Thursday, October 18, 2018

The agony of reality

Victor Davis Hanson is a formidable intellect and historian. While I often am directionally in concordance with his views, I also often feel that he conveys a stronger conviction and certainty about the implications of a set of facts than I would be confident of drawing. Regardless of the interpretation of the set of facts, he, at least, in comparison with ninety percent of other commentators, has a mastery of those facts.

Hanson has a very timely piece out, The Origins of Progressive Agony by Victor Davis Hanson. We are in a condition right now where the reliability of the press and the masters of our technological architecture of communication cannot be trusted, events are moving at a rapid pace and the rapidity is increasing.

It is challenging to interpret patterns of facts because the facts are in dispute as well as the interpretation of those putative facts. With such narrow windows of opportunity to analyze and interpret before the conversation moves on to the next faux crisis, we more and more have to fall back on the important but always hazardous approach of assessing individuals' motivations.

Down such paths of analysis lay traps of conspiracy thinking. And yet, without agreed and confirmed facts, it is otherwise hard to interpret what is happening. Patterns of behavior and motivation take on outsized importance, even though such approaches have higher error rates than straight interpretation of facts.

It has been a roiling two years since the 2016 election with our mandarin class (academia, mainstream media, establishment politicians of both parties, employees of the state) in panicky turmoil. The masses are revolting against misgovernment and many feather beds are being overturned. The mainstream media portrays this as an issue of partisan polarization which I think it manifestly is not. Regardless, they shoehorn every event into a polarization mental model.

For the average citizen, trying to establish the facts, consciously interpret those facts and keep those facts straight in the midst of a maelstrom of misreporting, non-reporting, and misinterpretation, is a tiresome challenge.

Hanson, has, I think provided a decent summary of what I suspect is happening. Plenty to split hairs about but the overall thrust captures a story that is rarely succinctly conveyed.

From his article:
In the past, the usual progressive attack on traditionalists and conservatives had been met with a sort of tsk-tsk appeasement, a Marquess of Queensberry forbearance from men and women who had learned their polite political manners at the country club.

The Bush, McCain, and Romney approach was to be above the fray and expect Americans to condemn progressive excess, when in fact the attitude of exasperated conservative voters was always something more like, “If they won’t do their job and fight back, then why in the hell should we support them?”

Then came Trump, who considered politics as a sort of televised WWE wrestling mat, and who enjoyed the political fray as much as he had when he once climbed into a real Wrestlemania ring with Vince McMahon.

He said bluntly and often crudely what most had thought silently and soberly. Trump had a looney idea that millions of the deplorable middle and working classes had no innate advantages accruing from “white privilege” (whatever that still means) — and were tired of being told they did by those who really had clout and connections. Trump, crazily, said that globalization made more voters poorer than richer, and that making things in the U.S. still mattered. And the more the punditocracy wrote him off, the more it galvanized voters who despised talking heads.

Had progressives just lost to Rubio or even Cruz, it would have been almost tolerable. And had they lost while still winning Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, they could have endured it. But to lose to an orange and combed-over Trump with a mile-long tie, who outfoxed their own Silicon Valley experts by demolishing their blue wall, only added terrible insult to staggering injury.

Progressives soon woke up to the reality that without power they were unable to stop Trump, and so they embraced any desperate means necessary to trap the ogre. The effort proved as frenzied as it was impotent: boycotting the inauguration, suing over state voting machines, using the courts to stymie Trump appointments and executive orders, appealing to the emoluments clause and the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, and winking and nodding at the assassination chic of celebrities and politicos such as Johnny Depp, Peter Fonda, Kathy Griffith, Madonna, Robert de Niro, Snoop Dogg, and a host of others. The many methods to subvert Trump’s presidency or fantasize about his gory death were as varied as the number of faux-accusers who would come out of the woodwork to smear Brett Kavanaugh. And the result was eerily the same: the more the impotent frenzy, the more it discredited its source

Blacks Lives Matter, Antifa, and #MeToo were all in a sense weaponized to do what elections had not. Finally, in exasperation, Democrats have begun demonizing the Electoral College itself, which has gone from the legal basis of Obama’s treasured “blue wall” to a relic of old, white male Founders who supposedly favored rural hicks over the better people of the cities. Progressives now damn the idea of a nine-person Supreme Court and mysteriously praise the discredited, hare-brained scheme of FDR to pack the court with progressive toady judges.

They bitterly lament the unfairness that a Wyoming or Montana might have as many senators per state as California or New York, though they had no such complaint in 2009 when they had a Senate supermajority — a margin they won in part because a tiny progressive state such as Rhode Island had the same number of senators as odious conservative Texas.

How could it be that a picture-perfect system that had empowered Barack Obama now gave the country Donald Trump? How unfair of the deplorable Founders to have bequeathed that ball and chain to the better people of 2016!

If the system does not deliver the correct results to progressives every time, then change the damned system to ensure that it does!
Read the whole thing.

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