02 June 2017

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

We Are In A Crisis Caused By Bad Political Leadership

It can be painful to absorb the daily news.

The sheer senseless stupidity of it all can leave you wanting to crawl back into bed and wanting to erase all memory of what you've learned.

Not all of the bad news is due to bad political leadership, but bad political leadership is responsible for a lot of it and the social climate created by these leaders is responsible for a lot more of it. Without bad political leadership, our world would only suck to the usual degree and not at the crisis levels we are experiencing right now.

We Have Bad Political Leadership Because So Many Voters Are Ignorant and Immoral

We Have Bad Political Leaders Because So Many Bad People Are Voters

Yes, Donald Trump is ignorant, immoral, and incompetent. But, we wouldn't have him if it weren't for the plurality of voters in dozens of states who voted for him in the general election and the plurality of Republicans who supported him in the primaries. 

Trump won the GOP primary because the Republican rank and file is more on his wavelength than they are on the wavelength of establishment Republicans. Trump won the election because most Republicans are suicidally loyal to their party and lots of independents in key states wanted to send a fuck you to the nation's political and cultural establishment.

Yes, votes were suppressed. Yes, bad tactical choices were made. Yes, Hillary Clinton was not an inspiring orator, didn't respond effectively to efforts to create scandals, and focused on listening and twenty point plans on every topic under the Sun instead of articulating a larger and simpler vision for the country.

But, Donald Trump wouldn't have been able to come remotely close enough to winning for any of those factors to matter if there wasn't something deeply wrong at the grass roots voter level in this country.

For example, the best predictor of a voter's likelihood of supporting Donald Trump was the extent to which that voter is racist, xenophobic and sexist. The connection was cultural much more than it was economic, for example. But, this was only electorally relevant and actually gave Donald Trump an edge, because so many Americans are racist, xenophobic and have incredibly backward views about women.

American Conservatives Are Predominantly Immoral And Ignorant

Establishment conservatives have long tried to project a myth that the American conservative movement is about people with an exceptionally strong moral compass whose superficially harsh economic policies are necessary to achieve prosperity. But, this is rubbish.

Actual American conservatives are about as hate filled, prejudiced and immoral as all but a handful of other political factions on the planet and have managed to refrain from utterly ruining our nation mostly only because they have lacked the power to do so. They are deeply disconnected from reality in almost all matters scientific and economic. The demagogues who lead them have convinced them to support policies in areas from health care to economics to gun control to the war on drugs that are starkly contrary to their own self-interests.

We have been placed in a situation where our nation is ruled by psychological toddlers, crackpot religious fanatics and radical white supremacists, none of whom have any grasp of the kinds of policies that are empirically supported, because so many conservative voters are just as ignorant and hateful, or more so, than they people they have elected - not just to the Presidency and Vice Presidency, but to the U.S. House, to the U.S. Senate, to Governorships and to state legislatures.

Misguided And Mean American Conservatism Predates The Civil War

This is not a new problem. For the most part, this cancer predates the U.S. Civil War. Serious post-civil war efforts to treat this cancer, like Reconstruction and the Civil Rights movement damped and contained its progress somewhat, but certainly hasn't successfully removed this malignancy from our body politic.

The North had an opportunity to surgically remove the lion's share of this cancer from our body politic by accepting Southern succession in support of slavery in 1861, and then to try to reform the Confederate stance on slavery and other bad policies from the outside. But, instead of choosing a less bloody course of action, that left the former Confederacy a half-way unrepentant nation of hate facing tighter economic discipline from the outsider world, Lincoln went to war. As a result, even places where there are more enlightened majorities, must always struggle to counteract the ignorance and hate from the right that flood out room for compromise and good sense.

To be clear, I don't mean to say that fighting the Civil War didn't produce worthwhile results. The Civil War was fought to end slavery, and it did, although it took another century to end Jim Crow and the struggle for reforms that really make things right is ongoing.

The North stayed in the relationship and fought for it to protect members of its community who were being mistreated in the South, and the North continued to do so protect its politically powerless and mistreated community members in the South through the federal government through the Civil Rights movement and into the present. But, this unselfish conduct was costly. The price the North paid for protecting the rights of the oppressed in the South as much as it could out of its moral imperative to do so, has been that their own progress has been limited by the resistance of the regressive movement in the places that were retained.

Conservatives Favor Means Spirited, Tribal, Emotional Policies That Ignore Reality

The Core Positions Of American Conservatives Are Divorced From Reality And Harmful

Rather than grapple with reality, American conservatives deny that pollution of the air, soil and water causes any serious harm. They ignore the overwhelming evidence that tax cuts don't pay for themselves, and that low tax rates are associated with economic malaise. Natural experiments, like the aftermath of huge tax cuts in the state of Kansas, strongly suggest that tax cuts are a first order cause of this economic malaise, rather than being merely correlated in a scenario where the pressure to lower taxes comes from economic malaise, and rather than being only a higher order effect dwarfed by other factors in economic success that have more of an impact on the health of the economy.

The Case Of Gun Control

Gun control is another area where American conservatives have a worldview that is fundamentally absurd, as suicide rates and accidental firearm death rates closely track the availability of guns.

In contrast, the use of guns for legitimate purposes by citizens who are not in law enforcement is vanishingly rare. Indeed, far more than a majority of incidents in which non-law enforcement citizens claim to be using a firearm to defend themselves or others, turn out to be cases where the use of force or a threat of force by the citizen did not qualify under the law as legally justified. There are roughly a hundred-fold fewer instances in which there is a legitimate uses of firearms for self-defense or to defend others, than there are instances in which firearms are used in a manner that violations criminal laws (excluding suicide and accidental harm by people not engaged in criminal activity). From a cost-benefit perspective there is no plausible way to justify America's lax gun control laws as good policy.

Yet, American conservatives repeatedly fail to learn from experience and absurdly argue that the way to make concerts, college campuses, elementary schools, churches, and other scenes of mass killing or terrorist attacks, it to arm more of the people who attend activities in those locations. And, in each case American conservatives routinely and selfishly disavow all empathy with and concerns for the plight of people other than themselves rejecting the existence of a common community, no matter how cruel the consequences of their proposals may be.

Bad Conservative Policies Flow From Objectively Wrong Factual Premises

A key point in each of these policy battles is that what is at stake is more than a mere difference of opinion regarding what constitutes desirable outcomes, or mere differences in preferences. These are cases where the conservative position requires one to assume facts that can be demonstrated empirically to be objectively false. Conservatives are not just immoral, they are also self-deluded.

Admittedly, there are selected issues upon which liberals often cling to positions that are not factually supported. But, the issues for which this is true aren't the central pillars of their policy agenda, are fewer in number, and are issues upon which liberal leaders aren't opposed to sincerely considering evidence which could persuade them otherwise in the vast majority of cases.


Not Viable: Let Conservative Form Their Own Screwed Up Country And Leave The Rest Of Us Alone

One approach would be to eject the former Confederacy (and perhaps some of its political allies outside the former Confederacy proper, like Oklahoma) from the union so that these states cannot impose externalities arising from the stupidity of their people on the rest of us through the national political process and through the day to day needs of many of the sane people from sane states who do business with people in these misguided states. But, the consensus is that this approach it out of political bounds, even for the far right and far left political factions in the United States. 

Viable But Wickedly Hard: Change The Views Of Grassroots Voters With Movement Politics

So, the only practical means to address this cancer is to relentlessly and effectively take steps to transform this culture's world views, ideally in a manner that is perceived as coming from inside the group, rather than being imposed. This approach is sometimes called "Movement politics", because it takes a prolonged social movement to accomplish this kind of mass ideological change.

This is a daunting, and perhaps even "impossible" task, in much that same way that resorting to forensic physical anthropology and archaeology to infer the language these people spoke and the broad outliners of unwritten aspects of their culture, is a wickedly difficult problem.

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