On the White Liberal “Outrage Feedback Loop”

Below is a link to an article by Zach Goldberg recently published in Tablet, an American Jewish online magazine. It was sent to me by someone very close, I suspect as a result of his considerable bemusement at my exasperation with the desire of the “Woke” to suppress use of English gender-specific pronouns. Although one might not infer it from the piece, Tablet is rated as having a “Left-Center” bias by mediafactcheck.com.

In his essay – part data-centered, part opinion – Mr. Goldberg refers to a white liberal “outrage feedback loop,” which he states has accentuated reactions regarding the extent of American racial injustice among those white liberals relatively more active in cyberspace as contrasted with those that are not. (Mr. Goldberg’s use of the phrase, “white liberals,” covers too wide a gamut for me; I would suggest that those whom the author calls, “white liberals,” could perhaps be more precisely identified as, “white avid progressives.”) I found this statement remarkable, if accurate:

“[W]hite liberals recently became the only demographic group in America to display a pro-outgroup bias — meaning that among all the different [ethnic] groups surveyed[,] white liberals were the only one that expressed a preference for other racial and ethnic communities above their own.”

I take issue with certain of the positions Mr. Goldberg sets forth — for example, that “… conservatives of today are not all that different from the conservatives of years past” and that “… it’s the frustration with white conservatives’ inability or reluctance to keep pace with liberals on the path to enlightenment that is intensifying our political divide” – but I nonetheless found his essay thought-provoking – a useful ballast for my tendency to be sensitive to the effect that alt-right outrage feedback silos are having at the other end of our political spectrum. To the extent that Mr. Goldberg’s positions are well-grounded, they underscore the narrowness of the path any Democrat must navigate to both secure the nomination and win the presidency.

Finally, for those who up to now have been blissfully unaware of what it means to be “woke,” clicking on the link will open up a whole new world.   😉

 

https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/284875/americas-white-saviors

On the American Flag

We recently returned from a week in a part of Wisconsin dotted with small communities in which a blizzard of American flags fly and a wide assortment of flag-related apparel and paraphernalia manifest. Two observations, that of lesser import first.

4 U.S.C. 6 provides, in part, as follows:

(c) … The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all weather flag is displayed.

4 U.S.C. 8 provides, in part, as follows:

(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as … merchandise …

(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery …

(f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling …

(i) The flag … should not be … printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard …

How many times each day do we as a people violate the letter or spirit of federal law in the name of patriotism? Does a citizen show greater respect for our nation by wearing a flag shirt that is vulnerable to an errant mustard drip? While such is clearly harmless, a separate personal pique: How badly is our flag desecrated when it is prominently displayed in the lapel of a politician (of either party) engaging in self-aggrandizement, spewing self-serving lies, and/or inciting discord?

I have more understanding of the actions of those that burn the flag or kneel during the national anthem to call attention to an injustice in our country that they sincerely believe needs correcting. I would offer that these actions, whether or not one agrees with them, are made in the exercise of one of the rights that the flag stands for: the freedom of expression.

The larger concern: It occurred to me that when I see our flag flying in front of a house, or see one of our people wearing or using flag-themed apparel or paraphernalia, my visceral reaction is: that’s a Trump supporter. This is obviously an over-generalization; there are unquestionably veterans and others among us proudly displaying the flag that don’t support the President … but I would submit that my inclination is accurate much more often than not.

I fear that the flag either has become or is being made into a partisan symbol – perhaps for some, the trademark of a culturally-homogeneous America. While it is human nature to find comfort among those that are like us, I truly believe that when asked to consider, the vast majority of Mr. Trump’s supporters appreciate that the flag belongs to all Americans that love this country – even those with whom they vehemently disagree. I’m troubled by the notion that possibly not all of them do.

On the Democratic Debates: Round Two, Night Two

I’ve heard some commentary, so will try to hold my echoes to a minimum. Frankly, while I understood the candidates’ many attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden from a political standpoint, my overriding impression was that these people wouldn’t be making the same criticisms if they weren’t running for president … that indeed, their desire to further their careers is no different in kind (if not as severe in degree) as the many Republicans who reportedly privately consider President Trump’s behavior aberrant but nonetheless fail to criticize him publicly. To repeat a point I’ve made before: while neither party is the den of all iniquity, likewise neither is the font of all virtue.

Mr. Biden: Here, I will join the chorus, but with the phrase that came to my mind: from a nomination strategy standpoint, Mr. Biden won the debate by not losing. Unlike the first debate, he looked sharp enough. Someone very close to me felt he did better than the first time out, but didn’t look ready for a debate matchup with the President; I did think he looked good enough — although perhaps only because of the President’s high antipathy quotient and Mr. Biden’s own reservoir of good will. He didn’t have any trouble mixing it up with U.S. CA Sen. Kamala Harris. Holding his own was all he needed to do (I suggest) to maintain his lead over the rest of the field until September and the next debate.

Ms. Harris: I thought – no surprise – that she was the debate loser. Her persistent attacks on Mr. Biden, even when she was scoring technical points, made her appear strident; she lost some ground as a result of his criticisms of her prosecutorial record and the cost of her healthcare plan. Something that I haven’t seen heavily commented upon was what I consider the most telling – and perhaps politically mortal – blow she took during the debate: U.S. HI Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s claim that Ms. Harris approved withholding evidence of innocence against a defendant in a capital case. The attack clearly took the Californian off stride, but more importantly, if the claim is substantially true (I haven’t seen any fact checking on it), I would suggest that it will ultimately be the death of her candidacy as her opponents and the Republicans will use it to suppress her turnout. I expect her to slip to some degree in polling over the next few weeks.

U.S. NJ Sen. Cory Booker: I will again briefly join the chorus: from an ad hoc standpoint – relating to this night – I thought he won the debate. He had a positive presentation. When he reminded his colleagues that squabbling among themselves only helped Mr. Trump, he looked above the fray. He got the best of his exchanges with Mr. Biden without looking like a gut fighter. Since he and Ms. Harris seek support from the same Democratic segments, I suspect that Mr. Booker picked Ms. Harris’ pocket in the second round as she picked his in the first. He looked like he could hold the stage against the President. That said, I don’t think he can beat Mr. Trump in Wisconsin; if that’s right, he’d need Arizona as well as Michigan and Pennsylvania (plus Hillary Clinton’s Electoral states) to win the presidency.

Ms. Gabbard: Although I’ve seen no comment on it, I thought that she had a very strong night – a surprise, given her lackluster first round performance. Her answers relating to foreign policy and the Middle East had true credibility given her military service. Her environmental comments carried weight if, as she claimed, her efforts predated the Green New Deal. She looked like the heavyweight in her exchanges with Ms. Harris. In my view, she laid a solid bid for a Vice Presidential slot if Mr. Biden does secure the nomination.

U.S. CO Sen. Michael Bennet: I thought Mr. Bennet had a strong night. He isn’t smooth, but has a dogged credibility and practicality about him that I think would play well on the stage against Mr. Trump and could carry the Midwest, including Wisconsin. Mr. Bennet is seeking support from the same segments being mined by U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former U.S. MD Rep. John Delaney, MT Gov. Steve Bullock, and former CO Gov. John Hickenlooper. Although I’m a fan of Ms. Klobuchar and have developed a sneaking liking for Mr. Delaney, if Mr. Biden falters and I had to pick one of this group to get behind, I’d ponder hard between Mr. Bennet and Ms. Klobuchar.

Andrew Yang: The guy had a good night. I misjudged him after the first debate. His idea of the Freedom Dividend will never play politically and he’s not going to win the nomination, but he’s really smart, has a wry sense of humor, and cuts to the chase. If a Democrat wins the White House, he should be made Commerce Secretary or Czar of a federal program to deal with the looming dangers of Artificial Intelligence to our working people.

Former HUD Sec. Julian Castro: I thought Mr. Castro had a flat night. Nothing in particular, but his exchanges with Mr. Biden seemed tinged with animosity – a hint of difficulty between the men perhaps dating to the Obama Administration [purely gut; I have no substantiation for this, but this isn’t the news pages of the Times, the Post or the Journal; a blogger should be entitled to a little spouting ;)]. On a more substantive level, the more I reflect on it, the more that I consider Mr. Castro’s proposal to decriminalize illegal border crossings not only a political loser against Mr. Trump but objectively bad policy. There appears an obliviousness among some in the Democratic field that one doesn’t change an objectively appropriate law – a version of which I suspect exists in over 90% of the world’s nations — because it is being subjectively abused by a racist to divide families. You instead get rid of the racist and stop dividing families.

WA Gov. Jay Inslee: Although he would present a formidable physical presence on stage against the President in a debate, he reinforced my impression of a capable executive effective in his own milieu who is insufficiently aware both that the entire country doesn’t think like Washington State or that Presidents have to deal with issues – such as the Russians and the national debt – in addition to the environment.

U.S. NY Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: I thought her attack on Mr. Biden’s long-ago piece about women working outside the home was a cheap shot. On a larger level, she just reminds me too much of … Hillary Clinton. Perhaps more important, someone very close to me – an unabashed Clinton fan – agrees. Although I voted for Ms. Clinton in 2016 and consider her to have been eminently qualified for the presidency … she lost against Mr. Trump. I don’t want to see that movie again.

NY, NY Mayor Bill de Blasio: Mr. de Blasio clearly doesn’t understand that every time he reminds us that he’s the mayor of the nation’s largest city, he exudes NY arrogance (speaking as someone proud of being born in Manhattan ;)] and turns off the hinterland swing voters he would need to beat Mr. Trump. That said, if I could pick one candidate to represent the Democrats in a debate against Mr. Trump, it would be Mr. de Blasio; the fireworks would even exceed that of an Elizabeth Warren – Trump matchup, and would be akin to a WWF match. As it is, I’m sure that the Big Apple has some problem that needs attending to, and he should go home and attend to it.

For anyone that reached the end of this overly-long but not easily-divided note, I commend your perseverance. There will, blessedly, be no further debates until September. Let’s enjoy the rest of the summer.

On the Democratic Debates: Round Two, Night One

The aspect of last night’s debate that I found most interesting was the way that the majority of the panel, recognizing that there was more political hay to be made by contrasting rather than aligning with the avowed progressives, moved toward the political center.

VT Sen. Bernie Sanders and MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Both had weak nights. Whether goaded intentionally or unwittingly by the moderates’ thrusts, they seemingly fell into the trap of appearing crazy and angry [or, if you prefer, perhaps merely unrealistic and strident ;)]. From a general election standpoint, they were wounded by the moderates’ attacks on their Medicare for All and Green New Deal proposals. They also seemed oblivious to the fact that their unrestrained attacks on Corporate America may alarm middle and lower class working people who fear losing their jobs if Corporate America needs to cut costs to accommodate the progressive agenda. Ms. Warren’s pledge not to use our nuclear arsenal in a first strike capacity is misguided, substantively and politically [my characterization of her proposal if speaking on a street corner would be more graphic and emphatic ;)]. After two and a half hours, both also came to appear … tiresome and repetitive.

South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former U.S. TX Rep Beto O’Rourke: for the first time, I felt that Mr. O’Rourke outshone Mr. Buttigieg. Mr. O’Rourke does (as President Trump has noted) wave his arms in a sometimes distracting fashion, but he hit themes of unity for any independents tuning in, was good from a general election standpoint by pledging to retain criminalization of unauthorized entry into the country, didn’t overextend on healthcare, and gave himself some Middle East latitude by only committing to remove our troops during his first term. Mr. Buttigieg was again good at talking about the future and fine on healthcare, but was (also again) a bit too reserved in his presentation, too limited his Middle East options by committing to remove our troops in the first year of his presidency, remained too antiseptic in his discussion of race, missed an opportunity to discuss our need to mitigate the dangers that Artificial Intelligence presents to our working people (where I’ve seen him shine in the past), came out a little paler than U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar in their exchange on the gun issue, and seemed to disappear for long periods.

Former U.S. MD Rep. John Delaney: I like Mr. Delaney. I thought he had a strong night. He had the cleverest debate strategy, seizing the opportunity to energetically engage early with Ms. Warren, recognizing that he would thereby get more exposure. I thought he showed himself to be knowledgeable across a wide range, and exhibited an attractive pragmatism. At the same time, he lacks the inspirational quality Americans want in a President. (A politically incorrect hurdle for him: we haven’t elected a blatantly bald President since Dwight Eisenhower at the dawn of the television age). I have trouble envisioning him effectively countering the President on the debate stage. He remains my candidate for White House Chief of Staff.

I thought Ms. Klobuchar, MT Gov. Steve Bullock, former CO Gov. John Hickenlooper, and U.S. OH Rep. Tim Ryan all acquitted themselves adequately, but none seemed to catch fire. Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Bullock both sounded an important theme: they’ve won where Mr. Trump has shown strength. That said, while Ms. Klobuchar was strong on the gun issue, she talked too much inside Senate baseball and wasn’t direct enough in challenging Sens. Sanders and Warren. Mr. Bullock did well from the edge of the screen – to my mind, he clearly won the exchange with Ms. Warren about retaining our nuclear first strike option and did well on the gun issue from a general election standpoint – but left the impression that he doesn’t realize that if elected, he won’t be in Montana any more. Mr. Hickenlooper did much better than in Round I of the debates – to me a plus, since it could help him if he chooses to seek the U.S. CO Senate seat when his presidential candidacy ends. Mr. Ryan is a solid representative, and perhaps has the most traditional Democratic working class appeal of anybody in the race save former Vice President Joe Biden – which would make him a tough matchup for Mr. Trump in some respects — but seemed to lack the spark that Americans seek in their President.

Marianne Williamson: I thought Ms. Williamson had more good moments than in the first round but still mostly stayed in her own stratosphere. It’s hard to be to the left of Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren, but I think she succeeded. I enjoyed the “dark psychic force” thing … but it’s not the way to get elected to anything outside of California.

I thought that Mr. Biden was the Night One winner because the evening’s exchanges seemed to weaken the race’s most prominent progressives. That said, tonight is Mr. Biden’s night. I submit that he will essentially be in a one-on-one debate with U.S. CA Sen. Kamala Harris. Ms. Harris will, in a phrase that has new meaning for me after visiting Alaska, be loaded for bear. An observation: Mr. Biden is, by all accounts, an old school courtly gentleman. If he cannot set aside his basic old school instincts, and go after a woman — Ms. Harris — aggressively while avoiding appearing mean or condescending (admittedly a fine line; remember that Hillary Clinton staged a comeback during the 2008 campaign when Barack Obama appeared too rough on her in a debate), his candidacy will falter. (U.S. NJ Sen. Cory Booker will try to interject, but Mr. Biden should just blow him off; most of the rest of the panel should already realize that they’re running for the Democratic Vice Presidential nomination on somebody else’s ticket). I would suggest that if the former Vice President again flounders, Democratic realists, recognizing that a progressive’s nomination will probably result in a Trump general election victory, will fill the vacuum by quickly coalescing around another moderate.

Since I deliberately didn’t watch any of the debate postgame before setting this down, all of the learned talking heads — and you 😉 — may have completely different views. On to Night Two …

On the Political Exhaustion Factor

I thoroughly enjoy writing these notes, but have come to face a hard truth: that there is little more to say within the political realm. How many ways can one say that President Trump is a stain upon the fiber and fabric of our nation? There is nothing left but to devise a strategy to defeat him in the Electoral College in 2020.  How many ways can one say that if the Democrats – since the 1950s persistently their own worst political enemies — nominate an avowed progressive, they will probably bring about what they claim to most abhor: the President’s re-election?

These pages have skewed much more to politics and much less to policy than I envisioned when I began; Mr. Trump’s antics have almost demanded it. That said, although I will certainly continue to address politics (its allure being akin to sports), I intend to collect the random thoughts I’ve had over the past months and hope to start addressing a number of the larger issues we face … as if we had reasonably knowledgeable, at least somewhat wise, and well-intended rather than self-interested, Executive and Legislative branches.

Until then …

On Mr. Mueller’s Testimony

In his brief public statement on May 29, Special Counsel Robert Mueller III made his position regarding his possible testimony before Congress clear:

“Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress. [My emphasis].”

I expect Mr. Mueller to be true to his word. The House of Representatives’ Judiciary and Intelligence Committees have nonetheless determined to have Mr. Mueller testify before them. Any number of pundits have opined that the Democratic-led Committees are thinking that since reading the Special Counsel’s report – exceeding, as it does, 400 pages – is beyond the ken of the great majority of Americans (a fact that is, of itself, worthy of reflection), having Mr. Mueller testify on television – even if he says nothing more than what is in the report — will galvanize Americans to realize that President Trump has behaved in a way unfit for the office he holds. I’ve seen several references to the effect that the 1973 Watergate hearings had upon the general public perception of President Richard Nixon.

We are in a different time and place. Although I consider Mr. Trump to have behaved in innumerable ways – both detailed within the Mueller Report, and outside its confines – that warrant his removal from office, I would suggest that the Committees have embarked upon a fool’s errand … a perspective that I suspect House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shares. Mr. Mueller’s testimony promises to motivate those already vehemently opposed to the President to put pressure on their Democratic representatives to pursue Mr. Trump’s impeachment and removal from office – a politically quixotic endeavor, since there are not 20 Republican Senate Republicans (who already know what’s in the Report) possessing the political courage to vote to remove the President even if they privately consider such action to be appropriate.

On the larger substantive level, I would offer that the Democrats’ efforts are misguided because it seems overwhelmingly likely that Mr. Trump’s supporters already viscerally know that he did all the things that Mr. Mueller and his team have reported … and they don’t care. [“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:9.]  They believe themselves belittled, ignored, left behind, and perceive Mr. Trump – correctly or not – as being the first powerful politician in decades to speak for them. His voice is undoubtedly worth much more to them than what they almost certainly now dismiss as legal niceties. If you feel that you have been picked on for decades, and then a bully comes along that upbraids those that you consider to have abused you … you’ll be willing to overlook “your” bully’s flaws.

Spending more time obsessing and hyperventilating on malign activity that an insufficient segment of our electorate will be willing to act upon is a waste of taxpayers’ money.  [For once, I agree with Republicans  ;).]  At best, Democrats may weaken Mr. Trump’s support among any voters that are still undecided about him – an extremely small slice of the electorate that admittedly might be the difference in a close election – but risk having the undertaking redound to the President’s benefit by energizing his supporters. Democrats might be better served by devising strategies that will meaningfully resonate with the non-bigoted segments of Mr. Trump’s base, rather than exhilarating in maneuvers that will probably enhance the President’s chances of re-election.

Enough pontificating for one day …

A Plea to Democrats: Focus on Getting Rid of Trump

A close friend sent me the link below to a Washington Post opinion piece published earlier this week by Richard Cohen, with the comment, “This article expresses my sentiments EXACTLY [His emphasis].” I am pleased to associate myself with his remark ;), and with Mr. Cohen’s obvious frustrations.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/narendramodi_opinion/democrats-stop-embracing-losing-issues-and-focus-on-getting-rid-of-trump/ar-AAE2wmV?ocid=se