernie supporters are willing to vote third-party or stay home altogether — an estimated 2 million voters. This ought to be troubling to anyone who remembers the 2000 elections — but apparently, it’s not. At least, not in some circles.

There’s a lot of problems with LaFauci’s analysis — pretending Hillary is actually a progressive warrior like Elizabeth Warren (and not a neoliberal like her husband) is a slice of disingenuousness usually reserved for the Religious Right — but the big problem is the tone he takes. And I quote: “The Democratic Party doesn’t want or need your vote.” In other words, fuck you.

So let me be the one to advise anyone who would cosign LaFauci’s sentiment: don’t dislocate your shoulder trying to pat yourself on the back for being one of the grownups in the room. “Fuck you” is not a grown-up, practical, reasonable, pragmatic strategy for winning an election. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself: what did it get the Democrats in 2000? The satisfaction of being right? Is that really preferable to the satisfaction of victory?

You want Bernie voters to hold their noses and vote for Hillary? Hold your nose and throw them a goddamn bone or two. Because we all know that, should Hillary lose in November, you’ll be blaming them for staying home — not yourself for failing to give them a reason to come out and vote for you in the first place. And make no mistake: if LaFauci’s is the tone you’re going to take in the months leading up to the election? The blame is going to rest as much on you as on incalcitrant Bernie supporters. You need those voters, every last one you can hoover up. History tells you that much, and if you ignore that, you lose the right to call yourself one of the reasonable, pragmatic grown-ups in the room.

That doesn’t mean some of you Bernie people are any less guilty of being divisive. The number of you in my Facebook feed who openly speculate as to whether America deserves a Trump presidency to teach them a lesson is mind-boggling. While I understand the sentiment, let me repeat myself: The fact that nobody seems to have learned any lessons from the Bush presidency — the very fact of the Trump candidacy proves that much — doesn’t give me much faith that a Trump presidency would knock any sense into them. Look at the body count of the Bush presidency — tens of thousands killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the twin towers. Then there’s the 2008 recession to consider as well — and that’s only the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to Bush 43’s casualties, literal and figurative. If that doesn’t teach a lesson, what will?

Also worth considering: by the time a Trump presidency ground people down far enough to rise up en masse, they’d turn to the first group who could reasonably promise to restore order afterward. There’s nobody on the left organized enough to make a believable guarantee of that. Nobody. Meanwhile, the religious Right has been salivating for just such an opportunity. Just as the Muslim Brotherhood did in Egypt, (and Khomeini did in Iran), the religious Right would likely swoop in and steal whatever revolution a Trump presidency might spark. All those hopes for a revolution that’s going to put a progressive in the driver’s seat? Pipe dreams. You heard it here first.

That’s assuming Trump would spark a revolution in the first place. People are disenchanted, but there’s plenty of those disenchanted people lining up behind Trump, no matter how clearly it seems to the rest of us that Trump is not going to work toward their interests.

And then there’s the Supreme Court. That’s one place — and not an unimportant one — where we wouldn’t be able to undo Trump’s mistakes without a violent revolution. If it weren’t for Obama’s nominees, we wouldn’t have victories like the gay marriage decision; meanwhile, we have Bush’s nominees to blame for travesties like the Citizens United decision. HRC is no progressive hero — but who would you rather see making SCOTUS nominees?

I’ve been a Bernie supporter, but I think the way forward is to storm the gates of the Democratic party, much as the Tea Partiers did with the Republican party, if we’re going to have our concerns heard out. And no, that’s not necessarily an easy prospect — but it’s a damn sight easier than trying to build a third party from scratch that can meaningfully take on the two dominant parties. And yes, it occasionally means compromises that we might not like to make.

At the present moment: one of those compromises is that Bernie should probably concede the nomination, and publically rally like hell for more positions in the platform-writing committee than he already has. Why? Because the alternative, a scorched-earth attempt to win the nomination, is more likely to divide the party irreperably than to win him the nomination. Why does that matter? Because fuck you isn’t a winning strategy.

Let me be perfectly blunt about it: At this point, nobody cares who started it — if the two sides don’t start acting like grownups and trying to work together (instead of just sneering at each other), both sides are going to be responsible for a Trump victory in November.

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Donald Trump and the Cult of the American Con-Man

It’s easy (and not inaccurate) to call Donald Trump a fascist; ghod only knows he’s done his damnedest to earn the title, between his plans for a Mexican wall and his suggestion that we monitor or even close down mosques (not to mention, most laughably, his claim that he’ll get Bill Gates to help him shut down parts of the Internet). Anyone who denies he’s, at the very least, a xenophobic bigot, is only deluding themselves: His own words damn him, and to pretend otherwise is simple disingenuousness.

So what’s his appeal? It’s unquestionably true that Trump taps into a vein of inchoate rage and resentment that Republicans have been stoking for years. He’s had his own hand in that — anyone remember when he claimed to have sent investigators to Hawaii who were supposedly finding all sorts of dirt about Barack Obama’s birth — that is, until Obama pimp-slapped the Birther movement with his long-form birth certificate? I have yet to see anyone hold The Donald accountable for his part in that nonsense.

But I think that all that may miss an important aspect of Trump’s charisma, something that makes him stand out from a snivelly weasel like Ted Cruz (who wasn’t that much less frightening a candidate for President, on examination). What often gets lost in the discussion is this: Trump is a consummate, inveterate bullshitter, and there’s little that Americans historically love more than a con man.

I mean, let’s face it:  seen with any measure of scrutiny, the man is every bit the “loser” he loves calling other people. His airline, his hotel, his university — his marriage(s)? FAIL after FAIL after FAIL. How many times has he declared bankruptcy to get out of paying his debts? It’s been demonstrated that he’d be some 3-4 times as wealthy if he’d just invested his money, rather than pursue the business enterprises he has. I’ve already brought up his flirtation with the Birther movement, but the question remains: What, in fact, has he done successfully, except play the role of business mogul on reality TV?

And yet, he swaggers as if none of that could stick to him — which is why America has largely given him a pass. Because there’s nothing we Americans like more than the self-made man — except maybe the self-made celebrity. We love swagger, even when it’s un-earned. One could point to any number of reality TV “stars” as examples of this phenomenon, but they’re newcomers to the scene compared to Donald Trump, who’s been doing this since at least the Reagan years. And Trump doesn’t exist in a vacuum: Trump’s heritage as a purveyor of bullshit goes back further — at the very least, to Anton LaVey (author of the Satanic Bible) and L. Ron Hubbard (founder of Scientology), if not all the way back to P.T. Barnum himself.

I don’t bring up Anton LaVey lightly; The Satanic Bible is a hodge-podge of previous occultisms, mashed-up with a little of Ayn Rand’s “virtue of selfishness” and other elitisms, with a pinch of 60s anti-authorianism thrown in to make it digestible. All of which is given a frame story — that LaVey was a carny organist who saw the saints of Sunday mornings as they were out sinning on Saturday nights, who once carried on a relationship with Jayne Mansfield, etc. — which is pure American iconoclast, and, once subjected to any measure of scrutiny, absolute bullshit. Which still doesn’t stop people from voluntarily identifying themselves as Satanists.

And LaVey’s a minor leaguer compared to L. Ron Hubbard when it comes to building a religion on bovine scatologies. A second-rate SF writer, at best, Hubbard built up a religion (Scientology) as a sort of get-rich-quick scheme. Have I really got to debunk “e-meters” or “engrams” (when the word is not used as actual neuroscientists use it)? Does it matter, when there are plenty of celebrities willing to claim and defend (and shell out monies upon) such obvious nonsense?

Is the frame story of “The Donald” any less redolent of bullshit? No. It isn’t. But some of us apparently love him no less for it. If anything, we love him because of it: because he has the clanging brass cajones, if not of the convictions he intones at his rallies — he shut the hell up real quick about wanting to punch a protester once he had the chance to face one at the Dayton, OH rally — then of the conviction of his own worthiness.

Of/to what? Ghod only knows. But it doesn’t stop him from carrying on, building up a cult based on nothing but his own cultish appeal. If there’s any meaningful difference between David Miscavage (current head of Scientology, who once accused all Scientology critics of being criminals) and Donald Trump followers (who accuse all black folk at their rallies of being protesters, and all protesters of being Soros mercenaries), I’ll be damned if I can put a finger on it. The whole idea of Soros mercenaries bears repeating in particular: has everyone forgotten how Trump had to pay people to fill seats at his early rallies? In this, Trump and his followers are true-blue conservatives: they accuse their enemies of doing the things of which they themselves are doubly guilty.

It may bear noting, however: there may be no level of denial more powerful than the denial of a con man’s victim; one need only look at the stories of those taken in by the various Nigerian scams for evidence of this. Will Trump’s popularity take a hit now that one of his campaign managers has spilled the beans: that Trump’s campaign was never supposed to go this far in the first place? Will anyone notice that Trump has a hissy fit whenever he’s asked a hard question? Will anyone care that, when he does actually articulate a policy more specific than “making America great again,” he contradicts himself, spinning a web of total incoherency? Probably not; if Trump’s history is any indication, his book may have been called The Art of the Deal, but The Art of the Sell would have been a (marginally) better account of his skill-set.

Trump is no different from most of the con-men that have captivated us in the past: Like Ponzi himself, he promises easy boons with no consequences and no strings attached — the fascisms that he spouts as part of his “making America great again” are nothing more than such piffle, stuff that would make any sensible person dubious about him and his platform. What makes Trump particularly notable among American con-men, then, is that nobody was considering Anton LaVey or L. Ron Hubbard for president. If that sounds troubling, it should be: the moral equivalent of Charles Ponzi is presently the Republican nominee for the presidency of the United States. The difference is that, where Ponzi only victimized those who fell for his con, Trump stands to victimize numerous others, and not even just those within the borders of the United States.